Karen Hurvitz (“A strategic mitzva,” Comment & Features, February 20) credits American Friends of LIBI with helping fund the IDF. This is not true. I, living in Israel, help fund the IDF through my income taxes.
LIBI USA, according to its website, “strives to support Israeli soldiers by providing for their welfare through funding educational, religious, social and recreational activities not covered in the IDF’s defense budget.” While this might be a worthy project, it most certainly does not constitute funding the IDF.
Perhaps, though, it goes some way toward easing the conscience of those who live in Boston.ROGER KAYE
‘The end of the Internet?’
In “The end of the Internet?” (Terra Incognita, February 19), Seth J. Frantzman is right in stating some important problems, but he also makes assertions that are not correct. I write from the standpoint of a software developer whose career spanned the time of early mainframe computers through the US government’s DARPA creation and the subsequent commercial adolescence of the Internet.
In the 1980s and 1990s, we thought the major problem caused by the Internet would be with services that consumers could bypass, such as retail stores, as well as job displacement, for example bank tellers and travel agents. We knew that the communications/productivity potential of the Internet would be enormous.
It is a mistake to blame the Internet for the actions of totalitarian governments. The same people who censor newspapers in their countries will try to censor any open source of information that can reach their people. In fact, the Internet makes it somewhat more difficult for those governments to censor information, and many will agree that making censorship more difficult is a good thing.
It is also a mistake to assert in an article that discusses totalitarianism that applications like Waze and Airbnb give people more “freedom.” These types of applications give people flexibility and new ways to do things they wish to do productively, but to label that “freedom” confuses things quite a bit.
The root problem is the failure of society and governments at all levels to be able to keep up with the evolution of technology.
I can remember attempts to convince computer-using companies to worry about cybersecurity in the 1990s. Almost no computer-using company was willing to allocate funds to buy better security. The emergence of Google and Facebook can be attributed to excellence in understanding market requirements and opportunities, and implementing software that meets them. Punishing Google for being good at what it does, as attempted by the European Union, will not have any useful impact on the situation.
Like many industries that are born and evolve to be important parts of infrastructure, parts of the Internet could be what economists call a natural monopoly. For example, it makes no sense to have multiple water pipes in urban neighborhoods, or multiple land line telephone systems in the same areas. Society typically solves the problem of excessive monopolistic power by declaring the industry to be a utility regulated for the good of all.
Clearly, the current Internet begs the development of an overall approach to information management. The difficulty is in finding an agency to do that. I would suggest that the challenge be given to what is known as the “standards community,” a relatively obscure collection of dedicated people whose work in the past has resulted in hundreds of common technologies, such as regular screw sizes, agreed-upon film speeds, standardized computer languages and Internet protocols – without which society as we know it could not function.
One more thing that needs to be said is that there is likely no solution in view to stop bad actors from spoofing good users and putting bad stuff on the Internet: Think Russians attempting to influence elections with misleading information. A solution to this problem might be to force Internet users to label themselves with a well encrypted ID that would be attached forever to all information that flows on the Internet.
Note, though, that such a solution would depend on having an overall approach to information management as suggested above.
JerusalemSolving gun violence
Sadly, reader Leonard Kahn (“The best gun control,” Letters, February 19) joins so many others in focusing on the absolute prohibition of automatic weapon sales as the way to prevent future school shootings.
The AR-15 used in the recent Florida shooting is semi-automatic; a single press of the trigger fires one bullet. Many semiautomatic weapons and large-capacity magazines were banned for 10 years beginning in 1994. Numerous studies following that ban found virtually no impact on the frequency or lethality of gun violence.
US statistics for 2016 are instructive: Handguns were used in 7,105 murders while rifles killed 374 people, shotguns killed 262 and other types of guns were involved in 186 deaths. Cities that have the toughest gun-control laws, such as Chicago and Baltimore, also suffer the highest murder rates. Thus, even if the AR-15 were entirely banned, the broader problem of gun violence would not be resolved. Tougher prohibitions on purchasing weapons would not be the hoped-for panacea.
Rather than focus solely on the mechanism used in these horrific events, we must try to identify the underlying causes. Although there are many more laws regulating the purchase of firearms than there were 50 years ago, gun violence has increased exponentially. It therefore is critical to ask what has changed in American society during that time. Here are just a few suggestions:
• Breakdown of the traditional family, with many children coming from broken homes and finding themselves rudderless
• Increase in the number of children using psychiatric drugs with potentially harmful side effects
• Desensitization to death and violence because of graphic portrayals in video games, movies and music lyrics
• Feelings of isolation and depression resulting from reliance on social media to the exclusion of personal interaction
• Moral relativism rejecting clearly delineated boundaries of right and wrong
• “Gun-free” school zones becoming inviting targets as shooters realize that they will meet no resistance.
Another governmental prohibition by itself is not the answer. Massacres of this type will continue until everyone in society – parents, schools, doctors, social organizations, etc. – recognizes and accepts personal responsibility in the fight to keep our children safe.
EFRAIM A. COHEN
Reader Leonard Kahn suggests that the US Constitution no longer gives Americans the right to bear arms. May I suggest, most respectfully, that Mr. Kahn errs in two respects?
1. The Constitution never gave the Americans the right to bear arms. This right preceded the Constitution and preceded the establishment of the US. It was, and is, an inalienable right of every person to bear arms. The Second Amendment merely states that Congress shall make no law abridging that right.
2. This restraint upon the Congress remains valid today.
The best way to prevent tragedies such as Parkland is not to prevent the sale of certain weapons and not to deprive people of the right to bear arms. Rather, place armed guards at schools to protect the students. There are armed guards protecting the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, countless other government facilities and banks all across America. Are the lives of children worth less?FRED KOSOFSKY
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