31 May, 2013

Science and technology: Sunny uplands | The Economist

Science and technology: Sunny uplands | The Economist: Rebranding is always a tricky exercise, but for one field of technology 2013 will be the year when its proponents need to bite the bullet and do it. That field is alternative energy. The word “alternative”, with its connotations of hand-wringing greenery and a need for taxpayer subsidy, has to go. And in 2013 it will. “Renewable” power will start to be seen as normal.

Belief Is the Least Part of Faith - NYTimes.com

Belief Is the Least Part of Faith - NYTimes.com
But secular Americans often think that the most important thing to understand about religion is why people believe in God, because we think that belief precedes action and explains choice. That’s part of our folk model of the mind: that belief comes first. 

And that was not really what I saw after my years spending time in evangelical churches. I saw that people went to church to experience joy and to learn how to have more of it. These days I find that it is more helpful to think about faith as the questions people choose to focus on, rather than the propositions observers think they must hold.
If you can sidestep the problem of belief — and the related politics, which can be so distracting — it is easier to see that the evangelical view of the world is full of joy. God is good. The world is good. Things will be good, even if they don’t seem good now. That’s what draws people to church. It is understandably hard for secular observers to sidestep the problem of belief. But it is worth appreciating that in belief is the reach for joy, and the reason many people go to church in the first place.

30 May, 2013

The Office: An American Workplace | RedState

The Office: An American Workplace | RedState: The Office was innovative (we mustn’t forget its British predecessor, of course), though now other shows have made its pseudo-reality gimmick common; none however have struck the same chemical balance that has made The Office as enduring, poignant, meaningful and (and this one is key) relevant as it is. It is a nine-season romantic comedy in the last place one would set a romantic story, and in that way it is truly heartwarming.

Too Big To Jail | RedState

Too Big To Jail | RedState: If this is only about Obama nothing will change. As long as we have the current size of our federal government, the IRS may target you. As long as we have the current size of our government the DOJ may subpoena your records. And as long as we maintain the behemoth government, you, the individual, are meaningless. If YOU make an honest mistake, you go to prison. If THEY intentionally violate the law, they get to apologize (and get promoted). They are truly too big to jail. It is truly too big.

The Google ABC Book

The Google ABC Book:
Google structures so much of life. What we can Google about something is nearly the same thing as what it is.
And it's not just text: With Google Images, you can see what anything or anyone looks like instantly, by algorithmic selection. This is how our children will teach themselves about the world. And yet I wonder. What kinds of warping of the meanings of words takes place in this context? If Google Images is a lens through which to view the world, what is its curvature and focal length? How does it distort what we're looking at?
To figure that out, I took a look at a simple ABC book -- My First Book of ABC and 123 -- the most popular one on Amazon that assigned a single word to each letter. Then I ran each of these words through Google Images to create a Google Alphabet book, the latest in a long line of abecedarians, stretching back hundreds of years.
Some of my findings from this experiment were expected. The Google Alphabet book is more corporate, for example, than any kid's book would be. Apple's logo has replaced the actual apple as the first result for that word. Monster energy drinks has pushed out the fictive beasts of childhood. Wikipedia and Wikimedia make a very strong showing. Google is very dependent on these non-profits for structuring certain types of basic information for the company. The dog image, for example, is simply the photo that appears on Wikipedia's entry for 'dog.' National Geographic's topic pages for animal species also appear high on the list.

29 May, 2013

Cockpit Confidential : NPR

Cockpit Confidential : NPR: We've come to view flying as yet another impressive but ultimately uninspiring technological realm. There I am, sitting in a Boeing 747, a plane that if tipped onto its nose would rise as tall as a 20-story office tower. I'm at 33,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, traveling at 600 miles per hour, bound for the Far East. And what are the passengers doing? Complaining, sulking, tapping glumly into their laptops. A man next to me is upset over a dent in his can of ginger ale. This is the realization, perhaps, of a fully evolved technology. Progress, one way or the other, mandates that the extraordinary become the ordinary. But don't we lose valuable perspective when we begin to equate the commonplace, more or less by definition, with the tedious? Aren't we forfeiting something important when we sneer indifferently at the sight of an airplane — at the sheer impressiveness of being able to throw down a few hundred dollars and travel halfway around the world at nearly the speed of sound?

Sayeth Franzen

Fiction Isn’t Friendship:
You’d unfriend a lot of people if you knew them as intimately and unsparingly as a good novel would. But not the ones you actually love.

What do we need to know about veterans? - Stripes - Independent U.S. military news from Iraq, Afghanistan and bases worldwide

What do we need to know about veterans? - Stripes - Independent U.S. military news from Iraq, Afghanistan and bases worldwide: What does America need to know about its new veterans? That we aren’t one voice, one experience, one memory, one preconceived notion fulfilled that can be stapled to our country’s heels like Peter Pan’s shadow? That we’re both varied and small? That 2.5 million of us have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, a number that’s roughly the population of tiny, frozen Latvia, a number that only begins to hint at the separation between the postmodern empire and its legions?

Does history, the teacher of life according to Cicero, yield answers? How did a nation two generations removed from pushing back the onslaught of fascism get here? How did a society one generation removed from the great scar of Vietnam arrive here?

What happened to the America we woke up to on September 12, unified, defiant and proud?

Is it because in an all-volunteer force, it’s someone else’s sons and daughters who fight?

The Legend of Taize at Pine Ridge: A Memorial Day Weekend in 4,000 Words | The Burner

The Legend of Taize at Pine Ridge: A Memorial Day Weekend in 4,000 Words | The Burner: The prayer bell rings. It is time for a Taiz�service: songs, prayer, silence and song. But the sunset begs me to keep my seat on the prairie on Robert Two Bulls’ land in front of Christ Church Episcopal in Red Shirt, South Dakota.

The setting sun runs a slow relay between the threatening clouds and the Black Hills. It feels sacred, but what is going on in the shallow ravine in the vast Badlands canyon behind me is sacred, too. What do I choose? Plus, I’m a sucker for sunsets.

I don’t know how to feel. I had been warned that Pine Ridge was a very difficult place, but it seemed really peaceful here in Red Shirt.

22 May, 2013

One Building, One City: World's tallest prefab, Sky City, is breaking ground in June : TreeHugger

One Building, One City: World's tallest prefab, Sky City, is breaking ground in June : TreeHugger: This building puts 4,450 households on two acres and it is actually designed with energy conservation in mind. By going huge they are getting tremendous manufacturing efficiencies; by going vertical they get the kind of repetition that makes it affordable. By going half a mile high and 220 stories they are going to get noticed.

It is a vision of sustainability that people in a crowded world are going to have to get used to.

Ethos v. practice — The Williams Record

Ethos v. practice — The Williams Record: I love Williams because the beauty of its ethos compels me to question the exclusivity of its practice. And to complement its ethos, the College provides the proper apparatus, a faculty and staff the specialness of which still remains understated, the resources to realize one’s singular vision, and a list in the Record to inspire one’s own. It is simply a matter of figuring where the purple udders are hidden, how they are milked and of finding new stretches of pasture. I noted once, while walking past Tunnel City in the evening, a stream of white between the slabs of cement in the sidewalk, as if the ground itself, unsure of itself, was seeping. Overwhelmed with gratitude, I find refuge in dinners and coffees and afternoon kisses, in smiles pressed against smiles where no words were needed.

21 May, 2013

Learning From Los Gatos — The Peer Society — Medium

Learning From Los Gatos — The Peer Society — Medium: There’s a great book on this topic, called In The Company Of Owners, that documents just how distinct the Valley is from the rest of U.S. corporate culture. The top 100 tech companies granted 19% of their total ownership to non-senior-executive employees (i.e., everyone excluding the CEO and four lieutenants.) For the rest of corporate America, that number was 2%. In other words, when it came time to share rewards with ordinary employees, the Tech 100 were ten times more generous than low-tech firms. This is actually one of the hidden strengths of the tech sector in the US: its companies are much more competitive precisely because they are much more egalitarian in how they share their wealth internally. I would be surprised if there were any new industry in the history of capitalism that distributed its economic rewards to its employees as widely as Silicon Valley has. Billionaire founders or CEOs are nothing new. But multi-millionaire middle-managers? That’s something else altogether.

