Holy crap, Glenn Beck is a reasonable man:
If you voted for Hillary Clinton this week, you likely feel despondent, confused and unable to reconcile how the country elected Donald J. Trump. “Don’t people see how dangerous this man is?” Clinton supporters asked. “Our entire way of life is at stake.”
I get it. I opposed Mr. Trump, too. But this is how nearly half the country felt eight years ago. It does not matter if we do not understand one another’s feelings. What matters is that we at least hear them.
How do we stop the cycle?
Tuesday night, as it became apparent that Mr. Trump would win, I saw myself as others may see me. Pundits were beside themselves talking about sexism, “whitelash” and bigotry. I read three articles comparing him to Hitler. I understand what they meant. But just as President Obama was not a Manchurian candidate, Mr. Trump is not Hitler. The seeds of 1933 may have been planted, but they can grow only through our hate and divisiveness.
I don’t question your right and reasons to feel fear. But don’t fear Donald Trump the way I feared Barack Obama. I read a perfect election summation: The people who were against Mr. Trump took him literally but not seriously. His supporters took him seriously but not literally. It is the same pattern of 2000 and 2008. We heard President Obama was coming for our church and our guns. We were mocked. We thought those who laughed were lying or stupid. Yet, I still go to church, sometimes with a gun.
Well, that happened. Tuesday night I went to bed hoping for better news. I woke up at 2.30am, unable to sleep; after a while I gave up and came down. Still no good news. President Trump it is, help us all.
But. This morning there was an ISS flyover, and a rare semi-clear sky to see it. So I fired up the ISS HDD viewer on my laptop, went outside, and watched the sun rise from the ISS while I watched it fly overhead, a wonder heading for the dawn.
The recent Lawfare Podcast episode "Disrupting ISIS Recruitment Online" makes fascinating listening. It's a recording of a panel discussion consisting of two Google-affiliated companies that do targeted advertising aimed at, well, disrupting ISIS online recruitment, and the US Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
It is, at first listen, profoundly weird to hear the jargon of online advertising applied to propaganda. (It's propaganda I agree with, but propaganda nonetheless.) But then I realized where I'd come across the idea before: Robert A. Heinlein's "If This Goes On --". Here's a quote:
'I'm in the Psych & Propaganda Bureau,' he told me, 'under Colonel Novak. Just now I'm writing a series of oh-so-respectful articles about the private life of the Prophet and his acolytes and attending priests, how many servants they have, how much it costs to run the Palace, all about the fancy ceremonies and rituals, and such junk. All of it perfectly true, of course, and told with unctuous approval. But I lay it on a shade too thick. The emphasis is on the jewels and the solid gold trappings and how much it all costs, and keep telling the yokels what a privilege it is for them to be permitted to pay for such frippery and how flattered they should feel that God's representative on earth lets them take care of him.'
'I guess I don't get it,' I said, frowning. 'People like that circusy stuff. Look at the way the tourists to New Jerusalem scramble for tickets to a Temple ceremony.'
'Sure, sure-but we don't peddle this stuff to people on a holiday to New Jerusalem; we syndicate it to little local papers in poor farming communities in the Mississippi Valley, and in the Deep South, and in the back country of New England. That is to say, we spread it among some of the poorest and most puritanical elements of the population, people who are emotionally convinced that poverty and virtue are the same thing. It grates on their nerves; in time it should soften them up and make doubters of them.'
'Do you seriously expect to start a rebellion with picayune stuff like that?'
'It's not picayune stuff, because it acts directly on their emotions, below the logical level. You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.. You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic. It doesn't have to be a prejudice about an important matter either. Johnnie, you savvy how to use connotation indices, don't you?'
'Well, yes and no. I know what they are; they are supposed to measure the emotional effects of words.'
'That's true, as far as it goes. But the index of a word isn't fixed like the twelve inches in a foot; it is a complex variable function depending on context, age and sex and occupation of the listener, the locale and a dozen other things. An index is a particular solution of the variable that tells you whether a particular word is used in a particular fashion to a particular reader or type of reader will affect that person favorably, unfavorably, or simply leave him cold. Given proper measurements of the group addressed it can be as mathematically exact as any branch of engineering. We never have all the data we need so it remains an art-but a very precise art, especially as we employ "feedback" through field sampling. Each article I do is a little more annoying than the last-and the reader never knows why.'
I'll leave my ambivalence about Lawfare for another day. For now: the podcast makes fascinating listening, and if you haven't read "If This Goes On--", I highly recommend it.
During the past week, in a series of interviews and events, Trump has articulated a loose, but expansive set of principles that, if enacted, would mark a fundamental shift in the strategy the Obama administration has employed to fight violent extremism. In addition to arguing in favour of reinstating waterboarding, a technique that mimics the sensation of drowning, and "much more than that," Trump has advocated the killing of militants' wives and children, which appears in violation of international law.
"We have to play the game the way they’re playing the game," Trump said in an interview on CBS’s "Face the Nation" Sunday, one day after he told an audience in Florida that he would fight to expand and broaden the laws that regulate interrogation.
"I would like to strengthen the laws," he added Sunday, "so that we can better compete."
