Political Animal

DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY….Virginia Postrel ? who

DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY….Virginia Postrel ? who apparently thinks that permalinks are a part of the future she’d just as soon do without ? has a bunch of good posts up right now, including this one about U.S. diplomatic missions:

In small countries at least, U.S. embassy personnel routinely throw their weight around, getting all sorts of special privileges that have nothing to do with our national interest. Special parking places, special escorts through airport security, a thousand minor irritations that tell the locals our officials (no matter how personally nice and well-intended) aren’t guests and equals but lords and masters come to call. The State Department needs to remind our diplomatic corps that they should not demand, or even request, privileges unavailable to the locals merely for their personal convenience. Only in matters of serious national, as opposed to personal, interest should the U.S. government ask for special treatment.

There are a couple of good followup posts too.

Also worthwhile is her post about Ritalin, Prozac, and behavioral pharmaceuticals in general. I don’t quite understand why conservatives rail against this kind of stuff so much, but, to paraphrase an old saying, I’m willing to bet that a liberal is just a conservative with an ADHD kid.

FIGHTING COMPUTER FRAUD….ADVICE FROM AN

FIGHTING COMPUTER FRAUD….ADVICE FROM AN EXPERT….?ber-hacker Kevin Mitnick writes in the LA Times today about the real threat to computer security:

The greatest vulnerability for computer security doesn’t come from technological flaws in hardware and software but from the weakest link in the security chain: people. And not just dishonest employees. Trusted insiders can be duped or deceived into giving away the keys to the kingdom. The technique is called “social engineering,” and it’s a modern version of what I call the art of deception, which con men have been using for centuries.

An attacker, foreign or domestic, can easily take advantage of the trust we have in fellow employees and the respect we have for people in authority. For example: A caller tells you that there has been an ongoing problem with your server and you’re in danger of losing all your data. He needs to put you on another server; you’ll have to change your password and stick with it until the problem is resolved. He gives you a new password to use and waits while you make the change and verify that it works. You hang up, a little annoyed at the interruption but maybe feeling good that the people in information technology are taking such good care of you.

But was that really a man from IT, or a hacker who now has access to your computer system?

….The hacker who uses social engineer tactics steals your trust in much the same way. Consider: Your phone rings and on the other end of the line is a man from the phone company. He says you have an overdue balance of $63.14, and if it isn’t paid by 5 p.m., your phone will be disconnected and you’ll be required to make a $300 deposit before service is restored.

You insist that you paid on time. The caller says no payment was received and that a disconnect notice was mailed to you. In the spirit of good service, the man offers to search the records to see if he can locate the payment. This drags on for some minutes while you hear him clicking keys and making occasional comments. He still can’t find anything, so he asks you to get out your checkbook and give him the details of your bank, check number and amount of payment. Still nothing. He asks you to read off the numbers printed at the bottom of your checks.

You have just given him your checking account number….

COMMUNIST DUPES?….On Saturday Glenn Reynolds

COMMUNIST DUPES?….On Saturday Glenn Reynolds took issue with people who claim that it’s “McCarthyism” to criticize anti-war protesters for attending rallies organized by A.N.S.W.E.R.:

It’s not McCarthyism to call people who are communists, communists. Communists, as devoted followers of murderous totalitarianism, deserve to be called to account every bit as much as their Nazi colleagues. And in the 21st century, they can hardly pretend to be ignorant of their ideology’s true nature.

He’s right. But it is McCarthyism to tar people as “communist sympathizers” because they associate ? rather vaguely ? with communists. It was this tactic that Joe McCarthy became famous for, not for his notable lack of success in finding any real communists.

I imagine that A.N.S.W.E.R. is not my cup of tea. But tagging people as communist sympathizers because they attend a rally organized by a group that has some members in common with a group that’s communist ? well, that’s a pretty rickety chain of association, isn’t it?

So I’ll ask again: in what way is A.N.S.W.E.R. a communist group? In the 1950s J. Edgar Hoover had a list of hundreds of “known communist fronts” ? including the ACLU ? and most of them had very little do with any actual communist activity. When it comes to A.N.S.W.E.R., all I’ve been able to learn is that their leadership shares some members with the WWP, which is a communist group. But that’s it. A.N.S.W.E.R. itself seems to be little more than a garden variety flaky left activist group that holds no communist views, supports no communist regimes, and gets no funding from communist groups.

Yeah, I know, I’m just a communist dupe, a useful idiot. But while I don’t support A.N.S.W.E.R.’s views, neither have I seen any evidence that they are a communist group. Is there any more to this whole tempest in a teapot than this?

UPDATE: An article in the San Jose Mercury News has this to say:

“Basically, A.N.S.W.E.R. is dominated by the IAC, which is largely a front for the Workers World Party, a Marxist-Leninist group that has been around since the 1950s,” said Stephen Zunes, chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. “They are very effective at organizing because they are hierarchical.”

So now A.N.S.W.E.R. is a front for a front for the WWP? What’s the real story here?