Monday, December 15th, 2014


Stop the Presses!

Stop the presses. While you're at it, stop the blog posts, the tweets, the status updates, and everything else. Following the hack heard 'round the world, Sony Pictures Entertainment has been warning news outlets to refrain from publishing the fruits of the hackers' theft: "If you do not comply with this request, and the stolen information is used or disseminated by you in any manner, Sony Pictures Entertainment will have no choice but to hold you responsible for any damage or loss arising from such use or dissemination by you." (In layman's terms that means, "Pretty please...")

+ Meanwhile, Aaron Sorkin wrote an op-ed arguing that the media shouldn't be helping the hackers: "If you close your eyes you can imagine the hackers sitting in a room, combing through the documents to find the ones that will draw the most blood. And in a room next door are American journalists doing the same thing." If you close your eyes, you can also imagine a world before hacks, leaks, recorded conversations, and captured videos swept through the global villlage at Internet speed. But those days are gone. Many of 2014's most explosive stories started as leaks -- we saw (a Staten Island chokehold), heard (an NBA owner's racist rant), and read (the NSA's methods and mandates) material that no one expected to be shared. When it comes to personal ethics, I actually agree with a lot of what Sorkin has to say. But the issue is moot. The future will not be embargoed.


Sydney Siege

Sixteen hours into a standoff with a self-styled Muslim cleric, police stormed a Sydney cafe where up to seventeen hostages were being held. The gunman and two of the hostages were killed.

+ Amy Davidson: "In Sydney, a Siege and a Promise: #Illridewithyou."

+ Uber took a lot of heat for implementing surge pricing in Sydney at the outset of the hostage situation. There can be a downside to letting the algorithms make the decisions.


Gasping and Sobbing

"It's just sad. They're not evil, psychological geniuses who just came up with this stuff. Somewhere along the way they lost their moral compass." The LA Times provides a look at two psychologists' role in CIA torture program.

+ Dick Cheney continued to defend the program. In an interview over the weekend, he insisted that "rectal feeding" is not torture and was done for medical reasons. Cheney is like the Ghost of Torture Past.

+ The Daily Beast: If you thought the Senate's ‘torture report' was shocking, imagine the prospect of the Obama administration releasing hundreds, maybe thousands of photographs depicting detainee abuse.

+ The current torture debate reminds me of Christopher Hitchens' article on his firsthand experience with waterboarding: "I still wish that my experience were the only way in which the words 'waterboard' and 'American' could be mentioned in the same (gasping and sobbing) breath."

+ Chris Hitchens died three years ago today. His voice is sorely missed from several of our hottest debates. Back in 2011, I wrote a piece about a day of drinking with Hitch: Hitchens Stood.


Land of Milk and Honey (and gas)

In an interesting NYT piece, Stanley Reed and Clifford Krauss explain how Israel's natural resources (and the influence of an American corporation) could offer one last lifeline for peace in the region. "The linchpin of this diplomatic push is not an Israeli official, a Middle Eastern king or an American ambassador. It is an oil company in Texas." Oil, American corporate interests, and the Middle East. What could possibly go wrong?


We’ll Run Till We Drop

The New Yorker on what makes you stop running or working out, and the idea that "fatigue is simply a balance between effort and motivation, and that the decision to stop is a conscious choice rather than a mechanical failure." What is fatigue? (I've found that's a question best deliberated over a few slices of cake.)


Hearing Things

"Staring at a laptop or a tablet for hours on end exacts a physical toll; podcasts present a way to re-enter, and move through, the natural world without logging off. In an antidotal, and almost paradoxical way, podcasts are the Internet freed from pixels." Slate's Jonah Weiner: Toward a critical theory of podcasting.

+ Part of the rise of the podcast is due to human evolution (you figured out how to work your car's bluetooth). And that puts you at the center of one of the near-future's media battlegrounds: Who will own the dashboard?

+ Slate attempts to list the 25 best podcast episodes ever.


Finance 101

Listed among NY Mag's reasons to love New York: Because a Stuyvesant senior made millions picking stocks. That's what I love about the east coast. Kids are still satisfied with millions.

+ Michael Lewis: Eight things I wish for Wall Street.


Batter’s Box

Baseball might be referred to as America's pastime, but the baseball capital of the world seems to be in Curaçao, where a speck on the map gushes talent.


Those Looks

"Well, you know, there is a surgery to make the chin smaller, but it's really very painful. They have to break your jaw, cut a piece out, push your chin back in. The recovery is endless and it really interferes with your life ... Oh, don't get me wrong, I think you're very cute. I'm just mentioning it in case you're interested." Amanda Filapacchi in The New Yorker: The looks you're born with and the looks you're given.


The Bottom of the News

Wired provides a look at a robotic arm that tests car buttons by pressing them 50,000 times. (My kids can double that number on one drive to school.)

+ Jennie Price on the shame of being married to a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra).

+ "Police say two carjackers almost got away with a vehicle near Ocala's downtown skating rink Wednesday night -- but they didn't know how to drive a stick shift."

+ At long last, the Quartz Chart of the Year.

+ 15 facts about fruitcake.