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Religion, Politics, & Culture: Defined and Explained


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sony Drops CONNECT but Resumes Rootkits

Sony Electronics has its own music download site CONNECT™ Music Service. After several years of using a proprietary music format they are throwing in the proverbial towel and joining the rest of the technology world and adopting Windows Media and MP3 as their music standards. It appears that the Connect Service is going away but there is no indication if there is a replacement or they are getting out of the download business. Since Sony owns about half the music copyrights in the Western World, I would look to a partnership agreement with someone like Apple or Microsoft if they get out of running a download site.

Below is the core of the press release:

Today Sony announced its intent to move to a Windows Media Technology platform for Walkman® products in the United States, Canada and Europe. We strongly believe that the decision to embrace a more open platform for these devices will enable us to provide you with a better overall experience. As a result of this change, we will be phasing out the CONNECT™ Music Service based on Sony’s ATRAC audio format in North America and Europe. Specific timing will vary by region depending on market demand, but will not be before March 2008.

We are fully committed to helping you through this important transition away from the CONNECT Music Service and providing you with the best possible guidance on how to successfully transfer your music library to an MP3 or Windows Media-compatible format, should you wish to do so. We recommend that you use any outstanding promotional codes, account credits or gift certificates available in your music account prior to March 2008, but even after the store closes you will continue to be able to play, manage, and transfer the music in your SonicStage library and on your existing ATRAC devices. If you obtain a new device, all of Sony’s new Walkman music and video players will support MP3 or Windows Media Audio format.

Sony Rootkit in USB Drives
http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2007/08/29/tech-sony.html

Sony Corp. is up to its old tricks again, hiding software that can be exploited by hackers in a line of portable USB drives, a Finnish security firm says.

The fingerprint reader software included with Sony’s MicroVault USM-F line installs a driver in a hidden folder that can be accessed by hackers on the user’s computer, according to F-Secure Corp.

F-Secure researchers did suggest that Sony had a good reason for hiding the files. The company was likely trying to protect the USB drive’s fingerprint authenticator information from being tampered with. However, the files are invisible to some anti-virus detection software.

“We feel that rootkit-like cloaking techniques are not the right way to go here,” Tolvanen wrote.

F-Secure said it notified Sony of the problem about a month ago, but did not receive a reply. On Tuesday, researchers with security firm McAfee Inc. confirmed F-Secure’s findings.

Posted by william on 08/30 at 11:38 AM
TechnologyPermalink

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Anne Rice Slaughters Presidential Politics

Anne Rice, the author of the Vampire Chronicles and other tomes about creatures of darkness, posted an endorsement of Hilary Clinton’s bid for President.

Rice has a reputation of delving into the dark world of things that go bump in the night. That she could take a witch like Hilary and transform her into an angel of light is no marvel, but it is fascinating to read her logic in arriving at this conclusion.

Anne Rice seems to have been sucked into the same vortex that recently absorbed Jane Fonda. Both high profile women have claimed to give their lives to Jesus Christ and to be profoundly transformed by the experience. Both are firmly entrenched in the Democrat Party and comfortable being there. Both have used the experience of their conversion to repudiate the Republican Party utilizing arguments rife with Neo-Marxist and Liberation Theology of the 1970’s. Unlike Fonda however, Rice proclaims that she is Pro-Life.

I would like to examine the endorsement posted by Anne Rice.

PERSONAL ENDORSEMENT OF HILLARY CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT:
August 10, 2007

To my readers:
Some time ago, I made an effort to remove from this website all political statements made by me in the past. Many of these statements were incomplete statements, and many were dated. And a good many of the emails I received about these statements indicated that they were confusing to my newer Christian readers. I felt, when I removed the material, that I was doing what was best for my personal vocation—- which is, to write books for Jesus Christ.

If you think her previous statements were incomplete and confusing just keep reading.

My vocation at this time remains unchanged. I am committed to writing books for the Lord, and those books right now, are books about His life on Earth as God and Man. I hope my books will reach all Christians, regardless of denomination or background. This has become my life.

