November 12, 2001

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Identity and self: Liberty and Passport may guard our identity, but let's not forget our self.
HumanML: The human metadata project lags the human genome project.
Why Search Engines Suck: The good, the bad, the really screwy.
Misc: How many apostrophes are in the possessive of McDonald's?
Who's Tired of Being a Millionaire?: is accepting donations.
The Annals of Marketing: Enter the world of pitch.
Walking the Walk: General Electric puts itself out of business.
Cool Tool : Enfish Find gets it right. At last.
Internetcetera: Meaningless stats.
Links: You contribute a whole mess of 'em, many related to 9-11.
Email, Arbitrary Insults, Extra Suspicious Hacking Coughs and Skin Rashes to Obsess About: Don't call your doctor until you're spitting up blood. It's your patriotic duty.
Why I'm not a pacifist any more: Replying to a msg from reader Gary L. Murphy.
Bogus contest: Bugaboos: What gets under your Web skin? (No anthrax jokes, please.)


Special New Normal Issue

Welcome to the new normal in which the stakes are doubled and anything can happen. Death can drop on you like an anvil in a cartoon except without the preparatory descending slide-whistle sound. We are commanded to a generalized alertness that is necessarily futile because paying special attention to everything is exactly the same as paying special attention to nothing. Fear nothing! But worry about everything! It's your patriotic duty! Don't disrupt your normal lives! Just keep in mind that we're at war and that changes everything! No, everything is as it was! There's a 100% chance of another strike, but worrying about that hands victory to Osama. Forget it! But never forget 9-11! And, for God's sake stay alert! Hug your children, but not like anything bad could happen. No, no, just a normal hug. But watch out for anvils while you're hugging! There's one coming! Really! Credible evidence! This weekend! On a bridge! Or in an envelope! Other than bridges and envelopes, everything's the same! Hug your kid again! Wait, is that an anvil I hear? No, you just hugged your kid where she got the small pox vaccination. Carry on, people! Microwave your mail, breathe through a wet rag and repeat after me: "This is normal. I am normal. We are all being normal together." If it weren't normal than the terrorists would have won. The new normal is normal. QED. (Warning: Beware of falling anvils.)



Me Me Me

Every week, like a clock that works, I publish a column at Darwin Magazine online: There's a discussion thread attached to each. You're invited.



Here's the latest (and probably last) design of the cover of my upcoming book. Perseus Books promises that the real, printed version of it will definitely "pop." Presumably, that's a good thing. Please feel free to judge it by its cover and let me know what sort of book you think it is based solely on this Artist's Rendition.


From a dream that's apparently announcing a slight shift in my formerly pacifist position. (See the colloquy with Gary Lawrence Murphy in the 9-11 section of the email section.)



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Identity and self

In an Everyone But Microsoft move, Sun and 32 other companies (including Cisco, Intuit, Bank of America, GM and eBay) this fall created The Liberty Alliance. (Apparently they're using the same marketing consultants that came up with the name "Homeland Defense Agency.") The Alliance is trying to provide an alternative to Microsoft Passport, an insidious plan to make Microsoft the keeper of the information that defines us as individuals on the Internet. Both plans provide a service by which a site can automatically get at our name, birth date, credit card numbers, shoe size, and any other information we choose to let them see. This will make it possible to do a single login that will work with any site that supports the service, will make it more convenient to buy stuff over the Net and will make it possible for agencies to interoperate in our own best interests — but, of course, also makes everyone's pee smell like asparagus when we contemplate the ways this information could be used against us. To add to the general anxiety about confiding this information to the the eminently hackable Windows software suite, Windows XP comes close to coercing the information out of us by making it sound as if accepting Passport is a requirement for surfing the Web.

There are differences among the proposals other than that one comes from Microsoft and one doesn't. Passport is a service; the Liberty Alliance is a standard. Microsoft, under the pressure of approbation, has agreed to let third parties manage the Passport database; Liberty Alliance members would store user identification information on their own servers, a far more decentralized approach. In fact, Microsoft has said it will consider joining the Liberty Alliance. (Of course, they're insisting that the name be changed to Liberty Alliance XP.)

Now, no matter how this works out — and how could you not root for the consortium? — we should keep in mind that what's good for identity may be bad for self. "Identity" is a quasi-legal term that lets your virtual transactions be tied back to your real-world self: the person who just ordered the bootylicious skin creme was born in a particular year at a particular locale, lives at a particular street address, and has a particular credit card number. We want to have one identity on the Web while we are out constructing many selves — the sage on one discussion list, the wise-ass in a chat room, and the killing machine in a Quake III fragfest. Insofar as we think our playful Web selves can be tied back to our legally-binding identity, our Web selves will be inhibited, chagrined or even rather ashamed of themselves. Identity is grown up; Web-self is childlike. Identity is superego; Web-self is id. Identity is business; Web-self is play. Identity is physics; Web-self is art.

Let's be thankful that so far Microsoft is only threatening to own our identities. When it launches a product called Microsoft SoulServer that talks about managing our Web selves, it will truly be time to flee.

[Note: An alert pre-reader informs us that the truly sinister power behind the Liberty Alliance can be glimpsed by going to If, however, you want actual information about the Alliance, you must go to]

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David Heller alerts us to an effort by OASIS, an organization devoted to the commercialization of SGML. At least, that's what it used to be back when it was SGML Open, of which - ahem - I was one of the five founders. But you turn your back for a minute and look at the trouble those durn kids get themselves into. Now they're inventing markup to capture the basics of humanity.

At we read that HumanML's "ultimate aim is to develop Internet tools and repository systems which will enhance the fidelity of human communications". In case we're not exactly sure what that means, the site explains:

Examples of human characteristics include emotions, physical descriptors, proxemics, kinesics, haptics, intentions, and attitude... Applications of HumanML include agents of various types, AI systems, virtual reality, psychotherapy, online negotiations, facilitations, dialogue, and conflict resolution systems.

For more specifics, visit where you'll find a commented schema, including guidelines such as:

Scars, Marks and Tattoos should be a complex type for graphic, location, body part

<xhtml:p>This is a positive number between 0 and 1 used to set a relative scale of the intensity or strength of some behavior, such as a handshake or an emotion.</xhtml:p>

<xhtml:li>intimate distance (eg, American culture is 6-18 inches)</xhtml:li>
<xhtml:li>personal distance (eg, American culture is 1.5-4 feet)</xhtml:li>
<xhtml:li>social distance (eg, American culture is 4-12 feet)</xhtml:li>

<xhtml:p>This is a set of attributes for documenting the gender of a human.</xhtml:p>
- <xhtml:p>
Needs code list for values, eg, male, female, hemaphrodite

Fearlessly, the committee heads into difficult waters:

<xhtml:h2>Haptic: Human Touching Behaviors</xhtml:h2>
<xhtml:p>Touching behavior in different societies and cultures. Hostile (kicking), degree of intimacy (kissing).</xhtml:p>
<xhtml:p>The HumanML haptic model is based on the strength, location, and body part used in a touching behavior. It does not provide a semantic model for interpretation. To understand how to use this complexType, an example is provided. Theorists propose five degrees of haptic and an intensity value for force of behavior (eg, strength of a handshake) as they affect emotional states:</xhtml:p>
- <xhtml:ol>
<xhtml:li>sexual arousal</xhtml:li>
<xhtml:p>HumanML notes such theories but does not assign values per the abstract haptic definition leaving this to the derived application languages. This is because there can be other applicable models, eg, the strength of the act of physical therapy can and does approach that of sexual arousal, yet the model shown above might classify this as a functional/professional degree of contact indicating a low state of arousal. Some models would claim that sexual and emotional arousal are different states.</xhtml:p>

Sexual and emotional arousal may be different? What a concept! And that's the real problem. A spec like this certainly can have its uses in particular applications since it would allow two systems tracking human characteristics to interchange data. But there is something silly about the attempt to capture human characteristics in a generalized way. From the cultural issues to the infinite variety of human nature, a generalized schema of human characteristics is as problematic as the CYC project (discussed in the Aug. 15 JOHO) that is attempting to systematize all of our cognitive "rules." In short, it's bound to be not much more than an easy target for cynical self-serving pseudo-commentators like me. In other words, keep it up, fellas! And thanks!


