Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Is it time for a corollary to Godwin's Law?

Godwin's Law is the observation that eventually in a long discussion, usually online, someone will draw a comparison between the opposition and Nazi Germany.  Such comparisons will generally come from the side with the weaker arguments.

It seems that in our political debates, the Nazi comparison is made less and less as years go by (maybe because most poeple alive today have no direct memory of the Holocaust), but other comparisons are being made.  In the past 10 years, I have heard one side or another in political debates compared to the Taliban, and most recently to terrorists in general.  This is not limited to politics, either; I have heard such comparisons made in debates in the Presbyterian Church.

Such comparisons do little to further civil debate, yet they provide stark sound bites for the prime time news shows.  And I suspect that they play more to political extremes than to the larger center that is the key to winning the public debate.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The online supplement to the Denver University Law Review - DULR Online Articles - Ancient Hebrew Militia Law

The online supplement to the Denver University Law Review - DULR Online Articles - Ancient Hebrew Militia Law:

"The American Founders were assiduous students of history. While the well-educated among them read Roman and Greek history in the original languages, some history was well-known by almost everyone, namely the Bible. New Englanders intensely self-identified with ancient Israel—from the first days of settlement in early 17th century (Israel in the wilderness) to the days of the American Revolution, when New England’s “black regiment” of clergymen incited the Revolution as a religious duty, and described the thirteen American colonies as the modern version of the twelve confederate tribes of Israel.[1] Thus, ancient Hebrew militia law is part of the intellectual background of the American militia system, and of the Second Amendment. ..."

The militia  has been a part of the United States law since at least 1792, and before that was considered a duty of able-bodied men to defend their communities when needed.

The Militia Acts of 1792 defined a duty for all able-bodied men between the ages of 20 and 45 (later revised to 18 to 54) to provide themselves with a musket or rifle, powder, powder horn, 20 balls, flints, and other accoutrements for living on the field.  This was in lieu of a standing army of sufficient size to meet any threat, foreign or domestic.

The Militia Act of 1903 redefined the nature of the militia to encompass men between 18 and 45 organized into two categories:  The Reserve Militia, which consisted of all men between the ages defined, and the Organized Militia, which consisted of men who were part of a state militia.  These state militias were designated National Guard, and ultimately had to meet all US Army standards of training and physical fitness.  With various amendments over the years, women serving in the National Guard are considered part of the Organized Militia, and I rather suspect that that with the recent opening up of combat specialties, they may be considered part of the Reserve (or Unorganized) Militia.

The current state of the law, as I understand it, can be found in Title 10, Chapter 13, Section 311 of the United States Code.  The following section (312) lists exemptions to service in the Militia.

All this is of personal interest to me since my son is away for his two week annual training.  His MOS is 12-B (combat engineer) and he reports that the monthly and annual training is intense, geared toward ensuring combat readiness.

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

Fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls up for sale | Fox News

Fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls up for sale | Fox News:

"JERUSALEM –  Parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are up for sale -- in tiny pieces. 
Nearly 70 years after the discovery of the world's oldest biblical manuscripts, the Palestinian family who originally sold them to scholars and institutions is now quietly marketing the leftovers -- fragments the family says it has kept in a Swiss safe deposit box all these years. ..."
The Dead Sea Scrolls have a fascinating history with politics, money, intrigue, corruption and many other factors adding to the story.  I'm not sure how useful all these tiny fragments will be to the understanding a how Scripture has been transmitted through the years, but there seem to be some significant pieces among all the fragments.  There is a fragment of the story of Joseph written in a style of Hebrew characters that were superseded in the 5th century B.C. by the characters still in use today.

The modern state of Israel claims ownership of all Dead Sea Scroll fragments in private hands, as does the Palestinians.  The scrolls were found on what is now the West Bank, but was Jordanian territory in 1947 -- So Jordan has a claim on them as well.

This controversy is going to persist for years to come.  In the meantime the study of these documents and publication of the findings goes on in spite of what is swirling around the researchers.

