Charlie's Diary

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Sun, 30 Nov 2003

Back home

... From delivering Feorag and various co-conspirators to perform at the Banchory-Ternan Morris Men's Annual Feast and Ceileidh. The driving was scary (torrential rain, total darkness, unlit winding country roads -- conditions that seemingly turn all fellow road-users into homicidal maniacs), but when we got there the food was excellent, the beer was strong, and ...

No, let's not go there. (Suffice to say, Morris dancing, or indeed the kind of disorganized chaos of the ceileidh, is not something I am ever going to try. I just sat on the sidelines wearing black and clutching my pint, like a bizarrely alcohol-enhanced Wee Free elder.)

Anyway, if you misbehave in the blog comments I'll post my photographs here. (Yes, that is a threat.)

Meanwhile, more signs that we're living in the right century. According to Cory, Discovery (in the US) are selling a DNA sequencing for children kit that I really must take a close look at. "Yes, kids, hours of endless fun as you carefully reassemble the sequence for smallpox and hybridize with Interleukin IV for the playground gift that keeps on giving! Time off work for all the family!" (Well, probably not, luckily -- at least until they start including a cut down version of these babies in the toy box. Which hopefully will happen later rather than sooner -- the "explosion proof design!" bullet point against the OligoProcess™ machine is dead giveaway that this type of gear is not quite ready for mass production in a wide range of bright primary colours.)

Finally, here is something totally bizarre and luckily fictitious (thank you, Warren, for goading me into blogging it). I'm sure there'd probably be someone sad enough to buy one, but given that we already have cats, who needs it?

[ Discuss pomo ]

posted at: 19:17 | path: /weird | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 28 Nov 2003

Long quietude

Incidentally, the reason blog entries have been thin on the ground this week is that I'm (a) grappling with finishing the latest collaborative novella with Cory Doctorow, and (b) getting myself firmly stuck in on a new laptop. The laptop is a new G4 iBook, and part of the reason it's taking so long is that I'm offloading a metric ton of stuff that I normally do on my CoLo server onto it -- reading email (I've been using Mutt for the past six or seven years, but Apple's new email client is getting good enough to replace it), running a usenet server, spam filtering (the stuff that's been bogging down the CoLo server mercilessly -- I've got a 1Mb cable modem connection, so I can do the spam sorting down on the laptop without incurring a huge phone bill), and so on.

I'm going to be away for part of this weekend, and working hard to make up for lost time. So there may be no updates between now and Monday.

posted at: 12:51 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 27 Nov 2003

Hyperglycaemia attack

This is so cute that any diabetics are advised to lay in a spare insulin syringe before clicking on the link.

[ Link ] [ Discuss cats ]

posted at: 20:37 | path: /cats | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 25 Nov 2003

A bundle of weird shit

Warning: if you are remotely squeamish, do not click on any of these links (except maybe the first two).

Here are Laibach's kittens. If that's not spuriously strange enough for you, we have added chibi-style cute Lovecraftian horrors, the [extremely dubious] Temple of Black Jesus, this [absolutely totally dubious, not work-safe] series of beauty shots that sort of expose a little too much in the tradition of [if you don't know what this is, really don't look -- no, on second thoughts you'll have to cut'n'paste the link, I'm too squeamish], and more proof that Japanese people invent the weirdest perversions.

[ Discuss dumb ]

posted at: 18:49 | path: /weird | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 24 Nov 2003

Thunderbirds are Go ...

Orolnyok in flight (Yes, this one isn't about politics, it's about cool technology that really belongs in a Gerry Anderson super marrionation TV show.)

Recently I've been reading some fun books about weird Soviet aviation experiments published by Midland Publishing (whose UK distributor is here and whose US outlet is In particular I've been browsing Russia's Ekranoplans by Sergey Komissarov, a remarkable book documenting the development of these unique vehicles. It's full of weird tidbits, like this:

Mriya/Orlyonok Aviation and Maritime Search-and-Rescue System

This SAR system was evolved by the Alexeyev Central Hydrofoil Design Bureau together with the Antonov Design Bureau. It's task consisted in detecting the accident site on the sea surface, performing rescue work, and rendering the necessary assistance to people in distress. The system comprises the An-225 Mriya (Dream) carrier aircraft and the Orlyonok WIG vehicle carried on top of its fuselage. The overall weight of the system is 610 tonnes (1,345,000 lb).

