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Current Topic: Miscellaneous

the full package
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:18 am EST, Jan 26, 2015

Mark Danner:

We know where we came from, and we know where we are. We do not yet know how to get back.

Quinn Norton:

As the legal system drifts further out of sync with reality, the danger slowly but surely grows.

Brad Heath:

At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

The radars were first designed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. They represent the latest example of battlefield technology finding its way home to civilian policing and bringing complex legal questions with it.

Amar Toor & Russell Brandom:

Bill Marczak, a research fellow at CitizenLab and the co-founder of Bahrain Watch, calls FinFisher just the latest step in "productized surveillance," an approach pioneered by companies like Gamma and Milan-based Hacking Team that aims to make digital intrusion as easy and full-service as any other government technology package.

Leslie Gelb:

The world of 2030 will be an ugly place, littered with rebellion and repression. Societies will be deeply fragmented and overwhelmed by irreconcilable religious and political groups, by disparities in wealth, by ignorant citizenry and by states' impotence to fix problems. This world will resemble today's, only almost everything will be more difficult to manage and solve.

the fear of a negative result
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:18 am EST, Jan 26, 2015

Marc Rogers:

Let's face it -- most of today's so-called "cutting edge" security defenses are either so specific, or so brittle, that they really don't offer much meaningful protection against a sophisticated attacker or group of attackers.

Lee Berger:

Any time a scientist says 'we've got this figured out' they are probably wrong.

Lawrence Krauss:

The "null hypothesis" is most often the default hypothesis in science. We reject the null hypothesis (namely that what we think is significant is simply an accident, or noise) only when we have clear evidence to back it up.

Paul Basken:

Randomized trials now account for about 20 percent of the $30 billion annual budget of the National Institutes of Health. Private drug companies spend more than $30 billion on them. Yet drug trials fail at a rate of about 90 percent. The trials' high failure rate is driven in part by companies' pushing for trials before they've taken the time to test their theories more thoroughly in the lab. That may seem shortsighted, but executives sometimes appear motivated more by the short-term career boost from a trial announcement than by the fear of a negative result many years down the line.

Peter Orszag argued that far too many commonplace medical practices and procedures lack grounding in a scientifically rigorous test of their effectiveness. It's therefore critical to make trial practices more efficient, so that the many questions needing answers in medicine can be thoroughly vetted.

Ignorance is bliss:

Ernie: Is there anything fluffier than a cloud?

Big Tom: If there is, I don't want to know about it.

something extraordinary comes your way
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:18 am EST, Jan 26, 2015

Loren Brichter:

Some remarkable stuff throughout history has been accomplished by individuals -- part of the trick is standing on the right shoulders.

Richard Hamming:

Pasteur said, "Luck favors the prepared mind." The prepared mind sooner or later finds something important and does it. The particular thing you do is luck, but that you do something is not.

Lauren Clark:

It's good to have a plan, but if something extraordinary comes your way, you should go for it.

Werner Herzog:

Always take the initiative.

a very serious matter
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:32 pm EST, Jan 24, 2015


Life is too short to spend 2300 hours a year working on someone else's idea of what the right problems are.

Richard Hamming:

There are so many alibis. Why weren't you first? Why didn't you do it right? Don't try an alibi. Don't try and kid yourself. You can tell other people all the alibis you want. I don't mind. But to yourself try to be honest.

Joan Didion:

Self-deception remains the most difficult deception.

Richard Hamming:

The misapplication of effort is a very serious matter. If you do not work on an important problem, it's unlikely you'll do important work.

Caterina Fake:

Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on.

Richard Hamming:

You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done.

Jony Ive:

What focus means is saying no with every bone in your body to something you know is a good idea but you say no because you're focused on something else.

it ain't gettin' any safer
Topic: Miscellaneous 1:57 pm EST, Jan 24, 2015

James Comey:

The Internet is the most dangerous parking lot imaginable.

Mark Painter:

The means to perpetrate wide scale damage are in place. All that's lacking is intent.

