My Archives: November 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

You have probably heard by now that the 17-month-old Liberal government in Canada received a no-confidence vote after losing the backing of the extra-liberal New Democratic Party due largely to 1) a continuing financial scandal and 2) the PM's refusal to oppose in sufficiently strong terms the advance of private medical care. So...it is election time up here, which is a very different matter than 'down under' in the States. The campaigning time is severely limited by law, comparatively little money is tossed about, at least four political parties of significance will split the vote with the Bloc Quebecois very likely to swing Quebec, and few voters are passionate about the outcome. They are saving their passion for expressing disgust with the political wrangling and the sudden election. Indeed, it is rather nice to be among people so cynical about their leaders and the political process. [Click on 'more' to continue.] [more]

Posted by mac @ 04:27 AM EST [Link]

Monday, November 28, 2005

My thanks to "Anonymous" for rounding out the top ten list for DRM:

10. Damned Repugnant Misanthropy

—brad

Posted by brad @ 07:08 AM EST [Link]

You are most cordially invited to join the Libertarian Discussion BB. Say 'Wendy sent me!"

Posted by mac @ 03:23 AM EST [Link]

"The Long March of Dick Cheney" by Sidney Blumenthal is one of the most insightful articles I've read in months. Blumenthal opens, "The hallmark of the Dick Cheney administration is its illegitimacy. Its essential method is bypassing established lines of authority; its goal is the concentration of unaccountable presidential power." He then charts Cheney's amazing rise through various Presidencies to his current position as the premier policy maker of the United States, living up to the code name given to him by the Secret Service: Backseat. "It was in that White House [Nixon's administration] that Cheney gained his formative experience as the assistant to Nixon's counselor, Donald Rumsfeld. When Gerald Ford acceded to the presidency, he summoned Rumsfeld from his posting as NATO ambassador to become his chief of staff. Rumsfeld, in turn, brought back his former deputy, Cheney." Blumenthal explains why so many with White House or military experience -- such as Colin Powell -- have misjudged and underestimated Cheney. It is partly because they rose through the ranks by respecting established authority and Cheney respects nothing that stands in his way, preferring to sidestep or bushwhack inconvenient authority. Moreover, "his competence and measured manner are often mistaken for moderation." In fact, Cheney is a hardline ideologue.

Blumenthal concludes, "Dick Cheney sees in George W. Bush his last chance. Nixon self-destructed, Ford was fatally compromised by his moderation, Reagan was not what was hoped for, the elder Bush ended up a disappointment. In every case, the Republican presidents had been checked or gone soft. Finally, President Bush provided the instrument, Sept. 11 the opportunity. This time the failures of the past provided the guideposts for getting it right. "

Posted by mac @ 03:12 AM EST [Link]

Friday, November 25, 2005

I'm one short of a "top ten" list. Here are the top nine new meanings for the acronym "DRM" (formerly, "Digital Rights Management"):

9. Designed to Rape your Machine
8. Desire to Reinforce Monopoly
7. Demented Rapacious Marketing
6. Deny Rights to Many
5. Disclaim Responsibility for Malware
4. Deploys a Rootkit Mendaciously
3. Doesn't Repel Malefactors
2. Disastrous Response from Management
1. Destined to Ruin the Market

On a more sober note, the market research firm Gartner has this to say about probable fallout from the Sony flap: "PC hardware/software providers: Prepare for continuing legislative attempts to require that DRM technology be integrated into products."

Fight back now, and don't yield an inch. —brad

Posted by brad @ 10:34 AM EST [Link]

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Come join the discussion at Wendy McElroy's libertarian BB where Ken Gregg asks Is JK Rowling libertarian?

Posted by mac @ 02:26 PM EST [Link]

My FOXNews /ifeminists column for this week, "PBS Film Controversy Continues," has been posted and circulated, and can be read in full by clicking on 'more' at the end of this paragraph. (An earlier column of mine on the same subject is here.)Once again, Cathy Young and I decided independently to address the same subject in our weekly columns; she's a columnist for and a bright light in the otherwise rather liberal print newspaper, Boston Globe. Once again, we emphasized different facts and aspects of the issue while arriving at the same conclusion. Indeed, my column quotes and links to Young's blog discussion of the emerging PBS scandal. Henceforth I will simply assume that whatever is on her blog -- which I recommend BTW -- probably reflects what may be in her columns soon! That vixen. [more]

Posted by mac @ 02:00 PM EST [Link]

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

For the last day and a half I've been deluged with emails at my public account, all 74 KB long, with varying subject lines. "New virus," I thought. F-Secure confirms that Sober.Y is making the rounds.

