Is This Fascism?

“‘You submit to tyranny,’ Snyder writes, ‘when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case.'”

—Snyder, Timothy. “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century” quoted in Gumbel, Andrew. “Is This Fascism?Los Angeles Review of Books. July 24, 2017.

Interesting discussion throughout regarding the Trump presidency. This quote on the American style of fascism seemed particularly on point:

In 1944, The New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to assess the risk of fascism in the United States, and Wallace’s startlingly frank answer was that there were millions of fascists in the country already. Wallace identified a peculiarly American brand of fascist, not a brownshirt bent on violence but rather a charismatic populist interested in poisoning the well of public information and appealing to the public’s worst instincts as a way of accumulating wealth and power. What Wallace most feared was a ‘purposeful coalition’ between ‘cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.’ ‘They claim to be super-patriots,’ he wrote, ‘but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.'”

Facebook & Facial Recognition 

Tech companies, whose business model is based on collecting data about its users and using it to sell ads, frequently oppose consumer privacy legislation. But privacy advocates say Facebook is uniquely aggressive in opposing all forms of regulation on its technology.

And the strategy has been working. Bills that would have created new consumer data protections for facial recognition were proposed in at least five states this year — Washington, Montana, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Alaska — but all failed, except the Washington bill, which passed only after its scope was limited.

No federal law regulates how companies use biometric privacy or facial recognition, and no lawmaker has ever introduced a bill to do so. That prompted the Government Accountability Office to conclude in 2015 that the “privacy issues that have been raised by facial recognition technology serve as yet another example of the need to adapt federal privacy law to reflect new technologies.” Congress did, however, roll back privacy protections in March by allowing Internet providers to sell browser data without the consumer’s permission.”

—Bennett, Jared. “Saving Face: Facebook Wants Access Without Limits.” The Center for Public Integrity. July 31, 2017.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

What is a VPN? Should you use one?

“…in a nutshell VPNs rely on specialized software that you download and install on your computer. Some VPN providers will supply customers with their own custom brand of VPN software, while others may simply assign customers a set user credentials and allow users to connect to the service via open-source VPN software like OpenVPN.

Either way, the software creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and the VPN provider, effectively blocking your ISP or anyone else on the network (aside from you and the VPN provider) from being able to tell which sites you are visiting or viewing the contents of your communications. A VPN service allows a customer in, say, New York City, to tunnel his traffic through one of several servers around the world, making it appear to any Web sites that his connection is coming from those servers, not from his ISP in New York.

If you just want a VPN provider that will keep your ISP from snooping on your everyday browsing, virtually any provider can do that for you. But if you care about choosing from among VPN providers with integrity and those that provide reliable, comprehensive, trustworthy and affordable offerings, you’re going to want to do your homework before making a selection. And there are plenty of factors to consider.”

—Krebs, Brian. “Post-FCC Privacy Rules, Should You VPN?KrebsonSecurity.com. March 17, 2017.

Luckily, there is a website that provides side-by-side comparisons that can help you choose a VPN provider according to factors that matter to you.

A VPN can help you present less of a target to criminals online, and it is an especially important piece of security for people that use open WiFi networks. Everyone should use one. You can expect to pay somewhere in the range of US$50-100 a year for a good VPN provider.

Gin: The Drink of Civilization 

“He requested a gin martini, which I made for him. When he took the first sip, he said, ‘This is excellent.’ He looked at me over the top of his glass, and his eyes were full of recognition. As if I was finally a real person to him.

For this member of the old guard, the taste of a correct gin martini is like a passport or a gang sign. We were friends for the rest of my time there.”

—Chee, Alexander. “The Poisoning.” Tin House. July 25, 2017.

One of the great things about reading is that you occasionally come across something that so perfectly expresses some vague feeling you had and brings it out into sharp relief. Want to know what is special about gin? Look no further.

China’s Quantum Communication Network

“The crucial advantage of this so-called quantum key distribution is that if anyone tries to intercept the light particles, they necessarily alter or destroy them.

What this means is that any attempt at hacking will immediately be noticed by the original sender and the intended receiver – hence its description as ‘unhackable’.”

A practical application of research into “teleportation” and quantum networks.

An American National Weakness

“…As a nation, we are relatively intolerant of long waits, and we’re not sufficiently focused on the long-term solutions of exercise and good diet. We love the quick fix, we want it on our terms, and we hate being told no…

I do think these tendencies reflect a kind of American national weakness, and that we would be better off if we had a less consumerist, more philosophical, and indeed more spartan approach to our health and well-being. That would lead to less overtreatment, less strain on health-care resources, and in the longer run a healthier nation with a sounder fiscal position for the federal government.

—Cowen, Tyler. “Spending a Lot on Health Care Is the American Way.” Bloomberg. July 20, 2017.

First Object Teleported from Earth to Orbit

“Back in the 1990s, scientists realized they could use this link to transmit quantum information from one point in the universe to another. The idea is to ‘download’ all the information associated with one photon in one place and transmit it over an entangled link to another photon in another place.

This second photon then takes on the identity of the first. To all intents and purposes, it becomes the first photon. That’s the nature of teleportation and it has been performed many times in labs on Earth…In theory, there should be no maximum distance over which this can be done…

‘We report the first quantum teleportation of independent single-photon qubits from a ground observatory to a low Earth orbit satellite—through an up-link channel— with a distance up to 1400 km,’ says the Chinese team…

‘This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet,’ says the team.”
First Object Teleported From Earth to Orbit.” MIT Technology Review. July 10, 2017