30 April, 2013

The Angst in Foggy Bottom - By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon | Foreign Policy

The Angst in Foggy Bottom - By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon | Foreign Policy: The use of qualifiers and the focus on the evidence from the White House is no accident: Past intelligence failures and the public's war exhaustion loom over the entire discussion of what to do when it comes to Syria. But among many at the State Department, as the death toll from the conflict climbs toward 100,000 people and the refugee population soars into the millions, a sense of "huge frustration" is growing, one department source said.

Category: weird

Piano found on Britain's highest mountain | UK news | guardian.co.uk: A musical mystery today surrounded Britain's highest mountain after a piano was discovered near its summit.

Volunteers clearing stones from the 4,418ft peak were astonished when they discovered the musical instrument on Ben Nevis. An appeal has now been launched to find out how and why the piano came to be within 200 metres of the top of the mountain.

28 April, 2013

Senate Democrats Save Air Travelers and GOP from the Sequester | New Republic

Senate Democrats Save Air Travelers and GOP from the Sequester | New Republic: But there’s an even more important principle at work—which is that, once we’ve decided on spending cuts, the affluent must be made to understand that they lead to an increase in suffering. If they’re too insulated from the pain, they’ll be too eager to support more cuts in the future. (And by “too eager” I mean an eagerness to cut more than is justified by any economic rationale. I’m not suggesting that cuts per se are bad.) The logic here is similar to the moral logic of a military draft: The people who sit out the fighting shouldn’t labor under the delusion that wars are relatively costless, or that the costs are far-removed from their daily lives. A democracy can only function if most of us have skin in the game.1

Guantanamo Prison Revolt Driven by Inmates’ Despair - NYTimes.com

Guantanamo Prison Revolt Driven by Inmates’ Despair - NYTimes.com: In interviews with nearly three dozen current and former administration, military and Congressional officials, lawyers for the detainees, and outside policy specialists, a clear consensus emerged on the result of the impasse over Guantanamo’s future: It has become a place where no new prisoners arrive and no one can leave, and it makes little sense.

“The situation is not sustainable,” said Kenneth Wainstein, the top national security official at the Justice Department in the Bush administration. “There are strong, principled arguments on both sides, but all of us across the spectrum have to acknowledge that this is far from an ideal situation and we need an exit strategy.”

Administration defenders blame Congress — especially Republicans who used Mr. Obama’s effort to close the prison as political ammunition — for the quagmire. Still, even if Mr. Obama had sent the inmates to a domestic prison, the problems raised by the perpetual imprisonment of detainees deemed risky but untriable would persist.

If you get attacked with a knife, run

What Martial Arts Have to Do With Atheism - Graeme Wood - The Atlantic:
The reality of a knife attack is that even if you stop 50% of the thrusts and slashes, you will be taking damage with every other move. And getting cut with a knife of any size is physiologically horrible in a way that few people realize. It is arguably worse than getting shot. A bullet is a tiny ball of metal that may or may not hit something vital. Unless you're shooting someone in the brainstem or heart, you're basically waiting for blood loss to incapacitate him. A knife--especially in the hands of someone who knows how to use it--cuts through everything it touches, and it's not going to malfunction or run out of bullets. It is also much harder to wrestle a blade out of a person's hand, because you can grab a gun without getting your fingers cut off.

What Is a Terrorist? | Bleeding Heart Libertarians

What Is a Terrorist? | Bleeding Heart Libertarians:
There is another reason behind my suggestion that a terrorist should be defined by his advancement of an unjust cause, in addition to his targeting of civilians: A typical terrorist is a principled evildoer. A theory of evil must distinguish between opportunistic evil and principled evil. Most criminals are opportunistic: they act in self-interest. Their goal is to gain something for themselves, wealth, power, or whatever. The ordinary murderer for monetary gain is in this category. But other criminals are principled. They do evil, not out of selfish motives, but because they act out of evil maxims. Terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden and tyrants like Jorge Videla, Adolf Hitler, and the Taliban arguably belong in this category. These persons are typically fanatic and immune to corruption or other temptations.

How I Met My Dead Parents

How I Met My Dead Parents:
I think I am finally ready to let these new images of my parents replace the ones I always had, the ones that stood in the way of my grief. I consider a lack of grief to be a lack of love, and I want to love my parents. It's a horrible thing to write, to admit, that I didn't love my parents, but for much of my life, I just don't think I did. My blog is changing that. I don't think children can ever really know their parents, but as I've slowly gotten to know mine at least a little better, I have finally begun to love them, maybe not as my parents, not yet, but simply as people — the people they were, they wanted to be, and even the ones they became.

26 April, 2013

Mary H K Choi –�My foreign mom

Mary H K Choi –�My foreign mom: My mother, on the other hand, speaks English poorly with a screwy, poncy Korean British accent, as if she learned it from watching one 1960s Merchant Ivory movie on repeat. She’s also ridiculously formal, deeply private and not a joiner. She transitions poorly. The move to Hong Kong with two wee kids and an absentee partner was rough. My father had elected to set up a shipping company. He was out of the country for eight months of the year, and sometime around my tenth birthday I discovered that he spoke conversational Russian for reasons that remain murky. All this is to say that he wasn’t around a lot.

25 April, 2013

Insider journalism about insider politics/insider journalism

Behind the Curtain: Mark Leibovich book 'This Town': A Washington takedown - POLITICO.com: Talk about incestuous: A top Obama official cashes in with a top corporation with the help of a top Washington fixer and gets top-shelf treatment from one of Washington’s top journalists (who also happens to be the co-byline on this piece.)

And they’re all personal friends, to boot.

This scene is virtually certain to make the final cut of Leibovich’s upcoming book, titled “This Town,” scheduled to be published in July. The book’s subtitle, for reasons we cannot fathom, will soon be changed from “The Way It Works in Suck Up City” to “Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital.”

But in the spirit of D.C.’s most incestuous weekend of the year, the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, we thought we’d have some fun and do some reporting on his reporting on our friends, sources and subjects to find out who else should worry most about his book.

The 1 Percent’s Solution - NYTimes.com

The 1 Percent’s Solution - NYTimes.com: Thus, the average American is somewhat worried about budget deficits, which is no surprise given the constant barrage of deficit scare stories in the news media, but the wealthy, by a large majority, regard deficits as the most important problem we face. And how should the budget deficit be brought down? The wealthy favor cutting federal spending on health care and Social Security — that is, “entitlements” — while the public at large actually wants to see spending on those programs rise.