Arrogant government | RedState

Arrogant government | RedState: The proper attitude of government towards its citizens is humility. The State kneels before the people who invest it with terrible authority. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution are full of language that illustrates this relationship, but you don’t have to look back that far, because American politicians constantly cloak themselves in the language of humility. They always talk about how honored they are to receive the public trust, and speak often of the American people as their “bosses.” They are very keen to portray themselves as the instruments of popular will. Few campaign victory speeches pass without the triumphant candidate professing him or herself “humbled.” For that matter, losing candidates usually say they were humbled by the support they received from their supporters.

An essential component of government humility is its recognition of a higher power. There must be rights the government is absolutely forbidden to infringe – a higher power granted those rights, so the government cannot take them away, no matter how much popular support it might enjoy at any given moment. There must be laws which the government can be punished for breaking.

Innovation Lessons from the Rise of Tesla Motors - Innovation for Growth

Innovation Lessons from the Rise of Tesla Motors - Innovation for Growth: In large part, those two alternatives ultimately come down to a single, crucial question: how close are we to the obsolescence point for combustion engines? Most scenarios assume that we are not very near indeed. Warren Buffett apparently thinks all cars on the road will be electric by 2030, but most analysts assume it will take us that long just to get to 50% EV penetration. But what if Buffet is correct, and the EV tipping point is right in front of us? What if Buffet is underestimating the rate of change?

I think Buffett is right. It looks to me like we’re starting to hit the tipping point. The analysts are assuming that electric vehicles are going to follow curve C. But students of innovation know that they will follow the S-Curve.

The Smart Set: The First New Atheist - May 8, 2013

The Smart Set: The First New Atheist - May 8, 2013: Real faith, Kierkegaard wanted us to know, is profoundly involved in working out the deepest paradoxes of being alive. That’s why Kierkegaard once said, “The self-assured believer is a greater sinner in the eyes of God than the troubled disbeliever.”

That’s a strange thought for most Christians. What did Kierkegaard mean? He meant that if you are self-assured in your belief then you have neutered faith to make it intellectually palatable. Faith requires belief in things that are insane from the perspective of reason. It doesn’t make sense that God became man on earth. No amount of thinking about it is going to make it logical. It is a strange and shocking and downright crazy notion. If you are going to believe it (and live your life accordingly), you are going to have to find resources within yourself that transcend reason.

How Lazy Reporting Made Rand Paul Look Like a Conspiracy Theorist

How Lazy Reporting Made Rand Paul Look Like a Conspiracy Theorist:

CNN's online wrap of the interview makes it sound like Paul had journeyed to Cloudcookooland. "Pressed for more precise details about the memo he was referring to," writes Ashley Killough, "Paul said he hasn't seen such a policy statement but has heard about it."
You know who else has "heard about" this statement? Anyone who actually read the IG report. On Page 6, investigators re-create the events of May 2010, when the Determinations Unit for the tax-exempt office "began developing a spreadsheet that would become known as the 'Be On the Look Out' listing." The report didn't supply the memo itself, but it included this cheat sheet.

Screen shot 2013-05-20 at 10.18.46 AM

Bill Gates: ‘Death is something we really understand extremely well’

Bill Gates: ‘Death is something we really understand extremely well’: EK: What’s been the biggest surprise? What has the data shown works, or doesn’t work, that you simply didn’t expect?

BG: I was completely surprised that nobody was funding some of these vaccines. When I first looked at this I thought, well, all the good stuff will have been done. It was mind-blowing me to find things like Rotavirus vaccine were going unfunded. One hundred percent of rich kids were getting it and no poor kids were. So over a quarter million kids a year were dying of Rotavirus-caused diarrhea. You could save those lives for $800 per life. That’s like $20 or $30 per year of life. It’s just ridiculous that an intervention like that isn’t funded.

And I’m really surprised at the variance. Some very poor countries run great vaccination systems and some richer ones run terrible programs. The north of Nigeria has about 30 percent vaccination coverage, and they’re above average in terms of wealth within Africa. You compare that to, say, Somalia, which has absolutely no government at all, and they get about 60 percent vaccine coverage of children. So you have a place literally with no government getting a better vaccine coverage than a place that’s above average wealth.

Paternity testing: Personal genomics companies will reveal DNA secrets. - Slate Magazine

Paternity testing: Personal genomics companies will reveal DNA secrets. - Slate Magazine: The study of false fatherhood, or nonpaternity, has turned up a wide variety of answers. University of Oklahoma anthropologist Kermyt Anderson says that measured rates of nonpaternity vary quite dramatically depending on the group of people being tested. Among those men who are quite confident of their status as biological fathers—the ones who volunteer their families for genetic studies of inheritance, for example—Anderson found a rate of nonpaternity of roughly 1.7 percent. At minimum, he says, 1 in 60 dads raises children that don't belong to him.

Incident - Incident Reports - Newsroom - Madison Police Department - City of Madison, Wisconsin

Incident - Incident Reports - Newsroom - Madison Police Department - City of Madison, Wisconsin: The detective concluded such cases could impact the community in two ways:

"Obviously it could be dangerous if the message wasn't passed to motorists to warn of a hazard. Or, it could be a public safety issue in the event of a REAL zombie outbreak. How can the public be expected to take warning signs seriously?"

It's something for young men and women to ponder as they fire up their gaming consoles.

20 May, 2013

reddit: the front page of the internet

reddit: the front page of the internet: Today the 113 year old lightbulb in the Livermore Firehouse has burned out.

Steven Poole – On algorithms

Steven Poole – On algorithms: More recently, Gary Marcus, professor of psychology at New York University, offered a vivid thought experiment in The New Yorker. Suppose you are in a self-driving car going across a narrow bridge, and a school bus full of children hurtles out of control towards you. There is no room for the vehicles to pass each other. Should the self-driving car take the decision to drive off the bridge and kill you in order to save the children?

What Marcus’s example demonstrates is the fact that driving a car is not simply a technical operation, of the sort that machines can do more efficiently. It is also a moral operation. (His example is effectively a kind of ‘trolley problem’, of the sort that has lately been fashionable in moral philosophy.) If we let cars do the driving, we are outsourcing not only our motor control but also our moral judgment.

How a Career Con Man Led a Federal Sting That Cost Google $500 Million | Threat Level | Wired.com

How a Career Con Man Led a Federal Sting That Cost Google $500 Million | Threat Level | Wired.com: Meet the career con man who made a fortune selling illegal pharmaceuticals online—and pulled off a federal sting that forced Google to pay $500 million.

Law would stop Tesla electric car sales in NC | State Politics | NewsObserver.com

Law would stop Tesla electric car sales in NC | State Politics | NewsObserver.com: But it’s not Tesla per se, that worries the dealers. It’s the precedent. The prospect threatens the livelihood of North Carolina’s 7,000 licensed dealers, who invest millions in building big lots and showrooms to efficiently move product, say supporters of the bill.

“We care about the franchise system,” said Robert Glaser, president of the N.C. Automobile Dealers Association. “The whole point of the retail system is to protect the consumer.”

The local dealer is the customer’s point of contact on malfunctions, defects and recalls, Glaser said. Automakers are designers, manufacturers and wholesalers that remain largely invisible to the car buyers, he said.

When a Bomb Goes Off in Afghanistan - The Daily Beast

When a Bomb Goes Off in Afghanistan - The Daily Beast: I have spent the past four years as a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press in Afghanistan. I have been one of about a dozen international reporters across various news outlets charged with telling the American public what's going on "over there." It makes for a strange workday: rushing out to bomb sites, counting suicide attacks and emailing with the Taliban.

People call the news the first draft of history. Working for a wire service in Afghanistan is like being there for the brainstorming session, then publishing your notes. It's a terrifying job. There's a lot more chance of getting something wrong than right, and there's the fear of losing a bit of your humanity in covering the daily death toll of war.

But in return you get to be one of the people trying to find a narrative in the chaos. You get to be one of the people to ascribe meaning.

And these days what scares me most is that with every passing month there are fewer people doing that job in Afghanistan. It takes an intense surge of effort by scores of people pulling 14-hour days to tell you about just one explosion. And that reporting machine is what keeps Afghanistan alive in the American consciousness.

