30 April, 2012

A liberal rant

Unexceptionalism - A Primer - NYTimes.com: TO achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world, do the following:

29 April, 2012

Complete abuse of power, or am I missing something?

AFP: Obama signs waiver to lift Palestinian aid barrier: But in a memo sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, published by the White House, the president said it was appropriate to release funds to the authority, which administers the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In signing the waiver, Obama instructed Clinton to inform Congress of the move, on the grounds that "waiving such prohibition is important to the national security interests of the United States."

The Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2012 contained a provision that said none of the funds "may be obligated or expended with respect to providing funds to the Palestinian Authority."

The Global Power Shift from West to East | The National Interest

The Global Power Shift from West to East | The National Interest: THE IMPENDING end of the Old Order—both Pax Americana and the period of Western ascendancy—heralds a fraught transition to a new and uncertain constellation of power in international politics. Within the ascendant West, the era of American dominance emerged out of the ashes of the previous international order, Pax Britannica. It signified Europe’s displacement by the United States as the locus of global power. But it took the twentieth century’s two world wars and the global depression to forge the transition between these international orders.

Why habits and discipline are so important

Ego Depletion � You Are Not So Smart: The current understanding of this is that all brain functions require fuel, but the executive functions seem to require the most. Or, if you prefer, the executive branch of the mind has the most expensive operating costs. Studies show that when low on glucose, those executive functions suffer, and the result is a state of mind called ego depletion.

The Enemy Within - By David Rothkopf | Foreign Policy

The Enemy Within - By David Rothkopf | Foreign Policy: The United States is a bit like a 375-pound, middle-aged man with a heart condition walking down a city street at night eating a Big Mac. He's sweating profusely because he's afraid he might get mugged. But the thing that's going to kill him is the burger.

India's Broken Promise | Foreign Affairs

India's Broken Promise | Foreign Affairs: Chief among the factors that contribute to inequality in India are prejudice and corruption, both of which undermine meritocratic advancement and stymie upward mobility. Although economic liberalization has provided socially disadvantaged citizens with more opportunities than they had in earlier eras, intense discrimination persists against Indian Muslims and lower-caste Hindus, such as Dalits, or "untouchables." In 2009, the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, a New Delhi-based research institute, conducted a study to measure the impact of discrimination on hiring practices. The authors responded to job openings at Indian companies and multinational corporations based in India, sending in mock resum�s from equally qualified applicants with identifiably Muslim and lower- and upper-caste Hindu names. Despite the applicants' identical qualifications, the authors reported, "the odds of a Dalit being invited for an interview were about two-thirds of the odds of a high caste Hindu applicant. The odds of a Muslim applicant being invited for an interview were about one-third of the odds of a high caste Hindu applicant."


Data Scraping Wikipedia with Google Spreadsheets � OUseful.Info, the blog…: The Google spreadsheet function =importHTML(“”,”table”,N) will scrape a table from an HTML web page into a Google spreadsheet. The URL of the target web page, and the target table element both need to be in double quotes. The number N identifies the N’th table in the page (counting starts at 0) as the target table for data scraping.

So for example, have a look at the following Wikipedia page – List of largest United Kingdom settlements by population (found using a search on Wikipedia for uk city population):

BBC News - Viewpoint: Binyavanga on why Africa's international image is unfair

BBC News - Viewpoint: Binyavanga on why Africa's international image is unfair: Things are changing fast.

The truth is, we have only started to see what we will look like.

The truth is, with the rise of China, we do not have to take any deal Europe throws at us that comes packaged with permanent poverty, incompetent volunteers and the occasional Nato bomb.

As the West flounders, there is a real sense that we have some leverage.

The truth is, we will never look like what CNN wants us to look like.

But that's fine - we can get online now and completely bypass their nonsense.

Print - The Accidental Sex Offender - Marie Claire

Print - The Accidental Sex Offender - Marie Claire: His crime? Sleeping with his high school sweetheart 15 years ago. At the time, Frank was 19 years old, a recent high school graduate in the town of Caldwell, Texas. That's when he first had sex with Nikki Prescott, his future wife. The two had been dating for nearly a year; the sex was consensual. However, the legal age of consent in Texas is 17, and Nikki was just shy of 16. Nikki's mother, worried that her daughter's relationship with Frank was getting too serious, reported Frank to the police. She expected the cops to issue a warning, but instead she set in motion a legal nightmare from which Frank would never recover. He became a registered sex offender — for life.

28 April, 2012

Future Football Stars: The NFL Is About To Destroy Your Life

Future Football Stars: The NFL Is About To Destroy Your Life: With all of this pushing against you, the role of friends and family becomes very important. There are people in this world to whom you're just Andrew and Robert. Son, brother, lover, friend. You need to lean on these people when the Weirdos start to make sense. You need to run to the familiarity of genuine friendship. But even in this, there will be a loneliness, because, as a defense mechanism, you will have assumed a piece of your new identity, and your loved ones won’t understand it. Caught in between these two worlds you'll drift. You'll feast on the fruits of excess, and will only grow hungrier. You'll dine with familiar faces, and find you've lost the taste. And so you'll get in your Mercedes on your days off and drive to the facility and watch film. Ah yes. Football. That’s what this is all about.

Historic Photos From the NYC Municipal Archives

Historic Photos From the NYC Municipal Archives: The New York City Municipal Archives just released a database of over 870,000 photos from its collection of more than 2.2 million images of New York throughout the 20th century. Their subjects include daily life, construction, crime, city business, aerial photographs, and more. I spent hours lost in these amazing photos, and gathered this group together to give you just a glimpse of what's been made available from this remarkable collection. [53 photos]

Sunlight floods in through windows in the vaulted main room of New York City's Grand Central Terminal, illuminating the main concourse, ticket windows and information kiosk. Photo taken ca. 1935-1941. (Courtesy NYC Municipal Archives)

President Obama, Warrior in Chief - NYTimes.com

President Obama, Warrior in Chief - NYTimes.com: The left, which had loudly condemned George W. Bush for waterboarding and due process violations at Guant�namo, was relatively quiet when the Obama administration, acting as judge and executioner, ordered more than 250 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2009, during which at least 1,400 lives were lost.

Mr. Obama’s readiness to use force — and his military record — have won him little support from the right. Despite countervailing evidence, most conservatives view the president as some kind of peacenik. From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramatic cognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama’s record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is.

The Aid Bitchslap � Shotgun Shack

The Aid Bitchslap � Shotgun Shack: 1. Good intentions aren’t enough.
2. Rose-colored glasses are bullshit.
3. The white savior industrial complex is real, demonstrated daily by feel good aid programs that probably don’t work, or feel good causes like Kony 2012 that generate plenty of buzz but don’t add up to much when people are actually supposed to do something.
4. You can’t help people who don’t want to help themselves.
5. True altruism is an incredibly rare thing. (See #3)
6. Little victories must be celebrated if you want to protect yourself from the crippling effects of the larger failure.

27 April, 2012

Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem. - The Washington Post

Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem. - The Washington Post:
lier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct.

The post-McGovern Democratic Party, by contrast, while losing the bulk of its conservative Dixiecrat contingent in the decades after the civil rights revolution, has retained a more diverse base. Since the Clinton presidency, it has hewed to the center-left on issues from welfare reform to fiscal policy. While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post.

At 92, Movie Bootlegger Is Soldiers’ Hero - NYTimes.com

At 92, Movie Bootlegger Is Soldiers’ Hero - NYTimes.com: Facebook

MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. — One of the world’s most prolific bootleggers of Hollywood DVDs loves his morning farina. He has spent eight years churning out hundreds of thousands of copies of “The Hangover,” “Gran Torino” and other first-run movies from his small Long Island apartment to ship overseas.

“Big Hy” — his handle among many loyal customers — would almost certainly be cast as Hollywood Enemy No. 1 but for a few details. He is actually Hyman Strachman, a 92-year-old, 5-foot-5 World War II veteran trying to stay busy after the death of his wife. And he has sent every one of his copied DVDs, almost 4,000 boxes of them to date, free to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.


HP and Epic named preferred bidders for NHS trusts' eHospital plan | Guardian Government Computing | Guardian Professional: Cambridge University Hospitals and Papworth Hospital NHS foundation trusts have named HP and Epic as preferred bidders for the implemenation of a common technology platform, including the deployment of an electronic patient record system (EPR).

The programme, known as eHospital, will see the two trusts move from their individual legacy systems to a shared platform ahead of Papworth Hospital's move to Cambridge's biomedical campus site in 2015.

