THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 530 August 3 - 10, 2008
Highlights this week:
For boiler plate, search engine, and notes on what in the world this place is, see below.
For Previous Weeks of the View, SEE VIEW HOME PAGE
If you intend to send MAIL to me, see the INSTRUCTIONS.
This is a Day Book. Pages are in chronological, not blogological order.
August 4, 2008
It's noon. I slept in.
The story of the week appears to be the Ivins Anthrax story. This morning's paper carries some evidence that the FBI did this competently, but there is also a story about this therapist who is the source of most of the information about the homicidal tendencies of Dr. Ivins. She calls him a sociopath. As our own Dr. Ed Hume points out, a man married for 20 years who holds down a good steady job may have a lot of problems, but he hardly fits the pattern we think of as a sociopath. The therapist is apparently a social worker. I know little about the training of social workers. I know something of the education of a psychologist, but what I learned is now considered obsolete.
We will have mail about this case. Much of it will be made obsolete as facts emerge. The principle remains: did they go so far overboard in ruling out Muslim and Near Eastern suspects that they had no one left to concentrate on? The evidence on Ivins seems to be that he had access to all the strains of anthrax involved, as well as the skills. It has not been shown that he ever worked with powdered form or had the means to do so, but that is inference on my part.
Maybe they have evidence they haven't shown us or presented to the grand jury. I think we all would feel much better about this had they not relentlessly -- relentlessly -- hounded Dr. Hatfill on essentially no evidence, and eventually cost the taxpayers several million dollars. I know of no internal punishments in the FBI for that particular turn. Nor have I heard of any consequences to anyone for the FBI Elite Hostage Rescue Team handling of the Waco disaster. Now true, the BATF grandstanding attempts set up the situation; but those clowns were not in charge and did not give the final order to send in bulldozers against people known to have built barricades with straw and to be using kerosene lamps because the FBI has shut off their electricity. Now I suppose those young twirps don't know what kerosene lamps are like or what fire hazards they might be; but surely it was their responsibility to find out?
Like most people my age I grew up with a highly favorable opinion of the FBI. Americans of my generation venerated our secret police. It took a long time for that reservoir of good will to wear off.
I don't really believe in conspiracies: most of them are discovered in fairly short order. But if I hear that Lon Horiuchi was somehow involved in the Ivins case...
I sent a note to all subscribers last night. About 20 were returned because Mailbox Full; I am not sure what to do about those since resending would just add to the problem. I should have made a list of those, but I didn't. I do have a list of others that were returned, but I never had much success with the Deadmail notification.
If you are a subscriber and did not get the Chaos Manor mailing last night, please send me a note that includes the name you subscribed under, the subscription address you want. and if you recall it, the original subscription address. I like to keep the subscriber rolls up to date.
I have to report that the Vista 64 / Office 2007 mailing went smoothly with no problems at all.
For platinum subscription:
Platinum subscribers enable me to work on what I think is important without worrying about economics. My thanks to all of you.
Did you subscribe and never hear from me? Click here!.
|This week:||Tuesday, August
Fake Flash Player Update in mail that looks like CNN content
Seeing a bunch of email with subject of "CNN.com Daily Top 10". This contains links that purport to be the top CNN videos. The links will take you to a random web site page (with a page name is 'index2.html") that will (after a 12 second delay) try to get you to download a "Flash Player Update". This executable program will happily install malware on your computer. The malware has nefarious intent, most likely to allow keystroke logging and other unpleasantness.
Users should not click on links in those emails. And web site owners should look for an 'index2.html' file on their web sites; if found, then your site is most likely compromised.
I am forcing myself to keep moving when what I want to do is go to sleep. Yesterday I didn't take all my daily vitamins and SAMe and the rest of the witch's brew, and that may be the cause. Mental energy level isn't too bad. I'll be working on real stuff shortly. Sable is at the groomer (I sure ain't up to washing her myself) and I have to pick her up before I get too involved.
