The Null Device


After 9/11, governments quickly pulled formerly public information and restricted areas of scientific publication to keep them out of the hands of terrorists. Now DARPA, the US Department of Defense's research funding body has cancelled funding for OpenBSD security research because open-source software could help terrorist nation-states. Is this an isolated incident, or the start of a governmental purge of open standards and open-source software, and the start of a "national security"-driven shift towards proprietary standards kept on a strict need-to-know basis? After all, if Cisco, Microsoft and TRW hold the keys, the reasoning goes, Saddam Bin Laden can't use the technology to kill us. And replacing publically documented standards and open-source software with secret black-box technologies has numerous other advantages, from surveillance hooks to catch more terrorists, paedophiles, tax cheats and miscellaneous troublemakers to tremendous "peace dividends" such as end-to-end copyright enforcement and whistleblower-proof rights management for documents; not to mention handsome dividends for the shareholders of the keepers of the keys.

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After the dust has settled on Iraq, Washington's attention has turned to one question: how to punish France. It is expected that France will be actively ostracised from diplomatic bodies and efforts, and effectively stripped of its "global power" status. So far, nobody has mentioned having "no plans" to invade France, so the possibility is probably not being actively considered.

(If they were to consider it, they could always do so on the pretext that France has lost its international legitimacy as a power and thus its right to legitimately possess nuclear weapons (unlike, say, Israel and Pakistan). That could serve as the litmus test of the New American Century; whether a state can maintain that sort of power after having fallen into disfavour with Washington.)

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Not that long after having released remastered editions of the first few Cocteau Twins albums, 4AD are rereleasing the entire Pixies backcatalogue. The rights to the albums have reverted to 4AD (they had been shared with AOL Time Warner's Elektra imprint), and as such a rerelease is planned. The rereleases won't be remastered and won't feature any hidden tracks. Oh, and Death To The Pixies is being withdrawn to make way for a new best-of.

Funny how 4AD, one of the most interesting big-indie labels of the 1980s and 1990s, has become a sort of post-new-wave K-Tel. Nowadays all their releases appear to be either (a) rereleases from their legendary back-catalogue, (b) new albums by artists who were big 10 years ago, or (c) new albums by artists poached from smaller indie labels, which the critics say aren't as good as those artists' earlier and more obscure releases (i.e., Sybarite, Piano Magic).

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The Onion looks at Appointed by America, the new Fox reality TV show to determine the ruler of Iraq:

"Get ready, America, because you're about to choose the man--or woman--who will lead Iraq into an exciting democratic future," said Fox reality-programming chief Mike Darnell, introducing the show at a press conference. "Will it be Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the exiled Iraqi National Congress? Or General Tommy Franks, commander of the allied forces? Or maybe Roshumba Williams, the Macon, GA, waitress with big dreams and an even bigger voice? Tune in Tuesdays at 9 to see."

And then there's Christopher Hitchens Forcibly Removed From Trailer Park After Drunken Confrontation With Common-Law Wife:

Added Perkins: "So long as Hitch can learn to keep his mouth shut about Christianity being symptomatic of the 'savage and ignorant prehistory of our species' and whatnot, I'm sure he'll cause no trouble that a few cups of black coffee and a night in the drunk tank can't solve."

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Documents have allegedly emerged in the ruins of Iraqi government buildings proving that a left-wing British parliamentarian was on Saddam Hussein's payroll. The documents suggest that Labour MP George Galloway, an outspoken critic of the war best known for vehemently denouncing Tony Blair as a "war criminal", was receiving £375,000 a year from Baghdad for his services. Apparently, this princely sum was still not enough for Galloway, who was asking for more. Galloway has denied the allegations and is planning to sue the Daily Telegraph for libel. Blair is confident that the papers are genuine; Galloway's supporters claim they're part of a smear campaign, and cite the case of forged papers "proving" Iraqi uranium purchases, now discredited.

I wonder whether the usual liberal-bashers will run these allegations, citing them as proof that the anti-war movement were Saddam's dupes.

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