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden and others also have weighed in, saying military officials would refuse to carry out any Trump order that violated the law.
During the last GOP debate, Trump insisted that U.S. military officials would obey any orders he gave them, saying, "They're not going to refuse me. Believe me."
So help me, I'm left wondering which would be worse: a Trump presidency, or a military coup against a Trump presidency.
I started this blog (checks git) thirteen years ago. Holy crap. First entry was July 23, 2002 and was posted to my Slashdot Journal. (Man, I miss Slashdot...) In that time I've switched from Slashdot to WordPress to PHPWiki to a homegrown compiler to (checks Makefile) Chronicle. Considering a change to Jekyll or some such...though I should probably pay someone to actually design this site too. Suggestions welcome.
What with scheduling and weather, it has been a long time since I've gone out observing. My interest has waned a bit too, which kind of worries me. OTOH, this is the usual time of year where it's cloudy 25 hours a day...usually by the time January rolls around, I'm ready to go out again.
I've been playing with Chef a lot at $WORK recently and I'm really coming to like it. Between the API the Chef server exposes and the unexpected sense of relaxation that comes from having an actual programming language to write in, it's been fun to pick up. I still want to see a cage match between Mark Burgess and other folks.
Are you a member of the EFF? You should be.
Years ago, when I got into Linux, I somehow managed to persuade my father that he should run Linux too. I was surprised, but I shouldn't have been; he had a better Internet connection than I did for many years, we'd talk about which 286 system we'd buy (WordPerfect 4eva!), and he had a Blackberry long before I had anything remotely comparable.
Yesterday, I helped him get Tor going. He downloaded the browser bundle (64-bit Linux, natch), and I talked him through unpacking it, starting it up, and setting up a menu launcher for it. It was all done over the phone, which took me back to my days on the help desk: anticipating what the other person will see, telling them what to do and remembering to be explicit at all times. Three's so much you can skip over when you're familiar with the process; there's so much you realize is entrusted to muscle memory, never actually rising to consciousness anymore.
But it worked -- he got connected, he got a feel for how slow things can be, he logged into Facebook (and knew not to click on the "Enable Flash plugin" button), he logged into his bank (!) and even GMail. We discussed what Tor would bring (increased privacy) and wouldn't bring (security). (Complicated; my feeling is that, although NoScript and not having Flash does a lot, it's not their primary concern. If security was my main focus, I'd probably start looking at SELinux or Qubes.) And we talked about what using Tor would do for others: provide cover, camouflage, for some who really need it.
Of course, he's probably the only Tor user within a 50km radius. (No, really -- he lives outside a small town.) So he sticks out like a sore thumb now. We joked about a pixel lighting up on a map in Maryland, analysts scratching their heads and wondering "Is that in the US?" But still: little, tiny, worthwhile things.
Canada's CSEC tracked travellers at Canadian airports who used the free WiFi. Not only that, tracked 'em afterward and backward as they showed up at other public hotspots across Canada. Oh, lovely.
ESR writes about dragging Emacs forward -- switching to git, and away from Texinfo, all to keep Emacs relevant. There are about eleven thousand comments. Quote:
And if the idea of RMS and ESR cooperating to subvert Emacs's decades-old culture from within strikes you as both entertaining and bizarrely funny...yeah, it is. Ours has always been a more complex relationship than most people understand.
My wife takes out our younger son's stuffed dogs for the day, and gets all the space she needs at Costco. WIN.
Have I mentioned Adlibre backup before? 'Cos it's really quite awesome. Written in shell, uses rsync and ZFS to back up hosts. Simple and good.
Maclean's sent a sketch artist to cover Justin Bieber getting booked. I'd like to sketch that well.
So Professor Michael Geist is running for a spot on the CIRA board of directors. I want to vote for him. While I'm there I decide I should really consider the other candidates as well. And after a very small number of bios, it becomes very obvious that many -- maybe most -- are focussing on growth, on marketing, on things that would never occur to me to be part of what I thought was such an exclusively technical domain. More fool me, I guess.
Example statement from candidate Jennifer Shelton, in answer to the question: "What specific actions do you propose to overcome [CIRA's] challenges and opportunities?"
Slowing organic growth rates will require CIRA to articulate, convey, and deliver on a clear brand message that makes the value proposition clear to all stakeholders. This message should include thought and technological leadership to differentiate dot-ca from lower cost alternatives.
GAH. GAH is my reaction. I can see what is probably meant, what I could rephrase in a way that doesn't make me twitch, what would let me avoid screwing up my face at the mention of this candidate's name -- but I'm damned if I can figure out why I should bother.
Not just her. John King writes:
New competition from generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) will arrive this year. More than ever, CIRA needs to be focused and decisive with marketing and strategic planning. CIRA needs the wisdom, the oversight and the support of a knowledgeable and committed Board of Directors to help shape the plan and to authorize appropriate action without hesitation.
CIRA is a high-performing organization. There is excellent leadership from the CEO and in the functional areas. There is a culture of innovation, achievement and respect. It's easy to be enthusiastic about CIRA's very significant benefits for all Canadians and the organization's continuing recognition as an international exemplar of best practice in the domain industry.
