THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 176 October 22 - 28, 2001
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October 22, 2001
Got up early intending to go to the Microsoft Developer Conference. Had this email from an SFWA official accusing me of terrorism or something as the first thing I saw.
We've got a major problem.
Steele Smith (cc:d above) is proprietor of PalmBooks.Org. He is, to put it charitably, a wee bit shaky on copyright law, though he's learning rapidly.
He posted one or more of your books on his website. When he did so, he did not realize (implausible though it sound) that he needed your permission to do that thang. Someone sent him the e-copy of the book through the Internet, and he thought that meant it was in public domain. You and I both understand how stupid an assumption that was, and I believe Steele is beginning to catch on.
You responded by posting his name, address, and phone number on your website. As a result, his four-year-old daughter has received threatening phone calls from some of your fans.
Jerry, this is flat-out unacceptable. Once upon a time, you had a four-year-old girl. Would you think it okay for her to have been scared that someone was going to kill her because of something you did?
I am very angry, Jerry. I was working with Steele Smith to resolve this situation, and we were making great progress. Then your fans started calling his home, and scaring the shit out of his little girl, because you'd put his phone number on your website.
This is flat-out unconscionable. I know you've got a temper, but this goes way over the line.
Get Steele Smith's address and phone number off your website immediately. This isn't a request, Jerry, it's an order, and you will fall in. You have fucked up an amicable resolution of this situation, and you have sent a four-year-old girl to bed with nightmares. I will not tolerate that.
Leave Smith's email address on your website. He deserves all the spitemail he gets.
But goddamit, leave his little girl alone.
But I have a bit of a problem with this. Why is a 4 year old girl answering the telephone, and why is it my fault, since the telephone number is easily obtained? Nor did I encourage anyone to harass this chap. But he was, after all, pirating books. Hundreds of them. Hundreds. So I am the one at fault. And something similar was put up over in the SFWA conference, and quickly seconded by a bunch of writers who would apparently rather condemn me than a pirate. I find that bizarre.
There is zero evidence that ANYONE spoke with his daughter. Steele Smith pretended not to know that he was pirating books; he had previously told one SFWA member that she was a terrorist when she tried to get him to stop; but our heroic official of the Science Fiction Writers of America, protesting that he is protecting children, chooses to attack me first off. Which tells me more than I wanted to know. And as the first thing I saw this morning did manage to upset me more than it should.
Anyway you can find out all you want by looking at the Sunday mail in view175, and I am done, a bit sadder but wiser. (It remains in last Sunday's view, but it was all put there Monday morning before I went downtown.)
Spent the say at the Microsoft Developer Conference where Don Box actually got me to believe I understand Common Language and XML and other such matters. See the column for more on this. Microsoft is building some pretty hefty developer tools and an excellent development environment.
Big party afterwards. And home to more crap about that pirate site. An interesting day. The Microsoft conference was fun.
|This week:||Tuesday, October
Off to hear Bill Gates speak.
I have heard all about Microsoft.NET and I confess I may become a believer, which is odd. The capabilities are great and the concept is startling once understood.
Perhaps the most important statement was in Gates's final moments: "Microsoft is fortunate enough to have a lot of resources, and we have bet the company on this; we have the resources to invest and R&D and that is what we will be doing."
When others are liquidating the company in the dot bust, Microsoft is hiring and continuing development of developer tools. Some 6500 developers cheered...
I have been getting an education on electronic piracy. One thing I was sent:
Citizen 513 is clever, ruthless, and has
Can anyone tell me more? As to the SFWA official who sent me that imbecile letter, we can ignore him. There are more important matters at hand. This is one of them. I don't want to leave the impression that everyone in SFWA is some kind of kzinti idiot. Alas, as with any organization, volunteers get a bit burnt out. As did the chap who sent me that letter, which is why I didn't name him. He has done good work in the past.
The Citizen 513 thing could be important. I would be grateful for any information on "Citizen 513".
Thanks. I have now more than I need. I will digest it. Apparently Harlan has been after this chap for some time with no success: he can't be located or named. But perhaps someone will find him... For what is known see mail.
NEW YORK ... Year 2032.
A man is walking down the streets of Manhattan with his kid. All of a sudden they stop in front of a park, and the man comments to his son..."Just think, not too long ago the Twin Towers used to be here...".
So the son asks him with an intrigued look in his face... "Dad, what were the Twin Towers?".
"They were two very tall buildings with lots of offices, but 31 years ago a bunch of terrorists from the middle east crashed a plane into each one and they collapsed".
"Dad, what was the middle east?"
This from another discussion group:
I'm taking nominations now for the first Lifetime Achievement Award in spreading lies, ignorance and wishful thinking about human biodiversity. Please post the name of your nominee.
We could also have categories like "Generally Clueless" or"Actually Knows the Truth But Isn't Telling It" or "Most Obviously Pro Forma Dismissal of Human Biodiversity." Any suggestions?
You may send your suggestions to me.
Anthrax: someone has done some real work here. Virulent strain, ground and milled very fine. If this was a test it was successful.