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Why Search Engines Suck™ (and why they don't)

Tom Gross writes:

My dear brother, Jim, has done some research at

I believe there is more good than evil in the world. To prove my hypothesis, I conducted a Google search for "good" which yields 63,200,000 results, and "evil" only yields 5,450,000 results. So take heart. I will monitor the situation periodically and keep you informed lest the evil outweigh the good.

And so I then did a little further research and found "love" returned 35,700,000 hits as opposed to only 4,990,000 results for "hate" (and many of the prime "hate" sites returned were, in fact, on the topic of *stopping* hate!). "Light" weighs in at 24,200,000 hits whilst "darkness" only yielded 2,880,000. "Hope" = 18,200,000 vs. "despair" = 839,000. "Elvis Presley" had 343,000 to 68,500 for "Michael J. Fox". I have chosen not to skew these hopeful figures by publishing the results of searches on "war" and "peace". And a co-worker frightened me with his findings when searching on "cattle mutilation by aliens" compared with "behind ear scratching your puffy putty tat" (the former outnumbers the latter 2700 to 2).

Many years ago, around 1995 I think, when I was marketing VP at Open Text, which had one of the first Web search sites, I did this same thing. Love beat out sex pretty handily, as I recall...

A quick check today shows that "have" beats out "want," 224M to 45M. (At AltaVista, where they haven't yet figured out how to put commas into strings of numbers, "have" scored 316,655,230 and "want" scored 5,276,890) . But, the really interesting question is what pages these sites pick as their #1 most relevant:




Travelring Webring - linking travel and tourist information ...

Web66: Martin Luther King Day ("I have a dream" speech)


IndiaInfo: India, the way you want it!

Linux Games - Even Penguins Want To Have Fun

Makes you wonder what algorithms they use. Or could use.

If you don't mind my reporting something positive about searching, at Google the Good when you search for images, it now displays thumbnails. Very handy if you're looking for clip art for one of your fabulous PowerPoint presentations.

Slate Magazine's daily news summary, put together by Scott Shuger, reports the following (Aug. 21):

Just how computerized are newspapers these days? The links provided at the bottom of the WP online version of its piece about Princess Di's son Prince William include references to several Post stories about Virginia's Prince William County.

Where's the Semantic Web when we need it? Instead, we get the Web of Cheap Puns.

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Michael Quinion, editor of the rollicking World Wide Words, responds to my request for help in figuring out how to make a possessive of "McDonald's" without ending up with McDonald's'. Here's his entirely unhelpful reply:

This does come up from time to time. The Economist's style guide advises its journalists never to try to make a possessive from such words as "they pose an insoluble problem". Write around it, would be my advice.

Jeez, I'm already writing around hard-to-spell words, post-modern terminology, and any sentence that requires me to refer to George Bush as "president" without scare quotes!

Who's Tired of Being a Millionaire?

Stuart Ryan writes:

if anyone on your list is moved to some practical humanitarian impulse for the Afghan people, I highly recommend donating to RAWA [Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan], at their idea of "revolution" is educating women and other insidious acts...

This site has been getting a lot of publicity, including from Queen Oprah. You'll find lots of heartfelt reporting about the treatment of women by the Taliban, gruesome photos, and frank talk, including the following from one of their most recent statements of principle: "America, by forming an international coalition against Osama and his Taliban-collaborators and in retaliation for the 11th September terrorist attacks, has launched a vast aggression on our country."

Their list of ways to contribute is at

[Please send in your own favorite ways of making the New Normal a little less unfair.]

[Note to Oprah: I love your show. I love you. Choose my new book for your Book Club and I will not only put your seal on its cover, I will tattoo your name on my neck and will make sure that Jonathan Franzen types his next book unable to use the shift keys, if you know what I mean.]


Dividing Line
The Annals of Marketing

Craig points us to where we read:

Osama bin Laden products blitz Pakistani markets

QUETTA, Pakistan, Oct 17 (AFP) - From chocolates to mobile phone messages and posters to t-shirts, the bearded image of Osama bin Laden is everywhere in Pakistan and fans of the West's most wanted man can't buy enough...

You see, underneath it all, aren't we all the same? Superficial consumers and greedy capitalists engaged in a truly embarrassing dance of materialism.

But before we all join hands and buy the world a Coke, we should read an article from the AP that says a public interest group is protesting Coca-Cola's use of Harry Potter in a new ad campaign:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and other international organizations claim Coca-Cola is using the image of J.K. Rowling's boy wizard to market its sugary soft drinks to children.

Could it be? Could the appearance of a character in a Coke ad actually be an attempt to increase sales? Well, apparently not:

Coca-Cola spokeswoman Susan McDermott said Coca- Cola's association with Harry Potter is about promoting the value of reading and the magic of Harry Potter — not promoting products to children.

Thank goodness we cleared that up!

Gator continues to blacken its own eyes, according to an article at by Stefanie Olsen (Aug. 17):

Already contending with a weak advertising market, Web publishers have another beast to worry about: Gator.

The software company, known for hawking pop-up ads that let companies advertise on rival sites, is working a new variation on the theme — selling ads designed to block banners on sites such as Yahoo with pop-ups of the exact same dimensions, completely obscuring the original ad. The pop-ups hover over the banners even when the Web visitor scrolls down the page, making it even more difficult to discern that the visible ad is a substitute.

Gator: The Anti-Google.

Chris Heathcote writes:

Just got a message from someone on the UK Netmarketing list - here is his sig (name changed to protect the innocent).

Jxxxxxxxx Axxxxx / [email protected]
Chief Marketing Officer
"Driving Measurable Multi-Channel Web ROI"

Isn't that he kind of mission statement that makes you feel good to be alive? I bet he has motivational signs on his bathroom mirror.

Worse, he probably thinks that this self-promotional drivel is going to get him his next job.


Middle World Resources

Walking the Walk  

General Electric ("We Bring Good Things to Life Note: Tagline not valid near the Hudson River") apparently is persevering in its commitment to webbiness. According to an article in CIO Magazine (Meredith Levinson, Oct. 15,), the company began a planning exercise in 1999 that required them to envision just how the Web was going to destroy them. Then they were to figure out how to use the Internet to destroy their competition. Even though dot coms have turned out to be mere gnats, GE is still trying to get as much of its internal business webified as it can. For example, GE Plastics has increased the percentage of its business it conducts over the Web from 15% to 50% in the past year ... to the tune of $3B. Plus, over 30% of their new line of toaster ovens is made out of recycled dot-coms.

Cool Tool
For the Hyperlinked Organization

I have had a love-hate relationship with Enfish. Actually, as it's gone through its "upgrades," it's been a love-hate-hate-hate relationship. But now we're best buddies because a new version lets you get just the one piece of the product that's fantastic: the search engine. Over the years, Enfish has added to its product in the vain hope that its ability to discern the relationships among pieces of data would convince you to use it as your desktop. But it wasn't all that good at finding relationships, and even when it was, it was, like Autonomy, too often simply a Distraction Engine. I've got more than enough of those. But now you can get Enfish Find by itself. All it does is index your emails and documents so that you can do lightning fast searches. It indexes in the background and, unlike previous versions, isn't so memory-intensive that it crashes your system regularly. (It does, however, crash Word and Powerpoint XP if you let it get close to installing itself as a toolbar. Enfish is "looking into" this.) I use this product five times a day and now consider it to be an essential part of my "working set." Unfortunately, you have to pay $69 for it. I so much preferred the "Everything is free!" business model.




According to a survey of 56 CIOs and 254 lesser IT professionals in the Oct. 15 issue of CIO magazine, life is out of whack among the pocket protector set. More than half "said they do not have an appropriate work-life balance." The areas being compromised:

Health and fitness: 65%
Hobbies: 53%
Social life: 53%
Family: 52%

I suppose that leaves the areas that are fully funded emotionally:

Hand-checking employees' oft-visited URLs: 95%

Taking out anger at being pathetic on hapless subordinates: 92%

Screwing with database so that new IT managers acquired as part of recent merger who are competing for my job get tiny offices and email account names that all end in "-TheLamer" 68%



We begin with a set of weird, and highly f*cking scatological, comic strips:

I heard about these links from Gary Stock, but he was passing them along from someone else. But I'm not going to tell you who because the chain of attribution could go on for just about forever. In the next issue, you'll hear Gary discourse on the netiquette of attributions. This isn't a prediction. It's an announcement.

