Please note my disclaimer before reading these.

Orwell on Newspapers
Human Civilization
Sun Tsu
Crossing the Rubicon
Incessant Propaganda
Abandoning Reason
Crowded Planet?
Moscow Rules
Interpreting Rotten Tomatoes
Big Agriculture
The UNIX Mindset
Popular Opinion
Memorial Day Missive
High Plains Drifter
Advice for Aspies
Spreading the Wealth Around
Fixing Detroit
Credo of the Dollar
Four Criteria For Success
What is Fair?
Leadership versus Micromanagement
The Illusion of Competence
States Rights and the REAL-ID Act
The Difference Between a Democracy and a Republic
Interview with Gordon Moore
Aliens Cause Global Warming
Economics: The Dismal Science
The End of the Golden Age of Crypto
The Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse
Murphy's Rules of Combat
General McCaffrey's Desert Storm Rules
Network Attacks
Things You Can't Say

Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various "party lines."
    -- George Orwell, Looking Back on the Spanish War, 1943

The story we are told by the establishment archeologists and anthropologists has many holes, but no one is allowed to raise any questions ‐ all such questions are simply ignored.

According to the establishment, the present human race Homo sapiens came out of Africa, like the preceding races; this was supposed to have happened anytime between 200,000 to 75,000 years ago. Then they spread over all the continents; the present race was the first to enter the Americas, because the Bering straights were frozen during the last Ice Age. Then as the ice thawed and receded, humans developed agriculture, around 12,000 years ago, and then metallurgy, and then in the next 12,000 years, reached the present levels.

I will not go into the issues related to various human races; I will only take up the growth of civilisation story on face value. Gobekli Tepe in Turkey has a stone structure, 12,000 years old, before agriculture was developed, before humans had metal tools, but it shows clear evidence of metal tools. How can we explain this? Various theories are advanced, each more convoluted than the previous one.

Ok, if humans could develop to the present level in 12,000 years, and they arose about 200,000 years ago, why did not they give birth to civilisations for tens of thousands of years? Some archaeologists try to explain this away by putting an imaginary boundary at about 50,000 years before present, that was the time when humans gained the power of speech. There does not seem to be any evidence to support this, or there is no proof that the other Homo species did not have languages. Humans could have had the capacity for languages for more than 50,000 years; after all, other Homo species controlled fire, learnt cooking, and if I remember right, used clothes as well. This artificial barrier at 50,000 years is to explain away the lack of human civilisations for thousands and thousands of years.

But even then another question arises: the last Ice Age started about 35,000 years ago and lasted till about 12,000 years ago. Therefore there was a gap of 15,000 years between the development of speech (50,000 years ago) and the beginning of the last Ice Age (35,000 years ago). Humans have not changed anatomically in the last 50,000 years. If humans could develop civilisations in the past 12,000 years, why couldn't they do so in that gap of 15,000 years? In other words, how are we sure that there were no civilisations before the last Ice Age?

Much of the coastal lands of the last Ice Age are now sunk under the seas, when the ice melted. This is generally estimated to have caused a rise of about 100 m in the sea level. And humans originally migrated along the coasts (coasts offer better environment in an Ice Age). All those routes and settlements are now under water. Are we searching for evidence of habitations there?

    --Internet Commenter

Overconfident interpretation by shouty people who don't know as much as they think they do has a name in science, the Dunning-Kruger effect. In 1999, David Dunning and Justin Kruger, psychologists at Cornell University, had a brilliant insight that seemed to explain why incompetent people are so annoying: their very incompetence blinds them to how incompetent they are. To test this hypothesis they had dozens of Cornell undergrads take tests in logic, grammar, and (my favorite) the ability to identify humor. Then they asked the students to rate themselves on how well they thought they did. To no one's surprise (but to our collective satisfaction) the worst performers - those least knowledgeable - routinely rated themselves as experts at what they were doing. This isn't a new problem. Even Darwin complained that "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge."

    --Burn, Herman Pontzer (2021)

Sun Tzu:

(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?
(2) Which of the two generals has most ability?
(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
(5) Which army is stronger?
(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

"Crossing the Rubicon" was not an act of disobedience or trespassing or even insubordination. Senator Cato's resolution demanded that Caesar be stripped of his governorship of Gaul, his legions be disbanded, that he return to Rome to be tried for all manner of crimes...including treason, murder, theft, unlawful warfare...very likely to be put to death after show trials and humiliation.

Caesar was at the time co-counsel with Pompey, one of the two rulers of Republican Rome. Crossing the Rubicon was not mere disobedience of the Roman Senate, but an act of "gross treason," the soldiers not being permitted by Roman law under arms in the vicinity of Rome (or even in uniform), except for a Triumph parade.

Caesar was left with no choice but to march on Rome or be put to death. He was a threat to the establishment because he was of noble blood, had become extremely wealthy by his conquest of Gaul, had the love of the people, and the support of his soldiers. Civil war was inevitable.

Incessant propaganda results in one of four reactions:
  • The stupid and the indifferent ignore it. (Ω)
  • The average resent it. (Δ)
  • The midwits embrace it as Gospel. (Γ)
  • The intelligent reject it. (Α, Β, Σ)


A related point, central in Ellul's thesis, is that modern propaganda cannot work without "education"; Thus he reverses the widespread notion that education is the best prophylactic against propaganda. On the contrary, he says, education, or what usually goes by that word in the modern world, is the absolute prerequisite for propaganda. In fact, education is largely identical with what Ellul calls "pre-propaganda" - the conditioning of minds with vast amounts of incoherent information, already dispensed for ulterior and posing as "facts" and as "education." Ellul follows through by designating intellectuals as virtually the most vulnerable of all to modern propaganda, for three reasons: (1) they absorb the largest amount of secondhand, unverifiable information; (2) they feel a compelling need to have an opinion on every important question of our time, and thus easily succumb to opinions offered to them by propaganda on all such indigestible pieces of information; (3) they consider themselves capable of "judging for themselves." They literally need propaganda.
--Introduction to Propagandas by Jacques Ellul (1965)

The world needs reason, and reason has been rejected because reality has been rejected. Without objective reality, anyone's views are just as valid as anyone else's, anything goes, and the world collapses in chaos as we are witnessing today. As Ayn Rand pointed out, "when men abandon reason, physical force becomes their only means of dealing with one another and of settling disagreements."
    --Charlotte Cushman

Away from the coastal peripheries, "Diversity" is an almost exclusively urban-core phenomena, and those who've lived their whole lives without ever leaving their metropolitan area have a completely warped view of reality, even apart from immersion in newstand tripe.

