Cowlix Wearing my mind on my sleeve

Thursday, February 28, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Content vs bandwidth

The Web Is for Serving, Not Surfing: on control of bandwidth, and hence content, by broadband providers as reflected by terms of service restricting home servers.

The three central tenets of the Internet are peer-to-peer, distributed control and free speech. If you ask me, the broadband companies are in favor of none of these. Since all of the broadband companies are also involved in the "entertainment" business, peer-to-peer distribution of entertainment, news, movie, books and music has them running scared. After all, if end-users of broadband also can be service providers, the power of the entertainment establishment is lessened.

I agree with the worry over the consolidation of content and bandwidth providers, but preventing home servers isn't really a symptom of that. It's cheap enough to get hosting these days. [via dangerousmeta]

Beats Physics for Jocks

Physics for future Presidents: Richard Muller's class on "what every world leader needs to know", including draft chapters from the accompanying textbook with chapters such as Explosions and Dropping food. [via Boing Boing]

Speeding up

A Time of Transition \ the human connection: W. Daniel Hillis on the rate of human progress.

You can tell that something unusual is going on these days by the way we draw our graphs. In normal times, we would use a linear scale to plot progress. The height of our graph would be proportional to the measure of progress. But we live at a remarkable moment in history, when progress is so rapid that we plot it on a logarithmic scale.

[via abuddhas memes]


Church of Virus "a neo-cybernetic philosophy for the 21st century" [via abuddhas memes]

Wednesday, February 27, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Economics 101

Enronomics explained: "You have two cows..." [via fortboise]

Subcontracting propaganda

When Things Turn Weird, The Weird Turn Pro: Propaganda, The Pentagon And The Rendon Group

A few years ago, Washington media consultant John Rendon was regaling an audience of cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy with one of his favorite war stories.

When victorious U.S. troops rolled into Kuwait City, he noted, they were greeted by hundreds of Kuwaitis waving American flags. The scene, flashed around the world again and again on CNN, left little doubt that the U.S. Marines were welcome in Kuwait.

"Did you ever stop to wonder," he asked, "how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American, and for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries?"

Narcotics report followup

The International Narcotics Control Board's 2001 report, which I mentioned a couple of days ago, is now available.

Shuttle delay

Columbia's launch has been delayed by at least 24 hours due to cold weather. Current schedule is for 6:22am Eastern on Friday, but the most recent weather forecast had a 70% chance of a 48 hour delay.

Therapeutic cloning in the U.K.

Lords back cloning research: in a decision from the House of Lords today, The U.K. is allowing research into therapeutic cloning to continue under licenses issued by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority under a 1990 law.

20/20 foresight?

From a comment to a Toast and Tea post, I found Helping Colombia Fix Its Plan to Curb Drug Trafficking, Violence, and Insurgency, where The Heritage Foundation points out problems with Plan Columbia, the 1999 Columbian plan to achieve peace. The U.S. is supporting the plan through the Andean Regional Initiative and the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, which Bush is expanding to include protection for the Caño-Limon oil pipeline.

See also:

A closer examination of Plan Colombia reveals its true objective to be the preservation of the political, social and economic status quo through the implementation of a "carrot and stick" strategy. As is evident in the initial installment of overseas aid--the $1.3 billion U.S. aid package--the Plan intends to utilize a huge stick while offering a tiny carrot. The stick, approximately 80 percent of the U.S. aid, is for the Colombian military and police. The remainder constitutes the carrot: eight percent is going to alternative development; six percent to human rights programs; four percent to the displaced; two percent to judicial reform; and less than one percent to support the ongoing peace process.

Plan Colombia is based on a drug-focussed analysis of the roots of the conflict and the human rights crisis which completely ignores the Colombian state's own historical and current responsibility. It also ignores deep-rooted causes of the conflict and the human rights crisis. The Plan proposes a principally military strategy (in the US component of Plan Colombia) to tackle illicit drug cultivation and trafficking through substantial military assistance to the Colombian armed forces and police. Social development and humanitarian assistance programs included in the Plan cannot disguise its essentially military character. Furthermore, it is apparent that Plan Colombia is not the result of a genuine process of consultation either with the national and international non-governmental organisations which are expected to implement the projects nor with the beneficiaries of the humanitarian, human rights or social development projects. As a consequence, the human rights component of Plan Colombia is seriously flawed.

We saw many remnants of the old Putumayo during CIP's March 9-12 trip there. It is still a beautiful place, overwhelming the eye with vivid green. But we also saw forests knocked down to grow illegal crops, armed groups operating freely, fields devastated by herbicides, and widespread poverty and fear. We were strongly dismayed by the United States' role there, as Putumayo is the main destination of Washington's controversial plan to fumigate drug crops, supported by hundreds of millions of dollars in mostly military aid.

We had come to Putumayo to evaluate this program in the wake of its first phase, an eight-week blitz of aerial herbicide spraying that had ended one month earlier. The policy's supporters call the U.S.-sponsored effort a "balanced approach." But so far it has been purely military, with not a dime spent yet on economic assistance programs that might prevent farmers from moving and re-planting coca, the plant used to make cocaine. We found that the zone where fumigations occurred is dominated not by so-called "industrial" coca plantations, but by families who are now running out of food. We found truth behind claims that the spraying had negative health effects and destroyed legal crops, including alternative development projects. We were disturbed by evidence that the fumigations proceeded more smoothly because of a paramilitary offensive in the zone to be sprayed. We found that the people of Putumayo want to stop growing coca, and that they have clear proposals for how U.S. assistance can help them make a living legally.

Hindsight is 20/20, but not just a few people saw this one coming from the start.

Tuesday, February 26, 2002 Permanent link to this day
How can we justify...

A Prayer for America: Representative Dennis Kucinich speaks out against the continued expansion of the War of Terror both abroad and at home.

Let us pray that our nation will remember that the unfolding of the promise of democracy in our nation paralleled the striving for civil rights. That is why we must challenge the rationale of the Patriot Act. We must ask why should America put aside guarantees of constitutional justice?

How can we justify in effect canceling the First Amendment and the right of free speech, the right to peaceably assemble?

How can we justify in effect canceling the Fourth Amendment, probable cause, the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure?

How can we justify in effect canceling the Fifth Amendment, nullifying due process, and allowing for indefinite incarceration without a trial?

How can we justify in effect canceling the Sixth Amendment, the right to prompt and public trial?

How can we justify in effect canceling the Eighth Amendment, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment?

We cannot justify widespread wiretaps and Internet surveillance without judicial supervision, let alone with it. We cannot justify secret searches without a warrant. We cannot justify giving the Attorney General the ability to designate domestic terror groups. We cannot justify giving the FBI total access to any type of data which may exist in any system anywhere such as medical records and financial records.

We cannot justify giving the CIA the ability to target people in this country for intelligence surveillance. We cannot justify a government which takes from the people our right to privacy and then assumes for its own operations a right to total secrecy. The Attorney General recently covered up a statue of Lady Justice showing her bosom as if to underscore there is no danger of justice exposing herself at this time, before this administration.

[via Follow Me Here]

I can stop any time

Turning into digital goldfish

If you are spending too much time on the internet and are concerned that it is affecting your concentration, you are not alone.

The addictive nature of web browsing can leave you with an attention span of nine seconds - the same as a goldfish.

Hey, did you see the U.S. version of the Register? [via Plep]

Mir viruses

Virus 2: The Real Story of the 'Mir' Threat: do mutating viruses from the Mir pose a threat to the Earth, now that the space station has come crashing home?

Throughout Mir's life in space, the number of microorganisms grew continuously, one generation replacing another every 20-30 minutes. If in 1990 there were registered 94 species, in 2001 they numbered 140. But the real problem was not the species increasing in number but their growing aggressiveness: each new generation seemed to be more ferocious than the last.

[via abuddhas memes]

Analyzing the treason tape

What lies behind Zimbabwe's treason tape

The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe has analysed the video tape and says that a version broadcast relentlessly on Zimbabwe television has a video timer on the screen, which also demonstrates "that the video had been cut and rearranged in a manner that appeared to suit the assassination conspiracy theory".

"The timer... changed repeatedly from, 9.45am to 9.25am; and from 9.25am to 9.43am and then back to 9.27am; and from 9.52am to 9.44am," says the MMPZ.

It's not clear the weekly reports from the MMPZ are archived regularly, so I'm mirroring that issue below.

Dispersing influence

The Office of Strategic Influence, which caused a stir earlier this month, is being shut down and its functions distributed to other organizations. Rumsfeld blames inaccurate reporting on the office being "so damaged" that it couldn't function.

"We did a whole series of things that are characterized as influence or strategic influence or information operations," Rumsfeld said. "And we have done that in past, and we will do that in the future ... There's lots of things we have to do. And we will do those things. We'll just do them in different offices."

Asked directly whether disinformation would be part of the effort, Rumsfeld replied, "It most clearly is not."

Poppy production unleashed

A drug on the market

Neither individual Afghans nor foreign governments have cause to mourn the collapse of the Taliban regime. But in one respect, it is already being missed abroad if not at home: it managed to eradicate most of Afghanistan’s cultivation of the opium poppy. Now the Taliban are defeated, the country may once again reclaim the dubious honour of being the world’s biggest producer, and the dominant force in the world heroin trade. Rival South-East Asian producers are now scrambling to beat them to market. Police and customs forces throughout Central Asia and Europe are bracing themselves for an influx of cheap heroin, and the United Nations (UN) International Narcotics Control Board, in its annual report, to be published on Tuesday February 26th, will appeal for action to prevent renewed Afghan production.

Columbia's war

A slide back to war: on how Columbia returned to civil war after 3 years of peace efforts.

Six weeks ago, President Andres Pastrana threatened to call off peace talks with his country’s main guerrilla army, the FARC, only to back down in a display of brinkmanship as the rebels agreed to speed up talks on a ceasefire. But on February 21st, Mr Pastrana’s government began bombing rebel enclaves, the day after announcing that he was ending the talks, and ordering the armed forces to recapture a guerrilla-controlled “demilitarised zone” he had sanctioned to promote peace. Another negotiating ploy? Not this time, it seemed. The president ordered the arrest of guerrilla leaders even as the air force began to bomb and strafe FARC camps and other targets, such as landing strips, in the zone. In the past few days, Colombian troops have invaded the enclave and retaken the major towns and cities, though FARC guerrillas still control much of the countryside.

Iceland's fuel cells

Will Fuel Cells Make Iceland the 'Kuwait of the North?'

As the political situation in unstable petroleum-producing regions continues to heat up, and evidence of global warming continues to mount, more people are beginning to look to hydrogen-powered fuel cells for an escape.

War against the press

The Pentagon's War Against the Press

If you want a good idea of what's missing from the news coverage of our ongoing "war on terrorism," take a trip down to your local library or bookstore and check out the anthologies "Reporting World War II" and "Reporting Vietnam," both published by the Library of America.

Compare what you've been reading in the papers and hearing on radio and television over the past few months with the work of such great reporters as Homer Bigart, Ernie Pyle, A.J. Liebling, Martha Gellhorn, Malcolm Browne, Michael Herr, Gloria Emerson and Peter Arnett -- just to name a few -- that are found within the covers of these two collections. The difference is astounding.

[via Unknown News]


The Patriot Act: Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

The Patriot Act is not antiterrorism legislation; it's antispeech legislation, and is no more a direct response to the September 11 attacks than the Children's Internet Protection Act is a direct result of sincere concern by members of Congress about the safety of minors. The cold, cynical reality is that the Patriot Act is a bloated hodgepodge of speech-chilling law that lurked in congressional corridors not only before September 11 but in large part before the Bush administration. It was hustled into reality in the post-9/11 environment so quickly, secretively, and undemocratically that our Bill of Rights had been clocked with a one-two punch well before any of us realized it was under attack.

