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August 27, 2005

Save the Internet!Email This EntryPrint This Article

HoS-XXX-5_Front.jpgMilton Mueller and the Internet Governance Project, whom we interviewed in June, has entered the political arena with a petition against U.S. interference in ICANN. (The illustration chosen has little to do with the subject, it's the cover of an Hour of Slack CD called XXX, from Subgenius.com.)

Mueller and the IGP were moved to act by the government's unilateral decision to shut-down .XXX after it was approved by ICANN. In his note to Dave Farber's list Mueller writes, "IGP urges everyone not to let the
advocates of content regulation be the only voices
heard by the Commerce Department."

Read it carefully.

Continue reading "Save the Internet!"

August 26, 2005

A Modest ProposalEmail This EntryPrint This Article

burqa.jpgHere's something I haven't seen proposed anywhere. But since I'm "just a blogger" and I can't get the thought of my head, why not?

Read on. If you dare.

Many in the U.S., on both the left and right, say our enemy is Islamic Fundamentalism. One of the hallmarks of that movement (besides violent anti-Israel rhetoric) is the systematic subjugation of women.

Wherever Sha'ria (Islamic Law) is imposed, women lose their humanity. They are killed if they're raped, killed if they so much as meet with a man unchaparoned. They are ritually abused in a horror called "female circumcision" which removes their clitoris, often without anethesia.

Under Sha'ria women are treated worse than dogs. A dog who licks a stranger's hand may get a treat. An Arab woman who even looks the wrong way at a stranger will be killed by her family. (Any devout Muslim woman who wants to argue with me that slavery is freedom, please don't waste your time.)

When the Bush Administration wanted to find support for its Iraq adventure early this year the President claimed this was a war for womens' rights. He even used an Iraqi woman as a prop at his State of the Union address. (She now wants out.)

Well, it seems to me we have the wrong Muslim refugees in the West. So here's my modest proposal:

Continue reading "A Modest Proposal"

August 12, 2005

A Great Woman Lies DyingEmail This EntryPrint This Article


Mo Mowlam is dying.

Americans who have never heard of her should remember her name. Hers is one of the great peace-making stories of our time.

By the late 1990s, Northern Ireland had been at war with itself for nearly 30 years. As Northern Ireland secretary, in 1998, she saw that the peace process could never get off the ground without the support of radicals, then held at Maze Prison.

She went to Maze Prison.

Mo Mowlam spent an hour in that prison, talking to prisoners face-to-face, eventually persuading them that the para-militaries should send representatives to peace talks.

The result was the Good Friday Agreement.

It wasn't perfect then. It's still not perfect. But it is holding. The killing has stopped. The IRA has stood down. A cycle of life is replacing the cycle of death.

Continue reading "A Great Woman Lies Dying"

July 20, 2005

The Web is Already BalkanizedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

balkans.jpgI was giving more thought to a recent item, based on Joi Ito's brilliant piece on The Internets, and it occurred to me that the fight for "One Internet" has, in many ways, already been lost.

(The term Balkanize, or Balkanization, is often used in English to refer to this splitting up, which often (as in the 1990s) is accompanied by enormous violence. This picture of the Balkans as they are today is from Theodora.com.)

Think about it. How often do you use a Web site outside your own country? If you're an American, the answer is not very often. This is true for most people.

A lot more follows.

Continue reading "The Web is Already Balkanized"

July 19, 2005

Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth (Gumby)Email This EntryPrint This Article

gumby.jpgMonty Python used to have a running gag called the Gumbys. They would put on moustaches, shorts, place diapers on their heads, and talk sheer lunacy for effect. CORRECTION: There's an update to this piece below the fold which could make this reference even-more apt.

Former FCC commissioner Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth, now a fellow of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute , is a Gumby.

This guy is so Clueless that, in an age when any wingnut can practically become a millionaire by snapping his fingers, he can apparently get his stuff published only in the New York Sun, a right-wing daily with few readers, no business model, and a crappy Web site that won't let you inside its home page without giving them tons of personal information. So no link.

Instead, you'll have to read the whole thing:

Continue reading "Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth (Gumby)"

July 15, 2005

This Week's Clue: The Good GermanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

If I had my druthers, every issue of A-Clue.Com would be chock-full of stories concerning e-commerce, Moore's Law, and mobile technology.

But as a human being, I sometimes feel compelled to state what I feel, and whatever happens as a result, happens.


For the first time in my career I've been afraid this week, afraid to write what I feel.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: The Good German"

July 13, 2005

Fast Work on London BlastsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

When four bombs went off in London during the G-8 summit my first thought (like yours) was Al Qaeda.

I didn't blog it. I'm glad of that now.

