Upon further review, times three
Sometimes I think to myself, "What was I thinking?"
In a Weekly from last December, I opined that cyberwar isn't as much of a threat to consumers as Internet thieves and the personal-data collection practices of Internet services. That post cited security analysts who doubted whether North Korea was solely responsible for the attack on Sony and may have played a limited role in the assault. A February 3, 2015, article on the independent investigative journalism site Consortiumnews.com explains the reasons for skepticism about the official story of the infamous hack.
Conversely, there's little doubt that the government of China stole 21.5 million confidential personnel records from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The New York Times' Julie Herschfeld Davis reports on the attack's far-reaching impact in a July 9, 2015, article.
Meanwhile, an August 4, 2015, article by Jason Murdoch on the British news site V3 explains why the U.S. intelligence agencies are being extra careful about retaliating against China.
For one thing, as Murdoch point out, there's no smoking gun pointing at the government of China as the culprit. More importantly, the U.S. government has acknowledged that it has conducted hundreds of cyber attacks against other entities, some of which may have targeted the governments of other countries. This reminds me of the line from the movie "Cotton Club." When club owners tell a gangster they're not ready to go to war, the gangster responds, "Then you don't know you already lost the war."
It's a sad fact for a peacenik such as myself to admit: There's a cyberwar going on. It's been going on for many years, and it will likely continue for many years -- perhaps indefinitely. There's no Geneva Convention for these skirmishes. Just as the best cons are those in which the victims don't even know they've been conned, the most successful military operations are those that achieve their goals without being detected. Yeah, we're under electronic attack, and we're attacking others electronically.
If you don't believe such attacks can do serious damage in the real world, read Kim Zetter's book, "Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon." You'll find an excerpt from the book on Wired.com.
Cyberwar? Oh, you betcha!
You can't just wish away a race-based society
The last Weekly of 2014 described race as "a cultural affectation with no scientific basis." It's worth noting that nearly all of the people (myself included) who are calling for an end to categorizing people by race are members of the "white" race. Everybody else knows very well that we live in a society that treats people of different races very differently. These are the people who pay the cost of our race-based society every day of their lives.
As Jonathan Capehart writes in a December 29, 2014, article in the Washington Post, race is very much alive in the U.S.A. In fact, racism appears to be on the rise in this country. Capehart cites a study (pdf) conducted by researchers affiliated with Emory University, Columbia University, and the University of Southern California that compared how people responded to the terms "Black" and "African-American." Referring to someone as "Black" has a strong pejorative effect: the person is perceived as "lower in status, positivity, competence, and warmth" than when the same person is described as "African-American."
As an aside, the best way to prove you don't get it is by responding to "Black Lives Matter" by saying "all lives matter." Here's how University of California-Berkeley Professor Judith Butler explains it in a January 12, 2015, opinion column in the New York Times:
"When some people rejoin with 'All Lives Matter' they misunderstand the problem, but not because their message is untrue. It is true that all lives matter, but it is equally true that not all lives are understood to matter, which is precisely why it is most important to name the lives that have not mattered, and are struggling to matter in the way they deserve.... If we jump too quickly to the universal formulation, 'all lives matter,' then we miss the fact that black people have not yet been included in the idea of 'all lives.' That said, it is true that all lives matter.... But to make that universal formulation concrete, to make that into a living formulation, one that truly extends to all people, we have to foreground those lives that are not mattering now, to mark that exclusion, and militate against it."
It's likely that no one alive today will ever live in a post-race society. That doesn't justify treating non-white people as second-class citizens. A good place to start creating a culture that treats everyone equally is by avoiding any reference to someone based on the pigment of their skin.
Sometimes 'forgetting' someone is the right thing for Google to do
The March 31, 2015, Weekly criticized the so-called "right to be forgotten," which in this case means the right to insist that Google remove links in its search engine to articles that put the requesting party in a negative light. In a July 18, 2015, article, tech writer Larry Magid explains the chilling effect such a "right" would have on free speech.
My first objection to such a rule is that the information itself isn't removed, just the link to it, so theoretically the information is still accessible. Telling someone the episode is now "forgotten" does the person an injustice. The second reason a right to be forgotten doesn't fly is that you're attempting to rewrite history. If the information you're trying to remove is defamatory, there are better ways of going about removing it. If it isn't defamatory, then what gives you the right to have it removed?
There's a third category of information that someone may justifiably want to have removed from the Internet: Confidential material whose release was unauthorized. That's the case with allegedly lurid photos of the scene of a fatal accident that parents of the young victim attempted to have blocked from appearing in Google search results.
Magid states that Google will now honor requests for the removal of links to "nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent." That covers the revenge-porn idiots, but Consumer Watchdog is asking for a broader application of this policy to include other harmful content that was released without authorization. That's a removal policy I can easily live with.