Matt Restivo

Torture and Drones

From outside the US, the Senate intelligence committee’s 528-page report on CIA torture techniques—merely the abridged, non-secret version of the 6,700-page original—seems like America at its best. Harshly critical of an agency that did evil things to produce dubious intelligence while lying to its overlords, it seems to embody the country’s best traditions of transparency and honest self-examination.

But inside the US, the report is a sullied, discredited thing. This was no grave, bipartisan effort like the report of the 9/11 Commission, but—as critics would have it, and not entirely wrongly—a labor of ass-covering spite, produced solely by the committee’s majority Democrats and crafted to shield their own complicity. Republicans have attacked it; former CIA chiefs have risen up (paywall) to defend themselves. And Democrats are worrying about what will happen when, a few years hence, their rivals expose the current administration’s enthusiastic use of drone strikes to the same merciless sunlight.

That is a shame, for the report, though flawed, is truly damning. But, one might shrug, so what? If partisan politics is what it takes to have a national debate about the ethics of warfare, so be it; democracy is messy, and it should take what transparency it can get.

However, this national debate is not like those about race, guns, or the banking system. There, the winners and losers from a policy all have votes or campaign funds with which to sway the outcome. In warfare, the losers—the tortured suspects, the people with relatives blown to bits by drones—are foreigners, with no say. However indignantly liberals may protest the bad things done in their name, when the call comes to “keep America safe,” how many of them will dare challenge it?

—Gideon Lichfield

Great Open Table Feature

Open Table Mod

Open Table Integration on Yelp

Big fan of this one click to reserve feature that automatically suggests available times. Good stuff by @OpenTable. Would be curious to see what they tested before arriving at this experience.

Changing Your Work Environment

When you work at a job where you are sitting at the same desk 5 days a week, it can be a downer without even you realizing it. Especially in New York City, we are constantly confined to small spaces. When it’s nice enough (in other words, when my fingers aren’t too cold to type), I try and get out once every two to three weeks and sit in a park and crank out some work. I find I’m significantly more productive.

In the winter, I’ll try coffee shops on Saturday mornings. Not just a standard Starbucks, I try to find something unique and interesting. There’s plenty of detail in everything around us– and that subconsciously will increase productivity and creativity.

I’m even more productive when I’m disconnected and on a plane. I am almost saddend by the fact that there is WiFi on most flights. I still try to fly one leg “off the radar”. Flying is a great place to be still, thoughtful, which ultimately leads to creativity. It forces you to reflect on everything you’re working on, and sometimes just that can re-prioritize everything or at least get you a deeper perspective.

Visit: Austin, TX

DSC_8827Franklin BBQ: Standing in line from 10-1130am is well worth it for this wet brisket.

I’ve been to Austin, TX three times– twice for SxSW and once for a bachelor party. I talk to a lot of people about this so I figured it was worth posting. There are a few restaurants that you absolutely must go to you when you visit city;

#1. Franklin BBQ
The hype is legit, I tried Salt Lick, Micklethwait, and Franklin destroys both of them. There’s a reason Obama went there.

#2. Uchi
This dude Tyson Cole has won numerous awards and it is hands down the best Japanese food I’ve ever tasted.

#3. Torchy’s Tacos
Breakfast burritos, Tacos, the queso– everything. Go here at least once every day throughout your trip. It’s hard to put this third, because this is one of the two best Mexican food places I’ve ever been to (the other is in San Diego, CA).

#4. East Side King
Another ballin’ place to get asian fusion food. This place is harder to explain, but trust Paul Qui’s ability here– this place is impressive.

If you’re looking for other things to do besides eat– go for a run along the water, visit UT’s campus, and check out East 6th Street, and the often overlooked West 6th Street.

Thank You For Your Service

Every time I see a soldier dressed in their blues or their camo, I am always sure to thank them for our service to our country. I highly encourage you do the same.

It’s just a few small words– but you can tell they count by their reaction.

Car Accidents

Gideon Lichfield is at it again… another brilliant post to start the weekend.

Whether it was 13, as GM says, or 74, as Reuters asserts, the lives lost in cars fitted with the automaker’s faulty ignition switches are a tragedy. GM this week began its long march to rehabilitation by admitting to a “pattern of incompetence and neglect” that led millions of cars to be fitted with the faulty switches over nearly a decade.

But still, let’s keep some perspective.

From 2003 to 2010, the period in question, 287,586 people died in the US in car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s 98 people every single day. In 2010 alone, the agency estimates (pdf), 3,353 lives would have been saved if only everyone riding in a car always wore a seatbelt, and another 708 if every motorcyclist always wore a helmet. That’s 11 lives saved every day. “Distraction-related” accidents, which include texting or phone-calling while driving, killed 3,328 people in 2012 alone; nine lives every day.

And of course, that’s just in the US. Worldwide, around 1.24 million people die in road accidents each year.

Why is there so much scandal around GM’s ignition switches, while the daily scandal of carnage on the roads is, on most days, largely forgotten? GM should certainly fix its culture, which seems to discourage employees from reporting potentially fatal problems. But if just a fraction of the energy spent on chastising GM went into improving daily road safety, it could save a lot more lives. —Gideon Lichfield