Morning Ed: Society {2016.02.18.Th}

Gnosticism and X-Files: Was Fox Mulder wasting his life? {via Zac}

Following up on a tweetstorm on the matter, Noah Smith explains the majesty of the 90’s. goes on to write a blog post about it.

Payton Manning is on top of the world right now, but his sordid past may be catching up with him. Bob Kravitz, though, is skeptical.

Meghan Neal writes of the tension between term papers and Wikipedia articles. What is the best focus of a brilliant mind, term papers or Wikipedia articles?

Punk and heavy metal may have a calming influence. Only tangential, but when I used to get sleepy while driving late at night, I’d try to find a Tejano station.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown explains how museums in Europe are renaming some classics to conform to modern sensibilities. I don’t reject this out of hand, when especially egregious or when they weren’t named by the original artists, but… treat carefully is all.

John McWhorter explains what OJ Simpson taught him about being black.


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110 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Society {2016.02.18.Th}

  1. You have to ignore a lot of what was happening in the 1990s to see it as some type of golden age. If you were an affluent teenager or twenty something, the 1990s were a good time to be alive but large portions of the United States were going to experience shocks under NAFTA. This would lead to the crystal meth epidemic among other problems. The 1994 Crime Bill was about to magnify the incarceration crisis. Internationally, Al-Qaeda was starting to flex its muscles and the Balkans were a mess.

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  2. Apple Unlocked iPhones for the Feds 70 Times Before

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/02/17/apple-unlocked-iphones-for-the-feds-70-times-before.html

    It would seem that their current protest is based more on trying to protect their liberal rep than any real protest.

    ““This reputational harm could have a longer term economic impact beyond the mere cost of performing the single extraction at issue,” Apple said.

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    • Apple isn’t exactly hiding circumstances in which they will extract data:

      For all devices running iOS 8.0 and later versions, Apple will not perform iOS data extractions as data extraction tools are no longer effective. The files to be extracted are protected by an encryption key that is tied to the user’s passcode, which Apple does not possess.

      For iOS devices running iOS versions earlier than iOS 8.0, upon receipt of a valid search warrant issued upon a showing of probable cause, Apple can extract certain categories of active data from passcode locked iOS devices. Specifically, the user generated active files on an iOS device that are contained in Apple’s native apps and for which the data is not encrypted using the passcode (“user generated active files”), can be extracted and provided to law enforcement on external media. Apple can perform this data extraction process on iOS devices running iOS 4 through iOS 7. Please note the only categories of user generated active files that can be provided to law enforcement, pursuant to a valid search warrant, are: SMS, iMessage, MMS, photos, videos, contacts, audio recording, and call history. Apple cannot provide: email, calendar entries, or any third-party app data.

      The Daily Beast finding a case where they assisted in extracting data from a phone running iOS 7 is entirely consistent with their policy.

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          • Absolutely they could. The distinction is that
            – on pre-iOS 8 devices, they can do so within the characteristics of the existing OS
            – on iOS 8+ devices, they would have to develop a custom-sabotaged version of the OS.

            They are objecting, quite rightly, that it is dangerous and foolish to deliberately design a sabotaged OS.

            Personally I’m blown away that even with the most up-to-date devices, the phones are still designed so that new firmware can be applied to it without the user first unlocking the phone, AND without blowing away the user data. I’d think that would be a very basic security design choice, which they didn’t make – and which is why they now find themselves in this bind with the FBI.

            If they lose this case against the FBI, I sure hope they learn from their mistake and fix the firmware update mechanism. It’s not like they’d be the first, or even second or third or fourth phone manufacturer, to put that protection in place. (And even if they prevail over the FBI, I hope they learn from the close call).

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            • Personally I’m blown away that even with the most up-to-date devices, the phones are still designed so that new firmware can be applied to it without the user first unlocking the phone…

              It is my understanding that if a pass code has been created on this version of the iPhone, you can’t flash new firmware without providing the code (subject to the usual behavior for failures). So Apple is in the position of having to remove the flash memory from the SoC, analyze that to figure out what the block mapping is, rewrite the device with the new code, and remount it in a phone. Removing and mounting it are subject to some risk of damaging the contents of the flash cells — small, but non-zero.

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                • Not a whole OS, the only piece that has to be modified involves the pass code entry check. More interesting is that this wouldn’t work on the 5s and newer iPhones. Reading further today, the encryption password for the flash memory in models that use the A7 or higher SoC, kept in the secured portion of the processor chip, consists of a 128-bit device id and 128-bit random number generated from sensor inputs when the device is reset. When locked, the secured section contains the pass code and the “failed attempts” counter; if the counter reaches the trigger value, the 128-bit random portion of the key is reset.

