Government

Have you heard the one about the 21st century Russian spy ring?

Russian spies made themselves at home at Microsoft, among other U.S. institutions, and proved that an (arguably) open source disk encryption application is a tough nut to crack.

Russian spies made themselves at home at Microsoft, among other U.S. institutions, and proved that an (arguably) open source disk encryption application is a tough nut to crack.


Those of us who were conscious of international politics in the 1980s and earlier have clear memories of the Cold War, in which the lead actors on either side were the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Spy movies focusing on this conflict -- rarely a directly violent "war", thus metaphorically called "cold" -- often drew upon the romanticism of such characters as James Bond, and much of President Reagan's successes as the chief executive officer of the U.S. revolved around his often tense but occasionally collaborative relationship with his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev. Two alliances -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact -- served primarily as proxies for these two sides of the Cold War. One of the most beloved films of the '80s was 1984's Red Dawn, the story of a group of young people who managed to slip through the cracks when a small isolated town was overrun in a Soviet invasion of parts of the United States. Such fans also tend to shudder at the prospect of an upcoming remake of the film.

It is surely with a bit of dramatic -- if a bit tongue in cheek -- nostalgia that many of us viewed the early reports of a Russian spy ring broken up by the FBI almost 20 years after the USSR ceased to exist and the Cold War was pretty clearly over. The landscape of U.S. national security, it seemed, had changed forever. Gone would be the days of romantic movies of adventure and danger where James Bond and Xenia Sergeevna Onatopp plotting and scheming against each other even as they gave each other smoldering looks. There have been a few films since then that touched on the Cold War, but for the most part it was the end of an era.

Our new alleged Russian deep cover spy ring in the United States seems like an anachronistic bit of out-of-place history. How much the cultural significance of this situation escapes the younger generations is certainly an interesting subject to ponder.

Two developments in this case are perhaps of particular interest to those who deal in the information technology industry in general, and specifically IT security:

  1. Alexey Karetnikov, suspected of involvement in the Russian spy ring, was a Microsoft employee at the time the FBI caught up to him. The inevitable jokes about Microsoft security and the quality of MS Windows Vista have already begun to surface, such as in the comments following TechFlash article, Reports: alleged 12th Russian spy worked at Microsoft. More information is available in other articles.

  2. The FBI ran into a hurdle it could not overcome in its investigation in the form of TrueCrypt, an (arguably) open source software disk encryption application available for MS Windows, Apple MacOS X, and Linux-based systems. Evidently, the primary technique used to try to crack it was a brute force attack on the user's password, and the failure of the effort speaks well of the importance of strong passwords. Not only the FBI, but Brazilian counterparts as well, spent months in the attempt.

TechWorld's article, FBI crackers fail to crack TrueCrypt, provides a decent overview of the disk encryption situation. The article might be regarded as a review and recommendation for the use of TrueCrypt for your disk encryption needs, offered by the FBI itself, even if that was not an intentional effect of the FBI's involvement. A single case does not truly prove anything except that, in this one case, those seeking to crack TrueCrypt security failed -- but it is certainly an interesting piece of information to consider when selecting disk encryption software, especially on the MS Windows platform where open source disk encryption choices are fewer and farther between than on open source OSs.

About

Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.

168 comments
senigma
senigma

Reagan didn't so much "succeed" as did the USSR fail. IF there is a true hero in the collapse of the USSR, it is Gorbachev for keeping his country intact from falling into chaos. The failure of US intelligence to see the inevitable collapse of the Soviet state is the story that should be told.

BdeJong
BdeJong

Sure the FBI will leak information about a program they cannot crack!? Think people, how easy would it be to get a list on the software the FBI can not crack? Now think again they did (eventually) catch these guys.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

You are now part of the machine that claims that the FBI did not have an NSA-required back door into truecrypt... The old soviet spy theme might have jarred me into paranoia mode, but that's just such a classic disinformation tactic that it immediately triggered a "ah, but that's what they [i]want[/i] us to believe". But really, even if present versions of truecrypt are backdoor-free, there are no guarantees that all future versions will be. The NSA doesn't like these things.

Jaqui
Jaqui

blow the security through obscurity argument away. :D I guess we really should be sending thank you cards to the FBI for proving open source is more secure than proprietary. :D

JamesRL
JamesRL

And entertaining as such. I used to hang around survivalism newsgroups to learn about some useful things, but the plot of Red Dawn requires a big suspension of disbelief. Simply put, anyone who knows military logistics knows that the Soviet Union, even with Cuba's help as in the film, could not move enough men and material to attack the US mainland. They didn't have the transports or enough Navy to protect them. The National Guard forces of California could repulse a Soviet invasion of the US. On the other hand, having a Russian spy at Microsoft or having TrueCrypt be unable to be broken is much more realistic. Since well before the end of the cold war, the former Soviet Union, now Russia, realized they could not win a stand up fight with NATO. So instead battles are being waged on the economic front. Don't think for a moment that Russia, China and others don't try and infiltrate big companies and key government organizations in the US. If there is economic advantage to be had, they will try to find it. Recent allegations by a director at Canada's spy agency, CSIS, point to China's campaign to influence Canadian politicians. The Cold War is long ended, but spying for $$ will be around for a long time. James

apotheon
apotheon

It doesn't say that Reagan "succeeded" against the USSR. It said that his political successes largely revolved around his relationship with Gorbachev -- which is not at all the same thing. It's more like the article said that a car salesman's successes revolve around his belief in the quality of the car, and his passion for helping others believe the same thing -- and not like it said that the salesman's success was the creation of the car. edit: There's a theory, though, that the reason the USSR fell when it did is that the US outspent it in the largely unrecognized component of the Cold War: the economic front. Reagan's policies certainly fed into that spending, and it has even been suggested that the whole Star Wars thing was a counterintelligence program intended to scare the USSR into spending a bunch of money trying to counter the US "successes" in the space-based missile defense system.

