28 February, 2013

W5 H = A Baseline for Integrity | RedState

W5 H = A Baseline for Integrity | RedState: I think conservative media is failing to advance ideas and stories. Certainly part of that is because the general media has an ideological bias against conservatives, which makes it harder for the media to take our views seriously. But many conservatives are, instead of working doubly hard to overcome that bias, just yelling louder about the same things. The echo in the chamber has gotten so loud it is not well understood outside the echo chamber in the mainstream press and in the public. It translates only as anger and noise, neither of which are conducive to the art of persuasion.

Postscript: C. Everett Koop, 1916-2013 : The New Yorker

Postscript: C. Everett Koop, 1916-2013 : The New Yorker: Surgeons Generals have little actual power—and there were other wars to wage. I covered science policy at the time for the Washington Post and I expected Koop to generate a lot of news. But neither I, nor anyone else, could have envisioned that by the time he left office eight years later, he would have managed to transform his job into the most electrifying bully pulpit in medicine. And he did it in the most unexpected way: by telling the truth.

We Found Our Son in the Subway - NYTimes.com

We Found Our Son in the Subway - NYTimes.com: The story of how Danny and I were married last July in a Manhattan courtroom, with our son, Kevin, beside us, began 12 years earlier, in a dark, damp subway station.

27 February, 2013

Italy’s Election Results Are Bad News for All of Us | Brookings Institution

Italy’s Election Results Are Bad News for All of Us | Brookings Institution: Let me be blunt. The Italian election result is a triumph for fantasy and irresponsibility. It is quite bad news and no one knows what will happen next. It is possible to lay out several potential outcomes, with various degrees of damage to Italy, Europe, and the U.S. We can even handicap the odds of the outcomes, but we simply cannot know what will happen in this unprecedented situation.

25 February, 2013

At Chobani, the Turkish King of Greek Yogurt - Businessweek

At Chobani, the Turkish King of Greek Yogurt - Businessweek: One day in 2004, as he was tidying up his office, he came across a postcard advertising a yogurt plant Kraft Foods (KRFT) was closing. He dropped the ad in the garbage, thought for a while, and fished it back out. The next day, Ulukaya drove to South Edmeston and visited the plant, an 84-year-old facility squatting in a valley between a hilltop graveyard and a biker bar. The walls were splotchy gray, and the equipment was old. Ulukaya wanted it anyway, and in August 2005, with the help of a U.S. Small Business Administration loan, he bought it for a sum he won’t disclose. His first employees were four ex-Kraft workers and Mustafa Dogan, a yogurt maker in Turkey Ulukaya knew by reputation. The first thing they did was paint the walls.

C. Everett Koop, Forceful Surgeon General, Dies at 96 - NYTimes.com

C. Everett Koop, Forceful Surgeon General, Dies at 96 - NYTimes.com: Dr. C. Everett Koop, who was widely regarded as the most influential surgeon general in American history and played a crucial role in changing public attitudes about smoking, died on Monday at his home in Hanover, N.H. He was 96.

Apologising for Amritsar is pointless. Better redress is to never forget | William Dalrymple | Comment is free | The Guardian

Apologising for Amritsar is pointless. Better redress is to never forget | William Dalrymple | Comment is free | The Guardian: What Cameron can do, however, if he feels real contrition for Britain's past, is to make the teaching of the British empire a compulsory part of the GCSE history syllabus. The empire was, for better or worse, the most important thing the British ever did: it completely changed the shape of the modern world. Yet most British people are by and large completely unaware of the details of their imperial history. My own children learned Tudors and the Nazis over and again in history class, but never came across a whiff of Indian history. This means that they, like most people who go through the British education system, are wholly ill-equipped to judge either the good or the bad in what we did to the rest of the world.

The Tunnels of NYC's East Side Access Project

The Tunnels of NYC's East Side Access Project:
A huge public works project is currently under construction in New York City, connecting Long Island to Manhattan's East Side. Deep underground, rail tunnels are extending from Sunnyside, Queens, to a new Long Island Rail Road terminal being excavated beneath Grand Central Terminal. Construction began in 2007, with an estimated cost of $6.3 billion and completion date of 2013. Since then, the cost estimate has been raised to $8.4 billion, and the completion date moved back to 2019. When finished, the line will accommodate 24 trains per hour at peak traffic, cutting down on commute times from Long Island, and opening up access to John F. Kennedy International Airport from Manhattan's East Side. Collected here are images of the progress to date, deep beneath Queens and Manhattan. [33 photos]

This photo shows work as of February 12, 2013, on tunnels leading into caverns underneath Grand Central Terminal that will house a future concourse for arriving and departing Long Island Rail Road trains. The entire project is slated to be complete in 2019. (MTA/Patrick Cashin)

Is Google Glass Bad for Society? - Google Glass Privacy

Is Google Glass Bad for Society? - Google Glass Privacy - TheStreet - TheStreet:
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- By the end of this year, our society will undergo a most peculiar form of societal change -- and it will involve a lot of strife and conflict. The cause? Google (GOOG_) Glasses.
Google Glasses will impact societal behavior from the moment they arrive. As soon as you see them, you're aware that you might be filmed. People don't like being filmed.
Yes, every smartphone can record you and take pictures. But you know when this is happening. It isn't a constant feeling that everyone around you is filming you from every angle. You see them when they do it.

Google Glasses are different. More than just photos and filming, what happens to this data?

24 February, 2013

Social Work in the Tenderloin Will Kill Something Inside of You | VICE United States

Social Work in the Tenderloin Will Kill Something Inside of You | VICE United States: How does being in the midst of so much mental illness affect you emotionally?
Man, social work is so fuck* weird. People think you're a saint. “It takes a certain person to do that kind of work,” is what I hear a lot. Fuck that. When you're young, you can afford to have ideals and believe in stuff, and think that what you're doing matters, but after watching grown men shit themselves and sometimes try to eat their own shit, not to mention the countless number of times I've had to pick people off the floor and put them back in their wheelchairs because they've been drinking since 6 AM and can't even sit up straight, your measly 32K salary starts to matter a helluva lot more than social justice.

I think I got into social work because I had this idea of it somehow “killing” my ego. It seems silly, but it felt very real at the time. There's a sadness to watching your idealism and convictions go to shit. Not to mention that working in such a thankless and fucked system will kill a sacred part of you. I feel tired. For the most part, people do not want help. They want money or they want drugs or they want death.

On the chance we had to stop obesity

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food - NYTimes.com: On the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and discharged 11 men who controlled America’s largest food companies. Nestl�was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the C.E.O.’s and company presidents had come together for a rare, private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial, the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by their skill in fighting one another for what they called “stomach share” — the amount of digestive space that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition.

Long Prison Terms Eyed as Contributing to Poverty - NYTimes.com

Long Prison Terms Eyed as Contributing to Poverty - NYTimes.com: For most of their daughters’ childhood, Mr. Harris didn’t come close to making the minimum wage. His most lucrative job, as a crack dealer, ended at the age of 24, when he left Washington to serve two decades in prison, leaving his wife to raise their two young girls while trying to hold their long-distance marriage together.