[via Unknown News]

Get a grip

US threat to peace, says vicar, in a parish magazine, circulation 500, article. A parishioner filed a complaint that the vicar was "inciting racial hatred against Americans" and British police are investigating. [via Unknown News]

Monday, February 25, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Can they hear the boats?

Manatees, Bioacoustics and Boats: researchers have been looking at what manatees can hear in an effort to understand why they don't avoid boats and what can be done to warn them away from the danger.

When I was your age...

The First Cloned Human Embryo: in an Australasian Science article, Peter Coghlan reflects on the recent progress towards human cloning and concludes that children born from cloning will be held to higher expectations because they "exact copies" of one of the parents.


Help design the (everchanging) flag of The Net. [via Lisa Lynch]

Treason, but by who?

Mugabe opponent accused of treason: in what Morgan Tsvangirai is calling a setup, he is being charged with conspiring to assassinate President Mugabe. Tsvangirai, the leading opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential election, was shown in a video aired on an Australian TV station, Special Broadcasting Service, discussing the "elimination" of Mugabe.

The allegations were made by a Canadian political consultancy, Dickens and Madson, headed by former Israeli intelligence officer and Mugabe lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe.

Mr Ben-Menashe says he was approached by Mr Tsvangirai, who wanted Mr Mugabe "eliminated".


A video timing clock was not erased from a poor-quality copy of the recording broadcast on state television, showing that the original secret tape had been heavily edited and even "rearranged", according to the Mass Media Project of Zimbabwe, an independent media monitoring group.

See also:

Hubble service mission

The countdown starts today for Columbia's first flight in over two years as it returns from a series of upgrades. It is scheduled to take off Thursday at 6:48am Eastern for a mission to service the Hubble.

Bush conspiracies

The Indiscreet Charm of the Bush-Nazi Web Conspiranoids: on the conspiracy theories, going back to the 80s, linking the Bush family to Nazi Germany.

Conspiratorialists, whether their bete noire is Anglophile internationalist bankers, socialist one-world government advocates, neo-fascist state planners, or eugenic proponents of white supremacy, can and do find in the Bushes everything and more than they've ever wanted to imagine about American history and its rulers. Lurking in the shadows of nearly every major episode of recent U.S. history, from World War Two to the rise of the CIA to third world drug running to the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy and King assassinations, Watergate and beyond, the Bushes have emerged as the Zeligs of the global power elite.

Wouldn't that be a shame?

Mugabe ready to flee Zimbabwe

President Mugabe is said to be planning secretly his escape route out of Zimbabwe after his private polling predicted he could be defeated in next month's elections.

The ailing 78-year-old has been sounding out some of his African neighbours and his dwindling number of friends abroad about providing him with a safe haven.

Sunday, February 24, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Boiling over

The Intensification of Global Instability: Stratfor points out the growing number of crises around the world and expects that the numbers will continue to grow, particularly with the continued expansion of the War on Terror.

Consider the events of the past week, in no particular order:

  • Colombia has plunged into civil war.
  • Venezuela, a major oil producer, is experiencing a major political crisis over its president, Hugo Chavez.
  • In Afghanistan, the CIA has issued a report (published on the front page of the New York Times) warning that internal chaos is looming.
  • In the Middle East, Palestinians have shifted tactics toward waging guerrilla war, and Israel is contemplating a major shift in its own strategy.
  • In Iran, a majority of the Majlis has signed a petition demanding an investigation of U.S. charges that elements in Iran have aided al Qaeda members in escaping Afghanistan. This action creates a massive internal confrontation between forces around the Ayatollah Ali Khameni and those around President Mohammad Khatami, with a very uncertain outcome.
  • What has emerged from U.S. President George W. Bush's meeting with the Japanese prime minister is that Japan has no idea how to manage its intensifying financial crisis. One of the world's major economies appears to be inching toward meltdown.

[via New World Disorder]

Just a couple of decades off?

The Facial Recognition System

Back in 1984, we congratulated ourselves on the difference between our lives of liberty and democracy and the dystopian universe George Orwell imagined in his landmark novel, a place where government-operated televisions spied on their viewers and hidden cameras monitored private lives. But while we smugly engaged in what amounted to nearly two decades of back-slapping, engineers were developing biometric technologies that could remake our society into Orwell's Oceania, all in the name of progress. The most disturbing of these technologies are facial recognition systems, computer-powered cameras that can identify an individual based on facial characteristics captured by the camera's lens.

The Bush Doctrine

The Bush Doctrine Unfolds

The full sweep of the new Bush Doctrine was on display this past week, as President Bush traveled through North Asia delivering a consistent and powerful message: American security and global security require a determined assault not just on terrorists but on the three-headed hydra of tyranny, terror, and weapons of mass destruction. The imperative of regime change was the core message of Bush's State of the Union address. This week Bush made plain that the implications of his doctrine go beyond North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, the "axis of evil." Just as the Reagan Doctrine-- primarily aimed at overthrowing Communist regimes--ended up toppling right-wing dictatorships in the Philippines and South Korea, so, too, the Bush Doctrine could help undo dictatorships not only in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, but also in, for example, China and Saudi Arabia.

Tears from Africa

Letters from Zimbabwe, from Cathy Buckle.

There are now 27 days until the Presedential Elections and every day is one of disbelief. Yesterday, in the space of ten minutes I met two people, the first a white farmer who was recently shot by armed men who had ambushed him outside his farm gate.The farmer is back on his land and waiting to be allowed to grow food. My second meeting was with a "real" war veteran who has had nothing to do with the insanity of the past two years and is waiting to be able to have a normal life and carry on with his small business. We are all waiting now and I continue to wear a small yellow ribbon pinned to my shirt in silent protest at the suffering in my country - I hope in 27 days I wall be able to take it off.
-- February 9th, 2002

[via The Idler]

Americas Command

Canada Wary of U.S. Anti-Terror Plan that

A U.S. proposal to integrate Canadian troops into a North American command system that would defend the continent against terrorist attacks has some Canadians questioning how the system would affect their country's sovereignty.

See also: Canada aims to join 'Americas Command'

Ottawa's top military brass are pushing to put Canadian troops and warships on the front lines under a U.S. plan for an integrated, continental defence structure in the war against terrorism.

A Pentagon proposal for an "Americas Command" could lead to a single, integrated command, putting some Canadian troops and warships in a continental-defence structure, taking orders from a joint command deep in Colorado's Cheyenne Mountain.

The Americas Command is not a post-9/11 concept: it was a recommendation from the National Defense Panel report in 1997:

Americas Command would include the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean Basin, and all of South America. The Americas Command would be responsible for the ocean approaches to the United States throughout the Maritime and Air Defense Zones. Its primary missions would be to defend the Americas from foreign threats, deter the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, and build cooperation among the nations of North, Central, and South America.

KGB in Afghanistan

Spies, Lies and the Distortion of History: on the history of the KGB's involvement in Afghanistan, as told by a Vasili Mitrokhin. His paper, The KGB in Afghanistan, is being made available as part of the Cold War International History Project.

To a greater extent than any other armed conflict on the planet, Afghanistan's unfinished 24-year war has been shaped by rival foreign intelligence agencies: The Soviet Union's KGB, America's CIA, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Saudi Arabia's General Intelligence Department and Iran's multiple clandestine services. They primed various Afghan factions with cash and weapons, secretly trained guerrilla forces, financed propaganda and manipulated political conventions.

When spies help construct a civil war, one seed they sow is confusion. Afghans today have little basis to trust their own recent history; too much remains hidden. The country has become a cauldron of interlocking conspiracies, both real and imagined, a maze of fractured mirrors designed by warmakers who embraced deception as a winning weapon. Afghanistan's successful reconstruction as even a semi-normal country, then, must eventually include some reclamation by Afghans of the truth about their recent past.

Speechwriters of evil

New Rules of Political Rhetoric: Makr Lilla calls Bush to task for using Reagan's style of rhetoric in a world where it no longer applies.

The reviews are in, and they are bad. President Bush's characterization of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil" has been met by our allies' puzzled annoyance and by massive rallies in Iran that only strengthened hard-line elements there. How, one wonders, did the president and his speech writers blunder into this mess?


Desperation Drives a Zimbabwean Exodus South

Every night, the emigrants from the Zimbabwe side of the border creep to the rushing river and consider the dangers ahead. There are crocodiles ready to topple stealthy boats. There are twists of barbed wire and miles of electrified fence.

But they look across the river and pine for South Africa, a land of stability and hope.

Good old days

Old Rivals, Old Tunes

Murders and a bit of mayhem were anticipated during the peace-building process. But nobody expected a lack of international unity to destabilize the interim government in Kabul so quickly.


Karzai's high-wire act on the international stage-where he has received accolades from everyone from United States and European leaders to American fashion designers-has faltered at home. This is not due to lack of trying, but because of a lack of international support where it is needed. In recent weeks Karzai has toured world capitals trying to galvanize support for extending the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, to Afghanistan's four other major cities: Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad. His appeals have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Saturday, February 23, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Resource wars

Energy and Empire: a review of Michael Klare's book Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict.

In exhaustive detail, based on close scrutiny of publicly available but seldom publicized Departments of Defense, State and Energy documents, Klare provides a superb primer of the landscape of potential global conflict over the next few decades, and America's likely role in it. Mainstream media pundits present current U.S. foreign policy - in piecemeal fashion - as a series of scattered, seemingly ad hoc responses to individual, isolated "hot spots." Klare argues that there is a thematic thread running through U.S. strategy, whether in the Caspian Sea, China or Columbia. It is focused on guaranteeing U.S.-based multinational corporations steady, uninterrupted access to the dwindling supply of non-renewable resources. With the end of the cold war and the growth of worldwide energy-intensive consumer markets, the ideological blocs and conflicts (between U.S. capitalism and Soviet communism) that defined, and gave a certain perverse stability to foreign policy from the 1940s through the early 90s, have given way to new "geo-econocentric" struggles.

Quantum programming

Quantum Computers and Quantum Computer Languages: Quantum Assembly Language and Quantum C

We show a representation of Quantum Computers defines Quantum Turing Machines with associated Quantum Grammars. We then create examples of Quantum Grammars. Lastly we develop an algebraic approach to high level Quantum Languages using Quantum Assembly language and Quantum C language as examples.

Oil peak

Peak Oil: an Outlook on Crude Oil Depletion

This paper is about Peak Oil. It truly is a turning point for Mankind, which will affect everyone, although some more than others. Those countries, which plan and prepare, will survive better than those that do not. It is a large and difficult subject, but the essentials are clear.

In summary, these are the main points that have to be grasped:

  • Conventional oil - and that will be defined - provides most of the oil produced today, and is responsible for about 95% all oil that has been produced so far.
  • It will continue to dominate supply for a long time to come. It is what matters most.
  • Its discovery peaked in the 1960s. We now find one barrel for every four we consume.
  • Middle East share of production is set to rise. The rest of the world peaked in 1997, and is therefore in terminal decline.
  • Non-conventional oil delays peak only a few years, but will ameliorate the subsequent decline.
  • Gas, which is less depleted than oil, will likely peak around 2020.
  • Capacity limits were breached late in 2000, causing prices to soar leading to world recession.
  • The recession may be permanent because any recovery would lead to new oil demand until the limits were again breached which would lead to new price shocks re-imposing recession in a vicious circle.
  • World peak may prove to have been passed in 2000, if demand is curtailed by recession.
  • Prices may remain weak in such circumstances but since demand is not infinitely elastic they must again rise from supply constraints when essential needs are affected.