Internet freedom threat posed by Hillary Clinton’s State Department and Anonymous. - Slate Magazine

Internet freedom threat posed by Hillary Clinton’s State Department and Anonymous. - Slate Magazine: Why doesn’t Anonymous seek more effective means of cyberactivism? This is where the organization’s decentralized structure is a liability, not an asset. The movement that claims to have no leaders—well, aside from those “leaders” who happen to be working for the FBI—and that means short-term, easy objectives (often bordering on pranks) can take precedence over long-term strategic goals.

Women of Chi Omega Accident - Paige Williams - Oprah.com

Women of Chi Omega Accident - Paige Williams - Oprah.com: In the past, though, we'd always had a state police escort: a blue-lighted cruiser following close behind us. This time the highway patrol had said no. They'd started worrying about safety. The highway shoulder offered no buffer against the 55 mph traffic. Even with lights flashing, a trooper going 2 or 3 mph on a road busy with long-haul truckers would have been almost as much at risk as a person on foot.

Some of us didn't learn about the lack of escorts until we showed up that morning. But having been assured by the highway patrol that we'd be breaking only the laws of common sense if we proceeded, we chose not to change our plans. We were already out there, already dressed. We'd gotten up early and skipped class. The Kidney Foundation needed us and we needed the exercise. Besides, we were 25 miles from home, and we had to get back somehow. We had laundry to do, boyfriends to see, homework to start.

Unfair, but so perhaps is the attack from Rome

Bullying the Nuns by Garry Wills | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books: The Vatican has issued a harsh statement claiming that American nuns do not follow their bishops’ thinking. That statement is profoundly true. Thank God, they don’t. Nuns have always had a different set of priorities from that of bishops. The bishops are interested in power. The nuns are interested in the powerless. Nuns have preserved Gospel values while bishops have been perverting them. The priests drive their own new cars, while nuns ride the bus (always in pairs). The priests specialize in arrogance, the nuns in humility.

Why Do They Hate Us? - By Mona Eltahawy | Foreign Policy

Why Do They Hate Us? - By Mona Eltahawy | Foreign Policy: Yes, women all over the world have problems; yes, the United States has yet to elect a female president; and yes, women continue to be objectified in many "Western" countries (I live in one of them). That's where the conversation usually ends when you try to discuss why Arab societies hate women.

But let's put aside what the United States does or doesn't do to women. Name me an Arab country, and I'll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt -- including my mother and all but one of her six sisters -- have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating "virginity tests" merely for speaking out, it's no time for silence.

Mitt Romney’s Failed Definition of Success - Bloomberg

Mitt Romney’s Failed Definition of Success - Bloomberg: “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” That’s Gore Vidal, and it’s unnecessarily vicious. The pleasure of success shouldn’t depend on the prospect of others failing, but the reality of success usually does.

But failures are people, too! If success is mostly luck, then so is failure. When a government policy rewards success in a way that actually does lift all of society, that’s fine. But the policies advocated by Republicans, including Romney -- primarily lower taxes on the higher brackets -- would only make success more successful. They would do nothing to distinguish success for the few from success that really does benefit us all.

On Friendship

Two Happiness Tips Discussed | The Moral Sciences Club | Big Think:
If I had to name my single greatest flaw, I'd say it's dereliction of friendship. I don't actively cultivate new friendships. They either happen to me or they don't, and mostly they don't because I don't put in much effort from my side. I'm not sure why, but I think it's mostly because I find the idea of extending a hand stressful. Worse, I'm terrible at keeping in touch with old friends. After too much time without calling or emailing or texting or anything, I feel really embarrassed. And then, perversely, that embarrassment makes me more not less averse to reestablishing contact. Then a really long time passes and I'm sort of mortified by myself, but at this point there's no way I'm calling because that would mean facing up to the fact that I'm a terrible friend. This makes no sense. If a friend I haven't spoken to for years suddenly calls me up, I'm delighted. So why should I hesitate to delight old friends? Maybe they'll be mad at me? I really need to get over this. Anyway, go get a drink with a friend tonight! Call an old friend this weekend! (That's right. Later. Not today.)

The Creeipiest Creeper

Chris Chaney Hacker Profile - Scarlett Johansson Nude Photo Scandal: Newsmakers: GQ: Chaney eyed his in-box. He'd get to reading the messages in good time, but for now he wanted to crack more addresses. "You find the right pieces," he says, "and then it unlocks." There were favorite colors to ascertain. Elementary-school names. Social Security numbers. Chaney became an expert. He found old school names on Classmates.com, friends on Facebook, and hometowns on free directories like Intelius. "If they've had their names removed, their parents are probably still on there," he says.

The Hivemind of the Internet

The Stalking of Korean Hip Hop Superstar Daniel Lee | Underwire | Wired.com: But then, at the height of the group’s fame, the comments sections of articles about Epik High started filling up with anonymous messages accusing Lee of lying about his Stanford diploma. In May 2010 an antifan club formed and quickly attracted tens of thousands of members who accused him of stealing someone’s identity, dodging the draft, and faking passports, diplomas, and transcripts. The accusations were accompanied by supposed evidence supplied by the online masses, who also produced slick YouTube attack videos. It was a full-fledged backlash.

By that summer, Lee’s alleged fraud had become one of Korea’s top news items. Death threats streamed in, and Lee found himself accosted by angry people on the street. Since his face was so recognizable, he became a virtual prisoner in his Seoul apartment. In a matter of weeks, he went from being one of the most beloved figures in the country to one of the most reviled.

Michael Lewis Interviews Himself: Boycott the Banks! - The Daily Beast

Michael Lewis Interviews Himself: Boycott the Banks! - The Daily Beast:
What was your first reaction to the Occupy movement?
Some blend of glee and relief. Glee because, by both temperament and occupation, I have a rooting interest in socially disruptive behavior. Relief because I had begun to think such protests might never happen. Given the provocation—intense and effective political pressure from Wall Street to codify two sets of economic rules, one for people who work at giant Wall Street firms, the other for people who don’t—I was surprised it has taken as long as it has for people to hit the streets. The chief cause of the financial crisis was what the government didn’t do (regulate) rather than what it did (subsidize homeownership), and so it seemed strange to me that, until now, the most potent political reaction to the financial crisis has been an antigovernment backlash. It was as if, after some infectious disease killed a million people, the only political reaction was a popular uprising to prevent the manufacture of antibiotics.

CISPA Is Ridiculously Hideous (And It Just Passed The House) - Business Insider

CISPA Is Ridiculously Hideous (And It Just Passed The House) - Business Insider: - If the government suspects you are a genuine "bad guy," like a cyberterrorist, human trafficker, drug kingpin, etc... they can already seize all of this online activity information about you. It's called obtaining a warrant. CISPA does away with that. It supercedes ALL existing federal privacy laws. As Techdirt's Leigh Beadon put it, "Basically it says the 4th Amendment does not apply online, at all. Moreover, the government could do whatever it wants with the data as long as it can claim that someone was in danger of bodily harm, or that children were somehow threatened—again, notwithstanding absolutely any other law that would normally limit the government's power."

26 April, 2012

What you do with $100 billion in cash reserves

Apple to build private restaurant to keep out snoopers | Technically Incorrect - CNET News: At Tuesday's go-ahead meeting, he declared: "We like to provide a level of security so that people and employees can feel comfortable talking about their business, their research and whatever project they're engineering without fear of competition sort of overhearing their conversations."

24 April, 2012

Breaking: Private company does indeed plan to mine asteroids… and I think they can do it | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

Breaking: Private company does indeed plan to mine asteroids… and I think they can do it | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine: .

The idea behind this is to gather these materials up and create in situ space supply depots. Water is very heavy and incompressible, so it’s very difficult to launch from Earth into space (Lewicki quoted a current price of roughly $20,000 per liter to get water into space). But water should be abundant on some asteroids, locked up in minerals or even as ice, and in theory it shouldn’t be difficult to collect it and create a depot. Future astronauts can then use these supplies to enable longer stays in space — the depots could be put in Earthbound trajectories for astronauts, or could be placed in strategic orbits for future crewed missions to asteroids. Lewicki didn’t say specifically, but these supplies could be sold to NASA — Planetary Resources would make quite a bit money while saving NASA quite a bit. Win-win.

Steinbeck, on accusations that he was Jewish

American democracy will have disappeared:
Anyway there it is. Use it or don't use it, print it or not. Those who wish for one reason or another to believe me Jewish will go on believing it while men of good will and good intelligence won't care one way or another.

I can prove these things of course—but when I shall have to—the American democracy will have disappeared.

Yours is only one of many letters I have received on the same subject. It is the first I have answered and I think it is the last. I fully recognize your position and do not in the least blame you for it. I am only miserable for the time and its prejudice that prompts it.