Also, SANS has raised their Infocon Alert to Yellow, because of a new Internet Explorer vulnerability. "Disable Javascript in your Internet Explorer browsers, or switch to another browser."  —brad

Posted by brad @ 09:14 AM EST [Link]

Has CNN been placing a subliminal 'X' over Cheney's face, as Drudge suggests? Works for me!

Posted by mac @ 09:09 AM EST [Link]

Monday, November 21, 2005

I decided to visit the MIT Media Lab page, hoping to get a good look at the $100 laptop. The first thing I saw, in big bold letters: "Please note that the $100 laptops—not yet in production—will not be available for sale. The laptops will only be distributed to schools directly through large government initiatives." I think that gives away their whole agenda right there. "Large government initiatives." I.e., give us great gobs of government money, and minimal accountability.

I finally found some photos here, here, and here, with another revealing clue about the UN mentality. "Note: The high resolution images are only available to WSIS accredited media." Ah, the gatekeepers on the information highway. Be regimented, or stay out in the cold.

Of course, you can't tell from the photos that the prototype on display is "a balsa model with a keyboard and an LCD with a thick cable attached to a box under the counter". Perhaps we should call it the $100 Vaporware.

I've been reading more from Lee Felsenstein, and he sees right through all of this: [more]

Posted by brad @ 11:03 AM EST [Link]

Bravo Richard Stallman! Invited as a keynote speaker to the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), Stallman caused a flap by wrapping his RFID-equipped badge in aluminum foil. Perhaps it was his generously offering aluminum foil to other attendees that caused UN security to confine him to a room. As Bruce Perens describes it, " This...is a legitimate gripe, handled with Richard's usual highly-visible, guile-less and absolutely un-subtle style of non-violent protest."

Long-time McBlog readers may recall the flap two years ago when RFID badges were used at WSIS. The UN promised not to use RFID badges again. Well, now you know what their promises are worth...or the promises of RFID proponents everywhere.  —brad

Posted by brad @ 08:25 AM EST [Link]

Hat tip to The Inquirer for more discussion, and links, about MIT's "$100 laptop." Michael Robertson's comparison to "muffin stumps" is on the mark.

I finally saw a mockup of the MIT laptop on TV, and was amused to see a handcrank on the side. I don't know how many of you own a handcrank-powered radio/flashlight, but we own one, and I can tell you (a) it's a lot of work to turn a crank by hand, and (b) you don't get much light from a lot of cranking. Perhaps someone should buy the MIT team a few of these.

I find myself largely in agreement with Lee Felsenstein, who seems to have some more sensible ideas about how to bring computers to developing countries. He also understands about human power generation: he has suggested a foot pedal system instead of a hand crank. (And as a backup, mind you: he leaves the option open for solar or other forms of power.)

But practical engineering solutions don't get news coverage (or funding) like flashy balsa-wood mockups and arbitrary price points. "The press likes a nice round number."  —brad

Posted by brad @ 08:04 AM EST [Link]

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Two computer columnists, Charlie Demerjian and Bruce Schneier, have now pointed out that the Sony rootkit has raised the issue: what anti-virus vendors can you trust? As Demerjian says,

If you want to find a trustworthy security vendor, I would recommend looking for ones that stood up on the Sony malware DRM infection issue and said 'this is bad' early and loudly. F-Secure comes to mind, but there are others. The ones that said 'grumble, mumble, maybe, sorta' a week later are not what you want to have protecting your machines.

F-Secure is the clear champion here. They discovered the rootkit independently and published it almost simultaneously with Mark Russinovich. As I recall, Sophos and Computer Associates were quick off the mark with vulnerability announcements and rootkit detectors, so perhaps these are the "others" Demerjian mentions. McAfee and Symantec (Norton) are becoming notorious for dragging their feet on this, so they're the "baddies" in my book from now on. Anyone know how well the other anti-virus vendors responded to this?

If you're shopping for Windows anti-virus software, I'd recommend F-Secure.  —brad

Posted by brad @ 07:42 AM EST [Link]

Friday, November 18, 2005

Ok, this is too delightful to ignore. Some of the LGPL code purloined by First4Internet for Sony's XCP copy protection was written by -- wait for it -- "DVD Jon" Johansen. You might remember him. He became famous for writing the DeCSS program to decrypt DVDs, which caused the MPAA to threaten to sue any web site offering it, and to try to get a Norwegian court to apply the American DMCA law to Jon. (They failed; Jon prevailed.) The forensics are now pretty solid that LGPL code, including some of Jon's, found its way into XCP.