Once an accident has been reported, the An-225 with the Orlyonok attached to it 'piggy-back' takes off, heading for the area where the accident has happened. In the vicinity of the accident site the Orlyonok starts its engines and detaches itself from the carrier aircraft, making a gliding descent to the water surface where it alights. According to the project plan, the Orlyonok was to be fitted with special equipment enabling it to render urgent medical aid and accomodate up to 70 survivors. In accordance with the designers' concept five systems making part of a unified SAR complex would be located in different parts of the world's oceans. The international complex was expected to cover virtually all major maritime traffic routes, fishery areas and areas of offshore oil and gas extraction. Since both components of the SAR complex had already been created and had undergone operational trials, it was presumed that creation of such a system would be less costly than establishing other similar systems. However, a prerequisite for putting such a plan into effect was the setting up of an international rescue service. Unfortunately this project was not put into practice.

Okay, so we've got a viable design here for Thunderbird Two. Doubtless Antonov and Alexeyev could cough up the others in short order. So all we need is International Rescue ...

Although, on second thoughts, for the authentic Gerry Anderson puppet animation feel, the Orlyonok ought to be carrying a nuclear-powered midget submarine.

[ Discuss dieselpunk ]

posted at: 12:02 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 21 Nov 2003

The void stares also

I try to stay off the topic of politics and the middle east, I really do. It's not good for my blood pressure, it irritates a large proportion of my readers, and it doesn't achieve anything. But yesterday's bombings in Istanbul demand comment ...

I really don't like George W. Bush. In fact, when I see him on television I have to change channel before the urge to put my boot through the screen becomes irresistable. (I haven't felt such a visceral anger at a politician since Margaret Thatcher was laying around her with an axe in the 80's.)

However, there are some issues I agree with him about.

Item number one on the list is that Al Qaida blowing people up is Wrong, and should be stopped. Item number two on the list is that it is not acceptable to stop Al Qaida blowing things up by giving in to all their demands, which in maximalist form would amount to surrendering the whole of western civilization to a barbarous mediaevalist fundamentalism. And third on the list is that Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party was a vile and repugnant dictatorship (and North Korea doesn't look too good, either).

So why did I go on an anti-George W. Bush march on Tuesday, and why do I want to put a foot through the TV screen whenever I see his face?

The devil is in the details.

Bush's response to the 9/11 disaster was grossly inappropriate on every level. He started with a huge international outpouring of goodwill -- an unprecedented discontinuity in the diplomatic firmament which a cannier politician could have parlayed into a widespread international campaign against the causes of terrorism, Instead, the response of his administration varied from a polite "no thanks, we don't need your help" to biting the extended hand. Iran was offering to help back in September 2001, for example. The UK sent its largest military deployment since the second world war, and got clobbered with trade sanctions by return of post. And that's just for starters; rather than going after the root causes of the disease (of Middle Eastern terrorism, that is), the Bush administration decided first to tackle one of the symptoms (Afghanistan), then to go and beat up the neighbour (Iraq) who had nothing to do with the problem in the first place. We can take it as read at this point that there were no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction posing a threat to the west; I believe there's also an extreme shortage of reliable evidence pointing to any connection between the late Iraqi government and Al Qaida (who, it should be noted, hated everything Ba'athism stands for).

The Iraq invasion was foredoomed to be a disaster. Since March, the US and allied forces have succeeded in killing more Iraqi civilians than the blood-drenched dictatorship's thirty-year batting average. They've destroyed infrastructure, increased unemployment from 30% to 70%, and committed war crimes (collective punishment, attacks on civilians, detention without cause, and the planned sale of state assets in a flat violation of the Geneva Conventions). And some of us haven't forgotten who made the monster in the first place. (Yes, that is Donald Rumself shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, in an episode he'd probably prefer to see swept under the carpet these days.)

Back home, they've done their best to destroy what was left of a proud tradition of civil rights -- already damaged badly by the succession of wars that shaped the agonizing history of the 20th century. I'm not the best person to discuss what has happened to civil liberties in the USA, but I would like to note at this point that I'm no enemy of the US: I seriously considered emigrating in the early 1990's. Now I'm very glad indeed that I didn't; I have an uneasy feeling that I would have been in the position of a Polish Jew emigrating to Germany in the late 1920's.