If your life is dedicated to write books about the Lord then to steal a phrase from Laura Ingraham, Shut-up and write.

However, I have come to feel that my Christian conscience requires of me a particular political statement at this time.

I hope you will read this statement in a soft voice. It is meant to be spoken in a soft voice.

Irony: associating “soft voice” with Hilary

Let me say first of all that I am devoutly committed to the separation of church and state in America. I believe that the separation of church and state has been good for all Christians in this country, and particularly good for Catholics who had a difficult time gaining acceptance as Americans before the presidential election of John F. Kennedy. The best book I can recommend right now on the separation of church and state is A SECULAR FAITH, Why Christianity Favors The Separation of Church and State, by Darryl Hart. However there are many other good books on the subject.

What a strange place to start building a case for endorsing Hilary.

Rice’s comment here shows a complete lack of historical understanding of the Constitution, the First Amendment and judicial activism. The founders wanted to prevent the establishment of a national church like the Church of England. There was a balance between religious liberty in this country and the State. Seven of the thirteen original colonies had state sponsored churches at the time the Constitution was ratified and they saw no conflict with their practice and the Constitution. There is no wall of separation between Church and State only protection of Churches from the national government.

John Kennedy was Catholic and ran against Richard Nixon, a Quaker. Neither was faith was ever considered mainstream at the time of the founding. However, each faith had a state established by its followers from the earliest days of the Republic. Catholics had Maryland and Quakers had Pennsylvania. What this Presidential contest has to do with the separation of church and state—a phrase that comes from a letter Jefferson wrote to some Baptists many years after the Constitution was written—is beyond my understanding.

Clearly Rice has bought into the myth of separation of church and state. Her citing of Darryl Hart’s book is proof of that fact. Hart advocates a faith that is so heavenly minded that it is no earthly good. He cannot have a church that is “salt and light” in its culture. True Christianity transforms the culture that it is in. Revival is when the church is culturally relevant. In Harts’ version of Christianity, you could padlock the doors to every church and no one else would notice. For him as long as Jesus is only in your heart your faith is ok.

Believing as I do that church and state should remain separate, I also believe that when one enters the voting booth, church and state become one for the voter. The voter must vote her conscience. He or she must vote for the party and candidate who best reflect all that the voter deeply believes. Conscience requires the Christian to vote as a Christian. Commitment to Christ is by its very nature absolute.

Christianity by definition must influence and affect every area of your life. But why appeal to Conscience and not Scripture as your standard?

My commitment and my vote, therefore, must reflect my deepest Christian convictions; and for me these convictions are based on the teachings of Christ in the Four Gospels.

Ok, where are we off to now?

I am keenly aware as a Christian and as an American that the Gospels are subject to a great variety of interpretation. I am keenly aware that Christians disagree violently on what the Gospels say.

Since when have Christians disagreed violently about the Gospels? Yes they have a number of applications and lessons to teach us.

I am also keenly aware that we have only two parties in this country. Only two. This point can not be emphasized enough. We do not have a slate of parties, including one which is purely Christian. We have two parties, and our system has worked with two parties for generations. This is what we have.

Yes we have a two party system but when has either party claimed to be the Christian Party? The question that you fail to ask is which party will allow me to be a follower of Jesus Christ and still participate fully in it activities?  Which party better fits a Christian worldview? Which party better respects God, family, marriage, the unborn, liberty, limited government and other values from Scripture?

I feel strongly that one should vote for one of these two parties in an election. I suspect that not voting is in fact a vote. I suspect that voting for a third party, when such parties develop, is in effect voting for one of the major parties whether one wants to believe this or not.

Voting for Ross Perot or Mike Bloomberg is a wasted vote. Ralph Nader won’t like this either.

To summarize, I believe in voting, I believe in voting for one of the two major parties, and I believe my vote must reflect my Christian beliefs.

Anne sort of skips over the part where she evaluates what each party stands for in contrast to her Christian beliefs. Since many candidates don’t agree with their party’s platform it might be better to say that you evaluate each candidate on their merits and pick the best one. However, we abandon all logic and jump to the conclusion.

