THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 635 August 9 - 15, 2010
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August 9, 2010
Why I'm Not Hiring by Michael Fleischer is very clear and explains why the economy will not -- I would go so far as to say cannot -- recover so long as it is threatened with Obamacare and other entitlements.
But, it will be said, we need health care. People are entitled.
The argument that we need various entitlements is endless and cannot be settled. The discussion of what we can afford is less ambiguous. We can't afford Obamacare. We may or may not be able to afford something like the French system -- but that is not Obama care and that is not what was debated.
If the election in November is ambiguous, we will be due for a full Depression. Count on it. If that seems unduly gloomy my apology. I wish it were not true.
There were disquisitions on Global Warming and Rational Debate, first ever US official presence at the annual Hiroshima ceremonies, and other such matters over the weekend.
And there's lots of mail today.
I remind you all that Escape from Hell by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is available in both paperback and kindle editions. It's a good read. Perhaps not as philosophically sound as C. S. Lewis would have made it, but we hope at least as readable.
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|This week:||Tuesday, August
A Step Farther Out was the title of my column in Galaxy Science Fiction in the 1970's. Jim Baen was editor. After a few years I collected many of the columns into a book, edited by Jim Baen who was then the editor in chief of Ace Books. The book was published in 1979. It contained comments I made after the columns were written but before the book was published. A later edition in the early 1980's had further comments.
Here is an extract from the book:
I have a medical appointment (routine; my check-in with my oncologist) in a few minutes. I'll have more to say on this another time.
The printed book A Step Farther Out is still available and there are several sources of eBooks in different formats. Obviously any edition from Baen is authorized.
1600: back from the oncologist, who says my condition is something close to miraculous, there being no sign that the Lump has any continuing existence, and all my joint problems turn out to have been phantoms; I still have to stretch but then who doesn't? I don't get sharp pains in hips or shoulder and haven't since the radiation therapy.
I really need to get to work on The Mask on the Wall, which is the title I have in mind for an account of cancer and recovery. When I start in I think I don't have enough to say, but I probably do. First I finish Mamelukes, which is taking a LOT longer than it should. It's about 135,000 finished words now, and it still looks like about 10,000 to go to finish this segment; there's probably one more book in the story line, but this one will have an ending of sorts. Of course the first one did too...
I started a piece on publishing, but I have moved it to Word where I will turn it into the August column. The column is late, of course. I seem to be perpetually late. I will have a lot of books -- some really interesting -- to review, a disquisition on publishing and its future. I'll also have a few more words on the iPad. I took the iPad to my medical appointment today, and Dr. Rodriguez came in, saw it, and said "So you've given up the Kindle for the iPad." We took a little time to look at the iPad. Of course we're both busy so we didn't have too long for the conversation.
Anyway, I have the Hollywood Bowl tonight, so I won't get to the column until tomorrow.
Education: about half the high school dropouts come from fewer than 10% of the schools. One of the results of Gates Foundation research is that one of the biggest improvements we could make in education would be to eliminate the worst 10% of teachers. Alas, union rules make that impossible: in California we have fired fewer than 40 teachers in the past decade. I do not believe that the California system level of competence is that good.
I don't know how many of the some 2,000 dropout factory schools that account for more than half of the high school dropouts are in California, but I am sure there are many. I have a modest proposal: fire every employee of those schools. All of them, faculty, administrators, and staff. Reopen the schools with a new principal and charter school board. Allow the fired staff to apply for new jobs, but make it explicit that hiring can not be based on time served or seniority; the teachers must be hired on the basis of potential effectiveness.
Now that's drastic, I admit. Better perhaps would be to require the worst 50% of California schools to fire their worst 20% of teachers. It's not hard to find bad teachers. Principals, the other teachers, parents, and even students know who the bad ones are. Actually casual visitors to the schools know. And yes: the flip side here is that some good people will be axed because someone really hates them, there will be some arbitrary and capricious actions -- but then there are now, and what we don't have now is good results.
We could probably cut the high school dropout rate in half by firing the worst 10% of the teachers in the 10% of the schools that account for a full half of the dropouts. Fire about 1% of the teacher force and look at the savings. Of course that will never be done. The unions are part of the Ruling Class, and they are not about to let go.
Where is Madame Defarge now that we need her....