We may be in for more trouble. On the other hand, so far there have been more people killed in traffic in the DC area than exposed to anthrax. It's well to have a sense of proportion.
October 25, 2001
Much to do. I'll update this and mail tonight.
October 26, 2001
So I didn't get to it until Friday.
The war continues. We still don't know what it is we want from it, and it's becoming clear we aren't likely to figure it out. We won't be able to until we make a more fundamental decision: are we a republic or an empire? Until we know, we will not know how to fight this war, because we will not know what we want the world to look like when it is over.
If we are a republic, then the purposes of the war are fairly simple: we want every ruler, anywhere, monarch, dictator, chairman, president, caudillo, prime minister, or whatever other title he holds, to understand that allowing people to plot harm to the United States on his/her territory is a very bad idea, and will result in the replacement of the ruler. We will replace him with someone likely to be friendly to the United States, but we won't attempt to run that country so long as it does us no harm and does not harbor those who want to do us harm.
If we find poverty and corruption we may be able to help, and if we can we probably will, but we won't help by overthrowing your government and substituting one of our own, and much of our help will be through private charities. Distribution in your country can be by private agencies which may be protected by people hired through Soldier of Fortune.
We are the friends of liberty everywhere but the guardians only of our own. We will not be friendly to dictatorships, but we will mind our own business. We will neither prop up nor bring down regimes we don't like. We will prop up democratic nations largely through trade and aid, but we will choose our friends fairly carefully.
And we will invest in hemispheric resource independence, in energy and everything else. And we reserve the right to act in our own interests in this hemisphere. Monroe Doctrine and all that.
If we are an empire, the purposes of the war are a bit more complex. Once again we want people to understand that it's not a good idea to plot harm to us and our people, but do be sure of that, we will impose regimes we like. In general that means liberal democracies, but if the democracy isn't liberal we'll replace it with one that is. We will spread rule of law, and a mixed economy, more or less market-place capitalist but with compassion and a safety net. We won't let people starve nor will we allow bandits to steal the food from the children's mouths. We will shoulder the White Man's Burden, but we won't claim any special superiority and we will punish hate crimes and eliminate racism.
That will be the goal, at least. Some among us will recall how well we have done in Haiti in nation building, and have doubts; but surely it is worth trying?
Of course I have stated things differently from the way they would be put by a good imperialist. Moreover, there are imperialists who are quite certain that the White Man's Burden is real, and so is, if not exactly white, then at least anglo-american superiority, quite willing to prove it to those we govern: carrying Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite on the points of our bayonets, and realist enough to know that those carrying the bayonets are not likely to be pure in heart or motive.
For the truth of the matter is that unless we have some reason to believe in our superiority, and thus our obligation to spread the benefits of our civilization, then we won't have idealists doing the work. We'll have to hire it done. But those who are too pure to go do it will sit in judgment over those who have done it. And eventually there will come a time when we want to prosecute a military warrior adored by his men, and the prosecutors will be those who despise the military and hold all force and violence in contempt, and --
Am I making this up? Of course. But the scenario is more than possible, isn't it?
There is a price to empire. Are we willing to pay it? But I think we will; worse, I believe we will thing we are paying the price when in fact we are not willing to do it.
October 27, 2001
I have two columns to do: the regular BYTE.COM column, and one for the special paper -- printed, BYTE in PRINT again! -- edition. So I have my work cut out...
I got a letter from a colleague suggesting that the anthrax attack are right wing efforts. I withhold the name since the letter was sent to a mailing list and not just to me:
Much as I dislike it, I'm still unconvinced that it's external terrorism.
If it is external state sponsored terrorism, the techniques and methods don't make much sense; it _would_ be better to use the amount that has been distributed in a single attack.
If it is _internal_, specifically conservative/libertarian, terrorists, the methods become more understandable. The envelopes then become the functional _equivalent_ of letter bombs, but are both easier to make and have a greater likelihood of doing widespread damage.
However, that widespread damage would still be _focused_ on groups they don't like. And it has so far avoided (with the arguable exception of Fox News) groups that they _do_ like.
When one is delivered to the American Enterprise Institute or the Cato Association I'll become more sanguine.
I wrote a reply, and after I wrote it decided it needed to be here as well. I've also added a bit to it:
Oh come now. If you were a left wing group that wanted to draw attention, you'd target the media. Since the media are almost all liberal, with the arguable exception of Fox News, you'd have few choices. Then you want to target government institutions.
I don't know much about libertarians, but conservatives like government. We don't much like the way it has been going, but none of us want to abolish Congress or the Presidency or the Supreme Court, and we rather like checks and balances and such. We certainly don't like chaos and anarchy.
Conservatives, if they were to wish a plague on anyone, would wish it on specific government agencies which we see as both misusing their power and being incompetent at the same time. It is this fourth branch of government that operates a long way outside the Constitution that rouses conservative ire. The fact that some 40 Federal agencies have SWAT teams without any discernable need can get conservatives unhappy. Not Congress and the Supreme Court which, despite all, are still the best hope we have of getting the Philadelphia Constitution back. But mass terrorism isn't a useful way to get the Constitution back anyway: times of stress strengthen government and give it powers it needs to meet the crisis but shouldn't ordinarily have. The conservative objection to the new anti-terrorist legislation isn't the laws but the fact that they are imposed in peace time: we need a Declaration of War, so that when the war is over we go back to normal constitutional government. One problem with the Cold War, or Seventy Years War as I call it, is that once it was over, it left a great number of residual powers the government no longer needs and in fact should not have. Had there been an actual War, then those would go away.
