31 December, 2012

Against pragmatism

Against pragmatism: The error here is not just a philosophical one. When politicians talk about what works, they make tacit assumptions about various moral questions concerning the proper aims of public policy. But by presenting themselves as “non-ideological pragmatists,” they get away with leaving these assumptions unarticulated and undefended. And so we get a particular value-laden agenda—often, though not always, that of the ruling class—smuggled in, under the banner of anodyne pronouncements about the need to sometimes make compromises or to be sensitive to empirical evidence.

At its worst, this can amount to making a set of value-assumptions seem like incontestable and ineradicable features of the world; to what the sociologist Max Weber called the “routinisation” of value. Those who oppose a particular agenda are characterised as “living in the past’ or as failing to recognise the facts of the modern world. Likewise, talk of “possibility” is frequently used to delimit the range of political options, without it being made clear in what sense and why a particular course of action is supposedly “impossible.”

In Unfamiliar Waters : Two Californians, Two Indonesians Received a Heroes' Welcome After 21 Days Adrift. Then the Cheering Stopped. - Los Angeles Times

In Unfamiliar Waters : Two Californians, Two Indonesians Received a Heroes' Welcome After 21 Days Adrift. Then the Cheering Stopped. - Los Angeles Times: But soon, Reuters was quoting Indonesian newspaper stories that cast a different light on what had been played as a heartwarming story of Yankee ingenuity and grit. Although Schwartz and Berkowitz had bounced back after a decent meal and a good night's sleep, the two Indonesian boatmen had been hospitalized for dehydration and shock. The reason, they said, was that the women had hoarded their food. Rather than die of starvation, one of the men confessed, "we snatched food from their bag."

Schwartz and Berkowitz were astonished at the charges. "We behaved with a good deal of dignity," Berkowitz complained. "They were jerks." Yet neither side disagreed on the facts of the story. The problem was the assumptions behind the facts. In everything from planning to praying, their deepest values were worlds apart.

30 December, 2012

Best Conspiracy Ever

Paul Greenberg: But I'm proud to report that the Order is in business again with, at last count, 11 certified members who've submitted proof that they've actually snuck the magic phrase into a reputable publication, 14 candidates who have yet to submit their documentation, and one honorary member who seems to spin out this kind of prose naturally.

All decisions on admission are final and I make them, having taken the precaution of appointing myself Supreme Poobah, Benevolent Dictator, or Exalted Whatever of the Order. Which simplifies administration considerably.

We have yet to come up with a secret handshake or formal robes, but I'm working on it. Maybe I'll start with a T-shirt. A secret society can't have too much advertising. .

29 December, 2012

How Much Tech Can One City Take? | Modern Luxury

How Much Tech Can One City Take? | Modern Luxury: In spite of the obvious urban warts, the word is out: San Francisco is the world’s leading tech paradise. At a rate eclipsing the dot-com boom of the 1990s, tech companies are setting up shop in the city by the hundreds, drawn by its beauty and livability, as well as the deep pool of engineering talent here and, yes, city hall’s increasingly tech-oriented policies.

Young entrepreneurs from as far away as Denmark, Singapore, and France can be seen with real estate agents in tow, roaming through converted South of Market lofts still vacant from when the previous bubble burst more than a decade ago. The city is currently home to more than 1,700 tech firms, which employ 44,000 workers, up a whopping 30 percent from just two years ago. And San Francisco has been the nation’s top magnet for venture capital funding for three years in a row. Consequently, the distinction between Silicon Valley and San Francisco has all but disappeared. It is us, and we are it.

How a Simple Smartphone Can Turn Your Car, Home, or Medical Device into a Deadly Weapon | Vanity Fair

How a Simple Smartphone Can Turn Your Car, Home, or Medical Device into a Deadly Weapon | Vanity Fair: Smartphones can relay patients’ data to hospital computers in a continuous stream. Doctors can alter treatment regimens remotely, instead of making patients come in for a visit. If something goes wrong, medical professionals can be alerted immediately and the devices can be rapidly adjusted over the air. Unfortunately, though, the disadvantages are equally obvious to people like Barnaby Jack: doctors will not be the only people dialing in. A smartphone links patients’ bodies and doctors’ computers, which in turn are connected to the Internet, which in turn is connected to any smartphone anywhere. The new devices could put the management of an individual’s internal organs, in the hands of every hacker, online scammer, and digital vandal on Earth.

On sexual assault in India (Graphic)

The Main Point: "Getting Home"... a Missive from India by Anuradha Roy:

It’s impossible to feel remotely celebratory on Christmas day knowing that a young woman who came to Delhi merely to train as a physiotherapist is now on a ventilator in a hospital not far from my house. Most of her intestines have been removed because six men, not content with shoving their penises into her, used an iron rod. They carried on torturing her with the rod even after she fell unconscious from the agony. Then they threw her and her friend, whom they had also beaten unconscious, out of the road and drove away. The woman and her friend were naked and bleeding. That was how they remained at that roadside for the next hour until the police reached and covered them with bed sheets borrowed from a hotel nearby.

Transport restrictions make it hard to reach central Delhi where the main protests are. But in my neighbourhood today, there was a procession of men and women. Not a big one that would stop the traffic, just about thirty or so people holding lit candles and placards, shouting slogans seeking justice. If there is no metro and the roads are blocked by riot police there is no choice but to decentralize the protests. The tragedy is that the Indian state has perfected a system of delaying justice so infinitely that while most of the world thinks of India as the world’s largest democracy, it is actually among the world’s largest and most corrupt tyrannies.

28 December, 2012

Lu Lobello’s Atonement : The New Yorker

Lu Lobello’s Atonement : The New Yorker: During the war, I sometimes asked American soldiers about dead civilians, and the reaction was almost always defensive, even angry. But these marines spoke in sombre tones about what had happened. The firefight had been intense—they’d shot five thousand rounds, and seen eleven of their comrades wounded. When the Kachadoorians came barrelling through the intersection, the marines thought they were under attack. They called to the Kachadoorians to stop, and then they opened fire. When they realized what they had done, they ran into the middle of the intersection—with the firefight still going on—to rescue the survivors. “I still have nightmares about that day,’’ their commander, Staff Sergeant John Liles, said.

The Red Aristocracy

Heirs of Mao’s Comrades Rise as New Capitalist Nobility - Bloomberg:
The Immortals also sowed the seeds of one of the biggest challenges to the Party’s authority. They entrusted some of the key assets of the state to their children, many of whom became wealthy. It was the beginning of a new elite class, now known as princelings. This is fueling public anger over unequal accumulation of wealth, unfair access to opportunity and exploitation of privilege -- all at odds with the original aims of the communist revolution.

