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Current Topic: Miscellaneous

unnecessary, or even counterproductive
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:37 am EST, Dec 12, 2014

Mike Konczal:

Militarization is best understood as an abandonment of public legitimacy as a goal for or justification of criminal justice. Enforcing the law exclusively by force and threat has become, in the eyes of law enforcement, tough-on-crime politicians, and officials committed to economistic "incentive" analysis of crime, sufficient to carrying out and justifying the purposes of the state. Legitimation of public power through popular consent, the evenhanded delivery of justice, and non-carceral solutions to lawbreaking are unnecessary, or even counterproductive, under this logic. Amid the delegitimization of the state itself, pure police power is left to fill in the gap.

Stephen L. Carter:

Officials who fail to take into account the obvious fact that the laws they're so eager to pass will be enforced at the point of a gun cannot fairly be described as public servants.

Justin Fenton:

City police Det. John L. Haley, a member of a specialized phone tracking unit, said officers did not use the controversial device known as a stingray. But when pressed on how phones are tracked, he cited what he called a "nondisclosure agreement" with the FBI.

a daily moment of cathartic introspection
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:41 am EST, Dec 11, 2014

James Hamblin:

Every day you get a text from the Emojiary bot. It asks how you're doing. You write it back, texting out your most visceral feelings, and it accepts them without judgment.

This is all meant to conjure a daily moment of cathartic introspection, of candid self expression.

Reflective writing, particularly in a journal, has been shown to have health benefits both physical and emotional, like increasing control and creativity, decreasing anxiety, depression, and rage. But it's hard to do.

Liz Danzico:

At the end of each day, I write an "atomic sentence," a single statement that summarizes the most vital lesson about that day.

Matt Mullenweg:

So blog just for two people. First, write for yourself, both your present self whose thinking will be clarified by distilling an idea through writing and editing, and your future self who will be able to look back on these words and be reminded of the context in which they were written. Second, write for a single person who you have in mind as the perfect person to read what you write, almost like a letter, even if they never will, or a person who you're sure will read it because of a connection you have to them.

James Hamblin:

In the 1980s James Pennebaker, who is now chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, asked people to write about feelings related to a stressful event for 20 minutes and saw improvements in physical health after just a few sessions.

Dan Jurafsy:

Authors of one-star reviews unconsciously use language much as people do in the wake of collective trauma.

Lauren McDevitt:

One thing we found is that feelings can be kind of abstract. When you first start to think about how you're feeling, you might not know how to describe that exactly in words. So the emojis are this first toe in the pool to sort of get a read on how you're feeling.

T.M. Luhrmann:

Abstract odor terms are common among people on the Malay Peninsula.

the necessary approvals
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:41 am EST, Dec 11, 2014

Colin Powell:

Be careful what you choose. You may get it.

You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours.

Peter Baker:

Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who ran the C.I.A. interrogation program, said Sunday that critics now assailing the agency were pressing it after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to do whatever it took to prevent a recurrence. "We did what we were asked to do, we did what we were assured was legal, and we know our actions were effective," Mr. Rodriguez wrote in The Washington Post.

Rebecca Brock:

People say to me, "Whatever it takes." I tell them, It's going to take everything.

Jose A. Rodriguez Jr.:

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, lawmakers urged us to do everything possible to prevent another attack on our soil. Members of Congress and the administration were nearly unanimous in their desire that the CIA do all that it could to debilitate and destroy al-Qaeda. The CIA got the necessary approvals to do so and kept Congress briefed throughout. But as our successes grew, some lawmakers' recollections shrank in regard to the support they once offered.

Rebecca Brock:

You can't even remember what I'm trying to forget.

Skyler Preszler:

Mom, we killed women on the street today. We killed kids on bikes. We had no choice.

Lawrence D. Freedman:

There are no sure lessons. Yet there are always choices.

toward a trapdoor labeled unintended consequences
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:20 am EST, Dec  8, 2014

Kevin Kelly:

This is the time that folks in the future will look back at and say, "Oh to have been alive and well back then!"

Ryan Bigge:

Each episode of Black Mirror hits the reset button, taking place in a unique future universe with a fresh set of actors. Creator Charlie Brooker likes to start with a provocative but recognizable piece of design fiction and then guides the viewer toward a trapdoor labeled unintended consequences. In the episode "The Entire History of You" we watch a jealous husband unable to stop himself from discovering a secret he might be better off not knowing. It's an effective critique of where lifelogging and Facebook might take us, in part because Brooker is able to make such a vivid emotional argument.

Christina Hendricks:

No man should be on Facebook.

Taylor Swift:

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


The breakthrough came when we started thinking about the components in the system as malicious actors colluding via covert channels.

William Langewiesche:

Automation has made it more and more unlikely that ordinary airline pilots will ever have to face a raw crisis in flight -- but also more and more unlikely that they will be able to cope with such a crisis if one arises. Moreover, it is not clear that there is a way to resolve this paradox.

Michael Hobbes:

We all understand that every ecosystem, each forest floor or coral reef, is the result of millions of interactions between its constituent parts, a balance of all the aggregated adaptations of plants and animals to their climate and each other. Adding a non-native species, or removing one that has always been there, changes these relationships in ways that are too intertwined and complicated to predict.

Samantha Power:

There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.

everything you see is merely empty-tainment
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:20 am EST, Dec  8, 2014

Chris Rock:

George W. Bush was the first cable-television president, and the thing liberals don't like about Obama is that he's a network guy. He's kind of Les Moonves.

"Les Moonves":

To further demonstrate our commitment to artistic integrity, we will ... assure you, our loyal viewers, that anything and everything you see is merely empty-tainment and that no inferences are to be drawn from anything, at any time.