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Monday, April 08, 2013

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dies after suffering stroke | Fox News

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dies after suffering stroke | Fox News:

"Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, an outspoken woman known to many as "The Iron Lady," has died at 87 after suffering a stroke. 
"It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning,” Thatcher spokesperson Lord Bell said in a statement. 
Thatcher led Britain's Conservatives to three election victories from 1979 to 1990, the longest continuous period in office by a British prime minister since the early 19th century. Alongside former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Thatcher battled against communism and saw the Berlin Wall get torn down in 1989."

She was the first (and thus far the only) woman to break through the gender barrier to become a three-time prime minister of Great Britain, during a time when the Soviet Union collapsed. In fact, according to this article, it was the Soviets who gave her the nickname by which she is known -- The Iron Lady.

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Saturday, April 06, 2013

Café Justo

"Café Justo is a coffee grower cooperative based in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico. We market a pure, organic cofee which is grown, harvested and marketed in the spirit of justice. Our goal is to provide incentives for people to remain on their family lands."
When I wrote my previous posting on on the issues with Fair Trade commodities, I was not aware of this organization based out of Chiapas Mexico.  The Presbyterian Church in the USA has worked with Café Justo for years and has its own set of criteria that rely primarily on the World Fair Trade Organization list of 10 Principles of Fair Trade, but are not limited to those groups that has gone through the fairly expensive process of getting certification by the WFTO.

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Friday, April 05, 2013

Unfair Trade | Foreign Affairs

Unfair Trade | Foreign Affairs:

"Last month, the Fairtrade Foundation staged a march on the British Parliament, a campaign featuring various celebrities and more than 13,000 petitioners, urging UK Prime Minister David Cameron to put issues of ethical consumerism at the center of the upcoming G-8 summit. At first glance, the decision by self-proclaimed ethical consumers to buy fair-trade products seems harmless. What could possibly be wrong if individuals, exercising their right as consumers, choose to promote certain niche markets? Quite a bit, as it turns out. ..."
I saw this linked on The Kruse Kronicle this morning and I think it is worth commenting on.

This is of particular interest to Christians, as many congregations are convinced by fair trade proponents to buy their coffee, since it serves to put more money in the pockets of the growers.  But is that really true?  According to the authors of this article, "only one or two percent of the retail price of an expensive cup of “ethical” coffee goes directly to poor farmers". In addition, the poorer of the farmers cannot afford the high cost of certification as "fair trade", thus limiting this subsidy to more affluent farmers.

I make no claims of knowing enough about economics to really understand all of what is going on, but the questions raised in this article are definitely worth pondering. Is this a move toward a more just economic system, or is it yet another "feel good", but ineffective response to real problems of justice and poverty?

Read the whole article....

NOTE:  the linked article makes several references to the OECD, but does not seem to clearly define it.  More information about the OECD can be found on their web site,

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Apple's iMessage encryption trips up feds' surveillance | Politics and Law - CNET News

Apple's iMessage encryption trips up feds' surveillance | Politics and Law - CNET News:

"Encryption used in Apple's iMessage chat service has stymied attempts by federal drug enforcement agents to eavesdrop on suspects' conversations, an internal government document reveals. 
An internal Drug Enforcement Administration document seen by CNET discusses a February 2013 criminal investigation and warns that because of the use of encryption, "it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices" even with a court order approved by a federal judge. ..."

Well, well, well...

Of course, having used iMessage for communication with other iPhone users, it is obvious that there are TWO plaintext copies of the messages -- one on the sending device and one on the receiving device. And if you have other devices that are tied to the same AppleID and phone number, then they will appear on those devices as well.

Seizing an iPhone that is not protected with a strong passphrase kind of defeats the advantage of the end-to-end encryption.

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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Should the government tax your email? One California official thinks so | Fox News

Should the government tax your email? One California official thinks so | Fox News:

"Your property is taxed. Your income is taxed. Your investments are taxed.
But ... your email?
A California official is bringing new life to the argument that the Internet -- including emails -- is an untapped revenue resource that should be taxed to help local economies. "
Oh good grief!

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Apple Enables Two-Step Verification to Thwart Account Hijacking

Apple Enables Two-Step Verification to Thwart Account Hijacking:

"Apple has turned to two-step verification to improve the security defenses against account hijacking for Apple iTunes and App Store.
The feature—which was announced March 21—works by sending a SMS message with a four-digit verification code in it sent from Apple that users have to enter from a "trusted device" in order to access their accounts."

