Bruce Schneier on the odd linguistic tic of how we describe an act depending on who the actor is:
Back when we first started getting reports of the Chinese breaking into U.S. computer networks for espionage purposes, we described it in some very strong language. We called the Chinese actions cyber-attacks. We sometimes even invoked the word cyberwar, and declared that a cyber-attack was an act of war.
When Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has been doing exactly the same thing as the Chinese to computer networks around the world, we used much more moderate language to describe U.S. actions: words like espionage, or intelligence gathering, or spying. We stressed that it’s a peacetime activity, and that everyone does it.
The reality is somewhere in the middle, and the problem is that our intuitions are based on history.
Electronic espionage is different today than it was in the pre-Internet days of the Cold War. Eavesdropping isn’t passive anymore. It’s not the electronic equivalent of sitting close to someone and overhearing a conversation. It’s not passively monitoring a communications circuit. It’s more likely to involve actively breaking into an adversary’s computer network — be it Chinese, Brazilian, or Belgian — and installing malicious software designed to take over that network.
In other words, it’s hacking. Cyber-espionage is a form of cyber-attack. It’s an offensive action. It violates the sovereignty of another country, and we’re doing it with far too little consideration of its diplomatic and geopolitical costs.
Amtrak P42DC locomotive #29 with a Blue Water or Wolverine train waits on a siding for a train in the opposite direction to pass in Comstock, Michigan (source: Wikipedia)
, Ed Krayewski
looks at Amtrak’s attempt to get some good media coverage by sponsoring a writer with a private rail car:
Do you write? Are you looking for a free ride? Do you like Amtrak, or can you at least avoid disparaging it? If so, it wants to hear from you:
Amtrak is excited to announce the official launch of the #AmtrakResidency program.
#AmtrakResidency was designed to allow creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and writing to work on their craft in an inspiring environment. Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability.
Amtrak is one of those worst of both worlds public/private hybrids. Instead of using the power of privatization to improve services previously offered by government (what happens in successful public private partnerships), Amtrak is a “for-profit” corporation that doesn’t actually turn a profit because it gets annual funding from the federal government and various state governments who have stepped in any time the feds have tried to trim funding.
Reason‘s Brian Doherty reports on a fascinating Kickstarter campaign by comic artist John Campbell:
For those who think Ayn Rand was just crazily overwrought in the “unrealistic” characters she created to dramatize the anti-capitalist mentality, you might want to see this addendum to the Kickstarter page of comic artist John Campbell, who raised over $50,000 on Kickstarter to publish a book of his comics Sad Pictures for Children.
He got tired of having to mail the books he promised, apparently (believe me, I know that’s a drag) and so decided to burn a copy for every person who asked about where the book they’d been promised was.
The page has a video of him doing the burning.
He has elevated the annoyance of mailing 127 packages to an anti-market rant of marvelous proportion. Excerpts, though whole thing is worth reading, after he talks about how rich people he knew as a kid mistreated a pet rat:
I got a lot of requests from backers to get books sent before Christmas, which I was able to do for some people. I could not do this for other people before leaving for the holidays, and many of them asked for refunds.
I refunded them with money I got from selling the original art I made for my webcomic from 2009-2012. This was money I planned to ship orders with. After this happened, I could have made another update explaining I had issued refunds and then tried to sell more things or asked for more shipping money. Instead I thought for a long time about what has been happening…
If you would like a refund, please contact a fan of my work directly for your money. This is where the money would come from anyway. I am cutting out the middle man.
680News reports that a US warship will be patrolling the Black Sea:
A U.S. Navy warship is heading to the Black Sea as tensions in Ukraine continue to divide world powers, according to multiple published reports.
Turkey has given the USS Truxtun permission to pass through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea.
U.S. officials say it is a “routine” deployment that was scheduled before the crisis erupted in Ukraine.
However, the show of military hardware is coinciding with NATO’s show of military support over Baltic countries with its use of air patrols and F-15 fighter jets.
