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Mail 299 March 1 - 7, 2004






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Monday  March 1, 2004

Column and other stuff. Sorry.








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Tuesday, March 2, 2004

We are in short shrift mode.

Subject: This morning's Windows email virus

---- Roland Dobbins

Do not open unexpected mail attachments...

There may be an exploit permanently redirecting Internet Explorer to a site called "marsfind" that does not work. So the browser is un-usable thereafter.

AntiVirus software (Sophos) does not trigger on it. Searching via Google shows a growing clamor for a solution. Various registry keys are suggested for editing, but there are an equal number of reports that nothing short of reformating the hard drive gets rid of it.

Ad-Spy ware seems to not be effective. The HiJackThis program was reputed to deal with it, and is rising in the statistics of downloaded applications, but later reports said MarsFind comes back.

A possible siginature of infestation is the existence of a subdirectory "httper" in Program Files - may contain httper.dll - I have not seen it.

In one instance an offer for a movie trailer of "The Passion of Christ" was the bait enticing the fatal click.



Subject: Ever wonder what's inside a black hole

Looks like Hawking and Thorne lost the bet. 

-- John Harlow, President BravePoint


Subject: Adam Smith was wrong

If we all go for the blonde, nobody gets laid.


This needs commenting but not today.

"But I would still rather live in a society in which people own their own houses, and sweep their own floors and tend their own lawns."

Walk this back a little: Let's say you're a doctor who could earn $400/hr doing heart surgery, and it takes you an hour to sweep and tidy your home. So, you're essentially out $400 when you choose to do this. OTOH, you could hire a legal immigrant to do it for, say, $50 including whatever taxes the government gets (failure to pay such taxes being what several initial Clinton nominees were disqualified for). For that person, that $50 would be more than they could earn at a McDonald's or Wal-Mart, so this transaction actually is a double-win: the immigrant maximizes his/her unskilled labor value and you don't have to waste an hour of your time which could be put to better use. And the value to America is greater as well, since America (in theory) gets to tax $450 of value, rather than $405.75.

How about this: if boycotting a pair of shoes from a company that does business with Thai sweatshops means that the teenage girls who would assemble those shoes would instead have to sell their bodies to sweaty German sex tourists, wouldn't you rethink your attitude? I'd support requiring human-rights protections (no prison or forced labor, no slavery or abuse, no sex discrimination, anticorruption standards) and environmental protections (adherence to an international standard, preferably a system of credits), and maybe even bring economic development under the aegis of foreign aid (and use foreign aid dollars to retrain Americans whose jobs were lost to those nations), but IMHO it smacks of paternalism to think that poor unwashed nonwhite people can't figure out an economic bargain for themselves, or can't rule themselves sufficiently to protect themselves.

BTW, when your government says they won't purchase outsourced goods and services, guess what? Your taxes are going up or your services are going down.

America was once a 'developing' country itself, until local industrialists built local industries that could beat the 'first-world' of its day. It's a pattern, nothing's ever new under the sun. Give the 'third world' (amazing at how a phrase has changed in meaning so much, from a 'progressive' and positive one to a term of ridicule) time to catch up, don't sell their citizens short. My biggest problems with 'Free Trade' relate largely to the one-sided hypocritical attitudes among the 'first-world' economies, which demand open access to the 3rd world, but engage in protectionism so they can't compete back. Smash all farm tariffs and subsidies (except for 'cultural preservation' of non-corporate agribusiness).

I would seriously recommend P.J.O'Rourke's "Eat The Rich", Dan Yergin's "Commanding Heights" and Hernando De Soto's "Mystery of Capital" be added to your reading list, to get an idea of what's happening and what issues we'll be facing (and whether we'll be the 21st century British trade empire, to be followed by the 22nd cent. fallen British empire)..

-- /* * Mathew Hennessy * * Visit beautiful Vergas, Minnesota. */

This also needs commenting but not today. Why it is supposed I haven't read those articles/books is a bit of a mystery.

HERE is a puzzlement, and dangerous:

Dr. Pournelle:

I've noticed that a few viruses are now being spread through an encrypted ZIP file. The viral executable is inside the ZIP file, and the message text includes the password to decrypt the ZIP. This makes it harder to get the virus (although one shouldn't doubt the ability of users to get viruses).

