The New Terrapin Gazette
5 March, 2012
Let us face the fact: a large part of modern psychology is a sterile and pompous scholasticism which, with the blinders of preconceived notions or superstitions on its nose, doesn’t see the obvious; which covers the triviality of its results and ideas with a preposterous language bearing no resemblance either to normal English or normal scientific theory; and which provides modern society with the techniques for the progressive stultification of mankind.
Neither Mistake Nor Forget
The attitude is almost a defining characteristic of collectivist apparatchiki. Markos Zuniga, whose weblog Daily Kos is popular with “progressives”, wrote “Screw them” about the four Americans torn apart and hung from a bridge in Fallujah, Iraq.
As a weblogger suggested, remember these humane sentiments the next time one of the leading lights of the left recites the famous quote, “Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
What Is NSA Up To?
Some impending legislation that would broaden and extend the role of the National Security Agency of the USA has attracted negative scrutiny; that suggests it merits your careful consideration. Here are some observations that might help US citizens compose letters to their senators and congressmen.
Begin with the essential facts: first, there is a genuine distinction between spying and surveillance. NSA is overwhelmingly in the business of surveillance, so the negative implications of the word “spy” are scarcely relevant. True, gentlemen do not read each other’s mail, but no government is gentle. Second, note that the correct term for someone who breaks into a computer or communications system is “cracker” (etymology: from “safecracker”, probably). “Hacker” is simply the wrong word. Hackers try to improve whatever they are working on, and then they pass along those improvements at no cost to anyone who wants them. Hackers are beneficial, while crackers are criminals. Third, when it comes to techniques that will protect US agencies and businesses from crackers’ IT (information technology) sabotage, NSA is probably eminently qualified to help.
Then consider this general principle: governments do tend to devolve toward authoritarian rule. This is necessarily at the expense of the Liberty of the individual. As Obama has noted, the “problem” with the US constitution is that it imposes on the federal government limits that have been extended (by the legal doctrine of “incorporation”) to the states; this makes the constitution negative, when it should (according to The One’s ideology) guarantee material benefits to the masses. The privacy of the individual is typically invaded more and more as power-hungry agencies flex their muscles and seek legislative license to control the unruly, individualistic, uncooperative, politically incorrect citizens who do not know what’s best for themselves.
Control begins with surveillance. It is extended by sanctions on speech, publication, the use of currency, and many consumer choices. NSA, as a quintessentially expert surveillance agency, now seeks legislative permission to delve into the domestic communications system, including the internet, even more deeply than it already has. Citizens who are not concerned about this attempted expansion of NSA’s mandate simply do not grasp the reality of twenty-first century politics.
A huge part of that political reality is the threat posed by Islamofascist militants. It is clear that the people who want to eradicate Israel and kill or enslave all the Jews in the world — as well as eradicate Western Civilization — are eager to die in pursuit of holy victory. NSA is a defensive weapon the West uses against the fanatics.
It is agreed by every would-be political thinker that there must be a balance between the rights of the individual and the ability of government to defend the Liberty of that individual. That is the wrong way to state the matter. It would be better to ask individuals to sacrifice in pursuit of effective defense, and concurrently to demand that those sacrifices not be made in any sense permanent.
Too, if NSA wants to assist US entities in the protection of the internet — to prevent, for example, jihadis from cracking into a utility’s IT system and shutting down all electrical power to the eastern seaboard of the USA — help can be provided that does not permit NSA to watch anybody, or control anything. Better, consider that the protection of vital computer control systems can be achieved by following simple guidelines that any IT professional can provide (such as, there shall be no telephonic links to the on/off switch).
Protecting the internet does not have to be a government’s task. The problem with the linked critique of NSA’s “attempted power grab”, however, is not that private industry can fend off malware like Stuxnet without NSA’s tutelage — it can — but that at present, much of the private sector and many governmental agencies are not protected at all. Many, probably most, can be cracked into by anyone with a computer, a modem, a telephone, and some advanced computer know-how. Yes, attempts are being made to tighten security, but they often fail embarrassingly; the article is far too optimistic and unrealistic.
NSA is good at listening in, and can instruct business and government in IT security. That does not mean it should. The job would be better done by something analogous to the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement. FOSS today produces highly advanced software that it distributes free to all. Its volunteer participants could also explain to IT managers everywhere that there should be no links between control systems and the internet, and that all computers involved in control systems should have no USB ports and no connections to computers outside their single-purpose network.
Yes, it is almost that simple. Somewhat more sophisticated protection would involve preventing crackers from being able to deal with static targets, of course, but making a cracker’s life miserable is not particularly difficult. And there need be no secrets. After all, if there simply is no connection between a computer that puts advertising on the internet and the computer that can open the floodgates of the dam, no amount of cracking will serve the villain’s purposes.
Finally, remember that NSA is necessarily a supremely secretive agency. If you think its bid for more authority is candid, you are dismally naive — and you certainly should not vote.
“…a partisan opinion foisted on the public as truth….” Horrors! Impossible! No reporter would do that, and no editor would allow it!
