Thursday, March 31, 2005

Writing a Get Well Letter to the Pope

Click here for AmazonIf you've ever wanted to write a "get well" letter to the Pope, now is probably a good time. The proper greeting in a letter is "Most Holy Father" and the mailing address is:

His Holiness, the Pope
Vatican City
Rome, Italy

The Pope's courageous stand against Communism is especially worthy of mention in light of Ronald Reagan's passing. In fact, his pitched battle against the Soviet leadership earned him a bullet from an assassin.

On October 16, 1978, at age 58, he succeeded Pope John Paul I, fulfilling a prophecy made to him decades earlier by Padre Pio that he would become Pope. The monk also had a darker prediction to make: that Wojtyla's reign would be short and end in blood.

On May 13, 1981, that prediction nearly came true. Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish Muslim, shot and came very close to killing the Pope in St. Peter's Square. Documents released this year indicate that the Soviet hierarchy ordered the assassination in response to the Pope's tireless battles against Communism.

According to the documents, the KGB and the East German State Police -- the dreaded Stasi -- contracted with Bulgarian operatives in Rome to perform the assassination. The Bulgarians, in turn, subcontracted with radical Turkish groups that ended up unleashing Agca.*

On December 27, 1983, John Paul went to Agca's prison and met the man who had attempted to kill him. The men spoke in private and the nature of their conversation has never been revealed.

In more than 100 trips abroad, the Pope has attracted enormous crowds and traveled a greater distance than all other Popes combined. Possessed of great physical courage and stamina, his efforts at peacemaking and bridge-building between religions have been truly remarkable.

BrainBank: Spoken and Written Forms of Address

*In 1987, author AJ Quinnell wrote a fictional account of the Pope's assassination entitled In the Name of the Father. In light of the recently released documents, it is well worth reading.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Our Top Story: Hitler Still Dead

Click here for AmazonThe indispensible Best of the Web points us to this startling headline:

Harvard Study: Hitler Held Grudges, Craved Attention

Now that's what I call a hot news flash.

In any event, the article describes a detailed psychological profile of Hitler commissioned by the OSS in 1943. The article reports:

The rare 1943 document was among the papers discovered in Cornell University Law School's collection from the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

The psychological profile of the Nazi dictator is now available on the law library's Web site.

The report said that if Germany were to lose the war, Hitler might kill himself. Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker in late April 1945.

The interesting thing is that I recall reading this report years ago. It was in book form, probably published in the late 1940's or early 1950's and was titled, I think, "The Mind of Adolf Hitler: The Secret Wartime Report".

There are some interesting tidbits in the report. While there is a prediction that Hitler would commit suicide, the recommendation for postwar treatment of Hitler is fascinating. The primary goal of the treatment was to prevent a living Hitler from becoming a cause celebre or some sort of martyred symbol of persecution:

...1. (a) Bring the Nazi leaders to trial; condemn the chief culprits [to] death, but proclaim Hitler mentally unbalanced.
1. (b) Commit Hitler to an insane asylum (such as St. Elizabeth's, Washington, D.C.) and house him in a comfortable dwelling specially built for his occupancy. Let the world know he is being well treated.
1. (c) ...Unknown to him, have sound-films taken of his behavior. This will show his fits and tirades... of everyone in the world, including the German people.
1. (d) Exhibit regularly to the public... selected segments of these sound-reels, so that it can be seen how unbalanced he is, how mediocre his performance on the customary tests...

Update: the book is still for sale, and I just found it on Amazon. I would have to read the Harvard study in more depth, but at first glance, it would appear these two have markedly similar content.

The study is available on the Cornell Law School web site.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The UN wants to run the Internet

Click here for AmazonHere's something so sick it's almost laughable: the UN wants to run the Internet. Oh, they won't come out and just say exactly that, but a recent interview with the ITU's Houlin Zhao made it crystal clear what the UN is after.

Quick refresher: ITU stands for the International Telecommunication Union and it's an agency of the UN. Here's Mr. Zhao:

Today the management by ICANN (is something that) people consider to be management by the United States, by one government. People definitely want to see some changes. I think everyone would agree that a better arrangement is something that we're looking for.

Bzzzzzt!! Wrong answer! Now I know the UN has had a stellar year, what with:

  • The Oil-for-Food Scandal that ripped off, oh, about $10 billion for Saddam and his buddies (and we all know who they were). Not to mention some untoward payments to UN head Kofi Annan's son Kojo

  • The Sex Scandal in which women and children in the Congo were reportedly raped by UN "Peacekeepers"

  • Oh, wait, I forgot about the other sex scandal in which different UN "Peacekeepers" were linked to separate sex crimes in East Timor as well as prostitution in Cambodia and Kosovo

  • And that's just the recent stuff that's come to light despite the UN's incessant stonewalling.

    From the head down, the UN appears to be rotten with corruption and, as an added bonus, populated with predatory animals possessing no more conscience than John Wayne Gacy.'s Declan McCullagh, who is usually a steller observer of the technology scene, didn't ask Mr. Zhao the key question:

    What in the name of Kojo Annan would possess anyone with a lick of sense to give the UN the keys to the Internet?

    Brief history lesson: the US invented the frigging Internet. It was funded by US taxpayers through DARPA and matured as an artifact of the US military. Don't like it? Invent your own damn Internet.

    Sure, the UN are just the folks I want running the Internet. Hey Kofi: here's a dollar - go buy yourself a big tall glass of shut-up juice. Or, better yet, resign.

    From Interview with Houlin Zhao and from ISOC: Brief History of the Internet

    Update 10/2/05: Wizbang Blog

    Farmer Burns

    Click here for AmazonFarmer Burns was a legendary wrestler who made his name during the turn of the century. His record was a reported 6000+ victories against only seven losses. He won the world wrestling title on several occasions including a victory over the much-feared "Strangler" Lewis.

    The reason I bring up Burns? Combat conditioning guru Matt Furey has resurrected the Burns' legend in the context of bodyweight conditioning. As a longtime lifter with more injuries than I care to recount, I've become fascinated with using bodyweight exercises as an alternative to resistance training solely with iron.

    Ever heard of Hindu pushups? Hindu squats? Divebomber pushups? Wall-walking? Reverse press-ups? Bearcrawls? Furey covers all of these in his (relatively expensive) courses. But there are also a variety of free resources on the web to learn the basics.

    Among other things, Furey sells Burns' original conditioning and wrestling course. But it's also available free, online, courtesy of the folks at SandowPlus. When it was introduced in the early 20th century, the course cost the equivalent of several hundreds of dollars (at least). And it was quite popular, due to its useful illustrations (groundbreaking for their time) and practical advice.

    SandowPlus: Farmer Burns

    Simple AJAX

    Click here for AmazonIf you're wondering how Google pulled off their impressive Gmail user-interface, or why their mapping site is so freaking cool, then look no further than "AJAX".

    AJAX stands for "Asynchronous JAvascript + XML", the latter of which is used to transport messages between client and server without having to refresh the entire web page.

    In February,'s Drew McLellan wrote an excellent overview of Ajax called "Very Dynamic Web Interfaces". His article, probably more than any other, introduced the tenets of Ajax to a wide audience.

    Better still, the folks at ModernMethod have introduced SAJAX, one of the best compact libraries I've seen for simplifying an AJAX implementation. If you write in PHP, Perl, Python, or Ruby, SAJAX is a great jumpstart on your first dynamic web app.