(He goes on to compliment CIRA's "intentional [evolution] toward greater effectiveness. Intelligent organizational design FTMFW!)
The further segmentation of the top domain name space will inherently reduce some demand for .ca top level domain names. With many Canadian companies focused on export markets and the possible availability of custom specialized top level domains, the .ca top level domain space may find itself facing limited growth and it may be a challenge to project relevance to many Canadian potential registrants. It will be critical for CIRA to project value to the registrants and seek to maximize its relevance in the more complex and splintered top level domain space in the near future.
William Gibson (no, not THAT Wm. Gibson):
The issue is a marketing one. I believe what is needed is a two pronged approach. The first element would be designed to make the public much more aware of the .ca domain name designation and to make the designation much more attractive to and desirable for the users.
- Encourage true value innovation
- Continued growth, sound financial practices and investigate new revenue sources to ensure sufficient investment in our future
CIRA needs to engage its stakeholders to understand their needs and expectations and prioritize targeted solutions.
By way of welcome relief, Adrian Buss is just plain confusing:
Members of the board of directors have to be seen to be the end product that CIRA delivers. The membership is at the core of CIRA's governance model, without an engaged membership .CA just becomes an irrelevant TLD.
Jim Grey says, let's carpet the registrars with flyers:
Continuing to increase our .ca brand awareness and preference with Canadians and to strengthen our relationship with registrars. In an increasingly competitive world the .ca brand awareness becomes key to continued growth. In addition our only sales channel to market is through registrars who will be inundated with new gTLD's and increased sales incentives from existing gTLD's. CIRA will need to strengthen the relationship with registrars.
The only thing Rob Villeneuve's missing is the cape:
I understand my role as a director is to implement CIRA's mission, adopt CIRA's vision, and live CIRA's values in my personal and professional affairs, both with CIRA and in my office as CEO of a group of registrars. I will at all times reflect CIRA's brand and show my pride for .CA, which is the foremost Canadian internet identity for a domain.
Victoria Withers sez:
Continued implementation and deployment of current technology by skilled professionals will provide the environment for an agile, secure and stable registry service. Focusing on a talent management program for all areas of the business will foster and create a culture of excellence.
For instance, Rick Sutcliffe would best represent the interests of academics (among the first ever connected to the net), small business, and non-profits. He is also a fiscal conservative.
Also, "dot polar bear for all!":
In addition, [Rick Sutcliffe] believes that CIRA can better promote its brand to Canadians, so that when they think "Internet" they think CIRA, and when they think "domain" they automatically think ".ca".
With the many new TLDs now coming on line, he is more convinced than ever that CIRA needs to expand its product line, offering registry services for any new TLD that has relevance to its mandate for Canadians.
There's the odd mention of IPv6 or DNSSEC. One candidate mentions IDN French language support. (Sorry, two.) And one, bless their heart, talks about the downside of a .CA domain having its SSL certificate revoked by a foreign SSL cert registry.
I know this rant is not constructive. I know that short-sightedness lives in my heart, that my moral failure is that I'm unable to stop twitching at the jargon and see the good ideas that (may) lurk within. I know that I'm giving Michael Geist and Kevin McArthur a free pass...doubly so for McArthur, who talks about launching "a parallel alternative root as a contingency planning exercise and as deterrent to foreign political interference within the global root zone", which is a BIG can of worms that is not (and cannot be) discussed in nearly enough depth in a 500 word essay to be used as a campaign plank.
But oh god, the...the relentless focus on growth, growth, GROWTH is enough to make me want to huddle in the corner with a bag of chips and a copy of "Das Kapital" on my laptop.
News flash: organizations evolve toward self-perpetuation. Film at 11.
From the Emacs manual:
35.6 Mail Amusements
M-x spook adds a line of randomly chosen keywords to an outgoing mail message. The keywords are chosen from a list of words that suggest you are discussing something subversive.
The idea behind this feature is the suspicion that the NSA1 and other intelligence agencies snoop on all electronic mail messages that contain keywords suggesting they might find them interesting. (The agencies say that they don't, but that's what they would say.) The idea is that if lots of people add suspicious words to their messages, the agencies will get so busy with spurious input that they will have to give up reading it all. Whether or not this is true, it at least amuses some people.
Hee hee. And then there's the Jargon file:
NSA line eater: n.
The National Security Agency trawling program sometimes assumed to be reading the net for the U.S. Government's spooks. Most hackers used to think it was mythical but believed in acting as though existed just in case. Since the mid-1990s it has gradually become known that the NSA actually does this, quite illegally, through its Echelon program.
And now this:
The Department of Homeland Security monitors your updates on social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, to uncover "Items Of Interest" (IOI), according to an internal DHS document released by the EPIC. That document happens to include a list of the baseline terms for which the DHS -- or more specifically, a DHS subcontractor hired to monitor social networks -- use to generate real-time IOI reports. (Although the released PDF is generally all reader-selectable text, the list of names was curiously embedded as an image of text, preventing simple indexing. We've fixed that below.)
This week has been a writeoff. I took 2.5 days off sick (shoulda been 3), I slept for maybe four hours last night, and I've stared blearily at my work monitor more than I care to admit.