Increasing anarchy is no way to get conservative government.
This doesn't look like an attack by any conservative group likely to have been able to obtain the biological weapons employed. Those took a fair degree of sophistication. I'd be willing to bet on Iraq as the source. I would make smaller bets that they were obtained from Iraq without the Iraqi government's knowledge or consent: not that this matters in holding Iraq responsible for developing them.
Many readers have sent this link. I laughed a lot. My wife found it hilarious:
Bush on bongos, Colin Powell as Belafonte...
And Roland sends this totally bizarre case:
the snake in question is a garter snake, of the kind that my friends and I regularly captured and kept as pets when I was a kid...
This just in. New prize:
* SWALLOW THE MONEY PRIZE -- Barbara Walters and ABC The panel on "The View" program broke into a chorus of the "M'm M'm good" jingle when Walters asked, "Didn't we grow up eating Campbell's soup?" It was all according to plan. In November, blurring the line between programming and advertising, parts of eight episodes of ABC's daytime chat show became paid infomercials for Campbell's. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Walters and her panel agreed to "try to weave a soup message into their regular on-air banter." An ABC News executive defended the hucksterism of Walters, a news personality, by saying that "The View" is an entertainment show and that "people wear many hats."
And here is a wonderful quote:
"I have certain misgivings about what we're doing," said Stephen M. Walt, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. "There's no evidence thus far that Taliban is unraveling as an administrative structure, and no sign as of right now that the Northern Alliance or anybody else is going to be able to defeat them militarily in the short term."
Gosh. They didn't come apart in a couple of weeks! Shame on the US.
And Bob Woodward has his theories:
but I note that he has no named sources. Just the usual anonymous people, who tell him that this must have been some anthrax that a bunch of right wing extremists just happened to have, and decided to use it now when the country is at war. When he quotes someone, it's more likely to be
"Cooper and officials at the Southern Poverty Law Project, which monitors U.S. hate groups, said they have seen no evidence of a domestic group capable of launching a sophisticated anthrax attack."
Now it's not impossible that some Aryan Nation outfit has got hold of this stuff, but it's not very likely. The most likely explanation of an act of war against the US is that it is a strike by the people who are at war with us. But given the extreme competence of our officials who do not seem able to find their feet with both hands, perhaps this sort of smoke screen is to be expected. It isn't impossible that Woodward is correct and this is a bunch of right wing extremists, but I sure wouldn't bet it that way. Just as when Earl Warren rushed to announce that extremists had killed President Kennedy.
Here's a little more from Woodward (way down below the fold). The headline is that
FBI and CIA Suspect Domestic
but far down in the article he says
"One of the challenges that a would-be terrorist faces is learning how to alter the anthrax so that it will float in the air and disperse widely. The Washington Post reported this week that the spores in the Daschle letter had been treated with a chemical additive using technology so sophisticated that it almost certainly came from the United States, Iraq or the former Soviet Union.
"White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday, however, that investigators believe a broad range of people are capable of the crime. "The quality anthrax sent to Senator Daschle's office could be produced by a Ph.D. microbiologist and a sophisticated laboratory," he told reporters."
Now we all know that the Aryan Nation must have a Ph.D. Microbiologist and a sophisticated laboratory all hidden away. Well, perhaps so, but again, the way to bet it is that this stuff came from Iraq; whether the Iraqi top people knew it was going to be used against the US I don't care to speculate.
October 28, 2001
Daylight savings time is over.
Bit slow this morning.
On the anthrax sources, I can't put it better than Greg Cochran:
OBL and company, probably. Possibly with someone else as a supplier. The is an approximate geographic match, in terms of where the letters were mailed and where these guys were staying. There had to be _some_ reason for OBL's people checking out a cropduster. The letters were mailed soon after 9/11 - too soon to whip up anthrax from scratch. The alternative hypotheses all involve guys who mostly likely live in the same general area and just happened to have mailable high-quality anthrax available already. Why assume two separate elaborate and active conspiracies, both interested in delivery of biological or chemical weapons (nothing else fits the crop-duster interest) within the same week? Seems unlikely, but maybe I'm missing something.
There is no way to make simple sense out of the targets. Why the National Enquirer? I think there are other letters in the system aimed at other high-profile targets. The WSJ likely escaped because they're at a new address.
Precisely. Common sense, Occam's razor, and all that.
Meanwhile, Christians are being massacred in Pakistan. Of course similar has happened in Egypt in the past, and in the Sedan and Somalia continuously, but it is seldom reported.
For several letters on Microsoft's latest folly, fooling with the thesaurus, see mail . There is a continuation after the first letter. This is real Microsoft foolishness. There is also a solution to the problem!