So the government have passed the Investigatory Powers Act, which is pretty terrible, but it turns out it is worse than I realised! So perhaps it is not a good time to work in IT in the UK?
So, I use PlusNet as my ISP. I have an email address with them where they send updates about my account. It's also been used in the past to sign up to various things that I haven't bothered to update to a new email address. PlusNet's email servers do not require authentication to send email from my home connection, which is fair enough really. But they also don't support SSL for authentication from my connection. So my username and password (which is unique to this account) has to be sent in plain text, now as this is to my ISP over my ISP connection (and I trust my own network) it's not the end of the world. However, I also have a shiny smart phone, and that allows me to connect to my own email server, over SSL (that until recently wasn't as secure as it should be) as it should be when connecting over the internet, from untrusted, or unknown networks. It also allows me to use multiple different email inboxes at once. So I could add my PlusNet email address. They even have a handy guide on setting up email on android phones. And that's where the problems start. That guide sets up email without SSL, or TLS, but it requires username and password authentication. So I'd only be able to use it on my home network. What happens if I forget to turn email sync off? My details would be put at risk!
So what should a good sysadmin do? Should I leave the ISP email only on my home PC? Should I take the risk and add the email to my phone anyway?
Well as a paranoid sysadmin I wasn't willing to take the risk. And that was that. But frankly that was annoying me, so I decided to set up an SSL terminator for my ISP email using my own SSL cert. So I can get my email, from my ISP confident in the knowledge that only my ISP can intercept the username and password pair that I use with my ISP. I use non-standard ports for the ISP connections, and listen using stunnel. This would be a problem if I was supporting users as it would add a level of complexity to the instructions I'd have to give them, but as I only have to support myself I can cope.
So a number of concepts and ideas and comments have been floating around my head of late, and none of them have been significant enough, or have I formulated my thoughts enough, to want to pass comment on them on my blog. But it has occurred to me that they have a common thread, and that is that there is a price to pay, and we, as a society, must choose the price we are willing to pay!
So an old friend of mine has started to look into religion. She is a person who I consider rational and intelligent. So why should I care about this? Well I care because I fear they may find religion, and this will shake my view of them as rational, and in turn my view of the world around me. It is an entirely selfish fear, but alas not one I think is entirely irrational.
So to start with, before I explain why I fear my friend will become religious I should explain some background. As I have said I credit them with intelligence, and rationality, religion is inherently not rational, it is founded in faith. Also it is worth noting that I myself have looked into religion in the past, and I have not found religion in the process. They, like I, are atheist (believe that their is no god). So what is the problem?
Well to start, they are atheist, but it is not the same passionate, burning atheism that I am afflicted with (and it is an affliction), they are more agnostic than that, whereas you would be no more able to convince me that God exists than you would be able to convince me that I am a fish. It is this atheism, founded in hatred, that has prevented me from becoming religious, not my rationality. My friend is far more rational than me on this, and so a good argument could sway her. Indeed the whole reason I ever started to investigate religion was so I could tear it apart wherever I saw it (I have since mellowed, but I have not changed my beliefs), my friend is looking into it out of curiosity. Then there is religion itself, belief is an essential part of life, you must believe in something to be able to go about your daily life, even if that belief is as simple as "my experiences are an accurate reflection of my life". Religion uses this, and seductively has answers for some of the harder questions in life "why are we here?" "what is it all for?" "what is right and wrong?". These are not easy questions to answer to an atheist, but religion answers them, and does so comprehensively (although I would argue not necessarily correctly). As I have said we need belief, so why not extend that belief to include answers to the hard questions? Especially when you consider what else religion offers, hope, that there is meaning to your suffering (whatever form that may take), hope that loved ones we have lost have found happiness, and hope that death is not the final meaningless end to life for us. All of this offers a great deal to anyone who will just believe. My life is good, I have troubles, but nothing I can't deal with, my friend suffers from mental health problems, and is far from wealthy, so religion offers far more to her than it could to me.
