October 7, 2018 in 2,030 words

Why I’m Leaving the Republican Party

The Kavanaugh confirmation fight revealed the GOP to be the party of situational ethics and moral relativism in the name of winning at all costs


Unlike Senator Susan Collins, who took pages upon pages of text on national television to tell us something we already knew, I will cut right to the chase: I am out of the Republican Party.

I will also acknowledge right away what I assume will be the reaction of most of the remaining members of the GOP, ranging from “Good riddance” to “You were never a real Republican,” along with a smattering of “Who are you, anyway?”

Those Republicans will have a point. I am not a prominent Republican nor do I play a major role in Republican politics. What I write here are my views alone. I joined the party in the twilight of Jimmy Carter’s administration, cut my teeth in politics as an aide to a working class, Catholic Democrat in the Massachusetts House, and later served for a year on the personal staff of a senior Republican U.S. senator. Not exactly the profile of a conservative warrior.

I even quit the party once before, briefly, during what I thought was the bottom for the GOP: the 2012 primaries. I didn’t want to be associated with a party that took Newt Gingrich seriously as presidential timber, or with people whose callousness managed to shock even Ron Paul. It was an estrangement, not a break, and I came back when the danger of a Trump victory loomed. I was too late, but as a moderate conservative (among the few left), the pre-2016 GOP was the only party I could call home.

Small things sometimes matter, and Collins is among the smallest of things in the political world. And yet, she helped me finally to accept what I had been denying. Her speech on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh convinced me that the Republican Party now exists for one reason, and one reason only: for the exercise of raw political power, and not even for ends I would otherwise applaud or even support.


Can Beto do it? How Texas holds the key to America’s future

If this longtime Republican stronghold fell to the Democrats it would be a seismic cultural shift. But insurgent candidate Beto O’Rourke has an uphill task.


Texas last had a Democratic senator 25 years ago. Beto O’Rourke hopes to change that.

On a balmy night in Austin, against the backdrop of the glittering high-rises of the city’s booming downtown, Beto O’Rourke is laying out his audacious plan to change the face of Texas, and America.

In front of him, packed into an open-air park, a largely young crowd of 40,000 is thrumming with scarcely contained glee. Even in the liberal bubble of Austin they have never experienced anything like this: a Democrat seriously in the running for a Senate seat, vying to topple Ted Cruz, the Tea Party fanatic whom even fellow Republicans call “Lucifer in the flesh”.

“We are not running against anything or any political party,” O’Rourke tells his supporters. He punches his arm in the air like a pumped-up revolutionary while simultaneously wooing them with a crooner’s charms.

The message is relentlessly positive. The 45-year-old has tweaked Barack Obama’s 2008 catchphrase “Hope and change” for darker times, so now it becomes: “Hope over fear”. “We are running for each other and this country that I love so much,” he says, to a giant roar.

Audacious is too detached a word for O’Rourke’s campaign. “Nuclear” gets closer. That a punk rocker-turned-politician who a year ago was barely known outside El Paso, the border town he represents in Congress, should be competitive at all in Texas is miraculous.


A Swiss startup will turn carbon dioxide into stone—for a price

NOT A MAGIC TRICK


Super-charged trees.

The world needs negative-emissions technologies, according to an upcoming report by the world’s foremost body on climate change. Given how much we’ve delayed reducing emissions, the world is likely to have emitted much more carbon dioxide than could be handled under the Paris climate agreement. If the world is to keep global average temperatures from rising by more than 1.5°C or 2°C, it will need to suck some of those emissions out of the air.

One of those technologies is direct air capture. It consists of a machine that extracts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—like a tree, but super-charged—using fans to drive air onto a surface that has a chemical agent which only reacts with carbon dioxide. Once the carbon dioxide is captured, the rest of the air is released.

The new compound formed after carbon dioxide is captured is then exposed to heat, which reverses the reaction, releases carbon dioxide, and the chemical agent is recycled to capture more. The pure stream of carbon dioxide is then compressed and sent underground where it can be stored. The process of storing it is like extracting oil or natural gas—but in reverse.

Climeworks, a Swiss company, is one among three startups in the world working on direct air capture. In October 2017, it launched a demonstration project at a geothermal power plant in Iceland. The Climeworks’ plant captures carbon dioxide and a separate team at the power plant mixes the gas with water and injects it underground. The mixture is designed to react with basalt and become stone in less than two years.

Tomorrow (Oct. 8), Climeworks will announce that it is scaling up its Iceland plant by a factor of 50, boosting its capacity to capture emissions from 50 metric tons a year to 2,500 metric tons. For context, the world currently emits nearly 40 billion metric tons annually. To partially fund the expansion, the startup will allow individuals to buy carbon offsets, with actual purchasing likely to begin early next year.


Reasserting cyber sovereignty: how states are taking back control


The digital debate is now about trade and security – and every major nation is insisting on its technological sovereignty.


Vladimir Putin meets Mikhail Oseyevsky, the president of the state-controlled telecoms giant, Rostelecom, which has bought two mobile operators.