Drive forty minutes out of Minneapolis in any direction and you'll be in farmland. Another five minutes off a main county blacktop, park and get out to stand in a spot without another soul within miles. This is red-pill rural hickland: eight-foot corn stalks, crickets, cicadas, growling thunder, and Ford F-250 pickup trucks sharing honkytonk and Skynyrd.

The Malthusian hypochondriacs labor ceaselessly to present their theory of an overcrowded planet in dire need of repeated Thanos finger-snaps, when an hour out of your day exploring is all it takes to bring home the fact that this remains a largely empty planet. If yellow dent-corn were made human palatable, ten counties in southwestern Wisconsin would feed double the current population.

There are estimated to be around 1080 atoms in the known, observable universe. This is about 2266, a number that will fit into 34 8-bit bytes. So, we could have a unique number for each atom in the universe in only 34 bytes.

The Central Intelligence Agency developed a set of unwritten rules of engagement for their spies during the Cold War called The Moscow Rules.

  1. Assume nothing.
  2. Never go against your gut.
  3. Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
  4. Don't look back; you are never completely alone.
  5. Go with the flow, blend in.
  6. Vary your pattern and stay within your cover.
  7. Lull them into a sense of complacency.
  8. Don't harass the opposition.
  9. Pick the time and place for action.
  10. Keep your options open.

In 1967, when Polish soldier-in-exile Rafal Gan-Ganowicz (1932-2002) was asked how it felt to take human life, he responded:

"I wouldn't know, I've only ever killed communists."

  Low Critic ScoreHigh Critic Score
Low Audience Score The movie is a turkey The movie is leftist propaganda
High Audience Score the movie is good, but politically incorrect OR the movie is 'meh' but so politically incorrect that it outweighs any badness the movie really good; it's either so good that critics can't pan it without losing credibility or it doesn't push any obvious buttons

If someone pays for an accurate poll, he's going to keep it private, for his own advantage. If someone pays to release a poll, it was done not to measure your opinion, but to influence it. Again, it's for the payer's own advantage.


Richard Nixon, probably the most experienced president we have had in my lifetime, let the cat out of the bag on public opinion polls. The polls do not drive voting but they do drive campaign fund raising. When the polls creep up, the "cash register really rings" was his expression.

Of course, the polling organizations are historically biased and it is no secret nor is it news. Harris was always the Democrat poll and Roper was always the Republican poll. New polls have been created to try to create the appearance of objectivity and accuracy, but generally they tip their cards pretty fast and everyone notices. NONE of the polling organizations report raw data. They always adjust and stage manage the results, add for this factor and take away for other factors. Figures do not lie but LIARS figure.

1918 is still the largest grain harvest in US history, accomplished almost entirely by small holders using muscle power.

Modern agriculture is marvelously efficient of labor. It is horribly wasteful of just about every other resource, including fertility.

Don't mindlessly repeat the propaganda of Cargill, ADM and Monsanto. America would easily be fed, with an enormous surplus, without their help.

[See Feed Grains Database]

[Also, Canadian Wheat]

We have no idea what's really going on with the climate even recently because the data we have is a joke. Have you ever actually looked at the coverage of weather stations on Earth? Have you ever looked at what kind of error must be involved in the data those stations collect? These clowns are trying to show a tenth of a degree of warming when their error is necessarily on the order of whole degrees. That sort of thing doesn't fly in freshman science classes and it doesn't fly anywhere else.

And then they turn around and try to say we know to within a degree what the climate was like to a high degree of accuracy going back over a hundred years ago based on proxies. Give me a break. Didn't any of these scientists learn about error analysis? It's generally emphasized in first semester physics for science majors.

Even if I grant that there is net warming happening, we can't say that's a bad thing with any certainty at all. The earth has had much higher concentrations of CO2 than it has now (going way back, but while complex life was around), and it was warmer than it is now within recorded history. Life survived. Thrived, even. The earth system is very well buffered. It is not going to see some doomsday runaway scenario because of a little CO2. To suggest otherwise is absurd.

The honest answer about what's going on with anthropogenic climate change is "we have no idea and our models suck." I need a lot more than that to sign on to crippling the first world economy and hitching our wagon to retarded unscalable energy projects that only exist to line the pockets of politicians and their buddies.

    via Internet message board

Anyone who clings to the historically untrue - and thoroughly immoral - doctrine that, "violence never settles anything" I would advise to conjure the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedom.

    -- Robert Heinlein


Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.

    --Brad Pitt (as Don "Wardaddy" Collier) in Fury (2014)

Ineptocracy (in-ep-toc-ra-cy) - A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

From a Classic Computer mailing list:
What is so tough is the way that the shell expands them, not the command. I am assured this is wonderfully useful for many people but for me it's a complete PITA. For instance, I frequently need to do things like:

REN *.log *.old

... which works fine on DOS, Windows and most other OSs but doesn't work on Unix/Linux.

In general, because file extensions are a sort of grafted-on afterthought on Unix, I find it handles them very poorly, whereas they were and remain integral to DOS-based and Windows-based systems - i.e. about 95% of the machines I support.

"Poorly" is in the eye of the beholder; I tend to assume that the wildcard is just a literal substitution. Unix doesn't support a many-to-many reassignment for "mv" (I suppose you could call that a deficit), so the wildcard wouldn't do anything useful in any case.
Well, quite. In general, stuff that I actually want to do, which I did routinely on CP/M and VMS and PC DOS/MS-DOS/DR-DOS and OS/2 and $WINDOWS just doesn't work on *Nix, or worse still, it does something weird which is generally disastrous.

Unix aficionadi generally at this point respond by telling me that [a] I am clearly deeply retarded and [b] but that they can do

^ wibble !!!$<<ptang %%$&whoops_ _[[fling$42]] #{?~~} > kapow

which takes the all the logfiles of something I've never heard of in over two decades in IT, finds the entries from the Thursday before the last Easter which fell the week before a full moon, extracts all French-speaking visitors with brown eyes, and builds a concordance of the proper nouns they searched for in the sort order of early Mongolian tomb script.

They then proclaim that this clearly makes shell far superior and express bewilderment that I don't ever want to do this, but that I do want to bulk-rename files, because that's clearly weird and obscure and never happens.

From the 1995 movie 12 Monkeys:

Jeffrey Goines:   You know what crazy is? Crazy is majority rules. Yeah. Ah. Take germs for example.

James Cole:   Germs?

Jeffrey Goines:   Uh huh. In the 18th century - no such thing. Nada, nothing. Who would ever imagine such a thing? No sane person, anyway. Ah.

Along comes this doctor...ah...ah...ah...Semmelweis! Semmelweis. Semmelweis comes along. He's trying to convince people - well, other doctors, mainly, that there are these teeny tiny invisible bad things called germs that get into your body and make you sick. Huh?