    Check it out: SAJAX.

    Google and Urchin

    Click here for AmazonThe folks at Google have decided to buy Urchin, the web analytics firm. Urchin provides both hosted and shrink-wrapped solutions for analyzing web site traffic. Urchin has some monster customers including (according to their site), P&G, NBC, SBC, EDS, and lots of other three-letter acronyms.

    What's it mean?

    If you operate a commercial web site, Google intends to provide you with all of the infrastructure you need to be successful. Google's AdWords campaign managment application drives traffic to your site. Urchin will help you analyze that traffic to improve ROI. Google's AdSense helps you generate revenue from that traffic, aside from any other revenue you may be earning from your core business.

    What's next?

    My guess is that Google will be entering the hosting business in a big way. Google's Blogger is already a free, lightweight hosting solution. Expect more heavyweight (fee-based) hosting solutions using Google's outrageously scalable infrastructure, coming soon to a web site near you.

    Monday, March 28, 2005

    You put the balm on?

    Click here for AmazonI think you may have heard about the woman who was eating chili at Wendy's and bit into something hard. She spit it out... and it turned out to be a human finger. The stories imply that vomiting quickly ensued, followed by a projectile apology by Wendy's.

    Of course, a lawsuit is more certain than William Hung getting shut out of a Grammy nomination.

    I can so envision a Seinfeld episode with Jackie Chiles ("you put the balm on?") representing Elaine.

    And a patriotic Kramer attempting to wrangle a business deal out of the debacle by harping on the protein benefits of human digits... and appealing to New Yorkers' patriotism by calling them "freedom fingers".

    Defeating Solitaire

    Click here for AmazonThe WaPo's Robert MacMillan noted the following technical solution for the North Carolina State Senator who wants to prohibit state employees from playing Solitaire, Minesweeper, and other time-wasting games.

    That prompted this alternate suggestion from reader Mark Colan: "When I was a developer at Lotus some time ago, we were under the gun for an important project. One team member spent entirely too much time playing Solitaire for our tastes. Someone came up with a Windows resource-editing program, exchanged the images for two cards, and installed it on his machine."

    The result? Every time he pulled a black 7, it would behave like a red 7 and vice-versa. "It did the trick," Colan said.

    Big Music's Last Waltz

    How the DMCA Affects Google Search Results

    Click here for AmazonI did a Google search for "excel web" to find which companies were selling products and/or advertising in the spreadsheet collaboration space.

    After the least search result, I noticed the following announcement from Google:

    In response to a complaint we received under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint for these removed results.

    The link Google directs us to is broken, but contains the term KaZaA Media Desktop. Because KaZaA is a 'prohibited product', in that it can be used for illicit file sharing, the powers-that-be have blacklisted it. The RIAA strikes again.

    Fortunately, there are other powers aligned on the side of good. Powers like Billionaire Mark Cuban, who wrote in a recent blog entry:

    It doesn't matter that the RIAA has been wrong about innovations and the perceived threat to their industry every single time... It just matters that they can spend more (than) everyone else on lawyers.

    The day can't come quick enough when the geniuses at the RIAA are put out to pasture with their intellectual ancestors: the Edsel,, and New Coke.

    Sunday, March 27, 2005

    North Carolina Solitaire Crackdown

    Click here for AmazonFrom North Carolina comes a report that a State Senator wants to erase all game applications from state workers' computers. His belief: that preventing government employees from playing Solitaire and Minesweeper will recoup millions of dollars worth of productivity for the state.

    ...The solitaire crackdown here, though perhaps rare in its specificity, is part of a behind-the-scenes battle over personal time that's affecting not just unionized state workers in North Carolina, but sales reps in Washington and phone-bank workers in San Francisco. It goes straight to the issue of distractions from long days at the office and, more fundamentally, how much of their employees' time and concentration employers can reasonably expect to own...

    This effort is, itself, a giant waste of time. It makes about as much sense as teaching Mandarin Chinese to Jessica Simpson.

    If you've got bored, unmotivated and/or unsupervised employees, then I can guarantee they'll find ways to waste time.

    Game installation: Are you going to search all employees as they arrive each day to ensure they don't bring in game discs? My guess is you can run solitaire off a floppy or CD if so inclined.

    Convergence devices: Are you going to search all employees as they arrive each day to ensure they're not carrying in a PSP? New, personal entertainment devices like Sony's PSP -- a combo game-player/DVD -- will make it even harder to regulate game-playing activities.

    Invented games: Should the state install security cameras and the personnel necessary to monitor them in order to ensure no one is goofing off? Remember the ESPN commercial where cube workers were using a nerf ball and an empty bookshelf to play "baseball"? And bouncing the ball from the floor to the second shelf was a "double"?

    ...the IRS has shown that over 50% of the time an IRS employee goes on a computer, he or she also hooks up to the Internet to shop, gamble or play games...

    Perhaps this speaks to IRS management: I find it difficult to believe that the average Fortune 1000 organization routinely has 50% of their employees shopping, gambling or game-playing whenever they hook up to the Internet.

    Scott Kirwin, founder of the the IT Professionals Association of America, pins the tail on the donkey:

    "Managers, and in this case politicians, don't know how to effectively utilize the people they're in charge of... You have to ask yourself, if someone is so bored that playing solitaire is stimulating, then the problem is not with the game, it's with the job."

    Exactly. Where is management in this equation? Have they not adequate tasked their employees? Motivated them? Supervised their work or verified their deliverables?

    If I were Senator Allran, I'd worry less about which time-wasting technologies were installed on state computers... and a little more about a management philosophy that seems to encourage the wasting of time.

    Is that a spreadsheet on your screen — or solitaire?

    Saturday, March 26, 2005

    Regime Change: Iran

    Click here for AmazonThe invaluable Regime Change Iran blog reports that, if one listens carefully, you can hear the faint drumbeats of war resonating throughout an already tense region (hat tip: Hugh Hewitt). The day when the Mullahs are out of power can't come fast enough. Unless, of course, you prefer that fundamentalist, homicidal maniacs possess nuclear weapons.

    Dr. Jerome Corsi reports that on March 10, units of the U.S. Army's European Command stationed in Germany have been in Israel to conduct joint exercises with the Israeli Defense Forces designed to test their combined ability to down an attack of Shahab-3 missiles launched from Iran against Israel.

    Code-named "Juniper Cobra," these exercises test the linking of U.S. Patriot missile systems with Israel's Arrow-2 missile-defense systems. The Arrow-2 system is designed to intercept incoming missiles at high altitudes to reduce the fallout damage from nuclear warheads. The Patriot systems are a second line of defense, designed to intercept missiles at lower altitudes. Also involved in the exercises is a U.S. missile ship carrying Aegis anti-missile systems.

    U.S. military authorities deny that the exercises have anything to do with the current tensions over Iran's apparently determined drive to develop nuclear weapons secretly. Still, the scenario being tested involves missiles launched against Israel from a "red" whose identity is supposed "unknown," even though the aggressors just happen to speak Farsi. The last Juniper Cobra operation was reportedly conducted in 2001, just before the start of the war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein.

