More notes, including some morbid humor and an awful lot of useful URL's.
Plus: spam, child abuse, the VRML standard, media concentration, war games,
the CIA, and the historic Bob's Big Boy in downtown Burbank, California.

As a periodic reminder, you can unsubscribe from RRE by sending a message
that looks like this:

  Subject: unsubscribe

Another way to read RRE is by putting
in the hotlist of your Web browser.  That's the URL for the chronological
RRE archive that Kee Hinckley and company maintain.  But, hey, getting it
by e-mail is "push" technology, which is more up-to-date -- that is, more
like television -- than boring old "pull" on the boring old Web.   We were
all wrong, it seems, back in 1994: interactive is tired, passive is wired.
Where it's really all at, it seems, is total immersion -- in advertising!
It's official now, but you heard it here first.

At the risk of sounding like a guy who's boring his grandchildren with
stories of his youth, I can still remember those glorious days of 1994
when we exulted that the Internet is not like television.  Not only that,
but the Internet's political virtues were held to inhere in the technology
itself, and the technology was supposed to reshape the whole world in its
image.  Some people -- notably Mitch Kapor -- knew that technologies are
continually shaped by institutions and that directions of technological
development are not inevitable but are human choices.  But hardly anybody
understood what they were talking about.  Now the whole Internet hype
agenda is being set by the needs of advertisers, and respected leaders
of the computer industry are unashamed to announce in public that the
Internet needs to be more like television.

Amidst the hyperbole, I hardly even hear the important social questions
about "push" technology being asked: Will everyone be able to push their
own materials?  What are the start-up costs involved in operating a "push"
channel?  Will it be equally easy for users to receive "pushed" materials
from all suppliers, no latter how lowly?  Will badly designed security
prevent users from accepting pushed material from any but the largest
and most prominent suppliers?  Will advertiser support lead to routine
surveillance of "push" recipients' viewing habits?  Will advertiser
sponsorship exert the same insidious influence on online news content
that it already does in newspapers?  (See, for example, C. Edwin Baker,
Advertising and a Democratic Press, Princeton University Press, 1994.)

Right now I'm sitting at a Macintosh in a coffee house, reading my e-mail
etc while my car is being fixed.  I had both Netscape Navigator and NCSA
Telnet open, so it occurred to me to start up CNET ( in both
Lynx and Navigator.  So far in Lynx I've browsed a few pages and followed
most of the hyperlinks; I've also read several of the articles and paused
to type this paragraph.  Meanwhile, Navigator is still busily loading the
multitude of graphics on the CNET home page.  Ho hum, back to Lynx...

It seems like the spam quotient on the Internet has really accelerated in
the last few weeks.  Most of the spam seems to consist of advertisements
for services for sending out spam; I don't know whether this is a good
sign or a bad sign.  Spammers are scum.  They seem to be the contemporary
vanguard of that corrupt morality of the marketplace which holds that
everything that isn't illegal is okay.  Just yesterday I read news of one
particularly vile spammer who claims he will soon release a program called
Hypocrite that automatically returns any flame directed against a spammer
to the sender's postmaster.  I resolved, therefore, to seek more creative
measures to express my views on unsolicited commercial e-mail.  Perhaps I
could direct the RRE Skunk Works to deploy our new program, Scumbag, which
operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, sending advertisements to known
spammers with the headers forged to make them look like they were sent by
other spammers.  Nah, I thought, too violent.  I need something more poetic.

Just then, quite fortuitously, I received a message from a gentleman who
asked me to imagine the convenience of having dirty pictures arrive in
my mailbox.  He invited responses by voice mail, so I called his number
and sat the phone in front of a stereo speaker from which Diamanda Galas'
classic "How Shall Our Judgement Be Carried Out Upon the Wicked" (from her
"Plague Mass", about AIDS dementia) was screeching insanely away.  Since
then I've been trying to think of other suitable tunes, such as "Return
to Sender", "Positively Fourth Street", and (one hopes) "I Fought the Law
and the Law Won".  And, oh yeah, Neil Young's hysterical "Piece of Crap".
This is entertaining, but obviously it doesn't provide a permanent answer.

Much of the spam, I gather, is generated by people exploiting a loophole
in SMTP that permits them to send out their mail from someone else's
site.  This can be fixed.  The interesting question here is, what's the
exact combination of technical fixes and laws that can stop this scourge?
It's easy to pass a law that outlaws the wrong things, particularly when
technology changes in unanticipated ways.  It's also easy to pass a law
that imposes authentication requirements that go beyond the minimum that's
necessary to avoid systematic abuse of the technology.

