29 November, 2012

Not sure if we're supposed to be creeped out or think it's adorable...

Reddit, almost every day some random Haitian couple calls and talks to my two year old giving me time to clean the house, etc. What weirdly awesome random little things are you thankful for? More Details inside. : AskReddit: One day when they called and I was really busy doing laundry so I just put the phone on speaker and gave it to my 2 year old daughter. She reacted to their voice, and started "talking" back babbling, laughing and mimicking them. I went in the other room and came back 10 minutes later and they were still on the phone talking to her. Eventually my daughter mashed enough buttons to hang up the phone.

The next day, they called back, phone went straight to my daughter... This has been going on for about 2 months now. Some days they listen and talk for 20 minutes, most days its only around 5, but they have talked to her for as much as thirty minutes before. During this time, I am able to load the dishwasher, do laundry, pick up the house and use the bathroom. Stuff that is really hard to do with a very active 2 year old.

The Myth of American Meritocracy | The American Conservative

The Myth of American Meritocracy | The American Conservative: Meanwhile, there has been an astonishing concentration of wealth at the top, with America’s richest 1 percent now possessing nearly as much net wealth as the bottom 95 percent.2 This situation, sometimes described as a “winner take all society,” leaves families desperate to maximize the chances that their children will reach the winners’ circle, rather than risk failure and poverty or even merely a spot in the rapidly deteriorating middle class. And the best single means of becoming such an economic winner is to gain admission to a top university, which provides an easy ticket to the wealth of Wall Street or similar venues, whose leading firms increasingly restrict their hiring to graduates of the Ivy League or a tiny handful of other top colleges.3 On the other side, finance remains the favored employment choice for Harvard, Yale or Princeton students after the diplomas are handed out.4


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The difference between reality and unreality is that reality has so little to recommend it. -- Allan Sherman

Slashdot - Firehose

28 November, 2012

LOST should not have been a show. But was.

Alan Sepinwall on the origins of 'Lost' - Grantland: The story of Lost makes no sense.

And by that I don't mean the story on the show — though this is the point where you can feel free to insert jokes about the numbers, the outrigger shootout, or the reasons why Walt was "special" — but the story of how Lost itself got made.

The creation of Lost defies nearly everything we know about how successful television shows — or great ones — are made. The idea for Lost came not from a writer, but a network executive. The first writer on the project got fired. The replacement creative team had a fraction of the usual time to write, cast, and produce a pilot episode. The executive who had championed the show was himself fired before it ever aired. One of the two creators all but quit the moment the pilot was finished. Nearly every creative decision at the start of the show was made under the assumption that it would never succeed. Everyone believed it was too weird, too dense, too unusual to work. And it may have been. But it worked, anyway.

Meanwhile, On The West Bank… - The Daily Beast

Meanwhile, On The West Bank… - The Daily Beast: Police have begun ordering Palestinian laborers with legal work permits off buses from the Tel Aviv area to the West Bank, following complaints from settlers that Palestinians pose a security risk by riding the same buses as them.

The Transportation Ministry says it is considering adding bus lines between West Bank roadblocks and central Israel; these would be geared toward Palestinian laborers.

CABINET // The Coldscape

CABINET // The Coldscape: These are spaces in which a perpetual winter has distorted or erased seasonality; spaces that are located within an energy-intensive geography of previously unimaginable distance—both mental and physical—between producers and consumers. Artificial refrigeration has reconfigured the contents of our plates and the shape of our cities—it has even contributed to the overthrow of governments, as anyone familiar with the rise and fall of United Fruit can attest. Perhaps most bizarrely, although their variations in form reflect the particular requirements of the perishable product they host, coldspaces have, in turn, redesigned food itself, both in terms of the selective breeding that favors cold-tolerance over taste and the more fundamental transition from food as daily nourishment to food as global commodity.

Can You Save Diplomacy From Itself? - By Cristina Odone | Foreign Policy

Can You Save Diplomacy From Itself? - By Cristina Odone | Foreign Policy: The chamber of the Security Council spreads out, airless and dimly lit, at the heart of the United Nations complex in New York. This is the inner sanctum of world diplomacy: Council members are responsible for maintaining peace and security across the globe, no less. A huge oil canvas mural, painted by the Norwegian artist Per Krogh, decorates one wall: A phoenix rises from its ashes, symbolizing the world's rebirth after World War II; and a group of farmers weigh out grain for all to share, showing how the international community values equality. This sense of bounty and fairness fills the big room with its large U-shaped table surrounded by welcoming blue chairs.

Erick Erickson educates us

A Primer for Rich Donors Who Got Taken to the Cleaners by Republican Consultants | RedState: Every precinct has a “dead dog” race that defines who the yellow dog Democrats are and who the pure Republicans are. These are the voters for either side who will vote for the dead dog over someone in the other party. A great example of this would be Angela E. Speir in Georgia.

Ms. Speir ran for the Georgia Public Service Commission as a Republican in 2002, when Democrats still controlled Georgia. She spent roughly $7,000.00 for this statewide office and won. For a long time, her race was the dead dog race. If someone wanted to see what a generic Republican and a generic Democrat would get in a particular precinct, her race was the one to establish that number given it was a statewide race in which she had no name ID and spent less than $10,000.00.

Find that number in each precinct for each party and that is the base number each side needs in a district.

Prosthetic Arms a Complex Test for Amputees - NYTimes.com

Prosthetic Arms a Complex Test for Amputees - NYTimes.com: So there he was one recent afternoon, kayaking down the sun-dappled San Marcos River, using the wrong prosthesis because he had broken his kayaking limb while surfing. Normally he is at the front of the pack, but today his arm kept slipping off and he seemed in pain as he struggled just to keep up.

Yet he said nothing that could be heard as a complaint. And at the end of the six-hour trip, he went over the 14-foot Graduation Falls, the first time he had done so in a boat. After dropping vertically into the frothing water, his kayak momentarily disappeared beneath the surface before popping out like a cork.

Eyes smiling below the brim of his helmet, Corporal Gallegos paddled to shore, hefted his boat onto his good shoulder and started the trudge upstream.

He did not ask for help.

Staring into Saturn's baleful eye | The Planetary Society

Staring into Saturn's baleful eye | The Planetary Society: This is just wow. It's part of a long sequence Cassini took, staring at Saturn's north pole. When? Today.

27 November, 2012

NYU Student Accidentally Hits Reply All to 40,000 Students, "Replyallcalypse" Ensues

NYU Student Accidentally Hits Reply All to 40,000 Students, "Replyallcalypse" Ensues: When NYU sophomore Max Wiseltier received an email from NYU's Bursar office last night about a new, electronic tuition form, he wasn't sure what to do so, naturally, he forwarded the email to his mom. "do you want me to do this?" was his exact response. There was one small problem, though; instead of hitting "Fwd" he clicked "Reply all," accidentally sending the message to all 39,979 NYU students on the list.

Revealed: Google's manual for its unseen humans who rate the web • The Register

Revealed: Google's manual for its unseen humans who rate the web • The Register: Google's outsources the ratings to contractors Leapforce and Lionbridge, who employ home workers. Lionbridge describes itself as a "global crowdsourcing" agency and lists the advertisements here. According to one Leapforce job ad there are 1,500 raters. The work is flexible but demanding - raters must pass an examination and are consistently evaluated by Google. For example, a rater is given a "TTR" score - "Time to Rate" measures how quickly they make their decisions. Here's one contractor's tale, and an interview at SEO site SearchEngineLand with another.

It's amazing how the image Google likes to promote - and politicians believe - one of high tech boffinry and magical algorithms, contrasts with the reality. Outsourced home workers are keeping the machine running. Glamorous, it isn't. �

End of the Line in the ICU | The Health Care Blog

End of the Line in the ICU | The Health Care Blog: You will not find a group less in favor of automatically aggressive, invasive medical care than intensive care nurses, because we see the pointless suffering it often causes in patients and families. Intensive care is at best a temporary detour during which a patient’s instability is monitored, analyzed, and corrected, but it is at worst a high tech torture chamber, a taste of hell during a person’s last days on earth.

How the FEC can stop the tidal wave of secret political cash - The Washington Post

How the FEC can stop the tidal wave of secret political cash - The Washington Post: Instead, the FEC just has to do its job. For that to happen, we need new commissioners dedicated to enforcing the laws passed by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court. As it happens, five of the six commissioners are holdovers whose terms have expired.

To overhaul the panel, Obama will have to upend decades of tradition. Since the establishment of the FEC, presidents have appointed commissioners according to an unwritten agreement: Two have been proposed by the Senate leadership (one from each party), two by the House and two by the White House. The nominees got routine Senate confirmation.

26 November, 2012

It really is that bad: A powerful speech on North Korea

It really is that bad: A powerful speech on North Korea: “One challenge I always have when I speak about North Korea is I run out of adjectives for how bad things are. And many of you that follow policy or human rights situations oftentimes get jaded with numbers,” Hong begins, speaking at an event for Melanie Kirkpatrick’s book Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad, sitting between Kirkpatrick and Joseph Kim, a young escapee whose journey her book chronicles. “It’s very easy for us to write off bad things because we just assume these are bad things that happen ‘over there,’ and many times they don’t necessarily affect us. And the challenge with North Korea in particular is that things are so bad on such a scale and scope that it sounds fake. It sounds unfathomable, it’s impossible to really comprehend.”