To reveal the scale and origins of this red aristocracy, Bloomberg News traced the fortunes of 103 people, the Immortals’ direct descendants and their spouses. The result is a detailed look at one part of China’s elite and how its members reaped benefits from the country’s boom.

Comrades in the subway

A Rare Choreography for Riders Caught Between an F and an M - NYTimes.com:
There are no station announcements to signal to riders which train will arrive first. There are no countdown clocks. And so the travelers help one another, communicating the hints they have trained their senses to capture: the pitch of a screech when a train comes to a halt — unique depending on the line, some insist; the rustling of newspapers, windswept by an oncoming train; the wave of a hand, the nod of a head, a pull on the top of a baseball cap, like a third-base coach advising his player to steal.
“It’s kind of funny,” said Sam Gable, 26, from the Lower East Side. “You don’t really see people help other people in Manhattan very often.” 

As with any worthy production, the participants have come to master their roles. On a recent weekday morning, an orderly line formed, stretching from the upstairs M platform, down a flight of stairs to the F, then back up a separate staircase. (Riders say this formation allows word to travel fastest when the proper train arrives.)

27 December, 2012

That Other Issue | RedState

That Other Issue | RedState:
The issue we are not talking about is mental health. The number of people who descend into drugs, crime, and violent episodes because of mental health issues is significant. Each of the monsters who perpetrated mass shootings in the past several years had mental health issues.

To raise it is to be accused of changing the subject. But it should be the subject. There are 300 million guns in this country. The only people engaged in mass shootings have had serious mental health issues. If we must consider what has largely been a nonsensical conversation on guns, can we at least multitask and talk about mental health as well.

There are plenty of Americans who could be productive members of society if we intervened before they got into the justice system. There are many parents who fear for their lives because of a mentally unstable child whose only present hope is that their child commits a crime that gets them into the system. The parents just pray it is not a crime against them.

The urge to “just do something” may seem easier when applied to guns, but focusing on mental health is a far better focus.

My last criminal client was a statistic. Her entered the system because of crime. Only then were her mental issues addressed. No person should be just a statistic. And some people do need help from society. We should not let the gun debate, yet again, get this issue ignored.

The Mountains of Kong

Lost in Our Maps: A History of Cartographic Catastrophes - WSJ.com: But my favorite cartographic error is the Mountains of Kong, a range that supposedly stretched like a belt from the west coast of Africa through half the continent. It featured on world maps and atlases for almost the entire 19th century. The mountains were first sketched in 1798 by the highly regarded English cartographer James Rennell, a man already famous for mapping large parts of India.

The problem was, he had relied on erroneous reports from harried explorers and his own imagined distant sightings. The Mountains of Kong didn't actually exist, but like an unreliable Wikipedia entry that appears in a million college essays, the range was reproduced on maps by cartographers who should have known better. It was almost a century before an enterprising Frenchman actually traveled to the site in 1889 and found that there were hardly even any hills there. As late as 1890, the Mountains of Kong still featured in a Rand McNally map of Africa.

Well-chosen words - FT.com

Well-chosen words - FT.com: Why is English spelling such a tangle? It all started when Latin-speaking missionaries arrived in Britain in the 6th century without enough letters in their alphabet. They had 23. (They didn’t have “j”, “u” or “w”.) Yet the Germanic Anglo-Saxon languages had at least 37 phonemes, or distinctive sounds. The Romans didn’t have a letter, for example, for the Anglo-Saxon sound we spell “th”. The problem continues. Most English-speakers today have, depending on their accents, 40 phonemes, which we have to render using 26 letters. So, we use stratagems such as doubling vowels to elongate them, as in “feet” and “fool”.

With the Norman invasion in 1066, spelling became more complicated still; French and Latin words rushed into the language. As the centuries went by, scribes found ways of reflecting the sounds people used with the letters that they had. They lengthened vowels by adding a final “e”, so that we could tell “hope” from “hop”.

This sacred text explains why the US can't kick the gun habit | Jonathan Freedland | Comment is free | The Guardian

This sacred text explains why the US can't kick the gun habit | Jonathan Freedland | Comment is free | The Guardian:
When outsiders hear that the right to bear arms is enshrined in the second amendment of the US constitution, I suspect many imagine this is like saying it's "protected by law", something that can easily be changed, as it would be in their own countries. But this is to underestimate what the constitution means to Americans.

It is indeed a sacred text. Despite, or perhaps because, the US is a country animated by faith, the "founding fathers" are treated as deities, their every word analysed as if it contained gospel truth. Any new idea or policy proposal, no matter how worthy on its own merits, must be proven compatible with what those long-dead politicians of the late 18th century set down – otherwise it's unconstitutional and can be thrown out by the supreme court, the high priesthood selected to interpret what the great prophets of Philadelphia intended.

I don't mock America's awe for its constitution. On the contrary, I regard that text as the most powerful statement of democratic principle – starting with its declaration that "we the people" are sovereign – and human rights ever written. Its system of checks and balances is mathematically and beautifully precise in its determination to prevent unfettered, over-centralised power. It represents the unfinished business of England's own incomplete revolution of 1688. It's no exaggeration to say that this single document makes the US possible, cohering an immigrant nation with no common bonds of blood or soil around a radical idea.

23 December, 2012

CIA statement on Zero Dark Thirty

Rare Statement: The CIA Says Bigelow Film “Not Realistic Portrayal” | Showbiz411: I would not normally comment on a Hollywood film, but I think it important to put Zero Dark Thirty, which deals with one of the most significant achievements in our history, into some context. The film, which premiered this week, addresses the successful hunt for Usama Bin Ladin that was the focus of incredibly dedicated men and women across our Agency, Intelligence Community, and military partners for many years. But in doing so, the film takes significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate

22 December, 2012


THE STORY OF AN ATHLETE'S SINGULAR GESTURE CONTINUES TO - 06.29.09 - SI Vault: The economy was faltering then, in the spring of 2008. Gasoline was $3.56 a gallon. We were five years and 4,000 dead soldiers into Iraq. The story jolted us back to sanity, people said, and restored our faith, and reminded us that goodness and decency and honor still exist.

All it took was an improbable swing by a .153 hitter.

A broken strand of connective tissue.

A situation with no clear precedent.

And an astonishing proposal from a young woman named Mallory.

