Blog Articles 106–110

Bipartisan Consensus

It is easy, in our present age of apparent gridlock and vitriolic talking points passing themselves off as reasoned arguments, to be discouraged about the state of political discourse in our great Republic. To think, perhaps, that there is no common ground in our political disputes, that we are doomed to talk past each other with no mutually-agreeable outcome. That there is nothing of substance about which the leaders or people of the land are in agreement on the best course of action.

In such times, it is important to remember that there is, in fact, wide bipartisan consensus on a number of important issues of our day. Obviously there are a few misguided individuals who obstinately refuse their consent, but the following points see little dissent from either side of the aisle in our present political landscape:

  • It is totally fine, if not admirable, to be in a perpetual state of war against a nebulous, undefinable enemy (the ‘Bad Guys’).
  • The national surveillance state is a good and necessary development to protect ourselves from aforementioned Bad Guys.
  • Drugs are a great evil; to attempt to stop them, it is appropriate that the Land of the Free has the highest incarceration rate in the world.
  • We must secure the border from people who wish to pursue gainful employment and thereby contribute to our nation’s industry and economy.
  • Gasoline should be inexpensive, and the private automobile sustained as the principle means of transport.
  • Our constitution guarantees criminal suspects the right to be informed of the charges against them and brought to a speedy trial, unless the President alleges the suspect to be a Bad Guy. In that case, there is no problem with locking them in jail until the world ends.
  • Edward Snowden has betrayed his country and undermined democracy by alerting the people to the secret actions of their government. This has greatly aided the Bad Guys.

Digital Pasts

That post was written on May 13, 2003. It’s just a few thoughts on games. That’s it. Snowden made over 773 posts to the Ars Technica forums, and the one I shared above has nothing to do with anything, really. That’s how we act on forums, especially before Twitter. They were often a place to scribble a few thoughts, to jot a quick message to whoever was reading. Rarely do we think of anything we saw as being a part of who we are, or a manifesto leading to further actions. It’s a way to scream at the ocean, not to create a blueprint for our future selves.

— Ben Kuchera on our online pasts and chatting about games.

Snowden and the Chain of Command

A common refrain in articles attacking Snowden for leaking the NSA documents is that he worked alone and didn’t go up the chain of command.

I beg to disagree. No, he did not go one or two steps up the chain of command. He knew what would happen — he would be red-flagged and stopped. His career would likely be over, with no serious discourse or change to show for it.

He went higher up the chain of command. The problem goes all the way to the President and Congress, so he went over their heads. He went, via the press, to the American people. That is exactly how representative democracy is supposed to work.

Spam harvesting via CraigsList

The tricks of spammers are many and subtle. And I’m not always sure what their game is.

I was selling something on CraigsList recently. One of the inquiries I received asked me to e-mail the person’s personal e-mail, included in the mail message, directly (rather than hitting Reply); this was ostensibly to keep scammers and bots out. A bit odd, maybe, but somewhat plausible (at least in a misestimating-computer-capabilities kind of way), and CraigsList interactions are full of communications behavior that seems odd to me. I sold the item to someone else, but to close all my open loops on it, I e-mailed the address they specified to tell them that the item had been sold.

Big mistake. Since then, I’ve gotten at least a dozen e-mails, all with the same subject as that mail I sent and similar text about being interested in or attracted to me and my ad, asking me to sign up on a particular site (no fee, of course!) to send a private message. Occasionally, a picture is attached.

I’m not entirely sure what the game is with this. Phishing? Malware installation? Getting credit card info? I haven’t visited any of the linked sites, so I don’t know. But it’s yet another “spammers are doing what? and why?” moment.