And now we come full circle, back to Al Qaida. They're still murdering people. They've turnned the US occupation of Iraq into a recruiting stand! What went wrong?

Basil Liddell-Hart described the two biggest mistakes a Great Power could make, historically, in his two rules: "never start a land war in Asia, and never start a war on two fronts". Afghanistan is the classic "land war in Asia" mistake. There are no frontiers; unless the US forces are able to sweep through the North-West Province of Pakistan with fire and the sword they will be unable to touch the Taliban in their heartland. (Not that the Taliban, however odious they may be, are the roots of the Al Qaida problem; they actually discussed handing Osama bin Laden over in early 2001, an offer which the US State Department screwed up by insisting on adding conditions that the Taliban couldn't agree to.) Afghanistan is a very dangerous place to get bogged down in militarily, as the Soviets, and before them the British discovered to their cost. But it's not the tap-root of Middle Eastern terrorism; Afghans don't come pouring out of the mountain country in their countless hordes to strap on suicide belts. Rather, the angry young men gravitated to Afghanistan as a refuge and a place to meet their own kind and form common cause. The Jihad got its start there in the 1980's, with CIA backing for the religious factions of the Mujaheddin fighting against the Soviet occupiers.

As for Iraq ...

Iraq is the "war on two fronts" error writ large. Rather than going after the causes of terror (again, how many times do I have to repeat this? Keep your eye on the ball!) Bush seems to have hared off after the man who he believes tried to have his daddy assassinated in 1993. (Saddam is a sore loser -- so would you be, if your friends like that nice Don Rumsfeld turned around and declared war on you in 1991.) I'll leave the postmortem on how the neoconservative faction hijacked the war to the US foreign policy wonks, and the grandiose PNAC conspiracy theories likewise. The point is, Iraq wasn't a source of Middle Eastern terrorism. But it is, now. The anger and despair coming out of the occupation is a motor driving large numbers of angry young men throughout the Middle East closer and closer to the point at which they feel like doing something a lot more serious than merely kicking the TV set. Something that they feel will shake us in the west to our core, by demonstrating the depth of their rage.

Israel. Palestine. Suicide bombings. And now, Turkey. The question that always occurs to me when I see the aftermath of another hideous explosion on TV is, "what kind of anger is it that drives a person to do this kind of thing -- to themselves, as well as to their enemies?" It's easy for us, in our capacity as potential targets, to write suicide bombers off as unfeeling monsters. But I think that's a mistake. They're clearly angry about something. And it's typically something personal. Orwell painted a grim dystopian future in 1984: "picture a boot stamping on an unprotected face, forever". These people aren't lying down; they see what they're doing as kicking back. And I don't see any good coming of it, because the harsh fact of the matter is both sides are equally wrong.

Declaring a war on terrorism in the wake of 9/11 was good politics for George W. Bush. But it's a misleading metaphor; because war is terrorism by other means, just as terrorism has become an extension of diplomacy by the weak against the strong, to fold, spindle and mutilate Von Clauswitz's famous dictum. If a war against terrorism is to be successful it must be fought in peoples' hearts and minds, with unusual weapons like trust and respect, and a willingness to negotiate with the moderates before our intransigence turns them into desperate extremists.

Insisting that a war on terrorism is a literal war, involving bombers and tanks, is foolish in the extreme. Handing them a victory on a plate -- by surrendering our civil liberties on the altar of security -- is insane. Killing terrorists generates more anger among the communities the terrorists are drawn from, and anger breeds more violence. But negotiation works. It worked in Northern Ireland, where the depths of religious bigotry rival anything to be found in the Middle East. And it can work in the Israel/Palestine mess, if negotiations can be arranged and both sides are willing to back down from their maximalist positions. I doubt negotiation has any chance of working with Osama bin Laden or his closest followers, but as the Ha'aretz interview above suggests, even suicide bombers aren't completely beyond hope.