Everyone is dumb but this made me smile. Also, Teapot Dome was the worst scandal.

Reality Check:
From a new PPP poll:
Of the 41 percent of Republicans who consider Benghazi to be the worst political scandal in American history, 39 percent are unaware that Benghazi is located in Libya. 10 percent said it’s in Egypt, 9 percent in Iran, 6 percent in Cuba, 5 percent in Syria, 4 percent in Iraq, and 1 percent each in North Korea and Liberia, with 4 percent unwilling to venture a guess.

Welcome Back to Earth, Commander Hadfield

Welcome Back to Earth, Commander Hadfield:
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, commander of the just-completed Expedition 35 aboard the International Space Station, landed safely yesterday in Kazakhstan along with crew members Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko after five months in orbit. In his time aboard the ISS, Commander Hadfield not only took hundreds of photographs and conducted conferences with students on Earth, he took his stories to social media, catching the attention of the world. Hadfield, with the help of his sons Evan and Kyle, took the web by storm, creating popular presences on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and more. His videos answered questions about everyday existence in zero-gravity with a dose of science mixed with humor. To top things off, Hadfield, also a musician, finished his command mission by releasing his own version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity", with Bowie's blessing. Gathered here are some photos of and by Commander Hadfield during his remarkable mission. [40 photos]

The Russian Soyuz space capsule, carrying Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, U.S. astronaut Tom Marshburn, and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, lands some 150 km (90 miles) southeast of the town of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan, on May 14, 2013. The first Canadian astronaut to command the International Space Station (ISS) landed safely in Kazakhstan with two crewmates on Tuesday, wrapping up a five-month mission aboard the ISS. (Reuters/Mikhail Metzel)


Second-class citizens to second-class shooting victims. | Philadelphia City Paper | 05/13/2013

Second-class citizens to second-class shooting victims. | Philadelphia City Paper | 05/13/2013: Jim MacMillan of Philadelphia's Gun Crisis Reporting Project says such disparate treatment is the norm.

"What struck me as unusual after the Mother's Day incident was that -- somewhere between the press conferences and the media narrative -- we have been presented with an explicit suggestion that the incident was 'not terrorism' and that many victims were 'only grazed.'"

See the AP's first-paragraph mention that the shootings "appear to be street violence, and not terrorism-related" and CNN's assurance that "federal investigators say they have no indication that the shooting was an act of terrorism"

Nothing to see here, folks--at least nothing that you don't think you already understand all too well and have learned not to care about.

As Hamilton Nolan put it at Gawker, "In America, all villainy is not created equal."

Why You Should Care That Nearly A Third Of U.S. Honey Bees Died Last Winter | ThinkProgress

Why You Should Care That Nearly A Third Of U.S. Honey Bees Died Last Winter | ThinkProgress: Almost a third of managed U.S. honey bees died last winter, according to a new survey of commercial and home beekeepers. That’s more than triple the losses of 5 to 10 percent that used to be normal for beekeepers before 2005 — and double the 15 percent that beekeepers say is acceptable for their businesses to continue unharmed.

Nathan Heller: Is College Moving Online? : The New Yorker

Nathan Heller: Is College Moving Online? : The New Yorker: Education is a curiously alchemic process. Its vicissitudes are hard to isolate. Why do some students retain what they learned in a course for years, while others lose it through the other ear over their summer breaks? Is the fact that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to revolutionize the tech industry a sign that their Harvard educations worked, or that they failed? The answer matters, because the mechanism by which conveyed knowledge blooms into an education is the standard by which MOOCs will either enrich teaching in this country or deplete it.

Nathan Heller: Is College Moving Online? : The New Yorker

Nathan Heller: Is College Moving Online? : The New Yorker: Everyone is smiling. The professors, who are wearing friendly, Rick Moranis-style glasses, smile, though they’re hard at work at a large table with an eager student, sharing a splayed book and gesturing as if weighing two big, wholesome orbs of fruit. Universities are special places, we believe: gardens where chosen people escape their normal lives to cultivate the Life of the Mind.

But that is not the kind of higher education most Americans know. The vast majority of people who get education beyond high school do so at community colleges and other regional and nonselective schools. Most who apply are accepted. The teachers there, not all of whom have doctorates or get research support, may seem restless and harried. Students may, too. Some attend school part time, juggling their academic work with family or full-time jobs, and so the dropout rate, and time-to-degree, runs higher than at �lite institutions. Many campuses are funded on fumes, or are on thin ice with accreditation boards; there are few quadrangles involved.

What is Keplerian Finance? - Keplerian Finance

What is Keplerian Finance? - Keplerian Finance: This blog is written from the perspective that these disciplines are in a Keplerian (or, if you prefer, a pre-Newtonian) state. We are committed to the scientific method. We have developed some crude theories that appear reasonable and that have been somewhat validated by actual observation or experimentation.

Unfortunately, we have difficulty knowing exactly what and how to abstract from the complexity of reality to build models which offer us viable predictions. We are constantly blindsided by the deficiencies in our understanding and methodology. These failings are not the Eureka! moments of discovery when an unexpected outcome leads to a new insight, but the fumbling missteps that come from having a not quite clear vision of what’s going on.

College and Segregation in South Africa

A House Divided | Moment Magazine: At apartheid’s end, the dorms of the University
of the Free State in Bloemfontein were integrated.
At first it went well, then the students chose to resegregate. A story of the continuing battle against racism in South Africa.

A House Divided | Moment Magazine

A House Divided | Moment Magazine: So the administrators did. Although segregated dorms never became an official policy, informally the school let students separate. In Karee, the school even let the students put up plywood separating the black and white corridors. The east side of the building became the white side; the west, black.

Verschoor remembers the banal phrase that popped into his head as he watched the plywood go up: “It’s a pity.” But it was also a huge relief. “Suddenly, there was no battle between black and white. And we thought, well, maybe this is the recipe for now.” Like other administrators, he hoped the re-segregation would be temporary.

Idols of Awesome and Shibboleths of Community | RedState

Idols of Awesome and Shibboleths of Community | RedState: Honestly, neither life nor faith are that complicated. Though the world may be, our lives do not have to be. Too many people get in the ditch, over compensate, and land in the other ditch. Christianity is all about moderation, balance, and loving the Lord. The morally superior metrics of urban, suburban, or rural living and the metrics of how much misery you endure in a place you don’t feel comfortable to share the Lord are getting over done. Overcompensating on legalism or grace, shunning those things we ought do because the Lord loves us as we are, and rejecting others because they do not conform to our way of worship or practice of faith is getting overdone, whether that worship and faith is sectarian or secular.

We are called to love our neighbor, love the Lord, and be the best we can be at what we choose for ourselves. We are not all going to be super rich. We are not all going to have awesome jobs. We are not all going to have massive families. We are not all going to be somebody.

We’re just called to be the best us we can be

Mirror, mirror — The Williams Record

Mirror, mirror — The Williams Record: The late Professor Robert Gaudino told us that our purpose is not merely to have experience, but to use it, to reflect upon it and to let it enhance or inhibit our sense of self. I would add that our purpose is to use experience to ask critical questions, both of ourselves and of the institutions of which we become a part. It is only through this inward turn that we equip ourselves to fight a problem that eludes definition and form. Without this, we are haunted by paralysis.

I call for a collective apostasy. I call for each of us to refuse to subscribe to the current order of things, an order that presents for our consumption an image of a tolerant, righteous, diverse community. I call for each of us to take stock no longer in the certainty of our collective innocence, but to understand the degree to which we are all implicated.

The Obama Synthesis, Vindicated? - NYTimes.com

The Obama Synthesis, Vindicated? - NYTimes.com: But these critiques and counterfactuals notwithstanding, Obama is currently presiding over an improving fiscal and economic picture, and the disasters that conservatives, in particular, descried on the horizon — default, hyper-inflation, Greece — seem increasingly remote. It’s not the best possible news, but it’s much better than some of the alternatives. And given what I’d probably be writing if the news were worse, it’s important to give this White House some credit that it isn’t.