Meantime, President Barack Obama’s warnings to Russia are being brushed aside by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appears to only be speeding up efforts to formally stake his claim to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
The USS Truxtun is a new Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, commissioned in 2009.
While we may be relatively sure that the Truxtun is a powerful vessel (the Wikipedia article describes the class as “larger and more heavily armed than most previous ships classified as guided missile cruisers”), no single ship is going to be particularly effective in putting pressure on Russia over their Ukraine deployment. The Black Sea is a small body of water, geostrategically speaking, and is totally dominated by land-based airpower. Should the situation turn grave, Truxton isn’t likely to weigh heavily in the military balance. She’s there as a token, not as a military asset.
Adrianne Jeffries talks about a Bitcoin-like currency that the Lakota have adopted as their official currency:
The programmer and Native American activist Payu Harris raised a gavel Monday night and vigorously banged the bell to open trading at The Bitcoin Center, a meeting space for virtual currency geeks that looks like an empty art gallery in the middle of New York’s Financial District.
Harris was there to promote MazaCoin, a cousin of Bitcoin that is now the official currency of the seven bands that make up the Lakota nation. After an hour of questions, Harris thanked the small crowd and was promptly accosted by a tall man and a woman in red who wanted to buy some MazaCoin, which Harris was selling for 10 cents apiece. The two trailed him around the room as he hunted for a printer so he could issue the digital currency on paper. MazaCoin is a month-old cryptocurrency based on the same proof-of-work algorithm as Bitcoin, the virtual currency that approximates cash on the internet — but no one in the room was equipped to make a digital trade.
There have been a slew of copycats since the rise of Bitcoin in 2009. The first wave attempted to improve on the basic Bitcoin protocol. The second wave, which includes the meme-based Dogecoin and the Icelandic Auroracoin, are catering to specific groups.
Jonah Goldberg thinks that Obama’s proposed “My Brother’s Keeper” should pass constitutional muster despite grumbling from the usual suspects:
The statistics are gloomy and familiar: One out of 15 black men is behind bars; one out of three can expect to be incarcerated at some point in his life.
The simplistic talk about how this is all the result of white racism misses the scope and nature of the problem. The vast majority of interracial violent crime is black on white. But most violent crime is actually intra-racial (i.e., black on black or white on white). Still, blacks are far more likely to die from homicide; half of murder victims are black, which may partly explain why black men in prison have a higher life expectancy than black men out of prison. And this leaves out all of the challenges — educational, economic, etc. — facing black men that don’t show up in crime statistics.
Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, also thinks the program is unconstitutional because there is no “compelling” government interest here: “It may be that a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos are at-risk, but many are not, and many whites, Asians and others are. This is just another kind of ‘profiling.’”
Yes and no. Obviously there are at-risk youth of all races, but the problems facing young black men are so disproportionate, the difference of degree becomes a difference in kind. Yet, I also think Clegg is obviously right that this is another kind of profiling.
There’s an intriguing double standard that tangles up the Right and the Left. We’re told it is outrageous for government to assume that a young black male (in some contexts) is more likely to commit a crime; we’re also told that government should target young black men for help because they are more likely to commit crimes. Most liberals hate law-enforcement profiling but support — for want of a better term — social-justice profiling. For conservatives, it’s vice versa (though Clegg opposes both kinds of profiling, it’s worth noting). Yet the empirical arguments for positive and negative profiling are the same: The plight of young black men is different.
Jonathan Tobin identifies the problem with President Obama’s pre-emptive media strike against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu:
President Obama may have thought he was being very clever ambushing Prime Minister Netanyahu with scathing comments about Israeli policies that would be published just before he arrived in the United States for a meeting at the White House and to speak at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). By slamming Netanyahu’s policies as the primary, if not the sole obstacle to peace in the Middle East, in the now infamous interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the president put the Israeli on the defensive and undermined his attempts to rally support for his positions with both AIPAC members and Congress. That should also have made it more difficult for Netanyahu to resist American pressure to make concessions to the Palestinians in order to help the negotiations sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry succeed. But the president’s move had to leave those who have actually been following the talks with the Palestinians scratching their heads.