The Scariest Thing About the Newspaper Business Isn't Print's Decline, It's Digital's Growth - Derek Thompson - The Atlantic

The Scariest Thing About the Newspaper Business Isn't Print's Decline, It's Digital's Growth - Derek Thompson - The Atlantic: Where did the digital money go? It went to new online marketplaces, and apps, and sites. And Google. Yeah, basically the money went to Google. In 2006, Google made $60 billion less than U.S. newspapers and magazines. Now it makes more ad money than all of U.S. print media combined. Wow.

Here | RedState

Here | RedState: Longfellow, his wife dead and thinking his son dying, concluded his poem that Christmas Day 149 years ago thusly:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

As you head out today for the Christmas holiday, we here at RedState would like to wish you a blessed and merry Christmas. May we all have peace on earth and goodwill to men.

The Crisis of American Conservatism: Inherent Contradictions and the End of the Road | Foreign Policy Research Institute

The Crisis of American Conservatism: Inherent Contradictions and the End of the Road | Foreign Policy Research Institute: In recent decades, political analysts have found it useful to interpret American political movements by distinguishing between different policy dimensions or arenas. Thus, conservatives have been divided into (1) those who are most concerned about economic or fiscal issues, i.e., pro-business or “free-enterprise” conservatives; (2) those most concerned with religious or social issues, i.e., pro-church or “traditional-values” conservatives; and (3) those most concerned with national-security or defense issues, i.e., pro-military or “patriotic” conservatives.

These three arenas are not of equal weight and strength in the conservative movement, however. It is the business elite that, over the long run, has proven to be the most powerful component of the conservative coalition; it has gotten its way on more issues than either the religious or the security conservatives, and it has done so not only within the conservative coalition itself, but with actual government policies.

Leadership skills can be used in many ways

Chicago magazine | Let Us Prey: Big Trouble at First Baptist Church:
Unfortunately, it went well beyond talk. Last September, Schaap, 54, a married father of two, pleaded guilty to taking a 16-year-old girl he was counseling at First Baptist across state lines to have sex. Denied bond, he awaits sentencing in the Porter County Jail; the minimum term is ten years.

But Schaap is not simply one of those rogue evangelists who thunders against the evils of forbidden sex while indulging in it himself. According to dozens of current and former church members, religion experts, and historians interviewed by Chicago—plus a review of thousands of pages of court documents—he is part of what some call a deeply embedded culture of misogyny and sexual and physical abuse at one of the nation’s largest churches. Multiple websites tracking the First Baptist Church of Hammond have identified more than a dozen men with ties to the church—many of whom graduated from its college, Hyles-Anderson, or its annual Pastors’ Schools—who fanned out around the country, preaching at their own churches and racking up a string of arrests and civil lawsuits, including physical abuse of minors, sexual molestation, and rape.

It is a culture, past and present members say, enabled by cover-ups and cultlike control. For example, after Schaap’s conviction, many church members blamed his victim as a temptress. “We were taught to not question and to take the ‘man of God’s’ [Schaap’s] word over everything,” says Julie Silvestrone Busby, a former First Baptist member who now hosts a Christian radio show in Iowa. She left the church after alleging that Schaap behaved inappropriately during marriage counseling sessions in 2004 through 2009.

20 December, 2012

When activists on both sides don't trust their leader to compromise, we get stuck.

It’s all About Trust | RedState: There’s always a need to compromise, but compromising on such important issues requires an inviolate degree of trust from the other side. That trust is not there. And none of the Boehner apologists who are denigrating us have given us any reason why we should have trusted him this time. It’s as if the debt ceiling fiasco never existed.

Parenting Autism

Dream Map to a Mind Seized - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education: I used to fantasize about becoming a wildly successful author or influential teacher; now I fantasize about having a map of my son's body and brain, showing me the areas of hurt and how I can help. Gone are the phantom shelves of books I would have liked to write, the modestly tucked-away folder of imaginary teaching awards.

When I first knew that my son, now 3, was on the autism spectrum, I had hoped for the possibility of a high-functioning form, but that was before I learned he also has a rare form of epilepsy and a host of immunological problems. Now I just want him to be functioning—that is, alive and able to eat and walk and perhaps even improve over time.

Aleppo, Syria

Aleppo Residents, Battered by War, Struggle to Survive - NYTimes.com: Winter is descending on Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and the bloodied stage for an urban battle, now running into its sixth month, between rebels and the military of President Bashar al-Assad.

As temperatures drop and the weakened government’s artillery thunders on, Aleppo is administered by no one and slipping into disaster. Front-line neighborhoods are rubble. Most of the city’s districts have had no electricity and little water for weeks. All of Aleppo suffers from shortages of oil, food, medicine, doctors and gas.

Diseases are spreading. Parks and courtyards are being defoliated for firewood, turning streets once lined with trees into avenues bordered by stumps. Months’ worth of trash is piled high, often beside bread lines where hundreds of people wait for a meager stack of loaves.

A German on American Weapons - I don't agree, but this part is interesting

Commentary: Newton and the Fatal National Identity of America - SPIEGEL ONLINE:

Today the gun seems like a relic from an era that will soon have slipped away. But the faster it disintegrates, the more desperately people reach for the relic. That's likely what then Presidential candidate Barack Obama meant in 2008 when he described the existential fears of mainly white working class voters, who he said "cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

It was an unfortunate, misunderstood formulation, though one that is still quite apt. America remains mired in a deep upheaval that has unsettled many. The "American Dream" of the country's former days is now just an empty catchphrase abused most prominently during election campaigns. The uneasiness felt by many was exposed by the recession that destroyed the illusion that prosperity was available to all. And it was revealed by Obama's re-election, the result of a new America in which the majority will soon be in the minority.

The North Korean Situation

Next of Kim | Foreign Affairs: Where does all this lead? Toward a dead end for Kim, I think, and perhaps a nightmare loose-nukes scenario for the United States. The new leadership is exercising a more rigid ideology that seeks greater control over an increasingly independent-minded society and over disgruntled elements of the military. Meanwhile, its nuclear-bomb- and ICBM-making programs continue. All that is not sustainable. If Kim tried true reform and an opening North Korean society, however, he would immediately create a spiral of expectations that the regime would not be able to control. The young and untested leadership will try to navigate between these two perils. But it may prove too difficult. And if it does, Obama may find his pivot to Asia absorbed by a new crisis on the Korean peninsula.

19 December, 2012

Innocence Lost | A Street in a Strange World

Innocence Lost | A Street in a Strange World: My heart goes out to the children in Newtown, Syria, Palestine, Myanmar, Pakistan, and in the horn of Africa . . . to the children who live in fear of gunmen, missiles, angry mobs, and drone attacks . . . to the children who suffer from hunger, thirst, neglect, and abuse . . .

