31 January, 2012


Self-Guided Bullet Can Hit Targets a Mile Away:

New submitter jpwilliams writes "Gizmag reports that researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have tested a 10-centimeter bullet that can be fired from a smooth-bore rifle to hit a laser-marked target one mile away. The bullet 'includes an optical sensor in the nose to detect a laser beam on a target. The sensor sends information to guidance and control electronics that use an algorithm in an eight-bit central processing unit to command electromagnetic actuators. These actuators steer tiny fins that guide the bullet to the target.' Interestingly, accuracy improves with targets that are further away, because 'the bullet's motions settle the longer it is in flight.'"

Very good post on finance

The Epicurean Dealmaker: The Rape of Persephone: Now that Mitt Romney is running for the GOP nomination for President, it seems everybody and his brother is taking a whack at the private equity pi�ata. James Kwak recently took his turn at bat, and James Surowiecki clocked a couple swings himself. To their credit, both of them do a halfway decent job describing the private equity model, but neither one can be characterized as a fan. Kwak fears that private equity is too tempted by lax and imperfect financing markets to loot the companies they buy and leave creditors and employees in the lurch, and Surowiecki is displeased that so much of the profit in private equity is subsidized by taxpayers. Both of their criticisms hinge heavily on the financial leverage commonly used in private equity investments, so it is worth reviewing the concepts and practices in a little detail.


January 31, 2012

Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20463

Re: Supplemental Memo To Disclosure Report

Dear Sirs and Sirettes, Americans for a Better Tomorrow,

Tomorrow (ABTT) would like it entered into the record that as of January 30th, 2012, the sum total of our donations was $1,023,121.24.

Stephen Colbert, President of ABTT, has asked that I quote him as saying, ''Yeah! How you like me now, F.E.C? I'm rolling seven digits deep! I got 99 problems but a non-connected independent-expenditure only committee ain't one!''

I would like it noted for the record that I advised Mr. Colbert against including that quote.

Sincerely, Shauna Polk Treasurer Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Inc.


January 31, 2012

Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20463

Re: Supplemental Memo To Disclosure Report

Dear Sirs and Sirettes, Americans for a Better Tomorrow,

Tomorrow (ABTT) would like it entered into the record that as of January 30th, 2012, the sum total of our donations was $1,023,121.24.

Stephen Colbert, President of ABTT, has asked that I quote him as saying, ''Yeah! How you like me now, F.E.C? I'm rolling seven digits deep! I got 99 problems but a non-connected independent-expenditure only committee ain't one!''

I would like it noted for the record that I advised Mr. Colbert against including that quote.

Sincerely, Shauna Polk Treasurer Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Inc.

America’s confessor | Prospect Magazine

America’s confessor | Prospect Magazine: Back in 2004, Warren had a small business that managed medical documents and he was bored with it. To amuse himself in his spare time he devised a little project, inspired by a dream he’d had on holiday in Paris the year before. He printed a batch of postcards with brief instructions typed on them: write on a postcard a secret that you’ve never told anyone, design the card however you like, and send it anonymously to the address provided—Warren’s home in Maryland. Warren then handed out these postcards on the streets of Washington, DC and also tucked them into books in shops.

There was an immediate and extraordinary response. The postcards soon began to pour in—and when he launched PostSecret.com on 1st January 2005, the online traffic was heavy. He used the free, bare-bones Google blogging service for amateurs that he still employs today. An armload of web awards and a spate of press attention further boosted the site’s profile. When Warren sits down to pick the 20 postcards that he posts online each Sunday, he is often choosing from a week’s total of more than 1,000, many of which are intricate works of homespun art.

Former Black Panther patches together purpose in Africa exile - latimes.com

Former Black Panther patches together purpose in Africa exile - latimes.com: When last he walked America's streets, O'Neal was a magnetic young man possessed of bottomless anger. He was an ex-con who'd found a kind of religion in late-'60s black nationalism, a vain, violent street hustler reborn in a Black Panther uniform of dark sunglasses, beret and leather jacket. With pitiless, knife-sharp diction, he spoke of sending police to their graves.

This morning, he sits in his living room uncapping medicine bottles. A pill for high blood pressure. Another for the pain in his back and his bad knee. An aspirin to thin his blood. Time is catching him, like the lions that pursue him implacably through his nightmares, their leashes held by policemen.

30 January, 2012

Privilege, consumerism, and the lack of outrage that most of what we own is made by slave labor (on Reddit in particular) : SRSDiscussion

Privilege, consumerism, and the lack of outrage that most of what we own is made by slave labor (on Reddit in particular) : SRSDiscussion: "In a poor country like ours, the alternative to low-paid jobs isn't well-paid ones, it's no jobs at all."
-Jes�s Heroles, Fmr. Mexican Ambassador to the US

I'm not going to lie, Foxconn doesn't sound like a terribly fun place to work. That being said, it's crucial to note that Foxconn employees are not slaves. Every employee is there of their own accord and is perfectly free to leave whenever they want (in fact, Foxconn has a 30-40% turnover rate). That's critically important to realise. It's important because the fact that someone would choose to work at Foxconn means that it's better than any other option they have. Remember that for the vast majority of Foxconn workers, the alternative is farming rice in a country where there's 1 tractor for every 200 farmers.


BEING A MAID: And here we are, in the year of our Lord, Jan 25, 2012. Maybe I’m getting old, but the irony of this is too much. Or perhaps I’ve heard this song before. In the 1970’s, when I was a freshman at Oberlin College, my white friends and I used to sit up and talk about racism and solving society’s problems all through the night until the sun rose. Not much good came from these talks, the least of which is I hoped to get laid, which rarely happened. But on those cold nights, I was convinced that when I walked out of college, racism would be just about finished. Instead, it smashed me across the face like a bottle when I walked into the real world. Now, 33 years later, I find myself talking about the same thing I talked about when I was a college freshman.

Tyler Clementi’s Suicide and Dharun Ravi’s Trial : The New Yorker

Tyler Clementi’s Suicide and Dharun Ravi’s Trial : The New Yorker: According to Wei, she and Ravi “saw Tyler and his friend, or whoever that was—their upper body.” She remembered that the two men were fully dressed, standing against the door. (Ravi later said that they had their shirts off.) “I couldn’t see any faces, and they were just what seemed to be kissing, and then, after literally two seconds, we just turned it off. And we were kind of both kind of in shock, because for me, anyway, I’ve never seen anything like that.” Ravi told police, “I just felt, like, really, like, really uncomfortable and, like, almost guilty that I saw it.” Wei recalled, “At first, we were both, like, ‘Oh, my gosh, we can’t tell anybody about this, we’re just going to pretend this never happened.’ ”

Ravi’s resolve not to publicize the experience lasted for three or four minutes. At 9:17 P.M., he tweeted, “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” Before Ravi locked down his Twitter account, a few days later, he had about a hundred and fifty followers, the bulk of them friends from high school. It’s possible that he still thought of his Twitter audience as a group no larger than those followers.


The New American Divide: Belmont, MA vs. Fishtown, PA � Pulse Perspectives: Marriage: In 1960, extremely high proportions of whites in both Belmont and Fishtown were married—94% in Belmont and 84% in Fishtown. In the 1970s, those percentages declined about equally in both places. Then came the great divergence. In Belmont, marriage stabilized during the mid-1980s, standing at 83% in 2010. In Fishtown, however, marriage continued to slide; as of 2010, a minority (just 48%) were married. The gap in marriage between Belmont and Fishtown grew to 35 percentage points, from just 10.

Quietly, U.S. Moves to Block Lawsuits by Military Families - Andrew Cohen - National - The Atlantic

Quietly, U.S. Moves to Block Lawsuits by Military Families - Andrew Cohen - National - The Atlantic: Amen. But while public officials are out waving the flag toward these families, federal lawyers in court are now quietly trying to expand the U.S. government's legal immunity from exposure to medical malpractice claims brought by those very same military folks. Now, the feds want the courts to recognize a bold application of an old doctrine -- an already heavily criticized old doctrine -- that would bar many plaintiffs, whose loved ones serve their country, from exercising the right merely to be able to present the substance of their claims at trial.

Worse, Congress has consistently refused over the past 60 years to ensure that courthouse doors remain open to military personnel and their families. In one recent iteration of this battle, in 2009, it was reported that Congressional Republicans refused to go along because doing so it would allow more malpractice cases to get to trial, a goal many of those very same Republicans find contrary to their so-called "tort reform" agenda. It's a legal issue, it's a political issue, and its a moral one: How much do we really care about these families?

On the Aisle: Partying in the stacks at Bookless

On the Aisle: Partying in the stacks at Bookless: Bookless at the Madison Public Library's central branch on Saturday night felt like a rabbit hole into a much bigger city.

