3 Quick Pre-Debate Points

With nothing to do with the debates. That's for tomorrow.

1) Hacking. Many people who have done business in China have seen warnings like the one below, which I first encountered a few months ago and which started showing up in my Gmail inbox again today:


Google explains that the warning is based on parsing the links in phishing-style messages sent to your account, and matching them with what it knows about state-sponsored attacks, which in practice mostly come from China or the Middle East. The accompanying advice says (obviously) not to click on links from unknown sources, and to be sure to turn on Gmail's two-step sign-in system. Yes, two-step is slightly a pain. But if you don't do use it, and then get hacked, you get no sympathy from me. My point for the moment is that I give Google credit for taking this step, which it didn't have to do.*

2) Airlines. What I have learned from response to last night's brief item is that 100 times as many people will write in to complain about United Airlines as will write to defend it. Actually, that's not quite accurate. I've received well over 100 messages with "you don't know the half of it" complaints about United, and so far zero saying "Hey, they're not so bad." But many people wrote to protest my statement that "People mainly hate the airline they spend most time traveling on." Nearly all in this group mentioned Southwest as the counter-example. Most of the rest mentioned Virgin. More on this and other pending topics soon.

3) Pandering. Bad move by Obama, good move by Romney dept. I hope eventually to say more about why I think it was stupid and self-defeating for the Obama administration to block the acquisition, by a Chinese company, of a wind-farm operation in Oregon, on fairly bogus national-security grounds. For now, see Edward Alden's analysis for the CFR. Meanwhile, good for Mitt Romney for making the point that a military strike on Iran is "probably" unnecessary. I have decided to take this as a sign of his determination that if he is going down, it might as well be with dignity. OK, I may be over-reading things, but that is what I hope is the reasoning.

If you want a reminder of why the preemptive-strike option for Iran, apart from "probably" being unnecessary, would "almost certainly" be ruinous and self-defeating, please be sure to read this report from the Wilson Center on "Weighing Benefits and Costs of Military Action on Against Iran." Here's is an extra gloss by veteran diplomat and one-time Atlantic author William Polk. I add further discussion of Iran policy to my "more, soon" aspirational list.

And, OK, bonus point #4: I agree entirely with Peter Osnos that the PBS News Hour deserves more respect and street-cred than it usually gets. For example:
The show provides news for serious viewers, and if you happen to be one, no other daily program will give you a more extensive offering, refusing -- at some risk -- to heighten the glitz quotient that has been so corrosive elsewhere in today's media. The greatest danger for this time-honored newscast is its being taken for granted while the spotlight shines elsewhere on less worthy but more popular programs.
Tomorrow, catching up on other topics, plus the debates.

* Routine disclosure: many of my friends, plus one immediate family member, work at Google. Extra disclosure: Boy, has the Chinese government tightened up yet again on visa rules. Am planning another visit this month. But ...
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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