Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Yonatan Zunger
Distinguished Engineer on Privacy at Google
Distinguished Engineer on Privacy at Google

Yonatan's posts

Post has shared content
Something random and cool: the graphic design of W. E. B. DuBois. I particularly like "Conjugal Condition of American Negroes according to age periods" for its visual clarity, and "The Amalgamation of the White and Black elements of the population in the United States" for a subtle but important use of color: he has black and white, but the central "Mulattoes" section shades from one color into the other, so that it's made clear that the lines which bound it are somewhat arbitrary, and these shade smoothly into the white population.

A rather pointed political statement, that. :)

Post has attachment
Something which may surprise people: I'm not fundamentally opposed to Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court. While I certainly disagree with him on a number of issues, I also have the sense that he is someone I could respect and take seriously. In particular, he seems to have a long history of listening to all sides with complete seriousness and respect, taking their arguments seriously, and ruling fairly.

There have been a lot of comparisons between him and Justice Scalia, but I increasingly suspect that they miss the mark. While they may both be personally conservative, and have similar legal approaches with regards to things like textualism, I am getting the sense that they differ as people as much as any two people possibly could.

In particular, Scalia was known for loving to be clever, and letting that cleverness expose a mean streak. He had a particular fondness for rulings where consistency of the law would lead to a perverse outcome in a particular case, or for decisions and dissents where he could skewer people and advocate some particular line of reasoning. When he was urging meanness in his decisions, I always got the sense that he profoundly enjoyed it – and that was the heart of everything I never trusted about him.

I don't see anyone who knows Gorsuch suggesting anything similar of him. Instead, his record suggests he's much the opposite: that while he's personally conservative, he listens to (and is friends with) liberals as well, and can have serious discussions of issues which are not marred by an obsessive wanting to be right. His rulings seem to reflect this, taking a wide range of arguments seriously.

So while I don't expect that Gorsuch would rule the way I hope he would on a variety of cases, and while I deeply question the way we seem to be reifying this idea of "conservative seats" and "liberal seats" on the Court which need to be restocked from people of similar political affiliation, I think he could prove to be a reasonable and capable justice.

Of course, by saying this I've pretty much jinxed it, and will now be presented with all sorts of information (or worse, with future rulings) that prove the contrary, because the universe is perverse that way. But I'm at least tentatively hopeful, in much the same way I was (and has been borne out) when Chief Justice Roberts was nominated.

Knocking on wood, here.

Post has shared content
This is amazing, beautiful and terrifying in a way which is hard to describe. A glacier the size of lower Manhattan calved off Greenland, and by chance, it was caught on film. It's hard for the human mind to process the scale of what's happening; there are no obvious visual references, and at first it looks like a Michael Bay-sized explosion. It's only when they superimpose some markings on the film for scale that you realize how much bigger it is than that; those things that looked the size of houses are really the size of mountains.

You will very rarely get to see the effects of climate change on the timescale of minutes; this is one of them.

h/t +Kee Hinckley
Man points camera at ice – seconds later he captures the impossible on film as a piece of glacier the size of the Lower Manhattan falls into the ocean.

Post has attachment
I find this news oddly pleasing: even as fin fish and shellfish populations plummet, the cephalopods are booming. It's not quite clear why, except that perhaps they're better-suited to adapting to these rapid changes.

Part of this is no doubt due to their fairly rapid life-cycle; something I'm quite curious about is whether this has pushed a further adaptation towards sophisticated intelligence. Octopodes already have spectacularly complex minds, but likely for different reasons than we do. Social hunting and scavenging are things that have driven a lot of intelligence development in terrestrial species -- think of crows, and raccoons, and humans. Octopodes, on the other hand, have this wonderful advantage of being able to get into any sort of place, but the associated disadvantage of not having any armor or protection. They've had to use their brains to survive, as well as to get their hands on food.

