31 October, 2013

With President Obama, the Buck Stops Nowhere | TIME.com

With President Obama, the Buck Stops Nowhere | TIME.com: Still, I expected more from Obama. I expected more at the Veterans Administration, since the President said that making sure that our veterans received the best treatment really mattered to him. It is remarkable that five years on, Obama still hasn’t resolved the dispute between the VA and the Department of Defense about providing a unified electronic medical records system that would follow active-duty personnel into retirement. The waste, heartache and delay caused by his inaction is appalling.

30 October, 2013

If You Like Your Plan, You Can Keep It. Sort Of -- Daily Intelligencer

If You Like Your Plan, You Can Keep It. Sort Of -- Daily Intelligencer: When it was originally contemplated, several years away from implementation, the process of imposing regulations on the individual-health-insurance market did not feel like taking people’s health insurance away from them. In the current moment, with cancellation notices going out and alternatives not yet available, it feels exactly like that. Which is to say, a promise that felt like a mere oversimplification at the time, and may eventually feel like one in retrospect, currently feels like a lie.

Confessions of an American Drone Operator

Confessions of an American Drone Operator: He kept the targeting laser trained on the two lead men and stared so intently that each individual pixel stood out, a glowing pointillist dot abstracted from the image it was meant to form. Time became almost ductile, the seconds stretched and slowed in a strange electronic limbo. As he watched the men walk, the one who had fallen behind seemed to hear something and broke into a run to catch up with the other two. Then, bright and silent as a camera flash, the screen lit up with white flame.

Airman First Class Brandon Bryant stared at the scene, unblinking in the white-hot clarity of infrared. He recalls it even now, years later, burned into his memory like a photo negative: “The smoke clears, and there’s pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there’s this guy over here, and he’s missing his right leg above his knee. He’s holding it, and he’s rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg, and it’s hitting the ground, and it’s hot. His blood is hot. But when it hits the ground, it starts to cool off; the pool cools fast. It took him a long time to die. I just watched him. I watched him become the same color as the ground he was lying on.”

Is Glenn Greenwald the Future of News? - NYTimes.com

Is Glenn Greenwald the Future of News? - NYTimes.com: Much of the speculation about the future of news focuses on the business model: How will we generate the revenues to pay the people who gather and disseminate the news? But the disruptive power of the Internet raises other profound questions about what journalism is becoming, about its essential character and values. This week’s column is a conversation — a (mostly) civil argument — between two very different views of how journalism fulfills its mission.

p m carpenter's commentary: Keller vs. Greenwald

p m carpenter's commentary: Keller vs. Greenwald: Greenwald righteously protests that he presents journalism for the greater good and with an informed partiality and in a deeper search for "the truth," and for all I know he protests authentically. Yet Glenn Beck protests the same. And absent underlying sources of unopinionated knowledge and facts--such as Keller's--I can't possibly know whose ideological story--i.e., politics reduced to personal morality--to buy. Which means I require precisely what Greenwald rejects: the "here’s-what-both-sides-say-and-I-won’t-resolve-the-conflicts" kind of journalism.

Gawker Kicks Open the Closet, but Its Disclosure Barely Reverberates - NYTimes.com

Gawker Kicks Open the Closet, but Its Disclosure Barely Reverberates - NYTimes.com: Aha. Cue the innuendo, the salacious follow-ups and the specter of mainstream media outlets picking up the item with a pair of tweezers. Except after the post was published, there was nothing but crickets, other than a piece in Slate wondering aloud why Gawker had bothered. Otherwise, there was no significant pickup, and no broad expression of outrage.

We know why: The culture has moved on. People see other people who happen to be gay at their workplaces, in their schools and on their televisions. Somewhere along the way, what was once a scarlet letter became just another consonant in the personal r�sum�. And now that gay marriage is a fact of life, a person’s sexual orientation is not only not news, it’s not very interesting.

Our Fear of Al-Qaeda Hurts Us More Than Al-Qaeda Does - David Rohde - The Atlantic

Our Fear of Al-Qaeda Hurts Us More Than Al-Qaeda Does - David Rohde - The Atlantic:
Three disclosures this week show that the United States is losing its way in the struggle against terrorism. Sweeping government efforts to stop attacks are backfiring abroad and infringing on basic rights at home.