Two hours in, the line snaked out the door and around the corner. Inside, the reference desk had been transformed into a bar, staffed by Merchant. The walls were covered in paint and old library cards, the signs all switched around, with a photo booth just inside the door.

There were video installations and live music on every floor. There was an oracle, where you could send a question down a pneumatic tube and get answers to life's most persistent questions. A friend asked what her baby daughter would be when she grows up. The answer: A constellation.

Entire thing is awesome

Letters of Note: To My Old Master: In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdan Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdan — who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family — responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below (a letter which, according to newspapers at the time, he dictated).

Rather than quote the numerous highlights in this letter, I'll simply leave you to enjoy it. Do make sure you read to the end.


Coal: (48 photos total)

22-year-old Shyam Rai from Nepal makes his way through tunnels inside of a coal mine 300 ft beneath the surface on April 13, 2011 near the village of Latyrke, in the district of Jaintia Hills, India. In the Jaintia hills, located in India's far northeast state of Meghalaya, miners descend to great depths on slippery, rickety wooden ladders. Children and adults squeeze into rat hole like tunnels in thousands of privately owned and unregulated mines, extracting coal with their hands or primitive tools and no safety equipment. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Jackson escapes assassination attempt Jan. 30, 1835 - Andrew Glass - POLITICO.com

Jackson escapes assassination attempt Jan. 30, 1835 - Andrew Glass - POLITICO.com: On this day in 1835, Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) became the first U.S. president to be targeted by an assassin.

Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter, approached Jackson as he left a congressional funeral held in the House chamber of the Capitol and shot at him. His gun misfired.

A delusional Lawrence believed that the U.S. government owed him a large sum that Jackson was keeping from him.

Release of the funds, he thought, would allow him to take his rightful place as King Richard III of England.

To be Elite

ESPN - Olympics: Wieber Fever - E-ticket: When Wieber was about 11 months old, her dad, Dave, noticed something different about his third child: muscles. In her legs, in her arms, even in her abs. Seriously, a 1-year-old with abs. "They were tiny," Dave recalled. "But they were noticeable."

One morning, when Dave sat Jordyn on a changing table, she did something he was certain neither of his first two children would have been able to do at the same age: She pulled herself up to a standing position and then lifted one leg -- without leaning to put her arms on his shoulders for balance -- and stood like a flamingo as he slipped on one pant leg, and then the other. "We'd already had two kids, so I knew that was unusual," Dave said. "She couldn't even walk, but she had this uncanny sense of balance."

29 January, 2012

Michael Hudson: Banks Weren’t Meant to Be Like This � naked capitalism

Michael Hudson: Banks Weren’t Meant to Be Like This � naked capitalism: People used to know what banks did. Bankers took deposits and lent them out, paying short-term depositors less than they charged for risky or less liquid loans. The risk was borne by bankers, not depositors or the government. But today, bank loans are made increasingly to speculators in recklessly large amounts for quick in-and-out trading. Financial crashes have become deeper and affect a wider swath of the population as debt pyramiding has soared and credit quality plunged into the toxic category of “liars’ loans.”

The first step toward today’s mutual interdependence between high finance and government was for central banks to act as lenders of last resort to mitigate the liquidity crises that periodically resulted from the banks’ privilege of credit creation. In due course governments also provided public deposit insurance, recognizing the need to mobilize and recycle savings into capital investment as the Industrial Revolution gained momentum. In exchange for this support, they regulated banks as public utilities.

What a story - America's best "madam."

The Best Madam in America | Crime Magazine: Polly was trying to run a high class house of ill repute, but she had to pay protection money to the gangsters. It was an experience shared by other madams of the day. Helen McGowan, a Detroit madam, recalled what it was like being a madam in the 1920s: “If the take was a thousand dollars for a particular night, five hundred went to the racket boys, four hundred to the girls and $100 to me. The great bulk of our funds went to hoodlums and lawyers, thanks to our righteous laws that protect the public against the world’s oldest profession.”

Polly did not have problems with the criminal element, and she began building her clientele in a discrete business like manner. At the night clubs Polly patronized, she advised headwaiters and captains that her establishment was not your typical whorehouse, and they should only send men to her bordello who could afford to pay $20 or more. For those who could pay that amount, Polly Adler was available 24 hours a day. The money began rolling in, and by the spring of 1921 she had saved $6,000.

Never again, and what it means.

Running Chicken: I’m sure you’ve noticed that, with the ascendancy...: I think that the most general thing I can say is that Buchenwald is the most terrible place I have ever been in my life.

What's Wrong With the Teenage Mind? - WSJ.com

What's Wrong With the Teenage Mind? - WSJ.com: At the same time, first with the industrial revolution and then even more dramatically with the information revolution, children have come to take on adult roles later and later. Five hundred years ago, Shakespeare knew that the emotionally intense combination of teenage sexuality and peer-induced risk could be tragic—witness "Romeo and Juliet." But, on the other hand, if not for fate, 13-year-old Juliet would have become a wife and mother within a year or two.

The ethics of brain boosting - University of Oxford

The ethics of brain boosting - University of Oxford: Recent research in Oxford and elsewhere has shown that one type of brain stimulation in particular, called transcranial direct current stimulation or TDCS, can be used to improve language and maths abilities, memory, problem solving, attention, even movement.

Critically, this is not just helping to restore function in those with impaired abilities. TDCS can be used to enhance healthy people’s mental capacities. Indeed, most of the research so far has been carried out in healthy adults.

TDCS uses electrodes placed on the outside of the head to pass tiny currents across regions of the brain for 20 minutes or so. The currents of 1–2 mA make it easier for neurons in these brain regions to fire. It is thought that this enhances the making and strengthening of connections involved in learning and memory.

28 January, 2012

How Wall Street Knowingly Created The Crisis

How Wall Street Knowingly Created The Crisis:

The always-interesting Francis Fukuyama has a great interview on the financial crisis. Money quote:

What I thought was most interesting about Michael Lewis's book, "The Big Short," was that there is, to this day, a view about the whole pathology of collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) – these highly complex, packaged mortgage securities – as well as the credit default swaps – the insurance contracts written on those securities – that Wall Street created them and they simply got out of hand. They didn’t anticipate it would be hard to value them, how they would be misused, and so forth. What Michael Lewis points out very forcefully is that they were deliberately created by Wall Street banks in order to produce non-transparent securities that could not be adequately evaluated by the rating agencies, which then could be sold to less sophisticated investors, who would buy the idea that this junk debt actually had triple A ratings. So what this book does quite brilliantly is show that there was actually a high degree of intentionality in creating the crisis.

The worst of all these securities are the so-called synthetic CDOs. A CDO is a bond that represents maybe a couple of thousand mortgages; a synthetic CDO is a group of hundreds of CDOs, all packaged into a single security. When you get to that level of complexity, no one can evaluate what this thing is worth. You can come up with sophisticated rationales for why this might actually follow some kind of market logic, but I think Lewis shows that the reason this happened is that they didn’t want anyone to be able to rate it.

27 January, 2012

How the Occupation Became Legal by Eyal Press | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

How the Occupation Became Legal by Eyal Press | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books: Surprisingly little is known about the legal apparatus that has enabled and structured the occupation. Filmed in nine days but based on years of archival research, The Law in These Parts aims to expose it. Even before the 1967 Six-Day War, the film reveals, officers in the army’s legal corps drew up guidelines for a separate system of laws that could be applied to territory under IDF control, rules they were convinced could strike a balance between order and justice. But by the time the first Palestinian Intifada erupted in 1987, detention without trial and convictions based on secret evidence had become standard operating procedure in the military courts entrusted with this task. One reason Israel did not simply extend its own laws to the West Bank and Gaza Strip was that doing so would “imply certain things you may not want,” an official in the film explains – in particular, that Palestinians living in the occupied territories were citizens with the same rights as Israelis. (In contrast, Jewish settlers in places like Hebron were spared the military justice system and granted access to civilian courts in Israel.)

Rational Irrationality: Mitt’s 1040s: The Real Scandal is the Tax Code : The New Yorker

Rational Irrationality: Mitt’s 1040s: The Real Scandal is the Tax Code : The New Yorker: Under an obscure but vigorously defended item of the tax code, managers of hedge funds and private-equity funds are allowed to classify much of the fee income they receive from their investors as “carried interest,” which the I.R.S. treats in the same way as a capital gain. In a conference call with reporters this morning, Benjamin Ginsberg, a senior attorney for the Romney campaign, revealed that in the past two years Bain Capital has paid Romney almost $13 million in “carried interest”—$7.4 million in 2010 and $5.4 million in 2011.

The “carried interest” deduction has no economic justification—firms like Bain don’t put any of their own capital at risk to generate it—but its sure helps folks like Mitt. If he and his wife had been forced to treat that $13 million as regular income, they would have had to pay about $4.5 million in federal tax on it. As it was, they paid about $1.9 million in taxes, saving them a handy $2.6 million.