On the other hand, it's also easy simply to point at possible technologies
that would solve the problem in theory, but that are entirely unrealistic
to expect 50,000,000 Internet users to be able to adopt in practice.  One
particularly fatuous suggestion that I've heard since the beginning of
time is that new mail filters will automatically recognize advertisements
and other messages that the recipient does not want.  I've even heard
it suggested, in surely one of history's most extravagant cases of market
panglossianism, that the nonexistence of such mail filters implies that
people don't want them.

I think surely an answer can be found between the extremes.  I doubt if
it's possible to outlaw spam as such, but it's possible to shut down the
various schemes by which spammers shield themselves from having the same
costs imposed upon them that they impose upon others.  Perhaps one might
make it illegal to forge headers that appear to come from another site
without the site owner's permission.  In that case one could filter out
mail that does not come from a registered site.

On the legal aspects of spam see

Want a chip implanted in your body so your doctor can monitor your vital
signs in real time and administer medication remotely?  It's real.

In my capacity as a person who parades himself as a privacy expert, I
sometimes get calls from people who are concerned that microchips have
been planted in their heads, that their television set is monitoring their
conversations, that someone is tracking their car, and so on.  Most often
their fears are technically impossible.  A couple years from now, though,
that will no longer be true.

The Internet Society has prepared a new and badly needed history of the
Internet.  It's on the Web at

The Internet Outreach Program of the Soros-funded Open Society Institute
is on the Web at

The International Telecommunications Union's World Telecommunication
Development Report, official and stuffy but informative in its own way,
is at

For an interesting article on the Republicans' discovery of child abuse,
On the subject of the role of child abuse in reproducing authoritarian
culture, I recommend a powerful and slightly odd book, Michael A. Milburn
and Sheree D. Conrad, The Politics of Denial, MIT Press, 1996, and Alice
Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots
of Violence, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983.  Miller in particular has had
a positive impact on Western culture in my opinion, particularly in Europe
where corporal punishment has been largely outlawed.  It does seem to me
that she's still carrying a lot of unresolved anger that interferes with
her philosophy from time to time.  Still, it's a positive sign that such
things can be gotten out into the open at all, even if they are always
immediately mocked.

Following up on my rant about interface accessibility issues, here are
some relevant URL's:

Some will be upset by the idea that Microsoft belongs on this list at all.
I have heard all these arguments, and I encourage you to take them up with

The 3/17/97 issue of The Nation reviews increasing concentration in the
publishing industry, complete with a handy chart.  I'm bothered, though,
by the authors' seeming presupposition that books are better than other
media, and their assumption that it's necessarily a bad thing for works to
be released in multiple media.  And I'm also bothered by the off-handedly
nasty comments about Oprah Winfrey, who I think is, on balance, a force
for good in American culture, especially recently.  Nonetheless, I do take
the problem of media concentration seriously.  It is not a healthy thing
for a democracy when the means of publication are held in so few hands.
Many people assume that the Internet will change all this, but I have yet
to see the evidence beyond experiments and anecdotes.

The March 1997 issue of IEEE Spectrum has several articles under the
heading "Sharing Virtual Worlds: Avatars, Agents, and Social Computing",
which a focus on emerging standards in that area.  It's particularly
interesting to see the convergence between the military and entertainment
worlds.  It seems that wargames will increasingly be conducted on similar
platforms, whether live ammunition is being fired or not.  On this general
subject, see Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning
to Kill in War and Society, Little, Brown, 1995.  It's a book by a soldier
on the methods by which the military breaks down soldiers' resistance to
killing people.  He argues that these methods have grown all too successful.

Geoffrey Moore's columns in Upside (two of them so far) are smart.

The web pages for Colin Bennett's course on "The Politics of Information"
can be found at

Anne Lamott has a beautiful essay about church in the February issue of

I encourage everyone to stay up-to-date on the issues surrounding the
Church of Scientology, particularly and its conflicts with its former
members and the Internet community.  Here are some relevant URL's:

The New York Times also had a long first-page article in their 3/9/97
issue (I think it was) about Scientology's long campaign for approval of
tax-exempt status by the IRS.  It has transpired that this article relied
on internal Scientology publications for some of its factual claims -- not
the soundest journalistic method, I have to say.  But the material in the
article from other sources is the most interesting.