[via SynEarth]

Reading list

Christopher Moore has a new book out: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. I didn't like his last book, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, as much, but hiis first four: Practical Demonkeeping, Coyote Blue, Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story, and Island of the Sequined Love Nun were all hilarious. Lamb goes on the reading list.

Choosing our friends

Tyranny in the Name of Freedom

It is ironic that one of the USA's most valuable allies in "Operation Enduring Freedom" was Islam Karimov, who presides over Uzbekistan -- one of Asia's most entrenched dictatorships.

Karimov allowed US forces to use Uzbek bases against its southern neighbour, Afghanistan. Washington rewarded this support with an historic joint US-Uzbek memorandum, signed on 30 November. Hailed by both sides as announcing a "qualitatively new relationship," it promises Uzbekistan significant military and economic backing. A likely legacy of the war will be the bolstering by the US of yet another corrupt and repressive regime that performs useful strategic services.

See also:

[via Follow Me Here]

Pauling's notebooks

The research notebooks kept by Linus Pauling are being released online by Oregon State University. Parts are available now, the rest will be up at the end of the month. [via ResearchBuzz]

One network to rule them all?

The Urge to Merge: an hour-long radio program on the effect of the recent Appeals Court ruling removing restrictions on a single company owning both cable franchises and broadcast TV stations in the same market.

Who controls the news? After court rulings this week, doors are wide open for new deals that could make the Rupert Murdock/Sumner Redstone world of media magnates even smaller. With fewer and fewer people deciding what stories get covered on radio and TV and in the papers, some say cross-media monopolies are undermining the market. If the only thing keeping editors honest is competition, what's to prevent a 500-channel, but one-view world?

Supposedly, the FCC; the organization charged with protecting the public and keeping stories like Citizen Kane from coming true. But the new FCC chairman thinks more free market and less regulation is good for the economy and good for you. The leaner, meaner media, mergers and the FCC.

See also: Limits on Media Ownership Voided [via Interesting People]

Is it possibly a hint?

Rockers spooked by singing nuns: members of a rock band playing at Chapel Studios, a converted nunnery in Eastbourne, report hearing nuns sing everytime the band starts to crank it up.

Studio owner and band member Vince Von Bastrum, 38, said: "It's very bizarre.

"It's a high-pitched sound which can be heard over the band, no matter how loud they play.

"I have heard it myself and the funny thing is it doesn't happen with my other clients working with more relaxed music.

"It's just Cobra's rock that seems to set it off."

[via The Anomalist]

Our allies, the slavers

Pakistan's slave trade: Andrew Bushell describes the fate of Afghan refugees falling into the hands of Pakistani slave traders.

Servitude exists in many forms in Pakistan. Over the past two decades, hundreds of thousands of Afghan families -- eager to flee 20 years of war and three years of drought -- have sought safe haven in Pakistan, only to spend the rest of their lives working to pay off the debts they accumulated to get there. They do so by becoming indentured laborers, often at brick factories, and by sending their children to carpet factories that crave small fingers. Indentured servitude is not only legal but ubiquitous in Pakistan, and servant culture thrives: the wealthy can have a driver, three maids, a cook, and a night watchman for less than $75 a month.

And then there are the slaves. Many Afghan families cross into Pakistan through the lawless tribal areas in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). It's a harsh climate, and they have no contacts, no food, and no money, which leaves them wide open to the predations of slavers. Pakistan's tribal areas -- there are seven in the NWFP and several autonomous cities -- are the last vestiges of the British Raj's failure to conquer Afghanistan. A series of agreements ("treaties" is perhaps too strong a word) includes the tribal areas as part of Pakistan, but confirm their complete autonomy from Pakistani law. The political culture, dominated by councils of fiercely independent tribal elders, hasn't really changed in over 600 years -- only now every house has several machine guns, and most have electricity.

[via Cursor]

Will there be anything left even if he loses?

Mugabe pawns nation's assets in deal with Libya

Robert Mugabe is believed to have mortgaged most of his country's most valuable assets to Colonel Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, in exchange for hundreds of millions of pounds in loans to keep Zimbabwe from complete collapse.

Desperate to cling to power in next month's elections, President Mugabe is said to have handed over state-owned farms, hotels and oil refineries in a secret deal with Colonel Gaddafi. As part of the exchange, the Libyan dictator is funding Mr Mugabe's security forces.

U.S. sanctions Zimbabwe

As expected, the U.S. has followed the E.U's lead and imposed sanctions, in particular restrictions on travel to the U.S., on Zimbabwe's government members. Mugabe, for his part, claims these don't bother him:

"What is Europe? What have I been wanting in Europe? I think it is not a real punishment to us. We can visit other countries in Asia and Africa," Mugabe said. "Why should my money go to Britain? I don't have goats there. I have goats and pigs here."

See also: US and UK name targeted leaders

The US House of Representatives recently passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, which enables the sanctions to be applied specifically to targeted leaders. The punitive measures will also affect their children in colleges or schools overseas.

Topping the list of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) issued in the Anti Money Laundering Guidance Update, Issue 3, of the Joint Financial Crimes Unit, is Robert Gabriel Mugabe, followed by his two vice-presidents, Simon V Muzenda and Joseph Msika.

Others are John Nkomo; Patrick Chinamasa; Stan Mudenge; Simba Makoni; Sydney Sekeramayi; Swithun Mombeshora; Joseph Made; Ignatius Chombo; Timothy Stamps; Herbert Murerwa; Samuel Mumbengegwi; Francis Nhema; Joyce Mujuru; July Moyo; Nicholas Goche; Jonathan Moyo; Grace Marufu Mugabe; and one W Chikukwa (listed as assistant defence adviser--Zimbabwe).

Friday, February 22, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Spoke of evil

How a president's words can lead to war

Ideas have consequences, wrote conservative Richard Weaver. So do words, when uttered by the most powerful man on earth.

By threatening war against Iran, Iraq and North Korea in his now-famous "Axis of Evil" address, the president painted himself into a corner. Either Bush now goes to war against one of these regimes, or he will be humiliated and exposed as a bellicose bluff.

Let me say it again: Whoever fed Bush those lines, or did not argue against his delivering them, disserved the president. For that speech has blown our coalition against terror to smithereens.

It's not often I agree with Pat Buchanan. [via Follow Me Here]

Roots of terror

Roots of terror: suicide, martyrdom, self-redemption and Islam

After 11 September 2001 I was frequently asked, as many scholars of Islamic studies probably were, why certain people are prepared to hijack an aeroplane and plunge themselves and all the other passengers to certain death. I do not have an answer. What I have done instead is to tell three stories - about the cult of martyrdom in Shi'ite Islam, about modern fantasies of salvation through self-sacrifice, and about power politics in the Middle East - which together assemble the elements of a fourth : the unfinished story of the modern world.

[via wood s lot]

Myth of competition

Merger endgames

Hidden beneath the chaotic surface of mergers and acquisitions lies a distinct pattern that resembles an S-shaped curve (see figure 1). Each consolidating industry passes through four stages:

  • Opening
  • Focus
  • Accumulation
  • Alliance

[via nettime]

Energizer terrorists

Al-Qaeda: After Afghanistan: a series from the Financial Times. [via Red Rock Eater]

Spy flights over the Philippines

Spy Planes Seek Out Philippine Guerrillas

The U.S. military has begun intelligence-gathering flights over the southern Philippines in a significant expansion of its war on terrorism in that country, a senior U.S. defense official said yesterday.

The surveillance flights, which have not previously been disclosed, are meant to complement the growing presence of U.S. soldiers on the ground, projected to peak at 660 troops in coming months.

[via Red Rock Eater]

Quantum Information Theory

Fundamentals of Quantum Information Theory, Michael Keyl:

In this paper we give a self contained introduction to the conceptional and mathematical foundations of quantum information theory. In the first part we introduce the basic notions like entanglement, channels, teleportation etc. and their mathematical description. The second part is focused on a presentation of the quantitative aspects of the theory. Topics discussed in this context include: entanglement measures, channel capacities, relations between both, additivity and continuity properties and asymptotic rates of quantum operations. Finally we give an overview on some recent developments and open questions.

Comic science

In a collaboration network, nodes represent people and links represent some kind of collaborative effort between them: actors appearing the the same movie, scientists co-authoring papers, etc. A group of mathematicians have built a collaboration network based on the Marvel Comic universe where nodes are comic book characters which are joined when the characters appear in the same comic. The relationships are built from the Marvel Chronology Project, which cross references each character with the issues it appears in. The group found that in many ways this network acts similarly to a real-world collaboration network.

Oil addiction

An Oily Quagmire

Buy drugs, support terrorism. That was the unsubtle message from federal drug policy officials as they launched a multi-million dollar advertising campaign during Sunday's Super Bowl.

Certainly, they have some evidence on their side. Terrorist groups from southeast Asia to South America are in the drug trafficking business. But in the meantime, another hazardous American addiction goes unchallenged. No crusade has been launched against a national dependency that delivers billions of dollars each year to foreign powers whose support for terror is far from fanciful: Oil.

The organization of anti-globalization

Today, Porto Alegre. Tomorrow ...?

Can the World Social Forum have a meaningful impact without adopting a more formal structure? The counter-summit's organizers insist it can.


Grajew says he conceived of the forum as a positive alternative to protesting at the closed doors of the WEF, normally held in the Swiss resort town of Davos. But would reorganizing the forum into a body -- a democratic body, of course -- that votes and drafts sweeping statements be a more effective means to challenge the WTO and the WEF? Some of the thousands who gathered in Brazil think so.

[via Alternet]

Electric salvation?

The Electric Christian Rapture Test: on the Dennis Lee and the people buying into his free energy scheme.

They say all it takes is a little bit of faith, some cash and a signature, and if everything goes as planned, subscribing Christians (and maybe a few trusting infidels) will be free of Nevada Power--and their power bills--for life.

Call it the Electric Christian Rapture Test.

"I sold all my stock last year because I would rather put it into this company than the stock market," says Conrad Sorensen, who owns Henderson dealership Grassroot Enterprises of Tesla, Inc. "I feel my money's going to be safer here than any stock market."

Sorensen is part of a network of disciples of self-proclaimed anointed one, inventor and Christian evangelist Dennis Lee, who-- though he has actions pending against him by attorneys general and alerts filed by Better Business Bureaus in various states--has been traveling the country, registering people for free power. The would-be, modern-day miracle-maker says that the Fourth of July will take on an extra special meaning this year. This July 4 will not just be Independence Day for our nation. It will be America's Declaration of Energy Independence Day. The day when their fabulous invention will be unveiled and the faithful will receive the free electricity that Lee's brethren have been promising for years.

See also:

[via Alternet]

Thursday, February 21, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Another Porto Alegre review

From Protest to Politics: a long review of this year's World Social Forum.

There was general agreement that the time had come to reposition the movement in affirmative terms--moving from a stance of exposing and protesting to proposing alternatives and solutions. "We are labeled as anti, anti, anti," said Public Citizen's Lori Wallach. "We need to change that perception. It's they who are anti. We are a movement for democracy. For equity. For the environment. For health. They are for a failed status quo." She joked, "You can see I've got who we are down to about fifty words. Now we've got to get it down to bumper-sticker size."

There was also recognition that after the bloody confrontations in Genoa, and certainly after the World Trade Center attacks, the movement could no longer afford any ambiguity about its stance on violence. "Too often we get dragged into a swamp debating what is euphemistically called 'diversity of tactics,'" said one European environmentalist. "Now we need to speak up and say clearly that violence, as a political tactic, just doesn't work either in the United States or in Europe."