Amid the hand-wringing about the rise of nationalism and populism, it’s easy to miss that the past two years have also produced surprising and useful shifts in global opinion. Even Donald Trump can be good news for the world.

Nowhere is this gestalt shift more evident than in how we approach policy dilemmas related to technology. The idea of “digital” as a magic, untouchable realm that was to bring prosperity to all, one disruption at a time, is now dead. The thorny questions are no longer the prerogative of affluent hippies at Wired magazine or TED talks; instead, they are returning to their original realms of international trade, national economic development and security.

Governments, which have been deemed too clumsy to act in the “digital” age, are now back in the game, taking a far more interventionist approach and insisting on technological sovereignty.

Last week’s revelation, in a Bloomberg news report, that China might have embedded microchips in the hardware used by America’s leading tech firms, should be no surprise. Beijing, with its new cybersecurity law and its overall push towards global supremacy in artificial intelligence, might seem like a rogue actor on the international scene. However, it’s hardly alone in promoting its technological agenda.

Russia has announced plans to require civil servants to use locally produced mobile phones running on locally produced software. To make that mission easier, Rostelecom, its state-controlled telecoms giant, bought the two companies behind Sailfish OS, a mobile operating system developed by Nokia.


A Modest Privacy Protection Proposal

How to reclaim your privacy in the surveillance age.

It’s hard to retain much privacy in the information age — the internet has a nearly perfect limitless memory and we’re placing a ton of sensitive data onto it. After being swatted in 2017, I set out on a mission to start my life over with a renewed focus on privacy. While I was motivated by changes in the Bitcoin ecosystem (an increased rate of physical attacks), this guide is meant to be comprehensive for people living in the USA and generally helpful for other citizens of the world. The journey has been long and arduous because there simply aren’t many resources out there for how to achieve what I wanted.

Why protect privacy?

You may be thinking “I’m not doing anything wrong — why should I be concerned about privacy?” It’s important to over-invest in privacy because once it’s lost, it’s really challenging to recover. Consider this: you may not be a target right now — but you may become one in the future as your wealth increases, you endorse unpopular political or religious perspectives or… you make a single post on social media in poor judgment.

In December 2013, Justine Sacco, a woman with 170 Twitter followers, posted a very bad joke as she was boarding a plane. Sacco slept during her 11-hour plane trip and woke up to find out that she was the number-one Twitter topic worldwide, with celebrities and bloggers all over the globe denouncing her and encouraging all their followers to do the same. Sacco’s employer, New York internet firm IAC, declared that she had lost her job as director of corporate communications. At least one Twitter user showed up at the Cape Town airport to photograph her arrival. Point being: In the Information Age, it doesn’t take much for you to attract the ire of millions of people.

If an unforeseen event such as this happens to you, do you really want to have to move to a new address for safety? It turns out there’s no one-size-fits all solution to this problem — it has to be customized to suit each person’s needs and be appropriate for the jurisdiction in which you reside. With that said, I’ll cover high-level privacy threat vectors and as many of the details as possible for mitigating them in this post.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Chinese manufacturers secretly insert microchips into U.S. hardware, a new study examines selfie-related deaths, and a 100-year-old man receives a lifetime of Chick-fil-A.


With the Boy Scouts set to begin accepting girls, Desi Lydic infiltrates a Girl Scout troop to see how they will be affected.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.


CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

One word. Crikey!!!!!!!!!!


段ボールでひとりで遊んだり、はなと遊んだり。Maru plays with the corrugated cardboard, sometimes with Hana.


FINALLY . . .

Our obsession with health-tracking technology is great evidence for cops

FLATLINE EVIDENCE


Always looking.

Information from fitness tracker Fitbit has helped advance another criminal case—this time because it pinned down the exact time of the victim’s death by measuring her heart rate speed up and fall to zero.

Karen Navarra, 68, was murdered in her home in San Jose, California, in September. Home surveillance cameras in the neighborhood showed her stepfather’s car in the driveway of her house shortly before the Fitbit recorded her heart rate disappear, according to a police statement obtained by Quartz. Anthony Aiello, 90, is in police custody as a suspect in the homicide.

Fitness trackers are increasingly providing useful evidence to law enforcement, largely because they track a user’s exact footsteps. In this case, police were also able to rely on footage from security cameras from private homes. The resulting evidence is a combination of our society’s twin obsessions: quantifying and surveilling our lives. As our bodies and our homes become increasingly connected, it’s becoming easier and easier to reconstruct our movements, second-by-second.

There have been a number of cases where fitness trackers like Fitbit provided crucial evidence, or showed exactly how a crime transpired. As with information stored on phones, law enforcement need a warrant to access trackers, unless they have the person’s consent. In some cases, they’ve had to break in to the devices.

In a widely publicized story last year, the fitness tracker of a jogger in Seattle detailed how much she fought back when a man assaulted her in a public restroom. The dizzying, zigzagged path registered by the tracker allows anyone to see how fraught the struggle had been.


Ed. More tomorrow? Possibly. Maybe. Probably not?