August 11, 2010
I wrote most of this last night. This morning the morning papers had a story from the Associate Press about an enormous ice island that broke off from the Greenland ice sheets. The Petermann Glacier is four times the size of Manhattan. Representative Ed Markey Chairman of the Energy Committee says that the island should serve as a home for global skeptics. This is known as rational debate. The existence of the island is said to show the truth of global warming. "The Petermann glacier "May symbolize a warming world like no other."
Further into the article we find that this glacier is the largest since -- 1962.
Anyway, the following is long, for which I apologize, but the matter seems to be important.
Query: I have been trying to chase down just how much warming the seas receive from volcanism. Common sense would tell you that if you want to heat water, blowing warm air over it is not a very effective way to do it; far more efficient would be applying heat directly to the water.. Since to heat the Earth you must heat the water, and CO2 greenhousing heats air, it does seem reasonable to see if the "extra" heat that the AGW theory is trying to explain may be found from underseas volcanic activity. (And of course heating the seas causes them to disgorge dissolved CO2, raising the CO2 levels; or so I presume.)
I find a lot of estimates as to how many active underwater volcanoes
there might be. A quick suggestion is here:
I've been digging into the theory of man=made global warming, and I keep getting steered in circles; it seems the principal argument is, the Earth is warmer than the black-body temperature would predict given energy received from the Sun and that radiated back out to outer space. Since the Earth is too warm, something has to account for it. The only thing the climatologists believe can account for it is greenhouse effect -- which certainly seems to have heated Venus -- and therefore it must be the explanation since we have no other. I may have put that a bit baldly, but it does seem to be the view of the AGW "believers" ("believers" or "true believers" as opposed to "deniers"). I have had a believer lecture to me in what amounts to baby talk, assuming that if he talks real slow I will understand, and that was his principle argument: the Earth is too warm, greenhouse effect explains Venus, and it's all we have to explain the excess heat on the Earth. The computer models all say that's what's happening and no one has anything better. Therefore we accept AGW. That, my boy, is science. Again I may sound as if I were parodying the argument but in fact I am not.
At this point I thought, "I've written most of this before" and went looking for when. The result is that I dug it out of another conference. The discussion was a lot longer than what I am giving you here, and what follows is pretty long. I post it because I am still interested in the debate, and the discussion in this other conference didn't get me very far: you'll see that if you read the next couple of screens. Apologies for the length, but the question is one of importance, and rational debate isn't always brief. Alas, I am not sure the debate got me very far, but I tried. My partner in the debate is a Ph.D. physicist, reasonably well known, and very clearly a believer in human-caused global warming.
After a number of interchanges in a conference of fairly smart people, the physicist apologist for AGW replied to me as follows:
I was tempted to reply in the same tone, but what I said was:
The reply I got was:
At which point I gave up since I learned nothing from the last reply, and it was getting clear that this renowned physicist wasn't going to address my specific points. I have had similar dialogues with other AGW believers, but quoting them would make this already too long discussion even longer while adding no knowledge, or at least none to mine.
The part of the physics I don't credit is that the predictions are that we should be seeing more temperature rise than we have observed. A second part of the physics I don't credit is the accuracy of the measurements. I do not believe we know the temperature of the Earth in the time of Arrhenius to anything like a single degree of accuracy, and for that matter I am not convinced that we know it now to that accuracy. I don't have any pre-determined conclusions. As an old Operations Research guy I do like to have some confidence in both theory and observations before I spend a lot of money on remedies to problems that are predicted by models.
I think I have been through all this several times.
I put all that above because I begin to wonder at my own sanity: what happened to common sense? The warming that we are all frightened of was about 1 degree in a century. That one degree increase was predicted in 1890 simply by looking at trend lines from the 14th Century. No one was mad enough to try estimations to a fraction of a degree.
If I wanted to take the temperature of the United States to an accuracy of a tenth of a degree, how would I go about doing it? What weight would I assign to, say, Lake Superior as opposed to an equal area of Kansas? Do I give them equal weights? At that altitude do I take my air temperature, and what weight do I give that as opposed to the temperature of the earth beneath it? I keep searching for a simple -- or even a complex -- discussion of those matters, but I don't find them.