When will it be the right time to create a world where children can live without fear?

(h/t DD)

"I am certainly not an advocate for for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors," - Thomas Jefferson.

18 December, 2012

Dan White: The economic return of Iceland has proved that the joke was on us - Irish, Business - Independent.ie

Dan White: The economic return of Iceland has proved that the joke was on us - Irish, Business - Independent.ie: Remember when the Icelandics did the unthinkable and, unlike Ireland, told bank creditors to take a hike? They also imposed capital controls and allowed the value of their currency to fall – the Icelandic krona has lost almost half of its value against the euro over the past five years.

The "experts" queued up to assure us that these latter-day Vikings would be severely punished for their impertinence. While no one forecast that a hole would open up in the North Atlantic and swallow Iceland whole, some of the predictions came pretty darned close.

Meanwhile, we in Ireland did what we were told and repaid over €70bn of bank bonds at par. By doing so, even at the cost of bankrupting the State, the "experts" assured us that we would retain the confidence of the markets. Now, four years later, it is clear that, not for the first time, the "experts" have got it wrong. Catastrophically and utterly wrong.

When you can fire your doctor - and get healthier

The Right to Die Is the Right to Live | VICE:
ne month before his 18th birthday, my son Wolf was thrilled to receive invitations from galleries in Melbourne and New York City to exhibit his paintings of mythical creatures, herbivores, aliens, religious imagery, and cities destroyed by solar flares. The bad news is that the showings are scheduled for the summer of 2013. Wolf may not be alive then. At least according to the call I received from one of his doctors, suggesting that he and I begin sessions with an end-of-life grief counselor.

Wolf was born with a microdeletion in his 22nd chromosome. The resulting medical conditions have rippled out into ever-expanding rings of pain; each attempt to fix one problem results in another. The more tests and treatments and medicines he is prescribed, the sicker he gets. The sicker he gets, the more tests and treatments and medicines he is prescribed. 

At various points in his life, Wolf has been diagnosed as schizoaffective, bipolar, ADD, OCD, and ODD, and he’s also been undiagnosed with these disorders. Finally, the doctors settled on NOS—“not otherwise specified.” The US Department of Health claims that 20 percent of Americans are mentally ill, and even questioning authority is considered by some to be a disorder. If you fell into their diagnosing hands, who knows what they would find? Wolf has never had a break from his diagnosers.

17 December, 2012

To The Media, Regarding Newtown | Mama By The Bay

To The Media, Regarding Newtown | Mama By The Bay:
I can’t remember if she told us then that Mike had died.  I can’t remember how I found my best friend Tori, but I know that I did.  I can’t remember how I ended up on the front lawn of the school, surrounded by friends who were crying into their hands, their backpacks strewn across the sidewalk, the swirl of police lights shining down on us like sunshine.

But you know what I do remember?

YOU were there.  YOU, with your enormous video cameras.  YOU, with your microphones poking into the bubble of grief that grew bigger as we waited for our parents to find us.  YOU, with your horrible questions about what had happened, had we known Mike, had we seen anything?  No parents there yet, just children.  No teachers, just children.  And you.

Some of us screamed at you to leave us alone.  Some of us answered your sick questions, because you were the grown-ups, and we were the kids.  I don’t even know how you got there so fast, before our parents, before anyone else could swoop us back inside and ask you to leave.  But there you were, with your vans and your lights, asking us how it felt to know that another child had been killed.  How it felt to be scared.  How it felt to wonder about the names of everyone else, to be desperately hoping for more information, while feeling terrified about what the truth would really be.

I remember you.  I remember your names.  I remember what channel you were from.

Learning to Speak American by Tim Parks | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

Learning to Speak American by Tim Parks | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books: This whole question may seem a quite different matter from the contrast between Americans Americanizing and Europeans accepting Americanisms, but the truth is that house style is a much more common occurrence in the US and more aggressively enforced, to the point that when one rereads work one has written for The New Yorker it no longer seems like your voice at all. I can think of no similar experience with English or European magazines, as I can remember no experience quite like my tussle over tense changes for the American edition of my book Medici Money. Not that good editing is not precious. One has been saved a thousand stupid mistakes and much ugly phrasing by good editors; it is the desire to fix style in an unchanging standard that is noxious. As if people didn’t have different ways of speaking. And a cultural trait like this must mean something, come out of some deep assumption. Is it simply the publisher’s anxiety that his readers are weak, ready to put their books down at the slightest obstacle, and hence must be reassured by a homogeneity of usage that more or less makes language invisible? Or could it be that the long American hegemony has bred an assumption that American formulations are inevitably global currency and should be universally imposed?

Why I’m not angry at Lance Armstrong - The Washington Post

Why I’m not angry at Lance Armstrong - The Washington Post: Maybe I’m not angry at Lance because I’ve never believed there was a more innocent sporting past, and I am not one of those people, unlike his prosecutors, who get nervous and angry when great athletes are too far removed from my own image of myself. And 25 years of writing about champions has convinced me that they are indeed, very, very different from you and me, and their qualities are often dark. And because “It’s Not About the Bike” tried to state that quite clearly.

Self-driving cars can navigate the road, but can they navigate the law? | The Verge

Self-driving cars can navigate the road, but can they navigate the law? | The Verge: For automated drivers, most of these rules have yet to be written, and they'll need to be handled extremely delicately. If the liability laws are too punitive towards driver bots, letting Paul and Julie join in a suit against the self-driving-tech developer, then companies might avoid the sector entirely. On the other hand, if the laws leave car-owners on the hook for anything the new gadgets do, consumers may be scared away from buying them. There's a balance to be struck, but it will have to be made across multiple courts and stand up to countless civil challenges.

Mead on Scripture

The Coming: Part Two | Via Meadia:
But there’s a temptation that goes with Bible reading: it is to turn the Book into an Oracle—to ask it questions it wasn’t intended to answer. The Bible is not the Mayan Calendar; it is not there to tell us when the world will end or, for that matter, to provide a scientific account of how it began. For two thousand years Christian scholars and theologians have warned against reading the Bible in the wrong way by asking it the wrong questions. In the classic text that many Christians use as their reference point for understanding what the Bible is for, St. Paul writes in his second letter to Timothy (chapter 3 verse 16 for those who follow such things) that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

It is worth noting that paleontology, geology and astronomy are not included in that list of what the Bible is good for.

