THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 279 October 13 - 19, 2003
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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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October 13, 2003
I am sure I have felt worse, but mostly I want to pull the covers over my head.
The exploit code (source and binaries) for the vulnerability you sent out are in circulation, so we can expect a worm shortly. As there's no patch, I'd recommend that folks simply turn off the offending subsystem (DCOM) on their machines. Steve Gibson has written a free utility to do that safely:
If there's any strange behavior after turning it off and rebooting, the tool will also re-enable it. Right now, only this, or a firewall that blocks all the appropriate ports, are the only ways to protect yourself.
Doug Lhotka PGP Sig: C2F9 EB96 127A D4DD 02C7 ABE0 13A0 4C30 9C93 9D6F
"Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide." ~ Jim Burnham "I swear, by my Life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." ~ John Galt, Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
You Have Been Warned!
|This week:||Tuesday, October
If you have not got your flu shots yet, go get them. You do NOT want this year's variety. It isn't fatal but there were stretches yesterday when I didn't much care one way or the other.
I am sort of recovering, but my brain isn't working.
I sent this to a discussion group, but it might be worth asking here:
Can anyone tell me what this means? I would have thought the neo-cons would douse themselves with gasoline and threaten to set themselves on fire before they'd allow this to happen.
The UN will make a full mess of Iraq, of course. The purpose of the UN is to pay its aristocracy right down to baronets and squires while having people to lord it over. It will do that well.
But what does all this mean? My brain isn't working well enough to figure it out.
If ever an institution existed to elevate the mediocre to high positions, the UN is it.
Sable is completely recovered from her rattlesnake bite, and is insisting that we resume the old schedule of twice daily walks. Of course given the flu neither of us is up to that. I'll try to stagger around the block with her, but she's not going to like that solution. Not much I can do...
12:30 AM Adelphia, having been well behaved all day, is insane just now; it connects and drops at about 1 minute intervals. This has been going on for half an hour.
And more. Incredible. Hope it's better in the morning.
0600 Can't sleep. Adelphia works anyway
Mr. Heinlein said we would go to space, but the universe did not guarantee that the language spoken there would be English. The Chinese are building a space station. The United States is spending $87 billion to keep an army in Iraq.
With luck things will be better today. Get your flu shots!
The following exchange took place in another discussion group. The opening statement is by someone with considerable experience and smarts and committment:
"At this time, my complaint with "W" is that he has not been aggressive *enough* in refashioning the Middle East. If it were up to me, in addition to taking out Iraq, the House of Saud would have already fallen, and Wahhabi fascism would already be starving financially worldwide. And I would have already let Sharon kill Arafat."
To which I replied:
And that, I think, is a clear depiction of the difference between liberal and conservative, or progressive and conservative, or just plain non-conservative and conservative views of the world. I didn't want us in Iraq because I didn't see much in the way of an upside, and Saddam was already contained and deterred. He was no threat to us, monster though he was.
J wants to roll the dice, because he is convinced that when the chaos he would create has settled out, we will be better off than we are now; that we will like the world this massive restructuring of an entire region brings about better than we like the world we are in.
Now that we are in Iraq, he may be right: bring down Saudi Arabia while we still can, then pump oil like mad, assuming we know how to do that; I have no idea of whether or not we can do it under the circumstances.
Certainly the House of Saud has some popularity among its people, and given its support of Wahhabi "fascism" (we can quarrel about that particular mislabeling another time) there are likely to be at least some Wahhabi fanatics who will commit guerrilla war against us in Arabia. Indeed, given that bin Laden says that he is far more concerned about US troops in Arabia even as allies than he is about the mistreatment of Palestinians, and most of the 911 crew were Arabians, it seems a fair prediction that if we bring down the House of Saud we will not have much peace in ruling the shambles - and we will have to intervene, because otherwise we will simply have given the Wahhabi clerics direct control of Arabia and its oil.
We might I suppose think about restoring the Hashemites and allowing the King of Jordan to become Protector of Mecca again, and that sort of thing, presuming there is anyone in the Bush Administration who remembers the origin of the Hashemites.
It would certainly make for an interesting world. Perhaps a better one.
And perhaps we ought to be debating competent empire vs. incompetent empire, having given up on the notion of a republic that is the friend of liberty everywhere but guardian only of its own. We do seem to have given that up.
But the UN didn't do well as the League of Nations in ruling that part of the world. The Brits and French failed pretty badly, even before the establishment of Israel complicated matters. Perhaps we can do much better with the modernized United Nations in the Middle East.
