Monday, April 30, 2012
It comes to some of us naturally, but it's also fun.
Many sites will allow you to use a long passphrase which is more secure and easier to remember than a long password. A passphrase is a random series of short words such as "pass empty cow stars come hither" -- that one is lamentably non-random, however. You generate a random passphrase by rolling dice and then looking up words according to the numbers rolled, as explained here.
The guy who put together this site is truly paranoid and insists you get physical dice to generate the random numbers. He admits getting casino grade dice is overkill -- but you can't be too careful! I think an online true random number generator is OK. Just because people are trying to spy on you doesn't mean you should act crazy. For one thing, somebody might notice and report you.
If you're looking for other ways to waste time and be paranoid, I suggest you encrypt to military grade all the (not really) blank space on your hard drive.
Meanwhile, your spouse might be spying on you.
The larger lesson is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, American politics have not become insensitive to the "the people." In many ways, just the opposite is true. Politicians are too responsive to popular will. The real Washington is in the business of pleasing as many people as possible for as long as possible. There are now vast constituencies dependent on the largesse of the federal government. This is the main cause of huge "structural" budget deficits, meaning that they aren't simply a hangover from the Great Recession.
There are many sophisticated theories today about why politics have become so polarized and immobilized. Ideologues have captured both parties, it's said; primary challenges by right- and left-wing zealots doom centrists; cable television and the Internet favor simplistic, highly partisan rhetoric and argument. Political divisions are accentuated; consensus becomes harder. There's something to these theories, but they also subtly misrepresent and excuse our present paralysis.
More promises were made than can be kept without raising taxes, which -- for the most part -- were also subject to bipartisan promises against increases. Almost everyone agrees that massive budget deficits pose a long-term economic threat, though no can be precise about how or when the threat might emerge. A central question about our political system is whether, after 60 years of making more promises to more groups, it can withdraw some promises to minimize the threat.
So far, the answer is "no." Political leaders don't lead. They take the path of least resistance, which has been to do little except to find scapegoats -- "the rich," "special interests," "liberals," "conservatives" -- that arouse their supporters' angriest antagonisms. It helps explain polarization. This is really what Washington does. It's a demoralizing commentary on the state of American democracy.
It's all in good fun I suppose but I can't be the only person who finds it dismaying. Various celebrities and the DC political elite gather to beam at each other, tell a few jokes and bask in the glow of each other's fame. Meanwhile, money is raised for some good cause or other, an afterthought. Who are these people? Ephemeral (one devoutly hopes) celebrities who've made pots of money starring in stuff you are embarrassed to watch along with politicians the best of whom one thinks of as rather parasitical. If you have any little-r republican in you, it's got to make you a little ill. Edith Wharton's New York City certainly had displays of collective opulence and exclusivity but there what was celebrated was wealth and family and how the two went well together. An aristocracy that at least built things. The Olympics has sport and all that goes into it. Then you have politicians and entertainment industry folks. Which is more revolting? Illogical or not, one knows each is worse than the other.
The correspondents dinner to me is about how much influence the entertainment industry now has over how we are governed. How did that happen? The strange creatures that crawl to the top of the poisonous ecosystem of Hollywood, itself an accident of history and technology, have the piles of cash politicians are grateful to sell themselves for, because humans, fallen creatures that we are, have an insatiable appetite for sex, violence and fantasy. I'm no better than the rest. Put me in a room with a case of Stone Pale Ale and a DVD of The Wild Bunch and I'm good for days. So we get governed in no small part by street-smart but principles-stupid people who are rich because of perfect voices or perfect breasts, the weird ability to pretend to be somebody they're not, advancedly depraved tastes, and/or especially acute commercial and predatory instincts. The Federalist Papers, it ain't. They could not have foreseen how in the future people would spend hours every day and thousands of dollars watching screens, dreaming.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Friday, April 27, 2012
A former prostitute plans to sue the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, alleging that members of its security team in December threw her from a van and ran over her, the woman's attorney said.
Romila Aparacida Ferreira showed CNN photos of injuries she claimed she received in the incident.
"These are the tire marks," she said about one photo. "They run down my side and across my abdomen."
But don’t expect it to stop. Government regulations often require that a school be accredited, a condition that accreditors like the American Bar Association use to force law schools to run costly diversity and sensitivity-training programs or use racial preferences in admissions (despite the dubious legality of some such diversity programs and admissions preferences). Such mandates have contributed to the growth of a vast and costly “diversity machine” in college administrations. (And as a condition of practicing law in California, I had to take continuing legal education on the topic of “elimination of bias in the legal profession.”)
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Michael Sean Winters Reviews Ross Douthat's "Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation Of Heretics" | The New Republic
ROSS DOUTHAT’S ANALYSIS of religion in America is more sophisticated than the analysis of, say, Rick Santorum—but not by much. There are many ways to be simplistic and coarse. In contending against what he sees as an America afflicted with too many heresies, Douthat’s book, like Santorum’s speeches, is riddled with mistakes of fact and interpretation that would make any learned person blush.
Paul Ryan knows that Catholic social doctrine is not some sort of doughnut machine that plops out ready-made answers to complex questions of public policy. There is no — repeat, no — direct line from the principles of Catholic social doctrine to judgments on levels of WIC funding, food-stamp funding, or Pell Grant funding, three issues on which the Georgetown faculty claims moral certainty when the relevant mode of moral analysis is prudential judgment. Ryan knows that and is prepared to explain why that’s the case. That willingness, plus Ryan’s refusal to concede the moral high ground to the Catholic Left in the public-policy debate, plus the intelligence, good humor, and conviction he brings to these arguments, helps explain why he’s the Catholic Left’s worst nightmare. The Catholic Left recognizes that; and thus, predictably, things have turned chippy, even ugly.