The thing about this is that everyone I know already follows these rules - 7 Rules of Men’s Bathroom Etiquette

7 Rules of Men’s Bathroom Etiquette — The Good Men Project: So, if no man in his right mind enjoys a trip to the loo, the least we can do is to try and make the experience as painless as possible for one another. And it’s with this in mind, my fraternal brothers of the public john, that I offer these seven simple rules to remember when it comes bathroom etiquette. They are easy to remember and should, if everyone adheres, make this necessary evil a little less painful – perhaps, even, enjoyable – for everyone.

The day James and Rebekah revealed the arrogant Murdoch way of business | Simon Kelner | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

The day James and Rebekah revealed the arrogant Murdoch way of business | Simon Kelner | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk: In retrospect, that incident in the Independent newsroom was the first sign of a fissure in the edifice of News International. Little more than a footnote in newspaper history it may be, but what it betrayed was a breathtaking lack of judgment and discretion, the head of the country's most powerful media organisation straying on to the sovereign territory of another newspaper to berate the editor over an incontestable truth in an advertising campaign. It's the same lack of judgment, together with a monumental arrogance in the wielding of corporate power, that has led us to where we are today. Which, of course, is the eve of the appearance before Lord Justice Leveson of Rupert Murdoch, the capo di tutti capi.

Shift on Executive Powers Let Obama Bypass Congress - NYTimes.com

Shift on Executive Powers Let Obama Bypass Congress - NYTimes.com: The sharpest legal criticism, however, came in January after Mr. Obama bypassed the Senate confirmation process to install four officials using his recess appointment powers, even though House Republicans had been forcing the Senate to hold “pro forma” sessions through its winter break to block such appointments.

Mr. Obama declared the sessions a sham, saying the Senate was really in the midst of a lengthy recess. His appointments are facing a legal challenge, and some liberals and many conservatives have warned that he set a dangerous precedent.

23 April, 2012


Aviva Investors Accidentally Fires Entire Company Via Email [FULL TEXT] - International Business Times: On Friday, more than 1,300 employees of London-based Aviva Investors walked into their offices, strolled over to their desks, booted up their computers and checked their emails, only to learn the shocking news: They would be leaving the company.

Richard Grenell tried to erase the tweets he thought might embarrass the Romney campaign. - Slate Magazine

Richard Grenell tried to erase the tweets he thought might embarrass the Romney campaign. - Slate Magazine: That was the old Richard Grenell—longtime communications director for a string of United Nations representatives and ambassadors. On Thursday, Mitt Romney’s campaign hired Grenell as a full-time spokesman on national security matters. His tweets took on world-historical importance. Politico’s Alexander Burns combed Grenell’s feed and found jokes about the Gingriches (“Newt: My 1st Lady knows what it’s like to be 2nd and 3rd…”) and Rachel Maddow (“Rachel Maddow commercials can't possibly attract any viewers, aside from Bieber fans #DeadRinger”). ThinkProgress ran its own report only five hours after sort of saluting Romney for hiring an openly gay spokesman.

How Jobs At Homeboy Industries Give Ex-Cons A Second Chance At Life Out Of Prison | Fast Company

How Jobs At Homeboy Industries Give Ex-Cons A Second Chance At Life Out Of Prison | Fast Company: Homeboy Industries, the passion project of an L.A. priest, has brought life reboots to hundreds of ex-cons, including onetime gang members and the former CEO of mega-construction company KB Home.

Images of Earth From Above

Images of Earth From Above: Yesterday was Earth Day, a time set aside to increase awareness of the natural environment and the impact of our collective actions. In honor of Earth Day, gathered here is a collection of scenes of our home planet from above, from vantage points we don't see in everyday life. These scenes help show the Earth as a larger system and demonstrate the extent to which human activity has affected it. [39 photos]

A view of Earth, the stars, and red and green auroras above cities in western North America, as seen from the International Space Station, on February 19, 2012. (NASA)

22 April, 2012

“Signal 30” | Mad Men | TV Club | TV | The A.V. Club

“Signal 30” | Mad Men | TV Club | TV | The A.V. Club: Lane longs to build bridges with nearly everybody around him, but there’s simply no real place for him to go. Joan mostly pulls off what was meant to be his job, he’s not an accounts man, and he can’t even manage to make a new friend. There’s a central loneliness to the struggles of both Pete and Lane, a way that either would like to be any of the other men in the office, even though they have too much self-doubt to ever pull it off. And yet they’ll never recognize each other as roughly kindred spirits because both men carry around a healthy amount of self-hatred.

Undercover Anarchist

Undercover Anarchist: Such sentiments, however, do nothing to appease those he betrayed. For seven years, Kennedy spied on environmental activists around the world. He attended their protests and hung their banners and lived among them, only to turn them over to the authorities. His work wound up costing him his family, his job, his country. Yet even his decision to switch sides during the conspiracy case has failed to win back the friendship of those who introduced him to a world he had never known, one that values loyalty and courage every bit as much as the police force he once served. "He's having to come to terms with a whole lot of very, very contradictory things in his life," says Monroe, the friend he taught to climb. "But I don't think you can trust a word that he says."


Exclusive: National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance

Exclusive: National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance: So—but after 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA, and they decided to—between the White House and NSA and CIA, they decided to eliminate the protections on U.S. citizens and collect on domestically. So they started collecting from a commercial—the one commercial company that I know of that participated provided over 300—probably, on the average, about 320 million records of communication of a U.S. citizen to a U.S. citizen inside this country.

AMY GOODMAN: What company?


Hitler's faith: The debate over Nazism and religion – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Hitler's faith: The debate over Nazism and religion – Opinion – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation): For this reason, some recent works have argued Hitler was a Deist. He famously argued in a major speech of 1938 that Nazism was "a volkisch-political doctrine that grew out of exclusively racist insights" and was based on the "sharpest scientific knowledge." Yet in this same speech he stated the Nazi "cult" was solely one which respected nature, and so that which was "divinely ordained."

Was Hitler an atheist? Probably not. But it remains very difficult to ascertain his personal religious beliefs, and the debate rages on. He was an astute propagandist, which makes distinguishing rhetoric from reality all the more difficult.

What historians continually confirm is that Hitler developed an absolute faith in two things: an extreme form of nationalism, and himself.

21 April, 2012

We raised over $70!

25 gigs, one hour at Busking for Books - Isthmus | The Daily Page: The event, Busking for Books, adds a local-music element to the carnival atmosphere that will pervade Madison this Saturday. It's the same day as Isthmus Green Day, the Wisconsin Film Festival and the first 2010 Dane County Farmers' Market, and it features the Badger spring football game at Camp Randall Stadium.

If you want to catch all 25 Busking for Books performers, you'll need to spend less than three minutes with each one. Start at State and Lake and you'll be greeted by Black Star Drum Line, the Boys & Girls Club hip-hop drum group started by local percussionist Joey B. Banks.

20 April, 2012

Africans shocked by uncivilized antics of European savages - Hayibo�|�Hayibo

Africans shocked by uncivilized antics of European savages - Hayibo�|�Hayibo: DAKAR. Africans say they have little hope that Europe will ever become civilized, after a week in which Spain’s King Carlos went on an elephant-killing spree and the Swedish Culture Minister was entertained by a racially offensive cake. “You can take the European out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the European,” sighed one resident of Kinshasa.

August Mwanasa, of Libreville in Gabon, said the latest atrocities didn’t surprise him as Europeans were still “savages”.

The most important story in the world: Guardian reporter Jonathan Watts’ parting thoughts on nine years of environmental journalism in China | chinadialogue

The most important story in the world: Guardian reporter Jonathan Watts’ parting thoughts on nine years of environmental journalism in China | chinadialogue: - Poor environmental management can be lethal. This was brought home by visits and interviews in “cancer villages” such as Xinlong in Yunnan, which is badly contaminated by cadmium.

- The collapse of an ecosystem can lead to the collapse of an economy. On a micro-level, the drying up of Anguli Lake in Hebei destroyed the tourist business that the local Mongolian herders had established. At a macro-level, we have barely started calculating the costs of environmental destruction, but these “externalities” cannot stay off the balance sheet forever.

19 April, 2012

The Wilson Quarterly: A Small World After All? by Ethan Zuckerman

The Wilson Quarterly: A Small World After All? by Ethan Zuckerman: The limits of online information sources are a challenge both for us and for the people building the next generation of online tools. If we rigorously examine the media we’re encountering online, looking for topics and places we hear little about, we may be able to change our behavior, adding different and dissenting views to our social networks, seeking out new sources of news. But this task would be vastly easier if the architects of Internet tools took up the cause of helping to broaden worldviews. Facebook already notices that you’ve failed to “friend” a high school classmate and tries to connect you. It could look for strangers in Africa or India who share your interests and broker an introduction. Google tracks every search you undertake so it can more effectively target ads to you. It could also use that information to help you discover compelling content about topics you’ve never explored, adding a serendipity engine to its formidable search function.