Louis CK:

There's a huge amount of work that goes into placating a network in regular television. It's literally 70% or 80% of your workload, is showing them the material, getting their notes and presenting it to them and making sure they weigh in. It's a huge amount of work.

The Economist on Obama, from 2008:

He has to start deciding whom to disappoint.

Isaiah Berlin:

You must believe me, one cannot have everything one wants -- not only in practice, but even in theory. The denial of this, the search for a single, overarching ideal because it is the one and only true one for humanity, invariably leads to coercion. And then to destruction, blood -- eggs are broken, but the omelette is not in sight, there is only an infinite number of eggs, human lives, ready for the breaking. And in the end the passionate idealists forget the omelette, and just go on breaking eggs.

overwhelmed by the Kafkaesque churn of punishment
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:20 am EST, Dec  8, 2014

Evgeny Morozov:

Where the innovators and the disruptors lead, the bureaucrats follow.

Patty McCord:

Building a bureaucracy and elaborate rituals around measuring performance usually doesn't improve it.

Sandeep Chawla:

If you create a bureaucracy to solve a particular problem, when the problem is solved that bureaucracy is out of a job.

Joshua Rothman:

Facebook, like much of the Web, is officially designed to encourage positivity; there is no "dislike" button, and the stated goal is to facilitate affiliation and belonging. But, over time, the site's utopian social bureaucracy has been overwhelmed by the Kafkaesque churn of punishment.

the price of things
Topic: Miscellaneous 5:09 pm EST, Dec  6, 2014


Be careful what you get good at.

Joan Didion:

People with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things.

Attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Ed Tom Bell:

You can say it's my job to fight it but I don't know what it is anymore.

More than that, I don't want to know. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He would have to say, okay, I'll be part of this world.

From "The Road":

We're going to be okay, aren't we Papa?
Yes. We are.
And nothing bad is going to happen to us.
That's right.
Because we're carrying the fire.
Yes. Because we're carrying the fire.

True Detectives:

Rustin Cohle: I can't say the job made me this way. More like me being this way made me right for the job. I used to think about it more, but you reach a certain age you know who you are.

Martin Hart: Do you wonder ever if you're a bad man?

Rustin Cohle: No. I don't wonder, Marty. The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.

in order to remember it, one must have known it
Topic: Miscellaneous 2:50 pm EST, Dec  6, 2014

Penelope Trunk:

I say, "Do you have any cover letters where someone did well?"

And she says, "I have a part of the application where people have to write 150 characters about themselves. And this person wrote:

If you could only have 5 words on your tombstone, describing yourself, what would it say?
Mine: She wanted to learn, everything.

The punctuation is so gorgeous that I read the sentences twice, and I imagine myself using a comma with such intention. It will not happen, of course, but I like thinking about it.

Joan Didion:

Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.

Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception.

There is a common superstition that "self-respect" is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation.

People with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things.

To say that Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton is not to say that Napoleon might have been saved by a crash program in cricket; to give formal dinners in the rain forest would be pointless did not the candlelight flickering on the liana call forth deeper, stronger disciplines, values instilled long before. It is a kind of ritual, helping us to remember who and what we are. In order to remember it, one must have known it.

Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.

deeply nostalgic fantasies offered in bad faith
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:25 am EST, Dec  6, 2014

Chris Rock:

You can't even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.

Hua Hsu:

At its worst, concern for civility is a way to avoid having difficult conversations at all. Today, the greatest structural driver of the civility wars is the Internet. In the comparatively decentralized space, we have become compelled to take everyone's grievances seriously, even when those claims for civility and courteous debate have been made in bad faith. And, as the common ground between us seems to dwindle, it has become easier to fixate on incivility than to reckon with whatever ideas rude language might describe. Interestingly, the new civility troubles those across the political spectrum. For those on the right, civility is political correctness by a different name, while those on the left tend to see it as a way of silencing dissent. What unites these interpretations is a shared suspicion that the rules of civility exist to preserve our hierarchies.

The problem with civility is the presumption that we were ever civil in the first place. This is why calls for genteel discourse from on high always feel like deeply nostalgic fantasies offered in bad faith. There should be nothing controversial about everyday kindness; civility as a kind of individual moral compass should remain a virtue. But civility as a type of discourse -- as a high road that nobody ever actually walks -- is the opposite. It is bullshit.

David Foster Wallace:

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race" -- the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

Cormac McCarthy, "Blood Meridian":

At dusk they halted and built a fire and roasted the deer. The night was much enclosed about them and there were no stars. To the north they could see other fires that burned red and sullen along the invisible ridges. They ate and moved on, leaving the fire on the ground behind them, and as they rode up into the mountains this fire seemed to become altered of its location, now here, now there, drawing away, or shifting unaccountably along the flank of their movement. Like some ignis fatuus belated upon the road behind them which all could see and of which none spoke. For this will to deceive that is in things luminous may manifest itself likewise in retrospect and so by sleight of some fixed part of a journey already accomplished may also post men to fraudulent destinies.

Topic: Miscellaneous 7:33 am EST, Dec  5, 2014

Jeff Leach:

Maybe because we've un-wilded our children, that might play a role in some of the diseases we see in them.

Chris Rock:

Kids raised on a culture of "We're not going to keep score in the game because we don't want anybody to lose." Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can't say "the black kid over there." No, it's "the guy with the red shoes." You can't even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.

Bob Lefsetz:

That's what's wrong with America, all the damn apologizing. It would be one thing if these people really made a mistake, but the truth is they're afraid of being excoriated by the press and public, they're afraid to own their identities.

W. Kamau Bell:

When acquaintances haven't seen me for awhile, I often hear, "I forgot how tall you are!" I know you did. It's because I'm trying to make you forget.

Rebecca Brock:

You can't even remember what I'm trying to forget.

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