THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 277 September 29 - October 5, 2003
Highlights this week:
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 4,000 - 7,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here.
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September 29, 2003
Adelphia went out a couple of times over the weekend, but recovered. Dark Age of Camelot had severe server problems all weekend. See last Sunday for details if you have any interest at all.
Today's scandal http://www.nationalreview.com/may/may200309291022.asp may be the silliest and most made up of the year. The lead story in the Washington Post is about "who leaked" the fact that Joe Wilson's wife is a CIA operative.
More to the point, who in the CIA appointed Wilson, who seems to be very much in the Saudi camp, to go "investigate" the story about Saddam Hussein trying to buy uranium? Apparently his wife suggested him as investigator; but who, precisely, in the CIA thought they could send him over without it coming out that she worked for the CIA, and for that matter who thought this stakhanovite Leftist who gets money from the Saudi's would be a good person to send as an investigator in what was likely to be a high profile case?
What I conclude is that the CIA, like NASA, needs some adult supervision, and it doesn't have any.
Meanwhile the Democrats seem to think they smell blood in this "leak". Clinton ran the leakiest operation since Carter, with both intended and unintended leaks as a major part of government operations. It's an odd issue for Schumer, who opposed much of the Secrets Act that his outrage is based on, to leap on. Maybe he needs some adult supervision too?
And when it's all over, British Intelligence, which ain't all that bad, still thinks Saddam was trying to buy uranium in Africa.
And I just ran across this:
about hacking dungeons...
20:22 This is odd.
I connected to Everquest on one machine and Dark Age of Camelot on another. Both were thrown off at about the same time. Adelphia doesn't show any interruption of service, but clearly there must have been something of the sort.
In any event, Dark Age of Camelot is unplayable. I will look into dialup connections: perhaps those will be more reliable? I'll also talk to Adelphia. I haven't had much luck in establishing communications with anyone at DAOC, alas.
OK: that latter is no longer true. I have contact with DAOC and the problem is not at their end. It must be Adelphia, periodically having short periods of no service which are still long enough to dump the game playing.
|This week:||Tuesday, September
According to Ping, www.readingtlc.com resolves to http://188.8.131.52 but I cannot manage to see the site using either the address or the site name. Since that's my wife's web site, it means that she's out of business.
I pay Earthlink about $100 a month, far too much, to maintain that site and provide the secure ftp to allow credit card transactions. Now it's just gone. I am not sure who to notify.
When I get back I'll see about moving it to Mazin/Rocket where this site is kept.
11:30 AM It's back up without problems. Some kind of Earthlnk glitch I guess. Anyway you can now go to www.readingtlc.com without problems.
The imbecile "scandal" over the useless "Wilson" investigation of the Niger uranium charges continues. The real question is, why was this man sent over there in the first place? At whose suggestion was a known political enemy of the administration sent to "investigate" a matter on which he has no particular competence?
Who set up whom and over what, and why is there no adult supervision at the CIA?
I am reliably informed that the DAOC problem is not at their end, meaning that my hourly interruptions must be courtesy of Adelphia. I'll try again in a few hours when I have some work done: perhaps it was a weekend thing.
I have been looking into buying one of the new Mac laptops, largely to have something to write about and to see if it can be made to work well with the Tablet PC including wireless communications between them. IN doing that I find that Apple is less than helpful in helping you find local Mac stores. Perhaps I am just not very smart, but going through the Mac site I wasn't able to find the phone number of any local store to see if they have what I want in stock. Plenty of ways to order direct from Apple, though.
Which makes me wonder. Back in the early days of Macs we bought 3 of them; each from a different local store; in each case the store was out of business when we wanted another. Apple had a habit of devouring its own children, and any dealer who sold a lot of Macs was in peril of having the company move in and take over its customers, leaving it dead.
Are they doing that again? I don't mind paying a bit more to have local people to deal with; but I want to know that Apple isn't going to destroy the company for being successful. The worst story was Love Computing in Pasadena which built us a huge business with Cal Tech students -- and then Apple moved directly onto the campus with direct sales, and Love disappeared from view. We bought our first Mac from them. Those were the days when I had budgets from BYTE to buy stuff for review/use as a check on what the PR people sent us. Alas them days is gone and long gone, so now it's my own money (or yours if you subscribe) that I use to get stuff to test.