But back to Bush. George speaks of a clear-cut conflict between good and evil, right and wrong. He's sure it's a war, and he's sure that good will prevail. Well, I agree with him about that, too -- but I'm not sure which side he's on. He's too enthusiastic about splitting the universe into clear-cut categories; and he seems to lack the ability to negotiate or compromise in pursuit of his goals. It seems to me that a talent for convincing yourself that your enemies are evil, and that you are therefore justified in using any means against them, is itself one of the most clear-cut forms of evil. As Neitzsche put it, "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." Bush has plenty of monsters to fight -- he's surrounded by them. And the effects are clearly visible.

[ Discuss Bush ]

posted at: 12:08 | path: /politics | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 20 Nov 2003


I was late getting out last night, so rather than trying to figure out where the Edinburgh march had gotten to I headed straight for the US Consulate, which is just over the road from where I live. As a point of note, it's well-known -- to the marchers, if not the general public -- that the US Consulate in Edinburgh is staffed during office hours only, and by local Scots employees. At the time of the march (6:30pm onwards) there was nobody there. So, probably for this reason, the police presence was no heavier than you'd expect for any other peaceful but large demonstration.

I don't have an accurate count of the size of the march, which in any event was a side-show to the big event due in London today, but if it's anything to judge by the Metropolitan Police -- who are said to have been preparing for up to 100,000 marchers -- are in for a very nasty surprise. I'd say this one had somewhere in the range of 3000-6000 demonstrators; the column took a quarter of an hour to walk by, ten-abreast. That puts it close to the same scale as the largest of the anti-war demos in March, and if it's indicative of the size of the London protest today it suggests there could be up to half a million people on the streets of the capital protesting about Bush's visit.

There's not much else to say. The crowd were cheerful and fairly well-behaved, and in addition to the usual subculture protestors included a lot of folks who seemed to have come straight from their office jobs to join in. The police were professional, unprovocative, and mostly bored (from what I saw of them) and I'm not aware of any arrests or trouble. Afterwards I met up with Ken MacLeod and Iain Banks, and we decamped in the direction of a pub where we ran into Andrew Greig, Ian Rankin, and a couple of other scribblers.

[ Discuss Bush ]

posted at: 12:03 | path: /politics | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 17 Nov 2003

Bizarre links of the day

Tomorrow George W. Bush arrives in the UK, an event so unspeakable in its ghastliness that I think we could all do with some practice at coping with hideous things. Without further ado (or reference to I therefore suggest you desensitize yourself by following some of these links. (NB: mostly work-safe, but vomit bucket recommended.)

To start off slowly, by way of Grouse! we have the Ugly Wedding Dress of the Day weblog, clear evidence that the Fashion Police death camps in the Appalachians aren't working nearly fast enough. Now we turn our eyes to Budapest, where artistic insensibility acquires a whole new meaning with the discovery that the corpse of a man who hanged himself a year ago was mistaken for an abstract sculpture for more than a day by students and workmen entering a newly re-opened university building. Looking further east, those whacky Japanese can always be counted on to invent such a bizarrely recherche new perversion that the rest of us are left scratching our heads (and then swallowing). Mind you, we occidentals have created our own in-your-face offenses against sensibility -- notably brutalist architecture, BIFF's web page, and G. G. Allin.

Thank you, thank you. If you're still with me after that little lot, and you haven't thrown up, then you are ready to cope with a state visit by George W. Bush.

[ Discuss Iraq invasion ]

posted at: 17:47 | path: /politics | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 16 Nov 2003

Friendly requests

The Guardian is running a report today on discussions between the Home Office and the White House on security requirements for George W. Bush's visit to the UK this week.

According to the report the following requests were made by the White House:

  1. The entire London underground railway system to be shut down for the duration of the visit (apparently in response to fears that suicide bombers might hijack a tube train and blow it up under the President's feet)
  2. That US military aircraft, including helicopters and ground attack aircraft, be allowed to patrol London's airspace
  3. That 250 Secret Service agents, including snipers, who will be travelling with the President be granted diplomatic immunity from prosecution in the event they shoot and kill civilians (whether deliberately or by accident)
  4. That the Presidential security detachment should include units armed with miniguns (read: high cyclic rate machine guns)
  5. Closure of a large chunk of central London (to the point where Cabinet staff are being advised to "work from home" for the duration of the visit, if possible)

It appears that the final demand is actually going to be granted, at least in part. As for the others ... well, I am pleased that helicopter gunships and heavy machine guns manned by evidently-paranoid security personnel with diplomatic immunity won't be featuring on the streets of London, but words fail me when I try to describe how I feel that the request was even made in the first place.