    The point of this combined exercise has not gone unnoticed in Tehran. Iran retaliated by announcing this week that tests of the Shahab-3 missile conducted in September of last year proved they had made breakthroughs in the development of the intermediate-range missile. The mullahs stressed that the September test fulfilled all technical expectations, proving fast and accurate at a range of 1,700 kilometers, more than enough to reach Tel Aviv.

    In other words, the mullahs want to be sure we all know they have an improved version, a weapon maybe more sophisticated than Operation Juniper Cobra is testing against.

    This Operation Juniper Cobra is not expected to end until mid-April. Put this together with what appears to be a convergence of U.S. carrier battle groups in the region, and the preparations for war are hard to miss...

    ...Stalled talks can't last forever. What happens if the mullahs refuse to take active steps to destroy their centrifuge farms and dismantle their heavy-water facilities? Well, there is always the military option. That option is very obviously left on the table, even if the president doesn't talk about it very much.

    Regime Change Iran blog: U.S., Israel preparing for Iran war?

    More Research on Nigerian Fraud Was Needed

    Click here for AmazonEver wonder who falls for those idiotic "Nigerian scam" emails? How about a Harvard professor? Really. This is old news, but I'd never seen it before. Perhaps you missed it as well.

    Apparently, Weldon Xu -- a researcher employed by Harvard -- was bright enough to scam $600,000 from coworkers... but stupid enough to lose it all to a classic Nigerian scam. Hmmm... Harvard professor, you say?

    A Harvard researcher accused of conning $600,000 from coworkers lost it all to a Nigerian e-mail scam, the Boston Herald reported.

    Weldong Xu's lawyer described his client as "a gullible guy" at Xu's trial for larceny in Roxbury, Mass., after entering a not guilty plea.

    Xu, 38, until his arrest last week did cancer immunology and AIDS research for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and was a professor at Harvard Medical School... Xu reportedly solicited the money from 35 people, saying it would go to research into SARS.

    Police said Xu confessed there never was any plan to study severe acute respiratory syndrome and he "lied" to investors, including fellow researchers.

    However, his lawyer Arnold Abelow claimed Xu had every intention of doing the research until the fateful e-mail arrived.

    "He got sucked in," Abelow said.

    When police asked where the money went, Xu allegedly told police he lost it to a Nigerian e-mail scam promising him a $50 million return on his investment.

    "He fell for it," Abelow said.

    Xu was ordered held on $600,000 cash bail, the newspaper said.

    More Research on Nigerian Fraud Was Needed

    Peace Through Superior Firepower

    Click here for AmazonExcept for ending slavery, fascism, nazism and communism -- war has never solved anything.

    Now comes word the the Sunni insurgents in Iraq are hoping for an "exit strategy". Let's hope the exit strategy is their continued obliteration unless they completely abandon terror attacks on Iraqi civilians, their country's infrastructure, and their liberators.

    Many of Iraq's predominantly Sunni Arab insurgents would lay down their arms and join the political process in exchange for guarantees of their safety and that of their co-religionists, according to a prominent Sunni politician.

    Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein, who heads Iraq's main monarchist movement and is in contact with guerrilla leaders, said many insurgents including former officials of the ruling Ba'ath party, army officers, and Islamists have been searching for a way to end their campaign against US troops and Iraqi government forces since the January 30 election...

    ...Sharif Ali said the success of Iraq's elections dealt the insurgents a demoralising blow, prompting them to consider the need to enter the political process.

    Financial Times: Iraq's insurgents ‘seek exit strategy' "

    Software Development at Google

    Click here for AmazonThere is a policy at Google to require its developers to work 20% of the time on a research project of their own making. Joe Beda explains a bit about the software development process at Google and lists five characteristics that distinguish Google from most other development houses:

    1) One code base: everyone gets free-wheeling access to a large, well-documented software repository.
    2) Switching teams: it's easy to work on multiple projects and switch teams without a bunch of formal (HR-driven) process.
    3) Intranet: there is transparency into literally the entire company on the corporate intranet, without a lot of apparent worry about security and/or compartmentalization. Information can propagate to the correct parties in free-flowing and even unexpected channels.
    4) Pet projects: the 20% 'pet project' is not just paid lip service, it is actively encouraged. In fact, Joe worries aloud that he will get dinged on his review for not working on his 20% project.
    5) Interpersonal: there must be a great emphasis on social skills at Google -- and not strictly technical ability. New ideas are greeted with enthusiasm, brainstorming sessions, and the like. Technical elitists are probably not encouraged in this sort of environment.

    I do take issue with one statement of opinion:

    "One of the reasons that environments like Perl, Python, C#, Java, etc. flourish is that they have large and well through out libraries of useful code. For a variety of reasons, C++ has never had this"

    Uhm, Joe, ever visited CodeProject? On SourceForge, for example, C++ is among the top couple of languages used for open-source development. So... I beg to differ. If you're talking platform-inspecific code, well, yes, other languages will have more generic libraries - but where C/C++ excels is in its raw performance. Running close to the metal usually entails some platform-specific features.

    Joe Beda: How the Software Development Process Works at Google

    Friday, March 25, 2005 Why the Switch?

    Picture credit:
    Click here for AmazonTerry Storch and Brian Bailey have operated, a full-fledged church management portal site, since 2001. In 2002, the site was overhauled using Microsoft's snazzy, new .NET tools: IIS, C#, ASP.NET and, of course, MS SQL Server.

    By 2004, a confluence of factors caused the development team to re-evaluate their approach. Separate campuses; the maintenance burden entailed by management of additional web properties (FellowshipConnection and among them); and a relatively small development team were all factors.

    As the sites scaled, it became clear to the development team that continuing down the .NET path was probably not wise.

    ...In addition to our three in-house sites, we have a fourth that is developed by a local company in PHP using Linux and PostgreSQL. Time after time, they have been able to deliver simple and quick solutions that would take us twice as long in our current environment...

    Brian blogged about the decision to move to LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL [or Postgres] and PHP [or Perl]). He characterizes the top ten factors:

       1) Developers
       2) Complexity and speed of development
       3) Cost
       4) Get it running/keep it running
       5) Security/viruses
       6) Platform independence
       7) Community
       8) Examples
       9) Browsers
       10) The new guy

    Read the whole thing.

    As an aside, I'm an advocate for Visual Studio, ASP.NET, C# and MS SQL Server if you're certain you're tied in to Microsoft's server platforms. But if you look to the big boys to see their strategic direction -- say, Google's clustered Linux farm or Yahoo's adoption of PHP --the appeal and security of platform independence is undeniable.

    Brian Bailey: Why the Switch?

    Book Review: All But My Life

    Click here for AmazonI recently had an opportunity to hear Gerda Weissman Klein speak of her experiences as a Holocaust survivor. You may remember Ms. Klein from the HBO Film based upon her startling story, which won an Academy Award. As a pampered, fifteen year-old Jewish girl in 1939, her idyllic family life came to an abrupt halt when the Nazis rolled into their small Polish town.

    For a short period of time, her family was permitted to remain in their house, albeit in the basement. Over time, her family unravelled, shipped off one at a time. Her beloved brother, Arthur. Her father. Her mother. All disappeared, never to be seen again. By 1942, she began her journey through a series of increasingly harsh slave-labor camps, using an ability to speak German and a quickly acquired expertise on garment looms. Only through a series of fortuitous coincidences, sacrifices of friends, and even a few benefactors among her captors, was she able to survive the factories.