Bearing all this in mind, I want to say quietly that as of this date, I am a Democrat, and that I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

Her argument is not from logic, this whole essay is just justification for the above facts. I. Anne Rice, am a Democrat and I endorse Hilary.

Though I deeply respect those who disagree with me, I believe, for a variety of reasons, that the Democratic Party best reflects the values I hold based on the Gospels. Those values are most intensely expressed for me in the Gospel of Matthew, but they are expressed in all the gospels. Those values involve feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and above all, loving one’s neighbors and loving one’s enemies. A great deal more could be said on this subject, but I feel that this is enough.

Oops, Anne gives away the store here. There is nowhere in the Gospels or any other place in the Bible where to above listed values of “feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and above all, loving one’s neighbors and loving one’s enemies” are the responsibility of government. They are clearly the responsibility of individuals to those around them. Each of us is commanded to do these things.

In the Bible, government is to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. This protection includes military defense, law enforcement and a judicial system. Only in Egypt during the time of Joseph will you find government running a modern welfare state. Look at it in Genesis. First the Egyptian government fed the people in exchange for their possessions and then the desperate people sold themselves voluntarily into slavery for food from the government. Gary North has written extensively on this subject in such books as Moses and Pharaoh. Many of his works are available at www.freebooks.com

Anne the Bible does have a word for the government acting in the way you desire, it is called theft.

I want to add here that I am Pro-Life. I believe in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. Deeply respecting those who disagree with me, I feel that if we are to find a solution to the horror of abortion, it will be through the Democratic Party.

This is just as logical as saying in 1860 that I feel that if we are to find a solution to the horror of slavery, it will be through the Confederate States or in 1936 Germany that I feel that if we are to find a solution to the horror of Auschwitz, it will be through the Nazi Party.

If you are pro-life in the Democrat Party, you are not allowed to speak at any Party Conventions or publicly dissent. Anne you have no clue what you are talking about.

I have heard many anti-abortion statements made by people who are not Democrats, but many of these statements do not strike me as constructive or convincing. I feel we can stop the horror of abortion. But I do not feel it can be done by rolling back Roe vs. Wade, or packing the Supreme Court with judges committed to doing this. As a student of history, I do not think that Americans will give up the legal right to abortion. Should Roe vs Wade be rolled back, Americans will pass other laws to support abortion, or they will find ways to have abortions using new legal and medical terms.

Anne, we never said abolishing Roe would fix everything. It would get the Federal government and some states out of the abortion business and would allow tax money to stop being used to kill millions each year in the name of choice. There would be fifty fights in fifty states. Constitutionally, it is states issue not a federal one. 1/3 of all pregnancies since 1973 have ended in abortion and your party is hell bent on keeping it that way. Take the tax money out of the abortion industry and it would be a good step in reducing the frequency.

And much as I am horrified by abortion, I am not sure—as a student of history – that Americans should give up the right to abortion.

We gave-up the right to slavery.

I am also not convinced that all of those advocating anti-abortion positions in the public sphere are necessarily practical or sincere. I have not heard convincing arguments put forth by anti-abortion politicians as to how Americans could be forced to give birth to children that Americans do not want to bear. And more to the point, I have not heard convincing arguments from these anti-abortion politicians as to how we can prevent the horror of abortion right now, given the social situations we have.

Anne your beloved Party and Liberal theology have given us the situation that we have now.

What happened to the importance of the Gospels in this discussion? If unborn children don’t qualify as “the least of these” that Jesus spoke about then who is? Do the right thing because it is right and let God do his part. If we don’t repent the how can we be forgiven and restored to God?

You talked earlier about a vote for a third party as a vote for one of the two parties. The same applies here. For you to do nothing is to vote for preserving the status quo.

The solution to the horror of abortion can and must be found.

Yes but not by advocating more abortions.

Do I myself have a solution to the abortion problem? The answer is no. What I have are hopes and dreams and prayers—- that better education will help men and women make responsible reproductive choices, and that abortion will become a morally abhorrent option from which informed Americans will turn away.

Better education? Ha! We need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to change people’s hearts.