CIA drone strikes are killing scores of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.  The National Security Agency is eavesdropping on tens of millions of phone calls worldwide — including those of 35 foreign leaders — in the name of U.S. security.

And the Department of Homeland Security is using algorithms to “prescreen” travelers before they board domestic flights, reviewing government and private databases that include Americans’ tax identification numbers, car registrations and property records.

Will we create a Minority Report-style Department of Precrime next?

Obama administration officials have a duty to protect Americans from terrorism. But out-of-control NSA surveillance, an ever-expanding culture of secrecy and still-classified rules for how and when foreigners and even Americans can be killed by drone strikes are excessive, unnecessary and destructive.

Twelve years after September 11, 2001, the United States’ obsession with al Qaeda is doing more damage to the nation than the terrorist group itself.

The Logic of Stupid Poor People | tressiemc

The Logic of Stupid Poor People | tressiemc: Books about the modest lives of the rich like to tell us how they drive Buicks instead of BMWs. What we forget, if we ever know, is that what we know now about status and wealth creation and sacrifice are predicated on who we are, i.e. not poor. If you change the conditions of your not-poor status, you change everything you know as a result of being a not-poor. You have no idea what you would do if you were poor until you are poor. And not intermittently poor or formerly not-poor, but born poor, expected to be poor and treated by bureaucracies, gatekeepers and well-meaning respectability authorities as inherently poor. Then, and only then, will you understand the relative value of a ridiculous status symbol to someone who intuits that they cannot afford to not have it.

How Did It Get to Be 'OK' for People to Be Late for Everything? | Greg Savage

How Did It Get to Be 'OK' for People to Be Late for Everything? | Greg Savage: And it is not that we lead 'busy lives'. That's a given, we all do, and it's a cop out to use that as an excuse. It's simply that some people no longer even pretend that they think your time is as important as theirs. And technology makes it worse. It seems texting or emailing that you are late somehow means you are no longer late.


You are rude. And inconsiderate.

The Shutdown Was As American As Apple Pie | The Federalist

The Shutdown Was As American As Apple Pie | The Federalist:
We are on this Earth to continue a breathtakingly bold experiment in advancing human freedom that is bound to come at some cost, not to hush up and mind our manners.
I’m not saying that real Americans must have supported the shutdown—not by any stretch. Nobody believes that the past month showcases the best we can do as a country. But while exhausted quiescence and lowered expectations may empty the air of shouting, the nihilism they reflect is not any kind of national harmony worth having.
Yeats famously rhapsodized that “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The poem that contains these words is a critical reflection on the soul-sucking aimlessness and disillusionment of post-WWI Europe, but the Axis of Acela seems to have mistaken it for a how-to manual.

28 October, 2013

Problems of Process

Philip Sandifer: Writer: Wikipedia Goes All-In on Transphobia: Enforcement of this policy has always relied upon erring on the side of caution, and on giving administrators a wide berth to take action first and discuss later. But by sanctioning David Gerard, who locked the article in its correct title so as to prevent the material harm that misnaming trans people causes, while not even bothering to mention the administrators who, contrary to policy, reverted him the arbitration committee has obliterated all sense that administrators who act in good faith to remove harmful content might have any protection. This does massive and permanent damage to the prospect of Wikipedia acting with any sense of responsibility, as opposed to according to the designs of its rules lawyers.

As Europe Erupts Over US Spying, NSA Chief Says Government Must Stop Media | Common Dreams

As Europe Erupts Over US Spying, NSA Chief Says Government Must Stop Media | Common Dreams: Can even President Obama and his most devoted loyalists continue to maintain, with a straight face, that this is all about Terrorism? That is what this superb new Foreign Affairs essay by Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore means when it argues that the Manning and Snowden leaks are putting an end to the ability of the US to use hypocrisy as a key weapon in its soft power.

Speaking of an inability to maintain claims with a straight face, how are American and British officials, in light of their conduct in all of this, going to maintain the pretense that they are defenders of press freedoms and are in a position to lecture and condemn others for violations?

