TBTF for 1999-07-26: Hypocrites Party

Keith Dawson (dawson@world.std.com)
Sun, 25 Jul 1999 20:21:41 -0400


TBTF for 1999-07-26: Hypocrites Party

T a s t y B i t s f r o m t h e T e c h n o l o g y F r o n t

Timely news of the bellwethers in computer and communications
technology that will affect electronic commerce -- since 1994

Your Host: Keith Dawson

ISSN: 1524-9948

This issue: < http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-07-26.html >

C o n t e n t s

Bill to relax crypto exports is gutted
House holds hearing on ICANN
US national identity card looms in October
US Senate committee OKs a digital signature bill
A gaggle of geeks
The Hunger Site
The beginnings of molecular-scale computing
Tracking satellites at home
Lunar Prospector to go out in a blaze of... water?
Block that metaphor

..Bill to relax crypto exports is gutted

It's deja vu all over again

Two years ago the most privacy-friendly attempt to relax US crypto
export controls, Bob Goodlatte's SAFE bill, was savaged [1] in two
House committees and was eventually withdrawn. I wrote at the time:

> Justice Department backers have succeeded in shifting the
> locus of debate so far in the direction of the Surveillance
> Society that you can barely see the US Constitution from here.

Goodlatte reintroduced SAFE in the current legislative session and
succeeded in signing up a majority of Congress members, 258 in num-
ber, to co-sponsor the bill. Perhaps you'd imagine that such support
would give the bill an easy ride through Congressional committees?
If so you'd be reckoning without the political hypocrisy that spawned
the old saying "Pro is to con as progress is to Congress." (Thanks to
Mike Barnett <mbarn at ionet dot net> for the analogy.) SAFE had en-
joyed majority sponsorship in 1997 too.

On Wednesday 21 July the House Armed Services Committee voted 47 to
6 to replace the text of the SAFE bill with one drafted by the law-
enforcement community [2], and manifesting exactly the opposite ef-
fect. Here is the text of the new "unSAFE" bill [3] (PDF format,
47K). Eventually the House Rules Committee will need to decide which
version of SAFE, if any, reaches the floor for a vote.

Let's do an exercise in political accountability. 17 SAFE co-spon-
sors sit on the Armed Services Committee, and 13 of them voted to
gut the bill. (Note that even if all SAFE co-sponsors had voted to
preserve the original bill, the outcome would have been the same,
by a vote of 34 to 19.)

I have updated the Congressional Hypocrites page [4], which first
spotlighted the 285 politicians who voted cockeyed on matters of
Internet pornography, to cast a cold light on the 13 members who
both sponsored the SAFE bill and voted last Wednesday to ream it
out. They are:

* Andrews, Robert E. (D-NJ) [5]
Brady, Robert (D-PA)
* Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA) [6]
Gibbons, Jim (R-NV)
* Hansen, James V. (R-UT) [7]
Hayes, Robin (D-NC)
* Hilleary, Van (R-TN) [8]
* Kasich, John R. (R-OH) [9]
Kennedy, Patrick J. (D-RI)
Maloney, James H. (D-CT)
Riley, Bob (R-AL)
Ryun, Jim (R-KS)
Scarborough, Joe (R-FL)

The five members marked with * are two-time losers -- they voted
hypocritically on both Internet pornography and crypto export. I
have caused their listings on [4] to stand out from the others in
such a way as to obscure their party affiliations. On the subject
of the Internet, these Congressmen have earned their denomination
as charter members of the Hypocrites Party. Why not visit their
Web sites [5] - [9] and express your opinion about their votes?

It's a pity that we need to single out for special accolades that
minority of Congress members who do what they say they are going
to do; but such is our system. The four SAFE co-sponsors who voted
against gutting the bill are:

Bono, Mary (R-CA) [10]
Meehan, Martin T. (D-MA) [11]
Sanchez, Loretta (D-CA) [12]
Smith, Adam (D-WA) [13]

Thank you and congratulations, you hardy few, for voting your con-
sciences. Why not visit their Web sites [10] - [13] and express
your opinion about their votes?