David Isenberg, telecommunications rebel and champion of the "stupid" network, sends us to a very interesting article on how the Bush administration's primitive conservatism is keeping us from achieving our bandwidth dreams and is, in the words of the subtitle, "killing the new economy." It's an excellent primer for those of us trying to catch up so we won't be embarrassed when someone says to us, "Hey, how about that telecommunications industry!":

Massimo Moruzzi has a new weblog: Unfortunately for us non-parlo-Italiano Amurkans, it's in Italian. On the other hand, it does use the delightful phrase "clicca qui" which may mean "click here."

Mark Dionne points us to a daily haiku site: Here is a recent one:

White cloud
on the wet sand
the seagulls

—N. Sénécal

Hmm, that's nine syllables short of a haiku where I come from. Today's kids have it too easy. Anyway, here's mine:

Bombs fall on cities
Peanut buttered mine fields.
Bush IQ up 100?

By the way, you can get the day's headlines in haiku at (Spoiler: They're computer generated.)

David Wasser sends us to an article about a thief who's demanding that a Chagall he stole be ransomed back by an Israeli-Palestinian peace pact:

Oh, the lives of their children is insufficient to bring about a peace settlement, but a hideous piece of work by an over-hyped, content-free painter will do the trick. (Spare me your diatribes about why Chagall is a Great Painter. Ugly as sin! And theologically offensive in the way only a Jew for Jesus can be.)

Mike O'Dell points us to because it is "a remarkable fusion of several technologies." After more poking around than I'd care to admit in a deeper state of confusion that I'd ever acknowledge (except this once), I think I understand at least the category within which makes sense. It seems amateur radio folks (= hams) can communicate, via computer, with others of their indoor ilk via "packet radio" using the Automated Packet Reporting System (APRS). APRs reports the transmitter's position (often through GPS) along with (somehow, for some reason) weather information. At, you can find any ham packet radio's current location and the very local weather report. For example, this will position ham radio k4hg on a map: When last spotted, k4hg was 20.2 miles northeast of Key West where the weather was very wet.

John Robb's weblog points us to some writing about "The Singularity":

Vernor Vinge kicked off the concept of the Singularity nearly a decade ago with this: " ... The acceleration of technological progress has been the central feature of this century. I argue in this paper that we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence."

The Vinge article is at$35. There's an interview with Vinge at Mini-Bogus contest: Why don't I care about this topic?

Hank Blakely's Bush-bashing humor is back in full form:

Bud Simpson

Every now and again, you slam into a web page that just leaves you speechless.....

It's an online form for those who want to apply for a job as Gary Condit's intern. It's also got a link to a truly half-assed "Gary's Page for Kids!" Oh my sweet lord, it's bad.

In an oddly related email, Gary Stock points us to two sites that pander to children in a shameless way: and Despite all the focus on the presidential dogs, cat and cow ("Ofelia, The Cow Who's Apparently Hooked on Fonics"), in keeping with the Administration's goal of continuous, no-time-for-teaching, testing, each page ends with a quiz on the material the young'uns have just read. As Gary points out, Bush's "challenge question" is " What is the meaning of working together in a bipartisan spirit?" How fitting.

Knowing my unreasoning antipathy towards Ayn Rand — an envy-based resentment of my betters that in fact proves her point — Ryan Mulcahy points us to a good article abouther:,1640,16581,FF.html

J.F. Smith sends us to a column about the role of oil in the Afghan war:,5673,579174,00.html

Michel Bauwens claims to have read and liked — thus blowing his credibility — my article on the metaphysics of the Web — and refers us to his own "technocalyps" articles at You'll find some very thoughtful articles about technology and spirituality. The "Dialogue" includes a response from a rather testy priest, Father Vincent Rossi.

Phil Agre, the prolific writer of Red Rock Eater, writes::

I would greatly appreciate if you would forward this announcement to everyone you know who is a student or faculty member in a Ph.D. program.

"Networking on the Network" is a free 120-page guide to professional skills for Ph.D. students. It explains in great detail how to speak at a conference, build a community around your research topic, write a dissertation, get a job, advise others, and become a leader in your field. Professional networking cannot substitute for good research, but good research cannot substitute for networking either. Networking and research go together, and ""Networking on the Network"" explains analytically and ethically just how. It also includes an extensive bibliography. It is available on the Web:

It's 52,000 words on how not to be a lonely jerkweed doctoral student. If you need it, you need it bad.

Chris O'Leary has started a site to talk about the idea that pain spurs innovation; Chris is working on a book on the topic. . There's even a Manifesto ( with "8 Laws of Pain," although Chris leaves out the most important Law of Pain: My pain always hurts more than yours. Much more. I can't even focus on your pain. How about paying a little attention to me, ok?

By the way, Eric Norlin just published an issue of that discusses the, let's say, unfortunate timing of an article by Tom Peters on the link between pain and innovation.

Margret Bailey has found an Alanis Lyrics Generator: Here are her results:

"Will to Live"

I feel miserable
Non-nihilistic relativisms make me ill
I feel miserable
Thoughts about tolerance which are smugly superior tear at my foundations
I feel miserable
Blinding headaches which start behind my eyes are dragging me down to the depths of misery
I want to die

Is it because of
Not knowing true north on my own moral compass that I feel this way?
With the The smelly off-white of purulent exudate rays of misery pounding on my brain?
Or am I lost in tale of George W. Bush,
adrift far from home
I don't think so, I don't think so.

John Ashcroft
Broke My Will to Live
John Ashcroft Broke My Will to Live
John Ashcroft Broke My Will to Live
I was getting better but then
John Ashcroft Broke My Will to Live

I feel miserable
Funny metallic tastes like leftovers from dreams of ritual blood-drinking rot the flesh from my bones
I feel miserable
Sturm and Drang and Gotterdamerung and weltschmeer and other german terms for taking the micro as the macrocosm defeat my purpose
I feel miserable
Anthrax outbreaks are doing their best to impale my soul
I want to die

Is it because of
Not knowing true north on my own moral compass that I feel this way?
With the The smelly off-white of purulent exudate rays of misery pounding on my brain?
Am I lost in tale of George W. Bush, adrift far from home
I don't think so, I don't think so.

Julianne Chatelain sends us to to learn about a product that, in the company's words, "leverages the repetitive sequence analysis techniques used to examine DNA patterns in computational molecular biology to find data flow and pattern similarities in IP network traffic" in order to reduce traffic and increase bandwidth.

In the same email from Julianne is news about the human-silicon interface:

Peter Fromherz and Gunther Zeck of the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich placed snail nerve cells on a silicon chip, fencing them in place with microscopic plastic pegs. Neighbouring cells grew connections with each other and with the chip.

A stimulator beneath each nerve cell created a change in voltage that triggered an electrical impulse to travel through the cell. Electrical pulses applied to the chip passed from one nerve cell to another, and back to the chip to trip a silicon switch. The circuit literally went live.

I actually wrote about Fromherz (great name!) in Wired 5-7 years ago ( Good to see he's making Frankensteinan progress.

There are some very cool photos at the Max Planck web site:, including this one of "Neuron from rat brain on a linear array of field-effect transistors"

Christopher "RageBoy" Locke, author of Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices but better known as RageBoy, Scourge of JOHO, recommends this little parody of Sartre: It's not all that funny, but it's my pretext for plugging Chris' book which I do because it's an important, excellent and enjoyable book, and, because, well, you don't want to piss off RageBoy.

By the way, I'll be reviewing it in an issue real soon now. It all depends on how soon my security agency can cover the early morning shift.

RageBoy also sends us to, a moronic site where you can see Bush dance. Carsten Boettjer, German participant in the Cluetrain discussion at Topica (, counter-suggests Carsten notes "You have to choose three of the dancers and then press the "und dann geht's los'-link." If you do, you'll see three German politicians you never heard of dance.

Finally, from the Christopher Locke Locker comes a recommendation that we take a look at When you get a 404, don't write to me without first reading the 404 page.

September 11 Links

Hernani Dimantas writes from Brazil:

I have received the an online meditative protest at

The original idea was a play on the use of the military of 'collateral damage' when referring to loss of innocent civilian life (but we're not damaged yet). Hopefully it is a gentle reminder of our global humanity.

It seems a great idea... what do you think about this? could it be a new meme???

It's a Feel Good site, alright. But I wouldn't go so far as to suggest it's a meme. What do you call the emotional equivalent of a meme? A feme?