He's trying to get doctors to wash their hands. What is this guy? Crazy? Teeny timy invisible...what do you call them? Uh, uh, germs? Huh? What?

Now, cut to the 20th century.

Last week, as a matter of fact, right before I got dragged into this hellhole. I go in to, ah, order a burger in this fast food joint. The guy drops it on the floor.

Jim, he picks it up, he wipes it off, he hands it to me like it's all okay.

What about the germs, I say?

He says, I don't believe in germs. Germs is just a plot they made up so they can sell you disinfectants and soaps.

Now, he's crazy, right? See? Ah.

There's no right, there's no wrong, there's only popular opinion.

Our normal expectations about reality are created by a social consensus. We are taught how to see and understand the world.The trick of socialization is to convince us that the descriptions we agree upon define the limits of the real world.What we call reality is only one way of seeing the world, a way that is supported by social consensus.

    -- Carlos Castaneda

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it.

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the public is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

    -- Edward Bernays

From a comments page:

Government is simply out of control at all levels.

Not to underestimate or under-appreciate the price that U.S. veterans have paid - ostensibly in the cause of freedom - but the cold, hard fact is: America no longer even resembles a free country.

Today, we live in a morally as well as financially bankrupt, socialist, police state overrun with handout-seeking, illiterate, indigent, criminal aliens; ruled by a narcissistic Marxist miscreant who assaults what is left of our freedoms with alacrity as he delights in the decline of American influence, affluence and exceptionalism.

The freedoms our veterans fought for have been sacrificed on the fallacious alters of security, diversity and social justice.

National holidays, anthems, parades, fireworks and pledges of allegiance no longer honor our veterans. They mock them, for they pretend that their sacrifices, which did in fact protect our freedoms from enemies foreign, also preserved our freedoms from enemies domestic, which, tragically, they did not.

From the 1973 movie High Plains Drifter:

Preacher: See here, you can't turn all these people out into the night. It is inhuman, brother. Inhuman!
The Stranger: I'm not your brother.
Preacher: We are all brothers in the eyes of God.
The Stranger: All these people, are they your sisters and brothers?
Preacher: They most certainly are.
The Stranger: Then you won't mind if they come over and stay at your place, will you?

From a mailing list:

Or, you could accept that Asperger's Syndrome is a load of nonsense made up by a desperate but unremarkable doctor wanting to make his mark in his chosen field, and used to excuse an entirely fixable lack of social skills.

Think you might be an Aspie? Here's some free self-help advice - as Chuck Palahniuk might say, "You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake." Furthermore, the world does not now, did not in the past and will not in the future revolve around you and your needs. In a related effect, no one is going to change the way they behave just to accomodate you, and nor should they have to.

As a friend of mine said many years ago after his parents took him to a clinical psychologist, "So it turns out I have Asperger's, and all this time here was me thinking I was just being a dick."

    --Gordon Pierce

What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

    --Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931

From the Daily Reckoning:

Neither Mr. Obama nor none of the candidates for Mayor of Detroit (the last mayor is doing time in a federal penitentiary) has asked for our advice. We will give it anyway. Want to save Detroit? Here's how:

Abolish all welfare of all sorts...no unemployment insurance...no child tax credits...no welfare...no foodstamps...no nothing, except privately-sponsored charities. Close the public schools. Kick out all the bureaucrats and all federal and state employees. Abolish all rules concerning employment - no minimum wages, no overtime, discriminate all you want. Require all residents to say please and thank you...dress properly...and sneer at people who don't seem to be gainfully employed or polite. Declare the city an Open City and Free Trade Zone. In exchange for cutting all federal aid programs, eliminate federal and state taxes for people living in the city. Allow unlimited immigration into the city...giving all immigrants a U.S. passport after 5 years of residency. Levy a flat 10% tax to pay for basic services. Eliminate elections...have the city controlled by a town council composed of 10 citizens chosen at random.

Within five years, Detroit would be the most dynamic city in the nation.

Originally seen on Club Orlov:

I believe in worldwide Ponzi schemes and universal gullibility. I believe that reckless lending can be cured by reckless borrowing and that fraudulent borrowing can be healed by fraudulent lending. I believe that a housing bubble fueled by loose credit can be corrected by easing credit. I believe that each trillion of hallucinated dollars that disappears in a puff of Wall Street smoke then always reappears magically from behind a Treasury Department mirror.

I believe in America's almighty financial geniuses and monetary officials, who destroy wealth indiscriminately and indefinitely, and whose kingdom shall have no end. It is divine justice that those who cause financial catastrophes are rewarded with public money, while innocent bystanders are punished in their stead. I believe that central banks can print all the money anyone will ever need. I believe that if one stimulus package does not work, the next one surely will.

I believe in the redeeming power of financial complexity. I believe that hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds are righteous to enter into incomprehensible contracts having convoluted ownership and no inherent value. And I believe that opaque, secretive companies which pretend to insure those investments are offering a valuable service, even if this requires the use of public money.

I believe that economic stability and confidence will return when every failing business is bailed out, with no failure too small to be left behind. I believe that all dying institutions shall be consolidated, merging the smaller basket cases with the larger ones. The lion and the lamb shall lie down together in a new spirit of national competitiveness.

I believe that the end of days shall come when there is only one institution left, comprehensively unified, far too big to fail, owning everything and controlling nothing. All shall come and supplicate before its holy ATM machines, for they are subtle and quick to anger. It is in this one true financial institution that I put my faith, truly gigantic, truly bankrupt, amen.

NOMAC was an early, practical demonstration of a direct-sequence spread spectrum system in the early 1960s. Rake was another early, successful concept to improve the signal-to-noise ratio in a receiver (reducing the effects of multipath interference).

In The NOMAC and Rake Systems (in Volume 5, Number 3 [1992] of the Lincoln Laboratory Journal), William Ward identifies four factors that are relevant to the engineering challenges of today:

Lincoln Laboratory's work on NOMAC and Rake flourished because of the confluence of four distinct factors:
  1. The information-theoretic work of C.E. Shannon and the spectral-estimation work of N. Wiener had filtered down to engineers with strong academic backgrounds who were primarily interested in applications. Old problems were seen in a new light.
  2. The increasing availability of electronic components and know-how for digital circuitry had made it practical to build devices that would otherwise have remained only concepts.
  3. There were heightened military needs, and substantial resources were available to carry out full-scale development and the testing of promising ideas.
  4. A comparatively small group of people (never numbering more than 15 to 20) who possessed diverse skills and talents and who interacted closely, continuously, and constructively under enlightened management performed the actual development work.

