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The point

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 23:52 by John Sinteur in category: News


George R. R. Martin demonstrates his membership in that portion of America that has not, in fact, gone stark raving mad:

Step by step, year by year, the TSA and its predecessors have taken away more and more of our freedoms, subjecting millions of perfectly innocent travellers to searches and interrogations and other hassles in the vague hope of catching hijackers (in the old days) and terrorists (these days). Even if it worked, the price would be too high, but of course it does not work. It has never worked.

The mindrot that leads to where we are is on full display in one of the comments to George’s post, where someone writes “I think it’s ironic that people say that these security measures aren’t helping, after a terrorist plot is thwarted.? As if the British had caught these guys by confiscating their toothpaste at Heathrow. In fact, from what we’re told, it appears this plot was rolled up by the traditional method, which is to say, weeks and months of hard slogging police work. And yet somehow this means the rest of us now have to submit to yet another expansion of intrusive, degrading security theater. Here’s a clue: the intrusiveness, the degradation, are the point. That hopelessness you feel? It’s what your rulers want.

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Bush Staff Wanted Bomb-Detect Cash Moved

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 23:35 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ, News


)— While the British terror suspects were hatching their plot, the Bush administration was quietly seeking permission to divert $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new homeland explosives detection technology.

Congressional leaders rejected the idea, the latest in a series of steps by the Homeland Security Department that has left lawmakers and some of the department’s own experts questioning the commitment to create better anti-terror technologies.

Homeland Security’s research arm, called the Sciences & Technology Directorate, is a “rudderless ship without a clear way to get back on course,” Republican and Democratic senators on the Appropriations Committee declared recently.

“The committee is extremely disappointed with the manner in which S&T is being managed within the Department of Homeland Security,” the panel wrote June 29 in a bipartisan report accompanying the agency’s 2007 budget.

Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., who joined Republicans to block the administration’s recent diversion of explosives detection money, said research and development is crucial to thwarting future attacks and there is bipartisan agreement that Homeland Security has fallen short.

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President Bush’s Radio Address

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 23:28 by John Sinteur in category: Indecision 2008


Unfortunately, some have suggested recently that the terrorist threat is being used for partisan political advantage. We can have legitimate disagreements about the best way to fight the terrorists, yet there should be no disagreement about the dangers we face.

Yeah, and “some have suggested” that al Qaeda is alive and well and voting in the Democratic primary in Connecticut. But that’s not politicizing terror.

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Open-source software bug hunt results released

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 22:05 by John Sinteur in category: News


Coverity Inc. of San Francisco has released the results of a Homeland Security Department-funded bug hunt that ranged across 40 popular open-source programs. The company found less than one-half of one bug per thousand lines of code on average, and found even fewer defects in the most widely used code, such as the Linux kernel and the Apache Web server.

The results are the first deliverable of a $1.2 million, three-year grant DHS awarded to a team consisting of Coverity, Stanford University and Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif. DHS wants to reinforce the quality of open-source programs supporting the U.S. infrastructure.

The agency is hoping developers will fix the defects highlighted by the team’s advanced bug-hunting techniques. Such defects can pose security vulnerabilities because they could be used by malicious programs to disrupt or gain control of a system.

To test the programs, Coverity deployed analysis software first developed by Stanford’s computer science department. Ben Chelf, chief technology officer of Coverity, warned that this automated bug scan is not definitive, but it can point to bugs traditional in-house code review techniques can miss.

Most of the 40 programs tested averaged less than one defect per thousand lines of code. The cleanest program was XMMS, a Unix-based multimedia application. It had only six bugs in its 116,899 lines of code, or .51 bugs per thousands lines of code.

Sounds like someone needs to run this debugger on their calculator.

Oh, how about this: imagine you have a grant to test 40 (and only 40) programs, and that grant is from the Dept of Homeland Security, how would you select those 40? Would you include rsync, ssh, BIND? These guys didn’t – they figured an mp3 player like XMMS was more important…

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Amazon database would put shoppers’ intimate details on the line

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 22:03 by John Sinteur in category: Privacy


Amazon.com is developing a system to gather and keep massive amounts of intimate information about its millions of shoppers, including their religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity and income.

The database, which would combine information disclosed voluntarily by customers with facts gleaned from public databases, conceivably would give Amazon a larger or more detailed profile of its customers than any other retailer.