Gary Stock reminds us that Tom Tomorrow is pretty durn funny:

Maura "Chip" Yost the Poster sends us a miscellany of sites that will stoke our partisan ardor:

The first is an Anti-Republican site. The second is about oil and Afghanistan. The third is a peacenik, Flash presentation the point of which is akin to my bumpersticker suggestion, "Don't Miss," but illustrated with heartbreaking photos of children killed in war.

David Landgren points us to a long Usenet posting (while letting us know that he doesn't agree with all of it):

This posting is one of the things that got me going around the conspiracy track. The posting is definitely nutty but I am convinced that the light at the end of the tunnel will turn out to be fueled by oil. (As usual, I am without evidence.)

Julianne Chatelain points us to the translation of a French article on "Total Security" As a bonus, there's a link to The Security Camera Players. Yes, they perform in front of surveillance cameras:

Jon Schull forwards a quotation from Bruce Schneier's Crypto-Gram:

People are willing to give up liberties for vague promises of security because they think they have no choice. What they're not being told is that they can have both. It would require people to say no to the FBI's power grab. It would require us to discard the easy answers in favor of thoughtful answers. It would require structuring incentives to improve overall security rather than simply decreasing its costs. Designing security into systems from the beginning, instead of tacking it on at the end, would give us the security we need, while preserving the civil liberties we hold dear.

Some broad surveillance, in limited circumstances, might be warranted as a temporary measure. But we need to be careful that it remain temporary, and that we do not design surveillance into our electronic infrastructure. Thomas Jefferson once said: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Historically, liberties have always been a casualty of war, but a temporary casualty. This war — a war without a clear enemy or end condition — has the potential to turn into a permanent state of society. We need to design our security accordingly.

Crypto-Gram is available at

Richard Crocker writes in response to our touting of

The Australian equivalent - The Chaser - came out with some stuff very soon after the sh*t hit the fan. Perhaps of interest...


* US Defence Dept reassures Americans: "The President is not in control"

* AMERICA PLANS PAYBACK: New Adam Sandler movie to be sent to Middle East

* Howard US visit "marginally overshadowed"

Monty Solomon on another list points to one of the unintended (maybe) consequences of the rush to pass an anti-terrorism bill:

An RIAA-drafted amendment according to a draft obtained by Wired News would immunize all copyright holders — including the movie and e-book industry — for any data losses caused by their hacking efforts or other computer intrusions "that are reasonably intended to impede or prevent" electronic piracy.,1294,47552,00.html

For more information about the bill, visit

Gary Stock has found a column by Mark Morford in the San Francisco Gate that says well much of what I've been saying not as well: Here's the opening paragraph:

This much is true: It really is possible to love your country and value your freedoms and still believe the government is full of fools and prevaricators and BS artists and Dick Cheney. Really.


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Email, Arbitrary Insults, Extra Suspicious Hacking Coughs and Skin Rashes to Obsess About

Tony McKinley writes:

Our local pop radio station is being revolutionary tonight, for the past two hours they have been playing a song called "I Coulda... but I got high." It goes on and on, and the singer excuses himself for a million common faults, because he was high. They've been playing this song since 7pm, it's 9.5pm now.

Remember about five years ago when we had to struggle to stay up to date, and now, for the last few years, nothing much has changed?

Like we were way too high on the Web in the early 90's (and World Peace/Global Commerce). We weren't wrong, we were just too far ahead, so we were perhaps overly enthusiastic in the What-If zone. Now the corporate "real" world is finally starting to catch up, and it's not about being ahead of the curve anymore, it's like the Eisenhower national highways program, it's totally non-exciting. On the other hand, it's exactly what we all predicted, (just not exciting any more). Well, it's still exciting for me, but that's just because I have a real job now, and borging Web content is as steady as work in the coal mines now.

True enough. Of course, I'm heavily invested in the Web not being over yet since I have a soon-to-be-ridiculed book coming out this Spring that says that the real impact of the Web hasn't been fully felt yet, for it's transforming bedrock concepts of our culture. Set your phasers to "Deride.

Patricia Bush disagrees. Much has changed, she says. I just haven't noticed: .

... You are sort of a "Joel Fleischman" right now. You aren't looking outside your own pod and it's gonna kill you. What you have to say is important and relevant, but you are in major danger of keeping yourself so limited to the "scene" that you are reporting on that you are missing the actual trend. While you've been focussed on your internet stuff things have changed in marketing. The stuff I mentioned [in a previous message — ed.] about cultural creatives is important to you and you're missing it. Outside your world things have changed. You could draw in a much larger audience it you loosen up your focus. I sort of like you and wish you well and I was really disappointed that you are losing your edge. The reason this other guy is scooping you [Michael Lewis — ed.] is that you really, at least to me, have some tap on the actual energy of what's going on. This other guy can spot it, but no one so far has really looked at how all this applies to the entire world of business. Marketers are way ahead of you already. The message you gave 3 years ago is already too old.

"Cultural Creatives" are the 50 million Americans described in "The Cultural Creatives" by Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson (

"The Cultural Creatives care deeply about ecology and saving the planet, about relationships, peace, social justice, and about self actualization, spirituality and self-expression. Surprisingly, they are both inner-directed and socially concerned, they're activists, volunteers and contributors to good causes more than other Americans."

They also apparently like to use New Age buzz words in run-on sentences. I wish them well and will wave to them as they parade past my nice, warm pod.

Joel Fleischman, the doctor on "Northern Exposure"?

Glenn "Joel" Fleishman, the self-described "unsolicited pundit," writes:

If you put a < and a > around your JOHO URLs, it would cause most or all email programs to properly recognize them as URLs even when the line breaks 'em in two.

Not Outlook. In fact, if you put an URL between brackets, it auto-sends abusive mail to everyone in your address book.

Ok, I'll try to remember to do this. Meanwhile, be sure to read Glenn's mahvelous writing at <<<>>>

Dave Buchholz updates us on his encounters with the amazing AI demonstration at; the site tries to guess what dictator or sitcom character you're pretending to be.

I posed as Idi Amin, which it did correctly guess after a while. It gave me credit for being hard as it was only the 6th time it had seen Idi. OK, tough guy, lets see if I can get harder...

So posing as Hitler, I did stump its little brain. Instead it thought I was Higgins from Magnum P.I. Some incredible AI. I went back for another round and it appears the dictator page on the site was no longer responding. Maybe it is good AI, since it appears to be off brooding over its ass whupping.

It turns out that Dave answered No to the question "Did you murder thousands of your enemies?," reasoning that Hitler would not have seen it as murder, since they were not of his own race. I guess that implies that Higgins is comfortable with his genocidal rage. You have to admire that.

John Peters has also been playing the dictator game:

After honestly answering all the questions, and declining to be Adolph Hitler, and providing an appropriate question, I tried again and

I guess that you are John Bryan Peters from Real life! Am I right?

Yes !

It wasn't easy, but I won this time. You are player number 2 to have chosen John Bryan Peters from Real life. John Bryan Peters from Real life was a tough one, but I've had a lot of practice. Thanks for giving me something to do. Please visit again soon.

...I'm not sure at this point whether I have proved

1) that I exist


2) that I am a sitcom character

but I am sure that it will all sort itself out.

John Bryan Peters from Real Life is a JOHO reader! Super-cool! (Mini Bogus Contest: What is Real Life and who is John Bryan Peters?)

Richard Brockhaus, my 1970 college philosophy professor (misleading since he's only about five years older than I and hung out with us because, either because we were just so cool or because we were the ones with the good pot), writes about a little puff piece my alumni newspaper ran about me, but quickly rappels to a variety of comments:

I liked your picture in Bucknell World - 97% stock broker with a hint of Conservative Rabbi. A long way from the boy who had been publicly charged with being "totally depraved"... Also . . I was at the supermarket and it was IgCrack day on the Musak system, and some hoopie was caterwauling that if you lived in a house that was all windows, then all sorts of bad shit would come down on you. The Leibnizian angle immediately presented itself to me - what if you lived in a house with NO windows? I see it in the key of plain old G with perhaps one of those Allman Brothers relative minor chords where they can't do much damage. And never forget - If a lion could talk, we wouldn't understand him. That alone has gotten me through the first several months of the present administration. (When Russell went to prison the first time, the jailor asked him his religion, and Russell answered "Agnostic". The jailor asked him how to spell it, and said with a sigh, "Well, we call it different things, but I guess we all worship the same God.") The filters for my coffee this morning ... said "new improved". Does this seem an oxymoron to you?

No more so than "Continental Philosophy." [Rim shot!]

