The Importance of Internet Safety

I’d like to take some time today to discuss internet safety. I usually don’t talk about myself but I feel some recent events I went through have some information worth sharing.

About five or so days ago I received a notification on my phone that someone attempted to access my email account. I quickly notified Google that it wasn’t me and changed my password. Thinking the problem was solved, I went on with my life.

Yesterday, however, I received an email from Amazon saying that I had reported not receiving numerous items and that a refund would be issued shortly for all these items. I quickly reached out to Amazon and notified them that it was not me who requested the refunds, and they responded, canceling any orders and actions that may have been done by this third party. I then changed my password and checked to see if anything else was wrong with my account. Luckily there wasn’t.

There are several things I have learned from this that can help you be more secure online.

1.Do NOT use the same password for more than one account.

This was my problem. This is just setting yourself up to have every account you have to be stolen. Once a hacker figures out the password you use, it’s over. Make sure to use different passwords for everything, even between Twitter and Facebook.

2. The simple trick to secure passwords.

Think the best password is one only you could remember? Wrong. Clever passwords may seem like a good idea but ones that you create are easier to get into.

A password such as greatestblogger20 may be easy to remember but it does not have much variance. If you take it apart it only features lowercase numbers and letters. The less unique characters you have the easier it for others to crack.

A password such as !greatestb10gger20? Is much better. It incorporates more unique characters such as an exclamation mark and question mark. However it still uses “dictionary phrases”, common words that could be easily guessed.

However, if you really want to be secure there is one great trick. Mash your keyboard. No joke.

The password #bes7H8gf! may seem like utter nonsense, but that’s what makes it so secure. No one could ever guess such a combination without a complex software program designed to crack passwords. Just as a lock with more numbers becomes harder to crack so does your password by incorporating more unique characters.

3. Write down your new passwords.

Unless you have a photographic memory or are far smarter than me (which isn’t hard) you will have a very hard time remembering tons of random passwords. Simply write them down somewhere and take a picture of them. Or if you want take the piece of paper with you. You can also keep your passwords on a word document on your computer or phone.

Remember thieves and hackers will never rest as they try to steal what you worked for. Always remain vigilant and keep your security measures up to date.

Safe browsing everyone!

The Problem with the Left-Right Spectrum

In political discussion if one wants to quickly identify a person they describe them as ‘left’ or ‘right’. However this scale is woefully inadequate in properly discussing the array of ideologies. For one people will describe Donald Trump as “far right.” However he supports ideas that would not be described as right traditionally. He supports ‘fair trade’, a protectionist economic policy that runs contrary to previous norms of the Republican Party. He supports LGBT rights, breaking years of social norms within the Republican Party. He wants to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act. If he was ‘far right’ he would only go with repeal and not implement a replacement.

When the phrase “far left” is used Communism or Socialism is inferred. When “far right” is used Nazism and Fascism is inferred. However how could two opposite ends of a spectrum both result in authoritarian styles of government? If it were to be sensible Nazism and Communism would be at one end and Anarchism at the other.

The current mode of describing political positions needs to be replaced with one that can more properly take into account various positions.

The above chart is a far better one to go off. It takes into the account the various forms of authoritarianism and liberty based angles. It judges your overall position by your views on social and economic questions. It is possible to be socially liberal and authoritarian while being economically liberal and socially authoritarian.

It is important to remember the true meaning of the word ‘liberal.’ Liberal derives from the political school of thought classical liberalism. It is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as the following.

  1. a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard
  2. a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy (see autonomy 2) of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (such as those involving race, gender, or class)

In both we see that it advocates both economic and social freedom. The modern use of the world liberal then is a degradation to its original meaning. This just shows the laziness of the left-right spectrum that fails to take into the account all aspects of a belief system.

The above chart displays where I fall on the political spectrum after taking a test on https://www.politicalcompass.org/ . We should strive to broaden our understanding of political identity so we can have better discussion. These tests may not be perfect, but it’s a start.

 

Try for yourself and post your results!

https://www.politicalcompass.org/

https://www.isidewith.com/

End the War in Afghanistan

Afghanistan can be said to be America’s forgotten war. We have been involved in Afghanistan for fifteen years, which provides plenty of time to grow accustomed to the situation and eventually ignorant. Since the Taliban have not been able to directly attack us it is in a sense a peaceful war. We are much more inclined to the situation involving ISIS as they have launched a barrage of terrorists attacks through Europe and the United States. It’s easy to forget you are at war when there are no visible signs of it in your daily life. As George Orwell wrote in 1984 “War is peace.”

Breaking the trend of silence the Trump administration recently stated they could send up to three thousand additional soldiers to bolster the Afghanistan government and help in the fight against the Taliban. However sending more of our men in harm’s way has garnered little media attention. I would be surprised if anyone knew since the media obsesses over anything that could be treated as a scandal regarding President Trump. 

“But when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be dangerous… It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist.”

The Afghanistan War seems to be the best proof of Orwell’s sentiment.

After fifteen years of armed conflict and a price tag of a staggering $685.6 billion dollars we are no closer to securing peace in Afghanistan. Our policy of foreign intervention has failed spectacularly and it’s time to end it. We should no longer put the lives of our brave men and women at sake for wars that we gain nothing from.