There is a great deal more to this question, as to how abortion became legal, as to why that happened, as to why there is so little talk of the men who father fetuses that are aborted, and as to the human rights of all individuals involved. I am not qualified as a student of history to fully discuss these issues in detail. I remain conscientiously curious and conscientiously concerned.

Are unborn children not entitled to human rights too?

Remember when you said that you didn’t want Roe v Wade overturned? Roe says it’s a woman’s choice!  The fathers don’t count. That is the law you are defending. Status quo. Now you say what about the fathers? Get a clue. You can’t have it both ways.

Roe legally protects fathers from any responsibility unless the baby is actually born. If the baby is born, the government takes most of the fathers’ responsibility and puts it upon the taxpayers. There is a definite linkage between spending on social programs and children born out of wedlock. The solution to problems created by government is for government to get out of the way not more government programs.

But I am called to vote in this, our democracy, and I am called, as an American and a Christian, to put thought and commitment into that vote.

When you start putting thought into your vote, you will start voting for candidates on their merits not just for guys with a “D” by their name. Maybe you will even give money and votes to a few that are pro-life. The bad news is that these folks are in the other party.

Again, I believe the Democratic Party is the party that is most likely to help Americans make a transition away from the abortion crisis that we face today. Its values and its programs—- on a whole variety of issues—- most clearly reflect my values. Hillary Clinton is the candidate whom I most admire.

On what basis can you say such a stupid thing? Democrats make money by killing babies. Why should they stop? Anne, their god is the State. Take any of those precious things that God expects his followers to do in the Gospel and that is the Christian view. Now substitute the word government for God in all those same commandments and you will get the position of the Democrat Party on any give social issue. We are back to Mose and Pharaoh.

“The conflict between Moses and Pharaoh was a conflict between the religion of the Bible and its rival, the religion of humanism.”—Gary North

Hilary will keep abortion “Safe and Lethal” so what does this issue have to do with her? Nothing. Can you even name any accomplishments of her in office? What has she done in her time in the Senate to make her qualified for President?

In summary, Democrats love abortions. Democrats love social programs. Therefore Democrats would love to create a social program to stop abortions. Hilary is a Democrat. Therefore Hilary would love to stop abortion.

I want to say something further. I am aware as a Christian writer that making a political statement like this is not a particularly wise marketing move. But my Christian conscience compels me to make this statement. My Christian conscience demands that I not lie in order to sell books. Lying to sell books, pandering to a Christian market—- these things would mean the deepest betrayal of my vocation to live for and write for Jesus Christ. I repeat: I won’t lie to sell books.

Translation: don’t hold me accountable for interjecting myself into the national political dialogue.

I have felt a certain pressure of late to express my feelings here; that pressure is mounting. That pressure has come from watching political debate on church and state in the media, from private emails from strangers and friends concerning these issues, and from conversations, often heated, with my fellow Christians and Americans.

The only political debate on church and state that I have heard this whole election cycle is about Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith. What are you talking about? Anne you have wandered into areas far beyond your area of expertise.

Did you ever notice during the debates that thus far in the election cycle not one Democrat candidate has had even a single question about abortion? Why? Because every one of them agrees. They all support abortion on demand for all nine months of pregnancy and have no problems using your tax money and mine to pay for it. This is the status quo under Roe v Wade.

Debate over abortion only takes place in the other party.

My commitment to Christ compels me to respond to that pressure and to speak out on issues that I think are of crucial importance: whether or not we vote, and how we vote, and how our vote reflects our deepest moral concerns.

So how does voting for a pro-abortion candidate in a pro-abortion party reflect your deeply held belief in the sanctity of life?

So Anne, what would Jesus do? Based on my reading of the Gospels, I think he would make a different choice than you have. He might even vote for a third party.

I repeat: I am a Christian; I am a Democrat. I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point?”—Martin Luther

If I receive emails on this issue, I will do my best to answer them.

Anne Rice
August 10, 2007

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

 

Posted by william on 08/21 at 05:53 PM
Christianity & ReligionNews & PoliticsPermalink

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Short Sale and Taxes

(As you might recall mortgage is from two Latin rules “mort” meaning death and “gage” meaning grip.)