Margaret Ruwoldt catches us up on Ansett. They used to insist that you fill out a long legal form to get "permission" to link to their page; I put the link on my home page without filling in a form because I am, apparently, totally depraved. Writes Margaret:

G'day, David

The "illegal" link on JOHO's home page caused me a wry smile today: sadly, Ansett is going bust and its various operations are being sold off or leased to other airlines. Linkrot has set in, and all pages on the Ansett site lead to its home page.

Let's hope they get reincarnated as a company that doesn't have its head tucked up its wazoo.

R. Morgan Gould responds to our piece propagating his favorite charity, which included the needless remark that R. has a rich man's name:

...I laughed at your speculation re. my being rich. Nope. Grew up rural poor in a nasty corner of upstate NY where the only thing that grows without effort is depression (economic and other); more despair there than a virgin at Beverley Hills High School. It's why I contribute to organizations dealing with the PEOPLE who are poor, not the ISSUE of poverty.

But you only contribute to virgins? What's up with that?

Bob Filipczak writes:

I came up with a new term last night as I was walking the dogs, so I thought I would pass it along. For two organizations, I get paid to scour the net for virtually all the relevant information in the field. ...

Anyway, as I go through a series of websites checking for relevant and new information, I grab it, summarize it and regurgitate it. So I came up with the term "sharking", as in "I'm sharking a bunch of websites." ... [A]s I bite off chunks of information, it's much like gobbling chum, which I would also like to add to our Internet lexicon, as in "how much chum do you have on your website to attract sharks?"

Ok, maybe I'm stretching the metaphor too hard. But at least I'm not mixing them horribly. I mean how did we ever allow the phrase "surfing the web" to occur?

"Sharking," eh? I like it. At least it's more dramatic than, say, "I'm chicken-pecking your site" or "I'm rodent-nibbling your site."

FWIW, when I was at Open Text, in 1995 when they were making the early transition from client-server to Web-based document management, I tried to get them to use the phrase "Client/Surfer" technology. Didn't catch on.

I wrote:

Ever-vigilant reader Chip Yost points out that we have not ruled out the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons in Afghanistan ... in effect, "I see your tit and raise you a gazillion tats.",1282,47319,00.html

Micky Allen responds:

I know that the USA and Britain are in together on this Linen caper, but we are still two nations divided by a common language

Language such as that used by Chip Yost in the USA can get you put away over here in the UK, and would get you nuked in Afghanistan!

"I see your tit [breast] and raise [erection] you a gazillion t(w)ats [female pudenda]

First, I'm the one who wrote about tits and tats, so let's not drag Chip through the mud; we've got better things to sully her reputation with.

"Tit" of course means "breast" in Amurkan also, but is inoffensive in the phrase "tit for tat." "Twat" is occasionally used here and is considered pretty dirty, although not as bad as the C word, the *only* word that still can never be used in any conceivable context.

I found what seems to me an unlikely origin of the phrase "tit for tat" at "Dir für dat" supposedly means "this for that" in German. I thought "dir" meant "you." Sounds bogus to me.

Chris "Pain Guy" O'Leary (see above) replies to our enthusiasm for Andy Clark's book Being There. I wrote: "Our minds are not only formed by our culture, they would be impossible without the things of our culture..." Chris replies:

If you want to learn more about this idea, you should read Don Norman's work. His "Things That Make us Smart" talks about essentially the same idea. He calls these tools Cognitive Artifacts.

Good point. (Don's home page is But I'm interested in Clark's thought for a somewhat different reasons. He's addressing a sinkhole of traditional philosophy in a rigorous way. It's not simply that we rely on things to make us smarter, but we need to rewrite our theory of consciousness to take that into account.

David Wolfe, Guru of Marketing and More, responds to my hearty endorsement of Andy Clark's Being There:

Antonio Damasio's book, "The Feeling of What Happens" models consciousness this way: Brain creates model of self/ Brain creates model of an externality/ Brain creates model of relationship between self and the externality.  Without the externality, consciousness cannot be engaged.

Some linguists, e.g., George Lakoff, say that all knowledge and perceptions are self-referential. They say all of what we know and perceive ties back to ourselves as metaphors that we draw on to figure out whatever enters our minds from the senses. From a new book I'm writing:

Our brain’s reactions to our sense of the body and what it experiences form a database of memorized sensations that we use to form an infinite range of concepts and perceptions, as words are used to form an infinite range of statements. 
To illustrate, images represented by the words up and down draw from our earliest spatial experiences. As infants, help comes to us mostly from above:  mother reaching down to feed us, change our diapers, bathe us, and play with us, and to take us out of our cribs into her arms.  These early life experiences become metaphors that contribute a more positive bias to the concept of up than the concept of down has. When we are happy, we are up. When we are sad, we are down.  When we admire people we look up to them; when we don’t like people we look down on them.  When sales are strong, they are up. When sales are weak, they are down.  We place God up in the heavens, and the Devil down in Hell. Thus, cognitive scientists propose that immaterial thought in our minds is linked to the material substance of our bodies. 

If  human intelligence and perceptions are inextricably linked to self-reference, then computers may need self-awareness to be capable of human-like intelligence. But there is more.

In his earlier book, "Descartes' Error," Damasio (who studies patients who are rather like Mr. Spock of Star Trek renown with intact reasoning powers, but sans emotions) implicitly reveals a glaring flaw in AI — failure to respect the role of emotions in cognitive processes. Emotion — essentially visceral reactions — play a key role in qualitative assays of incoming information such as whether the word "anthrax" in a particular communication means heavy metal band, bacteria, or disease.

Damasio (and others) have determined that people without emotions have severely impaired self-referential skills. They cannot relate externalities to their selves. AI-ers will probably not achieve what they want until computers have emotions. That's a tall order given that emotions draw from DNA-based dispositions and life history and depend on electrochemical interactions with sundry body systems, each of which have discreet  values relating to the contents of one's survival scenario.

Survival scenarios are schemata of what is necessary for continuing safe, comfortable pleasing existence. Human thought and action is activated by the contents of survival scenarios. Thus, all behavior is rooted in self-preservation imperatives which seek more than just continuation of organic life. Self-preservation imperatives drive the quest for immortality, whether in the form of having one's name attached to an endowment or through belief in life beyond this earth. Self-preservation imperatives also motivate us to make others aware of our existence so that our presence in their fields of awareness symbolically extends and perpetuates our existence. We want to live in other people's consciousness and memories as well as in a temporal and even an everlasting sense.

So it is, that computers may need not only be self-referential and have emotional capacities to think like people, they may have to have thought-conditioning self-preservation imperatives to think like people.

Thinking about AI in comparison with NI (natural intelligence) sometimes makes me think about artificial diamonds in comparison with natural diamonds. ADs are perfect, while NDs are not. Scientists do not know how to make ADs with the exquisite imperfections that grace NDs. Perhaps AI will never possess the exquisite flaws in NI that give humans the capability of creative output to paint Mona Lisas, write Hamlets, compose Ninth Symphonies, draft Constitutions for democratic societies, and write JOHO journals.

Ay caramba! How is a body to reply to this? Your approach — via evolution and physiology — is quite different than mine but I think we end up in the same place. I'm familiar with Damasio. I.e., I've, never read a word by him but have read some about him. (I interviewed Rosalind Pickard who wrote Affective Computing that draws heavily on his work. Here's the link: I certainly agree about the importance of emotions. They're not secondary. They're how the world matters to us, and I place care (Heidegger's influence again) at the heart of consciousness and attention. (In fact, I'm much happier with the term "attention" than "consciousness" because it contains within it the idea of connection to the world.)

As for putting JOHO in the same sentence as Beethoven, well, we'll just pretend we didn't read that.


Rick Fierberg replies to my careless slamming of Bob "Hyinaaahhmeh" Dylan's concert competency:

Much as I embrace the general thrust of your argument — that Bob joining the mercenaries is sad; and much as I like your workaround — having him paint the living room . . . I'm wondering when you last saw Dylan perform live.