RipVan
RipVan

I recall the lefties at the time SCREAMING at the top of their lungs to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop provoking the powerful Russians. I saw the lefties sucking up to them and apologizing for us all. THEY sure thought Russia was here to stay. And all these people needed to do was work their way deeper into the fabric of society where they could then be given bigger tasks later. Who would ever DREAM that collectivists of any type could work their way into high ranking government positions??? (Hint: How much do you know about your CZARS (the American ones)?)

vucliriel
vucliriel

... But did he have 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'? Man, you're so naive!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Truecrypt's source code is available. if a backdoor is there, it'll be found. if there is a difference between source code and available binaries, it'll be found. If Truecrypt's source code suddenly becomes unavailable, FBI negotiations may have concluded.

vucliriel
vucliriel

...If you seriously believe government action can put a stop to free will. God tried and failed.

apotheon
apotheon

1. It's pretty difficult (as pointed out by Sterling) to hide a "backdoor" in open source software. Accidental bugs that serve as security vulnerabilities are generally much harder to find than intentional, controlled security vulnerabilities when you can see them in the source code. 2. Even if the NSA has a "backdoor" in any given piece of software, that doesn't mean the FBI has access to it. Inter-agency cooperation isn't quite so good that we can simply accept that if the NSA has it, the FBI will have it too.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

To install a back door, they'd have to figure out how to hide it in plain code.

SKDTech
SKDTech

All it proves is that Truecrypt is a strong, worthwhile disk encryption program. Whether Open Source is more secure than proprietary is not even a factor. Much as I like me some OSS goodness I don't make assumptions based on information not present.

vucliriel
vucliriel

It's one of the worst movies ever to come out of Hollywood! I usually like B-movies, they are often good stories with low budget production, but that one was worse than anything I've seen, not even worth watching through. Incredibly lame and uninteresting. Then again, when Hollywood seriously considers remaking "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" (as if it was possible to improve on a movie whose spirit is so totally Nordic and European), nothing can surprise me very much anymore. Get off your couches and read the bloody subtitles, if you can't get it. An order of McFries with that? Brother! Seriously, folks, who can, with a straight face, tell me they actually LIKE the decayed garbage being produced by the majors anymore? Can anyone here truly say to me, WITH A STRAIGHT FACE, that "Outlook Express is Good Software"? That "Microsoft Word Enhances Productivity" (if they even use that crap for themselves!) Look at the deep reasons why stuff created here has become so bad: you don't have to look very far, a simple glance at the present NASA policy, for example, should be enough. This nation has become paralysed by bureaucracy, political correctness and the Rule of Lawyers: When a nation is more concerened about risking a lawsuit from someone shoking with a plastic bag over his head, you know something is terribly wrong. How did we get so STUPID? The fact the FBI can't decrypt TrueCrypt proves once and for all that open source software (and freeware in general) is, as usual, much better, leaner and more efficient than anything churned out by the major whose business is actually to make as much money for their shareholders as possible (inferior software with massive marketing being the pretext to that end). Making a 'Story' out of this so-called 'Spying' is just a feeble attempt to make the garbage produced by software giants such as MS actually sound palatable. Pitiful.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Many of them see the bad points, and engage in mild to severe cognitive dissonance about those things. But most want to keep their country, stay there, and see the flaws corrected. They're not all that interested in pulling up stakes and moving halfway around the world, even for conquest.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Espianage is around the third or fourth oldest profession isn't it? There's "the oldest profession".. then I'd guess leadership which leads directly to spying and enforcement (domestic and foreign). Shame that history of espianage course only started as far back as British formation of there agencies.

RipVan
RipVan

Especially since so many people walked on eggshells trying to please the Soviets. I disagreed with the first point, but I do think that the second point is worthwhile - the FAILURE of U.S. intelligence to see the collapse coming. My only counterpoint would be to say "you aren't pointing fingers at ONE particualar administration, are you?" Our government agencies fail us on a daily basis, no matter WHO is in charge.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I was studying political science during the Reagan era, and one of my professors became a foreign policy advisor to Reagan. It was clear in the early 80s, even before the Star Wars program was announced by Reagan that the Soviet Union was struggling economically and politically. The war in Afghanistan was damaging to Soviet pride and confidence, and the constant casualty lists and dimming chances for success rocked them. The Soviets and the US had improved relations and trade in the 70s with "Glasnost", and were not prepared for the repercussions of the war like the boycott of the Moscow Olympics. Reagan's increase in military spending and the prospect of Star Wars (and the need for massive spending to counter it) caused an epiphany. The Soviets could barely maintain the military they had. They could just barely keep the industries they had running, without the massive investements required for a counter to Star Wars. Gorbachev realized that the only way to fix the Soviet economy was to implement economic and social reforms, and that required democracy. Certainly the relationship between Reagan and Gorbachev, especially compared to Reagan's relationshiop with the previous Soviet leadership, helped speed the pace. James

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Could be a app-specific keylogger in a far corner of the OS. But that goes beyond the paranoia-spin joke that my post was intended to be. :p

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

After all, those two points are both unnecessary at this point. Makes you sound like you're saying "There is no monster under the bed, trust me. And don't go looking either". Which returns to my point. And no, I'm not entirely serious.

