Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Firewalls on Fire

The concept of a firewall is a useful one: if there is a definite chance of something flammable catching on fire and you have to be next to it, then it’s an excellent idea to put a wall of nonflammable material between you and it. Automobiles, for instance, contain the vital ingredients of explosive fuel under pressure, electrical sparks, red-hot exhaust manifolds and humans. Putting a firewall between the car’s engine and the humans in the salon seems like a good one.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, “During 2003-2007 [in the US], the 267,600 highway vehicle [fires] reported per year caused an average of 441 civilian deaths, 1,326 civilian fire injuries, and $1.0 billion in direct property damage. On average, 31 highway vehicle fires were reported per hour. These fires killed one person a day. Overall, highway vehicles fires were involved in 17% of reported U.S. fires, 12% of U.S. fire deaths, 8% of U.S. civilian fire injuries, and 9% of the direct property damage from reported fires.” This would lead us to believe that the firewalls built into cars are no more than 67% effective; still, they seem like a good idea.

I once ended up with a used car—a generally very-hard-to-kill slant-6 Chrysler station wagon—that had been Mickey-Moused by a Middle Eastern car mechanic who apparently liked to kill people, preferably with fire. Whatever material was originally packed between the two sheet metal baffles that made up the firewall (asbestos?) was long gone, and he replaced it with… pine needles! This worked great while the needles were fresh and moist—the engine was quiet and the salon was cool—but once they dried out the engine’s roar started hurting my ears and my feet became painfully hot. I used this car for a while anyway—to haul floor sanding equipment around—then traded it away for a rusty old Fiat which a friend of mine later managed to fold in half—but that’s another story. The guy I traded it to then deposited it in my driveway, with the transmission seized, so the rear wheels wouldn’t turn—how on Earth did he do that? The flatbed driver who then hauled it off to a junkyard told me not to call him again.

And so there are two potential readings for the term “firewall”: one metaphorical, via an elision—a fire protection wall—and one literal—it’s on fire; it’s a wall; it’s a fire wall. The distinction is a useful one to those who like to kill people with fire. Most people aren’t versed in the finer points of semantics and such fine distinctions are lost on them. When someone in an expensive suit with shiny white teeth, a firm handshake and a steady gaze tells you that “Yeah, it’s a firewall (snort-chuckle-snigger-stifle-guffaw…)” this makes you feel safe rather than unsafe.

Feelings aside, the expression “being safe” also has a buit-in double entendre: it can mean both “protected” and “unthreatening.” Thus, US troops fighting in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and numerous other countries around the world are keeping you safe—protected from foreign enemies while keeping these foreign enemies safe—unthreatening to US interests. The police inside the US are also supposedly there to keep people safe—protected from domestic criminals and terrorists. And there is supposed to be a firewall between them: the police are supposed to keep the peace, not turn the “homeland” into a war zone. It bears noting that around ¾ of the casualties in the recent US military actions in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria were women, children and the elderly—uncounted tens and hundreds of thousands of them—all of them unarmed and unthreatening. Theoretically, that sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen inside the “homeland.”

But if you look carefully, that firewall is more of a “fire wall”—a wall that’s on fire. The police are armed with military weapons, including armored vehicles, heavy machine guns and mortars. And they shoot to kill with minimal provocation, just as they do in a war zone. (Quite a lot of deaf people are getting shot simply for not following orders shouted at them by police.)

Why is this particular “fire wall” on fire? Just look! Soldiers return from tours of duty during which they kill numerous unarmed civilians, including lots of women and children. Quite a few have PTSD and develop funny quirks, such as a propensity for choking out their sleeping spouses during nighttime panic attacks. Quite a few also have permanent brain damage from being repeatedly concussed by shock waves which make them unfit to serve in any capacity where the risk of injury is anything more than a paper cut. But what they often do upon their return is join local police and fire departments or work in private security. This firewall isn't just on fire—it has a revolving door built into it!

But most people aren’t versed in the finer points of semantics and when someone in an expensive suit with shiny white teeth, a firm handshake and a steady gaze tells them that “Yeah, we’re here to keep you safe (snort-chuckle-snigger-stifle-guffaw…)” they feel protected rather than targeted for instant deactivation.

There are many other firewalls that are either on fire or ready to burst into flames:

1. There is supposed to be a firewall between bankers and bank robbers. And yet if you watched the goings-on around the 2008 financial meltdown and thereafter, it was noticeable that the “banksters” both ran the banks and robbed the banks—both their clients and the government. They used the crisis as an opportunity to put themselves in a position to threaten the entirety of global finance with instant destruction should their conditions not be met.

2. There used to be a firewall between doctors and drug companies: the drug companies supplied the drugs and the doctors prescribed the drugs with the interests of their patients in mind. But that firewall is gone: doctors routinely receive a wide variety of incentives from drug companies to simply push the drugs to their patients. One result of this is that millions of people have been made into heroin addicts: the doctors get them hooked, and then once the prescriptions run out the addicts shift to the cheaper heroin. On that note…

3. There used to be a firewall between the government (which enforced anti-drug laws) and the drug dealers (which violated them). Now the US government is the biggest drug pusher of them all, overseeing the production of most of the world’s heroin as part of its occupation of Afghanistan. As a result of their effort, every 10th Afghani is now a drug addict. This business is quite profitable and has the additional benefit of decimating the US population through drug overdoses, obviating the need to find ways to employ it.

