THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 623 May 16-23, 2010
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May 17, 2010
According to the Associated Press, Michael Posner, a senior appointed official of the State Department is apologizing to China for American poverty, human rights offenses, and racism. Meanwhile, Han Chinese persecution of the Chinese Turkestan Uighers continues; and although there has been some progress since the days of the novel The Good Earth, poverty in America with food stamps would be riches for many working Chinese peasants. I am not persuaded that self-abnegation makes for good diplomacy. I have my doubts about Human Rights policy conferences to begin with, and I certainly can think of better uses for my tax money than paying Mr. Posner a high salary for this performance. It's hard to understand what good will come of it.
Today's Wall Street Journal has a more realistic view of the future of America's relationship with China, and what our highly paid political appointees ought to be thinking about. Mark Helprin's Farewell to America's China Station is worth your attention. We have not very long to decide on a realistic China policy. At the moment we still have choices. Each choice implies a military strategy, and each military strategy implies a procurement policy and a research and development policy. If we stay on our present course, many of our choices will be closed down.
If we are to continue to have influence in the west Pacific, we need a Navy capable of projecting power in that region. That in effect means keeping a Fleet in the region. It means giving allies assurance that allowing us to have bases there is a good idea even if the Chinese don't like that. It means acquiring capabilities to defend the Fleet against swarms and swarms of small missiles, both ballistic and cruise missiles. It means developing existing known technologies into weapons systems and deployment platforms. It means developing doctrines and tactics, training crews, practicing techniques, and building at least the nucleus of an expandable force for defending the Fleet. Finally, it means engaging in research and development programs to come up with new and better systems, doctrines, and techniques.
The Strategy of Technology was written during the Cold War and most of the examples in it were drawn from aerospace -- aircraft and missiles -- but it also applies to naval doctrines in this new "engagement" with a rapidly developing and expanding China. We may wish for more human rights in China, but if we expect to continue to project power west of Hawaii we will need a lot more than that.
My paper on megamissions was presented at a conference that included both Air Force and Navy people, and I am told it had some influence. It's still relevant. Neither Strategy of Technology nor the Megamissions paper are presented as solutions; they show necessary ways of thinking. I do not see many people thinking that way in the upper echelons of the current administration.
A few years ago we had many choices for future foreign policy: continue our somewhat incompetent imperialism; move toward competent empire; return to the principles of the Old Republic summarized by "we are the friends of liberty everywhere, but the guardians only of our own"); or stand down even further. Walter Lippmann once noted that much of foreign policy consists of writing checks on our "influence" account. Those checks are not always cashed, but when they are the military and economic power must be in the account. When the account is empty and governments continue to make threats and promises that cannot be kept, the results are seldom pleasant and often end in wars when bluffs are called.
Every foreign policy move draws on our influence accounts. When the influence accounts are low enough, the result is isolationism. Whether we like it or not, it will be the only policy option we have.
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|This week:||Tuesday, May
The good news is that Sable is back from having her stitches taken out and free from the cone of shame. She's very happy. The bad news is that I have to sit downstairs with her to be sure she's not licking her incision, and it will be a while before I get today's essay up. The worst news news is that the column is very late due to my slow recovery -- not sure I am recovered -- from something like a mild but debilitating flu.
I'll work downstairs on the Mac Book Air.
Back when I can.
1630: I had expected an iPad to arrive today, but it hasn't. I'm very much looking forward to it.
Sable was happy to be free of the cone of shame, but she aggressively was licking her incision, so I had to put a soft cone on her. It's less intrusive but it does seem to be effective, so she can't open that up again. I got some work done using the Mac Book Air down at the kitchen table and found once again that my network is all fouled up. The Windows 7 network works fine, and even sees the Mac Book Air; but neither Mac sees the other. That's goofy, and it needs fixing, and at some point I'll have to do it. Actually that's wrong. The iMac does see the Air, and I can access documents on it, but it doesn't work quite as I expected it to. I'll have to work on that. But at least I can anticipate that the iPad and the Macs will be connectable by my wireless net.
I have some ideas about the Air and the iPad working together. Don't know if they make sense.