You get the idea: The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor. What the top 1 percent wants becomes what economic science says we must do.

From a series of anti-sexual harassment, pro-hijab PSAs:

Creepy Ad Watch:
From a series of anti-sexual harassment, pro-hijab PSAs:

Lawmakers, aides may get Obamacare exemption - John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman - POLITICO.com

Lawmakers, aides may get Obamacare exemption - John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman - POLITICO.com:
“I have no problems with Congress being under the same guidelines,” Burr said. “I think if this is going to be a disaster — which I think it’s going to be — we ought to enjoy it together with our constituents.”

The developing narrative is potentially brutal for congressional Democrats and the White House. The health care law, controversial since it was passed in 2010, has been a target of the right and, increasingly, the left. There are concerns about its cost, implementation and impact on small businesses. If the two sides agree on a fix, leadership is discussing attaching it to a must-pass bill, like the government-funding resolution or legislation to hike the nation’s debt limit.

Republicans, though, haven’t been able to coalesce around a legislative health care plan of their own, either. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pushed a bill this week that would shift funds from a health care prevention fund to create a high-risk pool for sick Americans. That bill couldn’t even get a vote on the House floor as conservatives revolted, embarrassing Cantor and his leadership team. GOP leadership pulled the bill.

United States Military Women - May 2013: Newsmakers: GQ

United States Military Women - May 2013: Newsmakers: GQ: Keep Your Mouth Shut
Between October 1, 2010, and September 30, 2011, a total of 2,723 service members reported having been victims of sexual assault. It's estimated—according to the Pentagon itself—that more than 16,000 others were also assaulted during this time and did not report it.

Kayla Williams
Every time I'd ever experienced any type of sexual harassment, the response from guys was always "How you going to ruin some man's career just because you can't take it?" Like, that literal phrase. They would say, "This is a man's army; how did you expect to be treated?" The subtle implication was that a man's career was always more important than a woman's—and that since I couldn't be a combat-arms soldier, I wasn't a "real" soldier. I think that plays into creating the climate that tolerated treating women worse.

Cost saving in the House

ALL 5 LIVING PRESIDENTS in Dallas for Bush library dedication -- CONGRESS, AIDES MAY GET OBAMACARE EXEMPTION -- DAVID PLOUFFE signs with Bloomberg TV -- CIA, FBI flagged Boston suspect - POLITICO Playbook - POLITICO.com: --USA Today 6A, “Boehner-led cost-cutting saving millions in the House: Leading Dems’ complaints fall on deaf ears,” by Susan Davis: “The House of Representatives will spend 15% less on its own operations this year than it did three years ago under a cost-cutting effort launched by Speaker John Boehner that is on pace to save taxpayers more than $400 million by the end of this year. … Three years ago, the average lawmaker had an annual $1.5 million budget, which is down to $1.2 million. Those budgets … cover everything from staff salaries to district office rent and bottled water. … Leading Democrats have chafed at the belt tightening, arguing it undermines adequate personnel resources for research and oversight. …

Henry Farrell – On post-democracy

Henry Farrell – On post-democracy: Politicians, meanwhile, have floated away, drifting beyond the reach of the parties that nominally chose them and the voters who elected them. They simply don’t need us as much as they used to. These days, it is far easier to ask business for money and expertise in exchange for political favours than to figure out the needs of a voting public that is increasingly fragmented and difficult to understand anyway. Both the traditional right, which always had strong connections to business, and the new left, which has woven new ties in a hurry, now rely on the private sector more than on voters or party activists. As left and right grow ever more disconnected from the public and ever closer to one another, elections become exercises in branding rather than substantive choice.

Israel Airport Security Allowed To Read Tourists' Email

Israel Airport Security Allowed To Read Tourists' Email: wiredmikey writes "Israeli security officials at Ben Gurion airport are legally allowed to demand access to tourists' email accounts and deny them entry if they refuse, the country's top legal official said on Wednesday. Details of the policy were laid out by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein in a written response to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the group said in a statement. 'In a response dated April 24, 2013, the attorney general's office confirmed this practice,' ACRI said, quoting sections of the document which said it was only done in exceptional cases where 'relevant suspicious signs' were evident and only done with the tourist's 'consent'. 'Allowing security agents to take such invasive measures at their own discretion and on the basis of such flimsy "consent" is not befitting of a democracy,' commented Lila Margalit from ACRI."

Slash: Not Just a Punctuation Mark Anymore - Lingua Franca - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Slash: Not Just a Punctuation Mark Anymore - Lingua Franca - The Chronicle of Higher Education: Slash is clearly a word to watch. Slash I do mean word, not punctuation mark. The emergence of a new conjunction/conjunctive adverb (let alone one stemming from a punctuation mark) is like a rare-bird sighting in the world of linguistics: an innovation in the slang of young people embedding itself as a function word in the language. This use of slash is so commonplace for students in my class that they almost forgot to mention it as a new slang word this term. That young people have integrated innovative slash into their language while barely noticing its presence is all the more reason that conjunctive slash might have staying power.

To Start Winning Again | RedState

To Start Winning Again | RedState: ack in 2005 as RedState launched its second iteration, I had the pleasure of doing a podcast with Rush Limbaugh. He helped us launch RedState 2.0. He said something that has long stuck with me. He was, in that podcast, one of the first prominent conservative to say George W. Bush was not a conservative. He made clear he liked Bush, he supported Bush, Bush’s instincts were conservative, but he himself was not a movement conservative intending to advance conservative ideas.

Rush was right, as usual.

Nicholas Lemann: What Happened to the Environmental Movement? : The New Yorker

Nicholas Lemann: What Happened to the Environmental Movement? : The New Yorker: In the decades since Earth Day, Americans have become attuned to forms of social justice of which we used to be oblivious—the latest example is gay marriage, and the enlargement of the circle of concern that it stands for. Yet the cultural and economic distance between the top of American society and the broad middle has grown enormously. Political distances have grown, too. Gaylord Nelson’s state is now a battleground, represented in the U.S. Senate by a Republican who is associated with the Tea Party and a Democrat who is the body’s only gay member.