The Bush-Lay Letters

The Smoking Gun has a collection of letters exchanged between Ken Lay and George W. Bush during his term as Governor of Texas. [via Moon Farmer]

Jeff Noon's new project

Jeff Noon's still keeping busy. Mappalujo is an online project he's working on with Steve Beard, something he describes as a writing game. The first 5 of 25 chapters are online so far. [via Blue Ruin]

Media Player phones home

Microsoft Media Player Logs Choices: It seems Media Player 8 logs songs and movies that are played with it and sends the information back to Microsoft. [via the null device]

Cloning patent brawl

Firms Fight over Lucrative Patent Rights to Animal Cloning

One company says Dolly the sheep, as most assume, was the first cloned animal. But another insists that its handiwork, Gene the cow, was the original.

A third firm, Worcester-based Advanced Cell Technology Inc., calls the debate irrelevant because its creations, cow clones George and Charlie, won the company the key U.S. patent to animal cloning.

George and Charlie and Dolly and Gene have given rise to a barnyard squabble between the three companies, culminating in a legal clash over ownership of the animal cloning patent and the potentially lucrative business it could bring.

See also:

[via bottomquark]

Nope, we wouldn't lie

Pentagon makes 'war on terror' u-turn

The plans to spread so-called "black" propaganda emerged earlier this week after the Pentagon hired an outside agency to help target countries friendly to the US as well as hostile nations.

But the Pentagon has been forced into a humiliating climb-down following a backlash in America and elsewhere.

"Consistent with defence department policy, under no circumstances will the office or its contractors willingly or deliberately disseminate false or misleading information to the American or foreign media or public," the Pentagon said in a statement to the New York Times.

Of course, this could be a planted story.

See also: Rumsfeld's interview in Salt Lake City:

Q: Mr. Secretary, there have been reports about the Office of Strategic Influence. Can you give us your comments about whether the Pentagon should be issuing disinformation to foreign press, and any comments?

Rumsfeld: Well, the Pentagon is not issuing disinformation to the foreign press or any other press.

Q: Will they be?

Rumsfeld: No. The United States of America has long had policies with respect to public information, and we have policies where certainly we make a practice of assuring that what we tell the public is accurate and correct. And if in any event somebody happens to be misinformed and say something that's not correct, they correct that at the earliest opportunity.

Columbian peace process over

Colombian president vows to retake rebel land:

The Colombian president, Andres Pastrana, has declared his country's three-year-old peace process over and vowed to retake the jungle territory he had granted to rebels as a site for talks.

Mr Pastrana made the announcement in a televised address last night, hours after guerrillas hijacked an airliner and kidnapped Senator Jorge Gechen Turbay, president of the Colombian Senate's peace commission, who was travelling on the flight. The remaining 29 passengers and crew were freed unharmed.

"Today the glass of indignation spilled over," Mr Pastrana said. Calling the hijacking "an international offence classified as terrorism" he added: "It's not possible to sign agreements on one side while putting guns to the heads of innocent people on the other."

Additional military aid from the U.S. for combating the rebels couldn't have anything to do with the decision, I'm sure.

Now fold it here...

Origami Astronomy: The Art and Science of a Giant Folding Space Telescope

Robert J. Lang is respected in the art community for folding a mean swan. He's written a half-dozen books on how to make paper airplanes, ants and animals. An admirer called one of his works "arguably the best moose design ever."

In engineering circles, Lang is known as a guy who can figure the best way to stow a car's airbag.

He's also the one they call when they realize that the 100-meter diameter sheet of plastic, part of The Eyeglass Space Telescope, has to fit into a 3x5 meter hole, without permanent creases. [via 2020 Hindsight]

Dealing with the axis of evil

A discreet way of doing business with Iraq: a November, 2000 article on how U.S. oil companies are doing business with Iraq.

Millions of dollars of US oil business with Iraq are being channelled discreetly through European and other companies, in a practice that has highlighted the double standards now dominating relations between Baghdad and Washington after a decade of crippling sanctions.


Halliburton, the largest US oil services company, is among a significant number of US companies that have sold oil industry equipment to Iraq since the UN relaxed sanctions two years ago.

From 1995 until August this year Halliburton's chief executive officer was Dick Cheney, US secretary of defence during the Gulf war and now Republican vice-presidential running mate of George W.Bush.

[via Doc Searls]

Ivory-billed woodpecker

Searchers Say Rare Woodpecker Was Possibly Heard, if Not Seen: birdwatchers who spent a month in a Louisiana forest looking for the ivory-billed woodpecker didn't see it, but they think they heard it and have it on tape. The searchers were following a tip from a student who claims he saw a pair of the birds in 1999.

On Jan. 27, at 3:30 p.m., four of the six members of the search team, in an undisclosed spot in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area near Slidell, La., heard a series of double raps characteristic of the drumming of the ivory-billed woodpecker. They managed to record the last double-rap of the sequence and some subsequent rapping.

On the same day, members of a Cornell Lab of Ornithology research group heard a similar sound in the same area, and two days later, other members of the team heard loud rapping uncharacteristic of other woodpeckers.

Afghanistan heading back to anarchy?

C.I.A. Warns That Afghan Factions May Bring Chaos: feuds between rival warlords are ramping up and could put Afghanistan back into civil war.

The C.I.A. report does not conclude that a civil war is imminent. But the slow pace of the efforts to set up a police and military force has been of particular concern because of Afghanistan's longstanding ethnic rivalries and the difficulties the interim Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, has had in trying to assert his control over the country, much of which remains in the hands of warlords.

"If it takes six months or more than a year to create a single army, what do we do in the meantime to deter war among the warlords?" a senior official said.

Military gap

The insanity of Europe's farewell to arms

Here is the war of the future. The United States fights. The United Nations feeds. The European Union picks up the tab for postwar "nationbuilding". And Nato? Indispensable, of course. As ... er ... "the only alliance capable of articulating the values of the way we live". An attendant lord, there to swell a pageant, but no longer at the cutting edge of Western power.

Strategic influence

US well versed in 'black arts': on the use of lies in wartime.

Quest put to use

Station astronauts used the new Quest airlock for the first time yesterday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002 Permanent link to this day

Fighting Terror With Databases: on the expansion of domestic intelligence-gathering as part of the War on Terror.

In fact, the now-completed interviews and upcoming interrogations of Middle Eastern immigrants who have ignored deportation orders are only the most visible pieces of a broad effort to expand the war on terrorism through domestic intelligence-gathering. The effort will marry 21st-century technology with tactics not seen since the 1950s and '60s, according to federal documents and interviews with informed sources.

The intelligence-gathering system being born will ultimately combine more than $100 million in new funding, powerful new terrorism laws, an expanded role for local police and state-of-the-art computer networks that will link federal agents with thousands of police departments. Local authorities may soon be empowered to obtain virtually all of the FBI's most sensitive information under laws being considered in Congress.

The new role for local police is one of the most significant aspects of the new system. On the FBI's behalf, local police conducted many of the voluntary interviews, returning local law enforcement for the first time in 25 years to the sensitive job of gathering intelligence on political and religious groups suspected of violence.

Back from the brink

Shades of Gray: a series on the recovery of the Eastern North Pacific gray whale. [via Breaching the Web]

Security isn't always just an annoyance

The police, the terrorists and my Mazda: on learning to tolerate extreme security.

Is it really anti-globalization?

Going Global -- The Anti-Globalization Movement Changes Its Tune: more on the maturing of the anti-globalization movement.

Anti-globalists, stung by charges that they are too simplistic, idealistic or just plain behind the times, are beginning to develop an alternative global vision, asking what they stand for, not just what they're against.

The anti-globalization movement isn't really the anti-globalization movement any more. Some of its leading activists are beginning to describe their cause in terms that don't imply dismantling the whole network of linkages that now encircle the world in order to somehow return society to a local or regional scale. And some academics are now attempting to stake out a position on the left that promotes a different model of globalization.

Art returns to Afghanistan

Afghanistan looks at itself: a photo essay on the return of theatre, television, and photography to Afghanistan. Note: the slideshow goes full screen, but provides a close button.

In the wake of the Taliban's departure, Afghanistan has begun once more to look at itself, through lenses of its antiquated TV cameras, through tentative stabs at restarting and rebuilding theatre, through cinema and through photographers wielding homemade portrait cameras on the streets of Kabul.


What hurts most is that it doesn't hurt anymore: one Israeli's response to the aftermath of a recent bombing in in Jerusalem.

What's happening to me? I didn't think that I would react like this when encountering just such a situation. I didn't cry, I wasn't shocked, I didn't vomit. Am I a human being? Apparently not so much.

They've managed to peel off our humanity. I've seen all these sights already televised at earlier attacks, I've heard all the sounds and voices on the radio reports, I've read these situation descriptions tens of times in the morning newspapers. I was now simply at a live performance of the same events. Everything was just exactly the same.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim

On the outside: an interview with Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the director of Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. He was arrested 10 months ago, along with 27 other members of the organization on charges related to a documentary he was making on the Egyptian election system. He was released February 11th.

During his 10 months in prison, Ibrahim (like many on the outside) had plenty of time to ponder just what it was he'd done to draw the government's wrath. At the time of his arrest, the general speculation was of a warning shot to keep the rest of civil society timid in advance of upcoming elections. But the handling of his conviction and the fierceness of the accompanying media smear campaign against him led many to conclude there was a much more personal motivation behind the scenes.

Ibrahim speculates that it was the combined effects of several of his activities and comments-including election monitoring efforts, studies of Muslim-Coptic tensions and his notorious interview with a Saudi magazine about the royal tendencies of Middle Eastern republics.

See also: Despite Fatal Clashes, Egyptian Election Praised as Fairest in Years

Clashes among police, Islamic fundamentalists and others have left as many as five people dead during parliamentary elections held over the past two weeks, but the vote is being hailed as one of the freest in recent Egyptian history and a sign that chaotic efforts to bring about democratic reforms are working.


"About 60 percent fair, and about 40 percent irregularity. . . . It is a vast improvement, and I give the regime a lot of credit for that," said Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a professor and democracy activist who was arrested in July in what some analysts said was a government effort to diminish independent criticism of the election.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002 Permanent link to this day
He's back

John Poindexter has been named to head up DARPA's new Information Awareness Office that is aimed at developing technologies to give the government easy access to data from new surveillance systems. The group will apparently work alongside the Information Exploitation Office.

Poindexter? Mr. "I Don't Recall" heading up the Office of Information Awareness? Come on, George. Close your eyes, open the phone book, pick a name. You'll get someone who's more honest. Guaranteed. If you have to give this guy a job, give him the Office of Strategic Influence. At least he would be expected to lie there.

See also:

Even if the war on terrorism justifies the creation of this creepy new surveillance entity, it's hard to imagine that the Pentagon couldn't have entrusted its management to someone with a record of honesty. It hardly inspires confidence that the man now in charge of "information awareness" is best known for his cover-ups.

Last Wednesday something strange happened. The American population was instructed to panic. Place themselves, that is, on a state of highest vigilance. Some cataclysmic act of terrorism would happen - within hours. But nothing terrible happened. Something creepy did. On Thursday there was an inconspicuous news item. John M Poindexter had been appointed to head a new agency "to counter attacks on the US", such as Wednesday's no-show. It is equivalent, in British terms, to Jeffrey Archer being made chancellor of the exchequer.

Pentagon Network News

Pentagon Readies Efforts to Sway Sentiment Abroad: the military's Office of Strategic Influence is going into the news business, though it sounds more like the tabloid business.

The Pentagon is developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries, military officials said.