Heads of state are subject to random attack from time to time, and Bush does have legitimate security concerns. But if the White House is so worried about his safety from the members of the public of his closest ally, why doesn't he stay at home? And what does this say about the state of the trans-Atlantic relationship?

Hint: on Wednesday I'll be on the Edinburgh anti-war demonstration. I can do no less.

[ Link ][ Discuss Iraq invasion ]

posted at: 12:24 | path: /politics | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 14 Nov 2003

Buddy, can you spare $9.5M?

No, this is not a spoof -- SpaceDev are for real, and they really are auctioning a low-cost microsatellite launch on eBay. Now, there are limits to what you can do with a satellite massing just 60 kilograms, but they're not as tightly constrained as they used to be; for example, the Voyager-1 science platform massed about 70 Kg back in 1977, but today you could squish it down into 2-3 kilos. We've come a long way.

(I think this one should be filed in the "20 reasons this really is the 21st century" drawer.)

Now, if only someone would actually win the goddamn X-Prize, we could get this century back on track again ...

[ Link ] [ Discuss space ]

posted at: 20:53 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 12 Nov 2003

Clean-up time

Yikes! You go away for a couple of weeks and what happens? Your evil twin breaks out of the Government Warehouse, steals your blog, makes himself at home, and starts ordering all and sundry to build titanium pyramids on the moon and vote for Michael Howard.


Anyway, I'm back to normal and that Evil Overlord guy can go and find his own blog -- this one's mine. I've got a lot of catching up to do right now; I'm working on a collaboration with Cory Doctorow, three or four short stories, and a bunch of copy edits for a novel are due to land on my desk any day now. (The book in question is "Iron Sunrise", the sequel to "Singularity Sky", and this weeks' good news is that it looks like it'll be coming out in the UK, and probably quite a bit closer to its first US publication date than the earlier book.) Anyway, I hope you'll excuse me if I don't blog too much for the next week or so. Between digging my way out from under the backlog and tidying up all the secret lairs and weapons of mass destruction the Evil Overlord left lying around I've got my work cut out.

posted at: 12:46 | path: /overlord | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 06 Nov 2003

Your evil overlord wants you to know that ...

Having a hideous head-cold means that you don't have to smell what you're doing when you muck out the cat's litter tray.

(Of course, being an Evil Overlord means you have Minions to take care of such tasks for you, and to find creative uses for the toxic waste products -- there's nothing like burying your enemies up to the neck in a pile of cat-poo to make them crack, and I'm sure minion-of-the-month John Ashcroft will be enthusiastically deploying this tactic just as soon as he's rammed through the PATRIOT III Act that will give him the powers of inquisition that he truly needs in order to get the job done.)

Meanwhile, your evil overlord will shortly be departing from his lair on a fact-finding mission to a science fiction convention. Expect further transmissions next week.

[ Link (Apparel for the discerning evil overlord) ] [ Discuss Evil Overlords ]

posted at: 13:06 | path: /overlord | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 04 Nov 2003

The revolution will not be televised: it will not take place at all.

As your Evil Overlord, I want you to know that I hate revolutions. Revolutions are exceedingly bad for entrenched power, and there've been too many of them in the last century -- technological as well as ideological.

Take computers, for example. They're okay when they're locked in a corporate basement processing the big databases that allow my minions to adjust your monthly chocolate rations, but things got entirely out of control in the 1970's when those meddling kids at Intel started making "micro-processors" that wild-eyed subversives called Steve could do subversive things with. Luckily my pal Bill Gates -- the lawyer, that is -- suggested a good wheeze to one of my assistants in the Department of Bureaucratic Overcontrol, and thirty years later it has payed off: Bill's son now owns most of the world's software by way of a sleazy and devious web of monopolies, contracts, and back-pocket judges. One of the Steve's turned out to be un-buyable, but the other one ... let's just say he doesn't know what planet he's on, neither do his followers, and that's the way we want to keep it. (And you wondered about the Kool-Aid at Apple Developer Forum?)

But you rabble. Sometimes you puzzle me.