When Place Is Not Enough - NYTimes.com

When Place Is Not Enough - NYTimes.com: … as I’ve tried to make clear to audiences on this book tour, I don’t think everybody should move back to the small towns from which they come. For one thing, many, many people don’t come from a small town. Many others were raised by parents who moved a lot, and don’t have a town to return to. Still others can’t go back, and for good reasons (no jobs, broken families, and so forth) …

Rather, my advice would be to do your very best to root yourself in the community where you do live, and to do your best to stay there — achieving “stability” in the Benedictine sense.

What Williams gave me — The Williams Record

What Williams gave me — The Williams Record: 1. Loss and waste are not permanently crippling. When people ask me what my biggest fear is, I say loss, or waste, because I believe that loss and waste underscore most fears. And I know that in my own life, my most fearful, panicked moments have stemmed from loss and waste – death, loss of love, waste of potential, the notion of how we as a society, a country and a world misappropriate resources that could otherwise benefit humanity. This semester I read Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, and I started to reconceptualize how I understood loss. I started to recover from my own losses; I started to rethink my own decisions, seeing them not as finite, actualized choices through which I have spent – and therefore decreased – my potentiality in life, but rather as potentialities in themselves, as stepping stones on the greater path of my life’s trajectory. If Stoppard’s Thomasina Coverly can discover the second law of thermodynamics before dying in a fire, if I can accidentally delete 12 pages on Ulysses and then recover my ideas, if I can be held back in pre-school and graduate from Williams, if I can love again, if I can panic and then sit up and go to class, then I can also work with like-minded others to salvage loss and waste elsewhere.

19 May, 2013

Paul Bloom: The Case Against Empathy : The New Yorker

Paul Bloom: The Case Against Empathy : The New Yorker: Such are the paradoxes of empathy. The power of this faculty has something to do with its ability to bring our moral concern into a laser pointer of focussed attention. If a planet of billions is to survive, however, we’ll need to take into consideration the welfare of people not yet harmed—and, even more, of people not yet born. They have no names, faces, or stories to grip our conscience or stir our fellow-feeling. Their prospects call, rather, for deliberation and calculation. Our hearts will always go out to the baby in the well; it’s a measure of our humanity. But empathy will have to yield to reason if humanity is to have a future. ♦

World War II’s Strangest Battle: When Americans and Germans Fought Together - The Daily Beast

World War II’s Strangest Battle: When Americans and Germans Fought Together - The Daily Beast: The battle for the fairytale, 13th century Castle Itter was the only time in WWII that American and German troops joined forces in combat, and it was also the only time in American history that U.S. troops defended a medieval castle against sustained attack by enemy forces. To make it even more film worthy, two of the women imprisoned at Schloss Itter—Augusta Bruchlen, who was the mistress of the labour leader Leon Jouhaux, and Madame Weygand, the wife General Maxime Weygand—were there because they chose to stand by their men. They, along with Paul Reynaud’s mistress Christiane Mabire, were incredibly strong, capable, and determined women made for portrayal on the silver screen.

Quote of the day, Benghazi edition

Quote of the day, Benghazi edition:
Via CBS's Sharyl Attkisson:

"We're portrayed by Republicans as either being lying or idiots," said one Obama administration official who was part of the Benghazi response. "It's actually closer to us being idiots."

A New 'Smart Rifle' Decides When To Shoot And Rarely Misses : All Tech Considered : NPR

A New 'Smart Rifle' Decides When To Shoot And Rarely Misses : All Tech Considered : NPR: A new rifle goes on sale on Wednesday, and it's not like any other. It uses lasers and computers to make shooters very accurate. A startup gun company in Texas developed the rifle, which is so effective that some in the shooting community say it should not be sold to the public.

It's called the TrackingPoint rifle. On a firing range just outside Austin in the city of Liberty Hill, a novice shooter holds one and takes aim at a target 500 yards away. Normally it takes years of practice to hit something at that distance. But this shooter nails it on the first try.

18 May, 2013

Stay Shocked

Stay Shocked:
But the IRS scandal is different because it speaks of the political corruption of a major and crucial governmental agency to whose rules and regulations every American—everyone who has a job or a bank account, or who engages in a financial transaction—is subject. Most people will never have an interaction with the State Department or the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the IRS deals with an intimate and sensitive part of your life, your personal finances. It is the revenue-collecting arm of the government. It is needed. It does necessary work. When that work is done well it is rarely noted and almost never celebrated. When it’s done badly it’s a terrible thing, because it means a citizen was treated badly or abused. But as an agency it couldn’t be more important to the national mood, the national atmosphere.
If we allow it to become politically corrupt that scandal will not pass, it will be with us every day.

17 May, 2013

'The Office': How it ended - San Jose Mercury News

'The Office': How it ended - San Jose Mercury News: The final minutes of the episode generously allow several characters to reflect on the fun and crazy times -- except for Creed, who gets arrested.

Says Jim, "Even if I didn't love every minute of it, everything I have I owe to this job -- this stupid, wonderful, boring, amazing job."

And then Pam ties it all up perfectly. Talking to the camera crew, she says, "I thought it was weird when you picked us to make a documentary. But all in all, I think an ordinary paper company like Dunder Mifflin was a great subject for a documentary.

"There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn't that kind of the point?"

16 May, 2013

George Takei Responds To "Traditional" Marriage Fans

George Takei Responds To "Traditional" Marriage Fans: The legendary George Takei responds in the best way possible to the protesters who gathered during March Prop 8/DOMA hearings outside the Supreme Court. I went there to ask them to express their opinions on a pad of paper; now, George is weighing in. Can he be any more amazing?

A touching and very remote memorial

Photo Album - Imgur: UTA Flight 772 was a scheduled flight operating from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to Paris CDG airport in France.

Samsung Tests 5G Mobile Network Technology With Whopping 1Gbps Download Speed | Redmond Pie

Samsung Tests 5G Mobile Network Technology With Whopping 1Gbps Download Speed | Redmond Pie: With mobile data becoming more and more integral to the way we consume information as well as being the cornerstone of many a business, the scramble for ever increasing mobile data speeds has seen development of 5G begin even while 4G is still a pipe dream for many. Samsung is one company poking its nose into the future with 5G, and it has today announced that it has successfully run tests that have achieved a whopping 1Gbps download speed, with more potentially to come.

Our Syria Myopia - The Daily Beast

Our Syria Myopia - The Daily Beast: The big difference between Syria on the one hand and Afghanistan and Iraq on the other is that in Syria Americans can still claim innocence, which is how we like it. As a country, we’re more attracted to cleaning up messes made by others than the ones we make ourselves. And just as our media generally allows hawks like John McCain to advocate military intervention in Syria without quizzing them about the interventions they advocated in the past, we expect the rest of the world to wipe the slate clean every time America loses interest in one war and gears up for another.

I understand the impulse for America to “do something” in Syria. I grasp the logic behind funding some of the militias fighting Bashar al-Assad, even if America’s history of funding militias may be propelling Afghanistan and Iraq toward civil war. But there’s something disgraceful about our tendency to wax moralistic about preventing suffering in countries in which we have not yet intervened while we brazenly ignore the suffering we have helped cause in the countries in which we have.

Excellent Parody

Don’t make fun of renowned Dan Brown - Telegraph: The critics said his writing was clumsy, ungrammatical, repetitive and repetitive. They said it was full of unnecessary tautology. They said his prose was swamped in a sea of mixed metaphors. For some reason they found something funny in sentences such as “His eyes went white, like a shark about to attack.” They even say my books are packed with banal and superfluous description, thought the 5ft 9in man. He particularly hated it when they said his imagery was nonsensical. It made his insect eyes flash like a rocket.

good advice

Before you aim for someone’s job, look at the price they paid to get there | Penelope Trunk Blog: But here’s what I’ve learned, again and again: picking a career is picking a life. Look at the person’s life, not the job, and decide if you want it. If so, choose their career.

A Commonplace Blog: Darlings of oblivion

A Commonplace Blog: Darlings of oblivion: I’ve been thinking about how much of human life consists of events that are also darlings of oblivion—the stomach cramps, the headaches, the sleepless nights, the full glasses of milk that are knocked over and spilled across the clean kitchen floors, the flat tires, the dead batteries, the traffic jams, the appointments that are late. Entire days can be lost to these events; they can be, at the time, as absorbing as tragedy; then, once they have passed, they are forgotten. How much of human life disappears into oblivion like this?