But one thing we will certainly have done: we will have proved to everyone that it's all right to be a threat to the United States so long as you have nuclear weapons, so if you don't have any and you worry that the US troops are coming to fling you out, you better get nukes fast -- even if you are entangled with us in alliances. Nukes are better insurance.
October 16, 2003
13:30 I seem to have had a relapse. The doctors tell me chicken soup is my only remedy. It's only a bad cold, or some kind of flu, and there's little to be done about it. The problem is, I am not sure my brain is working properly.
Microsoft sent out a bunch of vulnerability fixes: some report that after applying them their systems don't work. It might be well to hold off on applying the latest bunch until the dust settles. See mail for details
Also, since my brain isn't working, I am in tirade mode, and I certainly produced one over in mail. I am not sure it will stay up once I become sane again.
Ain't it wonderful to be politically correct? And this at the University I graduated from.
October 17, 2003
But last night I watched Threat Matrix, and I was horrified.
NYPD Blue is about police bending rules, but watched over by judges and lawyers, and the conflicts are at the edge of the system, with conflicts between procedures and justice. Law and Order is much the same except that it's politically correct, and the murderer is far more likely to be a Park Avenue physician or Union League Club capitalist than some random scrag. But the story is still the same, the conflict between procedure and justice.
Threat Matrix is different, and one wonders what the producers are trying to do. In that show the Patriot Act is interpreted to mean that American citizens can be held as enemy aliens, not informed of the charges against them, given no counsel, and not only not confronted with their accusers, but not having any accusers or charges to begin with. All this, you understand, is in the discretion of a secret police officer whose orders override all those of local agencies and whose mere appearance causes local police and even the FBI to give up all jurisdiction and meekly accept orders.
Now I am not in very good shape this morning but I do not think the Patriot Act says that. It certainly discriminates between aliens and citizens. The Walker boy was taken in arms in a foreign country and may or may not have borne arms against the United States; he was unfortunate enough to have been in that prison when the revolt happened and a US agent was killed. But had he not pleaded guilty, it's not at all clear what charges could have been made to stick against him. I'm not particularly happy with the outcome of that one but I am not outraged. He was taken in arms against the US.
But in this well made -- it is well made with good actors -- TV show, we are dealing with citizens, in the US, whose connections with acts of terrorism that may or may not have been foreign inspired -- they weren't, they were the acts of a single citizen madman -- whose connections with those acts was tenuous at best. They are arrested and held incommunicado on the thinnest of evidence, never charged, and presumably -- what? Drowned at the end of the episode since they have not brought law suits against all involved?
The real Patriot Act has provisions I don't care for much but the TV show version is horrifying. One wonders what the producer's intention is (other than to make money) and what happens if it does make money. Could the producers have intended this as a "If this goes on..." warning, but as the show becomes successful, turn it into a series that softens up the American people to become accustomed to these horrors in the name of safety? Or is my flu making me paranoid?
Linked from http://www.drudgereport.com/flash3.htm
Sick, wounded U.S. troops held in squalor By MARK BENJAMIN, UPI Investigations Editor
FORT STEWART, Ga., Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Hundreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks here while they wait -- sometimes for months -- to see doctors.
The National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers' living conditions are so substandard, and the medical care so poor, that many of them believe the Army is trying push them out with reduced benefits for their ailments. One document shown to UPI states that no more doctor appointments are available from Oct. 14 through Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day. <snip>
October 18, 2003
Still in the grip of the crud. Sigh.
October 19, 2003
More on the Nanny State
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Foes of Idle Hands, Amish Contest a Child Labor Law
IN New York Times, 18 October, 2003
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
BIRD-IN-HAND, Pa., Oct. 14 -- Over the din of a buzzing band saw, the Amish furniture maker complained that Uncle Sam was out to get owners of woodworking shops like his simply for trying to teach Amish youths a trade.
The Amish just want to be let alone, he said, but the federal government is meddling in their lives and livelihoods by fining Amish sawmills and woodworking shops that employ teenagers, in violation of child labor law.
Why not? We have done so very well civilizing all the children of our cities. Let's go teach others how to live! Mind someone else's business, quick. Bureaucrats count the day as wasted in which they have not, in the name of adherence to rules, blighted a life.
And tonight's 60 Minutes.
The Secret Federal Police have apparently decided we can win the war on terrorism by "sending a message" to the US scientific community. The message I received was:
If you talk to any agent of the US government without a lawyer present you deserve what will happen to you, and it probably will.