Kerry’s current objective is to get both parties to agree to a framework for continued talks. As has been widely reported, Netanyahu has already signaled his consent to the framework even though he and his Cabinet have grave misgivings about where the talks may eventually lead. By contrast, the Palestinians have repeatedly and publicly rejected the framework. The Palestinians have angrily rejected the framework’s requirement that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which is to say they agree to end the conflict rather than merely pause it. They also reject the West Bank security guarantees included in the framework even though it also contains their basic demands about a Palestinian state whose borders will be based on the 1967 borders while leaving open the possibility of territorial swaps. In other words, the Israelis have already given Kerry what he wanted while the Palestinians have done the opposite. Yet Obama still treats Israel as the truant and lauds Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas as a trustworthy warrior for peace even though his government is a font of incitement for hatred against Jews and Israelis and he has repeatedly rejected every previous offer of statehood because he and his people remain unable or unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.
By speaking in this manner about Israel, Obama has pleased the Palestinians, Netanyahu’s Jewish critics and Israel-bashers everywhere. But it will also do something else that perhaps the president never intended. He has killed any chance that Kerry’s peace talks could possibly succeed.
The problem isn’t Israel (although they’ve made the situation tougher to resolve in several ways): the problem is that no Palestinian leader dares to accept any proposal that explicitly accepts Israel’s right to exist. If Abbas agreed to that, Abbas himself would probably cease to exist in short order. Arafat at the height of his power didn’t dare to take that step, and no Palestinian leader since Arafat has had as much control, power, or influence among the factions and groups that loosely form Palestine politically. This is known to the American government — it can hardly be much of a secret — but for political reasons it can’t be stated. If one side cannot possibly agree, then in the looking glass world of diplomacy, you must berate the other side for their intransigence. It doesn’t matter who is President … this is the reality that must be ignored or wished away (because it’s not going away on its own).
In the New York Post, Kyle Smith discusses the comedians of the 1970s and their modern day successors:
As Chevy Chase might have put it on Saturday Night Live, Harold Ramis is still dead. And with him has gone the finest era of comedy: The ’70s kind.
Ramis was as close to the king of comedy as it gets, as a writer, director and occasional sidekick for Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Back to School, National Lampoon’s Vacation and Groundhog Day.
Taking off with the movie M*A*S*H in 1970 — a huge hit that grossed $450 million in today’s dollars — and its spinoff sitcom, ’70s comedy ruled from an anti-throne of contempt for authority in all shapes. College deans, student body presidents, Army sergeants and officers, country-club swells, snooty professors and the EPA: Anyone who made it his life’s work to lord it over others got taken down with wit.
When the smoke bombs cleared and the anarchy died, comedy turned inward and became domesticated. It also became smaller.
The Cosby Show and Jerry Seinfeld didn’t seek to ridicule those in power. Instead they gave us comfy couch comedy — riffs on family and etiquette and people’s odd little habits.
Now, in the Judd Apatow era, comedy is increasingly marked by two worrying trends: One is a knee-jerk belief, held even by many of the most brilliant comedy writers, that coming up with the biggest, most outlandish gross-out gags is their highest calling.
H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.
Jonah Goldberg assures us that he’s not against gay marriage, but that the Arizona baker’s case isn’t quite what it seems:
Speaking of unreasonableness, according to ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, if Arizona allows bakers to refuse to bake cakes for gay couples, gays may have to wear “yellow stars” like the Jews of Nazi Germany. It would be Jim Crow for gays according to, well, too many people to list.