Why aren’t engineers racing to build the new tools that will help unravel the mysteries of a connected world? They may be waiting for indicators that we want them and are ready to use them.

"The Paranoid Style in Chinese Politics" by Minxin Pei | Project Syndicate

"The Paranoid Style in Chinese Politics" by Minxin Pei | Project Syndicate: CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphWhile in power, Bo was lauded for crushing organized crime and restoring law and order in Chongqing. Now it has come to light that he and his henchmen illegally detained, tortured, and imprisoned many innocent businessmen during this campaign, simultaneously stealing their assets. While publicly proclaiming their patriotism, other members of China’s ruling elites are stashing their ill-gotten wealth abroad and sending their children to elite Western schools and universities.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphThe Bo affair has revealed another source of the regime’s fragility: the extent of the power struggle and disunity among the Party’s top officials. Personal misdeeds or character flaws did not trigger Bo’s fall from power; these were well known. He was simply a loser in a contest with those who felt threatened by his ambition and ruthlessness.

I can do two, but three is impossible

Dual NBack Application:

Maisonneuve | Getting Plowed

Maisonneuve | Getting Plowed: Montreal is famous for its turf wars, which have brought firebombings and shootings to some rather unexpected places: daycares, funeral homes, pet stores. Snow removal is no exception. In true local style, no patch of snow or rusty sidewalk blower is trivial enough to escape the collusion, death threats and property destruction that have long been hallmarks of doing business in la belle ville.

18 April, 2012

Background on a FOIA for a particular piece of news

Exploding Toilet (GSA) | Muckrock: This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

All records on, about, mentioning or concerning the event that took place at 7th and D SW in Washington, DC on or around September 26, 2011. The event is described in the media as an "exploding toilet" and resulted in a memo that said "DO NOT flush toilets or use any domestic water. Due to a mechanical failure, there is high air pressure in the domestic water system that resulted in damage to toilets. The engineering staff is working to correct the issue," and "There has been damage to flushed toilets that has resulted in injuries. We will announce when the issue is resolved."

Dune, anyone?

Prototype wind turbine condenses 1,000 liters of water a day from desert air | Geek.com: Marc Parent, founder of Eole Water, realized that he could extract water from the air after noticing how much water an air conditioner unit collected. He decided to combine a green energy source with the necessary components for condensing water directly from the air. The end result after 10 years of R&D is the WMS1000 wind turbine, capable of condensing and storing up to 1,000 liters of water every day.

Interesting piece but I disagree; the colonials aren't equivlalent to Iraqis.

Tarek Mehanna: punished for speaking truth to power | Ross Caputi | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk: I agree with Tarek Mehanna that when Muslims attack US troops that have invaded and occupied their country, it is not an act of terrorism. It is simply warfare. Just as when George Washington's army attacked British troops in 1776, it was not terrorism, but warfare. However, such a comparison assumes that there is an objective definition of "terrorism" that is used consistently by Americans. But as Tarek Mehanna pointed out in his sentencing statement, the term "terrorism" is subjective in American discourse, because the term is only acceptable when it is used to refer to what the official enemy does to us.

Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup - Class 4 Notes Essay

Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup - Class 4 Notes Essay: One problem with fierce competition is that it’s demoralizing. Top high school students who arrive at elite universities quickly find out that the competitive bar has been raised. But instead of questioning the existence of the bar, they tend to try to compete their way higher. That is costly. Universities deal with this problem in different ways. Princeton deals with it through enormous amounts of alcohol, which presumably helps blunt the edges a bit. Yale blunts the pain through eccentricity by encouraging people to pursue extremely esoteric humanities studies. Harvard—most bizarrely of all—sends its students into the eye of the hurricane. Everyone just tries to compete even more. The rationalization is that it’s actually inspiring to be repeatedly beaten by all these high-caliber people. We should question whether that’s right.

Truth or Consequences :: Texas Monthly

Truth or Consequences :: Texas Monthly: But the CBS documents that seem destined to haunt Rather are, and have always been, a red herring. The real story, assembled here for the first time in a single narrative, featuring new witnesses and never-reported details, is far more complex than what Rather and Mapes rushed onto the air in 2004. At the time, so much rancorous political gamesmanship surrounded Bush’s military history that it was impossible to report clearly (and Rather’s flawed report effectively ended further investigations). But with Bush out of office, this is no longer a problem. I’ve been reporting this story since it first broke, and today there is more cooperation and willingness to speak on the record than ever before. The picture that emerges is remarkable. Beyond the haze of elaborately revised fictions from both the political left and the political right is a bizarre account that has remained, until now, the great untold story of modern Texas politics. For 36 years, it made its way through the swamps of state government as it led up to the collision between two powerful Texans on the national stage.

History of the Huffington Post

Six degrees of aggregation : CJR

Space Shuttle Discovery's Final Flight

Space Shuttle Discovery's Final Flight:
Having last traveled to low Earth orbit in March 2011, NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery took to the skies one last time yesterday, piggybacking on a modified Boeing 747. The shuttle left Florida and landed just outside of Washington, D.C., where it will join the collection at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. Discovery, the fleet leader of NASA's orbiters, flew 39 successful missions over 27 years, accumulating 365 total days in space. Tomorrow, a welcome ceremony is planned at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Gathered here are images from Discovery's last flight. [30 photos]

NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft transports the space shuttle Discovery to its new home, after departing from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on April 17, 2012. The aircraft, known as an SCA, is a Boeing 747 jet that was modified by NASA to transport the shuttles between destinations on Earth. (NASA/Lorne Mathre)

Mystery company backed by James Cameron and Google executives may be an asteroid mining project | The Verge

Mystery company backed by James Cameron and Google executives may be an asteroid mining project | The Verge: 50

MIT's Technology Review has just gotten news of a mysterious new project that claims it will "create a new industry and a new definition of 'natural resources.'" Space exploration company Planetary Resources will be unveiled in a conference call on Tuesday, April 24th. Besides the audacious announcement, which promises to "overlay two critical sectors — space exploration and natural resources — to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP," what makes this unique is its high-profile support group. The venture is backed by Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, director James Cameron, and politician Ross Perot's son, among others.

17 April, 2012

It's Time That We End the Equal Pay Myth - Forbes

It's Time That We End the Equal Pay Myth - Forbes: Academics can debate why men and women make these different choices. The important takeaway, however, is that there are many reasons that men and women on average earn different amounts. It’s a mistake to assume that “wage gap” statistics reflect on-the-job discrimination.

Women have many reasons to celebrate today. Women are increasingly taking on leadership roles in businesses around the world. Technology is increasingly creating more flexible work arrangements, creating new options for parents to combine work and family life. Women are excelling academically (earning far more college degrees than men). Given that the economy tends to place a premium on education, we can expect women to contribute (and earn!) more in the future.

The Zimmerman Indictment: Reactions | The Agitator

The Zimmerman Indictment: Reactions | The Agitator: The anger and outrage about how black people are treated in the criminal justice system is well-founded, well-supported, and consistent with my own experience reporting on these issues (although I think the common denominator is increasingly more poor than black). And there appears to be some of that history in Sanford as well, particularly in the way police investigate crimes—including this one. I’ve read in several places the proposition that if the races had been reversed that night in Sanford, Trayvon Martin would have spent the last month awaiting his murder trial from a jail cell. I think there’s plenty of history to support that sentiment. But we can’t hang all of the inequities of the criminal justice system on George Zimmerman. He deserves to be tried only on the facts specific to his case. Even gung-ho, wannabe cops deserve due process, and a fair crack at justice.

Facebook won because it was from Harvard, to put it simply.

FACEBOOK: LIKE? | More Intelligent Life: And what is Facebook, anyway? The most obvious point of historical comparison is the social networks that preceded it. First there was Friendster, the flirt-and-forget site of the first half of the 2000s. Then everyone dumped Friendster for MySpace, and MySpace was bought by News Corp for $580m. Its value soared to $12 billion, and the received wisdom was that MySpace would take over the world. Then it didn’t, and News Corp sold it for $35m, because someone else had finally got social networking right. Started by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, Facebook went from a Harvard dorm room to the rest of teenage America’s bedrooms to hundreds of millions of people all around the world—even parents and grandparents. Along the way, Facebook has fuelled revolutions in the Middle East, and inspired an Oscar-winning movie. Other social networks can only try to build out from the few niches it hasn’t already filled. Facebook is the undisputed champion of the world.

Nile Journey - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine

Nile Journey - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine: Taken together, the doubts raise many questions: How strong and deep is Egypt’s revolutionary spirit? Are we seeing one revolution with shared goals or many competing revolutions? Is it possible that Egypt will revert to strongman rule—initially less corrupt than Mubarak’s final years and with some superficial freedoms, but fundamentally the same?