Meanwhile, liberals have come to take as a core creed the urgent need to reckon with global warming, and limit carbon emissions. To turn concern into action requires politics. The science of carbon emissions is there. The politics is not. On its anniversary, Earth Day is worth not just celebrating but also studying—as a story with political lessons. ♦

The Conflict Between the Hasidic and Immigrant Communities in East Ramapo -- New York Magazine

The Conflict Between the Hasidic and Immigrant Communities in East Ramapo -- New York Magazine: The students come to board meetings, in many cases, because their parents can’t. “Many parents don’t speak English or are too busy with work,” Olivia Castor says. But it leaves them in a difficult position: They are ostensibly the people the board is supposed to serve, but they have also become anti-board activists. “At a young age, you hear ‘Jewish’ and you automatically think, Oh, they’re trying to kill my school district,” says Tendrina Alexandre, a student leader at Spring Valley High School who graduated last year. “That’s not necessarily the case. I had plenty of Jewish friends that I grew up with. But then when you look at the school board, it’s like, What else are you supposed to think? Because it’s all Hasidic Jews. And it’s them against us.” In the past few weeks, while a state assemblyman was proposing the district be split geographically into two—one for the Yeshiva community and one for the public schools—the rhetoric intensified. Students held protests. After one contentious meeting, the board’s attorney buttonholed a high-school senior and called him a “piece of shit.”

Kowloon Walled City: Life in the City of Darkness | South China Morning Post

Kowloon Walled City: Life in the City of Darkness | South China Morning Post: In Cantonese, it was known as the City of Darkness.

But though it may have been a fetid slum, crawling with rats and dripping with sewage, it was stoutly defended to the last by those who lived there, as well as an unlikely ensemble of Chinese shopkeepers, faith healers and self-taught dentists.

It was once thought to be the most densely populated place on earth, with 35,000 people crammed into a few tiny apartment blocks and more than 300 interconnected high-rise buildings, all constructed without contributions from a single architect.

But in March 1993, the last batch of residents finally accepted the government's rehousing terms and compensation terms.

It brought down the final curtain on a bizarre chapter of Hong Kong's colonial past.

BBC News - A Point of View: The pain when children fly the nest

BBC News - A Point of View: The pain when children fly the nest:
Parental love, I think, is infinite. I mean this in the most prosaic possible way. Not infinitely good, or infinitely ennobling, or infinitely beautiful. Just infinite. Often, infinitely boring. Occasionally, infinitely exasperating. To other people, always infinitely dull - unless, of course, it involves their own children, when it becomes infinitely necessary.

That's why parents talking about their children can be so tedious - other parents, I mean, not me or you - not because we doubt their love, or the child's charms, but because itemizing infinities is obviously the most boring thing imaginable.

23 April, 2013

Bloomberg Says Interpretation of Constitution Will ‘Have to Change’ After Boston Bombing | Politicker

Bloomberg Says Interpretation of Constitution Will ‘Have to Change’ After Boston Bombing | Politicker:
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday the country’s interpretation of the Constitution will “have to change” to allow for greater security to stave off future attacks.

“The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a press conference in Midtown. “But we live in a complex world where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.”

21 April, 2013

On Suicide and why evolution might dispose us to it - and how to fight that.

presidentender comments on Best option to use to commit suicide:
Here's the real hell of it: depression and frustration and hatred are mechanisms to prevent activity in a different world than that in which we live now. It is best to sleep long hours and move little when the nights are long and the days are short and the food is scarce, during the dark European winter. But the adaptation is no longer relevant now when we are expected to move about, when we can shut ourselves inside and make an artificial night.

We must instead play a different trick on the wicked and limited body and brain. We must convince it that we are heir to the greatness of our ancestors, that we are still the mighty hunter on the plains of Africa. We must run - a block or two at first, and damn the opinions of the onlookers. We must gradually run further until our breath comes in ragged gasps and the sweat of our back runs down the crack of our ass, and we must learn to love the fire in our lungs and muscles.

Because, you see, your fear and sadness are lies. Your empty threat of harm to others is as well. Suicide promises a respite, an early exit that must be reached in a few short years in any case. This promise might be great, or it might not; but you can take advantage of death at any later time, and cannot reverse the decision to die once you've acted upon it.

So live, and run, and learn things and win meaningful victories. I will be truly amazed if doing this does not erase your urge to die.

Academic Paper on FB Regret

11 websites you didn’t know you needed, via TEDGlobal speakers | TED Blog: 2. ‘I regretted the minute I pressed share’: A Qualitative Study of Regrets on Facebook” (PDF)
Ever regret posting something dumb on Facebook? In one of the most entertaining academic papers ever written, a team of researchers at Alessandro Acquisti’s lab share clinical interviews about social-media shame. From authors: Yang Wang, Saranga Komanduri, Pedro G. Leon, Gregory Norcie, Alessandro Acquisti, and Lorrie Faith Cranor.

Boston Review — David V. Johnson: Lives of the Moral Saints (Larissa MacFarquhar)

Boston Review — David V. Johnson: Lives of the Moral Saints (Larissa MacFarquhar): When I started working on this project I was simply interested in what a life lived according to certain kinds of moral strictures looked like. But when I wrote about people who had donated one of their kidneys to a stranger, I was astonished and fascinated to hear about how much hostility they had encountered, and I wanted to think about what was behind that.

DJ: Outsiders were suspicious.

LM: They were. But in all sorts of different ways. Some thought people who appeared to be extremely ethical must be somehow cheating—that they couldn’t actually be doing all those good things. Others believed they were doing those things, but they found that so weird that they thought they must have some kind of mental illness—that they must lack the ordinary component of desires or feelings, or that there was something robotic about them.

NPR Code Switch | When Our Kids Own America

NPR Code Switch | When Our Kids Own America: And so, the “Harlem Shake” kerfuffle isn’t just about some hip-hop dance, but about these anxieties of ownership of the past and future, about generational tensions around acknowledgement, respect and reverence, about the understandable if futile impulse to want culture to retain something like purity, about disparities in power both real and perceived, about land and property, about realness and authenticity and race and history.

For good or ill, the country our kids are creating will work by new, confounding rules.