I'd be quite curious to see if we're finding evidence of new foraging or sheltering techniques showing up among our tentacled neighbors, or whether they're simply spreading into ecological niches being vacated by overfishing and acidification.

h/t +Kitty Stryker

Post has attachment
If you're having as long and occasionally surreal a week as I am, you may need some music. This is one of my favorite things to listen to during such a day -- four Romantic violin concertos. (Wienawski's #1 with Gil Shaham; Bruch's #1 with Janine Jansen; Mendelssohn's with Hilary Hahn; and Tchaikovsky's with Itzhak Perlman)

If (like me) you like to read along as you listen, here are links to the scores from IMSLP:,_Op.14_(Wieniawski,_Henri),_Op.26_(Bruch,_Max),_Op.64_(Mendelssohn,_Felix),_Op.35_(Tchaikovsky,_Pyotr)

Post has attachment
With a bunch of proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act coming up in the next few days, I thought I'd post a short explanation of how health insurance works -- and why it's not like most other kinds of insurance. This should help you ask the right questions about how proposals will affect you and others.

I'm not offering any answers or opinions here; just the things you need to know to ask the right questions. Answers are your own look-out, this time.

My plan: Hand out USB dongles as schwag at security conferences.

They will contain non-spreading malware that does nothing but mark a little bit on Word docs, PDFs, and the like... so that if ever I get a resume from this person, I'll know.

Post has attachment
So, Flynn is out as National Security Advisor – the second Trump official (after Paul Manafort) to resign over shady ties to the Kremlin. General David Petraeus, who was sacked as Director of the CIA and criminally charged when the FBI found that he had been leaking classified information to his biographer-slash-mistress, is being floated as a possible replacement. He has a meeting with Trump tomorrow morning.


(Incidentally, the White House apparently knew about all of this weeks ago; acting Attorney-General Yates told them. They decided to fire Yates instead, and sit on the story until it came out in the Washington Post: .

What a country! In Soviet Russia, Kremlin controls yo...

Hmm. Maybe things don't change that much after all)

Post has attachment
We've already had one news story today about a senior Trump aide (Michael Alton) who's been writing the intellectual arguments for racism, Carl Schmitt-style, and a second about another senior Trump aide (Stephen Miller) whose history of writing about racism (that is, in favor of) goes back all the way to the beginning of high school.

So let's round out the hat trick with Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to the President and former National Security editor for Breitbart, who was recently out explaining to the press why Trump's statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day didn't mention Jews.

In this Inauguration Night photo, you can see a medal on his chest, one he often wears. It's the Vitéz Rend, a hereditary order bestowed on his grandfather by Miklós Horthy.

That's Horthy, who was then Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary, a (willing) ally of Hitler's who presided over the extermination of 75% of Hungary's Jewish population. Vitéz Rend remains on the State Department list of organizations which were under the control of the Nazi Party.

Now, does this mean that Gorka's grandfather was a Nazi? Not necessarily; he might have received the order before Horthy's formal alliance with Hitler in 1939. But there's no reason that anyone wearing the order in 2017 would be unaware of precisely what it stands for, and the choice to proudly wear it in public could only be taken as a rather pointed message.

As Hungarian scholar Eva Balogh puts it: "Many supporters of the Horthy regime were enamored by the Nazis and Hitler and the ‘knights’ were especially so. Put it that way, after 1948 one wouldn’t have bragged about his father being a ‘vitéz.'"

Isn't our new regime fun?

Post has attachment
Stephen Miller: Senior Adviser to the President, widely reported to be the main architect of the Muslim Ban. A believer in racism, especially against Latinos, apparently ever since his conversion to it at the age of 14.

The thing about growing up in the modern age -- Miller is only 31 -- is that if you've been writing about (i.e., in favor of) racism for the past 17 years, there will be a record of it, and journalists will easily find it. And be able to interview people who knew you and can quote you saying things like "I can't be your friend any more because you are Latino," or find your old YouTube videos where you're complaining about "invasions" of Mexican migrants, and so on.

It's not nearly the intellectual argument for racism that Michael Anton has provided; Miller is no Carl Schmitt. Instead, it reads like an angry teenager, who has gotten older but forgotten to grow up.
Wait while more posts are being loaded