His $1.15-per-hour prison wages didn’t even cover the bills for the phone calls and marathon bus trips to visit him. Struggling to pay rent and buy food, Ms. Hamilton ended up homeless a couple of times.

“Basically, I was locked up with him,” she said. “My mind was locked up. My life was locked up. Our daughters grew up without their father.”

When Brain Damage Unlocks The Genius Within | Popular Science

When Brain Damage Unlocks The Genius Within | Popular Science:
It would be weeks before the full impact of Amato’s head trauma became apparent: 35 percent hearing loss in one ear, headaches, memory loss. But the most dramatic consequence appeared just four days after his accident. Amato awoke hazy after near-continuous sleep and headed over to Sturm’s house. As the two pals sat chatting in Sturm’s makeshift music studio, Amato spotted a cheap electric keyboard.
Without thinking, he rose from his chair and sat in front of it. He had never played the piano—never had the slightest inclination to. Now his fingers seemed to find the keys by instinct and, to his astonishment, ripple across them. His right hand started low, climbing in lyrical chains of triads, skipping across melodic intervals and arpeggios, landing on the high notes, then starting low again and building back up. His left hand followed close behind, laying down bass, picking out harmony. Amato sped up, slowed down, let pensive tones hang in the air, then resolved them into rich chords as if he had been playing for years. When Amato finally looked up, Sturm’s eyes were filled with tears.

Where the Republican Reformers Are, and Aren't - NYTimes.com

Where the Republican Reformers Are, and Aren't - NYTimes.com: The idea that government should run like a business or a household has led Republicans dangerously astray at the federal level, but this actually isn’t a terrible frame for thinking about states. A highway department is a lot more like a business than Social Security is. Although the federal government mostly moves money around, states and localities have lots of employees and direct operations, so greater efficiency really can go a long way. And state budgets really do need to be (more or less) balanced annually.

Republicans have also been more likely than Democrats to recognize that public employee benefits structures are outdated and needlessly costly, and that collective bargaining in the public sector lets unions sit on both sides of the negotiating table. The split isn’t totally partisan … But in general, Republicans have been more willing than Democrats to look for ways to provide government services more cheaply and efficiently, including by cutting the employee compensation costs that make up about half of state and local spending.

23 February, 2013

Ted Cruz is has said some stuff.....eh.

Senator Ted Cruz, Communists, Harvard Law School, and Joe McCarthy. : The New Yorker: Boxer’s analogy may have been more apt than she realized. Two and a half years ago, Cruz gave a stem-winder of a speech at a Fourth of July weekend political rally in Austin, Texas, in which he accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there. Cruz attended Harvard Law School from 1992 until 1995. His spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request to discuss the speech.

If you're into in-depth reviews of BBC bad behaviour

BBC - Inside the BBC - Pollard Review Appendices & Transcripts: On Friday 22 February, the BBC published the transcripts and appendices to The Pollard Report. These are the documents which Mr Pollard considered relevant to his findings in the Report published in December last year, and which he subsequently provided to the BBC. From the thousands of pages that are being published, roughly 3% of the transcripts have been redacted for a very limited number of legal reasons.

George Will: The torture of solitary confinement - The Washington Post

George Will: The torture of solitary confinement - The Washington Post:
In 1890, the U.S. Supreme Court said of solitary confinement essentially what Dickens had said: “A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others, still, committed suicide.” Americans should be roused against this by decency — and prudence.

Mass incarceration is expensive (California spends almost twice as much on prisons as on universities) and solitary confinement costs, on average, three times as much per inmate as in normal prisons. And remember: Most persons now in solitary confinement will someday be back on America’s streets, some of them rendered psychotic by what are called correctional institutions.

Michael LeMaitre and the Mount Marathon Race | Runner's World & Running Times

Michael LeMaitre and the Mount Marathon Race | Runner's World & Running Times: For decades, fewer than 10 runners competed, and it was a free-for-all—any way up and back was fair game. Men sprinted down alleys, clambered over cars, sabotaged each others’ shortcuts; the night before, fences sprung up in yards that had never before boasted one. Winners won fat purses, their fame carried across the state by bush plane. (By 1950 the prize was $2,500—about a year’s pay at the time. Now, instead of cash, winners get a trophy and free entry into future races.) The race’s popularity swelled with the running boom of the ’70s. Today, a cap of a thousand men, women, and children as young as 7 turn out, from housewives to elite athletes ($65 entry for adults, $25 for kids). About 90 percent of the adults are returnees; until a recent rule change, all finishers gained entry into the next year’s race. Few relinquish their spot—and lottery bids are coveted. The only thing harder than running Mount Marathon, the saying here goes, is getting the chance to run.

22 February, 2013

n 1: I'm Waiting for my UPS Man

n 1: I'm Waiting for my UPS Man: There are two websites where you can add a gram of heroin to your shopping cart as if you were buying asparagus on Fresh Direct. One belongs to Sigma-Aldrich, the St. Louis chemical company that synthesizes pure opioids for use in laboratory studies. For this you need to be a federally accredited laboratory. The other is Silk Road, the anonymous marketplace where drugs are priced in untraceable Bitcoin currency. For this you just need an internet connection.

On Ken Jennings

America's Hardest-Working Know-It-All: Ken Jennings transcended the show by being the epitome of the show. Jennings — Ken Jennings to America, that type of name you can't help but pronounce in full, to the extent that even his then 2-year-old son would call him Ken Jennings during his six-month run — became a celebrity in a celebrity-free zone. If Trebek is the show's Virgil, Jennings is Dante, the one guy who made it out alive. Even if you're the kind of person who knows that the Tournament of Champions, the show's annual best-of-the-best showdown, started yesterday, we bet you that you can't name another Jeopardy contestant. (OK — except for Leonard, the daring and daringly Afroed Teen Tournament champ who became a star Tuesday night.)

Obama and Kid President Make a Video for White House Easter Egg Roll | TIME.com

Obama and Kid President Make a Video for White House Easter Egg Roll | TIME.com: You might think Obama’s decision to make a cameo — and make Novak’s dreams come true — is the best part of this video, but that’s where you’d be mistaken. The real charm doesn’t start until the one-minute mark, after Obama’s appearance, when Novak reacts to news of the president’s involvement. It’s hard to put Novak’s excitement into words: He shouts, does a touchdown dance and repeatedly erupts into a giggle fit before launching into a history lesson about the White House tradition that Rutherford B. Hayes first started in 1878.

21 February, 2013

Sequester of Fools - NYTimes.com

Sequester of Fools - NYTimes.com: Here’s how it happened: Republicans engaged in unprecedented hostage-taking, threatening to push America into default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless President Obama agreed to a grand bargain on their terms. Mr. Obama, alas, didn’t stand firm; instead, he tried to buy time. And, somehow, both sides decided that the way to buy time was to create a fiscal doomsday machine that would inflict gratuitous damage on the nation through spending cuts unless a grand bargain was reached. Sure enough, there is no bargain, and the doomsday machine will go off at the end of next week.