It’s the rest of us, those of us who’ve been here for awhile and who still find comfort with these old modes of viewing the world, who will start to face the discomfort of assimilating. A Minnesota suburb that looks more like a Brooklyn ‘hood. A “Harlem Shake” that looks nothing like Harlem.

Rafia Zakaria: The Tragedies of Other Places - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics

Rafia Zakaria: The Tragedies of Other Places - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics: It is this greater poignancy of attacks in America that begs the question of whether the world’s allocations of sympathy are determined not by the magnitude of a tragedy—the numbers dead and injured—but by the contrast between a society’s normal and the cruel aftermath of a terrorist event. It is in America that the difference between the two is the greatest; the American normal is one of a near-perfect security that is unimaginable in many places, especially in countries at war. The very popularity of the Boston Marathon could be considered an expression of just this. America is so secure and free from suffering that people have the luxury of indulging in deliberate suffering in the form of excruciating physical exertion; this suffering in turn produces well-earned exhilaration, a singular sense of physical achievement and mental fortitude.

Why Boston's Hospitals Were Ready : The New Yorker

Why Boston's Hospitals Were Ready : The New Yorker: The bombs at the Boston Marathon were designed to maim and kill, and they did. Three people died within the first moments of the blast. More than a hundred and seventy people were injured. They had their limbs blown off, vital arteries severed, bones fractured, flesh torn open by shrapnel or scorched by the blasts’ heat. Yet it now appears that every one of the wounded alive when rescuers reached them will survive.

Medically speaking, this is no small accomplishment.

History For Politicians of Today | Rory Stewart MP

History For Politicians of Today | Rory Stewart MP: Perhaps the most striking ‘lesson’ has been how unpopular celebrated people were in their time. Churchill was hated by much of the press, the country, and his own party: when he begged for just fifty to join him in the lobbies calling for rearmament, in 1938, only 3 defied the whips to do so. Gladstone was right to push for Home Rule in Ireland, but destroyed his party, and was vilified, for his attempt. Peel was right about the Corn Laws, about Catholic emancipation, and about foreign policy, but everyone disliked him. They loved Palmerston, who was wrong about everything. Politics is, in part, an art, by which an individual attempts to shape, and be shaped by the imaginations of a particular community, in a particular place, with a particular culture, at a particular time. Its field is human contact, human pride, and human fears. Politicians are prone to paranoia and megalomania, to amnesia, to irresponsibility. These are not things which can be overcome through economics, through political science, and central plans. Perhaps they can never be overcome. But they are things which are best understood, and in some measure addressed, through a knowledge of history.

Jeremy Grantham on population growth, China and climate sceptics | Leo Hickman | Environment | guardian.co.uk

Jeremy Grantham on population growth, China and climate sceptics | Leo Hickman | Environment | guardian.co.uk: One of the problems is that typically you are not dealing with the facts. Putting in more facts makes the sceptics more angry. They have profound beliefs – as opposed to knowledge – that they are willing to protect by all manner of psychological tricks. So you have people who are very smart - even great analysts and hedge fund managers - who on paper know that their argument is wrong, but who promote it fiercely because they are libertarians. Libertarians believe that any government interference is bad. Anyone with a brain knows that climate change needs governmental leadership and they can smell this is bad news for their philosophy. Their ideology is so strongly held that remarkably it's overcoming the facts. They are using incredible ingenuity to steer their way around facts that they do not choose to accept philosophically. Laying down more facts just makes them more angry. You may win over a few neutrals. They are the people you can win over. But it's very hard to win over the hardcore sceptics, of which there are plenty.

Domestic air travel is safer, cheaper, and better than ever. - Slate Magazine

Domestic air travel is safer, cheaper, and better than ever. - Slate Magazine: First the basics. A modern commercial jet moves upward of a 200 people through the air at hundreds of miles per hour, leaving all alternative means of long-distance transportation in the dust. It’s instructive every once in a while to be seated next to a little kid on his first flight and watch the look of amazement on his face as he gazes out the window. American travelers fly about 10 billion more passenger-miles than we did a decade ago despite a weak economy. What’s more, the price per mile flown has fallen immensely over the past 30 years. If you’re willing to pay late-’70s prices for your air travel—which is to say double present-day fares—you can book yourself into business class and enjoy a luxury travel experience.

On Prejudice in Sweden

An Open Letter to Beatrice Ask - Asymptote: Suddenly someone came up on our right side, a broad man with an earpiece. "How's it going?" He asked for ID and then he pushed our arms up in a police grip and transported us toward the police van, where we were apparently supposed to sit while waiting for him to receive confirmation that we were who we said we were. Apparently we matched a description. Apparently we looked like someone else. We sat in the police van for twenty minutes. Alone. But not really alone. Because a hundred people were walking by. And they looked in at us with a look that whispered, "There. One more. Yet another one who is acting in complete accordance with our prejudices."

And I wish you had been with me in the police van, Beatrice Ask. But you weren't. I sat there alone. And I met all the eyes walking by and tried to show them that I wasn't guilty, that I had just been standing in a place and looking a particular way. But it's hard to argue your innocence in the back seat of a police van.

And it's impossible to be part of a community when Power continually assumes that you are an Other.

18 April, 2013

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled | RedState

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled | RedState:
Choosing to let your heart not be troubled is not easy. It is often hard. We see bombings in Boston, planes flying into tall buildings, random explosions killing many at one time in Texas, politicians and citizens at each others throats and it seems the whole world has gone mad. But the world has always been mad. We are just more aware of it these days with bold events that shock the conscience.

We are on a blue marble circling a giant ball of plasma that if we draw too close to we burn up as we and it hurtle around a black hole at the center of a galaxy scientists believe will one day collide with another galaxy. The world is a crappy, hostile place in a colder than ice dangerous expanse of vacuum, radiation, and sweet meteors of death. The thought that we exist as we do at all borders on absurdity.

And yet there is a one year old who, though she knows not why her father cries in the rain and mud, pats his face to tell him it is okay. There are strangers who, instead of running from the blast, turn to it to help those who have fallen. There is a President some of us care little for who chooses his words carefully to bind the wounds of dark days for all of us regardless of our votes.

The world is not meant to be fair. It is a maddening place filled with bad and evil. But the good shines through. The right overwhelms the wrong. The very real good slays the very real evil. The smiles break through the tears.