And when I want to look at the heat balance of the Earth, it would seem reasonable to say. "What do you mean by the temperature of the Earth?" Do you mean some average of the temperature from the center of the Earth to the top of the atmosphere? Apparently not. The interest is on surface conditions. Excellent. But the interior is hotter than the surface. Surely there is some transfer of heat from interior to surface. What is that transfer? How many calories are annually added to the surface temperature from the interior? Is it a significant amount, or is it trivial and thus can be ignored. So far I have found no answers to that question.
We know volcanism affects surface temperature, but the general effect is cooling. Dr. Benjamin Franklin was so far as I know the first to observe that: as he passed Iceland on his way to take his ambassadorial post in Europe, there was a large eruption that made for dark skies and noticeable cooling, and he speculated that enough of those might have a dramatic climate effect. After that came Tambora and "the year without a summer" that caused Mary Shelley to write her Frankenstein story and create the science fiction novel. But it there a transfer of heat from the interior of the Earth to the surface? There must be. How large is it? Could lava flows in the Mindanao Deep cause water circulations and have some effect on El Nino? I look for data on this and I don't find much, which may be a commentary on my research abilities, but still, you'd think that would be interesting: I sure don't have a problem finding explanations of why global warming deniers ought to be exiled to an iceberg.
Ah well. Apologies for the rant. I'll go to other subjects. But I would appreciate enlightenment from a believer who can spare the time to answer some simple questions.
Yesterday's "stimulus" program which extended unemployment and subsidized union worker employment was purportedly financed by cutting the 2014 Food Stamp Program.
If you depend on Food Stamps, you might consider planting a vegetable garden.
Personal revenue for Californians is down by $40 billion this year. California continues to hire new state civil service workers.
Federal civil service workers are now earning not more than, but double, what private sector workers earn. Their income has increased annually for the past nine years. Federal civil service average paying benefit is $109,000 a year (included benefits and pensions of course). The average bureaucrat makes about twice what those who produce goods and service and pay taxes. There are no layoffs, and there will be raises next year.
Where is Madame Defarge now that we need her?
August 12, 2010
I may not have been clear: of course temperatures have been rising. The best guess is at about one degree a century, and this has been going on since we started coming out of the Little Ice Age. As i have said often, we know that in the Viking era there were dairy farms in Greenland, longer growing seasons in Europe and China, and so forth: we know it was warmer. How much warmer we certainly do not know to a fraction of a degree, or even to a degree, but we know that in those days it was probably warmer than it is now: that is, we can see the Greenland dairy farms emerging from the ice, but some are still there.
And we know it was colder in 1776 when the Hudson froze over hard enough to support cannon, and there were market festivals on the Thames. We have the stories of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates -- that is, routine skating on the brackish canals of Holland.
I should make it clear: I don't believe we can come up with any reliable estimate of the average temperature of the Earth for any given year; not accurately enough to compare year to year so that we can say that "this is the warmest year ever" and such like. Note that all the global warming we know of shows annual temperatures to a fraction of a degree, and shows about a one degree rise in that annual average from 1880 to 2000. Now we know it was warmer in 2000 than than in 1880, but how much warmer isn't so clear.
Of course the Earth is warming. How much, and why, is what the argument is about.
The Earth could become too hot for people
I have been looking for data on heat transfer from the interior of the Earth to the biosphere.
One number I have found says that geothermal transfer is about 0.1 Watt per square meter. The Solar Constant is about 1.3 Kw/m^2, so while the amount isn't trivial it is not large. Whether geothermal heating in the oceans has any effect on such patterns as El Nino I don't know.
I have an appointment with an old friend to go hiking in a few minutes. Back later.
Review of Patterson's Biography of Heinlein:
August 13, 2010
Friday the 13th Falls on Friday
Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution is one of the essential documents of a serious student of conservatism. It's not easy reading for modern students because he takes a while to get into things. The passage quoted above is wonderful, but there's a lot of winding into the subject in the beginning, and many who start at the beginning never get to the good parts. The quote above is drawn from an edited version. It is better to read the entire book, but that can take time, and requires some understanding of the historical background, of the Terror, and the American Revolution which by then was an accomplished fact. The Wikipedia entry on the book isn't sufficient, but that should not be astonishing.
It looks at first as if Burke were purely nostalgic, and the remedy for him was later to be provided by Dickens with The Tale of Two Cities. One critic famously said that Burke pities the plumage but neglects the dying bird. In fact, Burke is trying to show that good government is fragile. Power survives. Rejection of what exists simply because you don't understand it, or find it distasteful, not in conformity with some scheme, is dangerous.
