31 March, 2012

How Conservative Is The Supreme Court?

Mr. Martin and Mr. Quinn rate the current court (based on data up through late 2010) as the most conservative in their database based on the positioning of the median justice, the previous high having come in the early 1950s. Although Justice Kennedy is not extraordinarily conservative relative to all other justices who have served on the court, he is very conservative by the standards of the median justice, who has typically been more of a true moderate.

Dallas DA Craig Watkins on Witnessing His First Execution

Dallas DA Craig Watkins on Witnessing His First Execution:
Watkins: No one’s talking. No one’s saying anything. And then you notice that the condemned, he starts to turn this bluish color. So I guess that’s when all his functions have stopped. And then a doctor walks in and takes his vital signs and announces that the person is—he looks at the clock and announces, “The person died at 6:22.” And then they open the door and we all walk out. Very clinical. It gives you the appearance that the condemned is in control, when in actuality he is not. But it does give the appearance that the person is in control. It’s very peaceful, very respectful toward the condemned.

And I can understand when the victims have a hard time dealing with the process as it is now, because it didn’t appear that there was any pain or suffering. If there was any, I couldn’t see it. It just seemed as if it was like a medical procedure, like when you get anesthesia and you go to sleep. That’s the way it appeared. And so when it’s over, they pronounce the person dead, they pull the sheet over his head. When you walk in the room, they lock you in.

30 March, 2012

In the Battles of SOPA and PIPA, Who Should Control the Internet? | Culture | Vanity Fair

In the Battles of SOPA and PIPA, Who Should Control the Internet? | Culture | Vanity Fair: When the Internet was created, decades ago, one thing was inevitable: the war today over how (or whether) to control it, and who should have that power. Battle lines have been drawn between repressive regimes and Western democracies, corporations and customers, hackers and law enforcement. Looking toward a year-end negotiation in Dubai, where 193 nations will gather to revise a U.N. treaty concerning the Internet, Michael Joseph Gross lays out the stakes in a conflict that could split the virtual world as we know it.

Book Review: Why Nations Fail - WSJ.com

Book Review: Why Nations Fail - WSJ.com: Just as inclusive institutions feed on each other, so do their opposites: Extractive political institutions support the economic institutions that protect the interests of the elite against new entry from competitors. The wealth of the elite so created can make the hierarchical, authoritarian state even larger and more repressive, increasing elite wealth even more. This vicious cycle means that bad history persists into bad present outcomes. Messrs. Acemoglu and Robinson cite the political and economic lag of Eastern Europe and Russia when compared with Western Europe's progress since the Industrial Revolution. The difference, the authors say, can be attributed to the East's reliance on serfdom deep into the 19th century, long after workers in the West had won many rights.

A Counterfeiting Conspiracy? - NYTimes.com

A Counterfeiting Conspiracy? - NYTimes.com: Over the next 18 months he built the most notorious counterfeiting enterprise of the Civil War — one that also happened to be perfectly legal. His forgeries flooded the South, undermining the value of the Confederate dollar and provoking enraged responses from Southern leaders. He waged war on the enemy’s currency, serving his pocketbook and his country at the same time.

In the Battles of SOPA and PIPA, Who Should Control the Internet? | Culture | Vanity Fair

In the Battles of SOPA and PIPA, Who Should Control the Internet? | Culture | Vanity Fair: When the Internet was created, decades ago, one thing was inevitable: the war today over how (or whether) to control it, and who should have that power. Battle lines have been drawn between repressive regimes and Western democracies, corporations and customers, hackers and law enforcement. Looking toward a year-end negotiation in Dubai, where 193 nations will gather to revise a U.N. treaty concerning the Internet, Michael Joseph Gross lays out the stakes in a conflict that could split the virtual world as we know it.

Letters of Note: I am very real

Letters of Note: I am very real: If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us.

After I have said all this, I am sure you are still ready to respond, in effect, “Yes, yes–but it still remains our right and our responsibility to decide what books our children are going to be made to read in our community.” This is surely so. But it is also true that if you exercise that right and fulfill that responsibility in an ignorant, harsh, un-American manner, then people are entitled to call you bad citizens and fools. Even your own children are entitled to call you that.

29 March, 2012

Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura? - Magazine - The Atlantic

Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura? - Magazine - The Atlantic: The image of a boy shot dead in his helpless father's arms during an Israeli confrontation with Palestinians has become the Piet�of the Arab world. Now a number of Israeli researchers are presenting persuasive evidence that the fatal shots could not have come from the Israeli soldiers known to have been involved in the confrontation. The evidence will not change Arab minds—but the episode offers an object lesson in the incendiary power of an icon

This is still not a game | The Incidental Economist

This is still not a game | The Incidental Economist: Moreover, I really wish people would stop acting so darn sure about whether the mandate is constitutional or not. You know what? I’m not sure. I think it seems reasonable, but I don’t profess to know it as truth. But you know what’s crazy? The Supreme Court justices can’t agree! That means the people who are actually in charge don’t even “know” if it’s constutitional. We have to wait until we can poll them and get a consensus before we “know”. And you know what will happen right after that? Half the country will start crowing about how they were “right” and treat the other half as if they were crazy.

Am I the only one who thinks that’s insane? If it’s 5-4 then even though 44% of the Supreme Court justices felt the opposite, they are “wrong”. And so is everyone who agreed.

Can we all develop a little humility here? Can we agree that our system of government is open to interpretation and reinterpretation and stop with all the surety?

Supreme Court and Obamacare: What happens next - The Washington Post

Supreme Court and Obamacare: What happens next - The Washington Post: The Supreme Court likely will decide whether the Obama administration’s signature legislative accomplishment is unconstitutional within 48 hours. But aside from the nine justices and a handful of law clerks, none of us will know what that decision is until the summer.

“By the end of this week, the justices will likely know, their law clerks will know, and the rest of us have to wait until June,” says Steven Engel, who clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy from 2000 to 2001.

The American Spectator : Count Me Out On Trayvon Martin

The American Spectator : Count Me Out On Trayvon Martin: So what's the example to be drawn so far from this particular episode? Well, ask yourself this. Suppose black people decided to absorb the lesson and start patrolling their own neighborhoods with guns, challenging every "suspicious" white person who comes along and relying on "Stand Your Ground" in case anything goes wrong? Would that bode well for the tranquility of the republic?

Cops want people to help them in preventing crime, make no mistake. They want tips, they want neighborhood watch groups and above all, they want people brave enough to stand up and testify in court -- not an easy thing when you live in a neighborhood controlled by criminals. What they don't want is eager-beaver vigilantes running around with guns trying to do their jobs for them.

Take It From Me: Defending Obamacare is Super-Hard: Death Race 2012: GQ on Politics: GQ

Take It From Me: Defending Obamacare is Super-Hard: Death Race 2012: GQ on Politics: GQ: Whatever its downsides, the Affordable Care Act delivers some pretty serious benefits: tens of millions more Americans covered, no more getting dropped because of pre-existing conditions, closing the Medicare donut hole, slowing the explosive growth of health care costs, and on and on. It's just that it's so goddamn hard to explain the thing—whether you're the guy answering questions from reporters or the guy answering questions from the nine justices who will decide the bill's fate.

George Zimmerman Video Outrage: Where Are Injuries From Travyon Fight? - The Daily Beast

George Zimmerman Video Outrage: Where Are Injuries From Travyon Fight? - The Daily Beast: Of course, that Zimmerman likely outweighed Martin by 50 pounds or more, or that the worst “criminal activity” alluded to in the Twitter account was smoking pot, or that a black teenager has a different relationship to the n-word than a middle-aged white pundit, or that Martin was not suspended for theft but for possessing trace amounts of marijuana didn’t matter. No. What mattered was that this version of events was so much more palatable and digestible than the notion that race had played a part in the death of an unarmed black teen (which is so...liberal). And that’s why the story festered and spread like a virus.

But that’s the problem with the hyperconnected age: the Internet may not make us more prone to spreading or believing rumors, but it compounds the power of these tendencies exponentially.