It’s time to end the war in Afghanistan once and for all. I am for the full withdrawal of all US military personnel and equipment from Afghanistan.

Now I am sure some will be concerned that without our help Afghanistan will be faced with a power vacuum, and that the Taliban may use it to their advantage. It is certainly possible given the outcome of the US withdrawal from Iraq. However the number of US troops in Afghanistan is only 8400, and even then is limited in its roles. It mainly trains and supports the local soldiers, as well as providing support to counter terrorism operations. It is also worth noting that even after the surge of ISIS the Iraqi army is pushing them out of their country. They are only three districts away from liberating Mosul, a key ISIS stronghold. Iraqi army officials say by taking it they could drive ISIS out of Iraq.

It is far more important for Afghanistan to become self reliant rather than continuously depend on us. If they can not learn to stand on their own two feet after all this time it is not our problem. Iraq, along with the help of the Kurds, learned to adjust without US ground troops and are managing to fend for themselves.

Meanwhile those in power in Afghanistan seem little worried about the fate of their country. Corruption runs rampant, soldiers are given little ammo and are paid little money. Major General M. Moein Faqir, commander of the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army was arrested in 2015 for misuse of money to supply food to his soldiers. Faqir was originally appointed to end corruption, and like many others in command are now being charged with what they pledged to eliminate. If we were to leave it just might encourage them to spend more on trying to preserve their country instead of lining their pockets. Nothing encourages accountability when you have a massive safety net.

We should stop making countries reliant and instead have them be able to preserve themselves. If only the Donald from a few years ago was the one we had today.

The FCC’s Needless Interference with Free Speech

The Federal Communications Commission is launching an investigation into Stephen Colbert after numerous complaints have been filed over his “homophobic” remarks. Colbert, host of The Late Show, included in a rant against President Trump the following insult.

“The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c—k holster.”

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a radio interview on 1210 WPHT that “Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be. A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do.”

The FCC’s investigation into Colbert’s remark is completely worthless and a waste of taxpayer money.

The idea that we should pay money for an agency to watch a thirty second tape, have them decide if its offensive, and then punish the offender is ridiculous. If people are so outraged by Mr. Colbert’s remarks they should punish him through their power as consumers. Refuse to watch his show, pester CBS to drop him, or pressure him into an apology. The free market gives the individual the power to financially punish a business or person already. Relying on government to do it for you is not the solution.

For once you are able to hamper the free speech of someone you find offensive what stops the other side from hampering the free speech of someone you agree with? You cannot afford to act in the short term for small victories without considering the long term implications. (Not that censoring someone should ever be considered a victory. It is far better to have opposing views than be in a vacuum of unchanging thought.) Taking back power from the government is nearly impossible so you can never afford to give them any.

On the taxpayer side of things it gets even more ridiculous. Why should our hard earned money go to some government agency to decide whether something someone said is obscene? Surely we all have the ability to determine for ourselves what is obscene or not. If we do view something as obscene we have the power to withdraw ourselves from it. Those who do enjoy Mr. Colbert’s remarks should have the ability to continue to watch his show without having a false version of himself afraid of being censored.

Earlier in the article Pai said that the most likely action would be a fine. I’m sure that’s just going to devastate Colbert and his $15 million dollar salary. Glad to see our tax dollars are going to such an effective use.

If it were up to me any speech, besides that which would encourage or incite violence, would be allowed on television. One of our country’s founding principles and rights is the freedom of speech. It is crucial that anyone be allowed to speak their mind, no matter how much we may personally find it reprehensible. For once we find it acceptable to punish someone else for their opinions free speech dies.

Saudi Arabia Elected to Women’s Rights Commission

No, this is not an Onion article.

Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive countries towards women, has been elected to the Women’s Rights Commission for a 2018-2022 term. Picked up by UN Watch, executive director Hillel Neuer said “Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief.”

Saudi Arabia according to the World Economic Forum ranks 141 out of 144 countries when it comes to gender equality. Under law all women are required to have a male guardian which make critical decisions in their life.

Neuer also stated that “Saudi discrimination against women is gross and systematic in law and in practice. Every Saudi woman must have a male guardian who makes all critical decisions on her behalf, controlling a woman’s life from her birth until death. Saudi Arabia bans women from driving cars. Why did the U.N. choose the world’s leading oppressor of women to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women?”

What makes the vote all the more insulting is that Saudi Arabia was elected on a secret ballot. If countries cannot publicly show their support then they should not vote at all. By voting in secret they do not have to directly face backlash from electing such a misogynistic country. The women of the world deserve better than this.

Venezuela on the Edge of the Abyss

Venezuela is spiraling further out of control as the economic and social situation worsens by the day.

Unlike previous months of protests April has been sadly made different from the rising death toll of civilians. This month alone twenty two have died, with six dying in the first two weeks of April. According to Venezuela’s minister of communication nine were killed by electrocution while trying to rob a bakery. Three others were fatally shot the same day, with six others suffering from gunshot wounds.