I hear that someone else is being charged with giving false information to a police officer. The police can lie to you, and if you sign a false statement under penalty of perjury you are and should be liable, but it's pretty clear that talking to the police and cooperating with law enforcement is not a good idea. I think it started with equalitarianism, but now there is a prosecutorial fervor that is frightening. The Martha Stewart case in which she was convicted of denying (not under oath) an action that was not a crime in the first place is a good example. They wanted to make an example, they did, and thereby told the lot of us that you have to be an idiot to cooperate with federal authorities. Now the states are getting in that act. In the case of California I suspect the prison guard union: keep those prisons full so that we'll have jobs.
Whatever the cause, that's not the way a republic is supposed to work. One ought to cooperate with the constable and the justice of the peace and not be terrified that if you got something wrong (or said you didn't pee behind the hedge because you are embarrassed, when you did) you ought not have to be afraid; but now you should be afraid. Very afraid.
I have sent a SCAM WARNING to all subscribers. I got a lot of returns, some mailbox full which I can do nothing about, but others are addressee unknown or variants. I have corrected a dozen or so mail addresses from the last mailing -- thanks to all of you for sending me the correct information. I have deleted some who have not renewed in several years and whose address no longer works. I have about a dozen of you including a platinum subscriber with current subscriptions but whose addresses don't work.
IF you did not get the scam warning and you are a subscriber, please send me (1) your subscription name, (2) when and how you subscribed if you can remember, (3) your old subscription address if you remember it and you probably don't, and most importantly (4) your current address so I can change that! Thanks!
Dennis Kinniburgh your mail is returned. I need your current address.
August 6, 2007
I have got to get to work. At least I can force myself to work, although it's pretty hard to do: I want to sleep a lot. The hot weather doesn't help.
The FBI has released more information about the Ivins affair, but so have other sources. My papers this morning say that federal officials offered an enormous bribe to Ivins' son if he would rat out his father. I have trouble believing that; surely that's criminal behavior on the part of the feds? The evidence released doesn't sound much different from what they said before: the anthrax strains used in the attacks could only have come from the labs where Ivins worked; no other place had all those strains in the same place.
That sounds suggestive but hardly definitive: have they looked into other explanations? The US had some odd relationships with Iraq and the Middle East in general after Carter threw the Shah under the bus; and for that matter we had some close relations with Iran while the Shah was there. Embarrassing as it may turn out to be, it would not astonish me if the US had furnished some strains of anthrax to Iran in the days of the Shah. We used to cooperate on biowarfare research. Anthrax isn't hard to come by. The spores are nearly eternal, and can be found in many places. The USSR had a lot of biowarfare research going, and there was an incident involving accidental release that was a near disaster. Intelligence organizations have cooperated on defense against biological warfare for a long time -- and again, strains of anthrax are not hard to come by. Prior to the turn of the century you could buy the stuff from biological supply houses.
Of course those came as liquids. Turning them into powders that easily spread is another matter. That's hard to do -- and from what I have heard, Ivins' lab did not do that, and did not have the capability of doing that. Now if they can show that Ivins had access to and knowledge of the equipment to make weapons grade powders -- from the distribution of the stuff in the anthrax attacks that was a fine powder that didn't clump, which is weapons grade -- if Ivins had means and opportunity to make weapons grade anthrax, or that the powdered forms were available in his lab, the FBI's case would be much stronger.
I really would like to believe the government on this; but I have not been convinced by what I have seen so far. Perhaps they have more evidence that they haven't released yet.
The Texas execution disturbs me. We seem to have a treaty, ratified in the Kennedy Administration, granting certain rights to aliens in the US accused of US crimes. Medellin, the Mexican national executed (I presume that he was an illegal alien) was not granted consular counsel before his trial.
