The state of panic we live in.

September 26, 2007

My first post here and an issue near and dear to my heart.

The world we live in or more to the point the world we believe we live in.  I’m going to cite an example from personal experience.  For the past seven years I’ve been running shall we call an accidental test.  It’s something that every time it came across my conscious I thought, “This needs to be corrected.”  But seeing as it was not high priority and I didn’t want to incur the extra expense it has always been quickly relagated to the “when I get a chance bin.”

So what’s this about?  Well let me ask you all a direct question (since most of you are techno savy), what would happened if you put a server running, FTP, web services (IIS and php), SMTP services on the internet without firewalls or virus protection?  This server was locked down removing netBIOS, all services properly secured (running as a limited user) and relay prohibited for email forwarding without proper login.  Set on auto patch and left by it’s lone some going on seven years.  I kind of give away the answer with that last statement.  Beyond random port scans and a brute force attempts now and then absolutely nothing.  The checksums on the server are the same every quater.  Beyond normal log file creation and growth, nothing has changed about it (you might ask what the hell I’m doing with this server if nothing ever changes and it’s now seven years old suffice it to say when something is free..well yeah it’s free and I don’t care).

So after all this technogarble what does this have to do with the state of panic?  Interestingly I would assume if I polled your average techno savy person they would probably say ‘ZOMG HAX” if you left an “unprotected” machine open to the internet.  Much like the concept that if you don’t have super secure airports the terrorists will get ya.  Both are possibly true but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if this server had actually anything of value some one with actual skills would have by this point presented me with a surprise.  Much like if you want to blow up a plane or a building, if motivated a little security is not going to stop you.

I personally hate the way modern culture is heading, pick up a kid off the play ground after he falls off the monkey bars and watch out for the pedophile law suits.  Secure your home or it will get robbed! Invade a foreign country because if left to their own resources they will attack you!  The internet is unsafe!

I have no real point to this beyond saying wake the fuck up and live in this world not the imaginary world presented to you.

I don’t have a middle finger pic, but I’m waving mine proudly as a write this.

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Dear Thieves: I Have No Money

September 26, 2007

Now that I am healthy, I am extending a giant finger to the fuckers who stole BOTH of my debit cards. I don’t know how you did it, especially considering I reported both cards lost when they were just hiding in my couch, but you did. And for that, you dirty sons of bitches, you get the finger.

Seriously, I have no money. Steal from someone who does.

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Dead!

September 20, 2007

That’s right, you motherfucker, I killed you. And tomorrow, I’m going to poison any of your relatives that are unlucky enough to live near me.

So what if it took four whacks with the broom to knock you on your back? Half a can of carpet deodorizer to finally snuff you out? Worth every drop.

I tossed your disgusting foam-soaked carcass out the window. Who’s flying now, asshole?

The next three-inch flying cockroach that crosses my path will meet the same fate.

The Salute

Living up to your Architecture

September 19, 2007

I went to D.C. for the first time the weekend before last. As I walked down Pennsylvania, I passed the corner of the Justice Department. I took this photo of the quote at the top. It reads, “Justice in the life and conduct of the state is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of its citizens.” Inspiring, no? Stating that the nation cannot be just unless its citizens are just?

I suppose so. But the more I walked around the Mall, the more I questioned my surroundings. The buildings are large and monolithic, larger than life, and mostly neo-classical in style. This has to do, I’m guessing, with the fashion at the time and also with deliberately copying Greek architecture, as the Greeks are credited with inventing democracy.

It became a little overwhelming. It became a little claustrophobic. You start looking for your fellow citizens, but all you see is this gentleman wearing a toga. He’s surrounded some very violent symbols, including Greek helmets, eagles, swords, and of course–the laurel wreath of victory, later to be associated with Roman emperors. What does he have to tell me, as I wander through this falsely antiquated landscape? “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Not exactly comforting. Perhaps it’s not meant to be. I mean, this sculpture sits on the steps outside the National Archive. Let me repeat that–the National Archive. Or to put it another way, the National Memory–records of our past deeds as a nation are kept here. I suppose the statue is the cause and the archive is the effect.