Now lest you get the wrong impression, I am no opponent of gay marriage. I would have preferred a compromise on civil unions, but that ship sailed. The country, never mind the institution of marriage, has far bigger problems than gays settling down, filing joint tax returns, and arguing about whose turn it is to do the dishes. By my lights it’s progress that gay activists and left-wingers are celebrating the institution of marriage as essential. Though I do wish they’d say that more often about heterosexual marriage, too.
But I find the idea that government can force people to violate their conscience without a compelling reason repugnant. I agree with my friend, columnist Deroy Murdock. He thinks private businesses should be allowed to serve whomever they want. Must a gay baker make a cake for the hateful idiots of the Westboro Baptist Church? Must he write “God hates fags!” in the icing?
The ridiculous invocations of Jim Crow are utterly ahistorical, by the way. Jim Crow was state-enforced, and businesses that wanted to serve blacks could be prosecuted. Let the market work and the same social forces that have made homosexuality mainstream will make refusing service to gays a horrible business decision — particularly in the wedding industry!
David Sirota says that in at least some high-profile cases, President Obama was quite right to say they didn’t build that:
Remember when President Obama was lambasted for saying “you didn’t build that”? Turns out he was right, at least when it comes to lots of stuff built by the world’s wealthiest corporations. That’s the takeaway from this week’s new study of 25,000 major taxpayer subsidy deals over the last two decades.
Titled “Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent,” the report from the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First shows that the world’s largest companies aren’t models of self-sufficiency and unbridled capitalism. To the contrary, they’re propped up by billions of dollars in welfare payments from state and local governments.
Such subsidies might be a bit more defensible if they were being doled out in a way that promoted upstart entrepreneurialism. But as the study also shows, a full “three-quarters of all the economic development dollars awarded and disclosed by state and local governments have gone to just 965 large corporations” — not to the small businesses and start-ups that politicians so often pretend to care about.
Of course, anyone who thinks major corporations as a whole are “models of self-sufficiency and unbridled capitalism” doesn’t spend much time in the real world. Far too many spend as much time trying to use their market position to exclude smaller competitors and lobbying for regulations that will prevent new entrants into their respective fields of business. As with anything, when you subsidize certain kinds of activity, you’ll inevitably get more of it — and governments compete with one another to offer sweet deals to corporations in terms of tax breaks, direct subsidies and other inducements to set up or expand their operations in a given state or country.
According to at least one prominent Republican, the answer is very definitely not:
Yesterday, in response to one of the many brouhahas that CPAC seems always to invite, Brent Bozell issued the following statement:
The invitation extended by the ACU, Al Cardenas and CPAC to American Atheists to have a booth is more than an attack on conservative principles. It is an attack on God Himself. American Atheists is an organization devoted to the hatred of God. How on earth could CPAC, or the ACU and its board of directors, and Al Cardenas condone such an atrocity?
The particular merits of the American Atheists group to one side, this is a rather astounding thing for Bozell to have said. In just 63 words, he confuses disbelief in God for “hatred” for God — a mistake that not only begs the question but is inherently absurd (one cannot very well hate what one does not believe is there); he condemns an entire conference on the basis of one participant — not a good look for a struggling movement, I’m afraid; and, most alarmingly perhaps, he insinuates that one cannot simultaneously be a conservative and an atheist. I reject this idea — and with force.
If atheism and conservatism are incompatible, then I am not a conservative. And nor, I am given to understand, are George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Anthony Daniels, Walter Olson, Heather Mac Donald, James Taranto, Allahpundit, or S. E. Cupp. There is no getting around this — no splitting the difference: I don’t believe there is a God. It’s not that I’m “not sure” or that I haven’t ever bothered to think about it; it’s that I actively think there isn’t a God — much as I think there are no fairies or unicorns or elves. The degree to which I’m confident in this view works on a scale, certainly: I’m much surer, for example, that the claims of particular religions are untrue and that there is no power intervening in the affairs of man than I am that there was no prime mover of any sort. But, when it comes down to it, I don’t believe in any of those propositions. Am I to be excommunicated from the Right?