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Current Topic: Miscellaneous

let me google that for you
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:36 am EST, Nov 19, 2014

Francis Fukuyama:

The depressing bottom line is that given how self-reinforcing the country's political malaise is, and how unlikely the prospects for constructive incremental reform are, the decay of American politics will probably continue until some external shock comes along to catalyze a true reform coalition and galvanize it into action.

Washington Post editorial board:

In an era of fierce partisanship and close division, there will always be a temptation to postpone legislating until after the next election and to spend the intervening two years jockeying for political advantage. But a knockout blow will remain out of reach for both sides, and the price of postponement will be national decline.

Matt McKenna:

We live in a country in which Congress has an approval rating of barely 15% and yet 95% of incumbents are reelected. How can it be that voters continually elect the same people and parties they say are doing a terrible job?

Andrew Sullivan:

The leadership in both parties cannot help themselves when they have a big shiny military and see something they don't like happening in the world. When will Washington actually admit its catastrophic errors and crimes of the last decade -- and try to reform its own compulsive-interventionist habits to reflect reality rather than myth? Not yet, it appears, not yet. Washington cannot bear very much reality.

John Markoff:

Weapons that make their own decisions move so quickly that human overseers soon may not be able to keep up. Yet many of them are explicitly designed to permit human operators to step away from the controls.

Mike Loukides:

Intentions mean nothing when they're hidden behind a model that makes decisions for you.

Travis Nicholson, a graduate student at the JILA, a joint institute between NIST and CU-Boulder:

That's research grade tinfoil.

these are far from idle fears
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:09 pm EST, Nov 16, 2014

Claire Cain Miller:

Americans say they are deeply concerned about privacy on the web and their cellphones. They say they do not trust Internet companies or the government to protect it. Yet they keep using the services and handing over their personal information.


Across the board, there is a universal lack of confidence among adults in the security of everyday communications channels -- particularly when it comes to the use of online tools. Across six different methods of mediated communication, there is not one mode through which a majority of the American public feels "very secure" when sharing private information with another trusted person or organization.

Beverly Gage:

The current F.B.I. director, James Comey, keeps a copy of the Martin Luther King wiretap request on his desk as a reminder of the bureau's capacity to do wrong. But elsewhere in Washington, the debate over how much the government should know about our private lives has never been more heated ... King's experience reminds us that these are far from idle fears, conjured in the fevered minds of civil libertarians. They are based in the hard facts of history.

Devlin Barrett:

The program cuts out phone companies as an intermediary in searching for suspects. Rather than asking a company for cell-tower information to help locate a suspect, which law enforcement has criticized as slow and inaccurate, the government can now get that information itself.

"What is done on U.S. soil is completely legal," said one person familiar with the program. "Whether it should be done is a separate question."

Nicholas Carr, in The Glass Cage:

"Resistance is futile," goes the glib Star Trek cliche beloved by techies. But that's the opposite of the truth. Resistance is never futile. If the source of our vitality is, as Emerson taught us, "the active soul," then our highest obligation is to resist any force, whether institutional or commercial or technological, that would enfeeble or enervate the soul.

undetected for some time
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:09 pm EST, Nov 16, 2014

Robert Freeman:

The IBM X-Force Research team has identified a significant data manipulation vulnerability (CVE-2014-6332) with a CVSS score of 9.3 in every version of Microsoft Windows from Windows 95 onward. Significant vulnerabilities can go undetected for some time. In this case, the buggy code is at least 19 years old and has been remotely exploitable for the past 18 years. I have no doubt that it would have fetched six figures on the gray market.


40 years and more than $100bn after the first federal data protection law was enacted, the government is struggling to close holes without the knowledge, staff or systems to outwit an ever-evolving foe. Although the government is projected to spend $65bn on cybersecurity contracts between 2015 and 2020, many experts believe the effort is not enough to counter a growing pool of hackers whose motives vary.

Mary Pat Flaherty, Jason Samenow and Lisa Rein:

Hackers from China breached the federal weather network recently, forcing cybersecurity teams to seal off data vital to disaster planning, aviation, shipping and scores of other crucial uses, officials said.

The intrusion occurred in late September but officials gave no indication that they had a problem until Oct. 20, according to three people familiar with the hack and the subsequent reaction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, which includes the National Weather Service. Even then, NOAA did not say its systems were compromised.

Ellen Nakashima:

Chinese government hackers are suspected of breaching the computer networks of the United States Postal Service, compromising the data of more than 800,000 employees — including the postmaster general's.

The compromised data included names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, dates of employment and other information, officials said. The data of every employee were exposed.

David A. Wheeler:

The biggest issue, as always, is those systems which are not rapidly updated. Indeed, many systems have no reasonable update process at all!

Jerry Michalski, a former tech industry analyst and founder of the REX think tank, observed in a recent Pew study:

Most of the devices exposed on the internet will be vulnerable. They will also be prone to unintended consequences: they will do things nobody designed for beforehand, most of which will be undesirable.

the one moment of time in which we are not at home, yet have to live
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:44 am EST, Nov 15, 2014

Tim Parks:

"Into thirty centuries born," Edwin Muir began his most celebrated poem, "At home in them all but the very last." Much is said about escapism in narrative and fiction. But perhaps the greatest escapism of all is to take refuge in the domesticity of the past, the home that history and literature become, avoiding the one moment of time in which we are not at home, yet have to live: the present.