    By 1945, the Nazis were on the run and their prisoners were forced to move back into Germany. Stripped of all possessions except for some photographs tucked into her ski boots (which her father had presciently demanded she wear the summer she left home), she survived the 350-mile winter "death march". Only 120 of 2000 girls survived the forced march and Gerda herself was liberated by American soldiers only hours from death: she weighed 68 pounds when Lt. Kurt Klein, who was to become her husband, rolled into town.

    There are few, if any, more compelling first-person stories of survival against all odds. Perhaps John Ransom's Andersonville Diary qualifies. But those who are unfamiliar with the concept of true evil would do well to read Gerda's unbelievable story of human spirit, and courage without measure.

    All But My Life

    Thursday, March 24, 2005

    I've been a Bad Boy (I guess)

    Click here for AmazonI recently posted a note on the    J o e l    o n    S o f t w a r e   forum, an online gathering place of various eclectic -- and usually enlightening -- personalities. Think of Slashdot without the incessant flame wars.

    I had answered a question about Digital River, the large software fulfillment house. One of the participants had asked about DR's reputation and commission rates. I responded as follows:

    Digital River consists of many software fulfillment brands. Check out Digibuy for example: it's a DR property, handles fulfillment, and takes about 13% of your list price.

    RegNow is another one - it has a pretty popular affiliate program where download sites are incented to list you through a piece of the action.

    But you shouldn't ever have to pay anything over 15-18%...

    The next day, when I checked the thread from the office, I noticed my message didn't exist. Had it been deleted? Apparently. If so, I wondered why it had earned this relatively rare distinction.

    When I returned home, the mystery deepened. From the original browser -- the one I'd used to post the message -- the message still appeared in the thread, even after a page reload. Now I was more confused than Yogi Berra visiting CERN.

    As an experiment, I posted a response to another thread. Odd. This one 'stuck' - meaning it was visible not only to my own browser, but also to external browsers (how could I tell? I use a series of proxies for... uhm... "testing" purposes). When I commanded other physical machines to retrieve the pages in question, they told me that:

  • the original message I'd posted didn't exist to the outside world... it only existed on my browser and the internal confines of some JOS discussion database

  • the second, test message I'd posted did exist... it was visible from all browsers

  • As a third test, I posted a new topic - a question. Once I checked my proxies, I discovered that this message, like the first, had been relegated to message purgatory. It was only visible from the original browser that I'd used to post the message. Elsewhere, it didn't exist.

    Bugs in the discussion board system? Or have I been a bad boy and had my home IP address "blacklisted"? I have no idea, but it's either an interesting technical anomaly or a pretty cool security feature, depending upon the answer. Although it would be nice to know what earned the black-listing.

    Update: the moderator(s) at JOS completely destroyed this message (which was cross-posted there as a question) and the several answers it had garnered. Methinks I angered someone there, though I have no idea what did it. Here's a list of my posts... if you can find one that's offensive, let me know.

    Remember Flooz?

    Click here for AmazonFlooz... the good old days of DotCom mania. I like the slogan. "Just what you wished for." What I wished for was an e-cash company that didn't sound like a term for harlot, wasn't represented by flaky, has-been actress, and actually made electronic payments easy. Oh, that's right - I'm describing PayPal.

    Pando Networks is working on a way to deliver large files easily over the Internet, but the best part about the company is that the CEO, Robert Levitan, started iVillage and Flooz.

    Remember Flooz? It sold dollars that could be exchanged for gifts. Whoopi Goldberg stumped for it. Flooz survived the implosion of 2000. Then in 2001, one of its biggest customers, Cisco Systems, wanted to renegotiate a multimillion-dollar contract. Flooz survived that.

    Then the company noticed that gift buying didn't slow down after the Mother's Day/Father's Day/graduation season. The FBI informed Levitan that the Russian mobsters were buying Flooz credit as a way to launder stolen credit card purchases. Flooz survived that, too. Then the large credit card companies decided to withhold payments, in part, says Levitan, because Flooz was able to garner a higher percentage of each transaction than they were.

    The company was forced to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. It had 325,000 creditors, the largest number of creditors ever. The court allowed it to notify creditors via e-mail, a first. Levitan expected to face a hostile audience of several angry consumers at the first court hearing.

    "No one showed up," he said. The company called it quits on Sept. 10. On his first day of unemployment in years, Levitan decided to go to his Manhattan gym, where he saw the disaster of Sept. 11, 2001, unfold.

    Michael Kanellos, Remember Flooz?

    Wednesday, March 23, 2005

    Japanese WW II sub found off Oahu

    Click here for AmazonThis news is a couple of days old, but interesting nonetheless. A University of Hawaii research team found the remains of a very large, World War II Japanese submarine called the I-401 (its sister sub, the I-400, is pictured at left).

    "We thought it was rocks at first, it was so huge," said Terry Kerby, pilot of the research craft that found the vessel. "It's a leviathan down there, a monster."

    The submarine is from the I-400 Sensuikan Toku class of subs, the largest built before the nuclear-ballistic-missile submarines of the 1960s.

    They were 400 feet long and nearly 40 feet high and could carry a crew of 144. The submarines were designed to carry three "fold-up" bombers that could quickly be assembled.

    Kerby said the main hull is sitting upright and is in good shape. The I-401 numbers are clearly visible on the sides, and the anti-aircraft guns are in almost perfect condition, he said.

    An I-400 and I-401 were captured at sea a week after the Japanese surrendered in 1945. Their mission, which was never completed, reportedly was to use the aircraft to drop rats and insects infected with bubonic plague, cholera, typhus and other diseases on U.S. cities.

    When the bacteriological bombs could not be prepared in time, the mission reportedly was changed to bomb the Panama Canal
    . Both submarines were ordered to sail to Pearl Harbor and were deliberately sunk later, partly because Russian scientists were demanding access to them.

    The submarine found Thursday is the second Japanese vessel discovered off Oahu by the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory. In 2002, researchers found the wreckage of a much smaller Japanese sub that was sunk on Dec. 7, 1941, off Pearl Harbor.

    Seattle Times: Japanese WW II sub found off Oahu (Hat tip: Michelle Malkin, picture courtesy of Steven's Armed Forces Site)

    Tuesday, March 22, 2005

    What's Up with Google's AdSense?

    Click here for AmazonThere's something odd going on with Google's AdSense service. And I mean odd in a good way, I think. Here's the mystery: I use Google to serve up ads on various of my web sites, this blog included. Google's AdSense produces the context-sensitive textual ads that you see on the right sidebar, for instance.

    I've been using AdSense for quite some time -- since August of '03, really -- and have served up over 6 million impressions. My click-through rate -- meaning the percentage of ads that actually get clicked upon -- however, has historically been quite low. Lower than a bathysphere submerged in the Marianas Trench. Therefore, the earnings generated through AdSense, despite the number of impressions, has been relatively tiny: less than $1,000 since inception.

    But starting in early March of this year, I noticed something odd occurring: my click-through rates were up... every day. Dramatically. Here's March, so you can get a feel for the difference. Instead of averaging, say, a dollar a day, the March daily average is nearly three bucks. What's weird? The number of impressions hasn't changed a bit.

    So... what has changed? Are the ads getting better -- more 'contextually correct' than before? I don't know. But I'm not going to complain.