Armed groups of civilians called colectivos have been confronting protestors with violent tactics to suppress their demonstrations. Colectivos are pro-government community organizations, with members that have received police training and according to experts are armed by the government. Being outside the government they have been able to more violently suppress protests through force. They have also vandalized the homes and work areas of civilians that they perceive as against the current government.

Protests have continued to increase in scale as the Maduro government continues its oppression. The Supreme Court of Venezuela absolved the legislature in an attempt to give itself the power to write laws, but later revised the decision. Opposition leaders have been routinely jailed and the Venezuelan president Maduro is quick to blame the ‘evil’ capitalist United States for its problems.

Inflation is Venezuela is the largest in the world at 741%, causing massive economic harm to the people. Not helping the worthless money is the massive lack of basic commodities such as food. A survey by three of Venezuela’s universities has revealed that 72.7% of the people have lost 19 pounds in the last year.

General Motors said on April 19th that authorities had illegally seized its plant. Due to a lack of resources currency control many plants are producing few products. This is also accompanied by other US companies such as Clorox leaving the country due to the financial crisis in Venezuela.

With the mounting social and economic despair, accompanied by an increasingly authoritarian government the future of Venezuela remains uncertain. If the protests grow increasingly violent it could make those displeased with the government believe that a peaceful solution is impossible. Especially if at the same time Maduro once again tries to gain more power. A civil war in Venezuela would be disastrous for an already oppressed people, but may be the only way out.

If Maduro were to be replaced peacefully the country would have to undergo massive reform to change the Socialists programs of the government. And there is no telling on where people would stand when it comes to reform. Those who dislike Maduro may also support the Socialists principles he advocates. Whether there would be protests then as well would also remain to be seen. It is also important to remember that the military and colectivos stand behind Maduro, and it is unknown how they would react if he was removed.

We can only hope that Venezuela manages to avert any more harm and that their situation improves.

The Dangers of a Reactionary Foreign Policy

Last week on the 6th of April the United States launched fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria in response to a chemical attack carried out by the government. Trump said in a statement following the attack “Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air base in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” This is a dramatic reversal from his prior statements and indications during the campaign that he would stay out of Syria.

His explanation for his changed policy is seeing the images of the chemical attack. “When you kill innocent children — innocent babies — babies — little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines.” There is no questioning or debating the heinous attack upon civilians, but it is no reason to entangle the United States in Syria.

Despite what President Trump says there is no national security interest in attacking Assad. The chemical attacks did not harm Americans, nor does it place any of us at risk. What does place us at risk is bombing an ally of Russia. Attacking Assad will only weaken his ability to fight ISIS, a group we both want eradicated. In an interview in September 28, 2015 Trump told an interviewer, “Why can’t we let ISIS and Syria fight? Let Russia, let them fight ISIS.”

Not to mention the increase in tensions between Russia and the United States that will naturally come from attacking one of its allies. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a conference at Moscow “The current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point. There is a low-level of trust between our two countries. The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.” A proxy war between opposing Syrian forces would benefit no one, and would only instill more hatred for the west in the middle east.

If Trump’s recent reactionary foreign policy holds it could be detrimental to the United States and the rest of the world. Prematurely reacting to foreign crises will only create more problems. Syria is currently engulfed in six year long civil war, with various groups fighting for control. You have the government, ISIS, and the various rebel groups fighting against each other for dominance. It is a multi front war with no clear group that would be best to lead if Assad and ISIS were taken out. With the United States long record of making countries worse by removing the current leaders you would think we would have learned by now not to meddle in other countries.

Sadly there seems to be no shortage of politicians and leaders who think they know the solution to other countries affairs. Their arrogance in believing they know how to fix other countries has only made the world a more dangerous place. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya are the prime examples of our failed nation building policy. The establishment politicians couldn’t even understand the support for Trump, so why should we expect them to understand the intricacies of foreign politics?

The other dangers posed by a reactionary foreign policy is the debt it would cause for the country. A study by Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs reveals that the War on Terror has costed the United states $4.79 trillion dollars. And what do we have to show for it? A more turbulent Middle East, dead and injured soldiers, and wars drawn out for far too long. With the already massive national debt of $19 trillion very close to reaching $20 trillion we can not afford to squander additional money. We should be focusing on ways to reduce our debt problem instead of wasting it on foreign wars that do not serve our national interest.

Most importantly however is the ceding of power from Congress to the executive branch. Congress holds the power to approve and declare war, and attacking another country with Tomahawk missiles is undoubtedly an act of war. However due to prior precedent Trump felt no obligation to go before Congress and ask for permission. Only a few Democratic and Republican voices brought up the legality of the strikes, but they were drowned out from the praise of fellow lawmakers and foreign leaders.

If there is so little opposition to Trump initiating military action against an ally of Russia then what is stopping him from reacting to other events he finds distasteful? The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists passed in September 2001 gives blanket ability for the president “To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States. Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens.” While Assad is not responsible for September 11 this act of Congress began the transfer of power between the two branches. It has been abused to the point where the president does not even feel the need to bother with asking congress. If Congress does not act to reign back its constitutional authority we will only find ourselves in more conflicts.

Perhaps the best closing statement would be an old quote from the Donald himself.