Medellin did not seem to be deserving of clemency; he seems to have been a thoroughly bad guy, almost a poster child for the death penalty. It is not a question of his desserts, but of the US adherence to its own treaties.
The courts have held that the treaty is valid, but it is not automatically self-enforcing; it requires implementation by either the Texas legislature or Congress. This also seems odd:
That sounds unambiguous to me, and when I taught Constitutional Law I never heard the argument that Treaties once ratified needed additional implementing legislation: indeed over the years there have been attempt to amend the Constitution to water down the Supremacy Clause; the Bricker Amendment sought to settle conflicts between treaties and the powers of the government by saying that a treaty couldn't create new powers of government. I thought that a good idea at the time. Like most proposed Constitutional Amendments it never got anywhere (I wish some that did pass had not).
I think the United States ought to keep its word. The life or death of one barbarian is small compared to that principle.
I am hearing that Ivins had and used freeze drying equipment; and that the envelopes used in the anthrax attacks came from the national laboratories. If that's straight -- what I have heard comes from commentators -- this comes closer to what I'd call evidence.
In mail tomorrow we will have letters saying that Medellin did not claim Mexican citizenship until after he was convicted. That certainly changes the situation.
August 7, 2008
Thanks to all who have sent me birthday greetings!
Actually Alex took us to dinner last night, and my official birthday will be in a couple of weeks. Roberta is going out to the desert to see our newest grandchild, and I'm on my own for the day.
The government has shown us some evidence that (1) Ivins was the anthrax killer, and (2) for 20 years a homicidal maniac was allowed to work in our top secret biological warfare laboratories without let or hindrance. And while they have shown that he had the opportunity to mail the envelopes from Princeton, they haven't shown how the mailing from Florida was done. Perhaps that was a different attack?
I am sure that none of my readers will fall for this:
Download the latest version! <http://www.cosmicerror.de/ images/ie7.0.exe>
About this mailing:
You are receiving this e-mail because you subscribed to MSN Featured Offers. Microsoft respects your privacy. If you do not wish to receive this MSN Featured Offers e-mail, please click the "Unsubscribe" link below. This will not unsubscribe you from e-mail communications from third-party advertisers that may appear in MSN Feature Offers. This shall not constitute an offer by MSN. MSN shall not be responsible or liable for the advertisers' content nor any of the goods or service advertised. Prices and item availability subject to change without notice.
Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052
And there is a new warning from security expert Rick Hellewell:
Olympic Spam Warning
You may also want send out an alert about Olympic spam. It will (if not already) start arriving in your mailbox soon:
Watch out for email messages about the Olympics that ask you to click on a link to watch a video or get more info. They will probably look a lot like that CNN spam that you might have seen earlier this week. The links in the CNN spam resulted in installation of viruses/spyware and keystroke loggers on computers. The Olympics spam will try to do the same.
When (not if) you get those "Olympic" emails, don't click on the links! Just click on the Trash icon to delete the message.
If you want updates on the Olympics, just go to the usual mainstream news sites.
August 8, 2008
This morning the talk shows are full of the
story about the Senate Gang of Ten and some kind of screwy compromise on
domestic oil drilling.
I had never heard of this until I heard something on the radio about it, then I saw the column in today's Wall Street Journal. The Gang of Ten is headed by Lindsay Graham. I suppose I ought to be astonished: after all, this is the one issue on which McCain is on both the right and the winning side. A great majority of the American people want domestic and offshore drilling. Increased domestic oil supplies will both reduce oil prices and decrease the amount of money we send overseas to sovereign investment funds that seek to buy the United States in fee simple.
But then I remembered, this is the party that routinely snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. This is the party that ran Bob Dole (Bob Dole wants to be President now. It's my turn!), the only man Clinton could defeat.
It's a bit early to see what McCain will do about this. The story is old, but no one paid attention to it -- it's the first I heard of it -- until now. No doubt we will hear a lot more in future.
