THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 586 September 7 - 13, 2009
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September 7, 2009
A retraction: the "Intelligence Czar" is the DNI, a Congressionally established position that requires Senatorial confirmation. So are several of the other "czars." There are still about 20 with very powerful positions that require no confirmation process. A Navy Ensign requires Senatorial confirmation, but there are many powerful czars who do not. Thanks to several readers.
The problem of unconstitutional officers continues. There was a definite reason why the Constitution required that those with power be either elected or confirmed by the Senate. One original notion was to protect the rights of the states...
We seem to be on the way to taxing the wealthy and successful to provide health care for those who can't afford it. One presumes we will have enough doctors to handle the new seekers. On that score, we have a letter with statistics on physician salaries, which are higher than I had supposed.
The column is done, and should be up tomorrow.
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|This week:||Tuesday, September
The column should be posted tonight. I got a late start today.
Obama made a presidential speech on education and while I didn't hear all of it, I certainly didn't hear anything to object to. I wonder about some of the commentators.
Eric spent the morning finding updates for Roberta's computer. Before we could install printer drivers we needed to update the BIOS, then the chip set drivers for Simple PCI Communications Controller only that covers a multitude of sins and the trick is to find precisely what driver it actually needs. It turned out to be a Management thing, and that turned out to be available only for Vista, not Windows 7, and -- it all turned out well, but we needed Eric's help to get it sorted out. Once all that was done the system could find the HP Laser Printer, and stopped believing it was a phantom server, and -- it will all be in the next column. But that used up the morning.
Meanwhile we had another water main go, this time in North Hollywood (well, in Valley Vista) and a fire engine fell into a sink hole. What a mess. This on top of the Coldwater Canyon water main disaster. Saving the fire engine from the sink hole turned out to be quite a problem. Then they had to turn the water off, there's mud. It was one great big mess. They nearly tore the fire engine apart trying to pull it out.
I didn't watch any of this but it ought to be on national TV. The fire truck is out of the sink hole. I missed it all because of dealing with computer problems...
The lead mail item looks at climate history and Ice Ages. I have Hollywood Bowl tonight -- not sure what the program is -- so this is a light day. Much more tomorrow. Thanks to all who have recently subscribed or renewed.
September 9. 2009
Platinum subscribers will already have seen it...
This was not our best day. Yesterday evening an attractive and pleasant if somewhat ditzy 19 year old dancer managed to hit my parked Explorer in such a way as to destroy the front end of her Toyota. The visible damage to Eddie -- he's an Eddie Bauer Explorer -- was minimal, but somehow she hit a wheel in such a way as to break the front axle.
She has insurance, and she was very nice, and we got all the information, but it was too late to do anything about the car last night. I did call USAA, the best insurance company in existence, and they pretty well told me what to do. This morning was spent doing it. I have several options, but the one I chose got Eddie towed to Autobahn Collisions where he'll be fixed. When it is done I'll pay $500 (you may take this as a reminder to renew your subscription!) and drive away, and USAA will collect the rest from Haylee's insurance company. My other option was to let her company handle the whole affair. I chose not to, not because I have any adverse information about her company, but because I have confidence in USAA, and their attitude and competence. So now I am unhorsed for a week. I could have, had I chosen the other alternative, probably negotiated a week's rental and possible I should, but the less I have to negotiate with anyone the better I feel.
Anyway it was mid-afternoon by the time I got this dealt with. The good news is that coming back from Autobahn took me past Tommy's, so I stopped for a Chilicheeseburger. It wasn't enough to compensate for the rest of the day, but it did help.
I have also been setting up Roberta's PayPal account. PayPal now accepts credit card payments; you don't have to have a PayPal account to make a credit card payment through Paypal. Some subscribers seem to have had problems with this, but not many; most of my subscriptions come in this way. I will be fixing Roberta's web page www.readingtlc.com to reflect this. If you have kids in school and they have any reading problems at all -- AT ALL -- you need this program. Go to www.readingtlc.com and have a look, then get the program. In about 70 1/2 hour lessons the pupil will have learned to read. I don't mean "read at grade level." I mean learn to read, in that the student can read words never seen before.
The program runs on any system that runs Windows Explorer, which means pretty well all versions from Windows 95 to present. Alas, it will only run on a Mac under VMware or Parallels. There was a Mac version for the PowerPC, but that was long ago and used speech synthesis (which was pretty good on the Mac; the program worked, even if the voice of Agnes was a little mechanical). A prior DOS version worked only with a tutor to read the text from the screen. That too worked -- a 9 year old was able to teach a number of first and second graders using a laptop and, as I recall, one tutor had success with an Osborne! Neither the DOS nor the Mac version is available, but the Windows version really works (including on a Mac with Parallels or VMware).