I did get some stuff done: updated one of my wireless routers to the latest version of OpenWRT (and promptly found problems), got njam working on the new incarnation of the MythTV box (the kids are thrilled), and listened, rapt, to my youngest son proudly show his friend around the house while I hid upstairs in bed, snuffling quietly. So there's that.
I've been reading "A History of Christianity". I long for footnotes, but more for comfort than anything else; other than that, it's pretty damn good. I've also got "Why Evolution Is True", and that's good too. I picked up Sue French's "Deep Sky Wonders", thanks to my ever-generous in-laws, and if the verdammt clouds ever clear up I hope to put it to good use. (Though I was proud, the last time the sky was clear, to have found NGC 1662 by Orion, which is mentioned in this book...I was surprised at how easy it was to find.)
Optional reading for the week: "Sun's Unified Storage 7210 -- designed to disappoint?". Bryan Cantrill is a class act.
Mandatory reading for the week: Terry Milewski's article on Section 34 of Bill C-30, which outlines the duties of inspectors, appointed by the minister under the act. Quote:
The inspectors may "enter any place owned by, or under the control of, any telecommunications service provider in which the inspector has reasonable grounds to believe there is any document, information, transmission apparatus, telecommunications facility or any other thing to which this Act applies."
...The inspector, says the bill, may "examine any document, information or thing found in the place and open or cause to be opened any container or other thing." He or she may also "use, or cause to be used, any computer system in the place to search and examine any information contained in or available to the system."
...The inspector -- remember, this is anyone the minister chooses -- is also empowered to copy anything that strikes his or her fancy. The inspector may "reproduce, or cause to be reproduced, any information in the form of a printout, or other intelligible output, and remove the printout, or other output, for examination or copying."
...Finally, note that such all-encompassing searches require no warrant, and don't even have to be in the context of a criminal investigation. Ostensibly, the purpose is to ensure that the ISP is complying with the requirements of act the but nothing in the section restricts the inspector to examining or seizing only information bearing upon that issue. It's still "any" information whatsoever.
Horrible. Email your MP today.
Like many Canadians, I am concerned about the secrecy surrounding TPP negotiations -- and even more concerned about the details that have emerged. Canada should not be participating secret negotiations that will affect:
The importance of each of these areas on their own, let alone together, should convince anyone that the treaties affecting them must be negotiated openly, transparently and (with all due respect) with much, much more public consultation than has occurred so far.
I can think of no better person to invite into this process than Professor Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa, whose own submission to this consultation I endorse whole-heartedly. I strongly urge this government to involve him at the earliest possibility; you will serve the interests of Canadian citizens well by doing so.
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely, Hugh Brown
This site has gone dark today in protest of the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA). The U.S. Congress is about to censor the Internet, even though the vast majority of Americans are opposed. We need to kill these bills to protect our rights to free speech, privacy, and prosperity. Learn more at AmericanCensorship.org!
Memo to Canadians: your government will throw you under a bus if they feel like it.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada's principal intelligence agency, routinely transmits to U.S. authorities the names and personal details of Canadian citizens who are suspected of, but not charged with, what the agency refers to as "terrorist-related activity."
The criteria used to turn over the names are secret, as is the process itself.
In at least some cases, the people in the cables appear to have been named as potential terrorists solely based on their associations with other suspects, rather than any actions or hard evidence.
The first stop for these names is usually the so-called Visa Viper list maintained by the U.S. government. Anyone who makes that list is unlikely to be admitted to the States.
Given Washington's policy of centralizing such information, though, the names also go into the database of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Centre. Inclusion in such databases can have several consequences, such as being barred from aircraft that fly through U.S. airspace.
Or, as Canadian Maher Arar discovered in 2002, the consequences can be worse: much arrest, interrogation, even "rendition" to another country.
"We don't want another Arar," said the security official. But at the same time, he said, CSIS is acutely aware that if it did not pass on information about someone it suspected, and that person then carried out some sort of spectacular attack in the U.S., the consequences could be cataclysmic for Canada.
U.S. authorities, already suspicious that Canada is "soft on terror," would likely tighten the common border, damaging hundreds of billions of dollars worth of vital commerce.
A former senior official, who also spoke to CBC on the basis of anonymity, put it more bluntly: "The reality is, sorry, there are bad people out there.
"And it's very hard to get some of those people before a court of law with the information you have. And so there has to be some sort of process which allows you to provide some sort of safeguard to society on both sides of the border."
Furthermore, he said, "it's not a fundamental human right to be able to go to the United States."
No, it's not a fundamental human right to be able to go to the United States. It is a fundamental human right not to be kidnapped and tortured.
Been busy lately:
3 new workstations with OpenSuSE. Can't figure out the autoinstall, so it's checklist time, baby.
Software upgrade for a fairly important server + 3 slave nodes. Natch, after rebooting one of the ILOMs for the servers just...went away. Can't ping it from the network. Works fine with an interactive ilom shell from Linux. Sometimes I really hate Dell software.
