Friday, October 26, 2007

We all loose...

I made no post on Sept. 11 this year. For me it was too horrible to wallow in the sadness and depression of recalling that day. But so much of our lives today is impacted by that day. So much about our country was twisted... So that we almost don't recognize it any more.

In the days after 9/11 a terrible mistake was make. I'm not talking about foreign policy or the start of the war drums. No. A simple mistake was made by a pilot who forgot a radio in his hotel room. Later, a hotel employee "found" the radio in another room. A room where an Egyptian man was staying.

And this is where things went very wrong. This is where men in good faith did something that changed America. The FBI believed they had a 9/11 conspirator. He denied the radio was his, but of course, a terrorist would do that. Never mind that the radio doesn't fit into any terrorism scenario. These were the first few days right after the attack and no one knew how it had been planned or executed. All the FBI agent knew is that an Egyptian national had a radio used by pilots. This was all the proof he needed. But when the Egyptian wouldn't give him what he wanted he threatened to sick the Egyptian Security forces on his family back home.

These guys wouldn't simply make life unpleasant, they would very likely torture those who they suspected might be associated with terrorists. Let me be clear. He didn't threaten the Egyptian with torture, this is before we started sending people to secret CIA facilities where we only used the most human and White House sanctioned torture. He told the man the Egyptians would get his family, and Egypt (A country I love and hope to visit again some day) does not fuck around with terror suspects. Like Israel and Syria they can and will do all the things the Geneva convention forbids. Beating the feet with steel rods, electrical shocks to the genitals, drilling into flesh or worse.

The man was in a catch 22. Confess to something he did not do and his life would be over, but his family might be safe, or insist is his innocence and risk his families torture. He confesses. The radio is his. "Where did you get it?" asks the FBI agent. But the man can't tell his because it wasn't his. He makes up several stories, which only makes him look more guilty.

Then the real owner of the radio showed up. There was no plot. There was no evidence. There was no terrorist. The man was released.

This was the first misstep. But it would be followed by many more. In our zeal to find and punish those we felt were responsible we threw out the investigation play book and started cutting corners. Taking shortcuts to get justice. The War or Terror looks like and episode of "24" where he will break our own laws, ignore treaties, even torture in pursuit of the 'enemy'.

A lot of people talk tough about fighting terrorism. They take that anguish from 9/11 and channel it into a focussed beam of hate and grim determination to do "whatever it takes" to stop it from ever happening again. Give these people a gun and tell them that "that guy over there is a terrorist" and they might well shoot the guy themselves.

"So we made a mistake with this Egyptian guy, it was all sorted out, no harm no foul" you say.

But if the owner of the radio had not come back for it the Egyptian would very likely have been sent to Gitmo , or worse. We would have put an innocent guy and likely his family as well, into the meat grinder we have created and we would have destroyed them.

Only a short time ago almost half the detainees at Gitmo were released. We simply didn't have ANY evidence they were Al Qaida. "Horay! The system works!". But we had imprisoned them in closet sized cells there for YEARS. If they didn't hate America before, they sure as hell do now.

Look, I want to stop terrorist plots just like everyone else. I just don't want to destroy the country I love to do it. I want us to THINK before we act. Political candidates these days are trying to make themselves out as "Men of Action". You know what, we have those guys. They're called Marines. What I want are thinking men. Because action without thought is folly. And when we act like animals we all loose.

What's your opinion?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hitting the Big Red Button

When not tying women up in corsets I do website development. It has its ups and downs. Last month I caught someone trying to hack a clients website. It wasn't a clever attack. But it puts you into full on combat mode. It gets you going 900 miles an hour. Because things happen very quickly online. A lot of damage can be done in a very short time and it can take a LONG time to fix it.

An hour ago I sat down to check my email and noticed that godaddy said I changed a domain name server for a client. I've been offline all day. Alarm bells start going off. No other domain names seem to have been touched, but that might just mean that someone is right in the middle of fucking with my life and the livelihood of my clients.

I fire up my godaddy admin. If they made a change, they might have my password. Change it. I bring up an online chat with my webhosts. Do they know who this new nameserver is? Have they changed hosting providers? No. That's bad. That leaves the client making changes but he doesn't have access. Is he pissed off? Did he contact godaddy directly? I fire up Outlook and get ready to bite the bullet. Once I contact him and let him know there's a problem, it will likely make him nervous. I look like a moron and at best he looses confidence in me.

Then I take a closer look at the email. The domain name is CLOSE but isn't exact. It's the plural version of my clients site. I check godaddy. I never registered that name. A quick whois check shows someone I don't know and he got the name years ago.

I sit back and think. Then I close the email I was going to write to the client. Godaddy fucked up. This email was supposed to go to someone else. How did that happen? Isn't this process automated? I call godaddy just to double check and they have me forward them the email. They say everything is fine.

There is no crisis. No one is messing with anything. I take my hand off the Big Red Button and take a deep breath. Technology. Ain't is grand?

My nerdiness is showing...

The History channel is playing the Young Indiana Jones Adventures, a show I really liked back when it first came out. The show follows a 9 year old and a teenage version of Indy in his adventures around the globe. The ones with the younger Indy I never really liked as much, the child actor isn't that good and the pacing of the shows is bad. I do give them points for actually filming on location. The Moroccan episode is pretty good but an Egyptian segment left me scratching my head. In it, the young Indy and his tutor are left high and dry by their camel driver when they decide to climb one of the small Pyramids on the Giza plateau. Aside from the unlikeliness of a guide abandoning the balance of his pay, there are NO other tourists in the area??? By the time they get down the sun is setting. A young T.E. Lawrence arrives on a bike and they decide to make a camp for the night using camel dung for fuel.

But having been to the Giza plateau I know that its actually a very short walk from the Pyramids to the edge of Cairo. In fact, we could see the Pyramids from our hotel room at the Mena house Hotel (which was a hotel at the turn of the century as well). They could have walked a few hundred yards, sat down for tea and gotten a cab. Hardly an epic journey.

I know they had to raise the tension but I hate when basic facts are messed with. I won't even go into the Egyptology parts where they meet up with Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings. They show a man blasting the area with dynamite, which I don't believe Carter ever did since the area is unstable limestone, (although the Italian Egyptologist Caviglia did use Dynamite on one of the pyramids).

I know, I know. It's just a show. But it bugs me.