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UFOs and flying penguins


By Scott Bradner


The Mexican Air Force reported in mid-may that one of its pilots had encountered what might have been UFOs a month earlier when flying a drug surveillance flight.  They even released a film showing some bouncing blobs of light.  The report and film were immediately touted by UFO fans because it was the first time that such a film had been formally released by a major government.  A few days later, in what I assume was a coincidence, the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution released the latest of its long running string of anti open source "reports."  (I use quotes around the word report because not everyone would agree that these screeds rise to the level of logic that would be required by even a high school teacher to qualify as a report.)


This is not the first time that the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution ( has ranted against open source or Lunux.  (See Fighting terrorism with obscurity.  But I will say that I'm not quite sure why they have such a burr under their saddle about this topic since their mission, according to their web site is to study "the spread and perfection of democracy around the world."  About half of the topics listed on their home page seem to be related to democracy, or at least mention the term.  But it seems to me to be a bit of a stretch to say that articles on how Linux will collapse under the impact of software patents (, how governments can save money using IP telephony (, or how outsourcing (and open source) will destroy the value of companies ( relate to the spread of democracy.  That said, I do not think itŐs a bad idea for people to be looking at these issues whatever the cover they want to use to do so.


But I do think itŐs a bad idea to publish what looks like a paint-by-number ( portrait of the evils of something that it is not clear you understand, and to do so without offering any specific recommendations of alternative paths.  It is not clear who prints the patterns that the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution so carefully tries to color within the lines of.  Microsoft admits to funding the Institution but, as I pointed out in the last article, I find it hard to believe that Microsoft would hire people that drew such crude lines to fill in.  There are real issues hiding in here somewhere, it is sad that the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution does not do a better job of exploring anything but the anti-open source side.


I suppose that the open source / Linux community should take the attention of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution as a positive thing.  I rather doubt they would make the effort if no one were using this software.  This Penguin (as the Institution refers to Linux) is flying high enough and fast enough that maybe the Institution mistook it for a UFO.


News reports now say that maybe the Mexican pilots just saw ball lightening and not some manifestation of otherworldly intelligence.  So, at least for now, we may have to rely on the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution for that.


disclaimer:  The Harvard Divinity School, by its mission, cannot be restricted to worldly thinking, such restrictions are optional at the other schools.  But the dismissal of such efforts in this article is mine alone.