Clearly I don't pay for everything I write about. I get free stuff. But it has always been my policy to own in fee simple enough equipment to get my work done, so that I am no beholden to any company for anything vital. In general the policy here is that if a company sends something to me and I like it I write about it, warts and all; if I don't like it I tell them why but I don't mention it in the column unless it is so horrible that I feel I have to warn you away from it. I generally write about what I like and use and can recommend.
Apple hasn't been fond of me since I said that the 128K Mac (the one that needed a Lisa to develop programs for) was a wonderful operating system attached to a toy computer, and the notion that it would never be larger than 128K was bizarre and of course false. That didn't win me many points with MacFanatics or Apple management. It was, of course, true.
Anyway I am actively looking for a local Mac dealer who has the new 15" in stock or can quickly get me one.
It turns out, I find, that no one has any. Gone Gone Gone, and "we expect a new shipment Real Soon Now but we don't know when."
Incidentally, I must have got into the wrong part of the Apple website since, as many have pointed out, there are plenty of ways to find stores. But I put "Glendale" into the search at Apple and got "not found". Others didn't have that problem. Not sure I understand that one. But clearly there are ways to find Apple stores.
I wasn't particularly impressed by the person who answered the phone at Glendale when I finally did make contact. Just said there were no 15" New Powerbooks in stock, didn't know when they would get one, have a nice day. Me, I'd have tried to find out who was calling so I could tell them when they came in, or at least asked about that. But that didn't happen.
Meanwhile it's pretty clear that although Adelphia seems to be working, over the weekend at least it had semi-hourly interruptions each long enough to cause Dark Age of Camelot to believe I had gone linkdead. These didn't show up in any log I could devise.
Is it possible that DAOC has some kind of detection mechanism I have disabled? Some port?
I can watch Adelphia working fine on one machine while I am experiencing my periodic linkdeath at Dark Age of Camelot on another. Clearly something is wrong, but I don't know what, and I don't think I have changed anything.
Are there firewall settings I need to change? But if so, why can I log on at all? Why does it ever work? If not, then what interrupts the connection? Is it the router? The cable modem? I'll try buying a better grade of cable modem: anyone have a suggestion? Because this is not really tolerable, as well as being very mysterious.
[PROBLEM SOLVED: It was router settings, and this will become part of the column.]
And indeed this may be a very important thing...
He who claims that affairs could not be worse is very likely to make
- jmc 1989
0130 : I have solved the DAOC mystery, and it will be in the column since it is instructive.
So all is well now.
The fake Wilson scandal continues. For those who don't know, or are reading this in a couple of months when no one will remember, former Ambassador Wilson was sent by the CIA to Niger to determine the truth of the allegation originating with British Intelligence (they purport to believe it true to this day) that agents for Saddam Hussein were trying to buy uranium there back before the Second Gulf War.
Wilson before and after his trip was publicly against the War. According to Novak, Wilson's wife has for some decades been employed as a CIA operative, and it was she who suggested that her husband be sent to Niger to investigate this matter. Novak reported her employment as part of his story on why Wilson was sent there. It's certainly relevant since Wilson is not the obvious choice for an agent to go investigate for the company.
Reflect on this: Wilson is a consultant to the Saudi's, and was before he was sent on this mission. The Saudis are well known for hiring former US officials, but only those they consider to be friends. Is it conceivable that the Saudis hired him without knowing for whom his wife works. In which case, from whom are we keeping her employment secret?
One you suspect someone of being a CIA employee it's not very hard to confirm or deny this, and everyone in Washington knows this and how to do it. It's particularly true for those who work in Langley. The cover of the "Bureau of Public Roads Research" building was blown before it was finished, and it's not at all hard to keep watch as thousands of people come and go to the CIA building. Keeping the identities of all those commuters a secret is impossible. In fact, the law in question was passed because Agee was publicly blowing the cover of every CIA employee he knew about and since he'd been with the company he knew about a lot of them.
There are First Amendment implications to all this anyway, as everyone playing the Washington game knows. It's one thing for people voluntarily to assume certain obligations to keep secrets by accepting employment and clearances and signing contracts. It's quite another to try to restrict gossip and conversation among government employees. There's certainly a public policy debate needed here, but this isn't the way to conduct one. This is a political circus.
Wilson was sent over to do a political hatchet job, so one interesting question is, who in the company decided to send him? His views were well known before he left, and he had no particular qualifications for what became a rather public, and by his own account rather silly, trip whose objective was fuzzy from the beginning: why would sitting about in the Embassy interviewing people tell you whether or not there was enough evidence to conclude that Saddam was trying to buy uranium in Niger?