With all the mortgage troubles that folks are experiencing, some folks view a “short sale” as a way to get out from under their debt. However, you might be in for a surprise. The portion that the bank looses in the transaction might be considered taxable income to you by our friends in the Eternal Revenue Service. Yeah, you could be the astonished recipient of a Form 1099C from your lender.

There are IRS tax rules in place for when lenders are forced to foreclose because home owners have become delinquent in their mortgage payments. You will owe taxes on the difference between what the lender gets for the home and the outstanding mortgage loan balance. The same is true for a mortgage short sale. You will owe taxes on the amount of your loan or mortgage that the bank or lender has forgiven. That’s right, you are taxed even when you don’t receive any actual money.

IRS instruction for Form 1099C

If a federal government agency, certain agencies connected with the Federal Government, financial institution, credit union, or an organization having a significant trade or business of lending money (such as a finance or credit card company) cancels or forgives a debt you owe of $600 or more, this form must be provided to you. Generally, if you are an individual, you must include all canceled amounts, even if less than $600, on the “Other income” line of Form 1040.

Remember, the first rule of holes is stop digging. See a tax professional before you go down this path.

Posted by william on 08/16 at 04:35 PM
News & PoliticsPermalink

Monday, August 13, 2007

Apple Quicktime Busts Vistas Buffers

Symptom: You try running Quicktime media player from Apple on your Windows Vista PC and after a few seconds playing, Quicktime chashes and gives you a buffer error.

If this is you, then you are probably running SATA drives using an NVIDIA RAID Driver. If you run Quicktime files from the Internet they work great but any file on your hard drive will crash the Apple player.

Don’t panic, this is normal behavior, albeit, very irritating. The solution is that you need to run the files from either a USB hard drive or an IDE one. At this point neither Apple, Microsoft nor NVIDIA is admitting that there is a problem.

See thread that Apple has on their website.

If I play any files encoded in the MOV file format that are stored LOCALLY on any of my 3 internal SATA HD’s, the file play for a few seconds with sound, but without video, then eventually the buffer overrun error occurs.

If I stream the EXACT SAME file via the internet, or my local home network, or play them from my external USB HD, USB Thumb drive, or even burn them to CD/DVD and play them from that, I do not encounter the buffer overrun problem, and the files play just fine, even the files that are in high definition. I’m not an expert, but in my case, this may point to poor Nvidia SATA drivers, although I could be wrong.

Just to recap. If I play any MOV files from the internal SATA HD’s attached to my motherboard directly, I get a problem. If I stream them, or play them from another storage medium, I do not encounter a problem.

Posted by william on 08/13 at 01:57 PM
TechnologyPermalink

Friday, August 10, 2007

Outsourcing Parents

Yesterday I saw a news story that combined a multitude of cultural and social issues into one story. Some of the issues that come to mind include NAFTA, healthcare and redefining the family.

Since the days of NAFTA and Ross Perot, many Americans that favor protectionism and isolation have railed against “out sourcing” jobs to other nations. I have vivid mental pictures of “that giant sucking sound” of American jobs.

Also in the 1990’s, we were bombarded with “Hilary Care.” This resulted in the lively discussion of how the government (and trial lawyers) created rising costs of healthcare and the solution was more government.

Many of us have wanted to divorce our children when they were teens, but what should they do with us when we get old and can’t care for ourselves? Should families expect to bankrupt themselves to care for the elderly in their final years? Should we rethink “Logan’s Run”?

Most people have had to struggle with these issues at some point in their lives (or will soon). Some people have been thinking outside the proverbial box and come up with a novel approach.

Why not simply do what corporate America does, let’s outsource our parents!

That’s right! Who needs astronomical rest home bills and medical expenses when we get more bang for our buck overseas. Yes, people are really shipping their parents to India for care in their later years.

India, the second most populous country on the planet and home of some of the most wretched living conditions ever known, has a five star resort to warehouse middleclass old folks.