    Takeaway: while one can't predict the future, if my results are indicative of AdSense overall, then Google's earnings are going to kick some serious butt this quarter. Act accordingly.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2005 16,586 3 0.0% $0.04 $0.73
    Wednesday, March 2, 2005 20,172 4 0.0% $0.03 $0.65
    Thursday, March 3, 2005 19,448 8 0.0% $0.10 $1.93
    Friday, March 4, 2005 15,098 13 0.1% $0.12 $1.86
    Saturday, March 5, 2005 17,663 24 0.1% $0.22 $3.89
    Sunday, March 6, 2005 17,861 30 0.2% $0.30 $5.38
    Monday, March 7, 2005 17,915 25 0.1% $0.21 $3.79
    Tuesday, March 8, 2005 17,508 24 0.1% $0.19 $3.26
    Wednesday, March 9, 2005 15,965 13 0.1% $0.12 $1.88
    Thursday, March 10, 2005 15,185 43 0.3% $0.34 $5.10
    Friday, March 11, 2005 15,670 21 0.1% $0.15 $2.37
    Saturday, March 12, 2005 13,857 18 0.1% $0.13 $1.77
    Sunday, March 13, 2005 16,461 23 0.1% $0.17 $2.73
    Monday, March 14, 2005 16,712 18 0.1% $0.17 $2.78
    Tuesday, March 15, 2005 18,376 13 0.1% $0.06 $1.09
    Wednesday, March 16, 2005 15,847 22 0.1% $0.17 $2.69
    Thursday, March 17, 2005 14,477 18 0.1% $0.13 $1.87
    Friday, March 18, 2005 14,554 39 0.3% $0.23 $3.35
    Saturday, March 19, 2005 15,470 17 0.1% $0.22 $3.38
    Sunday, March 20, 2005 13,545 16 0.1% $0.15 $2.06
    Monday, March 21, 2005 14,876 21 0.1% $0.23 $3.46
    Tuesday, March 22, 2005 13,681 21 0.2% $0.22 $3.00
    Totals 356,927 434 0.1% $0.17 $59.02
    Averages 16,223 19 $2.68


    Reuters: "Hitler Was Personally Behind Holocaust, Book Says"

    Click here for AmazonHere's a headline worthy of Al-Reuters: "Hitler Was Personally Behind Holocaust, Book Says" (hat tip: Best of the Web). Gosh, and all this time, I thought Hitler actually disapproved of the slaughter and carnage! If only his evil henchmen hadn't violated his strict orders not to harm anyone, perhaps the Holocaust and the millions of other deaths during World War II would never have happened!

    Al Reuters reports upon the revelation that Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Leader, took two of Hitler's closest attaches prisoner at the conclusion of the war. Based upon their interrogations, the KGB created a 'briefing book' detailing a psychological profile of Hitler. Two German historians unsealed "The Hitler Book" in Russian archives, which documents Hitler's rise to power through his final hours in the Berlin bunker. Of course, don't bother with Al Reuters' coverage: go directly to The London Sunday Times.

    Here are some salient points culled from multiple articles.

    THE bride wore a dark blue silk dress with a soft grey fur cape; the ashen-faced groom was dressed in the same crumpled jacket that he had been wearing for days, his Iron Cross First Class and other military decorations pinned to the lapel.

    The ceremony, held in a storeroom in a Berlin bunker as Soviet artillery rained down on the city, lasted only 10 minutes. When the couple emerged, Adolf Hitler kissed Eva Braun’s hand. There was speculation among aides that she was already carrying the Führer’s child.

    Within 24 hours the couple were dead — Hitler from a single bullet to the temple, his wife from biting on a cyanide capsule...

    The portrait that emerges is far more complex than the conventional one-dimensional depiction of a monster. Hitler, it seems, personally ordered those who crossed him, even over minor matters, to be sent to concentration camps but also had a wicked sense of humour, frequently mocking the pomposity of Hermann Goering, his number two.

    He was also fanatically devoted to his dog, Blondie.

    Among the episodes illuminated by the book is the flight of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s party deputy, on a doomed mission to Britain in May 1941 to try to instigate peace talks. Hitler’s immediate reaction was to conclude he must be mentally ill.

    Deeply embarrassed by the affair, he ordered the arrest of Karl Heinz Pintsch, Hess’s adjutant, who had known of the mission. “This shows beyond doubt that Hitler had no prior knowledge of Hess’s trip,” said Uhl.

    The book also reveals Hitler’s personal interest in the workings of the concentration and extermination camps. Linge and Günsche claimed that he had pored over the first blueprints of gas chambers and ordered more funding for the project.

    When Nazi troops were forced to retreat before the advancing Soviet armies, he also ordered gas chambers contained in camouflaged lorries to be sent to the front to execute prisoners of war and partisans.

    The description of Hitler’s mental and physical degeneration during the war is one of the most powerful elements. Germany’s defeat at Stalingrad in February 1943 proved an especially heavy blow to him.

    Theodor Morell, Hitler’s personal physician, treated him every second morning after breakfast with “stimulating injections”. Linge used to hand him opium. Hitler’s right eye also began to hurt so badly that the only way to ease the pain was to rub cocaine in it.

    He became increasingly paranoid that people were trying to poison him, demanding analysis of his soap, shaving cream and toothpaste. Even the water in which his food was cooked had to be examined.

    By the spring of 1945 it became clear that defeat was unavoidable and hopes of a successful German counter-attack against the Soviet forces were futile.

    On April 25 Linge was summoned by Hitler, who informed him that he and Braun were to commit suicide. “Get hold of some petrol to tip over our bodies and burn them,” he said. “Under no circumstances must you allow my corpse to fall into the hands of the Russians. They would love to bring me to Moscow and put me on show.”

    When Braun emerged after the wedding ceremony, Linge was struck by how pale she looked. “Good luck,” she told the butler. “I hope you manage to get out of Berlin.”

    The book does not address directly the question of whether Braun was pregant. But in its conclusion the historians claim that Hitler’s pilot, Hans Baur, who was captured with the others, confided to a cellmate who was spying for the Russians that she had been carrying a child.

    Uhl said the evidence was inconclusive. “We know that the autopsy on Eva Braun’s remains was simply not adequate because of the situation and shortage of medical equipment,” he said. “It’s certainly possible that they failed to detect the unborn foetus.”

    By the early hours of April 30 both Hitler and Braun were dead. Alerted by the smell of gunpowder just before 4am, Linge accompanied Martin Bormann, one of the leading Nazis, into Hitler’s office. The Führer was sitting on the sofa. He had a tiny, coin shaped wound on his right temple and two flecks of blood on his cheeks.

    There was another pool of blood the size of a dinner plate on the carpet and more spatters on the sofa and walls. On the floor were two Walther pistols, one by each foot.

    Braun was seated beside him with her legs drawn up. Her high-heeled shoes were on the carpet. Her lips were pressed together in a final spasm.


    Hitler also had a strange sense of humour.

    He allowed German soldiers in occupied countries to marry local women, but only after he saw photographs of the women.

    "Most of the women in the pictures were not especially pretty," the book said. "Hitler laughed and said once the soldiers who fell in love with these women sobered up again they would curse him for allowing them to marry."

    The book quotes the two aides saying Hitler mocked the United States when it declared war in December 1941.

    "He said their cars never win races, American planes look sharp but their engines are worthless ... He said they hadn't proven anything -- just mediocrity and advertising."