My old friend and colleague Norman Spinrad is in hospital: we have two reports, one in Sunday's Mail, and the other from this morning and in this morning's mail. He also sends these observations about hospitals. Norman has explicitly placed all this in public domain.
DOCTORS, HOSPITALS, CANCER, AND EXISTENTIAL REALITY
I’ve been getting a lot of hospital horror stories since I barely alluded to mine, and been told any number of times that I was doing a public service. So, some balanced thought....
Sloan Kettering is acknowledged as the best cancer hospital in the US if not the world, and I can’t deny that on a scientific level, and it’s very well endowed because it’s the cancer hospital of choice for the world’s elite patients.
But it is also a huge establishment run, as most such operations are, according to rigid, often counterproductive rules and protocols which are cold, unfeeling, unspirited, and turn much of the lower staff levels into acting like inhuman robots--this is the schedule, this is my routine, and if you don’t like it, tough shit. So they wake you at 4 am to administer unimportant tests, depriving you of sleep, likewise with room cleaning, housekeeping, etc.
There is a so-called “Patient’s Representative,” who here in SK is really the bureaucracy's representative, an ice-cold, slick as goose-grease bitch whose really job is to stone-wall patients by quoting arbitrary rules to keep complainants from any administration pooh-bahs with the power to fix anything.
This is a national disgrace, it wouldn’t be that hard to fix if there was a will, a heart, and a public demand to do it. All it would really take is to rewrite hospital rules and protocols based on the prime directive, that the patient’s physical, health, emotional, and spiritual well being, or as much of it as can possibly be maintained, comes first, not the convenience or arbitrary rules of the administrative ass-covering bureaucracy.
That much being said, something both more positive and not so positive must be said about the doctors, nurses, and researchers working in the field of cancer treatment. The cold equations are that in terms of actually curing cancer, they succeed less than half the time. So in order to stay sane in careers where failure is really more prevalent than true success, they redefine “success” in terms of additional months of patient life.
I can see how they must do this, they really are heroic, but I can also see why tons of money have been wasted in the so-called “war on cancer” in terms of research and why there is so much mealy-mouthing and obfuscation when confronting human beings in dire straights.
My observation is that it is the Iron Law in action. Sometimes there are ways around the Iron Law, but it is never easy. At least two of the late Frank Herbert's science fiction novels attempted to address this situation by positing a "Bureau of Sabotage" whose agents were explicitly directed to sabotage the smooth workings of other bureaus. Frank was semi-serious about this as a possible remedy to the Iron Law; we discussed it several times. In any event, Norman is in a position to observe the system in action, and remains lucid and insightful as always.
I will also add that my experiences at Kaiser's Sunset Treatment Center, and at my primary Kaiser facility in Panorama City, have been entirely different. I have yet to encounter anyone at Kaiser who is surly or unkindly. I have a couple of times been kept waiting an extra minute or so by a receptionist engaged in what was probably a personal telephone call, but it was not a matter of great importance and I wasn't treated as if I had interrupted her call. That's about the worst story I have. I am sure others have other stories, but that's mine.
Apparently the mainstream press is finally becoming aware of a problem many of us have worried about for a long time:
I do wonder what happened to the notion of freedom?
May 19, 2010
The election yesterday was instructive. In Democratic primaries the liberals blasted each other and it's not clear what the trend was. In Republican primaries the conservative candidates won, and a major leader and symbol of the Tea Party movement won. In the Pennsylvania election to replace Democrat Murtha, a district carved to be a safe Democrat district, went to a Democrat -- but a Democrat who ran to the right of the Republican. Critz, the Democrat who won, is unequivocally pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-tax. His speeches sound like Tea Party addresses. Call him a Blue Wolf Democrat.
The best thing that could happen to the United States would be a gradual conversion of the Democrats. At the moment the party's leadership is left wing liberal and locked in. This led to idiocies in the Republican camp. I recall warning a Republican Congressman friend about the wild tax and spend policies of the Bush II era, and was told, "Yes but we're socially conservative." I then tried to persuade him that socially conservative isn't good enough. Yes, the Republicans should not be seen to be enemies of the social conservatives, but social issues are not sufficient. Fiscal conservatism and fiscal issues are the deciding factor among many independent voters. As to social issues, yes, they can be important, but the key to taking over Ted Kennedy's seat was more complex than that.