The article on one level is absolutely funny and upon reflection says a great deal about what is wrong with our country.

Man turns to India for cheap care for parents
By Laurie Goering
CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Sunday, Aug. 05 2007

PONDICHERRY, INDIA — After three years of caring for his increasingly frail mother and father in their Florida retirement home, Steve Herzfeld was exhausted and faced with spending his family’s last resources to put the couple in a cheap nursing home.

So he made what he saw as the only sensible decision: He outsourced his parents to India.

Today his mother, Frances, 89, who suffers from advanced Parkinson’s disease, gets daily massages, physical therapy and 24-hour help getting to the bathroom, all for about $15 a day. His father, Ernest, 93, an Alzheimer’s patient, has a full-time personal assistant, and a cook who has won him over to a vegetarian
diet healthy enough that he no longer needs his cholesterol medication.

Best of all, the plentiful drugs the couple require cost less than 20 percent of what they do at home, and salaries for their six-person staff are so cheap that the pair now bank $1,000 a month of their $3,000 Social Security payment. They aim to use the savings as an emergency fund or to pay for airline tickets
if family members want to visit.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a solution for everybody, but I consider it the best solution to our problem,” said Herzfeld, 56, who made the move to India with his parents, and now, as “care manager rather than the actual worker” has time for things such as strolls in the botanical gardens with his father.

With the cost of nursing homes, home nurses and medications painfully high in the United States, the elderly and their caregivers have long looked abroad for better solutions. Many families now drive regularly to Mexico or Canada to buy cheaper drugs, or hire recent immigrants — some of them undocumented — to help them look after frail parents.

A growing number of aging couples have bought retirement homes in Mexico, where help is cheap and Medicare-funded health care just a quick drive across the border.

From http://www.stltoday.com

Posted by william on 08/10 at 01:55 PM
News & PoliticsPermalink

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

China and Lead: Silent Epidemic

I am concerned about a silent epidemic that can be laid at the feet of Wal-Mart and globalization. We all know about the mercury threat from compact fluorescent light bulbs in our landfills but there is an even more insidious problem in our midst: lead.

That’s right, lead! Although outlawed from almost every segment of American life except fishing (where mercury in fish is a bigger problem than lead weights), lead is a growing menace in our landfills. The primary source of this lead is China! Yes, all the recalled toys and food products that Americans discard are going to our landfills and it is just a matter of time before this lead begins to be found in our ground water and domestically produced food.

China is trying to export their industrial waste by hiding it in products that it sells in the United States. This is obviously a prelude to their planned colonization of the good ole US of A. They are trying to pollute our nation to the point that it is just like theirs and then they will come.

Soon there will be a flood of Chinese movies, campaign donations, and clothing. Next they will corner the market on raw materials that should be going to the United States to build our economy. Oh, no they already did all that!

It is no coincidence that the heart of this conspiracy is in Arkansas. Both Bill Clinton and Wal-Mart are based in Arkansas. Hilary was on the Wal-Mart board until she had aspirations to be President. Obviously Bill didn’t finish the job in his eight years as President so his wife must pickup where he left off. While it is hard to conceive of any military secret the Chinese didn’t get during the first Clinton administration, there must be something more that they want.

Perhaps the answer is in a different direction. Look at the facts; we outlawed lead (and mercury) “for the children.” Hilary wants universal healthcare “for the children.” My doctor went to college and medical school in China. Medicine is one seventh of the US economy and one of the few economic areas were America can still excel in the global economy. Wal-Mart wants to corner the market on prescription drugs. The liberals see Cuba as a model for medical care and China as the most successful Communist country still in existence.

Given all the above facts, it is clear that the Chinese are purposely putting lead in children’s toys that it is selling at Wal-Mart to grow their economy while simultaneously offloading their industrial waste and increasing our government’s intrusion into our lives by trying to protect the children of greedy middleclass consumers from lead while simultaneously using its presence to make the case for universal healthcare and thus creating a need for Americans to elect Hilary Clinton so the Chinese can do to us what Bill did to Monica in the Oval Office.
wink

Posted by william on 08/07 at 04:29 PM
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