Revenge of the Reality-Based Community | The American Conservative

Revenge of the Reality-Based Community | The American Conservative: The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.

At this point, I lost every last friend I had on the right. Some have been known to pass me in silence at the supermarket or even to cross the street when they see me coming. People who were as close to me as brothers and sisters have disowned me.

I think they believe they are just disciplining me, hoping I will admit error and ask for forgiveness. They clearly don’t know me very well. My attitude is that anyone who puts politics above friendship is not someone I care to have in my life.

US Science Could Face Fiscal Cliff Doom : Discovery News

US Science Could Face Fiscal Cliff Doom : Discovery News: "Sequestration would be dropping an anchor on the science enterprise, while many others are setting their sails," said Hourihan. "As an example, here are some factoids derived from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data: since 1999, the US has increased the research intensity of its economy by 10 percent. Over the same period, research intensity in Israel, Finland, and Germany have grown about twice as fast. In Taiwan, it's grown five times as fast. In South Korea, it's grown six times as fast. In China, the number two funder behind us, it's grown ten times as fast."

'100 elected pundits' - POLITICO.com

'100 elected pundits' - POLITICO.com: Right now, the Senate are 100 elected pundits. The game is between the White House and House Republicans for now. At some point the action could move to the Senate, but right now it's about the House.

25 November, 2012

Skills Don’t Pay the Bills - NYTimes.com

Skills Don’t Pay the Bills - NYTimes.com: The secret behind this skills gap is that it’s not a skills gap at all. I spoke to several other factory managers who also confessed that they had a hard time recruiting in-demand workers for $10-an-hour jobs. “It’s hard not to break out laughing,” says Mark Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center, referring to manufacturers complaining about the shortage of skilled workers. “If there’s a skill shortage, there has to be rises in wages,” he says. “It’s basic economics.” After all, according to supply and demand, a shortage of workers with valuable skills should push wages up. Yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of skilled jobs has fallen and so have their wages.

On credit and mishistory

Time, and the great healer | Education | The Guardian: But Waksman was not, in fact, the man who discovered streptomycin. The antibiotic was isolated by his postgraduate student Albert Schatz, an intense, skinny 23-year-old who worked in a basement lab three floors below Waksman's office at Rutgers University, New Jersey. While the professor collected prizes and honours, his student sank into scientific obscurity, consumed by a sense of injustice.

The story of streptomycin - of scientific triumphs, all-too-human scientists and a long quest for justice - lies somewhere between these two men. But until 1990, when a British scientist launched a campaign to rehabilitate Schatz, history credited one man alone: Waksman.

The rich that we provide for....and soak.

Call Me Ishmael - Business - Features :: GO: AirTran Inflight Magazine: WHALE (noun): A moneyed mammal that keeps gaming towns afloat. More than merely a big fish, the whale can drop millions of dollars in a weekend. In turn, casino hotels compete to gain their loyalty, and dollars, via ultra-luxe perks. Savvy "whale watchers" put together properties and high-rolling players to ensure that everyone is happy. Here are some quips from VIP wrangler Steve Cyr, subject of the book Whale Hunt in the Desert: Secrets of a Vegas Superhost by Deke Castleman (Huntington Press).

Why Can't India Feed Its People? - Businessweek

Why Can't India Feed Its People? - Businessweek: Ghanshyam, to me, embodies India’s poor and malnourished. He owns no land, except for the plot on which his hut stood. He has tuberculosis, which infects about 2 million Indians every year, but he still scrabbles for work in the fields of landowners, making between $2.50 and $3.50 a day. When strong enough, he hitches a ride to the city of Pratapgarh, 45 minutes away, in search of construction work paying as much as $3.75 a day. On other days, Ghanshyam waits for villagers to come find him for odd jobs. A neighbor once paid him $1.50 to build a small roof. Another time, he spent four or five hours helping to clear a field of weeds and stones. He made 80� that day.

In recent weeks, Ghanshyam found only a few days’ work. The monsoon was late, so there was little to be done in the fields; construction had slowed in anticipation of those same rains, the life force of rural India. With that meager income, Ghanshyam supported his wife, Urmila Devi, two teenage sons, and the wife of an older son whom I never saw.

24 November, 2012

When the Right Is Right About the Left – Forward.com

When the Right Is Right About the Left – Forward.com:

I begin with these left-wing credentials because my aim in this column is to call out my liberal colleagues on certain of our blind spots and try to communicate to fellow progressives when, in my view, their criticism of Israel becomes deeply problematic — even, dare I say it, anti-Semitic. I do so because, just as I am uncomfortable in Jewish nationalist circles where people routinely make racist, violent and ethnocentric remarks (and where those remarks support real-world policies with real effects on real people), so, too, I am uncomfortable in left-wing circles where some people evince a casual disregard for the legitimate concerns of Israelis and Jews, for the very real and very deep problems on the Palestinian side, and even for the truth.

23 November, 2012

Clive Thompson: The Folding Game - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics

Clive Thompson: The Folding Game - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics: One of the things that’s really interesting about video game players, also—and this is documented in a great book Mia Consalvo wrote a book about cheating. In one way, having complete walkthroughs of games, won’t they use it to just go through the game without any challenge at all? But the vast majority of players basically treat it as assistance for when they are stuck. When they tried really, really hard, and they’re facing a problem they alone can’t solve. They want to solve the game themselves as much as they can. What the collective intelligence is for is in situations where the game designers have essentially done a bad job designing the puzzle, right?

It's Time for Obama to Bite the Hedge-Fund Sharks : The New Yorker

It's Time for Obama to Bite the Hedge-Fund Sharks : The New Yorker: What about eliminating the egregious tax break that hedge-fund managers like Cohen enjoy? While running for President in 2008, Obama promised to eliminate the so-called carried-interest deduction, which allows managers of hedge funds and private-equity funds to classify much of their income as capital gains, which are taxed at fifteen per cent, rather than as ordinary income, which faces a top rate of thirty-five per cent. But the deduction remains, unchanged. A combination of outright opposition from Republicans, foot-dragging on the part of Wall Street Democrats, and timidity on the part of the Administration allowed the proposed reform to die in Congress.

Elon Musk, the Rocket Man With a Sweet Ride | Science & Nature | Smithsonian Magazine

Elon Musk, the Rocket Man With a Sweet Ride | Science & Nature | Smithsonian Magazine: Musk wants to fundamentally alter the way we travel, the energy we consume and our legacy as earthbound human beings. Listening to the self-confident and boyish 41-year-old wearing blue jeans and a black and white checked shirt rocking back and forth in his Aeron chair, he sounds ridiculous: He talks about nuclear fusion and colonizing Mars and airplanes that take off vertically. You want to slap him, put him in his place, or just laugh and dismiss him, which is what the aerospace industry did when he first announced plans to disrupt an industry so technically difficult and capital intensive that it has belonged to the world’s richest governments.

Which Bond Villain Plan Would Have Worked? -- Vulture

Which Bond Villain Plan Would Have Worked? -- Vulture: While the bad guy in Skyfall is obsessed primarily with revenge and humiliation, many of James Bond’s chief adversaries over the years have wanted something more simple and tangible: cash money. The Bond villain is often deranged and grandiose, sure, but he (or she) is also capable of hatching elaborate plans to increase their bottom line, often by secretly manipulating the world’s economic systems (sometimes with the aid of a clandestine nuclear weapon or two). So, could they have succeeded? If James Bond hadn’t foiled these plots, could these Bond villains have fulfilled their dreams of financial glory? We looked through their schemes, and asked Jean-Jacques Dethier, a development economist at the World Bank (and a lifelong Bond fan), what he thought.

RedState corrects the record

I Think CNN.com Badly Mischaracterizes This Site | RedState:
Here is where the context is important and why I think CNN.com badly mischaracterizes this site.
The first quote had absolutely nothing to do with the reelection of Barack Obama. It came from this post and a criticism of RedState from within the center-right coalition that RedState was complicit in the loss for being a conservative activist site instead of just championing Republicans. The quote was a defense of RedState’s core mission to help get conservatives elected.

It had nothing to do with anger or denial about the President getting re-elected and everything to do with making no apologies for what we, as a site do, in our willingness to primary Republicans. Last I checked, Barack Obama did not run in a Republican Primary and could not in the context of that post even be in anyway implicated by that post.

The second quote came from this post. It, again, has everything to do with an analysis internally of the Presidential election within the context of the Republican Party.

22 November, 2012

The Hard Life of an N.F.L. Long Shot - NYTimes.com

The Hard Life of an N.F.L. Long Shot - NYTimes.com: He was, in a sense, already chosen. Of the 80,000 or so who play college football every year, no more than 1,500 are even scouted by pro teams. On average about 300 of those players will be invited to show their stuff at the weeklong N.F.L. scouting combine held every February at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Hundreds more will perform at regional combines or at their college team’s pro days. Among the heads Pat turned was that of Ran Carthon, son of the New York Giants fullback Maurice Carthon. Ran Carthon was also a former N.F.L. running back before becoming a scout for the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons called Pat four times in the previous week alone, the final call coming that Saturday morning.

Bike Polo: The World's Fast Growing Sport (That's Played on Wheels with Mallets) | The Classical

Bike Polo: The World's Fast Growing Sport (That's Played on Wheels with Mallets) | The Classical: The first hardcourt bike polo match was played 13 years ago in a Seattle stockroom at the dot-com retailer Kozmo. The small crew of bike messengers employed by the long-since-defunct company did not have grand ambitions when they came up with the idea; all they wanted was a fun way to kill time between deliveries. While the players were in no way regal, the game they concocted was nominally descended from polo, the Sport of Kings, invented by the Persians 1,500 years ago and popularized in the 19th century by British colonialists and then, later, by Ralph Lauren. It also shared similarities with cycle polo, a strain of the equine game played with bicycles instead of horses that gained traction during the turn-of-the-century cycling craze--particularly in England--and was featured as a demonstration sport at the 1908 Summer Olympics.

Ken Mehlman: Making the Same-Sex Case - WSJ.com

Ken Mehlman: Making the Same-Sex Case - WSJ.com: Same-sex couples today lack the estate-tax protections, Social Security spousal benefits, and joint-filing options available to heterosexual couples. This can mean the difference between staying in the family home or losing it when a partner dies. In 29 states, individuals can be fired based on their sexual orientation. Conservatives believe that individuals should be judged at work based on performance, so shouldn't we fix this?

The Last Laughing Death | The Global Mail - a mysterious illness and origin

The Last Laughing Death | The Global Mail: After 55 years, the final patrol for cases of the mysterious ‘laughing death’ in remote Papua New Guinea has returned from the highlands. From this pursuit came Nobel-winning science, clues to ‘mad cow’ and insights into Alzheimer’s disease. It also revealed a little bit of cannibal hidden in us all.

Introduction to the forgotten Duth land of new nature

AND THERE'S ANOTHER CONTINENT | More Intelligent Life: Under a high hot sun, Hans introduced me to the world of the Oostvaardersplassen. We walked through summer jungles of black mustard, its yellow blossom standing two metres high, its rank smell rich in the nose. A lone egret stood in a stand of phragmites reeds, white wings folded, hunched and Miss Havisham-ish. Big horseflies, fat as finger-joints, buzzed lazily around. The landscape resolved into strata: silver water, gold ragwort, grey willow, blue sky.

Invest in America

blog maverick � the mark cuban weblog:
My Republican friends on the other hand,  believe that if you reduce tax rates, large corporations hoarding cash will miraculously bring that cash back to the US and invest and hire . Trust me. I know investment. That won’t do it. They can borrow money so cheaply there is no reason to bring it home and it certainly won’t lead to jobs. If they had something to invest in that would generate a return, they would. They haven’t.

Again, they won’t invest in America. I will.

As a long time investor, I have never turned down an investment because of tax rates. I was just as successful investing when capital gains were much higher. I was just as successful investing when individual tax rates were much higher.  No smart investor turns down a good deal because of tax rates. I always remind people you only pay taxes on profits. And if you make more than 1mm dollars in profits, whether through capital gains or ordinary income,  you should pay more taxes.

21 November, 2012

Here Is New York - The Rumpus.net

Here Is New York - The Rumpus.net: I called my mother that Sunday, when the reports of the hurricane started coming in, splashing hysteria across twitter. I said, “Maybe it’s going to be like the blackout when you were here in 1977.” She laughed at me. “Go outside and stand in the middle of the hurricane when it hits. That’s what New York was like in the 1970s. Not during a disaster. Not during the blackout. Like, on a Tuesday afternoon.”

20 November, 2012

The RSC should not have pulled the Copyright paper | RedState

The RSC should not have pulled the Copyright paper | RedState: The Republican Study Committee backed off on copyright reform after publishing what was an important paper on the topic. The excuse is that the paper needed further review, but what I fear is that the paper actually went further than rent-seeking allies of squishy centrist Republicans are willing to go. I have no evidence to sustain this. It’s just my gut feeling. The paper went out, industry groups had to have seen it, given all the attention it got. Over the weekend they complained, and down the paper went on Monday.

I have a copy of the paper, and if we go point by point, it’s hard to find a real reason to oppose it though. So if there is another reason, I’d love to hear it.

Why publishers should give away ebooks | Rough Type

Why publishers should give away ebooks | Rough Type: The only technology you need to read a print book is the eyes you were born with, and print continues, for the moment, to be the leading format for books. If you start giving away downloads with print copies, you shake things up in a pretty big way.

  1. So why give away the bits? Well, traditional book publishers have three big imperatives today: (1) protect print sales for as long as possible (in order to fund a longer-term transition to a workable new business model); (2) help keep physical bookstores in business (for the reasons set out in this article by Julie Bosman); and (3) do anything possible to curb the power of Amazon.com, the publishers’ arch-frenemy. Bundling bits with atoms helps on all three fronts.

Live From the Inside: A Radio Show Run by Psychiatric Patients - Amelia Rachel Hokule’a Borofsky - The Atlantic

Live From the Inside: A Radio Show Run by Psychiatric Patients - Amelia Rachel Hokule’a Borofsky - The Atlantic: "Didn't you know," he said, "Buenos Aires has the world's first and largest radio station broadcast live from a psychiatric hospital."

"What?" I spilled my cafe con leche, like a cartoon.

He shrugged. "Go visit," he said as he wrote down the address on a waxy-paper napkin.

19 November, 2012

Patience is a network effect | Rough Type

Patience is a network effect | Rough Type: If you want to see how technology shapes the way we perceive the world, just look at the way our experience of time has changed as network speeds have increased. Back in 2006, a famous study of online retailing found that a third of online shoppers (those with broadband connections) would abandon a retailing site if its pages took four seconds or longer to load and that nearly two-thirds of shoppers would bolt if the delay reached six seconds. The finding became the basis for the Four Second Rule: People won’t wait more than about four seconds for a web page to load. In the succeeding six years, the Four Second Rule has been repealed and replaced by the Quarter of a Second Rule.

I disagree with Sully in terms of tone here:

Marco Rubio Is Not A Scientist:
When asked how old he thinks the Earth is, Rubio makes that much clear:
I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.
No, we have answered that. The earth was not created 6,000 years ago in seven days. Period. Anyone who says anything else as a factual matter is nuts. But when your party base is fundamentalism, your grip on reality is always going to be a little slippery.

Why Trevell Coleman Charged Himself With Murder -- over 20 years later

Why Trevell Coleman Charged Himself With Murder -- New York Magazine: The man stepped toward him, caught Coleman’s eye, and grabbed for the gun. Startled, Coleman squeezed off three shots. The man winced, but didn’t make a sound.

Coleman darted back to where he’d left his bike, threw one leg over it, and started pedaling as fast as he could. He felt the man behind him, trying to grab him, and when he turned to look, he saw him stumble. Coleman didn’t look back again and instead sped north on Park Avenue.

He made a loop—right on 115th Street, right on Lexington, right on 112th—and then stopped at the corner of Park and 112th to peek back at the spot where he’d just fired his gun. There was a car parked in the wrong direction, pointing south on the northbound side of the street, headlights facing him. And he thought he saw somebody kneeling over a body on the ground.

Firestorm Erupts Over Virginia's Education Goals | Northwest Public Radio

Firestorm Erupts Over Virginia's Education Goals | Northwest Public Radio: As part of Virginia's waiver to opt out of mandates set out in the No Child Left Behind law, the state has created a controversial new set of education goals that are higher for white and Asian kids than for blacks, Latinos and students with disabilities.

Virginia Democratic state Sen. Donald McEachin first read about the state's new performance goals for schoolchildren in a newspaper editorial.

"And I was shocked to find that the state board of education [was] putting in place permanent disparities between different subgroups — Asians at the top, African-Americans at the bottom," says McEachin.

Here's what the Virginia state board of education actually did. It looked at students' test scores in reading and math and then proposed new passing rates. In math it set an acceptable passing rate at 82 percent for Asian students, 68 percent for whites, 52 percent for Latinos, 45 percent for blacks and 33 percent for kids with disabilities.

The Long, Treacherous Climb Up the Fiscal Cliff

The Long, Treacherous Climb Up the Fiscal Cliff: For these reasons, I think it is almost a certainty that the fiscal cliff will take effect as scheduled. But I am far more sanguine than most economists. The dire forecasts of a sharp economic slowdown assume that the spending cuts and higher taxes are in effect for all of 2013 and after. A temporary fiscal cliff is no big economic problem, especially if businesses and financial markets are assured of a quick reversal, which is almost a certainty. All the hand-wringing is pure political theater.

How soon the fiscal cliff will be resolved and on what terms is entirely up to Republicans.

The Tunnels of Gaza - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine

The Tunnels of Gaza - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine: The tunnels supply the government with all the materials used in public works projects, and Hamas taxes everything that comes through them, shutting down operators who don’t pay up. Tunnel revenue is estimated to provide Hamas with as much as $750 million a year. Hamas has also smuggled in cash from exiled leaders and patrons in Syria, Iran, and Qatar that helps keep it afloat.

Samir told me that Hamas leaders and local officials are in business with tunnel operators, protecting them from prosecution when workers like his brother die needlessly. He’s convinced that corruption and bribery are rampant. His friends agreed. “Damn the municipality!” Suhail blurted out as Samir spoke.

The copyright study that Hollywood doesn't want you to see | Digital Trends

The copyright study that Hollywood doesn't want you to see | Digital Trends: Here is a summary of Khanna’s “three myths” of copyright, and why they are myths:

1. Copyright was not created in order to guarantee that content creators get paid, as copyright reliant industries claim; it was created to “promote the progress of science and useful arts,” according to the U.S. Constitution. Khanna adds that the “purpose” of copyright “is to lead to maximum productivity and innovation.”
2. Copyright is not, as some claim, “free market capitalism at work,” writes Khanna. It is the exact opposite: “a government-subsidized monopoly,” thanks to the massive, government-upheld penalties on those who violate copyright.
3. Copyright does not lead to “innovation and productivity,” writes Khanna. He argues that, instead, copyright policy has created “a system that picks winners and losers, and the losers are new industries that could generate new wealth and added value.”

Why Coke Cost A Nickel For 70 Years : Planet Money : NPR

Why Coke Cost A Nickel For 70 Years : Planet Money : NPR: In 1899, two lawyers paid a visit to the president of Coca-Cola. At the time, Coke was sold at soda fountains. But the lawyers were interested in this new idea: selling drinks in bottles. The lawyers wanted to buy the bottling rights for Coca-Cola.

The president of Coca-Cola didn't think much of the whole bottle thing. So he made a deal with the lawyers: He'd let them sell Coke in bottles, and he'd sell them the syrup to do it. According to the terms of the deal, the lawyers would be able to buy the syrup at a fixed price. Forever.

Andrew Young, an economist at West Virginia University, says the president of Coke may have signed the contract just to get the guys out of his office.

17 November, 2012

Notes from an Egyptian Mujahid in Syria "Salafi tweets prolifically from his iPad, quotes Martin Luther King, Jr., and works part-time for a successful alternative media start-up company."

Notes from an Egyptian Mujahid in Syria | Atlantic Council: If there is such a thing as a stereotypical jihadist, Ahmed is not it. The 22-year-old Egyptian Salafi tweets prolifically from his iPad, quotes Martin Luther King, Jr., and works part-time for a successful alternative media start-up company.

Like a lot of college students, Ahmed loves road trips. But unlike most Egyptians his age, Ahmed’s last journey was to a war zone – Syria – where he spent six weeks fighting with rebel forces against Bashar al-Assad’s entrenched regime. Ahmed is one of a growing number of mujahideen (predominately Sunni guerrilla fighters) traveling from Egypt, Tunisia, and as far as Croatia and Pakistan to volunteer with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

16 November, 2012

Ashlyn Blocker, the Girl Who Feels No Pain - NYTimes.com

Ashlyn Blocker, the Girl Who Feels No Pain - NYTimes.com: I also saw her run without regard for her body through the house as her parents pleaded with her to stop. And she played an intense game of air hockey with her sister, slamming the puck on the table as hard and fast as she could. When she made an egg sandwich on the skillet, she pressed her hands onto the bread as Tara had taught her, to make sure it was cool before she put it into her mouth. She can feel warmth and coolness, but not the more extreme temperatures that would cause anyone else to recoil in pain.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells on Mitt Romney’s Lonely Candidacy -- New York Magazine

Benjamin Wallace-Wells on Mitt Romney’s Lonely Candidacy -- New York Magazine: And now, just a week after Romney seemed poised to become president, there is no segment of the Republican Party that could be called Romneyist. Paul Ryan and his young cohort—far more ideological, natural political animals—have their own emotional connection, and their politics deftly channel the bristling outsider individualism of their supporters. What Romney could offer was not a philosophy but something at once more intimate and more limited: only the capacities of a single individual, himself.

Letters of Note: Wretched woman!

Letters of Note: Wretched woman!: In 1834, 21-year-old Jarm Logue (pictured above some years later) managed to steal his master's horse and escape the life of slavery into which he had been born. Sadly, his mother, brother and sister remained. 26 years later, by which time he had settled down in New York, opened numerous schools for black children, started his own family, become a reverend and noted abolitionist, and authored an autobiography, he received a letter from the wife of his old owner in which she demanded $1000.

That letter, and his furious reply, can be read below.

Friday nights when random people believe you accidentally forced the resignation of the head of the CIA....

Chuck Klosterman on the David Petraeus scandal and living a CIA conspiracy theory - Grantland: I had an interesting weekend. Maybe you did, too. It's always a mixed bag, you know? Some Friday nights are drunken and exhilarating; other Friday nights are empty and reserved. And then, of course, there are those Friday nights when random people believe you accidentally forced the resignation of the head of the CIA.

We've all been there.

China's New Chief, Xi Jinping : The New Yorker

China's New Chief, Xi Jinping : The New Yorker:

“We are not complacent,” Xi said, in an acknowledgement that the Party has become complacent. “And we will never rest on our laurels.” He then ticked off a list so honest that he may come to regret it. “Under the new conditions, our Party faces many severe challenges, and there are also many pressing problems within the Party that need to be resolved, particularly corruption, bribe-taking, being removed from the people, and some Party officials’ reliance on formalities and bureaucracy.”

His speech was no barn burner, but it was refreshingly free of Party hymns.

14 November, 2012

David Simon | Stray penises and politicos

David Simon | Stray penises and politicos: Observe the process by which we remove some of the most essential American figures of the last century for having failed to corral their sexual organs in the marital bedroom: Roosevelt, gone. Eisenhower, gone. Kennedy, gone. Lyndon Johnson, gone. Clinton, gone. Martin Luther King, Jr., gone. Edward Murrow, gone. Follow the gamboling penis to an arid expanse of sociopolitical wasteland, where many of the greatest visionaries and actors can never tred, a desert in which only the Calvin Coolidges and Richard Nixons remain standing. Anyone who looks at the history of mankind and argues that private sexual fidelity exists in direct proportion to political greatness or moral leadership is either a chump or a liar.

And now comes General Petraeus.

Christopher Stevens and the Problem of American Diplomacy - NYTimes.com

Christopher Stevens and the Problem of American Diplomacy - NYTimes.com: “No one has sat back to say, ‘What are our objectives?’ ” said Prudence Bushnell, who was ambassador to Kenya when the Qaeda bombing took place there in 1998, killing more than 200 people and injuring 4,000. “The model has become, we will go to dangerous places and transform them, and we will do it from secure fortresses. And it doesn’t work.”

BBC News - Neda Soltani: 'The media mix-up that ruined my life'

BBC News - Neda Soltani: 'The media mix-up that ruined my life': The last time the agents came to my house they refused to let me take anybody or anything with me and they took me away.

They accused me of betraying the national security of my country. I was charged with being a spy for the CIA and told to sign a confession. I knew very well that such an accusation could end in a death sentence for me in Iran.

It was a surreal, Kafkaesque experience.

The whole thing happened in a matter of 12 days. In less than two weeks I had gone from being a professor of English literature, leading a very normal life, to a person who had to flee her homeland.

Yen Edges toward Brink -

Yen Edges toward Brink -
Every time I come to Japan to attend a conference, I am reminded of what a depression looks like in the 21st century. This time is no different: shops are not busy, restaurant owners wait anxiously outside for customers and are usually disappointed, empty taxi cabs roam the streets. Two decades after its property bubble began to deflate, Japan remains mired in deflation and contraction.

The economic statistics tell the horror story best. Japan's nominal GDP in 2011 was 9 percent lower than in 2007 and 2.5 percent lower than in 1992! In 1992, the national debt was only 20 percent of GDP. It is now 230 percent. Essentially, 200 percent of GDP in fiscal stimulus hasn't turned the economy around.
The depression dynamic begins with declining incomes. People then spend less to cope. Shops and restaurants become emptier. The weak demand depresses business profitability and investment. The former depresses the stock market, and the latter labor income. Both pressure people to spend even less.

13 November, 2012

Obama’s Nightmare - NYTimes.com

Obama’s Nightmare - NYTimes.com: For better and for worse, the United States in Iraq performed the geopolitical equivalent of falling on a grenade — that we triggered ourselves. That is, we pulled the pin; we pulled out Saddam; we set off a huge explosion in the form of a Shiite-Sunni contest for power. Thousands of Iraqis were killed along with more than 4,700 American troops, but the presence of those U.S. troops in and along Iraq’s borders prevented the violence from spreading. Our invasion both triggered the civil war in Iraq and contained it at the same time. After that Sunni-Shiite civil war burned itself out, we brokered a fragile, imperfect power-sharing deal between Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Then we got out. It is not at all clear that their deal will survive our departure.

Judge slams Ohio GOP Sec. State for vote suppression - AMERICAblog

Judge slams Ohio GOP Sec. State for vote suppression - AMERICAblog: U.S. District Judge Marbley finds that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted violated provisional voters’ substantive due process and equal-protection rights, violated a federal Consent Decree, and violated state law by–at the eleventh-hour, the Friday night before the election–shifting from poll workers to voters the statutory responsibility of recording identification information, and then directing elections boards to disenfranchise voters where the information was incomplete or missing.

a responsre to chomsky

What we want from Noam Chomsky | Gaza Gateway | Facts and Analysis about the Crossings: After this introduction, it might be easier to understand why we feel it’s important to respond to the article published by Noam Chomsky this week. Chomsky, a world renowned linguist, an intellectual and an extremely influential political activist, returned from a trip to the Gaza Strip and wrote about his impressions. We have no intention of arguing with Chomsky’s version of historical events, and certainly not with his personal impressions of Gaza. We will not offer our own analysis of the violence perpetrated by any of the parties to the conflict for reasons we have explained in the past. We will only address some of the issues covered in the article related to restrictions on movement, which, in our opinion, merit clarification.

RedState on conspiracies on the GOP side

Is It Time to Roll Up the Welcome Mat Here? | RedState: Barack Obama won the election.

He did not win by stealing the election. Voter irregularities always happen. It is one reason we support voter ID rules. But even in the worse scenario of reports out there, there were not enough tales of voter irregularities to matter nationwide. This is another benefit and built in safeguard of the electoral college.

Barack Obama won. He won by turning out the most people in a well run campaign. In other words, he won fair and square.

We here at RedState are American citizens. We have no plans to secede from the union. If you do, good luck with that, but this is not the place for you.

Mark Cuban: Facebook Is Driving Away Brands - Starting With Mine

Mark Cuban: Facebook Is Driving Away Brands - Starting With Mine: "Facebook has never allowed 100% reach. I think the disconnect is that not everyone realized that they didnt allow 100% reach. I bet if you asked anyone who has subscribers if their posts reached 100% of their subscribers, they would say yes unless they have seen the dollar box for promoted posts show up.

"I think the same applies to brands as well. Remember most brands don't have social media departments. They rely on common sense. If someone likes your brand, it seems like common sense to me that you can expect your posts to reach 100% of those that like your brand. Doesn't it to you?"

Colbert shuts down super PAC - Kevin Robillard - POLITICO.com

Colbert shuts down super PAC - Kevin Robillard - POLITICO.com: Later in the show, Colbert’s lawyer, former FEC chairman Trevor Potter, told Colbert he could get out of the super PAC game and cut himself a check for the remaining $800,000 in his super PAC. But, Potter said, the transfer would show up on an FEC report.

“But the whole point of a super PAC is to have secret money and use it any way you want, Trevor,” Colbert said. “Is there any way — and I know this is crazy, these might be the mad ramblings of a syphilitic brain. But hear me out, is there some way I can give the money to myself and therefore hide it forever from all eyes and use it anyway I wish?”

“Actually, you can,” Potter said. He explained to Colbert that he could secretly steal the remaining $800,000 in his super PAC by creating an anonymous 501(c)4 and using an IRS loophole.

Peggy Noonan's feature in "Pundit Shaming"

Pundit Shaming: “There is no denying the Republicans have the passion now, the enthusiasm. The Democrats do not. Independents are breaking for Romney. And there’s the thing about the yard signs. In Florida a few weeks ago I saw Romney signs, not Obama ones. From Ohio I hear the same. From tony Northwest Washington, D.C., I hear the same.”

FBI's abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

FBI's abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk: So not only did the FBI - again, all without any real evidence of a crime - trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell's emails (and possibly Petraeus'), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.

This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.

But, as unwarranted and invasive as this all is, there is some sweet justice in having the stars of America's national security state destroyed by the very surveillance system which they implemented and over which they preside. As Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation put it this morning: "Who knew the key to stopping the Surveillance State was to just wait until it got so big that it ate itself?"

GOP super PACs: Republican donors spent millions on TV ads and got almost nothing in return. - Slate Magazine

GOP super PACs: Republican donors spent millions on TV ads and got almost nothing in return. - Slate Magazine: Today, after Brown clinched a 5-point win, his aides were still baffled by the stupid commercials. At a news conference in the Democratic Party headquarters, Brown predicted that “voters will, in a funny sort of way, welcome beer ads, car ads, and detergent ads.” He derided Karl Rove—whose American Crossroads GPS spent millions on the presidential race in Ohio—as someone who “doesn’t understand Ohio like he thinks he does” and whose ad strategy was “pretty discredited” by the humiliating losses.

Brown might have a point. In the grand sweep of American politics, never has so much money been spent for so little gain. Up to $40 million of outside money was poured into Ohio to beat Brown. American Crossroads spent nearly $105 million on its campaigns nationally. Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super PAC, spent nearly $143 million. Just those two groups, combined, spent more than the 2000 Rove-led presidential campaign of George W. Bush.

Chinese man sues wife after ‘ugly’ baby born - for false pretenses

Chinese man sues wife after ‘ugly’ baby born | Irish Examiner:

When DNA tests proved the child was his, it then emerged that before Mr Feng had married his wife, she had undergone $100,000 (€77,000) worth of plastic surgery in South Korea where the decisive knife of a surgeon, not the gene pool, crafted her flawless bone structure.

The Northern Chinese man, according to a report from PlanetIvy.com, divorced his wife and sued her, apparently, for being ugly — and won.

Mr Feng has since been awarded $120,000 from his wife, as a sympathetic judge agreed she had tricked him into marrying her under "false pretences". Since his wife used intense surgery to drastically alter her appearance before she met Mr Feng, and since she never told him of it, the courts determined that she had convinced Mr Feng to marry him under "false premises," and thus sided with him. 

Long Island Power Authority Gangnam Style

Watch LIPA Gangnam Style -- Vulture: If There’s One More Gangnam Style Parody You Should See, Make It This One

Much of Long Island is still without power thanks to Hurricane Sandy, which is why three local bros (under radio station WBLI) brought some much-needed yuks to the situation with a comedic plea to LIPA to restore power to their friggin' gas stations. Marone, get on it already!

A Mormon Reporter On The Romney Bus

A Mormon Reporter On The Romney Bus: When the "mommy wars" of the early spring shone a spotlight on Ann Romney's decision to stay home and raise her kids, I saw classic Mormon gender roles at play. And when critics raised questions about Mitt's participation in a church that barred black men from the priesthood until 1978, I innately understood the conflicted, sometimes tortured, position many devout Mormons found themselves in at that time. As a lifelong Latter-day Saint who grew up in the relatively close-knit Massachusetts Mormon community that Romney once led, I felt I had a unique window into the beliefs and experiences that defined an almost undefinable man.

The Real David Petraeus Scandal - Robert Wright - The Atlantic

The Real David Petraeus Scandal - Robert Wright - The Atlantic:
The militarization of the CIA raises various questions. For example, if the CIA is psychologically invested in a particular form of warfare--and derives part of its budget from that kind of warfare--can it be trusted to impartially assess the consequences, both positive and negative, direct and indirect?
And then there's the transparency question. That Post piece noted concerns among some activists that "the CIA now functions as a military force beyond the accountability that the United States has historically demanded of its armed services. The CIA doesn't officially acknowledge the drone program, let alone provide public explanation about who shoots and who dies, and by what rules." Indeed, only a few months ago, in compliance with the War Powers Resolution, the Obama administration reported (vaguely) on targeted killings in Somalia and Yemen that had been conducted by the military, but not on those conducted by the CIA.

Swings in the States, 2008 vs. 2012

Swings in the States, 2008 vs. 2012:
Michael LaCour sends the following graph, which is fun to look at and puzzle over—e.g., the pro-Obama swing in Alaska.

The Big Lie of 'Flight': Miracles Land Planes - Jason Bailey - The Atlantic

The Big Lie of 'Flight': Miracles Land Planes - Jason Bailey - The Atlantic:
That's not surprising—from sports to health to safety, "miracle" is a word tossed around with reckless abandon. But it doesn't just mean good luck or a fortuitous alignment of circumstances. When we talk about miracles, we're talking about the hand of God, divine intervention; we're surrendering our understanding to forces beyond our control, knowledge, or even comprehension. So when we talked about the "Miracle on the Hudson," the subtext was that God himself had reached down to glide Flight 1548 onto the Hudson, ensuring that not a soul was lost in the dive.

By casting the remarkable events of that day into a framework of miracles and "somebody up there looking out for them," we cheapened and minimized the split-second thinking and considerable talents of Captain Sullenberger. "I think, in many ways, as it turned out, my entire life had been a preparation to handle that particular moment," he told Katie Couric on 60 Minutes a month later. Indeed, Sullenberger had 30 years on the job, had been an Air Force fighter pilot, and had trained flight crews in how to respond to emergencies in the air. The passengers and crew of Flight 1548 survived that flight because Sullenberger was their pilot, not because God was his co-pilot.

For your first Christmas

For your first Christmas:

In December of 1915, as his infant grandson began to enjoy his very first Christmas, 70-year-old American journalist and diplomat Walter H. Page decided to mark the occasion by writing him the following letter — a wonderful, heartwarming celebration of their common interests which, as a result of its charm, was later published for wider consumption.

You have discovered, and my experience confirms yours, that a perpetual self-consciousness brings most of the misery of the world. Men see others who are richer than they; or more famous, or more fortunate—so they think; and they become envious. You have not reached the period of such empty vanity, and I have long passed it. Let us, therefore, make our mutual vows not to be disturbed by the good luck or the good graces of others, but to continue, instead, to contemplate the contented cat on the rug and the unenvious sky that hangs over all alike.

Same piece, different quote

David Remnick: Obama and Global Warming : The New Yorker: In 2010, the Pentagon declared, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, that changes in the global climate are increasing the frequency and the intensity of cyclones, droughts, floods, and other radical weather events, and that the effects may destabilize governments; spark mass migrations, famine, and pandemics; and prompt military conflict in particularly vulnerable areas of the world, including the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. The Pentagon, that bastion of woolly radicals, did what the many denialists in the House of Representatives refuse to do: accept the basic science.

(Great Writing) David Remnick: Obama and Global Warming : The New Yorker

David Remnick: Obama and Global Warming : The New Yorker: Brothers and sisters: Before we open our hymnals and sing the many grim verses of “Now Cometh the Hard Part,” the quadrennial post-Election Day dirge, the congregation is kindly requested to indulge in a brief interlude of soul-replenishing joy. Go ahead. Relax those shoulders. Breathe. Linger a while over the night of Tuesday, November 6th.

Special Report: Greece's far-right party goes on the offensive | Reuters

Special Report: Greece's far-right party goes on the offensive | Reuters: Riding a wave of public anger at corrupt politicians, austerity and illegal immigration, Golden Dawn has seen its popularity double in a few months. A survey by VPRC, an independent polling company, put the party's support at 14 percent in October, compared with the seven percent it won in June's election.

Political analysts see no immediate halt to its meteoric ascent. They warn that Golden Dawn, which denies being neo-Nazi despite openly adopting similar ideology and symbols, may lure as many as one in three Greek voters.

Recounting the deadly hazing that destroyed FAMU band's reputation - Tampa Bay Times

Recounting the deadly hazing that destroyed FAMU band's reputation - Tampa Bay Times:
It sounds barbaric. Pointless even. But experts say that's a narrow view. Hazing has benefits. It can facilitate life-long commitments and strengthen loyalty to a group or cause. Those bonds can lead to jobs, protection, a better life.
"It's not a linear story. It's not that hazing is all bad, and hazers are perpetrators, and all those being hazed are victims," said Gregory Parks, a law professor at Wake Forest University who studies hazing. "If you don't acknowledge the value that it brings, then you're not an honest broker."
Parks points to the military, police departments, churches and even law firms that engage in types of hazing. Hazing is not antisocial behavior. And it's not carried out by psychopaths. Those punches and kicks on Bus C came from students who spent hours a day marching and playing music.
"You can have the most sincere, good-hearted person, and when you put them in these contexts, the situation almost demands a certain conduct," said Parks.
"Your identity is as a part of the group," said Shayne Jones, an associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida. "You're no longer an individual."
You're a part of something bigger. Something more powerful.

The Dark Romance and Grim Reality of Life in the French Foreign Legion

The Dark Romance and Grim Reality of Life in the French Foreign Legion | Vanity Fair: Currently it employs 7,286 enlisted men, including non-commissioned officers. Over just the past two decades they have been deployed to Bosnia, Cambodia, Chad, both Congos, Djibouti, French Guiana, Gabon, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Kuwait, Rwanda, and Somalia. Recently they have fought in Afghanistan, as members of the French contingent. There is no other force in the world today that has known so much war for so long. A significant number of the men are fugitives from the law, living under assumed names, with their actual identities closely protected by the Legion. People are driven to join the Legion as much as they are drawn to it. That went for every recruit I met on the farm. Altogether there were 43, ranging in age from 19 to 32. There had been 48, but 5 had deserted. They came from 30 countries. Only a third of them spoke some form of French.

Liberal Conspiracies - Obama Wins for whom? | Michael Hudson

Obama Wins for whom? | Michael Hudson:
At a potential turning point in the direction the American economy was taking, rescue and change were averted. We have seen what will stand as a classic example of cynical Orwellian doublethink. Promising hope and change four years ago, President Obama’s role was to hold back the tide and divert voter pressure for change. He rescued the financial sector and the 1%, and sponsored the Republican privatization of health care instead of the public option, and to take $13 trillion onto the government balance sheet in the form of junk mortgages, largely fraudulent loans held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ($5.2 trillion alone) and other casino capitalist gambles gone bad. Mr. Obama was Wall Street’s white knight.

The trick was to get re-elected as a Democrat rather than as a Republican sponsoring a health care plan crafted by the Koch Brothers’ Cato Institute, and putting Wall Street bank lobbyists in charge of the Treasury and (de)regulatory agencies. As a Blue Dog Democrat, how was President Obama made to look better than the alternative?

The answer is clear by looking at the alternatives being offered. The Republicans have played ball. They call him a socialist – not too far fetched when we look at how Europe’s Socialist, Social Democrat and Labour parties are backing austerity and supporting anti-labor policies, privatization sell-offs and other neo-oligarchic policies. That is what socialism seems to mean these days.

When a C.I.A. Director Had Scores of Affairs - NYTimes.com

When a C.I.A. Director Had Scores of Affairs - NYTimes.com: Dulles’s behavior was well known in Washington and elsewhere, but never publicly reported. By the journalistic codes of the 1950s, it was not newsworthy.

The same code applied to Dulles’s superiors. Presidents Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy entrusted the security of the United States to him. What Dulles did in his private life, even when it intersected with his public role, was considered none of their business.

Allen Dulles, who died in 1969, may have been, as one biographer claimed, “the greatest intelligence officer who ever lived.” Yet by today’s standards, this master spy would not have been allowed even to join the C.I.A., much less lead it.

The Military might of the UK

Thin Pinstriped Line: The United Kingdom is still a Warrior Nation.: For all the moaning in the Telegraph about how dreadful it is that the UK can ‘only’ deploy 8-10,000 troops on sustained operations, one should ask in return, how many other countries can do just this? The UK is one of a handful of countries able to operate this many troops, and sustain, resupply and replace them, at long distances. The only others are the US, possibly France and to a limited degree Germany. Humphrey grows increasingly tired of the same old mantras printed in the press about how ‘we couldn’t do this again’. You know what, we may not be able to send 30 or 40 escorts to the South Atlantic, or permanently station four armoured divisions in Germany, but in todays world, that doesn’t actually matter. Let’s focus on what we can do, and what can do now and have been doing for a decade.

Off the record meetings with liberals aren't so off the record.....

Obama Promises Swift Action On Immigration In Meeting With Progressives: One source, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because it was an off-the-record meeting, said Obama brought up immigration reform, unprompted, in his opening remarks -- a stark difference from tense previous talks in which he's been prodded by reform advocates to address the topic.

"I've been in a number of meetings with him on this topic, it's been pretty rough, but this one, the passion, intensity, seriousness -- I was pretty struck," the source said. "If there's one thing he was crystal clear he was going to get done in 2013 ... it was immigration reform. He was going to lean into it, he was sure Republicans were going to come to the table. It was sort of what he's said before, but with huge conviction."

Obama campaign's voter data crunching paid off - Page 2 - latimes.com

Obama campaign's voter data crunching paid off - Page 2 - latimes.com: A data director applied the model to the voter databases and generated lists of voters to be contacted. Those were put in the hands of canvassers who were also armed with a script tailored to an individual voter's pet issues.

The Obama campaign even found voters to target in ruby-red precincts, a break from earlier campaigns when solidly partisan precincts were simply written off.

12 November, 2012

Pictures of a S.F. bus yard

The yard.: My friend showed me around the MUNI Kirkland bus yard. MUNI is the municipal public transit system serving the city and county of San Francisco. It will turn exactly 100 later this year.

11 November, 2012

The way great companies are created

Why the Conard Interview Matters— or, Why the Democrats Need Karl Rove
For someone who really wants to do it right; who really cares about the result; who really wants to understand the mechanics and the physics of what's going on, it's so frustrating to hear one side of the argument totally dedicated to unsupported and unsubstantiated assertions. It's a kind of economic creationism:  we can't possible have an economy if we don't totally focus on growth and innovation, to the utter ignorance of sustainability, stability and the survivability of those whose lives don't happen to involve innovation.

The most frustrating thing that Stewart let pass is that every single one of the examples of innovation Conard raised: Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook; each and every one of them were started by geeky high school and college students in the garage doing their nerd thing. Nothing Conard mentioned would have affected their desire or ability to have succeeded with their innovation.  His examples of people leaving Google to innovate were examples of people wanting to INVEST in the innovations of others.  Investment capital is different from innovation, and he refused to acknowledge that difference.  The whole argument isn't even built on sand. It's built on nothing...

On the value of the Internet to global society

Why has the Internet changed so little? | openDemocracy: In short, the idea that cyberspace is a free, open space where people from different backgrounds and nations can commune with each other, and build a more deliberative, tolerant and empowered world overlooks a number of things. The world is unequal and mutually uncomprehending (in a literal sense); it is torn asunder by conflicting values and interests; it is subdivided by deeply embedded national and local cultures (and other nodes of identity such as religion and ethnicity); and some countries are ruled by authoritarian regimes. These different aspects of the real world penetrate cyberspace producing a ruined tower of Babel with multiple languages, hate websites, nationalist discourses, censored speech and over-representation of the advantaged.

The genius of Groundhog Day (1993)

Mind Blowing Movies: Groundhog Day (1993), by Ruben Bolling - Boing Boing: She does go to his hotel room, and they have a heart-to-heart while sweetly flipping cards. At this point in the movie, I felt that my contract with the film was more than fulfilled. I'd seen Bill Murray (stop right there: that's usually enough right there) in many funny scenes that fit in perfectly with a comedic premise that worked on multiple levels. Now it was time for the Hollywood ending and the moral that Love Conquers All, and I'd go home satisfied. I reached for my coat.

Phil reads poetry to Rita, then falls asleep, with a genuinely connected Rita right by his side... but then wakes up alone in bed the next (or: same) morning on February 2 again, Sonny and Cher still chirping out of his clock radio.

This couldn't have been a more shocking twist to me than if Phil woke up in a pod next to a naked, bald, slimy Keanu Reeves.

Hillary Clinton on rights, law, and counter-terrorism

Opening Remarks at the Global Counterterrorism Forum: And I am here today also to underscore that the United States will work with all of you to combat terrorists within the framework of the rule of law. Now some believe that when it comes to counterterrorism, the end always justifies the means; that torture, abuse, the suspension of civil liberties – no measure is too extreme in the name of keeping our citizens safe.

But unfortunately, this view is short-sighted and wrong. When nations violate human rights and undermine the rule of law, even in the pursuit of terrorists, it feeds radicalization, gives propaganda tools to the extremists, and ultimately undermines our efforts. The international community cannot turn our eyes away from the effects of these tactics because they are part of the problem.

A Fransiscan Group defends the LCWR (aka: American Nuns)

America Magazine Franciscan Leadership Declares 'Solidarity' with LCWR: Moreover, we are concerned that the tone and direction set forth in the Doctrinal Assessment of LCWR are excessive, given the evidence raised. The efforts of LCWR to facilitate honest and faithful dialogue on critical issues of our times must not result in a level of ecclesial oversight that could, in effect, quash all further discernment.

A conversation with a philosopher

Boston Review — Martha C. Nussbaum and David V. Johnson: The New Religious Intolerance:

DJ: In comparing fear and empathy, you say that empathy “has its own narcissism.” Do all emotions have their own forms of narcissism, and if so, why call fear "a narcissistic emotion"?
MN: What I meant by my remarks about empathy is that empathy typically functions within a small circle, and is activated by vivid narratives, as Daniel Batson’s wonderful research has shown. So it is uneven and partial. But it is not primarily self-focused, as fear is. As John Stuart Mill said, fear tells us what we need to protect against for ourselves, and empathy helps us extend that protection to others.

Poor corporate management looks a lot like successful management, if your model is Apple....until it doesn't work.

Netflix's lost year: The inside story of the price-hike train wreck | Internet & Media - CNET News: One year ago tomorrow, CEO Reed Hastings took the first of a series of missteps that angered customers and nearly derailed his company. Current and former employees disclose what went wrong.

A major ICE raid, a town upheaved, the context of CIR....

Postville, Iowa, Is Up for Grabs - NYTimes.com: Around 10 on a clear May morning in 2008, two black helicopters circled over Postville, Iowa, a town of two square miles and fewer than 3,000 residents. Then a line of S.U.V.’s drove past Postville’s main street and its worn brick storefronts. More than 10 white buses with darkened windows and the words “Homeland Security” on their sides were on their way to the other side of town. Postville’s four-man police force had no forewarning of what was about to happen. Neither did the mayor.

New York Subways Find Magic in Speedy Hurricane Recovery - NYTimes.com

New York Subways Find Magic in Speedy Hurricane Recovery - NYTimes.com:
To the subway’s chief maintenance officer, the storm’s encroaching waters were even more obvious. He was forced to flee with his flashlight from the South Ferry station in Lower Manhattan as the waters charged over the platform and up the terminal stairs, chasing him like an attack dog. 

It has been less than two weeks since the most devastating storm in the New York City subway system’s 108-year history. Seven tunnels beneath the East River flooded. Entire platforms were submerged. Underground equipment, some of it decades old, was destroyed.

The damage was the worst that the system had ever seen. And yet, the subways have come back — quicker than almost anyone could have imagined.

Media fight on the right over GOP - Dylan Byers - POLITICO.com

Media fight on the right over GOP - Dylan Byers - POLITICO.com: After a disastrous performance in the 2012 elections, the Republican party has come face-to-face with the new demographic reality: “The white establishment is now the minority,” as Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said on election night. Republican support among old, white men can no longer offset their lack of support among women, the young, African-Americans, Asians and the fast-growing Hispanic populations — all key groups in Obama’s victory, some observers say.

But which path to take for the GOP toward broader appeal — doubling down on a core economic and family values conservative message that transcends identity politics or polishing the party’s image by recruiting more women and minority candidates and adopting more moderate positions, particularly on immigration reform — has exposed a sharp rift in the conservative media.

How to Stop Reactionaries From Derailing Reform in China - Paul Monk - The Atlantic

How to Stop Reactionaries From Derailing Reform in China - Paul Monk - The Atlantic: In 1898, leading proponents of political reform in China were killed or exiled. One, Liang Qichao, came to -- of all places -- my own country, Australia. He witnessed the founding of the Australian Commonwealth and wrote to his Chinese readers that China should become a constitutional monarchy with a federal government like Australia's new government. Who would have thought that a highly educated Chinese intellectual would see in far-away Australia a political model for the decadent Middle Kingdom? Yet he did.

In 1911-12, he helped overthrow the Qing and a found a Chinese republic. He led one of several parties in democratic elections in China, in December 1912. Some 40 million male, propertied citizens elected a 596-member National Assembly. It convened in Beijing to deliberate over and create a new republican constitution. This was to be the beginning of a modern, democratic China, inspired by the West, not oppressed or plundered by it. That was exactly 100 years ago next month.

Election maps!

Election maps: We can correct for this by making use of a cartogram, a map in which the sizes of states are rescaled according to their population. That is, states are drawn with size proportional not to their acreage but to the number of their inhabitants, states with more people appearing larger than states with fewer, regardless of their actual area on the ground. On such a map, for example, the state of Rhode Island, with its 1.1 million inhabitants, would appear about twice the size of Wyoming, which has half a million, even though Wyoming has 60 times the acreage of Rhode Island.

Here are the 2012 presidential election results on a population cartogram of this type:

Ace of Spades HQ

Ace of Spades HQ: So, the end result was that 30,000 of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help. Like driving people to the polls, phone-banking, walking door-to-door, etc. We lost by fairly small margins in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Colorado. If this had worked could it have closed the gap? I sure hope not for my sanity's sake.

The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of GOTV efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters). Wrap your head around that.

09 November, 2012

China: Worse Than You Ever Imagined by Ian Johnson | The New York Review of Books

China: Worse Than You Ever Imagined by Ian Johnson | The New York Review of Books:
The famine grew out of Mao’s desire to speed up China’s development and force it into a utopian Communist vision that few in the Communist Party’s leadership had thought possible or desirable. When the Communists took power they had forced through a brutal land reform that killed millions of landlords and imagined enemies, but they had also redistributed property to peasants—an immensely popular measure that won Mao goodwill among many people. Then, however, Mao began to press for speedier development known as “rash advance.” Yang shows how the two other most influential leaders in the Party, Vice Chairman Liu Shaoqi and Premier Zhou Enlai, opposed “rash advance.” As early as 1951 Liu opposed collectivized agriculture as “erroneous, dangerous, fantastical.”

In 1957, however, Mao launched the Anti-Rightist Campaign, a wave of terror that wiped out or cowed much of the intelligentsia, terrifying even members of his inner circle. That allowed him to pursue collectivization, which reversed land reform by taking land from the peasants. Instead of peasants owning the land, the state did, giving it complete control over agricultural production. Enthusiasm fell, and with it production.


COLBERT: ...But I have an opportunity as this character to do things. I have an opportunity to do things that lead to discovery.
PLAYBOY: For you or the audience?
COLBERT: For me and the audience. If you just talk about it, everyone sits on their hands and the reality of it just watches as you talk about it. But by putting yourself in it, reality has to respond to your actions. I don’t pretend that the camera doesn’t change things. But it’s a version of reality that allows us to show what normally doesn’t get seen.
PLAYBOY: How much money did you ultimately raise for your super PAC?
COLBERT: About $1.4 million. We’ve got somewhere between $850,000 and $900,000 left. We’ve spent about half a million dollars of it so far. Because running for president—or not running for president, whatever it was we did—is expensive. But I can spend it on anything I want. I could use my super PAC money to buy a private jet, and I have to justify it to no one. I wouldn’t have known that unless I had my own super PAC. That’s the great thing about throwing yourself into the story. You find out things you wouldn’t have known otherwise.


Giles Milton: GOOD SHIP ZONG: THE MOST MACABRE INSURANCE CLAIM IN HISTORY: After much persuasion, Kelsell changed his mind and agreed with the captain and other officers. The weakest slaves were to be pitched overboard that very day.
Captain Collingwood went below decks to select his ‘parcel’ of victims: on that first day, he decided to concentrate on the women and children, probably because he thought they would put up less of a struggle. A total of 54 were hurled out of the cabin windows and flailed in the sea before eventually drowning.