Got a call from the reseller for a major hardware vendor who just got taken over by a major database vendor; said db vendor has just turned off educational discounts we'd spent THREE MONTHS negotiating/waiting to have approved. I am unimpressed. Strongly tempted to call up random hardware vendors and throw money at them 'til they give us stuff.
Finally got leak detection working in the server room. Stupidly long time, it took.
Working on a "Lessons Learned" presentation for LISA that'll include mention of the leak detection (among other things). Not sure how it'll be received, but I figure it's their job to tell me it sucks, not mine.
New term coming, so about six new people coming. But at least I know about them in advance.
But hey! Turns out we live in a constitutional democracy after all. There was some debate about this at 24 Sussex Drive, I understand. Score one for the good guys.
I'm listening to Obama's inauguration while in a server room, during my last day at $job_1, waiting for a server to boot up.
Just a heads-up for anyone in Canada: the Standards Council of Canada is taking comments on adopting Microsoft's Office Open XML as "an international open standard". Take a moment and add your voice to the 215 comments, nearly all of which are against this proposal.
Just doin' my part.
The report is well worth reading. As summarized in the newsletter:
"The JTF Guantanamo Detention Center is the most professional, firm, humane and carefully supervised confinement operation that I have ever personally observed," he stated.At the same time, "Much of the international community views the Guantanamo Detention Center as a place of shame and routine violation of human rights. This view is not correct. However, there will be no possibility of correcting that view.""There is now no possible political support for Guantanamo going forward," Gen. McCaffrey wrote.
McCafferey acknowledges in the report that "During the first 18 months of the war on terror there were widespread, systematic abuses of detainees under US control in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. Some were murdered and hundreds were tortured or abused. This caused enormous damage to U.S. military operations and created significant and enduring damage to US international standing."
Yet nowhere in this report does he seem to realize that the U.S. also was condemned for its lawlessness:
The great value of the platform of Guantanamo was that it was a military space in which no Federal District Court had primary jurisdiction. For that reason alone, Gitmo has over the past 45 years been the location of choice for US migrant refugee operations (no appeal to the INS process) as well as other secret operations. No applicable foreign law, no foreign diplomatic intervention, no Federal Court civil orders, no nosy intervention by a US Ambassador -- only the exercise of unilateral military power and the tool of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It was the perfect deal. No more.
The mourning of the loss of a place over which no court had jurisdiction, into which no "nosy " US ambassador could look, is entirely unbecoming of any democracy -- let alone one that views itself as the Great Vending Machine of Liberty. Yet this point flies right past the nose of a man who gives an otherwise straightforward and unblinking account of Gitmo's failures.
The British Foreign Office is now seeking to block publication of Craig Murray's forthcoming book, which documents his time as Ambassador to Uzbekistan. The Foreign Office has demanded that Craig Murray remove all references to two especially damning British government documents, indicating that our government was knowingly receiving information extracted by the Uzbeks through torture, and return every copy that he has in his possession. Craig Murray is refusing to do this. Instead, the documents are today being published simultaneously on blogs all around the world. The first document contains the text of several telegrams that Craig Murray sent back to London from 2002 to 2004, warning that the information being passed on by the Uzbek security services was torture-tainted, and challenging MI6 claims that the information was nonetheless "useful". The second document is the text of a legal opinion from the Foreign Office's Michael Wood, arguing that the use by intelligence services of information extracted through torture does not constitute a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture. Craig Murray says: In March 2003 I was summoned back to London from Tashkent specifically for a meeting at which I was told to stop protesting. I was told specifically that it was perfectly legal for us to obtain and to use intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers. After this meeting Sir Michael Wood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's legal adviser, wrote to confirm this position. This minute from Michael Wood is perhaps the most important document that has become public about extraordinary rendition. It is irrefutable evidence of the government's use of torture material, and that I was attempting to stop it. It is no wonder that the government is trying to suppress this.
These files are also available here.