Some Christians believe that you have to take the Bible literally to get any good out of it at all; if snakes didn’t talk in the Garden of Eden the whole thing is a sham. (Non-believers often think this is what Christians believe, and conclude that the whole religion is a waste of time.) Others seem to think that you should interpret it to agree with whatever fashionable ideas are blowing in the winds around you. I haven’t been able to content myself with either position; as usual when perplexed, I hunt for the middle ground.

Gun Control in the UK

Gun control: The gun control that works: no guns | The Economist: After a couple of horrible mass shootings in Britain, handguns and automatic weapons have been effectively banned. It is possible to own shotguns, and rifles if you can demonstrate to the police that you have a good reason to own one, such as target shooting at a gun club, or deer stalking, say. The firearms-ownership rules are onerous, involving hours of paperwork. You must provide a referee who has to answer nosy questions about the applicant's mental state, home life (including family or domestic tensions) and their attitude towards guns. In addition to criminal-record checks, the police talk to applicants’ family doctors and ask about any histories of alcohol or drug abuse or personality disorders.

Vitally, it is also very hard to get hold of ammunition. Just before leaving Britain in the summer, I had lunch with a member of parliament whose constituency is plagued with gang violence and drug gangs. She told me of a shooting, and how it had not led to a death, because the gang had had to make its own bullets, which did not work well, and how this was very common, according to her local police commander. Even hardened criminals willing to pay for a handgun in Britain are often getting only an illegally modified starter’s pistol turned into a single-shot weapon.

A Eulogy for #Occupy | Wired Opinion | Wired.com

A Eulogy for #Occupy | Wired Opinion | Wired.com: Occupy faced what is real in a way that so much of regular life never does. We deputize people, actual deputies, to make the hard parts of life disappear. But that’s all they do, make things disappear. They don’t deal with it, they don’t understand it. They don’t embrace it, and hold it on the ground until it calms down. They just beat on it until it finds a place to hide. In the end, that’s what they did to Occupy, too.

Like the America that contained it, Occupy was never merely its institutions. Which is good, because for the most part, Occupy’s institutions failed its multitudes of amazing people.

On Transportation

Drivers' moral progress, and why they hate cyclists | Andrew Brown | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk: While this noise was going on, I had a small epiphany. The cyclists were hated because they are cheats. They are getting away with something that car drivers cannot. Especially in London traffic, the cyclist appears as a figure high above all laws and duns. The motorist is born free, but everywhere he is in queues. The courier burning through a red light, even the quiet law-abiding cyclist like me who only rides very slowly through red lights, demonstrates the freedom that car drivers have traded for comfort.

Why Making Robots Is So Darn Hard : The New Yorker

Why Making Robots Is So Darn Hard : The New Yorker: There are important incremental advances in robots virtually every day, and occasionally major breakthroughs, like the Microsoft Kinect 3-D sensor that makes affordable indoor 3-D vision for video games a realistic target. And one of the biggest new companies in robotics, Willow Garage, has recently open-sourced much of its software, which means that scores of young hackers around the globe won’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they build a new robot. But robot helpers as versatile as The Jetsons’ Rosie are still a long way away, with major hurdles in speed, safety, autonomy, and intelligence still to be solved.

16 December, 2012

Why 2012 was the best year ever - tragedies nonwithstanding

Why 2012 was the best year ever � The Spectator: It may not feel like it, but 2012 has been the greatest year in the history of the world. That sounds like an extravagant claim, but it is borne out by evidence. Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. The West remains in the economic doldrums, but most developing countries are charging ahead, and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is also mercifully low. We are living in a golden age.

13 December, 2012

The Web We Lost - Anil Dash

The Web We Lost - Anil Dash: This isn't some standard polemic about "those stupid walled-garden networks are bad!" I know that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and the rest are great sites, and they give their users a lot of value. They're amazing achievements, from a pure software perspective. But they're based on a few assumptions that aren't necessarily correct. The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks.

The first step to disabusing them of this notion is for the people creating the next generation of social applications to learn a little bit of history, to know your shit, whether that's about Twitter's business model or Google's social features or anything else. We have to know what's been tried and failed, what good ideas were simply ahead of their time, and what opportunities have been lost in the current generation of dominant social networks.

Republicans Need to Talk - WSJ.com

Republicans Need to Talk - WSJ.com: But party leaders should start making their new arguments now. There's no reason to wait, no benefit in it. Everything moves faster now. There's no particular need to let positions evolve, because they've already been quietly evolving for years, though people didn't always feel free to say so. There are many disagreements in the GOP, but they've not always been aired. For the past 10 years the party has operated under an ethic of Questioning the Team Is Disloyal, Dissent Is Disloyal, as Is Criticism..

This has been a recipe not for peace but for disaster. Which is what we saw on Nov. 6.

What It Looks Like When a Jet Drops a Bomb on Your Town

What It Looks Like When a Jet Drops a Bomb on Your Town:
You never imagine it happens on a sunny day.

In this footage from Homs, Syria, a man trains a camera on a government jet flying overhead as it drops a bomb on his town no more than a mile from where he's standing.
This kind of video was not available in previous conflicts in close to real-time. I'm not sure that its availability is changing the nature of warfare, but it sure transforms the empathic experience of thinking about what war is like.
And it's terrifying.
Via Philip Bump

On Partisan Hitjobs

Our Susan Rice Gossip Deficit:
The headline is promising: "Susan Rice's Personality 'Disorder.'" What has gossip maven Lloyd Grove been able to dig up about Susan Rice?
Answer: Basically nothing. It takes him five grafs to say that Rice "is frequently described in the press with such adjectives as 'brusque,' 'aggressive,' and 'undiplomatic in the extreme.'" There are no links or citations for these "frequent" descriptions. Five grafs later, after some examples of other nominees struggling with adjective problems, we learn that "the zeitgeist hardly seems favorable" to her, because the New York Times published an unflattering story about her work on Africa.


You mean to tell me that in one full month of Rice speculation, the freshest specific anecdote about Rice's temper is the one Dana Milbank wrote about at the start of the month? This is the lamest round of Washington chatter I've ever seen. Rice has spent a combined eight years in high level administration jobs, and the last good gossip about her temper comes from the Lilith Fair era.

12 December, 2012

Kansas City Star tells two reporters to decide which one gets laid off | JIMROMENESKO.COM

Kansas City Star tells two reporters to decide which one gets laid off | JIMROMENESKO.COM: The Kansas City Star has told reporters Karen Dillon and Dawn Bormann that one of them has to leave the paper, and they — not management — have to decide who goes.