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat and was for distribution of all wealth. She felt deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican which she expressed openly.

One day she was challenging her father on his beliefs and his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and more welfare programs. In the middle of her heart-felt diatribe based upon the lectures she had from her far left professors at her school, he stopped her and asked her point blank, how she was doing in school.

She answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain. That she had to study all the time, never had time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend and didn't really have many college friends because of spending all her time studying. That she was taking a more difficult curriculum.

Her father listened and then asked, 'How is your friend Mary?'

She replied, 'Mary is barely getting by.' She continued, 'All she has is barely a 2.0 GPA' adding, 'and all she takes are easy classes and she never studies.' But to explain further she continued emotionally, 'But Mary is so very popular on campus, college for her is a blast, she goes to all the parties all the time and very often doesn't even show up for classes because she is too hung over.'

Her father then asked his daughter, 'Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct a 1.0 off your 4.0 GPA and give it to Mary, who only has a 2.0.' He continued, 'That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.'

The daughter was visibly shocked by the fathers suggestion and angrily fired back, 'That wouldn't be fair! I worked really hard for mine, I did without and Mary has done little or nothing, she played while I worked real hard!'

The father slowly smiled and said, 'Welcome to the Republican Party .'

Back in 1936 or so, Dwight D. Eisenhower, like a lot of company grade officers, attended the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning. That course was and still is a back breaker. Low marks will kill your career. Fail that and you can forget the Command and General Staff School and the War College. Back then it was even worse because you were graded by Joseph W. Stilwell and George C. Marshal, two of the toughest men ever to run that course.

Many of the exercises were of a practical nature and one of them involved a river crossing.

Now the Army doesn't teach you how to cross a river. If you do it without Engineer support, it's cold, miserable and usually dangerous.

All of the officers who attempted the river crossing generally did odd things like trying to find a point to ford, and various other things that did more harm than good as far as getting across the river in the most expeditious manner possible.

Now Eisenhower didn't know the first thing about how to get a company of soldiers to cross a river. Most of the places he served in didn't have enough water to fill a bathtub, let alone a ditch. And there he was, suddenly faced with getting a rifle company across one.

He knew that he wasn't going to figure it within the time constraints of the exercise. However, he did reason that the rifle company he was commanding had done the job before.

So, what Eisenhower did was to find the First Sergeant of that company and told him, "First Sergeant, take the company across the river." Then he just did what everybody else was doing while they were crossing the river.

From Fred On Everything, with some trimming.

In war, much of the explanation is that the intelligence services seem peculiarly unable to find out what is going on in the world; if they do find out, they are likely to be ignored. No one notices this because spies are wrapped in an emotional mantle of eerie potency that distracts attention from their dismal record. In part the unmerited admiration they enjoy springs from the secrecy that enshrouds them: We don't know what they are doing (and neither do they). The CIA, NSA, Mossad, OGPU, NKVD, KGB, DIA, Savak, MI6--all loom relentless, omniscient, coldly effective, almost spectral -- like Batman. You can't run and you can't hide. The Shadow knows. They have the dark appeal of ruthlessness and are thought to have secret powers deriving from mysterious electronics and poisons.

At a second glance, they are unimpressive. The Korean War took Washington utterly by surprise as did, later, the Chinese intervention. The CIA completely miscalculated Cuban support for the Bay of Pigs. (Not for nothing is it known as the Children's Agency.) In Viet Nam the entire Viet resistance caught the intel people by surprise, and there was the comic-opera business of the Son Tay Raid. (American forces swooped into Hanoi to rescue prisoners of war, the intelligence people not having noticed that said prisoners had been moved.) The rise of the Berlin Wall surprised the intel people, as did its fall. Indeed our multibillion dollar, Crayed-to-the-gills, mathematized, secret-satellited three-letter outfits missed the coming collapse of the Soviet Union, their chief object of study. And they missed 9/11. And the Iraqi resistance. And their success in finding Bin Laden captivates the imagination. And...

The illusion of competence.

How can such incontinently funded agencies of very smart people accomplish so little? I can guess. Americans love technology, at which they are very good. The spookies confuse phenomenally advanced technology for the gathering of data with knowing what to do with it once they have it. They then try to analyze it for those who are supposed to pay attention to it, but won't unless it fits their preconceptions. Too many geeks, too few feet on the ground.

Spooks spend thirty years sitting in secret rooms behind five cipherlocks, associating only with people trained like themselves, and unable to talk things over with anyone in the real world on penalty of going to Leavenworth. They've probably all got Captain Marvel Secret Decoder Rings. None of this engenders judgement.

The illusion of competence.


The following interview was broadcast on All Things Considered, carried by National Public Radio on Friday, March 7, 2008. You can hear this segment at npr.org.

Now a story about a fight where the rights of states are colliding with a law designed to improve national security.

It's about Real-ID.

A Federal law requires states to issue tamper-proof identification cards to residents, but a number of states have balked.

The Department of Homeland Security has told them that if they don't file for an extension by the end of this month, residents of those states won't be able to use their drivers licenses to board planes starting in May.

Democrat Brian Schweitzer of Montana is one governor ardently opposed to the REAL-ID Act, and he joins us now from Helena.

NPR:   Governor Schweitzer, why are you against Real-ID?

Gov:   Well, we're putting up with the federal government on so many fronts and nearly every month they come out with another hair-brained scheme; an unfunded mandate to tell us that our life is going to be better if we'll just buckle under on some other kind of rule or regulation and we usually just play along for a while. We ignore them for as long as we can and we try not to bring it to a head, but if it comes to a head we've found that it's best to just tell them to "go to hell" and run the state the way you want to run your state.

Unfortunately, this time around they really have a hair-brained scheme. This is the way it works: this REAL-ID that Congress has come up with was supposed to help us in immigration, in homeland security; also supposed to stop the identity theft.

Come on.

These REAL-IDs won't even be available for another, what are they saying, seven years? eight years?

There is no REAL-ID.

So they're telling these states that you have to take the first step towards a secure ID and that first step is to send us a letter that says that you will accept our provisions some time in the future when we decide what those will be.

NPR:   Do you understand the national security concerns here? I mean, the argument is made that during the attacks on 9/11 the hijackers had lots and lots of state licenses and government ID cards and the idea here is, let's have a standardized system, everybody has the same standards and there's some accountability here.

Gov:   Almost all of those hijackers on 9/11 were qualified to have a REAL-ID.

This is the way the system works. You walk into a driver's license bureau in a state some place and you present them with a birth certificate. The problem is, is that we don't have a standardized process of birth certificates across this country.

You give me a half a dozen high school students and a Kinkos and I'll show you a bunch of birth certificates that look very, very real.

