I really meant to be back with some more links last night, but somehow I managed to hose KDE, which meant I got to spend a lot of time re-compiling stuff. Whee. But I'm here now, so let's see how much of this backlog we can work through, hmm?

how it looks from the outside
El Reg on the coming conflict:
Official Washington has been buzzing with the language of belligerence since this weekend. The President, who, incidentally, isn't authorized to declare war, declared war. He also did something we've not seen since the Vietnam era - he promised victory.
When I first heard all the war talkin', I was thinking along the lines of the Gulf War, or World War II -- you know, "war", with soldiers and battles and all that. More and more, however, it's sounding like a "War on Drugs" war, with a poorly defined and impossible to achieve objective that will only cause the most harm to those that had the least to do with it being started in the first place.

Aside: I've been avoiding linking to the biowar stuff. Most of the coverage isn't all that good (mostly because, once you get past the basic facts, there's nothing really known). Plus, most people don't want to have a conversation about biological warfare agents with their friendly neighborhood lapsed biologist, because it rapidly gets very, very scary.

That has a counter-danger: the media can be tempted to downplay the threat, because, hey, if there's nothing we can actually do about it, why needlessly scare people, right? As evidence, I give you this CNN story entitled Biological attack threat real, but small. On the plus side, they're one for two. On the minus side (and it's a big minus), if you actually read the whole article instead of just the headline, you find that they present zero evidence that the threat is "small". (Unless you count unsupported authorial assertions used as justification for wishful thinking, which I don't. I know, I know, I'm such a harsh, critical bastard.)

another very real threat
Looks like the Congress critters are going to be going after crypto with everything they've got -- despite the fact that any new laws will have basically zero impact on the ability of terrorists to communicate in secret. The Working Group on Privacy and Civil Rights has a lot of good information about how encryption technologies impact your life (and they do, even (or especially) if you don't think they do).

While we're on the topic of annoying legislation that needs to be stopped, I'll mention the SSSCA and Don Marti's open letter to Michael Eisner. You like being able to listen to the same CDs in your car, your house and using your computer at work? This bill is the first step towards the music industry making you buy a separate copy for each, or maybe just making you pay for each re-play.

Debian Planet had a very interesting piece of speculative fiction up the other day, projecting some of the current legislative trends into the future. It ends up being a very ugly picture.

There's at least one anti-SSSCA petition out there, but it will probably be more effective if you call or write your Congressional representatives directly.

separated at birth?
I note in passing that DC's own Ratbastard (seen on the right in this photo) and Wil "You mean the guy from Next Generation has a weblog?! WTF?!" Weaton, (the guy in this photo who isn't Kevin Nealon) bear more than a passing resemblance to each other.

Conspiracy theorists will note that Wil's blog started during Ratbastard's recent hiatus.

i just like saying 'voles'
Recent research into pair bonding in voles suggests that a neurotransmitter called vasopressin plays a critical role. It's also ground-breaking in that this is the first time a "complex social behavior" was trans-genetically manipulated.

Personally, I thought the most interesting part was the observation that increased vasopressin receptors not only increased pair bonding, but general levels of anxiety as well... 8^)=

flyin' the flag
Look, if you're going to fly the flag in support of whatever aspect of last week's tragedy you find most moving, take the five minutes to read the damn flag code and display it properly, okay? It doesn't take any longer to do it the right way, and it prevents people like me from foaming at the mouth in public.

Oh, and one more thing: you can fly the flag on your car, or you can drive like a jackass. Pick one or the other, but don't do both, okay? It's disrespectful to whomever you're trying to honor by flying the flag in the first place.

Thanks to Mike for the flag reg link.

some clarification
I'm still processing last week. I suspect most of us still are, and will be for a long time. There may be one or two other longer thought pieces bubbling up here soon, but for right now, I just wanted to clarify something from last week. When I said:
At the moment, my stance is reluctantly hawkish. Reason seems very unlikely to work with the perpetrators of yesterday's attacks, so I fear that we will have to fall back on force; we will have to forcefully make the point that while it may be technically possible to do this sort of thing to Americans, on American soil, the final result is a terrible and awful retaliation.
I wasn't attempting to advocate an "eye for eye" retaliation, or a "justice demands someone must pay" position. I was trying to communicate that we're in a battle to the death with somebody, and our chances of talking them out of wanting to kill us, all of us, seem pretty slim. We don't have to kill whoever it is that's trying to kill us, but we do have to track them down, make them stop trying, and prevent them from trying in the future. Oh, and we've got to do all this in such a fashion that we minimize the generation of similar homicidal impulses in other people at the same time, which is going to be the really tricky part. I still don't have any idea how to do this, and I haven't heard any stunners from anybody else. sigh Just to be to duck at the appropriate times, 'kay?