The Null Device


A former Pentagon officer says that a group of neoconservative ideologues, including the Vice-President, is running a shadow foreign policy, contravening Washington's official line:

"What these people are doing now makes Iran-Contra [a Reagan administration national security scandal] look like amateur hour. . . it's worse than Iran-Contra, worse than what happened in Vietnam," said Karen Kwiatkowski, a former air force lieutenant-colonel. "[President] George Bush isn't in control . . . the country's been hijacked," she said, describing how "key [governmental] areas of neoconservative concern were politically staffed".

Kwiatkowski says that civil-service and military professionals were often bypassed in favour of ideological appointees when making decisions, with Congress being kept in the dark.


My copy of the new Ninetynine EP, Receiving the Sounds of Science Fiction just arrived. I've posted a brief write-up to ninetynine_fan. I'll probably write something more detailed later, possibly for Rocknerd.

Executive summary: it's all good.

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In his Jargon File, Eric S. Raymond argues that using the word "hacker" to mean "someone who breaks into computers" as opposed to "intellectually curious tinkerer" is deprecated and factually incorrect. Someone named Raven Black has a good rant about why ESR is wrong:

The Jargon File talks absolute bollocks about the word hacker. It claims that using it as a synonym of cracker is deprecated. No it's bloody not, Mr Jargon File, it's common usage, quite the opposite. What you mean is you, like Mr How To Become A Hacker, want it to be deprecated because you want your precious word back, just like wiccans claim that witch means wiccan even though it's fucking obvious that common usage has it meaning the green evil warty cauldron broomstick variety. Claiming that the common usage is deprecated just gets those people you'd have call themselves hackers (or witches) into trouble when they do so in non-wanker company and are misunderstood.

Mr. Black proposes a new word (akin to "wiccan" for "witch") to be used for the benign meaning of "hacker". The word proposed, however, is "phrenic", which sounds (a) about as daft as atheists calling themselves "Brights", and (b) like a plausible abbreviation for "schizophrenic" (much in the way that "tard" is used as a derogatory term for the mentally challenged). Chances are if tinkerers started calling themselves "phrenics", the word would devolve to become a slang term for "weird and/or crazy person" in popular usage, applying to everybody from the mumbling, long-bearded programmer in the back office to the mumbling, dishevelled itinerant on the street corner.

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Apparently MacOS 10.3 doesn't come with Microsoft fonts, consigning users to Helvetica Hell. Until web designers start taking advantage of the rather nice fonts that OSX comes with. (There should be more Gill Sans in the world, I think.) (via MeFi)

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Contrarian and reluctant neoconservative Mitchell Porter has connected the September 11 terrorist attacks, and his theory of a decade-long secret war between the CIA and an Iraqi-backed Al-Qaeda, to the Illuminatus! trilogy, via the pre-Islamic Egyptian calendar and the correspondences with the book (particularly, the Chaney/Cheney thing, the anthrax and the bombing of the Pentagon):

Well, here is a first hypothesis, which ought to freak out any Robert Anton Wilson fan: Mohammed Atta was a fan of Illuminatus, and took some inspiration from the terrorists in the book. As the article on the Egyptian New Year, linked above, testifies, there is a great appetite in the Muslim world for elaborate conspiracy theory involving esoteric secret societies. The constitution of Hamas is a good example, in the way it groups Rotary Clubs and Freemasons together as part of the grand anti-Islamic conspiracy. And Illuminatus!, while largely unknown to the literary mainstream, is well-known to conspiracy aficionados of all sorts. For that matter, Atta spent a lot of time in Germany, where Illuminatus! had already intersected real espionage in the person of "Hagbard Celine", a young hacker who took his name from one of the novel's anarchist heroes, and who penetrated Western computer networks on behalf of the KGB.