Timothy Noah, Charles Murray, and America’s Inequality : The New Yorker

Timothy Noah, Charles Murray, and America’s Inequality : The New Yorker: A full sense of what conservatives object to in the Obama program can be hard to extract from daily conservative discourse. Cost provides this. You can put on his glasses and see that “Obamacare” looks like a set of deals with privileged health-care companies that got a seat at the bargaining table, that the stimulus and the financial rescue were ways of helping banks and unions that contributed to the 2008 campaign, that cap-and-trade environmental legislation was a way of rewarding big environmental groups and corporations. Even the underlying problems that these initiatives were meant to address don’t strike him as having to do with the national interest: you might favor universal health-care as an anti-inequality measure, but Cost views it as just another goody for non-majoritarian groups trying to claw more from the government. The liberal conversation has exactly the same limits: the impulse to see conservative causes as payoffs to interest groups—and conservative political successes as demonstrations of structural flaws in the political system—is well-nigh irresistible.

On Big Corp

Inside Power, Inc. - By David Rothkopf | Foreign Policy: Today's corporations often conduct something very much like their own foreign policy. They launch active political advocacy campaigns, such as ExxonMobil's lobbying to kill U.S. acceptance of the Kyoto Protocol. They undertake significant security initiatives, as in the company formerly known as Blackwater's defense contracting during the Iraq war. They also provide health care, training, shelter, and other functions that states ought to but can't or won't provide.

The result is societies that are profoundly out of whack, with far too much power in the hands of massive, often distant corporate entities that are only accountable, fundamentally, to their shareholders. Meanwhile, the public is seeing that the increasingly weak institutions designed to give them a voice are unable to meet some of the most basic terms of the social contract, as the issues that need to be addressed are effectively beyond their jurisdiction.

Notes During A Seven-Week-Premature Birth

Pain Is A Gift, And Other Notes From A Terrified Father During A Seven-Week-Premature Birth: When the baby cried, I knew it wasn't gonna die. They had just pulled my son out of my wife and whisked him over to one of those fancy hotel pans that you put newborns in, and there was a brief moment when he said nothing, which you don't want. You want the baby to cry. You want confirmation that the child can take air in its lungs and then blow it back out. You want the baby to cry the first time. After that, you want it to be quiet so you can get some goddamn sleep, but the first cry matters. The first cry means it's gonna live. So it cried, and then I did. I cried and cried until it felt like my face was gonna split open. I yelled out, "He's crying!" to my wife, and after that everything was all right.

16 April, 2012

A profile of the titanic

Sunken aspirations - FT.com: One of the bloated bodies bobbing on the ice-cold sea, in full evening dress with his music case still strapped to him, was Wallace Hartley. He was the band leader who, with other heroic musicians, had continued to play as the ship went down, providing, even before the Titanic was swallowed by the ocean, the sense that its fate was metaphor. Hartley’s embalmed body, in a coffin with glass panels through which his features were visible, was borne 59 miles through congested Lancashire factory towns to his own home town of Colne.


PlanetaryCarWash: When: Saturday, June 9th 2012

Where: Across the Nation!

Who: You! Join us and make Congress and the American public aware of the planetary cuts and the damage they are doing!

Just identify an event leader at your institution and sign up below!

In Conversation: Barney Frank

In Conversation: Barney Frank: Politicians make mistakes, journalists make mistakes, and the public is no bargain either. Yeah, I get frustrated.

But some people in the media act like Washington is some autonomous entity that’s operating with no connection to the public. I had a woman stop me the other day, she said, “I’m very angry about Congress. What are you guys doing?” I said, “Who’s your congressman?” “Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “Well, see, I vote for me,” I said. “I’m happy with me. Why are you blaming me for the people you vote for?”

15 April, 2012

Stories like this are why politicians have to hold high-dollar fundraisers.

Mitt Romney raises more campaign cash in Michigan than President Barack Obama | Detroit Free Press | freep.com: "Money raised in a state certainly doesn't always translate into votes," acknowledged Republican consultant John Truscott. But Romney's money advantage in Michigan -- compared with the campaign cash lead Obama enjoys nationally -- is of note, if only because it could help Romney gauge whether the state is in play in November.

Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google's Sergey Brin | Technology | The Guardian

Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google's Sergey Brin | Technology | The Guardian: He said he was most concerned by the efforts of countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran to censor and restrict use of the internet, but warned that the rise of Facebook and Apple, which have their own proprietary platforms and control access to their users, risked stifling innovation and balkanising the web.

"There's a lot to be lost," he said. "For example, all the information in apps – that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can't search it."

"Everyone you know" might have internet, but you don't know everyone

Report: One In Five U.S. Adults Does Not Use The Internet | TechCrunch: Virtually every U.S. household with an annual income over $75,000 is online, but that’s only true for 63% of adults who live in a household with an annual income under $30,000. The numbers look quite similar for different education levels: 94% of adults with post-graduate degrees are online, but 57% of those without high school diplomas remain offline.

Beside the obvious economic barriers to entry, though, the Pew poll also found that half of those who don’t go online do so because they just don’t think “the Internet is relevant to them.” One in five of those who are not online today think that they just don’t know enough about technology to use the Internet on their own.

Lant Pritchett: Why Obama’s World Bank Pick Is Proving So Controversial | The New Republic

Lant Pritchett: Why Obama’s World Bank Pick Is Proving So Controversial | The New Republic: Which brings us back to the leadership of the World Bank. As a medical doctor who has devoted himself to mitigating the consequences of poverty in places like Haiti and Rwanda and the slums and highlands of Peru, Jim Young Kim is from the world of humane development. But the World Bank is fundamentally an organization devoted to national development, especially the economic component of that process. As a result, his appointment appears to be an intrusion by the world of humane development into one of the core institutions of national development. By contrast, the nominee backed by many African countries, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been finance minister of Nigeria and a managing director of the World Bank. In other words, she is from the world of national development, rather than the world of humane development. What has shocked the development world is that President Obama did not seem to know the difference.

Killer at 70,000 Feet | Military Aviation | Air & Space Magazine

Killer at 70,000 Feet | Military Aviation | Air & Space Magazine: Over the next three hours, with Russell’s guidance, Henry managed to steer his U-2 toward a friendly air base in the Middle East. His short-term memory was gone; all he had to rely on was the muscle memory he’d developed as a young trainee. “I could still do basic airmanship stuff,” he says, “you know, push forward on the yoke and the houses get bigger.”

But even simple tasks were getting harder. As Henry neared the runway, Russell told him to put the landing gear down. When he reached for the handle, it wasn’t there. He’d developed several blind spots in his vision, and had to grope around in the area where he knew the handle should be.

“Nothing made any sense,” he says. “I had horns and lights going off, and I go, That means something important—I can’t remember what that light means.”

14 April, 2012

This sounds crazy until you realize that the system actually works like this.

Fix income inequality with $10 million loans for everyone! - The Washington Post: Under my plan, each American household could borrow $10 million from the Fed at zero interest. The more conservative among us can take that money and buy 10-year Treasury bonds. At the current 2 percent annual interest rate, we can pocket a nice $200,000 a year to live on. The more adventuresome can buy 10-year Greek debt at 21 percent, for an annual income of $2.1 million. Or if Greece is a little too risky for you, go with Portugal, at about 12 percent, or $1.2 million dollars a year. (No sense in getting greedy.)

Vladimir’s Tale by Anne Applebaum | The New York Review of Books

Vladimir’s Tale by Anne Applebaum | The New York Review of Books: Putin doesn’t merely dislike his would-be opponents, in other words, he believes that they are sinister agents of foreign powers. He doesn’t just object to the liberal political system they support, he believes they are plotting to “usurp power” and hand the country over to rapacious outsiders. In order to keep them well away from the levers of power, he allowed only officially sanctioned candidates onto the most recent ballot—all tired, familiar faces who have lost to Putin many times before, or who stood no realistic chance of victory. Thus does Russia’s president protect his countrymen from those who would “destroy Russian statehood.”

13 April, 2012

The Associated Press: Wrong turn grants glimpse behind NKorean curtain

The Associated Press: Wrong turn grants glimpse behind NKorean curtain: PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — The press bus took a wrong turn Thursday. And suddenly, everything changed in the official showcase of North Korean achievement.

A cloud of brown dust swirled down deeply potholed streets, past concrete apartment buildings crumbling at the edges. Old people trudged along the sidewalk, some with handmade backpacks crafted from canvas bags. Two men in wheelchairs waited at a bus stop. There were stores with no lights, and side roads so battered they were more dirt than pavement.

