Friday, November 12, 2004

Yesterday ended up being house organizing day. Since we moved into the house in January, we have had a lot of stuff just piled in the middle of the floor because there isn't any other place for it. We finally have all our book shelves in the house, so we cleaned, polished and started filling them up. The first thing I noticed is that we don't have enough of them. Two are almost completely filled with video tapes and DVD's. We are gradually replacing VHS tapes with DVD's which take up a lot less space, especially when you are dealing with collections. I can free up almost two full shelves just by getting Babylon 5 on DVD and selling the VHS tapes on E-Bay. There are some other tapes that I probably won't bother replacing with DVD's, but I'd like to transfer them to Divx or some other digital medium. That shouldn't be hard; there are numerous devices out there to hang off a USB port to do that with. In the meantime, between videos and CD's, we only have a bookshelf and a half for actual books. There are several boxes of those waiting for a home. The bottom line is that we lost track of time and didn't get to bed until well after midnight.

Got a late start this morning, obviously. Debbie met me at Ruby Tuesday's for dinner. I picked up a cheap PC from work; not too bad of a deal. It only has an 18G hard drive and 128M of RAM, so both of those will get upgraded. But I basically got a 1.6GHz P4, monitor, keyboard, and mouse for $150. I should be able to put some new parts into it, load it with Xandros and use it as a file server.

Tonight is budget night, so I have to go wrestle with Mamon.

For your edification:

From Jerry Pournelle's site:

The Marines are now doing what I thought they would do last April after the first uprising. It is unfortunate for everyone that they were called off before finishing the job last time. What we in the West think of as being reasonable is seen in the Middle East as weakness. I will still make the case that we ought not be in Iraq in the first place, but I think it is clear that, given we are there, we must not leave until we have thoroughly demonstrated to any nation thinking about harboring our enemies that this is not a good idea.

The entire notion of International Law -- it is probably better described as The Law of Nations -- was built around what was, when Grotius first proposed it in the early 1600's, a fairly novel idea: sovereignty. The notion of sovereignty had to be developed because prior to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 -- a treaty based in large part on Grotius' ideas even though he didn't quite live to see it -- the prevailing theory was more internationalist in scope, with adherents of the Papacy and Christendom on the one hand, and of a revival of the Roman Empire on the other, and during Grotius' lifetime at least, the Holy Roman Empire trying to be the embodiment of both.

International Law tried to deal with facts on the ground, in the modern terminology: there was no international enforcement mechanism, and there was no longer any international body to which all the Western nations -- the others didn't really count -- owed allegiance. The King of France was pretty well sovereign in his own domains, as was the King of England. The exact status of the different parts of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire were another matter. Note that the Papacy denounced the Treaty of Westphalia as utterly void, since it ended, even in theory, the notion of Papal supremacy over the Christian world. Note also that the United Nations pretends to the kind of suzerainty over the world that the Pope once claimed. Papal suzerainty ended at Lutzen when Gustavus Adolfus of Sweden showed that there was more than one Great Power, and the German states were not all subject to either Pope or Emperor. Had the Empire won, it would have stood to the Papacy as the United States does to the United Nations: a superpower able to enforce its will on much of the world, but subject to the Pope only in voluntary submission.

I bring all this up because the world is in much the same condition now as it was during the Thirty Years War. Calvinists in that time used the notion of Sovereignty to imprison or execute people like Grotius who believed in free _expression. Sovereignty allowed repressive regimes, and gave them a legal status, which both Catholics and Protestants were quick to make use of. The year 1648 is one of those dates to remember: not only did the Treaty of Westphalia change Europe forever (one of Hitler's avowed goals was to reverse that treaty) but the English killed their king and brought in Puritan rule to abolish Christmas and make Merrie England somber and pure. (Charles I was executed in January of what we now consider the year 1649, but in those times the year did not end on 31 December).

The world is now larger than Europe, and the United Nations isn't united as the Papacy had been. There is no universal agreement on anything including the status of women. The United States has explicitly repudiated the notion of sovereignty as regards nations that sponsor terrorism and harbor terrorist enemies of the West. The United Nations doesn't recognize that right.

Should we think of the US as Sweden had Gustavus Adolfus lived? Incidentally, it was Gustavus genius minister Oxenstern who appointed Grotius as Sweden's ambassador, in which guise he took part in negotiations that led to the Treaty of Westphalia.

And that's quite enough rambling. I am sure there are many holes in the above, which is merely a draft of speculative thoughts. I'll leave it as an example, although I am not quite sure of what. But to come back to the beginning, the US Marines are about to end the insurgency in Fallujah. The demonstration of what happens to those who sufficiently annoy the United States continues. It is not pretty, and many innocents will be killed; but then many innocents die when the terrorists do their work. I would have conducted the war on terror quite differently from President Bush, but given that we are in Iraq we have few choices now. This should have been done earlier. Better late than never.

One thing about Jerry's writting; I always have to spend two days chasing down all the historical references through Google.

And a case of credentialling gone wild. People worship paper, yet most of it is meaninless.

And I really have to go now.

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