The source of that allegation came from the Brits, and if I wanted to find out the truth of the matter I'd send one covert agent to Niger and another to London, and have them coordinate their efforts through secure communications without making any reports to anyone until it was all done. The real secret here is the MI-6 sources, and the reliability of the MI-6 report.
Note I said reliability, not validity. Validity is important: did Saddam actually try this; but reliability is easier to establish: did MI-5 really believe this? If the Brits didn't believe this themselves but were playing a political game of their own, there is no point in expending resources checking on the validity of the report.
And when it is all over, it's still a few words in a speech and hardly the casus belli of the Iraqi war: we'd have gone in there, and Congress would have voted as it did, whether or not Saddam's agents tried to buy uranium in Niger. It's pretty clear he did buy some uranium somewhere; and as Joanne Dow has put it, he had the Heathkit version of many kinds of terror weapons. He also worked at making the world believe he had deployable weapons in inventory.
We didn't have a casus belli for this war, and everyone but the neo-con holdouts know this. Saddam was no threat to the US. He was utterly deterred. The best case for the invasion of Iraq was as an example to others: get us angry enough and this is what happens to you. Kennedy said we would fight any foe and bear any cost: this is an illustration that the Spirit of John Kennedy is not dead.
It is in fact a defensible policy although it is not one I would adopt. It's in the line of cases from "millions for defense, not one cent for tribute" that paralleled Adams "we are the friends of liberty everywhere but the guardians only of our own." And despite my friend XX's gloomy views, we may yet pull it off; we may yet come out of Iraq ahead of where we were when we went in.
But we aren't there yet, and the political glee with which Schumer and the others turn this molehill in a teapot into a mountain in a hurricane tells our enemies that the United States is not united, and our enemies don't have so much to fear after all: we may be willing to fight any foe and bear any cost, but not really, not for long, and not when there's an election coming up.
Subject: Novak on la Plame.
October 2, 2003
1. British Intelligence purports to have believed, and still to believe, that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium in Niger.
2. There were some documents purporting to prove that which turned out to be forgeries.
3. British Intelligence purpose still to believe that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium in Niger.
4. The CIA sent over a retired US diplomat with connections to Saudi Arabia, whose views on the war and the Bush Administration were well known, to Niger. According to his own account he spent his time in the Embassy questioning people. If he spoke to any British Intelligence officers, or asked why they believe, or say they believe, the story none of that appeared in his report, nor does it say anything about whether he believes the report reliable (i.e. that the Brits believe it). He does say that it's not valid (i.e. there's no evidence that Saddam tried to buy uranium in Niger).
5. The retired diplomat with consulting ties to Saudi Arabia produced the report that any of us would have expected him to produce before he ever went over there. Later he wrote public articles saying the same things, and reporting that he had been sent on this mission.
6. Someone told Novak that Wilson's wife was employed by the CIA, and that was the reason Wilson was chosen to go to Niger.
7. Wilson's wife was in fact employed by the CIA and had been for some time.
8. Novak says "The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue."
Beyond all that is only speculation.
I have the following from a reader:
Wilson went to Niger and found that the ore stays under the control of a European consortium that mines it - there was no way for the Nigerian government to get at the stuff without leaving a trail. All they get is some money, if and when prices are high enough. If the Nigerien governent could get its hand on the stuff, obviously it would have beeen a lot harder to find whether anything had been diverted or not - but as it turns out, it was _obvious_ . Back on that letter - the IAEA managed to determine that it was a forgery rather rapidly, mostly by using Google. Turns out that signatures were A. in the names of Nigerien cabinet officers who had been out office for years at the time of the supposed deal and B. not their signatures anyhow. Now you know what it takes to fake out the US government.
Aside from the fact that Niger is not Nigeria, I am not sure this is relevant to the charge made: that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium ore from Niger. I do not recall that it was ever reported that he was successful. Nor does it answer the question of why the Brits purported to believe the story, or whether they really did and do believe it. It's pretty certain that sending a retired US diplomat with consulting ties to Saudi Arabia will never discover the reliability of the British report, although it may find evidence of the validity.
Incidentally, faith in a European consortium that mines the stuff not to be susceptible to bribes and threats is touching. I haven't had any direct experience with African politics for decades now, but I certainly remember that back when I did, honesty and integrity were in pretty short supply among officials, black, white, European, Colonial, or native born.