Jaqui
Jaqui

they could do what some hardware vendors did. "thinly disguised as assembly" blobs in the kernel. putting proprietary code into the "open source" code. quite a few blobs in the linux package like that. a back door could be in any of them.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The FBI not being able to crack it does say something about Truecrypt but not inherently about open source. We'd need to see comparisons of FBI cracking attempts against the other full disk encryption programs before it indicated anything outside of Truecrypt itself.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Was "the bum"... going around in whatever it has found with which to cover it's nakedness, grubbing for grub, grubs in fact. Politically correct moniker is "hunter-gatherer". After that, gardener as mentioned above, and herder. All these specialized professions came later, much later. A good hunter/gatherer had to also be information gathering savvy, forest fires, dangerous predators, fellow man... those kinds of dangers all around. The various forms of prostitution came much later - formalized leadership among them.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

is gardening. Genesis 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Either they existed, and I'm in trouble... or they didn't and now they do :p

apotheon
apotheon

Keyloggers that watch for GUI focus on a particular app before logging would not be all that paranoid, actually. It's just arguable whether it would be very practical for most purposes. edit: In fact, it's far less "paranoid" than the notion that there are NSA "backdoors" hidden in open source software.

apotheon
apotheon

There are times when various Linux developers and distributors are a little . . . let us say "unhygienic" . . . with regard to their relationship with closed source code. I do believe that the central, official Linux kernel per se does not include "binary blobs", but it's all too easy in the Linux world to end up with a couple of those included with your installed Linux distribution without realizing it. The Debian distribution tends to be more careful, for licensing reasons, whereas OpenBSD is about as careful as it is humanly possible to be, for trust reasons. FreeBSD pretty well approximates the OpenBSD approach, with the exception that it doesn't actively hinder attempts by users to add "binary blobs" later down the line if they want to do so. Of course, sometimes one might make a cost/benefit assessment with regard to whether to make use of some effectively unverifiable code, and end up using something that isn't subject to scrutiny through and through. I sometimes use the closed source Flash browser plugin (via nspluginwrapper), for instance -- though I do not go so far as to have any "binary blob" drivers embedded in the kernel. There are definitely limits to how far I am willing to trust the untrustworthy.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

As described here (albeit losely) : http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=333399&messageID=3324560&tag=content;leftCol Jaqui wrote this: http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-12846-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=333399&messageID=3324714&tag=content;leftCol And will you get off the test subjects remark? That was a one-off, at the end of a tedious bout this, it was in no way a smoking gun, and did not say "I like to provoke arguments". And, I already explained it somewhere else. It's like you want desperately to make believe that I am a troll, because I am not convinced by your argumentation. And so many others too. I am not, and I am not. Some of those others are though, at least at times, I checked.

apotheon
apotheon

The only time I recall you stating clearly what "game" you were playing, you basically identified yourself as a troll whose only interest in other people involved in online discussion is as something like experimental subjects. There's really very little possibility of real proof of "purity", but there is certainly plenty of opportunity for a far, far greater probability of such in open source software than in closed source software -- and, in general, there is a very strong tendency for that opportunity to be fulfilled. Basically, it's a matter of strong evidence (if not "proof") versus little or no evidence at all. I don't recall exactly what Jaqui said, and I'm feeling too lazy to look for it right now.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

That I stated openly what game I was playing here. I do understand, that someone will go through the code to see how it was done, when trying to outdo it. I'm not entirely sure that this in itself is "proof of purity". It would require expert knowledge. But Jaqui's point above about proprietary blobs does sound like a problem, so if you want to complete your case you could address that.

apotheon
apotheon

1. If you paraphrase something and, when you're done, you have something that doesn't make any sense, chances are good that you didn't understand what you're trying to paraphrase. The alternative is that the person who originally said what you're trying to paraphrase is incapable of forming a coherent thought. Do you think it's more likely that I'm incapable of forming a coherent thought, or that you still don't understand my point? Don't bother answering; it's a thought experiment for you, to help you decide how to respond to your own nonsensical paraphrase. If the answer is that you think I'm incapable of forming a coherent thought, you should stop talking to me about it. If the answer is that you think you misunderstood my point, you should not stop thinking about what I've said, and try to figure out how the social network effects of open source software development feed into making my point. If you decide to try to understand my point, then once you have a paraphrase that makes some sense, you can consider whether you agree with it -- and, if not, we can discuss which premises underlying my argument you find disagreeable. 2. With any nontrivial open source software project that isn't being run by monkeys, sifting through any given piece of code that isn't just rejected or ejected eventually happens, with a very high rate of certainty.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