The Winter 1997 issue of Cultural Survival Quarterly is a special issue
that's entitled "Traditional Music in Community: Aspects of Performance,
Recordings, and Preservation", edited by the very cool Anthony Seeger of
the Smithsonian.  CSQ is available at larger newsstands (cover price $5).
I assume you can also get it from Cultural Survival, 96 Mount Auburn St,
2nd floor, Cambridge MA 02138, USA; +1 (617) 441-5400;

The Preservation Institute's directory of Transportation and Development
Politics is a good example of a simple Web application for building links
between people working on issues that are local in nature but pretty much
analogous wherever they arise.

I get the most appalling things in the mail.  Here, for example, I have
a letter from Richard Viguerie -- the same Richard Viguerie who is famous
for having pioneered direct-mail political fund-raising in the 1980's --
advertising his new publication, The New Media Report.  The letter itself
presumably distills everything he has learned; it is framed as a fake memo
to someone named Janis Tabor of the "Council for Chemican [sic] Research".
I'm sure he has some psychological explanation for the typo.

In any case, The New Media Report promises to inform organizations what
is being said about them in the "new media", which includes "direct mail,
phone banks, fax broadcasting, newsletters and Internet sites of hundreds
of activist public policy organizations".  He claims that his staff is
"following thousands of talk radio shows, cable news shows, public policy
newsletters, trade shows, conventions, lectures, independent book stores,
videos, religious broadcasts, campus publications, ethnic and political
publications and meetings", as well as "the activities of hundreds of
state and national labor unions".

He says, "We've hired people who are computer junkies and who love the
idea that we pay them to surf hundreds of organization sites on the
Internet.  They do it every day except now they get paid for it."  Also,
"We subscribe to and read hundreds of newsletters and desktop published
magazines dealing with public policy issues, current events, including
trade, taxes, possible new state ballot initiatives, attacks on business,
ideas for new government regulations, and much, much more."  Not only
that, "We call independent book stores to learn what the non-elite middle
class is reading."  And so on.  It appears weekly and costs $347 a year
by paper mail, fax, or e-mail.

Viguerie's newsletter is, I suppose, the next level of a phenomenon
that has been accelerating in recent years: the systematic surveillance
of popular political activity by the interests who have something to
fear from it.  The demand for such information is created in large
part by the concomitant rise of techniques for preventing new issues
from being established in the public sphere.  Sometimes the motivation
for this type of action is reasonable, for example when plainly false
rumors begin to circulate.  Many other times, however, the motivation is
much more problematic.  This has been well-documented (see, for example,
John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, "Toxic Sludge is Good for You", Common
Courage Press).  Having gotten early warning of the publication of an
unfriendly book, for example, an organization or its public relations firm
can mysteriously get hold of page proofs, round up its friendly experts,
and approach relevant reporters with disparaging previews so that the
book is less likely to be reviewed.  Bookstores might then receive phone
calls purporting to cancel an author's scheduled book-signing appearances.
Or, having gotten early warning of a potential issue campaign by a
political group, the affected organizations can prepare lobbying materials
and inoculate all of the relevant politicians with attacks on the group's
credibility before they even show up in the politicians' offices.  These
practices, as I say, are already routine, and The New Media Report will
permit them to become even more routine and even more efficient.  Public
debate will be smothered before it even begins, and society will drift
into oblivion and formless rage.

For a while there, had a story online about PR firms monitoring
the Internet.  It seems to be gone now, but the URL for the story was

After I sent out the RRE message on East Timor the other day, John Batali
sent me a batch of URL's for Web pages on the issue:
    The East Timor Human Rights Centre in Melbourne, Australia
    A brief description of the situation in East Timor
    East Timor Information Pages
    Amnesty International's Report about East Timor
    Links and information from the University of Coimbra, Portugal

An interesting OECD paper on money laundering paper "FATF-VIII Money
Laundering Typologies Exercise Public Report", 5 February 1997, is at:  (Text 94K; 4 images 78K)

The other day I hopped off a train in Burbank a little early for a 2PM
appointment, so I wandered into a friendly-looking taco shop to get lunch.
After ordering a chicken burrito and pausing to take in my surroundings,
I became aware that everyone was glued to a black-and-white television
set mounted on the wall.  From the announcers' tones of voice, I gathered
that they were engaged in real-time coverage of a crime story.  They were
deep into the details, however, so I could not tell where the crime was
taking place.  Momentarily they began rolling video footage of AK-47 fire,
lots of it, and mentioning street names, and it began to dawn on me that
I had been assuming all along that it was happening right there in the
neighborhood.  Sure enough, I was three miles due east of the heavy-duty
North Hollywood bank robbery and the subsequent shootout; the second
suspect had been driving straight toward me when the cops caught up to
him.  You've read the story in the newspaper, and you no doubt noticed
the part about the cops barging into a gun store and swiping all the heavy
weapons they could get, being outgunned as they were by these guys with
machine guns and industrial-strength body armor.  Now there's a metaphor.