                  If you spend enough millions, you can get equipment that “peels” an IC a few atoms at a time. If you know enough about the IC layout, you could presumably peel down to the hardware with the device id and random portion of the key, and with sensitive enough sensors, read them. From what I’ve skimmed, the people who design the secured encryption portions like the one Apple is using spend considerable effort so that the peeling process will destroy the data before it can be read.

                  If we have not already reached it, we are within spitting distance of the day when the authorities can only read my files if they have required the devices to have a back door, and banned strong encryption in application software.

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                  • If we have not already reached it, we are within spitting distance of the day when the authorities can only read my files if they have required the devices to have a back door, and banned strong encryption in application software.

                    If we had a high trust society with authorities who didn’t have employees looking at citizens nude pics for fun, I might think that is a bad thing.

                    My feelings are quite the opposite, however…

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              • Nope.

                DFU mode can be entered without entering a passcode (and certainly without dismantling the phone). From DFU mode, a new OS can be installed without data loss. The only protection is that the OS has to be digitally signed by Apple, and Apple would (axiomatically doncha know) never release an OS that would diminish users’ security.

                http://www.iskysoft.com/data-recovery-tips/restore-iphone-from-dfu-mode.html#part3

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                • In a way, Apple has a win no matter what. If they beat the FBI, they get to come out looking all heroic for protecting users privacy, etc.

                  If they lose, they can make sure the next model of iPhone has no such vulnerability, then market it as the phone not even the FBI can make them crack. Then encourage people to upgrade to the new phone.

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  3. I thought the 90s were majestic, but not for any of those goofy geopolitical reasons. Having grown up in New York City in the late 70s and 80s, it was certainly pretty cool that more and more parts of the city were no longer no-go zones. NY was a much more pleasant place to be in 1999 than in 1999, but not quite so overtaken with finance bros and expensive juice bars as it was in 2009.

    Mostly, though, the best thing about the 90s was that I didn’t have to listen to millennials constantly telling me about their feelings and wanting to have a “conversation” about everything.

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    • Based on media, the 1980s were a better time to be in your teenager years and the 1990s were more fun for people in their twenties than the 1980s were. Cities were in a sweet spot because crime was done but gentrification did not reach hyper levels like you pointed out during the 1990s. If you were into that sort of thing, the early and mid 1980s could have been fun because of the indie rock scene though. The 1980s had a stronger teenager culture.

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      • Teenager culture in mass media in the 1980s was complete bullshit. (and more often than not, portrayed by people near 30).

        Teenagers in the mass media in the 90s were whiny little snots, but at least the producers brought some cinema verite sensibilities to the mix.

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          • Dear Internet in 2016,

            We teenagers from the 1980s accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole decade in the actual 80s for whatever it was our boomer parents did wrong, and what they did was wrong, but we think you’re crazy for making us write this essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? you see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, a criminal, and other now politically-incorrect labels. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other in the 80s too. We were brainwashed.

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            • Dear Teenagers of the 80s,

              As we now know, all labels are politically incorrect forms of othering which create divisions and cause emotional pain. We think you’re crazy. Still crazy. And we’d like you to re-write that essay without labeling yourself, your classmates, your parents (oops! “parents” is an othering term!!) in the harmful language of divisive human categories.

              Get your act together 1980s teenagers.

              Internet 2016

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      • I’m pretty sure that is a moving window based on demographic wealth.

        I knew something was up when I was in an [overpriced] expensive steakhouse and they were playing deep tracks from Alternative 80’s music… not “Pretty in Pink” or “If you Leave” but the really good songs that were never hits from bands you only sort of know if you weren’t a teenager in the 80s.

        You know, classic rock.

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  4. The idea of having students write Wikipedia articles instead of term papers seems plausible on its face. Wikipedia articles have their formatting peculiarities, but then again so do term papers, and the peculiarities of term papers don’t really have any more real world applications than do those of Wikipedia.

    That being said, the linked piece is a bit confusing about what sort of articles we are talking about. Are they about science, or about scientists? It looks like the latter. Having a “science student” write an article about a scientist really isn’t the same thing as having the student write on some aspect of science.

    That being said, this stuff always annoys me: “…but there are huge gaps in what’s covered and plenty of straight-up inaccuracies. The ethos of the Wiki Ed project is, you can either bemoan that fact, or accept it as reality and work to make the prominent encyclopedia better.”

    Yes, gaps are one problem, and relatively easy to fix. But there are other, much less tractable problems involving internal Wikipedia culture and politics. The claim that anyone can fix any problem with Wikipedia is straight up bullshit, used to deflect any critique.