28 March, 2012

FBI Taught Agents They Could 'Bend or Suspend the Law' | Danger Room | Wired.com

FBI Taught Agents They Could 'Bend or Suspend the Law' | Danger Room | Wired.com: One FBI PowerPoint — disclosed in a letter Durbin sent to FBI Director Robert Mueller on Tuesday (.PDF) and shared with Danger Room — stated: “Under certain circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.” An incredulous Durbin told Danger Room, “Time and time again when that is done, it has not made us safer.” Like other excerpts from FBI documents Danger Room reviewed for this story, it was not dated and did not include additional context explaining what those “circumstances” might be.

FBI spokesman Christopher Allen did not dispute the documents’ authenticity. He said he would not share the full documents with Danger Room, and was “unable to provide” additional information about their context, including any indication of how many FBI agents were exposed to them.

Voting patterns of America’s whites, from the masses to the elites — The Monkey Cage

Voting patterns of America’s whites, from the masses to the elites — The Monkey Cage: If you define elites as high-income non-Hispanic whites, the elites vote strongly Republican. If you define elites as college-educated high-income whites, they vote moderately Republican.

There is no plausible way based on these data in which elites can be considered a Democratic voting bloc. To create a group of strongly Democratic-leaning elite whites using these graphs, you would need to consider only postgraduates (no simple college grads included, even if they have achieved social and financial success), and you have to go down to the below-$75,000 level of family income, which hardly seems like the American elites to me.

Richard Clarke on Who Was Behind the Stuxnet Attack | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine

Richard Clarke on Who Was Behind the Stuxnet Attack | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine: “I think it’s pretty clear that the United States government did the Stuxnet attack,” he said calmly.

This is a fairly astonishing statement from someone in his position.

“Alone or with Israel?” I asked.

“I think there was some minor Israeli role in it. Israel might have provided a test bed, for example. But I think that the U.S. government did the attack and I think that the attack proved what I was saying in the book [which came out before the attack was known], which is that you can cause real devices—real hardware in the world, in real space, not cyberspace—to blow up.”

27 March, 2012

A Majority Wants the Supreme Court to Rule Against Obamacare - Conor Friedersdorf - Politics - The Atlantic

A Majority Wants the Supreme Court to Rule Against Obamacare - Conor Friedersdorf - Politics - The Atlantic: Put simply, Americans want all the freedom of a market-based health insurance system, all the security of a system heavily regulated by government, and the option to put off purchasing this guaranteed insurance until it's needed. And all for no more than they're paying now. It seems whoever is in power will be doomed to disappoint.

We’re So Exceptional by Michael Ignatieff | The New York Review of Books

We’re So Exceptional by Michael Ignatieff | The New York Review of Books: Law, after all, constrains power, and the United States, like any great power, is likely to support a law-bound international order only if it ties up the power of its competitors more than it constrains its own. Other great powers have subscribed to this realist calculus in advancing international law. America is exceptional in combining standard great-power realism with extravagant idealism about the country’s redemptive role in creating international order. Since Franklin Roosevelt’s leadership in setting up the United Nations and the Nuremberg trials, the US has promoted universal legal norms and the institutions to enforce them, while seeking by hook or by crook to exempt American citizens, especially soldiers, from their actual application.1 From Nuremberg onward, no country has invested more in the development of international jurisdiction for atrocity crimes and no country has worked harder to make sure that the law it seeks for others does not apply to itself.

The Quietus | Features | The Space Is The Place - Taylor Parkes On Abbey Road Studios

The Quietus | Features | The Space Is The Place - Taylor Parkes On Abbey Road Studios: It must be hell to live on Abbey Road, NW8. Yes, you're close to Lords for the cricket; yes, it's handy for all those whist drives round at Lily Allen's place. But getting to and from your dental practice or your city solicitors must be a nightmare, should your route take you over that goddamned zebra crossing. Traffic to and from Grove End Road is backed up for yards, almost constantly, as gangs of tourists shuffle over the crossing, just like The Beatles – if The Beatles had had fifty members, all of whom were carrying rucksacks.

Oh Snap

aca litigation blog: I am now about 75 minutes into the argument, and it seems clear all five Republican appointees are leaning against upholding the minimum coverage provision. I thought the Chief might be the swing vote, but it certainly does not sound that way from what I've heard thus far. Almost all the questions for the SG came from the Republican appointees, and almost all the questions for Clement are coming from the Democratic appointees. Whatever the merits of the constitutional question, this is slowly looking more and more like Bush v. Gore--with potentially more significant long-term damage to the Court's prestige.

Why Republicans are scared of Mitt - War Room - Salon.com

Why Republicans are scared of Mitt - War Room - Salon.com: Thus did Romney become the “moderate” in the Republican presidential race – the candidate who most reflected the brand of Republicanism that Obama-era conservatives had dedicated themselves to extinguishing. Between 2008 and 2012, Romney actually remained consistent on most issues, sticking to the very conservative positions he staked out when he came to the national stage. But his image within the party changed, leading the same conservatives who had sung his praises in ’08 – like DeMint, Rush Limbaugh and even Santorum – to distance themselves from him.

This is why the primary season has been so brutal for Romney. To win over the skeptical conservative base, he needs influential figures on the right to vouch for him. But if they vouch for him, they risk being declared RINOs themselves, establishment sellouts trying to force an impure nominee on the GOP. And they know that any dramatic gesture they make now will be remembered. What if Romney wins the nomination, loses in the fall, and the conservative base concludes they were tricked again – that it’s time to redouble their purity crusade? Or what if Romney wins in the fall and, like George H.W. before him, tries to govern from the middle as president, prompting a GOP civil war. What conservative leader would want to spend the next four years explaining why he or she played such a critical role in elevating that kind of president?

Paintballing with Hezbollah | VICE

Paintballing with Hezbollah | VICE: We figured they’d cheat; they were Hezbollah, after all. But none of us—a team of four Western journalists—thought we’d be dodging military-grade flash bangs when we initiated this “friendly” paintball match.

The battle takes place underground in a grungy, bunker-like basement underneath a Beirut strip mall. When the grenades go off it’s like being caught out in a ferocious thunderstorm: blinding flashes of hot white light, blasts of sound that reverberate deep inside my ears.

As my eyesight returns and readjusts to the dim arena light, I poke out from my position behind a low cinder-block wall. Two large men in green jumpsuits are bearing down on me. I have them right in my sights, but they seem unfazed—even as I open fire from close range, peppering each with several clear, obvious hits. I expect them to freeze, maybe even acknowledge that this softie American journalist handily overcame their flash-bang trickery and knocked them out of the game. Perhaps they’ll even smile and pat me on the back as they walk off the playing field in a display of good sportsmanship (after cheating, of course).

Instead, they shoot me three times, point-blank, right in the groin.

26 March, 2012


In Secret Documents, Anti-Gay Marriage Group Looked To Divide Gays, Blacks: View this image ›

The leading opponents of same-sex marriage planned to defeat campaigns for gay marriage by "fanning the hostility" between black voters from gay voters and by casting President Obama as a radical foe of marriage, according to confidential documents made public in a Maine court today.

The documents, circulated by the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, are marked "confidential" and detail the internal strategy of the National Organization for Marriage.

“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies," says an internal report on 2008 and 2009 campaigns, in a section titled the "Not A Civil Right Project."

Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed

Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed: Here's what scares me…

All these… people… read the Hunger Games. Clearly, they all fell in love with and cared about Rue. Though what they really fell in love with was an image of Rue that they'd created in their minds. A girl that they knew they could love and adore and mourn at the thought of knowing that she's been brutally killed.

And then the casting is revealed (or they go see the movie) and they're shocked to see that Rue is black. Now… this is so much more than, "Oh, she's bigger than I thought". The reactions are all based on feelings of disgust.

These people are MAD that the girl that they cried over while reading the book was "some black girl" all along. So now they're angry. Wasted tears, wasted emotions. It's sad to think that had they known that she was black all along, there would have been [no] sorrow or sadness over her death.

Stargate and Ester Dean, Making Music Hits : The New Yorker

Stargate and Ester Dean, Making Music Hits : The New Yorker: She went into the booth, got out her phone, and as the music started she began vocalizing: “How do I get it . . . walkin’ in the cold to get it . . . you gotta, I’m-a wanna.” She had the core of the melody, but it needed words. About a minute in, she hit on the main hook, “How you love it,” in which the words played syncopated rhythm with the beat. It was classic Dean, freestyle and suggestive-sounding. This was followed by a secondary hook: “Do you do it like this, do you do it like that, if you do it like this can I do it right back.”