    Hitler was sceptical of Hermann Goering, his bombastic air force chief, and his claims to be able to win the war. Stalin noted an anecdote on page 276 of his paperwork where Hitler allegedly said after the Battle of Britain: "If the Luftwaffe can’t fly anymore then at least we can use his men to fight on the ground."

    Günsche and Linge said that far from being in the background, Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun was at the epicentre of Nazi politics for most of the 12-year lifespan of the Third Reich.

    One passage, concerning 1936, reads: "He was always accompanied by her. As soon as he heard the voice of his lover he became jollier. He would make jokes about her new hats. He would take her for hours on end into his study where there would be champagne cooling in ice, chocolates, cognac and fruit."

    But when Hitler burned the midnight oil speaking with his Nazi underlings or his generals, "Eva would often be in tears".

    "She felt a bird in a golden cage, her life unfulfilled as his bed partner," they said.

    Linge said that Hitler once ordered a doubling of the police guard on Braun’s Munich villa before the war, after she told the Gestapo that a woman had called her the "Führer-whore".

    Stalin, who ordered Hitler’s skull to be brought to Moscow after Red Army troops found his and Braun’s bodies in the ruins of the Reich Chancellery in 1945, was obsessed with the minutiae of Hitler’s daily life.

    He wanted to know in particular about routine at the Berghof, Hitler’s mountain home in Bavaria. Linge told him: "Hitler’s conversation there was banal. At the dinner table he would praise the dresses of the female staff, say how difficult they must find it not being able to get their hair done or their nails filed on the mountain.

    "Hitler had a weird sense of humour. He would laugh at Eva’s lipstick on a serviette and then say: ‘Soon we will have replacement lipstick made from dead bodies of soldiers’."

    The book contains details about how his SS guards were detailed to buy him presents, how his dark moods were uplifted by photos in magazines of the early days of Nazism, and how he sat under the portrait of Frederick the Great, which he carted with him everywhere, believing he would give him divine inspiration to win the war.

    Günsche reported how Hitler once flew into a frenzy with his secretary, Martin Bormann, because Braun wanted to hire ten more serving girls over the 30-strong complement laid down by him for the kitchens.

    "I stamp whole divisions into the dirt!" screamed Hitler. "And I can’t get a few more serving wenches for the Berghof? Organise it now!"


    "Hitler told Himmler to use more trucks with mobile gas chambers so that munition needed for the troops wouldn't be wasted on shooting Russian (prisoners)," the book reads.

    "Himmler reported that the mobile gas chambers were working. He laughed cynically when he said that this method of murder is 'more considerate' and 'quieter' than shooting them," it adds.


    Adolf Hitler was so crippled with anxiety during his final days that he would scratch his neck and ears until they bled and demanded that his toilet water, as well as the water in which his eggs were boiled, be constantly analysed for traces of poison.


    The book is giving Germans a rare glimpse of the dictator, who is still presented in schools and public discussion as either mad or bad or both. Perhaps the most disconcerting revelation of the extracts in Bild is that Hitler had a sense of humour, albeit a particularly cold one. After an evening of small-talk and wise-cracking, Hitler told his guests: “The English believe that I’m sitting or cowering in the Chancellery, guarded by a fierce bulldog.” The truth, he said, was that he was having a good time. “It’s good that they can’t see me now. The Chancellery should be renamed the Happy Chancellor Restaurant.”

    The comments, reported by Günsche, came after an evening of concentration camp jokes that had his guests rolling with laughter. Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s court photographer, had turned up drunk. The photographer, Hitler said, should not stand too close to the stove lest the alcoholic fumes from his breath catch fire.

    On another occasion, Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister, told Hitler the latest scurrilous rumour: that the immensely vain Hermann Goering, head of the air force, went to bed wearing medals on his pyjamas. “Hitler liked the story so much,” one Bild extract says, “that he ordered Hoffmann to make some medals out of gold and silver foil as well as a bombastic citation for bravery to be presented to Goering.”


    The butler’s testimony shows that Hitler was unable to form proper emotional relationships. His closest companion was his dog. They ate together frequently. When Blondi fell ill, Hitler had a special ration of eggs, lean meat and dripping sent. He received regular medical bulletins about the dog. “It was easier for him to sign a death warrant for an officer on the front than to swallow bad news about the health of his dog,” Linge said...

    Hitler decided to mate his beloved Alsatian dog, Blondi, and summoned a breeder to bring a pedigree male. Hitler asked his butler, after emerging from a briefing about the Eastern front, whether his dog had copulated. “Yes, my Führer, the Act of State has been completed,” Heinz Linge said with heavy humour.

    “How did Blondi take it?”

    “They both behaved like beginners.”

    “How do you mean?” Hitler was genuinely curious.

    “They both fell down.” Hitler burst into laughter


    The file suggests Hitler wasn't in charge of German strategy in the last days of the war, Eberle said.

    Hitler ``wasn't the engine of warfare by the time the fighting had reached Berlin,'' Eberle said.

    The accounts also show Hitler was personally interested in the development of the gas chambers that were used to kill about 6 million Jews from across Europe, Eberle said.

    He ``studied in-depth development projects that were presented to him by Himmler,'' Eberle read from the book, referring to Heinrich Himmler, who was in charge of the deportation and murder of the Jews.

    There was only one copy of the file made in 1965 and put in another Soviet archive, where Uhl and Eberle said they found it.

    Google News Search: Uhl Hitler

    Monday, March 21, 2005

    Mad Typing Skillz

    Click here for AmazonHow important is typing ability to a developer? I've always had a gut feel that it's quite important. It's important enough to ask the question, "How fast do you type?" in an interview. Because, in my opinion, the productivity of a developer who types via hunt -and-peck will suffer, no matter how smart they may be.

    Consider the "fail fast" philosophy: it touts the importance of trying many approaches, knowing most will fail. Discovering which algorithms suck and which meet the challenge is important... and the rate at which you can make these discoveries is likewise key.

    Thus, developers who succeed by "failing fast" are quite valuable.

    When I was in high school, there was a "typing class" that was a standard part of the curriculum. Ostensibly the class was for would-be government employees, because the civil-service exam had a minimum typing speed requirement. I don't recall the rationale for my taking this class, but it turned out to be a great decision. Little did I know I'd be a developer someday and would need to hit top speeds on the keyboard.

    Most years, a female would take the fastest speed honors in the class.

    But in our class, a guy named Chuck Thornton and myself were always the top two. We had some brutal typing contests. Remember, this was the day and age of mechanical typewriters (not quite as antedeluvian as the Underwood pictured at top left, however). We would try and intimidate each other -- and all of the others in the class -- by not only typing as fast as we could but by pounding the crap out of the keyboard. The combination of the staccato, rapid-fire hammering was reminiscent of an assault on a machine-gun nest at Anzio.

    My kids are both excellent typists. I suspect it has less to do with genetics or their early exposure to Mavis Beach Teaches Typing for Kids than their chocoholic-level addiction to instant messaging.

    Joel on Software: Typing Software

    Beirut Best-sellers

    Click here for AmazonEver wondered what's on the bookshelves in Syrian-controlled Lebanon? Here's your answer, direct from a bookshop in Beirut.