Meanwhile the EFF has analyzed the Sony End User License Agreement. You only think you own a Sony CD. (Thanks to Kirsten for the link.)  —brad

Posted by brad @ 11:55 AM EST [Link]

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I can't keep up. Now we learn that Sony's XCP adds a memory overflow vulnerability to your PC, a popular avenue for viral infection. And it turns out that XCP also "phones home." Sony refuses to say how many PCs have done so, but a network specialist has examined DNS caches and puts the lower bound at over half a million infected PCs. Sony only admits that 2.1 million CDs have been sold with XCP, but whether this is the true total or just the "official" 20 titles is anyone's guess.

Bloggers are beginning to compare this to the Tylenol scare of the '80s. The difference is, Johnson & Johnson was held up as a textbook example of a company correctly handling a crisis of consumer confidence. Sony is being described as an example of how not to act. Sony may still have time to come clean and set things right; the Electronic Frontier Foundation tells how, but Sony will have to act fast to salvage the Christmas buying season. (People are beginning to wonder what surprises lurk in the latest PlayStation.)

I give up; there's too much to report. Visit the Boycott Sony page for the latest revelations.  —brad

Posted by brad @ 04:53 AM EST [Link]

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Adding insult to injury, Sony is "being economical with the truth" about their infamous rootkit. They claim only 20 titles have the malware. A blogger has identified 45 infected titles on Sony and Sony-affiliated labels...so far. Misleading the public, on top of everything else, is a bad PR move, guys.  —brad

Posted by brad @ 08:03 PM EST [Link]

Does it never end? The Inquirer reports that the web-based tool offered by Sony to remove their copy-protection rookit installs an even bigger vulnerability in its place. To be specific, it installs -- permanently -- an ActiveX control that "allows any web page you visit to download, install, and run any code it likes on your computer. Any web page can seize control of your computer; then it can do anything it likes. Thatís about as serious as a security flaw can get."

We can expect exploits for this to appear soon. Meanwhile, do not use Sony's web-based XCP uninstaller; do not accept any software downloaded from First4Internet (the creators of XCP).  —brad

Posted by brad @ 05:29 PM EST [Link]

The revelations just keep on coming. Sony Music is using another Digital Rights Management scheme, MediaMax, which installs software on your computer even if you decline their agreement. This software also "phones home" via the Internet to report what music you're playing. More info here.  —brad

Posted by brad @ 09:34 AM EST [Link]

Monday, November 14, 2005

My sense of irony just blew a fuse. It seems that those stalwart defenders of "intellectual property," Sony, have been using purloined software in their notorious rootkit. To be precise, they are evidently using open-source software without complying with the terms of its LGPL license. That means they don't have a license to distribute that software, which in turn means Sony has been mass-producing hundreds of thousands of CDs in violation of copyright law. I believe this makes them the world's largest CD bootlegger.  —brad

Posted by brad @ 07:15 AM EST [Link]

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sony CDs Endanger Avian Flu Response

No kidding. That what Stewart Baker of the U.S. ReichsHauptSicherheitAmt -- er, Department of Homeland Security -- seems to be saying about the Sony CD rootkit:

"If we have an avian flu outbreak here and it is even half as bad as the 1918 flu, we will be enormously dependent on being able to get remote access for a large number of people, and keeping the infrastructure functioning is going to be a matter of life and death and we take it very seriously."

The Bush administration is hyping the avian flu bugbear everywhere, it seems.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is updating their anti-spyware tool to detect and remove the Sony rootkit. No word yet on whether Microsoft will be charged under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.  —brad

Posted by brad @ 11:39 AM EST [Link]

You are cordially invited to browse and join a new libertarian discussion forum. Cheers!
Wendy McElroy

Posted by mac @ 09:31 AM EST [Link]

Gordon P. provides us with this one: From the Paranoid Conspiracy Theory Dept.: A (former?) Oklahoma weatherman for an NBC affiliate KPVI-TV named Scott Stevens has been making the rounds on the Nutball Circuit, flogging notorious crackpot Tom Bearden's latest 60-page screed, that Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina were artificially generated and controlled using Nikolai Tesla's "Scalar Wave Technology" that the Yakuza and Aum Shinrikyo bought from the KGB and have been testing since the 1990's in their latest move to achieve their long-plotted "revenge" against the U.S.A. for having beaten Japan in WW-II. [Click 'more' to continue.] [more]

Posted by mac @ 09:27 AM EST [Link]

The Inquirer has pointed out many problems with MIT's much-ballyhooed "$100 laptop". But they missed one. Reading their article I see the objective described as "a rugged full-screen, full color laptop that's Wi-Fi enabled, 'lots' of USB ports, Linux-based, with a 500MHz processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 1 megapixel display."

