Tag Archives: news

Who is to blame?

Let’s tackle a little scenario: a man has an affair, it is not a one time thing, and after a number of years someone finally clues his wife in to what is going on. The woman is understandably angry, but instead of apologizing the man reacts violently, blaming the one who told her of the affair for all his troubles. After all, as far as he is concerned the problem is not so much the fact that he was cheating on his wife all along, but rather the fact that someone had the nerve to  fill her in. Up to that point his life was going great, and if only that no-good busybody had kept his/her mouth shut the good times would have rolled on.

I think we can all agree that, in spite of what the guy in this particular scenario may think, the fault belongs not so much on the shoulders of the one who clued his wife in, but rather on his own. He was the one who chose to have an affair, that’s what caused the problem, and therefore he is responsible for the consequences of his actions, end of story.

This is the scenario that comes to my mind when I hear the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff moaning about the fact that Snowden’s revelations have damaged the relations between the US and other countries, or that he has affected the importance of trust, or some other such nonsense.

Just as in the case of the cheating husband that was mentioned above, the damage was not done by Snowden, the damage was done by the existence of the programs he revealed in the first place. No programs, no problem.

Of course, leaving it at that would make it to easy for all other governments, it would let them off the hook, and the truth is that they are most definitely not the innocent victims they claim to be. In fact chances are that most of them have engaged in similar acts within the limitations of their own technical capabilities, that at least some of them  had an understanding with the US when it came to the programs that have been revealed, and that some of them may even have benefited from some sort of unofficial cooperation agreement… not that they want their own citizens to know about that. In that regard their ‘outrage’ is nothing but posturing, and it is precisely because that outrage is nothing but posturing that, in spite of all the moaning about the lasting damage that was done by Snowden’s revelations, at least at the government level life will (unfortunately) soon go back to normal.

Selling an end to privacy

Earlier today I was thinking about a conversation I had with one of my best friends on the issue of privacy long before the subject became a fashionable one. She had a new baby, I had just microchipped one of my pets for the first time a couple of days prior (yes, it was that long ago), there was a kidnapping that was making headlines, and we were talking about safety. I remember asking her what would she do if someone were to come to her and tell her that there was a new GPS chip that could be implanted under her baby’s skin, one that would ensure that, no matter what happened, the child’s location could be pinpointed in a matter of seconds anywhere in the world. The trade off was that such an implant would be permanent, her child would be tracked for life… and that since she was the one who would making that call, her baby would have no say on the matter.

To me the idea of being tracked 24/7 was horrifying, and she was not too keen on it herself, but at the same time when she weighed her distaste for the thing against her own fears –even if those fears revolved around a very remote possibility– she hesitated. No, she didn’t want to be tracked herself, but the possibility of allaying what were some of her worst fears, fears that were actually being fanned by a media machine, was obviously alluring to her. Continue reading Selling an end to privacy

An obit for the living

On June 28, the opinion page of Yahoo news ran an editorial by Cynthia Tucker with the title MANDELA’S LEGACY OF FORGIVENESS AND HOPE. It begins as follows:

EDITORS: This is a bonus column to be run in the event of Nelson Mandela’s death.

Um… okay… except for the fact that as of this writing (July 2, 2013) the man is not dead.

Now, I realize that for the most part the obits have already been written (maybe leaving a blank for the date), it’s just that most editors have had the common sense not to publish them. And I also suspect that, with the 4th of July coming up some people may have filed their obits before going away. The thing is that I would also expect someone to be paying attention, especially at a major site such as Yahoo, but this article has been there for five days by now. It is unseemly.

Of course, considering the even more unseemly spectacle of the struggle among Mandela’s future heirs as they jockey for position to inherit what is bound to be a very lucrative empire (going so far as to steal some of their own relatives bones), Yahoo’s little faux pas seems incredibly minor.

I know Mandela is dying, in fact a part of me is surprised by the fact that he is still clinging to life as I write this. The man is 94 years old, and the outcome is inevitable, but he has fought enough, and done enough, to deserve one final bit of dignity: the right to die in peace, and to have his final wishes when it comes to his final resting place honored… that, and maybe that we should hold back with the actual obits for a little while longer.