Nice “work” if you can get it.

The Mercenary Techie Who Troubleshoots for Drug Dealers and Jealous Lovers

The Mercenary Techie Who Troubleshoots for Drug Dealers and Jealous Lovers:

But burners can be a pain. For maximum security, phones need to be switched as often as possible—a top Cali cartel manager was once reported to use 35 cell phones a day. Martin's system makes it easy for a crew to switch all their phones rapidly.

With Martin's system, each crewmember gets a cell phone that operates using a prepaid SIM card; they also get a two-week plastic pill organizer filled with 14 SIM cards where the pills should be. Each SIM card, loaded with $50 worth of airtime, is attached to a different phone number and stores all contacts, text messages and call histories associated with that number, like a removable hard drive. This makes a new SIM card effectively a new phone. Every morning, each crewmember swaps out his phone's card for the card in next day's compartment in the pill organizers. After all 14 cards are used, they start over at the first one.

Of course, it would be hugely annoying for a crewmember to have to remember the others' constantly changing numbers. But he doesn't have to, thanks to the pill organizers. Martin preprograms each day's SIM card with the phone numbers the other members have that day. As long they all swap out their cards every day, the contacts in the phones stay in sync. (They never call anyone but each other on the phones.) Crewmembers will remind each other to "take their medicine," Martin said.

How much do you get out of the bubble?

Coming Apart by Charles Murray - Quiz

26 January, 2012

Because the Market Allows It

Romney Debates Romney About Health-Care Reform: Michael Kinsley - Bloomberg: Romney’s one concrete suggestion for health-care reform is repealing the law that forbids insurance companies from selling insurance across state lines. This would create something that doesn’t now exist -- a national insurance market -- and dramatically increase competition, thus helping to control costs. It’s a good idea, but, of course, it is exactly the opposite of what he claims to believe is needed in general: Outside competition would make it nearly impossible for states to regulate health insurance, leaving that power and obligation to the federal government. How does Romney resolve this apparent contradiction?

That is enough, for the moment. It’s obvious -- isn’t it? - - that Romney is just blowing smoke. The real story is clear: He wanted to achieve something important and good for the people of his state, namely universal health care. But he chose the wrong horse -- who could have guessed that an idea from the Heritage Foundation would become “liberal” anathema in the Republican primaries?

It’s annoying, but it’s more than that: It’s disqualifying. To talk such nonsense and count on the hubbub of the campaign to clothe its naked contempt for the voters is an insult to all of us.

If Logic Mattered in These GOP Debates...

If Logic Mattered in These GOP Debates...: ... Rick Santorum would have been declared the knockout winner over Mitt Romney tonight, for backing him into making a plainer, simpler case for the "individual mandate" in health insurance plans than Barack Obama himself has bothered to make. (In fairness, Obama was against the individual mandate during the 2008 primaries, which may affect his ability to argue for it now.) I don't see any video posts at the moment, so here's the gist of it tonight, emphasis added:
ROMNEY: For the 8 percent of people [in Massachusetts] who didn't have insurance, we said to them, if you can afford insurance, buy it yourself, any one of the plans out there, you can choose any plan. There's no government plan.

And if you don't want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn't have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility.

Either get the insurance or help pay for your care. And that was the conclusion that we reached.... Everyone has a requirement to either buy it or pay the state for the
cost of providing them free care
. Because the idea of people getting
something for free when they could afford to care for themselves is
something that we decided in our state was not a good idea.

That's the "individual mandate," plain and simple. As Santorum eventually got around to pointing out.

The Benjamin Franklin Effect � You Are Not So Smart

The Benjamin Franklin Effect � You Are Not So Smart: The Misconception: You do nice things for the people you like and bad things to the people you hate.

The Truth: You grow to like people for whom you do nice things and hate people you harm.

Benjamin Franklin knew how to deal with haters.

Born in 1706 as the eighth of 17 children to a Massachusetts soap and candlestick maker, the chances Benjamin would go on to become a gentleman, scholar, scientist, statesman, musician, author, publisher and all-around general bad-ass were astronomically low, yet he did just that and more because he was a master of the game of personal politics.

Students at Stanford University signed up for a two-hour experiment called “Measures of Performance” as a requirement to pass a class. Researchers divided them into two groups. One was told they would receive $1, or about $8 in today’s money. The other group was told they would receive $20, or about $150 in today’s money. The scientists then explained the students would be helping improve the research department by evaluating a new experiment. They were then led into a room where they had to use one hand to place wooden spools into a tray and remove them over and over again. A half-hour later, the task changed to turning square pegs clockwise on a flat board one-quarter spin at a time for half an hour. All the while, an experimenter watched and scribbled. It was one hour of torturous tedium with a guy watching and taking notes. After the hour was up, the researcher asked the student if he could do the school a favor on their way out by telling the next student scheduled to perform the tasks who was waiting outside that the experiment was fun and interesting. Finally, after lying, people in both groups – one with $1 in their pocket and one with $20 – filled out a survey in which they were asked their true feelings about the study. What do you think they said? Here’s a hint – one group not only lied to the person waiting outside but went on to report they loved repeatedly turning little wooden knobs. Which one do you think internalized the lie? On average, the people paid $1 reported the study was stimulating. The people paid $20 reported what they just went thorough was some astoundly boring-ass shit. Why the difference?

Source: www.tailoredexpressions.com

According to Festinger, both groups lied about the hour, but only one felt cognitive dissonance. It was as if the group paid $20 thought, “Well, that was awful, and I just lied about it, but they paid me a lot of money, so…no worries.” Their mental discomfort was quickly and easily dealt with by a nice external justification. The group paid $1 had no outside justification, so they turned inward. They altered their beliefs to salve their cerebral sunburn. This is why volunteering feels good and unpaid interns work so hard. Without an obvious outside reward you create an internal one.

Scotland’s bid for independence explained! � The Dabbler

Scotland’s bid for independence explained! � The Dabbler: 1) Is Scotland a country, or what?

I’ve been asked this many times in Russia and the United States, even though both countries have a federal system and the idea of a large entity made up of smaller entities should be easy to grasp. Maybe that’s the problem: Scotland is not a state, or a province- it’s a country, only it’s a country that joined with another three countries to make a kind of mega-country with (until recently) one parliament. Kind of like The Beatles, where England is John, Scotland is Paul and… I’ll let the Welsh and Northern Irish decide who gets to be Ringo.

2) So why did Scotland unite with England?

When Queen Elizabeth I died, her nearest Protestant relative was King James VI of Scotland, so he was invited south to make sure Catholics didn’t take over. Scotland retained its own parliament until a century or so later when the country went bankrupt following a disastrous attempt to colonize a wet jungle full of mosquitoes. The English bailed us out and we have never forgiven them.

Amazon's Hit Man - Businessweek

Amazon's Hit Man - Businessweek: Talk like that hasn’t mollified publishers, and it’s easy to see why. They’re trying to protect a century-old business model—and their role as nurturers of literary culture—from encroachment by a company that consistently reimagines how industries can be run more efficiently. Book publishing, an inefficient industry if there ever was one, seems ripe for reimagining. According to a recent report by the Association of American Publishers, sales of adult paperbacks and hardcovers fell 18 percent between 2010 and 2011. Store chains such as Borders have been cartwheeling into bankruptcy, and independent shops are struggling to compete with the advantages enjoyed by online retailers, such as their freedom from collecting sales tax in many states. The lone bright spot is the rising sales of electronic books, but even that landscape is blighted: Fierce warfare for control of the new market, between Amazon.com, Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), and Barnes & Noble (BKS), threatens to turn minor combatants into accidental casualties.

Vladimir Putin would like you to read a book: Why his proposal for a "Russian canon" is scary as hell | New York Daily News

Vladimir Putin would like you to read a book: Why his proposal for a "Russian canon" is scary as hell | New York Daily News: If this sounds like it might be a literary canon mandated by the Kremlin, Putin wants to assure you that there will not be censorship of any kind. His goal is only “subtle cultural therapy.”

But cultural therapy has never been subtle in Russia; not under Czar Nicholas I, whose “Third Section” of spies was meant to enforce the imperial policy of censorship; nor under Putin, when the Hitlerite youth group “Walking Together” burned copies of the objectionable novel “Blue Lard” in Moscow in 2003.

The obverse to writers’ importance in Russian society is the importance of silencing them, whether it’s Dostoyevsky on the gallows or Solzhenytsin in the Gulag. Putin, the amateur historian, knows all this. And he knows, too, that his “strategy [of] civic patriotism” will require him to promote some books while banning others.

Davos Newbies � Blog Archive � A few truths about Davos

Davos Newbies � Blog Archive � A few truths about Davos: If your goal is to offend no one, you have a host of problems. Some are obvious. Taiwan and Tibet shall never pass your lips (WEF is hardly alone in this constraint). Plenty of rotten presidents and prime ministers get welcomed with open arms.