In the control room, the Stargate guys sensed something special was happening, and they worked quickly to capture it in song structure.

Escape from Iran: One Man's Journey From Riches to the Torture Chamber to Freedom - Sohrab Ahmari - International - The Atlantic

Escape from Iran: One Man's Journey From Riches to the Torture Chamber to Freedom - Sohrab Ahmari - International - The Atlantic: How could he make his beloved wife -- who had not seen him for many months -- understand that she must spurn and spite him? He spoke rapidly and in an emotionless voice: "Fereshteh-�jan, I need you to do follow my instructions very closely. I need you to sell our apartment in Geneva, our property in England, my share in the consultancy -- and our yacht."

The Bouzaris lived a luxurious life but they never owned a yacht; Fereshteh was hydrophobic. Would she get the message?

Top Saudi Cleric Issues Fatwa: Destroy Churches | Via Meadia

Top Saudi Cleric Issues Fatwa: Destroy Churches | Via Meadia: For many Muslims, however, the rise of tolerance in Christianity looks less like maturity and self confidence than like the senescence of a religion in decline. Christianity, these critics say, is losing its hold on the western mind. The rise in religious tolerance is the result of necessity — the churches are weak, the believers indifferent, and so Christians no longer have the inner conviction to stand up for their faith. Just as Christian countries tolerate a range of vices and practices that in the past, when their faith was stronger, they opposed (homosexuality, abortion, sexual immorality of all kinds, blasphemy and obscenity), so now they also don’t care very much about what religion people profess because their own faith doesn’t mean all that much to the shrinking minority that still has one.

Islam, these Muslims say, is a stronger faith, less subject to erosion by the forces of modernity and the neo-paganism of consumer culture. Islamic intolerance of religious error reflects a faith that feels itself to be true and is not ashamed or embarrassed to insist on its core values and its historic ideas.

78 minutes in the life (and near death) of Fabrice Muamba | Football | The Observer

78 minutes in the life (and near death) of Fabrice Muamba | Football | The Observer: At 18.13 GMT last Saturday, 43 minutes after kick-off in the FA Cup tie between Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur, played at White Hart Lane, north London, home of Spurs, 23-year-old Fabrice Muamba collapsed. As the stadium fell silent and medical staff huddled around him, the match was abandoned. Muamba's heart stopped beating for 78 minutes.

How the Daily Mail Conquered England : The New Yorker

How the Daily Mail Conquered England : The New Yorker: Fred Goodwin, a married father of two, was an especially tasty mark for the Mail. He had demonstrated personal frailty as well as professional incompetence, by conducting an affair with a colleague as R.B.S. collapsed. In the Mail’s cosmology, men are giants or pygmies, strong or weak. (Women are assessed by other metrics.) Such is the Mail’s censoriousness that British Esquire recently deemed it the nation’s “purse-lipped mother-in-law.” After the affair, Goodwin obtained from the High Court a gag order that forbade the British media from reporting it. This rankled the Mail, which flouted the injunction without technically violating the law. If its competitors lob spitballs at their bugbears, the Mail strafes them with righteousness.

At CIA, a convert to Islam leads the terrorism hunt - The Washington Post

At CIA, a convert to Islam leads the terrorism hunt - The Washington Post:
Roger, which is the first name of his cover identity, may be the most consequential but least visible national security official in Washington — the principal architect of the CIA’s drone campaign and the leader of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In many ways, he has also been the driving force of the Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killing as a centerpiece of its counterterrorism efforts.
Colleagues describe Roger as a collection of contradictions. A chain-smoker who spends countless hours on a treadmill. Notoriously surly yet able to win over enough support from subordinates and bosses to hold on to his job. He presides over a campaign that has killed thousands of Islamist militants and angered millions of Muslims, but he is himself a convert to Islam.

25 March, 2012

Missing Person in ATL

No Earthly Trace - Features - Atlanta Magazine: Back on Wayne Drive, Steven and Erika are asleep. Justin knows Steven sleeps with his cell phone next to the bed in case of emergencies; that although he doesn’t condone drinking, he would keep it mum around Erika, who had dealt with her fair share of hard-drinking men. They had told Justin a hundred times they would pick him up, no matter the hour, no questions asked.

But Steven’s phone never rings.

“I think he didn’t call Steven because he didn’t want to disappoint us,” Erika will say later. “And that haunts me, you know, because nothing the kids do would ever disappoint me.”

24 March, 2012

On Intellectuals and Democracy by Tony Judt | The New York Review of Books

On Intellectuals and Democracy by Tony Judt | The New York Review of Books: Timothy Snyder: It’s not that one ought to be speaking about democracy or that one ought to be spreading it but rather that it’s precisely a very tender thing that is made up of a lot of small and fragile mechanisms and practices. One of which is making sure that votes are counted.

If you look at the history of nations that maximized the virtues that we associate with democracy, you notice that what came first was constitutionality, rule of law, and the separation of powers. Democracy almost always came last. If by democracy we mean the right of all adults to take part in the choice of government that’s going to rule over them, that came very late—in my lifetime in some countries that we now think of as great democracies, like Switzerland, and certainly in my father’s lifetime for other European countries like France. So we should not tell ourselves that democracy is the starting point.

The Decline of the West: Why America Must Prepare for the End of Dominance - Charles A. Kupchan - International - The Atlantic

The Decline of the West: Why America Must Prepare for the End of Dominance - Charles A. Kupchan - International - The Atlantic: In 1896, Britain began courting the United States and soon backed down on a number of disputes in order to advance Anglo-American amity. The British adopted a similar approach in the Pacific, fashioning a naval alliance with Japan in 1902. In both cases, London used diplomacy to clear the way for retrenchment--and it worked. Rapprochement with Washington and Tokyo freed up the fleet, enabling the Royal Navy to concentrate its battleships closer to home as the Anglo-German rivalry heated up.

It was precisely because Britain, while still enjoying preponderant strength, looked over the horizon that it was able to successfully adapt its grand strategy to a changing distribution of power. Just like Britain in 1870, the United States probably has another two decades before it finds itself in a truly multipolar world. But due to globalization and the spread of new manufacturing and information technologies, global power is shifting far more rapidly today than it did in the 19th century.

On Heroic Self-Sacrifice, a London Park Devoted to Those Most Worth Remembering | Past Imperfect

On Heroic Self-Sacrifice, a London Park Devoted to Those Most Worth Remembering | Past Imperfect: No nation is short of monuments to its heroes. From the Lincoln Memorial and Nelson’s Column to the infamous gold-plated statue of Turkmenbashi—which until its recent demolition sat atop a 250-foot-high rotisserie in Turkmenistan and rotated throughout the day to face the sun—statesmen and military leaders can generally depend upon their grateful nations to immortalize them in stone.

Rarer by far are commemorations of everyday heroes, ordinary men and women who one day do something extraordinary, risk all and sometimes lose their lives to save the lives of others. A handful of neglected monuments of this sort exist; of these, few are more modest but more moving than a mostly forgotten little row of ceramic tiles erected in a tiny shard of British greenery known as Postman’s Park.

David Bell: What We’ve Lost With The Demise Of Print Encyclopedias | The New Republic

David Bell: What We’ve Lost With The Demise Of Print Encyclopedias | The New Republic: But the ambition mattered. It mattered that one could look at a stack of volumes and say: Here are vast libraries, distilled down into an essence of human knowledge, and organized in a logical order. The books testified to the hope that, ultimately, human beings had at least a measure of control over the overpowering torrents of facts and ideas that they collectively produce. Perhaps no single human being could truly have control—what more quixotic enterprise is there than reading through an encyclopedia from cover to cover? But at least the existence of the books gave us the sense that some points of dry land remained amidst the floods, some fragments shored against our ruins. The disappearance of these grand printed volumes, while inevitable, is yet another depressing sign of just how much we are now adrift in the limitless oceans of information.