As to motivating students to use it, the program was used in the juvenile justice system where Roberta found that most students want to learn (but think they can't so say they don't want to learn), and their early successes with the program were pretty good motivation to continue.
In any event the program is available, and you can pay for it with any major credit card through Paypal. Send money to the PayPal user name firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Jobs was on the job at Apple today, and announced a new version of iTunes and a revision of the iPhone software. Captain Morse has installed both (took a while because of server load) and reports happiness. I have several iPhone users among my advisors, and if there are any problems and/or solutions I'll find out quickly. It looks good.
Apple is doing remarkably well lately.
Next step here is to install Snow Leopard, then try Windows 7 under VMware and see how it networks with PC installations of Windows 7. As I report in the column -- up today -- Windows 7 handles networking better than Vista did. I had some real problems with one of the machines which seemed to think it was in the wrong workgroup, or that one of its comrades was in the wrong workgroup; changing to the proper workgroup name fixed that. My Windows 7 systems see each other, XP systems, and the VMware version of XP on Imogene the iMac; so all's well. Apple and PC talk to each other without much problem, and Windows is slowly catching up with the Mac on ease of use.
The cliché of politicians with hooker lobbyists seems to have come true today in Sacramento, the only mystery being why they bothered with a Republican. What power did he have to influence legislation? I was against converting California to a full time legislature; it's more and more obvious that these people have far too much time on their hands, and that we are paying them far too much for what they do to us.
Mencken observed that in America, democracy gives people what they want, and they get it good and hard...
September 10, 2009
The most impressive thing I heard in Obama's speech last night was that we can save $600 billion by eliminating fraud and waste. It was my impression that was in Medicare alone. Now that would be worth doing! A hundred billion here, a hundred billion there, and pretty soon it adds up to real money. If the government can eliminate $600 billion -- considerably more than the annual budget back in Johnson days -- then that's exciting, and we ought to get on with it. Surely that can be done without adding millions to the list of people who get their doctor bills paid by someone else?
Nowhere did anyone address the fundamental question: under what principle do we all acquire a right to health care paid by someone else, and under what principle do those who have to pay acquire the obligation? Whatever principle that is must have some other consequences, and I'd like to know what those are. It's a pretty fundamental change in our political philosophy. Does it mean that everyone is entitled to anything that someone else can afford? It probably doesn't apply to health care alone. Where does this right stop? Does it apply to cosmetic surgery for burn victims? Those with genetic malformations? Aging skin sag? Breast implants? I don't ask these questions frivolously: since I don't know what principle is being applied to infer that everyone is entitled to health care whether they can afford it or not, it's hard to see what else that principle implies. There must be other implications, but what are they?
It may be a good principle. It is similar perhaps to the principle that if we can afford it, all the curbs ought to be bashed down and rebuilt with ramps for wheel chairs. That was done in Los Angeles during the dot com boom, and halted in the wake of the dot com bust. The work was never resumed, and in Studio City about half the curbs were bashed down and rebuilt; the other half remain unchanged. In the 40 years I have been walking in Studio City I have seen perhaps twenty five people in wheel chairs on residential streets. I don't think I have ever seen more than half a dozen in any given year. (There are more in the shopping district, but the curbs on Ventura Blvd. were bashed down some time ago). Somehow we have got along without bashing all the curbs, and the ramps have been more beneficial for strollers than for wheel chairs.
Now it's clear that our moral obligation to bash in the curbs is dependent on our ability to afford it. Back in the dot com boom it looked as if Los Angeles would have plenty of money forever. One city service actually came knocking on my door to offer to plant a tree in our parking strip: they had the time and the money to do it. They marked the curb with a green mark and number. Alas, the dot bust came before they could plant it, so we don't have a jacaranda out front.
Actually I am glad; jacarandas take a lot of work, and my energy levels are not what they were when the city offered me the tree. My point is that planting trees is a luxury, and it might have been more prudent for the city to save the money for a time when it wouldn't have surpluses. Of course neither the City, the County, the State, nor the Federal governments had the prudence to prepare for times of distress back in those boom days, nor did they learn much from the dot bust to apply to the next boom. Instead they found other things to spend all the money on, and now they're furloughing fire engines on a rotating basis. I could think of other city workers to furlough before I got to firemen, but that's another story.
Apparently we are not all entitled to having the curbs bashed in and ramped, nor even to deployment of all the fire protection services we already have in place. Perhaps this is a different principle from health care?