I hope the targeted organizations do a bit of effort in screening press releases so these get dropped on the floor. But I guess reporting these stories won't be much different than CNN reporting Rumsfeld's briefings as gospel. [via zem]

Two words

Resistance: two words to remember - empires fall

For the past few years, the global justice movement has been like the child at the back of the crowd as the parade of history wheels by. As the pundits applaud and the marketeers cheer, we stand and shout that the Empire has no clothes, that its cloaks of finery are woven from financial fictions and economic voodoo.

Yet despite the present system's transparent contradictions and unsustainability, we also tend to imagine that its power is total, and to underestimate our own power to change it. The UN Development Program describes the current gaps between the world's richest and poorest as "grotesque" and "historically unprecedented," and the challenge of this new Empire seems overwhelming. But resistance is inequality's corollary.

[via wood s lot]


The DMCA and What's Worse

Now, if you like technology, as I do, a System Folder crash of this sort is not an insuperable problem. If you want to reinstall software to recover from a computer disaster at home, and if you have the installers at home, you can reinstall. And if you have the serial numbers recorded at home, you can type them in at the appropriate places when you reinstall, so the reinstallation will work. Unfortunately, I wasn't quite that well prepared, but fortunately I had alternatives at hand -- I powered up another laptop I already had at home, and connected the two laptops together over the tiny wireless LAN I run in my apartment. I pulled software and other installation files over the network from one machine to the other, and in doing so I may be said to have violated the installation process that (to invoke the language of the Digital Milllennium Copyright Act) "controls my access" to the technology, to the copyrighted work. Technically, perhaps, I had violated the Digital Millennium Copyright. Please let's not let the news of my transgression leave this room.

HMS Tireless and Gibraltar's status

Shaking Up the Rock: on how the damage to a British nuclear submarine rekindled the debate of Gibraltar's status, from the April, 2001 Atlantic:

The debate over the Tireless has revived another, larger debate--over the political status of Gibraltar. To Britain, Gibraltar is officially an "overseas territory." The United Nations considers it a "non-self-governing territory." The Spanish consider it a colony, and they want it back. Despite years of Gibraltar-related bickering between Britain and Spain, over issues ranging from fishing rights to drug smuggling and money laundering, there have been few high-level talks about Gibraltar's status. The last round occurred in 1999. The controversy over the Tireless could well jump-start another.

Britain invades Spain

Muddled Marines invade Spain by mistake

The Marines from 45 Commando had planned to sweep on to the beaches of Gibraltar in two landing craft as part of a training exercise. They were armed with SA80 rifles and mortars, although without live ammunition.

However, whether through faulty map-reading or poor visibility, they arrived in the Spanish fishing village of La Atunara. It took two local policemen to point out that Gibraltar was actually a little further down the coast.

In 1713 Gibraltar has ceded by Spain to Great Britain. It's ongoing status as a British colony has been a sticking point between the two countries recently, with possible resolutions including transfer back to Spain or self determination.

Zimbabwe sanctions

Mugabe left reviled and alone: after Mugabe expelled the European Union's lead election monitor, the remaining monitors are pulling out and the EU has imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his associates. The U.S. is expected to follow suit. The sanctions include travel restrictions to participating countries and a freeze on assets held in those countries.

See also: Zimbabwe on the brink

It was never going to be an easy decision. When European Union (EU) foreign ministers decided on Monday February 18th to withdraw the EU's election monitors from Zimbabwe and impose sanctions on the country, it was with a heavy heart. All attempts to restrain Robert Mugabe seem to have failed. The country's 77-year-old president is determined to rig presidential elections next month in order to cling on to power after 22 years in office, and has brushed aside foreign criticisms of his bullying and intimidation of the main opposition party and his increasingly repressive policies, which have brought his country to the brink of economic ruin. And yet the EU decision, coming after months of warnings and threats, though understandable, may on balance still prove to be the wrong one.


The Subtleties of Entanglement and its Role in Quantum Information Theory: Rob Clifton discusses some of the implications of entanglement.

My aim in this paper is a modest one. I do not have any particular thesis to advance about the nature of entanglement, nor can I claim novelty for any of the material I shall discuss. My aim is simply to raise some questions about entanglement that spring naturally from certain developments in quantum information theory and are, I believe, worthy of serious consideration by philosophers of science. The main topics I discuss are different manifestations of quantum nonlocality, entanglement-assisted communication, and entanglement thermodynamics.

Monday, February 18, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Techniques against terror

OK, George, make with the friendly bombs

To prevent terrorism by dropping bombs on Iraq is such an obvious idea that I can't think why no one has thought of it before. It's so simple. If only the UK had done something similar in Northern Ireland, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in today.

[via gordon.coale]


Prepositions to end sentences with: debunking the myth that sentences should not be ended with prepositions. My 8th grade English teacher would be spinning her grave in. [via Kiplog]


Two interesting sites with similar names but quite different in their own way:

Chomsky wins in Turkey

Chomsky wins case for Turkish publisher

A Turkish publisher accused of disseminating separatist propaganda was acquitted yesterday after one of his authors, the celebrated American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, appeared in an Istanbul court and asked to be tried alongside him.


As the U.S. moves to increase training of military units in the Philippines and Columbia we must keep in mind that we need to be careful who we train and arm. The El Mozote Massacre in El Salvador is a perfect case in point. From the U.N. Truth Commission report:

On 10 December 1981, in the village of El Mozote in the Department of Morazán, units of the Atlacatl Battalion detained, without resistance, all the men, women and children who were in the place. The following day, 11 December, after spending the night locked in their homes, they were deliberately and systematically executed in groups. First, the men were tortured and executed, then the women were executed and, lastly, the children, in the place where they had been locked up. The number of victims identified was over 200. The figure is higher if other unidentified victims are taken into account.


The Atlacatl Battalion arrived at El Mozote in the course of a military action known as "Operación Rescate", which had begun two days earlier on 6 December and also involved units from the Third Brigade and the San Francisco Gotera Commando Training Centre.

The Atlacatl Battalion was a "Rapid Deployment Infantry Battalion" or "BIRI", that is, a unit specially trained for "counter-insurgency" warfare. It was the first unit of its kind in the armed forces and had completed its training, under the supervision of United States military advisers, at the beginning of that year, 1981.

See also: Mark Danner's article from The New Yorker, The Truth of El Mozote [via Liberal Arts Mafia]

Jon Frum

The Last Cargo Cult: : on the Jon Frum Movement on the island of Tanna.

To anthropologists, John Frum was an example of one of the strangest and most exotic phenomena to be observed in traditional cultures: the cargo cult. All across Melanesia, from New Guinea to the Solomon Islands to Tanna's archipelago, the New Hebrides, dozens of unconnected communities, thousands of miles apart and speaking unrelated languages, seemed spontaneously to generate the same set of bizarre beliefs. A new dispensation was on the way, when the white man would vanish from the islands, and his cargo - Western goods - would be diverted by magical means to the local people, who were its rightful owners.

See also:

[via GoodShit]

Wait, what font is that?

You're watching a great historical movie. Then you see a jarring flaw that breaks the mood entirely. That font didn't exist until the 80's! Typecasting looks at typographic anachronisms. [via the null device]

Earth photos

The Blue Marble: in true-color and 1 kilometer/pixel resolution. [via missingmatter]

What's that word?

They Have a Word for It: words with no English equivalent, based on Howard Rheingold's 1988 book. [via Rebecca's Pocket]

Porto Alegre reviewed

The end of the beginning?: Paul Kingsnorth reviews this year's World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, which shows the anti-globalization movement is turning more and more constructive.

In just a few years, this movement has instituted a real debate about values, economics and power. Through our numbers on the streets, through the work of key dissident thinkers and through the actions of vast grassroots movements in the Global South we have gone from being ignored, or sneered at, to being grudgingly respected.

Already, less than three years after the "Battle of Seattle", we are at the stage where the president of the World Bank can be turned away from our Social Forum (oh, the joy!); at the point where the French government sends twice as many ministers to Porto Alegre (six) as to New York (three).

See also Anti-globalization - a spreading phenomenon, where the Canadian Security Intelligence Service surveys the anti-globalization movement.

Sunday, February 17, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Nomadic sysadmins, this one's for you

GEORDI: hey sysadmins, need to check on your box? ssh in to a minimal GUI showing the basic lifeline commands. What's special about that? It runs on a Palm. [via Boing Boing]

Generation ships

"Magic number" for space pioneers calculated: a University of Florida anthropologist has calculated the minimum number of passengers needed on a generation starship in order to sustain a viable community. [via Boing Boing]

Restricting science

U.S. Tightening Rules on Keeping Scientific Secrets: Britain isn't the only country limiting scientific publication as part of the WoT.

The Bush administration is taking wide measures to tighten scientific secrecy in the hope of keeping weapons of mass destruction out of unfriendly hands.

Last month, it began quietly withdrawing from public release more than 6,600 technical documents that deal mainly with the production of germ and chemical weapons. It is also drafting a new information security policy, to be released in the next few weeks, that officials say will result in more documents' being withdrawn. It is asking scientific societies to limit what they publish in research reports.

Terrorist gold

Al Qaeda's Road Paved With Gold: on the role gold and Dubai's financial system played in the movement and laundering of money for al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Planning for war, revisited

10 Days in September: the full Washington Post series on the initial days of Bush's planning for the War on Terror.

(defun window-or-aisle ...

Carl de Marcken on the code, mainly Common Lisp, behind the Orbitz airline reservation system. [via rc3]

British nukes

Doomsday UK: an excerpt from Peter Hennessy's book The Secret State discusses the British nuclear deterrent in the cold war and today.

Caño-Limon pipeline

Protection for Oil Pipeline Raises US Profile in Colombia: more on the new U.S. assistance to Columbia in protecting Occidental's oil pipeline from the ELN and FARC. [via Robot Wisdom]

Saturday, February 16, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Serial cables are illegal?

My Run-In With The Digital Millennium Copyright Act: a university student, Colin McMillen, ordered a serial cable with a special end made for plugging into a Dreamcast console from He says his intention is to write real-time software for the console as part of his research. Instead the shipment was intercepted by Customs as being in violation of the DMCA.

See also: DMCA Protection at U.S. Border

Note: the first link above is to a university student's account which has been /.ed and mentioned on Wired. It may take a few tries to get in. [via zem]

Microsoft public comments

Of the over 30,000 public comments received by the Department of Justice on the final judgement in the Microsoft anti-trust case, 47 have been released as being "major". [via Red Rock Eater]

Cyber Security Enhancement Act

Cybercrime Bill Ups the Ante: on the increased penalties for computer crime proposed in the Cyber Security Enhancement Act of 2001, in particular up to life for those where the alleged evildoer knowing trying to cause death or serious injury. I haven't figured out the rest of the impact on penalties, but I don't think that specific one is a bad thing. Opening statements from committee members and witnesses at a House Subcommmittee on Crime hearing earlier this week are available from their site and include:

. [via Red Rock Eater]

Friday, February 15, 2002 Permanent link to this day
The patriotic thing

The Threat to Patriotism

What has al-Qaeda done to our Constitution, and to our national standards of fairness and decency? Since September 11, the government has enacted legislation, adopted policies, and threatened procedures that are not consistent with our established laws and values and would have been unthinkable before.

[via dangerousmeta]

Barlow on sharing

John Perry Barlow on The crime of sharing and the thread to freedom of expression. [via also not found in nature]

Milosevic trial

The Milosevic trial, part of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague has been underway for a few days. Transcripts seem to be posted each day for the preceded day's session.

Rebelling against the rebels

Rebels Without Weapons: on civil resistance to FARC in Columbia

In a normal country, the police take care of the civilian population. In many Colombian municipalities it is the other way around. Disarmed citizens are the ones who end up saving policemen from being gunned down by guerrillas.