Wi-Fi enabled? How many Starbucks do these people think exist in Africa? They need to spend more time outside of Boston (excuse me, Cambridge), and more in, say, Kapuskasing.  —brad

Posted by brad @ 07:32 AM EST [Link]

Saturday, November 12, 2005

An update: Thanks to your friends at Sony, and those mighty intellects in the U.S. Congress, anti-virus software may now be illegal in the United States.

As follows: Rootkits are used by hackers to invade your system. Therefore, anti-virus software is designed to identify and remove or disable rootkits. Sony is now using a rootkit for copy protection. Under the draconian Digital Millenium Copyright Act, it's a crime to "circumvent a technological measure" used for copy protection. Thus, using modern anti-virus software to protect your PC violates the DMCA.

Perhaps it only violates the DMCA if you also own a Sony CD...although if memory serves, it's a crime to even possess software which can be used to circumvent copy protection.

Incidentally, my thanks to Kirsten for pointing out this useful information on the Sony Music feedback page: "If you believe a Sony Music product has a manufacturing defect, please call our Quality Management Department at 800-255-7514 (609-722-8224 in New Jersey)." Yes, I do believe a rootkit qualifies as a defect that was manufactured.

brad

Posted by brad @ 07:36 AM EST [Link]

Here's a nice posting by Groklaw's PJ on the Sony rootkit, the role of blogs in revealing it, and the failures of the mainstream media. It makes me wonder if we're seeing a new spontaneous order evolving in news production and consumer protection.

Speaking of the Sony rootkit, it's now revealed that Sony CDs attack Macintosh computers, too.

It still amazes me that all these corporate behemoths bleat about protecting "property rights", while doing everything in their power to attack your property and your rights, and no one calls them on it. These companies have no respect whatsoever for property rights in the abstract; it's just a convenient buzz-phrase for them to defend their corporate interests and excuse their egregious behavior.

This time it backfired. Sony artists are getting hammered with bad reviews at Amazon. EFF has published a list of dangerous Sony CDs. A computer virus is already expoliting the Sony rootkit. Sony is being hit with class action suits. As PJ put it, "A company is in real trouble when a lawyer sets up a website dedicated to its misbehavior."

brad

Posted by brad @ 07:04 AM EST [Link]

Gordon P. writes, Army officials "pre-emptively confirmed" that "White Phosphorus" incendiary shells were fired _directly_ into the trenches held by the "insurgents" of Fallujah during the Army's "shake and bake" missions on that besieged city, in contradiction to Bushnev Administration official's claims that the "WP" shells were used "only for illumination..."

White phosphorus creates toxic clouds when it burns that contaminate the surrounding air for hundreds of feet around the burning shell. Burning white phosphorus was used as one of the very first ever chemical weapons during WW-I. While not technically "banned" by treaty, the use of "WP" as an incendiary weapon against civilians, or against soldiers in areas where civilians might be present, is strongly deprecated by the 1980 "Convention on Conventional Weapons, Protocol III." (Apparently, the Bushneviks have once against decided that "insurgents" and other "enemy combatants" are do not count as "soldiers" under this Convention --- which past administrations abided by, even though (as usual!) the U.S. has not actually gotten around to _ratifying_ this treaty...)

Interestingly, the keepers of the Wikipedia have already picked up this story, and have updated the "History" section of the "White Phosphorus" entry accordingly.