I suggest that the heart of Washington, D.C.’s design is found in the Bex Eagle, installed at the beginning of the Reagan era. It is quite small, but it defines the abstract concept of liberty and freedom, which come up so often on our government buildings. To quote from the plaque next to the Eagle, “Freedom’s Symbol: Free men must rededicate themselves to the cause of freedom. They must understand with a cause of certainty of conviction that the cause of freedom is the cause of the human individual. Human individuality is the basis of every value–spirtual, moral, intellectual, creative–in human life. Freedom is the right to one’s soul; the right of each person to approach God in his own way and by his own means. It is a man’s right to possess his mind and conscience for himself. To those who put their trust in freedom, the state can have no sovereignty over mind or soul–must be the servant of man’s reason, not the master.” Again, this is a very high sounding, noble idea. But the rest of D.C. tells me that the state is here to be vigilant, and I must be just and defend freedom. The Bex Eagle kindly gives me a definition that involves my own individuality but that the state is the servant, not the master. The state becomes my tool to defend my individuality and my freedom which are now linked with my soul. What was once an impersonal concept has now become closely linked to the core of my own humanity.

Our politicans and policy makers are constantly surrounded by this message. Is it any wonder we bomb the hell out of everywhere? They’re getting thousands of subliminal messages a day that freedom needs their help and violent support. We’ve filled the heart of our nation with slogans and imperial symbols–eagles, laurel wreaths, and stern looking men in togas are a dime a dozen. No wonder we appear as the living embodiment of the Bex Eagle to the rest of the world.

The Bex Eagle

This finger goes out to the architects of D.C. for creating an unfriendly, stark environment that takes the ideas of this country and turns them from the rights they are to a series of martial slogans. Up yours! I want a capital that inspires me and makes me feel welcome, too. From now on, I think my visits will mostly be to the Smithsonian and flower gardens, rather than to the Mall itself.

I Bought What?

September 14, 2007

This one goes out to the asshat over in India somewhere who’s been using my credit card for a shopping spree.

Thank God or Cthulhu or whoever for the Fraud Early Warning program and the very friendly, helpful people at Citicards.  They caught the unusual transactions, called me and took care of it.

I’m still baffled as to how someone got my card info – the woman I spoke with told me it looked like the card was being physically swiped.  Yet, it was in my hand when I was talking to her.  So, unless my purse has magical teleportation powers, that pretty much means that somewhere I’ve used it in the last few months had an employee that was skimming somehow and was able to duplicate the information on the magnetic strip.

Lovely.

I like to think I’m pretty smart about my credit card use.  Honestly, I try not to use them too often, because I’m trying to pay down debt, not accumulate more.  When I shop online, it’s only from vendors I trust.  At stores, it doesn’t leave my sight.  The only place it does leave my field of vision is when I use it at a restaurant, but even then, the only places I’ve used it at recently are places I’ve frequented for years.

I rarely check my account online – so rarely, in fact, that I’ve had to reregister for access because I haven’t logged in for months.  Call me old-fashioned, I prefer to receive the paper statements.  So, that rules out someone having hacked my machine and stolen a password.  (And even then, if they had, you only see the last four digits when you log in.)

At least, though, the account’s been canceled and a new card is on the way with a new number.  But, yeah.  I hope whatever the thieving bastards bought with it breaks or falls apart.  (Because something tells me hoping that they get caught is futile.)

Mooninite!

I want to respond to the post below.

The use of images from 9/11 are manipulative. Have you heard of Godwin’s Law? I think that the longer people discuss 9/11 or the War on Terror, the likelihood of sensationalist photos approaches 1. It’s similar. Don’t you not want to be like Hitler? Doesn’t the Falling Man make you sad? If you disagree with me, then you’re callously ignoring the Falling Man.