Tom Bissell writes a letter to Niko Bellic about 'Grand Theft Auto V' - Grantland

Tom Bissell writes a letter to Niko Bellic about 'Grand Theft Auto V' - Grantland:
Almost everyone I know who loves video games — myself included — is broken in some fundamental way. With their ceaseless activity and risk-reward compulsion loops, games also soothe broken people. This is not a criticism. Fanatical readers tend to be broken people. The type of person who goes to see four movies a week alone is a broken person. Any medium that allows someone to spend monastic amounts of time by him- or herself, wandering the gloaming of imagination and reality, is doomed to be adored by lost, lonely people. But let's be honest: Spending the weekend in bed reading the collected works of Joan Didion is doing different things to your mind than spending the weekend on the couch racing cars around Los Santos. Again, not a criticism. The human mind contains enough room for both types of experience. Unfortunately, the mental activity generated by playing games is not much valued by non-gamers; in fact, play is hardly ever valued within American culture, unless it involves a $13 million signing bonus. Solitary play can feel especially shameful, and we gamers have internalized that vaguely masturbatory shame, even those of us who've decided that solitary play can be profoundly meaningful. Niko, I've thought about this a lot, and internalized residual shame is the best explanation I have to account for the cesspool of negativity that sits stagnating at the center of video-game culture, which right now seems worse than it's ever been.

27 October, 2013

I didn’t expect that… | Main Line Dads

I didn’t expect that… | Main Line Dads: The new physician rematerialized, grabbed a pair of incredibly shiny stainless steel salad tongs, manipulated something, inserted one then the other, moved, adjusted, grasped, pulled. Despite everything I had come to expect and without warning I saw a head burst out, a head covered in fluids of various sorts, a head perhaps relieved to be in out of the silly straw but clearly pissed off about being brought into the world. A few seconds later, the rest of #1 emerged. The mother-child had become mother and child.

I lean over to the Mother and through silent tears tell her we have a son.

26 October, 2013

Here’s what it would take for self-driving cars to catch on

Here’s what it would take for self-driving cars to catch on: A future of completely self-driving vehicles doesn't seem too far off.

And yet, as a new report (pdf) from the Eno Center for Transportation details, there are all sorts of obstacles that still need to be overcome before self-driving cars ever take over our highways.

The costs remain high and the technology has encountered some unexpected sticking points. What's more, state and federal regulations, as well as fights over liability and data privacy, could impede widespread adoption of self-driving cars.

"Self-driving cars have the potential to monumentally transform transport as we know it," explained report co-author Daniel Fagnant — and bring billions of dollars worth of benefits. But getting to that point won't be easy.

Lady with the Ring - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lady with the Ring - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: The "Lady with the Ring" is a story about premature burial from European folklore. Versions of the story were popular throughout Europe in the 14th through the 19th centuries.

This, Right Here, Is The Problem | shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

This, Right Here, Is The Problem | shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows: This, right here, is what the male gaze looks like; and this, right here, is also why it’s a fucking problem.

Orange is the New Black is a Netflix original show about women in prison. Though not without problematic elements, as pretty much everything spawned by our culture is, it nonetheless stands head and shoulders above so much else on offer in its portrayal of a wide variety of complex, interesting women – women of colour, transwomen, poor women, criminal women, disabled women, mentally ill women, queer women, immigrant women, religious women, atheist women – with a depth, compassion and, above all, narrative primacy that exists almost nowhere else on television. It’s a clever, well-written, engaging show, and it’s doing something important.

So, naturally, its value is immediately reduced to being a source of hot topless chicks for straight dudes to gawk at.


Big-time exmaple of issues women can face that men never have to.

Responding to No name Life Science Blog Editor who called me out of my name | The Urban Scientist, Scientific American Blog Network: It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious me that I was supposed to be honored by the request..

A blogger discusses the math and logistics of ranching.

Questioning Cattle Deaths in South Dakota | Pretty Work: And you have to understand that moving them would have taken time. For instance, on our ranch it takes about 3 days to gather the cattle up from our summer pastures and to get them to the trail leading down to winter ground and then, in good weather, about 2 days to trail them down. So it takes roughly a week to move cattle from summer ground to winter ground. This isn’t something that you just run out and do in a few hours right before a storm. You need a significant amount of lead time. This storm was not forecast to be this severe a week out.

On Goodness

Faith | Karen's Blog:
Back in the 1990’s while working in south western Uganda, I came across small communities of European nuns helping people who were not of their cultural, racial or religious background. They were providing the best care they could for the sick and afflicted.  The AIDS epidemic was building steam, with death rates rising into the millions. Women and children were especially susceptible. At the time there were no drugs. All the nuns could do was keep their patients comfortable, letting them die with dignity. Despite having no money, the nuns provided a comfortable cot and clean white sheets for each patient. The nuns were sustained by their faith that all human beings were loved by their god and should be treated with dignity in life as well as death.