There’s a silly debate under way about who bears responsibility for the sequester, which almost everyone now agrees was a really bad idea. The truth is that Republicans and Democrats alike signed on to this idea. But that’s water under the bridge. The question we should be asking is who has a better plan for dealing with the aftermath of that shared mistake.

On the responsibility of journalism

Friends of Hamas, Conservative Media, and Andrew Breitbart's War : The New Yorker
Now, Shapiro and Breitbart.com are refusing to admit that Shapiro made a serious mistake, and attacking anyone who suggests otherwise. This kind of behavior from them is unsurprising, and not just because it’s an outgrowth of the worldview and strategy of their founder, Andrew Breitbart. (For more on Breitbart, who died last year, see Rebecca Mead’s Profile of him from 2010.) To be embarrassed about the story, they’d have to understand that the hypothesis of Shapiro’s story was “Chuck Hagel may have been the recipient of funding from a group called Friends of Hamas,” and they’d have to care about proving it true. Their version of the hypothesis is much simpler, and more vicious: “Someone told us that Chuck Hagel may have been the recipient of funding from a group called Friends of Hamas.” This has the virtue, from a certain perspective, of being completely unfalsifiable—as soon as the source gave them the tip, the story was true by definition and in perpetuity, no matter what.

1 Kitty, 2 Empires, 2,000 Years: World History Told Through a Brick

1 Kitty, 2 Empires, 2,000 Years: World History Told Through a Brick:
How did a Roman brick from the British Isles get to Washington state's Fort Vancouver?
Fort Vancouver Historical National Historic Site
At some moment a few years after Jesus Christ died but before the second century began, someone made a brick on the island that would become the cornerstone of Great Britain......

Chesty Puller

COMBAT Magazine Department: Bugle and Bell:
When Lewis Chesty Puller – the Marine of World War II and Korea fame – ascended the enlisted and officer ranks from private to lieutenant general, he never forgot where he came from. When he was base commander at Camp Lejeune and was taking an early-morning walk, he came upon a hands-on-hips second lieutenant being saluted over and over by a private. When the lieutenant recognized the general, he snapped to attention and saluted.
"What's going on here?" Puller inquired.
"This private," pointed the lieutenant with an accusatory finger, "disobeyed the military manual when he failed to observe my approach within the prescribed number of paces in which he is required to render to me a salute. So I am helping him to remember in the future; I am requiring him to salute me one hundred times before continuing to his destination."
"Very good. Very instructive," said the general. "How many salutes has he rendered to you so far?"
"Forty-seven, Sir," or some such number was the reply.
"Are you aware, Lieutenant, that the manual also requires that every salute rendered by an enlisted man to an officer be returned by that officer? It would appear that you are forty-seven salutes behind. You shall catch up on your end of the obligation before continuing to salute back-and-forth with this private to the count of one hundred."

20 February, 2013

'Friends of Hamas': My role in the birth of a rumor - NY Daily News

'Friends of Hamas': My role in the birth of a rumor - NY Daily News: WASHINGTON — The revelation could have doomed President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense: He gave a paid speech to a group called “Friends of Hamas.”

Fortunately for Hagel, this claim, which galloped across the Internet, was bogus. I know, because I was the unwitting source.

In the process, I became part of an inadvertent demonstration of how quickly partisan agendas and the Internet can transform an obvious joke into a Washington talking point used by senators and presidential wannabes.

Here’s what happened:

In Search of Republican Reformers - NYTimes.com

In Search of Republican Reformers - NYTimes.com: Real Republican reinvention is a cause in search of a standard bearer, and the right’s reformers are doing a far, far better job proposing solutions to the G.O.P.’s dilemmas (and the country’s problems) than they are persuading actual Republican politicians to embrace them.

Beltway Brain Fever: Sequester Edition -- Daily Intelligencer

Beltway Brain Fever: Sequester Edition -- Daily Intelligencer:
Respectable centrist position agrees with Obama’s position. But to agree with one party is not a respectable centrist thing to do. And so a wide stream of coverage and commentary on this issue is dedicated to actively misleading Americans about what the two sides are proposing.

The Washington Post’s editorial today offers a paradigmatic case of this bizarre dynamic in action. Headlined “The blame game over sequestration,” it argues that sequestration would be awful, but “neither party has staked out anything like a serious negotiating position.” The Republicans aren’t serious, the editorial notes, because they have offered to replace the sequester with “Obamacare insurance exchanges, nutrition aid, social service grants and other Democratic favorites” — all cuts that the Post rightly opposes. Oddly, the editorial omits the strongest piece of evidence, namely the GOP promise to oppose any increase in revenue.

19 February, 2013

Obama, the puppet master at media manipulation

Behind the Curtain: Obama, the puppet master - POLITICO.com: President Barack Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.

Not for the reason that conservatives suspect: namely, that a liberal press willingly and eagerly allows itself to get manipulated. Instead, the mastery mostly flows from a White House that has taken old tricks for shaping coverage (staged leaks, friendly interviews) and put them on steroids using new ones (social media, content creation, precision targeting). And it’s an equal opportunity strategy: Media across the ideological spectrum are left scrambling for access.

The results are transformational. With more technology, and fewer resources at many media companies, the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government. This is an arguably dangerous development, and one that the Obama White House — fluent in digital media and no fan of the mainstream press — has exploited cleverly and ruthlessly. And future presidents from both parties will undoubtedly copy and expand on this approach.

On the deification of Rush

I won't be Rushed - NY Daily News: There will be no apology. I make a living disagreeing with people who are far more successful, famous, wealthy and important than I am. I have spent thousands of hours on television and thousands of column inches criticizing the President of the United States. If you think I’m going to apologize for suggesting that it might be okay to disagree with a radio host sometimes, you don’t know me at all.

But I guess I’m not surprised at the rancor. For one, part of the point I was trying to make was that the impulse to defend anything and everything that a party heavyweight says — to the death — has the deleterious effect of making conservatives seem irrational and herd-like. No one is right all the time, and no one is above reproach. Limbaugh, who has frequently criticized Republicans, knows this better than anyone.

The Useless Tree: Great Leap Famine Denial

The Useless Tree: Great Leap Famine Denial: In my other class this semester, contemporary Chinese politics, we are getting ready to consider the Great Leap Famine. In noodling around the internet in search of the any new bits of information, I have found several examples of what I will call GLF denialism, arguments that attempt to deflect attention away from the horrible fact that millions and millions of people starved to death as a direct result of state policy.

I will not link to these sites, because I do not want to advance their project; moreover, they are an insult to the countless victims of the CCP's horrific assault on rural society. But I do want to engage with a point or two that the denialists raise.

Barack Obama, Speech Editor

Barack Obama, Editor:  Now we get this White House photo of his reworking of last month' inaugural address


There are lots of fascinating details and insights from the edits Obama has made here, and from comparison with the final version he delivered six days after this draft. I'll leave most of them for you to find and will mention only one.....