Chris Meenan:

Threats are pervasive. The Internet communication vector means they will always have an attack surface, so we must, at a minimum, record everything.

Threat Assessment:

Lisa: Uh, are you sure that's safe?
Kearny: Well it ain't gettin' any safer.

Peter Beinart:

As in past years, Obama boasted about having withdrawn troops from Afghanistan and about no longer "sending large ground forces overseas." But in a marked shift from previous years, he stopped claiming that all this had made America safer from terrorism.

And now, in his final year in office, he's not only stopped telling Americans they are safer. He's declaring war.

Leon Wieseltier:

There are worse things than being wrong.

Adam Gopnik:

Even doing the right thing rarely works out. What history generally "teaches" is how hard it is for anyone to control it, including the people who think they're making it.

all elements of our power
Topic: Miscellaneous 5:48 am EST, Jan 22, 2015

David Runciman:

When technology escapes from political control, politicians face a choice: do they adapt to the change, or do they insist that it adapts to them?

Barack Obama:

Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?

David Runciman:

The only thing that can rein in the state is a more powerful state.

John Regehr:

If you were given the opportunity to spend USD 100 million over five years to maximally improve the security of open source software, what would you do? I'll admit that it is possible (and worrying) that USD 100 M isn't enough to make much of a dent in our current and upcoming problems.

Paul Graham Raven:

Better technology doesn't necessarily mean thinking about what a technology does or how it does it, but about why you wanted the technology in the first place, and what you definitely don't want it to do.

Loren Brichter:

It's not like a boat with a couple of holes that we can patch; it's more like trying to sail across an ocean on a pile of accrued garbage.

Robert Graham:

This War on Hackers is likely to be no more effective than the War on Drugs.

Scott Long:

To combat violence you must look unflinchingly at the concrete inequities and practices that breed it.

Christopher Soghoian:

The reason why we don't have any serious proposals on the table that would improve cybersecurity, is because big companies don't actually want to be held accountable.

Shikha Dalmia:

Regimes change course only when the cost of maintaining the status quo exceeds the cost of enacting change.

not always easy to discern
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:26 am EST, Jan 20, 2015

Diego Gambetta:

Given the huge political costs if an attack of the scale of 9/11 were to be repeated, it makes sense for policymakers to be overzealous in issuing public warnings.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, of California:

They will come after us, and I think we need to prevent an attack wherever we can.

Senator Chuck Grassley, of Iowa:

If it can happen in Paris, it can happen in New York again, or Washington, D.C.

Alison Smale:

Even as governments are ramping up their counterterrorism efforts, they are igniting a growing debate about whether they are going too far, too fast, and are at risk of sacrificing civil liberties as they scramble to intensify security. The trade-offs are not always easy to discern ...

Samuel Moyn:

"It ought not to be beyond the intelligence of even the most hidebound local politicians to see the benefits of imaginative compromise," Tony Judt says. Yet so far, it has been.

Michael S. Schmidt:

The revelation by the D.E.A. shows how tactics that began as a response to terrorism have become part of the government's approach to more routine crimes.

Senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont:

I am deeply concerned about this kind of suspicionless intrusion into American's privacy in any context, but it is particularly troubling when done for routine criminal investigations.

Mathangi Krishnamurthy:

Things can rarely be erased these days. We leave signs of our presence everywhere and all signs are under observation. There is no starting over. Our histories are in code, and all our secret pleasures open to scrutiny. We must not write anymore except when things we write are not worth scrutiny.

David Bernstein:

There's no way to test the merit of ideas unless someone is willing to criticize them, sometimes harshly.

Kelly Fitzsimmons, co-founder of the Hypervoice Consortium:

What would it mean to have a corpus of conversations after there is regime change, and a new government doesn't like what you said?

does anyone believe?
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:26 am EST, Jan 20, 2015

David Cole:

Increasingly, it's not clear that your vote matters unless you're also willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to support your preferences. This is a game played by, and for, the wealthy.