Oaxaca corn research

Environmentalist Biofraud?: on challenges by the Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat to research by Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, who warned last year in a Nature article that corn in Oaxaca, Mexico had been contaminated with genetically engineered corn from the U.S.

Bush learned from Harding?

The Company Presidency: Kevin Phillips compares the Enron saga to the Teapot Dome scandal of the Harding administration.

Both Teapot and Enron involved energy policy, privatization and corruption. And like Teapot Dome's "Ohio gang" of ethically loose Harding cronies, oilmen and administration officials--energy deregulation during the first Bush administration, through the Clinton years and George W.'s time as governor of Texas on up till today has been warped and feasted upon by a Texas-led "Enron gang." In both scandals, some Democrats were involved, but the power centers of misbehavior were Republican. Yet, there has been nothing quite like the rise and fall of Enron in U.S. history, certainly no plausible comparison since the late-19th-century heyday of railroads and robber barons. The sums in Enron's collapse certainly overshadow those in Teapot, much as a space shuttle does a Model T Ford. More important, not in memory has a single major company grown so big in tandem with a presidential dynasty and a corrupted political system. Indeed, the Bush family has been a prominent and well-rewarded rung in Enron's climb to national political influence.

[via Cursor]

Afghan chess

The Taliban's War on Chess

When the Taliban caught Haji Shirullah, a Kabul businessman, playing chess in his office with his brother they burnt the chessboard and the pieces. "They put us in jail for two days," he recalled with a rueful smile. "The Taliban believed chess was a form of gambling and distracted people from saying their prayers."

Thursday, February 14, 2002 Permanent link to this day
NAFTA tribunal transcripts

Transcripts from the secret NAFTA tribunal which hears claims by companies against Canada, the United States, and Mexico when those countries' laws affect their profits. [via Red Rock Eater]

Anti-globalization demands

Hitting the Streets: The top six demands of anti-globalization protesters

For more than two decades, the inhumane, neocolonial practices of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund provoked angry protests in Third World countries, but few in the Western world took notice. Now, the anti-globalization movement is alive and well in the United States and is expected to have a thing or two to say when world business leaders, heads of state and leading economists meet this weekend in New York City. What follows is a six-point manifesto of what many of the demonstrators want. The list is based on the writings and statements of anti-globalists and contains the demands sought by the Mobilization for Global Justice, a coalition that promised to have 100,000 demonstrators outside the IMF meeting in Washington, D.C., last fall; the meeting was canceled in the aftermath of September 11.

[via somewhereiforget]

Reputational risk

Amnesty International and The Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum have published Business & Human Rights: A geography of corporate risk, a collection of seven maps showing corporations doing business in countries known for human rights abuses. [via Plep]

Enron's open secrets

Enron at who got how much cash when. [thanks Cass]


Springtime, Taxes, and the Attack on Iraq: on the discovery of calutrons in Iraq, the expulsion of the inspectors, and why both lead to the conclusion that Bush will soon take military action against Hussein.

In the next few months, spring will return, we will pay our taxes, and the United States will attack Iraq. The seasons have always returned, with perhaps a few exceptions when asteroids and comets slammed into the Earth. Taxes are often listed among those things considered "inevitable." Why do I put the U.S. attack on Iraq on the same list? Because it is also going to happen, and happen soon. My prediction is not based on hearing three jackals howl in the night, or on the fact that Mars and Venus are flirting in the heavens; it's based on what I consider to be a clear vision of some recent political and technological events. After I review the facts, I think you will share this vision with me.

Network trends

Scrambling the Equations: Potential Trends in Networking: Andy Oram on the near future of the net.

Massive black holes

Stars and singularities: Tal Alexander's chapter from an upcoming book, The Galactic Black Hole edited by H. Falcke and F. W. Hehl, summarizes recent research the interaction of massive black holes at galaxy centers with the stars around them.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Setting an example

America's crony capitalism

Why is this more than just a very big business failure? Because the US markets, and the array of institutions that constitute them, are supposed to be a model. When the Asian crisis hit, crony capitalism took much of the blame. The definition of sound policies was broadened to include a call for countries to put into place strong market infrastructure, including more rigorous accounting standards, better regulation, stricter disclosure and stronger corporate governance. As the international community struggled to define this new consensus, it was often to US examples that it turned, albeit grudgingly. And where there were big differences, those of us representing the US were typically reluctant to cede the case. This is harder to justify now.

Giving Microsoft a hand

Last month, Bill announced the Trustworthy Computing initiative within Microsoft. Shortly after, some loyal fan launches, clearly in the spirit of helping Microsoft know where to start looking. [via Red Rock Eater]

Stupid Outlook tricks

Do you want your mail to be read by Outlook users? Two tips from the latest Risks Digest:

  1. Don't use the text "over 18", even if there's another character right smack up against it.
  2. Don't use the uncapitalized word "begin" if it might possibly fall at the beginning of a line.
Remember kids, friends don't let friends use Outlook.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002 Permanent link to this day
An OS for the net

The Worldwide Computer: on efforts to take Internet distributed computing to the next level, Internet-scale operating systems. [via also not found in nature]

Fonts fixed

I believe I've fixed the IE font weirdness, but I've learned not to say anything more predictive than "watch this". So, if things are still weird, please let me know.

Games and national insecurity

National Security and Infrastructural Warfare: on national security and insecurity, told from a game theory perspective.

The single most significant flaw in national security strategy is thinking in constrained games terms, particularly the polarized win/lose. Understanding any game that models real world situations requires the addition of two new strategic positions--Not Lose (NL) and Not Let Them Win (NLTW)

[via abuddhas memes]

A young woman's tale of the Taliban

My Forbidden Face by Latifa: a book excerpt from the story of the Taliban's arrival in Kabul, as told by a young woman. [via dangerousmeta]

Defining terror

Eliot at Follow Me Here has some interesting thoughts and links on defining the War on Terror.

The world's policeman

A Safe Place for a War: on the wisdom and necessity of sending over 600 American troops to the Philippines to help combat Abu Sayyaf.

Anyone who comes here to the jungles of Basilan, home to the Abu Sayyaf movement that we're supposed to destroy, discovers pretty quickly that Abu Sayyaf isn't a militant Islamic terror group. It's simply a gang of about 60 brutal thugs.

[via Follow Me Here]

U.S./Saudi relationship

Marriage of Convenience, the U.S.-Saudi Alliance, a series in the Washington Post:

[via little green footballs]

Hyperlink hearing

Company says it owns hyperlinks patent: on the preliminary hearing into the British Telecom hyperlink suit. It sounds like there's a clueful judge handling this cases.

Ashcroft's thread to freedom of information

The Threat to the Freedom of Information: on the Ashcroft doctrine on the Freedom of Information Act:

Ashcroft's broad edict, issued in October in the wake of the terrorist attacks, encourages government officials to find reasons to withhold information, and signals that the Justice Department will back them up. This is a significant departure from the general policy of openness adopted by former Attorney General Janet Reno, who advised officials to release records unless disclosure would result in foreseeable harm. While Ashcroft frames the issue as one of national security in a time of war, his memo also directs officials to be mindful of "institutional, commercial, and personal privacy interests" when considering FOIA requests.

[via wood s lot]

U.K. Export Control Bill

A British computer scientist, Ross Anderson, is warning that the new Export Control Bill under consideration in the U.K. goes too far in the effort to extend munition export controls to electronic transmission by giving government prepublication review and suppression powers over scientists' work and requiring licenses to be acquired for research into controlled areas when it involves foreigners.

See also:

[via zem]

Sunday, February 10, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Human cloning recommendations

Scientific and Medical Aspects of Human Reproductive Cloning, National Research Council report, is available online in PDF or OpenBook formats. [via Scout Report]

Policing the pipeline, your taxdollars at work

Part of Bush's budget allocation for anti-drug activities in Columbia is $98 million dollars slated to equip and train the Columbian military to protect the Caño-Limon oil pipeline. Undersecretary of State Mark Grossman gave this reason in a press conference in Columbia:

As the Foreign Minister and I were speaking before, that pipeline was closed 266 days last year. Colombia loses probably 40 million dollars a month in revenues. For those of you who are interested in the environment, over the last 15 years the attacks to that pipeline has put out into the Colombian soil almost two million of barrels of oil. That equals eight "Exxon-Valdez" spills in Alaska.

That's not the whole reason of course. As the budget summary mentions, "Colombia was the source of about two percent of U.S. oil imports, creating a mutual interest in protecting this economic asset." So, it's not just good for Columbia, it's good for America. Good. But it's not just good for America, it's good for Occidental Petroleum, which gets the oil from the pipeline. According to their 2000 annual report, production through that pipeline was down about 25%, a drop of 32,000 barrels a day, from the previous year due in part to "insurgent activity" and in the 4th quarter of last year, production from that pipeline dropped from the previous quarter by over 2% due to outages. At current prices, the 2000 drop corresponds to rougly $236 million, if I'm doing the math right. What a deal, taxpayers are putting out $98 million to protect a couple of hundred million dollars in oil company profits. Oh, but I forgot - it's good for Columbia and America too.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch and other organizations have reported that Columbia has failed to meet conditions set forth in the Foreign Appropriations Act passed early this year which are required before funding can be continued. In particular, ties between the Columbian military and the paramilitary groups that some of the funding is intended to combat have not been cut. [via Ethel The Blog]

Format tweaks

I've been tweaking the layout just a tad the last few days. Any complaints, please let me know.

Creative misspellings

It's sometimes amazing what happens when you have to key a URL by hand because Mozilla's location bar has gotten messed up. This is not President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo website. Who would have thought there was a Korean Mushroom Growers Association? I wonder how many of the 20 hits they've gotten so far today were intended versus people looking for Gloria?

Philippine military angered over Rumsfeld leak

US troops now in Basilan

Military and civilian officials here and Basilan island expressed alarm yesterday over US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's admission that 200 American troops are already in a jungle training camp, despite unresolved issues in the Balikatan war games' Terms of Reference (TOR).

Even more alarming was the same official's claim that exercises would be expanding to Jolo, Sulu and "other parts of Mindanao island."

A top ranking Southern Command official, who requested anonymity, expressed anger at Rumsfeld's remarks at a Pentagon press briefing.

"We have been under orders to keep all US troop movements strictly confidential. That is for their (US troops') security. I am surprised that the US defense secretary would admit what we are supposed to keep secret," the official said.

Isn't Rumsfeld the one who got so torqued about a troop presence leak?

The Philippines have their own Ashcroft

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is getting criticism for her Ashcroft-like remarks regarding support for joint U.S. and Philippine military exercises and action against Abu Sayyaf.

President vows: I won't stop until last Abu falls

Making her strongest defense yet of the controversial Philippine-US Balikatan 02-1 military exercise in Mindanao, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Friday that anyone opposed to the presence of American forces here to train local troops to fight the Abu Sayyaf Muslim bandit group was "not a Filipino".

Speaking at her weekly press conference in Malacañang, Ms Macapagal said: "If you are not a Filipino, then who are you? A protector of terrorists, a cohort of murderers, an Abu Sayyaf lover.

"You care more for terrorists than for your own soldier who defends you. You care more for bandits and the camp of Osama bin Laden than your country, which seeks to help you."

Macapagal slammed over remarks against US foes

"No President of the Philippines, and we have had 13 of them, had ever dared say that any Filipino who happens to disagree with the President is not a Filipino," Sen. Joker Arroyo of the ruling Lakas said in a three-paragraph statement in his own handwriting.

"Not even (the late strongman Ferdinand) Marcos denied any of his opponents their birthright," Arroyo said.