That comes with the territory. More difficult is the need to put corporate leaders on panels with relatively little regard to whether they have any original ideas, or any ability to talk about them. The dark, dirty secret you learn when you run the program at Davos is that the vast majority of CEOs have nothing to say. That doesn’t mean they are bad CEOs. It’s just that there is no correlation between being a successful business leader and having interesting ideas and the ability to express them.

It isn’t just people. Offending no one also constricts the range of things you can talk about.

25 January, 2012

Night terrors : The Last Word On Nothing

Night terrors : The Last Word On Nothing: So the upshot is this: sleep paralysis is just a simple biological mistake that was never edited out during evolution because while the Old Hag is unpleasant, she has no deletrious effects on evolutionary fitness.

But hang on. It ends up being a little more complicated than that.

At nightterrors.org, a web site dedicated to helping people who suffer from these episodes, the first disclaimer is that “unlike what people have told you, this isn’t Satan.” If you’re not religious, that statement will strike you as a completely left-field nonsequitur. What does Satan have to do with any of this? And then it dawns on you that this little hiccup in the brain may have had an incredibly profound effect on human history. After all, an experience that intense, that has been shared by so many people across cultures, could account for a lot of humanity’s more inexplicable beliefs.

Egyptians see remarkable year not living up to its potential

Egyptians see remarkable year not living up to its potential:

On the first anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak's regime, hundreds of thousands poured into the revolution's symbolic center, Cairo's Tahrir Square. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

Soros is worried

George Soros on the Coming U.S. Class War - The Daily Beast: “I am not here to cheer you up. The situation is about as serious and difficult as I’ve experienced in my career,” Soros tells Newsweek. “We are facing an extremely difficult time, comparable in many ways to the 1930s, the Great Depression. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world, which threatens to put us in a decade of more stagnation, or worse. The best-case scenario is a deflationary environment. The worst-case scenario is a collapse of the financial system.”

Let the Robot Drive: The Autonomous Car of the Future Is Here | Magazine

Let the Robot Drive: The Autonomous Car of the Future Is Here | Magazine: The Prius begins to seem like the Platonic ideal of a driver, against which all others fall short. It can think faster than any mortal driver. It can attend to more information, react more quickly to emergencies, and keep track of more complicated routes. It never panics. It never gets angry. It never even blinks. In short, it is better than human in just about every way.


Faced with the alternatives—that guy who cut us off without signaling, the mom nursing an Ambien hangover who’s drifting into the right lane, the Bluetooth jockey doing 90 mph—I welcome our new robotic Prius-driving overlords.

Boston Review — Carlos Fraenkel: Citizen Philosophers

Boston Review — Carlos Fraenkel: Citizen Philosophers: Getting out of the cave and seeing things as they really are: that’s what philosophy is about, according to Almira Ribeiro. Ribeiro teaches the subject in a high school in Itapu�, a beautiful, poor, violent neighborhood on the periphery of Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia in Brazil’s northeast. She is the most philosophically passionate person I’ve ever met.

Most of the four million slaves shipped from Africa to Brazil were sold in Salvador, the first residence of Portugal’s colonial rulers. It’s still Brazil’s blackest city. In Ribeiro’s neighborhood, children play football or do capoeira, pray in Pentecostal Churches or worship African gods. Many are involved with drugs; “every year we lose students to crack,” she tells me. And they study philosophy two hours each week because of a 2008 law that mandates philosophy instruction in all Brazilian high schools. Nine million teenagers now take philosophy classes for three years.

What Did The 1% Do Wrong?

Will Wilkinson considers the morality of wealth:

[M]ost complaints about the American 1% are not grounded on the view that the global political economy is a comprehensive web of exploitation. It's based on the supposition that the domestic 1% is guilty of something or other the domestic 10 or 30 or 50% isn't, and therefore deserves to be a target of scorn in a way the 10 or 30 or 50% does not. But, however you slice it, it's going to be true that a lot of people in the top 1% got there in pretty much the same way a lot of people in the top 30 or 50% got there.

If there's nothing wrong with a way of making money at the 50th percentile, there's nothing wrong with it at the 99th. And if there's something wrong with it at the 99th, there's something wrong with at the 50th. The unwillingness to identify specific mechanisms of unjust income acquisition, and the insistence on treating income-earners above a arbitrary cut-off point as a unified class deserving special contempt, strike me as symptoms of intellectually laziness and a less than thoroughgoing interest in justice.

24 January, 2012

Mass Incarceration and Criminal Justice in America : The New Yorker

Mass Incarceration and Criminal Justice in America : The New Yorker: More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.

Americans for Patriotic Self-Deportation

The grassroots organization Patriots for Self-Deportation, formed last year in response to legislative inaction on the issue of birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants (also known as the “anchor baby” problem), announced today the launch of their website, SelfDeport.org. The group describes SelfDeport.org as a resource for patriotic Americans who wish to set an example of responsible citizenship by proving their own rights to remain in this great nation.

The group hopes the website and issue benefits from Republican candidate Mitt Romney's endorsement of self-deportation as a solution to the problem of illegal immigration, according to spokesman Stephen Winters.

23 January, 2012

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: In Which I Fix My Girlfriend’s Grandparents’ WiFi and Am Hailed as a Conquering Hero.

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: In Which I Fix My Girlfriend’s Grandparents’ WiFi and Am Hailed as a Conquering Hero.: But with the dawn of the feast of Christmas did a beacon of hope manifest itself upon the inky horizon. Riding in upon a teal Ford Focus came a great warrior, a suitor of the gentlefolks’ granddaughter. Word had spread through the kingdom that this warrior worked with computers and perhaps even knew the true nature of the Router.

The people did beseech the warrior to aid them. They were a simple people, capable only of rewarding him with gratitude and a larger-than-normal serving of Jell-O salad. The warrior considered the possible battles before him. While others may have shirked the duties, forcing the good people of Ferndale Street to prostrate themselves before the tyrants of Comcast, Linksys, and Geek Squad, the warrior could not chill his heart to these depths. He accepted the quest and strode bravely across the beige shag carpet of the living room.

The triumph of intransience

Barack Obama, Post-Partisan, Meets Washington Gridlock : The New Yorker: Three years ago, when Obama explained to George Will and his guests his theory of a centrist Washington, he had some reason to believe it. After all, the pillars of his agenda seemed to enjoy bipartisan support. To some extent, his health-care plan had been designed and employed by a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, of Massachusetts. His policy for addressing climate change, known as “cap and trade,” had its roots in the first Bush White House. The Troubled Asset Relief Program, a bipartisan policy to rescue failing banks, was designed by the second Bush Administration. As for the economy, conservative and liberal economists agreed that fiscal stimulus was the necessary response to a recession; the only question was how much stimulus. Politics in America, Obama confidently told people in Washington just before taking office, is played “between the forty-yard lines.”

22 January, 2012


Erroneous early report of death was amplified by social media - The Washington Post: Novice reporters have long been admonished to double-check a news tip, even if the tip happens to be that your mother says she loves you. In the case of Joe Paterno’s death, some forgot the basics.

The result was a chain reaction of misreporting that grew blindly from a student journalist’s Twitter post erroneously suggesting that Paterno, 85, had succumbed to lung cancer on Saturday night. The legendary former Penn State football coach actually died Sunday morning, about 14 hours after some media sources had already declared him dead.

RedState wins

Sunday NFL Open Thread:

The AFC Championship game is over, the NFC underway. Fresh from punishing Tebow in an act of evil unmatched since the time of Sauron, the New England Patriots, who go by the street name ‘Snake’, used black magic and human sacrifice to cause a Ravens’ missed field goal in the final seconds of the game, thereby sealing their trip to both the Super Bowl, and a much hotter place.

At the time of this post, it’s 10-7 Giants at halftime in the NFC Championship game. I think I speak for all of mankind when I say that if the Giants beat the 49ers, it probably means 2012 really is the apocalypse, and we probably deserve it.

Update on that drone in Iran

Attrition: RQ-170s Still Flying: Then many Americans familiar with the RQ-170 carefully studied the pictures of the "captured" RQ-170 and immediately suspected something was off. For one thing, the RQ-170 shown was the right size and shape but the wrong color. Not just a different color from that seen on many photos of the RQ-170s in Afghanistan but also a color unknown in American military service. A closer examination of the Iranian RQ-170 photos indicated that the Iranians had reassembled an RQ-170 that had crashed and broken into three or more pieces. Then the Iranians apparently gave the UAV a new paint job (which was obvious to anyone seeing those photos.)

The USA isn't competitive...because we actually have labor laws.

How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work : Economics: A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Uhh.. shouldn't it read

“The 'do this or get fired and starve to death attitude' is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can get away with treating its employees so cruelly.”


Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class - NYTimes.com: That’s because nothing like Foxconn City exists in the United States.

The facility has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day. When one Apple executive arrived during a shift change, his car was stuck in a river of employees streaming past. “The scale is unimaginable,” he said.

Foxconn employs nearly 300 guards to direct foot traffic so workers are not crushed in doorway bottlenecks. The facility’s central kitchen cooks an average of three tons of pork and 13 tons of rice a day. While factories are spotless, the air inside nearby teahouses is hazy with the smoke and stench of cigarettes.

Gaggy Gifford Announces Resignation

Harsh Realism

Afghanistan: The Best Way to Peace by Anatol Lieven | The New York Review of Books: This is a depressing prospect when compared with the hopes that followed the overthrow of the Taliban ten years ago. But let us face facts. Our societies and official establishments have demonstrated beyond any possible doubt that they lack the stamina and capacity for sacrifice necessary to remain in Afghanistan for the decades that would be necessary to transform the position of Afghan women as a whole; and there is nothing ethical or responsible about setting goals from the safety of London or Washington that informed people know cannot in fact be reached. We do have a chance to try to do better than the Soviets and to try to save Afghanistan from an endless future of civil war, and to establish a peace in which future progress may be possible. It is our duty to take that chance.

:/ - We need common sense to disprove common sense

3:AM Magazine � The Splintered Skeptic: My suggestion is this: Common sense is incoherent in matters of metaphysics. There’s no way to develop an ambitious, broad-ranging, self-consistent metaphysical system without doing serious violence to common sense somewhere. It’s just impossible. Since common sense is an inconsistent system, you can’t respect it all. Every metaphysician will have to violate it somewhere.

Common sense is an acceptable guide to everyday practical interactions with the world. But there’s no reason to think it would be a good guide to the fundamental structure of the universe. Think about all the weirdness of quantum mechanics, all the weirdness of relativity theory. The more we learn about such things, the more it seems we’re forced to leave common sense behind. The same is probably true about metaphysics.

Keanu Reaves: "Whoa."

Why Does Our Universe Have Three Dimensions? : Discovery News: The result was two separate space-times: the unfurled three-dimensional one that we inhabit, and a six-dimensional one that contracted as violently as ours expanded, shrinking into a tiny Planckian ball. As our universe expanded and cooled, the four forces split off one by one, beginning with gravity. Everything we see around us today is a mere shard of the original shattered nine-dimensional universe.

Will Emerging Markets Fall in 2012? - Jeffrey Frankel - Project Syndicate

Will Emerging Markets Fall in 2012? - Jeffrey Frankel - Project Syndicate: So is 2012 the year for another emerging-markets crisis?

The hypothesis of regular boom-bust cycles is supported by a long-standing scholarly literature, such as the writings of the American economist Carmen Reinhart. But I would appeal to an even older source: the Old Testament – in particular, the story of Joseph, who was called upon by the Pharaoh to interpret a dream about seven fat cows followed by seven skinny cows.

Joseph prophesied that there would come seven years of plenty, with abundant harvests from an overflowing Nile, followed by seven lean years, with famine resulting from drought. His forecast turned out to be accurate. Fortunately, the Pharaoh had empowered his technocratic official (Joseph) to save grain in the seven years of plenty, building up sufficient stockpiles to save the Egyptian people from starvation during the bad years. That is a valuable lesson for today’s government officials in industrialized and developing countries alike.

Yosemite HD on Vimeo

Yosemite HD on Vimeo

Yosemite HD from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.

21 January, 2012

Slumdogs of New York: The remarkable images capturing immigrant families in an unrecognisable 19th century New York | Mail Online

Slumdogs of New York: The remarkable images capturing immigrant families in an unrecognisable 19th century New York | Mail Online: Crime reporter and reformer Jacob Riis took advantage of the newly-invented flash photography to document the city’s dark side in these incredible pictures of slum life among the immigrant underclass.

In one heart-wrenching picture three small barefoot children huddle together for warmth over a grating. Others show street children huddling close together for warmth, or working the streets as shoeshines and beggars.

For many immigrants the new life was a tough one- some of the streets where they had made their home were notorious for violent crime.

Japan's immigration control: Gulag for gaijin | The Economist

Japan's immigration control: Gulag for gaijin | The Economist: The “hotel” was in fact a jail. A prison, a detention facility, a dungeon. ”The police just told me I could make a call from here,” I said in Japanese. A guard told me flat out in Japanese: “You have no rights here.”

A sign, in English, Japanese, and other languages, lists phone numbers for United Nations organisations dedicated to helping victims of state brutality.

“It says right here that I can call these numbers.”

“No you can’t.”

Go to 1:30

Josh Williams - Mordecai - YouTube

Tom Bissell on the making of 'Madden NFL' - Grantland

Tom Bissell on the making of 'Madden NFL' - Grantland: Watching football in an immense black cavern on a television screen the size of a continent seems pretty decadent. Until, that is, you're reminded that having the luxury of spending a Sunday doing nothing but watching football is, incredibly, a relatively recent development in Coach's life. He certainly didn't get to watch football this way as a coach, and not really as a broadcaster. Incredible but true: Retirement has allowed Coach Madden, for maybe the first time in his adult life, to spend his Sundays being a football fan.

The Nazi Leader Who, in 1937, Became the Oskar Schindler of China - Iris Chang - International - The Atlantic

The Nazi Leader Who, in 1937, Became the Oskar Schindler of China - Iris Chang - International - The Atlantic: Dark times paralyze most people, but some very few, for reasons most of us will never understand, are able to set aside all caution and do things even they could not imagine themselves doing in ordinary times.

Perhaps the most fascinating character to emerge from the his�tory of the Rape of Nanking is the German businessman John Rabe. To most of the Chinese in the city, he was a hero, "the living Buddha of Nanking," the legendary head of the International Safety Zone who saved hundreds of thousands of Chi�nese lives. But to the Japanese, Rabe was a strange and unlikely savior. For he was not only a German national -- a citizen of a country allied with Japan -- but the leader of the Nazi Party in Nanking.

20 January, 2012

The Sound of Silence : News & Features : Conde Nast Traveler

The Sound of Silence : News & Features : Conde Nast Traveler: "Listen,” said Bernie Krause. He rolled down his car window, and we sat silently for a moment. It was an hour before dawn, still dark and foggy in the Mayacamas Mountains, a northern California coastal range. But somewhere in the distance, a bird was calling—a high, bright, lively song that seemed at odds with the misty gloom. “A song sparrow,” Krause whispered. “They’re always the first to sing here.”


Tragic truth about caste - WWW.THEDAILY.COM: I frequently get asked in America why India’s caste system, a pre-feudalistic division of labor that assigns one’s line of work at birth, has persisted into the 21st century. I typically answer: the need of the privileged upper castes for cheap labor. But there is an even more tragic explanation, as I discovered during a recent visit to New Delhi while talking to Maya, the dalit or untouchable — the lowest of the four castes — who has serviced my family for 35 years. Maya herself clings to her caste because it still offers her the best possible life in India.

What’s puzzling about the caste system is that it endures without legal force. Unlike slavery, where whites actively relied on authorities to maintain their slave holdings, the caste system is an informal, self-perpetuating institution.

How? Consider Maya’s story.

Maya assigned herself to our house in 1977. We had no choice.

The Gates of Hell , Turkmenistan

The Gates of Hell , Turkmenistan: While drilling in 1971, geologists tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas. The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, leaving a large hole with a diameter of 70 metres (The Gates of Hell). To avoid poisonous gas discharge, it was decided to burn it off. It’s still on fire. Check video above.

Colbert gets a congressional endorsement

Cardoza's Corner - The Hill's Congress Blog: The latest plot twist in the soap opera that is the 2012 Republican presidential nominating contest came this week when Jon Huntsman decided to drop out of the race. With comedian and faux-candidate Stephen Colbert thrashing him by one percent in a South Carolina poll, is it any wonder?

Huntsman was the last sane, faithful, intelligent, non-flip flopping, non-rightwing nut still standing. Given that Huntsman is gone, I now endorse Stephen Colbert for the Republican nomination for President!

What Do We Know about Democratic Transitions? A Listsicle of 9 Judgments � Dart-Throwing Chimp

What Do We Know about Democratic Transitions? A Listsicle of 9 Judgments � Dart-Throwing Chimp: 9. The most likely outcome of a democratic transition nowadays is a competitive authoritarian regime, either because initial elections will be unfair by design or because the party that wins those elections will quickly use state resources to advantage itself in future contests. Highest confidence. Democracy is hard to produce and relatively easy to undo. Just ask the Iraqis, or the Nicaraguans, or the Hungarians, or…

John Kay - A real market economy ensures that greed is good

John Kay - A real market economy ensures that greed is good: Sixty years of division of the Korean peninsula has created two states with very different standards of living in one country. The Korean example is pathological. The division of Germany resulted in two states, both functional in economic terms, but one far richer. The less noticed comparison between the modern economic histories of Finland and Estonia had the same outcome.

