29 September, 2013

Rebels Without a Clue - NYTimes.com

Rebels Without a Clue - NYTimes.com:
So how does this end? The votes to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling are there, and always have been: every Democrat in the House would vote for the necessary measures, and so would enough Republicans. The problem is that G.O.P. leaders, fearing the wrath of the radicals, haven’t been willing to allow such votes. What would change their minds?
Ironically, considering who got us into our economic mess, the most plausible answer is that Wall Street will come to the rescue — that the big money will tell Republican leaders that they have to put an end to the nonsense.

But what if even the plutocrats lack the power to rein in the radicals? In that case, Mr. Obama will either let default happen or find some way of defying the blackmailers, trading a financial crisis for a constitutional crisis.

This all sounds crazy, because it is. But the craziness, ultimately, resides not in the situation but in the minds of our politicians and the people who vote for them. Default is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

9,000 Sand Sketches Take Over Normandy Beach - Core77

9,000 Sand Sketches Take Over Normandy Beach - Core77: In a tribute to International Peace Day (September 21st), British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss of Sand in Your Eye took a team of 60 volunteers to Normandy beach over the weekend to sketch the outlines of 9,000 soldiers figures into the sand. The installation was created to commemorate the people who lost their lives on June 6th, 1944 and is appropriately titled "The Fallen 9,000."

According to design website Colossal, what started with the artists and 60 volunteers grew to an effort including 500 local residents who jumped in to help after seeing what was going on.

The end result was fleeting and was washed away by the tide after a couple of hours. But these photos most definitely do the project justice:

How Did A Friend of America Lose His Visa? : The New Yorker

How Did A Friend of America Lose His Visa? : The New Yorker:
Incredibly, though, it really would have been as easy as that. In Iraq and Afghanistan, security “hits” against locals working with the U.S. can be introduced into American intelligence databases in any number of ways: by a soldier mistyping someone’s name, by mistaken arrest, by confused identity, or by someone—American or local—wanting to settle a score. For example, an American contractor allegedly sexually harassed his female Iraqi employees and then fabricated derogatory information about the ones who rebuffed him to raise red flags on the security database. Even if a tip, anonymous or not, is thoroughly investigated—seldom the case—the “hit” is rarely expunged from the database but remains there, a permanent black mark. This is the operating procedure of a bureaucracy that is looking for any reason not to issue a visa to a friend of America, without ever having to say why.

27 September, 2013

Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted - NYTimes.com

Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted - NYTimes.com:
And you know that such publicly reported statements don’t come out of nowhere. Stuff like this is surely what the Masters of the Universe say to each other all the time, to nods of agreement and approval. It’s just that sometimes they forget that they’re not supposed to say such things where the rabble might learn about it.

Also, notice what both men were defending: namely, their privileges. Mr. Schwarzman was outraged at the notion that he might be required to pay taxes just like the little people; Mr. Benmosche was, in effect, declaring that A.I.G. was entitled to public bailouts and that its executives shouldn’t be expected to make any sacrifice in return.

This is important. Sometimes the wealthy talk as if they were characters in “Atlas Shrugged,” demanding nothing more from society than that the moochers leave them alone. But these men were speaking for, not against, redistribution — redistribution from the 99 percent to people like them. This isn’t libertarianism; it’s a demand for special treatment. It’s not Ayn Rand; it’s ancien rĂ©gime.

25 September, 2013

Pure Silliness

The Hotties and the Notties — The Monkey Cage:
Continuing our series of serious inquiries into whether academia in general, and political science in particular is a sexy profession, we actually have Real Social Scientific Data that we can bring to bear on this topic.[1] In 2006, James Felton, Peter T. Koper, John Mitchell and Michael Stinson have conducted research that sought to establish, inter alia how perceived hotness of professors affected their RateMyProfessors evaluations for teaching quality. As part of this exercise, Felton et al. ranked (Table 2 in their paper) the relative hotness quotients of 36 different academic disciplines. My estimable colleague Professor Sides has prepared a nice graph of the data (see below).

Has America Abandoned an Afghan Interpreter? : The New Yorker

Has America Abandoned an Afghan Interpreter? : The New Yorker:
Interpreting at village meetings or during interrogations of Taliban prisoners, Shinwari made no effort to hide his face. Zeller once asked him why. “I want them to know me,” Shinwari said. “I don’t scare for them.” He was a striking man, tall and long-haired, and it seemed that everyone in Ghazni knew who he was, and inevitably his name made it onto a Taliban death list. He began getting threats in the form of “night letters”—his head would be cut off, one said. At the end of 2008, as Zeller prepared to leave Afghanistan, he told Shinwari, “You’re a brother, you’re family. Whatever I can do to get you to the U.S., I will.” Shinwari assumed that the Americans would stay in Afghanistan forever, so after Congress passed a law creating visas for Afghans who worked for the United States in Afghanistan, he didn’t apply for one.

How Ted Cruz's Anti-Obamacare Filibuster Could Cost Him Millions

How Ted Cruz's Anti-Obamacare Filibuster Could Cost Him Millions:
Cruz, who most Republicans believe is positioning himself for a 2016 presidential run, will need the support of at least a portion of the party’s moneyed donors to stay competitive in a primary. But skeptics say he’s running the risk of being seen as unserious by the same people he will need to write him checks in a couple of years.

“Sure, he’s revving up the base, but so did Michele Bachmann and Pat Buchanan,” said one longtime Republican strategist who has worked on multiple state and national campaigns. “If you’re serious about running for president… you need the serious money, more than the direct mail crowd and the small money donors.”

“That,” the Republican said, “is the difference between winning the Iowa Caucus and winning in a serious state like Florida.”

24 September, 2013

Design News - Gadget Freak - Video: The Incredible Lego 'Great Ball Contraption'

Design News - Gadget Freak - Video: The Incredible Lego 'Great Ball Contraption': It's not every day you see something that makes your jaw drop, but today, while watching the video of the largest, most intricate Lego machine I've ever seen, mine did.

The machine, known as the Great Ball Contraption (GBC), was built by a Japanese mechanical engineer in his house over the course of two years -- a total of a whopping 600 hours in construction time.

The monstrous 5 ft x 21 ft (1.5m x 6.5m) machine boasts 17 modules that can process 500 balls for a length of 101.7 ft (31m) at a rate of one ball per second. I know, it's hard to wrap your head around it without checking out the video, below, first.

Chilling legal memo from Obama DOJ justifies assassination of US citizens | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | theguardian.com

Chilling legal memo from Obama DOJ justifies assassination of US citizens | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | theguardian.com: This ensures that huge numbers of citizens - those who spend little time thinking about such things and/or authoritarians who assume all government claims are true - will instinctively justify what is being done here on the ground that we must kill the Terrorists or joining al-Qaida means you should be killed. That's the "reasoning" process that has driven the War on Terror since it commenced: if the US government simply asserts without evidence or trial that someone is a terrorist, then they are assumed to be, and they can then be punished as such - with indefinite imprisonment or death.

But of course, when this memo refers to "a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida", what it actually means is this: someone whom the President - in total secrecy and with no due process - has accused of being that. Indeed, the memo itself makes this clear, as it baldly states that presidential assassinations are justified when "an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US".

This is the crucial point: the memo isn't justifying the due-process-free execution of senior al-Qaida leaders who pose an imminent threat to the US. It is justifying the due-process-free execution of people secretly accused by the president and his underlings, with no due process, of being that. The distinction between (a) government accusations and (b) proof of guilt is central to every free society, by definition, yet this memo - and those who defend Obama's assassination power - willfully ignore it.

Iran's Rouhani calls Holocaust crime against Jews - vagazette.com

Iran's Rouhani calls Holocaust crime against Jews - vagazette.com: UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday called the Holocaust a "reprehensible" crime committed by the Nazis against the Jewish people but said it was up to historians to determine the scale of what happened.

"I am not a historian and when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust it is the historians that should reflect," Rouhani told CNN when asked whether or not he believed, as did his hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that the Holocaust was a myth.

Iran Nuclear Weapons Deal With U.S.: How to Make It Happen | New Republic

Iran Nuclear Weapons Deal With U.S.: How to Make It Happen | New Republic: All of this seems far away. Doubtless it is. But Rouhani has taken a bold step forward and appears to want to take more. We should not ignore our concerns, just as he cannot ignore those of his domestic rivals. But we must be ready to address all of them, take some risks on our side, and help him to convince others in Tehran to do the same. This may well be our best chance to solve one of the greatest problems facing the Middle East and American foreign policy. We may not have another. And if we cannot grasp this one, we will be left with a choice between the two worst options of all: living with a nuclear Iran, or embarking on another war in the Middle East to prevent it.