Looks like I’m ahead of the curve again – I stopped visiting Amazon quite a while ago…

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Bush reads Camus’s ‘The Stranger’ on ranch vacation

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 21:17 by John Sinteur in category: News


– US
President George W. Bush quoted French existential writer Albert Camus to European leaders a year and a half ago, and now he’s read one of his most famous works: “The Stranger.”

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Friday that Bush, here on his Texas ranch enjoying a 10-day vacation from Washington, had made quick work of the Algerian-born writer’s 1946 novel — in English.

“Quick work”? The book’s only about 150 pages long, for god’s sake! That’s why it’s taught in high school English classes. Freshman high school English classes.

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  1. Uh, if you were taught Camus in English class, you should really ask for your money back.

  2. “President Bush said while he’s on vacation he’s reading two books about his hero Abraham Lincoln. That’s his hero, and this has got his staff a little worried. See they know how much President Bush idolizes Lincoln and the feeling is it’s going to be very upsetting to him when he gets to the part of the book where Lincoln gets shot. But then again it’s ten days, so it could take awhile.” –Jay Leno

  3. Maarten, you’re an idiot. Camus is a classic literary figure, and The Stranger is a commonly assigned book in high school English classes. Maybe you’re getting confused–“English” classes in high school typically focus on reading and understanding literature, not on how to speak the language. For God’s sake, I read it in my freshman English class in OKLAHOMA (and no, not Tulsa or Oklahoma City, but in a tiny suburb).

    Sorry to keep rambling, but man, to assume that the only students who read Camus do so in French classes is just absurd. Ever read Waiting for Godot? I read that in an English class too, despite the fact that its Irish writer wrote it in French.

  4. Hey Gummo, lovely rant there, but John didn’t go to high school in OKLAHOMA, he went to a school down the street from my parents’ house where English and French are foreign languages and where you don’t read Camus in English class. Thanks for playing.

Survey on putting electronics in checked airline baggage

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 21:11 by John Sinteur in category: News

Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2006 21:06:54 -0700
From: Lauren Weinstein
Subject: Survey on putting electronics in checked airline baggage

[ Please distribute widely, as considered appropriate ]

I’m conducting a little unscientific survey on whether or not airline
passengers are willing to place their expensive or important
electronic equipment in airline checked baggage (whether “locked” or
not, but on most flights unlocked will be required), and how this
would affect their flying patterns.

With the above as preface, there are three questions:

1) Are you willing to place all of your significant electronic equipment
(including laptop or other computers, cellphones, DVD players, iPods,
etc.) in checked baggage for airline flights?

2) If you are required to place such electronic equipment in checked
baggage, would it have a significant negative impact on your willingness
to fly?

3) Do you mainly fly for business or pleasure?

I will only publish aggregated statistics from this survey, unless
individual persons specifically note that their responses may be
released publicly.

To participate in the survey, please e-mail a note (or simply
forward this message) with your responses to:


Only a one word reply is necessary to each of the questions
unless you wish to add comments, which are invited.

Thanks very much.

Lauren Weinstein
lauren@vortex.com or lauren@pfir.org
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
Co-Founder, PFIR
– People For Internet Responsibility – http://www.pfir.org
Co-Founder, IOIC
– International Open Internet Coalition – http://www.ioic.net
Moderator, PRIVACY Forum – http://www.vortex.com
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren’s Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
DayThink: http://daythink.vortex.com

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How low can you go?

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 19:41 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ, Intellectual Property


Just when we think we’ve heard it all….

In Michigan, in Warner Bros. v. Scantlebury, after learning that the defendant had passed away, the RIAA made a motion to stay the case for 60 days in order to allow the family time to “grieve”, after which time they want to start taking depositions of the late Mr. Scantlebury’s children:

Motion for 60-Day Stay and Extension of “Deadlines”

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Can Laura Bush pack lipstick onto Air Force One?

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 19:35 by John Sinteur in category: News



Here’s a question: Does Tony Blair get to bring his laptop on his government plane? Can Laura Bush keep her lipstick with her on Air Force One? Does Dick Cheney take off his shoes and get them x-rayed before he flies? How about Condi Rice’s knee-high lace-up boots? Is her mission to Israel delayed while she tries to re-lace them while balancing her laptop bag on one shoulder and trying to get her watch back on?

It seems to me like our glorious leaders are pretty good at setting out the “minor inconveniences” that the rest of us have to put up with, but when was the last time you heard of any of them enduring the same measures?