Posted by mac @ 06:06 AM EST [Link]

Friday, November 11, 2005

You are cordially invited to browse and join a new libertarian discussion forum. Cheers!
Wendy McElroy

Posted by mac @ 11:58 AM EST [Link]

The Dreaded Electricity Bill, by Catherine Pulsifer

I dreaded our January hydro bill. I still remember the shock last January when I opened the bill, and it was over $300.00 This past year, we have implemented ways to cut our electricity consumption. This years bill arrived, and I opened it slowly. It was only $185.00 Quite a difference from last year. We had cut our consumption from 3881 kw to 1904 kw for the same time period last year. [Please click 'more' to continue.] [more]

Posted by mac @ 09:16 AM EST [Link]

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

A recent entry on Claire Wolfe's blog caught my attention and revived an old debate I've had with myself regarding governmental ID. Like most libertarians, I burn with resentment at having to prove my identity at every turn, to being numbered and sorted into various officious files just in order to go about my peaceful business. Unlike Claire, however, I've swallowed my distaste because the personal cost to me of being without a driver's license etc. is too high. On November 3rd, Claire encountered one of those costs, good and hard (as Mencken would put it). [Please click on 'more' to continue.] [more]

Posted by mac @ 11:13 AM EST [Link]

My ear perked up last night as a commentator -- on CNN, I believe -- speculated on whether Dick Cheney will resign as VP in the near future. There was the usual rehashing of the Plame-leak scandal, the Halliburton-profits scandal, the non-existent WMD scandal blah-blah-blah... (BTW, my "blahs" do not denigrate the importance of the foregoing issues but merely indicate personal overload at hearing yet another commentary on them.)

Then I heard something different: speculation that Cheney may step down in order to facilitate and showcase a replacement who has a ghost of a chance of winning for the Republicans in the next Presidential election. After all, Cheney's resignation would be a popular move for Bush and could be somewhat cloaked/softened by statements concerning his notoriously poor health. A new VP -- a popular VP -- would have a few years in which to woo the American public...particularly the increasingly disenchanted conservatives. But who would be popular enough? The Democrats have torpedoed Frist. Lott's out of the running for similar reasons. Jeb Bush is not possible if only because a Bush/Bush White House might cause riots in the street. (Hmm...on the other hand, Robert Kennedy was accepted as Attorney General.) I don't think the Republicans are imprudent enough to run a woman, tho' the thought of Harriet Meirs being appointed is almost irresistible. The field of likely candidates is looking a little bare.

Posted by mac @ 08:57 AM EST [Link]

I just heard Miles O'Brien on CNN interviewing some flack from the American Petroleum Institute, hammering him with the question, "if crude oil prices went up 33% [or something like that], why did oil company profits rise 62%? Isn't that price gouging?" (I'm quoting from memory here.)

The flack waffled on about how you have to look at short term variations vs. long term, and more obscure spin which didn't convince me and surely won't convince any Congressional committee. He should lose his job for incompetence.

The real answer is much simpler. Whenever you subtract two large quantities to get a small difference, a small change in either of the quantities can make a huge relative change in the difference. Sales and costs are large quantities. Profit is the difference.

For example: Suppose I sell a widget for $1.00, and it costs me $0.99 to make it. That's a profit of $0.01 per unit. Now suppose I raise the price to $1.01. My profit is now $0.02 per unit. A 1% increase in price has caused a 100% increase in profit! I don't know the normal profit margin of an oil company*, but if there's a 62% increase in profit after a 33% increase in cost, I'd hazard a guess that the price rise actually tracked costs pretty well, with only a small overcompensation.

Even a CNN anchor, or a Congressman, should be able to understand that.  —brad

* Update: Google to the rescue. Exxon Mobil reported 3Q05 earnings of $8.3 B on revenue of $100.72 B. That's 8.24% profit. In 3Q04 they reported earnings of $6.23 B on revenue of $76.38 B. That's 8.16% profit. CNN is further confusing the issue by reporting raw earnings growth, rather than percentage profit growth.

Posted by brad @ 08:36 AM EST [Link]

Sex worker advocate Tracy Quan has a fascinating interview in the recently posted issue of Reason. Excerpt: I've always been attracted to the hookers' movement, and I admire the advances of activism. But I have noticed that, though we're behind politically, prostitutes in America who are accustomed to working illegally are often more trustworthy people than prostitutes who have worked under a legalized system. The value system is an outlaw value system. I think outlaws are more trustworthy people. They're forced to think about what they think is right and wrong. You are forced to think about the ethics of your behavior in terms of loyalty. It's a very tribal mentality: us against the world. In the respectable world, it's about what you can get away with legally. There are a lot more loopholes in the respectable world. People will tell themselves: "It's OK because it's legal." An outlaw doesn't have that option.