There are few controlled experiments in economics, but these are as close as we get, and the results were clear. They were also unexpected. Hard though it is to believe today, in the 1960s many serious commentators on left and right believed that Russian economic progress threatened western hegemony. Those on the left were naively credulous and those on the right victims of paranoid fantasies.

A perhaps apocryphal story tells of a Russian visitor, impressed by the laden shelves in US supermarkets. He asked: “So who is in charge of the supply of bread to New York?” The market economy’s answer – that not only is no one in charge, but it is a criminal offence for anyone to seek that position – is surprising.

Does Austerity Promote Economic Growth? - Robert J. Shiller - Project Syndicate

Does Austerity Promote Economic Growth? - Robert J. Shiller - Project Syndicate: Their analysis found a clear tendency for austerity programs to reduce consumption expenditure and weaken the economy. That conclusion, if valid, stands as a stern warning to policymakers today.

But critics, such as Valerie Ramey of the University of California at San Diego, think that Guajardo, Leigh, and Pescatori have not completely proven their case. It is possible, Ramey argues, that their results could reflect a different sort of reverse causality if governments are more likely to respond to high public-debt levels with austerity programs when they have reason to believe that economic conditions could make the debt burden especially worrisome.

Battle Raging at Heart of Russian Elite - NYTimes.com

Battle Raging at Heart of Russian Elite - NYTimes.com: But that elite, Mr. Prokhorov said, is not monolithic: “The Kremlin is not, like, one person or two people — there are wings, liberal wings and conservative wings. It’s an ongoing fight between them. This is the nature of Russia right now, that even within the parties, within the government, in the Kremlin, we have these wings. So it is a fight between the liberal and conservative wings: What is the future of Russia.”

Mr. Prokhorov said the conservative wing was “very cynical.” “They need stability at any price. And they are ready to pay any price, even instead of future development,” he said. “They are afraid of competition, they are afraid of development.”

But the liberals are ascendant: “I think that the liberal part of the elite is bigger and bigger from day to day, because I have a lot of calls from different levels, and they really express their support for my candidacy.”

Obama TIME Interview: New Path for U.S. Foreign Policy | Swampland | TIME.com

Obama TIME Interview: New Path for U.S. Foreign Policy | Swampland | TIME.com: But do you think they’re not?
Well, I think that when we’ve had some friction in the relationship, it’s because China, I think, still sees itself as a developing or even poor country that should be able to pursue mercantilist policies that are for their benefit and where the rules applying to them shouldn’t be the same rules that apply to the United States or Europe or other major powers.

(MORE: Iraq’s Government, Not Obama, Called Time on the U.S. Troop Presence)

And what we’ve tried to say to them very clearly is, Look, you guys have grown up. You’re already the most populous country on earth, depending on how you measure it, the largest or next-largest economy in the world and will soon be the largest economy, almost inevitably. You are rapidly consuming more resources than anybody else. And in that context, whether it’s maritime issues or trade issues, you can’t do whatever you think is best for you. You’ve got to play by the same rules as everybody else.

19 January, 2012

Worth the entire read.

Robert Kagan: Against The Myth Of American Decline | The New Republic: Is the United States in decline, as so many seem to believe these days? Or are Americans in danger of committing pre-emptive superpower suicide out of a misplaced fear of their own declining power? A great deal depends on the answer to these questions.

On Tone

Bill Clinton Interview 2012 - Bill Clinton on Newt Gingrich 2012 - Esquire: "I realized I didn't have to hate the Democrats who disagree with me." And a lot of Democrats had been nice to him, the people in Congress, when he was recovering. And he also was persuaded — as was Lindsey Graham, by John McCain — that global warming was real and a problem, so he set about trying to find a conservative solution to it that is good for the market and consistent with conservative principles. He also acknowledged that President Obama is an American, not a Kenyan. He's a Christian, not a Muslim. I like him, he said, but I disagree with him on everything. And for those things, Bob Inglis, he lost his primary in 2010. A guy that had a 100 percent conservative rating.

Unfortunately, it works.

The secrets Apple keeps - Fortune Tech: Apple created an elaborate and unnerving system to enforce internal secrecy. It revolves around the concept of disclosure. To discuss a topic at a meeting, one must be sure everyone in the room is "disclosed" on the topic, meaning they have been made privy to certain secrets. "You can't talk about any secret until you're sure everyone is disclosed on it," said an ex‑employee. As a result, Apple employees and their projects are pieces of a puzzle. The snapshot of the completed puzzle is known only at the highest reaches of the organization.

War is Horrible

Annals of War: Two Soldiers : The New Yorker: As a unit of the �lite 82nd Airborne Division, Bravo Company found itself in some of the fiercest fighting last year during the advance on Baghdad. Its hundred-and-thirty-odd paratroopers are among the Army’s best-trained and best-equipped soldiers, and none died during formal hostilities. The dying came later, after President Bush declared the mission accomplished.

Yes, a big problem, but fundamentally impossible to "solve" with the law.

Internet Regulation & the Economics of Piracy | Cato @ Liberty: That said, I remain a bit amazed that it’s become an indisputable premise in Washington that there’s an enormous piracy problem, that it’s having a devastating impact on U.S. content industries, and that some kind of aggressive new legislation is needed tout suite to stanch the bleeding. Despite the fact that the Government Accountability Office recently concluded that it is “difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the net effect of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy as a whole,” our legislative class has somehow determined that—among all the dire challenges now facing the United States—this is an urgent priority.

Julian Assange: The Rolling Stone Interview | Politics News | Rolling Stone

Julian Assange: The Rolling Stone Interview | Politics News | Rolling Stone: Assange sits on a tattered couch, wearing a wool sweater, dark pants and an electronic manacle around his right ankle, visible only when he crosses his legs. At 40, the WikiLeaks founder comes across more like an embattled rebel commander than a hacker or journalist. He's become better at handling the media – more willing to answer questions than he used to be, less likely to storm off during interviews – but the protracted legal battle has left him isolated, broke and vulnerable. Assange recently spoke to someone he calls a Western "intelligence source," and he asked the official about his fate. Will he ever be a free man again, allowed to return to his native Australia, to come and go as he pleases? "He told me I was f*****," Assange says.

Why Are Tibetan Monks Setting Themselves on Fire? - Lois Farrow Parshley - International - The Atlantic

Why Are Tibetan Monks Setting Themselves on Fire? - Lois Farrow Parshley - International - The Atlantic: "Whenever they thought I was not telling the truth, the interrogator displayed a handcuff, an electric baton, and a handgun on the desk," Namgyal, a 37-year-old Tibetan monk, recalled to human rights workers. "[They] asked me: 'Which would you like to choose? Confession or tools?'" Namgyal, arrested in March of 2008 and accused of attempting to organize an anti-Chinese protest, was held for over a year without official charge.

During that time, he was tortured and beaten. At one point, he said, "I felt my body was split into pieces. The cuff went into my flesh. I felt I was going to die. I asked them to kill me." Then, he said, "They put me back on the floor. One of them pulled a handgun from a bag and said I should not close my eyes or I would reincarnate as a demon after I was shot dead. He pressed the gun onto my forehead and the gun clicked. Still I did not say anything."

Brian Phillips on soccer and boredom - Grantland

Brian Phillips on soccer and boredom - Grantland: Soccer is, in other words, both romantic and tragic, and the soft agony of a bad game is an inescapable part of this. You spend all your time hoping something will happen, and it never does. You get a surge of adrenaline every time the ball flies anywhere near the goal,7 and you're always disappointed. But then, every once in a while, James McFadden will score from 30 yards at the Parc des Princes to give Scotland an impossible 1-0 lead over France, and a ponderous game will go all kinds of nervous-breakdown crazy. And for fans it's practically an out-of-body experience — not just because it was a great play, but because it was so unlikely that this match could have been graced with a great play to begin with.

"Our little baby is dead"

"Our little baby is dead":

On April 14th of 1851, Dora Dickens, the ninth child of Charles Dickens and his wife, Catherine, died unexpectedly after suffering convulsions. She was just 8-months-old. The next morning, Charles wrote the following letter to Catherine — miles away from home recuperating from an illness, oblivious to the situation
— and, in an effort to break the news gently, delicately informed her that their daughter was gravely ill and to expect the worst.

Catherine returned home the next day.

(Source: The Letters of Charles Dickens, 1850-1852; Image: Charles Dickens, aged 49, courtesy of The Telegraph.)

Devonshire Terrace

Tuesday Morning

Fifteenth April 1851

My dearest Kate.

Now observe. You must read this letter, very slowly and carefully. If you have hurried on thus far without quite understanding (apprehending some bad news), I rely on your turning back, and reading again.