So, you start with a little bit of garbage, and then as you move through the process, by the time you get to Congress and you present them with your REAL-ID, or you get on an airplane from New York to Chicago and you present a REAL-ID, it appears as though you have the "gold standard" of identification.

Well, so that everyone understands, the Montana Legislature passed a bill that instructs the Governor and the Attorney General not to implement any provisions of the REAL-ID. And this is the only thing that I know of that has united the farthest left to the farthest right in Montana politics.

There was not one dissenting vote out of 150 legislators. They simply said, 'We're fed up with the federal government coming up with kooky IDs that do not make us more secure.'

This is the federal government telling a state must do something and you must pay for it. Well, thanks for playing, Montana's not in.

NPR:   Well, Governor Schweitzer, what happens in May if somebody from your state wants to get on a commercial flight?

Gov:   They're going to show them their Montana driver's license and they're going to get on that commercial flight and nothing's going to happen. Now look-

NPR:   But that's supposed to be the deadline.

Gov:   Blah, blah, blah, supposed to be the deadline.

There's nothing in the Constitution that tells Homeland Security that they're supposed to do this or they must do this. In fact, there isn't even any actions by Congress that says this is the specific letter that you must have. This is another bluff by some bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., and thank God we live a long ways from Washington, D.C.

NPR:   Well, Governor Schweitzer, it's great to talk to you, thanks so much.

Gov:   Thank you.

NPR:   That's Governor Brian Schweitzer, Democrat from Montana.

(Robert Siegel) The Department of Homeland Security sent us a statement today that says, in part, "Showing up at the airport with a Montana driver's license will be no better than showing up without any id."

This op-ed appeared in the June 12, 1990, edition of the San Jose Mercury News. Although written during a time when Eastern European nations were first struggling to escape their Communist past, it is equally applicable to the current efforts to install "Democracy" in southwest Asia.

From One Dictator To Another
by John Sandler

Those who are cheering the clamor for democracy in Easter Europe and proposing massive subsidies for the new regimes there should reflect on the death of Socrates and what it illustrates about government by majority rule.

When the philosopher's fellow Athenians took umbrage at what he was teaching, the question of whether he should live or die was put to a vote; a majority decided he should die and served him a hemlock cocktail. This electoral execution shows that Socrates lived in a society where men had no right, but only a revocable license, to their lives. All such societies are based on the moral code of collectivism.

Collectivism holds that the proper, social unit of value is a group, or collective. Individuals are held to be insignificant except to the extent they serve, and are required to make sacrifices for this group. When seen from this perspective, collectivist societies differ from one another in only two respects - the identity of their exalted group (e.g. whites in South Africa, Shiite Muslims in Iran) and the barbarity of the sacrifices demanded in their name.

The discredited regimes in Eastern Europe were all collectivist. Their rulers purported to act in the interest of "the proletariat" and demanded each citizen sacrifice the pursuit of his chosen values to it.

In practice, government officials claimed this group as the standard on which they based their decisions about what people did for a living, and where or whether they would be permitted to live. (The standard these thugs applied can only be inferred from the luxuries they enjoyed while the ordinary citizens queued up for toilet paper).

Originally, the term "democracy" referred to the social system based on unlimited majority rule. Under such a system, what is true or false, just or unjust, depends solely on how many people are willing to vote for it. A majority of voters in a democracy can therefore deal with individual lives as capriciously as any dictatorship. Their justification would be different - the interest of "society" instead of "the proletariat" - but the underlying collectivist belief, that individuals may be used as sacrificial fodder to achieve group ends, would be the same.

Since democracy and communism are both based on the same, malignant moral code, the degree of cannibalism practiced under each will depend solely upon quirk, tradition or the exigencies of the moment. Whatever cannibalism is practiced, though, will seem just as odious to its victims.

It should make no difference to a woman, for example, whether she is denied an abortion, and must sacrifice her life to rear an unwanted child, because a majority has voted for a law to prohibit this procedure, or because a dictator has decided he needs more slaves. It should make no difference to a philosopher whether he must drink hemlock at a dictator's whim, or as a result of a plebiscite.

There is only one alternative to collectivism - individualism. This is the moral code which holds that each man possesses inalienable, individual rights. These are the right to his own life, and the consequent rights to peaceably pursue his personal values without interference (liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and to exercise complete dominion over what he produces (property). There is only one type of government consonant with this moral code - a constitutional republic.

The citizens of a constitutional republic may do anything except infringe the individual rights of their fellows. The government's powers, by contrast, are strictly circumscribed by a written constitution and limited to those necessary for the protection of the citizens' individual rights. The ballot box cannot be used to augment these powers, only to elect those who will exercise them.

This, and not democracy, was the American system of government at its founding. Individualism, and not collectivism, was the operative principle at the birth of our Constitution. If Socrates' neighbors tried to poison him here as they did in democratic Athens, they would be dealt with as a lynch mob deserves.

Today, Eastern Europeans are trying to restructure their governments to assure themselves a free, peaceful and prosperous future. The remedy they propose for a "dictatorship of the proletariat" however, is a dictatorship of the majority. They have forgotten poor Socrates, and their amnesia even extends to more recent events.

It was Hitler's democratic election as chancellor of Germany which set in motion Eastern Europe's occupation first by murderers and slave masters acting for "the Aryan race," and next by murderers acting for "the proletariat."

In the midst of Eastern Europe's rush to substitute a new form of tyranny for the old, the leaders of the only nation ever explicitly founded on the moral code of individualism, the United States, applaud the "triumph of democracy" and propose to help the new, collectivist regimes by depriving Americans of the freedom to decide what to do with the money that will be taken from them in taxes and used as foreign aid.

This spectacle is disheartening, but not surprising. In the 203 years since the American Constitution was drafted, the collectivist morality has infected and spread throughout our culture with predictable results.

Now, in a nation founded on the sanctity of individual rights, their constitutional protection is being chipped away as legislators pass unconstitutional laws, which judges uphold, citing the need for a proper balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of a group - society.

Now, in a nation founded on the sanctity of individual rights, we have a dominant group - "society," "the public" or "the people" - which holds referendums to decide what private businesses may charge for their goods or services (for instance, Proposition 103 on insurance) or whether they should be shut down completely (as in several attempts to close the Maine-Yankee power plant with ballot initiatives); and now, in a nation founded on the sanctity of individual rights, bureaucrats who claim to act in "society's" interests are empowered to grant or withhold their approval of everything from where (zoning) and how (licensing) one makes his living, to what color he may paint "his" house.