The energy crisis is quite real, and the only way out is more energy. There are many possible sources, some more important than others, and we really do need to conserve oil -- as I said in A Step Farther Out thirty years ago, oil is far to valuable to set a match to. It's a good energy source, but it's also great as a feed stock for industrial processes. And the US dependence on foreign oil is definitely a national security issue. We ought to be investing heavily in new energy sources -- as I said before we invaded Mesopotamia, for a lot less than the cost of the war we could have, in about ten years, have just about ended US dependence on foreign oil.
That could still happen.
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
The Republican Gang of Ten senators are defending their compromise as being a reasonable path to some off-shore drilling. Their compromise, they say, will allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which is certainly the first place we ought to be drilling.
Roberta will be coming back from the desert where she was visiting the latest grandchild just in time for us to go to Sky Dayton's birthday party tonight.
Rather than the usual news sites, I recommend http://www.nbcolympics.com/ which is a special NBC site. Some videos require Silverlight. And may require users to update to latest version linked from the site.
Totally official, clips play on my Mac in Leopard. Not sure how well streams will scale when it gets hammered when folks find live content here and very delayed coverage on the 9 various network channels. I don't see two of the special NBC channels on my guide with TimeWarner cable for Los Angeles area but maybe its hidden somewhere I missed.
For example, Ch. 4 in Los Angeles will air opening ceremony on about 15 hour delay at 8pm PDT and it will probably run past its time slot.
I generally don't watch sports, so I have no basis of comparison. Thanks.
Roland sent me a link to this:
I haven't had enough experience with this to have a valid opinion, but it does seem a bit paranoid. Does Microsoft do this?
Meanwhile I have this alert:
This is potentially a terribly serious thing.
Potentially Important debate ahead: Bombs, publishers, and the First Amendment. See Mail
My first response is to thank God NATO hasn't admitted Georgia.
And there are new arguments in the Ivins case. I have no fixed opinion on the matter.
Dr. Pournelle -
Back in 1962 I read the Life magazine article about the neurophone and have wondered ever since what happened to that invention.
Today someone sent me this link:
which appears to quote you about this device.
Are the quotes attributed to you and G. Harry Stine correct?
Do you have any comments on this device you could share?
I work in the audio field and a device which could allow hearing while bypassing the room acoustics and ears would be a revolution, particularly if it was not a single user device like headphones.
Ray A. Rayburn
I have not thought about this since the 1980's. I did indeed write the remarks attributed to me: they were in one of my columns for Analog Science Fiction. Do note that what I said was a general defense of amateur science contributions, not of the neurophone itself. To the best of my recollection I never saw a Neurophone, much less allowed myself to be hooked up to one; not that I would have been reluctant to do so, but I never was offered the opportunity.
Now that I am somewhat deaf -- I have had hearing problems since December of 1950, but since the radiation therapy it's a lot more general and a lot worse -- I would be interested in the neurophone for obvious reasons; but I don't know any more about it than you will find in the article.
Regarding G. Harry Stine: Harry was less skeptical than I am about many things. He firmly believed that Dean had invented a spacedrive, and that Colonel William Davis, Ph.D. had come up with a theory on how it would work without violating all the principles of physics. You can find out what I believed on that in my report available here. Among other things I used a small grant to assemble several experts including Harry in a conference about the matter.
Harry believed in some other amazing gadgets and theories, and accepted third party reports on their effects. I tend not to do that. I have sometimes persuaded people I trust to visit someone who claims extraordinary results such as thought control of mechanical devises, but that's not quite the same thing; besides, they never actually were able to see the devices in action. There were always good reasons that it wasn't available "today" even though appointments had been made weeks in advance. That's one reason I generally don't travel long distances to observe some --I won't say supernatural -- extraordinary or theoretically impossible results.
Indeed, I long to see a result that makes me believe in reactionless drives, anti-gravity, thought control of mechanical objects, energy beams from human eyes, or anything else that would usually be considered paranormal or supernatural or scientifically revolutionary. I would love to see cold fusion working.