Comment: Sergeant Bales’s Shame and Ours : The New Yorker

Comment: Sergeant Bales’s Shame and Ours : The New Yorker: None of these facts begin to explain why he stands accused of monstrous crimes. The idea that no non-combatant is fit to judge a man in uniform is ridiculous—an insult to all the combatants who, in the same extreme circumstances, don’t lose all sense of the humanity of the other and descend into criminality. Worse than ridiculous is the ugly praise Bales has received on some right-wing Web sites, as if war crimes were a blow against political correctness. The smugness of the I-told-you-so anti-war crowd isn’t much better. Pundits and commenters of all stripes find that the Panjwai episode proves what they were saying all along. How satisfying.

No: shame is the only response the rest of us are allowed.

23 March, 2012

The Decline of the West: Why America Must Prepare for the End of Dominance - Charles A. Kupchan - International - The Atlantic

The Decline of the West: Why America Must Prepare for the End of Dominance - Charles A. Kupchan - International - The Atlantic: American primacy is not as resilient as Kagan thinks. His most serious error is his argument that Americans need not worry about the ascent of new powers because only Europe and Japan are losing ground to them; the United States is keeping pace. It's true that the U.S. share of global output has held at roughly 25 percent for several decades. It's also the case that "the rise of China, India, and other Asian nations ... has so far come almost entirely at the expense of Europe and Japan, which have had a declining share of the global economy." But this is not, as Kagan implies, good news for the United States.

The long run of Western hegemony has been the product of teamwork, not of America acting alone.

Native Tongues - Lapham’s Quarterly

Native Tongues - Lapham’s Quarterly: When seen in full, Cassidy’s 325-page book of questions does not merely inspire awe. It also has a kind of poetry about it, the interrogations evidently made to blend lexical efficiency with literary elegance. They run from simple temporal inquiries, like Question A1—What do you call the time in the early morning before the sun comes into sight? to the fill-in-the-blank Question 0047b, a query that relates, improbably, to the sweating of horses: They wouldn’t have caught cold if they hadn’t_____(so much.) In between are all manner of word-inquiries. Most are slyly innocent, others are more blatantly invasive.

Under the Desert Sun - Features - Los Angeles magazine

Under the Desert Sun - Features - Los Angeles magazine: The view up top is beautiful. You can see the Coachella Valley, San Jacinto—it’s all so open. I ate my sandwich and my tomato and felt really good. But as I turned around to go back, I realized that I had lost the trail. I saw an outcropping lower down where I went one time with some locals—a bunch of younger guys—and I remembered them taunting one another because a couple of them couldn’t find the trail. I looked around down there but couldn’t find any footprints, not even my own. I didn’t see any trail, for that matter, so I went back up to where I’d come across a sign that said WEST TRAIL. It hadn’t made any sense to me, given where it was placed, but I was hoping the sign might point me in the right direction. I couldn’t find that either, though.

'A Test You Need to Fail': A Teacher's Open Letter to Her 8th Grade Students | Common Dreams

'A Test You Need to Fail': A Teacher's Open Letter to Her 8th Grade Students | Common Dreams: Because what I hadn’t known—this is my first time grading this exam—was that it doesn’t matter how well you write, or what you think. Here we spent the year reading books and emulating great writers, constructing leads that would make everyone want to read our work, developing a voice that would engage our readers, using our imaginations to make our work unique and important, and, most of all, being honest. And none of that matters. All that matters, it turns out, is that you cite two facts from the reading material in every answer. That gives you full credit. You can compose a “Gettysburg Address” for the 21st century on the apportioned lines in your test booklet, but if you’ve provided only one fact from the text you read in preparation, then you will earn only half credit. In your constructed response—no matter how well written, correct, intelligent, noble, beautiful, and meaningful it is—if you’ve not collected any specific facts from the provided readings (even if you happen to know more information about the chosen topic than the readings provide), then you will get a zero.

Human Revenue Stream � LRB blog

Human Revenue Stream � LRB blog
First, the denigration of the existing service, as if a universally accepted truth is being voiced: the schools/hospitals/roads are crumbling/failing/ second-class. Then, the rejection of government responsibility: we’ve no money/bureaucrats are incompetent. Finally, the solution: private investment.
And that investment does come, and things get shinier. Surely if the private sector weren’t replacing our old sewers, and won’t replace our old motorways and power stations, we’d need to pay higher taxes instead? The truth is that we already do pay higher taxes. They just aren’t called taxes. Our water supply system is being upgraded because of a huge water tax increase. But it isn’t called that. It’s called ‘the water bill’.

 As Chris Giles explained yesterday in the FT, water bills have gone up by nearly twice as much as inflation since privatisation. We pay a rail tax: it’s called ‘fare increases’. We pay an energy tax in the form of higher electricity bills, and so on.

22 March, 2012

Fox News comes out against Santorum: read headline and quote.

Santorum Suggests Obama Preferable To 'Etch A Sketch' Romney | Fox News: Santorum added: "If they're going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk of what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future."

Oh good lord.

Yeah, right: Creator of Re-Nig Bumber Sticker Says It's "Not Racist" | News One: The Hinesville, Georgia native told Forbes that the sticker has been in their inventory since June 2010, but only starting selling in the last few days. As previously reported by Newsone, renege is defined as “to go back on a promise, undertaking, or contract.” When asked about the racist connotation of the word “nigger,” and the obvious play on the word used on the bumper sticker, Smith had a predictably ignorant excuse handy:

The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans Gives New Meaning to “Urban Growth” - NYTimes.com

The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans Gives New Meaning to “Urban Growth” - NYTimes.com: In the race between nature and man, nature has jumped out to an early lead. But the pattern of growth has been bizarre. The Lower Ninth has been besieged by a flora feeding frenzy. A chaotic mix of plant species, many of which have never existed on that land, are battling for dominance. Before the area was cleared for plantations in the mid-1700s, the Lower Ninth was divided into three ecosystems, depending on elevation. The riverfront was lined with reeds and brambles; behind that was a dense hardwood forest; and farthest back, where Mary Brock and Pee Wee live, lay a cypress swamp populated by stands of palmettos. Today there are very few species native to the land, other than several kinds of sedge and aquatic grass. Only a handful of palm, live oak, pine and bald cypress trees survived the storm.

A often-unreported cost of war

Beyond The Battlefield: Afghanistan's Wounded Struggle With Genital Injuries: The decade of U.S. combat in Afghanistan has left Afghans and Americans with a seemingly endless series of woes. But among the most devastating are the blast wounds that have left more than 16,000 young Americans severely wounded.

Several hundred have suffered genital injuries in addition to amputations and burns, leaving them unable to father children and struggling to engage in something resembling the sex they used to have, often without the aid of what many view as the primary symbol of their manhood.

"Who's going to want to be with me now?'' wondered Marine Staff Sgt. Glen Silva, 39, after an IED blast shattered his leg, ripped open his lower torso and severed most of his penis.

It was a legitimate concern. Silva's girlfriend stayed with him at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., through many of his 42 surgeries. But one day he was wheeled back to his room to find she had gone, leaving a nine-word handwritten note: "I can't take this any more. I'm outta here."

21 March, 2012

A Real Solution to the Gridlock Over the Highway Bill | RedState

A Real Solution to the Gridlock Over the Highway Bill | RedState: Moreover, the fact that Washington gridlock is able to encumber the majority of transportation projects for 50 states just serves to underscore the reason why we should devolve transportation spending to the states. Since the completion of the Interstate Highway System in 1992, there is simply no reason why states shouldn’t levy their own taxes and manage their own highway projects, leaving the few projects with national scope to the federal government. If a state wants to fund public transportation, then let them have the debate about higher gasoline taxes on a local level. At present, there are 28 donor states – states that contribute more money than they receive in transportation funding. This is utter nonsense.

Etch A Sketch Spokesperson Having A Busy Day

Etch A Sketch Spokesperson Having A Busy Day: The only person having a more hectic day than Mitt Romney's press staff — struggling to put out a fire started by spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom, when he compared the campaign to an Etch A Sketch — may be one Nicole Gresh, the besieged spokeswoman for the company that makes the classic toy.