I know Tracy from the years I spent doing research in the sex worker's rights movement; she and I have corresponded erratically since then...mostly when one of us publishes something the other likes. To me, she was always one of the most interesting voices...largely because she does not proceed from a hard-left framework politically as do so many of the prostitutes' rights advocates, especially those from outside the States. (The Europeans...fagetta 'bout it.) And I always like that Tracy mixed very practical observations in with whatever political advocacy she advances. Her comment about sex workers being "outlaws" is particularly interesting to me because that's one of the fascinations I had with that subculture. Namely, how do you function in a business that has none of the protections of courts, (enforceable) contracts, police reports, Better Business Bureaus, etc. I discovered an entire alternate system of how businessmen/women can make a reliable living with well-established contacts over a period of time. Private arbitration, reputations, buzz on the street, personal referrals, paranoia, underground publications...many practices replace the more traditional protections that the average employer/employee expects.

Remember...you are cordially invited to join a new libertarian discussion group.

Posted by mac @ 08:32 AM EST [Link]

Monday, November 7, 2005

Two years ago I passed on this warning from Andrew Grygus:

"Microsoft's expressed goal is elimination of the traditional perpetual license in favor of a lease plan. Failure to renew your lease will render all your software unusable and your business data inaccessible. "

Score one for Mr. Grygus: Microsoft is now trying to rent Windows and Office service over the Internet. "Office Live" will be an office suite that you access using your web browser. The catch? Two. First, it's a subscription service, which means you pay by the month instead of just paying once. (Microsoft desperately wants this to increase their cash flow.)

Second, the programs (and likely the data) are stored on Microsoft servers. Which means you're at the mercy of Microsoft. Once they've got you hooked, they can raise the subscription fee however they want. Fail to pay, and you lose access to your data, possibly losing the data files themselves. This is not a prudent approach for any business...or individual.

Insist on software that's yours to keep, and yours to use forever. Insist on storing your data files in always-accessible form, on your own computer.

Insist on computing freedom.

brad

Posted by brad @ 12:18 PM EST [Link]

Saturday, November 5, 2005

A new social problem: "The priorities of many of today's elite young women...are surprisingly conventional, according to one survey. The most fortunate and educated women say they will conform to traditional gender roles after completing their Ivy League degrees. They are choosing careers as full-time mothers and expect to be supported financially by their successful spouses."

My comment: Who cares what voluntary arrangements couples arrive at? Every arrangement is seen by someone to be a social problem and indication of vice/irresponsibility/*fill in pejorative of your choice*. Stay-at-home motherhood is a problem only for feminists who believe women should make one choice (or select from a pre-defined set of choices) rather than believing women -- and men -- should be free to make any choice for which they assume responsibility.

I have a different response to the suggestion that "elite" women are choosing domesticity at "alarming" rates. I question whether what is stated is true. There is such a hue-and-cry about motherhood right now. On a political level: Populations not replacing themselves sufficiently to sustain current population levels and enable massive social security programs. On a social level: Women who are successful (especially financially) are increasingly painted as lonely spinsters, sans children, sans joy... But those younger "elites" who choose to escape their fate by choosing motherhood are called selfish for wanting the best education possible *and* domesticity later on. Commentators are flapping in the wind on the subject of motherhood and have been for the past few years. I do not denigrate the importance of the presence and size of future generations of taxpayers (at least, its importance to the state -- I really don't care). But this has the feel of a manufactured problem to me. One of the reasons it feels manufactured is that I look around at the women I know and they are almost all both mothers and working women. They *have* to be both in this economy. Perhaps my associates are not elite enough to be included in the surveys designed to showcase a problem among the bling-bling set; that's a definite possibility.

Another reason it seems manufactured is that I don't see any hard data. For example, the above story states, "More than 60 percent of Yale women surveyed concluded that when they become mothers, they plan on working only part time or not at all." But how many women were surveyed? How was the questions phrased. E.g. "Do you wish to be a lonely Wall St. spinster or have children and a supportive husband?" And were they from the Physics or PhyEd department? Even if 60% of all women at one elite university indicated this desire...stats are not based on speculation of future actions or day-dreaming about ideal situations. Call me cynical about these so-called surveys. 5 out of 4 times, they are proven wrong.

Posted by mac @ 08:47 AM EST [Link]

Friday, November 4, 2005

I've now had time to read Chapter 4 of Tony Bove's new book, Just Say No to Microsoft. This is the chapter where he describes alternatives to Microsoft Word.