It turns out, according to British police, that the four suicidie bombers here were British citizens, natives. Three from Leeds, one from Luton. True, their parents were Pakistani immigrants, but the people who carried this out were local. The British police, who have done wonderful work on the case so far, are now trying to find out who put them up to this.

Again, let's not pre-judge. This might be an Al Qaeda "sleeper cell." But they could have been working under a British-based Islamic radical. Their targets may not have been Englishmen, but Muslims, since all four bombs went off in areas where many Muslims live.

I don't know. Neither do you. Let the system work.

But the face of this attack is looking less like Osama Bin Laden....

Continue reading "Fast Work on London Blasts"

July 08, 2005

The Moblog DisasterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The blogosphere's quick reaction to the London strikes was driven in large part by the mass market in camera phones and video phones.

Within minutes of the bombs going off pictures and short videos began appearing online. In many the smoke from the blasts was clearly visible. Cameras worked even where phone functionality was absent, and images could be sent as soon as connections returned.

A second notable fact was the willingness, especially at the BBC, to get this footage up quickly. One amateur picture, of a double-decker bus with its top end ripped off, was the site's feature picture for most of the day. (That's the picture, above, from the BBC Web site.)

Continue reading "The Moblog Disaster"

July 07, 2005

London CallingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

london blast.jpgThe blasts that hit central London today struck a city with vast experience in dealing with terror, its aftermath, and the issues underneath it.

It also represented the first time that the blogosphere actually gave better coverage to a major event than any news organization.

UPDATE: Media outlets like the BBC and GMTV are featuring calls for photos and eyewitness accounts as part of their ongoing coverage.

London suffered a decades-long IRA bombing campaign which killed hundreds. It was able to bring many bombers to justice, and discredit their cause in the eyes of their Irish-American sponsors, before finally reaching a political settlement which, while tenuous and setback-filled, is still an ongoing process.

Each time an event like this happens, moreover, we learn more about what citizens can do to cover it, and how media can adapt to citizen journalism.

The picture above, for instance, was taken by commuter Keith Tagg and quickly posted to photo-blogging sites like Picturephone. It's not a great picture, it's certainly not professional, but it does catch the immediacy of an eyewitness. That's probably why the BBC quickly adapted it in its own photo coverage, adding a second photo of commuters moving along the tracks from Alexander Chadwick.

The BBC Online site in general scored high marks for innovation and audience participation, teaching the important lesson that most people don't want to be journalists, but to be heard, and that those who listen will win their loyalty.

David Stephenson, looking to increase his exposure as a security expert, quickly linked to several important documents, including the London Strategic Emergency Plan, which guides the city's response to such events. (Does your city have one? Great follow-up story.) And John Robb offered the real low-down on all this at Global Guerillas.

Prime Minister Tony Blair also needs to be singled out here. He understands that, in a time of crisis like this, the head of government becomes, in essence, a mayor, and needs to act like one. He left the G8 Summit but didn't cancel it, quickly convening a meeting of his emergency committee, dubbed Cobra. (The Brits are much better at naming things than Americans.)

A blog called Geepster quickly linked the blast sites to Google Maps, using their API to deliver an excellent map and RSS news feed within a few hours of the event. Flickr created a quick pool of London blast photos.

Overall the blogosphere coverage of this act was an Internet year (at least) ahead of what we saw during the winter's tsunami, let alone the Madrid 3-11 blasts of 2003. The fact this happened in London had something to do with it. So did advances in blogging technology.

The question, of course, is what can we learn from this?

Continue reading "London Calling"

July 01, 2005

Has The Internet War Been Declared?Email This EntryPrint This Article

richard forno.jpgThe U.S. government has announced it will continue to control the DNS root structure, indefinitely.

Is this how the Internet War starts?

Until today the U.S. position was that it wanted to transition control of the root over to ICANN, a private entity, and several extensions were given.

Earlier this year, ICANN hesitated in extending Verisign's control of the .Net registry, following the SiteFinder scandal, where Verisign redirected "page not found" errors to a site it controlled (and sold ads against). Control was finally given, through 2011, but Verisign's ethical attitudes have not changed. As we noted earlier this week, it is Verisign that is behind the Crazy Frog Scandal.

Some felt that ICANN caved under U.S. government pressure. What you have here is assurance that such pressure will continue to be effective, and on behalf of a very corrupt company. If that is not seen as a provocation by the ITU I will be very surprised.

So how can that result in Internet War?

The problem, as former ICANN board member Karl Auerbach noted to Dave Farber's list today, "the only reason that the NTIA root zone is 'authoritative' is because a lot of people adhere to it voluntarily." Security expert Richard Forno (top) noted, to the same list, that "the timing is weird, coming as it does only a short time before the forthcoming meeting of the UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)."

I would assert that the timing is not weird at all. The U.S. government has told the U.N. that it can shove any thoughts of international control over the DNS where the sun don't shine. It has, in effect, thrown down a gauntlet and dared the international community to challenge it.