Letter #1 Confidential FM Tashkent (Ambassador Craig Murray) TO FCO, Cabinet Office, DFID, MODUK, OSCE Posts, Security Council Posts 16 September 02 SUBJECT: US/Uzbekistan: Promoting Terrorism SUMMARY US plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism. Support to Karimov regime a bankrupt and cynical policy. DETAIL The Economist of 7 September states: "Uzbekistan, in particular, has jailed many thousands of moderate Islamists, an excellent way of converting their families and friends to extremism." The Economist also spoke of "the growing despotism of Mr Karimov" and judged that "the past year has seen a further deterioration of an already grim human rights record". I agree. Between 7,000 and 10,000 political and religious prisoners are currently detained, many after trials before kangaroo courts with no representation. Terrible torture is commonplace: the EU is currently considering a demarche over the terrible case of two Muslims tortured to death in jail apparently with boiling water. Two leading dissidents, Elena Urlaeva and Larissa Vdovna, were two weeks ago committed to a lunatic asylum, where they are being drugged, for demonstrating on human rights. Opposition political parties remain banned. There is no doubt that September 11 gave the pretext to crack down still harder on dissent under the guise of counter-terrorism. Yet on 8 September the US State Department certified that Uzbekistan was improving in both human rights and democracy, thus fulfilling a constitutional requirement and allowing the continuing disbursement of $140 million of US aid to Uzbekistan this year. Human Rights Watch immediately published a commendably sober and balanced rebuttal of the State Department claim. Again we are back in the area of the US accepting sham reform [a reference to my previous telegram on the economy]. In August media censorship was abolished, and theoretically there are independent media outlets, but in practice there is absolutely no criticism of President Karimov or the central government in any Uzbek media. State Department call this self-censorship: I am not sure that is a fair way to describe an unwillingness to experience the brutal methods of the security services. Similarly, following US pressure when Karimov visited Washington, a human rights NGO has been permitted to register. This is an advance, but they have little impact given that no media are prepared to cover any of their activities or carry any of their statements. The final improvement State quote is that in one case of murder of a prisoner the police involved have been prosecuted. That is an improvement, but again related to the Karimov visit and does not appear to presage a general change of policy. On the latest cases of torture deaths the Uzbeks have given the OSCE an incredible explanation, given the nature of the injuries, that the victims died in a fight between prisoners. But allowing a single NGO, a token prosecution of police officers and a fake press freedom cannot possibly outweigh the huge scale of detentions, the torture and the secret executions. President Karimov has admitted to 100 executions a year but human rights groups believe there are more. Added to this, all opposition parties remain banned (the President got a 98% vote) and the Internet is strictly controlled. All Internet providers must go through a single government server and access is barred to many sites including all dissident and opposition sites and much international media (including, ironically, waronterrorism.com). This is in essence still a totalitarian state: there is far less freedom than still prevails, for example, in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. A Movement for Democratic Change or any judicial independence would be impossible here. Karimov is a dictator who is committed to neither political nor economic reform. The purpose of his regime is not the development of his country but the diversion of economic rent to his oligarchic supporters through government controls. As a senior Uzbek academic told me privately, there is more repression here now than in Brezhnev's time. The US are trying to prop up Karimov economically and to justify this support they need to claim that a process of economic and political reform is underway. That they do so claim is either cynicism or self-delusion. This policy is doomed to failure. Karimov is driving this resource-rich country towards economic ruin like an Abacha. And the policy of increasing repression aimed indiscriminately at pious Muslims, combined with a deepening poverty, is the most certain way to ensure continuing support for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. They have certainly been decimated and disorganised in Afghanistan, and Karimov's repression may keep the lid on for years - but pressure is building and could ultimately explode. I quite understand the interest of the US in strategic airbases and why they back Karimov, but I believe US policy is misconceived. In the short term it may help fight terrorism but in the medium term it will promote it, as the Economist points out. And it can never be right to lower our standards on human rights. There is a complex situation in Central Asia and it is wrong to look at it only through a prism picked up on September 12. Worst of all is what appears to be the philosophy underlying the current US view of Uzbekistan: that September 11 divided the World into two camps in the "War against Terrorism" and that Karimov is on "our" side. If Karimov is on "our" side, then this war cannot be simply between the forces of good and evil. It must be about more complex things, like securing the long-term US military presence in Uzbekistan. I silently wept at the 11 September commemoration here. The right words on New York have all been said. But last week was also another anniversary - the US-led overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile. The subsequent dictatorship killed, dare I say it, rather more people than died on September 11. Should we not remember then also, and learn from that too? I fear that we are heading down the same path of US-sponsored dictatorship here. It is ironic that the beneficiary is perhaps the most unreformed of the World's old communist leaders. We need to think much more deeply about Central Asia. It is easy to place Uzbekistan in the "too difficult" tray and let the US run with it, but I think they are running in the wrong direction. We should tell them of the dangers we see. Our policy is theoretically one of engagement, but in practice this has not meant much. Engagement makes sense, but it must mean grappling with the problems, not mute collaboration. We need to start actively to state a distinctive position on democracy and human rights, and press for a realistic view to be taken in the IMF. We should continue to resist pressures to start a bilateral DFID programme, unless channelled non-governmentally, and not restore ECGD cover despite the constant lobbying. We should not invite Karimov to the UK. We should step up our public diplomacy effort, stressing democratic values, including more resources from the British Council. We should increase support to human rights activists, and strive for contact with non-official Islamic groups. Above all we need to care about the 22 million Uzbek people, suffering from poverty and lack of freedom. They are not
just pawns in the new Great Game. MURRAY