[1] http://tbtf.com/archive/1997-09-15.html#s01
[2] http://www.wired.com/news/print_version/politics/story/20872.html?wnpg=all
[3] http://www.house.gov/hasc/openingstatementsandpressreleases/106thcongress/99-07-21HR850markup.pdf
[4] http://tbtf.com/resource/hypocrites.html
[5] http://www.house.gov/andrews/
[6] http://www.house.gov/chambliss/
[7] http://www.house.gov/hansen/
[8] http://www.house.gov/hilleary/
[9] http://www.house.gov/kasich/
[10] http://www.house.gov/bono/
[11] http://www.house.gov/meehan/
[12] http://www.house.gov/sanchez/
[13] http://www.house.gov/adamsmith/

..House holds hearing on ICANN

To its surprise NSI gets roughed up, too

On Thursday 22 July a highly charged House subcommittee hearing con-
vened to scrutinize ICANN. The politicians ended up taking the domi-
nant registrar to task as well [14]. The House Commerce Subcommittee
on Oversight and Investigations addressed allegations that the Inter-
net Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers had overstepped its
authority. This news.com report [15] opines that ICANN's Esther Dyson
emerged relatively intact, while the new CEO of NSI, the monopolist
that had prompted the hearings, was battered and shaken.

David Post "attended" the hearing by RealAudio. He notes in an email
distributed on Declan McCullagh's Politech mailing list that the one
"smoking gun" to emerge came from ICANN's lawyer, Joe Sims. At the
hearing an email from Sims to the Department of Justice was made
public. Sims had "suggested" to DOJ that it intervene in ICANN's
negotiations with NSI and Commerce:

> [O]ne thing DOJ could do is increase the level of pressure on
> DOC, by some form of formal communication or a higher-level
> contact... and that it would be useful for DOC to hear from
> significant organization that they were perfectly willing and
> capable of stepping into NSI's shoes with little difficulty,
> assuming access to the root files.

[14] http://www.wired.com/news/print_version/politics/story/20887.html?wnpg=all
[15] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,39613,00.html

..US national identity card looms in October

Is this any way for the Beacon of Democracy to act?

The time is fast approaching when the US government will, unless a
1996 law is amended, instruct all states to replace your driver's
license with one featuring your social security number in visible
and machine-readable form, and possibly your fingerprints as well

Here are some of the problems that widespread, mandated exposure of
your social security number could cause [17].

The law that spawned these regulations from the Department of Trans-
portation is the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsi-
bilities Act [18], passed in 1996. Transportation was poised to an-
nounce and enforce a national driver's-license standard last year,
but civil liberties groups managed -- just barely -- to enact a 1-
year stay of execution for the national ID card [19]. It expires in
October. Opposition groups failed last month to insert into a Trans-
portation funding bill a provision overturning section 656(b) of the
1996 law.

The chairman of the Immigration and Claims subcommittee of the Ju-
diciary Committee, Lamar Smith (R-TX), says that creating a national
ID card was never the intent of the 1996 law; he now sports a Web
page [20] declaring his opposition to the very idea. But Smith has
acknowledged that the regulations drafted by the Transportation
Department do, in fact, establish just such a national ID.

Smith's subcommittee will hold a hearing [21] on the repeal of sec-
tion 656(b) on Thursday 29 July, at 9:30 a.m., in room 2226 of the
Rayburn House Office Building in Washington. It would be an excel-
lent time to let your representative know where you stand on issues
of privacy and a national ID card, especially if your representative
is a member of this subcommittee:

Berman, Howard (CA, 26th district)
Cannon, Chris (UT, 3rd)
Canady, Charles (FL, 12th)
Frank, Barney (MA, 4th)
Gallegly, Elton (CA, 23rd)
Goodlatte, Bob (VA, 6th)
Jackson Lee, Sheila (TX, 18th)
Lofgren, Zoe (CA, 16th)
McCollum, Bill (FL, 8th)
Meehan, Marty (MA, 5th)
Pease, Ed (IN, 7th)
Scarborough, Joe (FL, 1st)
Smith, Lamar (TX, 21st) -- Chairman

[16] http://www.wired.com/news/print_version/politics/story/20881.html?wnpg=all
[17] http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs10-ssn.htm
[18] http://www.networkusa.org/fingerprint/page2/fp-104-208-immigration.html
[19] http://www.wired.com/news/print_version/politics/story/15635.html?wnpg=all
[20] http://www.house.gov/lamarsmith/idcardhtm.htm
[21] http://www.house.gov/judiciary/schedule.htm

..US Senate committee OKs a digital signature bill

Unifying a patchwork of state regulation

In late June the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved
legislation giving electronic signatures the same legal validity
as those written by hand [22]. The bill doesn't specify what tech-
nology should be used for electronic signatures. It could be a
boon to companies such as VeriSign that provide enabling tech
for digital signatures. The bill's sponsor notes that the states
have been developing their own guidelines for electronic signa-
tures, but no two state plans are alike. Here's a summary [23] of
the Millenium Digital Commerce Act.