The loss in Murtha's old seat should be a warning to the Republican leadership and to all candidates in next Fall's election. The people in this nation are not going to automatically vote Republican. A long time ago "Had enough? Vote Republican!" was a good campaign slogan, and indeed that was the mood of the country in the 90's when Newt's Contract with America turned the Democrats out of the House after forty years of Republicans in the Wilderness. Alas, "Hope and Change" was a powerful slogan after the Republican madness that followed Newt Gingrich's resignation from Congress.
The nation hasn't had enough of Democrats. Perhaps it has been Taxed Enough Already.
The best thing that could happen to the United States would be more elections in which a Republican and a Democrat contest with each other to show which is the more conservative.
Yesterday's election was not a victory for Republicans: it was a warning that I hope the Republican leadership will not ignore. The nation has not had enough of Hope and Change. It has had enough of those who promise it and do not deliver. "Had enough? Vote Republican." will no longer work. The good news is that the Democrats were afraid to let Obama go into Pennsylvania to campaign for Critz and Specter. The country has had enough. Now it's looking for people who will agree that we are Taxed Enough Already.
Alas, the soft collar wasn't sufficient to keep Sable from aggressively licking her incision, and the cone of shame had to go back on. She acted as if we were punishing her and from her view I suppose she was right. I hated putting that thing back on her. With luck it can come off in another week or so.
Sable with the cone, then soft cone, than back to the cone of shame.
We had a walk without Sable. My first since she came home and I came down with whatever it is. Sable hates this. She sees us go out with hats and sticks and keeps wondering what she did to deserve all this. The good news is she is using that leg more and more, and without damage, and the incision is healing. A few more days and the cone comes off, and maybe in a week she can go around the block with us.
Art Robinson Wins the Republican
Congressional Nomination in Oregon District 4
I don't live in his district or even in Oregon, but I certainly encourage those who do live there to support Art Robinson. It's time we had a scientist of his caliber and disposition in Congress.
May 20, 2010
This is self explanatory:
Except for the election of Murtha's staffer Critz to Murtha's seat, the election went about as well as we could hope. The Critz election is supposedly puzzling.
Note that this election was for the successor to a popular Congressman. It was held in a district that is registered 2/3 Democrat, and held on a day in which the Democrats were to choose between Arlen Specter and a challenger who called him a superannuated opportunist who ought to be turned out as a traitor to his own party as well as a would be usurper. It was very clever of the Democratic governor to have that Congressional election on a day in which all the other elections were primaries. There was no strong reason for registered Republicans to turn out. Meanwhile Critz ran against Obamacare, against cap and trade, against taxes -- as a Blue Wolf. His opponent ran against Nancy Pelosi. That may have seemed like a good strategy at the time, but it doesn't seem to have worked out that way. Critz stuck to his issues: pro-life, anti-tax, pro-guns, all issues that appeal to "Reagan Democrats". Now my guess is that the Democrats who voted for Critz will be disappointed when he gets to Washington; but perhaps not. We'll have to wait and see about that. Hope springs eternal. If in fact this is a beginning of a shift of the Democrats from their present ultra-liberal orientation to something both more sensible and more popular, that would be an important trend. Hope springs eternal. And it will help if Critz understands that and continues to run scared...
I don't know that district, but I cannot think it a bad thing if there is a spirited contest on the truth about global warming. Art Robinson has his facts down cold. He's a master of his data. I don't know Oregon politics very well, and I know that the alarmists have dominated the news there. Robinson is a scientist with strong libertarian principles. He may be too much so; but I will continue to assert that it would be a very good thing for the Republic if he were in the House. We can use a voice for strict scientific integrity. Even if all he can do is make De Fazio run scared, that will be something worth doing. A year ago the notion that De Fazio might lose that seat would have been as unthinkable as -- well, as that Ted Kennedy's Senate seat might go to a Republican.