Take this Linus guy. Some Finnish computer science student or other. Trying to soak teen-agers for thousand buck software licences sounded like a good way of putting them off for life, but it backfired in this case, and as peer-to-peer hadn't been invented we had no way of planting anything incriminating on him. Nor did we even see the threat. He started writing an operating system. He wasn't the first fellow to do that, or even to do it for free -- there's a strange hermit-like figure called Richard or Dick or something who keeps demanding that I change my name to Evil Overlord (GNU/Planetary) or something -- but my land sharks didn't realise until too late the dangers of letting this thing called the GPL loose on a piece of software. (Or the whole internet mess, which is costing ever so much to bring under control because people think it means they actually have free speech and they get much angrier when you disillusion them than when they didn't think they had it at all.) But I digress.

As of eighteen months ago, Linux wasn't just registering on Bill's radar, it was registering on my radar. It's an industrial strength system that can run databases, and there are all sorts of weasel-minded cryptography nerds out there trying to use it to build undetectable file stores, peer to peer networks, and so on. This absolutely must be stamped out at once, or all my attempts to get the internet under control again will be pointless. Bill said he'd invent something called Palladium to do it, and some discreet nudging in Congress got some honest politicians to propose a bill that would make it a capital offense to run non-Microsoft operating systems, but that's too slow. Lots of third-world Evil Government Minions got the idea that they could save money by running Linux, and once that kind of idea takes root all that's left is to send in B-52's loaded with Agent Orange. It's a plague, I tell you.

Luckily, one of my spin doctors was able to put me in trust with some folks who would see reason. First on my phone list was a Mr McBride from Utah, who had recently bought a second hand software company's name and wondered why there was no money left in it. Darl was overjoyed when I suggested that Evil Overlord (Planetary) Operations would back him if he attempted to prove that Linux was a product of Satan and he is now well on his way to campaigning for sysadmins to be burned at the stake for using the virulent freeware. But while I hadn't been paying attention, some early Linux developers had turned corporate. This suggested another avenue of attack ...

Well, I can happily announce today that Linux is back under control. Red Hat, in one of those inexplicable corporate foot-shootings that happen from time to time, has announced that they're discontinuing Red Hat Linux. This move is inexplicable until you realise that they'll be continuing to market it, with an extra digit in the price, as Red Hat Enterprise, but it means they're out of the game: they're not a threat to Evil Overlord operations any more. Because I'm going to make sure that a lot of enterprises buy Red Hat Enterprise contracts. The threat of corporate malfeasance lawsuits, not to mention my minion Darl's barking, should focus Red Hat's thinking for many years to come.

Meanwhile, my friends in Utah -- do you think I ought to move Evil Empire HQ to Salt Lake City? -- completed the clean-up without even having to be asked. Novell have been trying to turn from a Netware (dying) into a Linux (growing) corporation for ages. Today Novell bought SuSE, the only other really successful desktop Linux company. Given Novell's historic record of success in the consumer market, this guarantees Microsoft's continued domination of the desktop and the continuation of our thirty-year long propaganda strategy. This consists of convincing the public that personal computers are useless for anything except browsing dodgy websites like this one. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy -- if they believe it, they won't go looking for the truth on-line. I can't exaggerate the threat that ubiquitous free communications and public speech posed to my operations, but as with so many other technological problems, the solution lies in how you look at the problem.

We're getting close. My US Senate minions, led by senators Berman, Smith and Conyers, are about to introduce a bill to target peer-to-peer clients including web browsers, making it a crime to distribute them without a warning that they "could create a security and privacy risk". FUD, but useful FUD because it will leave the majority of timid users stuck with my friend Bill's son's web browser (the next release of which will add subliminal pop-ups slaved to Fox News). We've even nobbled that Linus guy into not opposing our moves to build Digital Rights Management into the next generation of microprocessors. With Linux under the control of large corporations and some handy laws to deploy against the wild-eyed Debian info-terrorists, the personal computer revolution will be well and truly nailed down and wrapped up, and the internet will be well on the way to being just another propaganda channel.

Then it'll be back to business as usual. Kiss the annual upgrade fee, scum!

[ Discuss Evil Overlords ]

posted at: 16:52 | path: /overlord | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 03 Nov 2003

Salute the Flag!

I am extremely disappointed in you all.

Goddamn bleeding heart liberals, wanting to pull the troops out of Iraq.