New Left Project | Articles | A Short History of Neoliberalism (And How We Can Fix It)

New Left Project | Articles | A Short History of Neoliberalism (And How We Can Fix It): oday, as a consequence of these policies, the richest 358 people on earth have the same wealth as the poorest 45% of the world’s population, or 2.3 billion people. Even more shocking, the top 3 billionaires have the same wealth as all of the Lowest Developed Countries put together, or 600 million people.[12] These statistics flag a massive transfer of wealth and resources from poor countries to rich countries, and from poor individuals to rich individuals. Today, the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population controls 40% of the world’s wealth, the wealthiest 10% control 85% of the world’s wealth, and the bottom 50% control a mere 1% of the world’s wealth.[13]

BBC News - Uzbekistan's policy of secretly sterilising women

BBC News - Uzbekistan's policy of secretly sterilising women: "I always dreamed of having four - two daughters and two sons - but after my second daughter I couldn't get pregnant," she says.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

Every doctor is told how many women are to be sterilised - there is a quota”

End Quote Uzbek gynaecologist

She went to see a doctor and found out that she had been sterilised after giving birth to her daughter by Caesarean section.

"I was shocked. I cried and asked: 'But why? How could they do this?' The doctor said, 'That's the law in Uzbekistan.'"

Sterilisation is not, officially, the law in Uzbekistan.

But evidence gathered by the BBC suggests that the Uzbek authorities have run a programme over the last two years to sterilise women across the country, often without their knowledge.

Heroine With a Thousand Faces: The Rise of the Female Savior | Culture | AlterNet

Heroine With a Thousand Faces: The Rise of the Female Savior | Culture | AlterNet: Armed with her Mockingjay emblem -- a bird symbol of rebellion that suggests a satirical, subversive stance toward The System – Katniss is tasked with surviving a state-sponsored reality show killing match in which she must rely on both her physical skill and intellect in order to return to her impoverished coal-mining district. Only when Katniss pantomimes compliance before the television camera does she conform to conventional expectations of feminine eroticism. For her, the femininity of curls and frilly dresses is pure artifice -- a mask of survival. Her romantic entanglements are equally ambiguous: her life depends on enacting a love affair with Peeta, but while she cares for the hapless boy, she is no lovestruck teenage girl. When she is released into the woods, Katniss is outfitted as Artemis, the hunter-- as likely to slay men as to love them.

American Mozart - Magazine - The Atlantic

American Mozart - Magazine - The Atlantic: So it is worth noting, then, that while Kanye West is a next-level producer and rapper, a high-impact tweeter, a public consumer of chicken fettuccine, and whatever else he might be, he is also something different from a political leader or celebrity pitchman. Kanye’s emotional landscape may be troubled, but it is also a unified whole, which is the mark of any great artist. He is a petulant, adolescent, blanked-out, pained emotional mess who toggles between songs about walking with Jesus and songs about luxury brands and porn stars. Raised by his college-professor mother in Chicago, and spending summers in Atlanta with his father, a former Black Panther turned newspaper photographer turned Christian marriage counselor, Kanye united hard-core rap and the more self-aware and sophisticated inward style that had evolved in the early 1990s.

Living with the U.N. | Hoover Institution

Living with the U.N. | Hoover Institution: But the most powerful of the United Nations’ many and varied antinomies is the one that ironically turns the institution’s very failures into its most potent source of legitimacy. The distinctive salience of the United Nations is that it is a failure today—and a hope for tomorrow. And this is so even though it is always a failure today, each and every day—and yet always a hope for tomorrow. Return to the image of the United Nations as a sickly sapling. Feeble as it is today, it still holds out the promise of growing to become a glorious overarching tree—the glorious sheltering tree of global governance—but tomorrow, and always tomorrow.

Everything the organization does today, no matter how ineffective, ineffectual, corrupt, rent seeking, or just plain wrong, has to be excused on the basis of what the organization will someday be.

11 April, 2012

The Most Anti-Israel American President Ever – Tablet Magazine

The Most Anti-Israel American President Ever – Tablet Magazine: Yet as the Reagan-Begin showdown demonstrates, these two myths, while serving the purposes of political partisans, have little basis in historical fact. The U.S.-Israel relationship has weathered far greater tensions than those experienced under Obama, and Israel has had far more conservative leaders than Netanyahu. Such extremist caricatures—promulgated by editorialists and advocacy groups—aren’t just factually wrong, they stunt our ability to have sensible discussions about the United States, Israel, and their special relationship.

Evil's champion

North Korea marks 100th anniversary of founder's birth:
North Korea will mark the 100th anniversary of its founding father's birth on April 15. Kim Il-Sung ruled the communist country from its inception in 1948 until his death in 1994. The country is also making international news with the planned launch of a satellite, which concerns many other countries because of the nuclear capabilities of the rocket being used. Officials escorted a group of international media from the capital to the see the rocket in Tongchang-Ri earlier this week. Compiled here are group of recent images from inside the country. -- Lloyd Young (30 photos total)

North Koreans pay their respects in front of two portraits, one of founding leader Kim Il-Sung (left) and the other of his son Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang on April 9. North Korea is counting down to the 100th anniversary of its founder's birth on April 15 with top level meetings and a controversial rocket launch scheduled in coming days to bolster his grandson's credentials. (Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images)

Another thing I'm glad to read about...and then move on from....

Ilaria Urbinati - Celebrity Stylist Profile: Style: GQ: It's an open secret that movie stars don't dress themselves any more than your 2-year-old. Think Tom Cruise knew what a shawl collar was before someone put him in one? Or that Ryan Gosling woke up one day in a Henley? (Well, maybe.) Fashion in Hollywood involves as much calculation and bartering as negotiating royalties. Which is why the most important person behind an actor's image isn't his agent—it's his stylist. Molly Young spends a week with a Hollywood dresser

Article | First Things

Article | First Things: Second, religion generally is not fading away in the modern world as a whole. Even the most determined attempts by powerful states to repress and extinguish religion (in Russia, China, Revolutionary France, Albania, and North Korea, for example) have failed. Religion thus also seems to be incredibly resilient, perhaps incapable of being destroyed and terminated. This suggests that religion is somehow irrepressibly natural to human being.

Third, even when traditionally religious forms of human life seem to fade in some contexts, new and alternative forms of life often appear in their place that engage the sacred, spiritual, transcendent, and liturgical needs of human beings. New Age ideas and claims to be “spiritual but not religious” are obvious instances. Organizations, movements, and practices as different as “secular” environmentalism, academic economics, and sports spectacles have religious dimensions. Many of today’s most popular films, fiction, and television shows deal with superhuman powers, supernatural realities, and spiritual themes.

10 April, 2012

A harsh take.

A Better Internationalism | World Policy Institute: For Americans, internationalism has become little more than a label for the narrow pursuit of national interests as defined by a tight-knit political and foreign policy elite. Accustomed to viewing the world through the concerns of trade and investment interests, too many self-proclaimed internationalists dismiss other concerns as dangerously unenlightened and self-centered.

LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS | Letter from Guatemala

LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS | Letter from Guatemala: The victims are mostly the “nobodies” of society, poor women, in many cases indigenous, from families lacking resources and education. Their bodies are often found mutilated, with indications of rape. Investigations are routinely botched, if they’re even pursued. “She was a prostitute,” a police investigator might say if the victim has a belly-button ring or is wearing a miniskirt. The investigation is closed before being opened.

Print - The War Against Youth - Esquire

Print - The War Against Youth - Esquire: In hindsight, Obama's 2008 campaign looks like an indulgent fantasy in which the major conflicts in life simply don't exist. There may be no white America and no black America, no blue-state America and no red-state America, but one thing is clear: There is a young America and there is an old America, and they don't form a community of interest. One takes from the other. The federal government spends $480 billion on Medicare and $68 billion on education. Prescription drugs: $62 billion. Head Start: $8 billion. Across the board, the money flows not to helping the young grow up, but helping the old die comfortably. According to a 2009 Brookings Institution study, "The United States spends 2.4 times as much on the elderly as on children, measured on a per capita basis, with the ratio rising to 7 to 1 if looking just at the federal budget."

This clip is why I trust Romney not to be an idiot

Announcing Our Newest Hire: A Current Fox News Channel Employee:
Gawker has footage.

Iran moving ahead with plans for national intranet

Iran moving ahead with plans for national intranet: Iran topped a recent list of repressive regimes that most aggressively restrict Internet freedom. The list, published by Reporters Without Borders, is a part of the 2012 edition of the organization’s Enemies of the Internet report. One of the details addressed in that report is the Iranian government’s bizarre plan to create its own “clean” Internet. The proposed system, an insular nationwide intranet that is reportedly isolated from the regular Internet, would be heavily regulated by the government.

