THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 318 July 12 - 18, 2004
Highlights this week:
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 monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 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.
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July 12, 2004
And I'll have more. Apparently the NeoJacobins who like to call themselves NeoConservatives had their hooks in deeper than anyone thought, and at the same time had given no real thought to what would happen when they "won" their war.
If Kerry weren't so frightening I would contemplate working for the Democrats. As it is, I fear for everything. What I would like to see is some paralysis, so that we can bring the troops home and get out of this National Glory nonsense. But Kerry's notions of the tax structure will be a real disaster.
If you want a formula for unemployment try Open Borders plus a high minimum wage and compulsory benefits for legal workers. Now that is a great way to run a country...
I got up this morning and used a sonic toothbrush, which works wonderfully: I haven't had gum problems or much in the way of plaque since I took that up some years ago at the suggestion of Redmond Simonson on BIX. Then I used the Dr. Grossan nasal pump:
If you get it through the following link you get a discount. Truth in advertising: I get a small commission also. This was arranged by the company without any request from me because they were getting a lot of orders through my web site anyway. I don't take advertisements, and I recommended this because I use it.
After that I used some high tech eyewash stuff since my eyes have been giving me problems the last few days, whether irritation from the 45 level sunblock (yet another high tech product) or just allergies I am not sure; after which I took the huge pile of pills that keep me going.
Could you say I am addicted to high tech civilization?
There's some disturbing mail today, although something feels wrong about the whole thing. Anyone know more?
And of course there's the Abu Graib report stuff.
July 13, 2004
A correspondent who has good reasons not to be identified tells a story of taking the California teacher certification exams, and adds:
Sample questions are available for your amusement and
Well, I suppose things could be worse. But it may be a good reason for home schooling.
Then amuse yourself with
July 14, 2004
On July 14, 1789, the Paris mob aided by units of the National Guard stormed the Bastille Fortress which stood in what had been the Royal area of France before the Louvre and Tuilleries took over that function. The Bastille was a bit like the Tower of London, a fortress prison under direct control of the Monarchy. It was used to house unusual prisoners, all aristocrats, in rather comfortable durance. The garrison consisted of soldiers invalided out of service and some older soldiers who didn't want to retire; it was considered an honor to be posted there, and the garrison took turns acting as valets to the aristocratic prisoners kept there by Royal order (not convicted by any court).
On July 14, 1789, the prisoner population consisted of four forgers, three madmen, and another. The forgers were aristocrats and were locked away in the Bastille rather than be sentenced by the regular courts. The madmen were kept in the Bastille in preference to the asylums: they were unmanageable at home, and needed to be locked away. The servants/warders were bribed to treat them well. The Bastille was stormed; the garrison was slaughtered to a man, some being stamped to death; their heads were displayed on pikes; and the prisoners were freed. The forgers vanished into the general population. The madmen were sent to the general madhouse. The last person freed was a young man who had challenged the best swordsman in Paris to a duel, and who had been locked up at his father's insistence lest he be killed. This worthy joined the mob and took on the name of Citizen Egalite. He was active in revolutionary politics until Robespierre had him beheaded in The Terror.
The national holidays of the US, Mexico, and France all celebrate rather different events...
Over in mail we have more on the Ballard Locks Photographing Incident.
July 15, 2004
The following interchange took place in another discussion group. I find it amusing.
"I can find living humans whose DNA is more
different from each other than Neanderthals is different from mine,"
Templeton asserts. (Alan Templeton, Washington University)
"The typical humans share about 66% of his
genome with a pumpkin, due to common genetic machinery required to produce
"We share 3/4 of the pumpkin genome. In
reality, pumpkins are our brothers under the skin. There are more genomic
differences <within> the humans species than there are <between> humans and
And in another forum, a letter from an economist friend to Scott McConnell, Editor of Pat Buchanan's American Conservative magazine:
Scott, have you forgotten already that Pat Buchanan wanted to *replace* the graduated income tax (which is basically grounded on envy) with tariffs? Pat was roundly denounced as a "protectionist," and the denouncers lost no time in dragging out the usual economic arguments (quite valid) that tariffs "distort" incentives. But they forgot that income taxes also "distort" incentives, as do all taxes except a flat head tax (and even that tax "distorts" the incentive to have children). (One economist retorted that this is the case as long as a free market in slaves is prohibited.)
Ever since Pat made his proposal, I have been asking economists, right and left, high and low, good and bad, if there is any actual data to show whether tariffs "distort" the economy more than income taxes. And answer came there none. In this state of blissful ignorance, I back Pat: we might as well use the tax system to stave off the downshifting of jobs in this country that result for outsourcing and the production of cheaper goods abroad.
I warn that foreign trade probably accounts for only about a fifth of rising income inequalities among native workers in the United States. (I base this on an article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives a few years back, called (approx.), "Are your wages set in Beijing?", the idea being that in theory free trade should instantly equalize wages around the globe but that due to various frictions, the actual effect is only a fifth of what it is in pure theory.)