13 May, 2013

The Paradox of the Proof | Project Wordsworth

The Paradox of the Proof | Project Wordsworth: This foundational stone is one that mathematicians are proud of. The community works together; they are not cut-throat or competitive. Colleagues check each other’s work, spending hours upon hours verifying that a peer got it right. This behavior is not just altruistic, but also necessary: unlike in medical science, where you know you’re right if the patient is cured, or in engineering, where the rocket either launches or it doesn’t, theoretical math, better known as “pure” math, has no physical, visible standard. It is entirely based on logic. To know you’re right means you need someone else, preferably many other people, to walk in your footsteps and confirm that every step was made on solid ground. A proof in a vacuum is no proof at all.

Small Donors May Make Politics Even Worse - Bloomberg

Small Donors May Make Politics Even Worse - Bloomberg: “We have to admit that everybody who is giving is giving for a reason,” Murphy said. “Some of them are your friends and family and they care about you. But most of the time they care about an issue, whether they’re a corporation or an individual. We draw these arbitrary lines, but corporations want things from the government, and so do individuals.”

That’s the secret of small money. We tend to assume “small donors” hail from that mythical, much-beloved class of people known as “ordinary Americans.” They’re not. Even if tens of millions of Americans are donating, hundreds of millions of other Americans aren’t. The tiny minority that donates is different from the vast majority that doesn’t: They’re much, much more ideologically polarized.

What individual donors tend to want, Murphy said, is partisanship. “When I send out a fundraising e-mail talking about how bad Republicans are, I raise three times as much as when I send out an e-mail talking about how good I am. People are motivated to give based on their fear of the other side rather than on their belief in their side.”

The Myth of Presidential Leadership - NationalJournal.com

The Myth of Presidential Leadership - NationalJournal.com: But the issue goes beyond that, to a willful ignorance of history. No one schmoozed more or better with legislators in both parties than Clinton. How many Republican votes did it get him on his signature initial priority, an economic plan? Zero in both houses. And it took eight months to get enough Democrats to limp over the finish line. How did things work out on his health care plan? How about his impeachment in the House?

No one knew Congress, or the buttons to push with every key lawmaker, better than LBJ. It worked like a charm in his famous 89th, Great Society Congress, largely because he had overwhelming majorities of his own party in both houses. But after the awful midterms in 1966, when those swollen majorities receded, LBJ’s mastery of Congress didn’t mean squat.

No one defined the agenda or negotiated more brilliantly than Reagan. Did he “work his will”? On almost every major issue, he had to make major compromises with Democrats, including five straight years with significant tax increases. But he was able to do it—as he was able to achieve a breakthrough on tax reform—because he had key Democrats willing to work with him and find those compromises.

Why Pay More? by Peter Singer - Project Syndicate

Why Pay More? by Peter Singer - Project Syndicate: In his classic The Theory of the Leisure Class, published in 1899, he argued that once the basis of social status became wealth itself – rather than, say, wisdom, knowledge, moral integrity, or skill in battle – the rich needed to find ways of spending money that had no other objective than the display of wealth itself. He termed this “conspicuous consumption.” Veblen wrote as a social scientist, refraining from rendering moral judgments, though he left readers in little doubt about his attitude toward such expenditure in a time when many lived in poverty.

CommentsWearing a ridiculously expensive watch to proclaim that one has achieved an elevated social standing seems especially immoral for a public official in a country where a significant portion of the population still lives in real poverty. These officials are wearing on their wrists the equivalent of four or five years of an average Ukrainian’s salary. That tells Ukrainian taxpayers either that they are paying their public servants too much, or that their public servants have other ways of getting money to buy watches that they would not be able to afford otherwise.

Profile of Netflix

Netflix, Reed Hastings Survive Missteps to Join Silicon Valley's Elite - Businessweek: Netflix has more than 36 million subscribers. They watch about 4 billion hours of programs every quarter on more than 1,000 different devices. To meet this demand, the company uses specialized video servers scattered around the world. When a subscriber clicks on a movie to stream, Netflix determines within a split second which server containing that movie is closest to the user, then picks from dozens of versions of the video file, depending on the device the viewer is using. At company headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif., teams of mathematicians and designers study what people watch and build algorithms and interfaces to present them with the collection of videos that will keep them watching.

To bury, not to praise - Metro - The Boston Globe

To bury, not to praise - Metro - The Boston Globe: Plenty of others have been controlled by irrational thoughts the way the Tsarnaevs were. Many are broken, as Adam Lanza and Seung-Hui Cho demonstrate all too well. As much as we’d like to fully dissociate ourselves from that evil, we can’t. They’re human, like us.

We have buried men like this. We have also buried Mafia bosses, some of them mass murderers, sometimes with grand funerals. Do their bodies better deserve to be treated as human, their relatives’ wishes better deserve honoring, because they were motivated by greed and sadism, rather than a twisted, hateful sense of injustice?

Will the aged Whitey Bulger – accused of murdering 19 people, for profit, pride, and pleasure – be left lying in a funeral home when his time comes because people are outraged at the evil of his alleged acts?

No. So far, we appear to have decided we should withhold burial from only one kind of �irrational killer: the one who is not American, the one who kills in the name of Islam. And in so doing, we play right into the hands of others like him.

WHCD spoof

If you want to see the geography of viral-ness

YouTube Trends Map - YouTube

11 May, 2013

Benghazi hearings in the Mirror Universe | RedState

Benghazi hearings in the Mirror Universe | RedState:
It’s amazing to watch the media bury yesterday’s explosive testimony on Benghazi.  Just imagine for a moment that today is the day after a veteran career diplomat – the top man on the ground in Libya after the murder of the ambassador – testified that a Republican administration told him not to cooperate with Democrat congressional investigators, shook him up with a menacing phone call from the top political “fixer” for a Secretary of State widely viewed as a leading 2016 presidential candidate, demoted him under cloudy circumstances so they could portray him as “disgruntled”… and then spent eight months loudly boasting of their enthusiastic, transparent cooperation with Congress.  Imagine the media coverage – from the glowing profile of Gregory Hicks as a new whistleblower demigod in the pantheon of good-government heroes, to the hows of outrage that noble truth-seeking Congressmen were thwarted by the machinations of a shadowy White House bent on preserving its electoral viability, no matter the cost to public transparency or national security.

10 May, 2013

Yes, there is a Benghazi conspiracy

Yes, there is a Benghazi conspiracy: One of the reasons why Americans aren't outraged about Benghazi is that the event is a series of tragedies in search of a unifying explanation, and one that "Obama is evil" doesn't cover. Because really, to suggest that the Pentagon or the White House would deliberately — and yes, this is EXACTLY what Republicans are suggesting — prevent special operations forces from rescuing American diplomats BECAUSE they worried about the potential political blowback because they KNEW exactly who was behind it (al Qaeda) is —well, it is to suggest that Barack Obama is simply and utterly evil.

A Final Embrace: The Most Haunting Photograph from Bangladesh - LightBox

A Final Embrace: The Most Haunting Photograph from Bangladesh - LightBox: I spent the entire day the building collapsed on the scene, watching as injured garment workers were being rescued from the rubble. I remember the frightened eyes of relatives — I was exhausted both mentally and physically. Around 2 a.m., I found a couple embracing each other in the rubble. The lower parts of their bodies were buried under the concrete. The blood from the eyes of the man ran like a tear. When I saw the couple, I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I knew them — they felt very close to me. I looked at who they were in their last moments as they stood together and tried to save each other — to save their beloved lives.

Every time I look back to this photo, I feel uncomfortable — it haunts me. It’s as if they are saying to me, we are not a number — not only cheap labor and cheap lives. We are human beings like you. Our life is precious like yours, and our dreams are precious too.

A Box With A Hidden Video Camera Documents Journey Through The Mail | Singularity Hub

A Box With A Hidden Video Camera Documents Journey Through The Mail | Singularity Hub: What happens when you send something by mail?
What happens in between you sending it off and someone else receiving it?
What people and processes are involved and how many steps does it take?