Well, not quite two-factor, but getting closer.  The weakness in this is that if you are trying to make your iPhone "trusted", the SMS will go right back to that device.  For an iPad or other mobile device, This will provide another layer of verification, but if someone manages to have both their phone and other mobile device stolen, then you are back where you started.

One way to overcome this is to have a passcode on your devices. Hint -- you are NOT limited to a four digit pin.

True two-factor authentication consists of two or more of three independent elements:  Something a user knows, such as a password or a PIN; something a user possesses, such as a smartcard or ATM card; or something the user is, such as a fingerprint or other biometric data.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Pubs 'are becoming second office' | Orange UK

Pubs 'are becoming second office' | Orange UK:
"Pubs are increasingly being used as a second office, with people using them as a work base as well as having a drink, according to a new report. ..."
And you don't even have to travel to the UK to establish your office in comfortable surroundings.

Many may bemoan the idea that you are "at work" at times other than normal work hours, but once there were pagers infringing on our time outside work.  Now there is readily available email and web browsing as long as you have a network connection.  And network connections are becoming ubiquitous at eating and drinking establishments.

I was at a VMWare users group meeting in St. Louis a few months ago and when the fairly large crowd was asked how many used at least one mobile device to access work files, nearly all the participants raised their hands.  And nearly half the room admitted to having 2 or more mobile devices (i.e. smart phone, iPad, laptop, etc.)

So, for many of us professional geeks, the lines between work, social life, and home are becoming blurred. This doesn't mean we are 24/7 workers, but a couple weeks ago when we had two major snowstorms in the course of a week, the university at which I work closed for two days.  This was unprecedented  but we were able to log into our servers, do maintenance, and ensure total availability of the research clusters.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Harvard snoops through professors' email, teaches new lessons in privacy | Fox News

Harvard snoops through professors' email, teaches new lessons in privacy | Fox News:
"Even some of the smartest people can be really dumb about technology. To wit, the recent hubbub at Harvard University over the scandalous, surreptitious searching of academia's finest's e-mails. ..."
As a computer professional for nearly 25 years, I have consistently cautioned users that people like me can gain access to anything on servers we administer. I also tell them that I have better things to do than to snoop around.  People might want to read the Acceptable Use Policy that pertains to their work email.  You might be surprised at what permissions you have given to your IT department.  Even in the Ivory Tower of academic institutions there can be scant regard for rights most of us prefer to take for granted.

The bottom line is that there is NO expectation that what you write in a corporate email account is going to remain private forever. But it should take a court order, FOIA request, or some other sort of due process to extract that information, and not just an ad hoc fishing expedition as it seems to be in this article.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012–2017  [Visual Networking Index (VNI)] - Cisco Systems

Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012–2017  [Visual Networking Index (VNI)] - Cisco Systems
"... By the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2017 there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita. There will be over 10 billion mobile-connected devices in 2017, including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules-exceeding the world's population at that time (7.6 billion). ..."
This is pretty much in line with some statistics I heard at a recent VMware event in St.Louis.  When asked how many people in the auditorium had a mobile device with them, nearly all raised their hand. When asked how many had 2 or more devices with them, a clear majority raised their hand.

I would have to point out that the several hundred people in the auditorium did not represent a random sampling of the public, but with the ubiquity of smart phones it isn't to far a stretch to believe that 2013is the year when the number of mobile devices (laptops, smartphones. tablets, etc) will exceed the population on Earth.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict to become first pontiff in 600 years to resign | Fox News

Pope Benedict to become first pontiff in 600 years to resign | Fox News:
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."
This is not exactly unprecedented, but it's been a long time since a Pope has resigned.  I am not a Catholic and I have no opinion about who should be elected.  I do commend Benedict XVI for his courage in stepping aside.

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Friday, February 01, 2013

Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore

The Presbyterian Hymnal (1991) is at its best when it includes new hymns, and they hit a home run with "Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore" by Cesáreo Gabaráin. The words listed below (in Spanish and English) differ somewhat from what is in the current hymnal:

Original Spanish:

Estrofa 1
1. Tú has venido a la orilla,
no has buscado ni a sabios ni a ricos;
tan sólo quieres que yo te siga.