If we truly wish the people in Eastern Europe well, the cheerleaders for democracy and subsidies should be silent. The best foreign aid we can provide freedom-hungry people everywhere is the knowledge that the liberty, peace and prosperity they seek, which were once the hallmarks of America's greatness, can be theirs.

They (and we) must learn though that this greatness was neither causeless, nor attributable to climate, geography, natural resources, the alignment of the stars or democracy.

It rests on the moral code of individualism and its political corollary, a constitutional republic.

[John Sandler is a San Rafael businessman. He wrote this article for the Mercury News. Anyone interested in issue of individual rights may contact him at P. O. Box 4189, San Rafael, CA 94913]

Gordon Moore was interviewed on the Charlie Rose Show, which was broadcast in November 2005. The co-founder of Intel spoke about a number of topics, including the origin of his famous Moore's Law and an interesting decision to integrate development with manufacturing.

Click here to read excerpts from the interview.

Michael Crichton has some things to say about science and rational thinking here.

Some notable quotes:

  • SETI is unquestionably a religion. Faith is defined as the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The belief that the Koran is the word of God is a matter of faith. The belief that God created the universe in seven days is a matter of faith. The belief that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion.

  • I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

    Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

    There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.

  • This fascination with computer models is something I understand very well. Richard Feynmann called it a disease. I fear he is right. Because only if you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen can you arrive at the complex point where the global warming debate now stands.

    Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we're asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?

    Stepping back, I have to say the arrogance of the modelmakers is breathtaking. There have been, in every century, scientists who say they know it all. Since climate may be a chaotic system - no one is sure - these predictions are inherently doubtful, to be polite. But more to the point, even if the models get the science spot-on, they can never get the sociology. To predict anything about the world a hundred years from now is simply absurd.

    Look: If I was selling stock in a company that I told you would be profitable in 2100, would you buy it? Or would you think the idea was so crazy that it must be a scam?

    Let's think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

    But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn't know what an atom was. They didn't know its structure. They also didn't know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet. interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS. None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn't know what you are talking about.

    Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it's even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future. They're bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment's thought knows it.

With the devastation along the Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Katrina, there have been arguments that the widespread destruction will actually be good for the economy, with all of the rebuilding and reconstruction that will occur. Such a faulty argument is not new -- it was addressed in a clear and concise manner more than a century ago, by a French economist named Frédéric Bastiat.

In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces
not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the
first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause;
it is seen.  The other effects emerge only subsequently; they
are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one:
the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the
good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and
those effects that must be foreseen.


1.  The Broken Window

Have you ever been witness to the fury of that solid citizen, James
Goodfellow, when his incorrigible son has happened to break a pane of
glass? If you have been present at this spectacle, certainly you must also
have observed that the onlookers, even if there are as many as thirty of
them, seem with one accord to offer the unfortunate owner the selfsame
consolation: "It's an ill wind that blows nobody some good. Such accidents
keep industry going. Everybody has to make a living. What would become
of the glaziers if no one ever broke a window?"

Now, this formula of condolence contains a whole theory that it is a
good idea for us to expose, flagrante delicto, in this very simple case,
since it is exactly the same as that which, unfortunately, underlies
most of our economic institutions.

Suppose that it will cost six francs to repair the damage. If you
mean that the accident gives six francs' worth of encouragement to
the aforesaid industry, I agree. I do not contest it in any way;
your reasoning is correct. The glazier will come, do his job, receive
six francs, congratulate himself, and bless in his heart the careless
child. That is what is seen.

But if, by way of deduction, you conclude, as happens only too often,
that it is good to break windows, that it helps to circulate money, that
it results in encouraging industry in general, I am obliged to cry out:
That will never do! Your theory stops at what is seen. It does not take
account of what is not seen.

It is not seen that, since our citizen has spent six francs for one
thing, he will not be able to spend them for another. It is not seen
that if he had not had a windowpane to replace, he would have replaced,
for example, his worn-out shoes or added another book to his library. In
brief, he would have put his six francs to some use or other for which
he will not now have them.

Let us next consider industry in general. The window having been broken,
the glass industry gets six francs' worth of encouragement; that is what
is seen.

If the window had not been broken, the shoe industry (or some other)
would have received six francs' worth of encouragement; that is what is
not seen.

And if we were to take into consideration what is not seen,
because it is a negative factor, as well as what is seen, because it
is a positive factor, we should understand that there is no benefit
to industry in general or to national employment as a whole,
whether windows are broken or not broken.

Now let us consider James Goodfellow.

On the first hypothesis, that of the broken window, he spends six francs
and has, neither more nor less than before, the enjoyment of one window.

On the second, that in which the accident did not happen, he would have
spent six francs for new shoes and would have had the enjoyment of a
pair of shoes as well as of a window.

Now, if James Goodfellow is part of society, we must conclude that
society, considering its labors and its enjoyments, has lost the value
of the broken window.

From which, by generalizing, we arrive at this unexpected conclusion:
"Society loses the value of objects unnecessarily destroyed," and at
this aphorism, which will make the hair of the protectionists stand on
end: "To break, to destroy, to dissipate is not to encourage national
employment," or more briefly: "Destruction is not profitable."


5.  Public Works

Nothing is more natural than that a nation, after making sure that
a great enterprise will profit the community, should have such an
enterprise carried out with funds collected from the citizenry. But
I lose patience completely, I confess, when I hear alleged in support
of such a resolution this economic fallacy: "Besides, it is a way of
creating jobs for the workers."

The state opens a road, builds a palace, repairs a street, digs a canal;
with these projects it gives jobs to certain workers. That is what is
seen. But it deprives certain other laborers of employment. That is what
is not seen.


Study the question, then, from its two aspects. In noting what the state
is going to do with the millions of francs voted, do not neglect to
note also what the taxpayers would have done - and can no longer do - with
these same millions. You see, then, that a public enterprise is a coin
with two sides. On one, the figure of a busy worker, with this device:
What is seen; on the other, an unemployed worker, with this device:
What is not seen.

The sophism that I am attacking in this essay is all the more dangerous
when applied to public works, since it serves to justify the most
foolishly prodigal enterprises. When a railroad or a bridge has real
utility, it suffices to rely on this fact in arguing in its favor. But
if one cannot do this, what does one do? One has recourse to this mumbo
jumbo: "We must create jobs for the workers."


Let us get to the bottom of things. Money creates an illusion for us. To
ask for co-operation, in the form of money, from all the citizens in
a common enterprise is, in reality, to ask of them actual physical
co-operation, for each one of them procures for himself by his labor
the amount he is taxed. Now, if we were to gather together all the
citizens and exact their services from them in order to have a piece
of work performed that is useful to all, this would be understandable;
their recompense would consist in the results of the work itself. But
if, after being brought together, they were forced to build roads on
which no one would travel, or palaces that no one would live in, all
under the pretext of providing work for them, it would seem absurd,
and they would certainly be justified in objecting: We will have none
of that kind of work. We would rather work for ourselves.

