Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Mad Science: A Few Things to Think About...

A report released on Monday was the first to openly blame the actual Chinese government for a lot of the cyber-attacks that have hit this country over the past ten years.  And while I don’t think it’s surprising that the Chinese are trying to hack American government computers as part of a prolonged espionage campaign, what is surprising is that the American government has responded by making what would ordinarily be a covert struggle public.

The report, released Monday, described China’s primary goal as stealing industrial technology, but said many intrusions also seemed aimed at obtaining insights into American policy makers’ thinking. It warned that the same information-gathering could easily be used for “building a picture of U.S. network defense networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.”

It was unclear why the administration chose the Pentagon report to make assertions that it has long declined to make at the White House. A White House official declined to say at what level the report was cleared. A senior defense official said “this was a thoroughly coordinated report,” but did not elaborate.

The Times’ article goes on to discuss some of this issues, pointing out ways in which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could potentially use its cyber-warfare efforts to either develop an effective order of battle for the U.S. military, disrupt surveillance assets, or generally cause mischief on an industrial scale, and it also points out ways in which the program could potentially help Chinese corporations via industrial espionage.

All of which is probably more-or-less to be expected.  I mean, this is the 21st Century, and we all know that espionage is a real thing.  The Chinese are using the tools that they have, and I doubt that it surprises anyone that they’re doing it, although maybe the scope and scale of the operation is a surprise.  But what I don’t understand—and the Times doesn’t, either—is what the U.S. Government hopes to gain by putting this out in so public a forum.

There’s obviously a strategy here, right?  The U.S. government has certainly begun to deal with the issue, and if anything, probably started the fight in the first place.  Certainly, there is now an overt Cyber Warfare Command (or whatever it’s called) at the Pentagon, and they’ve been open about developing not just defensive but offensive capabilities as well.  So why the outrage?  

I mean, it would be one thing if the White House decided to leak some information on the issue to the press and let them dig on their own and draw their own conclusions—and that’s certainly happened—but it seems like every time something else comes up in the course of the news cycle, the government releases some new report to make sure that no one back home has forgotten that this is a thing.  Bottom line, they won’t let the issue die down.  

One hopes that that’s tied to some concrete purpose, but I sure can’t see what it could be.  Unless maybe they’re hoping to shame the PRC?  But why would anyone expect that that would work?  The Chinese have issued blanket denials, and more to the point, even if the U.S. government publishes hard proof, so what?  The PRC is one of America’s largest trading partners.  It’s in no one’s interest to let this thing become an issue of tit-for-tat, and I can’t believe that anyone wants it to go further.

Fact: We live in an age where information technology is a vital component of the intelligence gathering process and also a potential method for getting inside an enemy’s decision cycle.  Moreover, the U.S. Army can and does routinely target its enemies’ command and control structures to destroy their leaders’ abilities to influence events on the battlefield.  I was only a captain, and that was almost fifteen years ago, and yet even I can still remember that that concept was in the first chapter of the Army’s basic books on military tactics.  So there is no reason to suspect others wouldn’t attempt to develop similar capabilities, that they aren’t also spying on us, trying to learn all our secrets, trying to get ahead in an increasingly global economy by any means necessary.

Abstinence-only Sex Ed hurts rape victims, according to Elizabeth Smart.

“I remember in school one time, I had a teacher who was talking about abstinence,” Smart told the panel. “And she said, ‘Imagine you’re a stick of gum. When you engage in sex, that’s like getting chewed. And if you do that lots of times, you’re going to become an old piece of gum, and who is going to want you after that?’ Well, that’s terrible. No one should ever say that. But for me, I thought, ‘I’m that chewed-up piece of gum.’ Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away. And that’s how easy it is to feel you no longer have worth. Your life no longer has value.”

Smart verbalizes something here that I’ve wanted to put into words for a long time.  Not so much about rape, but about sex in general and the way that Christians often approach it.

I’ve caught Hell on this blog before about being in favor of pre-marital sex, especially because I’m the father of two pre-teen daughters.  To be fair, though, I don’t know that it’s exactly correct to say that I’m in favor of pre-marital sex, exactly.  It’s more that I’m not repulsed by it.  That I realize that it happens, that I don’t think it’s going to ruin your life, that I’m willing to acknowledge that sometimes folks make mistakes—or even better, just experience life and are changed for the better by it.  Because, bottom line, there are a lot worse things in this life than sleeping with someone that you really, really like.

With that said, maybe I’m an exception.  I’ve been lucky enough to be in a few mutually productive adult relationships, and when I tell you that I have no regrets, what I mean is that I don’t want the bits of myself back that those other people still have.  Those were given freely, and I look back on our time together with fondness and, dare I say it, love.

Sally always tells me that it’s different for a woman, and maybe it is.  

But still… I don’t ever want my daughters to feel like “used chewing gum”—for any reason, even if it’s just their own simple bad choices.

And some people do make mistakes.  I married the wrong woman one time, and she was a virgin when we got married.  Should she feel shame because it didn’t work out?  Should I?  

Fact is, we wanted different things out of life and realized it before the shit got too deep.  Maybe if we’d slept together first we would have realized it.  Or maybe not.  I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter to me.  What does matter is that we came away from the experience as different people—but not as worse people.  Not as people who were worth less.  

Truth is, I look back on that time in my life with fondness.  The relationship didn’t work out, but it wasn’t bad.  We were young.  We were dumb.  We thought you could build a life based on sex and a mutual love of pro-wrestling.  It happens that that wasn’t true, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth trying.


I’ll admit that I never saw the book quite that way in my head.

First look at Marvel’s new cartoon, Avengers Assemble!  

Avengers Assemble!

I don’t know that it looks any better—or even particularly different—from the old cartoon, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but they’re obviously trying to hew a little closer to the cinematic universe, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with taking that approach.
And that’s it!

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’ve got my first full triathlon of the season this weekend, although the weather looks like it’s gonna be cold and crappy.  The race itself is short, and the swim takes place in an indoor pool, but the weather promises to be in the low-60’s with at least misting rain, so at a minimum, it’s gonna be cold as all Hell out there.  I don’t know how many folks are entered, but if more than a hundred show up, I’ll be shocked.

Still, it’s a race, and I’m looking forward to it.  Plus, it’s short, and after that, the races get longer for the next month.  Which means that as far as going fast is concerned, this is pretty much my last shot for awhile.  After this, it’s gonna be strictly pace-work.

And Sunday is Mother’s Day, of course.  Don’t forget!

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