In any event I would like to know the principle under which everyone is entitled to health care whether they can afford it or not, and how much health care each person is entitled to without paying for it. It is clearly not simple Christian charity (which would be illegal anyway) since it will not, at least in theory, apply to illegal aliens. Of course it will apply to illegals, as Congressman Wilson implied when he shouted "You Lie!" to Mr. Obama during his speech: Democrats in committee carefully removed all the provisions for actually checking on the status of those making use of the new health care laws. We have a program (SAVE) that is in use in about 40 Federal Programs to prevent illegal aliens from getting their benefits; that was explicitly taken out of the qualifications for getting health care insurance under the bill. It is sufficient to say (in any language you care to use) "I was born in the USA" and they have to enroll you. If you can't check eligibility then in practice everyone is eligible. So it goes.
The shouting incident was a bit shocking. Usually when the President addresses a joint session of Congress the matter is national, not political, and the President is treated with great respect, as they do in England when the Monarch reads a speech from the throne to Lords and Commons summoned to the House of Lords, even though the speech was written by politicians and given on the advice of the Prime Minister. When the President addresses a joint session of Congress it is usually a State affair, even if it be the State of the Union Address, which does tend to be political. One expresses disapproval by not applauding, not by shouting.
On the other hand, in England, when the Prime Minister stands before the House of Commons, there's no real pretense of either dignity or the exchange of rational thoughts. Members need not listen to the speech: they know to shout "Hear! Hear!" or "Shame!" or even "Resign" depending on whether the Member is in the governing party or the opposition, and the content of the speech is irrelevant. I am told that the Party whips sometimes act as coaches to signal what to shout. It's all very amusing, and no one thinks anything of it. But in Commons the Prime Minister is the chief politician, and head of government only. The US doesn't have a Monarch; for a couple of hundred years the President has been expected to play both roles, Monarchical Symbol of National Unity (think Roosevelt in Congress after Pearl Harbor) and Party Leader (Obama on Health Care). In any event Wilson has apologized, but there are many who think he should not have: he may have been overly blunt, but Obama's statement was, if not a lie, not quite the truth either. So it goes.
The Republican leadership required Wilson to apologize so he did. Of course Biden won't let it go, and we may expect to hear more about how demeaning it all was; which may stimulate more analysis of whether Obama's statement about illegal immigrants may get more examination. God moves in mysterious ways His Wonders to perform...
Go For Broke
Obama decided to go for broke on health care. He is betting a good bit of his reputation on getting this bill -- or any bill -- done now, despite the poll indications that most of the population doesn't want fundamental changes in the system.
The system will entitle millions to have someone else pay their doctor bills. Can we afford this?
This may be a watershed moment.
If we adopt this scheme, we will change the fundamental nature of the republic. If it is rejected, then we may be on a path to some kind of recovery.
The nation is bankrupt. The people are pretty well united in rejecting most of this scheme. Whatever the bill says, it will give health care paid by the rest of us to anyone who asks: there is no provision in the bill for verifying citizenship or legal immigration and all attempts to put any kind of test or verification into the bill have been systematically rejected and removed in committee. This is a bill to attract illegal immigrants. The demand for a free good is infinite...
The people don't want this. Some leaders do. Rule by leadership -- union leaders, La Raza, Black Students Union, ACORN, community organizers -- without much regard to what the people these leaders represent (who after all know better what's good for their membership, or at least what's good for their organizations) is not a republic; it is a form of Fascist state. Mussolini and Juan Peron would recognize it instantly. So would Francisco Franco who rejected some of the precepts. The Arrow Cross Party would have understood this perfectly. The people rule, but through organizations, and organizations rather than individuals choose the representation.
We can still reject this; or we can accept it and try to perfect it. There were many who admired Mussolini. Had it not been for Hitler and his anti-Semitism; had Mussolini chosen the Allied side in World War 2; had someone not killed Huey Long; perhaps if Evita had not died of cancer; then Fascism would probably have a better reputation, at least as good as socialism, better than communism. After all, Mussolini made the trains run on time, and did away with many of the sectional rivalries of Italy. He negotiated a Concordat with the Pope. There were many who admired him.
The Communist Party did us the favor of putting Fascism in such a bad light with its united Anti-Fascism fronts. Now it comes back under a different name precisely as Huey Long said it would.
This is a watershed moment.
September 11, 2009
President Barrack Obama on Thursday declared the anniversary of the attacks a national day of remembrance and service. And he and first lady Michelle Obama led the way Friday, visiting a Habitat for Humanity construction site in Washington, where they pitched in by painting a living room wall.
I am sure there is plenty said on today's anniversary. I'll let the reminders above serve as my comment.
Happy Birthday, Sable.