He might have been writing about modern liberalism. Indeed, he was... Fear of being turned out of office drives a great deal of despotic public policy.
As to what reminded me of Burke, Los Angeles news is dominated today with the story of Matrice Robinson, an attractive young woman in her 20's, who for some reason went alone to Geoffrey's restaurant without her purse or wallet, had a dinner that cost $89, and was unable to pay. The management of Geoffrey's put her under citizen's arrest and called the sheriff. The sheriff's deputies determined that she was not drunk, but arrested her and took her, not to the Malibu station, but eight miles inland over the mountains. Her car was impounded. One suspects that giving the tow company some business may have had something to do with all this: I know that when my motorcycle was stolen, the local police found it, and since I knew them, they tried to call me to tell me they had found it -- but before they could do that a tow truck company came and grabbed it, damaging it in the process. If you infer that I have a certain contempt for tow companies, you are absolutely correct. You may also infer a distaste for the management of a restaurant that calls the cops over an inability to pay an $89 bill rather than just taking her name and address, I don't expect you are wrong. The family had offered to pay the bill by credit card, but Geoffrey's wouldn't take that by phone. They wanted a fax. When they didn't get it, the cops came and the car was towed.
At 1 AM she was released at the inland sheriff's station. She had no transportation, no wallet, her car had been impounded and towed away. She was 8 miles from where she had been picked up. On foot, with no cell phone. She had no coat and it was cold in the middle of the night. Her mother said that she would come to the station to get her if she were going to be released at night, but otherwise they should hold her for the night and the mother would come in the morning. The sheriff station is not in an area where anyone walks at night, nor is there much traffic. Precisely what the deputies thought she would do at 1 AM when released is not clear to me. I suppose they thought, well, it's not my problem.
The age of chivalry is dead.
I wish I had known of this incident when I was writing Escape From Hell. I have a place for those deputies and the manager of Geoffrey's, and it would be interesting to hear the arguments when their case comes up for discussion in the endless mock trials up in the Vestibule...
And by total coincidence I find another reason to be reminded of Escape from Hell:
This might matter to some readers:
Which raises a number of interesting questions. I wish I'd thought of this one before we wrote Escape from Hell (now available in paperback or Kindle). It would have been interesting to have the bureaucrats in Dis discussing this, and to have an "Others' Advocate" arguing for those who agreed without reading it. I would have enjoyed writing that scene, as well as the scene in the Vestibule.
I have to say that my opinion is a minority around here. The girl was an adult, she had made her choices, and it's not the deputies' fault. I suspect that's cold comfort to that night's watch commander.
Anyway I doubt I'll be eating at Geoffrey's anytime soon. And I note that a bill to send money to regime supporters was recently passed. Think too about Preventive Confiscation...
State workers are picketing the governor. Their signs say "State workers are not expendable." Apparently taxpayers are.
There is discussion of government worker pay, and climate models and data, over in Mail for today.
August 14, 2010
In other times I would dismiss this as patently absurd, particularly since no sources are given.
I now have this:
The State of Washington has high sales taxes and no income tax. Oregon has considerably lower sales taxes, but a California style income tax. The result has been bedroom border towns, where people live in Washington but shop in Oregon. Now Bill Gates Sr. (yes, his father), wants to change that.
The full article seems to be behind a pay wall, but it's not particularly important. The result will be more tax supported government workers, and extinguishment of one of the few reasons to locate a business in the State of Washington. And the beat goes on. Perhaps the people of Washington will realize the costs, but perhaps not: the appeal is that all the taxes will be paid by a few who can well afford it, and thus the property and sales taxes will be reduced. Of course that won't happen. As Mrs. Thatcher said, the problem with socialism is that you run out of other people's money. Even if one of the other people is Bill Gates.
Apparently Dr. Laura Schlesinger is in trouble because she actually said the forbidden "N-word" (even I don't care to write it, because it will show up in Google and get me email from people I don't care to hear from: those who want to castigate me for actually writing it, and those who approve and want to congratulate me). I still don't know the actual story, but apparently she said it a number of times, presumably to make a point. Or several points, one of which is "sticks and stones" which most of us learned as children. That was, apparently, an inexcusable offense, and she ought to be jailed for racism. Indeed, anyone who even thinks the N-word ought to be jailed, or exiled, or preferably jailed and then exiled. Clearly -- according to what I am finding -- if you think or say the N-word, even in illustration of a point, you are guilty of "Blind, Ignorant Racism" and unforgiveable. Blind ignorant racists have no rights. The Constitution doesn't apply to racists according to the received wisdom, and we can safely ignore any rights they purport to have.