The interesting thing about this technique is that it allows the viral message and virus to bypass attachment content checkers and virus checking programs. Some mail filters (SurfControl is one of them, don't know about others) can "look inside" a zip file to determine it's content. But their technique doesn't look at the file name in the ZIP (which is not encrypted, just the content), but looks at the actual compressed file to determine what kind of file it is. This is normally a Good Thing, since just looking at the file extension is not a reliable indication of the actual file type. If the content (file) is encrypted, the scanner programs can't look at the actual type of file. And the virus checkers can't look at the file to see if it is viral. So this means that a virus checker won't find a virus in the encrypted file.

I got a few of those viral messages (of the "Bagel" variety), where the message text clearly indicated it was from a virus, and there was an executable in the ZIP file. The message text contains the password for the ZIP file. I can save the ZIP to my computer, where the latest McAfee Anti-Virus checks it, and doesn't find a problem. I haven't tried unzipping the encrypted file, since I would want to do it on an isolated test computer.

I don't think that the AntiVirus or anti-spam vendors can catch this technique yet, and it is not clear to me how they could. Perhaps your other readers have ideas.

The usual warnings apply.

Rick Hellewell, Information Security,

I don't instantly think of a solution to that, either. And it needs attention. Thanks!







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Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Dr Pournelle,

See  for pictures of the carnage in Karbala and Baghdad as well as some street scenes and pictures of the Muharram celebration in Basrah.

Our intelligence failures have been the most frustrating feature of the Terror War to those of us who sit on the sidelines. Only a few years ago, we had warm feelings about the US ability to analyze esoteric sources of information, like communications traffic and satellite images, to track our potential enemies. No more.

One reason we have not been able to create good human intelligence in Muslim countries (besides the fact that there is no determination at senior levels to do it) is that it is difficult to find native speakers, familiar with Muslim mores, that can penetrate terrorist organizations. Events like those in Baghdad & Karbala, it seems to me, create a large pool of recruits, at the same time the openness of multinational terrorist organizations like Al Qaida, makes them vulnerable to penetration. The horrific acts that are the purpose and motivation of terrorist organizations carry within them the seeds of their own destruction. Careful recruitment among victims and their families should make good human intelligence a certainty.

Bill Mackintosh




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Thursday, March 4, 2004

Subject: Double whammy?

Subject: Wet Mars. 

Subject: Eco-Traitor. 

And definitely worth reading.

Subject: Brand loyalty.

Subject: Now they're reporting neutron flux?

-- Roland Dobbins

I'll be following that last one. It looks like desktop fusion isn't as silly as some thought. I always wondered where the dead graduate students were in the Utah fusion experiment.

Jerry: Very important if true and exploitable:

Experts Say New Desktop Fusion Claims Seem More Credible 

Chris C

A tree: first you chop it down, then you chop it up. George Carlin


Subject: More evidence for Sonofusion


"Researchers are reporting new evidence supporting their earlier discovery of an inexpensive "tabletop" device that uses sound waves to produce nuclear fusion reactions" 

Best wishes

Paul Dove

I have a sort of wait and see attitude, but it sure would be interesting...


Subject: Eco-myths 

Cheers, Clyde Wisham

****"There are some people who, if they don't already know, you can't tell 'em."-- Yogi Berra****

There sure are people like that...


Dear Jerry:

I know you've read it, so I'll just recommend Alfred Thayer Mahan's 1890 book, "The Influence of Seapower Upon History". It is not just an interesting and compelling read, but the first part of it lays out the rationale for America becoming a Great Power. As we do most things, we've carried this to excess, but Mahan's analysis had a lot to do with the actions taken by the U.S. Government in the 20th Century. I came by a copy recently in a thrift store and am still working my way through, but it is worth the time of anyone who wants to understand the current situation.

Regards, Francis Hamit



Re "Iraq again, and US strategy"

You write:

"We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but guardians only of our own. We will protect our people, we will protect our interests, we will protect the sea lanes; but we have no Jacobin obligation to make the world safe for democracy. It is enough for it to be safe for our republic. Other nations have resources. Let them employ them."

I say:

Okay, but what if they don't employ them? Or if their resources prove inadequate? Do you have a plan B?

And are you quite sure that if we leave terrorist nations alone, they won't grow stronger? Would that have worked against Germany or Japan in the runup to World War II? How often has it worked in history? Are you sure Saddam's Iraq would have been no threat if simply left alone? Or even if left to the none-too-strict discipline of the UN?

Finally, what exactly does it mean to be a friend but not a guardian? What is a friend if not someone who will look out for you if you run into trouble?

No, what you propose isn't quite full-blown isolationism. But it doesn't seem all that much better. Call it Isolationism Lite.

Marlowe -

Well, it worked for most of the life of the Republic.