More after the break.

Continue reading "Has The Internet War Been Declared?"

June 13, 2005

LostEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I'm going to say something really controversial and if that's not what you're up for this morning, please don't click below.

Continue reading "Lost"

June 10, 2005

This Week's Clue: Destroying the VillageEmail This EntryPrint This Article

vietnam war.jpgI guess I felt a little down this week -- about the direction of technology, about the economy, about a lot of things.

So the readers of A-Clue.com got an earful. (You can get one too -- always free.)


There are times when history, like television, goes into re-runs.

We have literally turned Iraq into another Vietnam. But we've seen this movie before, so when Rumsfeld does his McNamara imitations, or Bush plays like LBJ's dumber brother, we change the channel.

Yet the fact is that when history repeats (unlike television) it does so in spades, in triplicate.

World War I was horrible. World War II was worse.

Iraq is not the only Vietnam repeat out there. We're doing the same thing with the Internet.

We're ignoring history. We know what would work to secure our computers, and the networks they run on. But we don't act. So we get this incremental escalation, this drip-drip-drip that leaves us, in the end, worse off than we would be had we taken decisive action at the start.

There are laws on the books that should deal with spam, with spyware, and with the problems of identity theft. They can be found under headings like fraud, theft, and fiduciary responsibility. Nothing is being done today that wasn't done before - only the means have changed.

Instead of moving against these problems together, as was attempted in the 1990s, we're leaving everyone on their own, and sometimes the cure winds up being worse than the disease.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Destroying the Village"

May 26, 2005

The Way of Hollywood is MadnessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

When will we get effective political pushback against Hollywood's absolutism on copyright?

I once thought it would happen when people were jailed for linking.

I was wrong.

The filing of criminal charges against the people who ran Elite Torrents, a BitTorrent "tracking site," and the complete take-down of the site, has caused few ripples. Washington remains as absolutist as ever.

Instead, it's technology that retains our confidence. BitTorrent is now becoming trackerless. No trackers, no tracking sites to take down, no track linkers to toss in jail.

But that's not good enough for me. This is like depending on super weapons to defend us in an atomic age. Without peace, soon, between copyright owners and copyright users, the Internet will be effectively destroyed.

It doesn't take much imagination to see Al Qaeda propaganda, or even terrorist plans, being distributed via a Torrent. Especially a trackerless torrent.

From there it is a very quick move to seeing politicians equate file sharing with terrorism, Torrent users with Al Qaeda, and demands for a complete shut-down on any technology that can benefit the enemy.

Continue reading "The Way of Hollywood is Madness"

May 25, 2005

The Fog of BlogsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

nick kristof.jpgOften the very thing you criticize others for is your own blind spot.

This was never more true than in Nick Kristof's piece (that's him at the left) yesterday called Death by a Thousand Blogs. China's authorities can't keep up with the content produced by broadband, he says. Their legitimacy is drowning in the resulting revelations.

He could have added the impact of cellphones to that. The ideographic Chinese language lends itself to delivering great meaning, even in small files, as the country's cell phone novella make clear. With 90 million new phone users just last year, with every year's phones becoming more data-ready, there's no way the Great Firewall of China can stand.

But what's good for the goose is also sauce for the gander. Kristof's very point speaks to the bankruptcy of pulling his column, and those of others, behind a paid firewall. They are too easy to replace. Their financial value is minimal compared to their value to the discussion. Losing the latter to gain some of the former is truly cutting off your nose to spite your face.

This is not the only lesson.

Continue reading "The Fog of Blogs"

ScrewedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

screwed.gifJuan Cole today headlines a think piece on Iraq, "Sometimes You are Just Screwed."

I don't disagree. The insurgency has become a meat grinder, but bugging out would mean total defeat. The Army lacks volunteers, and there's no appetite for a draft. It is (as I feared it would be years ago) a Tar Baby, and it's destroying our economy as well as our military.

If that were all that was going wrong it would be bad enough. Vietnam cost 58,000 American lives and Iraq has already wounded one-third that number -- over 12,000 troops, over 6,000 contractors.

Getting into a second Vietnam is bad enough. But that's just one of three terrible fates facing the U.S. today.

Continue reading "Screwed"

April 25, 2005

Tear Down The Great Wall of SilenceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

mao zedong.jpg On the surface, the current upset between China and Japan seems ridiculous. (Illustration from Paulnoll.com. Mr. Noll was a corporal during the Korean conflict.)

That the heirs of Mao , that the Butchers of Beijing should lecture anyone about human rights seems absurd.

China puts more people to death each year than any country in the world. (Yes, even more than Texas.) China is a brutal dictatorship that oppresses its people as no other country, the most Totalitarian regime on Earth. My mentioning this may get Corante blocked to all of China, by the state's firewall system, the most extensive Internet censorship regime on the planet.