Little Dora, without being in the least pain, is suddenly stricken ill. She awoke out of a sleep, and was seen, in one moment, to be very ill. Mind! I will not deceive you. I think her very ill.

There is nothing in her appearance but perfect rest. You would suppose her quietly asleep. But I am sure she is very ill, and I cannot encourage myself with much hope of her recovery. I do not—and why should I say I do, to you my dear!—I do not think her recovery at all likely.

I do not like to leave home. I can do nothing here, but I think it right to stay here. You will not like to be away, I know, and I cannot reconcile it to myself to keep you away. Forster with his usual affection for us comes down to bring you this letter and to bring you home. But I cannot close it without putting the strongest entreaty and injunction upon you to come with perfect composure—to remember what I have often told you, that we never can expect to be exempt, as to our many children, from the afflictions of other parents—and that if—if—when you come, I should even have to say to you "Our little baby is dead", you are to do your duty to the rest, and to shew yourself worthy of the great trust you hold in them.

If you will only read this, steadily, I have a perfect confidence in your doing what is right.

Ever affectionately,

Charles Dickens
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Bain: A consulting firm too hot to handle? (Fortune, 1987) - Fortune Features

Bain: A consulting firm too hot to handle? (Fortune, 1987) - Fortune Features: When James Lawrence and Iain Evans, two European partners, told Bain in 1983 that they were going to start their own firm, Bain stalled them in his office long enough for a deputy sheriff of Suffolk County to arrive with a notice that Bain & Co. had filed a lawsuit against them.

18 January, 2012

Mitt Romney's Teachable Moment on Capital Gains - Forbes

Mitt Romney's Teachable Moment on Capital Gains - Forbes: taxing capital gains at much lower rates than other income creates a ginormous loophole that leads to a tremendous amount of inefficient tax shelter activity. Virtually every individual income tax shelter is devoted to converting fully taxed income into capital gains. If you can transform $10 million of wages into gains, you can save over $2 million. With that kind of payoff, there is a whole industry devoted to inventing schemes to generate current deductions to shelter the wages and ultimately recoup it years later as lightly taxed gains. These shelter schemes entail an economist for at least two reasons.

Dear Andrew Sullivan: Why Focus on Obama's Dumbest Critics? - Conor Friedersdorf - Politics - The Atlantic

Dear Andrew Sullivan: Why Focus on Obama's Dumbest Critics? - Conor Friedersdorf - Politics - The Atlantic: Obama has transgressed against what is arguably Congress' most essential check on executive power -- its status as the decider of when America goes to war -- and he has codified indefinite detention into law, something that hasn't been done since Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. But at least he doesn't torture people! How low we've set the bar.

It isn't that I object to Sullivan backing Obama's reelection if his GOP opponent runs on bringing back torture. Is he the lesser of two evils? Maybe so. But lauding him as a president who has governed "with grace and calm" and "who as yet has not had a single significant scandal to his name"? If indefinite detention, secret kill lists, warrantless spying, a war on whistleblowers, violating the War Powers Resolution, and abuse of the state secrets privilege don't fit one's definition of "scandal," what does? If they're peripheral flaws rather than central, unacceptable transgressions, America is doomed to these radical, illiberal policies for the foreseeable future.

Endorsed. I mean really.

From The Annals Of Chutzpah:

"More debates, more vetting of candidates. Because we know the mistake made in our country four years ago, with having a candidate that was not vetted to the degree he should have been," - Sarah Palin, the vice presidential nominee in 2008 whose selection process was negligible, who never released her medical records, and who never gave a single press conference before Election Day.

Dear Son

You are probably aware that I am not a particularly religious person, at least in the sense of embracing any of the numerous formal doctrines. Yet I cannot conceive of a man endowed with intellect, perceiving the ordered universe about him, the glory of the mountain top, the plumage of a tropical bird, the intricate complexity of a protein molecule, the utter and unchanging perfection of a salt crystal, who can deny the existence of some higher power. Whether he chooses to call it God or Mohammed or Buddha or Torquoise Woman or the Law of Probability matters little. I find myself in my writings frequently calling upon Mother Nature to explain things and citing Her as responsible for the order of the universe. She is a very satisfactory divinity for me. And so I shall call upon Her to watch over you and guard you and, if she so desires, share with you some of Her secrets which She is usually so ready to share with those who have high purpose.

With all my love,


17 January, 2012

'The Operators,' by Michael Hastings (Review) - The Daily Beast

'The Operators,' by Michael Hastings (Review) - The Daily Beast: It’s impossible to read The Operators, Michael Hastings’s new book about the Afghanistan War, without contemplating the amount of adoration and contempt it is going to generate in the coming weeks. It’s a polarizing book about a polarizing war for a polarized nation. Despite that, it demands to be read by both audiences and everyone in between. Its origins reside in “The Runaway General,” Hastings’s 2010 Rolling Stone article about Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his inner circle, which led to the general’s very public resignation from the top position in Afghanistan. Like it or not, this is a book of great consequence, not a pop-culture puff piece, which some of its deriders claim it is. The Operators seems destined to join the pantheon of the best of GWOT literature, not just for its rock-and-roll details, but for its piercing chronicles of a world gone mad.

Fukushima: Inside the Exclusion Zone

Fukushima: Inside the Exclusion Zone:

In June, National Geographic sent AP photographer David Guttenfelder into the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station, which was badly damaged in the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. He captured images of communities that had become ghost towns, with pets and farm animals roaming the streets. Later, in November, Guttenfelder returned to photograph the crippled reactor facility itself as members of the media were allowed inside for the first time since the triple disaster last March. In some places, the reactor buildings appear to be little more than heaps of twisted metal and crumbling concrete. Tens of thousands of area residents remain displaced, with little indication of when, or if, they may ever return to their homes. Collected here are some images from these trips -- the first six are from the December 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, now on newsstands, and more photos can be seen at the National Geographic website. [20 photos]

After the disasters of March 11, tens of thousands were ordered to leave their homes in the vicinity of the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station, some of their footprints now frozen in the mud. (© David Guttenfelder /National Geographic)

He Told the Truth About China’s Tyranny by Simon Leys | The New York Review of Books

He Told the Truth About China’s Tyranny by Simon Leys | The New York Review of Books: 10

At the Oslo ceremony, an empty chair was substituted for the absent laureate. Within hours, the words “empty chair” were banned from the Internet in China—wherever they occurred, the entire machinery of censorship was automatically set in motion.

Foreign experts in various intelligence organizations are trying to assess the growing strength of China, politically, economically, and militarily. The Chinese leaders are most likely to have a clear view of their own power. If so, why are they so scared of a frail and powerless poet and essayist, locked away in jail, cut off from all human contacts? Why did the mere sight of his empty chair at the other end of the Eurasian continent plunge them into such a panic?11

How the Fed Can Prevent the Next Financial Crisis

How the Fed Can Prevent the Next Financial Crisis: The Fed’s errors can be placed into two broad categories, the failure to ask the right questions before the crisis, and the failure to act quickly and aggressively enough once the crisis began. The first problem had a lot to do with economists’ undue faith in their own models and abilities – the financial meltdown problem had been solved so no need to worry about that – while the second problem is at least partly due to the way in which the public interest is represented on the Fed.

I don’t know how to insulate economists from themselves, every few decades we seem to have the need to declare that we have solved important problems only to be spectacularly wrong, but the representation of the public interest in policy decisions can certainly be improved. That won’t fully overcome the Fed’s tendency to hesitate and take small steps when bold action is needed, but better representation would certainly give more weight to the public’s desire for the Fed to do its utmost to bring an end to the many problems that households face when the economy is operating at subpar levels.

Don’t Do It, Bibi - NYTimes.com

Don’t Do It, Bibi - NYTimes.com: ope was recently asked by an Israeli ambassador what could be done to improve the lousy relations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama. He replied: “Every once in a while, say thank you.”

The American ambassador added a couple of other thoughts. “Maybe, once in a while, ask the president if there’s anything you can do for him. And above all stay out of our election-year politics.”

Diplomatic gift-giving :/

Iran to Send U.S. Toy Model of Downed Drone | World | RIA Novosti: Iran said it will send the U.S. a toy model of a RQ-170 Sentinel drone in response to Washington’s request to return the aircraft that crashed in Iran last year, Iran's Radio Payam said on Tuesday.

The miniature will be sent to Washington during a special ceremony to mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran on February 5.

Lynch: No military option in Syria

No military option in Syria:
Syria is not Libya, and has few of the unique conditions which made that intervention appropriate. The moral outrage at the depradations of Asad's forces, as well as the fevered hopes of those hoping to change the region's strategic equation by bringing down Iran's main Arab ally are not enough, any more than hope is a plan. Military intervention in Syria has little prospect of success, a high risk of disastrous failure, and a near-certainty of escalation which should make the experience of Iraq weigh extremely heavily on anyone contemplating such an intervention. There is no magic number of deaths at which the U.S. must embark on a self-defeating and foolish adventure.