BBC - Future - Health - How a movie changed one man’s vision forever

BBC - Future - Health - How a movie changed one man’s vision forever: Bruce Bridgeman lived with a flat view of the world, until a trip to the cinema unexpectedly rewired his brain to see the world in 3D. The question is how it happened.

Good movies change people’s view of the world all the time, but how many can say a movie has fundamentally altered their vision forever? One person who can is Bruce Bridgeman. In terms of how he sees the world, there is life before Hugo, and life after Hugo.

We should get rid of pennies and nickels

EconoMonitor : Ed Dolan's Econ Blog � Can we Get Along Without the Penny? This Chart May Help you Decide: Let’s watch what happens next door in Canada, which stopped putting new pennies into circulation this month. Give it a year. If there is a big spike in Canadian inflation that is traceable to the end of the maple-leaf penny, then we can keep our Lincoln cent. If getting rid of the penny fails to turn Canada into Zimbabwe with polar bears, then we can follow their example.

17 February, 2013

A Special Supplement: The Question of Machiavelli by Isaiah Berlin | The New York Review of Books

A Special Supplement: The Question of Machiavelli by Isaiah Berlin | The New York Review of Books: Ethics so conceived—the code of conduct or the ideal to be pursued by the individual—cannot be known save by understanding the purpose and character of his polis; still less be capable of being divorced from it, even in thought. This is the kind of pre-Christian morality that Machiavelli takes for granted. “It is well-known,” says Benedetto Croce, “that Machiavelli discovered the necessity and autonomy of politics, which is beyond moral good and evil, which has its own laws against which it is useless to rebel, which cannot be exorcised and made to vanish by holy water.” Beyond good and evil in some non-Aristotelian, religious, or liberal-Kantian sense; but not beyond the good and evil of those communities, ancient or modern, whose sacred values are social through and through. The arts of colonization or of mass murder (let us say) may also have their “own laws against which it is useless to rebel” for those who wish to practice them successfully. But if or when these laws collide with those of morality, it is possible, and indeed morally imperative, to abandon such activities.

Dissent Is the Health of the Democratic State — Crooked Timber

Dissent Is the Health of the Democratic State — Crooked Timber: This is where democracy comes in. It has priority, not as a first-order institution for getting everything done, but as a second-order institution for checking on and revising other institutions. No other organizational form is as well-suited to checking whether an institution is actively working; some (e.g., markets and courts) are positively pessimized for monitoring their own performance. Democracy has, importantly, two crucial parts: voting, or some similar means of aggregating choices, and debate, the arguments which come before and continue after every vote. Democratic voting is a way of making choices. Democratic debate is a tool for cognition, for harnessing the dispersed knowledge of the citizens and their diversity of perspectives and insights.


AP kills Rand Paul immigration story:
Retraction of the year:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Associated Press has withdrawn its story about Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., saying he sees some in the (sic) his party favoring a 2016 presidential candidate with an immigration policy that would "round up people ... and send them back to Mexico." That quote was in the transcript of "Fox News Sunday" that was distributed after Paul's interview on the show. A subsequent Associated Press review of an audio recording of the show determined that the transcript had dropped the word "don't" from that quote, and Paul actually said, "They don't want somebody who wants to round people up, put them in camps and send them back to Mexico."

Ornstein: Governance Takes Back Seat to Bickering : Roll Call Opinion

Ornstein: Governance Takes Back Seat to Bickering : Roll Call Opinion: Think about it: We have a sequester looming, one that could wreak havoc at the Pentagon; a coming series of budget confrontations that create real challenges in the management of the Defense Department; and an ongoing war.

And a little group of willful men and women, including those who have been the loudest critics of the sequester, are keeping the next head of the department from getting into office and beginning the hard job of managing the turbulence ahead.

That’s only the first on a list of irresponsible acts. If National Review is accurate, the unanimous Senate Republican response to deal with our debt problems and immediate budget crises is a constitutional amendment to balance the budget with a cap on spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product and supermajorities required to raise revenues or the debt ceiling.

If I were al-Qaida and looking to destroy America from within, I would love to see this amendment added to the Constitution.

This is why the GOP is doing its thing

POLITICO.com: The Democratic leadership will violently oppose this, but if the President really aspires to use his political capital as he says he does, then he must use it on his own party, where it can actually accomplish a result.”

A reminder of how far we've come

50 Years Ago: The World in 1963 - In Focus - The Atlantic: A half century ago, much of the news in the United States was dominated by the actions of civil rights activists and those who opposed them. Our role in Vietnam was steadily growing, along with the costs of that involvement. It was the year Beatlemania began, and the year President John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin and delivered his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. Push-button telephones were introduced, 1st class postage cost 5 cents, and the population of the world was 3.2 billion, less than half of what it is today. The final months of 1963 were punctuated by one of the most tragic events in American history, the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Let me take you 50 years into the past now, for a look at the world as it was in 1963. [50 photos]

Amazing - Classroom Portraits

Classroom Portraits, by Julian Germain - Imgur

Slate spotlilghts cultural differences in work

Women in the Netherlands work less, have lesser titles and a big gender pay gap, and they love it. - Slate Magazine: Dutch women's refusal to seek longer hours has long bewildered economists. In the spring, the United Nations, suspicious that there was something keeping women from full-time jobs, launched an inquiry to see whether the Netherlands was in compliance with the women's rights treaty. A comprehensive 2009 study by Alison L. Booth & Jan C. Van Ours looked at the amount of time women in the Netherlands spend at work compared with women in other European countries. The authors assumed that part-time work was less desirable but ultimately confirmed that Dutch women don't want to spend more time at work. The NIS News Bulletin interpreted the results of the study as: "Attempts to get more women working full-time are doomed to failure because nobody has a desire for this. Both the women themselves and their partners and employers are satisfied with the Dutch part-time culture for women."

200 calories, in different foods. (lots of carrots = 7 kisses)

Photo Album - Imgur

16 February, 2013

No one wants government until they need government.

No central agency oversees, inspects cruise ships | Fox News: A maze of maritime regulations and fragmented oversight of the cruise industry make it tough for consumers to assess the health and safety record of ships they're about to board for vacation.

No one entity or country oversees or regulates the industry. There's no central database for passengers seeking ship information.

The Coast Guard and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer some ship safety and health information online.

15 February, 2013

Three ways the Pentagon can help Congress stop the sequestration madness | Fox News

Three ways the Pentagon can help Congress stop the sequestration madness | Fox News: There are smart ways to reduce defense spending as these three examples show, but a sudden, across the board cut is a terrible way to run a government – and deeply unfair to those who have served to protect the nation.

Sequestration also sends a terrible message around the world – it conveys an image that America is in sharp decline as a great power.

14 February, 2013

Obama News: A Living Diary of the Obama Presidency - POLITICO44 - POLITICO.com

Obama News: A Living Diary of the Obama Presidency - POLITICO44 - POLITICO.com: President Obama dropped in to a preschool classroom in Decatur, Ga., on Thursday and some of the students seemed less than impressed.