The reason for rising wage inequality within this country (it is becoming more equal across countries, though) is due to the premium on intelligence. It used to be that "a strong back and a weak mind" could earn a respectable salary, but today the man with the strong back needs to operate what is for him a cognitively complex machine.
In addition to this, computers mean that the cost of making precise accounting calculations has fallen drastically, so that companies have a better idea than ever before just which parts of the company are earning a profit. The upshot is ever more creative destruction, and this means shorter and shorter product cycles. The old days of large corporations with big sunk capital and huge assembly lines of semi-skilled labor are being replaced with smaller capitalization for products of shorter life and a more skilled work force dealing more and more in product development and marketing than in sheer assembly. There was a big article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics about three years ago detailing this development in French companies, but the implications are universal.
Alas, taxes in this country (and in all others, I am sure) is so huge that tariffs set at the tax revenue maximizing rates could not make up for income taxes, not by a long shot. But at least Pat's proposal of replacement of envy taxes for job-protecting tariffs could be partly enacted. It would not do all that much to retard the growth of income inequality of American workers, but it would be a help. "All" we have to do is get economists to *compare* two distorting taxes and stop looking only at the distortion caused by tariffs. Good luck.
July 16, 2004
I am weary. I have two trips to make shortly, and I dread them both. I have just been through a bunch of gotcha mail, and I am weary of gotcha games. I had better go to bed because at the moment I never want to see an email message or a web site discussion again for at least a year.
I'll be off the rest of the day. I can catch up tomorrow.
July 17, 2004
Happy Anniversary Roberta
I am down here at the beach house, this being our 45th anniversary and all.
It's always hectic getting out of the house. The housekeeper doesn't like it much when we're both gone. The dog hates it although I have an arrangement with a neighbor young lady to walk Sable twice a day. There's always someone in the house, and neighbors all around, and Sable unlike previous Huskies barks at strangers, but the last minute preparations get frantic. Still it works, and the LA Metro system gets me to Union Station in under an hour from walking out my back door.
Communications on the road tend to be dicey. Sometimes, as when on the train passing through the right town, the wireless just works for a short period and mail comes in, then the connection is gone. Other times, such as here, with EarthLink dialup, NOTHING works. EarthLink mail servers periodically just stop working, usually for no more than ten to twenty minutes, but invariably this happens when I have another problem with mail.
EarthLink supposedly allows you to send mail through their system to your home base, provided that you are properly logged into EarthLink and can prove it; but then they block port 25 for anything other than mail going to an EarthLink mail server. You can make EarthLink the default sending account, but that won't work with mail already set to go out through your home account, unless you cut and paste it into a new message to go through Earthlink. Now you can't send mail at all during the traditional ten to twenty minutes every few hours that EarthLink mail servers are down; and all mail that was set to be sent through your home account stacks up in the outbox and won't go out at all.
We have solved the problem, at least for now, and of course the EarthLink mail servers eventually come back on line. But it makes for frustrations.
And now Roberta's rather ancient COMPAQ laptop, King Armadillo and Armada, just went "POP" and died: all lights off, all screens blank, no nothing. It's a brick. A neat old machine we have had since its predecessor was cracked up in Death Valley some years ago. I will have to get her a new portable. Not sure what.
July 18, 2004
Editor's introduction to The Sons of Martha by Rudyard Kipling
There is more than one kind of aristocracy.
Luke tells us the story: Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, were entertaining Jesus and his disciples. Martha rushed about the kitchen and household, seeing to the cooking, bringing wash basins, changing towels, and doing the other things needful when one's home has been unexpectedly invaded by a celebrity and his entourage.
"Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
"And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus feet, and heard his word.
"But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.
"And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things:
"But one thing is needful: Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
Much has happened since then; but Rudyard Kipling tells us, we sons of Martha have yet to pay the final reckoning.
Imperial Stars Vol. I: The Stars at War,
Jerry Pournelle, ed. p. 227
The sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part; But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart. And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest, Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.
It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock. It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock. It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain, Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.
They say to mountains, "Be ye removed." They say to the lesser floods, "Be dry." Under their rods are the rocks reproved-they are not afraid of that which is high. Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit-then is the bed of the deep laid bare, That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.
They finger death at their gloves' end where they piece and repiece the living wires. He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires. Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall, And hale him forth a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.
To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar. They are concerned with matters hidden - under the earthline their altars are- The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth, And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city's drouth.
They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose. They do not teach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they dam'-well choose. As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand, Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren's day may be long in the land.
Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat - Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that! Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed, But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need. And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed - they know the Angels are on their side. They know in them is the Grace confessed, and for them are the Mercies multiplied. They sit at the Feet - they hear the Word - they see how truly the Promise runs. They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and - the Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons!
And now back to work...
Tom Bethell in this month's Progressive says it well: it was a mistake going in to Iraq, but if we let the world see that 800 American casualties will change our minds on something so important, so we cut and run, the result will be far worse. We simply can't afford to look as if we can be chased out.
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