And, since the thrust of history is toward liberal democracy, and there will never be any kind of change of views that would disapprove of the liberal view, this is a safe and good thing to do. Why even pretend that blind, ignorant racists (which is not universally agreed to apply to Dr. Laura, but that's irrelevant) have any rights?
Which may be a dangerous view of the world. I am sure there are many Ouighers, and inhabitants of Islamic Monarchies and Republics, who would not agree. Opinions do change. And when I was a lad, the polite way to refer to what today is called African Americans was "Negro", properly pronounced. I understand that is no longer a word to be used. "Black" was considered polite for a while. When I lived briefly in New York after leaving the army a black friend said that blacks called themselves spooks (of all things), and while he didn't care for the N-word it wasn't a mortal insult, just uncultured. So has the world changed.
Anyway, while looking up the incident, I found
on which I found that if one is a white man accompanying a black woman to a wedding, and some other white guy makes a racist remark, one must not ignore it:
Which bring us to two articles of importance.
Which goes into detail on just what lengths people will go to in order to plant the racist label on their political opponents, and, more importantly,
The full article is well worth reading. And I have to get to work.
There's more about today's opening item above. Apparently it's not as absurd as I thought. They really are trying to keep the Legions from voting in certain states.
August 15, 2010
Is there a plot to keep the Legions from voting? See above.
I was wondering if volcanism has anything to do with the El Nino cycle. Stephanie Osborn found this:
I am accumulating numbers on the heat transfer from the internal heat of the Earth and the biosphere. Note that deep caves have constant temperatures day and night, winter and summer, year after year, which suggests that there is an equilibrium exchange between the high temperatures of the interior through the mantle to to the surface. What that does to computer models of the solar radiation / earth surface temperature is not known to me; I have never seen anything that indicates that our climate models have any inputs for interior temperature.
What I need is the amount of heat in kilowatts / square meter inputted to the biosphere by solar radiation, and the amount inputted by the Earth's interior. We're working on getting that and doing the conversions. The step after that is to look at local effects. El Nino has a lot more effect on weather than CO2 or any climate change mechanisms I know of: more moisture means more snow and rain.
I can't imagine that I am the first to think of this stuff; I'm just trying to understand what is known, and I do find it astonishing that there's so little discussion of it among the Believers.
Fred's memory is similar to mine. In Capleville, Tennessee, Buck Biggs and I used to leave 7th Grade in Capleville, stop at Mr. Biggs' store to buy .22 Long Rifle, go home, and get our bolt action .22 rifles. I was never able to afford a scope. Scopes were exotic in World War II, and in fact most available rifles were used, some ancient: my first one was an octagon barrel .22 that broke open like a shotgun to load. It was only later that I got a good bolt action. We swam in the creek that ran through our property, and fished there and other places including some that took half an hour to get to by bicycle but it was worth it because the lake had bass as well as crappy and bream, and of course catfish. Such freedom isn't available to citizens and their children now. At least not in theory.
When we hunted, we had some rules: land was huntable unless it was posted, but stay out of posted land (about a quarter of the land around us, most of it under cultivation; few posted their woods and cane patches). You always left a gate as you found it. Pass the firearms through the fence, don't carry them while trying to get through a fence. Don't point a weapon at anything you wouldn't shoot, and don't shoot anything you wouldn't kill. Common sense. But that was in war time... As to what we hunted, rabbits and squirrels mostly. Sometime doves. The custom was that a rifle shot at a sitting bird was OK (provided that you could see where the bullet would hit) but you didn't shoot sitting birds with a shotgun. Unless everyone was pretty hungry, and we were never that hungry. Buck's father was a Watkins man with a Watkins route, and my father worked for radio station WHBQ, as salesman, then sales manager, and finally as general manager, as well as sometimes doing what wasn't then called a talk show but that's what he did. But it was all long ago. When we were free.
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 COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 5,000 - 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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