Some years back TBTF Irregular Gary Stock <gstock at ingetech dot
com> worked in the world of pharmaceuticals. He sends this note
[24] on the history of acceptance of electronic signatures by that
industry and the Food and Drug Administration.

[22] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,38262,00.html
[23] http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:s.00761:
[24] http://tbtf.com/resource/FDA-e-signatures.html

..A gaggle of geeks

Business development on Internet time

Once an engineering team had put themselves out for bid on eBay [25],
it was only a matter of (Internet) time before someone wrote a busi-
ness plan based on this idea and set up shop on the Web. In fact it
was less than a month before Bid4geeks.com [26] had opened its virtual

Thanks to TBTF Benefactor [27] Richard Thomas <rmt at winterfold dot
com> for word on this fast-moving space. Thomas rhetorically asks:

> Is a team more or less loyal than an individual, I wonder? And
> would customers be loyal to the employer, or to the team with-
> in it that moved on?

[25] http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-05-08.html#s10
[26] http://www.bid4geeks.com/
[27] http://tbtf.com/the-benefactors.html


Find out how visitors are finding your site

Searchspy [28], a Perl script written by Nelson Minar, analyzes web
server logs to tell you what search terms people are using to find
your Web pages. It works by looking at the referrer URL information
and parsing out the query term from the search engine. Results look
like this:

/people/nelson/movies/ +"Zsa Zsa Gabor" +"virginity"
/projects/hive/index.html Things that link mit media lab

Of course some Web-log analysis tools attempt a similar job; but
searchspy is quick and lightweight, yet it deciphers the spoor of
(at last count) 35 search engines.

Using searchspy is a bit like watching a search voyeur [29], but one
that shows you queries for your own pages. Minar recently discovered
that a commercial product with a similar purpose is open for busi-
ness at searchspy.com; they acquired the domain name seven months
after he first posted his script.

[28] http://www.media.mit.edu/~nelson/software/searchspy/
[29] http://www.savvysearch.com/snoop/

..The Hunger Site

Doing good one click at a time

This feel-good site [30] sounds like it ought to be an email-borne
urban legend, but it is strictly for real. Visit The Hunger Site and
click the button; view a banner from the day's sponsor and they will
donate three cents to the UN World Food Program. This buys a day's
worth (1-1/2 cups) of a staple food such as maize or rice. More than
seventy thousand people clicked last Friday. The site asks each user
to visit at most once per day. Thanks for the tip to Eric Rachner
<erachner at aventail dot com>.

[30] http://www.thehungersite.com/

..The beginnings of molecular-scale computing

Researchers say computers 10^11 times more powerful than today's
may be on the horizon

On 16 July an HP physicist and a UCLA chemist published a paper in
Science that looks like a good first step towards computer compon-
ents one molecule thick. This NY Times story from that date [31] de-
tails the research, and this piece from today's Times [32] describes
a number of other computing initiatives not necessarily based on
silicon. You will need to bite cookies and register (free) to follow
these links. The HP/UCLA work demonstrated that individual molecules
of the synthetic substance rotazane can act like binary switches:
their resistivity in the "on" position is 80 to 100 times less than
in the "off" state.

All the press coverage of this research stresses two caveats, which
I assume the researchers pounded home in their interviews. The first
is that practical computers resulting from the research are more
than a decade away. The second is that the next big challenge will
be to fashion molecular-scale wires. I will place a modest wager
that the wires, when developed, will be carbon nanotubes, originally
called "buckytubes." For some examples of the versatility shown by
these rolled carbon structures, consider this summary taken from the
AIP Physics Review Update [33]:

1. Carbon nanotubes are now observed to be superconducting
below 1 K.

2. Nanotubes have been used to produce muscle-like actuators.
Two sheets of nanotubes separated by a layer of Scotch tape
can, when a voltage is applied across the sandwich, produce
stresses higher than natural muscle.

3. Nanotubes, which can be only nanometers in width but microns
or longer in length, are expected to be an ideal strengthen-
ing agent in composite materials.

4. Alkali-doped nanotubes are expected to excel at storing hydro-
gen, perhaps for use as fuel.

Visit [34] and search for "carbon nanotube" for more on the mind-
stretching properties of these structures.