After being alerted by a New Yorker article that described a relentlessly touring journeyman with no sense of self-importance and a Grateful Dead-like changing of nightly setlists, I ventured out to see Bob at Jones Beach (NY) Summer 2000 and was richly rewarded. Especially during the acoustic-electric tunes, I heard a crack band playing (truly) classic songs with verve and graceful ease. That the songs were all from the same pen and being sung by their author was all the better. Never a fan of Dylan's singing 25-35 years ago, I have to tell you that his voice was the perfect contrasting and complementary instrument to accompany the beautiful music being produced. The whole experience was one of low key revelation, pretty much what the New Yorker had said. If this is still the deal a year later, I just want to let you know that the cleverness of your premise and its expression - which I admire and would freely share with friends if I *hadn't* seen Bob - doesn't match up to what gets played on stage. Something to consider . . .

The last time I saw Dylan perform in person was in the Rolling Thunder tour in Toronto in the late '70s. (The first time was in the mid-60s when he was on his first electric tour with the band that was to become The Band.) I might possibly be willing to admit that my evidentiary basis is a bit out of date ... except for the fact that you say his voice *contrasted* with the beauty of the music. What contrasts with beauty? Scratchy, off-key, nasal whining. QED. (Got you on a technicality. It feels good.)

Jane M. Wolf is a bit testier:

It is very "self evident" that you have not been to Dylan + Band concert in MANY years and obviously know nothing about anything! Like so many "so called journalists" it is easier to pollute and destroy than to actually report on anything true! I'd actually be willing to come to your house and paint everything black for you, which is the only color you obviously perceive. PPPPSSSSTTTTT!!!! (that is a huge bronx cheer for you and your article...)

Journalist? Never ... although in my heart I do aspire to becoming a so-called journalist, and maybe — if I work hard, and pollute and destroy with true abandon — I can achieve the honorary scare quotes to become a "so-called journalist." I know it's an impossible dream, but, as Dylan whines in that godawful voice of his, "It takes a lot to laugh but it takes a train to cry." So true, so true.

Bob Filipczak has had a fit of thinking:

I was thinking this morning. Don't know what came over me. I was reading some short stories a friend had written. He's as good a writer as I ever want to meet. Anyway, he's not a big web head, but in his stories he uses the phrase "I went to a site" and I paused. This guy writes what I consider "literature" and hangs with literary types. It made me think that "going to a site" is now an accepted phrase. People know what that means. It has an archeological feel to it, but now everyone "goes to sites" and excavates information that they want. It's crept into my conversations too. 10 years ago no one would have known what I was talking about. Just another example of the mainstreaming of this Internet stuff.

Thank goodness! Chapter 2 of my upcoming book is about why the Web feels spatial to us, and I use the phrase "going to a site" as evidence of that. After all, talking about "downloading a page" would be more accurate.

Dethe Elza responds to my decrying of the CYC AI project:

One of the best-known taxonomies on the web is the one Yahoo! uses to organize sites, mailing lists, etc. My wife Daniela was complaining last night about how ridiculous their taxonomy was when she was adding a mailing list for her Sunday salon group (a face to face group she organizes in a local coffeehouse with some online extensions).

I feel the same way when I register my weblog or any other site with Yahoo!

And where did Yahoo! get their taxonomic specialists to organize the universal reference that is the Web? From the Cyc project.

For example, they've got JOHO listed under Computers and Internet News -> Columns and Columnists while the first listing for EGR (RageBoy's zine: is under Automotive Accessories -> Manufacturers. Actually, that seems about right.

In the previous issue, I seem to have referred to the esteemed Eric Norlin (writer of as a "little weasel" because he beat me into print with an idea. He replies:

who you callin' "little"??

I deeply regret whatever mental stress I may have caused Eric, his gracious wife, and his furry little relatives. To express my apologies, I have mailed him a 50-pound sack of kibble and three weeks' worth of shredded newspaper.

Carolee Marano writes about my despair-filled article about losing the war on privacy:

How could we have lost our "privacy" so long ago without even really noticing it? For the longest time, I fought bitterly with my husband to keep the internet OUT of our home. I explained to him that any time we had line open, it was like having our back door open. Well, I gave in, and within days was making credit purchases online. I double-check the back door lock before going to sleep, but never gave my a-privacy another thought. (Who was I kidding anyway? I have a social security card, and have given the number out probably hundreds of thousands of times in my lifetime.)

Now, on top of this, we've lost a sense of safety, albeit one that was only false to begin with. Did we really think we could have insanely lax border and immigration policies and NOT have terrorists living among us? Did we think we could hand out student and work visas without checking to make sure these individuals actually enrolled in school or reported to job, and not be risking having some of them turn out to have less than honorable intentions? Yes, we did.

Along with our loss of privacy and our need for government protection against terrorism, we're sure to lose more and more of our civil liberties....

I've been trying to get used to the idea of all of this, and frankly, to me, it sux. I just don't see any way for us ever again to be the free Americans we once thought we were, in the way that our forefathers died to defend. I'm afraid we lost that privilege without even noticing. (And I welcome any plausible viewpoint to the contrary - please!)

You're not going to get much of a disagreement from me, except that our borders are inevitably permeable. We've got something like 5,000 miles of border. It simply can't be protected. Likewise, if someone flies here on a pretext, it is virtually impossible to keep that person from losing himself if that's what he wants to do. So, I don't want to give up liberties in pursuit of an impossible dream of security. Worst of both worlds.

Yes, it sucks.

September 11

Why I am not a pacifist

Gary Lawrence Murphy in an email argues some positions I used to hold. Thus, I found this message from him quite challenging. I.e., I ended up writing too much.

Gary starts by replying to my saying that "I have no compunction about our government hunting down and killing terrorists."

Let's get all thugs, gangsters and rapists too. Hell, let's kill everyone who we _suspect_ is guilty. To hell with courts and banish the lawyers, and let's forget "innocent until proven guilty" and _especially_ trial by a jury of peers.

While we're at it, hey, let's cut off the hands of suspected thieves and stone all adulterers. Let's even cut off the hands and stone anyone who even _thinks_ of those crimes, or who may have a profile-potential for such thoughts. Jails and rehab just cost too much damn money anyway.

I have no compunction about anyone's legal due process hunting down and _arresting_ criminals, but only if there is a due process, rule by law, and a jury of peers.

Is the belaclava-masked ghetto kid holding a handgun in the face of a convenience store clerk a criminal, or a 'terrorist'? Is the rifle armed teen gone berserk in the school cafeteria a terrorist? How about Al Capone?

If not, what, pray tell, is the difference? Political motivation?

There are good reasons to think of the 9-11 terrorists as criminals in some ways, but equating them with a stick-up man robbing a convenience store misses the point pretty dramatically, even ignoring the differences in scale. The 9-11 terrorists committed an act of war and they did so for ideological reasons for which they were willing to die. Do you really see no difference? Further, and more important, we can't arrest them for the simple reason that we don't have an international police force. And if we did, the cops better go in heavily armed because these guys: don't recognize the cops' authority, are armed like an army, are willing to kill, and are willing to die. Sounds like a war to me.

What would Gandhi have done indeed. Or Martin Luther King.

They would have been willing to die in order to touch the better nature of their oppressors. I'm not. The death of another middle class American Jew is likely just to make these bastards happy.

And, you know what? Even I, as a wool-dyed Liberal, believe that between me and a terrorist willing to kill a few thousand civilians, I'm the one who more deserves to live. I may waste my work-life masturbating about how the Web is good and glorious, but at least I'm not setting out each day to make a fresh batch of orphans.

I'd be a lot more comfortable if people took more issue with the use of depleted radioactive material in our soldiers' bullets, or the smooth passing of unqualified statements like "sometimes our smart weapons miss" (anyone remember the stats released after Desert Storm?)

Of course. Our focus on the glory of war is obscene and a lie.

I'd be a lot more comfortable with the "violence solves problems" view if we had just one working example, one precedent.

The passengers on Flight 63 — the one that crashed in Pennsylvania — solved the problemof being on a bomb aimed at a building by attacking the hijackers. A pacifist response would have resulted in more people being killed in both the short term and the long term. Do you really need more examples? How about the Secret Service guys who wrestled Reagan's attacker to the ground, preventing him from shooting more bystanders, or a cop forcibly removing a knife from an assailant's hand? The statement "violence never solves problems" makes an empirical claim that is obviously false.

Yes, we should *always* worry about our use of violence. We should *always* recognize that each and every bullet flies for generations. But to say that it *never* works is to exempt oneself from the difficult moral discussion of deciding when and how to act against the interests of others for some (presumably) greater good.

WWII did not eradicate fascism and racism.