You do not have to be mad in a maddening world. You can choose to be happy. You can choose to be optimistic. You can choose to let not your heart be troubled.

Where does the public see innovation?

Where does the public see innovation?:
The Lockheed Martin corporation recently conducted a poll in which they asked members of the public to choose the company’s “ultimate innovation.” There were a lot of fancy gizmos in the poll, including some very recent ones that definitely qualify as “innovations.” The Joint Strike Fighter, for example – a jet that can take off vertically and then fly at supersonic speed - is pretty damn cool. The SR-71 is almost mythic in the aerospace world. There were underwater robots and fighters that helped us win World War II.
But what won the poll, in the eyes of the public? What was the “ultimate innovation?”
A twenty-three-year-old clunker of a machine. A device that was once universally panned as myopic and wasteful.
The Hubble Space Telescope.

17 April, 2013

Why So Little Terrorism? - NYTimes.com

Why So Little Terrorism? - NYTimes.com: 1) We’ve just gotten lucky. That’s the case Will Saletan made for Slate yesterday, after running through the F.B.I.’s list of cases involving explosives going back to the beginning of 2012. He found plenty of intercepted plots against soft targets (malls, synagogues, restaurants, etc.), several cases where only a last-minute break prevented the plot from going forward, and plenty of plotters canny enough to cobble together their devices out of ordinary household materials. ”When you look at the 20 cases,” Saletan writes, “you realize that Boston is just the tip of the iceberg. What’s surprising isn’t that the marathon bombing succeeded, but that so many other plots failed.” And given the combination of an expanded target list and the ongoing innovations of bombmakers, he suggests, we should expect more of them to succeed in the future.

16 April, 2013

Obama’s Gitmo Disgrace

Obama’s Gitmo Disgrace:
Obama did not create Gitmo and he wanted to close it. But he cannot have it every which way. By sustaining the prison and former torture camp, by keeping human beings locked up for ever for no reason but his own political fears of looking weak on terror, he is now fully responsible for the deaths that may ensue or the barbaric force-feeding that now appears to be routine. These men are not guilty. For America to imprison them indefinitely in that knowledge and not transfer them to their country of origin is simply a betrayal of core values. That the Obama administration is also spying and videoing confidential attorney-client conversations is also an outrage. Where is the Chicago Law professor when you need him?

Keep Calm and Carry On - NYTimes.com

Keep Calm and Carry On - NYTimes.com: This kind of security theater is a natural response to terrorism, but it’s a response that since 9/11 we’ve done an absolutely terrible job of reasoning through and then gradually ratcheting back. Today’s attack, on the kind of event that countless cities hold and that even the most omnicompetent police force couldn’t make entirely secure, could easily lead to a further ratchet, a further expansion of preventive (or preventive-seeming) measures, a further intrusion of bureaucratic and paramilitary rituals into the rhythms of everyday life. Or it could be an opportunity to recognize the limits of such measures, the impossibility of achieving perfect security, and the costs of pretending that an extra ring of barriers and inconveniences will suffice to stop a determined evil from finding its way through.

15 April, 2013

"More Regulation Please! - The New Republic"

New Republic:
In the United States, despite the fact that work and family life has changed profoundly in recent decades, we lack anything resembling an actual child care system. Yes, excellent day cares are available, but only if you have the money to pay for them and the luck to secure a spot. Overall, the quality is wildly uneven and barely monitored, and at the lower end, it’s Dickensian.

An In-dpeth investigation of a hoax

When Dickens met Dostoevsky | TLS: L ate in 2011, Michiko Kakutani opened her New York Times review of Claire Tomalin’s biography of Charles Dickens with “a remarkable account” she had found in its pages. In London for a few days in 1862, Fyodor Dostoevsky had dropped in on Dickens’s editorial offices and found the writer in an expansive mood. In a letter written by Dostoevsky to an old friend sixteen years later, the writer of so many great confession scenes depicted Dickens baring his creative soul:

14 April, 2013

A Wild Country Grows in South Sudan | Sudan | OutsideOnline.com

A Wild Country Grows in South Sudan | Sudan | OutsideOnline.com: THE NEWEST country in the world is physically large—240,000 square miles, the size of France—and catastrophically ungoverned. It is a featureless grassland for most of its open, landlocked run. South Sudan is a landscape without clear divisions or functioning borders, touching Sudan and the Arab world to the north and the troubled Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic to the west, with East Africa pressing up from below. The waters of the Nile and thick seasonal rains drive a wedge of green grass across plains teeming with animals. National Geographic explorer Mike Fay made global headlines in 2007 when he completed the first aerial survey in 25 years and estimated that there were 1.3 million animals flowing across it, a great migratory river of white-eared kob and other antelope and gazelle dotted with a stash of elephants and a handful of species—including beisa oryx and Nile lechwe antelope—existing nowhere else on earth. Finding this many unknown animals anywhere was like finding El Dorado, Fay said at the time; finding them in war-torn Africa was even better.

Rand Paul’s Wasted Day at Howard | Official Artur Davis

Rand Paul’s Wasted Day at Howard | Official Artur Davis:
On the subject of federal assistance, Paul rightly held his ground that more is not always better. But his mantra that “I want a government that leaves you alone” had no chance of resonating with students who view government as a source of student loans and Pell Grants, and to whom being left alone might well mean being uninsured during a health crisis. Paul avoided making the case that a conservative agenda might actually outperform liberal goals in the area of poverty or education. And in a university setting that teaches the value of offering evidence for one’s propositions, Paul mentioned no specific policies that would address the interests of people about to enter an uncertain job market while straining to pay down the debt of financing a degree.

In other words, a would-be president who has talked forcefully about his party’s need to refashion itself did no more than repeat a narrative that neither black nor white conservatives have managed to sell to black audiences. Paul had a chance to demonstrate something bolder than the willingness to endure a hostile crowd: that is, if he had the nimbleness to couch his arguments in the interests of the people he was trying to reach; and the empathy to show that economic inequality, entrenched poverty, and the rising numbers of blacks under 35 who aren’t reaching their parents levels of economic performance are the kinds of things he worries about.

Instead, Paul gave Howard what it expected to hear. So, both Paul and the crowd that turned out can say that they both stood the other’s company. The truth is they both left a little bit diminished.

Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities | Grist

Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities | Grist: So rates would rise by 20 percent for those without solar panels. Can you imagine the political s***storm that would create? (There are reasons to think EEI is exaggerating this effect, but we’ll get into that in the next post.)

If nothing is done to check these trends, the U.S. electric utility as we know it could be utterly upended. The report compares utilities’ possible future to the experience of the airlines during deregulation or to the big monopoly phone companies when faced with upstart cellular technologies. In case the point wasn’t made, the report also analogizes utilities to the U.S. Postal Service, Kodak, and RIM, the maker of Blackberry devices. These are not meant to be flattering comparisons.

For Penney, a Tough Lesson in Shopper Psychology - NYTimes.com

For Penney, a Tough Lesson in Shopper Psychology - NYTimes.com: Consumers infer that they get a great deal based on the reference point provided by the higher, presale price. Social scientists refer to this idea as anchoring, and it applies to all sorts of consumer behavior and expectations. Without that anchor, consumers have trouble determining whether the store is actually giving them a good price.

Anotherfuckwit comments on Can someone explain these photos to a curious Bostonian?

Anotherfuckwit comments on Can someone explain these photos to a curious Bostonian?:

In death, Margaret Thatcher has, once again, divided the country. Many wish to celebrate her life and her accomplishments, turning an tired, labour driven country into a global player in stock markets and a world leader in capitalism. Others are celebrating the death of a leader whose policies drove many into poverty and whose 'iron' will meant she would ignore the collateral damage her right wing policies created. By coincidence, her death occurred the before the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Whilst some clubs are holding a minute's silence out of respect for her, The Liverpool fans are making it clear, their remembrance is for their families and loved ones who died.

13 April, 2013

Ornstein: Congress Has Changed, Not for the Better, and Now It Needs Changing : Roll Call Opinion

Ornstein: Congress Has Changed, Not for the Better, and Now It Needs Changing : Roll Call Opinion:

But on many other lower-profile issues, Republicans were able and willing to work with Democrats to find bipartisan solutions to problems. That is lost in the mists of history.

There are no more moderate or liberal Republicans — the Sherwood Boehlerts, John Porters, Amo Houghtons and Michael N. Castles are long gone. What now passes for a moderate would have been considered a bedrock conservative in the early 1990s.

The House GOP has veered sharply, even drastically, to the right from what already was a pretty rightist center of gravity.

But more important has been the attitudinal change. Respect for the institution of Congress — much less for the framers’ vision of policymaking through deliberation, debate and an effort to find common ground, or at least grounds for compromise — has been replaced by obduracy, contempt for compromise and a level of demonization of the other side, starting with the president. This is deeply unsettling.

10 April, 2013

Being Gay at Jerry Falwell's University - Brandon Ambrosino - The Atlantic

Being Gay at Jerry Falwell's University - Brandon Ambrosino - The Atlantic: When I told Dr. Borland that I had to leave, he got up from his rocking chair and came over to me. We were both standing face to face, and I was now scared shitless. His brow furrowed a little bit, and I assumed he was going to tell me he was disappointed with my decision to drop out and come out.

"Well," he said, and then he thought some more. He took one step closer to me, and cleared his throat before continuing. "I got your email, Brandon."

He paused again, as he searched my face for who knows what.

He spoke again, this time quieter than before. "I just wanted to let you know that you're my friend and I love you." And with that, he nodded his head and then gave me a bear hug, before walking me to the driveway and telling me to make it home safely.

I climbed into my car almost in slow-motion. I was shocked. I was expecting Dr. Borland to act differently towards me. I was expecting him to be... well, a homophobe. But as I put on my seatbelt, I realized that all that time, I was the one who was afraid. Not him. I'd been warned my whole life about homophobia, but no one ever said anything about homophobiaphobia.

the origin of the tag - www

the origin of the tag - www: I am widely credited as the inventor of the tag. For those of you who are relatively new to the Web, the tag is an HTML command that causes text to blink, and many, many people find its behavior to be extremely annoying. I won't deny the invention, but there is a bit more to the story than is widely known.

09 April, 2013

Humanism and Holocaust History - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic

Humanism and Holocaust History - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic: One final point. It is often said that racism is the result of a lack of education, that it must be defeated by civilization and progress. Nothing points to the silliness of that idea like the Holocaust. "Civilization" is irrelevant to racism. I don't even know what "civilization" means. When all your great theory, and awesome literature, and philosophy amounts to state bent on genocide, what is it worth? There were groups of hunter-gatherers wandering the Kalahari who were more civilized than Germany in 1943.

RedState, on why the filibuster is so "required"

In Which Senator Isakson Makes Himself Irrelevant | RedState: If Republicans are of the belief that there must be an up-or-down vote on bills that violate the most unambiguous part of the Bill of Rights, then what is the purpose of serving in the Senate? Since the Democrats have a clear majority, senators like Johnny Isakson should just stay home. Serving in the minority in the Senate is inherently an invidious task. When confronted with bad legislation, especially bills that violate the Bill of Rights, the only way to obstruct them is by getting your hands dirty with a filibuster. If you’re not up to the task, then go back to Georgia and run for your county school board.

The Pain of Losing Well: Michigan's Heartbreak - The Triangle Blog - Grantland

The Pain of Losing Well: Michigan's Heartbreak - The Triangle Blog - Grantland: Taking the long view, the Wolverines had little reason to be upset. They were facing the best team in the country, and they had already overachieved in the tournament. It took a miracle comeback to win the Kansas game in the Sweet 16, and then they got hot in a way that felt almost unbelievable. It continued 16 minutes into the championship game itself, when Spike Albrecht, whose previous career high was seven points, tallied 17 in one of the most incredible and unlikely displays in championship history. Like Wichita State before them, the Wolverines had a 12-point lead on Louisville.

But again, this is the team that doesn't lose. Russ Smith goes 3-for-16? No problem. Michigan shoots 52.1 percent, Louisville shoots 45.9? No problem. There's always a way, and when Luke Hancock hit four 3-pointers in two minutes to cut the lead from 12 to one at the end of the first half, you could almost chide yourself for forgetting. This is the team that doesn't lose.