That turns into "surely (!) they (!!) would be afraid of this supposed (!!!) source-code-checking "other"(!!!!)". (! = cue panic) But hey, you may know this: how many people check the code minutely? Actually check, not just consider checking it - sometime. If it never happens, the industry knows. If it's not likely to happen, then the industry may trust that it never will. Has happened before.

apotheon
apotheon

It's not a matter of whether the other users find it (which they eventually would, if the software is at all popular, but that's irrelevant to this point). It's a matter of whether the distributors and developers would be afraid of being found out. edit: typo

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

"the [i]other[/i] users would surely find it"... isn't much better :p Plays on trusting an unknown.

apotheon
apotheon

"There's nothing to worry about. And they wouldn't share if there was" That's not quite what I said, you know.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

When someone pulls out the boogeyman card (NSA f.ex.), saying "There's nothing to worry about. And they wouldn't share if there was" is like the captain saying "Remain calm, there's no reason to PANIC!" when a jumbojet is experiencing "slight technical problems". :p

apotheon
apotheon

I certainly hope you aren't "entirely serious", since what you just said doesn't even bear a glancing resemblance to what I said, no matter how I might tilt my head and squint.

apotheon
apotheon

There is, apparently, both a pkgsearch and a pkg_search in ports. I had not heard of pkg_search until you mentioned it, Sterling. I might have to check into whether I like that more than pkgsearch.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

twice: 1) Yes, I'd be glad to offer any advice I can. 2) Yes, I love pkg_search as well.

apotheon
apotheon

The default tools for FreeBSD, and its most commonly available documentation, is not for the faint of heart. It's all very usable and comprehensive, but it is not the least dumbed down. Some experimentation would be necessary to achieve a "perfect" emulation of the characteristics of DOS + Win3.11 that you like, but I'm pretty sure that given time, diligence, and interest, you could get something better than anything you've used before. If you have specific questions to help you get there, I'd be happy to offer suggestions and some guidance -- and I'm pretty sure the same is true of Sterling, though I won't speak for him with any certainty. As Sterling already mentioned, the FreeBSD Handbook is a tremendous resource. Don't neglect it, and it will serve you well. Something I probably should have mentioned to Sterling before is the tool I've found works well for me as a way to search for, and read summarized descriptions of, various pieces of software available through the FreeBSD Ports system. It's called pkgsearch, and is available as a port itself. Once you have it installed and working, it offers two different ways of searching for (information about) ports that I use quite regularly: 1. pkgsearch regex searches for any/all ports that match the regular expression pattern regex. Thus, if you use pkgsearch fox you'll get a bunch of results, including Firefox. Meanwhile, running pkgsearch ^fox, where the carat symbol indicates the beginning of the package name, you get only these results: /usr/ports/x11-toolkits/fox12 /usr/ports/x11-toolkits/fox14 /usr/ports/x11-toolkits/fox16 2. pksearch -d regex outputs the descriptions (contents of the pkg-descr files) for all matching ports. Thus, pkgsearch -d ruby-fox16 yields this result: /usr/ports/x11-toolkits/ruby-fox16 DESC: FXRuby is a Ruby extension module that provides an interface to the FOX GUI library. Author: Lyle Johnson WWW: http://fxruby.sourceforge.net/

vucliriel
vucliriel

This is great news, Man! I'm definitely going to take a look at FreeBSD, hadn't heard of this before(!)... Do you have any pointers or links to suggest for starters?

apotheon
apotheon

You can easily approximate the kind of setup you describe -- with IBM PC DOS and Win3.11, but a more modern kernel and other low level OS components -- using an open source OS and open source userland software. I'm not one for MS Windows, Linux-based systems, or Apple MacOS X, either. I'm quite happy with FreeBSD for now, which is none of the above, though all three of them have borrowed from it.

vucliriel
vucliriel

Agreed, you make a good point. But I see proof everywhere of how lame paid software by the majors is. Apart from my heavily tweaked version of windows and completely customized version of Word, I don't use any other MS garbage on my computer. Even before Windows became common, MS DOS was already lame and underpowered compared to PC DOS. As for Adobe products... How else can you spell bloatware? Bottom line... In my 20 years of experience using PCs I have found that the best software is freeware (or shareware and, occasionally, abandonware). And before someone taunts me to take position for one of the established camps (Windows, Linux or Mac) let me just say this: they're all the same to me. If I could, I would still be running PC DOS and Windows for Workgroups, simply replacing the kernel components to make efficient use of modern hardware.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

serve to make most foods more palatable. A little Chianti with your fava beans, anyone? Bon appetit, mes amis!

apotheon
apotheon

Many intellectuals are, actually, somewhat more like substance with no taste.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Confessing to having eaten one, are right up there along with intellectuals -- taste with no substance.

apotheon
apotheon

I make exceptions from time to time. I've had very good lobster and fried calamari. I like shrimp, once in a great while. I eat a bit of tuna from time to time. I've enjoyed shark steak. I usually am not a huge fan of seafood, though -- and particularly dislike clams, oysters, salmon, and can't even get close enough to sardines to taste them without being utterly disgusted by the smell. I've never eaten bear of any description. I probably wouldn't admit here to eating long pig even if I had tried it. I can definitely buy that Brits wouldn't taste well. I wonder why the French are supposed to be tasty, though.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