The cost of interfering everywhere is heavy: and the price is paid at home. I would rather have isolation lite than Empire Incompetent.

So now minding our own business is isolation?

You know, I get weary of this: Am  I quite sure that if we leave terrorists alone they won't grow stronger?  No, I am not sure of it. I also don't know that they don't grow stronger if provoked. The Israelis have not left terrorists alone. The results are at best ambiguous -- and Israel has a very high stake and can't get out of the game.

I have nothing against a strategy that says: "If you harbor our enemies we will remove your regime. Vide Afghanistan if you do not believe us."  Which is quite different from going in, disbanding the local army and police, letting the place be looted, then trying to rebuild government. That is known as Imperialism Lite; we don't even get the benefits of empire.

We can't just bug out of Iraq now; but I think the cost to our freedoms will be high as we govern people who have not consented to our governing them.

And now we have Haiti.



It needs to be asked: how stupid does one have to be to receive a message containing an encrypted file -and- the password in plaintext, and proceed to unencrypt the file by applying that key without so much as a thought as to why someone would lock an item and leave the key in plain sight? It's enough to make one rethink the costs and benefits of the microcomputer revolution...

Scott Miller

This isn't Lake Woebegone...


There is news in the SCO case. I'll summarize it briefly.

First of all, there is SCO vs. IBM. SCO demanded the source code for every version ever made of AIX and Dynix, including all internally released versions, literally billions of lines of code. And they wanted it before they had to make a list of what code in Linux allegedly infringes their IP. IBM told the judge they were willing to provide the source code for every version *released* of AIX and Dynix, 232 versions total, about a million lines of code.

The judge gave ordered IBM to provide the source code for the 232 released versions of AIX and Dynix, and gave them 45 days. The judge also ordered SCO to produce a list of what code in Linux allegedly violates SCO's IP -- and gave them 45 days. In other words, SCO will have to make its list without the AIX and Dynix source code to dig through.

In summary, IBM got everything they asked for, and SCO got very little of what they asked for. 

SCO's stock price has started to fall, perhaps because investors don't like the way this is going. But also because SCO no longer has any business to speak of; no one is buying SCO products, and existing SCO customers are abandoning SCO UNIX for Linux. SCO is dead unless they win big in the courtroom. Since I expect them to lose big, they will be beyond dead.

In other recent news, SCO announced that they were going to sue a high-profile Linux-using company. Then they changed their mind and said they would sue two of them. They sued AutoZone, and DaimlerChrysler.

Of course Red Hat sued SCO a while back, under the Lanham act. They said that SCO was saying things to Red Hat customers that tended to drive the customers away, specifically that SCO would be suing Red Hat and its customers, and they wanted to haul SCO into court and firmly establish whether SCO had any legal basis for making such claims. (When Red Hat wins, SCO will be forced to stop making such statements.) SCO has tried to get the Red Hat case dismissed, claiming Red Hat didn't have reasonable cause to think SCO would sue them or their customers. AutoZone uses Red Hat, so presumably Red Hat will add the Autozone case as more evidence for their suit against SCO. 

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

I am astonished that this nonsense can continue as long as it has.








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Friday, March 5, 2004

Just to illustrate the level of competence on the SCO side of the current cases, we find they are preparing their legal documents with Microsoft Word, then letting reporters see the actual file complete with revision history. Maybe this is a new tactic for threatening B of A?

"A Microsoft Word document of SCO's suit against DaimlerChrysler, seen by CNET, originally identified Bank of America as the defendant instead of the automaker. This revision and others in the document can be seen through powerful but often forgotten features in Microsoft Word known as invisible electronic ink."


< >

Well as I said in the column, I can just see the conversation with Gates when they told him SCO was demanding license fees. "Tell them to go to hell." 

"Yeah, Bill, but if we pay them their fees, it's legal, and they'll use the money to sue all our rivals."


Pure fiction of course. I am a science fiction writer.


I had written my reaction to the Martha Stewart case. Just finished when I saw:

On not talking to the authorities.

I spend a fair portion of my time teaching Minnesota carry permit classes these days, as well as writing on the subject, and I do keep coming back to it. You don't have to talk, but, as they say, anything you say can and will be used against you. In the Martha Stewart case, she tried to explain herself. Was she lying? I dunno, and I don't much care; not my ox, and I've got enough gored oxen of my own, as usual -- but if she'd just repeated, over and over again, "I need to speak to my attorney and I don't consent to any search," she'd clearly have been better off in the long run.