The last sentences are important.

A Dispatch from a Syrian Refugee Camp | Political Violence @ a Glance: Eighth, idleness remains a problem. There is little work available. Many refugees pass the time by playing video games or watching television. They stand on each other’s shoulders at the highest point in the middle of the camp – an area called “Mount Syria” – and can receive a cellular signal from Syria. Za’atari has its own Facebook page. But most of the news travels by word of mouth. The camp is only a few miles from the border. When news arrived of the chemical attacks outside Damascus, the camp went quiet. “They felt powerless,” said Blom. “They wanted their own way of mourning.” The attacks were announced over a loudspeaker, shops were closed, and the UNHCR canceled all outside visits by journalists. Many younger men fled the camp to return to Syria and take up arms.

Finally, every refugee I spoke to favors US intervention. Every refugee aid worker I met, however, was against the idea of US military involvement in Syria.

Warning: a First Person Account of a Suicide Attempt

Let it Be | How To Fly Over The Cuckoo's Nest: Four days had passed and I still hadn’t left the flat.

I hadn’t washed or eaten and the only contact I’d had with the outside world was a 30 second phone call with my mum. I just lay under my duvet for hours at a time. No music, no TV, no fags, just my whirring thoughts and the polka dot sheets. Occasionally, I would get up to use the toilet and sip some water, but even that felt like a mountain to climb.

I was restless, something was crawling underneath my skin. I clawed at my neck and chest, leaving crimson scratches and bloody fingernails. I fell from the bed onto the bedroom floor, crying out for mercy, but no one was listening.

How Common Core is Slowly Changing My Child | mrsmomblog

How Common Core is Slowly Changing My Child | mrsmomblog:
That’s right, NYS, I call bull. When my eight year old boy, who loves to read to his little sister and is excited to go to back to school come July of every summer, calls himself dumb because he is bringing home failing test grades, then this has turned personal.  My son isn’t dumb, Commissioner King. He works hard to learn, he writes stories and songs, builds entire football stadiums out of Legos in record time, and he can explain how to divide in his own words.  He. Is. Not. Dumb. But when he gets consistently failing grades on the module assessments, what message do you think he’s getting?  These module assessments, sir, that have words like ‘boughten’ on them and the children have to infer what ‘boughten’ means. Did you know that boughten is no longer used as a form of the verb to buy?  According to the grammarist.com website, boughten is as foreign to modern language as the word thou.

But What if Obamacare Works? - NYTimes.com

But What if Obamacare Works? - NYTimes.com: If we ever get beyond the follies of HealthCare.gov, the politics of the rollout will probably be defined by how (and how vocally) middle-class Americans just above the subsidy threshold react to this “pay more, get more, subsidize other people” deal.

Some of them will be buying for the first time, spurred by the mandate’s penalties; many others will be shopping for a new plan because their previous ones no longer meet Obamacare’s requirements. Will they be grateful for more comprehensive coverage, even though it’s being forced on them and has higher premiums attached? Or will they feel they were misled by the president’s “if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it” rhetoric, and drive a further backlash against the law in 2014 and beyond?

Google cars versus public transit: the US’s problem with public goods | ... My heart’s in Accra

Google cars versus public transit: the US’s problem with public goods | ... My heart’s in Accra:
The US has a problem with public goods. After thirty years of hearing that government can do nothing right and that the private sector is inevitably more efficient, my generation and those younger tend not to look towards the government to solve problems. Instead, we look to the private sector, sometimes towards social ventures that promise to turn a profit while doing good, more often towards fast-growth private companies, where we hope their services will make the world a better place. Google can feel like a public good – like a library, it’s free for everyone to use, and it may have social benefits by increasing access to information. But it’s not a public good – we don’t have influence over what services Google does and doesn’t provide, and our investment is an investment of attention as recipients of ads, not taxation.