"This has been a pretty crazy day for me since 2:00pm compared to a normal work day," Gresh said in an e-mail. "The last time I fielded a press phone call about Etch A Sketches is when it made the Guinness Book of World Records [in June 2011]."

The other side of anti-abortion laws

The Right Not to Know - The Texas Observer: My experience, it seems, was a byproduct of complex laws being thrown into the tangled world of abortion politics. If I'd been there two weeks earlier or even a week later, I might have avoided the full brunt of this new law’s effect. But not so for those other young women I saw in Planned Parenthood’s waiting room. Unless they fall into one of those exemption categories—the conditions under which the state has deemed that some women’s reasons for having an abortion are morally acceptable—then they'll have politicians muscling in on their private decisions. But what good is the view of someone who has never had to make your terrible choice? What good is a law that adds only pain and difficulty to perhaps the most painful and difficult decision a woman can make? Shouldn’t women have a right to protect themselves from strangers’ opinions on their most personal matters? Shouldn’t we have the right not to know?

Yes, we lost, but it was self-inflicted. We screwed up. We failed to plan for after the easy battles.

Top 10 Lessons of the Iraq War - By Stephen M. Walt | Foreign Policy: Lesson #1: The United States lost. The first and most important lesson of Iraq war is that we didn't win in any meaningful sense of that term. The alleged purpose of the war was eliminating Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, but it turns out he didn't have any. Oops. Then the rationale shifted to creating a pro-American democracy, but Iraq today is at best a quasi-democracy and far from pro-American. The destruction of Iraq improved Iran's position in the Persian Gulf -- which is hardly something the United States intended -- and the costs of the war (easily exceeding $1 trillion dollars) are much larger than U.S. leaders anticipated or promised. The war was also a giant distraction, which diverted the Bush administration from other priorities (e.g., Afghanistan) and made the United States much less popular around the world.

The Age of Double Standards

The Age of Double Standards: There is indeed a moral-hazard problem, it turns out, but it lies in the increasingly promiscuous use of corporate bankruptcy. The vaunted economic efficiency of Chapter 11 depends on a tacit balancing act between the expedient temptation to blow off your debts and the lingering shame attached to “going bankrupt.” If Chapter 11 becomes too common, it ceases to be efficient because it frightens off investors. The supposed shifting of norms, in which people no longer feared the stigma of bankruptcy, was the argument made by bankers in the legislative battle to make bankruptcy less available to ordinary citizens. It was an epic case of corporate America admonishing the citizenry to do as I say, not as I do.

Why ever could this be happening?

Obama's Campaign Is Struggling To Bring In Big Money Donors: But the President's recent fundraising gains do little to quell concerns that the campaign is struggling to woo big money donors. Last month's haul is still less than the $56 million Obama raised during the same month in 2008, when he was still locked in a primary battle with Hillary Clinton.

An FEC analysis by the Washington Post shows that only 11,175 people have given Obama $2,000 or more this election cycle, down from more than 23,000 during the same period in 2008. His re-election campaign now trails far behind Romney in convincing donors to fork over big checks.

Obama's fundraising problems are particularly acute among donors in the financial sector; Romney has raised nearly three times more Wall Street cash than Obama during this election cycle.

The Obama campaign has publicly brushed over its big-donor problem, touting the campaign's success at bringing in small donors, a relative weakness for Romney's campaign. According to the Obama site, nearly 350,000 people donated to the campaign in February, and nearly 98% of donations were for $250 or le

16 March, 2012

Stories of joblessness

Print - Work - Esquire: Nothing gives a man more of a sense of purpose, and there remains nothing more dignified, than hauling yourself out of bed and going to work. But some of those jobs that went away in the recession — some whole professions — are never coming back. That's what the men in this story are facing. They are men. That we all know. They might even be us.

15 March, 2012

I love reading smart people and their contributors

Iran Drumbeat Watch: Really Getting Ready for War?: First, a reader who studies the naval deployments:
It smells like rain to me. The Enterprise Strike Group has sailed, which will make 3 carrier groups on station with the 5th Fleet. Back in 2006-2007, Col. Gardiner repeatedly said that 3 carriers meant war...  These deployments speak more loudly to me than anything else.

When the 3rd Army HQ deployed to Kuwait in early 2002, I knew war with Iraq was coming, as an Army HQ would only forward deploy if a big troop movement was planned. Carriers are more ambiguous but right now it looks like the Vinson, Lincoln, and Enterprise will be on station together from early April till mid to late June. Could be insurance against an Israeli strike but if so there's more in motion than is visible....

While I hope you're right, my gut says no. Hope it's wrong.

Hagel Praises Obama on Syria; Chides GOP on Iran - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

Hagel Praises Obama on Syria; Chides GOP on Iran - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East: Al-Monitor: Bomb Iran or live with Iran with a bomb?

Hagel: Exactly. We may eventually wind up with those choices. But I don’t think we’re there now. We’ve got some time, keep ratcheting up the sanctions, keep the world community with you.

…You cannot push the Iranians into a corner where they can’t get out…You’ve got to find some quiet ways – and you don’t do this in the press or by giving speeches – to give them a couple of facing saving ways out of this thing so they get something out of this, too. And recognizing internally what’s going on in Iran; things are not going particularly well. Let that play out… So you work this thing on a number of parallel tracks.

Our friend Andrew Parasiliti [board member of Al-Monitor] had this in a piece he wrote recently. He talks about Ahmadinejad laying on the table [and offering to stop producing] 20 percent [enriched uranium]. We’ve got to test all that. There’s a great Arab proverb: Trust Allah, but tie up your camel.

E. B. White on the Free Press

E. B. White on the Free Press:

When a large corporation or a rich individual underwrites an article in a magazine, the picture changes: the ownership of that magazine has been diminished, the outline of the magazine has been blurred. In the case of the Salisbury piece, it was as though Esquire had gone on relief, was accepting its first welfare payment, and was not its own man anymore. The editor protests that he accepts full responsibility for the text and that Xerox had nothing to do with the whole business. But the fact remains that, despite his full acceptance of responsibility, he somehow did not get around to paying the bill. This is unsettling and I think unhealthy. Whenever money changes hands, something goes along with it—an intangible something that varies with the circumstances. It would be hard to resist the suspicion that Esquire feels indebted to Xerox, that Mr. Salisbury feels indebted to both, and that the ownership, or sovereignty, of Esquire has been nibbled all around the edges.

I'm skeptical of this re: elite schools

Kevin Carey: The Higher Education Monopoly Is Crumbling As We Speak | The New Republic: I think that rule is going to change, and soon. Many factors explain the endurance of higher education institutions—the ascent of the knowledge economy, their crucial role in upper-middle class acculturation, our peculiar national enthusiasm for college sports—but the single greatest asset held by traditional colleges and universities is their exclusive franchise for the production and sale of higher education credentials.

In the last few months, however, that monopoly has begun to crumble. New organizations are being created to offer new kinds of degrees, in a manner and at a price that could completely disrupt the enduring college business model. The question is: Which colleges and universities will be the G.E. of the twenty-first century, and which will be as forgotten as U.S. Leather?

ANR | Edison, Clarence Dally, and the Hidden Perils of the X-Rays

ANR | Edison, Clarence Dally, and the Hidden Perils of the X-Rays: Edison Fears the Rays.
"Don't talk to me about X-rays," he said. "I am afraid of them. I stopped experimenting with them two years ago, when I came near to losing my eyesight and Dally, my assistant practically lost the use of both of his arms. I am afraid of radium and polonium too, and I don't want to monkey with them.

This is frightening - The Giant, Underestimated Earthquake Threat to North America | Natural Disasters | DISCOVER Magazine

The Giant, Underestimated Earthquake Threat to North America | Natural Disasters | DISCOVER Magazine: In the five major urban areas along the fault, tens of thousands of people have been seriously injured. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are dead. More than a third of the oncoming shift of police, firefighters, paramedics, nurses, and doctors do not show up for work. They are either stranded by collapsed buildings, bridges, and roadways, injured or dead themselves, or have decided to stick close to home to make sure their own families are OK before going to work. People who survive the collapses must do their own search and rescue for family members, friends, and neighbors still trapped in the rubble. Help will come eventually, but who knows when?