And it didn't cure cancer. But it did shut down some death camps that were in full swing, and it did get the Nazis out of France and did keep them out of England. I think the argument to be made here is that pacifism might have worked if applied consistently *before* the rise of Nazism. Once the jackboots were on the march through Poland, pacifism became less practical than war.

I haven't the slightest doubt that America's history of oil-provoked greed and wanton disregard of the needs and rights of others has been an important contributory cause of the rise of anti-American terrorism. We should turn from our self-centered behavior immediately so that a generation from now there may be peace. But right now we are being attacked with weapons of war by people who consider themselves to be at war with us. They are willing to die if they can take my children with them. I have no compunction about hunting them down and killing them first.

"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not" is the underlying principle of all military action. As was and ever shall be, a world without end, amen.

It is also precisely the principle of pacifism.

D> There is a time for hatred. This is one. [i.e., I wrote this line — ed.]

"Fear leads Anger and Anger leads to Hate"
— Yoda, "Star Wars Episode One" ...

Having your friends murdered by people who now threaten to kill you and your children, and who support outrageously vicious governments at home, leads to hate also. And it should.

Yoda should get Frank Oz's hand out of his ass and say something useful.

Thank you, Gary. I respect your position. It's not an easy one these days. And, although it may sound like I'm arguing with you. I'm actually arguing with myself out loud.

Also from Gary:

It's very curious. We can use the UN to arrest or depose a Slobodan Milosevic, Pinochet, Marco ... why execute bin Laden on sight and without trial? Are we afraid he will talk?

Also curious is the one nation bordering Afghanistan that has been 100% ignored in all broadcasts, the nation who, at tremendous cost in human lives and suffering, has built a seemingly dead-end highway straight to the back door of Afghanistan, a dead end street that needs only Afghanistan "settled" to give Beijin a clear pipeline-of-sight to the oil fields. Hmmm.

The ghost of Maj. Smedley Butler seems to be everywhere these days.

If you, too, don't know who Butler was, here's a link:

Jim "Jimbo" Meyer writes:

The Washington Post presented an interesting article on the terrorist networks ... truly a dysfunctional hyperlinked organization.

But, it seems to me, that part of our hope is in re-constituting ourselves as a hyperlinked world. Think of the NYSE without a central trading pit ... that's what NASDAQ does.

After all, the Defense Department funded the development of the internet as a crush proof solution. Take out part, the rest remains vibrant.

This was the strength we experienced with Tianamen Square (not internet based, but hyperlinked). Communications kept the world and the oppressed connected. If this had occurred in 1950, all those involved would have been killed and no one would know. Perhaps it did occur, will we know?

Regrettably, the bad guys use the same approach both on the net and off.

There is good food for thought (for a brighter day) in all the talk about asymmetrical opposition. You cannot fight a decentralized opponent with a hierarchical, centralized system. And so we see, a hierarchical organization has trouble responding to a networked market and networked competitors.

Perhaps the amazing example of that premise is Compaq circa 1992. Their hierarchy had them building more expensive computers than competitors who were free to select the cheapest, most cost effective components from a network of suppliers. Compaq reconstituted themselves tapping into the same network.

The article in the Post includes references to thinkers who study networks, all with interesting thoughts and ideas that apply to the generic, hyperlinked orb, not just the terrorists' hyperlinked org.

The article is by Joel Garreau and is excellent.

Dennis Doughty writes about my saying that I fled with my family when Scaremonger General Ashcroft said that Boston was about to be attacked:

We went to Worcester for a day and a half for a mini vacation. We had a nice time at the Armory and various museums, swimming at the hotel pool, etc. We felt a little silly, of course, but we found ways to justify it. One thing I kept saying to my wife whenever my older son was out of earshot, however, was "if we ran away this time, on a relatively flimsy warning, doesn't this mean we have to run away *every* time? And where exactly is safety to be found? Should we move to Australia? New Zealand?"

I guess I'm as fatalistic as they come, because I think that you'll never get "it" back. There are those who say "well, we lived through the cold war, when we had the spectre of global thermonuclear war to keep us up at night, we'll get through this one too." I think the situations are quite different. Back then, we worried that a government, corrupt as it was, would make an organizational decision to launch a war with extremely expensive, hard-to-get, weapons. We recognized that the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction would serve as a deterrent to all but the insane or suicidal. Now we fear that single human being might choose to deliberately infect him- or herself with smallpox and go to the movies. The genie is out of the bottle. A single person sending a teaspoon of talcum powder in an envelope can presumably shut down Congress for an afternoon. Sure, acquiring smallpox is believed to be relatively difficult to do, but if it hasn't already fallen into the hands of terrorists it surely will. And that's not to mention plague, hemorragic fever, and whatever other disgusting stuff is out there. We are vulnerable to people who just want to do unspeakable things, and we have survived as a people thus far because most individually achievable unspeakable things have affected at most scores of people. When the technology exists for the scale to increase by many orders of magnitude, just don't see how we can hope to react.

Not long ago, finding myself somewhat off-put by American culture (particularly its emphasis on violence), I seriously entertained relocating to another country. Australia (and, to a lesser extent, New Zealand) was on the list. Now I wonder if its inherent geographic remoteness is a feature in its own right. Perhaps, the thinking goes, we can move somewhere for 5 years and see what happens. But I ask myself, do I really want to be one of the survivors of a global epidemic which has countries deciding to bomb their own cities to keep the infections localized? The fact that would even ask myself such questions leads me inexorably to the conclusion that I will never get "it" back.

I hope that 20 years from now I will be looking back at this time with the same sort of bemusement with which regard the Reagan proclamation "we begin bombing in 5 minutes." "Wow," I'll say, "we were really worried that we were all gonna die. How shortsighted." But I fear that the year 2001-2002 will be remembered (and not by us) as the time of the great pestilence.

It seems to me that Lex Luthor is real in our world but Superman is not.

And how are things with you, David? :-)

A lot better before reading your message.

Here's the most depressing thing I can think of: These are the good old days.

Dianna Roberts writes from New Zealand as if in response:

You are not alone in feeling depressed, sad and frightened. This thing has affected the whole world, even those of us who live here at the very bottom of the world in New Zealand (which formally offered its assistance to the U.S. within 2 hours of the attack). I still can't look at the photos I took from the top of the WTC just last year.

What are my fears? I am afraid for the people of the United States who must be anticipating further attacks. I am afraid for my daughter who works for a large U.S. investment bank in the heart of the financial district in London, which must surely be a target. I am afraid for my own little country which although very far away suddenly feels very vulnerable. And not only do I feel fear, I feel angry. Very angry. This world is a stunningly beautiful place and we have the right to enjoy it. Damn you bin Laden and others like you. You have spoilt the simple pleasure of just living on this earth. Damn you.

Jeffrey Mann writes:

I love your Generation Alpha proposal. I have long struggled because I feel like Americans are (or should be) the Good Guys; an immature thought, but there you go. I was deeply affected when I saw concrete barricades and an ugly iron fence going up at the American Consulate in Amsterdam a couple years ago. Why should we need that? We were the good guys. It made the building look like the highly protected outpost of some distant, corrupt potentate. felt dirty going in there to get more pages glued into my passport. With the bombings in Kenya, I could feel the need for it more clearly. Now I almost can see the fortifications as a sign of defiance, and am less bothered by them. But not completely.

But that's not why I´m writing. I would like to hear an economist explain why six months ago, it was "impossible" to find money to build schools, fund AIDS research, receive a fair share of refugees, etc. But now Sagan-esque billions and billions of dollars are raining out of the sky for military and humanitarian ops, weapons, Cipro and on an on. I don`t accept that they were simply lying, although that is certainly part of the equation. Why is it now possible? If it is merely a question of will, then your Generation Alpha proposal is what we need. Can we spend 10% of what we are excreting to kill terrorists on preventing them? I suppose that it is the same adage (and here comes the JOHO link) that there is never enough time to build an IT system right, but always time to build it over again at 4x the cost. There is not enough money to raise the human condition enough to not hate the West, but there is always enough to slap those humans around a bit when it turns out they do.

Of course it's a question of wil. That's why the resort to claims of "realism" and even to reality itself are almost always self-serving bushwa. That's why optimism is the only true realism. Don't even get me started...!

Jeff Chamberlain writes:

The most disturbing thing that I heard this week was a man I work with telling me that the minister in his church interrupted his sermon to announce that the US was bombing Afghanistan. He said the church broke out in cheers. I can understand agreement with and even the need for some type of military action, but in the midst of our need for justice, have we forgotten the horror of war?