Having the citizens contribute money, and not labor, changes nothing in
the general results. But if labor were contributed, the loss would be
shared by everyone. Where money is contributed, those whom the state
keeps busy escape their share of the loss, while adding much more to
that which their compatriots already have to suffer.


As a temporary measure in a time of crisis, during a severe winter, this
intervention on the part of the taxpayer could have good effects. It acts
in the same way as insurance. It adds nothing to the number of jobs nor
to total wages, but it takes labor and wages from ordinary times and
doles them out, at a loss it is true, in difficult times.

As a permanent, general, systematic measure, it is nothing but a ruinous
hoax, an impossibility, a contradiction, which makes a great show of the
little work that it has stimulated, which is what is seen, and conceals
the much larger amount of work that it has precluded, which is what is
not seen.

The entire essay can be read here, and it is well worth reading.
To: cypherpunks@minder.net
Subject:  The End of the Golden Age of Crypto 

Tim May wrote:

 > So, in these four areas real code is being generated. These get
 > mentioned on the list...one just has to notice them, and remember.

 > My main point is to refute the defeatism that often is clothed in the
 > language of cynicism and ennui. Much is still being done. It isn't
 > getting the attention of the press, which is probably a good 
 > thing. (They have moved on to other topics. And nobody is being
 > threatened with jail, so crypto is no longer as edgy as it was when PRZ
 > was facing prosecution, when crypto exports were illegal, when Clipper
 > was in the news.)

Crypto export has been decriminalized, and cryptanalysis programs are now
illegal "circumvention devices" under the DMCA.  I am hard pressed to view
this as an improvement.  If DECSS and Advanced eBook Processor produce an
exhaltation of prosecutors bent on putting the authors in jail, I doubt
we'll be hearing if someone invents DE-SSH or DE-AES.  This greatly
reduces my faith in the robustness of ciphers, particularly those that
have been around to have their tires kicked for a decade or two.

Break a code, go to jail.  Even a silly code, like XOR. 

The 90's were the Golden Age of public access to crypto, largely driven by
public key cryptography and the need for people to do secure communication
over the Internet without physically meeting to exchange keys.

The 00's will be the Golden Age of something else.  Superintelligent AI

 > Even Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman knew essentially no number
 > theory. One of them got the idea that maybe the difficulty of factoring
 > could be used as the core for what they were doing...I have also heard
 > that the idea came from another on the staff at MIT, but I won't get
 > into that right now. Then they "crammed" and learned what they needed
 > to learn about stuff like Euler's totient function, methods for finding
 > primes, etc. It was enough.

Such cryptography is based on faith, much like tea-leaf reading.  We have
absolutely no hard mathematical evidence that factoring is any harder than
multiplying or taking square roots, or of the existence of easily computed
functions with computationally intractable inverses. 

We infer the existence of such things solely from the observation that the
human mind has not yet produced solutions to such problems.  If they were
really easy, we conjecture, someone would have figured out the answer by

Well, maybe. 

Evidence is begining to emerge which suggests that such a view may be
fundamentally flawed, and just as most humans cannot multiply 100 digit
numbers in their heads, so there are countless wonderful and simple
formulas whose derivation from scratch is so complex that no one will ever
find them simply by trying to derive them directly. 

Are hard problems hard because they have no simple solutions, or simply
because their simple solutions lie slightly beyond the range of our
current deductive radar?  Are they hard, or are we simply bad programmers? 

Compelling evidence for the latter explanation is beginning to mass. 

Consider, for instance, the following simple power series
(Bailey,Borwein,Plouffe) for Pi as a sum of inverse powers of 16. Multiply
by a power of 16 and take the fractional part, and you can compute
hexadecimal digits of Pi starting anywhere.

Pi = sum[0,infinity] [4/(8n+1) - 2/(8n+4) - 1/(8n+5) - 1/(8n+6)] * 1/16^n

Now it's pretty easy to verify that this does indeed compute Pi, with a
symbolic integrator, a pile of scratch paper, and much cancellation. 

Going in the other direction, however, is virtually impossible, unless you
already know precisely what you are looking for.  Given the task of
locating a rapidly convergent series for Pi in inverse powers of 16,
suitable for calculating arbitrary hexidecimal digits of Pi, one might
very well bumble around calculating forever, without stumbling across it.
The derivation is simply too difficult, and exists in a forest of equally
difficult derivations which don't produce Pi.

So how, one might inquire, did we come into possession of this handy
formula?  Well, it wasn't derived in a conventional sense.  Instead, a
computer program, PSLQ, a polynomial time numerically stable algorithm for
finding relationships between real numbers, was used to examine all such
formulas, and see if any of them produced Pi.  One did.  

It is likely our ability to generate algorithms by a direct "grep" of all
formulas having a specific form, and perhaps in the near future, all
formulas under a certain length, will uncover many simple but difficult to
directly derive formulas that do useful things.  It is this ability which
poses the greatest threat to cryptography in the current decade, as we
find to our surprise that many of the things we thought were hard, like
factorization, were merely obtuse, like trying to multiply big numbers in
your head. 
I think there's a very good chance that by the end of the decade, we will
all be laughing hysterically at how we ever could have thought public key
cryptography and block ciphers were secure, and "crypto" will mean
exchanging CD-ROM's of your one-time-pad at midnight in a fast food
restaurant parking lot.

There is a third reason I think the fat lady has sung for crypto as we
know it, in addition to the prosecutions for cryptanalysis of commercial
products, and our blind faith in the computational intractability of
everything historically unsolved.

Selling crypto to the masses has always been based on the envelope
metaphor.  Just as you wouldn't use postcards for all your private
communications, so you wouldn't send them in cleartext across the public
Internet.  Encryption is to digital messages, what envelopes are to paper

It should be noted that envelopes only work if everyone uses them.  If
everyone who doesn't have anything to hide uses postcards, and people who
have things to hide use envelopes, then it's pretty easy to know where to
apply the rubber hose. 

Envelopes only work to hide secrets if they are mixed in with millions of
indistinguishable envelopes which do not contain secrets.  Unfortunately,
we have had a complete failure in the area of making encryption the
standard for all data transmitted over public networks.  Ten years after
the start of the crypto movement, virtually no one has encryption
software, and virtually no one encrypts their email.  People who want to
encrypt their email can't, because the people they are sending it to don't
have the software to read it.