On Gypsies and Culture

'Maria', Roma, and European Prejudice – Tablet Magazine: Americans, who for the most part see gypsies as something you dress up as on Halloween when your mom forgot to get you a real costume, express utter bafflement, while Europeans, who never tire of calling Americans out on their racism, insist on the toxicity of these people—their essential, unchanging, criminal nature; it’s who they are, they insist. It’s their culture. They can’t be changed, so they have to—somehow—be gotten rid of. (My favorite thread managed to both laud Hitler for killing the Roma along with the Jews, while blaming the Jews for the Roma not getting any credit for the Holocaust. And also, did you know we’re both capitalists and Bolsheviks? Blah blah blah.)

How to Talk to Climate Change Deniers | New Republic

How to Talk to Climate Change Deniers | New Republic: Risk assessment by groupthink is reasonable, if not rational, because, at the personal level, it costs nothing. If you misconstrue the nature of a global threat, your mistake won’t hurt you much, because you can’t save yourself anyway. But if you contradict your friends or powerful members of your group—that could cost you dearly. (Incidentally, Kahan sees evidence of scientific groupthink on both sides of the ideological spectrum.) Kahan’s most provocative finding, though, is that people better at “cognitive reflection,” or slow, probing thought, are actually more likely to arrive at predetermined conclusions about risk, not less. The urge to maintain status within one’s social network is so powerful, Kahan told me, that well-educated people will use their information-gathering and computational skills to marshal a more impressive body of evidence in support of whatever identity it is (freethinking skeptic, caring mother hen) that earns them brownie points in their troop. On his blog, he once called these strong in-group effects “tapeworms of cognitive illiberalism” and a dispiriting omen for democracy.

NYC’s subway conductors have got personality (PHOTOS).

NYC’s subway conductors have got personality (PHOTOS).: With more than 6,000 subway cars, 21 routes, and nearly 2 billion annual riders, the subway can seem huge and overwhelming. But seeing it through the lens of the conductors, who work to make it move as smoothly as possible from their steady perch gave van den Eijnden a unique perspective. “What I find so interesting about the New York subway is that it can be a place of total chaos but also of total tranquility. The lighting, the underground sounds and smells give it an amazing atmosphere,” van den Eijnden said.

Hypocrisy As A “Key Strategic Resource” � The Dish

Hypocrisy As A “Key Strategic Resource” � The Dish: In other words, hypocrisy – of the mildest kind – makes marriage possible. It makes any relationship – business or otherwise – possible. It makes statecraft particularly possible in ways Glenn Greenwald, I’m afraid, has not fully accepted. I’m not defending unnecessary secrecy or lack of democratic accountability and a certain degree of transparency. I’m defending a more pragmatic approach to how we actually live our lives in society and how some level of hypocrisy makes that possible. Hypocrisy is also a two-way street. Are we supposed to believe that the aggrieved Angela Merkel does not have her own espionage capacities, does not spy on other countries, does not scoop up intelligence? Of course not. Yet we respect her complaints as a necessary form of hypocrisy.

Because fully exposing that hypocrisy, however noble and exhilarating, takes a toll on how the world is governed, and how countries are defended.

Importnat Naval Battles in History

Commentary: Top Five Naval Battles of All Time | The National Interest: 1. Salamis (480 B.C.). Taken in tandem with its immediate precursors, the sea battle of Artemisium and the land battle at Thermopylae, the Battle of Salamis was part of a joint campaign that would gladden Corbett's heart. Themistocles, the founder of the Athenian navy, led an outnumbered, outmanned allied fleet against King Xerxes' Persian armada. Artemisium kept Persian sea forces from linking up with the colossal horde that had crossed the Hellespont and was lumbering overland through Greece, with the ultimate goal of conquering Europe. Themistocles' fleet then retired to the waters off Salamis Island to defend the Athenian populace, which had abandoned its city to the Persians. Guile and artful tactics let the allies overcome Persian numbers in this narrow sea. If not for Spartan and Athenian audacity, at sea as on shore, Xerxes may have throttled Western civilization in its infancy. Fending off the Great King's onslaught entitles Salamis to enduring fame. It was the most decisive naval battle in history.

Can the art of letter writing survive? - FT.com

Can the art of letter writing survive? - FT.com: The parallels with modern social media are clear. “How Luther Went Viral” is the title of the chapter about how Martin Luther’s 95 theses were circulated, at a time when the number of editions of pamphlets was the equivalent to “the number of Likes, retweets, reblogs, 1s, or page views” a piece of content generates online today. The social networks of the past, such as the coffee-houses of London in the 18th century, had their critics, who condemned them in strikingly similar terms to those used by 21st-century sceptics, for “distracting people and encouraging them to waste time sharing trivia with their friends when they ought to be doing useful work”. Standage makes a strong case that the 150 years or so when mass media – from newspapers to television – centralised opinion and news and peddled it to passive readers and viewers were an aberration in the long historical domination of social media.

