Thursday this site was down most of the day. There is a technological “food chain” that brings these words to your device’s screen. Almost all of it is above my pay grade and certainly my technical knowledge. Today is the 77th anniversary of D-Day which was effectively the beginning of the end of World War II. In the following I will endeavor to bring these things together while exploring three major challenges in contemporary America.
Good things happen in bad situations. Thursday, I had two very pleasant and thought-provoking conversations with a friend and frequent reader the genesis of which was the hack. Three subjects came up that I want to explore with you today: computer hacks, reparations and voter suppression. The hacks are somewhat obvious and I’ll explore them first.
Hacks come in two varieties: hooliganism and extortion. In either event they end up costing serious money. There are some people who simply hack networks and sites for the fun and ego ingratiation of it. Then there is a criminal element that extort money; it is kind of cyber kidnapping. I could go on for pages but there are many, many more knowledgeable people on the topic to read than me.
When we have a major pipeline and a major meat processor shut down within weeks it is obvious that this stuff is serious! I have (obviously inadequate) safeguards in place for this site but I’m certain getting around them is child’s play for a seasoned hacker. Yes, safeguards have been upgraded in the advent of the latest hack, I’m certain they are not of the international cutting-edge level but they still cost money. In my case for a by design money losing website. We know the pipeline paid a $5 million ransom. Do you think that made the meat processor hack more attractive? I do.
The other major topic of my Thursday conversations was reparations. It’s not the most fitting word, but I guess I can say my thoughts on the subject have been evolving in recent years. In principle I favor reparations. No question! There is no doubt in my mind that many groups have been exploited over the years and those actions have an economic impact on their descendants today.
The two groups most adversely affected are African-Americans and Native Americans. Although they are not the only ones. Education is a huge enlightenment in this case in particular. Why else do you think the right wing fights so hard to control text books and curriculum? I’ll suggest three books – one of them much more famous for another aspect and far from current. They are: The Jungle by John Steinbeck (1906), How the Word Is Passed by: Clint Smith (2021) and Wilmington’s Lie by: David Zucchino (2020).
My problem with reparations is the mechanics; specifically, the who and the how. Compensating for sins of the past – and often long past – is challenging! Simply cutting a bunch of checks isn’t the answer. Even if it were that still leaves us with the questions of amount and payees. I’ll leave the solution to that issue to people smarter than me. The only thing I strongly suggest is that it be forward reaching.
Even though it took up less of the conversation time, the last thing I want to briefly explore is voter suppression. The Republicans, especially at the state level, have launched an all-out assault on voting rights and by it democracy. There is an antidote to this poison – pass federal legislation to effectively void these state laws. The House has already passed two such bills which are currently sitting in the Senate stymied by the threat of a filibuster. It may be extreme but extreme actions are called for (World War II and D-Day were extreme but necessary to defend democracy); the filibuster must be severely modified or abandoned and fifty Senators have to be found that are more loyal to America than to a political party, individual or their personal reelection prospects.
President Biden has declared that America will view ransomware attacks as hostile actions. That’s a good start. Reparations have gotten a lot of “ink” lately and a conversation is another great beginning. Now if we can only get 50 members of the Senate to view voter suppression as a serious attack on our core democracy they can launch a 21st century D-Day and save America again.
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