People have demonstrated that they will not choose privacy if it results
in even the slightest amount of inconvenience, which means that encrypted
messages still stand out like a sore thumb in the data stream.  It also
means that were there any movement towards the ubiquitous use of crypto,
the government could disintentivize it instantly, by simply dangling some
free gift or convenience before the masses.  After all, these are people
who eagerly sign up for Safeway club cards. 

"Delete PGP, Win a Free Turkey," "Cleartext, the anti-Osama," or whatever. 

So, ten years after the founding of Cypherpunks, we reach the following

1.  Export all the crypto you want, but breaking even stupid crypto will
    get you prosecuted.

2.  Our faith in the mathematical underpinnings of some crypto may be
    fundamentally misplaced. 

3.  The public won't use crypto anyway, so why do we even
    bother?  Anything encrypted stands out in the bitstream like a giant
    red flag with a smiling Saddam on it.

Yes, folks.  It's the End of the Golden Age of Crypto.  Time to move on to
the Golden Age of something else. 

--Mike Duvos 
This is from a speech given by Francis Crick:
I think the message one gets from this was that Linus Pauling was
enormously fertile in the way he developed his ideas. He was asked a
few years ago, "How do you get ideas?" And he gave I think what is the
correct reply.  He said, "If you want to have good ideas you must have
many ideas. Most of them will be wrong, and what you have to learn is
which ones to throw away."

Having the ideas is the easy part; he did not say this I am simply
interpreting here what he probably thought of as the easy part. The
difficult and rather intuitive part is to know which ones to hang on
to and which ones to throw away. It is clear from what I have said that
Linus Pauling was not always right in his ideas. But my belief is that,
in most cases, if somebody is always right in his ideas you find that he
does not have much to say. It is an expression of somebody's fertility
that he does produce quite a number of ideas, and I think Linus Pauling's
score is pretty high.

I do not know what Linus would have said about it, but I certainly find
in myself that, as you get older, this intuitive knowledge of which ones
to discard perhaps weakens a little. Maybe with some of his later ideas,
although they were on the right lines, he perhaps might have clung to
them a little too strongly. I find myself doing just the same.
In listening to various law enforcement efforts for restrictions on firearms, cryptography, scanners, and so on, you may run across references to what is now referred to as "The Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse."

To:      <cypherpunks@toad.com>
From:    <aba@dcs.exeter.ac.uk>
Date:    Mon, 16 Oct 95 11:53:29 +0100
Subject: Four Horsemen (was Re: PA Remailer Concerns)

Laurent Demailly <dl@hplyot.obspm.fr> writes:

> I feel really dumb, but what is that "Four Horseman" thing?
> [i saw that several times quoted on the list but I never understood,
> nor found in FAQ,...]

You sure about the FAQ, grepping reveals:

    8.3.4. "How will privacy and anonymity be attacked?"
           - like so many other "computer hacker" items, as a tool for
              the "Four Horsemen": drug-dealers, money-launderers,
              terrorists, and pedophiles.

   17.5.7. "What limits on the Net are being proposed?"
           + Newspapers are complaining about the Four Horsemen of the
             - terrorists, pedophiles, drug dealers, and money

i.e., the idea that hysterical media demonization is used as a tool to
justify the net-wide witch hunt.

A tactic in general:
if you can make something look bad in the eyes of the world, if you can
sway public opinion, you can do what you wish, and be applauded for it.

So, the spread of untrue, or greatly exaggerated stories, as a conscious
ploy to obtain this effect.  Popular tactic of [FBI Director Louis]
Freeh at the moment.  "Oh gosh people can get *bomb* making information
on the internet, we must put a stop to this".

How to get what you want in 4 easy stages:
  1. Have a target "thing" you wish to stop, yet lack any moral, or practical reasons for doing so?
  2. Pick a fear common to lots of people, something that will evoke a gut reaction: terrorists, pedophiles, serial killers.
  3. Scream loudly to the media that "thing" is being used by perpetrators. (Don't worry if this is true, or common to all other things, or less common with "thing" than with other long established systems - payphones, paper mail, private hotel rooms, lack of bugs in all houses etc).
  4. Say that the only way to stop perpetrators is to close down "thing", or to regulate it to death, or to have laws forcing en-mass tapability of all private communications on "thing". Don't worry if communicating on "thing" is a constitutionally protected right, if you have done a good job in choosing and publicising the horsemen in 2, no one will notice, they will be too busy clamouring for you to save them from the supposed evils.
Most famous for the maxim "If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment," Murphy also has some rules regarding combat.

Murphy's Laws of Combat

  • If the enemy is in range, so are you.
  • Incoming fire has the right of way.
  • Don't look conspicuous, it draws fire.
  • There is always a way.
  • The easy way is always mined.
  • Try to look unimportant, they may be low on ammo.
  • Professionals are predictable, it's the amateurs that are dangerous.
  • The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions: (a) when you're ready for them and (b) when you're not ready for them.
  • Teamwork is essential, it gives them someone else to shoot at.
  • If you can't remember, then the claymore is pointed at you.
  • The enemy diversion you have been ignoring will be the main attack.
  • A "sucking chest wound" is nature's way of telling you to slow down.
  • If your attack is going well, you have walked into an ambush.
  • Never draw fire, it irritates everyone around you.
  • Anything you do can get you shot, including nothing.
  • Make it tough enough for the enemy to get in and you won't be able to get out.
  • Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than yourself.
  • If you're short of everything but the enemy, you're in a combat zone.
  • When you have secured an area, don't forget to tell the enemy.
  • Never forget that your weapon is made by the lowest bidder.
General Barry McCaffrey, who would later go on to become a "Drug Czar" during the Clinton era, had the following unofficial standing orders for his troops during Desert Storm.

"If you're driving through a village and someone throws a rock at you, shoot them!
If they shoot at you, turn the tank main gun on them.
If they use anything larger than small arms, call for artillery.
It's as simple as that. Obey the rules of war but protect yourself."
ZDNet ran a commentary from Bruce Schneier in which he closes with the quote:
Only amateurs attack machines; professionals target people.

He is more correct than the context of the quote would have you believe. You can read the entire article here.

Ancient philosphers spent a lot of time thinking about truth, whether Truth with a capital T or not. Asking that basic question, "Is it true or not?" for many statements is culturally prohibited these days. Discussion of the factual validity of statements gives way to the silence of political correctness.

Paul Graham has a more lengthly discussion of this issue in his essay What You Can't Say

On a related note, it seems to be the fashion to avoid making "judgemental" statements (or even holding "judgemental" opinions), despite the fact that we make hundreds of judgements every day. For fear, apparently, of giving offense, we fail to express what is readily apparent to everyone.

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Updated March 21, 2023