Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cybersecurity: achievable or a Conundrum?

I use the internet a lot...for communication and other things.  I am not at the cutting edge of knowledge like my grandchildren, who seem to be prescient as to how to handle stuff that I haven't even yet discovered exist, but it doesn't scare me.  It is just another tool, like the phone or a hammer.

But I have read articles lately about what is described as the threat of lack of cyber-security, which I interpret to be the possibility of purposeful interference with the ability of folks to communicate and do business over the internet and even the possibility of bringing targeted businesses and even the system itself down in total collapse.

That is scary.  Sort of.  Although there are times when I watch young people text each other when sitting in the same room that maybe the total elimination of the internet and electronic "communication" might not be the worst thing for the long term survival of mankind...but, I digress.

I used to have to write and mail a check to pay my bills.  I used to have to write a letter and communicate with others, if they didn't live in the same town.  I used to actually meet and discuss things with folks face to face.  It was a good encouraged civility and mutual understanding, because there was no electronic anonymity.  This could be a useful thing to re-acquire, I think.

But, assuming that we can never go back...even if there would be a benefit...what is the logical approach to this cyber-security problem?  I am not an expert.  I don't know what is possible.  But logic...even from an old fogy like me...suggests a few things:
1)  Legislation is not...and never will be...the answer.

Folks who bread the law are not impressed by legislation; their activities are neither influenced nor controlled by right or wrong.  You aren't hitting the target.  Likewise, those using the internet for lawful purposes aren't protected by legislation; they hire smart people...sometime people who can solve the problem (surprise) without government "help."

2) Perfection and providing 100% reliability is impossible.

Systems sometimes crash for reasons having nothing at all to do with ill-intent of others.  "Stuff happens."  There is no need to focus on security...except for personal records and more than an inconvenience.

3)  We have enough laws for fraudulent behavior now.

Certainly we should inspect and where necessary amend current laws to include electronic and internet activity within the covered purview of current laws, but that aside, there is no reason to add another volume to the already voluminous Statutes of the United States.

4) I would guess that the answer is in technology and trace-ability.

Perhaps our electronic information systems gurus could develop some useful things:
a) an electronic "trap" that would prevent a hacker from erasing traces of their entry into systems; b) an automatic shut down of a system if there is an overload of requests (demands for service) to prevent damage to the system. (this may already be in place); and c) a means of limiting the number of cut-outs available to users of the internet so as to make it impossible to utilize multiple routing origin points, making it easier to locate the source of activity.  This last would make it much easier to zero in on miscreants and apply the penalties of existing law(s).

5)  For Nation-State activity in this area, I would thing that a declaration of the old cold-war, nuclear threat policy of Mutually Assured Destruction might have the same effect here as it did then; if an attack occurs, it will result in the same response, leaving both entities totally at the mercy of the rest of the world nations.

These are ideas, not declarations of solutions.  I don't know if they are workable, either now or in the future.  But they have the attractive element of not inviting additional governmental activity and attempting to target the problem, not create another bureaucracy or further limit individual freedoms.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Is loss of guilt a stepping stone to self-destruction?

I read still another article today on riots in Greece in response to austerity implemented by the Greek government, including comments by rioters agreeing with the same type of reactions in Spain to the same sort of government actions.

The question that arose was..."what rights and privileges does any human being have simply as a part of existence" followed by "How does any government entity of any type of ideology claim any more power to provide than does the individual?"

Early on in our lives, we all come to realize...sometime belatedly, I grant...that there is no such thing as a "free" lunch.  We recognize the need to work, not just as a fulfillment of our need to do something soul-satisfying, but as a means of survival.  Modern mad likes to ignore this second fact, and does a remarkably good job of it, but at our very center we all realize that eat, to live, to exist we need to earn it somehow.

Now...enter government.  The reasons are many and not for this discussion, but governments want to provide us with "stuff."  And they do: apparently "free" stuff, like tax relief even as the government continues to do thing for us that require funding and increased unemployment benefits for NOT working which haven't been paid for either.  I could go on and on.

Receiving something which you haven't worked for is a gift, and is nice.  ONCE! Or maybe on your birthday or at certain holidays.  But if it happens continually; if it becomes the source of your existence, you start to feel guilty and you resent that feeling of guilt...even as you continue to take the easy road and accept the benefits.

Some people haven't a choice: they are disabled in some way, or circumstances prevent them from taking a different road.  Those are understandable and not to be criticized.  I don't.  But do not doubt that those people develop a certain resentment of both their situation and the reliance on that un-earned support (with the exception of disabled veterans who have earned every single benefit...and more...that they receive).  And even those feel a certain ambivalence about it.

Life is difficult.  And guilt adds to the level of difficulty.  The constant receipt of unearned benefits, and the developed reliance on them, becomes unmanageable over time.  Two things will happen: either there will be violence from the build up of anger an resentment...or there will be a mental re-definition of the benefits into...not unearned, but....a deserved right to live at a level commensurate, not with our work effort or product but, with our desires.

Problem solved!

No more guilt and now no embarrassment in either receiving or demanding more "free" stuff.

That, of course, leads to the question asked above...if the individual cannot provide for him or herself, how can the government...which only operates with a portion of the funds earned by that same individual, provide what hasn't been earned?

Well of course the answer is that a portion of the money taken from those that and earn is taken and given to those that do not. far.  But...what happens when those that take outnumber those that earn?