A wordy post on why SOPA and PIPA are awful ideas.

blog.reddit -- what's new on reddit: A technical examination of SOPA and PROTECT IP: This legislation naively ignores this complexity, and simply labels a site 'foreign' or 'domestic' based solely on the domain name.

The legislators sponsoring these bills have indicated that they are only targeted at truly foreign sites. However, the language is so loose and ignorant of what is truly a foreign site that there is a huge amount of room to argue what is actually "foreign".

16 January, 2012

English Wikipedia anti-SOPA blackout - Wikimedia Foundation

English Wikipedia anti-SOPA blackout - Wikimedia Foundation: In making this decision, Wikipedians will be criticized for seeming to abandon neutrality to take a political position. That’s a real, legitimate issue. We want people to trust Wikipedia, not worry that it is trying to propagandize them.

But although Wikipedia’s articles are neutral, its existence is not.

As The Debate Continues � Postmodern Conservative | A First Things Blog

As The Debate Continues � Postmodern Conservative | A First Things Blog: So far I’m pretty horrified. The low point was when Santorum asked Romney if Romney believed that felons who had completed their sentence should be allowed to vote. Romney froze and tried to change the subject since apparently Romney didn’t know what he was supposed to pretend to believe.


Transcript | This American Life:

Siri, where do you come from?
Siri Software

I, Siri, was designed by Apple in California.
Ira Glass

Where were you manufactured?
Siri Software

I'm not allowed to say.
Ira Glass

Siri Software

Good question. Anything else I can do for you?

Letter from Birmingham Jail

Letter from Birmingham Jail: |
May 1963

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

[full story]

14 January, 2012

20 Things You Didn't Know About... Alcohol | Drugs & Addiction | DISCOVER Magazine

20 Things You Didn't Know About... Alcohol | Drugs & Addiction | DISCOVER Magazine:The seeds Johnny Appleseed sold to farmers throughout Ohio and Indiana produced apples that were inedible, but perfect for making hard cider.

A lean, muscular person will be less affected by drink than someone with more body fat: Water-rich muscle tissues absorb alcohol effectively, preventing it from reaching the brain.

To be fair.....

To be fair, I feel like the bike lock really can’t be blamed for this one.

13 January, 2012

True Dat:

"In an ideal world, you would not pick a representative of this particular sector of the economy to be your presidential candidate," - Rich Lowry on Romney's Bain problem.

Judith Clark’s Radical Transformation - NYTimes.com

Judith Clark’s Radical Transformation - NYTimes.com: She began keeping a journal. She had used her radicalism, she realized, much the way prisoners around her used drugs, as a means to avoid confronting her own doubts. She walled herself off in the safety of doctrine. “I was beginning to say these politics are crazy. I’ve experienced so much loss, and created so much loss, for the sake of an illusion.”

She consumed books on psychology and wrote poetry. Solitary was grueling, she said. “But as horrible as it felt, I felt more alive than I had been. It was like coming out of this cave and being able to see again and feel.”

Helping to pull her into the world was her daughter.

On technology

Lockdown: The coming war on general-purpose computing - Boing Boing: Reality asserts itself. Like the nursery rhyme lady who swallows a spider to catch a fly, and has to swallow a bird to catch the spider, and a cat to catch the bird, so must these regulations, which have broad general appeal but are disastrous in their implementation. Each regulation begets a new one, aimed at shoring up its own failures.

It's tempting to stop the story here and conclude that the problem is that lawmakers are either clueless or evil, or possibly evilly clueless. This is not a very satisfying place to go, because it's fundamentally a counsel of despair; it suggests that our problems cannot be solved for so long as stupidity and evilness are present in the halls of power, which is to say they will never be solved. But I have another theory about what's happened.

We don't undestand the brain, yet.

Language Log � The unbearable loss of words: "What's a spondulick?"
"Really? Truly? Spondulicks?" In my mind's eye, I pictured a spastic duck.
"Yes," he said emphatically.
"Spondulicks. It's British."
Surely he was pulling my leg. I breezed into the library to look it up in an etymological dictionary, where I found this entry:

12 January, 2012

The War on Terror is Over | Atlantic Council

The War on Terror is Over | Atlantic Council: The killing of bin Laden, and the audacious way it was done by US special operations forces, proved cathartic for the American people. Like it or not, Americans take their wars personally. Americans prefer to think not that they are going to war with Germany, Japan, Iraq, or Serbia, but with Hitler, Tojo, Saddam Hussein, or Slobodan Milosevic. So it is with Al-Qaeda as well. While some in Europe and elsewhere may think that the spontaneous celebrations that erupted outside the White House and elsewhere in America on the news of bin Laden’s killing was a bit bloodthirsty, it was a quintessentially American reaction. The dragon had been slain. Some counterterrorism experts may argue that the killing of bin Laden was a symbolic victory only, but for most Americans the war is now largely over.


Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante? | The Public Editor - NYTimes.com: I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

One example mentioned recently by a reader: As cited in an Adam Liptak article on the Supreme Court, a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” a financial disclosure form when he failed to report his wife’s earnings from the Heritage Foundation. The reader thought it not likely that Mr. Thomas “misunderstood,” and instead that he simply chose not to report the information.

3 Reasons Conservatives Should Cut Defense Spending Now! - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine

3 Reasons Conservatives Should Cut Defense Spending Now! - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine: It’s a conservative truism that government programs, even ones that are sanctioned by the constitution, tend to be bloated, inefficient, and incompetent. Surely that same logic applies to the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. In fact, Republican Reps. John Mica and Paul Broun marked the 10th anniversary of the Transportation Security Administration with a report that concluded that after spending $56 billion in security measures, flying is no safer now than it was before the 9/11 attacks.

If conservatives can’t find wasteful spending and useless programs in defense and homeland security to cut, they’ve got bigger problems than terrorists to deal with.

This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business | Fast Company

This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business | Fast Company: Chaotic disruption is rampant, not simply from the likes of Apple, Facebook, and Google. No one predicted that General Motors would go bankrupt--and come back from the abyss with greater momentum than Toyota. No one in the car-rental industry foresaw the popularity of auto-sharing Zipcar--and Zipcar didn't foresee the rise of outfits like Uber and RelayRides, which are already trying to steal its market. Digital competition destroyed bookseller Borders, and yet the big, stodgy music labels--seemingly the ground zero for digital disruption--defy predictions of their demise. Walmart has given up trying to turn itself into a bank, but before retail bankers breathe a sigh of relief, they ought to look over their shoulders at Square and other mobile-wallet initiatives.

Euphemisms: Making murder respectable | The Economist

Euphemisms: Making murder respectable | The Economist: American euphemisms are in a class of their own, principally because they seem to involve words that few would find offensive to start with, replaced by phrases that are meaninglessly ambiguous: bathroom tissue for lavatory paper, dental appliances for false teeth, previously owned rather than used, wellness centres for hospitals, which conduct procedures not operations. As the late George Carlin, an American comedian, noted, people used to get old and die. Now they become first preelderly, then senior citizens and pass away in a terminal episode or (if doctors botch their treatment) after a therapeutic misadventure.

Saving Face and Peace in the Gulf - Anne-Marie Slaughter - Project Syndicate

Saving Face and Peace in the Gulf - Anne-Marie Slaughter - Project Syndicate: PRINCETON – The West and Iran are playing a dangerous game. In the past ten days, Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz and warned the United States against sending an aircraft carrier back into the Persian Gulf. The US predictably responded that its aircraft carriers could and would patrol wherever necessary to promote freedom of navigation. Iran then announced that it would conduct naval exercises in the Strait.

In the game of “chicken,” two cars drive straight at each other at top speed; either one driver “chickens out” and swerves, or they collide in a fireball. Governments around the world cannot stand by and watch that game play out across the world’s energy lifeline. It is time for third parties to step in and facilitate solutions that allow Iran to save face while significantly and credibly reducing its supply of enriched uranium.

Overheard on the Goldman Sachs Elevator

TFM Column | Overheard on the Goldman Sachs Elevator:

#1: If you can only be good at one thing, be good at lying… because if you’re good at lying, you’re good at everything.

#1: Blacking out is just your brain clearing its browser history.

#1: My garbage disposal eats better than 98% of the world.

11 January, 2012

George P. Burdell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George P. Burdell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: George P. Burdell is a fictitious student officially enrolled at Georgia Tech in 1927 as a practical joke. Since then, he has supposedly received several degrees, served in the military, gotten married, and served on Mad magazine's Board of Directors, among other accomplishments. Burdell at one point even led the online poll for Time's 2001 Person of the Year award.[1] He has evolved into an important and notorious campus tradition; all Georgia Tech students learn about him at orientation.[2]