Monthly Archives: August 2004

Abortion vs. Death Penalty

Recent debate has exploded concerning the place of Catholicism in politics.  Senator John Kerry is the first Catholic presidential candidate sense the Roe vs Wade decision in 1973.  Historically, Rome has held abortion to be the single greatest moral & social issue in modern history (placing it in similar category as the Holocaust.)  Senator Kerry is a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade, supporting it through all 3 trimesters (including “partial-birth” abortions), and even supporting minors right to abortion without parental notification.  This position sits “badly” with many practicing Catholics who see Kerry’s duality as an affront to the very institution they hold dear.

There are, however, a number of Catholic voters, who disagree with Roe v. Wade, that consider Kerry’s position on abortion to be an unfortunate downside to an otherwise superior candidate.  A position that effectively must be pursued to even be considered as a candidate for nomination in the Democratic Party.  These Catholics often don’t see the abortion issue as a deal breaker; citing other Catholic issues of importance that are supported by Kerry; but not supported by President Bush (like the death penalty and the war in Iraq.)

At first the abortion vs. death penalty (or Iraq for that matter) comparison seems ridiculous. More abortions happen in 3 hours than all the death penalty punishments carried out in an entire year. How can the two position possibly be compared, let alone be used as justification for ignoring Senator Kerry’s abortion position? But the comparison is made and even defended. The argument goes something like this 1) murder is murder; 2) whether a state murders one person or 100 people, its still murder; 3) therefor, its not the number of murders thats important but the fact that both candidates support state sponsor murder.

Well, my wife has convinced me to stop telling people, who make this argument, what kind of moron they are and actually bring doctrine proof of their moronity. The best resource I have found (besides New Advent which I have mentioned previously) is The Holy See, the on line location of the Vatican Archives.  It contains links to just about every public statement any Pope has made in the last 30 years.  Anyone doing Catholic research on abortion should (at the very least) read Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae.  No doubt I will be writing more about this topic later.  Considering that one out of every five people in America consider them selfs Catholic, it will no doubt be a bigger and bigger issue in the upcoming election.

All is Quite

Two of my favorite literary quotes of all time come from “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. I ran into them a couple days ago and thought I would share:

“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”

–Chapter 10

“The life that has borne me through these years is still in my hands and my eyes. Whether I have subdued it, I know not. But so long as it is there it will seek its own way out, heedless of the will that is within me.”

–Chapter 12

Where is GRUB when you need it

Ever wanted to know how to reverse engineer an embedded device?  Two spectacular articles by Jim Buzbee walk you though getting system level access and installing alternative services on a Linksys NSLU2.  The articles do a great job of teaching you the ins-and-outs of accessing Linux based embedded devices.  You can follow future progress (and future tutorials) from Jim’s NSLU2 website.

The other great link gleamed from the NSLU2 tutorials is to Dan Kegel’s Cross Platform build chain script.  Historically building cross-toolchain for use in embedded systems development was frustratingly difficult. Dan has this process fairly easy.  With two-thirds of embedded devices running Linux , the two tutorials and Dan’s script make for a perfect introduction into the world of embedded systems.

knocking on port knocking

Port knocking has the potential to be an additional layer of protection available to highly security conscience network administrators.  However, just like any innovation, it is not without its weaknesses.  The author of the following article discusses some of the problems that can occur with port knocking.  The primary issue the author identifies is the use of new definitions for existing security concepts that are already well researched.  This has caused some administrators to fail to identify  the natural security limitations of port knocking.

Iraq and Bin Laden

Two articles that I ran into today, the first is a campaign piece from myway news.  In it Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry admits that he would have voted for the war regardless of WMD.  The statement actually improves my opinion of Senator Kerry because it was obvious to anyone who read his Iraq opinions prior to the election campaign that he was a big supporter of the war.  By making this statement he shows some honesty on this topic (something I have long sense given up finding in a Democratic President.)

The second article was sent to me by Jason Mical. Its a report by Alan Cullison on his discovery of an Al-Qaeda computer hard drive (actually two of them) in late 2001.  After reading some of the letters written by Abu Abdullah and Osama Bin Laden it is amazing these people were able to organize a trip to the telephone booth let alone the largest terrorist attack in American history.

and what did he ever do for us?

“Propose to an Englishman any principle, or any instrument, however admirable, and you will observe that the whole effort of the English mind is directed to find a difficulty, a defect, or an impossiblity in it. If you speak to him of a machine for peeling a potato, he will pronounce it impossible: if you peel a potato with it before his eyes, he will declare it useless, because it will not slice a pineapple.”

–Babbage said this with regard to his Analytical Engine, thus becoming the world’s first programmer.

AES Cipher System

The successor to DES encryption approved by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology is called AES.  The basis for AES is a wonderfully interesting block cypher called the Rijndael algorithm.  If you are interested in Rijndael or  block cypher encryption you can find out more about it here.   A great place to find brief outlines of several of the more common types of cryptography can be found here.  If you want to understand the basic structure of public key cryptography, this is a good place.

While I am on the subject of cryptography, let me post my public key information.  Anyone interested in secure contact with my can use my publicly listed 1024 bit DSA key (ID: DC430CA6).

Usage Stats

On a regular basis I am asked market share questions.  This is mostly in relation to software usage and is used to make application development decisions.  Two of the best (or most commonly quoted) usage statistics sites are w3schools and Google’s zeitgeist.  Either source has their strengths and weaknesses; but combined they make for a very useful informational tool. 

While I am on the topic of market share IDC has predicted that Linux has moved into the number 2 slot on the desktop OS market.  Today the Mac, tomorrow the world…