Holding out for a hero

After reading more of John Robb’s ideas comparing terrorist operations to the open source programming ethic, I’m beginning to think that the relation is a bit more than metaphorical. It’s clear that part of this “open source warfare” are groups of Muslim vandals who have taken to defacing sites. In spite of warnings that this might lead to denial of service attacks and more serious hacking threats, none have been corroborated yet (well, at least not by anyone credible). It’s all to easy to believe they are coming though. Recently Robb suggested that infrastructure-based attacks by small “open source” guerillas may be coming soon and “much of the instruction and research passed to these groups will be done through the Internet.” I’d take this one step further and say that some of the attacks may come through the internet as well. Meanwhile, it’s becoming more evident that threats from organizations that are neither companies nor nations are growing (or have grown) beyond the ability of national armies to defeat.

All of this, though, makes me wonder: where are the white hats? Surely the Muslim world doesn’t have a monopoly on groups of hackers willing to engage in a guerilla war for a cause they believe in, without any central organizing authority. And I’m not just talking about turning Hamas into smut peddlers. Combating these Islamist hackers requires a group willing to subject them to something they should fear: scrutiny. I’m thinking of, at least, some kind of web sites that would post things like “site X was hacked by these people — here’s what we know”. Naturally, such sites would get attacked, but that would actually be useful. There would also need to be some sort of trust system to control who could post, but the net is pretty good at figuring out that sort of stuff. More crucial would be participation of the sites being attacked. Some would be willing to share logs, some would be trickier. Most important would be the reaction of the military and intelligence agencies. I’d like to think they’d welcome the help, but chances are they’d try to shut it down. An open source counterinsurgency does run the risk of accidentally ruining “official” covert action of which it has no awareness, but I suspect that’d be a risk worth taking.


Like a lot of people, seeing athletes (of any nation) who seem like they are good people, like “Il Pomodoro Volante” or Frode Estil, win or otherwise excel epitomizes what I like most about the Olympics. What I like even more, however, is seeing asshole American athletes, whose loudmouthed arrogance embarrasses themselves and (more importantly) my country, fail.

Currently topping this latter list is Bode Miller, who I’m hoping wins no medals at all. [Update: Boo-ya.] I realize some respond favorably to his “individualist streak”. I would, too, if I didn’t think it was phony. In an interview on NBC, he gave the impression that he is sick of relentless media coverage of him and would rather be left alone, but that if they were going to cover him, he would use the exposure to push a cause. He pushes this cause not only through the press, but with really bad commercials, probably paid for by sponsors. The reason I think his pose is disingenuous is that he could have named this web site anything at all, but chose to name it after himself. That doesn’t sound much like someone trying to avoid publicity. A better name might, for example, have been one that had something to do with whatever cause he is pushing. Then, at least, I’d know what this cause is. I don’t though, because when I visit his site, I get told:

…joining Bode Miller and experiencing [this] website requires that you install the Flash 8 Player.

I don’t have as much problem with Flash as some people I know, but my experience is that sites that require it, providing no alternative for those who don’t have it, usually favor style over substance. While Mr. Miller may have enough substance (at least, if you consider athletic ability substantive) to back up his arrogance for this Olympics, when he’s no longer able to go real fast down a mountain on two pieces of fiberglass, I’m guessing he won’t find many willing to join him. I predict an early, lonely, and probably alcoholic, death. Of course, by then, some other obnoxious king of the slopes will probably have replaced him in giving the rest of the world one more reason to hate America.

Smoke on the water

In one of my first posts, I suggested a viking-themed Las Vegas resort. Having just been back to sin city for the winter solstice, I’m even more enthusiastic about this idea, especially after a suggestion from my uncle (the same uncle that inspired one of my architecture papers over a decade ago).

Being told of my viking hotel idea, his immediate response was “it could host viking funerals.”

Vegas is already a wedding destination. I bet there are enough people that would pay to have their remains burned in a wooden barge on the resort’s artificial lake. The lake would have to be set up with a horizon, perhaps a falls into a bit that explodes into a massive inferno when the ship falls in (this is Vegas, after all). There would be a big feast of course; it would be an all-inclusive funeral package.

I think it would start a new “destination funeral” trend. First in Las Vegas (think of how much the Luxor could make doing pharaonic embalmings and entombments), then elsewhere (maybe zombie funerals in Haiti).

“On the other hand, what if we threw a war and everybody showed up?”

Which of the following is an impeachable offense for a United States President?:

  1. Spending most of your presidency under the influence of mind-altering chemicals.
  2. Using various government agencies to eavesdrop/investigate political enemies (take your pick).
  3. Privately negotiating with an enemy nation to keep American hostages in captivity until after you are elected.
  4. Selling weapons to an enemy nation and using the proceeds to fund the former forces of a dictator to oppose the elected government that deposed him.
  5. Being unable to remember that you sold weapons to an enemy nation and used the proceeds to fund the former forces of a dictator to oppose the elected government that deposed him.
  6. Abandoning allies after they defeated your sworn enemy, then ignoring them as they build a regime that ultimately attacks the US.
  7. Allowing a satellite owned by a political contributer to be launched by a foreign power.
  8. Lying to congress about an extramarital blowjob.
  9. Lying to congress about the reasons for taking the country to war.

(Extra credit for Ann Coulter: which of the above are treasonous?)

Clearly #8 is the correct answer, as it actually happened. I think everything else on the list is monumentally more severe, however. Item #9 became more topical a few weeks ago, when Bush held an interview that gave the distinct impression that a) he would have invaded Iraq anyway and b) he was not interested in invading Iran, a country that arguably is trying to develop WMDs. Some have taken this as a concrete admission that he lied about why we are at war, though it’s pretty clear the administration has been backpedaling on the reasons for war for some time.

While there will be some easily forgotten furor from the left about this, it won’t turn out to be nearly the uprising that it probably should be and some really foaming voices on the left will wonder why, genuinely baffled that the public isn’t furious for being duped.

I think the reason the public won’t be furious is that none of them were really that misled. Take you, for example: did you honestly, truly, deep-down believe that Saddam Hussein was rapidly preparing nukes, chemical and germ weapons to the extent that attacks with them against the US were a imminent threat clear and present danger? I didn’t. I don’t know anyone who did. I don’t know anyone who thought that the “WMD rationale” was anything other than a pretext.

Basically, the public gave Bush a pass on lying to us, just like we seem to always do with our leaders. I suspect we won’t be so forgiving about the lie that more executive power is needed to make us safe, but more on that later.

Do you wonder what I wonder

According to Matthew, three magi brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold had value then, like now, though it’s valuable today for somewhat different reasons. Though cheap now (~$2.50/oz.), at the time, frankincense was one of the most valuable commodities on the planet. Myrrh, likewise, was highly prized. So, what did Mary and Joseph do with these gifts? It seems like such valuable presents would have made them pretty well off, but they are never depicted as such.

Since Mary didn’t put out, I bet Joseph blew it all on hookers. Or, maybe they stashed it away, and gave it to Jesus as a bar mitzvah gift and he went gonzo with it, until he spent it all and had to wander around in robes. Maybe that’s why the lost years have been erased.

Book ’em

If you look down the sidebar to the right of the screen, you’ll note a new addition to this blog: a list of books I’m reading, have read or will read. Eventually, stuff on the “recently read” list will make its way onto a static page with capsule reviews. This feature comes courtesy of the Now Reading plugin for WordPress, by Rob Miller.

Of course, eventually, I’ll try to put a list of books, CDs and DVDs I own up on the web, via Delicious Library and my hacked CueCat. I’m sure you can’t wait.