Via the pool report:

Mr. Obama walked over to the first group of kids who were playing with blocks, and asked, "Can I help?"

The children greeted him and asked him to play with them. During the photo-op, one of the boys asked, "Are you our teacher?" Another boy said, "Welcome, Mr. President." and another child said, "I saw you on TV."

[A]t the first table, two boys eventually became engrossed in a video screen with their backs to the president and were encouraged by a teacher to rejoin the president of the United States.

“The America Of Fear”

“The America Of Fear” � The Dish: “The America which Europe fears is the America of the Reaganites. The America once of the Scopes trial; the America of prohibition; the America of ignorant isolationism. The America then of ‘‘better dead than red’’; the America of McCarthyism; the America of the last fundamentalists of the 1950s. The America now of the new evangelicals; the America of the Moral Majority; the America of a now ignorant interventionism; the America which can see homosexuals as a conspiracy; feminists as a conspiracy; perhaps even women as a conspiracy.

The America of fear. For it is in fear that the ungoverned and the unfree are doomed to live. And there was this America in control at Detroit. It is time that we reminded ourselves, and said aloud and more often, that it is from these people that nastiness comes. It is time that we pointed out to the neo-conservatives that democracy has never been subverted from the left but always from the right.

On the 6000 page intelligence report

CNN.com - Transcripts: And, therefore this detention interrogation program, I've got to say, it was the people who ran it were ignorant of the topic, executed by personnel without relevant experience, managed incompetently by senior officials who did not pay attention to details, and corrupted by personnel with pecuniary conflicts of interest.

It was sold to the policy-makers (INAUDIBLE) in The White House and the Department of Justice and Congress with grossly inflated claims of professionalism and effectiveness, so-called "lives saved."

It was a low point in our history and this document, this book, should change that forever. I would hope very much that you would -- if you are confirmed which I hope you will be, that you will make parts of this at your discretion required reading for your senior personnel so they can go through the same experience that you went through.

Are you willing to do that?

Can the Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence? - NYTimes.com

Can the Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence? - NYTimes.com: Under the stewardship of Zac Moffatt, whose firm, Targeted Victory, commandeered the 2012 digital operations of the Romney campaign, American Crossroads and the Republican National Committee, Team Romney managed to connect with 12 million Facebook friends, triple that of Obama’s operation in 2008; but Obama in 2012 accrued 33 million friends and deployed them as online ambassadors who in turn contacted their Facebook friends, thereby demonstrably increasing the campaign’s get-out-the-vote efforts in a way that dwarfed the Republicans’. While Romney’s much-hyped get-out-the-vote digital tool, Orca, famously crashed on Election Day, Obama’s digital team unveiled Narwhal, a state-of-the-art data platform that gave every member of the campaign instant access to continuously updated information on voters, volunteer availability and phone-bank activity. And despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars, the Romney television-ad-making apparatus proved to be no match for the Obama operation, which enlisted Rentrak, the data corporation for satellite and cable companies, through which it accrued an entirely new layer of information about each and every consumer, giving the campaign the ability to customize cable TV ads.

Watching the Couples Go By: a Valentine’s Day classic from the archives - Slate Magazine

Watching the Couples Go By: a Valentine’s Day classic from the archives - Slate Magazine: A baby crying in its crib doesn't want conversation or a gold ring. He wants to be picked up, held, and patted. Adults need that physical contact also. They need to cuddle together for warmth and comfort in an indifferent or cold world. At least, they need to be able to do that. The plain woman and plain man I am watching do that for each other.

But conversation is also important. These couples may have been talking to each other for 30 years or more. You might think they have nothing left to say. But still they can talk to each other in ways that they cannot talk to anyone else. He can tell her of something good he has done, or something good that has happened to him, without fearing that she will think he is bragging. He can tell her of something bad that has happened without fearing that she will think he is complaining. He can tell her of the most trivial thing without fearing that she will think he is bothering her. He can count on her interest and understanding.

The primary purpose of this conversation is not to convey any specific information. Its primary purpose is to say, "I am here and I know that you are here."

13 February, 2013

A plain blog about politics: Hey, Reporters: 60 Votes Required Means Filibuster

A plain blog about politics: Hey, Reporters: 60 Votes Required Means Filibuster: Now, Republicans seem to find the word "filibuser" toxic, so Inhofe also said "It's not a filibuster. I don't want to use that word." That's up to him, but reporters need to take note and be careful: it's not sufficient to ask Republicans about "filibusters." You might get spin, and not reality.

In the real world, however, what matters is what Cornyn said. It takes 60 votes to do anything in the Senate. That's true whatever they call it, and it's true whether or not anyone actually forces a cloture vote.

And, yes, that's a filibuster.

12 February, 2013

A Reminder: Life in North Korean Death Camps

Photo Album - Imgur

Fact-check fail?

Washington Post erroneously reports Sarah Palin joining Al Jazeera:
The Washington Post has erroneously reported that Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential candidate and former Fox News contributor, is joining the Qatari-owned news network Al Jazeera.
"Late last week Al Jazeera America announced the former vice-presidential candidate would be joining their news network," the Post's Suzi Parker writes today in a post on the She The People blog, titled "Sarah Palin's plan to reach 'millions of devoutly religious people' through al-Jazeera."

How torture ruined a just prosecution

'Imagine the Worst Possible Scenario': Why a Guantanamo Prosecutor Withdrew From the Case - Jess Bravin - The Atlantic: Couch was convinced that Slahi had spent years organizing the Qaeda network in Europe, culminating with recruitment of the Hamburg cell that supplied hijackers for 9/11. If any detainee deserved the death penalty, it was Slahi.

Yet Couch hesitated. He ruminated for weeks. Was the United States justified in beating Slahi, in subjecting him to isolation, sensory deprivation, temperature extremes, and sexual humiliation? Was it justified in constructing elaborate scenarios that literally put the fear of death in him, convincing him that he was about to be killed?

One threat, Couch believed, was the worst of all: To have his mother raped.

"Military guys are real big about their mommas," Couch said. And few more than Stu Couch. "Other than my wife, my mom is my best friend," he said. "That's just who I am."

Couch wondered if he could prosecute Slahi at all.

The Importance of Excel | The Baseline Scenario

The Importance of Excel | The Baseline Scenario: JPMorgan’s Chief Investment Office needed a new value-at-risk (VaR) model for the synthetic credit portfolio (the one that blew up) and assigned a quantitative whiz (“a London-based quantitative expert, mathematician and model developer” who previously worked at a company that built analytical models) to create it. The new model “operated through a series of Excel spreadsheets, which had to be completed manually, by a process of copying and pasting data from one spreadsheet to another.” The internal Model Review Group identified this problem as well as a few others, but approved the model, while saying that it should be automated and another significant flaw should be fixed.** After the London Whale trade blew up, the Model Review Group discovered that the model had not been automated and found several other errors. Most spectacularly,

“After subtracting the old rate from the new rate, the spreadsheet divided by their sum instead of their average, as the modeler had intended. This error likely had the effect of muting volatility by a factor of two and of lowering the VaR . . .”

11 February, 2013

Symbolism of our age - and the transition to civilian life

The Shooter | Center for Investigative Reporting: But a series of confidential conversations, detailed descriptions of mission debriefs, and other evidence make it clear: The Shooter's is the most definitive account of those crucial few seconds, and his account, corroborated by multiple sources, establishes him as the last man to see Osama bin Laden alive. Not in dispute is the fact that others have claimed that they shot bin Laden when he was already dead, and a number of team members apparently did just that.

What is much harder to understand is that a man with hundreds of successful war missions, one of the most decorated combat veterans of our age, who capped his career by terminating bin Laden, has no landing pad in civilian life.

10 February, 2013

U.S. said to be target of massive cyber-espionage campaign - The Washington Post

U.S. said to be target of massive cyber-espionage campaign - The Washington Post: A new intelligence assessment has concluded that the United States is the target of a massive, sustained cyber-espionage campaign that is threatening the country’s economic competitiveness, according to individuals familiar with the report.

The National Intelligence Estimate identifies China as the country most aggressively seeking to penetrate the computer systems of American businesses and institutions to gain access to data that could be used for economic gain.

Just some reminders. The Soviet one isn't discussed enough.

Great speeches of the 20th century | From the Guardian | The Guardian

09 February, 2013

Fallows on the de facto horror of the filibuster

After-Effects of the Hagel Fight:

  • This defacto rewriting of the Constitution is ratified each time a news organization says (as reporters from both NPR and MSNBC did during this past week) that a certain measure lacks "the 60 votes required for passage," and it is reflected by "concessions" like Sen. Blunt's, above. Pretty soon no one will remember that a "simple" majority vote, far from being some exceptional bipartisan allowance for cabinet appointments, is how the system was designed -- and had operated through its first two centuries;
  • In fact, in the entirety of American history, no Cabinet nomination has ever been filibustered. As a marker of how far we've come, most media reports treated the Blunt and McCain announcements as "news" -- rather than underscoring that the very idea of a filibuster would have been a historic first. 

Cato Unbound � Blog Archive � Smothered by Safety

Cato Unbound � Blog Archive � Smothered by Safety: Over the summer, according to the Manchester, Connnecticut Patch, a local mom was charged with “risk of injury to a minor and failure to appear after police say she allowed her seven-year and 11-year old children to walk down to Spruce Street to buy pizza unsupervised.” This was a walk of half a mile.

If this were an isolated incident of police over-zealousness, well, that’s all it would be. Unfortunately, at my perch I hear about incidents like this all the time—the authorities determining that they know better than a child’s own parents what their kids are capable of handling. That’s why just a few months ago a Michigan mom had to come fetch her children—12 and 15—from the police station, after she’d expected them to walk home from the library. The library staff decided it was too cold to make the kids do this (the kids had walked there without coats). Instead, staffers took them to the police station. The police called the mom and told her they’d be filing a report. For what? The crime of believing her perfectly capable kids could walk home in the cold.

Ten Virtues for the Modern Age

Ten Virtues for the Modern Age: In the modern world, the idea of trying to be a ‘good person’ conjures up all sorts of negative associations: of piety, solemnity, bloodlessness and sexual renunciation, as if goodness were something one would try to embrace only when other more difficult but more fulfilling avenues had been exhausted.

Throughout history, societies have been interested in fostering virtues, in training us to be more virtuous, but we're one of the first generations to have zero public interest in this. You're allowed to work on your body (going to the gym has very high status as an activity), but announce that you're going to work on being more virtuous, and people will be guaranteed to look at you as if you're insane.

It sounds deeply weird, even creepy, to suggest that one might work at being better or nicer. It shouldn't, and that’s what my Manifesto is all about.

The Believer - Reincarnation in Exile

The Believer - Reincarnation in Exile: T.C. may have harsh words to say about the system of rinpoches, but he has no doubts that his brother and other senior, venerated lamas are the genuine article. As for the legions of new rinpoches, he is less certain. He says, “The religious concept of peerage is a dangerous thing. I’d like to change their status.”

But toward the end of the conversation, as the monsoon clouds rolled up the valley and the skies darkened, T.C. began to recant slightly. “I don’t know if that spark is there in these rinpoches. But many of them seem very intelligent. It looks like their bank account has a tremendous asset from their past karma.” He laughed. When I suggested that he might fall into that category, he replied, “I should sue the Nechung Oracle for picking me. But, all things considered, I’ve had an interesting life.”

Should the Left Fear (Or Hate) Its Wonks? — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

Should the Left Fear (Or Hate) Its Wonks? — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen: Sunkara argues that the new technocrats mistake their obsession with facts for a knowledge of value judgments. By mistaking policy for politics, they set themselves (and their fellow liberals/progressives/et al) up for political defeats.

Yes. A million times yes.

Ask your average Beltway lefty elite what we should do about climate change. Nine times out of ten they’ll rattle off some nifty policy ideas for carefully adjusting political and economic incentives to subtly encourage greener behavior. They rarely have much to say about how the left might go about winning the broader argument. On this, and so many issues, they’re policy smart and politically na�ve. When elections or debates go wrong, whelp, they get pissed off at voters too stupid to appreciate their good, nuanced policy proposals. Oh well, put “This American Life” back on.

The mayor of New York's Grand Central Terminal

The mayor of New York's Grand Central Terminal:
Kelly worked his way up. From his start as a gate man, to the information booth, to lost-and-found, to the station master of the world's largest train terminal. He is responsible for all the information booth agents, customer service representatives, and cleaning crews. 
"I'm going to have 40 years in October," he said. "I've always been here on this floor. It's going to be rough. But time moves on, what are you going to do?"
Kelly blends in with the crowd. He roams the concourse sporting a leather bomber jacket with the GCT insignia, and jeans, in case he needs to hop down on the track and retrieve a cell phone. As Kelly always says, "We're here to help."

I pried Kelly for some of his best party trivia. What is the significance of the acorns engraved in the marble? Are the iridescent faces of the info booth clock really made of opal? But Kelly didn't want to tick through a fact sheet. He wanted to tell tales of humanity, observations of the the people who drift through the terminal. After all, every day some 700,000 people pass through Grand Central Terminal. That's the entire population of Alaska.

Grand Central Terminal Turns 100

Grand Central Terminal Turns 100:
A century ago, rail travel was at its peak in the U.S., and New York City built the massive Grand Central Terminal to accommodate the growth. Built over 10 years, gradually replacing its predecessor named Grand Central Station, the Grand Central Terminal building officially opened on February 2, 1913. The terminal and the surrounding neighborhood thrived -- by 1947, 65 million people a year were traveling through the building. However, in the latter half of the 20th century, rail travel declined sharply, and Grand Central Terminal fell into disrepair, threatened several times with demolition. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority was able to undertake a huge restoration in the 1990s, and Grand Central remains a New York City icon today, 100 years after it first opened. [38 photos]

Sunlight streams through the windows in the concourse at Grand Central Terminal in New York City in 1954. (AP Photo)

Reed Hastings on Arrested Development, House of Cards, and the Future of Netflix: Movies TV: GQ

Reed Hastings on Arrested Development, House of Cards, and the Future of Netflix: Movies TV: GQ: But most important, there came the Internet and Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos and Reed Hastings, who blew up all the old paradigms about who, what, when, where, why, and even how we watch, busting the chains that bind us to our cable boxes, to the never-ending scroll of 739 channels, to our prime-time prison.

Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, has a name for this prison and what it does to the people trapped inside it: managed dissatisfaction. "The traditional entertainment ecosystem is built on it, and it's a totally artificial concept," says Hastings.

Quoth an Army Husband

How Men Can Help Women Succeed in the Military - Anne-Marie Slaughter - The Atlantic: I am not an Army wife.

The heading of this section, "Experiences of Army Wives" is why I'm writing.

I am an army husband.

Consider the stresses of the Army wife, loneliness, sense of abandonment, and jealousy of their husbands' freedom in their huge Army family. Add the worry and the doubts about how important you really are to the person who leaves so often.

Then add the simple facts that at least 99% of supports that are out there are supports for women. Your wife trains with body armor and 50 cal machine guns and you're at home making sure the kids have food, clean clothes and get an education. I'm more "liberated" than most, but after a while it makes you start questioning your manhood. You joke to others about wearing an apron but you can't avoid the embarrassment. Who can you call for support? An Army wife? No—not a good idea for so many reasons. Even if you do find another male in the same situation men find it real hard to talk about feelings.

Under house arrest for so long....

More on the Chen Guangcheng Speech: 1) Here is a beautiful photo by Patrick Yuen, used with his permission, that captures the mood and drama of Chen Guangcheng's presentation at the National Cathedral last night.


The picture is from more or less the place where I was sitting and distills the hold that Chen Guangcheng had over the audience as he spoke.

A demonizing profile

The NRA vs. America | Politics News | Rolling Stone:
he NRA's unbending opposition to better gun-control measures does not actually reflect the views of the nation's gun owners or, for that matter, its claimed 4 million members. A May 2012 poll conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz revealed surprising moderation on behalf of NRA members: Three out of four believed that background checks should be completed before every gun purchase. Nearly two-thirds supported a requirement that gun owners alert police when their firearms are lost or stolen. "Their members are much more rational than the management of the NRA," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, tells Rolling Stone. "They're out of touch."
That's by design. Today's NRA is a completely top-down organization. It has been led since 1991 by LaPierre, its chief executive, who serves at the pleasure of a 76-member board that is all but self-perpetuating. Only one-third of the board's membership is up for re-election in any given year. Voting is limited to the NRA's honored "lifetime" members and to dues-payers with at least five consecutive years of being in good standing. Write-in candidates occasionally pepper the ballot, but in practice, the tiny slice of eligible members who bother to vote rubber-stamp a slate of candidates dictated by the NRA's 10-member nominating committee – one of whose members is George Kollitides II, CEO of Freedom Group, which manufactures the Bushmaster semiautomatic that Adam Lanza used to slaughter children in Newtown.

On SF and SV

Rebecca Solnit Diary: Google Invades LRB 7 February 2013:
The Google Bus means so many things. It means that the minions of the non-petroleum company most bent on world domination can live in San Francisco but work in Silicon Valley without going through a hair-raising commute by car – I overheard someone note recently that the buses shortened her daily commute to 3.5 hours from 4.5. It means that unlike gigantic employers in other times and places, the corporations of Silicon Valley aren’t much interested in improving public transport, and in fact the many corporations providing private transport are undermining the financial basis for the commuter train. It means that San Francisco, capital of the west from the Gold Rush to some point in the 20th century when Los Angeles overshadowed it, is now a bedroom community for the tech capital of the world at the other end of the peninsula.
There are advantages to being an edge, as California long was, but Silicon Valley has made us the centre. Five of the six most-visited websites in the world are here, in ranked order: Facebook, Google, YouTube (which Google owns), Yahoo! and Wikipedia. (Number five is a Chinese-language site.) If corporations founded by Stanford alumni were to form an independent nation, it would be the tenth largest economy in the world, with an annual revenue of $2.7 trillion, as some professors at that university recently calculated. Another new report says: ‘If the internet was a country, its gross domestic product would eclipse all others but four within four years.’

The Biggest Fraud of all time?

Libor Lies Revealed in Rigging of $300 Trillion Benchmark - Bloomberg: For years, traders at Deutsche Bank AG, UBS AG, Barclays, RBS and other banks colluded with colleagues responsible for setting the benchmark and their counterparts at other firms to rig the price of money, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg and interviews with two dozen current and former traders, lawyers and regulators. UBS traders went as far as offering bribes to brokers to persuade others to make favorable submissions on their behalf, regulatory filings show.

Members of the close-knit group of traders knew each other from working at the same firms or going on trips organized by interdealer brokers, which line up buyers and sellers of securities, to French ski resort Chamonix and the Monaco Grand Prix. The manipulation flourished for years, even after bank supervisors were made aware of the system’s flaws.

“We will never know the amounts of money involved, but it has to be the biggest financial fraud of all time,” says Adrian Blundell-Wignall, a special adviser to the secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. “Libor is the basis for calculating practically every derivative known to man.”

An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove: Reclaiming the French art of Statecraft | Kings of War

An Iron Hand in a Velvet Glove: Reclaiming the French art of Statecraft | Kings of War: France has now been engaged in Mali for two weeks. The intervention seems to be typical of the “French touch” by combining a degree of initial improvisation, the right amount of aggressiveness and a difficult- but so far successful- integration with the lesser advanced African forces (something Huber called ‘compound warfare’). And for all those in doubt, yesterday’s operation on the Timbuktu airport involving an airborne assault, air and ground support, and an armoured column, shows that the French tactical and operational art is alive and well. I recommend to all those interested to read this story on the air war, and for the French-speaking readers these excellent analysis here and here.

Just amazing

The Scale of the Universe 2:

07 February, 2013

Georgia’s Renaissance Cities - Georgia Trend

Georgia’s Renaissance Cities - Georgia Trend: Considered Georgia’s “most walkable city,” Decatur has managed to avoid gridlock because it’s easy to get there; the MARTA rail station is located under the city center. For those who drive, parking is available but walking is encouraged. “Our downtown invites people to get out of their cars and walk,” Floyd says. “People drive somewhere and park, then walk the rest of their day. Many residents walk from their homes. It’s not unusual for people in Decatur to walk a half mile or even a mile from their house.”

Decatur values the notion that a community is best when there is true diversity –not all single-family homes or apartments, business or residential. “We are a little unique here,” Floyd says. “We have people who care about issues and their neighbors. It doesn’t have just to do with color or lifestyle; it has to do with economic diversity, too. We have prided ourselves on having a community where a doctor can buy a house, and a block away his nurse can afford a house.”

Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise — Turning Points — Medium

Head Full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise — Turning Points — Medium: In a city in a state in the center of a country lives a group of people who believe they are the center of the universe; they know Right and Wrong, and they are Right. They work hard and go to school and get married and have kids who they take to church and teach that continually protesting the lives, deaths, and daily activities of The World is the only genuine statement of compassion that a God-loving human can sincerely make. As parents, they are attentive and engaged, and the children learn their lessons well.

This is my framework.

Until very recently, this is what I lived, breathed, studied, believed, preached – loudly, daily, and for nearly 27 years.

I never thought it would change. I never wanted it to.

Then suddenly: it did.

And I left.

Mental Health Break

Mental Health Break:
Sometimes a spoon is especially, er, handy:

Will Hillary freeze the Invisible Primary? - The Week

Will Hillary freeze the Invisible Primary? - The Week: But this year, all that might just stop. The Democratic Party has two tiers of candidates. In order for the second tier of candidates to even conceive of running, then the first tier has to step aside. That first tier, of course, is occupied by Clinton. Her intentions are unknowable, but trust me when I tell you that, to the extent that the Democratic Party still has reliable donors and committed activists, the lion's share are hoping Clinton runs and are ready to endorse her immediately. She is the 800-pound gorilla in a pantsuit. No one moves until she does.

Where Have You Gone, Barack Obama? � The Dish

Where Have You Gone, Barack Obama? � The Dish: If this Obama still resides in the White House, he must release the full memo to the full public, now. Just as DiFi should release the full Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture now. We have a right to know and see what our government is doing and has done with respect to core constitutional rights and the rule of law. Yes, we have to fight a war that was initiated by an enemy. But we have to fight that war as Americans, under our Constitution, with prudence and as much transparency as possible.

Come back, Mr Obama. The nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

In Front Of One’s Nose

In Front Of One’s Nose:
Some home truths from Steven Walt as he lists the “Top Five Truths You Won’t Hear Any U.S. Official Admit.” My primary concern? Number 3:
“There’s not going to be a two-state solution.” For official Washington insiders, the politically-correct answer to any question about the Israel-Palestine conflict is that we favor a two-state solution based on negotiations between the two parties, preferably done under U.S. auspices. Never mind that there’s not much support for creating a viable Palestinian state in Israel (surveys in Israel sometimes show slim majorities in favor of a 2SS, but support drops sharply when you spell out the details of what a viable state would mean).
Never mind that the Palestinians are too weak and divided to negotiate properly, and the failure of the long Oslo process has diminished Fatah’s legitimacy and strengthened the more hardline Hamas. Never mind that the latest Israeli election, while it weakened Netanyahu, did not strengthen the peace camp at all. And never mind that the United States has had twenty-plus years to pull of the deal and has blown it every time, mostly because it never acted like a genuine mediator. But nobody in official-dom is going to say this out loud, because they have no idea what U.S. policy would be once the 2SS was kaput.
That would be a good thing to be working on, don’t you think? Or are we going to end up like Sean Hannity on the last election night, when reality finally hits home.

The unsophisticated reply to the ‘sophisticated objection’ | Grist

The unsophisticated reply to the ‘sophisticated objection’ | Grist:
Not only does 4 degrees potentially threaten the ability of human beings to maintain advanced industrial societies, it is almost certainly a waystation along a path to even higher temperatures. By the time we get to 4 degrees, the earth’s biophysical systems are likely to be changing with a momentum that is unstoppable. We won’t just be condemning the people of 2100 to misery, but every generation thereafter as well, for centuries to come.

This new reality recently moved famed climate economist Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern Report, to say recently, “I underestimated the risks.” And you’ll recall that the Stern Report was denounced as “alarmist” when it came out. Discussion of climate by Very Serious People like Sunstein (and Salam) simply hasn’t grappled with climate situation as we now understand it.

So that’s the response to the sophisticated objection: The U.S. must act because all people have a moral obligation to act. We have no guarantee that if we act, others will act; we have no guarantee that if everyone acts, it will be enough. But inaction is not a choice. If the danger were an invading army from another planet or a raging global pandemic, we wouldn’t be having these arguments. The need for everyone to act would be obvious. Quibbles over who acts first, or who benefits most from the planet not being invaded, or how to avoid spending “too much” to avoid being annihilated would rightly be seen as verging on sociopathic. Everyone would be eager to act, despite having no certainty of success, because the alternative is simply unacceptable.

05 February, 2013

Loving Your Muslim Neighbor in 1221, by St. Francis

Loving Your Muslim Neighbor:
The Franciscan rule of 1221:
The brothers who go thus [among the Muslims] can envisage their spiritual role … by not making accusations or disputes, but being subject to every human creature for the sake of God and simply confessing they are Christians.
Unlike Mother Church, who viewed Islam as its greatest enemy, Brother Francis approached the other faith in the love of God. But the prescription of respect proved too innovative for the Church and disappeared only two years later in the rule of 1223.

Collective Memory

Collective Memory:
Oliver Sacks finds a silver lining in our tendency to misremember events:
We, as human beings, are landed with memory systems that have
fallibilities, frailties, and imperfections—but also great flexibility
and creativity. Confusion over sources or indifference to them can be a
paradoxical strength: if we could tag the sources of all our knowledge,
we would be overwhelmed with often irrelevant information.
Indifference to source allows us to assimilate what we read, what we are
told, what others say and think and write and paint, as intensely and
richly as if they were primary experiences. It allows us to see and hear
with other eyes and ears, to enter into other minds, to assimilate the
art and science and religion of the whole culture, to enter into and
contribute to the common mind, the general commonwealth of knowledge.
This sort of sharing and participation, this communion, would not be
possible if all our knowledge, our memories, were tagged and identified,
seen as private, exclusively ours. Memory is dialogic and arises not
only from direct experience but from the intercourse of many minds.

God made a farmer: Paul Harvey speech goes from YouTube to Super Bowl ad.

God made a farmer: Paul Harvey speech goes from YouTube to Super Bowl ad.:
The most striking Super Bowl ad in what has been, so far, a pretty disappointing year for Super Bowl ads, is a commercial for Dodge that aired late in the game. Over a series of still photos of farms, farmers, and farm equipment, the commercial played a talk by the conservative radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, who died in 2009. Harvey delivered the speech, called "So God Made a Farmer," at the Future Farmers of America convention in 1978.

And in 2011, Farms.com made a YouTube video that you can see above. It reached 1 million views, and the only difference between it and the Dodge ad is lower production values and no pitch for Dodge at the end.

02 February, 2013

Quote on the Arab Spring

Quote For The Day:
“The revolution is like a baby. You can’t say if this baby is
going to be a doctor or a lawyer, smart or dumb. Even if this baby
throws his mother’s purse, I can’t complain — he’s a baby,” - Rami, a Syrian activist, on the unfolding saga of the Arab Spring.