239 Posts In Total

Force and Opinion

When political life and independent thought revived in the 1960s, the problem arose again, and the reaction was the same. The Trilateral Commission, bringing together liberal elites from Europe, Japan, and the United States, warned of an impending “crisis of democracy” as segments of the public sought to enter the political arena. This “excess of democracy” was posing a threat to the unhampered rule of privileged elites — what is called “democracy” in political theology. The problem was the usual one: the rabble were trying to manage their own affairs, gaining control over their communities and pressing their political demands. There were organizing efforts among young people, ethnic minorities, women, social activists, and others, encouraged by the struggles of benighted masses elsewhere for freedom and independence. More “moderation in democracy” would be required, the Commission concluded, perhaps a return to the days when “Truman had been able to govern the country with the cooperation of a relatively small number of Wall Street lawyers and bankers,” as the American rapporteur commented.

Noam Chomsky

Things can always be worse

Because if things can always be worse, then things are never too far gone to be saved. Whatever small thing you could do to improve something, or even just to keep it from slipping, is valuable. Your life, your communities, your environment, your planet, are all worth the effort you put in to improve it, no matter how small the impact can feel. Because things can always, always be worse.

I keenly feel the cynicism, doom and gloom that plagues activists, or even everyday people realising the scale of human suffering. We’ve never been more aware of the injustices and hurt felt around the world today. Simultaneously, we’ve never been more aware of what could be, how so many solutions seem like a mere hair’s breadth away, if only those in power had the guts to reach for it. Sometimes it feels like things have gotten so bad, so desperate, that it’s more cathartic to burn it all down, pronounce it DOA, and be done with it all. At least then we wouldn’t have to suffer in perpetual disappointment. This anger is valid, and reasonable, and important, and needs an outlet every now and then.

But things can always be worse.

Serena Chen

Alternate realities in the every day: extremism, the internet, and the death of truth

The majority of people read headlines and go no further, ignoring the substance by which they could create a developed worldview. A few words without context or explanation, and people genuinely believe that they are informed about the workings of complex political, economic, and psychological systems. Constantly awash in facts, propaganda has taken on a new form. Those with destructive agendae don’t have to lie to you to get you to believe what they want.

They are comfortable doing so, and a society with atrophied critical thinking skills will make such falsehoods easy to buy, but far easier than fabricating facts is using extremely selective presentation of those facts to push people towards a philosophy. Barraging people with events, which they can understand, rather than context and interpretation, which requires more effort, you can effortlessly make the world seem however you want. If you want to demonize a group of people, highlight every time a member of that group commits a crime.

John Farrell

The Propaganda Multiplier

It is one of the most important aspects of our media system, and yet hardly known to the public: most of the international news coverage in Western media is provided by only three global news agencies based in New York, London and Paris.

The key role played by these agencies means Western media often report on the same topics, even using the same wording. In addition, governments, military and intelligence services use these global news agencies as multipliers to spread their messages around the world.

A study of the Syria war coverage by nine leading European newspapers clearly illustrates these issues: 78% of all articles were based in whole or in part on agency reports, yet 0% on investigative research. Moreover, 82% of all opinion pieces and interviews were in favor of a US and NATO intervention, while propaganda was attributed exclusively to the opposite side.

Swiss Policy Research

How to waste your career, one comfortable year at a time

One common trait I’ve observed in all great engineers is their sense of adventure. People who pigeonhole themselves into a specialty and do the exact same job for years tend to grow complacent. The problem is that stability is an innate human instinct. So you need to deliberately counterbalance this tendency. Taking risks and being uncomfortable is a muscle you have to train.

A friend of mine told me this story about wild ducks — Wild ducks migrate in the winter not because of the cold but because of the food. If you feed them, they won’t migrate. Keep feeding them for a few years in a row, still won’t migrate. Then stop all of a sudden, they won’t migrate, and they’ll die. The moral is that you can tame wild ducks, but you can’t wildify tamed ducks (that’s why there isn’t even such a word as wildify). So you have to be careful not to lose that hustle.

Apoorva Govind

Why Do We Assume Extraterrestrials Might Want to Visit Us?

It is presumptuous to assume that we are worthy of special attention from advanced species in the Milky Way. We may be a phenomenon as uninteresting to them as ants are to us; after all, when we’re walking down the sidewalk we rarely if ever examine every ant along our path.

Our sun formed at the tail end of the star formation history of the universe. Most stars are billions of years older than ours. So much older, in fact that many sunlike stars have already consumed their nuclear fuel and cooled off to a compact Earth-size remnant known as a white dwarf. We also learned recently that of order half of all sunlike stars host an Earth-size planet in their habitable zone, allowing for liquid water and for the chemistry of life.

Avi Loeb

Double Blind Passwords (aka Horcruxing)

For all his faults, Voldemort did one good thing for us muggles. He gave us the concept of a horcrux. For the uninitiated, a horcrux is any object in which you store a piece of your soul, putting the proverbial eggs of your soul into different baskets, to gain quasi-immortality.

The basic idea: You split your password into 2 parts - one which is stored in the password manager, and the other which is stored in your head (aka horcrux).

Basically, at any given point in time, you and your password manager know only a piece of the password. It’s double-blind. In effect, just like You-Know-Who, you’re splitting your password (soul) into pieces and storing them in different places.

Phani Karan

The Russia Discourse is More Reckless and Dangerous Than Ever

But over the last four years, Americans, particularly those who feed on liberal media outlets, have been drowned in so much mythology about the U.S. and Russia that they have no capacity to critically assess the claims being made, and — just as they were led to believe about “Russia’s 2016 interference in Our Sacred Elections” — are easily convinced that what Russia did is some shocking and extreme crime the likes of which are rarely seen in international relations. In reality, their own government is the undisputed world champion in perpetrating these acts, and has been for years if not decades.

[…]

What we have here, yet again, is the classic operation of the intelligence community feeding serious accusations about a nuclear-armed power to an eagerly gullible corporate media, with the media mindlessly disseminating it without evidence, all toward ratcheting up tensions between these two nuclear-armed powers and fortifying a mythology of the U.S. as grand victim but never perpetrator.

Glenn Greenwald

Law Enforcement Is Accessing Locked Devices Quite Well, Thank You

But a new report shows the widespread use by law enforcement of tools that circumvent those technical barriers. The report from Upturn, a Washington, D.C.-based civil society organization, zeroes in on law enforcement use of mobile device forensic tools (MDFTs).

These hardware and software tools collect forensic data from mobile phones: the texts, emails, and photos stored on the phone; data regarding when the texts and emails were sent and where the photos were taken; the locations—if location tracking tools are turned on—where the phone and, presumably, the user have been; and when they were there.

According to the report, 2,000 of the United States’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies, including 50 of the nation’s largest police departments, either have purchased MDFTs or have access to these tools.

Susan Landau

Being Alone

This is the secret of loneliness.

And nobody talks about it—this mysterious, shadow of loneliness that lingers even when you’re “doing everything right.” The secret is that “everything” is not quite everything.

You can’t address your own experience of loneliness just by finding connection with the people around you. You need to find connection with yourself.

Sure. Connect with your neighbors, your friends, your communities. Go to that meetup. Volunteer. Have meaningful conversations. Find love. Do it all.

Ankit Shah