UPDATE (July 5, 2013): okay, it looks like Yahoo has finally deleted that post.

Keep your powder dry

Another day of following the Snowden saga, another day in which I am left scratching my head, wondering if the US are really that oblivious to the world around them or if they are playing a different kind of game… and what the reasons for doing that may be.

To that last question I have no answers, but the way in which they keep demanding that Russia hand Snowden over seems somewhat suspicious. Why do I say that? Well, to begin with, let’s reverse the situation. What would happen if a Russian or a Chinese former contractor had done something akin to what Snowden has done, and then fled to the US? Would the US just hand that contractor over saying ‘sorry about the inconvenience’? The answer is no, especially not if the situation had unfolded in such a visible way. Domestically doing something like that would cause an outrage. Yes, in the US there is a debate over whether Snowden is a hero or a villain, but to the rest of the world the answer is clear, and I’m assuming the US government is smart enough to know it, so what are they hoping to gain by betting so much political capital on this particular fight?

Yes, I understand that this whole thing is an embarrassment as far as they are concerned, and that they want Snowden and his secrets  back (desperately), but here is an odd concept: foreign government are supposed to serve foreign people, and while a small country such as Ecuador may be bullied into thinking that sheltering Snowden is more trouble than it is worth, neither China nor Russia can afford to be seen as giving in to the US’ huffing and puffing.

Oh, and while we are at it, let’s not ignore the fact that whatever information Snowden took with him, chances are that by now it has a dead-man’s switch attached (something happens to Snowden and the information gets released… all of it), so even if they were to get their man, the resulting damage could be a lot worse. On the other hand the information in question is of a somewhat time sensitive nature, it has to be. Programs change, technology evolves, so why not wait? Yes, they want their guy and their secrets back, but at what cost? Or is it a completely different game that they are playing?


Within hours of each other there were two brutal attacks against school children. In the first one the attacker, wielding a knife, left 23 wounded (22 of them children) in China, in the second one a gunman managed to kill 27 people in Connecticut (20 of them children), and that raises the question of who would do something like that? I don’t know… in fact I’ve been trying to make some sort of sense out of this for more than ten years (trying to make sense out of a spate of school-shootings was one of the things that prompted me to write Soulless in the first place), but in spite of that I am no closer to understanding any of this now than I was back then. I guess I should be grateful for that.

The one thing these two incidents that took place within hours of each others but half a world away make abundantly clear, however, is what kind of  a difference guns make.

I don’t like it and I won’t follow

Earlier today I had a very minor problem, in fact it was too minor to be called a problem, so much so that I didn’t even record on which site it had happened, but it kind of stayed with me: as I was browsing I came across a splash screen that said something along the lines of ‘to access this site either like us on Facebook or follow us on twitter’. Now, I am used to some sites requesting my e-mail address (though I usually balk at those too), and I guess in a way it is not that different, but in another one it does feel that way… especially when it comes to a site I don’t particularly know (i.e. a site I don’t know if I ‘like’ or if I’m interested in ‘following’). I guess in a way my reaction may also have to do with the fact that I am not too keen on social media, and I have some serious issues with the amount of information these sites gather and are willing to disclose about their users.

Yes, I have a Twitter account, and I don’t find that one too annoying, though I am not a heavy user and I rarely sign in, but Facebook is a site that, while I know it is extremely popular and even useful, I don’t particularly trust. Simply put, I seriously doubt the average user knows how much information Facebook has gathered about him/her, and I don’t think that the fact that at times keeping track of their constant policy and settings changes at times can seem like a full time job is a coincidence. The fact that unrelated news sites are now making being a user of Facebook or Twitter mandatory is yet another step in a process that has caused the web to become ever more intrusive.

Oh, I know this is something that has been in the works for some time, something that is going to make us hold-outs have to choose between submitting or living with a deliberately downgraded online experience, but the attitude of ‘follow me, like me or else’ that was reflected on that simple splash screen rubbed me the wrong way. It was not an invitation, it was a command and my response to that is ‘No, I don’t like you and I definitely won’t follow you… hell, I don’t even know you!’