Here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own

thank you,

 

Listening to this, I wonder why the title wasn’t the line that defined Kennedy’s first inaugural. My favorite line:

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Yeah, let’s seek that, ok?

Cyberwar 1.0 beta

singularityCan you believe it?

People are voluntarily joining botnets!

I mean. Botnets? Intentional zombification of your computer? Are you sure that’s … you know … wise?

If Wikileaks broke the Espionage Act, so did the NYT!

Because they got the data too. Others who have broken the 90 year old Espionage Act include e.e. cummings.

Don’t worry – Congress is ready with the SHIELD act!

That’s the Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination Act for those of you who were worried that there wasn’t an awesome acronym!

Houston. We have a little problem handling our approach to the Singularity, please advise.

The photo is by sf à gogo and you can see her work in the Flickriver.

Home from the War

Welcome Home, War from Mother Jones talks about how the technologies pioneered in overseas military action seem to always find their way home. From centralized data, covert penetration, and disinformation developed during the first counter-insurgency campaign in the Philippines up to the present day, it’s a chilling look at what a democracy doesn’t want coming home from the war.

Pushing ever closer to the boundaries of what present-day technology can do, by early 2008, US forces were also collecting facial images accessible by portable data labs called Joint Expeditionary Forensic Facilities, linked by satellite to a biometric database in West Virginia. “A war fighter needs to know one of three things,” explained the inventor of this lab-in-a-box. “Do I let him go? Keep him? Or shoot him on the spot?”

A future is already imaginable in which a US sniper could take a bead on the eyeball of a suspected terrorist, pause for a nanosecond to transmit the target’s iris or retinal data via backpack-sized laboratory to a computer in West Virginia, and then, after instantaneous feedback, pull the trigger.

This kind of stuff creeps the crap right out of me, especially when I read that the Obama Administration is expanding (rather than rolling back) a lot of the national security measures developed during the Bush administration.

The photo is Warrior Spirit by country_boy_shane. Shane has some amazing photoshop & photography skillz – check his work out via Flickriver.

Home at last

Another Andy McFarlane, this one 47 and serving under the Union Jack in Afganistan writes:

Repatriation

The leviathan of the sky does land
In England’s green and pleasant land
Its cargo more precious than gold
The body of a hero, bold

Once the giant’s engines stopped
The cargo ramp is gently dropped
Carried by six on shoulders true
The hero is saluted by the crew

The coffin draped in Union Jack
Is slowly carried out the back
Out of the dark and into light
Slowly down the ramp and to the right

The six approach the hearse all black
And place the hero gently in the back
The six then turn and march away
Their duty has been done this day

Politicians usually have much to say
No sign of them near here this day.
They hide away and out of danger
Much easier if the hero is a stranger

The hearse with its precious load
Moves slowly out onto the road
The floral tributes line the route
While comrades snap a smart salute

At the edge of a Wiltshire town
The cortege slows its pace right down
The streets are packed, many deep
Some throw flowers, most just weep

The crowd have come to say farewell
The church bell rings a low death knell
Regimental standards are lowered down
As the hero passed through the town

The cortege stops and silence reigns
The townsfolk feel the family’s pain.
The nations’ flag lowered to half mast
Our brave hero is home at last

How many times has the Union Jack or Old Glory or Whatever They Affectionately Call Your Flag come “home” atop a coffin? And how many more?

It’s hard to select a photo of someone else’s flag. M,! didn’t name hers. It’s part of her i am not a robot set.

The Elephant and the Blind Men

Addo Elephant National Park by exfordy

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The above is the beginning of The Blind Men and the Elephant, an ancient Indian tale translated in 1873 by John Godfrey Saxe. Please go read this if it’s an unfamiliar tale … or read it anyway, as it’s stood the test of time.

The story came to me as I was pondering an assortment of modern calamities. It made me think about how our work on these problems is so remarkably compartmentalized.

We’ll spend $800,000,000,000.00 (or so) bailing out people who have been playing Games With Money: Other People’s Version. We’ll wonder if we should spend 5% of that staggering sum on three companies that are responsible for the jobs of 1,000,000 to 3,000,000 people (depending on who you ask) and the pension and retirement of many more. We’ll say that Social Security has a $10,400,000,000,000 shortfall looming (actually, the Bush Administration said that in 2005). We’ll lament at the fall of lake levels and the rise of seas and the melting of the Arctic and the death of species.

We’ll do everything, it seems, but sit down and take a good look at the whole picture, to see that we can no longer borrow from a future if we can’t figure out how to repay the debt.

The photo is Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa by exfordy* and can be enjoyed in their South Africa, 1999 slideshow (set). He writes:

This bull walked right by the car. If I had kept the window open I could have touched it. We had been told that if we stayed in our car we would be OK. A Japanese tourist had got out of his car the previous week and had been killed by an elephant.

*exfordy as in “Ex Ford Employee” – what are the odds that Michigan-crazy me I would find and choose this photo from the vasty herd of elephant photos under Creative Commons license on Flickr?????