Today's news from Iraq is good news. It means that we are winning the war against the top-down hierarchically controlled remnants of the Ba'athist resistance, or maybe the disparate half-a-dozen bottom-up national resistance movements (to say nothing of the bull-goose loony suicide bomber wannabes who are flocking in from the Middle East and Europe in hope of strapping a bomb on and taking some crusaders to hell over Ramadan). At any rate, we're winning the war against whoever the hell we're fighting. Ahem, I mean, the war against whoever you're fighting. I'm sitting here in this air-conditioned office in Evil Overlord HQ on Skull Island and I'm not fighting anything, except maybe the pounds I'm adding to my waistline.

Look, let's get this straight. It is your job to fight the war against whoever I say the enemy is. If you question your leaders you are unpatriotic, and patriotism is next to godliness, isn't it? And those evil terrorists, they flew airliners into skyscrapers -- who knows what Mohammed Atta and his evil henchpeople are planning to do next?

Okay. You think I'm not being serious? This war is the best thing to have happened to business in years. I had my doubts about Georgie's response to 9/11 (sticking his dick in the buzzing hornet nest of Afghanibuttfuckistan less than ten years after the Soviets got enclued and high-tailed it out of Kabul: less than two centuries after the goddamn British empire -- the folks who accidentally conquered India and ran it at a profit for a century -- found out the hard way that when you played "rock, scissors, stone" with Pathans you had to count your fingers afterwards) seemed a bit odd at first. But the Iraq scam is truly brilliant. I am duly grateful to Dick for handling my Halliburton proxies; this is going to take years to sort out. And the longer you guys stay in downtown Baghdad, and the more things the other guys blow up, the more reconstruction contracts will be there for my friends. You put it up, they knock it down, I get paid. It's as simple as that.

Getting a bit more technical: as Major General Smedley Butler pointed out in the 1930's, war is a racket. A racket is a scheme whereby a properly constituted enterprise can maximize profits without the sort of lilly-gilding and attention to obeying the letter of the law that businesses which wish to comply with, for example, health and safety regulations, are subject to. But there's a paradox in this: because if crime is business, it faces added overheads -- it must provide its own insurance, law, enforcement, and punishment services, and avoid attracting the attention of the legitimate governing authorities. Thus, the real world (as opposed to the one James Bond inhabits) is short of multi-billionaire Blofeld figures, running SPECTRE-sized multinational criminal syndicates. The operational overheads a criminal multinational faces are higher than those of a law-abiding firm, making them less efficient in the marketplace.

The exception to this rule is that when the racket can claim the protection of overwhelming military force it can operate more profitably than a conventional corporation. This is where General Butler's comments become apposite. In the wake of an invasion, the police and the interior ministry and corporate management of the vanquished become impotent in the face of the carpetbagging entrepreneurs riding the coat-tails of the invader's tanks. And invading armies are not geared up to manage corporate reconstruction effectively.

As long as the situation in Iraq remains one of a military occupation, with contracts handed out on an open-ended basis with no oversight, the contractors will tend towards the condition of organized criminals -- on a colossal scale. And with at least five billion dollars already missing from the Iraq reconstruction funds in only six months, I and my Evil Minions are optimistic about the prospects for an indefinitely prolonged occupation.

Remember, if you break it you pay for it. Occupying soldiers are notoriously bad at not breaking things -- in fact, they tend to get the locals angry enough to break even more stuff of their own. And someone else gets to pick up the tab, and hand out the cash to my cronies. Which is why I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in reducing the rate of breakage.

Kiss the cheque book, scum -- and don't forget to salute the flag!

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posted at: 00:25 | path: /overlord | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 01 Nov 2003

Your Evil Overlord Orders You To ...

  1. Buy my books. (That goes without saying, right? What point is there in being Evil Overlord if I can't make people buy my books? Buy my books, scum, or you will live just long enough to be truly sorry.)
  2. Teach everyone to read. Anyone who cannot read will in future have rude statements about their parentage tattooed on their forehead, by way of an incentive. (See item, "Buy my books", above.)
  3. Consume and Obey.
  4. Those of you who live in the Vatican City have an election coming up soon. Before you cast a vote in favour of a successor for the current pontiff, I urge you to remember the fate of the electing cardinals who disagreed with Matteo Orsini. Here's a clue: the watchword is plastic. I'm sure you'll find a way to the conclusion that keeping me happy is your holy duty.
  5. Those of you who live in the United States of America have an election coming up next year. Before you cast a vote, please remember that I do not look kindly on scum who fail to vote for one of my sock-puppets. Determining which of the candidates on offer is my sock puppet is an intelligence test. Lose it, and you have four years to regret your mistake. (Here's a clue: of the current candidates, which one looks most like a minion of the Dark Lord -- the guy in the White House who is currently trying to boost the price of hardcore action by declaring Protection From Porn Week while simultaneously fighting a land war in Asia and a war on two fronts, or one of the other guys?)