Letter #2 Confidential Fm Tashkent (Ambassador Craig Murray) To FCO 18 March 2003 SUBJECT: US FOREIGN POLICY SUMMARY 1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focussed on democracy or freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth. DETAIL 2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom. 3. Uzbekistan's geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here, and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the buildings from ten to twenty five years. 4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid - more than US aid to all of West Africa - is related to comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov's vicious regime as a bastion against fundamentalism. He - and they - are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West? 5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the US in what I can only call this cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly quote fake improvements in human rights in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply have not happened (I see these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I understand at American urging). 6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by shared values. Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of Central and South American policy under previous US Republican administrations. I watched George Bush talk today of Iraq and "dismantling the apparatus of terrorÃ¢â¬Â¦ removing the torture chambers and the rape rooms". Yet when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in international fora. Double standards? Yes. 7. I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior
level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan. MURRAY
[Transcript of facsimile sent 25 March 2003 from the Foreign Office] From: Michael Wood, Legal Advisor Date: 13 March 2003 CC: PS/PUS; Matthew Kidd, WLD Linda Duffield UZBEKISTAN: INTELLIGENCE POSSIBLY OBTAINED UNDER TORTURE 1. Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the UN Convention on Torture to receive or possess information under torture. I said that I did not believe that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention. 2. I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing is article 15 which provides: "Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made." 3. This does not create any offence. I would expect that under UK law any statement established to have been made as a result of torture would not be
admissible as evidence. [signed] M C Wood Legal Adviser
Letter #3 CONFIDENTIAL FM TASHKENT (Ambassador Craig Murray) TO IMMEDIATE FCO TELNO 63 OF 220939 JULY 04 INFO IMMEDIATE DFID, ISLAMIC POSTS, MOD, OSCE POSTS UKDEL EBRD LONDON, UKMIS GENEVA, UKMIS MEW YORK SUBJECT: RECEIPT OF INTELLIGENCE OBTAINED UNDER TORTURE SUMMARY 1. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror. 2. I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results. 3. We should cease all co-operation with the Uzbek Security Services they are beyond the pale. We indeed need to establish an SIS presence here, but not as in a friendly state. DETAIL 4. In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice. 5. I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture. 6. On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood. 7. Sir Michael Jay's circular of 26 May stated that there was a reporting obligation on us to report torture by allies (and I have been instructed to refer to Uzbekistan as such in the context of the war on terror). You, Sir, have made a number of striking, and I believe heartfelt, condemnations of torture in the last few weeks. I had in the light of this decided to return to this question and to highlight an apparent contradiction in our policy. I had intimated as much to the Head of Eastern Department. 8. I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear that without informing me of the meeting, or since informing me of the result of the meeting, a meeting was convened in the FCO at the level of Heads of Department and above, precisely to consider the question of the receipt of Uzbek intelligence material obtained under torture. As the office knew, I was in London at the time and perfectly able to attend the meeting. I still have only gleaned that it happened. 9. I understand that the meeting decided to continue to obtain the Uzbek torture material. I understand that the principal argument deployed was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true - the material is marked with a euphemism such as "From detainee debriefing." The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured. 10. I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in and organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think there is any doubt as to the fact 11. The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention; "The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights." While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present question also. 12. On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." 13. Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform. 14. I was taken aback when Matthew Kydd said this stuff was valuable. Sixteen months ago it was difficult to argue with SIS in the area of intelligence assessment. But post Butler we know, not only that they can get it wrong on even the most vital and high profile issues, but that they have a particular yen for highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat. That is precisely what the Uzbeks give them. Furthermore MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me and certainly no expertise that can come close to my own in making this assessment. 15. At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services. 16. I have been considering Michael Wood's legal view, which he kindly gave in writing. I cannot understand why Michael concentrated only on Article 15 of the Convention. This certainly bans the use of material obtained under torture as evidence in proceedings, but it does not state that this is the sole exclusion of the use of such material. 17. The relevant article seems to me Article 4, which talks of complicity in torture. Knowingly to receive its results appears to be at least arguable as complicity. It does not appear that being in a different country to the actual torture would preclude complicity. I talked this over in a hypothetical sense with my old friend Prof Francois Hampson, I believe an acknowledged World authority on the Convention, who said that the complicity argument and the spirit of the Convention would be likely to be winning points. I should be grateful to hear Michael's views on this. 18. It seems to me that there are degrees of complicity and guilt, but being at one or two removes does not make us blameless. There are other factors. Plainly it was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the coalition to deport detainees back here from Baghram, but it has been done. That seems plainly complicit. 19. This is a difficult and dangerous part of the World. Dire and increasing poverty and harsh repression are undoubtedly turning young people here towards radical Islam. The Uzbek government are thus creating this threat, and perceived US support for Karimov strengthens anti-Western feeling. SIS ought to establish a presence here, but not as partners of the Uzbek Security Services, whose sheer brutality puts them beyond the pale. MURRAY
From the ever-excellent GrigorPDX:
The images are originally from this site, an online collection/store of Soviet and Communist propaganda posters. The original images are hypnotizing, especially when (like me) you're fascinated by right-wing politics (and its fixation on left-wing/Communist conspiracies), melodrama and the paranoid style; never let it be said that the only place to find the three together is at Alex Jones' website or Sisters of Mercy lyrics.
These images are not profound observations on Bush2's presidency. It's not fair to compare Bush2 to, say, Stalin. But that doesn't stop them from being very, very powerful.
First off, The London Times has published secret UK government minutes from a 2002 meeting on the coming war in Iraq:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action....It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.