As I was standing there trying to figure out where all this was happening,
I was reflecting on electronic media.  I watch little enough television,
having quit pretty much cold turkey almost twenty years ago, that I still
find it strange.  I remember switching on a TV set in a room I was renting
in Paris a couple of years ago, seeing a volcano erupting in New Zealand
on CNN, and saying to myself something like "wow, you can actually see a
volcano erupting in New Zealand".  I screen out the CNN Airport Network as
well as I can, primarily by traveling with a Walkman and expensive studio
headphones and listening to Nirvana's "In Utero" and Oasis' "(What's the
Story) Morning Glory?" in tight rotation while reading a stack of business
magazines and keeping my back to as many of the friggingly ubiquitous TV
screens as possible.

Thus, watching the bank-robbery coverage in the taco shop, I found myself
straining for language to describe the weirdness of it.  It's tempting to
describe it in terms of physics, as if distance had collapsed and every
point in the earth was connected to every other one, as if space had grown
another dimension that makes us all effectively omnipresent.  But that's
not right, because it leaves out the social mechanisms that determine
what images show up on the box.  We're not everywhere at once; we're
all somewhere in particular at once, and we have little choice about where.
Another way to look at it is that the entire species has been plugged into
machines that maintain us in maximum emotional stress by staying connected
to the most unpleasant events on the entire face of the earth.  Those poor
cops getting hosed down with AK-47 fire were three miles away, but they
could equally well have been three thousand miles away.  But that's not
right either, since people get slaughtered in their thousands in Colombia
all the time without it becoming news.  The key was clearly eluding me.

Having spent the whole evening working in much more abstract realms, I was
looking forward to reading the LA Times the next morning.  I wandered into
downtown Burbank and, a block past the NBC and Disney Channel buildings,
I came upon a splendid Bob's Big Boy, designated a "Point of Historical
Interest" by the State of California for its transitional status in the
emergence of 1950s' coffee-shop architecture.  After feeding my quarters
into the newspaper vending machine, I stopped to watch a young family
from India who were walking in from the parking lot; their two-year-old
daughter was fascinated and overwhelmed by the huge, disturbing statue
of Bob outside the restaurant, just as I can still vividly recall being
overwhelmed by such a statue somewhere in Maryland sometime around 1963.
I found the sight oddly comforting.

Now for the really weird part.  Inside the restaurant, it turns out, is
another historical plaque, this one more discreet, marking the particular
booth where Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino shot a scene ("on location",
we are informed) for the movie "Heat".  Now, of course, as the LA Times
pointed out, that's the very same movie in which a guy in full body armor
robs a bank and hoses down a bunch of cops with AK-47 fire.  What does
this mean?  Did the guys from the North Hollywood bank robbery plan their
crime while sitting in that specific booth of the Bob's Big Boy?  Have
the movies and the news completely collapsed into one another?  After
all, newspaper articles about historical places routinely remind us of
the movies that have been made about them; such articles frequently appear
just after the movies have been released.  Russian mobsters are said to
watch American gangster films to find out how to be gangsters.  To my
mind, the scariest part is that the guys in North Hollywood didn't manage
to kill anybody, reinforcing the cartoon fantasy that people can get shot
with machine guns and not die.

Speaking of which ...

Robert Young Pelton, Coskun Aral, and Wink Dulles, The World's Most
Dangerous Places, second edition, Redondo Beach, CA: Fielding Worldwide,
1997.  This utterly gonzo thousand-page guide to the dangers of various
countries is every last kind of incorrect.  What it lacks in copyediting
(which is a lot), it makes up in attitude.  It revels, for example, in
assigning stars to the countries' danger levels -- the countries that
win five stars are Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, Colombia, and Somalia.
(The United States gets one star, mostly for heavily armed nutcases.)
It's the only travel book I've ever seen that includes a capitalized
ACTIONS DISCUSSED IN THIS BOOK.  Along the way, it provides reasonably
convincing accounts of the world's major recent civil wars, along with
detailed advice on matters such as bogus cops, kidnapping, land mines,
diseases, and fundamentalist religion.  Something to offend everyone.
And very practical.  Need phone numbers for the Taliban?  They're right
here on page 82: +92 42 669087 if you speak Dari and +93 81 822422 if
you speak Pushtu.

On this general subject, the following message arrived from a friend in
medical school...