12-Year-Old Prodigy Lands Skateboarding’s First 1080 | Athletes | OutsideOnline.com

12-Year-Old Prodigy Lands Skateboarding’s First 1080 | Athletes | OutsideOnline.com: Twelve-year old Tom Schaar has been skating since he was four, but only started attempting the 1080 a couple weeks ago. The Malibu-based prodigy made four attempts on March 26—and nailed it on his fifth try, landing three complete mid-air rotations off a 70-foot tall mega ramp at Woodward West, an action-sports camp in Tehachapi and becoming the first skateboarder in history to stick the sport’s most elusive trick.

The Mystery of Why Marine Noah Pippin Went AWOL | Outdoor Adventure | OutsideOnline.com

The Mystery of Why Marine Noah Pippin Went AWOL | Outdoor Adventure | OutsideOnline.com: And that’s why it was strange when, on the fifth evening, shortly after setting up camp and heading off to collect wood, Vern and Trevor came across a man who looked simply unprepared. He wore army fatigues with a nylon poncho over his backpack. He knelt on the trail, filling a plastic milk jug where water trickled through the rocks, pouring it straight into his mouth. The men exchanged hellos. Vern sensed that the stranger wanted to be left alone, so he kept moving, but just to be safe, as the man entered the Kerseys’ camp, where Donelle and Shelby were firing up the stove, Vern lingered on the rocks and listened.

“How you doing?” Donelle sang out. She was vivacious and fit, with a hint of country in her throaty voice.

The man smiled and made a motion to the holster on his hip. “Just to let you know, ma’am, I’m packin’. ”

American Indians: Gambling on nation-building | The Economist

American Indians: Gambling on nation-building | The Economist: America’s constitution names three sovereigns: the federal government, states and tribes. The “treaties” America signed with tribes in the 18th and 19th centuries also implied sovereign parties. Tribes could not keep armies or devise a currency, but they could issue their own passports, as the Iroquois have famously done (which made their lacrosse team miss a tournament in 2010, after Britain refused to recognise the documents). The Iroquois, the Sioux and the Ojibwe (Chippewa), even separately declared war on Germany in 1941.

Why Do We Love the Titanic? : The New Yorker

Why Do We Love the Titanic? : The New Yorker: All these interpretations are legitimate, even provocative; and yet none, somehow, seems wholly satisfying. If the Titanic has gripped our imagination so forcefully for the past century, it must be because of something bigger than any fact of social or political or cultural history. To get to the bottom of why we can’t forget it, you have to turn away from the facts and consider the realm to which the Titanic and its story properly belong: myth.

Now This Is Interesting: A Climate Prediction From 1981

Now This Is Interesting: A Climate Prediction From 1981: It is very much worth checking out an item on Real Climate, from two Dutch scientists. They have found a paper by James Hansen and others from 1981, before climate change was even an occasion for political disagreement.

Hansen is now famous in the world of climate studies, and infamous to the world of the right wing, but back then he was a 40-year-old researcher who came up with a projection of how rising CO2 levels might affect global temperatures. Science lives for the "falsifiable hypothesis" -- a claim that can be tested against the evidence -- and that is what the paper by Hansen and his colleagues offered up. Three decades later, his worst-case projections were matched against what has happened since then. You should read their full findings, but this gives you the idea:


The Neapolitan Mob’s Most Dangerous Family | Culture | Vanity Fair

The Neapolitan Mob’s Most Dangerous Family | Culture | Vanity Fair: By the mid-1990s, rape, robbery, assault, and theft had all but disappeared. You could walk anywhere you wanted at any hour. If you had a car or motor scooter, you could park it anywhere without worry, except perhaps for the radio (because, after all, this was Italy). When the important newspaper Il Mattino published an article about illicit gambling in the districts, Di Lauro ordered that the gambling stop—and it did, permanently, within 48 hours. When he decided that the traditional business of extorting protection money from local shopkeepers was causing more trouble than it was worth, he ordered not only that it be halted but that his men start paying full prices, and even thank the shopkeepers for their services. It was strange, but they did. For this and all the favors he gave, he was widely loved—and still is. People say that the difference between Di Lauro and a saint was that Di Lauro delivered the miracles faster.

09 April, 2012

Can Coffee Kick-Start an Economy? - NYTimes.com

Can Coffee Kick-Start an Economy? - NYTimes.com: So what real meaning can a company like Good African hold for the continent’s economic development and competitiveness? Easterly — whose research, in collaboration with the University of Virginia economist Ariell Reshef, has examined Rugasira’s company — emphasizes that stark advantages and outsize triumphs, like China’s, aren’t necessary to the success of individual businesses or to pushing Africa forward. He stresses that merely reaching the market and holding your own there can be a major victory for a company like Good African, not only because the brand may grow gradually but also because when it comes to African enterprise as a whole, the continent needs to prove, for starters, that in the world of business, it can just coexist. Sachs adds that what’s termed “the Asian miracle” began with lesser-known progress in low-level commercial farming. This is the very thing Good African is fostering around Kasese. And as for the moral elements in Rugasira’s pitch, it doesn’t take an economist to point out that an inspiriting message can be a strong capitalist tool.

So what did the troll actually say? | Victoria Coren | Comment is free | The Observer

So what did the troll actually say? | Victoria Coren | Comment is free | The Observer: Do you know if it's applicable in this case? If not, then please try not to be glad he's in prison. He's a splot of grime in a far bigger picture. The government – or its Cameronian-Tory part, at least – is trying to increase the number of court cases held in secret, as though the operation of the law were no business of ours.

When people cheer Liam Stacey's jailing without knowing exactly what he did, or even what he's officially guilty of, I fear that we are halfway there already.

08 April, 2012

James Brown and the other side of the Masters - Grantland

James Brown and the other side of the Masters - Grantland: There are now four dozen (or more) lawyers fighting over James Brown's money, with his six children wanting part of the fortune, with other kids popping out of the woodwork, claiming paternity. Deanna Brown-Thomas is part of the group contesting her father's will.

Five years and four months after he died, no money has been given to education. The case is before the South Carolina Supreme Court, and a decision is expected in a few months. It seems likely that Brown's desires — the will clearly stated the money should go to uneducated and needy children — will be ignored. "For five years I have been saying, what in the hell is wrong here?" Dallas says. "What more could have Mr. Brown done to make his wishes clear?"

A Man. A Woman. Just Friends? - NYTimes.com

A Man. A Woman. Just Friends? - NYTimes.com: There’s a history here, and it’s a surprisingly political one. Friendship between the sexes was more or less unknown in traditional society. Men and women occupied different spheres, and women were regarded as inferior in any case. A few epistolary friendships between monastics, a few relationships in literary and court circles, but beyond that, cross-sex friendship was as unthinkable in Western society as it still is in many cultures.

Then came feminism — specifically, Mary Wollstonecraft, the mother of feminism, in the late 18th century. Wollstonecraft was actually wary of platonic relationships, which could lead too easily, she thought, to mischief. (She had a child out of wedlock herself.) But she did believe that friendship, “the most sublime of all affections,” should be the mainspring of marriage.

We're Good Europeans Yet They All Hate Us | Standpoint

We're Good Europeans Yet They All Hate Us | Standpoint: Germany is in a position where it is going to haemorrhage either cash or sovereignty. The government has decided it would rather haemorrhage sovereignty. Voters will notice it less. They get to accumulate money in the short term. The EU gets to accumulate sovereignty in the long term. Everyone is happy. But the arrangement is tenable only so long as it costs taxpayers no money. The assumption on which it is based is challenged by the Greek bailout and default deal.

Skullduggery from The New Yorker

News Desk: Our Men in Iran? : The New Yorker: In mid-January, a few days after an assassination by car bomb of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, at a town-hall meeting of soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, acknowledged that the U.S. government has “some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don’t know exactly who was involved.” He added, “But I can tell you one thing: the United States was not involved in that kind of effort. That’s not what the United States does.”

What is "the world's greatest mystery"?

Lots of Links

Top Saudi Cleric Issues Fatwa: Destroy Churches | Via Meadia

Top Saudi Cleric Issues Fatwa: Destroy Churches | Via Meadia: It has long been a sore point in these conversations that while predominantly Christian countries offer Muslim immigrants and visitors full rights of religious expression, including the freedom to build mosques, there is no reciprocity. Christians are widely persecuted and discriminated against across the Islamic world, and mob violence and murder is depressingly common in some countries. Other minorities are also routinely and systematically persecuted and mistreated. Members of the Bahai faith are frequently subject to persecution, and there are many Sunni countries that discriminate against Shiites

07 April, 2012

BBC News - Today - Bosnia: Twenty Years On

BBC News - Today - Bosnia: Twenty Years On: I asked the man how old he was. He said he was 80. May I ask you, I said, are you a Muslim or a Croat? And the answer he gave me still shames me as it echoes down the decades in my head. I am, he said, a musician.