That's all for now.

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posted at: 18:04 | path: /overlord | permanent link to this entry


Is SF About to Go Blind? -- Popular Science article by Greg Mone
Unwirer -- an experiment in weblog mediated collaborative fiction
Inside the MIT Media Lab -- what it's like to spend a a day wandering around the Media Lab
"Nothing like this will be built again" -- inside a nuclear reactor complex

Quick links:

RSS Feed (Moved!)

Who am I?

Contact me

Buy my books: (FAQ)

Missile Gap
Via Subterranean Press (US HC -- due Jan, 2007)

The Jennifer Morgue
Via Golden Gryphon (US HC -- due Nov, 2006)

Via (US HC -- due June 30, 2006)

The Clan Corporate
Via (US HC -- out now)

Via (US HC)
Via (US PB -- due June 27, 2006)
Via (UK HC)
Via (UK PB)
Free download

The Hidden Family
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)

The Family Trade
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)

Iron Sunrise
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)
Via (UK HC)
Via (UK PB)

The Atrocity Archives
Via (Trade PB)
Via (Trade PB)
Via Golden Gryphon (HC)
Via (HC)
Via (HC)

Singularity Sky
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)
Via (US ebook)
Via (UK HC)
Via (UK PB)


Some webby stuff I'm reading:

Engadget ]
Gizmodo ]
The Memory Hole ]
Boing!Boing! ]
Futurismic ]
Walter Jon Williams ]
Making Light (TNH) ]
Crooked Timber ]
Junius (Chris Bertram) ]
Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) ]
Bruce Sterling ]
Ian McDonald ]
Amygdala (Gary Farber) ]
Cyborg Democracy ]
Body and Soul (Jeanne d'Arc)  ]
Atrios ]
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol) ]
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) ]
Jesus's General ]
Mick Farren ]
Early days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod) ]
Respectful of Otters (Rivka) ]
Tangent Online ]
Grouse Today ]
Hacktivismo ]
Terra Nova ]
Whatever (John Scalzi) ]
Justine Larbalestier ]
Yankee Fog ]
The Law west of Ealing Broadway ]
Cough the Lot ]
The Yorkshire Ranter ]
Newshog ]
Kung Fu Monkey ]
S1ngularity ]
Pagan Prattle ]
Gwyneth Jones ]
Calpundit ]
Lenin's Tomb ]
Progressive Gold ]
Kathryn Cramer ]
Halfway down the Danube ]
Fistful of Euros ]
Orcinus ]
Shrillblog ]
Steve Gilliard ]
Frankenstein Journal (Chris Lawson) ]
The Panda's Thumb ]
Martin Wisse ]
Kuro5hin ]
Advogato ]
Talking Points Memo ]
The Register ]
Cryptome ]
Juan Cole: Informed comment ]
Global Guerillas (John Robb) ]
Shadow of the Hegemon (Demosthenes) ]
Simon Bisson's Journal ]
Max Sawicky's weblog ]
Guy Kewney's mobile campaign ]
Hitherby Dragons ]
Counterspin Central ]
MetaFilter ]
NTKnow ]
Encyclopaedia Astronautica ]
Fafblog ]
BBC News (Scotland) ]
Pravda ]
Meerkat open wire service ]
Warren Ellis ]
Brad DeLong ]
Hullabaloo (Digby) ]
Jeff Vail ]
The Whiskey Bar (Billmon) ]
Groupthink Central (Yuval Rubinstein) ]
Unmedia (Aziz Poonawalla) ]
Rebecca's Pocket (Rebecca Blood) ]

Older stuff:

June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
(I screwed the pooch in respect of the blosxom entry datestamps on March 28th, 2002, so everything before then shows up as being from the same time)

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