James Bessen:

Balance will be difficult to restore, given that money will likely remain a fixture of the U.S. political system. The cost of running for Congress has increased by more than 500 percent since 1984, and spending by registered Washington lobbyists has soared, more than doubling between 1998 and 2008. Efforts to curtail lobbying have largely failed, with the Supreme Court restricting legislation intended to rein in campaign spending.

David Cole:

According to the Brennan Center report, over the five years since these decisions, super PACs have spent more than one billion dollars on federal election campaigns. And because these organizations are free of any limits, they have proved to be magnets for those who have the resources to spend lavishly to further their interests. About 60 percent of that billion dollars has come from just 195 people. Those 195 individuals have only one vote each, but does anyone believe that their combined expenditure of over $600 million does not give them disproportionate influence on the politicians they have supported?

Jim Tankersley:

The median prime-age American male -- 25 to 54 years old -- earns less today than he did in 1966, adjusted for inflation. After decades of social and economic progress, the median prime-age woman earns less now than she did in 2000. The typical two-parent American family works nearly two more days per week, full time, than it did in 1979 -- but earns less per hour, in real dollars. The Federal Reserve calculates that the typical household has less wealth than it did in 1989. Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman reported recently that 90 percent of U.S. households are worth less today than they were in 1987.

And yet America's total personal income nearly doubled over the past 25 years, and inflation-adjusted incomes nearly tripled for the top 5 percent of U.S. earners.

a manifestation of who we are
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:09 pm EST, Jan 19, 2015

Werner Herzog:

Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.

Rowan Simpson:

All it takes to lose confidence in the quality of what you're reading is one story on a topic you know a lot about. You can extrapolate from there.

The White House:

American companies are also leaders in protecting privacy ...

James Bessen:

The root of the problem is the corrosive influence of money in politics.

Diego Gambetta:

If lobbies and conspiracies had an effect on deciding the war on Iraq, this was because the new strategic mindset was so manipulable. It attracted reasoning that was orthogonal to the central issue.

Devlin Barrett:

Saied Kashani said the DEA took a law originally meant to authorize specific, targeted requests for information from drug companies and turned it into a general sweep of millions of Americans' phone records.

Peter Beinart:

[These] actions were not "contrary to who we are." They were a manifestation of who we are. And the more we acknowledge that, the better our chances of becoming something different in the years to come.

the gravity of this wrangling
Topic: Miscellaneous 2:49 pm EST, Jan 18, 2015

John Boehner:

We live in a dangerous country, and we get reminded every week of the dangers that are out there.

Ivan Sukhov:

Dark storm clouds have descended and there is no sign of light on the horizon.

Samuel Moyn:

Ours remains an era of forever war, one that both American liberals and conservatives agree to go on fighting, while restricting their wrangling to how best to justify it legally.

Dan Geer:

Things that need no appropriations are outside the system of checks and balances.

Mujib Mashal:

In private, U.S. officials admit they don't know how much they've spent on the Afghan war.

Matthieu Aikins:

We stare at each other for a moment, and Mirza Khan gives a chuckle. He shakes his head in amazement. A future hundred grand sitting in the living room of a guy who doesn't have plumbing, electricity or furniture. Someone between him and that junkie is clearly making a killing.

The Economist:

Part of the ingenuity of the schemes, part of the chutzpah, is the way they mix subterfuge with respect for the letter of the law. This was a heist, but a perfectly legal one.

Benedict Evans:

Though the Royal Navy ended WW2 with 55 aircraft carriers of various form factors, ultimately carriers for squadrons of jets were so expensive that the UK economy could not support building a fleet of them and (for this and other reasons) ceded naval supremacy to the US Navy. This is a common theme, incidentally -- 'disruptive' military technology has almost always been more expensive, not cheaper, and the higher cost tended to be as disruptive to the broader environment as the technology itself.

Matt Trevithick and Daniel Seckman:

Nothing conveys the gravity of this war like seeing a drone descend missile-less minutes before another rises into the sky fully loaded.

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