And enough on this silliness. But of course there's even more.
What we need to be thinking about is what to do about Iraq.
The choices are pretty simple:
Figure out how to declare victory and get out, or "stay the course."
That second alternative has many variants. If it means "stay until Iraq is a stable unified democracy," Hell will freeze over before we get out. It won't happen.
So: we're back to alternative one, figure out how to declare victory and get out. What will we accept as conditions in Iraq before we are willing to leave? That, I put it to you, is the real question here.
WHAT MUST HAPPEN IN IRAQ before we are willing to get out of there?
And in case you missed it there are new trojan warnings in MAIL
There's a bit in today's Los Angeles Times about a computer program that's supposed to spot potential terrorists riding on airplanes, and subject them to increased surveillance.
It is not allowed to consider ethnicity or religion.
The mind boggles.
But the real point is so what? What if box cutters or even combat knives get onto airplanes? The real security is better cockpit doors, armed pilots, and rules that make it clear the airplane ain't going to be turned over to no terrorist nohow.
If I want to murder the passenger next to me, a ball point pen will do about as well as a box cutter. Or a safety razor blade. What good is preventing box cutters, nail files, or even combat knives going to do?
Saw MYSTIC RIVER last night. Alas, it will not be the movie of the month. I don't want to be a spoiler, but if you have a logical turn of mind you will not care for this movie. The plot depends on a series of coincidences that are just hard to believe.
Good performances by Bacon and Fishbourne. Not very satisfactory ending. Far too many closeups of face acting.
October 3, 2003
I am told that MI-5 is British domestic counterintelligence and MI-6 is foreign operations. I also remembering knowing that most of my life. Odd what kinds of slips one can make coming back to something after being away from it for a while.
I've fixed it above since someone may read that without reading further.
The fact remains that this lady recommended her husband for a CIA investigation job. One presumes that he had very strong views to begin with, and that he did consulting work for various Middle East outfits. That latter in itself probably meant that her employment was known to Middle East operatives; they don't hire former US State people without knowing quite a lot about them.
He then went over and did the investigation. We don't need to inquire into how objective he was. He filed his report. Then he went public with it: he told that he'd been sent by the company to do the investigation; and he did so in a highly political article. At that point the rules change. At that point it become relevant to ask why was this guy with his reputation sent to do this job? Who sent him, and at whose instigation? And at that point we arrive at a central question for a democracy:
What are we willing to sacrifice to protect the identities of the secret police and the foreign intelligence services? And what should those claiming that protection do in exchange? When one takes on political tasks as Wilson did, the rules change.
This all assumes that the lady in question has ever been anything more than one of the tens of thousands at Langley who "work for the government."
The original Civil Service Act was supposed to set up government services that were outside politics, and the Hatch Act forbade them to work in political campaigns or donate money to candidates or parties. Over the years these restrictions have been whittled down to nothing, and we have the spectacle of Hatch Act employees being quite open in their political activities.
The same is going on here: after the Agee exposures way back when, company employees were given some protection. It's very hard to convict someone under that statue, by the way: the government has to show that the exposer knew that the person exposed was being given protection by the government under the act. It was very narrowly drawn for a reason. But the people covered are supposed to act in a rational manner as well: and taking on a CIA investigative assignment, then going public with your opinions and backing those opinions up by saying you were the CIA investigator is not the action of someone determined to protect the secret of his wife's employment. Assuming there was any secret to begin with, which is under reasonable doubt; it may well have been one of those very open secrets to begin with.
And none of this addresses the original question, was it so unreasonable to believe that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy refined uranium oxide, known as yellowcake?
I get some odd letters on that including one that solemnly informs me that they mine yellowcake in Iraq. I have no knowledge of uranium ore in Iraq, but I am quite certain they don't mine yellowcake there since it's the product of some fairly heavy duty refining processes which would be quite visible.
As I have said before, I don't much care if Saddam tried to buy this stuff or not; he was a long way from making nuclear weapons, and if he had any war gasses he was pretty thoroughly deterred from using them. His attempts to buy yellowcake in Africa, in Niger or elsewhere, true or false, are bits of verisimilitude or no great relevance and certainly not casus belli. This is all a very odd kind of molehill for people to waste time on.
As are the stories of Arnold behaving badly on movie sets. Of course Arnold behaved badly on movie sets. Of course he groped the girls and made lewd suggestions, and who in Hollywood ever thought different? It's part of the image, or was in those days. For every Hollywood girl who felt insulted by this -- and note that few came forward on their own, but were chased down by the Times weeks ago -- there will be at least one who is insulted that she wasn't propositioned by the star. Such is life in Hollywood, or at least as it was before sensitivity training and modernization of thought.