Is Iran Ready to do a Deal with Obama over its Nuclear Program? | Informed Comment

Is Iran Ready to do a Deal with Obama over its Nuclear Program? | Informed Comment:
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, has confirmed that Iran has turned 40% of its stock of high-grade LEU into fuel rods for the medical reactor. Once made into fuel rods, the material cannot be weaponized. So Iran only has 140 kilograms left of the 19.75% enriched uranium left. That isn’t enough for a bomb even if Iran knew how to make one and had the facilities to do so, which it doesn’t. Salehi says that Tehran intends to turn the rest of the stock into fuel rods, as well. Iran has in fact been feeding these fuel rods into the medical reactor and not stockpiling the high grade LEU, which is how you would expect them to act if they were in fact only interested in fuel, not bombs. Long time readers know that I have held since the middle of the last decade that Iran does not want an actual bomb, but rather only wants a breakout capacity like that of Japan– the ability to construct a bomb in short order if they faced an imminent existential threat. Such a breakout capacity would be almost impossible to forestall, since it mainly depends on know-how, which is widespread. But if Iran and give solid evidence that it has no active weapons program, that might be enough for a deal.

President Hassan Rouhani, elected this summer, has wrested control of the civilian nuclear enrichment program from the clerical establishment, allowing him to order the fashioning of the fuel rods so as to reassure the West (and Israel) about Iran’s intentions.

A Moderation Manifesto |

A Moderation Manifesto |: Certainly, it has been a long-standing dream — in the US, revolutionary France, or elsewhere — to articulate a notion of moderation that is somehow grander, more passionate, more inspiring than the one usually on offer. William Buckley’s main complaint about Eisenhower, that he was boring, is a common response to moderation. This seems to be the standard complaint about moderates in general, including in Craiutu’s reading of revolutionary France. Moderates everywhere are gray and boring; some wear these labels proudly, which does not prevent them from still being gray and boring. As if this were not enough, Kabaservice’s and Craiutu’s moderates are also for the most part political failures.

Moderates could be, and have been, dismissed as irrelevant. Yet if we are to build a moderate alternative future, we must allow them to inspire us; we must make them relevant, even many years after their engagement in politics ended.

Kludgeocracy in America > Publications > National Affairs

Kludgeocracy in America > Publications > National Affairs:
For lack of a better alternative, the problem of complexity might best be termed the challenge of "kludgeocracy."

A "kludge" is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "an ill-assorted collection of parts assembled to fulfill a particular purpose...a clumsy but temporarily effective solution to a particular fault or problem." The term comes out of the world of computer programming, where a kludge is an inelegant patch put in place to solve an unexpected problem and designed to be backward-compatible with the rest of an existing system. When you add up enough kludges, you get a very complicated program that has no clear organizing principle, is exceedingly difficult to understand, and is subject to crashes. Any user of Microsoft Windows will immediately grasp the concept.

"Clumsy but temporarily effective" also describes much of American public policy today. To see policy kludges in action, one need look no further than the mind-numbing complexity of the health-care system (which even Obamacare's champions must admit has only grown more complicated under the new law, even if in their view the system is now also more just), or our byzantine system of funding higher education, or our bewildering federal-state system of governing everything from welfare to education to environmental regulation. America has chosen to govern itself through more indirect and incoherent policy mechanisms than can be found in any comparable country.

The effects of this approach to public policy are widespread and profound. But to understand how to treat our government's ailment, we first need to understand the symptoms, the character, and the causes of that ailment.

Joss Whedon: The definitive EW interview | Inside TV | EW.com

Joss Whedon: The definitive EW interview | Inside TV | EW.com:
This time you’re returning to TV with Marvel, the 800-pound hulk, backing you up. How has this experience been different?
There’s a certain amount of trust with the Marvel brass. It doesn’t mean carte blanche, nor should it. Because they’re not watching me as carefully, because I don’t have to justify what I want to do to them, I have to make sure I can justify it to myself. So I’m not just going “This sounds cool and nobody says I can’t, so wheeeeee, look at me fail!”
What work are you most proud of?
There’s a couple of episodes. [Buffy's musical episode] “Once More, with Feeling,” [Buffy's] “The Body” and [the final Firefly episode] “Objects in Space” come to mind. Those felt transcendent to me.
Do you still write everything in restaurants or cafes given your rising profile?
Oh yeah. Nobody at Starbucks ever bothers me. Somebody might say “I love your work.” Nobody is going to sit down and pitch me something. Everybody there is working on their own screenplay, anyway.

23 September, 2013

This hacker might seem shady, but throwing him in jail is bad for everyone

This hacker might seem shady, but throwing him in jail is bad for everyone: On Friday, the U.S. government filed its brief in the appeal of Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer, who was convicted of federal hacking charges for downloading hundreds of thousands of customer e-mail addresses from AT&T's Web site. The government says the conviction was proper, but many security researchers and civil liberties advocates argue that the conviction would set a dangerous precedent. Confused? Read on.

Who's Weev?

Weev's real name is Andrew Auernheimer. He's a security researcher and Internet provocateur who is facing felony hacking charges. No one, including Auernheimer himself, would describe him as a nice guy. But his case raises important questions about the freedom to conduct computer security research and to use software to gather information online.

22 September, 2013

Why I sued Hollywood on behalf of unpaid interns everywhere - Quartz

Why I sued Hollywood on behalf of unpaid interns everywhere - Quartz: When Fox Searchlight Pictures‘s $300 million-plus grossing “Black Swan” sought to control its production budget, in part by staffing with unpaid intern labor, it was contributing to the normalization of a practice that has no defensible basis in ethics or law. It took advantage of people’s desperate need to distinguish their r�sum�s and the acceptance of this commonplace if peculiar fact of the youth labor market. Somewhere along the way, a laudable idea that work experience could have academic merit metastasized into an ad hoc free-for-all in which there is little consistency in policy (whether among employers or colleges), little governmental enforcement, and every reason for exploited young workers to cross their fingers and hope that they’re expected to labor for free for only a brief period.

People who defend unpaid internships are defending a notion of what they think unpaid internships should be, rather than what they are. A picture of how they have corrupted the labor market for film and television production, the field I was in, should clarify how damaging this practice has become. It is also holding back the emergence of a more vibrant and sustainable labor market that contributes to the much delayed economic recovery.

Hackers Courted by Government for Cyber Security Jobs - Rolling Stone

Hackers Courted by Government for Cyber Security Jobs - Rolling Stone: But maybe if you’re young and brilliant and looking for online action, there’s something undeniable about working for the biggest, baddest government on the planet. Sitting here under the dormant red warning lights, there’s a sense of being at the center of the matrix – and this is plenty tantalizing for some, including th3_e5c@p15t, winner of the cyberwar contest back at HackMiami. With his skills, he can write his own ticket, which he hopes to cash in with the feds. He says he wants to be as close to the front line as he can get: “I see it as a righteous cause.”

Why Is Zambia So Poor? And Will Things Ever Get Better?

Why Is Zambia So Poor? And Will Things Ever Get Better?: We are talking about poverty here in Kitwe, what it looks like, what causes it.

“It’s you,” she says.

“… White people?” I ask.

“No, you men,” she says. “The men here are jealous of women’s earnings and education, and block them from getting employment.”

In rural areas, women do most of the farming, but the men are the ones who go to the market, sell the crops, pocket the money. Before they even get home, many of those kwachas have already disappeared into beer, sunglasses, and brand names. The wives have to resort to asking nicely for money for school fees, medicines, next season’s seeds and fertilizers.

Google knows nearly every Wi-Fi password in the world | Computerworld Blogs

Google knows nearly every Wi-Fi password in the world | Computerworld Blogs: If an Android device (phone or tablet) has ever logged on to a particular Wi-Fi network, then Google probably knows the Wi-Fi password. Considering how many Android devices there are, it is likely that Google can access most Wi-Fi passwords worldwide.

Recently IDC reported that 187 million Android phones were shipped in the second quarter of this year. That multiplies out to 748 million phones in 2013, a figure that does not include Android tablets.

Many (probably most) of these Android phones and tablets are phoning home to Google, backing up Wi-Fi passwords along with other assorted settings. And, although they have never said so directly, it is obvious that Google can read the passwords.

Sounds like a James Bond movie.

Amazing soccer feat

Video by davidferguson35

The Time a Cleveland Newspaper Divulged the Manhattan Project - Rebecca J. Rosen - The Atlantic

The Time a Cleveland Newspaper Divulged the Manhattan Project - Rebecca J. Rosen - The Atlantic: And how remarkable this secrecy was! With some 130,000 people involved in building the bomb, how is it possible this story didn't leak out?

Well, as nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein documents frequently at his invaluable site Restricted Data, the secrecy of the Manhattan Project was not all it is cracked up to be. Wellerstein says that the fact that "the Army was working on a new super-weapon that involved atomic energy" was something of an "open secret" in Washington prior to the bomb's use, and, moreover, there were numerous press reports that gave information about the project.

But there is one that stands out, Wellerstein writes, and that is a report from The Cleveland Press, by columnist John W. Raper, who happened upon the clandestine city of Los Alamos, a year and a half before bombs would fall on Japan.

"Forbidden City" the headline proclaimed. It continued: "Uncle Sam's Mystery Town Directed by '2d Einstein.'"

Bias in game design, of the literal sort

The Gamer Blog: <br />You don't know <i>Jam</i> - ESPN The Magazine: Did Scottie Pippen's ratings in the game really drop when he played certain teams?
It's true, but only when the Bulls played the Pistons. If there was a close game and anyone on the Bulls took a last second shot, we wrote special code in the game so that they would average out to be bricks. There was the big competition back in the day between the Pistons and the Bulls, and since I was always a big Pistons fan, that was my opportunity to level the playing field.