Of course, he could probably get these answers through a series of interviews and internet searches. But instead, he placed a small camera in a box with an Arduino-run timer circuit to record a 3 second video each minute and longer videos while the box was being handled. And then he shipped it.

Why Syria's Future is in Its Own Hands - TIME

Why Syria's Future is in Its Own Hands - TIME: The situation in Syria is much like that in Iraq--and bears little resemblance to that in Libya--so we can learn a lot from our experience there. Joshua Landis, the leading scholar on Syria, points out that it is the last of the three countries of the Levant where minority regimes have been challenged by the majority. In Lebanon, the Christian elite were displaced through a bloody civil war that started in the 1970s and lasted 15 years. In Iraq in 2003, the U.S. military quickly displaced the Sunni elite, handing the country over to the Shi'ites--but the Sunnis have fought back ferociously for almost a decade. Sectarian killings persist in Iraq to this day.

Syria is following a similar pattern.

What’s wrong with China? Hint: it’s not the government | Hidden Harmonies China Blog

What’s wrong with China? Hint: it’s not the government | Hidden Harmonies China Blog: There’s no doubt in my mind that the people sitting behind the wheels of these vehicles bitch and moan all the time about how ineffective their government is at preventing air pollution completely oblivious to the fact that they are a large part of the problem. Of course, to them, the problem of bad air quality is the government’s fault never the Chinese people’s ridiculous need for ostentatious displays to garner social approval. In many Chinese people’s minds, the Chinese public is never the problem. They are the solution. And changes to the government is just the antidote to all of China’s ills. It’s difficult to run a large country with such an ignorant and uneducated population and the “solutions” many propose will make things far worse. The government has to balance growth with environmental protection and in my opinion, it has done that better than any country in history, certainly better than the US and England during comparable times of development. When will Chinese people start buying less cars, stop littering, start recycling and in general doing their share to clean up the environment, an environment they have degraded?

China's Victim Complex:

China's Victim Complex | Center for a New American Security: The most likely -- and worrisome -- explanation is that domestic priorities drive China's foreign policies, which are therefore often formulated at the expense of strategic and diplomatic considerations. And while the implications of coercing neighbors and illegally seizing territory are not necessarily desirable, they pale in comparison to the consequences of failing to confront the regime's existential domestic challenges: economic slowdown, energy insecurity, and the growing political instabilities associated with dead pigs floating in rivers, a potential nationwide outbreak of avian flu, terrible traffic jams, sky-high real estate prices, and unbreathable air. No wonder the Chinese Communist Party works hard to keep populist foreign-policy issues in the headlines. It would be comforting to learn that the defense white paper's finger-pointing at the United States was just old-fashioned propaganda, behind which China is reassessing its foreign-policy approach.

Dexter Filkins: What Should Obama Do About Syria? : The New Yorker

Dexter Filkins: What Should Obama Do About Syria? : The New Yorker: A White House aide told me, “There is no question in our minds that the regime would be willing to use these weapons, is able to use these weapons, and is increasingly likely to use these weapons as things continue to go badly for them.” But, at a recent meeting at the State Department, according to a person who attended, “No one wanted to say that Assad had crossed the line, because no one wants to deal with it.” Assad’s chemical arsenal is spread across the country, much of it in populated areas; an effective military strike against it would need to be huge, and meticulously co�rdinated, to make sure that no toxins were released into the air or into enemy control. Samore told me, “It’s really a nightmare military scenario.’’ As the regime has traded ground with the rebels, some of Assad’s chemical weapons have been moved, and it is not clear where all of them are. “The intelligence people told us that their visibility is basically zero on some of these weapons, that we’re not going to know until after they have been used—if then,’’ the Senate aide told me.

Spanish Lottery Winners in Sodeto: Newsmakers: GQ

Spanish Lottery Winners in Sodeto: Newsmakers: GQ: It was a tiny town of farmers, a village where everyone knew everyone and nearly all struggled to make ends meet. But then, a few days before Christmas, they won the largest lottery in the history of Spain. The entire town. All of them. (Well, almost all of them.) Instantly, Sodeto became known as the luckiest place on earth. Michael Paterniti visits the town that fortune smiled upon and finds that the people there—now flush—are still uncertain of just how lucky they really are

Taken for a Ride: Temp Agencies and ‘Raiteros’ in Immigrant Chicago - ProPublica

Taken for a Ride: Temp Agencies and ‘Raiteros’ in Immigrant Chicago - ProPublica:
Finally, there is the unpaid wait time. To work at Ty, Castro must report in the alley no later than 4:30 a.m. In fact, many workers arrive earlier. "If you get there at 4 a.m., you get work," said a tamale vendor whose food cart steamed against the cold one January morning. "If you come at 4:20, there's no work for you."
At Ty's warehouse, every identifying aspect, from the official labor notices to the punch clock, said Select Remedy — not Ty. There was not even a name on the warehouse.
When workers arrived at 5:35, a Select Remedy employee made sure they signed in. But they had to wait another 20 minutes in the cafeteria before they could start getting paid.
In the Ty Inc. warehouse, next to the punch clock is a sign that reads in Spanish, 'Please do not punch in until 5:55 a.m. This measure will be strictly enforced, and measures will be taken with employees that don't follow the rule.' (Michael Grabell/ProPublica)
In the Ty Inc. warehouse, next to the punch clock is a sign that reads in Spanish, "Please do not punch in until 5:55 a.m. This measure will be strictly enforced, and measures will be taken with employees that don't follow the rule." (Michael Grabell/ProPublica) | More photos »
Next to the punch clock was a sign that read in Spanish, "Please do not punch in until 5:55 a.m. This measure will be strictly enforced, and measures will be taken with employees that don't follow the rule."
Castro's pay after the hour and a half of waiting was factored in: $5.98 an hour.

What Health Insurance Doesn’t Do - NYTimes.com

What Health Insurance Doesn’t Do - NYTimes.com: Liberals don’t like catastrophic plans because, by definition, they’re stingier than the coverage many Americans now enjoy. But this is where the second critique comes in: If the marginal dollar of health care coverage doesn’t deliver better health, isn’t this a place where policy makers should be stingy, while looking for more direct ways to improve the prospects of the working poor? Some kind of expanded health security is clearly a good thing — but if we want to promote economic mobility as well, does it really make sense to pour about a trillion dollars into a health care system that everyone agrees is deeply dysfunctional, when some of that money could be returned to Americans’ paychecks instead?

Discrimination in a women-only space

The Believer - Transmissions from Camp Trans: Camp Trans is an annual protest against the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s policy that bars transsexual women from attending. MWMF’s so-called “womyn-born-womyn” policy sets a transphobic standard for women-only spaces across the country, and contributes to an environment in women’s and lesbian communities where discrimination against trans women is considered acceptable. For trans women who are consistently refused help from domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, this is a matter of life and death.

What If We Never Run Out of Oil? - Charles C. Mann - The Atlantic

What If We Never Run Out of Oil? - Charles C. Mann - The Atlantic: “Methane hydrate could be a new energy revolution,” Christopher Knittel, a professor of energy economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told me. “It could help the world while we reduce greenhouse gases. Or it could undermine the economic rationale for investing in renewable, carbon-free energy around the world”—just as abundant shale gas from fracking has already begun to undermine it in the United States. “The one path is a boon. The other—I’ve used words like catastrophe.” He paused; I thought I detected a sigh. “I wouldn’t bet on us making the right decisions.”

How Not to Die - Jonathan Rauch - The Atlantic

How Not to Die - Jonathan Rauch - The Atlantic:
“No one talked to him about the fact that he was going to die, even though outside the room, clinicians, when asked, would say ‘Oh, yes, he’s dying.’ ”

“Sometimes you block the near exits, and all you’ve got left is a far exit, which is not a dignified and comfortable death,” Albert Mulley, a physician and the director of the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, told me recently. As we talked, it emerged that he, too, had had to fend off the medical system when his father died at age 93. “Even though I spent my whole career doing this,” he said, “when I was trying to assure as good a death as I could for my dad, I found it wasn’t easy.”