It was a rebuke to the convenient ethnic shorthand to which we reporters reduced the lives of fully rounded, blameless, and accomplished human beings.

Five myths about white people - Society and Culture - AEI

Five myths about white people - Society and Culture - AEI: 1. Working-class whites are more religious than upper-class whites.

This is a pervasive misconception encouraged by liberals who conflate the religious right with the working class, and by conservative evangelicals who inveigh against the godless ruling class.

Certainly, white intellectual elites have become extremely secular. However, as a whole, the white upper middle class has long displayed higher attendance at worship services and stronger allegiance to their religious faith than the white working class — going all the way back to the first data collected in the 1920s and continuing today.

Since the early 1970s, white America has become more secular overall, but the drop has been much greater in the working classes.As of the 2000s, the General Social Survey indicates, nearly 32 percent of upper-middle-class whites ages 30 to 49 attended church regularly, compared with 17 percent of the white working class in the same age group.

A plea for beauty: a manifesto for a new urbanism - Society and Culture - AEI

A plea for beauty: a manifesto for a new urbanism - Society and Culture - AEI: Planning: Solution or Problem?

The first response of many Americans is that central planning is not the solution but part of the problem. The housing projects of the 1950s and ’60s, in which attractive and settled neighborhoods were bulldozed and replaced by municipal housing that nobody wanted to live in, were the result of planning, as were the thruways and expressways that deprived city centers of their dignity and allure. Those projects had disastrous social consequences: a demoralized workforce frozen in places where jobs were no longer available, unvisited city centers, crime-ridden neighborhoods, and vandalizing of public space. But the principal lesson was not learned: that plans have unintended consequences that accumulate over a far longer period, ultimately outweighing the short-term benefits.

On the internet's maurading army

Hacks of Valor | Foreign Affairs:  Seeing Anonymous primarily as a cybersecurity threat is like analyzing the breadth of the antiwar movement and 1960s counterculture by focusing only on the Weathermen. Anonymous is not an organization. It is an idea, a zeitgeist, coupled with a set of social and technical practices. Diffuse and leaderless, its driving force is “lulz” -- irreverence, playfulness, and spectacle. It is also a protest movement, inspiring action both on and off the Internet, that seeks to contest the abuse of power by governments and corporations and promote transparency in politics and business. Just as the antiwar movement had its bomb-throwing radicals, online hacktivists organizing under the banner of Anonymous sometimes cross the boundaries of legitimate protest. But a fearful overreaction to Anonymous poses a greater threat to freedom of expression, creativity, and innovation than any threat posed by the disruptions themselves.

One Medical Errors and Checklists

“The Errors of Their Ways” by Rachel Giese | The Walrus | April 2012:

Anchoring is just one example of more than a hundred identified heuristics, cognitive shortcuts that could also be called common sense, or rules of thumb, beliefs based on experience and intuition. The practice of medicine uses heuristics all the time — symptoms A, B, and C usually suggest X diagnosis, or this type of person is more prone to this disease than that one — but heuristics also play a major role in biased thinking. Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky wrote a formative paper in 1974 on heuristics and biases in judgment and decision-making. They identified several factors, a widespread one being representativeness, illustrated by the idea that, say, librarians tend to be sober and methodical, or that boys love to play with toy guns. As the authors note, “These heuristics are highly economical and usually effective, but they lead to systematic and predictable errors.” In other words, these generalizations hold up most of the time, but some librarians are, in fact, risk-taking party animals, and some little boys prefer Barbies.

Things you didn't know about Twain...he nurtured female intelectualism?

The Riddle Of Mark Twain's Passion For Joan Of Arc | The Awl: It was a dichotomy that, as Twain grew older, seemed to become increasingly important to him. Having spent the last thirty years of his life principally in the company of his wife and three daughters, he cherished what he deemed “the spirit” of young girls. As if to somehow replace the company of his own daughters—two now adults, and the third, Susy, having died in 1896 (the same year as Recollections publication) mdash;Twain began exchanging letters with intelligent young girls that he’d met from all over the world. This practice started in the early 1900s. As his list of pen pals grew in number, he structured these relationships within what he eventually came to call his “Aquarium Club.”

06 April, 2012

Biologist E.O. Wilson on Why Humans, Like Ants, Need a Tribe - The Daily Beast

Biologist E.O. Wilson on Why Humans, Like Ants, Need a Tribe - The Daily Beast: Have you ever wondered why, in the ongoing presidential campaign, we so strongly hear the pipes calling us to arms? Why the religious among us bristle at any challenge to the creation story they believe? Or even why team sports evoke such intense loyalty, joy, and despair?

The answer is that everyone, no exception, must have a tribe, an alliance with which to jockey for power and territory, to demonize the enemy, to organize rallies and raise flags.

Last hope for the left | Prospect Magazine

Last hope for the left | Prospect Magazine:

All of the above are, in the formulation of a group of North American cultural psychologists, WEIRD—they are from a sub-culture that is Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic. They are, as we have seen, universalists, suspicious of strong national loyalties. They also tend to be individualists committed to autonomy and self-realisation. Balancing that they are usually deeply concerned with social justice and unfairness and also suspicious of appeals to religion or to human nature to justify any departure from equal treatment—differences between men and women, for example, are regarded as cultural not biological.


Giles Milton: THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH: THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF JOE KITTINGER.: ‘I rolled over and looked up and there was the balloon just roaring into space. [Then] I realized that the balloon wasn't roaring into space; I was going down at a fantastic rate…'
He had no sense at all that he was falling.
'You determine speed is visual if you see something go flashing by. But nothing flashes by 20 miles up - there are no signposts there and you are way above any clouds.’

In Living Color: The Dead Have Rights

In Living Color: The Dead Have Rights: I was amazed to learn this morning, from a coroner's report, that Whitney Houston was wearing a wig and dentures when she died, and that she had breast implants. I was even more amazed to realize that a government coroner's office will tell the whole world private information like this, even though it has no connection at all to what they're supposed to be investigating--the cause of her death. Once you are a dead body, you have no secrets. Not only can the state take your clothes off and dissect your body--that part's understandable--but they can broadcast anything they discover to the entire world, without having to justify specific disclosures in terms of the public's rights to know about them. Everything's out in the open, if you have the misfortune of being dead.

Unmasking Horror -- A special report.; Japan Confronting Gruesome War Atrocity - New York Times

Unmasking Horror -- A special report.; Japan Confronting Gruesome War Atrocity - New York Times:

Finally the old man, who insisted on anonymity, explained the reason for the vivisection. The Chinese prisoner had been deliberately infected with the plague as part of a research project -- the full horror of which is only now emerging -- to develop plague bombs for use in World War II. After infecting him, the researchers decided to cut him open to see what the disease does to a man's inside. No anesthetic was used, he said, out of concern that it might have an effect on the results.

That research program was one of the great secrets of Japan during and after World War II: a vast project to develop weapons of biological warfare, including plague, anthrax, cholera and a dozen other pathogens. Unit 731 of the Japanese Imperial Army conducted research by experimenting on humans and by "field testing" plague bombs by dropping them on Chinese cities to see whether they could start plague outbreaks. They could.

05 April, 2012

CEOs and the Candle Problem - A Mad Hemorrhage Blog | Nature Publishing Group

CEOs and the Candle Problem - A Mad Hemorrhage Blog | Nature Publishing Group: When your employees have to do something straightforward, like pressing a button or manning one stage in an assembly line, financial incentives work. It's a small effect, but they do work. Simple jobs are like the simple candle problem.

However, if your people must do something that requires any creative or critical thinking, financial incentives hurt. The In-Box Candle Problem is the stereotypical problem that requires you to think "Out of the Box," (you knew that was coming, didn't you?). Whenever people must think out of the box, offering them a monetary carrot will keep them in that box.

A monetary reward will help your employees focus. That's the point. When you're focused you are less able to think laterally. You become dumber. This is not the kind of thing we want if we expect to solve the problems that face us in the 21st century.

The Education of Google's Larry Page - Businessweek

The Education of Google's Larry Page - Businessweek:

Page sounds more than a little exasperated by the doubters. He says he’d be happy to include social data from Facebook and Twitter inside Google results but can’t because those companies will not agree to make it available. “We would love to have better access to data that’s out there. We find it frustrating that we don’t,” he says. As an example, he points to ongoing friction over the one-way transferability of users’ address books between Gmail and Facebook. New members of Facebook can quickly and easily find their Gmail contacts, but it doesn’t work the other way: New Gmail users cannot similarly find their Facebook friends. “Our friends at Facebook have imported many, many, many Gmail addresses and exported zero addresses out,” he says. “They claim that users don’t own that data, which is a total specious claim. It’s completely unreasonable.”