4. There used to be a firewall between the terrorists and those tasked with fighting terrorism, but this is no longer the case. ISIS—which is, thankfully, close to being wiped out in Syria and Iraq, but popping up in other places—was largely a US creation and armed with US weapons. Terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and in many other places are supplied from US military bases. Terrorist attacks on US soil have a strange tendency to feature perpetrators well-known to the FBI and are often specially coached for the attack by FBI agents. Meanwhile in the Ukraine (which is now a US protectorate) there is an ongoing topsy-turvy “anti-terrorist operation” in which “terrorist” Ukrainian troops shell residential districts wherein civilian “anti-terrorists” apparently reside.

5. There used to be a firewall between the US government and other governments; other governments’ agents couldn’t just walk in through the front door and tell the US government what to do. But now it turns out that the favors of the US government have been bid out in all sorts of ways: shady political donations and outright bribes have flooded in from around the world, making a joke of the principle that the government serves its people. A particularly egregious case is Israel: it is often hard to see much daylight between US and Israeli policies, with Israel in control of the agenda. Those who make too much of this fact are accused of anti-Semitism. (The term “Semitism” is a curious one: neither a racial nor an ethnographic term, it relates to a mythical character named Shem who, according to legend, lived sometime after Yahweh’s six-day stint at creationism.)

6. Perhaps most importantly, there used to be a firewall between friend and foe. Shooting at your own side, hilariously termed “friendly fire,” used to be considered a bad thing. But although US allies around the world, whom the US is supposed to be keeping “safe,” have been rather slow to notice which of the two meanings of “safe” happens to be in play, they are now sitting up and taking notice. This is why Turkey and Saudi Arabia are now negotiating the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems. You see, the weapons they purchased from the US have built-in friend-or-foe identification systems which cause them to refuse to fire at US planes and missiles, rendering them useless in case the US decides to render these countries safe-as-in-harmless. But the Russian systems just say “Target acquired; whatcha wanna do with it?” And that would make these countries feel safe-as-in-protected.

With all of these firewalls on fire, the US can be said to be at war with everyone—both with itself and with the entire world. And with that there remains just one more firewall to catch fire: the one within the US which separates those who give orders from those who follow them. Once that happens, those who issue the orders will be rendered safe—safe as in “fully cooked.”


Karl K said...

I am looking forward to the day that many police pensions are a casualty of "austerity." I think we already saw a small example in Dallas.

So, we might be close elsewhere (Illinois, for example).


Norman Conquest said...

Thanks again Dmitry for another thought-provoking and funny essay. In the US today, everything is backwards (or inverted) it's impossible to tell which. But it is clear that someone has been stuffing our firewalls with pine needles.

The Short Story Man said...

Brother, you continue to outdo yourself.

And as a bonus,,, for only the second time that I can remember in my lifetime is the use of the word "elision" in a published article outside of academia. Thoroughly enjoyed that.

DeVaul said...

That was a hilarious story, and well told. It is not easy to admit that you have been defrauded, especially in such a blatant way. I also was swindled once (yes, by another sociopath who was also a convicted felon) and I lost my entire savings. To make matters worse, I was not notified of this until I was living on the other side of the world — penniless.

I decided to write down the entire story of how it happened so that my children and grandchildren will understand (hopefully) that if something sounds too good to be true, then it is. This knowledge does not come from your mind, which is always fooled by a clever manipulator, but rather from a kind of sixth sense deep within us that tells you that this person is lying or that a certain scheme is to be avoided despite all outward assurances that it is totally legitimate.

After learning to acknowledge and follow my sixth sense, the scams ended. The trick is convincing your children or other young people to do the same. Without the horrible memory of having been scammed, it is hard for them to believe it could ever happen to them.

Chris Ferris said...

Good read. When my sixth sense was telling me over 10 years ago that this system is totally corrupt and collapsing I decided to join my local fire department as an on-call 1st responder. I was surprised at how many car fires there actually are in any given year. We easily have around 10 per year. Most are in parking lots or along the side of the road. So far there has only been one fatality, and that was because it was the result of a crash and the driver was trapped inside. So those stats do not surprise me. And actually putting out cars fire (when not occupied) is kind of fun. And firewalls in housing is just another layer of sheetrock that hopefully extends up through the attic. So maybe, just maybe when my sixth sense was signalling "firewalls on fire, firewalls on fire" I took it was "fire protection walls" and hence signed up.

Barry Kleiner said...

"Putting a firewall between the car's engine and the humans in the salon seems like a good idea".
Please explain use of "salon"?

Dmitry Orlov said...

A.k.a. saloon, clumsily referred to as "passenger compartment" by some.

AlaBikeDr said...

The firewalls I am concerned about are the computer security software packages that are required, sold as effective, and work intermittently to exclude amateur thieves but open up our online activities to professional hacking. Thus complicated replaces simple and then its your damn fault you didn't download the latest patch that was actually a con...It's never anyone's fault that things do not work as planned and the sophisticated phone trees deliver you to a useless interlocutor that just wants you to score their assistance as a 5 out of 5.

Convenience! Yea right, for whom?