By contrast, Emperor Hirohito and the brutal system he led are dead. Japan acknowledged its sins in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco and has since been a functioning democracy where politicians must accomodate the views of voters. Japan's Constitution forbids it to make war on its neighbors. Japan contributes more to good causes than any other national governnment.

This is power politics. China is pushing Japan out of the world power picture, letting Taiwan know that resistance is futile, and successfully challenging America's status as a Great Power. Just 12 years ago we were The Hyperpower. Now we're becoming second rate, losing our status to tyrants.

The reaction in the U.S. to all this has been silence. Deafening silence.

Few U.S. outlets have covered the story. The right-wing Cybercast "News" Service actually offered a balanced perspective. The New York Times offers only a fearful editorial on possible Chinese revaluation of the Yuan -- at another time this would be called appeasement.

The reason for this silence is not subject to dispute.

Continue reading "Tear Down The Great Wall of Silence"

March 21, 2005

Terrorism or Freedom FighterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

kofi annan 2.jpgI am a supporter of the U.N. I want it to have real power and influence.

This makes me a minority among my countrymen. So be it.

But I found myself troubled in reading this definition of terrorism today from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

"any action constitutes terrorism if it is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act".

In effect this prohibits any violent action against any tyrannical government, and puts the U.N. on record supporting that tyranny.

Continue reading "Terrorism or Freedom Fighter"

March 15, 2005

IBM Suit Demonstrates Hollowing of MilitaryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Folks who should know better, like Steve Gilliard, are gleefully piling on a story from New York about an IBM executive who was fired because his Reserve commitment rendered him worthless to the company after September 11.

The story, by columnis Denis Hamill (left) is a righteous bust. IBM is going to lose the suit. IBM deserves to lose the suit. And the only reason I get to write about this at all is because IBM is a tech company.

But the issue goes deeper than any one employer.

Continue reading "IBM Suit Demonstrates Hollowing of Military"

March 04, 2005

Fall of the American EmpireEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Note: The following was published today in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com, which celebrates its 8th birthday today. Join us -- always free.


In his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" (no relation to the record company whose logo is to the right) Edward Gibbon notes that the causes of Rome's problems were not debated at the time.

Continue reading "Fall of the American Empire"

February 16, 2005

Real Reporters Pack ToothbrushesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There is much commentary emerging from a court ruling stating that reporters (like the one at right) must testify to a grand jury or go to jail.

Editor & Publisher wants a federal shield law. I have been a journalist for 25 years, and had the kant of a "journalist's privilege" drilled into me from the start. A shield law would be a good thing, but only if it protected all reporters, not just those few with jobs at major corporations.

But do you know what the reporter's privilege really is?

You have the right to go to jail. You also have the right to be killed in the line of duty, as dozens were in Iraq, some by U.S. soldiers. You have the right to be tortured in many countries around the world, and to rot in jail hoping someone can get you out.

These are your rights. No, these are your responsibilities as a journalist. You have the right to fight for the right to do your job. This is why journalists, the ones willing to accept these rights and responsibilities, are among the most important people on Earth. We know why the caged bird sings, because often it's us.

So if I quote you anonymously, and I promise you anonymity in exchange for your statements, I will protect that. I will risk jail for you, I will risk torture for you, I will risk death for you. If I decide your statements are that vital, and your anonymity that valuable, that's what I will do for you as a journalist. That's my job.

Continue reading "Real Reporters Pack Toothbrushes"

January 25, 2005

Bush's Great FavorEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Administration has begun its campaign against Iran through infiltration (which it denies) and by trying to cut Iran's arguments off the Internet. (Picture from CNN.)

This is an immense favor, both to Iran and to the neighboring Arab world. It forces Iran to seek alternate Internet server access for its arguments, and it will. Maybe these will be in Bahrain or Dubai (I'm guessing the former). Maybe they will be in the Ukraine. Or Russia. Or China.

Continue reading "Bush's Great Favor"

January 24, 2005

Bush's Robot ArmyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I've been re-reading the last in Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, called Homeward Bound, and I'm once again struck by the similarities between the U.S. military in Iraq and the Lizards of the story.

The Lizards (not to give the story away) invade Earth i 1942, at the height of World War II. They have the weapons of 2000, Earth has what it had. The overall theme of the piece (which has now run into its seventh 500-page book) is human ingenuity vs. reliance on technology.

I don't know what they're thinking with this latest battle robot. (The picture, which I'm confident betrays no military secrets, is from the BBC.) But I'm pretty certain we're going to have some captured, disabled electronically and then grabbed under covering fire. The wireless link between the operator and the bot is the weak link.

And what happens then?

Continue reading "Bush's Robot Army"