Crab, shrimp and lobster are the garbage disposal of the sea, and even though they are on the no-no list because of that, I enjoy them quite a bit. I suppose I should avoid them because of potential health issues (religious food laws were done away with, I regard them now as practical advice to not eat carrion eaters so as to avoid potential disease). Swordfish, salmon, shark, squid, tuna, halibut, and more feed on vertebrates (and some invertebrates). I feed on most of these but am scaling (hah) down or eliminating the larger fish due to methylmercury concentrations in their tissues. These carnivore vertebrates are quite tasty to me. Calamari as well, but squid qualifies as an invertebrate. As far as carnivore/omnivore vertebrates not tasting good...I understand that black bear meat is quite tasty (arguably a lot of their diet is vegetation or bugs, but they do eat salmon) but grizzly meat, as you've correctly assessed, is stringy and unappetizing. I have read that humans taste like pork. Furthermore, apparently the worst-tasting humans are English, and the best-tasting humans are French (this is per an interview with a cannibal, not personal experience).

apotheon
apotheon

I don't really consider "has no particular profession" to be much of a profession, so I don't see "zero" as one of two initial professions. I see it as a nonprofessional base state against which the first profession(al) is measured.

apotheon
apotheon

It's individual -- and not necessarily "human". There's nothing wrong with that. That's a major difference between a taoist and a buddhist, I suppose: the latter says "Existence is transitory and illusory, and should be shunned or at least deprecated," while the former says "Celebrate life and individual existence as part of the greater whole, for its transitory and abstract nature is no less real for all that -- and being no more precious than some alternatives does not make it any less precious."

apotheon
apotheon

There are first-gen vegetarians, and second-gen vegetarians. First-gen are those who eat nothing but vegetable matter. Of course, "you are what you eat," so first-gen vegetarians are effectively vegetables themselves. Second-gen vegetarians, then are, vegetarians by virtue of the fact that they only eat vegetarians -- who are effectively vegetables as well. Predators of vertebrate omnivores and (especially) carnivores are pretty rare. Such meat-eaters tend to be less tasty for humans in particular, as well as less nutritious. Parasites and carrion eaters are probably the most likely consumers of omnivores and carnivores. So . . . I'm basically a second-gen vegetarian! I eat vegeta(rian|ble) creatures (i.e., prey animals). edit: typo

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Asks Caveman Stereotype #1 of Caveman Stereotype #2, "Layabout or Bum?". Don't mess up binaries. There can be no one without zero. Zero without a one isn't mentionable though, so zero cannot be "first". So, for Santee, apply this to "not to be"; is it not prerequisite to "to be" - even though "not to be" is not possible to assert without "to be"? Apotheon, regarding working on a fix for bilateral communication: in my opinion, this is a discussion of premises, which again means that either you acknowledge my point, or you don't. I believe I've seen your point in full, and it is not going to convince me. Add or decide.

NexS
NexS

Sam Neill didn't say it until after the fall....

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

I'm not arguing that everyone should be vegetarians (I loves me some BBQ ribs and bacon...) outside of the idea that it would be greener for the environment and happier for BBQ-destined critters; what I am saying is people were not instructed to eat meat in the very beginning, they were instructed to eat "every herb bearing seed for food". It is also interesting to note that Daniel and his companions refused to eat the king's food and insisted on pulse (lentils, presumably) - and were found to be healthier than the other captives who were fed from the king's table as a result. Lentils are quite nutritious. I don't think Daniel was pushing for vegetarianism, I think he was simply trying to avoid things dedicated to idols. I find this kind of thing, as well as the food, hygiene and disease laws to be fascinating. When examined carefully, a lot of it makes a lot of common sense today.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Without the trouble of a comma, is for one who has given up, or never saw in the first place.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

I've done some cursory research into two items you brought up and I found it interesting that the word "tax" in English is the Greek apographesthai, also translated "census". So it is possible Caesar was enumerating the people in preparation for taxes, or to see how many people of each culture he had in the kingdom. It wouldn't be the first time a ruler may have gotten antsy over the quantity of foreigners in his kingdom. There is an article about Quirinius in Wikipedia. I have not researched him but it appears that the article has a number of references from reputable university sources, so I'm not sure why you say he didn't exist.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

In the starting state there is only one value, this value is then not informative : This is not a profession, it is species or gender or culture or other somesuch. Once a choice occurs, you do not have a first profession, the former baseline becomes the background profession for the "first" profession. Be it slackjaw, layabout or whatever - as opposed to "bum", the brave new way of life.

apotheon
apotheon

Vegetarians are prey animals. Tell me, if we aren't supposed to eat vegetarians -- why are they made out of meat?