The victors of Waco are still in the business of making it clear who is on top and who is subordinate to them. And we can win the war on terrorism without any willing cooperation from any stinking scientists: we can intimidate them into telling us what we need to know. This seems to be the new strategy of dealing with intellectuals.
Tom Butler should be in the lead in our battle to prevent Plague and other biowar agents from being used against us. Instead, he is being used to "send a message".
In August, the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine warned the Unites States Attorney General by letter "about the impact that Butler's case may have on other scientists who may be discouraged from embarking upon or continuing crucial bioterrorism-related scientific research ...." The National Academies' Committee on Human Rights followed suit, protesting government treatment of a US researcher for only the second time in its 27 years. The first time was its defense of Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory two years ago.
Donald Henderson, director of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at Johns Hopkins University, predicts the FBI's conduct in Butler's case will create a schism: "... Anybody in the scientific community [will be] very reluctant to talk to the FBI on any number of issues."
The case began when Butler, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and tenured professor in infectious diseases, alerted his supervisors that he could not find some of the plague specimens he had brought back. Colleagues say Butler expected an internal investigation, but campus police instead alerted federal authorities. Butler was arrested and taken away in handcuffs. Butler, who had waived his right to an attorney, was interrogated alone throughout that night and into the next day, according to court records.
We should all feel much safer now.
Of course this all sounds like paranoid ravings, but then Waco sounds like a nightmare that couldn't possibly have happened.
The fact is that when you build a secret police, you build an instrument that can protect you, but it is an institution, and like all such, protects itself first and you second. I don't mean that individual agents won't sacrifice their lives for the public; I mean that the institution considers itself so important that no individual is more so, and it is worth a very great deal to avoid embarrassing -- and thus harming the effectiveness 0f -- the secret police.
This seems to be what is happening here. The FBI and the Homeland Security people simply cannot comprehend the life of the scientific community, and certainly cannot comprehend that anything is more important than their work. After all, here were 30 vials of plague! Plague! This must be important, panic ensued, alarm bells were wrung; when it all turned out to be messy paperwork, sloppiness, absentmindedness on the part of an intellectual, well, that would be terribly embarrassing.
So it was cooked up that something bad had really happened, and this crazy professor was induced to sign some papers, and now it can sort of all be smoothed over. Only the higher ups in the Homeland Security Department heard about it. Plague! Thirty vials of Plague! BLACK DEATH! Someone must be responsible, this must not happen again, it is well to sacrifice one individual who has already signed his doom warrant without knowing it.
By the time sanity had crept in it was a bit late. The man was charged. And when hushup deals were proposed, just go off to a little jail time, the professor was furious and said no. Now the INTEGRITY OF THE INSTITUTION is at stake. RUIN HIM. HOW DARE HE question our INTEGRITY! We are the protectors of the nation.
And since rule of law has long since gone, and there are few enough of us who cannot be convicted of something, we'll just pile the charges on this schlubb so that a jury will see that his word is no good.
That's one interpretation of the events.
Another is that Butler really is a dirty vicious liar (after all these years of the scientific community believing otherwise) and he really deserves years and years in jail over some paper work errors, and possible misallocation of grant funds.
I doubt much of this will be put to the jury, but we'll see. An American jury may yet see this for what it is. And may not. After all the victims of Waco remain in jail, and everyone conveniently forgets about the dead.
But Butler is no Hatfill. Hatfill isn't particularly likable, and although he seems to have his champions and his claims to expertise, he's not the world-renowned figure Tom Butler is.
And declaring war on the scientists is not always intelligent.
There must be some adults somewhere in Washington DC. It's not quite too late to do justice here. But I doubt anyone cares. The integrity of the secret police is at stake now.
The message has been sent; but to me the message to the scientific community is one of warning and danger.
Subject: The historically preferred antibiotic against the plague, streptomycin, is no longer manufactured in the United States
Did you see THIS little gem
in one of the articles on the Butler case you linked? :
could be an attractive weapon for terrorists. If the bacteria could be
dispersed through the air, thousands of people might become sick within
days. The historically preferred antibiotic against the plague,
streptomycin, is no longer manufactured in the United States, and there is
concern that if an outbreak did occur, not enough drugs would be
No, I didn't see it. Doubtless if we have any kind of outbreak they will give Professor Butler release time to let him work on doing something about it. I might even be able to do a good novel about that, prisoner, infected with AIDS in prison, now needed desperately to save the nation... I doubt I have the heart to do that book.
In a democracy the people get the government they deserve, and they get it good and hard, said Mencken. Is that what's happening here? The people really want to see some intellectuals punished for loosing these horrors? The thin grey-flannel line stands between us and terror.
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