“Dillon has seniority, so she has the option of taking it or not taking it,” says a KCConfidential.com source. “And if she does, Dawn gets laid off. Dawn’s a great person but I think Karen will vote in favor of herself because she’s got teenage kids at home.”

11 December, 2012

A Secret Minority in Turkey

A Lost Map on the Tramway in Istanbul: In Turkey, there lives a mysterious minority known as the “secret Armenians.” They have been hiding in the open for nearly a century. Outwardly, they are Turks or Kurds, but the secret Armenians are actually descendants of the survivors of the 1915 Genocide, who stayed behind in Eastern Anatolia after forcibly converting to Islam. Some are now devout Muslims, others are Alevis –generally considered an offshoot of Shia Islam, even though that would be an inaccurate description by some accounts–, and a few secretly remain Christian, especially in the area of Sassoun, where still there are mountain villages with secret Armenian populations. Even though Armenian Gypsies wouldn’t strictly qualify as Secret Armenians, they share many traits with the latter, including reluctance or fear to reveal their identity even to fellow Armenians.

08 December, 2012

Joe Blogs: Exhilaration Gap

Joe Blogs: Exhilaration Gap: But the gap people were talking about -- let's call it the "Exhilaration Gap" between watching a sport live and watching it on TV -- is almost certainly a more interesting topic. Here, then, are the Top 10 sports by Exhilaration Gap. I even put a little score by each sport: 100 means the sport is boundlessly better live, -100 means the sport is boundlessly better on TV. And, you should know, these numbers were carefully calculated and recalculated in the time when I wasn't checking to see if any baseball news was breaking at the winter meetings.

AP Exclusive: Detained China Nobel wife speaks - Yahoo! News

AP Exclusive: Detained China Nobel wife speaks - Yahoo! News: Liu said her continuing house arrest has been painfully surreal and in stark contrast to Beijing's celebratory response to this year's Chinese victory among the Nobels — literature prize winner Mo Yan. Liu said she has been confined to her duplex apartment in downtown Beijing with no Internet or outside phone line and is only allowed weekly trips to buy groceries and visit her parents.

"We live in such an absurd place," she said. "It is so absurd. I felt I was a person emotionally prepared to respond to the consequences of Liu Xiaobo winning the prize. But after he won the prize, I really never imagined that after he won, I would not be able to leave my home. This is too absurd. I think Kafka could not have written anything more absurd and unbelievable than this."

Staffer axed by Republican group over retracted copyright-reform memo | Ars Technica

Staffer axed by Republican group over retracted copyright-reform memo | Ars Technica: The Republican Study Committee, a caucus of Republicans in the House of Representatives, has told staffer Derek Khanna that he will be out of a job when Congress re-convenes in January. The incoming chairman of the RSC, Steve Scalise (R-LA) was approached by several Republican members of Congress who were upset about a memo Khanna wrote advocating reform of copyright law. They asked that Khanna not be retained, and Scalise agreed to their request.

The release and subsequent retraction of Khanna's memo has made waves in tech policy circles. The document argues that the copyright regime has become too favorable to the interests of copyright holders and does not adequately serve the public interest. It advocates several key reforms, including reducing copyright terms and limiting the draconian "statutory damages" that can reach as high as $150,000 per infringing work.

What to Do If You Fall in the Subway Tracks - RUN

Subway Conductor Tells You What to Do If You Fall in the Tracks (and Other Transit Real Talk) - New York - News - Runnin' Scared: If, god forbid, I fall onto the tracks or someone I am willing to risk my life for falls into the tracks and is knocked out - and a train is coming (lets say 30sec away) - what should I do? Are those pits between the rails by the platforms made for people to hide in in a worst case scenario? The best thing you can do is run as far down the platform as you can (in the opposite direction from where the train enters the station) and wave your arms frantically to get the train operator and passenger's attention. Believe me, the passengers WILL be doing the exact same thing, as nobody wants to see you get run over and their train get delayed. If you can get to the far end of the platform, it gives the train more room to stop, and there is a ladder at the end of each platform where you can climb back up -- do NOT try to climb up from where you are. So many people have been killed trying to jump back up rather than getting away from the entrance end of the station.

Laura Ingraham in a fix

Laura Ingraham in a fix:
Conservative radio personality and Fox News guest host Laura Ingraham sent a newsletter to fans yesterday attacking President Obama and MSNBC's primetime anchors for their recent policy meeting at the White House.
"Can anyone even imagine how the press would have reacted if Fox News hosts and conservative personalities had stopped by the Bush White House to discuss policy?," the newsletter reads. "They would have been rightly outraged."
However, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters For America notes that Fox News hosts and conservative personalities did stop by Bush's White House to discuss policy, and that Ingraham herself was among the guests.

07 December, 2012

Maj-Gen Tony Deane-Drummond - Telegraph

Maj-Gen Tony Deane-Drummond - Telegraph:
He and his comrades were taken prisoner and moved to a house on the outskirts of Arnhem, a temporary PoW “cage” holding about 500 all ranks and guarded by an under-strength company. Deane-Drummond found a wall cupboard about four feet wide and 12 inches deep with a flush-fitting concealed door. He unscrewed the lock, turned it back to front, pasted over the outside keyhole and locked himself in. For the next 13 days and nights, he remained there.

The room beyond his door was used by the Germans as an interrogation centre. He had only a one-pound tin of lard, half a small loaf of bread and his water bottle to keep him going. A gap in a corner of the floor surrounded by pipes served as a makeshift urinal.

On the 14th night, the Germans left the room empty and held a party upstairs. Deane-Drummond slipped out of his cupboard, climbed out of a window, dropped into the shrubbery, dodged the guards outside and got away.

n 1: Threat Level

n 1: Threat Level: For Obama, it wasn’t a terrorist strike that made him afraid, but a presidential election. The New York Times recently reported the following:

Facing the possibility that President Obama might not win a second term, his administration accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials.

In other words, the prospect of a Romney presidency forced the Obama Administration to confront, for the first time, apparently, the fact that their War on Terror professionalism is a front, a cover for a military improv act that so far has left around 2,500 people dead in Pakistan.

The Smartest Girls In The Room | The Global Mail

The Smartest Girls In The Room | The Global Mail: Justice Jagot found that Standard & Poor’s was negligent, as it owed a duty of care to investors and did not have reasonable grounds for assigning the AAA rating. Most significantly, the court found that Standard & Poor’s could not hide behind its disclaimers which say the AAA rating was merely an opinion.

The effect of the judgment — in Australia at least — is to make international ratings agencies directly liable to investors for their ratings.