Rollie Chance, Wrongly Suspected Navy Yard Shooter: I Thought 'This Must Be A Joke'

Rollie Chance, Wrongly Suspected Navy Yard Shooter: I Thought 'This Must Be A Joke': There are benefits to being presumed dead in a situation like this one. For one thing, Chance didn't receive any threats from people who thought he was the shooter. But there are obvious horrors as well. Friends and family began frantically calling, as did church groups, neighbors and teachers at his daughter's school.

"The first thing they were worried about was that they got the report that I was dead," he said. "I was supposed to be the shooter and shooter was killed. So, there was a lot of emotion. Many of the teachers at my daughter's school thought I was dead. So the first thing I let them know was that I was alive and I was OK."

"They wanted to know, 'How did my name get in there?' and the only thing I could think of was the badge," he added.

Here’s why Verizon and AT&T don’t need to worry about suffering BlackBerry’s fate

Here’s why Verizon and AT&T don’t need to worry about suffering BlackBerry’s fate: Saturday, my colleague Andrea Peterson posted this chart illustrating how quickly the fortunes of mobile software companies have changed. A decade ago, in 2003, the phone software market was dominated by Nokia with its Symbian OS. Palm and Microsoft were Nokia's main competitors. BlackBerrys were just starting to become a mainstream phenomenon.

Five years later, in 2008, Symbian OS and Palm OS were losing ground, while BlackBerry OS and Microsoft's Windows CE led the pack. Apple's new iOS was growing rapidly and Android was still a minor player.

Today the market is dominated by Android handsets, with Apple's iOS as the only serious alternative. Nokia handsets running Microsoft software are a distant third. Palm and Symbian are dead and BlackBerry is close to it.


Ahmed Akkari Repents Violent Opposition to Danish Cartoons Lampooning Islam - The Daily Beast: As the cartoon crisis simmered, Akkari receded into the background. In 2008, after a rift with Laban, he disappeared to the empty expanse of Greenland. Five years later, his photo sits on a hillside in Syria next to Naser Khader’s and Kurt Westergaard’s, torn apart by bullets from a Kalashnikov. How did this leading figure from Denmark’s Islamist milieu, a selfless and tireless defender of the prophet, end up being denounced on the Syrian battlefield as an apostate?


Ahmed Akkari is sorry.

In August, he apologized to Naser Khader. He apologized to Kurt Westergaard. He contacted Flemming Rose with an offer of a meeting and apology. He told a Danish newspaper that he owes “the entire nation of Denmark a formal apology.”

Jamie Quatro | The Fine Delight

Jamie Quatro | The Fine Delight: We need ritual, whether it feels imbued with grace or merely rote, because it draws us back to the physical world--which seems, always, like a distraction from the silence of pure communion. It’s a temptation, for me: the longing to withdraw from action and other people and become a contemplative. I could easily spend the rest of my life reading, writing, thinking, with a little running thrown in. My children are a gift in this regard; they pull me outside myself at every turn.

German chancellor’s drone “attack” shows the threat of weaponized UAVs | Ars Technica

German chancellor’s drone “attack” shows the threat of weaponized UAVs | Ars Technica: While Merkel smirked off the drone in Dresden, even a small explosive charge or grenade aboard a similar drone would have been catastrophic—and defending against such attacks is difficult at best. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) researchers from TNO Defense Research, an organization in The Netherlands, recently showed the real risk of that sort of attack, demonstrating that terrorists and insurgents could effectively use current commercial and do-it-yourself drones as weapons in a number of scenarios, including one much like the Dresden event.

Iranian political prisoners' plea to Barack Obama: the full letter | World news | theguardian.com

Iranian political prisoners' plea to Barack Obama: the full letter | World news | theguardian.com: Mr President! All Iranian people, including the families of political prisoners and especially the low income groups, are suffering under the burden of rampant inflation and shortages of medical supplies and other basic necessities of life. The sanctions have now turned into a collective punishment imposed on the Iranian people as a whole, not the government only. The national economy has shrunk over the past couple of years and the strength of Iran as a nation-state is being reduced.

The practical outcome of the intensification of sanctions and failure in achieving a mutually acceptable solution to the conflict between Iran and the United States will be further polarization and deepening of animosities. This will further undermine regional and international security.

Brad Mehldau Trio - Knives Out - YouTube

▶ Brad Mehldau Trio - Knives Out - YouTube

Sex-selective abortion: Gendercide in the Caucasus | The Economist

Sex-selective abortion: Gendercide in the Caucasus | The Economist: The sex ratios in the Caucasus are especially distorted when a second or third child is born. In Armenia, among first children, there are 138 boys for every 100 girls. If the first child is a son, the next is more likely to be a girl than a boy (ie, reverse sex selection). But if the first child is a girl, son-preference goes off the scale. When the first child is a daughter, 61% of second children are sons. Armenian parents seem to plan family composition, not just size.

Mass Shootings Are on the Rise—and Falling | TIME.com

Mass Shootings Are on the Rise—and Falling | TIME.com: Speaking of statistics, here are a few others that ought to be relevant to policy makers:

*Homicide rates in the United States are lower now than they have been at almost any time in the last century, having fallen by more than 50% since 1991.

*Mass shootings, even using the very broad definition employed by the FBI, make up a tiny fraction of homicides – usually less than one percent.

*No one knows why homicide rates doubled between 1960 and 1980, or why they’ve declined just as sharply in the years since. Many theories have been suggested, including the aging of the population, high rates of incarceration, legalized abortion, and even declines in the percentage of lead in the environment (the latter, improbable-sounding, hypothesis has some surprisingly strong statistical support). But criminology is very far from an exact science, and these various theories remain little more than educated guesses.

Good Populism, Bad Populism - NYTimes.com

Good Populism, Bad Populism - NYTimes.com: HERE’S the good news for Republicans: The party now has a faction committed to learning real lessons from the 2012 defeat, breaking with the right’s stale policy consensus and embracing new ideas on a range of issues, from foreign policy to middle-class taxes, the drug war to banking reform.

Here’s the bad news for Republicans: The party also has a faction committed to a reckless, pointless budget brinkmanship, which creates a perpetual cycle of outrage and disillusionment among conservatives and leaves Washington lurching from one manufactured crisis to the next. 

Here’s the strange news for Republicans: These two factions are actually one and the same.

Pope Francis’ Catholic Church: Stephen Colbert is replacing Antonin Scalia as America’s Catholic. - Slate Magazine

Pope Francis’ Catholic Church: Stephen Colbert is replacing Antonin Scalia as America’s Catholic. - Slate Magazine: For proof, of course, just look to Pope Francis, the selfie-taking, Twitter-using, biker gang-blessing, money-hating, atheist-redeeming, female-prisoner’s-foot-kissing Jesuit who made liberal Catholics everywhere gnaw ecstatically on their rosaries with an interview in the Jesuit weekly America magazine (excerpts of which were republished in the New York Times). In the interview, he makes it clear that, in contrast to his glamorous predecessor, Francis wants to frame the church as an institution by and for the poor. He’s sharply critical of “authoritarian” decision-making (specifically from his own past), “closed and rigid thought,” and “censorship.”

21 September, 2013

A Big Heart Open to God | America Magazine

A Big Heart Open to God | America Magazine: Father Spadaro met the pope at the Vatican in the pope’s apartments in the Casa Santa Marta, where he has chosen to live since his election. Father Spadaro begins his account of the interview with a description of the pope’s living quarters.

19 September, 2013

Charles Carreon finally quits fighting, calls Oatmeal battle “a dumb thing” | Ars Technica

Charles Carreon finally quits fighting, calls Oatmeal battle “a dumb thing” | Ars Technica: In a 30-minute phone interview with Ars on Wednesday, Carreon lamented that, as a result of this entire sordid affair, his professional reputation has been damaged—or as he calls it, "rapeutated." In fact, Carreon has a colorful website at Rapeutation.com that includes an elaborate chart with a new, long, and extensive list of all the so-called “rapeutationists,” including yours truly and two more Ars staffers. If you'd like to see a picture of Carreon's critics—including an Ars Technica writer—spewing fecal matter out of their mouths, that too can be accommodated.

In short, Carreon portrays himself as the victim here—he’s now become the victim of the Streisand effect, or as it might now be called, the Carreon effect.

My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me - Atlantic Mobile

My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me - Atlantic Mobile: My daughter has the misfortune of living through a period of peak homework.

It turns out that there is no correlation between homework and achievement. According to a 2005 study by the Penn State professors Gerald K. LeTendre and David P. Baker, some of the countries that score higher than the U.S. on testing in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study—Japan and Denmark, for example—give less homework, while some of those scoring lower, including Thailand and Greece, assign more. Why pile on the homework if it doesn’t make even a testable difference, and in fact may be harmful?

“It’s a response to this whole globalized, competitive process,” says Richard Walker, a co-author of the book Reforming Homework. “You get parents demanding their children get more homework because their children are competing against the whole world.”