Domesticated foxes in Siberia: An experiment in peril. - Slate Magazine

Domesticated foxes in Siberia: An experiment in peril. - Slate Magazine: Belyaev, who died in 1985 and left Lyudmila Trut in charge of the project, was clear about his goal: The foxes would be considered fully domesticated only when they obeyed human commands as dogs do. That part of the experiment is still unfinished. No evidence exists to tell us whether the foxes can be trained to override their instincts, the way a dog might learn to avoid defecating on the carpet, or to stay at the heel instead of running off to seek the company of other canines. Belyaev would never have called the experiment over until a whole population of foxes had shown that they were biddable, eager to please, and able to pass those qualities to their offspring. Now Trut would like to put those qualities to the test, but her experiment has stalled for lack of money. After 51 generations of foxes, the world’s foremost domestication experiment languishes. If nothing is done to save it, we'll have missed an opportunity to understand the mechanisms of domestication, of which genetic tameness—friendly behavior that is not learned but inherited—is only one component.

14 March, 2012

The Inside Story of How John Carter Was Doomed by Its First Trailer -- Vulture

The Inside Story of How John Carter Was Doomed by Its First Trailer -- Vulture

Stanton (who also nixed all mentions of his Pixar work in the teaser for fear that people would think this film was for little kids) was working from the belief that John Carter was still as universally iconic a figure to people as Dracula, Luke Skywalker, or Tarzan. “It was my Harry Potter,” he said during an interview at Google last week that was streamed live on YouTube. “All I ever wanted when I read that book was to believe it.” He believed that audiences would gasp in delight at John Carter’s very appearance in much the same way that a Batman teaser might only need to flash the Bat Signal. As such, he felt that the very first John Carter trailer needed only to intrigue, not explicate. “To him, it was the most important sci-fi movie of all time,” recounts one Disney marketing insider present for the pitched battles. “He could see no idea in which someone didn’t know who John Carter of Mars was. But it’s not Frankenstein; it’s not Sherlock Holmes. Nobody cares. People don’t say, ‘I know what I’ll be for Halloween! I’ll be John Carter!’”

Carney fought strenuously with Stanton — insiders describe arguments that ended with the brash department head almost reduced to tears — and urged him to rethink this vision and tell a more personal story of the man, but he won every battle: Because of his outsized animated successes, Disney gave him final approval on everything. “They throw petals at his feet,” says our insider. And then the respectful trailer did nothing for the buzz. Adds a former Disney distribution exec, “You only get one shot at making a first impression … And that first trailer, it never jumped off, never did anything to catch that wave of anticipation that all new movies crave. That’s what so critical for a movie like this.”

A defense of KONY 2012.

The Kony 2012 "Controversy" - Dan Pallotta - Harvard Business Review: Last week, Invisible Children launched a brilliant video aimed at making Ugandan rebel warlord Joseph Kony "famous" in the interest of capturing him and ending his reign of deranged brutality. The group hoped for half a million YouTube views by year end. They're up to 76 million today.

And now they're being attacked — not by Kony, but by critics whose voices are raised louder about this video than they ever were by Kony's atrocities.

Wall Street not happy; I want more backstory.

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs - NYTimes.com: TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

Super duper detailed.

What do all the controls in an airplane cockpit do? - Quora: There appear to be dials, knobs, and switches almost everywhere -- what do they all do and why are there so many of them? Seem to be many more than what I would expect would be needed to fly the aircraft.

It is Israel's fears, not a nuclear Iran, that we must tame | David Grossman | Comment is free | The Guardian

It is Israel's fears, not a nuclear Iran, that we must tame | David Grossman | Comment is free | The Guardian: I do not envy the prime minister, the defence minister and members of the cabinet. Immense responsibility lies upon their shoulders. I think about the fact that in a situation mainly made up of doubt and uncertainty, the one certain thing is often fear. It is tempting for us Israelis to cling to such fears, to let them counsel and guide us, to feel their familiar, reassuring ring. I am sure that those who support an attack on Iran justify it on the grounds that it would be done to forestall the possibility of a bigger nightmare in the future.

But has any person the right to sentence so many people to death, only in the name of a fear of a possibility that might never come to pass?

13 March, 2012

French Surgeon, Jacques B�r�s, Recalls Slipping Into Syria Last Month - NYTimes.com

French Surgeon, Jacques B�r�s, Recalls Slipping Into Syria Last Month - NYTimes.com:  PARIS — At the age of 71, Dr. Jacques Bérès, a veteran of war zones, left his comfortable Paris life last month to smuggle himself into Homs, the center of the Syrian revolt, to tend to the wounded and the sick.
Working in secret, in a dark, abandoned house, with only one operating table, three beds, four local aides and intermittent electricity, Dr. Bérès operated on 89 people, he said; all but nine survived.
Dr. Bérès, a surgeon who was part of the group that founded Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, appears to be the only Western doctor who has been able to enter Homs, where security forces have been carrying out a brutal assault. His account offers a rare glimpse at the medical emergency that has developed as the Syrian conflict rages on.

White House CIO's first 40 days included 'worst day' ever - Computerworld

White House CIO's first 40 days included 'worst day' ever - Computerworld: Over 82% of the White House's technology had reached end of life. Desktops, for instance, still had floppy disk drives, including the one Colangelo delivered to Rahm Emanuel, Obama's then chief of staff and now Mayor of Chicago.

The White House CIO office had one data center, said Colangelo. "We had no redundancy," he said, before attendees of Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leaders Conference here.

The problems became apparent on Jan 26, six days after the administration was sworn in.

"Our email servers went down for 21 hours," said Colangelo. "In my professional career, there has not been a worst day since or ever."

After 244 Years, the End For the Dead Tree Encyclopedia Britannica

After 244 Years, the End For the Dead Tree Encyclopedia Britannica:

Rick Zeman writes "According to the New York Times, it's the end of the road for the printed Encyclopedia Brittanica, saying, '...in recent years, print reference books have been almost completely wiped out by the Internet and its vast spread of resources, particularly Wikipedia, which in 11 years has helped replace the authority of experts with the wisdom of the crowds.' The last print edition will be the 32-volume 2010 edition."

Free the Banks! The Case for Massive Deregulation of the Financial System - Megan McArdle - Business - The Atlantic

Free the Banks! The Case for Massive Deregulation of the Financial System - Megan McArdle - Business - The Atlantic: So, what do we do? I've been thinking about this on and off for about four years, and I finally have an answer that's pretty close to satisfying me. I'd like to submit it to you in the hopes of refining it (or abandoning it).

My blueprint has two basic planks:

A return to the partnership model
Almost complete deregulation of the financial system

I know, I know, but hear me out.

A liberal political history

Peter Beinart: Obama Betrayed Ideals on Israel - The Daily Beast: As the presidential campaign wore on, Obama’s statements on Israel grew more conventional. But his rise discomforted Benjamin Netanyahu nonetheless. In their two meetings—one at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, the other at Washington’s Reagan National Airport—the two men had gotten along well, with each stressing his pragmatism. But privately, Netanyahu told associates that Obama knew little about the Middle East, put too much faith in the power of speeches, and might take Israel for granted while he reached out to the Arab world. In the fall of 2008, the historian and commentator Michael Oren, whom Netanyahu would appoint ambassador to the United States, published a study warning that while “[John] McCain’s priorities are unlikely to ruffle the U.S.-Israel relationship, Obama’s are liable to strain the alliance.” The public and private criticism grew so blatant that prominent Democrats warned Netanyahu’s supporters to stop.

The Murderer: a 38 year old father of two, described below

One Dead After Militants Attack Afghan Government Delegation At Site Of US Soldier Killing Spree | Fox News: More details emerged Monday about the suspect, an Army staff sergeant who is currently detained in Afghanistan.

The suspect, whose name has not yet been released, is described to Fox News by military sources as an infantry sniper out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. He suffered traumatic brain injury in 2010 after a vehicle rollover accident in Iraq, though he later was deemed "fit for duty," a senior U.S. official said.

Sources also said the suspect had "family problems," possibly related to trouble in his marriage, before deploying for the fourth time.

I like words

I like words:
Dear Sir:
I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave "V" words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land's-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.

I have just returned and I still like words.

