The Times’s Dealings With Julian Assange (

Great writeup on the modern day Ellsberg story of Assange’s dealing with the NYTimes staff. Remarkably thoughtful writing by Bill Keller:

I’m a little puzzled by the complaint that most of the embassy traffic we disclosed did not profoundly change our understanding of how the world works. Ninety-nine percent of what we read or hear on the news does not profoundly change our understanding of how the world works. News mostly advances by inches and feet, not in great leaps. The value of these documents — and I believe they have immense value — is not that they expose some deep, unsuspected perfidy in high places or that they upend your whole view of the world. For those who pay close attention to foreign policy, these documents provide texture, nuance and drama. They deepen and correct your understanding of how things unfold; they raise or lower your estimation of world leaders. For those who do not follow these subjects as closely, the stories are an opportunity to learn more. If a project like this makes readers pay attention, think harder, understand more clearly what is being done in their name, then we have performed a public service. And that does not count the impact of these revelations on the people most touched by them. WikiLeaks cables in which American diplomats recount the extravagant corruption of Tunisia’s rulers helped fuel a popular uprising that has overthrown the government.

While Assange mused darkly in his exile, one of his lawyers sent out a mock Christmas card that suggested at least someone on the WikiLeaks team was not lacking a sense of the absurd.

The message:

“Dear kids,

Santa is Mum & Dad.



via The Times’s Dealings With Julian Assange –

Oil & Food

Weighing in at 1,250 pounds (567 kilograms), Marina Wilson’s champion steer Grandview Rebel is ready for auction at a county fair in Maryland. Raising this steer has taken an agricultural investment equal to 283 gallons (1,071 liters) of oil, represented here by the red drums. That includes everything from fertilizers on cornfields to the diesel that runs machinery on the farm. Overall, it takes three-quarters of a gallon of oil to produce a pound of beef.

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You Are Not Qualified To Run Your Own Brain

If wisdom is found in the ancients, people must be getting stupider.  When you consult the wisdom of the ancient philosophers, you’re implying that people with less knowledge than you know more than you do.  Are the ancient Greeks smarter than the modern geeks?

The fact that such an aphorism has resonated for millions of people over thousands of years demonstrates something about the human condition.  You can’t unravel such a self-contradictory statement by logical steps. Conclusions require thinking from the gut, a sense of joy in surprising absurdity.

Laughter is a spontaneous reaction about as controllable as a sneeze.  Non-philosophical species do not laugh.  Apparently brains bloated with bullshit generators require this instinct.  That would explain why so many professional philosophers write with such humorlessness.  No laugh kicks them out of their earnest belief that the best tool for understanding the mind is the mind.  Using your mind to know your mind is like trying to taste your tongue.  Studying thought by thinking is like trying to fuck yourself.

Which is where we’re philosophically at, my fellow confabulists.  Once you wrap your tiny mind around how utterly clueless you are, about everything… how careeningly out-of-control your decisions and beliefs are, you can’t help but be plagued by the blessing of doubt, key to compassion toward those whose worldviews are so odious to your own.

via You Are Not Qualified To Run Your Own Brain | h+ Magazine.

What I use and why

Thinking about Kevin Kelly’s book “What Technology Wants” encouraged me to consider the tools I use. What’s redundant? What tools can I do without? Am I ready for the technopocalypse? Will I need to learn to write with MY HAND again?

More than almost everyone I know, I’m a try-er and join-er. If there’s a ‘beta invite’ sign-up form, I’ll sign-up. At every point in my computer-life history, I’ve used the most up-to-the-minute services and websites if they help me do what I want to do. That also means that I’m forever canceling and culling my subscriptions to these sites and ‘Here’s our new features’ emails. Deleting old accounts, erasing my usage history, and obliterating my connections to things I don’t use is a weekly affair.

Right now, I’m using what I want, what I need, and what I can put up with. A hard balance. I’m always interested in the solutions other people find to their problems, so I thought I’d join that conversation by posting what I use, what I use it for, and why. You can spend a lifetime finding the right tool for the job. That journey has required a great deal of experimentation over the years.

Continue reading “What I use and why”

The Laugh Track at the Fed

In you search the transcripts of the Federal Reserve transcripts, just run a query for [Laughter]…. And you might get mad.

David Stockton, March 22, 2005, Sept. 20, 2005 and Dec. 13, 2005. Economist and Fed funnyman
–I offer one more piece of evidence that I think almost surely suggests that the end is near in this sector. While channel surfing the other night, to the annoyance of my otherwise very patient wife, I came across a new television series on the Discovery Channel entitled “Flip That House.” [Laughter] As far as I could tell, the gist of the show was that with some spackling, a few strategically placed azaleas, and access to a bank, you too could tap into the great real estate wealth machine. It was enough to put even the most ardent believer in market efficiency into existential crisis. [Laughter]
–So what should we worrying about? While my colleagues who attend our lengthy forecast meetings were not exactly thrilled by it, the removal of my arm from its sling in the past few weeks has allowed me, once again, to bring my principal value added to the forecasting process, and that is copious amounts of hand-wringing. [Laughter]
–With the retail price of gasoline having risen above $3.00 per gallon in much of the country, there is certainly cause to be concerned. As a macro guy, I hope that those of you involved in supervision haven’t been too hard on home equity lending, because pretty soon people are going to need a loan to fill up their SUVs. [Laughter]
–Our calibrated vintage capital models failed us, and clearly finger-crossing has not proven a terribly robust forecasting technique. We even tried an approach gently suggested to us by Governor Olson at the time of our last forecast—you know, had we thought about trying common sense? [Laughter] We tried, but even that didn’t seem to work.

Read more here.