Thursday, March 31, 2011

"It's 1946 in cyber[warfare]"

--- James Mulvenon, a founding member of the Cyber Conflict Studies Association, a Washington DC nonprofit, quoted on page 2 of Mark Clayton's feature for the Christian Science Monitor, March 2, 2011, The new cyber arms race. See below for another great quote, by Mike McConnell, director of US national intelligence 2007-2009.

From the article:
"Here's the problem – it's 1946 in cyber," says James Mulvenon, a founding member of the Cyber Conflict Studies Association, a nonprofit group in Washington. "So we have these potent new weapons, but we don't have all the conceptual and doctrinal thinking that supports those weapons or any kind of deterrence. Worse, it's not just the US and Soviets that have the weapons – it's millions and millions of people around the world that have these weapons."

In the new cyber world order, the conventional big powers won't be the only ones carrying the cannons. Virtually any nation – or terrorist group or activist organization – with enough money and technical know-how will be able to develop or purchase software programs that could disrupt distant computer networks.

And the US, because it's so wired, is more vulnerable than most big powers to this new form of warfare. It's the price the country may one day pay for being an advanced and open society.

"If the nation went to war today, in a cyberwar, we would lose," Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence from 2007 to 2009, told a US Senate committee a year ago. "We're the most vulnerable. We're the most connected. We have the most to lose."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"The polar ends of a society's assets -- its wealth and its criminals -- are guarded with equal vehemence"

--- Avi Steinberg, p. 214 in Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian (2010)

Excerpt, from a meditation about a ruined prison:
But ambiguity is born of long life. Archaeologists are occasionally unsure whether an unidentified solidly built ancient structure is a prison or whether it is a treasury building. The polar ends of a society's assets -- its wealth and its criminals -- are guarded with equal vehemence. Both are of supreme concern and utmost value. Ultimately they are indistinguishable.
This is particularly salient in the United States since, as Steinberg notes on p. 394, "America has 5 percent of the world'ds population, 25 percent of the world's prison population. A population the size of an American city left without the vote."

For more on prisons in America, see these two July 2010 Economist articles:
 In the second story, The Economist writes: "The system has three big flaws, say criminologists. First, it puts too many people away for too long. Second, it criminalises acts that need not be criminalised. Third, it is unpredictable. Many laws, especially federal ones, are so vaguely written that people cannot easily tell whether they have broken them."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Our experiences, then, are not just our sensations"

--- James Hall, Prof. of Philiosophy Emeritus, University of Richmond, in "Postmodern and New-Age Problems," lecture 23 in the Teaching Company course Tools of Thinking: Understanding the World Through Experience and Reason, published as an excerpt in a Teaching Company catalog, March 2011

In context:
Let's look at this [question of observation] at a down-home level. I would insist that you cannot observe edible things on banana trees unless you had some experience that would lead you to construe what you see as safe and nourishing. This is why a city slicker who is lost in the forest can starve to death because he does not observe what is out there as food. He does not thave the requisite experience and background to categorize things in useful ways and to see that he is surrounded by edible, useful material.

Our experiences, then, are not just our sensations. Our experiences, our observations, are the way that we construe our sensations, and the way that we construe them is a product of all our experiences, and of a great many other things as well. So one could claim, then -- and many people have claimed -- that our observations are relative to the conceptual apparatus, and the prior experience, and all of the other things that come into play, that enable us to construe our sensations the way we do and arrive at the observations that we arrive at.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Stairwells remember as do doors, but windows do not"

--- Carolyn Forché, lines from her elegy "Travel Papers", published in Poetry magazine, February 2011.

Such is the piano’s sadness and the rifle’s moonlight.
Stairwells remember as do doors, but windows do not—

do not, upon waking, gaze out a window
if you wish to remember your dream

Friday, March 18, 2011

"in the most secret heart of every intellectual ... lies hidden ... the hope of power"

--- Lionel Trilling's character Gifford Maxim, from the 1947 novel The Middle of the Journey via Michael Knox Berry's opinion piece "When compassion turns to coercion", Christian Science Monitor March 14, 2011

Quote in context:

For a moment Maxim did not answer. Then, “Is it not strange,” he said, “do you not find it strange that as we become more sensitive to the sufferings of mankind, we become more and more cruel? The more we think of the human body and the human mind as being able to suffer, and the sorrier we feel for that, and the more we plan to prevent suffering, the more we are drawn to inflict suffering. The more tortures we think up, the more people we believe deserve to be tortured. The more we think that people can be ruled by fear of suffering. We have become our brother’s keeper—and we will keep him in fear, we will keep him in concentration camps, we will keep him in straitjackets, we will keep him in the grave.”


“And never has there been so much talk of liberty while the chains are being forged. Democracy and freedom. And in the most secret heart of every intellectual, where he scarcely knows of it himself, there lies hidden the real hope that these words hide. It is the hope of power, the desire to bring his ideas to reality by imposing them on his fellow man. We are all of us, all of us, the little children of the Grand Inquisitor. The more we talk of welfare, the crueler we become. How can we possibly be guilty when we have in mind the welfare of others, and of so many others?”


Monday, March 14, 2011

"Giving up is half the battle"

--- Reputed to have been said by a meditation teacher. Via John Givot, while chatting at the conclusion of a 10-day sit on 12 March 2011 about the importance of admitting one's weakness to oneself. A web search on 14 March 2011 didn't yield any attribution; in fact, many of the results for the string "giving up is half the battle" were people saying "not giving up is half the battle" :-)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

"such a pleasure to read that it must have been hell to write"

--- The Economist, in its review of Alex Ross's Listen To This (2010)

From the opening paragraph of the review:
“Writing about music isn’t especially difficult,” avers Alex Ross, the New Yorker’s music critic, at the start of his new collection of essays. That sounds too modest. Mr Ross’s history of music in the 20th century, “The Rest is Noise”, published in 2007, is such a pleasure to read that it must have been hell to write. The same goes for these pieces, which are mostly reworked articles from his day job, ranging from Björk to Brahms, and Radiohead to Verdi.