NexS
NexS

Sam Neill said so, and he fights Dinosaurs. His word is law.

apotheon
apotheon

There need not be two professions for one of them to exist. A profession can arise on its own, as one person begins to specialize and trade for those things the person is not doing so much. The other profession then might arise as a result of the trade relationship with the first professional, of course -- because as the generalist begins to rely on the trade with the professional, that generalist may then begin to specialize as well. One need not be the only person in a trade relationship doing something to pursue it as a profession, after all. One only need be the best at it, by some measure. edit: typo

apotheon
apotheon

Well . . . I at least predict a failure to satisfy santeewelding. Sterling, it seems that santeewelding is so wedded to the idea of counterarguing absolutes that he wishes to reduce all communication to vague hand-waving, leaving everybody with nothing concrete on which to build a relationship. That's a recipe for failure when it comes to trying to reason with him; even assuming an absolute for the sake of argument is anathema, unless the assumption is for the sake of arguing one is stupid for making the assumption in the first place -- thus undermining the point of the assumption for the sake of argument in the first place. . . . and round and round we go.

santeewelding
santeewelding

"To be" is easy to partition and scale. "Not to be" is impossible. In a happy sense, then, existence is affirmative. It's a great, big [i]Yes![/i]

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Otherwise, the term degenerates into "whatever you're doing" so my profession would be "living".

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

@juanita: Sure all history is questionable, but some of it is more reliable than others. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, so if you have on the one hand a civil list of governors that has no motive but documentation, and that conflicts with a narrative that is obviously intended to inspire belief, you go with the one that isn't trying to make you believe something. Sure, lots of unexpected things in the Bible have been supported by archaeology -- the practice of mating with your handmaiden if your wife can't produce is a striking one that indicates that the Patriarchal narratives may have indeed come from that era. But that doesn't mean that we should ignore internal inconsistencies or other historical inaccuracies. @santee: I don't believe in absolutes, I'm merely going along with the perspective. @ansu: the story of going down into Egypt was a way of identifying Christ with Israelite history. The slaughtering of the innocents also corresponds with Pharoah's slaughter of Israelite male children. It's all a literary device.

santeewelding
santeewelding

"...if there is an absolute God,..." As against, [i]what[/i] -- given, [i]absolute[/i]? Same goes for your "perceiving" -- as against what? "Absolute" means thou art that, too, unless you toss terms around in the self-assured, empty way Jaunita does. _____ punctuation

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

Just because history for something hasn't been found yet doesn't mean it doesn't exist. For example, no one believed Jericho existed at all for a long time but eventually archaeological excavations proved its existance as well as its position over a fault line which could've been activated by the trumps and marching they were instructed to do. Hezekiah's tunnel similarly was not believed to exist until the plaque and passageway were discovered many years later. Much history by other cultures is documented by the people ruling the land to make the kings look powerful and wise, possibly moreso than they are, and sweep any defeats by an enemy under the rug. There are steeles all over Egypt (or carted away and set up in England or wherever else) that document their triumphs. I could easily see the massive slaughter of babies as something a ruler wouldn't necessarily want published as one of his "accomplishments".

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

The missing baby slaughter. Apparently that one was first associated with John the Baptist (as a baby). With Jesus I guess it's a way to rationalize why he was in Egypt. I.e. he was not there being inducted into the secret rites of the god of Atemmesse.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

The Bible doesn't care to be historically accurate. Witness Luke 2:1-3. There was no Quirinius who was governor of Syria -- the Romans kept detailed records of these positions. There also was never a general taxation that required everyone to register in their home town. Both facts were made up by the author of Luke or by someone who passed the story to him. I don't think Luke intends to deceive here, but the facts just weren't important enough to him to get it right. There are numerous other examples throughout the Bible, OT and NT. Sure, the Bible can be a source of inspiration, but it is essentially a human document. That only makes sense: even if there is an absolute God, our only means of perceiving him/her/it/them would be by means of our human senses and concepts, which include our flawed views of reality.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

A "first" profession is an impossibility... there must be a minimum of two such "first professions" because any definition of "profession" entails a choice, a degree of specialization. So... gatherer/OR/hunter might have been a profession choice.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

...I would assume "hunter" could be considered a profession.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

I perceive them as being akin to witnesses at a trial. A doctor will be more erudite than a fisherman, most likely, and their language and methods of communication can vary greatly - just as all of us would communicate our perspectives of IT in different ways. I believe the Bible is literal, in all the places it would logically BE literal ("so and so begat someone", "King X rode ahead of his armies and conquered King Y") and so forth. Statements like "I am the vine and you are the branches" by Christ, I take figuratively - we use figures of speech today as well. And for the "mystical/magical" stuff, I believe those, too, happened as well. As far as pork and the eating laws (which make a lot of sense medically), you have to bear in mind the law is stated "to keep man alive" - and trichinosis or other parasites or disease would've been hard to defeat for people wandering in the wilderness who had no knowledge of them or medicines to combat them. Those laws were addressed to those people in that situation to keep them going in the wilderness. The new "law" of grace was delivered later, which summed up all the "be excellent to each other and party on, dudes" in the NT.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

It was shrewd of God to learn Greek when he wanted to write -- and to learn it so badly. That statement sums up the New Testament -- in form, style, and content.

apotheon
apotheon

I don't know that I'd consider being a hunter/gatherer a "profession". I guess it depends on how loosely you define the term.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

As one who has studied both, I agree with AnsuGisalas. The mystical viewpoint on the text is far closer to the Hebrew conception (though they wouldn't need the term "mystical", being roughly all they had) while the explanatory, conflict-resolving, time-space-presuming approach is definitely more Greek. We've canonized the latter, while relegating the former to religion.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Totally outlawed. Like eating pork. But I think a parable is the better way to read it. Not closing out anything, and not reducing to ... a lesson on history. It's a mystical text, not a log about factual events. But to each it's own.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