It's probably possible to overdo using that mantra, but just barely. Ran into a cop friend of mine at the bank yesterday.

"How you doing?" he asked.

"I need to speak to my attorney, and I do not consent to any search," I said, with exactly the same tone and body language I'd use to say, "Great -- and how're you doing?"

He grinned. "Love the book."

Got the appended from Joe Olson the other day.

Search of Gas Tank Is Encompassed In General Consent for Vehicle Search

Some dismantling of vehicle is permissible if defendant does not object, Sixth Circuit also says.

It was reasonable for police to search a vehicle's fuel tank for contraband pursuant to the defendant's general consent to search the vehicle for drugs during a traffic stop, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held Feb. 20. The court also said that a certain amount of dismantling of the vehicle in order to access the gas tank was permissible because the defendant did not object despite an opportunity to do so. (United States v. Garrido-Santana, 6th Cir., No. 02-6076, 2/20/04)

The defendant was stopped for speeding and given a courtesy citation. The officer observed that the defendant seemed nervous and that his rental contract for the car contained apparent irregularities. He asked whether the defendant was transporting any illegal contraband, received a negative response, and requested consent to a vehicle search. The defendant agreed and signed a consent form.

A drug detection canine brought to the scene did not alert. The officer, however, testified that he knew that the defendant's vehicle was a model that had a more easily assessed gas tank that was often used in smuggling. After noticing pliers and a wrench on the floor of the car and smelling a strong odor of gasoline, the officer decided to search the gas tank.

The officer placed the defendant in the back of his squad car and instructed him in the use of the public address system in case he wanted to communicate with the officers. The police then unbolted a plate covering the gas tank, inserted a fiber optic scope, and observed bundles of what turned out to be cocaine inside the tank. The defendant argued that the evidence should be suppressed on the ground that the search of his gas tank exceeded the scope of his consent.

Part of Vehicle Search

The court of appeals affirmed the conviction in an opinion by Judge Cornelia G. Kennedy. The officers acted reasonably in searching the fuel tank on the basis of the defendant's general consent to search the vehicle, the court held. The Fourth Amendment does not require police to obtain separate permission for a gas tank search when they already have obtained permission for a vehicle search.

When the officer asked the defendant whether he was transporting any illegal contraband such as drugs or stolen goods, he put the defendant on notice that such items would be the object of the search for which the officer subsequently requested consent, the court found. Accordingly, the defendant's general consent, given without any express limitations on the scope of the search, encompassed "any container within that vehicle that might have held illegal contraband," the court said.

The defendant had the opportunity to object to the officers' search when he saw them remove the plate from his vehicle's gas tank as he sat in the squad car. Despite his opportunity to object through the patrol car's public address system, the defendant never did so. Thus, the defendant neither clarified that the scope of his consent did not extend to the fuel tank nor revoked his consent to the vehicle search, the court concluded.

An additional factor in the court's finding of reasonableness was that the fact that the search caused no damage to the car or to the gas tank. The court cited with approval decisions of two other federal circuit courts that concluded that a certain amount of dismantling of the vehicle during a search is permissible if the defendant does not object. See United States v. Pena, 920 F.2d 1509 (10th Cir. 1990) (search of vehicle's vent panel was within scope of consent search when defendant did not limit or revoke consent upon observing officer begin to remove panel); United States v. Zapata, 180 F.3d 1237 (11th Cir. 1999) (search of vehicle's interior door panel was within scope of general consent to search for narcotics, weapons, or money because panel could contain such items).

Full text may be available at: 

< >

----------------------------- Joel Rosenberg

The war on drugs continues. I am not sure who has won what.











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Saturday, March 6, 2004

Dear Dr Pournelle,

Interesting times. 5.6% unemployment is actually not bad for the US, but I wonder how long the republic will tolerate poor Mr Bush's brave new economy: "2.3 million jobs have vanished on his watch. Barring a stunning jobs comeback, he will become the first U.S. President since Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression to preside over a net loss of jobs during a four-year term."

TPStory/LAC/20040306/RJOBSUS06/TPBusiness/International  >

Logically one would expect that if this goes on, federal benefits will be cut and there will be a net migration loss to north and south.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator Dept. of Maths and Stats, Otago University PO. Box 56, Dunedin tel:64-3-4797739 NEW ZEALAND fax:64-3-4798427

Agreed. Of course Bush is committed to free trade, which will cause job "adjustments". And the Democrats are committed to open borders, which results in the vanishing job: off the books, and generally low paid.





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Sunday, March 6, 2004

Column time.





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