There are times when I want to turn off the radio and TV and retreat to the beach house and write books, and I'd do that now if the doggone column weren't due.
Me, what I want is for government to be unimportant to our lives, but I live in the wrong times for that.
is one of the more informative places mentioned in:
This site has a comprehensive roundup of all the
sources to date who have stated what Valerie Plame did
for the CIA:
Which is what Leander says it is, a good summary.
Now before anyone asks, no, I would not have printed her name had I been Novak.
On the other hand, I would never have sent Wilson on that mission, either.
October 4, 2003
'Run code of attacker's choice'.
I sent that by mail to subscribers last night. About a dozen didn't get it due to full mailboxes. Alas, it's just too much work to extract those names and put them up here. Others didn't get the warnings for one reason or another.
One, though, sends back this:
*** ATTENTION *** Your message did not reach the recipient.
Your message was assumed to be junk email, rejected due to pattern match with:
Subject: [spam score 2/10 -pobox] Another warning from Chaos Manor (List 2)
If this was not unsolicited email, try resending, including the code '773' in the Subject: heading. This might let you get through. If you tried the code and still did not get through, it means the recipient has decided to block your domain or email address. Try sending from a different email address or email service.
Continuing problems? Contact your own site administrator or Internet Service Provider for assistance.
Do not reply to this email -- replies will not be processed.
*** [firstname.lastname@example.org to=flash]
And I am not sure what to do about that, since it doesn't tell me which recipient didn't get the message. Ah well. I presume the system protects against worms and takeover programs as well.
I just tried installing Mozilla, and now PhotoDraw won't work even when reinstalled. This may be a coincidence, and it may not be. I uninstalled Mozilla, uninstalled PhotoDraw, reinstalled PhotoDraw, and it doesn't work: it won't open. No explanations. It works all right on other computers.
PhotoDraw used to work. I can't swear that Mozilla broke it, but this is the second time I have had bad experiences trying to use Mozilla. Last time I tried it, it grabbed everything it could, and put that ugly lizard in place as the icon for every photo I had.
I've put in Irfanview which works, but it has the property that if you look at a picture with it, it does NOT seem to know how to size the picture to the screen size. To heck with it, I'll let Windows use its viewer, since I cannot make PhotoDraw work.
THANKS to all who have told me Irfanview has settings to toggle between fit to screen and otherwise. It wasn't obvious on short notice, and I was out of time. Pretty clearly Irfanview will do most of what I need, including collapsing pictures and rotating them. Thanks to all!
But I am going to need a new Photo Editor to use with FrontPage for this site. Is Irfanview good enough or do I need something else? I certainly don't need great complexity, just a way to take jpeg and turn it into something I can put up here, and do some touchups. Now that I study Irfanview it looks to be good enough for most of that except the touchups. [See below: I'll probably go with JASC PaintShop, or at least I'll give that one a try.]
Meanwhile I am frantically trying to get the column done. I have a tonne of mail I need to put up, on subjects like 64-bit computing and other such matters, and there is the usual chaos at Chaos Manor: it tends to be even worse on Column Weekend, which this is. And the County wants me to do jury duty Monday so I have to finish this up this weekend. So it goes.
October 5, 2003
Column time. There's good news on the Global Warming front, see Mail. And I'll do what I can to get more mail up, but not just yet. The column comes first.
I am reminded that JASC PaintShop is a good photo editor, simpler than Adobe's professional product which I never learned well. I'll make contact with JASC about this. The last copy they sent came in a paint can, and it was so hard to store that it ended up vanishing, not quite where. I remember it was pretty good. When Microsoft included PhotoDraw in their Office 2000 Pro suite, and that suite ended up on most of my machines, it was just easier to put PhotoDraw on as well, and I used that for years. I am now told that PhotoDraw is no longer supported by Microsoft, so I need another, and I have pretty good memories of JASC and PaintShop.
Another reader recommends Adobe PhotoShop Elements, which is a cut down version of the professional product: that may in fact be what I need since once in a blue moon I find I need PhotoShop (but since Alex and David are professionals I can always get help so I never learned it); I would guess that knowing Elements would be useful if you ever need to know PhotoShop. On the other hand, I have fond memories of PaintShop so we'll see.
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