Señor, me has mirado a los ojos,
sonriendo has dicho mi nombre,
en la arena he dejado mi barca,
junto a ti buscaré otro mar.

Estrofas 2-4
2. Tú sabes bien lo que tengo;
en mi barca no hay oro ni espadas,
Tan sólo redes y mi trabajo.

3. Tú necesitas mis manos,
mi cansancio que a otros descanse,
Amor que quiera seguir amando.

4. Tú, pescador de otros lagos,
ansia eterna de almas que esperan,
amigo bueno, que así me llamas.

English Translation:

Verse 1
1. Lord, you have come to the seashore,
neither searching for the rich nor the wise,
desiring only that I should follow.

O, Lord, with your eyes set upon me,
gently smiling, you have spoken my name;
all I longed for I have found by the water,
at your side, I will seek other shores.

Verses 2-4
2. Lord, see my goods, my possessions;
in my boat you find no power, no wealth.
Will you accept, then, my nets and labor?

3. Lord, take my hands and direct them.
Help me spend myself in seeking the lost,
returning love for the love you gave me.

4. Lord, as I drift on the waters,
be the resting place of my restless heart,
my life's companion, my friend and refuge.

The words and translation came from Spirit and Song.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Beowulf Meets Godsylla

Beowulf Meets Godsylla:
"Meanehwæl, baccat meaddehæle,     monstær lurccen;
Fulle few too many drincce,     hie luccen for fyht."
I stumbled across this a day or so ago, but I could not remember where, so I googled it and found this.  The article has a link to the original source, a book on, which I intend to add to my already too large queue of reading material.

Your mileage may vary, but I found this hilarious.  As one who has made efforts of wading through Beowulf n the original Klingon, it displays the structure of Beowulf (i.e. each line with two sections along with alliteration)

Tolkien geeks may note the the Book of Unfinished Tales has several chapters written in Old English, including much of what was eventually published as The Sillmarillion.

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Friday, January 04, 2013

2013 could be the best year for comet spotting in generations | Crave - CNET

2013 could be the best year for comet spotting in generations | Crave - CNET
"The moon could have some serious competition in 2013. 

No, we're not finally building a real Death Star, no matter how much the American people demand one. I'm talking about a surprise visit from a recently discovered heavenly body known as the comet Ison. The chunk of ice and rock has likely broken free from the Oort cloud and is heading our way right now. If it survives the journey, astronomers say it could become even brighter than our lunar neighbor in the night sky as it makes a pass through our neighborhood next fall."
It'll be nice to have something like this to look forward to in December 2013.  If course, it may be a flop like the recent apocalypse scare when the Mayan calendar rolled over to a new cycle....

Seriously, a lot can happen to a comet on its long journey.  The chances of it hitting anything are remote, but you never know.  It should be interesting to follow this as astronomers are tracking its progress.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Spam maker Hormel buys Skippy peanut butter - Jan. 3, 2013

Spam maker Hormel buys Skippy peanut butter - Jan. 3, 2013:

 "Hormel Foods, the maker of Spam luncheon meat, is paying $700 million to buy the Skippy peanut butter brand from consumer products maker Unilever, the companies announced Thursday."

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Just what I've always wanted -- a peanut butter and spam sandwich

Al Jazeera buys Al Gore's Current TV -

Al Jazeera buys Al Gore's Current TV -

"(CNN) -- The Arab television network Al Jazeera said Wednesday it has acquired Current TV, the U.S. network started by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. 
The buy will give the network -- headquartered in Doha, Qatar -- greater access to the U.S. market."

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Maurice Sendak, author of ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ other children’s books, dies at 83 - The Washington Post

Maurice Sendak, author of ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ other children’s books, dies at 83 - The Washington Post
  "...Sendak, who died early Tuesday in Danbury, Conn., at age 83, four days after suffering a stroke, revolutionized children’s books and how we think about childhood simply by leaving in what so many writers before had excluded. Dick and Jane were no match for his naughty Max...."
Many children grew up loving the characters in Where the Wild Things Are and  Chicken Soup With Rice as well as other works by Maurice Sendak.  We had a rambunctious cat we called Max who tended to get a wild hair.  At times like that we said he had his "cat suit" on.