May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh

Pretty Awesome Maps Here

Isarithmic Maps of Public Opinion Data � David B. Sparks: As a follow-up to my isarithmic maps of county electoral data, I have attempted to experiment with extending the technique in two ways. First, where the electoral maps are based on data aggregated to the county level, I have sought to generalize the method to accept individual responses for which only zip code data is known. Further, since survey respondents are not distributed uniformly across the geographic area of the United States (tending to be concentrated in more populous states and around cities), I have attempted to convey a sense of uncertainty or data sparsity through transparency. Some early products of this experimentation can be seen below.

12 March, 2012

And I Also Shouldn't Just Embed Charts from 'Spy'

And I Also Shouldn't Just Embed Charts from 'Spy': On the other hand, you can't Subscribe!™ to that magazine any more, since it has lamentably been out of business since the Clinton era. (Previously in the "I know I shouldn't..." category.) Thus I will go ahead. [And I, James Fallows, will likewise go ahead appropriating your approbation -ws ]

Full bracket below; you can download the whole chart here. Thanks to reader AW for the reminder, and retroactively to all at Spy.


Mitt Romney, According to Michael Kranish and Scott Helman : The New Yorker

Mitt Romney, According to Michael Kranish and Scott Helman : The New Yorker: Everything in Michael Kranish and Scott Helman’s biography “The Real Romney” (HarperCollins) confirms the view that until 2005 Mitt Romney was a liberal Republican cryogenically preserved from the pre-Reagan era. He was a liberal on social issues, such as abortion and gay rights; a champion of government programs, such as universal health care; an anti-protectionist, “open door” internationalist; a private-sector multimillionaire who was also a personal square, completely uninterested in life-style “experimentation”; a reflexively patriotic, flag-pin-in-the-lapel sort of fellow; a wealthy man possessed of the slightly daft notion that although he had been born to privilege, every American has the opportunity (and the wish) to live as he does; a patrician with a deep sense of noblesse oblige.

11 March, 2012

Amazing yet creepy? graphs

Stephen Wolfram Blog : The Personal Analytics of My Life: The overall pattern is fairly clear. It’s meetings and collaborative work during the day, a dinner-time break, more meetings and collaborative work, and then in the later evening more work on my own. I have to say that looking at all this data I am struck by how shockingly regular many aspects of it are. But in general I am happy to see it. For my consistent experience has been that the more routine I can make the basic practical aspects of my life, the more I am able to be energetic—and spontaneous—about intellectual and other things.

And for me one of the objectives is to have ideas, and hopefully good ones. So can personal analytics help me measure the rate at which that happens?

This is so ironic.

Plaintiff in healthcare law challenge went bankrupt – with unpaid medical bills - Los Angeles Times: Mary Brown, a 56-year-old Florida woman who owned a small auto repair shop but had no health insurance, became the lead plaintiff challenging President Obama's healthcare law because she was passionate about the issue.

"The Universe Is In Us"

"The Universe Is In Us":
Max Schlickenmeyer remixed astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s answer to the question, “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?”:


BBC - Adam Curtis Blog: WHO WOULD GOD VOTE FOR?: And what's more the documents also helped Khomeini destroy his liberal allies, because they revealed that, since the beginning of the revolution, President Carter had been talking to "the moderates". Khomeini seized on this and used it to force out and arrest all those in the new government who wanted a democracy. They were traitors because they had been corrupted by the Great Satan.

Khomeini then used the embassy crisis - fuelled by the hatred of America - to build his vision of a radical theocracy in Iran. It had an enormous effect on the Presidential campaign in America because it made Carter look impotent, especially when his mission to rescue the hostages failed dramatically with helicopters crashing and burning in the Iranian desert.

An overstatement, but with points of truth.

Logic of Finance Can Banish Corruption (Part 4): Robert Shiller - Bloomberg: Those in the world of finance who belong to a higher caste -- because they are graduates of an elite college or are connected to a specific business culture -- realize an immense economic advantage. Fearful of compromising that advantage, they adhere to the caste’s social norms. They favor their own caste in business and reject those who don’t belong -- or who don’t respect the social norms. This promotes stability of the caste.

It's Time to Clean House - Philip K. Howard - Politics - The Atlantic

It's Time to Clean House - Philip K. Howard - Politics - The Atlantic: America is mired in a tarpit of accumulated law. Reformers propose new laws to fix health care, schools, and the regulatory system, but almost never suggest cleaning out the legal swamp these institutions operate in. These complex legal tangles not only set goals but allocate resources and dictate the minutest details of how to meet those goals. Most are obsolete in whole or part.

The Mystery of 18 Twitching Teenagers in Le Roy - NYTimes.com

The Mystery of 18 Twitching Teenagers in Le Roy - NYTimes.com: The numbers grew — 12, then 16, then 18, in a school of 600 — and as they swelled, the ranks of the sufferers came to include a wider swath of the Le Roy high-school hierarchy: girls who weren’t cheerleaders, girls who kept to themselves and had studs in their lips. There was even one boy and an older woman, age 36. Parents wept as their daughters stuttered at the dinner table. Teachers shut their classroom doors when they heard a din of outbursts, one cry triggering another, sending the increasingly familiar sounds ricocheting through the halls. Within a few months, as the camera crews continued to descend, the community barely seemed to recognize itself. One expert after another arrived to pontificate about what was wrong in Le Roy, a town of 7,500 in Western New York that had long prided itself on the things it got right.

10 March, 2012

To Kill a Sparrow � Now I Know Archives

To Kill a Sparrow � Now I Know Archives: Mao’s government began a large-scale propaganda campaign to get peasants to shoo or kill sparrows on sight. The poster above is one example: it shows a child armed with a slingshot and the text below, translated, means “Everyone come and fight sparrows.”

The campaign was successful on its face, as the sparrow was nearly rendered extinct in China. But it turns out that sparrows did not just eat grains. They also ate insects — specifically, locusts. The locust population, left unchecked, ate a lot more grain than the sparrows ever could.

By the time Mao’s government noticed and could react, two years had passed, and the damage was already done. The ecological imbalance caused by the Four Pests Campaign helped spur on massive food shortages and, in turn, the death of hundreds of thousands if not millions of people.

Homeless by Choice: How to Live for Free in America - Mark Sundeen - National - The Atlantic

Homeless by Choice: How to Live for Free in America - Mark Sundeen - National - The Atlantic: "Our whole society is designed so that you have to have money," Daniel Suelo says. "You have to be a part of the capitalist system. It's illegal to live outside of it."

Suelo has defied these laws. His primary residence is the canyons near Arches National Park, where he has lived in a dozen caves tucked into sandstone nooks. In the fall of 2002, two years after quitting money, he homesteaded a majestic alcove high on a cliff, two hundred feet across and fifty feet tall. Sitting inside and gazing into the gorge below felt like heralding himself to the world from inside the bell of a trumpet.

09 March, 2012

FBI Director: I Have to Check to See If Obama Has the Right to Assassinate Americans On U.S. Soil - Washington's Blog

FBI Director: I Have to Check to See If Obama Has the Right to Assassinate Americans On U.S. Soil - Washington's Blog: President Obama has just stated a policy that he can have any American citizen killed without any charge, without any review, except his own. If he’s satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world including in the United States.

Two of his aides just … reaffirmed they believe that American citizens can be killed on the order of the President anywhere including the United States.

You’ve now got a president who says that he can kill you on his own discretion. He can jail you indefinitely on his own discretion

Oh, America....

PrintFriendly.com: Print web pages, create PDFs: September 15, 1896: Engines No. 999 and No. 1001 a moment before impact. (Photo courtesy of Four Event Photos, The Texas Collection, Baylor University)

Thirty yards or so down the track, the respective engineers would throw their trains' throttles wide open, and the crews would jump to safety. Physics would do the rest

Nonsense. Look at the commission site.

Geoffrey Kabaservice: Why Won’t The GOP Stick Up For Dwight Eisenhower? | The New Republic: With its 80-foot-high smokestack columns towering over a four-acre site whose only representation of its subject would be a statue showing him as a barefoot boy, the current design for the proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial in Washington, D.C. manages to be both bombastic and silly. It’s easy to imagine tourists mistaking the memorial as a spectacularly misconceived tribute to Huckleberry Finn.