ACLU Posts Fed-Collected 'Suspicious' Activity Reports Online : NPR

ACLU Posts Fed-Collected 'Suspicious' Activity Reports Online : NPR: With all the talk of spying by the National Security Agency, it's easy to forget the government engages in off-line surveillance, too. In the last few years, the feds have expanded efforts to collect tips about people's behavior in the real world; they're called suspicious activity reports.

Hal Bergman, a freelance photographer in Los Angeles, has a fondness for industrial scenes, bridges, ports and refineries.

"They're large and they're hulking and they're utilitarian and they look interesting," he says, "and they are spewing steam and I find that visually fascinating."

The problem is Bergman's fascination raises suspicions. He's routinely challenged by security guards and police officers — even when he's shooting on public property. Most of the time, the officials accept his explanation, but every now and then, they report him to the feds.

A Sneak Peek at Eric Schlosser's Terrifying New Book on Nuclear Weapons | Mother Jones

A Sneak Peek at Eric Schlosser's Terrifying New Book on Nuclear Weapons | Mother Jones: As Powell used a socket wrench to unscrew the pressure cap, the socket fell off. It struck the platform and bounced. Powell grabbed for it but missed.

Plumb watched the nine-pound socket slip through the narrow gap between the platform and the missile, fall about 70 feet, hit the thrust mount, and then ricochet off the Titan II. It seemed to happen in slow motion. A moment later, fuel sprayed from a hole in the missile like water from a garden hose.

"Oh man," Plumb thought. "This is not good."

QA: Eric Schlosser on the Secret History of America's Nuclear Arsenal | Politics News | Rolling Stone

QA: Eric Schlosser on the Secret History of America's Nuclear Arsenal | Politics News | Rolling Stone: The Air Force has had some real problems with the management of its nuclear weapons in the last few years. The worst incident I wrote about in the book was in 2007. They lost half a dozen of their powerful nuclear weapons for a day and a half. They had been loaded on a plane inadvertently and nobody bothered [to notice] – there was no paperwork required when they were moved from the bunker. It was incredible that that could occur. Since then, again and again, Air Force units that handle nuclear weapons have been decertified or have been punished for safety lapses.

Wonkbook: The Republican Party’s problem, in two sentences

Wonkbook: The Republican Party’s problem, in two sentences: Here's the Republican Party's problem, in two sentences: It would be a disaster for the party to shut down the government over Obamacare. But it's good for every individual Republican politician to support shutting down the government over Obamacare.

These smart-for-one, dumb-for-all problems have a name: Collective-action problems.

18 September, 2013

Iran's Sotoudeh says will continue defending rights | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR

Iran's Sotoudeh says will continue defending rights | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR: TEHRAN: Prominent Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh told AFP on Wednesday she was in "good" condition after three years in prison, and that she would continue defending human rights.

"Psychologically, my condition is very good but my experience -- with all the psychological pressure, the tense security atmosphere (at the prison), and not having access to phone calls among other things -- was very tough," an energetic Sotoudeh told AFP by phone from her home.

She added that her physical condition was also "good", despite going on hunger strike nearly 11 months ago in protest against the conditions of her imprisonment.

Her release came a week before Iran's new moderate President Hassan Rowhani, who has promised more freedoms at home and constructive engagement with the world, travels to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

The Catastrophe In Colorado � The Dish

The Catastrophe In Colorado � The Dish: From Thursday-Friday, we got over 11 inches of rain – 9 inches in a 24-hour period. As a result, all of the roads in Boulder County leading into the mountains were washed out. Estes Park and Lyons were completely isolated because bridges had washed away. Longmont was cut in half by the St. Vrain creek, with nearly 6,000 households forced to evacuate. Many streets were closed in Boulder, and many remain closed nearly a week later.

And of course all that water must go somewhere, in this case the South Platte River. Over last weekend, every city and town along the river was flooded. In several towns, the wastewater treatment plants were beached, and as a consequence they now live in “no flush zones”: no water down any drain (including toilets of course), no washing dishes, no laundry.

Highway 34, which runs through Big Thompson River to Estes Park, had miles of the roadway completely destroyed. It will take months, maybe a year, to repair. Early reports note 1,500 homes destroyed, 17,500 damaged, and 12,000 people evacuated. Starting on Saturday, over 20 Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters started airlifting people out of the mountains.

Iran sanctions: now is the time to negotiate | World news | theguardian.com

Iran sanctions: now is the time to negotiate | World news | theguardian.com:
If Iran and P5+1 do not take full advantage of the current opportunity, the consequences are likely to be even more serious than if the status quo had simply gone unchanged. While the general international reaction to Iran's new chief executive has so far been favourable, a lack of progress over the next few months could create new levels of frustration and desperation, bolstering the radicals on both sides in the sanctions/nuclear debacle and bringing us closer to military intervention with dire and unthinkable consequences. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is already spreading doubts about the utility of negotiating with Iran, arguing that Rouhani is a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

Iranian citizens, academics, and intellectuals can help. This is the message of the "civil movement" against sanctions that has been initiated by three prominent economists inside Iran, and I am pleased to be able to contribute my voice to this movement outside of Iran. It should be recognised that Rouhani won office in a lively, contested election, with a large margin of victory thanks to the majority of Iranians who prefer negotiation to confrontation. It is hoped that the wishes of the Iranian people will be respected by the Iranian government and by the west. Rouhani, his government, and Iran's negotiating team as the representatives of the Iranian people deserve to be taken seriously and to be engaged with constructively.

17 September, 2013

How to Make School Better for Boys - Christina Hoff Sommers - The Atlantic

How to Make School Better for Boys - Christina Hoff Sommers - The Atlantic: Even those who acknowledge that boys are losing in school argue that they’re winning in life. But the facts are otherwise. American boys across the ability spectrum are struggling in the nation’s schools, with teachers and administrators failing to engage their specific interests and needs. This neglect has ominous implications not only for the boy's social and intellectual development but for the national economy, as policy analysts are just beginning to calculate.

As the United States moves toward a knowledge-based economy, school achievement has become the cornerstone of lifelong success. Women are adapting; men are not. Yet the education establishment and federal government are, with some notable exceptions, looking the other way.

Erick Erickson, making sense

Grow Up, People. Including You, @DavidFrum | RedState: Yet some decided it was, in the heat of the moment, already time to drag race, politics, and policy arguments into the fray.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. Even I’ve learned how inappropriate it is.

There are people calling frantically, I’m sure, right now wanting to know if their husband, brother, wife, sister, mom, or dad is alive or dead. There are others being told about their dead or dying or wounded or safe loved ones.

I would not dare step in the way of America’s national past time of bitching about the politics of everything on twitter, but there has to be a better time for it than as the temperature of bodies on the ground in the Navy Yard are not even yet cold.

Life is more than politics. And if you don’t understand that, you are one seriously maladjusted person. Lecturing me that I can’t tell you what to saying means you really don’t get it. I don’t care what you say. You have a right to say it. But if you don’t have the judgment and good sense to understand that now is not the time to say it, you have no capacity to understand why.

Say wha?

Texas Rep. John Culberson’s Staff Hate Sen. Ted Cruz For Holding Events in Texas | RedState: You have a top aide for Eric Cantor going into the Republican Study Committee meeting to discuss terms of surrender over the continuing resolution and debt ceiling.

You have an aide to Senator Ted Cruz respond with a solution to the Cantor aide.

Then you have an aide to Rep. John Culberson of Texas start yelling at the Ted Cruz aide that Senator Cruz isn’t “dealing in reality.”

This is where it gets funny and ridiculous.

Rep. Culberson’s aide’s chief complaint is that the a sitting Senator from Texas dared to hold an event in … well … Texas.

I’m baffled.

Interestingly, you know this is a leak from people opposed to Ted Cruz because it reveals the identity of the Cruz staffer and not the identity of the Culberson staffer. The sense of entitlement from staffers is astounding.

16 September, 2013

How I failed - O'Reilly Radar

How I failed - O'Reilly Radar: There’s a great moment in a Michael Lewis interview that I heard recently on NPR. (Unfortunately, I don’t have a specific link.) Why, Lewis was asked, would anyone in the financial industry talk to him for his book The Big Short after the devastating picture of Wall Street he’d painted in his first book, Liar’s Poker, nearly 20 years earlier? You have to understand, Lewis replied (more or less), that many of those people got into the financial industry after reading his book. Their big takeaway was how easy it was to make a lot of money without regard to the niceties of creating much value. He finished with the memorable line, “You never know what book you wrote until you know what book people read.”

9/11: United States marks 12th anniversary of attacks - The Big Picture - Boston.com

9/11: United States marks 12th anniversary of attacks - The Big Picture - Boston.com: Katya Busoolo, center, pauses to remember her mother Irina Kolpakova at the 9/11 Memorial during ceremonies marking the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. (Alejandra Villa/European Pressphoto Agency/pool photo) #

15 September, 2013

Forget New York: Why Madison, Wis. is a top foodie paradise | Fox News

Forget New York: Why Madison, Wis. is a top foodie paradise | Fox News: If someone were to ask you what’s one of the best U.S. cities for farm-to-table dining and local foods, what’d probably say New York, Chicago, or Portland, right?