My first impression: his advice is dead on, but perhaps he could have given it more succinctly. Long-time readers of this blog will know most of the reasons Bove describes to avoid MS Word. Below (click "more") I'll briefly list a selection of alternatives.

One strong reason to read Chapter 4 is if you still intend to use Word for a while. Bove describes a number of tips for increased security and reliability. And I applaud his advice "Stop sending Word docs!" If you must email a document, use RTF instead. [more]

Posted by brad @ 08:19 PM EST [Link]

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Heads up. A new PayPal scam works by reprogramming your Domain Name Server to redirect paypal.com to a phishing site. After you execute the attachment, all requests to paypal.com get redirected to a real-looking site that asks for your credit card details. Even typing "paypal.com" directly into your web browser doesn't help.

It looks like you need to run this on a Windows system, and you need to be running a local Domain Name Server (which most home users don't -- see note below). However, some small enterprises may have a local DNS on a Windows box, so beware if you get a sudden request from PayPal's web page to "update" your credit card info.  —brad

Update:It looks like Windows XP supports a DNS cache even on personal machines. I'd guess this is the target of the scam, since it requires executing an email attachment, and most enterprises don't receive email on their DNS servers. More info as I get it. Don't click on executable attachments!

Posted by brad @ 07:52 PM EST [Link]

On CounterPunch.com, Bill Quigley asks a fascinating question: Why are They Making New Orleans a Ghost Town? Quigley writes, "Fully armed National Guard troops refuse to allow over ten thousand people to even physically visit their property in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood. Despite the fact that people cannot come back, tens of thousands of people face eviction from their homes. A local judge told me that their court expects to process a thousand evictions a day for weeks. Renters still in shelters or temporary homes across the country will never see the court notice taped to the door of their home. Because they will not show up for the eviction hearing that they do not know about, their possessions will be tossed out in the street..."

In short, they force people out their homes, keep them away from their homes at gunpoint and, then, post the legally-required notices on front doors that renters cannot access. But, hey, it's legal. Meanwhile, according to The Advocate "eviction restrictions by Gov. Kathleen Blanco are lifted statewide, which will speed the return of abandoned apartment buildings into commerce."

Alternet captures the human impact of these evictions by presenting Giselle Smith, "a single mom with three children" who returned to a damaged but intact house that she meticulously cleaned up and restored. Her problem? She rents. "The very day that the governor lifted the moratorium on evictions, her landlord presented her with an eviction notice. The reason? Failure to pay September's rent. The Smiths, like everyone else in the city, had been forced to evacuate, and her home had no electricity or water or sewage. She also had to pay rent in Houston for September, and didn't have money to pay rent in two places. Ms. Smith is determined to fight the eviction, and local lawyers have come to her aid. But the real reason for the eviction notice is that houses that didn't flood are at a premium and her landlord, like many others, is eager to cash in. Ms. Smith's neighbors down the block were paying $800 rent until they came home to find their rent jacked up to $1,300. By end of the week her long-time neighbors, a black family, had packed up and a white family took their place."

The last sentence contains a sentiment that I'm seeing in print more and more; it is often accompanied by the word "gentrification" . The sentiment: authorities in New Orleans/Louisiana are allowing or even encouraging the displacement of poor blacks in order to clear away and renovate areas like the Ninth Ward -- the poorest and hardest-hit section of the city. This conspiracy theory is bolstered by a remark made by Representative Richard Baker, R-L.A.: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Critics are comparing the situation in the Ninth Ward with the gentrification of the Bowry in New York City.

Posted by mac @ 11:39 AM EST [Link]

I have to admire the chutzpah. After Microsoft threatened to pull Windows out of South Korea -- a threat from which they are now backpedalling -- the CEO of Linspire offered to replace it:

"I recently sent a letter to South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun with an offer to license every computer in his nation with Linspire and all the software they'll need for basic desktop and laptop use for only US$5 million. Considering Microsoft posted sales of US$224 million in Korea for 2004 (which, by the way, was less than 1 percent of Microsoft's total global revenue of $37 billion), South Korea could save around a quarter of a billion dollars."

Posted by brad @ 11:35 AM EST [Link]

Humor: Use your mouse to drag Bush past the stuck spots.