His art was distinctive, and generated some controversy due to many finding it grotesque and frightening for children.  I'll go with grotesque, but few children I have known have had problems with it.  Adults, on the other hand.....

He designed sets for such ballets as The Nutcracker and the Magic Flute.

It may be my imagination, but I see echos of Sendak in the creatures in the film Labyrinth.

As long as children read his books and pass them on to their children, Maurice Sendak will continue influence children's literature.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

FBI: We need wiretap-ready Web sites - now | Security & Privacy - CNET News

FBI: We need wiretap-ready Web sites - now | Security & Privacy - CNET News
"The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance. ..."
This is troubling.  Will more intrusion into our privacy make us safer?  Will this backdoor be used for fishing expeditions, or will it be subject only to a court order?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Watergate figure Chuck Colson reportedly near death – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs

Watergate figure Chuck Colson reportedly near death – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs
"Washington (CNN) – Chuck Colson, the convicted Watergate figure turned evangelist, is near death after suffering a brain hemorrhage earlier this month, his media representatives said Wednesday. ..."
There are many people who claim to "find God" in prison but not so many who maintain their ministry nearly 40 years after their release from prison.  Chuck Colson has ministered to inmates over the years and has been a force for good in our nation's penal system.

As I read the comments on this piece, I was shocked at the depth of hate expressed by what seems to me to be a large proportion of the commentators.  These comments are split between persons expressing personal hate toward Colson, and persons expressing general hate toward religion. I can only hope that these comments do not represent a random sampling of public opinion (and being self-selected, most assuredly do not).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What President Am I?

I saw this over at The Kruse Kronicle. Mike is Eisenhower. So who was I to be?

(This has been sitting in my drafts folder for over 4 years, so it was either delete it or publish it.I chose to publish, albeit a little late.....)

Which Great US President Are You Most Like?
created with
You scored as Theodore Roosevelt
26th President, in office from 1901-1909
Born: 1858 Died: 1919

Theodore Roosevelt

Abraham Lincoln

George Washington

Ronald Reagan

Thomas Jefferson

Franklin Roosevelt

Dwight Eisenhower

Lyndon Johnson

John Kennedy

Harry Truman

Woodrow Wilson


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did - Forbes

How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did - Forbes
"Every time you go shopping, you share intimate details about your consumption patterns with retailers. And many of those retailers are studying those details to figure out what you like, what you need, and which coupons are most likely to make you happy. Target, for example, has figured out how to data-mine its way into your womb, to figure out whether you have a baby on the way long before you need to start buying diapers. ..."
This is not new.  I have been aware of this potential for about 20 years -- when debit cards were starting to take off and scanning technology was being adopted by many of the "big box" stores.

There had been talk in various computer security groups regarding the scanning technology and the ability to tie items purchased to a particular debit card or credit card.  The piece that was lacking 20 years ago was the ability to mine the large amounts of data that potentially could be collected.  Apparently that is no longer an issue.

An analysis of a family's buying habits can now tell you the reproductive status of  members of the family, their overall health, what they like to eat, where they like to go for entertainment, and many more aspects of their lives.  One could even make an educated guess as to political stands by noting, for example, a change in buying habits that correlates to a particular party's call for a boycott or donations to various causes.

I never have been all that paranoid when it comes to privacy online.  My life tends to be a open book, and pretty boring at that.  But this effort by Target crosses a line.  Yes, I know that Google gmail can put up targeted ads based on keywords in email, and Facebook can use your profile to do pretty much the same thing.  But only I see those ads.  And I refuse as a matter of principle to click through on any of that advertizing.  In this case, a young girl's sexual behavior became known through data mining to Target, which then sent "appropriate" coupons to the the girl's address. And all this significantly before the girl's pregnancy would be been obvious.

Whatever one thinks about sexual activity among young teenagers, this situation just does not pass the "smell test".  Target needs to rethink their methods.