But Madison (yes Madison, Wisconsin) -- a city with fewer than 300,000 people--has one of the strongest local foods scenes in the country. But you'd never know it unless you visited because bragging about it just isn't their way.

Surrounded by farmland and natural resources, farm-to-table dining in Madison is a no-brainer. It's not a gimmick or a good PR move, as it has become in so many other places. It's just the natural state of things.

Why we won’t travel to North Korea | Everywhere Once

Why we won’t travel to North Korea | Everywhere Once: Unfortunately for the North Korean people there is no possibility for an “open and healthy debate” because their government brooks no dissent. Its citizens are monitored continuously and ranked according to their perceived allegiance to the state, even to the point of having their homes inspected to assure their required portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are properly hung and cared for. To speak an unauthorized opinion inside North Korea is to risk slave labor for yourself, your family and possibly your posterity.

Even if you, as a tourist, meet and impress a dozen locals during your visit the “conversation” basically ends there. But not for you.

You return home and tell your friends and neighbors about the great trip you had. Maybe you even blog about it, as Earl did to his thousands of followers. And though you try your best to be balanced, your reporting comes across as favorable because, lets face it, you had a good time.

You didn’t see overt oppression or prison camps while you were in Pyongyang. Sure you witnessed propaganda billboards and a disturbing level of conformity, but your experience in the country bore little resemblance to all those reports you read before your trip.

And that, to me, seems problematic.

On a boy's growth

Independence Days. | One For Each Hand: I suppose there comes a moment in every mama’s life when she realizes small hands are no longer meant to be held so tightly. And surely each one of us had that moment in our own life when we first realized that our own heart actually beat independently, unattached to the mother ship. I just expected this moment to be such a big deal. I thought the angels would be singing from on high, and tears would dramatically make their way down my heartbroken cheeks. But instead what I feel at the end of this summer of independence, this summer where my two small boys grew up just a little unexpectedly, is a feeling of pure joy and happiness to my innermost core. These boys of mine are growing into solid little men: tenacious, tough (and tender, yet), and with little lion-butterfly spirits. I take to heart something Frederick Douglass once said: It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. Amen to that.

Sudan | Choices and Values

Sudan | Choices and Values:
One day, the people singing that song I heard in Eritrea came on. Someone put the volume up, which attracted a large group of people. They all stood a breath away from each other, shoulder pressing against shoulder. They all looked up as though God was speaking to them.

I desperately maneuvered among the scarred legs and dirty pants to try and get a peak at the television screen. It was the same familiar song and the same familiar singers. There was the man with the wet, curly hair. He had on the same jacket with the gold sparkles in the front. There was the man with the sunglasses who was moving his head in a funny way. They were all there doing what I saw them do when I went to that house back in Eritrea.

I asked someone if those were real people. They assured me they were. I couldn’t quite figure out how they got on that screen. I itched to take apart that television to figure out how it worked.

I asked someone about that man — the one with the gold speckled jacket. They told me his name is Michael Jackson. They told me he is a famous singer in America.

I was fascinated by all this and also utterly confused. They used such familiar and casual language when talking about America. I was starting to wonder about the credibility of my theories about heaven and God.

The Mirror | Stone of Destiny

The Mirror | Stone of Destiny:

“I want them to see how they look at me,” she had said.

She was not the show.

She was not the art.

We were the ones on display, exposed, naked.

It wasn’t a pretty picture.

And that’s the thing about art: sometimes it is ugly and vulgar and even poorly crafted, but those are not the qualities that determine its true quality. Good art does more than just liven up the room, provide pigeons a place to roost, or moulder away in some gallery. Art should make you think and question, it should challenge your way of looking at the world around you by offering you a view of that world from a perspective outside your own.

How the media died

Introduction - Riptide: The answers and stories you can read and watch here are varied and, to us anyway, full of surprises. Like all oral histories, this compilation doesn’t represent cold, hard fact, but rather memory, with all its imperfection, psychological adjustment, and often, confusion. As such, the document as a whole is a Rashomon tale. Everyone may have seen the same sequence of events, but not necessarily in the same way. Many themes emerged repeatedly: The Innovator’s Dilemma, the cultural challenges of legacy companies, the mistiming of trying to capture the power of technological breakthroughs (often too early and sometimes too late), the tension between “paid vs. free” content, the failure of legacy media to appreciate the importance of engineering, the power of network effects if not the networks themselves. The interviewees expressed surprisingly little regret, or guilt, nor was there much finger pointing. But there are inevitable hints of nostalgia on the part of the old guard and fervor for creative destruction on the part of the new. On some questions, particularly the importance of institutional news media to democracy and the civic good, there is fierce disagreement.

SNAP Challenge Day #1: Prepping for the Challenge | LinkedIn

SNAP Challenge Day #1: Prepping for the Challenge | LinkedIn: We’re all familiar with the conventional wisdom that links fiscal constraints to unhealthy food choices. My goal with this challenge wasn't to relive Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me documentary with a week of "dollar menu" choices. My aim, before I actually went to the supermarket, was to amass a list of items that would allow me to eat as nutritiously as possible, albeit under the constraints of a budget that matches the assistance provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Of course, we all know what Robert Burns so poetically said about best laid plans.

The fact is, I was forced to choose foods that were filling – items that my Italian mother-in-law would have said will “stick to my ribs.” But it isn’t lost on me that I wasn’t able to afford the fruits, vegetables and meats that most would say belong in a balanced diet.

Frank Rich on the State of Journalism -- New York Magazine

Frank Rich on the State of Journalism -- New York Magazine: Virtually no one in the news business was prescient enough to imagine just how radical the impact of the Internet would be. But neither were those in most other media businesses that have been upended, starting with the recording industry, the canary in the digital pipeline, which somehow thought it could halt a cultural revolution by fighting Napster in court. In the modern history of media, the reigning giants have nearly always been caught napping by transformative change. When sound arrived to movies in the late twenties, the silent-film industry and the then-supersize Broadway-theater industry were both blindsided

14 September, 2013

How to Build a Universe: Philip K. Dick on Reality, Media Manipulation, and Human Heroism | Brain Pickings

How to Build a Universe: Philip K. Dick on Reality, Media Manipulation, and Human Heroism | Brain Pickings: The authentic human being is one of us who instinctively knows what he should not do, and, in addition, he will balk at doing it. He will refuse to do it, even if this brings down dread consequences to him and to those whom he loves. This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance. Their deeds may be small, and almost always unnoticed, unmarked by history. Their names are not remembered, nor did these authentic humans expect their names to be remembered. I see their authenticity in an odd way: not in their willingness to perform great heroic deeds but in their quiet refusals. In essence, they cannot be compelled to be what they are not.

Never Mind the Generals, Here Come the Technocrats | Symposium Magazine

Never Mind the Generals, Here Come the Technocrats | Symposium Magazine: Yet we cannot escape the political, no matter how hard we may try. All forms of politics, even anti-politics, are embedded in political values. A desire for technocratic politics constructs an ethos of rule favoring certain values – expertise as a form of political legitimacy and economic efficiency as the goal of economic policy – over others. Technocrats may offer us improved economic management, but not an escape from the importance of values in politics. Political questions are, in the end, political.

Why Do People Throw Sneakers Onto Power Lines?

A New Doc Addresses The Eternal Question: Why Do People Throw Sneakers Onto Power Lines? | Co.Create | creativity culture commerce: By promoting a phone number where people from around the world could call in and explain their own meaning, Bate highlights the different urban myths surrounding the practice of shoe-tossing, or "shoefiti." A quick list of claims people make about what it actually means: A sign that someone has lost his virginity, a bullying tactic, a mafia signal to the police, code for where to buy drugs, a mark of gang territory, a tribute to fallen gang members, a graffiti-like practice to mark your street, "total bullshit," a sign that, in a given neighborhood, "people can do whatever they feel like and there's no recognition of law or decency," something done by food-service employees when they graduate to a better job, or a way to get rid of old shoes that are too beat up to give away.

Rise of the mayors

Rise of the mayors - Ideas - The Boston Globe: “As the importance of cities has increased, mayors have been compelled...to deal with a lot of issues that traditionally were taken care of at a higher level,” said Benjamin Barber, a political theorist at the CUNY Graduate Center. Barber is the author of a forthcoming book, “If Mayors Ruled the World,” in which he argues that mayors have stepped up to grapple with issues like climate change and immigration in ways that national politicians have not. “We tend to think of our mayoral votes as parochial votes,” Barber said. “We think, who’s the best guy for my neighborhood, or who’s the best guy for the Boston schools. And we tend not to ask the question: What about more global problems?”

Skeptics point out that mayors in America can only do what their superiors in state and federal government will let them—that even a powerful city leader can be forced to back down from ambitious plans, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was when the courts struck down his ban on large sodas. But scholars who study local government say that hasn’t stopped visionary mayors around the country from putting forth bold local policy ideas that have spread and taken on national influence.

Phoneblok, a Tonic for the iPhone's Planned Obsolescence | Motherboard

Phoneblok, a Tonic for the iPhone's Planned Obsolescence | Motherboard: One reason iPhones are rendered steadily and predictably obsolete just months after it debuts heralded as world-changing—is tied intimately to what many like about the iPhone: the attractive and smooth design. Apple’s seamless aesthetic doesn’t leave room for you to customize or upgrade the hardware and once the hardware is worn out, dropped into water or at its limit. When one part goes or is faulty or just doesn't do what you want it to, the whole phone has to go. How many iPhones have been replaced just for want of an uncracked screen?

Apple is easy to point to, because it’s popular, and if you believe the lawsuits, where Apple goes, so do consumer electronics. But in at least one respect it's far from unique. As last year’s Apples go to the dump, so too do other electronics. In 2010 the United States generated an estimated 3 million tons of e-waste, and only about a quarter of that is thought to be recycled. The rest is going to the dump or incinerators. Cell phones, while small, are a special problem because they are replaced on average every 12 months.

It’s these growing problems that Dave Hakkens wants to ameliorate with Phoneblok, the modular phone that, in theory, could be the last phone you’ll ever buy.

Boehner to Obama: Can I Please Take You Hostage? -- Daily Intelligencer

Boehner to Obama: Can I Please Take You Hostage? -- Daily Intelligencer: Boehner’s correct that the hostage-taking negotiation he wants to hold again did occur once before in 2011. But that was a white-knuckle experience that very nearly led to default, has put in place an extremely stupid policy, and amounted to a gigantic blunder by Obama that he is rightly determined not to repeat. Enshrining the precedent that the opposition party can use the debt ceiling to extract otherwise unacceptable conditions would create a permanent cycle of crisis, where every fiscal negotiation carries a systemic risk. Democrats would be much better off letting Republicans default on the debt right now than submitting to a new normal whereby they get jacked up for concessions over and over until eventually there’s a default anyway. That is why Obama can’t go along with Boehner’s innocuous-sounding request to combine debt-ceiling negotiations with fiscal-policy negotiations.

Sympathy For The Obamacare Defunders - Business Insider

Sympathy For The Obamacare Defunders - Business Insider: But why does becoming hugely unpopular mean you have to fold? If House Republicans are really and truly willing to die on the hill of defunding Obamacare, they can do it. Nobody can make them bow to popular opinion and pass a continuing resolution that funds Obamacare implementation. House Republicans can shut down the government all the way to January 2015 and force a default on government bonds if they have the resolve to do so. They would tank the economy and lose the 2014 elections in the process, but the important victories do not come without costs.

The GOP establishment's objection to this—it would be a substantively terrible policy choice that would also cost them their jobs—appears superficially like it makes sense. But conservative activists sent Republicans to Washington to break the government, not to find ways to make it work over conservative objections. The incompatibility of Republican leaders' goals with their base's priorities isn't the base's fault.

Fall political-financial crisis looming.

Fall political-financial crisis looming.: The proximate issue is that even though Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives, it's not a huge majority and they've been consistently unable to come up with a strategy for funding the government's discretionary functions that can pass the House. All Republicans are insisting on freezing sequestration-levels of spending into place on the domestic side while easing it on the military side. Democrats won't vote for that. But the most strident Republicans won't vote for it either. They want to insist on repealing or defunding or otherwise gutting Obamacare as a permission for allowing the government to keep operating past September 30. So they keep not passing anything and taking more days off even as the expiration of government funding keeps getting closer and closer.

Maximum adult lifespan: Debate over how long humans can live. - Slate Magazine

Maximum adult lifespan: Debate over how long humans can live. - Slate Magazine: Why has life expectancy continued to go up steadily over the past several decades? And what’s in store for us: Will we continue to live for more and more years than ever before?

Public health measures get the credit for most of the increase in life expectancy that happened from the mid-1800s to mid-1900s. Clean water, safe food, comfortable housing, and a healthy respect for germs made the world a completely different place.

If you look at the top causes of death in the United States in 1900 and 2010, you might think you’re examining data from two entirely different species. In 1900, we died of tuberculosis, gastrointestinal infections, and diphtheria. In 2010, none of those diseases made it into the top 10. Take a tour of this interactive to see how death rates changed over the course of the past century. (The spike in 1918-1919 was caused by the Spanish flu, the worst pandemic in history.) While infectious diseases plummeted over the course of the 20th century, cancer and heart disease shot up.

Rape stats in SE Asia are horrible

Daily chart: Too much of a bad thing | The Economist: More than one in ten men surveyed in six Asian countries said they had raped a woman who was not their partner—and that figure rose to nearly one in four when wives and girlfriends were included among victims. The study, part of a United Nations project, is the first to give a comprehensive tally of rape in several Asian countries. The researchers surveyed more than 10,000 men in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. The men, aged 18-49, met male interviewers. They were never asked about “rape” explicitly; instead they were asked if they had “forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex”. The answer varied from 4% in Bangladesh to a staggering 41% in Papua New Guinea. Shockingly, more than one in seven rapists committed their first rape when they were younger than 15. More than half did so before the age of 20. Only 55% reported feeling guilty, and less than one-quarter were sent to prison.

12 September, 2013

The International Space Station: Expedition 36 - In Focus - The Atlantic

The International Space Station: Expedition 36 - In Focus - The Atlantic:

An Expedition 36 crew member aboard the ISS, as it was passing over Africa, took this night picture of Sicily and much of Italy, on July 29, 2013. The Stretto de Messina, which separates Sicily from Italy, is near frame center. The high oblique 50mm lens shot includes a scenic horizon with a number of stars in the late July sky. Barely visible in the darkness, part of the long arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 runs diagonally through the right one-third of the image. (NASA) #

Here's What Went Unmentioned in Putin's New York Times Op-Ed | New Republic

Here's What Went Unmentioned in Putin's New York Times Op-Ed | New Republic: The fact that Putin is not the most credible messenger when it comes to the rule of law or pacificism is one thing, but this has always been his strength: taking words and concepts with generally agreed upon meanings—laws, elections, constitutions—and redefining them for his own strategic benefit, and then cloaking himself in their legitimizing powers.

And if the last week has shown us anything, it is that there is one man in the game who has a strategy, and it is not Obama. So far, Putin has played it all right, and accomplished two goals: standing up to U.S. aggression, which will play nicely at home, and keeping Assad in power. Obama will maybe accomplish one—getting Assad to give up his chemical weapons—if he's lucky. The other one—getting Assad out—well, we'll just walk that one back, won't we. And in terms of addressing the people, well, Putin's now addressing yours, Mr. President.

“Syria Is Not A Country”

“Syria Is Not A Country” � The Dish:
The reason we have such a brutal civil war right now is the same reason we still have a brutal civil war still going on in Iraq. The decades’ long, brutal oppression of a majority group has finally broken with the Arab Spring. All the tensions and hatreds and suspicions that built up in that long period of division and destruction are suddenly finding expression. Inevitably, this will mean much more sectarian bloodletting in the short, medium, and long run. It may mean an endless cycle of violence. The idea that these parties can reach a political agreement to end the civil war in the foreseeable future is as plausible in Syria as it was in Iraq. It still hasn’t happened in Iraq – after over 100,000 sectarian murders and an exhausting civil conflict – and after we occupied it for a decade and poured trillions of dollars down the drain.

Any political solution to Syria is more than a heavy lift. It’s an impossible one. Only the parties involved can make it happen and none of them is anywhere close to that right now. For the US to take responsibility for this mess, to take on the task of finding a negotiated settlement, would be as quixotic as it would be bankrupting – of both money and human resources. By luck or design, Obama has now handed that responsibility to Putin. He’s welcome to it.

America, the anti-imperial nation, has no business trying to make British colonial experiments endure into the 21st Century. No business at all. It’s a mug’s game – and no one in the region will ever, ever give the US credit or any tangible benefits for the Sisyphean task. We will be blamed for trying and blamed for not trying. We will be blamed for succeeding and blamed for failing.

The Rise of the New New Left - The Daily Beast

The Rise of the New New Left - The Daily Beast: It is these two factors—their economic hardship in an age of limited government protection and their resistance to right-wing cultural populism—that best explain why on economic issues, Millennials lean so far left. In 2010, Pew found that two-thirds of Millennials favored a bigger government with more services over a cheaper one with fewer services, a margin 25 points above the rest of the population. While large majorities of older and middle-aged Americans favored repealing Obamacare in late 2012, Millennials favored expanding it, by 17 points. Millennials are substantially more pro–labor union than the population at large.

The only economic issue on which Millennials show much libertarian instinct is the privatization of Social Security, which they disproportionately favor. But this may be less significant than it first appears. Historically, younger voters have long been more pro–Social Security privatization than older ones, with support dropping as they near retirement age. In fact, when asked if the government should spend more money on Social Security, Millennials are significantly more likely than past cohorts of young people to say yes.

Mapping Silicon Valley's Gentrification Problem Through Corporate Shuttle Routes | Wired Opinion | Wired.com

Mapping Silicon Valley's Gentrification Problem Through Corporate Shuttle Routes | Wired Opinion | Wired.com: But when you look at the zoning regulations in Palo Alto, you learn that the tech companies have basically run out of room to build parking lots on their campuses — they can’t grow any further using the model of one parking spot per worker. So it’s logical that the tech companies would need to use shuttles to bring their workers to campus.
Only a map is going to lead you to this kind of thinking.

And where’s the densest place in the Bay Area, the place where the largest numbers of people can use the smallest numbers of buses? By this logic it’s not the youngsters that have chosen San Francisco to gentrify, but the Facebooks and the Googles who are incidentally causing this kind of development through the simple calculus of where they can house the most workers.

That they’re young and educated and lots of them are millionaires is kind of beside the point. Only a map is going to lead you to this kind of thinking. It’s about more than gentrification as we’ve experienced it thus far: It’s about an entirely reconfigured relationship between density and sprawl, and it’s going to need new maps to help us navigate this landscape.

Class Is Seen Dividing Harvard Business School - NYTimes.com

Class Is Seen Dividing Harvard Business School - NYTimes.com: As soon as new students arrive, they are expected to write checks of $300 or $400 to their “sections,” the groups with whom they take first-year classes, if they want to participate in social events. In recent years, second-year students have organized a midwinter ski trip that costs over $1,000, while others, including members of “Section X,” a secret society of ultrawealthy students, spend far more on weekend party trips to places like Iceland and Moscow. Tickets to the winter ball, called Holidazzle, have cost $200 or more in recent years.

When Christina Wallace, now the director of the Startup Institute, attended Harvard Business School on a scholarship, she was told by her classmates that she needed to spend more money to fully participate, and that “the difference between a good experience and a great experience is only $20,000.”

“Class was the bigger divide than gender when I was at H.B.S.,” said Ms. Wallace, who graduated in 2010.

What Putin Understands That Most Americans Don't - James Fallows - The Atlantic

What Putin Understands That Most Americans Don't - James Fallows - The Atlantic: As we examine whether or not Obama was playing chess, we should also examine whether or not, in this instance, he played against a superior opponent. And we must then assess the damage this game did. Because Putin wasn't writing to United States citizens, even as that was the premise. He was writing globally. He was writing for a world that is quite willing to accept the narrative of Americans quick to rush into war, quick to disrespect the Security Council, quick to disregard international law. And he is writing from a position of an alternative power.

Want to Read the Law? It'll Cost You. | New Republic

Want to Read the Law? It'll Cost You. | New Republic: But why should you have to pay to read laws that you must obey?

You shouldn't, of course. Neither state nor federal law is copyrightable. Nevertheless, standards development organizations—from the American Society of Sanitary Engineers to the National Wood Window and Door Association—insist otherwise, having poured resources into developing long, technical regulations because the government didn’t have the expertise to do so.1 Now, state and federal laws simply reference these industry codes, and allow non-profits to charge for hefty books.

11 September, 2013

I don't know what to make of the meta here

What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria - NYTimes.com: The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Why Women (Like Me) Choose Lower-Paying Jobs : Planet Money : NPR

Why Women (Like Me) Choose Lower-Paying Jobs : Planet Money : NPR: Midway through the conversation, I realized that the economist — Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown University — was basically talking about me. I described my situation to Carnevale: I majored in applied math. I have an MBA. And I'm working as a reporter at NPR.

"Oh, you left a lot of money on the table," he told me. "You left probably as much as $3 [million] to $4 million on the table."

A typical journalist's lifetime earnings will be somewhere in the $2 million range. Not bad! But someone with math skills and an MBA could get a management job and make $5 million or $6 million over the course of a career.

Pope Francis tells atheists to abide by their own consciences | World news | theguardian.com

Pope Francis tells atheists to abide by their own consciences | World news | theguardian.com: "Given – and this is the fundamental thing – that God's mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart," the pope wrote, "the question for those who do not believe in God is to abide by their own conscience. There is sin, also for those who have no faith, in going against one's conscience. Listening to it and abiding by it means making up one's mind about what is good and evil."

Now in his sixth month as pontiff, Francis has made a conciliatory style and pragmatic openness to dialogue with groups on the margins of the church's traditional activities one of his trademarks.

Popular Culture Has Soured on Silicon Valley's Hotshots | New Republic

Popular Culture Has Soured on Silicon Valley's Hotshots | New Republic: It’s not just personalities that irk critics. Manjoo, who is at work on a book about Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, points out that it makes sense that tech hate, at least as measured through Internet comment sections, has begun to pick up as those companies have grown. These former startups are now just more stylish, casual corporations with shareholders to think of. (It’s the Man in the Grey Flannel Hoodie these days.) Tech companies are becoming an inescapable part of our lives. We interact with them in ways we can't avoid, Manjoo says. The resentment that was formerly directed at then-ubiquitous Microsoft has faded. Now, says Manjoo, “People are very suspicious about Amazon in particular because it's tied up with their physical world in a way Apple and Google aren’t.” For those already inclined to dislike that kind of corporatism, this year’s revelations that many of the biggest tech companies are sharing their private data with the government only magnifies their distrust.

Fear And Loathing OF Silicon Valley | TechCrunch

Fear And Loathing OF Silicon Valley | TechCrunch: The fallacy of the tech industry is that we think our “change the world/connect the world” intentions are enough, or at least that they should shield us from reproach, much like our gated communities of Ubers, Airbnbs, and TaskRabbits. We revel in our massive concentration of wealth, private-public transportation, private tech-heavy schools, and the underlying ideology that the government is stupid. We are exempt.

Well, except when the NSA asks for cooperation in programs that the companies we’ve founded should probably comply with — or else God knows what will happen the next time we get sued for antitrust violations.

Silicon Valley is suffering from an acute fallacy of composition: Just because it does some good doesn’t mean the whole is good. Tech isn’t above harming society. Just because change (i.e. Disruption) is inevitable doesn’t mean it’s always welcome.

First impressions from a Georgian (the country)

First impressions — The Williams Record: Back to my initial question: Am I here with all of my heart? I cannot imagine being somewhere else – I want to be here. I want to be part of this marvelous community that impresses me more every day. I believe I am here with all my heart and with an accompanying inner voice that each day says louder and louder: I am Williams!

10 September, 2013

The Onion Is The Country’s Best Op-Ed Page. Seriously. | New Republic

The Onion Is The Country’s Best Op-Ed Page. Seriously. | New Republic: y."

The Onion isn’t Democratic or Republican. It’s clearly got a left-leaning outlook, but the editorial position is more properly characterized as against bullshit. This can include everything from the highhanded way Barack Obama deals with the press (“Dear The Onion,” reads a letter to the editor “from” him, “Just a polite reminder that you have to print whatever I send you”) or the appalling things campaigns make politicians do ("Romney Murdered JonBenet Ramsey, New Obama Campaign Ad Alleges”) or CNN’s unseemly pageview-trolling (“Let Me Explain Why Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance Was Our Top Story This Morning.”) Bullshit also includes the way people go through the motions of “dialogue” (as in this faux opinion column titled “America Needs To Have a Superficial Conversation on Race”) or fake-apologize (“The Onion isn’t sure exactly what it did wrong but it’ll apologize if that’s what you need to hear to move on”). Bullshit is even the way people deal with veterans, and what war does to people. (“Town Nervously Welcomes Veteran Back Home.”)

I don't get the meta going on here - it was an adult speech that had no news value to a high-volume news consumer

White House tweets to blunt speech critics - Dylan Byers - POLITICO.com: President Barack Obama’s Syria address was widely panned by leading foreign policy journalists on Tuesday night, leading to an intense pushback effort by top White House spokespeople on Twitter.

In messages directed at journalists from The New York Times, Bloomberg and other outlets, the White House communications team sought to wrest control of the narrative going forward even as the speech was being criticized as among the most ineffective in the history of the American presidency.

The Speech - Peggy Noonan's Blog - WSJ

The Speech - Peggy Noonan's Blog - WSJ: They ought to go back to giving major addresses in the Oval Office, because it has a mystique and stature that it lends to those who sit at the big desk. The president’s staffers apparently think the Oval is tired, or insufficiently groovy, or something. They have him stand at a podium and talk into an empty room under Bela Lugosi lighting. The groovelocity of this choice is lost on me.

Making Sense of Syria - Peggy Noonan's Blog - WSJ

Making Sense of Syria - Peggy Noonan's Blog - WSJ: This is what I think we’re seeing:

The president has backed away from a military strike in Syria. But he can’t acknowledge this or act as if it is true. He is acting and talking as if he’s coolly, analytically, even warily contemplating the Russian proposal and the Syrian response. The proposal, he must know, is absurd. Bashar Assad isn’t going to give up all his hidden weapons in wartime, in the middle of a conflict so bitter and severe that his forces this morning reportedly bombed parts of Damascus, the city in which he lives. In such conditions his weapons could not be fully accounted for, packed up, transported or relinquished, even if he wanted to.

Russia urges Syria to give up chemical weapons. Game changer or a shrewd bluff?

Russia urges Syria to give up chemical weapons. Game changer or a shrewd bluff?: Syria isn’t a Russian client state, exactly, but President Bashar al-Assad is existentially reliant on Russian support. In many ways, Russia’s willingness to negotiate matters even more than Syria’s – the road to peace almost surely runs through Moscow. So when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Monday that Syria should surrender its massive stockpile of chemical weapons to the international community, apparently endorsing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s call for the same, it was a big deal, and not just because Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem quickly announced that he “welcomed” the plan.

This certainly looks like a potential game-changer for the Syria crisis. But whether for the better or the worse depends on whether Russia really wants Assad to give up his weapons or is just bluffing. Either way, the announcement is a telling moment in the international stand-off over possible U.S. strikes on Syria – and a sign that the threat of strikes might actually be working better than we think.

Cowardice and Conscience | The American Conservative

Cowardice and Conscience | The American Conservative: If Congress votes “yes,” and does so for the reasons Douthat articulates (fear of crippling the Presidency), then “authorization” by Congress will have been reduced to a literal formality. How is that better than having a future President try to avoid facing Congress (and possibly face rebuke for doing so)? How, in particular, does it make it more likely that future Congresses will have the courage to stand up to Presidents who ignore or try to railroad them?

Moreover, a future President would have to consider not only the risk of going to Congress and losing, but would understand that this risk reflected real concern on the part of Congress of the political risk of voting yes to war. Such a President would necessarily be more cautious about committing America militarily in ambiguous situations, if only for fear of taking all that political risk on him- or herself.

Patience, Mr President. Patience. � The Dish

Patience, Mr President. Patience. � The Dish: And by using the G-20 Summit to insist that this breach of core human morality and decency not be ignored, Obama has already done a lot of what a military strike would do to protect this norm, without any of the bad consequences of intervening in the Syrian civil war. The world is intently watching – and Putin and Iran would be increasingly embarrassed if their client were to use these weapons again.
Another major incident and Russia would be using up a lot of capital to protect the murderous Alawite. Ditto Iran, whose more moderate elements are clearly sending a message that here is perhaps some smidgen of a basis to talk to the Americans again.

Issue 82: The Secret Life of Nuns :: Oxford American - The Southern Magazine of Good Writing

Issue 82: The Secret Life of Nuns :: Oxford American - The Southern Magazine of Good Writing: “We all went to the convent. Because in those days you went to college, we used to laugh, for an MRS: that’s where girls went to get smart men. There was no Peace Corps; there were no professional women; there was none of the women’s movement at that time.” Women could work as nurses, teachers, or secretaries, she said, “and that was only until you got married.” And while Carol describes her family as a happy one, married life seemed limiting. “At home my mom was a great cook, but she didn’t like it,” she says. “She read all the classics—I always remember her reading—but it didn’t look like she was excited about being a housewife.”

Her young teachers at St. Agnes were another story. “The nuns, they were happy. Great teachers, and interested in things.” Besides, she admits, “because I was much taller than the other girls, I thought, ‘Hmm, I wonder if I’ll ever get married.’” Carol graduated from high school in 1956 and that same year, along with nineteen other eighteen-year-olds—Sister Adrian included—entered the convent. She entered to be able to do more; not for a moment did she consider the cloister.

09 September, 2013

The 30 Happiest Facts Of All Time

The 30 Happiest Facts Of All Time: 23. Squirrels forgetting where they put their acorns results in thousands of new trees each year.

Obama on Syria

Remarks by President Obama in press conference at G-20 - Press Release - POLITICO.com:

     Over 1,400 people were gassed.  Over 400 of them were children.  This is not something we’ve fabricated.  This is not something that we are using as an excuse for military action.  As I said last night, I was elected to end wars, not start them.  I've spent the last four and a half years doing everything I can to reduce our reliance on military power as a means of meeting our international obligations and protecting the American people.  But what I also know is, is that there are times where we have to make hard choices if we’re going to stand up for the things that we care about.  And I believe that this is one of those times.

And if we end up using the U.N. Security Council not as a means of enforcing international norms and international law, but rather as a barrier to acting on behalf of international norms and international law, then I think people, rightly, are going to be pretty skeptical about the system and whether it can work to protect those children that we saw in those videos.

     And sometimes the further we get from the horrors of that, the easier it is to rationalize not making tough choices.  And I understand that.  This is not convenient.  This is not something that I think a lot of folks around the world find an appetizing set of choices.  But the question is, do these norms mean something?  And if we’re not acting, what does that say?

If we’re just issuing another statement of condemnation, or passing resolutions saying “wasn't that terrible,” if people who decry international inaction in Rwanda and say how terrible it is that there are these human rights violations that take place around the world and why aren’t we doing something about it — and they always look to the United States — why isn’t the United States doing something about this, the most powerful nation on Earth?  Why are you allowing these terrible things to happen?  And then, if the international community turns around when we’re saying it’s time to take some responsibility and says, well, hold on a second, we’re not sure — that erodes our ability to maintain the kind of norms that we're looking at.

08 September, 2013

Among Syria's Islamist Fighters : The New Yorker

Among Syria's Islamist Fighters : The New Yorker: “We call the Muslim Brotherhood ‘whatever the audience wants,’ ” said Mohammad, the Syrian Islamist fighter. He wore green military camouflage pants and a black T-shirt bearing the Islamic shahada in white script. “If the people say they want Sharia, they say they want it. If the people say they want democracy, they say they want it. They just want power.”

The very concept of moderate Islam was false, Omar claimed. “There’s no such thing—it is a modern expression,” he said. “A moderate Islamist means an Islamist who walks with them, who agrees with them, with the Americans, the Europeans, and Iran.”

05 September, 2013

The news down in Raleigh - POLITICO.com

The news down in Raleigh - POLITICO.com: Without question one of the smartest things we've read on the web today. (h/t @abeaujon)

The Syria Vote and “Iraq Syndrome” | The American Conservative

The Syria Vote and “Iraq Syndrome” | The American Conservative: It could be true that Obama’s presidency would be permanently damaged by a defeat of a Syria resolution, but it is doubtful that the U.S. would lose anything important because of this. Kerry made any number of “guarantees” to the Foreign Relations Committee about things that he couldn’t possibly know or guarantee with certainty, but one of the more preposterous claims that Kerry made yesterday was that the U.S. would lose allies by not attacking Syria. It is possible that relations with some client states in the Gulf would be strained, but it is silly to think that there are any allies of the United States that would cease to be allies because they found the U.S. response insufficient. Interventionists typically overstate the costs of inaction and underestimate the costs of the action they demand, and Galston’s column is no different.

The “no’s” keep piling up on Syria resolution in the House

The “no’s” keep piling up on Syria resolution in the House: What’s clear from these numbers is that it’s much more popular right now to express reservations about or opposition to military action in Syria. And maybe that’s not surprising, given the polls show military action is well short of popular.

The question is whether that’s a sign of things to come — and members will continue to come out against military action en masse — or whether the opponents are simply the first ones to speak up and/or the loudest.

Sullivan on Syria

The Dish:
But in every crisis there is an opportunity.
Lose the vote, don’t go to war, but go to the UN repeatedly and insistently. Gather more and more evidence. Get Ambassador Power to pummel the Russians and Chinese with their grotesque refusal to do anything about this ghastly mass murder. Expose Putin for the brutal thug that he is. And focus on the huge challenges at home: a still-weak economy, a huge overhaul of healthcare, a golden opportunity for immigration reform. That’s why he was elected. And his domestic legacy is at a pivotal point.
I know opposing this president is painful for so many who want him to succeed. It’s painful – agonizing – for me. I understand his genuine and justified revulsion at this use of chemical arms and the wanton, hideous brutality of the Assad regime. I deeply respect his moral stand. He is right that the international community should not stand by. But America cannot be the sucker who is responsible for countering all evil in the world and then blamed for every success and failure. We must not become the sole actor against evil in the world, and not only because, at this point, after GTMO and Abu Ghraib and pre-emptive war, we have no standing to do so. We simply do not have the ability or the resources to do it. We’re as fiscally bankrupt as we are militarily incapable of fighting other people’s wars for them. And asking the military to do another impossible job in another Middle East hell-hole is grotesquely irresponsible.

We are so divided

The Racial Dot Map: One Dot Per Person for the Entire U.S.

04 September, 2013

Malcolm Gladwell: Do Genetic Advantages Make Sports Unfair? : The New Yorker

Malcolm Gladwell: Do Genetic Advantages Make Sports Unfair? : The New Yorker: What we are watching when we watch �lite sports, then, is a contest among wildly disparate groups of people, who approach the starting line with an uneven set of genetic endowments and natural advantages. There will be Donald Thomases who barely have to train, and there will be Eero M�ntyrantas, who carry around in their blood, by dumb genetic luck, the ability to finish forty seconds ahead of their competitors. �lite sports supply, as Epstein puts it, a “splendid stage for the fantastic menagerie that is human biological diversity.” The menagerie is what makes sports fascinating. But it has also burdened high-level competition with a contradiction. We want sports to be fair and we take elaborate measures to make sure that no one competitor has an advantage over any other. But how can a fantastic menagerie ever be a contest among equals?

Candidate Obama =/= President Obama

Boston.com - Special reports - News: 2. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites -- a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.