Posted by mac @ 07:16 AM EST [Link]

Thinking ahead, the Wonkette asked for suggestions for "Scooter" Libby's prison nickname:

Without further ado, here are our top ten favorites:
10. Token
9. Crutchy
8. (imagining an Islamic conversion) Scooter X (Razr, for short)
7. Asspen
6. Target of Probes
5. Slam Dunk!
4. Yellowcakes
3. Ham Sandwich
2. I Am A Fugitive From a Cheney Gang
1. Irving

Posted by brad @ 07:11 AM EST [Link]

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Do not play Sony music CDs on your computer! Thanks to our friends the Millers for passing this warning along:

Here's a warning about a new and disturbing computer-virus issue. Latest Sony Music CDs can add a "rootkit" to your Windows-based PC -- a secret payload which, if you apply reasonable clean-up means, can disable your CD drive or worse. (There is some question whether these disks will play at all on Macs and Linux; apparently, they will play and won't "infect" 64-bit Windows -- yet.)

Amazon.com and similar sites should identify such music CDs as "CONTENT/COPY-PROTECTED CD", but can you be sure? (Or even that careful?) Until we get better news, we recommend that you do not play Sony music CDs in any Windows computer.

You can read more here; A more technical discussion is here; and the VERY technical details of the rootkit discovery and consequences (with insightful comments, as well) are at discoverer Mark Russinovich's "Mark's Sysinternals Blog".

I note that the Register article indicates that trying to remove Sony's rootkit can completely kill your Windows PC, forcing you to reinstall from scratch!  —brad

Posted by brad @ 11:29 AM EST [Link]

From the Washington Post -- alternative meanings for common words.

1. Coffee (N.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (V.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (V.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (Adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (Adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (V.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (N.), olive-flavoured mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (N.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (N.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (N.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (N.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (N), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (N.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (N.), The belief that, when you die, your spirit flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (N.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

Posted by mac @ 10:04 AM EST [Link]

More on Joan Kennedy Taylor:

An archive with several of Joan's articles.
A tribute by Charles Murray at ReasonOnline.
A tribute site. Comments are welcomed. I have left mine.
A tribute to Joan at overlawyered.com, which I reprint in full below along with embedded links. [Please click on 'more' to continue] [more]

Posted by mac @ 09:20 AM EST [Link]

You are cordially invited to browse and/or join a newly formed libertarian discussion BB

Posted by mac @ 08:41 AM EST [Link]

The ebay listing: "A rare chance to own thirty hardcover, reviewer's copies, and paperbacks of F. Paul Wilson's novels. Complete your collection and keep or sell the rest." [Please click on 'more' for items offered.] [more]

Posted by mac @ 08:38 AM EST [Link]

Interesting news article:
'Desperate' Canada to lift immigration
. It states, Immigration Minister Joe Volpe said Ottawa was "desperate for immigration" and had "to start thinking about the immigration department as a recruiting vehicle for Canada's demographic and labour market needs". Mr Volpe said Canada intended to accept 255,000 new immigrants next year and would be prepared to accept 300,000 immigrants a year within five years.

Its pro-immigrant attitude is one of the things I like best about Canada. [Please click on 'more' to continue] [more]

Posted by mac @ 07:55 AM EST [Link]

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

The ever-irreverent Wonkette quotes from today's Washington Post, ""Youthful drinking is tied to violence, risky sex, poor grades and drunken driving." And, then, notes that the Post was scooped by the satire site The Onion, which reported some while back, "A definitive causal relationship exists between drug and alcohol use and teen sex, the Center For Figuring Out Really Obvious Things reported Monday."

Posted by mac @ 09:59 AM EST [Link]

Sean Gabb has announced: On Friday the 28th October 2005, the Libertarian alliance held a symposium in honour of Dr Chris R. Tame. As you may know, Chris is suffering from bone cancer, and his doctors are able to offer only palliative care. Chris was not present at this symposium. Indeed, shortly after it, he was admitted to hospital with various complications of his treatment. You can hear the proceedings of the symposium by clicking here or here.

Posted by mac @ 09:01 AM EST [Link]

Slate has a fascinating analysis of Bush's proposed federal tax reform, which is entitled "Tax 'em Till They Turn Red", written by Daniel Gross. It opens, The president's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform will present its proposals tomorrow, and the bipartisan commission seems to have reached the following conclusion about how to improve revenue collection: Screw the blue states.

The gist of the analysis is this: [Please click on 'more' to continue] [more]

Posted by mac @ 07:45 AM EST [Link]

A blogspot has been developed for tributes to and memories of Joan Kennedy Taylor.

Posted by mac @ 04:35 AM EST [Link]

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