Today was the First Annual Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. I had thought of participation. It's not a simple decision, since the threats against those who participate are real. I admit to dithering, and then --
I had a relapse today. My flu-like symptoms got worse, and I had no energy at all. Bed early with hope. You may call it a copout.
May 21, 2010
Some reports on yesterday's First Annual Everyone Draw Mohammed Day
Roberta persuaded me that I'll never recover from this flu plus funk by giving in to it, and we took a short walk -- without Sable, of course -- this morning. It has exhausted me, but not so much that I won't put in a session in the Monk's Cell this afternoon. The only real cure for funk is to ignore it, and I'll try that.
Yesterday there was a demonstration at the Los Angeles Federal Building in Westwood, and it included deliberately stopping traffic by lying in the streets. Traffic in the entire west side of LA was tied up for hours. People were unable to get to work, and those who did manage to get to work not only lost time getting there but more hours getting home. Apparently the traffic was a nightmare.
The demonstration was in aid of "the Dream Act" which would give illegal residents the right to a college education at public expense. That may be an overstatement, but the Act does lead to permanent legal immigrant status for certain illegal residents. It applies to minors brought to the US as illegals. They have grown up here, and have no ties to their mother country, and are thus objects of considerable sympathy. At least one of the demonstrators, a major in Chicano studies at a public university, declared herself to be an illegal immigrant. The demonstrators were arrested and released. The Immigration Service was not informed.
As I said, those brought here illegally are objects of considerable sympathy.
Or were until yesterday.
One local radio station has started a movement to turn in the Chicano Studies major to the ICE on the tip hot line. One of the hosts of a major LA talk show was caught in the traffic. The local Clear Channel station has undertaken the task of getting her deported. We expect to hear more on this.
The problem with the DREAM act is that it's like amnesty: until you have control of the borders, any exceptions to the immigration laws tend to invite more to run in and get in on the coming amnesty.
In Roman times, those who served twenty years in the Legions were granted Roman Citizenship and generally given some kind of pensionary grant. The grant was usually a small farm in the region where they served, Britain, Gaul, Germany, etc. The result was Romanization of colonial areas, and until the great migrations (possibly brought on by global cooling) made the imperial frontiers unstable and led to the collapse of the Empire, the system worked well. The Dream Act doesn't quite work that way; and the United States doesn't really have overseas colonies that need to be Americanized. We don't intend to leave behind American colonies in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Machiavelli has much to say about the fate of Republics who rely on hired soldiers rather than citizens for their military forces.
I have just received what may be the most incompetent phishing message I have ever seen:
It is hard to believe that anyone has ever fallen for this; certainly no one who comes here. But it does make you reflect. Maybe someone has?
May 23, 2010
I am slowly recovering from whatever has plagued me for the past two weeks. Had a bit more energy today. I was able to write a bit on Friday, and I will tomorrow. I am not caught up but I am more or less getting there.
The Hawaii election continues the trend. The Democrats lost a seat they have held for forty years, this is the district in which Obama was born. In Pennsylvania the Democrat ran against Obama. In Hawaii only the Republican ran against him. The Democrats are confident they will be able to reclaim the seat next November. Perhaps.
Another scenario is that the Liberals in the House insist that the Pennsylvania Democrat get aboard and support the Obama program, and the Hawaii Republican opposes the Obama programs; in which case the prediction -- mine, anyway -- is that the Democrats will lose in both districts. I suspect that November will be a very anti-Obama election. Whether that will be enough to save the nation isn't clear, but it's the best chance we have -- assuming that the Republicans are smart enough to take advantage of it. The Pennsylvania House election should have been the proper clue and a bit sobering. We'll see.
In the long run the best thing that could happen would be that a bunch of anti-Obama Democrats win seats, and rethink the House leadership. This country really needs two parties capable of governing without changing the nature of the political process. At the moment we have none at all. The nation couldn't have survive eight years of the crazy big government Republicans -- the Creeps -- any more than it can survive years of socialism -- the Nuts.
If the Republicans can shed the Creeps and the Democrats can escape the dominance of the Nuts, we have a chance.
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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