Bollocks.

I know what happened. I know why I’m angry and sad and frustrated. I know what happened after. I know why I’m angry and sad and frustrated again. You know what happened, too. You’re angry and sad and frustrated as well, but pulling up photos like the Falling Man is nothing more than emotional manipulation.

Those of us who live here are tired of being used to justify every policy decision made by politicians. The images form a key part of that, precisely because they’re so upsetting. They don’t have a part in rational discourse. They belong to the wailing, wild, grieving tradition. It’s cathartic, and necessary, but not part of a rational discussion. If I’m crying and upset, I can’t make a good decision, and that’s what we needed after 9/11. Instead, we got–and still get, even from well meaning people–the Godwin’s Law of 9/11.

My finger is for a lot of people today, but particularly for Rudy Guiliani, because after having lived through the direct event, he’s crass enough to try and ride it to power. Fuck you, Giuliani. We deserve better.

Disclaimer: This, of course, is not personal. Quyet is a very good friend, and I respect what he’s trying to say–but I disagree with the methodology.

On a much lighter note, we’re big in Italy. Or we would be, if we wrote in Italian. I would quite happily celebrate Vaffanculo Day with any of you.

Two Fingers, Standing Tall

September 11, 2007

Today both of my fingers go out to anyone who believes that murder is an acceptable rhetorical strategy.  My fingers go out to those who would rather fight than talk.  My fingers go out to the people who have squandered the good will and system shock the world faced that would have allowed for real change.  My fingers go out to those who teach their children to kill before teaching them to play.  My fingers go out to everyone in the world that allows themselves to be controlled by fear, apathy, anger, and selfishness.  My fingers go out to everyone that is unwilling to grow and change.  And my fingers go out to this guy for making me cry everytime I see this picture:

The Falling Man

I hope your flight never ended. Rest in peace.




Mike’s New Hat

Originally uploaded by officergleason

Today I am borrowing my cousin, and his finger, to show my displeasure at our economic system. As a person in social service, my work has value for society, however, it does very little to promote the free-flow of capital.

Also, I don’t make enough money for shiny boots.

Also, I’d rather be playing hookey with someone right now, doing things in the City than working with children.

So, to all the great economic minds, believers in the Protestant Work Ethic, supervisors and managers everywhere, you get the finger. Not just from me, but also from my cousin in a wicker sombrero. I will retract said vitriol when you invent a method of paying me for my work that also allows me to take said person out and about in the city.

Washington, D.C.

September 10, 2007

I went to D.C. over the weekend to see an exhibit at the Freer and Sackler galleries, and to visit some friends from high school. I will confess that I am not brave enough to flip off the White House, because the only place to do so is heavily guarded and surrounded by drooling fanboys. I was not in the mood for a fight, as I went out of town to relax. Besides, Presidents I liked have lived there as well. However, I did flip off Congress. (As you might have guessed, I’m seriously annoyed with Congress at the moment. Bush is one lone idiot; Congress is a whole building stuffed full of idiots.) I have some other thoughts prompted by time spent in our nation’s overly neo-classical capitol, but those need to percolate a bit more.

For the Finger

 

Originally uploaded by Cyradis

 

Socrates Is Not Amused.

September 5, 2007

 

This is bullshit.

It’s also ten years old, but I saw it being linked around recently, so I had to write something about it. There’s probably, after all, a lot of people who haven’t seen it.

For those without the patience to read through that entire link – i.e., everyone – it is a link to a theoretical discussion of philosophy between Socrates and Jesus, written by a James L. Hart. The content of the post is largely composed of Jesus saying stupid, contradictory shit and Socrates poking holes in it. A few of Jesus’s arguments are actual biblical quotes; most are just paraphrased chunks of drivel that you’d expect to issue from the mouth of a southern Baptist preacher who’s been the victim of multiple concussions.