Now, GW Bush may say, “But I’m no terrorist! Why shouldn’t I be able to bring my hip-flask onto Air Force One with me?” But I’m no terrorist either. I don’t see why the man should be exempt from his own rules. If it’s sauce for the goose, it’s sauce for the butcher.

These people tell us that these are the necessary austerity measures in the extraordinary times. If FDR told us to fast on Wednesdays and turn our furnaces off on Fridays to help the war effort, I’d expect him to do the same, even if he had a bunker full of canned goods and his own private free energy heater. As far as I can tell, 100 percent of the “security measures” to “fight terrorism” apply to 0 percent of the people who makes those decisions.

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  1. Please realize there is a difference between private and public transportation. Air Force I is a private jet for the president. This is much different from a public jet carrying a hundred random people. If you want to wear shoes, bring a laptop, and drink all the liquids you could desire, buy or rent yourself a private jet. This article was absolutley absurd.

  2. David, you’re missing the point. The question is not wether it’s a private plane or not, the question is wether our Leaders are leading by example or not.

  3. Ya know what, that kind of nonsense is really not the kind of leadership I’m looking for. I’m with David, this is just freaking silly.

  4. Okay, let me rephrase the point: if the impact of the decision on the decision maker (or “the decider” if you want) is zero, what quality do you expect from the decision?

  5. Is this some kind of new political philosophy where politicians are only allowed to decide things if they’re personally affected by it?

    Look, there’s a point hiding here–for example, that Bush isn’t sending HIS kids to fight in Iraq. (Nor that his father sent George Jr. to fight in Vietnam.) But if a politician were childless, you’re arguing they should have a child just so that they can be affected like everyone else when the draft comes.

    Let’s suppose Bush said “I will subject t the same considtions and trravel as everyone else does.’ What does that mean? That he won’t carry a bottle of water in his carry-on? The man doesn’t HAVE a carry-on. If he subjects his staff to it, is it even meaningful?

    Let’s stick to the high order bits.

  6. And the high-order bits are: the current “deciders” are as far removed from the consequences of their decisions as the old Emperors were, and that’s bad.

  7. Can you really argue at the same time that all this is a scare campaign to keep us cowed AND that they don’t understand the effects of their decisions?

  8. Of course – don’t confuse “the effect of their decisions” with “the intended effect of their decisions”.

  9. And the unintended effects are what?

  10. I’d rather talk about the intended effects

The week in centrism (Aug. 4-11)

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 19:28 by John Sinteur in category: News









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the guns of august….

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 19:15 by John Sinteur in category: Mess O'Potamia


In Iraq and Afghanistan, the “coalition? defeats continue slowly to unroll. In Lebanon, it appears Hezbollah may win not only at the moral and mental, strategic and operational levels, but, astonishingly, at the physical and tactical levels as well. That outcome remains uncertain, but the fact that it is possible portends a revolutionary reassessment of what Fourth Generation forces can accomplish. If it actually happens, the walls of the temple that is the state system will be shaken world-wide.

One pointer to a shift in the tactical balance is the comparative casualty counts. According to the Associated Press, as of this writing Lebanese dead total at least 642, of whom 558 are civilians, 29 Lebanese soldiers (who, at least officially, are not in the fight) and only 55 Hezbollah fighters. So Israel, with its American-style hi-tech “precision weaponry,? has killed ten times as many innocents as enemies. In contrast, of 97 Israeli dead, 61 are soldiers and only 36 civilians, despite the fact that Hezbollah’s rockets are anything but precise (think Congreves). Israel can hit anything it can target, but against a Fourth Generation enemy, it can target very little. The result not only points to a battlefield change of some significance, it also raises the question of who is the real “terrorist.? Terror bombing by aircraft is still terror…

Washington, which in its hubris ignores both its friends and its enemies, refusing to talk to the latter or listen to the former, does not grasp that if the flanks collapse, it is the end of our adventures in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also, in a slightly longer time frame, the end of Israel. No Crusader state survives forever, and in the long term Israel’s existence depends on arriving at some sort of modus vivendi with the region. The replacement of Mubarak, King Abdullah and the House of Saud with the Moslem Brotherhood would make that possibility fade.