So why does this bother me? Well for the same reason I never became religious, even when I was at my most vulnerable to the hope and answers religion offered. I have a deep seated, and irrational, hatred of religion, I recognise it now, and it is a weakness, but one that informs my view of religion and the religious. I see religion as irrational, foolish, stupid even. If my friend became religious, I would struggle to reconcile my view of them with my view of the religious, doing so would require me to question my beliefs, such that they are, and this is a problem. We all need faith to function, faith in something that allows us to get on with our lives, how can we cope without that faith? How will I cope without mine?
So, Richard Dawkins has courted controversy on twitter, this tweet
Should I have used the sensitive subject of rape to illustrate a logical point? My answer is here http://t.co/tSPlTEbXwB
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) July 30, 2014
links to a blog of his about the controversy, and this post is an attempt by me to respond.
First off, Richard Dawkins, in his blog discusses the idea that all topics, no matter how sensitive, or controversial, should be open to rational, dispassionate, debate. Now on this point I agree, rational debate is important, and on particularly emotional subjects the only way to have meaningful debate is to do so dispassionately. However, that said, the thing about sensitive topics is that they are, well, sensitive and that means they need to be handled sensitively. That is where me and Richard Dawkins appear to differ. The tweets that started this controversy are discussed in the blog linked above (you really should read what he's done in his own words to understand the point I am trying to make) but they were about one evil being worse than a different, but related, evil. That is not the issue, the problem is that Richard Dawkins is a prominent man, who attracts a lot of media attention, went onto a very open, and public forum and raised the subject of rape, in an insensitive manner without (or possibly worse, with) considering the impact it would have on those who have suffered, and been traumatised by, rape. Now if I were to go into a busy town centre and yell "Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think
that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think." (a direct quote from the blog) what do you think would be my fate? I would probably be arrested for causing a breach of the peace, and possibly confronted violently by people upset by my choice of topic, and choice of method of airing that topic (hopefully I would be arrested before suffering serious harm). And this is the point I want to make. Open, rational, dispassionate, debate of sensitive topics needs to be done in a way that allows those who would be traumatised by the subject to refrain from taking part. Yelling about it in a crowded space is just wrong, getting upset with people made angry by your forcing them to face an emotionally loaded, potentially traumatic, subject is just silly, and Richard Dawkins, in posting that on twitter has essentially done the internet equivalent of walking into a crowded space and yelled at the top of his lungs about a massively emotional subject. Being a renowned evolutionary biologist, and self appointed spokesman for atheism, does not entitle you to be a massive dick!
So, I have seen on twitter that OK Cupid, the online dating website, has decided to block users of firefox because the Mozilla foundation have appointed Brendan Eich as their new CEO.
As I understand it the issue arises because Mr Eich supported a legal campaign in the state of California to prevent Gay marriage becoming legal.
Now I don't wish to say that the people at OK cupid do not have the right to do this (it is their site after all), and nor do I wish to condone Mr Eich's position on gay marriage, but this action still gives me an uneasy feeling.
I'm not sure why, but I feel this is part of a worrying trend, not in the gay rights movement as such, that just happens to be the issue at hand this time, but within many movements around issues of morality. The idea that there is a right opinion, and anything that opposes this needs to be crushed, and more to the point that the fact that the activists involved seem to think that they have an absolute right to enforce this. This strikes me as a decidedly un-tolerant trend. Like the no-more page 3 movement (which has also been brought to my attention today on twitter) the trend apears to be for people to want others to think like them, and anything less is unacceptable, if you don't agree, you shouldn't be allowed to disagree.
I dislike this trend, why can't we accept that some times people disagree with us? As long as no-one is imposing their views upon us what is wrong with allowing them their own opinion? (and yes I recognise that the actions that OK cupid are reacting too were a case of someone trying to impose his views on the laws of California, but he failed)