If it is this hard for doctors to navigate their parents’ final days, imagine what many ordinary patients and their families face. “It’s almost impossible for patients really to be in charge,” says Joanne Lynn, a physician and the director of the nonprofit Altarum Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness in Washington, D.C. “We enforce a kind of learned helplessness, especially in hospitals.” I asked her how much unwanted treatment gets administered. She couldn’t come up with a figure—no one can—but she said, “It’s huge, however you measure it. Especially when people get very, very sick.”

08 May, 2013

The Night New York Avoided a Riot - The Morning News

The Night New York Avoided a Riot - The Morning News: But this wasn’t Lindsay’s first stroll through Harlem, and people recognized him immediately. “That’s they mayor,” said one kid. What’s the latest on King? they asked. How could this happen? Others complained about the heavy police presence, despite the absence of any real violence. Why was there a barricade on 125th? someone asked. Lindsay turned to a nearby officer. “Better keep them moving, don’t you think, officer?” And so the barriers came down. Lindsay told the crowd how much he regretted King’s death. He told them how important it was for the city to now make real progress in alleviating poverty and discrimination. “He had no written speech. No prepared remarks. He just held up his hand and said, ‘this is a terrible thing.’ He just calmed people,” recalled Garth. “And then this gigantic wave started marching down 125th Street, and somehow Lindsay was leading it.”

Eric Cantor's Dilemma - NYTimes.com

Eric Cantor's Dilemma - NYTimes.com: This means that to do anything genuinely innovative on policy, Eric Cantor (or any other member of the leadership) doesn’t just need a majority or a supermajority of his own caucus: He needs almost every single vote, which he can’t get so long as there’s a political premium to being “purer” than the leadership for conservative representatives from safe-as-houses districts. And of course the Catch-22 is that this problem would diminish if the G.O.P. had a larger House majority — but it’s hard to win a larger House majority if your policymaking is held hostage by a “no retreat, no surrender, no innovation” rump.

The Prophets of Oak Ridge | Style | Washington Post

The Prophets of Oak Ridge | Style | Washington Post: Michael, Sister Megan and Greg envision its improbable dismantlement.

With elbow grease and blind faith, they would make a symbolic incursion to defeat the site’s $150 million-a-year security operation. They would mortify the nation’s nuclear weapons programs, which since 1940 has cost at least $9.8 trillion in 2013 dollars — costlier than all other government expenditures except Social Security and non-nuclear defense programs, according to nuclear weapons policy analyst Stephen Schwartz’s recent update of his 1998 Brookings Institution audit.

Home away from Home | ROUGH TYPE

Home away from Home | ROUGH TYPE: Home and Away are the poles of our being, each exerting a magnetic pull on the psyche. We vibrate between them. Home is comforting but constraining. Away is liberating but lonely. When we’re Home, we dream of Away, and when we’re Away, we dream of Home. Communication tools have always entailed a blurring of Home and Away. Newspaper, phonograph, radio, and TV pulled a little of Away into Home, while the telephone, and before it the mail, granted us a little Home when we were Away. Some blurring is fine, but we don’t want too much of it. We don’t want the two poles to become one pole, the magnetic forces to cancel each other out. The vibration is what matters, what gives beauty to both Home and Away. Facebook Home, in pretending to give us connection without the shadow of loneliness, gives us nothing. It’s Nowheresville.

VQR � Blog � Why Iceland

VQR � Blog � Why Iceland: The question as to why Iceland would be most easily answered, I suppose, by photographs of its supernatural beauty. But let’s say you’re stuck next to me on a plane and we start talking. Here’s what I would tell you:

That it is clean; the streets and sidewalks and air and water are clean, unpolluted, unlittered by cigarette butts and trash and people’s spit and dog shit.

That it is small—only 300,000-some people on the whole island—but does not feel small. (Or, when it does, like a sexy dress or good suit, it is small in the right places.)

That Icelanders know their history and feel part of it.

That, as one Icelander explained to me, “fame has no value here.”

That one rarely sees Icelanders walking down the street or sitting in caf�s or bars or cars staring into iPhones, oblivious to others and walled-off from human contact; indeed, this is the easiest way to spot an American in Iceland—eyes lowered, ears plugged, iPhone held to the face as if in anticipation of a kiss.

That there is virtually no violent crime in Iceland.

That Icelandic police do not carry guns.

Modern Farmer | Who Can Stop These Adorable Pigs?

Modern Farmer | Who Can Stop These Adorable Pigs?:
This may seem like a ludicrous pitch for a doomsday blockbuster or a leftover gag from Babe: Pig in the City or an excuse to put even more bacon in our diet but the fact is, wild pigs have overrun the planet. To wit: Pig populations are nearing a million in the state of Florida, encroaching on urban areas and destroying an F-16 fighter plane in Jacksonville. Feral pigs are running (hog) wild in the streets of Berlin, with dedicated pig squads waging a losing battle to overtake them. They’ve become a fixture on the West Bank, after Israeli settlers, some say, released boars to destroy Palestinian croplands. There are even thousands of radioactive wild pigs wandering Europe, thanks to the tainted feeding grounds near Chernobyl.

“The biggest challenge is to get people to take this seriously,” says John Mayer of Savannah River National Laboratory, one of the world’s foremost wild pig authorities. “You start talking about this and people go ‘Come on, you’re kidding me, wild pigs?!’”

But the issue is as serious as swine flu, with a global explosion of wild pigs destroying natural ecosystems, spreading disease, causing a billion dollars in agricultural damage, and proving themselves nearly impossible to combat.

The Driver - By Mark Perry | Foreign Policy

The Driver - By Mark Perry | Foreign Policy: It was a violent end for a man who had devoted his life to violence on behalf of the Lebanese militant group and its patron, Iran. Although few had heard of him, he was responsible for virtually all the most notorious terrorist attacks of the pre-9/11 era: the October 1983 bombings of the U.S. Marine and French barracks in Beirut, the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner, and the kidnapping and murder of Western hostages in Lebanon in the 1980s. Mughniyeh also plotted the March 1992 attack on Israel's embassy in Argentina and the 1994 synagogue bombing in Buenos Aires. Until his death, however, no intelligence agency had ever successfully tracked him -- and only one American, former hostage Terry Anderson, admits to ever having met him.

For many CIA officers -- those who had long tried and failed to find him -- Mughniyeh's death represented an incredible victory over an elusive foe; in the shadowy world of intelligence, it was almost as big a score as the bin Laden raid a few years later. There's just one trick: The United States didn't kill Mughniyeh. And even now, five years later, it's not entirely clear who did.

If Homosexuality was a "Choice"

Jonathan Rauch: DENIAL: Homosexuality Is a "Choice," Right?: Let us suppose, for argument's sake, that there are people who declare: "Actually, I would prefer to be (probably) childless, to face a hundred kinds of social difficulties, to disappoint and maybe horrify my parents, to risk alienating myself from some of my friends and many of my peers, to be an object of disgust and scorn to many millions of people. Sure. Sounds fun."

Let us also overlook, again for argument's sake, that many homosexuals, far from embracing their condition, struggle desperately to change or suppress it, even to the point of suicide. No: imagine that homosexuality is something many people contemplate and choose.

07 May, 2013

Nancy Grace and Ashleigh Banfield Hold Split-Screen Interview in Same Parking Lot - Dashiell Bennett and Philip Bump - The Atlantic Wire

Nancy Grace and Ashleigh Banfield Hold Split-Screen Interview in Same Parking Lot - Dashiell Bennett and Philip Bump - The Atlantic Wire: In a bizarre television and spatial anomaly on CNN this morning, the blanket coverage of two true-crime stories led two news anchors to conduct an odd "satellite" interview from the very same parking lot, background traffic and all.

06 May, 2013

Wait what?

“[Ted Cruz is] anti-immigration. Almost every Hispanic in the country wants to see immigration reform. No, I don’t think he should be defined as a Hispanic,” – Bill Richardson.