That is a world first.

Standard & Poor’s has rejected the judgment and defended its rating methodology.

It is appealing the decision.

At CERN: Down in the Mouth in Paradise | Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network

At CERN: Down in the Mouth in Paradise | Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network: After 45 years, many billions of dollars, tens – maybe hundreds – of thousands of person years of concerted effort, in hundreds of universities and laboratories around the world, we have finally discovered ALL the particles predicted by the most successful theory of science, as measured by the number of decimal places to which its predictions have been tested. (For the sticklers among you, the particle that was discovered here at CERN this year, and confirmed by scientists at Fermilab, has not officially been confirmed to be the Higgs boson, although many of us would be prepared to eat our hats if it is not the Higgs boson. Especially those of us who don’t wear hats.)

Even an Ugly Cat Knows This | RedState

Even an Ugly Cat Knows This | RedState: On a more serious note, and pay attention to this one, RedState and I piss off a lot of people who might otherwise buy ads at RedState. We pull no punches here and that costs us advertisers. A lot of advertisers on our side peddle squishy people and squishy ideas and they have lots of money. And they won’t come here because they know you are not their audience and I’d probably say something very not nice about them even if they bought an ad here. Why do you think so few sites are willing to write about the incestuous consulting web on the right? Hmmm…..

The Insourcing Boom - Charles Fishman - The Atlantic

;The Insourcing Boom - Charles Fishman - The Atlantic:
The GeoSpring suffered from an advanced-technology version of “IKEA Syndrome.” It was so hard to assemble that no one in the big room wanted to make it. Instead they redesigned it. The team eliminated 1 out of every 5 parts. It cut the cost of the materials by 25 percent. It eliminated the tangle of tubing that couldn’t be easily welded. By considering the workers who would have to put the water heater together—in fact, by having those workers right at the table, looking at the design as it was drawn—the team cut the work hours necessary to assemble the water heater from 10 hours in China to two hours in Louisville.

In the end, says Nolan, not one part was the same.
So a funny thing happened to the GeoSpring on the way from the cheap Chinese factory to the expensive Kentucky factory: The material cost went down. The labor required to make it went down. The quality went up. Even the energy efficiency went up.

GE wasn’t just able to hold the retail sticker to the “China price.” It beat that price by nearly 20 percent. The China-made GeoSpring retailed for $1,599. The Louisville-made GeoSpring retails for $1,299.

Bill McKibben talks about the fight against climate change | Arts Feature | Indy Week

Bill McKibben talks about the fight against climate change | Arts Feature | Indy Week: Well, we know that agriculture would be next to impossible. And we think at this point the data seems to indicate that every degree increase in global average temperature should cut grain yields about 10 percent. The ocean is already 30 percent more acid, and that's causing havoc already with marine creatures. One oceanographer last month at the close of the big conference on ocean acidification in California said that by century's end, at this pace, the oceans of the world will be "hot, sour and breathless." Which seemed to me a pretty powerful statement. Most frozen things will have melted or be in the process of melting. And we'll see a huge increase in severe weather, to the point where my guess would be that civilization will just be a series of emergency responses to things.

Why Waiting in Line Is Torture - NYTimes.com

Why Waiting in Line Is Torture - NYTimes.com: Puzzled, the airport executives undertook a more careful, on-site analysis. They found that it took passengers a minute to walk from their arrival gates to baggage claim and seven more minutes to get their bags. Roughly 88 percent of their time, in other words, was spent standing around waiting for their bags.

So the airport decided on a new approach: instead of reducing wait times, it moved the arrival gates away from the main terminal and routed bags to the outermost carousel. Passengers now had to walk six times longer to get their bags. Complaints dropped to near zero.

RootsCamp: Meet the hip geeks who beat Mitt Romney and helped Barack Obama win a second term. - Slate Magazine

RootsCamp: Meet the hip geeks who beat Mitt Romney and helped Barack Obama win a second term. - Slate Magazine:
“As we got to the end, there were really only two things that mattered,” said Bird. “How many folks are registering to vote? Who are those people, and who’s turning out for the early vote? All the other stuff is inputs. Those were the two things that told us: Are we changing the electorate, and are our voters turning out?” The organizing was valued over the ads. Meanwhile, the Romney campaign and the Super PACs were blowing wads of cash on ads that washed right over people.

In the OFA session, Bird called on former volunteers—alternating the genders, boy-girl-boy-girl—to get fresh anecdotes on what worked and what would no longer work. One Iowa organizer revealed that phone calls had become nearly useless for reaching college students. Bird asked the crowd, all 20-somethings and 30-somethings, how many of them had landline phones. One woman raised her hand, in a crowd of a hundred people. The landline wasn’t coming back, either, said OFA’s Marlon Marshall, and that was going to be true “in eight years, when we turn Texas blue.”

Bird pointed out that the contact rate on all phones had fallen from 23 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2012. He derided the idea of “massive call centers” in central locations. I had a flashback to all the time I’d spent talking to Tea Party groups, proudly expanding their phone call outreach to voters.

06 December, 2012

Hitler’s Logical Holocaust by Timothy Snyder | The New York Review of Books

Hitler’s Logical Holocaust by Timothy Snyder | The New York Review of Books:
Hitler’s program for German revival was, at one level, a simple reenactment of the Balkan combination of nationalism with agrarianism, which he had praised in Mein Kampf. Germany must fight with its neighbors for “living space” in the East to achieve agricultural self-sufficiency. Unlike the Balkan states, of course, Germany was a great power that could envision not just gains of territory but a new land empire, something it seemed to have achieved in Ukraine at the end of World War I. Hitler’s obsession with anti-Semitism made the vision global both in its symbolism and in its ambition: an invasion of the East would mean the occupation of the part of the world where most Jews lived, the destruction of the Soviet Union, and the achievement of world power.

03 December, 2012

Obama and Romney power players discuss lessons of 2012 campaign - Yahoo! News

Against backdrop of Harvard power outage, Obama and Romney power players discuss lessons of 2012 campaign - Yahoo! News: Only once did Obama hold a larger advantage. That was during the mid-September period when a bounce from the successful Democratic convention and the unearthing of the inflammatory Romney “47 percent” video expanded Obama’s swing state lead to 6 points. As Simas explained, the major shift was among Republican-leaning independents and white males moving from the Romney camp to undecided. After Obama’s poor performance in the first debate, those voters came back to Romney.

Obama adviser Axelrod was withering in his disdain for media’s obsession with largely meaningless national polling trends. At one point Axelrod snapped, “Everything becomes a big horse-race story – and you guys don’t even know where the horses are.”

BBC - Blogs - Adam Curtis - SAVE YOUR KISSES FOR ME

BBC - Blogs - Adam Curtis - SAVE YOUR KISSES FOR ME:
In 1915, at the height of the First World War, Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt made an agreement with the Emir of Mecca. It said that if the Arabs helped the British overthrow the Turks who ruled Palestine - then the British would in return give the Arabs independence. Lawrence of Arabia - TE Lawrence - was one of the British agents sent to help organise the Arab Revolt.

But two years later later the British Foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, promised the Zionist movement that a permanent Jewish homeland would be set up in Palestine. Zionism was in many ways a utopian movement. It had been invented by Theodor Herzl in the 1890s, and he believed that a Jewish state would not just rescue Jews from persecution, but it would also transform them. The state of Israel would be a new kind of environment which would turn its people into stronger and better kinds of human beings.

The British didn't care about that kind of thing. They were desperate to get America into the war on their side - and one of the reasons for the Balfour declaration was to curry favour with the Zionists and their supporters in America.

02 December, 2012

Atheists and Islam: No God, not even Allah | The Economist

Atheists and Islam: No God, not even Allah | The Economist: A MOB attacked Alexander Aan even before an Indonesian court in June jailed him for two and a half years for “inciting religious hatred”. His crime was to write “God does not exist” on a Facebook group he had founded for atheists in Minang, a province of the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Like most non-believers in Islamic regions, he was brought up as a Muslim. And like many who profess godlessness openly, he has been punished.

In a handful of majority-Muslim countries atheists can live safely, if quietly; Turkey is one example, Lebanon another. None makes atheism a specific crime. But none gives atheists legal protection or recognition. Indonesia, for example, demands that people declare themselves as one of six religions; atheism and agnosticism do not count. Egypt’s draft constitution makes room for only three faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Ben Stein whiffs in 2007

The Long and Short of It at Goldman Sachs - New York Times: So I started an e-mail correspondence with Dr. Hatzius, pointing out what I believed were a few flaws in his paper. Among them were his hypothesis that home prices would fall an average of 15 percent nationwide (an event that has never happened since the Depression, although we surely could be headed in that direction), and that this would lead to a drastic increase in defaults and losses by lenders.

This, as I see it, is a conclusion that is an estimation based upon a guess. I found especially puzzling the omission of the highly likely truth that the Fed would step in to replenish financial institutions’ liquidity if necessary. In a crisis like that outlined by the good Dr. Hatzius, the Fed — any postwar Fed except perhaps that of a fool — would pump cash into the system to keep lending on track.

01 December, 2012

Per Square Mile: Town, section, range, and the transportation psychology of a nation

Per Square Mile: Town, section, range, and the transportation psychology of a nation:
With ribbon farms, the expectation is that transportation is king. Living under such a plan, I imagine networks have a certain planning primacy which dictate certain characteristics of the parcel. But when the U.S. started with square farms, the process and the results were the exact opposite. We plotted the farms and then pondered the logistics. In that context, it’s no surprise that we feel transportation should come to us instead of the other way around. As Americans, we pick a place to live and then figure out how to get where we need to go. If no way exists, we build it. Roads, arterials, highways, Interstates, and so on. Flexible and distributed transportation networks are really the only solution compatible with that way of thinking. Trains, which rely on a strong central network, never had a chance. We were destined for the automobile all the way back in 1787, when we first decided to carve up the countryside into tidy squares.
Town, section, range. Pick your plot, worry about the details later. It’s the American way, and it’s driven the psychology of an entire nation.

Obama to GOP: I’m done negotiating with myself

Obama to GOP: I’m done negotiating with myself: We’re seeing two things here. One is that the negotiations aren’t going well. When one side begins leaking the other side’s proposals, that’s typically a bad sign. The other is that Republicans are frustrated at the new Obama they’re facing: The Obama who refuses to negotiate with himself.

That’s what you’re really seeing in this “proposal.” Previously, Obama’s pattern had been to offer plans that roughly tracked where he thought the compromise should end up. The White House’s belief was that by being solicitous in their policy proposals, they would win goodwill on the other side, and even if they didn’t, the media would side with them, realizing they’d sought compromise and been rebuffed. They don’t believe that anymore.

Republicans Pan White House Plan For "Fiscal Cliff"

Republicans Pan White House Plan For "Fiscal Cliff": WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presented a tentative offer from the administration to congressional leaders Thursday to avert the fiscal cliff — but the plan has so far received a chilly reception from Republicans.

The offer, the details of which were reported by The New York Times on Thursday, proposes $1.6 trillion in tax hikes over ten years, roughly $400 billion in cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare, and would withdraw Congress' power to control increases to the federal debt limit.

Of the latter provision, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch told BuzzFeed, "I don't think anybody will agree to that."

NationalJournal.com - How Two Presidents Helped Me Deal With Love, Guilt, and Fatherhood - Friday, November 30, 2012

NationalJournal.com - How Two Presidents Helped Me Deal With Love, Guilt, and Fatherhood - Friday, November 30, 2012: I cringed. Tyler is loving, charming, and brilliant—he has a photographic memory—but he lacks basic social skills. He doesn’t know when he’s being too loud or when he’s talking too much. He can’t read facial expressions to tell when somebody is sad, curious, or bored. He has a difficult time seeing how others view him. Tyler is what polite company calls awkward. I’ve watched adults respond to him with annoyed looks or pity. Bullies call him goofy, or worse.

But the president was enchanted. Waiting for Tyler to take a breath, he quickly changed the subject with a joke. “Look at your shoes,” Bush told Tyler while putting a hand on his shoulder and steering him toward the photographer. “They’re ugly. Just like your dad’s.” Tyler laughed.

Ten minutes later, we were walking out of the Oval Office when Bush grabbed me by the elbow. “Love that boy,” he said, holding my eyes

Bravo for Self-Awareness

Self-Awareness Matters | RedState:
In politics, self-awareness matters. It does. When I was a political consultant, I told my clients my first two rules. The first was to know when you were in the minority, even when you thought you were right. The second was to know yourself as others see you.

Self-awareness matters.

Were I to run for the Senate, it would be a terribly nasty campaign. It’d actually be really awesome, but it’d be really nasty. I have a seven year old, a soon to be four year old, and a wife who does not like being anywhere near a stage. I’m not putting my family through that when the best outcome would mean a sizable pay cut and being away from my kids and wife all the time huddled in a pit of vipers often surrounded by too many who viewed me as a useful instrument to their own advancement.