Astronomers looked into deep space, and… “The results contradict what scientists thought they knew about dark matter.” Of course. This always happens when, in an attempt to bolster your prestige with the public, you paper over your ignorance with nonsense slogans.
Do you remember Kentucky Fried Hillary? Well, now it’s Good Ol’ Boy Barry. Cripes…what transparently cynical fakes these naifs are when they try to pass themselves off as populists. They insult the intelligence of their audiences.
Bobby Jindal for president in 2016. When the brilliant Louisiana governor is better known, he will be appreciated.
What do you do about crime? Let’s talk about high levels of urban violent crime, not the infrequent hi-jinx of some farm kids trying to tip over cows. How do you make a big US city a lot safer? Can it even be done?
The UN is once again catering to greedy, censorious dictators. “…if successful, these new regulatory proposals would upend the Internet’s flourishing regime.” Inform yourself.
Attention, Obamaniacs: fasten your seatbelts and keep your arms and legs inside the car. It’s going to get rough.
There are a lot of silly preoccupations in the world, and some of them are so silly they are dangerous. Others, like collecting waffles, are negative only in that they cost money that could be better spent on just about anything else. Here’s an example of the latter class of time- and money-wasters. All right, go to it, Trekkies!
Andrew Breitbart in context.
“…affirmative action degrades the intellectual climate of the university….” To some folks, that’s vicious bigotry. To others, it’s a demonstrable fact. Read and decide.
Cops, and citizens with cameras filming them: this will have to be sorted out, and the sooner the better. It’s a bigger issue than even the ACLU thinks (here’s a bit of progress). The police can do their jobs even if the world is watching, and if the world is watching, the citizenry will feel and be a lot safer.
Hope? And…change? What hope for the country, and why does change have to mean even more impossible promises and deeper debt? — Hopeandchange….disgusting! The slogan is a fraud; it mocks the aspirations of decent people….
On Syria: “The only form of protection for a minority in the Muslim world is to either seize power or form a coalition with the ruling party. Such coalitions are inherently fragile because tribal instincts of race and religion always end up overriding agreements.” Additional commentary explains the contention.
“With Andrew Breitbart’s death this week, one of the most persistent falsehoods has resurfaced….” Take a look, and remember what actually happened.
State laws requiring voters to prove their eligibility to vote are not racist. Not racist at all — but the nonsense-babble linked here claims it is. Why include it? It’s a reminder that repetition proves nothing, and that irrational arguments can superficially resemble common sense. Read it and wonder.
Multiculturalism is defined as “a Western export that is itself anti-Western”. Well, maybe, but not always. Sometimes it’s worse.
Can Obama be an effective peacemaker and peacekeeper in the Muddle East? Well, er, ah…. While you are thinking that one over, consider this film. It will not please Team Obama. It is clearly intended to limit his administration to a single term, and solely because of his fraught relationship with Israel.
A famous “wingnut” blundered, and then followed through with another bad error. That has hurt the individualist cause, for this is an election year. The lesson: choose your leaders and philosophers carefully. Yes, they can be entertaining; Mark Steyn certainly is. Understand that Steyn is first of all an intellectual, and uses his wit with brilliant precision. Remember too that being right part of the time is possible for everyone, even Hillary. — Now to clean up the mess. Begin by reading the entire essay linked here.
This newsletter insists that the West must defend itself against its blood enemies. Now consider how drones figure in a struggle that your great-grandchildren will almost certainly have to face.
Oh, wonderful: now there is a drug that’s so bad, it may kill addiction to it — by killing addicts, even though they do not overdose. Not only that, it consumes literally all of the addict’s time, making it impossible for him to do anything but be a continual consumer of the drug. So what should the law be? A new book, reviewed here, insists legalization is a bad idea. And the “war on drugs” is a good idea? No, no one at The Eagle Wing Palace has read the book, but you should at least read the positive review of it — and then exercise rational critical thought.
According to this critic, the causes of modern discontent are in the frantic, information-sodden environment which, by relentlessly hammering the young, produces a “hyper-connected lifestyle”. All right, perhaps — certainly the suggestion is thoughtful and interesting. In this newsletter’s view, it all began with the manic quick-cutting of MTV. That made the programming corrosive, even though some of the music was entertaining (for a sharp contrast — that is, great rock with good video editing — buy this DVD).
What is the last book in The New Testament, the Revelation of Saint John the Divine, really all about? Only heaven knows, but that does not stop The New Yorker from explaining it to you. Ye gods….
Regarding that Matt Yglesias quote in the first item of this issue: don’t you just hate it when overt malice turns into a whine like this? Why does Yglesias think he is above the consequences of voluntarily demonstrating what a callous vulgarian he is? Sheesh, small people with huge egos…!
I won’t slave for beggar’s pay
Likewise gold and jewels
But I would slave to learn the way
To sink your ship of fools
The masthead includes a quote from the works of Ludwig von Bertalanffy.
The staff of The New Terrapin Gazette expresses its sincere gratitude to the many people who have gifted the world with Arch Linux, Emacs, and Firefox.