From the ever-excellent Secrecy News (Friday the 13th ed.), which goes on to say: "Coverage of the matter has been sparse in the U.S. The Los Angeles Times reported on it yesterday, more than a week after the story broke in the UK on May 1, and the Washington Post followed today." Second, Seymour Hersh talks about Iraq, My Lai and the President of the United States of America:
But I think what's more important than that is that this guy, this Bush, absolutely believes in what he's doing. He's not like a nervous Richard Nixon, worried about, you know, "They're coming after me," or Lyndon Johnson quitting over Vietnam with great uncertainty about whether he is doing the right thing. This guy is absolutely convinced....I have a friend who is a major player who went to Iraq recently. There's been a series, unreported, a series of missions in Iraq that have all been there to study the war -- where are we? -- and they've all come back pretty negatively. This guy came back and he saw the President months ago. And he said, "Mr. President, we're losing the war in Iraq." And there was a sort of a three-second beat and Bush said, "You mean we're not winning." And this guy said, "Hey, I told him what I had to say. If he wants to turn it the way he wants to, that's the way it goes." You know, so he hears what he hears.
Link by way of Ken MacLeod: " You know how this stuff ends? It ends with your cities in rubble, your capital occupied, and your leaders hanged."
Well, I did the right thing today -- twice. Damn right I'm bragging.
First off, it turns out that the FreeBSD Foundation has run into a (good!) problem: its donations have been too big. In order to keep its US charitable status, it needs to have two-thirds of its donations be relatively small. Due to a couple of big donations, this ratio is a little out of whack at the moment, and they need a bunch of small donations.
Welp, I've been administering FreeBSD systems for a living for...well, I was gonna say four years, but it's more like two and a half or three. I've been working on them for four, though; my rent and food has been paid in large part because of the generosity of the people who put together FreeBSD. A donation went off in short order.
Then I remembered that I've been meaning to join the Free Software Foundation for a while now. The motivation is the same: I've been paying my bills for a long time now (and enjoying myself immensely in the process) because of the generosity of Free-as-in-Freedom software people: Stallman, Torvalds, Wall, and a zillion others. I have a hard time imagining what I'd be doing now without Free software; I suspect that, if I was lucky, I'd be working as a grocery store manager right now. So: off to the FSF website to sign up for an associate membership.
And what did I find but two, count 'em TWO cool things:
If you refer three people to the FSF for associate memberships, RMS or Eben Moglen will record a message for you, suitable for voicemail, Hallowe'en or impressing the ladies. I did a quick search on Google, but couldn't find anyone with the link...damn shame. Better than a free iPod, cooler than a CmdrTaco TiVo -- join the FSF and get RMS to say "All Hail Liddy!"
The FSF is looking for a senior sysadmin. God, that'd be cool. Decent enough pay (no, it's not the sort of job you take because of the money, but it's nice to think about), all the Free software you can handle, and an IBM Thinkpad to run it on. Of course, I think I'd have some 'plainin' to do about the laptop I'm writing this on...and, of course, it would mean living in the US. Frankly, that scares the crap out of me these days. Goddamned PATRIOT Act...
In other news, work continues apace. We're losing two coop students and gaining one, gaining another full-time person, and I'm still trying to get my RAID array -- credit app is with the boss, and after that's done the order'll finally go in.
Rough guess (wild hope) at this point is that it'll be in my hands in mid-January, which won't be a moment too soon. There's a new Linux server I'm setting up that I'm desperately hoping won't have problems due to proprietary kernel modules in the software I'm installing. (I'm just writing myself further and further out of that job, aren't I?)
And I'm wondering if the simplest way to get Nagios to make sure the
right machines are exporting the right filesystems is to check if amd
is mounting them correctly. (No matter whether the machine or amd
fails, something needs to be fixed.) Or maybe I just need to figure
out the right wrapper for
On the spam front: good god, what a smoking hole Movable Type is turning out to be. First there were the license changes, then the comment spammers (who seem to be posting a lot more aggressive to MT than to WordPress)...Of course, comment spam affects all blogs, not just MT. Still, this whole idea of rebuilding static pages every time the stars move seems to be causing them a lot of trouble. (Yep, that last sentence was pure FUD. Or bullshit.) And okay, no, I don't use MT, so what precisely is my beef?
As I'm not going to put up, I should shut up. I still have to upgrade WP -- though according to this posting, there are still lots of XSS issues left unfixed. I'm also upgrading PHP, and I should probably use ApacheToolbox to do that automagically, rather than periodically editing my own Makefile.
Further thoughts on the MySQL + GPhoto2 thing: gphoto2 does have the ability to pipe to STDOUT, which I don't think I knew...maybe it won't be as much work to insert directly into a database as I thought. Might even be able to do it as a Perl script.
Finally: what a gorgeous day. It's downtown Vancouver on the back steps of the Art Gallery, it's sunny (in December, too) and just cold enough to make you go "brr". The skater kids are practicing their synchronised jumping -- just in time for the Olympics, I'm sure. A far-too-generous co-worker has handed out chocolate, another has handed out home-made rum and brandy balls, and I'm taking off early to go drinking with a third. Feeling pretty damned good right now.
Update: Too bad Topo's not so great -- fever of 102.8F, as of a couple minutes ago. (Still haven't figured out what that is in Celsius; bad Canuckistanian!) It's down a bit from earlier this afternoon, though, so I'm thinking good things. And these pages say to not worry if it's less than a couple days, so I'm not worrying. Nope.