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  5. Regarding renaming pictures, it seems to me that these often are a gray area between names and descriptions. A picture is described, taking an example from the linked article, as including a negro servant. This was a neutral term at the time. Times change, and it is no longer a neutral term. It arguably is more accurate to alter the description to keep the neutrality. But once that description has been attached to the painting long enough, people start thinking it of as a name, and changing it as a political correctness abomination.

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    • I think this is spot on. There are words that were casually used at various times, as says, discriptively. These can often be changed with little repercussion. It is when you start bowlderizing works to change them in ways that fit your anachronsims of society that you run into problems. Changing the description of a painting from ‘with negro servant” to simply “with servant” works just as well. Going through Huck Finn and changing the language is massively problemactic, as it whitewashes the past. At the same time keeping the language does force some works to loose readership due to precieved racism, such as Conrads Nigger of the Narcissus. Which, despite its title, is a very good work.

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    • Oh hey, looks like “fuck copyright I AM A FAN SO WHAT I DO IS OK” bit a bunch of people on the ass. Again.

      Sort of like happened with Diana Galbadon, who said “please stop writing fanfic stories where you make the children of my mind violently rape each other”, and the fans all replied “HOW DARE YOU TELL ME WHAT TO DO YOU’RE NOT MY MOM THIS DOESN’T BELONG TO YOU”

      Or like what happened with Mercedes Lackey, I think it was, where she was an enthusiastic participant in the forums where people discussed her writing, right up until she published a story that had some elements that were vaguely similar to someone’s fanfic, and the whole fandom collapsed in tears because SHE STOLE STUFF.

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      • DD,
        Well, you can tell people not to be evil.
        It’s just not going to work, you know?

        I mean, the Simpsons even canceled a character (“Bart’s girlfriend”) because there was Porn! (Apparently the Mormon on staff threw hissy fit). So, um, what happens? Now all the porn is of Bart and Lisa… together.

        Mercedes Lackey should have known better, but I remember trolls giving her advice on stories (they didn’t care a whit about her writing the ideas up, that was the point).

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      • The funny thing about “this doesn’t belong to you” is that fan-fiction only exists as concept because of the stronger links between author and work created by copyright. You had fan-fiction like things occurring before copyright, Maid Marian wasn’t Robin Hood’s girlfriend or even part of the Robin Hood tales for centuries, but that was just folklore migration rather than a cross over fanfic. Nobody owned Robin Hood, it was part of the collective English culture and could be added or subtracted from. When modernity and copyright created a much stronger bond between authors and their literature than we could have modern fan-fiction because fans could now add things of their own to the canon.

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    • “I think what you don’t understand,” one friend told me when I expressed bafflement that Clare’s fellow fan-fiction writers didn’t view the popularity of her books as a feather in their collective cap, “is that a lot of them just feel used.” When I admitted that didn’t make sense to me, she added, “It’s hard to explain, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.”

      I don’t think it’s *that* hard to explain.

      There’s two parts to it. The first is that the fanfic community probably feels like when someone makes it big, it’s really all of them who should be getting the credit, because they all acted as volunteer proofreaders and copyeditors and story-collaborators. Like, unless the writer had done absolutely nothing but post the work on the fanfic board and then ignore everything that everyone said, then there was at least some degree of labor by the other community members; and if that writer then goes on to be professional, well, they did it with MY help, with MY time, with MY expertise becoming part of HER skillset. And it’s worse if the author takes a fanfic that’s long been discussed and revised and worked-over by the group, changes the names, and publishes it as their own work.

      The other part is Mean Girls. “Bitch thinks she’s so much better than the rest of us? What, she’s so great she can go get a book deal while I just sit here in the library peeling gum off the seats? How come SHE gets to be special and I don’t?”

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    • Oh my goodness, the fandom wars that entertained me during my teenage years have come into the real world.

      Cassandra Clare (then Cassadra Claire) was well-known to be a plagarist back when all she was writing was Harry Potter fanfiction. Ran the gamut from taking all of her characters’ wittiest lines from Joss Whedon (which she openly acknowledged as a homage) to lifting entire multi-paragraph passages from other authors’ works without crediting them. Her success as a published author is something of a travesty.

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  6. Attached to Kenyon’s complaint is a detailed list of similarities between the Dark-Hunter series and Mortal Instruments. These include such motifs as objects “including without limitation a cup, a sword, and a mirror, each imbued with magical properties to help battle evil and protect mankind.”

    My God, she plagiarized the idea of the Holy Grail, Excalibur, and “Who’s the fairest of them all”?

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