Friday, January 31, 2014


Young men have a passion for regarding their elders as senile.

-- Henry Brooke Adams (1838-1918), US historian, journalist, great-grandson of John Adams, grandson of John Quincy Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, Chapter 11 (1907)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow Zombie Apocalypse

It was like something you would see if they told you the plague broke out and you had to run for your life.

-- Saquana Bonaparte, who inched along in her car for almost 12 hours after ice coated roads in the Atlanta area, NY Times, 30 January 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

America Does Not Stand Still

[W]hat I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all -- the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.

Let's face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows.  ...

The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by -- let alone get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all. ...

But America does not stand still -- and neither will I.  So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do.

Opportunity is who we are.  And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.

-- President Barack Obama, State of the Union address, 28 January 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Almost Nothing

I think it's embarrassing for a head of state like that to go on for almost 45 minutes and say almost nothing. ...  It's clear that the President would not be speaking today without the actions of Edward Snowden and whistle-blowers before him. ...  Security whistle-blowers have forced this debate.  This president has been dragged, kicking and screaming, to today's address.  He's been very reluctant to make any concrete reforms, and unfortunately, today we also see very few concrete reforms.

-- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on CNN's live coverage of President Obama's NSA speech, 17 January 2014

Monday, January 27, 2014

New Questions

When mistakes are made -- which is inevitable in any large and complicated human enterprise, they correct those mistakes, laboring in obscurity, often unable to discuss their work even with family and friends -- the men and women at the NSA know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber attack occurs, they will be asked by Congress and the media why they failed to connect the dots.  What sustains those who work at NSA and our other intelligence agencies through all these pressures is the knowledge that their professionalism and dedication play a central role in the defense of our nation.

Now, to say that our intelligence community follows the law and is staffed by patriots is not to suggest that I or others in my administration felt complacent about the potential impact of these programs.  Those of us who hold office in America have a responsibility to our Constitution.  And while I was confident in the integrity of those who lead our intelligence community, it was clear to me in observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place.

-- President Obama in his speech on NSA reforms, 17 January 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014


I hold a number of beliefs that have been repudiated by the liveliest intellects of our time. I believe that order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction.  I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta.  I believe that in spite of the recent triumphs of science, men haven't changed much in the last two thousand years; and in consequence we must still try to learn from history.  History is ourselves.

-- Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), English author, museum director, and art historian, Civilisation (1969) Ch. 13: Heroic Materialism

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Religious Freedom Day

In 1786, the Virginia General Assembly affirmed an ideal that has long been central to the American journey.  The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, penned by Thomas Jefferson, declared religious liberty a natural right and any attempt to subvert it "a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either." The Statute inspired religious liberty protections in the First Amendment, which has stood for almost two and a quarter centuries.

Today, America embraces people of all faiths and of no faith.  We are Christians and Jews, Muslims and Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs, atheists and agnostics.  Our religious diversity enriches our cultural fabric and reminds us that what binds us as one is not the tenets of our faiths, the colors of our skin, or the origins of our names.  What makes us American is our adherence to shared ideals -- freedom, equality, justice, and our right as a people to set our own course.

-- President Barack Obama, Religious Freedom Day Proclamation, 15 January 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Shut It Down

We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantanamo, both in terms of detention and torture.  Our decision to keep Guantanamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States.

It is time that the American people and our politicians accepted a level of risk in the defense of our constitutional values, just as our service men and women have gone into harm's way time after time to defend our Constitution.  If we make a mockery of our values, it calls us to question what we are really fighting for.

It is time to close Guantanamo.  Our departure from Afghanistan is a perfect point in history to close the facility.

-- Retired Marine Major General Michael Lehnert, who opened the Guantanamo detention camp, in a column published in the Detroit Free Press, 12 December 2013

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr. (15 January 1929 - 4 April 1968), African-American civil rights leader, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Per Minute?

How much is that per minute?

-- Emer Duffy, who was billed $1,696 after a hospital treated a cut on her daughter's forehead with a bit of skin glue, New York Times, 3 December 2013

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Security Vs. Obscurity

If I take a letter, lock it in a safe, hide the safe somewhere in New York, then tell you to read the letter, that's not security.  That's obscurity. On the other hand, if I take a letter, and lock it in a safe, and then give you the safe along with the design specifications of the safe and a hundred identical safes with their combinations so that you and the world's best safecrackers can study the locking mechanism -- and you still can't open the safe and read the letter -- that's security.

-- Bruce Schneier (1963-), Applied Cryptography, 2nd Edition, p. xix (1996)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kosovo Hits Facebook

As a prime minister of Kosovo, I found it difficult to accept that I have to declare myself as being from Serbia.  Being listed by Facebook was like being recognized by a global economic superpower.  It has enormous impact.

-- Hashim Thaci who had identified himself as being from neighboring Albania on Facebook until users were allowed to list their country as Kosovo, New York Times, 13 December 2013

Monday, January 13, 2014

Hell's Angels (TM)

Well, I don't want to sound pigheaded, but there's a million people out there that want to make a dollar off of the name Hells Angels and the emblem Hells Angels, and we try to stop them.

-- Sonny Barger, a longtime leader of the Hells Angels, on the group's willingness to litigate to protect its brand, New York Times, 28 November 2013

Friday, January 10, 2014

Traffic Problems

Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.

-- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's deputy chief-of-staff Bridget Anne Kelly, in an email that triggered punitive lane closures on the George Washington Bridge

Thursday, January 09, 2014


You call me a Circle; but in reality I am not a Circle, but an infinite number of Circles...  For even a Sphere -- which is my proper name in my own country -- if he manifest himself at all to an inhabitant of Flatland -- must needs manifest himself as a Circle.

-- Edwin Abbott Abbott (1838-1926), English schoolmaster, theologian, and author, Flatland, Chapter 16, "How the Stranger Vainly Endeavoured to Reveal to Me in Words the Mysteries of Spaceland (1884)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower

Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight.  He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service.  It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community. ...

When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government.

-- Editorial Board of the New York Times, "Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower", New York Times, 1 January 2014

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


In the United States the question "Is money a form of speech?" is an important legal question, because of the protection afforded speech under the US Constitution.  In my (legally uninformed) opinion digital money may make this issue more complicated.  As we'll see, the Bitcoin protocol is really a way of standing up before the rest of the world (or at least the rest of the Bitcoin network) and avowing "I'm going to give such-and-such a number of bitcoins to so-and-so a person" in a way that's extremely difficult to repudiate.  At least naively, it looks more like speech than exchanging copper coins, say.

-- Michael Nielsen, "How the Bitcoin protocol actually works", 6 December 2013

Monday, January 06, 2014


With a high temperature for the day of just -4F, today was the coldest day since January 1994. I have a kid in high school who can count today as the coldest day of her life.