This is the place of hope and fear, And faith that comes when hope is lost; Defeat and victory both are here. In this place where all's to be.


I've gotten old enough that I now understand why adults seek to escape reality. Paradoxically, I think I was better at escaping reality when I was younger.

Andrew O'Hagan:

We sat in the past and burned with the desire to get out, to meet people, to find our voices, to discover the true meaning of luxury in our confrontation with a panoply of genuine choices. Our wish wasn't to plant a flag on the ground of what we knew and defend it until death, but to sail out, not quite knowing what was past the horizon but hoping we might like it when we got there.

Sterling Hayden:

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

welcome to the algorithmically generated future
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:44 am EST, Nov 15, 2014

Shaila Dewan:

It is difficult to tell how much has been seized by state and local law enforcement, but under a Justice Department program, the value of assets seized has ballooned to $4.3 billion in the 2012 fiscal year from $407 million in 2001.

Danah Boyd:

People don't think about the incentive structures of policing, especially in communities where the law is expected to clear so many warrants and do so many arrests per month. When they're stationed in algorithmically determined "high risk" communities, they arrest in those communities, thereby reinforcing the algorithms' assumptions.

Patrick Radden Keefe:

The plan was to arrest low-level soldiers, threaten them with lengthy jail terms, and then flip them, gathering information that could lead to arrests farther up the criminal hierarchy.

Alistair Croll:

The better we are at predicting the future, the less we'll be willing to share our fates with others. And the more those predictions look like facts, the more justice looks like thoughtcrime.

James Comey:

My goal is to urge our fellow citizens to participate in a conversation as a country about where we are, and where we want to be, with respect to the authority of law enforcement.

an allergy to economic abstraction
Topic: Miscellaneous 10:41 am EST, Nov 11, 2014

Baldur Bjarnason:

There is a price to be paid for computer illiteracy.

Taylor Swift:

I have to stop myself from thinking about how many aspects of technology I don't understand.

Bob Lefsetz:

We live in a multifarious world where we come together on so few things. Taylor Swift is a rallying point, someone we can talk about, but it's got nothing to do with her music and everything to do with the publicity. Selling a million copies a week in a country of 300 million people is a blip on the radar screen, but owning the news cycle, even trumping the World Series, is priceless.

Alice Gregory:

Sitting here, in this echoing vault of capitalism, I am less confused about the price of a good than I've ever been. And while I'm reluctant to glorify the dignity of manual labor, romanticize agrarian enterprise, or oversimplify a dense matrix of activity, the whole operation seems refreshingly straightforward. It makes me wonder whether the much-maligned, all-purpose nostalgia that's rampant among city-dwelling young adults -- the pickles, the flannel, the rye-based cocktails -- is really a kind of mass intellectual crisis: an allergy to economic abstraction.

Ulrik Sanders:

There's too much capacity in the market and that drives down prices. From an industry perspective, it doesn't make any sense. But from an individual company perspective, it makes a lot of sense. It's a very tricky thing.

Venkat Rao:

The fact that the phrase itself -- an economics of pricelessness -- likely sounds like a profane contradiction in terms suggests it is the right direction to explore.

stop this disease
Topic: Miscellaneous 10:41 am EST, Nov 11, 2014

Bill Gates:

The only way to stop this disease is to end it forever.

Bill Nye:

I'm just trying to change the world here.

drawling and deep and relentless
Topic: Miscellaneous 10:41 am EST, Nov 11, 2014

Alice Gregory:

The moos, the hundreds and hundreds of moos, are drawling and deep and relentless.


Before I came out, guys told me, 'The bees, sir, the bees, the bees.' I thought they'd made this stuff up. But it was true. You can hear them coming.

the way it is
Topic: Miscellaneous 10:41 am EST, Nov 11, 2014

Natasha Vargas-Cooper:

Nobody loves Lena Dunham's Girls like Glenn Greenwald (he's a total Marnie!).

Sabrina Lane, age 10:

Everyone I know, both boys and girls (except for Ruth), loves Minecraft the way it is.

weights and measures
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:48 am EST, Nov 10, 2014

Michel Faber via Marcel Theroux:

The phrase in the Old Testament that is variously rendered as "of old" or "long ago" in different versions means, in Hebrew, something closer to "from afar." It is as though the moral precepts that govern much of the world's behavior are derived from far-off and alien civilizations.

L.P. Hartley:

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

Nicholas Carr:

The real sentimental fallacy is the assumption that the new thing is always better ... than the old thing. That's the view of a child, naive and pliable.

Andrew O'Hagan:

People become addicted to the weights and measures of their own experience: We value our own story and what it entails. But we can't become hostages to the romantic notion that the past is always a better country.

Bob Lefsetz:

Things change. Something is lost in every march forward. To cry about the loss of the past is to marginalize yourself. People who put brakes on the future end up screwing themselves.

Carl Sagan:

Don't judge everyone else by your limited experience.

Dannie Abse:

Ask the moon.
The mystery named
is not the mystery caged.


We've always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Or perhaps we've just forgotten that we are still pioneers. And we've barely begun.

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