Identity…

I had planned to save this for the lead off entry of What Annoys Jeff this Week, but the more I think on it, the more it deserves a stand alone place here – a permanent memorial to governmental incompetence that adds insult to injury.

The Office of Personnel Management – the central human resource office for the Executive Branch – over the last four months allowed person, persons, or nation-states unknown to access the personnel records of as many as 4 million current and former federal employees. I don’t know if I’m one of those employees yet because even though the news broke in wide circulation Friday – and OPM has known about it since at least April – they still have not notified the people whose information is “out there” in the wild. With four million records up for grabs, it feels like a safe bet that some or my information is in that mix.

“But,” they say, “this happens to the private sector all the time.” That’s partially true, but not nearly the same. This isn’t someone taking a quick imprint of your credit card and scamming you for a 2000 handbag. We’re talking about potentially every shred of information that Uncle Sham has collected about his employees – name, social security number, credit record, mother’s maiden name, names and addresses of people interviewed for security clearance checks, evaluations, bank account numbers, basically every bit of data someone needs to prove that you are you in the electronic world.

So that’s the injury.

The insult? Well OPM has very helpfully copied and pasted some information about how to prevent identity theft by “monitoring financial account statements and immediately report any suspicious or unusual activity to financial institutions.” Oh, they’re probably going to throw in some low-bidder credit monitoring service for as few months as they think they can get away with, but the message from echelons higher than reality thus far has been “Adios my friends, you’re on your own.”

Network security is hard. Got it. But historically the business of government is to do what is hard – to do what the individual can’t do on their own – build the interstates, land on the moon, forge a nation out of 13 newly independent states, and then conquer a continent. If they can’t be bothered to keep the password updated on the damned human resources database, honest to God I don’t have a clue what we’re even doing anymore.

The God of Happy Accidents…

There’s something that’s been bugging me for the last few days. It’s one of those things that most don’t consider a topic for polite company and I’ve swung from one side to the other debating whether this was the right place to even bring it up… or whether I should bring it up at all or just let it be one of those questions that agitates me quietly forever in the back of my head. Since I use this site as a platform for pretty much every other flavor of Buddycontroversy, I don’t suppose religion should be more off limits here than any other topic has been in the past.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m not exactly what you’d call religious. I’m not sure I can even get away with describing myself as “spiritual,” as many people seem to prefer these days. It’s not exactly that I’m anti-religion, but I’ve never quite been able to accept faith as the ultimate evidence of things not seen. I’ve always liked my evidence to be something a little more corporeal. Despite that, I’ve always had a healthy level of curiosity about world religions and have a tendency to pay attention when they are discussed academically.

This past weekend I heard a theologian argue that we can’t really blame God when something bad happens. In the next breath, this same panel member argued that we should praise God for all the good things that we enjoy in the world. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where my train of thought came off the rails. It seems to me that if we’re going to worship an all knowing, all powerful deity that is responsible for every good thing that happens, the very nature of an omnipotent God demands that He also be responsible for bad things when they happen. To think otherwise suggests a divine duality – one god responsible for all good things and another responsible for only bad things. That’s a pretty problematic concept to tinker with when the world’s major religious groups are pretty well established as monotheistic enterprises.

After writing that last paragraph, someone is sure to argue that I just don’t like religion in general or Christianity in particular. Because I know my own mind, I can say that’s not exactly true. I’m fine with religion and with Christianity (as long as they’re not being forced on anyone at the point of a sword)… what chaps my ass is hypocrisy. If someone of faith had the stones to go on national television and simply say “sometimes God just lets bad shit happen” I think I’d be fine with it, but to absolve your particular deity from responsibility because it doesn’t fit with the traditional narrative that God is Good requires a level of mental gymnastics that I’m not comfortable carrying out.

Although I’m not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination, it seems to be that if there is a God and He is, in fact, all powerful and all knowing, then we’re doing Him a disservice by only giving Him accolades for the happy accidents of life. Sorry, but if He wants the credit when things are going well, He’s going to have to share in the blame when it’s gone to hell in a handbag, even if it’s only because free will was His idea in the first place. How’s that for a controversial stance?