    Sunday, March 20, 2005

    The Genuises at Agence France Presse

    Click here for AmazonThe geniuses over at Agence France Presse -- or as I like to call them, the Paris bureau of Al Jazeera -- have decided to sue Google News for a minimum of $17 million. Their claim? That Google's news aggregation service reproduced snippets of AFP's copyrighted photos, headlines and stories without permission.

    Attention, AFP management: this lawsuit is almost as sensible as giving your 16-year-old daughter permission to date Mike Tyson.

    In fact, if these PHB's had the common sense that God gave a sea otter, they would have dealt with this "problem" (and they must think having traffic directed to their site, free of charge, is a problem) in one of the following ways:

  • Used a robots.txt file to tell the Google search bot ("GoogleBot") the areas of the site not to spider

  • Used a simple web server configuration option to deny access to the GoogleBot

  • Used another simple web server configuration option to deny access to the GoogleBot's IP addresses

  • Or simply have asked Google not to spider their site

  • Any one of these options would have prevented Google News from "stealing" AFP's precious one-sentence story summaries and thumbnail copies of images. But apparently, AFP has decided to invest in their legal department, not niceties such as IT or sensible senior management.

    It reminds me of case, a while back, in which the geniuses at TicketMaster that sued various parties over "deep-linking" -- the practice of linking to content within a site as opposed to the site's main page.

    News flash: don't want someone to deep-link to your site? Hire someone technically savvy enough to configure your web-site to deny deep-linking. Hint: there are these mysterious things called "cookies", or "referer headers", or other tools that can help implement a 'no deep linking' policy.

    Although someone would have to explain to me why you wouldn't want more exposure for your content, more folks linking to it, and therefore more visitors and marketing exposure. Maybe we can ask the rocket scientists at AFP about that sometime.

    PhysOrg: AFP sues Google for news aggregation

    Saturday, March 19, 2005

    I Want MTV... Off My TV

    Rebecca Hagelin points us to Brent Bozell and his organization's study of programming content on MTV. Apologies in advance for the graphic (even though it's partially redacted) content.

    ...In 171 hours of MTV programming, PTC analysts found 1,548 sexual scenes containing 3,056 depictions of sex or various forms of nudity and 2,881 verbal sexual references. That means that children watching MTV are viewing an average of 9 sexual scenes per hour with approximately 18 sexual depictions and 17 instances of sexual dialogue or innuendo. To put this in perspective, consider that in its last study of sex on primetime network television, the PTC found an average of only 5.8 instances of sexual content during the 10 o’clock hour -- when only adults are watching.

    For the strong of stomach who want to know more about what comes on in the afternoon just as tweens and teens are getting off the school bus and turning on the tube in America’s largely unsupervised homes, here’s just one example:

    One Bad Trip 3/20/04 2:00 p.m.

    Human-sundae eating competition: Three guys lie on stage; whipped cream is placed on their legs and chests. The three girls each straddle a guy and lick the whipped cream off.

    Nate: “She’s eating whipped cream off some dude’s [bleeped ‘f---ing’] chest right now.”
    Nate: “If she goes anywhere near his junk, she is so wrong.”
    Next, the girls switch places and have whipped cream placed all over them, including a cherry on each breast. Guys straddle them and lick the whipped cream off. The camera zooms in close.
    Nate: “Some dude is about to eat [bleeped ‘s--t’] all over her body.
    Melissa, in a voiceover: “It’s a little bit strange having some random guy lick whipped cream off of me.”

    Then there’s the example of the standard MTV “music” content:

    Pete Pablo - “Freak-a-Leak”
    “How u like it, daddy (the way she do it from the front)?
    How u like it, daddy (the way she do it from the back)?
    How u like it, daddy (then bring it down like that)?

    “And she know why she came here
    And she know where clothes suppose to be (off and over there)
    [Bleeped ‘Sniff a lil’ coke, take a lil’ X, smoke a lil’ weed,’] drink a lil’ bit
    I need a girl I could freak with
    And wanna try [bleeped ‘s--t’] and ain’t scared of a big [bleeped ‘d--k’]
    And love to get her [bleeped ‘p---y’] licked by another [bleeped ‘b---h’]
    Cause I ain’t drunk enough to do that [bleeped ‘s--t’]

    I’ve previously written about how MTV seeks to manipulate America’s children and how broadcast networks are targeting America’s youth. Just thought you might want to know it ain’t getting’ any better.

    And in case you didn’t realize it, MTV is owned by Viacom, the same company that owns CBS (of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” and Rathergate fame.) Surprised?

    Call to Action: Yes, this is the stinking, vermin-infested mindrot being spoon-fed to our kids. Harmful doesn't begin to describe it. What can you do? Call up your cable company or satellite provider... and get MTV off your set. Today.

    Rebecca Hagelin: MTV keeps on rockin'
    Cincinnati Cosmetic Dentist Cincinnati Dentist Blog

    The Gloves are Off: Hillary and Kerry

    Click here for AmazonThe newly minted, neocon-model Hillary Clinton has opened up her bombing campaign on would-be 2008 contender John Kerry*. The first salvos were fired by Ann Lewis, director of communications for Clinton's Political Action Committee.

    The Kerry campaign had "...a different message every two or three weeks,'' [according to] Ann Lewis... saying... Kerry...``kept trying to rationally convince, to put a presidency together, line by line, plan by plan.''
    She said people ``don't vote for plans, they vote for presidents.''

    Boston Herald: Clinton adviser: Kerry ran inconsistent campaign

    * The haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way promised 48 days ago to release his military records and has yet to do so.
    Cincinnati Cosmetic Dentist Cincinnati Dentist Blog

    The Gloves are Off: Biden and Kerry

    Click here for AmazonThe forgettable "Slow" Joe Biden, whether on his own behalf -- or as a proxy for Hillary -- weighed in with his own demeaning thoughts on Kerry. This appears to be part of a concerted campaign on the part of the "national-security Democrats" to disenfranchise the anti-war Left bank: the Kennedys, Kerrys, and Pelosis. Will such an approach bring more centrists to the table -- or will it further fragment a party led by the mercurial Howard Dean?

    On October 29th, Biden... heard, on the radio, that Osama bin Laden had issued a videotape in which he belittled Bush and promised to continue to “bleed” America. Biden... worried that Kerry’s reaction might seem tepid or petty. His advice to Kerry throughout the campaign—which, he complained, went unheeded much of the time—was to harden his message...

    “I’m on the phone, I e-mail, I say, ‘John, please, say three things: “How dare bin Laden speak of our President this way.” No. 2, “I know how to deal with preventing another 9/11.” No. 3, “Kill him.”’ Now, that’s harsh. Kerry needed to be harsh. And it was—Jesus Christ.” Here Biden threw up his hands. “He didn’t make any of it. Let’s get it straight. None of it. None of those three points were made.”

    New Yorker: Can the Democrats make themselves look tough?

    Friday, March 18, 2005

    How to Justify Information Security Spending

    Click here for AmazonDan Lieberman, writing in Computerworld, has performed yeoman service on a topic near and dear to every CISO's heart: how to justify InfoSec spending to senior management. In interview format, Lieberman asks the reader to answer seven simple questions:

    1. Is your digital asset protection spending driven by regulation?

    2. Are Gartner white papers a key input for purchasing decisions?

    3. Does the information security group work without security win/loss scores?

    4. Does your chief security officer meet three to five vendors each day?

    5. Is your purchasing cycle for a new product longer than six months?

    6. Is your team short on head count, and not implementing new technologies?

    7. Has the chief technology officer never personally sold or installed any of the company's products?

    If you answered yes to four of the seven questions, then you definitely need a business strategy with operational metrics for your information security operation.