[31] http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/07/biztech/articles/16compute.html
[32] http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/07/biztech/articles/19chip.html
[33] http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/1999/split/pnu439-3.htm
[34] http://www.aip.org/physnews/update/

..Tracking satellites at home

Some games are less addictive than these Java applets

The JTrack3D applet [35] (54K) downloads data (112K) on 500 satel-
lites, out of about 9000 in orbit, and lets you soar through their
data space. Zoom in on earth and rotate the picture to appreciate a
fraction of the jewelled adornment we carry with us through space.
You can browse satellites by category from a menu and get more de-
tailed information on each. Other options available from [35] let
you track the international space station, Mir, and the US space
shuttle, which is now in orbit. You probably shouldn't bother down-
loading this applet on less than a 166-MHz machine. TBTF Irregular
Jon Callas <jon at callas dot org> alerted me to JTrack3D.

While you're there, visit Jpath [36]. This Java applet (Netscape
users need 4.02 or later) finds upcoming crossings of visible sat-
ellites over your location. You can give latitude/longitude, zip
code (US), or pick from a long list of cities worldwide. The applet
constructs for each crossing an interactive sky chart with times,
stars, planets, and satellite path and brightness.

Finally, the original 2D version of JTrack [37] provides, almost as
an afterthought, the most informative display of current worldwide
weather that I have seen. (Click on "Config.") The extreme frustra-
tion of a JTrack Java programmer shines through on this page [38],
which concludes:

> Java truly is the great equalizing software. It has reduced
> all computers to mediocrity and bugginess.

[35] http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/realtime/jtrack/3d/JTrack3d.html
[36] http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/realtime/JPass/
[37] http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/realtime/JTRACK/Spacecraft.html
[38] http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/realtime/JTRACK/version.html

..Lunar Prospector to go out in a blaze of... water?

Impacting the moon's south pole at 3800 mph

This workhorse satellite, which has mapped the moon from orbit for
a year and a half, may provide compelling data as its operational
life ends. On 31 July at 5:52 am EDT, mission planners will crash
the satellite into a permanently shadowed crater at the moon's
south pole in the hope of throwing up visible traces of the water
that scientists theorize, and fervently hope, is there. This NASA
page [39] tells the story; get more details from this UTexas site
[40]. The impact will be closely watched by ground-based and sat-
ellite-borne instruments, including the Hubble telescope. Amateur
astronomers worldwide are encouraged to record what they see, al-
though most probably the plume resulting from Prospector's collis-
ion will be invisible without specialized instruments. Prospector
will hit with the force of a 2-ton car going 1100 miles per hour;
the impact should provide the moon's south pole with a temporary

Oddly, both the NASA and UTexas pages fail to mention the touching
but mildly bizarre human-interest angle of the Prospector's final
plunge. The spacecraft is carrying [41] a two-inch capsule bearing
one ounce of the ashes of legendary geologist Eugene M. Shoemaker,
who died in an auto accident in 1997. Shoemaker studied the impact
origin of lunar craters -- and also co-discovered of comet Shoe-
maker-Levy 9, which crashed spectacularly into Jupiter in 1994 [42].
Shoemaker had hoped to go to the moon himself during the Apollo
program, but health problems forbade, to his lasting disappointment.
Shoemaker instead trained the lunar astronauts in geology. After
his death a former student suggested sending his ashes to orbit the
moon aboard Prospector. Now a tiny part of Eugene Shoemaker may
help to find water on the moon.

[39] http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/ast21jul99_1.htm
[40] http://www.ae.utexas.edu/~cfpl/lunar/
[41] http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/sl9/news82.html
[42] http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/sl9/

..Block that metaphor

Awaiting a call from the New Yorker's lawyers

The New Yorker, in its pre-barbarian days, used to run a column
filler called Block that Metaphor. It held up to public ridicule
some over-the-top mixed metaphor culled from an over-the-counter
publication. Let's bring back this amusing feature in a new med-
ium. Here's Rebecca Bace, president of the security-penetration
testing firm Infidel Inc., quoted in ZDNet [43]:

> Until we get [the security holes] fixed, we can look forward
> to more break-ins, Web defacements, and perhaps worst of all,
> viruses. Melissa and ExploreZip only begin to scratch the tip
> of the iceberg.

[43] http://www.zdnet.com/filters/printerfriendly/0,6061,2290399-2,00.html

N o t e s

> This issue is rather top-heavy with US-centric political / technical
news. If you believe that significant and trend-setting Net news
is being made where you live, and you want to see more of it covered
here, please send me story ideas with pointers to online sources.

S o u r c e s

> For a complete list of TBTF's email and Web sources, see
http://tbtf.com/sources.html .

B e n e f a c t o r s

> TBTF is free. If you get value from this publication, please visit the
TBTF Benefactors page [*] and consider contributing to its upkeep.

[*] http://tbtf.com/the-benefactors.html

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Keith Dawson dawson@world.std.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.

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