Yes, we have. And the media are doing nothing to remind us. They would rather feed our fears for ourselves than spend a minute on the reality of what a single bomb does.

Glenn Fleishman points out:

"bin Laden" translated literally from German would mean something like "(I) am loaded."

Hmm, shouldn't that be "bin geladen"? "bin Laden" means "I am [a] load," doesn't it?

And have you noticed that in the Evil Bert poster, they spell his name Usama, i.e., "USA ma"? All he needs is "Apple Pie" as a middle name.

In fact, he needs a marketing guy to redo his branding. Maybe I should send him my résumé. What a feather in my cap that would be! "Yeah, I'm the one who put him into a leisure suit and got him the guest spot on Friends..."

Speaking of branding, Richard Summers writes:

Whilst being _very_ aware that I'm broaching a _highly_ sensitive topic here (can you hear the protective clothing being donned?) One thing I have noticed in recent days is that the food rations being air dropped into Afghanistan have a large Stars and Stripes on them. I dont have experience of other aid originating from America. but I would suspect that the flag is on lots of other things that are shipped in aid from your shores.

Perhaps an easy way to help people accept aid would be to provide it _without_ the branding.

But then what would be the point of giving them food? I mean, that'd be as senseless as being an anonymous donor, except without the tax write-off! It'd be like sponsoring a charity event without having the photo op with the giant check at the end! I'm just not following your line of thinking here, Richard ...

Richard also quotes from an article about an attempt to reform Pakistani religious schools.

"American participation would be the "kiss of death" for the policy, which predates the current US rapprochement with Pakistan's military regime by two years, he says.

"This is not an American idea and we would reject American help," said Mr Ansari. "Our aim is to modernise Pakistan's religious schools for Pakistan's sake, not for anyone else's." " source -

Richard's point is that my "Generational Alpha" pipedream wouldn't work because it would be seen as American imperialism of a sort. I'd argue that this is *precisely* why we Americans need to start establishing some credibility as good guys in large portions of the globe. (It's all in the branding.) So Pakistan rejects our aid. Fine and dandy. In ten years, after we've shown sensitivity to local needs/traditions, maybe they'll accept it. Or maybe they won't. Maybe in 12 years, after Iraq has jumped on the bandwagon, they'll accept aid from Iraq.

A reader who goes by the nom de plume of Anonymous writes:

So am I correct in believing that Saudi Arabia is the only nation that is actually named after its ruling family? Following along, does this mean that someday we could be referring to Ladeni Arabia? ...

Don't be silly. He clearly would prefer something more tropical, something like Osama Bahama.

Gary Lawrence Murphy, much argued with above, responds to our call for conspiracy theories:

Conspiracy Theory #3 [Caspian oil route - .ed] gets my vote:

My own conspiracy theory extends this with dark psychodrama: The world was ripe for another infectious meme, like St Vitus Dance and Tarantism in medieval times (see Rethinking the Dancing Mania The Taliban had infected their opiated (in the literal and marxist sense) droogs with hate meme for western mores, and bin Ladin has infected his with his Arabia-for-Arabians meme.

And we? Perhaps Television really is the opiate of the masses.

I'm not that old (44), but it seems to me Americans are normally more vocally critical of their foreign policy. Americans spoke out against even Abraham Lincoln's actions against the South. The whole basis and reason for the USA is the freedom to dissent, yet today, we have an instant mass hysteria swarming around all manner of security and counter-'terrorism' efforts that we all _know_ and _admit_ will do little more than line the pockets of the vendors of security and counter-'terrorism' paraphrenalia. Bomb sniffers do not detect madness, retina-scanners will simply confirm a person as a "normal upstanding citizen of florida" —- Yet day after day the opinion polls show massive support for these futile actions, and calls for even further actions.

Almost as if they cannot stop dancing.

Bruce Burn writes about our article on the rationality of humor:

Humour lends a distance to our view and softens the hard lines of tragedy. On the subject of appropriate ways of dealing with a Major Insult and Callous Act such as the Sept 11th event, I tend to agree with your comment that perhaps the best way to both respond and demonstrate the qualities of life as it is lead in the "western" world might be to withhold the military response and simply get on with helping the hungry in poorer nations. Mind you, justice demands some payment for heinous crimes so there might be simultaneous and intense covert actions using every devious military resource to seek and destroy terrorist networks. Some will point out that such action duplicates the ways of the terrorists, and that may be true.. except the action would be directed at terrorists not at general populations.

I didn't mean to imply that we shouldn't do anything militarily. I can even see a reason to do some bombing in addition to the "busboy with a silencer" approach (a line I cribbed from the West Wing). But the sole focus on bombing is already backfiring on us.

Michael O'Connor Clarke writes from the safety and wisdom of Canada:

Your "I dissent" piece, in particular, hits home. I've been on the same kind of crusade these last weeks (assuming I'm even allowed to say "crusade" without fear of PC Police persecution). Like you, I guess, one of the things that has me on this bandwagon is the really disturbing collusion and voluntary self-censorship sweeping through the top US media. As you pointed out, it's just plain wrong for Bill Maher to get hammered and dropped by a number of stations for speaking his mind on a show that very, very clearly states its aim is to be "Politically Incorrect". Even worse, his network bosses pressurised him into apologizing: [The press release is no longer on the site - ed.]

Then Condoleeza Rice coerces the top network bosses into agreeing to "filter" future transmissions originating from Al-Qaeda:

As an aside, which is worse? Putting fear in the hearts of Americans by allowing them to actually see and hear their enemy calling for jihad, first hand and unsanitized? Or having the FBI do the fearmongering through strange, nebulous warnings and requests for help? Did you read that FBI press release? Which do you think puts the people of a country on higher alert: having their enemy appear on national TV and say "I'm going to kill you", or having the FBI saying: "they're probably going to try to attack again, almost certainly, sometime real soon, can't say much else" ?!

Meanwhile, the coalition of broadcasters and newspapers that had banded together to uncover the real truth behind the Florida ballots scandal, decides they just "don't have the resources" to actually do anything with (like, publish) the results of the lengthy and expensive analysis they paid for:

Sheesh! Then the freakin' New York Daily News goes and spikes a comic strip, fercrissakes, for overtly criticizing US foreign policy:

Hello? And I kind of thought freedom of speech and a free press were two of the fundamental tenets of Western democracy. Isn't that what we're fighting for? In such an atmosphere as this, it seems that any American who chooses to criticize the government is not simply exercising their First Amendment rights - they're a traitor.

But if the 9/11 attacks cause dissenting voices to be silenced, probing media questions to be viewed as unpatriotic and subversive - then surely the terrorists have already won. Ben Franklin said it: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

I have to go and lie down now.


Clinton "Glenn Clinton" Glenn offers some meaningful praise:

David, You sir, are what is called the loyal opposition and every society needs some. All your voices must be allowed to be heard. Personally, I do not agree with everything you have said in this issue, but I do respect your right to voice your opinion...

Respect is not enough. I demand obedience.

dividing line

Bogus contest: Bugaboos

You know what drives me nuts? Alta Vista knows how to search millions of documents and knows how to tell you exactly how many hundreds of thousands of hits it's found, but it hasn't figured out how to put commas into big numbers. It ain't freakin' rocket science, people: you start from the right and count by threes.

You know what else drives me nuts? Sites that make the "back" button on the browser refer to the page you're looking at. Let me out!

You know what else makes me crazy? Text links with an icon to the left that isn't itself linked. You click on the icon and nothing happens. Move the "<a>" tag, bozos! It won't cost you a dime!

Your chore: Come up with trivial irritations that cause an incongruous foaming of the mouth. And remember, they have to be trivial, so pop-up ads and misleading ads for porn don't count.


Contest Results

David Wasser takes us from spam to maps in six steps:

Spam is sold in cans...

...made out of aluminum...

...whose main ingredient is bauxite...

...that is mined in Alabama...

...which bears the distinction of being the least requested of the 50 states'...

...maps (according to AAA).


Morbus Iff of contributes to our never-ending thread on URLs that can be read entirely the wrong way: [The site is down today - ed.]

He also points us to Warning: It's quite a skanky site

Ah, what a perfect way to end yet another too-long issue of JOHO. You may now resume your new normal lives. Remember, be worried but not frightened, alert but not suspicious, and, most of all, keep that cynicism up. It's our only real hope.

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Editorial Lint

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