Arianna Huffington: Virality Uber Alles: What the Fetishization of Social Media Is Costing Us All

Arianna Huffington: Virality Uber Alles: What the Fetishization of Social Media Is Costing Us All:
"The campaigns can sort of distract reporters throughout the day by helping fuel these mini-stories, mini-controversies," said the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny. Mini-stories. Mini-controversies. Just the sort of Twitter-friendly morsels that many in the media think are best-suited to the new social media landscape. But that conflates the form with the substance, and we miss the desperate need for more than snackable, here-now-gone-in-15-minutes scoops. So we end up with a system in which the media are being willingly led by the campaigns away from the issues that matter and the solutions that will actually make a difference in people's lives.

Someday, historians will likely look back at this virality-uber-alles age and wonder what we were trying to accomplish. The answer will be: not a whole hell of a lot. Our times demand a much better response. All these new social tools can help us bear witness more powerfully or they can help us be distracted more obsessively.

How Romney could change his narrative - Mitt's media d�tente -- B'days: Raj Shah, Matt Vogel, Santorum embed Andrew Rafferty, Michael Kinsley, Charlie Gibson - POLITICO Playbook - POLITICO.com

How Romney could change his narrative - Mitt's media d�tente -- B'days: Raj Shah, Matt Vogel, Santorum embed Andrew Rafferty, Michael Kinsley, Charlie Gibson - POLITICO Playbook - POLITICO.com: In January, while criticizing liberal federal judges during a townhall meeting in New Hampshire, Santorum said since they can't be removed, judges who don't meet his conservative standards should be shipped off to Guam.Santorum apologized for his comment about Guam.” http://bit.ly/zI3k6g

08 March, 2012

:/ (h/t Dish)

"Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, she said that it's important that we have contraceptives because that prevents pregnancy, and pregnancy is more expensive to the federal government. Going with that logic, according to our own Health and Human Services secretary, it isn't farfetched to think that the president of the United States could say, we need to save healthcare expenses, the federal government will only pay for one baby to be born in the hospital per family, or two babies to be born per family. That could happen. You think it couldn't?" - Michele Bachmann.

Sullivan: It May Get Worse

It May Get Worse:
This cartoon just ran in the New Tribune in Rome, Georgia. Update:
John Bailey of the Rome News-Tribune emailed (and commented below) to clarify that the cartoon was not published in their paper — "Our editorial department killed it," he explained — but was published elsewhere. The RNT does frequently print Rome resident Mike Lester's work.
Zandar at Angry Black Lady Chronicles vents:
You’ve got the African-American President is a 70's pimp angle, the Sandra Fluke is a whore angle, the "evil light-skinned brother" angle, the white girl subservient to the black man angle, a complete misrepresentation of Ms. Fluke’s statements to boot and it’s all rolled up into one big insulting awful package of pure hatred for black people, women, and human beings with working souls. It's actually impressive, in the same way ebola-tipped bullets fired into crowds of baby sloths is impressive: just overwhelmingly, unremittingly awful on multiple levels.

'Bizarro World' - The Boston Globe

'Bizarro World' - The Boston Globe: "It's funny," I told Flewin. "We have an old Nintendo Game Boy floating around the house, and Tetris is the only game we own. My wife will sometimes dig it out to play on airplanes and long car rides. She's weirdly good at it. She can get 500 or 600 lines, no problem."

What Flewin said next I will never forget.

"Oh, my!"

After I hung up the phone, I went to the bedroom and woke my wife, Lori.

"Honey," I said. "You're not going to believe this, but I just got off the phone with a guy who's in charge of video game world records, and he said the world record for Game Boy Tetris is 327 lines, and he wants us to go to New Hampshire this spring so you can try to break the world record live in front of the judges at the world's largest classic video game tournament."I

An Executive Power to Kill? by David Cole | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

An Executive Power to Kill? by David Cole | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books: The President of the United States can order the killing of US citizens, far from any battlefield, without charges, a trial, or any form of advance judicial approval. That’s what Attorney General Eric Holder told a group of students at Northwestern Law School yesterday, in a much anticipated speech. The Constitution requires the government to obtain a judicial warrant based on probable cause before it can search your backpack or attach a GPS tracking device to your car, but not, according to Holder, before it kills you.


Not an Ike and Tina Thing | Vela: And then he reminded me of my promises. During those long, late-night talks, when he’d raised the curtain on his anger and suspicion and sadness, raged against his ex and his parents and the friends that had let him down over the years, whispered about how alone he was, in a world that seemed designed to hurt and hound him, I had promised that I wasn’t, that I would never be, “like everybody else.” He had trusted me, and I had reveled in that trust, enjoyed that rush of pride that is the volunteer caretaker’s main form of payment. I had been so sure that I could handle whatever his illness might throw at me – and now, feeling sick and hurt, I was trapped by my own confidence. I had promised.

Bernanke Needs Some Bounce in His Tail: Stevenson and Wolfers - Bloomberg

Bernanke Needs Some Bounce in His Tail: Stevenson and Wolfers - Bloomberg: Eeyore’s message is so sobering that it mutes the desired stimulus effect of the low interest rates. After all, why would you buy anything, or invest in producing it, if you have just learned that some of the smartest forecasters in the country think the economic outlook is so awful that they dare not raise rates until 2014?
Terrific Party

Chairman Tigger has a totally different approach. He figures that the prospect of a terrific party will revive everyone’s animal spirits. He also knows what folks are thinking: Every time the economy gets going, the Fed spoils the party by taking away the punch bowl -- that is, by raising interest rates to keep inflation in check. So Tigger gives a speech promising to keep interest rates low for several years -- even when the economy recovers

For three years, the NFL says, members of the Saints - 03.12.12 - SI Vault

For three years, the NFL says, members of the Saints - 03.12.12 - SI Vault: On Saturday nights during the 2009 NFL season, Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the lightning-rod leader of a feisty unit, would stand in front of his men holding white envelopes filled with cash—bonuses for their performances the previous week. As Williams called up player after player, handing them envelopes with amounts ranging from $100 for a special teams tackle inside the opponents' 20-yard line to $1,500 for knocking a foe out of the game, a chant would rise up from the fired-up defenders:

"Give it back! Give it back! Give it back!"

Many players would do just that, to beef up the pot and make the stakes bigger as the season went on. The NFL alleges that by the time New Orleans reached the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings on Jan. 24, 2010, the stakes had risen to the point that middle linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Vilma personally offered a $10,000 bounty to any player who knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the game. (SI's attempts to reach Vilma were unsuccessful.)

Life in the rest of America

THE EATBEAT: Long-awaited Olive Garden receives warm welcome | Grand Forks Herald | Grand Forks, North Dakota: After a lengthy wait for Olive Garden to open in Grand Forks, the lines were long in February. The novelty is slowly wearing off, but the steady following attests the warm welcome.

My first visit to Olive Garden was during midafternoon, so I could be sure to get in. After a late breakfast, I figured a late lunch would be fashionable.

The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting.

My booth was near the kitchen, and I watched the waiters in white shirts, ties, black trousers and aprons adorned with gold-colored towels. They were busy at midday, punching in orders and carrying out bread and pasta.

A Majority of Americans Opposed Funding Moon Trips -- During Apollo

A Majority of Americans Opposed Funding Moon Trips -- During Apollo:

Via Cracked 

One Take on Kony

Teju Cole on American sentimentality towards Africa:

Teju Cole, who just won a prestigious award for his novel “Open City“, offers a brief essay, in Twitter form, as a reaction to Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign:

Seven thoughts on the banality of sentimentality.
Teju Cole

1- From Sachs to Kristof to Invisible Children to TED, the fastest growth industry in the US is the White Savior Industrial Complex.
Teju Cole

2- The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.
Teju Cole

3- The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality. The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm.
Teju Cole

4- This world exists simply to satisfy the needs—including, importantly, the sentimental needs—of white people and Oprah.
Teju Cole

5- The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.
Teju Cole

6- Feverish worry over that awful African warlord. But close to 1.5 million Iraqis died from an American war of choice. Worry about that.
Teju Cole

7- I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.
Teju Cole