"Is this the measure of the President's IQ or that of her advisers?"

Terrorist talk

Why President Macapagal is suddenly talking like this is puzzling. She is an intelligent person, and it does not require great intelligence to know that there may be Filipinos who are opposed to the American military engagement in Mindanao precisely because they care for their country and the welfare of the Filipino soldier. What they oppose is not the campaign to terminate the Abu Sayyaf, but the use of means that are contrary to law and are likely to produce greater injury to the nation.


Tells: on how we give ourselves away. [via Arts & Letters Daily]

Saturday, February 09, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Fashion police

The latest fashion statement: terrorist chic.

It used to be an arrestable offence to walk down a street in Germany wearing a T-shirt bearing the RAF logo of the notorious Red Army Faction terrorist group. These days it amounts to a fashion statement.

[via Unknown News]

Please deposit 25 cents for 5 more clicks

British Telecom will try to defend its claim that a patent it holds covers hyperlinks on the web in Federal Court tomorrow in a hearing involving an infringement suit it filed against Prodigy.

See also:

[via Boing Boing]

Movable Type tweaks

I've been meaning to document the tweaks I've done to Movable Type and what I've done to put together some things it doesn't directly support. Two reasons I want to do this: one, it will help me keep track of things and help me remember what I did when it comes time to merge things into version 2. Secondly, someone out there just might be interested. So, if you're one of those people, read on...

Enron, the Cliff Notes

A Guide to the Enron Collapse: A Few Points for a Clearer Understanding [via wood s lot]

State of the Union, deconstructed

Deconstructing George W. Bush: A Critical Analysis of the 2002 State of the Union Address [via wood s lot]

Communication in a time of war

Contact and Impact: Over the Lines: on communication and the Internet in a time of war, using a recent lecture by Mark Poster as a jumping off point.

New Dark Age

The New Dark Age Revisited

In 1996 Mark Stahlman, a former technology analyst on Wall Street, espoused his theories about the rise of the New Dark Age. At that time, he couldn't have foreseen how quickly circumstances would develop to this end. Even so, the new dark age has turned out to be not exactly what he -- or many others like him -- thought it would be. Then, in the heyday of the "Internet Revolution", it was considered that technology would play a fundamental role in the new dark age. In essence, the new dark age would be primarily a digital dark age.

Recent events, however, have shown this not to be the case. Unlike Stahlman's prophecy that we would be psychologically programmed and that new media networks would become the mechanism of psychological destruction and seamless surveillance, the new dark age has descended in a much more simple manner: that of self-censorship and collective amnesia. In other words, the latest in technological wizardry is not required to plunge us into the depths of darkness.

Halted firewall

How do you increase the security of your Linux firewall? Let it keep running after you've halted the system. [via dangerousmeta]

Friday, February 08, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Axis of evil report

CSIS has released a new report detailing proliferation from the Axis of Evil. [via Cipherwar]

Legislating responsibility

I have to worry a bit when I agree with articles in FrontPage Magazine, but Larry Elder's Don't "Reform" Investing, correctly points out that we should not put restrictions on how much employees can put into their own company's stock. Warnings should be given about diversification, certainly. But if people want to make the mistake of putting 90% of their savings in their own company, or any company, then that should be their right. We cannot protect people from themselves with laws. By trying we do nothing more than remove personal responsibility and encourage people to expect the government to protect them from every little thing.

The One Runtime?

One Runtime to Bind Them All: on the illusion of universal language support by .NET's Common Language Runtime.

The Common Language Runtime is being sold as a libertarian technology that levels the playing field for minority languages. The CLR would offer to all languages a neutral typesystem, a state-of-the-art back-end compiler, runtime and set of enterprise-class frameworks. VisualStudio.NET makes this complete with a first-rate IDE that can be extended to support any language. It would almost zero the barrier to entry for new languages.

The reality looks much darker instead. The CLR is not truly language-neutral, and it will ostensibly favor languages that look a lot like C#. Those not in this group will be severely bastardized, producing dialects which are really "C# with another syntax"; look at ISE's Eiffel# (or even Microsoft's own VB.NET and J#) for great examples. Programmers' choice will be limited to superficial features: whether to delimit their blocks with curly braces, Begin/End or parentheses. It's also worth notice that the CTS/CTS do not allow use of the full set of CLR features; for example, unsigned integers are supported by the CLR but not considered language-neutral, simply because many languages share Java's abomination for the signed/unsigned duality (this includes Microsoft's own VB) and there's no good solution for this issue.

[via CamWorld]

Thursday, February 07, 2002 Permanent link to this day
The Dirty Dozen

The Digital Dirty Dozen: The Cato Institute lists 12 bills introduced last year as examples of the regulatory stance Congress is taking toward technology.

As shown in this review of our picks for the 12 most destructive pieces of technology legislation introduced in the 107th Congress, there is good evidence that policymakers--whether through conscious design or not--are adopting the telecom regulatory paradigm for the tech sector. It appears that the tech sector may be pigeonholed into that paradigm simply because it offers a familiar set of rules and a bank of regulatory agencies that can be activated on command.

Here they are:


Flashback to January 5th, this year: Bush stops at the Portland One-Stop Career and Youth Opportunity Center for a photo op. Fast forward to February 4th. Bush releases the budget and cuts their funding. [via Red Rock Eater]

How Iran got included in axis of evil

King accuses Iran of threat to Israel: Jordan's King Abdullah gave evidence to Bush regarding Iranian backing of rocket attacks from Jordan into Israel.

American and Jordanian sources told the Arabic daily Al-Sharq al-Aswat that Iran was "directly and clearly" involved in 17 incidents in which missiles and mortar shells were fired into Israel from Jordan. The attacks were allegedly carried out by members of the Islamic terrorist groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who were trained in Iranian military camps or in similar camps in Lebanon.

Bush simplistic? nah...

The French foreign minister, Hubert Vedrine, warns that the U.S. is being too simplistic about the WoT:

We are friends of the United States, we are friends of that people and we will remain so. But we are threatened today by a new simplism which consists in reducing everything to the war on terrorism. That is their approach, but we cannot accept that idea. You have got to tackle the root causes, the situations, poverty, injustice.

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, villagers captured in a raid on what turned out not to be a Taliban or al-Qaeda complex after all were released and a remotely piloted CIA drone fired a missile at a crowd of people surrounding what they think was a "senior al-Qaeda leader" near a cave complex in Zawar Khili.

Despite questions about the raid, American forces continue to go after what they believe are groups of Al Qaeda or Taliban leaders. An intelligence official said tonight that a Predator drone fired a Hellfire antitank missile at a group of people in the Zawar Khili area of Afghanistan on Monday, and some them were believed killed. Although their identities have not been determined, American officials believe some of the people in the group were leaders of Al Qaeda, based on the number of vehicles in the convoy they had been traveling in.

Simple? You're kidding, this is complicated stuff.

Wednesday, February 06, 2002 Permanent link to this day
On bubbles

Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds, the 1841 classic on such things as the South Sea Bubble and the Dutch Tulip Mania. Good reading for the post-dotcom bubble world. Better reading for the pre-dotcom bubble world, but it's just a little bit too late for that. [via GirlHacker's Random Log]

Why we need space

Why This Blog Bores People About Space Stuff: Rand at Transterrestrial Musings, which just got dropped onto my regular surf list, explains one reason why expanding our space program is so important, but one you won't hear NASA using to defend its budget requests. A few hundred years ago the founders of America walked away from an oppressive government they could no longer tolerate. Where will the refugees go if (I won't be so cynical as to say "when") the U.S. goes down that path? [via little green footballs]

Types of terrorism

Reflections on Modern Terrorism: George Holton on the history, future, and types of terrorism.

There has been an historic transition in which Type I terrorism and Type II terrorism are being combined. Type I terrorism consists of acts by individuals or small groups that aim to impose terror on other individuals and groups, and through them indirectly on their governments. Type II terrorism is the imposition by a government on groups of local or foreign populations. The new type of terrorism -- Type III -- is carried out by a substantially larger group of individuals, is aimed directly at a national population, and has all the components for success. The article deals with how this new terrorism, at very little psychic cost on the perpetrators, disrupts personal and historic memory through large-scale catastrophe organized for that purpose. Type III terrorism is made easier by the ready availability of high-level technology. Target nations will not have open to them the conventional responses, and will have to devise new, preventive measures.

This classification of the types of terrorism is not something I think I've seen until recently, in particular the distinction of government action against populations. That was also discussed in an NPR interview with Caleb Carr, discussing his book The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians. Why It Has Always Failed And Why It Will Fail Again, on Saturday. One thing that caught my ear in that interview was Carr's mention that the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II met the definition of state conducted terror.

John Walker indictment

John Walker has been indicted in Virginia on 10 counts, including six in addition to the original charges brought.

Tuesday, February 05, 2002 Permanent link to this day
NPR on Wisconsin fossils

NPR has a story on the Wisconsin jellyfish find, including a twist I hadn't heard before: many of these fossils may have made it in to peoples' counter tops and such things before their importance was realized.

Globalization in India

Shall We Leave It to the Experts?: on the impact and meaning of globalization for India.

What is globalization? Who is it for? What is it going to do to a country like India, in which social inequality has been institutionalized in the caste system for centuries? A country in which 700 million people live in rural areas. In which 80 percent of the landholdings are small farms. In which 300 million people are illiterate. Is the corporatization and globalization of agriculture, water supply, electricity and essential commodities going to pull India out of the stagnant morass of poverty, illiteracy and religious bigotry? Is the dismantling and auctioning off of elaborate public sector infrastructure, developed with public money over the past fifty years, really the way forward? Is globalization going to close the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged, between the upper castes and the lower castes, between the educated and the illiterate? Or is it going to give those who already have a centuries-old head start a friendly helping hand?

USPS auctions

The Post Office is testing Ebay auctions of undeliverable items. [via dangerousmeta]

Super Bowl summary

Did you miss the Superbowl? Don't fret, the Super Bowl Ads are available online. [via dangerousmeta]

The Grid

The Grid: A New Infrastructure for 21st Century Science: on the next step for the net.

What many term the "Grid" offers a potential means of surmounting these obstacles to progress. Built on the Internet and the World Wide Web, the Grid is a new class of infrastructure. By providing scalable, secure, high-performance mechanisms for discovering and negotiating access to remote resources, the Grid promises to make it possible for scientific collaborations to share resources on an unprecedented scale, and for geographically distributed groups to work together in ways that were previously impossible.

[via Metafilter]

I want my CNN back

Big Names, Little News--This Is CNN?: on the "axis of egos" that CNN has evolved into, with more emphasis being placed on the on-air personalities than on the news. [via Cursor]

Basildon Peta arrested

Basildon Peta, a correspondent for the The Independent, was arrested today under Zimbabwe's new Public Order and Security Act and held overnight. He's charged with convening a demonstration against the new media laws without police permission. Peta has been pushing at Mugabe for quite some time, and expected to be arrested. Recent pieces by Peta on Mugabe's laws include:

Monday, February 04, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Ashcroft's coverup

John Ashcroft's Perilous Nipples: Mark Morford goes off on the covering of the Spirit of Justice and the Majesty of Law statues.

You may think it unfair to pull a broader message from this tiny and relatively sweet incident. You may think Ashcroft's gesture does not necessarily bespeak some sort of larger truth about the current administration, its value system, the direction of the country, the overall misogynistic, monastic, dangerously unprogressive, hypocritical attitude of our leaders as a whole, or how we are enjoying at this very moment what is easily the most conservative, sexually terrified, ill-humored, anti-choice regime in 50 years.

You would be wrong.