There were three columns worth your attention in today's Wall Street Journal. On economics Peter Ferrara examines the Bush and Obama attempts to end the depression -- well, officially it's a recession, but with the effective unemployment up to about 15% and rising, it's close enough to depression. Keynesian stimulus spending has been tried, and it's not working.
On political philosophy Eliza Gray, whom I don't recall reading before, has a short introduction to the wisdom of Samuel Johnson and a reminder of "The Club" where the English intellectual elite of the time met. I like to think of this site as a sort of local, scaled down, and modernized version of that club. At least that's my goal. I think the letter column sometimes approaches that.
Finally, Kimberly Strassell addresses the Democrat actions on health care and tort reform. It's pretty clear that we will not get any tort reforms, and without those it's not likely we can do much to lower health care costs.
A number of people became interested in a Dan Brown book promotion. A group of hackers managed to set up a scam web site that was the top hit on Google when people searched for Death Star Research (which is part of the Brown promotion, and no, I don't think it has much to do with the Death Star in Star Wars). When you went to the top hit on Google you were told you had a virus and you'd need to download their remedy, which, needless to say, was the virus. Google has fixed this for now, but be warned. The scammers are getting better at this every day. As I mention in the column, Roberta's computer was infected by a similar scam through a link sent to her by her sister.
If you get one of those "Click here to download the virus remedy" or for a free virus scan, DO NOT try to close the little window by clicking anywhere on it including in the little red x in the upper right corner. Let your browser close that window. Or go down to the tray, find the browser, right click, and have Windows close the whole thing. Or use shift-control-escape to get to task manager and use that to close the browser. Whatever you do, don't go near that "offer" window.
September 12, 2009
I took the day off. We did some repairs to Roberta's web site. If you want your child to read, her reading program consists of about 70 lessons. Each lesson takes about half an hour, although many students complete the lessons in less time. At the end of the 70 lessons the student can read. By read, we mean read essentially any word in the English language. By reading we mean look at the text and say the word; obviously if the student has never seen the word before, the meaning may or not be known. On the other hand, if the word is already in the student's speaking vocabulary, it will now be in the reading vocabulary. Many students in today's schools cannot read words they actually use in daily conversations.
See the www.readingtlc.com web site for more information.
The program can be ordered by PayPal or by any major credit card. One does not need a PayPal account to use PayPal to pay for the program.
September 13, 2009
I've been catching up this weekend. As I said yesterday one task was revising Roberta's web site about how to teach people to read.
I have also been catching up with Access to Energy. This is a newsletter started by the late Petr Beckmann, and continued by Dr. Arthur Robinson. One announcement in the current issue is good news: they have some soft-cover copies of Petr Beckmann's 1976 book The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear. For those interested in the energy crisis this remains an important book. There have been studies of nuclear power and health since 1976 of course, but in fact everything discovered since corroborates what Beckmann said in his book. Copies of this work are available postpaid for $15 from Access to Energy, PO Box 1250, Cave Junction, Oregon 97523. Beckmann's research was reliable and his writing was clear. If you have any interest in this subject you should read this book.
The latest issue of Access to Energy quotes from Duderstadt and Hamilton, Nuclear Reactor Analysis, Wiley, 1976 (and still used a a textbook in nuclear engineering). In 1976 they say "It is anticipated that some 500 nuclear power plants will be installed in the United States alone by the year 2000 with an electrical generating capacity of about 500,000 MWe and a capital investment of more than $600 billion, with this pattern being repeated throughout the world."
Of course that wasn't done. Readers may recall that my recommended response to the 911 attack on the United States was to drill for domestic oil as we build nuclear reactors. Let the Near East drink its oil as we develop domestic resources. It would cost a lot less than the war, and make money for the nation. Of course that wasn't done either.
Finally, Access to Energy reminds me of something I have mentioned here
before: all of MIT's course works are available, free, on line, at
I use physics as an example, because many of the people I worked with in operations research and systems analysis had undergraduate degrees in physics. We didn't do much actual physics in our work, but the "physics habit" -- a way of looking at the world -- turns out to be extremely useful. For those who find they now have lots of time and don't know what to do to improve their prospects, I can recommend the MIT introductory physics courses.
After I wrote the above, I got this mail, which seems relevant:
The entire series link was given in mail last Spring in mail from Mr. Keith.
I will consider the "award" suggestion, but in fact we have many valuable regular correspondents. I continue to contend that Chaos Manor Mail is the best mail feature on the Internet.
For Stanford Course minimum modern theoretical physics, see here.
Last I heard, ACORN was striking back: an ACORN official says this furor is an attempt to discredit President Obama and distract the nation from the vital issue of health care.
If you want something to read
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the weekly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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