08 April, 2013

Margaret Thatcher Refuses to Jump

Margaret Thatcher Refuses to Jump:
This is how leaders used to talk. They didn’t use baby words. They said mothers and fathers, not moms and dads. A funny thing modern politicians, all of whom are mobbed up with media consultants, don’t understand: If they spoke like adults people would respect them more. And they’d stand out more from the pack. And if the adult language they were speaking were completely natural to them, obviously organic to them, people would be more than impressed, they’d be grateful. Anyway, this is how the grown-ups used to do it.

Reddit on Thatcher

Ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died following a stroke : worldnews: She implemented policies, based purely on a right-wing ideology, which caused massive unemployment and poverty, whilst at the same time leading a government which demonised the unemployed as work-shy scroungers.

Whole communities were destroyed when their main employers closed down, either as an indirect result of the government's laissez-faire policies, or were directly closed down by the government, i.e. most of the country's coal mines. Through all of this her government really didn't seem to care about the people, the human misery involved. See unemployed = work-shy scroungers, above.

She created an us-and-them mentality, whereby those who disagreed were "the enemy within". There is much evidence that the police were deliberately politicised and used to suppress opposition. Having been part of that opposition myself, I can say that it felt like we were nearing a police state.

It's difficult now to really give a flavour of how things were back then; it was a deeply divided society. For those of us on the opposite side of the political spectrum it wasn't just a political difference, it was a fight for the soul of our country, which was being sold off to the highest bidder. And the government used all the powers it had, the press barons, the spin doctors, the police, to beat down the opposition.

Andrew Sullivan on Thatcher

Thatcher, Liberator:
I remember reading an article in the Washington Monthly back in the late 1980s by one of the smugger liberal British columnists, Polly Toynbee. It captured part of the true derangement that Margaret Thatcher brought out in her political foes. It was called simply: “Is Margaret Thatcher A Woman?” It’s still online. It was a vicious attack on her having any feminist credentials. It included this magnificent lie:
She has experienced nothing but advantage from her gender.
Toynbee’s case is worth hearing out, but it’s an instant classic of the worst British trait: resentment of others’ success. No culture I know of is more brutally unkind to its public figures, hateful toward anyone with a degree of success or money, or more willing to ascribe an individual’s achievements to something other than their own ability. The Britain I grew up with was, in this specific sense, profoundly leftist in the worst sense. It was cheap and greedy and yet hostile to anyone with initiative, self-esteem, and the ability to make money.


Perhaps in future years, her legacy might be better seen as a last, sane defense of the nation-state as the least worst political unit in human civilization. Her deep suspicion of the European project was rooted in memories of the Blitz, but it was also prescient and wise. Without her, it is doubtful the British would have kept their currency and their independence. They would have German financiers going over the budget in Whitehall by now, as they are in Greece and Portugal and Cyprus. She did not therefore only resuscitate economic freedom in Britain, she kept Britain itself free as an independent nation. Neither achievement was inevitable; in fact, each was a function of a single woman’s will-power. To have achieved both makes her easily the greatest 20th century prime minister after Churchill.
He saved Britain from darkness; she finally saw the lights come back on. And like Churchill, it’s hard to imagine any other figure quite having the character, the will-power and the grit to have pulled it off.

07 April, 2013

Origins of C.I.A.’s Not-So-Secret Drone War in Pakistan - NYTimes.com

Origins of C.I.A.’s Not-So-Secret Drone War in Pakistan - NYTimes.com: Nek Muhammad knew he was being followed.

On a hot day in June 2004, the Pashtun tribesman was lounging inside a mud compound in South Waziristan, speaking by satellite phone to one of the many reporters who regularly interviewed him on how he had fought and humbled Pakistan’s army in the country’s western mountains. He asked one of his followers about the strange, metallic bird hovering above him. 

Less than 24 hours later, a missile tore through the compound, severing Mr. Muhammad’s left leg and killing him and several others, including two boys, ages 10 and 16. A Pakistani military spokesman was quick to claim responsibility for the attack, saying that Pakistani forces had fired at the compound.\

That was a lie.

06 April, 2013

Medicine and Ethics

Medicine and Ethics:

A new drug is being tested so see if it has a better success rate than standard treatment. The standard treatment has a 40% success rate, so to prove that the new drug is significantly better the success rate must be greater than 40% -- and that number must be reproducible. One hundred patients are enrolled on study and eight hundred of them are deemed successes. To determine whether or not this outcome proves the new drug to be significantly better, the probability of this outcome occurring with standard treatment is calculated; the smaller the probability, the more statistically significant the result.

This is how clinical trials currently operate, yielding specific results but at a slow rate and high cost.

A novel trial methodology is testing this convention. Using Bayesian statistical models, researchers have created a more flexible, cost-effective, and patient-centered study design that can also produce more statistically significant results. In this model, the study continues until a certain number of patients have “failed” (as defined by the researchers). The possible results from such a trial are limitless, since the number of patients who will enroll before the pre-determined number of patients fail is unknown. If the treatment causes patients to fail, the trial ends quickly; if the treatment leads to repeated successes, the trial continues indefinitely.

In Politics, It's Still About Who You Know

In Politics, It's Still About Who You Know: Except… it doesn’t actually work that way. No, the party bosses don’t quite work the way they used to, but they’re still there, in one form or another. And people who think they can make it in politics on their own fail far more often than they succeed. In research for my book, I studied the backgrounds of people involved in local politics in California. It turns out that lawyers and businesspeople, the people we tend to think of as strong potential candidates, have no real advantage in elections—they do about as well as anyone else. The people who do have electoral advantages are those who have worked for officeholders, are related to officeholders, or have ties to political organizations like unions or interest groups.

History Channel Worldwide Brand Campaign, “Know Where You Stand” | Seth Taras Pictures

History Channel Worldwide Brand Campaign, “Know Where You Stand” | Seth Taras Pictures

Airline Pilot Confidential: The Teddy Bear Incident. | JetHead's Blog

Airline Pilot Confidential: The Teddy Bear Incident. | JetHead's Blog: Less than fifteen minutes till push. Can you maybe say you didn’t see any of this? But you did.

“What do you need?” you ask the older, maybe sixteen-year-old sister.

She puts the cell phone down for a second, plaintive. “She left her backpack at security.”

Sigh. The agent is looking at you pointedly, his eyes saying we need to board now and shut the aircraft door. But from the tears in the young girl’s eyes, you pretty much guess what’s in the backpack. I consider taking the youngster back through security–but then think better of it.

On China’s State-Sponsored Amnesia - NYTimes.com

On China’s State-Sponsored Amnesia - NYTimes.com: IN March 2012 I met Torbjorn Loden, the Swedish professor of Chinese language and culture, in Hong Kong. He told me that while briefly teaching at Hong Kong’s City University he asked the 40 students from China in his class what they knew about the June 4 Incident, the pro-democracy movement that ended in bloodshed in 1989, and if they were familiar with the names Liu Binyan and Fang Lizhi, two prominent democracy advocates of that era. All the students from China looked around at one another, mute and puzzled.

Cognitive Biases and the Trouble with Moral Local Shopping | Lost in Transcription

Cognitive Biases and the Trouble with Moral Local Shopping | Lost in Transcription: I suspect the difference is that open, unlimited, easy-to-access wifi makes you feel welcome, while limited, closed wifi makes you feel at best like a supplicant and at worst like a would-be criminal who is being scolded in advance.

Why am I so sure that free, open, unlimited wifi is the financially smarter move? Because big corporations like Starbucks and Panera, with lots of data and people who are trying to maximize profits, deliberately switched to the unlimited system.

What puzzles me is why small business owners don’t look at this and say, “You know what? If I am going to compete with these big stores, I should set up free wifi and a nice bathroom. I should try to make my customers feel as welcome and comfortable as I can.”

04 April, 2013

Does anyone know any more abou this Bowdoin study?

Conformity, Partisanship Dominate Elite College, Say Scholars |�National Association of Scholars: New York, NY (April 3, 2013)—The National Association of Scholars today released What Does Bowdoin Teach? The 360-page meticulously-detailed study treats Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine as an example of what happens when liberal arts education is dominated by political partisanship. Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett said, “The report is perhaps the most deep and specific to date on how progressive ideology has altered the character of American higher education.”

Roger Ebert dead at 70 after battle with cancer - Chicago Sun-Times

Roger Ebert dead at 70 after battle with cancer - Chicago Sun-Times:

In 1997, unsatisfied with spending his critical powers “locked in the present,” he began a running a feature revisiting classic movies and eventually published three books on “The Great Movies” (and two books on movies he hated). A second column, his “Movie Answer Man” allowed readers to learn about intriguing details of cinema that only a Roger Ebert knew or could ferret out.

That, too, became a book. Ebert wrote more books than any TV personality since Steve Allen — 17 in all. Not only collections of reviews, both good and bad, and critiques of great movies, but humorous film term glossaries and even a novel, “Behind the Phantom’s Mask,” that was serialized in the Sun-Times. He even wrote a book about rice cookers, “The Pot and How to Use It,” despite the fact that he could no longer eat. In 2011 his autobiography, “Life Itself,” won rave reviews. “This is the best thing Mr. Ebert has ever written,” Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times. It is, fittingly enough, being made into a documentary, produced by his longtime friend, Martin Scorsese.

Roger Joseph Ebert was born in Urbana on June 18, 1942, the son of Walter and Annabel Ebert. His father was an electrician at the University of Illinois, his mother, a bookkeeper. It was a liberal household — Ebert remembers his parents praying for the success of Harry Truman in the election of 1948. As a child, he published a mimeographed neighborhood newspaper, and a stamp collectors’ newspaper in elementary school.

03 April, 2013

Corporations getting cold feet on tax reform - Rachael Bade and Jonathan Allen - POLITICO.com

Corporations getting cold feet on tax reform - Rachael Bade and Jonathan Allen - POLITICO.com:
At first, it seemed like an idea the White House, Congress and corporate America could all agree on. Every company would play by the same tax rules: They would give up their special tax breaks in exchange for lowering the basic tax rate from 35 percent to as little as 25 percent.

But with Congress starting to dig into the details, many captains of industry are backpedaling — and fast.

The corporations aren’t keen on giving up the special tax breaks that have let many of them pay Uncle Sam less than advertised for years.

And they’ve gone on the offense to protect their favorite loopholes.

One thing we don’t know about Hillary - Salon.com

One thing we don’t know about Hillary - Salon.com:
The question for someone considering whether or not to support Clinton in 2016 is, will a Clinton 2016 campaign pass the Mark Penn Test? The Mark Penn Test, which I just invented, determines whether or not a person should be trusted with the presidency, based solely on one criterion: Whether or not they pay Mark Penn to do anything for their campaign. Paying Mark Penn means you’ve failed the Mark Penn Test.

Mark Penn is a pollster and political strategist and amoral P.R. creature who is generally wrong about everything. To find out how incompetent Mark Penn is at campaign strategy and how personally toxic he is in a campaign working environment go to your local library and check out literally any book about the 2008 presidential race. For the basics, check here and here. In short, he had no clue how the primaries actually worked and constantly pushed for the campaign to go as nasty and negative as possible, and everyone hated him and he was bad at his job and eventually he was fired.

Fired, but still well compensated. Since Clinton’s 2008 campaign ended, she has milked her donors — and Obama supporters — for millions of dollars to pay off her campaign’s debt. $5.4 million of the debt — all of it, that is — was owed to Mark Penn’s firm Penn, Schoen & Berland. Anyone donating money to Clinton since 2008 has essentially been paying off the man who did more than anyone outside the Obama campaign to prevent her from becoming president. The debt was only just paid off in full in January, just as Clinton left the State Department and shortly before the new pro-Clinton super PAC began operating.

Filing taxes: It shouldn't be so hard | The Economist

Filing taxes: It shouldn't be so hard | The Economist:
N 2010 a panel created by the White House estimated that American taxpayers spend 7.6 billion hours and some $140 billion a year keeping the IRS off their backs. According to the Washington Post over 80% of taxpayers use software or pay someone to file their taxes. The national taxpayer advocate, a sort-of in-house IRS watchdog, once said, "If tax compliance were an industry, it would be one of the largest in the United States." But of course, it is an industry.

It is an industry made up of accountants and companies like H&R Block and Intuit, which makes the TurboTax software used by many Americans. And it is an industry that, according to ProPublica, has worked hard to keep the IRS from preparing your tax returns for you for free. Intuit, for example, has spent millions lobbying the federal government, opposing bills that would allow the IRS to send you pre-filled-in returns (the agency already has most of your relevant information) and supporting bills that would ban the practice.