Our...and most...government(s) is directed by those elected by majority vote.  If the majority are "takers" and not "earners", then those elected will be those that promise more and more "stuff."

Logic suggests that eventually the government will take more and more of the earnings of those that work until there is no more to take.  Not only that, it is entirely logical to predict that at some time those earners will decide that they need to live elsewhere, and that many who would otherwise be inclined to be earners would decide that the benefits are non-existent and that they were better off choosing to be "takers."

Ultimately, the system runs out of money and collapses.  But...note that since the takers have fostered a self-serving amnesia as to the fact that their "benefits" have been and are not now earned, there is a violent, indignent reaction to suddenly being presented with a cessation of those benefits until and unless the bill is paid.

The world can be an ugly and cruel place...but ultimately justice prevails.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

We're back...with a question...

Wow.  6 months go by fast.  Well, politics in general have turned me off so much I couldn't see any point in writing.  It seems to go into a great void and it wasn't making me feel any better.  But...I have managed to loose a bit of my hard won cynicism and am back.  Sorry about that.

Finally I have gotten far enough away from politics to look at the competing ideologies as a study of systems, questioning them from a bit of a distance.  And the basic question I have for anyone is this:


I would suggest that history proves that answer to be NO.

Democracy in one form or another...Greece in ancient times comes to mind...has not lasted, crumbling in the face of challenges from without the country's borders.

Communism, a world-conquering ideology, has never succeeded in sustaining itself.

Dictatorships have, likewise, only lasted for limited periods only to be destroyed...usually from within.

So, my own (and your) preferences aside, what does historical perspective say about governance?

It seems to me that the problem is not with ideologies, and it is not with the form of government. They all have much to offer various people with various points of view that seemingly make the existence of mankind either better or more organized.


Consider the dichotomies.  Man universally utters cries for justice, fairness and kindness.  But man's actions show a general disregard for justice, fairness and kindness unless it is directed at least in a constant sense and never when it involves self-deprivation.  We can be kind for awhile, but when push comes to shove, its number one, baby.

And different individuals have different genetic tendencies for defining what is "good" and "pleasurable."  A Mother Theresa sees helping others as "good" and "Pleasurable" and turns away from any other existence.  A Manson sees hurting and killing others as "good" and "pleasurable."  And the rest of us fall somewhere between these two extremes, but never settling on an enduring majority view of where we stand on those definitions.

And that leads us to the governmental choices we make, first as to form, then as to those that will act as the representatives of whatever form we settle on...for now.

So...with that in mind let's briefly consider the benefits and practicality of the various governmental ideologies from the standpoint of practicality and efficiency (I will hold for another time a discussion of the reasons for having government at all).

The two most practical and efficient would be the Dictatorship and the absolute Democracy.  Why? Because they can dispense with contrary arguments and problems immediately, providing a sense of responsiveness and eliminating strife.  A Dictatorship would eliminate (that means "kill") all opposition to his points of view, leaving a society and group in complete (at least outwardly) agreement.  The Democracy, unfettered by any concern for minority "rights", would respond to that majority by eliminating (yep...that means "kill" too) all non-conforming points of view.  These two approaches have the advantage of affecting a genetic disposition to a point of view, since those not in conformity would be killed, preventing any non-conforming progeny.

Well...if so efficient, why haven't any pure democracies or Dictatorships survived?  Well, Dictatorship is hard work and there is no vacation.  Putting someone else in charge while you take a vacation is libel to leave you out of a job when your return...and as I have always said, the best form of government is absolutely a Dictatorship...providing I am it.  So...dictators make enemies, fail to kill all those enemies, and one of them eventually takes over.  But that is short lived because by that time the masses have become disillusioned with the form of government since they are not universally happy;  they don't want a replacement, they want to try something new, so the replacement doesn't last long.

Absolute democracies fall to the same fate and for the same reason; unhappiness with the status quo leads to experiments, all of which weaken the government because of expanded an fractured direction...until it collapses under it's own weight.

How about Lenin/Marxist/Communism (world-wide ideology), or Socialism (nationalistic form of communism)?  These identify the dangers of individuals at the top and try to focus on universal "fairness" and "goodness."  The problem is that a majority of mankind is oriented only to those ideals when it applies directly to themselves.  Over time, all people see themselves as "fairly"deserving more than others.  That, of course means that ultimately all see themselves as being the recipient of unfair treatment.  That leads to working less and ultimately to everyone sinking to the lowest common denominator...which itself keeps sinking.  That is why the U.S.S.R. ultimately failed; it combined all the weaknesses of both the commune and the dictatorship with socialistic overtones.

Capitalism is not, strictly speaking, a governmental form, but it is an ideology of which government plays a resented and inefficient part.  It has always survived, even in communist regimes...although in badly kept secret while officially being prohibited.  Why?  Because it feeds on the human nature to benefit oneself.

Government in any form lasts...and, arguably, grows more acceptable and becomes stronger...when it honors and encourages Capitalism.  It allows man to strive, overcome others, and that results in kindness to those less avaricious, greedy or able which is then defined as "justice" and "good" by the majority.  It allows the appearance of moral virtue even as it acts in other directions.

Governments of all kind start their inevitable slide to destruction and oblivion when they lose sight of their secondary position in the existence of mankind; when they start thinking that they are in control instead of being supportive they interfere with the capitalistic nature of man and that leads man to destroy that government.

It has happened throughout history...and, absent some scientific discovery, and implementation,  of some genetic operation that can be done to all of will continue.