What does that $14 shirt really cost? - Business - Macleans.ca

What does that $14 shirt really cost? - Business - Macleans.ca: According to a 2011 report by the consulting firm O’Rourke Group Partners, a generic $14 polo shirt sold in Canada and made in Bangladesh actually costs a retailer only $5.67. To get prices that low, workers see just 12 cents a shirt, or two per cent of the wholesale cost. That’s one of the lowest rates in the world—about half of what a worker in a Chinese factory might make—and a major reason for the explosion of Bangladesh’s garment industry, worth $19 billion last year, up from $380 million in 1985. The country’s 5,400 factories employ four million people, mostly women, who cut and stitch shirts and pants that make up 80 per cent of the country’s total exports.

For that $14 shirt, the factory owners can expect to earn 58 cents, almost five times a worker’s wage. Agents who help retailers find factories to make their wares also get a cut, and it costs about $1 per shirt to cover shipping and duties. Fabric and trimmings make up the largest costs—65 per cent of the wholesale price. Toronto-based labour rights activist Kevin Thomas says wages ultimately get squeezed most because businesses can easily control them, unlike the price of cotton or shipping.

Leading From Below - The Daily Beast

Leading From Below - The Daily Beast: Today, a minority of senators can kill bipartisan legislation that is supported by a majority of their colleagues. And they frequently do. In the House, the speaker alone can kill bipartisan legislation that is supported by a majority of his colleagues. And he frequently does. Following some of this country’s worst mass shootings, a Republican senator and a Democratic senator with A ratings from the National Rifle Association authored a gun safety bill requiring criminal background checks that was supported by 90 percent of the American people. If I were a reporter, I’d be more interested in what was wrong with the Congress that refused to pass that bill than the man at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue who relentlessly campaigned for it at more than a dozen events around the country.

But that’s just me. This Congress has so profoundly disappointed the American people that I suppose the real news would be if they ever did anything that even remotely reflected popular will. At this point, getting angry with Congress for failing to legislate seems as useful as yelling at a puppy for peeing on the floor: neither of them knows any better.

The Benefit of Ordeal for Achievement

“I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business. Beethoven’s deafness, Goya’s deafness, Milton’s blindness, that kind of thing. And I think that what happens in my poetic work in the future will probably largely depend not on my sitting calmly on my ass as I think, “Hmm, hmm, a long poem again? Hmm,” but on being knocked in the face, and thrown flat, and given cancer, and all kinds of other things short of senile dementia. At that point, I’m out, but short of that, I don’t know. I hope to be nearly crucified,” – John Berryman.

"The Nazis Were Better" - forgetting their torture

The Nazis Were Better:
That is indeed where you end up when you truly have to defend the Bush administration’s disastrous decision to set up a torture and detention camp without even basic due process or vetting. And so Ari Fleischer went there:

But since Fleischer did bring up the Nazis, it’s worth noting that they devised the exact same torture techniques authorized by Fleischer’s bosses. In German, the term for “enhanced interrogation” was “Verschaerfte Vernehmung.” Its methods were close to identical. You can read all about it here and here. I’m guessing Fleischer has yet to come to terms with that fact.

An Andrew Sullivan Compilation on the Economy

Jobs Report Reax: A Durable, Slow Recovery:
Job Losses
Jared Bernstein summarizes today’s jobs report:
Payrolls increased by 165,000 last month and the unemployment rate ticked down to 7.5%, in a jobs report that painted a considerably brighter picture than last month’s version.  In fact, the disappointing 88,000 payroll gain for March was revised up in today’s report to 138,000, and in February, new revisions show a large increase of 332,000 jobs.
That means employers added 114,000 more jobs in February and March than we thought, bringing the monthly average payroll gains over the past three months to a healthy 212,000 per month.  Job growth at that pace, if it persists, should be enough to gradually, albeit slowly, bring down the unemployment rate.  In fact, the decline in the jobless rate from 7.6% in March to 7.5% in April was due not to a shrinking labor force (i.e., people giving up looking for work) but to more people getting jobs.
Neil Irwin’s take on the state of the economy:
This isn’t a good economy. By a lot of measures it’s terrible. Still, we should note what we have achieved: a durable kind of recovery that, if it can go for several more years, will eventually get us out of the muck. But it is also slow enough that the human toll of the crisis will be long and enormous.
Binyamin Appelbaum looks at the percentage of Americans with jobs:
The American economy continues to add jobs in proportion to population growth. Nothing less, nothing more. The share of American adults with jobs has barely changed since 2010, hovering between 58.2 percent and 58.7 percent. This employment-to-population ratio stood at 58.6 percent in April. That is about four percentage points lower than the employment rate before the recession, a difference of roughly 10 million jobs. In other words, the United States economy is not getting any closer to recreating the jobs lost during the recession.
Floyd Norris focuses on the plight of the long-term unemployed:
There are still 4.4 million workers who have been unemployed for at least six months. That is down from the peak of 6.7 million, but it is still very high. And that number does not include people who have given up looking for work.
Bloomberg’s editors also worry about unemployment duration:
The average unemployed person has been out of work for 36.5 weeks. That’s not much better than the December 2011 duration of 40.7 weeks, which was the longest since World War II. Long-term unemployment at the start of the recession in December 2007 was 1.3 million people, and the average duration was 16.6 weeks.
Terrible things happen to people when they are out of work for long periods, numerous studies show. Beyond a sharp drop in income, long-term unemployment is associated with higher rates of suicide, cancer (especially among men) and divorce. The children of the long-term unemployed also show an increased probability of having to repeat a grade in school.
Daniel Gross examines wages:
The jobs growth is good. But wage growth is less impressive. One of the major—and frustrating—features of this recovery has been that capital is beating the living daylights out of labor. Companies have been able to rack up record profits and are demanding that employers work harder and more productively without necessarily paying them more. Why? There’s a lot of slack in the labor force, unions have declined in power, and there’s a pervasive sense among CEOs that they just don’t need to pay more. This trend continued last month. “In April,” BLS noted, “average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 4 cents to $23.87. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 45 cents, or 1.9 percent.” That’s weak. And we are nearing a point where we will really need companies to start giving it up if the expansion is going to continue.
Yglesias compares public and private workforces:
The big story of the recovery that continues to be clear and not subject to small revisions is the rebalancing of the American economy out of public-sector employment and into private-sector production. There are 89,000 fewer people employed by the government than there were one year ago, and almost 2.2 million more people employed in the private sector. Given sequestration, I would expect that trend to continue.
Greg Ip is relatively pessimistic:
There is little reason to expect the economy to accelerate in the near term. Barack Obama desperately wants to scrap the sequester, but unless Congressmen heard a groundswell of protest in their districts during this week’s recess, they are unlikely to return to Washington motivated to fix it. The Federal Reserve had expected to start tapering off quantitative easing (QE), under which it buys $85 billion of government bonds a month with newly created money. The March air pocket prompted it to reconsider, and this past week it opened the door to ramping up QE. But the April report does not show the sort of stall that would prompt the Fed to pull the trigger. The year 2013 has so far held less economic drama than 2012, 2011 or  2010, but nor has it given any reason to expect the final result to be different.
And Leonhardt puts the employment numbers in perspective:
For the last year and a half, average 12-month employment growth has hovered around 1.6 percent, precisely where it was in the 12 months ending in April. That’s faster than most of the last 12 years, which included two recessions and a mediocre recovery. But it’s far cry from the growth rates of between 2 percent and 3 percent, and briefly above 3 percent, in the mid- to late 1990s.
Chart from Calculated Risk.

02 May, 2013

Saudi Woman Given Lashes For Texting Stranger by Mistake - IBTimes UK

Saudi Woman Given Lashes For Texting Stranger by Mistake - IBTimes UK: A Saudi woman has been sentenced to eight lashes by a court in Qatif for mistakenly sending a text message allegedly promoting the Shiite branch of Islam.

The 30-year-old woman, identified only as YH, has been pronounced guilty for sending an SMS to another Saudi woman, containing a group of telephone numbers under the name 'Shiite Islamic religious services'.

One phone number apparently led to Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric who is renowned throughout the Gulf for his learned counsel on Islamic law.

The Saudi Arabian state is a staunch adherent to the Sunni branch of Islam, and publicly disparages the Shia sect. Shia Muslims are not allowed to practice their faith, or even profess their sectarian beliefs in private.

We can manipulate single atoms now...

Cool Ad Watch:
IBM created a stop-motion video by manipulating and filming individual atoms: