This Week in God

When we last checked in with the fine folks in Orange County, Florida, home to Orlando among other communities, the school board had already agreed to allow an evangelical Christian group to distribute Bibles to school children. The Satanic Temple heard about the arrangement and asked for equal treatment – they had some Satanic coloring books they wanted to share.

If the board members refused, the Satanic Temple would sue and almost certainly win – the Supreme Court has already said public schools can’t discriminate based on religious viewpoints. If the doors were open to an evangelical group to distribute Bibles, then Orange County would seem to have no choice but to open the doors a little wider to accommodate every other religious group.

This week, Ian Millhiser explained the school board decided it’s time to close the doors altogether.
The school district, in other words, could allow Christians and Satanists alike to distribute literature to students. Or it could exclude both. But it cannot discriminate against the Satanists because it disagrees with the Satanic viewpoint. At a school board meeting Tuesday night, the board decided to go with a version of option B. Under their new policy, some literature may still be distributed, “but nothing that is religious, political or sectarian,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Every time these kinds of controversies arise, the underlying principle is always the same: when it comes to religion and public affairs, the government can’t play favorites. First Amendment principles demand that no American is treated as a second-class citizen.

The ideal solution, it would seem, is for public officials to stay out of the religion-promotion business altogether.

Let us return to separation between church and state.

Yes, I realize fundamentalists often believe this never was the case. They also believe the Earth came into existence 6000 years ago. I have no problem with someone wanting to believe silly crap. But, unless they can provide historical or scientific evidence to prove their case – they will be ignored.

Once we got past World war 2 and resumed our journey towards a modern new world appurtenances like religion quickly began to fall away from most useful political constructs – ranging from jurisprudence to public schools. Because some fundamentalist True Believers have fought successful rear guard battles in political backwaters has little or nothing to do with the course our nation should follow.

That includes the reactionary dullards stuck into the Supreme Court by opportunist politicians.

This ship cost you and me $15 million – US Navy is selling it for $180K


Click to enlarge

Any millionaire can buy themselves a fancy yacht, but if you want a conversation piece … well, it helps if it has a story behind it, and the Lockheed Martin-built Sea Slice certainly does. Launched in 1996 by the US Navy as a military support vessel, the experimental watercraft features a unique hull design that reportedly allows it to remain as stable as a conventional ship three times its size. It cost $15 million to design and build, but you can have it now for the low, low price of just $180,000…

A regular SWATH boat has two hulls, kind of like a catamaran. Whereas a catamaran’s hulls resemble skinnier versions of a conventional single hull, however, a SWATH’s are more like cylindrical pontoons that sit completely below the surface. The struts that connect those hulls to the rest of the boat are quite narrow, thus minimizing volume at the sea’s surface, where all the wave energy is located. Because the hulls themselves sit deeper in the water, they’re not affected much by the waves.

In the case of the Sea Slice, there are four shorter teardrop-shaped hulls – two on each side, one behind the other. Apparently this modification reduces waves caused by the boat, along with hydrodynamic drag. That drag reduction allows it to travel at higher speeds for a given amount of horsepower, as compared to other SWATH boats of a similar size and displacement.

The 105-ft long, 55-ft wide, 180-ton watercraft features two 3,480 hp diesel engines, two 180-kW Caterpillar diesel electric generators, and (if its specs are still the same as they were when it was first built) a top speed of 30 knots. There’s no word on how many people it can accommodate, although judging by the photos, there are at least six bunks. It also has a full galley, shower-equipped bathroom, plus a washer and dryer.

Anyone vetting prospective buyers to see if they’re fronting for Mexican drug cartels – or worse?

Apple signs on to Obama’s cybersecurity framework — but…


“History has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences”

Apple is among more than a half-dozen major U.S. corporations that have agreed to integrate the White House’s Cybersecurity Framework into their operations, but the iPhone maker will not share security information with the federal government…

While the extent to which the framework will influence Apple’s security practices is unclear, it appears that the company will not take the extra step of sharing security-related data with the Department of Homeland Security’s new National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. Such information sharing is a tentpole of Obama’s cybersecurity strategy.

While a few notable security vendors have signed up, none of Silicon Valley’s major consumer-focused companies are participating, and Apple CEO Tim Cook was the only well-known corporate executive at the summit. The Valley maintains a deep distrust for the federal government in the aftermath of the Edward Snowden spying revelations, a point which Cook drove home during his speech.

“If those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right of privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money,” Cook said. “We risk our way of life.”

“We must get this right,” he added. “History has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences. We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally. Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion, or express their opinion, or love who they choose.”

Personal privacy is especially important “in a world in which that information can make the difference between life and death,” Cook said.

Uncle Sugar – led by the President of these United States – is stepping up to deal with a question of security deeply rooted in the structure of the Internet. And as the Web, the Cloud, the constant value of communications and access to information becomes more a part of everyone’s life – that question of security increases as threat and value.

I don’t doubt the President considers his proposal to be something of value. On its own. But, his continuation of the Bush/Cheney cabal, his extension of the NSA and FBI as the thought police of the world absolutely corrupts the process. It is a refutation of the standards set by our constitution as imperfect as that document may sometimes be.

So, I credit Tim Cook for not sulking in a Silicon Valley McMansion – but, showing up to address problems that need to be addressed while continuing to question the intellectual dishonesty, the hypocrisy that characterizes every aspect of our government. It doesn’t matter if it’s Congress or the White House. This nation deserves better.

Tim Cook signs onto the framework, the concept of developing cybersecurity that works for everyone. But, he will not cooperate with turning private data over to the government.

Keep on rocking in the Free World.