Hacked, forged, who knows?

Hackers can break in to systems and leak the documents they find. Hackers can also edit the documents they find, and present those files as authentic.

Maybe ten thousand of the documents are authentic, one is edited to add Joe Biden’s name to a list of attendees at a meeting, and one is a completely made-up document about Huma Abedin’s tax returns.

“Imagine trying to explain to the press, eager to publish the worst of the details in the documents, that everything is accurate except this particular email,” says Bruce Schneier.

Fortunately, he continues, “Major newspapers do their best to verify the authenticity of leaked documents they receive from sources. They only publish the ones they know are authentic. The newspapers consult experts, and pay attention to forensics.”

So at least there’s that.

Scott Adams fake because

Leaving aside the presidential election (and who isn’t keen to leave aside this presidential election), Scott Adams has written an insightful observation on human psychology. Maybe his theory that people need a “fake because” is mistaken, but it is thought-provoking.

The politician and the goats

after The Goatherd and the Wild Goats, because sometimes you just have to spell it out.

A politician, governing his country in the twenty-first century, found some people in the third world, and brought them to his nation to join its existing citizens.

The economy turned bad, so that the politician was hard pressed to find jobs for all the people who needed them. He told the existing citizens to go pound sand because that was how the free market worked, but gave amnesty, welfare, and jobs to the new immigrants, hoping that by doing so they would vote for him.

When the election came, the politician led everybody out to vote, and the new immigrants killed a bunch of the existing citizens and then sued them for hate.* The politician scolded the existing citizens for their ingratitude and xenophobic stupidity, and demanded that they vote for him.

One of the immigrants, turning about, said to the politician: “Allah akbar,” killed a bunch of the politician’s friends, and then killed himself. crying “you’re next!”

The moral of the story is, stay out of gun-free zones.

*The parallelism with the goatherd and the goats kind of breaks down at this point.

Three links

Making versus hacking

“Some projects are started purely to get the project done. That sounds simple enough, and of course there are many steps along the way from idea to finished work, but the prototypical Maker-mode project can be planned out in detail from the start, accomplished with ‘normal’ tools using skills that you’ve already got, and not a place for yak shaving. For these projects, the biggest obstacle to success is just doing it.”

“Hacker-mode projects are a lot fuzzier from the start. A hacker mode project often starts out with a new piece of gear, and a vague idea that it can be made to do something interesting.” — Yak Shaving: Hacker Mode vs Maker Mode, by Elliot Williams

Scott Adams on persuasion

“Take a look at what Clinton did to change her message. It changed from, ‘Hey, I’m experienced and he’s not — which is not terribly persuasive when people want the outsider anyway — and it went from, ‘Hey, he’s not such a good businessman,’ to, ‘He’s dark, he’s scary, he’s crazy, he’s mentally unstable, he’ll have the nuclear codes.'” — Trump, Dilbert, Wizards, Fear, and Testosterone — Rob Harvilla interviews Scott Adams

“Go ahead, throw your vote away”

“Some of us are persuaded that human acts need not be judged by their political impact.” I can never remember whether Kang is the racist and Kodos is the hitler, or if it’s the other way around.

Externalizing the cost

Suppose immigrants from Somalia make the US a better place in the long term – more vibrancy, richer tapestry, spicier salad bowl, whatever, it works out in the long term.

First, we never get to the long term. After the Somalis it’ll be the Congolese, then the Uighurs, then, who knows? the Latvians, or the Hutus, the Mancunians, the Savoyards.

Second, the long term benefits accrue to the Somalis, and to the upper class. The short term costs are born by those racists at the bottom who can’t live in a gated community and send their child to private school.

It’s part of a larger pattern. The people in charge make policy regardless of what the rest of us want, externalizing the cost of that policy while capturing the benefit. Then they condemn us as bitter clingers, racists, and resentful older brothers.

Nuclear weapons

Consider a promise not to use nuclear weapons. To the extent that this promise is credible, it’s destabilizing, because it rewards a first strike. It gives an opponent an incentive to act first, and to act before someone else takes power and changes the policy.

Well, how about “no first use,” a stated policy to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation? This has no moral or rational basis. Why, having suffered a nuclear strike, would we inflict one, when it could do no good?

The sensible and moral policy is to say, and show, that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons against legitimate targets if a sufficiently grave threat to our national interest requires it. Furthermore, we should hope this is the policy of all the nuclear powers. That’s how you get stability. If every power is reluctant but willing, and ever power has delivery systems that can survive a first strike, every power has a powerful incentive not to strike first.

Unless they’re religious fanatics hoping to bring about the end times. People like that can’t really be deterred.