Louis Menand: Looking Back at the Cold War : The New Yorker

Louis Menand: Looking Back at the Cold War : The New Yorker: Although eastern Poland was one of the most impoverished areas in Central Europe, it was better off than the Soviet Union. As soon as the Soviets gained control of it, in 1939, they looted whatever they could get their hands on. Representatives of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (also known as the N.K.V.D., predecessor of the K.G.B.) carried out an extermination program targeting the Polish �lite.

In the most notorious case, almost fifteen thousand Polish officers, most of them professionals in the reserve corps, were arrested and deported. More than four thousand were shot and buried in a forest outside Katyn, in western Russia. The rest went to special camps. Fewer than five hundred were ever heard of again. In all, 1.2 million Poles were deported to the U.S.S.R. by the Soviets from their half of Poland, an area with a population of thirteen million. Half of them died in captivity.

The horror of political ads

Ad War Wrap:

Specifically, the video is a "compressed recording of [last] Thursday's noon news broadcast on the Columbus, Ohio, CBS affiliate," via Jed Lewison:
If you didn't have the patience to watch the entire clip, I don't blame you. Here's what you missed:
* Just over 10 minutes worth of political ads packed into a half-hour newscast

* 22 consecutive political ads (including 1 voter ID PSA)
5 ads attacking Obama (all from outside groups)

* 2 ads supporting Romney (one from Romney campaign, one from Crossroads)

* 2 ads attacking Romney (one from OFA, one from Priorities)

* 4 ads attacking Sherrod Brown (all outside groups)

* 1 ad supporting Sherrod Brown (from his campaign)

* The rest of the ads were for local ballot issues or candidates

Come On, Feel the Buzz | Alex Pareene | The Baffler

Come On, Feel the Buzz | Alex Pareene | The Baffler:
The future of Internet-enabled political journalism now seems to be little more than a Hobson’s choice between wide-eyed elation at Newt Gingrich’s excellent submarine ride or a sober appraisal of the essential honesty of Mitt Romney’s campaign manager. And so there is one undeniable truth to be gleaned from the many meaningless legacies that Politico shall undoubtedly bequeath to the generation of political scribes it is now schooling: the major forces of Washington’s political establishment have little to fear from the mighty democratic specter of an Internet-empowered citizenry. Their many ornate depravities are in less danger than ever of getting revealed to the public at large—unless, that is, they let slip a remark that can be tortured into a seventh-grade- level double entendre.

Middle East Lost - By Shadi Hamid | Foreign Policy

Middle East Lost - By Shadi Hamid | Foreign Policy: Instead of offering clear, consistent support for the Arab uprisings, the Obama administration's response has been characterized by what I call "aggressive hedging." As a result, the United States has somehow managed to alienate both sides of the Arab cold war: Dictators think we're naively pro-revolution, and Arab protesters and rebels worry we're still siding with the dictators.

To be sure, this particular problem predates the past four years. Candidate Obama, being the anti-Bush option, had never been a proponent of a more aggressive pro-democracy posture in the region. But, even as the uprisings unfolded, capturing the imagination of millions of Americans, the Obama administration remained unwilling to come to terms with new realities. In the third presidential debate in Boca Raton, Obama said that the United States stood with the Tunisian people "earlier than just about any other country." This is not quite true: As late as January 12, two days before Tunisian strongman Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali fell, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted -- twice -- that the United States was "not taking sides."

08 November, 2012

A Short Lesson in Perspective

A Short Lesson in Perspective:
1. The creative industry operates largely by holding ‘creative’ people ransom to their own self-image, precarious sense of self-worth, and fragile – if occasionally out of control ego. We tend to set ourselves impossibly high standards, and are invariably our own toughest critics. Satisfying our own lofty demands is usually a lot harder than appeasing any client, who in my experience tend to have disappointingly low expectations. Most artists and designers I know would rather work all night than turn in a sub-standard job. It is a universal truth that all artists think they a frauds and charlatans, and live in constant fear of being exposed. We believe by working harder than anyone else we can evaded detection. The bean-counters rumbled this centuries ago and have been profitably exploiting this weakness ever since. You don’t have to drive creative folk like most workers. They drive themselves. Just wind ‘em up and let ‘em go.

07 November, 2012

Obama Campaign Clawed Back After a Dismal Debate - NYTimes.com

Obama Campaign Clawed Back After a Dismal Debate - NYTimes.com:
Even as the networks declared Mr. Obama the winner, Mr. Romney, who had earlier told reporters he had written only a victory speech, paused before the walk downstairs from his hotel room in Boston. It was 11:30 p.m., and Romney field teams in Ohio, Virginia and Florida called in, saying the race was too close for the candidate to give up. At least four planes were ready to go, and aides had bags packed for recount battles in narrowly divided states. Bob White, a close Romney friend and adviser, was prepared to tell the waiting crowd that Mr. Romney would not yet concede. 

But then, Mr. Romney quietly decided it was over. “It’s not going to happen,” he said

How Conservative Media Lost to the MSM and Failed the Rank and File - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic

How Conservative Media Lost to the MSM and Failed the Rank and File - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic:
Conservatives were at a disadvantage because Romney supporters like Jennifer Rubin and Hugh Hewitt saw it as their duty to spin constantly for their favored candidate rather than being frank about his strengths and weaknesses. What conservative Washington Post readers got, when they traded in Dave Weigel for Rubin, was a lot more hackery and a lot less informed about the presidential election.  

Conservatives were at an information disadvantage because so many right-leaning outlets wasted time on stories the rest of America dismissed as nonsense. WorldNetDaily brought you birtherism. Forbes brought you Kenyan anti-colonialism. National Review obsessed about an imaginary rejection of American exceptionalism, misrepresenting an Obama quote in the process, and Andy McCarthy was interviewed widely about his theory that Obama, aka the Drone Warrior in Chief, allied himself with our Islamist enemies in a "Grand Jihad" against America. Seriously?  

From the raw HTML....

Is Nate Silver a Witch?:
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To Beat the President | RedState

To Beat the President | RedState: I have spent five years and a few months loudly saying Mitt Romney could not win the Presidency and a month and a half actually thinking he could through no act of his own, but rather the act of the President failing miserably in the first debate.

I should have stuck to my guns and I’m sorry I did not. But the truth is, had I, most of you would have left RedState long ago in disgust and even now I’d be being burned in effigy by major voices within the GOP for talking down the nominee. In the past few months there has been little gained, with so much at stake, pointing out the failures of the Romney campaign. Pointing out the polls were not rigged has still left hard feelings with a number of you. But it turns out I was wrong about them being skewed too far to the Democrats.

How Karl Rove Fought With Fox Over the Ohio Call -- Daily Intel

How Karl Rove Fought With Fox Over the Ohio Call -- Daily Intel:
Shortly after 11 p.m., Bret Baier went on-camera to read a script written by Fox’s Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, based on an analysis by the network's decision desk, announcing Ohio for Obama. “That’s the presidency, essentially," Baier said.

Instantly, Fox phones lit up with angry phone calls and e-mails from the Romney campaign, who believed that the call was premature, since tallies in several Republican-leaning Southern counties hadn't been been fully tabulated. "The Romney people were totally screaming that we’re totally wrong," one Fox source said. "To various people, they were saying, 'your decision team is wrong.'" According to a Fox insider, Rove had been in contact with the Romney people all night. After the Ohio call, Rove — whose super-PAC had spent as much as $300 million on the election, to little avail — took their complaints public, conducting an on-air primer on Ohio's electoral math in disputing the call.

The Total Predictability of Barack Obama's Wisconsin Win

The Total Predictability of Barack Obama's Wisconsin Win:
June 5, 2012. Scott Walker triumphs in a forced recall election. But an exit poll of the voters who saved him reveals that they support Barack Obama. If they were voting in the presidential race, they'd back Obama by 7 points, 51-44.
November 6, 2012. For understandable reasons, Republicans convince themselves that they can win Wisconsin. They ignore the Marquette poll, which nailed the recall, and says they'll lose. They go to the polls.
Obama wins by 7 points, 53-46.

Is Nate Silver a Witch?

Is Nate Silver a Witch?: PROBABLY

As of press time, Nate Silver is probably a witch.

His unusually accurate predictions are, thus far, explained by his use of validated statistical methods. His disregard of momentum, gut feelings, and the interpretations of people paid to promote certain viewpoints is not the result of supernatural assistance.

While we on the Is Nate Silver a Witch editorial board are strict rationalists, Mr Silver’s performance has been uncanny enough to raise small but significant doubts as to whether his methodology is entirely of this world. We are following the situation closely.

Four More Years: Reader Reax

Four More Years: Reader Reax:
I wrote you about Romney's 2007 candid video. I expressed how it was the first time I'd felt sympathy for him. Last night, I saw that same Romney. My heart breaks for him. He's a good man. But his party is rotten at the core and he didn't have the courage to tell it to them straight.
Bush's tragedy was hubris. Romney's tragedy is cowardice.