What I don't need is new theories on how these things can work. I am probably not going to understand these new theories to begin with, and even if I do my opinion on the subject isn't worth much. Results, repeatable results, are something else. There is a sense in which science is best described as something you can put in a letter to a colleague telling him how to get the same results you did: when that happens you have science, repeatable results.
Harry more than once offered to demonstrate some of the astounding results he said he had personally observed, but that never happened: he lived in Phoenix and owned an airplane (a hole in the sky to be filled with money) and we were never able to get together on such matters. That never caused me to lose any respect for Harry. We remained good friends, and he was part of my Council until he died. I think it's a good thing to have smart people who are a bit less skeptical than I am; I learn a lot from them.
Back to the neurophone: I have never seen one. I would very much like to see one and experience its results. Until I do, I have no sensible comments to make on the subject.
August 9, 2008
We went to Sky Dayton's birthday party and house warming in Brentwood last night. It was a gala affair, and their new house is impressive. I had a nice conversation with Arwen Elys Dayton, who is a colleague: she has several published science fiction novels. She hasn't written much lately due to three small children, but she intends to start writing again. I wish her well.
We didn't stay long, but when I came home a bit tired, Sable insisted that we not only go for a night walk, but that we take the full two mile circuit. This was probably good for me, but it left me in a debilitated state today, and I spent a good part of the day in bed. The rest of the day was devoted to getting this column done.
All of which means that I don't have sensible comments on what is probably the main story of the week: the possible beginning of World War III, as Russia invades Georgia, Georgia asks for US military help, and the US calls for a cease fire.
I continue to thank God that Georgia is not yet yet a part of NATO. NATO is an entangling alliance of the sort that George Washington warned us against, and guarantees our involvement in the territorial disputes of Europe. We have no national interest in the independence of Georgia or any portion of it, and we should have no permanent alliances in Europe to begin with. We have as many good reasons to become friends with the new Russian Republic ( Empire if you like) as we do with most of the continental nations; and none of them need an American alliance. If the balance of power in Europe is out of balance, it is due to the new European nation being built there; and that certainly doesn't need US blood and treasure to defend it.
Russia remains a major nuclear power, and that should not be forgotten. They no longer are part of a criminal conspiracy to take over the world. Their rivalry with China is great and deep, and they have a number of common interests with the United States. Going to war with Russia would be egregiously stupid.
All that seems obvious to me. I would hope it is obvious to those who control the Legions.
There's a good reference to XCOR at Oshkosh in mail.
August 10, 2008
A New and Needless Cold War
We are clearly playing with fire. We have overseas adventures, entangling alliances, and total involvement in the territorial disputes of Europe. We sided with the Albanians against Russia's Serbian allies. We are shouting at Russia about the war in Georgia.
Thank God that Georgia is not a member of NATO. Nonetheless we are in a new cold war.
Yet the United States has more common interests with the Soviet Union than we have with most of NATO. We have expanded NATO to ring Russia with bases and allies -- to what purpose? This is no policy for a Republic; it's not even a policy for a competent empire. If we are going to play balance of power games, the new Russian empire is definitely a major part of that game. Working at restarting the Cold War is not in our interest in any way, and there is no outcome to this that is favorable to us.
Has everyone at State and in the Pentagon lost their minds?
The column is done. Phil and Patty and Catherine are visiting. It is 9 PM and I am close to exhausted. More tomorrow.
Anyone interested in a pool on how much the government will have to pay Ivins' widow for hounding him to his death?
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the weekly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
If you have no idea what you are doing here, see the What is this place?, which tries to make order of chaos.
If you subscribed:
If you didn't and haven't, why not?
Strategy of Technology in pdf format:
For platinum subscription:
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
For the BYTE story, click here.
Search: type in string and press return.
The freefind search remains:
Entire Site Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.