[via Unknown News]

Smallpox research controversy

Hopkins dean rues smallpox research: on the debate over continued research on smallpox , in particular recent experiments at the CDC in Atlanta where monkeys were fatally infected for the first time.

The dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has denounced research being conducted by Army scientists to infect monkeys with smallpox, saying that it "morally undermines" the war against terrorism and sets a dangerous example for other countries.

Others believe we have a duty to learn as much as we can about the virus given the current situation. [via Unknown News]

Rumsfeld on Iran on botched U.S. attack

In an interview with ABC on Sunday, Rumsfeld accused Iran of harboring al-Qaeda members who have crossed the border from Afghanistan, as well as supplying arms to factions in Afghanistan (I'm sure at this point it would be crass to mention the relative color of pots and kettles, so I won't). Today, Iran denied that any al-Qaeda was in its territory and warned the U.S. against an attack.

Less widely reported was this interesting exchange later in the interview, regarding an attack in the town of Hazar Kadam (or Hasam Quedam):

Rumsfeld: Exactly. And therefore, our soldiers don't go around killing innocent people. Nor do our soldiers go around pretending they are civilians and blurring that distinction between a combatant and a non-combatant. That's what puts civilians at risk.

Q: Well, you're examining right now the case of Hasam Quedam in which it is said that our Special Forces went in and through a horrible mistake killed 15-21 people who were not Taliban, but in fact supporters of the new government.

Rumsfeld: Is that a question?

Q: Yes, because you just said we don't go around killing innocent people. I take your point --

Rumsfeld: Well, we don't.

Q: -- except you've launched that investigation to see whether we, in fact, did.

Rumsfeld: Of course, we do. We always launch an investigation. I don't -- the commander and the command does. If there are legitimate questions raised about some action, it's perfectly appropriate for them to do exactly what they did and say "stop for a minute, we're going to go take a look. We're going to see what actually happened."

Now, is it possible that everyone's accurate? That is to say, that in that attack there might have been some people who were Taliban, there might have been some people who were al-Qaeda, and there might have also been some people that weren't? And in the same room. Because this is Afghanistan.

Q: Well, sir, we're out of time, but will you pledge that whatever the investigation shows, you will release that information to the American people and the world?

Rumsfeld: Why, of course.

Meanwhile both ABC News and NPR are reporting that military officials have admitted that the raid was a mistake, that one of the targets was actually the headquarters of a disarmament commission loyal to the new government and the other was a local government office.

The second target was a former school building. Armed men were living there, and the U.S. military believed the building had become an al Qaeda hideout. But according to local residents and officials, the building was actually the headquarters of a disarmament commission, where officials were collecting weapons from the countryside. The officials had been appointed by the new anti-Taliban governor, Jan Mohammed Khan. -- NPR report

Families of the 18 or so villagers that were killed have reportedly been compensated in U.S. dollars:

U.S. officials claim the Pentagon did not pay the money, indicating it was provided instead by Hamid Karzai's interim Afghan government, which they say got the money from the CIA. The CIA denies providing the money. Afghan officials say the death toll was 21; the U.S. military puts the figure at 15. -- ABC News report

2003 U.S. Budget

If you've finished wading through the Enron investigative committee report, here's some more bedtime reading. The 2003 U.S. Budget has been released.

No Senate testimony from Lay

In a letter from his attorney, Kenneth Lay has backed out of today's planned testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee, saying that he cannot testify in a forum where conclusions had already been reached. The hearing has been, at least for now, cancelled and the committee has said they intend to subpoena Lay.

Politics and culture in Iran

Inside Iran: how stable is the current theocracy?

On January 16, 1979, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, boarded an aircraft at Mehrabad airport in Tehran and flew into exile. Within minutes of his departure the streets of the city were full of people, dancing and singing, hooting their car horns and waving portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini. The clerics rode to power in Iran on a tide of popular support. Now the mullahs must look anxiously out upon the streets they once controlled.

Life - how the Iranians do it: writing under a pseudonym in an article originally appearing in Areté, an Iranian expatriot returns after 22 years and describes the culture confusion of "official rules and unofficial avoidance strategies" she finds.

Sunday, February 03, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Philippine reaction to State of the Union

Members of the Philippine government are bristling over parts of the State of the Union speech which lumped them in with the list of countries harboring terrorists which were put on notice that America would act if they didn't.

"It's clear in my mind that one president of a friendly country does not threaten another friendly country," Justice Secretary Hernando Perez said. "We don't depend on what the Americans claims to be necessary. We do seek assistance from them in case of need, but that doesn't mean they will run the foreign policy of our country."

Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said Washington was free to freeze the assets of groups linked with terrorism or pursue diplomatic measures. "But some people would want to interpret it to mean that the US will impose its will, but we're a self-respecting sovereign state, and we will not allow any other country to impose its will on us if it's against our national interest," he said.

Fischer on ICC a hoax?

Bobby Fischer is denying reports from some, including Nigel Short, that he was playing anonymously on the Internet Chess Club last year.

On Lisp

Paul Graham's book On Lisp is now available for download. [via Lambda the Ultimate]

U.N. sanction summary

Use of Sanctions Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter: Summaries of past and current U.N. sanctions, with links to the ones in currently place.

Which Axis for Russia?

Tempted by Oil, Russia Draws Ever Closer to Iraq: on the problems the American continued opposition to Iraq causes Russia, focusing on Lukoil's West Qurna oil field contract. That contract can't be developed under the current U.N. sanctions and might not survive Hussein's fall.

This 1997 report,Oil, Business, and the Future of Iraqi Sanctions, from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy summarizes the oil reserves and deals that were in place around the time Lukoil signed it's West Qurna contract.

Internal Enron report

An investigative committee of Enron's board has released its report on the breakdown of controls and ethics in the company.

Our investigation identified significant problems beyond those Enron has already disclosed. Enron employees involved in the partnerships were enriched, in the aggregate, by tens of millions of dollars they should never have received -- Fastow by at least $30 million, Kopper by at least $10 million, two others by $1 million each, and still two more by amounts we believe were at least in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have seen no evidence that any of these employees, except Fastow, obtained the permission required by Enron's Code of Conduct of Business Affairs to own interests in the partnerships. Moreover, the extent of Fastow's ownership and financial windfall was inconsistent with his representations to Enron's Board of Directors.

This personal enrichment of Enron employees, however, was merely one aspect of a deeper and more serious problem. These partnerships -- Chewco, LJM1, and LJM2 -- were used by Enron Management to enter into transactions that it could not, or would not, do with unrelated commercial entities. Many of the most significant transactions apparently were designed to accomplish favorable financial statement results, not to achieve bona fide economic objectives or to transfer risk. Some transactions were designed so that, had they followed applicable accounting rules, Enron could have kept assets and liabilities (especially debt) off of its balance sheet; but the transactions did not follow those rules.

The report is a 9 meg PDF. Here are some summaries:

War analysis

Strange Victory: the Project on Defense Alternatives takes an indepth look at the war in Afghanistan covering goals, costs, methods, and results. [via wood s lot]

Saturday, February 02, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Electronic Search and Seizure

The Search & Seizure of Electronic Information: The Law Before and After the USA Patriot Act - the Association of Research Libraries presents a table outlining the changes to how different types of information can be acquired by the government. [via BookNotes]

Karin A funding

Could the Saudis have funded the Palestinian arms ship, Karine A, via Islamic charities? This article from Die Welt claims so.

The CIA, Israel's Mossad, and Palestinian security services have conducted their own independent investigations. All three "investigators" have withheld their conclusions up to this point for different reasons. According to the estimates of the intelligence services, Saudi Arabian businessmen paid $10 million dollars to Iran for the weapons carried on the "Karine A." Rent for the ship cost $400,000, and fuel, repairs, and harbor fees cost $1 million.

Anti-globalization, what do to instead

Alternatives to Corporate Globalization

Is a new world possible? Activists who fight corporate globalization certainly believe so. Those struggling to oppose corporate globalization are more than simply critics of the current system. Though global opposition to the negative effects of the world's current economic and political systems continues to grow, every time those protesting corporate globalization appear en masse to call attention to a global financial body like the International Monetary Fund or World Trade Organization, their critics accuse them of offering little more than condemnation. "We know what you're against," critics say, "BUT WHAT ARE YOU FOR?" The truth is, activists struggling to oppose corporate globalization offer many models of alternative ways to envision a new society. From developing viable economic alternatives to global capitalism to creating more effective ideas for educating children, from envisioning non-hierarchical means of organizing society to conceiving ways to enable more equality in interpersonal relationships, those who hope to create a better world offer infinite visions for a way to do just that.

[via NewsTrolls]

Money laundering assessment

The Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering issued its latest set of 40 recommendations on fighting money laundering in 1996 and a new set of eight recommendations on combating terrorist financing in 2001. The U.S. has taken published self assessments of our compliance with these recommendations.

Friday, February 01, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Public Radio program listings and streaming audio links for hundreds of public radio stations. [via Follow Me Here]

Axis of Evil

Know thine enemy: The Economist profiles the Axis of Evil and other WMD proliferaters.

Just a ruse to justify settling old scores with Iraq, which has long defied United Nations efforts to strip it of its illicit weapons of mass destruction? Or a ploy to help justify Mr Bush's decision to scrap the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia and build new missile defences? To many a seasoned anti-proliferation warrior, the president was simply stating the obvious: in a world of terrorism without constraint, tackling the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons is just as urgent as ripping up the terrorist networks that might seek to make use of them.

As in any war, it helps to know the enemy. There are more than three of them. In a report published just before the Bush administration came into office, America's then secretary of defence, William Cohen, picked out "at least 25" countries that either possess, or are trying to develop, weapons of mass destruction or the means to deliver them. Since chemical and biological weapons are outlawed, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) allows for only five official nuclear powers--the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France--plenty of governments are clearly up to no good.

Who needs national ID? We have the FAA.

The FAA is planning to test a air passenger screening system which will tie together information on passengers' travel history, living arrangements, and other personal information in order to assign a "threat score" to each passenger. A high score means a passenger gets a more thorough security screening.

The government's plan is to establish a computer network linking every reservation system in the United States to private and government databases. The network would use data-mining and predictive software to profile passenger activity and intuit obscure clues about potential threats, even before the scheduled day of flight.

It might find, for instance, that one man used a debit card to buy tickets for four other men who sit in separate parts of the same plane -- four men who have shared addresses in the past. Or it might discern an array of unusual links and travel habits among passengers on different flights.

Apparently two competing prototypes are being developed. One by a team led by HNC Software and another led by Accenture.

Cosmic microwave background radiation

How much will we learn from the CMB?: David Langlois discussed what we've learned so far about the cosmic microwave background radiation and what it could possibly tell us in the future about the early history of the universe in a talk given at a meeting last year, The Early Universe and Cosmological Observations: a Critical Review.

Linux firewall resources

Things you might need if you were setting up an IP Masquerade firewall on a Linux 2.2.x kernel:

Space tourist rules

NASA and the other space station partners have finally agreed on the rules for space tourists, published as Principles Regarding Processes and Criteria for Selection, Assignment, Training and Certification of ISS (Expedition and Visiting) Crew Members. [via bottomquark]

Saturn photo

The ESO's Very Large Telescope at Paranal has taken the best image of Saturn from a ground-based telescope yet. It's almost like being there.

CIA report on WMD proliferation

The CIA has released a report on countries acquiring and distributing weapons of mass destruction technology during the first half of last year.

North Korea responds

In a statement published by the Korean Central News Agency North Korea has responded to their inclusion in Bush's axis of evil by calling it close to a declaration of war.

February 2002
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28    

Copyright © 2001-2002 by Wes Cowley