    Lieberman asserts that a strategy boils down to three key points:

  • Strategy: have you clearly decided upon a Business Unit security strategy?

  • Metrics: measure results in terms the business can understand and do so in the context of a security process

  • Marketing: reinforce the message with senior management, using in-field experiences

  • Indeed, the stakes are high. Organized crime is actively infiltrating business networks the world over. The cases you hear about -- such as the hackers who came close to ripping off 220 million Pounds from the Japanese bank Sumitomo Mitsui -- likely pale in comparison to those that have evaded detection.

    In fact, we sporadically hear of an isolated case here and there, where hackers were busted in the midst of an exotic scam. But what about the truly elite blackhats, funded by global organized crime?

    Read the whole thing.

    Dan Lieberman: How to Justify Information Security Spending

    Iran and Venezuela

    Click here for AmazonThe recent visit that Mullah Khatami paid to Venezuela and Hugo Chavez resulted in some interesting, if not hair-raising, statements. Here's Khatami:

    ...Each country that tries to do its will [or] be independent, is pressured militarily... We have to be strong to strike [back] against others for the aggression of other countries and to defend ourselves from the dangers of those who want to invade us...

    I don't think invasion is the top priority on anyone's list. Stopping the world's foremost state-sponsor of terrorism from acquiring nukes, however, is.

    ...Now it is different than in the last century, when the great powers could have all [technology] exclusively... Maybe they think that our power depends on our military power... maybe they think our power depends on sophisticated weapons and weapons of mass destruction...

    The Mullah's power depends on one thing: brutal repression of their people. When young girls are stoned to death, political prisoners are massacred, the worst of the worst terrorist groups are provided aid and comfort, well, then something needs to be done. And acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Mullahs... will... not... happen.

    Of course, Hugo Chavez had to chime in, harmonizing on the tune of "resisting invasion":

    ...We have to be strong to strike [back] against others for the aggression of other countries and to defend ourselves from the dangers of those who want to invade us...

    Yes, this is the great Chavez, the neo-socialist and friend of Castro, who believes he has been targeted by the U.S. for assassination... just like his good friend Fidel.

    The Bottom Line?

    It all comes down to dependence on foreign oil. Like it or not, oil fuels the economy of the U.S. and, indeed, the world. The Senate's decision to open up a small fraction of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) points to a strategy to begin achieving some measure of independence from the Mullahocracy and the "Socialchavists". Advances in fuel cell technology, hydrogen-based engines, and hybrids will also help us move to a world less dependent upon fossil fuel and the "Axis of Instability" that operates very close to home.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2005


    Click here for AmazonI received an email from a friend today with the subject heading Bush must be stupid. It contained only a hyperlink to the news that the President will recommend Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank. Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has been a primary lightning rod for those opposed to the Administration's national security policies.

    I've never understood the animosity some have for Wolfowitz. Certainly he bears responsibility for failed predictions... underestimating the cost of the war in Iraq, for instance. But now, as the world around us changes, due in no small part to his steadfast vision of a democratic Middle East, it is worth considering where his vision led us.

    Last week, the New York Times's David Brooks gave us a glimpse at what may end up being Wolfowitz's legacy:

    ...with political earthquakes now shaking the Arab world, it's time to step back and observe that over the course of his long career - in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in Central and Eastern Europe, and now in the Middle East - Wolfowitz has always been an ardent champion of freedom...

    ...If the trends of the last few months continue, Wolfowitz will be the subject of fascinating biographies decades from now, while many of his smuggest critics will be forgotten. Those biographies will mention not only his intellectual commitment but also his personal commitment, his years spent learning the languages of the places that concerned him, and the thousands of hours spent listening deferentially to the local heroes who led the causes he supported...

    ...To praise Wolfowitz is not triumphalism... It's a recognition that amid all the legitimate criticism, this guy has been the subject of a vicious piling-on campaign by people who know less than nothing about what is actually going on in the government, while he, in the core belief that has energized his work, may turn out to be right.

    ...When he was ambassador to Indonesia, Wolfowitz gave a speech calling for political "openness." He was careful not to use the words "freedom" or "democracy" because under Suharto, Indonesians might have felt inhibited about talking in such bold terms. But they were comfortable with openness, and it became the subject of magazine cover stories and a great national discussion...

    As far back as 2002, The Economist gazed at Wolfowitz and saw a "velociraptor": a man so far beyond being a hawk that he scared those enamored with the "realpolitik" viewpoint of accepting the status quo.

    ...But the most important reason [for his influence] is that history has moved in his direction. Mr Wolfowitz has been arguing for years that the world is a far more dangerous place than most people realise; that America needs to increase its military expenditure; and that the best form of defence is offence. September 11th may not have proved him right in every detail. There may be no connection between Saddam Hussein and the September 11th atrocities. Rogue states don't form anything so coherent as an axis. But everybody now understands the premise.

    The velociraptor has been right before. In the 1980s Mr Wolfowitz vigorously supported Ronald Reagan's denunciation of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”—a phrase the conventional-minded of the time regarded as bonkers. His willingness to trust his intellect against the weight of conventional opinion is admirable...

    In a 2004 speech to Polish academics and officials, Wolfowitz stated his beliefs eloquently and mapped his vision to their worldview:

    ...he recounted the events of Poland’s darkest days, and the civilized world’s acquiescence to Hitler’s ambitions which preceded them. When Hitler began to rearm Germany, Wolfowitz said, “the world’s hollow warnings formed weak defenses.” When Hitler annexed Austria, “the world sat by.” When German troops marched into Czechoslovakia before the war, “the world sat still once again.” When Britain and France warned Hitler to stay out of Poland, the Führer had little reason to pay heed.

    “Poles understand perhaps better than anyone the consequences of making toothless warnings to brutal tyrants and terrorist regimes,” Wolfowitz said. “And, yes, I do include Saddam Hussein.”

    He then laid out the case against Saddam, reciting once again the dictator’s numberless crimes against his own people. He spoke of severed hands and videotaped torture sessions. He told of the time, on a trip to Iraq, he’d been shown a “torture tree,” the bark of which had been worn away by ropes used to bind Saddam’s victims, both men and women. He said that field commanders recently told him that workers had come across a new mass grave, and had stopped excavation when they encountered the remains of several dozen women and children, “some still with little dresses and toys.”

    Wolfowitz observed that some people—meaning the “realists” in the foreignpolicy community, including Secretary of State Colin Powell—believed that the Cold War balance of power had brought a measure of stability to the Persian Gulf. But, Wolfowitz continued, “Poland had a phrase that correctly characterized that as ‘the stability of the graveyard.’ The so-called stability that Saddam Hussein provided was something even worse.” ...

    History will be the ultimate arbiter, determining whether Wolfowitz's vision can stand the test of time. My money is on his vision and not the alternative, head-buried-in-sand approach of worshipping the status quo. In an age where a single terrorist can unleash catastrophe on the civilized world, Wolfowitz wants to make the civilized world bigger. His longstanding vision of human freedom continues to undermine authoritarian regimes and shake the very foundations of the planet.

    In all likelihood, history will not speak kindly of his detractors. Instead it will speak of a man whose vision changed the world.