My roommate subscribes to Entrepreneur Magazine which I read over
breakfast.  A recent issue listed 45 young millionaires.  On that list
is Ray Barnes.  Quoting: "Ray Barnes' life changed the moment he arrived
at the scene of his grandfather's suicide.  'I saw blood and brain matter
on the grass,' says Barnes.  'And I had to decide to do one of two things:
turn and walk away or get rid of the mess so my mother and grandmother
wouldn't have to see it.'"  So Barnes and his wife, Louise, founded "Crime
Scene Clean-Up" (Fallston, Maryland).  There's a nice photo of Ray and
Louise wearing red jumpsuits, standing in front of their red truck, Louise
holding a mop, and Ray with the nozzle of a wet-vac.

And finally...

A panda walks into a bar, sits down and orders a sandwich.  He eats the
sandwich, pulls out a gun, and shoots the waiter dead.

As the panda stands up to go, the bartender shouts, "Hey!  Where are you
going?  You just shot my waiter and you didn't pay for your sandwich!

The panda yells back at the bartender, "Hey man, I'm a PANDA!  Look it up!"

The bartender opens his dictionary and sees the following definition for

"A tree dwelling marsupial of Asian origin, distinguished by prominent
black and white coloring.  Eats shoots and leaves."

According to Wired News, the IETF has released a draft standard RFC2109
governing end-user control and monitoring of cookie transactions.
  Wired story:
  IETF specification:

I somehow sent out a bad URL for the Internet Resouces archive of online
publications.  The correct URL is

One of the originators of VRML, Mark Pesce, has an instructive if somewhat
murky article on the strange politics of VRML standards in Feed.  The
URL for the article is
One RRE reader offered it as proof that Microsoft is not the only company
that behaves badly with regard to standards.  I wholly agree, and I want
to make clear that my arguments "against" Microsoft are really aimed at a
deeper phenomenon.  The problem is not that Microsoft people are uniquely
bad, or even that they are bad at all.  The problem is that systematic
pathologies of complex, standards-based markets practically compel many
companies to engage in questionable practices.  If anything, Microsoft's
dominance produces incentives for all of the other large players to play
things relatively straight, that being the best strategy of self-defense
in the situation.  But that's just a rough approximation; the details in
practice are endlessly complicated and need to be analyzed case-by-case.
It's particularly striking that Pesce's story involves voting -- at one
point in the store, Microsoft actually lost a vote.  Some economist needs
to explain this marvelous new economics that includes voting.  I like it.

On the Cyperpunks list, John Young mentioned that he has put the US Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence's 135Kbyte report on its activities from
4 January 1995 to 3 October 1996 online at
Here is the table of contents:

  I. Introduction

 II. Legislation
       Intelligence Budget
       S. 922 Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996
       S. 1718 Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997
       Intelligence Renewal and Reform Act of 1996
       The National Imagery and Mapping Agency

III. Arms Control
       Chemical Weapons Convention
       START II Treaty

 IV. Counterintelligence
       The Aldrich Ames Espionage Case
       French Flap
       Economic Espionage
       Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

  V. Counterterrorism
       Terrorism Threat Overview
       Khubar Towers and OPM-SANG Bombings

 VI. Counterproliferation
       North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs
       Long-Range Missile Threat

VII. Oversight Activities
       National Security Threats to the United States
       Intelligence Support to U.S. Efforts in Bosnia
       Inquiry into U.S. Actions Regarding Iranian and Other
           Arms Transfers to the Bosnian Army
       Congressional Notification of Foreign Policy Decisions
       Persian Gulf Syndrome
       Zona Rosa
       Vietnamese Commandos
       CIA/Contra/Cocaine Link
       CIA Use of Journalists, Clergy, and Peace Corps
           Volunteers in Intelligence Operations
       Intelligence Support to Law Enforcement
       Congressional Notifications of Intelligence Activities
       Airborne Reconnaissance
       National Reconnaissance Office Carry Forward
       Small Satellites
       Covert Action
       Encryption Export Policy
       Security of the U.S. Information Infrastructure
       Jane Doe Thompson Case
       Oversight of the Intelligence Community Inspectors
       Organized Crime in the Former Soviet Union
       Program Review and Audit Staff

VIII.Foreign Intelligence
       North Korea
       Economic Espionage
       Environmental and Demographic Intelligence
       Intelligence Sharing with the United Nations

 IX. Confirmations
       DCI John M. Deutch
       DDCI George J. Tenet

  X. Committee Internal Reforms and Enhancements
       End of the Designee System
       Term Limits

     Summary of Committee Activities
       Number of Meetings
       Bills and Resolutions Originated by the Committee
       Bills Referred to the Committee
       Committee Publications
       Memorandum of Agreement Regarding TIARA and JMIP