Imo, I have a sequence of events that occurs during that time, not simply shoving a square peg into a triangle hole. Coming from a medical/science background, I require that the things I believe and study actually make sense, not just throwing up my hands and going "I can't figure this out, so I'll make something up that works". Generally when I don't understand why something is a certain way, I have to leave it on the back burner until the day (year) comes that I find something that makes sense to explain it, and freely admit when I don't understand something. Of course, other people's mileage may vary. I don't say this is what everyone should believe, I say this is what I have found to make the most sense to me through my studies of the whole of the book.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

as in making up huge theories to "solve" "gaps" in religious texts, that's a proscribed practice. At least for those that follow christ. But then, some people who follow christ, but prefer OT to NT still eat pork, so that's the greek thinking in a nutshell for you.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

I've taken a stab at understanding Koine Greek, but I have yet to learn Hebrew. The Gap Theory works out a number of issues nicely, imo.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I think that's Greek thinking. Trust not in the Greeks, be they bearing gifts or not.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

I believe a lot of stuff (explaining the archaeological remains) happened between 1:1 and 1:2 that isn't documented, because v. 2 said "became", and later on God blessed Adam and Eve by telling them to "replenish" (resupply, not originally supply) the earth with life. For brevity's sake, I will refer you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gap_theory and point to "Interpretation of Genesis" and "Biblical theory".

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I'm talking about after the fall. But then, the bible skips straight to Farmer Vs. Herder (Cain and Abel), leaving out all the archeology before that. So I think the grain of salt should be applied around there. Unless you're an original fundamentalist.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

Genesis 1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. It was after the fall that people started eating meat.

apotheon
apotheon

It's transitory, just like eye candy.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I think I still have the "kick me" note stuck to my back.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I agree -- let's all be free to state our opinions, and also be free to criticize them, without anyone taking it personally. Idiots. (Just kidding)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Scenery is one of the nicer perks of retail support. :D Everybody shops for groceries. B-)

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

Heaven knows I've scratched my head over some of the responses in my time as well, but didn't necessarily think less of the posters. :D

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Our planet is passive/automative. Our species is transitive/passive/automative/antipassive/reflexive. We do, but we can't not do.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

We know you. We might look at your post, scratch our heads, and ask "WTF?", but we won't be alienated.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

As 80% of the posts on this site seem to be tech-related, I really didn't think I'd be starting a point-counterpoint. I fully expect it on a religious site when challenging other people's statements. I came here for the tech, both to learn and answer questions for others (Jaqui, you may be surprised to know that I don't know what thread you're talking about) because I fulfill my social jabbering at other sites, for the most part. I don't wish to alienate peers or potentially doom a career relationship by being offensive to someone here. I came to TR long ago to learn techy stuff and pretty much ignored the social threads. I am engaging in them more nowadays since I've met more of the denizens irl and appreciate their points of view on things other than tech now.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Have you decided against intransitive?

jonniebgood
jonniebgood

Mention 'god' (take your pick as to which one), or 'bible', and I can pretty much guarantee that even if the topic was lake fishing, they'll be coming out of the woodwork.

santeewelding
santeewelding

"[b]The world as we [i][u]are[/u][/i] it[/b]". ______ Nesting.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

is what man has made of what God gave him. This step is constantly left out of the 'reasoning' of those who decry Biblical religions. What people think about a thing is their own business. But blaming God for what man has done is as ridiculous as me blaming a protozoa for my speed-freaking. etu thrice

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

On the contrary, the Judean culture was known to be very exacting about handing down oral tradition and law. To this day even written scripture is painstakingly written on scrolls by scribes for scripture readings in the temples, and they use a pointer stick to read the scrolls so as not to touch it. Many other cultures also have a lengthy tradition of passing down heritage and concepts, and I believe the Zoroastrians beliefs (and "wise men" who came to see Christ because of the constellation significance) may have originally come from the prophet and leader Daniel's teachings many years prior. But if you want to go with the argument that the cultures "placed no historical accuracy" on anything, we are left with 2 conclusions: 1. The events recorded can be, and are, true, but the evidence isn't sufficient to convince some people because they believe the documentation is "sketchy". Sketchiness in proving the events also has to go the other way and state that any other event that was described for any other culture could potentially be a fallacy because of this overall "sketchiness", and therefore much of ancient history has the potential for disproof, making history a matter of picking and choosing. By this logic re: Christ and what he said and did being set down decades later, you will logically have to throw out all memoirs of any famous person, or at least, any high school activity recollections that were not documented. If you can't show me a book you wrote with all of the activities one did in school, at the exact time they were done, then obviously the witnesses are sketchy and any anecdotes or recollections told about them by people decades later outside of the official yearbook can't be true. Things other people remember about anyone else are invalidated. 2. The events recorded are false but several people made attempts to record them; so what would their motivation be? Power? Fame? Wealth? New Christians and OT Israelites were persecuted for their beliefs, so that is illogical as well. One place that Paul preached had so many gods that the town was fed up and enacted a law saying no one could preach any more gods. Christianity was surrounded by the ample paganism of the day, what made it survive? The underlying fact is, whether the events recorded are certain or sketchy to you, they are enough to have contemporary eyewitnesses as well as people for hundreds of years later commit their lives to believing them. I'm not saying mass belief of something is enough (or should be enough) to prove anything to anyone, but I would certainly have to allow that there is SOMETHING valid in this belief system to cause people to fervently carry it forward for hundreds of years, and die in the attempt, even to this day, so they must have found something of value in it to pursue it even unto horrible, painful deaths. Yes, I am aware there are other religions over hundreds of years, but I am not discussing them simply because I am not as well-versed in them. Many religious paths have at least some validity to them. I have found enough evidence in my personal life to conclude it is valid, even the parts I have yet to figure out. I probably never will finish the puzzle. It is not my place to make anyone believe, it is simply my place to talk about it, and agree to disagree if that is where the conversation leads. Joshua 24:15 "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve;... but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