So basically, it’s an elaborate setup in which “Jesus,” or the representative of Christian religion, is given a series of untenable positions and defends them in the weakest manner possible, while “Socrates,” the representative of rationalism, tears them apart. This is what we in the business of, um, arguing call a strawman – an target created by the attacker to be as easy to destroy as possible. Politicians of both stripes, bloggers of indifferent writing skill, and Terry Goodkind are all experts at this sort of thing.

To be honest, this resembles a great many of the actual Socratic dialogues, because Socrates was a man who enjoyed poking a finger in the eyes of the stupid. I have little beef with Hart-Socrates’s dialogue, apart from how goddamn repetitive the whole thing gets. It’s perfectly rational and logical, and not everyone Socrates really went up against was an intellectual powerhouse. It reads pretty much like what it is – someone familiar enough with Christian doctrine to know it’s not for him.

The issue I have is two-fold. Firstly, the Christian strawman – it’s pathetic. Mr. Hart’s Jesus might as well be reading Chick Tracts out loud; he represents the worst of Christianity and the dearth of intellect. He inserts tired and well-worn Biblical quotes seemingly at random, when they have little or nothing to do with the subject being discussed. Finally, he commits the cardinal sin (pun intended) of religious debate – he tries to justify faith with logic, despite saying near the end of the dialogue “We must believe without asking for proof.” Mr. Hart’s Jesus uses faith as a fallback position when logic fails him, and that is a pretty sad representation of a believer.

My second issue is – why was this written? What was the point of this imaginary dialogue? It doesn’t take an intellectual powerhouse to understand that religious belief is not based on logic; it is an attempt to explain the inexplicable, to apprehend the mysteries of the world and provide comfort and meaning to human beings in a world sadly lacking in either. It’s a crutch. Again, I’m not breaking any new fucking ground here by saying this. The jackhammer is elsewhere at this point in time.

So why this extensive restatement of well-worn positions, in the puppet-mouths of philosopher and prophet? For agnostics and atheists, it’s nothing but confirming what we already knew. Christians are either going to apprehend it, in which case they’ll spot the logical fallacies (beginning with “Socrates” using the religion of his times, as charged with superstition and absurdity as any version of Christianity) and laugh it off, or they won’t, in which case they’ll just resent it as anyone does when reasonably educated people try to brute-force their way over the less well-educated.

Because that’s really what this is – a man with a decent education in the classical and the Christian alike using some of the crudest debating tactics imaginable to poke holes in a ship that’s already leaking from all sides. There’s no penetrating insight here, and nothing revolutionary like the original Socratic dialogues. All it does is purposefully make Christians look bad without offering other options; “Socrates” answers most of his own questions and “Jesus” seems to be fine with that.

The purpose of this blog is to “poke a finger in the eyes of the stupid.” A finger in the eye fucking hurts, but it also sure as hell wakes you up. It’s the sort of thing you think about. “Why did that man put his finger in my eye? What could have caused that? How can I not get my eye poked again?” James Hart is not waking anyone up; he is bludgeoning them into unconsciousness with large bales of straw. It’s one of the hallmarks of modern atheism that keeps me identifying myself as an agnostic; being offended by the mere existence of another man’s faith, to the point of destroying it out of sheer spite instead of urging him to question it with his own intellect, is just a new incarnation of the vituperative, canonical spite that’s driven religious extremism for centuries.

Socrates was first and foremost a teacher, and he taught by making his students question. He did not give them to answers, and he sure as hell did not browbeat the answers into them. A teacher cannot force knowledge, especially a heavily contested religious position, upon his students – that’s not education. That’s something else entirely. For lack of a better word, we’ll just call it re-education – and we all know who did that.

Yes, that’s right. I Godwin’d my own fucking blog post. It was the only way to stop myself from ranting. So I’ll just give Mr. James L. Hart, self-satisfied, unquestioning atheist, The Finger and move on.