To the region, America’s apparently unconditional and unbounded support for Israel and its occupation of Iraq are part of the same picture. For a military historian, the question arises: will history see Iraq as America’s Stalingrad? If we kick the analogy up a couple of levels, to the strategic and grand strategic, there are parallels. Both the German and the American armies were able largely to take, but not hold, the objective. Both had too few troops. Both Berlin and Washington underestimated their enemy’s ability to counter-attack. Both committed resources they needed elsewhere and could not replace to a strategically unimportant objective. Finally, both entrusted their flanks to weak allies—and to luck.

On War #178 Collapse of the Flanks

…The critical question is whether the current fighting spreads region-wide. It is possible that Hezbollah attacked Israel not only to relieve the siege of Hamas in Gaza but also to pre-empt an Israeli strike on Iran. The current Iranian government is not disposed to sit passively like Saddam and await an Israeli or American attack. It may have given Hezbollah a green light in order to bog Israel down locally to the point where it would not also want war with Iran.

However, Israel’s response may be exactly the opposite. Olmert also said, “Nothing will deter us, whatever far-reaching ramifications regarding our relations on the northern border and in the region there may be.? The phrase “in the region? could refer to Syria, Iran or both.

If Israel does attack Iran, the “summer of 1914? analogy may play itself out, catastrophically for the United States. As I have warned many times, war with Iran (Iran has publicly stated it would regard an Israeli attack as an attack by the U.S. also) could easily cost America the army it now has deployed in Iraq. It would almost certainly send shock waves through an already fragile world economy, potentially bringing that house of cards down. A Bush administration that has sneered at “stability? could find out just how high the price of instability can be.

It is clear what Washington needs to do to try to prevent such an outcome: publicly distance the U.S. from Israel while privately informing Mr. Olmert that it will not tolerate an Israeli strike on Iran. Unfortunately, Israel is to America what Serbia was to Russia in 1914. That may be the most disturbing aspect of the “summer of 1914? analogy.

On War #175 The Summer of 1914

From On War by William S. Lind

Rather than commenting on the specifics of the war with Iraq, I thought it might be a good time to lay out a framework for understanding that and other conflicts. The framework is the Four Generations of Modern War.

I developed the framework of the first three generations (“generation” is shorthand for dialectically qualitative shift) in the 1980s, when I was laboring to introduce maneuver warfare to the Marine Corps. Marines kept asking, “What will the Fourth Generation be like?”, and I began to think about that. The result was the article I co-authored for the Marine Corps Gazette in 1989, “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation.” Our troops found copies of it in the caves at Tora Bora, the al Quaeda hideout in Afghanistan…

Still, even such a capable and well-read commander as General Mattis seems to miss the point about Fourth Generation warfare. He said in his missive, “Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun. For all the ‘4th Generation of War’ intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc., I must respectfully say…’Not really…”

Well, that isn’t quite what we Fourth Generation intellectuals are saying. On the contrary, we have pointed out over and over that the 4th Generation is not novel but a return, specifically a return to the way war worked before the rise of the state. Now, as then, many different entities, not just governments of states, will wage war. They will wage war for many different reasons, not just “the extension of politics by other means.” And they will use many different tools to fight war, not restricting themselves to what we recognize as military forces. When I am asked to recommend a good book describing what a Fourth Generation world will be like, I usually suggest Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century

General Mattis is correct that none of this is new. It is only new to state armed forces that were designed to fight other state armed forces. The fact that no state military has recently succeeded in defeating a non-state enemy reminds us that Clio has a sense of humor: history also teaches us that not all problems have solutions.

Understanding Fourth Generation War

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Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 12:45 by John Sinteur in category: Cartoon








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Situation Awareness Test

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 12:18 by John Sinteur in category: Joke

You are driving in a car at a constant speed on a curvy road.

On your right side is a valley and on your left side is a fire engine traveling at the same speed as you.

You see a giant galloping pig, the same size as your car, in front of you.. Behind you is a helicopter flying at ground level.

Both the giant pig and the helicopter are also traveling at the same speed as you, and the accelerator seems to be stuck, so you can’t evade them.

What must you do to safely get out of this highly dangerous situation?


Get off the children’s Merry-Go-Round, bozo! You’re drunk!

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Sony products

Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 10:27 by John Sinteur in category: News

Sometimes the headline of an article tells you all you need to know:


First Blu-ray disc drive won’t play Blu-ray movies

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Posted on August 12th, 2006 at 9:57 by John Sinteur in category: If you're in marketing, kill yourself



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