"Who he said he was" should be "who the authors of the New Testament said he was" Jesus himself wrote no books, and the ones we have were written somewhere around 50 years after his death. In a culture that placed little value on historical accuracy, that leaves a very wide door open for a lot of interpretation between what Jesus said and what was written.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

I have little to no knowledge of Lao Tzu or Buddhism other than "the sound of one hand clapping" koans and "defeating your own inner enemy" kind of thing (and even that may be wrong), so I doubt I can converse intelligently with you on those matters. Being nice to everyone, as much as possible, is a good motto no matter where it comes from. As far as Christ, I perceive him to be who he said he was in the Gospels, as well as the person who came to fix what was broken - that he was and is a real being, he was trying to show people a better way, and he drew strong reactions from people who were entrenched in a restrictive way of thinking as well as those who looked for something better.

apotheon
apotheon

I like to think there was a figure who has become known as the Jesus of the Bible who, back in the day, took a very holistic view of things akin to the perspectives of the Buddha and Lao Tzu. Anything else strikes me as less flattering to the man on whom the legend was based.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I find this discussion an interesting interplay between the apocalyptic and spiritual interpretations of the Kingdom of Heaven. I can't say for sure in which camp Jesus actually belonged -- I think it may have been a blurring of the two. For me, it's neither.

apotheon
apotheon

The Kingdom of Heaven was an excellent film.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

is among us. All around us. Tack onto that "What senses do we lack" - and all that... we're immersed in it. Think on it for a while. It's never been gone, it's just that we don't look there, looking instead at baubles and vanities and distractions.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

We aren't there now, but we will be. He basically came and said "Ok everybody, I've fixed it. Come with me and we'll enjoy it together later. Until then, try to be nice to each other." I'm pretty sure he didn't consider the current state of things (in his time) as being fixed, just as I don't consider the current state of things as being fixed either. I look forward to the time when they actually are fixed.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

maybe eating the fruit caused them to no longer be in the garden... like that pill in the movie the matrix. That's also a way to make it. Of course, then Jesus tells us, we're still there, if we could only believe it.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

The garden was fine until the fall. In 3:17b, after their disobedience, God said "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." It wasn't so much a punishment as a statement of fact that their actions produced a resultant harder life. IMO, many times the statements come off as "wrath" or "punishment" when they aren't. He told them not to eat of that specific fruit (literal or figurative, I don't know), and the result of the disobedience was nature itself got screwed up. I see it as "don't touch the hot stove...if you do, you will get burned" vs. "don't touch the hot stove because I will spank you". Making them leave the garden to prevent them from eating from the Tree of Life was a whole 'nuther issue, too long to discuss here. I have to agree that gardening is hard and annoying now, especially in the hot summer. :D

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

It was designed ... to be a punishment. The loving god is still patiently waiting for us to stop our temper tantrum so he can let us back in on the good stuff. Read any child-rearing-manual; you have to be consistent - once you assign a punishment, you have to follow through on it until the unwanted behaviour stops. :p :p :p

Jaqui
Jaqui

the side discussions are a part of what makes TR forums so addictive. sometimes there are some real pearls of wisdom in them even. quite often, they are completely off topic and are just fun to read. and sometimes they are a heated debate, and best ignored. :D You've been here plenty long enough to know how we all are. :D and that any topic is open for discussion if the subject is brought up. you may even have read the Thread That Shall Remain Nameless. ;)

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

I suppose I am naive, or perhaps skinned to the point of being knee-jerk, as I engage in quite a number of religious exploration discussions and am used to hostile reactions to any mentions to the Christian perspective. That, and I have seen how discussions turn on a dime here to another topic as well as degenerate quickly. I didn't want to threadjack here.

Jaqui
Jaqui

we never will agree on it. [ to start with, we don't have the same faith, I'm not a follower of any interpretation of the "Bible", the "one god" thing doesn't work for me. ] :D and I was poking fun back. since I had no doubt that you knew bringing religion into the discussion would either start a major "discussion" of the subject, or have to be a joke.

Juanita Marquez
Juanita Marquez

is a discussion for another thread, on another site; I will simply say I disagree wholeheartedly with you. I was just trying to inject a little humor.

Jaqui
Jaqui

this f*ked up world is designed and he is supposed to be a "loving god"? riiiight. doesn't add up. so either he hates us and it was created, or we made him and he loves us. creation and loving us being mutually exclusive with the way the world is screwed up. :D

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