The top innovations in the history of everything....

The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel - James Fallows - The Atlantic: The Atlantic asked a dozen scientists, historians, and technologists to rank the top innovations since the wheel. Here are the results.

Photographer Puts Two Strangers Together For Intimate Photographs, And The Results Are Surprising | Elite Daily

Photographer Puts Two Strangers Together For Intimate Photographs, And The Results Are Surprising | Elite Daily: Photographer Richard Renaldi takes random people he meets on the street of New York City and asks them to pose in pictures together as if they were family members, friends or lovers.

The subjects are only asked to look like they are showing a brief amount of affection, but the facial expressions and body language within the photos make it seem like these strangers not only know each other, but also share some sort of genuine bond.

This unorthodox recipe for truly magical moments speaks volumes about both art and humanity.

Our Memory (And Selves) Will Belong To The Cloud � The Dish

Our Memory (And Selves) Will Belong To The Cloud � The Dish:
As the years go by, and our lives are digitally recorded in more and more ways, he argued, there will be digital versions of ourselves – from selfies to web trails, from precise consumer preferences to social networks, from thousands of emails and texts to videos and Facebook likes – that will have more data embedded in them than even the most industrious biographer could have used on the most famous person in the past. We will also come, inevitably, to refer to these digital summaries of ourselves, to remind us of our past, to get digital proof of previous loves or ideas or events or friends. We will therefore need to remember less and less, even as the imprint we make on the world becomes more and more indelible and eternal. We can just look them up, the way we reach for Google when we cannot remember the answer to a trivia question or need to resolve an empirical debate.

Writing a blog every day for thirteen years and counting brings that home rather firmly. So many feelings, thoughts, asides, facts, wishes, errors, home-runs, and massive fails are all there for anyone to see and for me to flinch from. But just as surely, I do not need to remember much of my life any more. It is remembered for me and exists in something we call the cloud. The cloud is eternal. It reaches into the depths of the past and makes it instantly accessible to the present and to any non-apocalyptic future.

An Outright Lie, reported as fact

When a phony military story is written for political reasons, it hurts real journalism and readers | MilitaryReporter.net: The Post reporter Jeanne MacIntosh — who has a history of backtracking on stories, misinterpreting information, and throwing sources under the bus — stated that the president has a plan.

According to the U.S. Marine Corps statement released today, “The president in no way, shape or form directed the Marine Corps to change our uniform cover.”

The suggestion for the change in the covers originated with the Marines’ Uniform Board. This was already known several days ago when it was reported in the Marine Corps Times on Oct. 21.

MacIntosh says there’s an Obama plan. There is no plan. That’s a fabrication — a lie.

The other issue being that we're supposed to be a democratic, moral country.....

A Land War In America � The Dish: The native Americans were killing each other over land before the Europeans arrived and continued to do so after the Europeans arrived. So why is there so much guilt over it? I’d claim there are two factors. 1) The government that was responsible is still in power. Unlike other places in the world, people can claim that they were always there (they weren’t) or that was several revolutions ago; the current government would never do something like that. 2) It was so one sided. The native Americans never really had a chance. They had no written language(s), not even Bronze Age technology. Their numbers were their only real advantage and even that was diminished by diseases they had no immunity to brought by the Europeans. We cannot even claim that it was a fair fight.

Google: Our Robot Cars Are Better Drivers Than Puny Humans | MIT Technology Review

Google: Our Robot Cars Are Better Drivers Than Puny Humans | MIT Technology Review:
Data gathered from Google’s self-driving Prius and Lexus cars shows that they are safer and smoother when steering themselves than when a human takes the wheel, according to the leader of Google’s autonomous-car project.
Chris Urmson made those claims today at a robotics conference in Santa Clara, California. He presented results from two studies of data from the hundreds of thousands of miles Google’s vehicles have logged on public roads in California and Nevada.
One of those analyses showed that when a human was behind the wheel, Google’s cars accelerated and braked significantly more sharply than they did when piloting themselves. Another showed that the cars’ software was much better at maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead than the human drivers were.

24 October, 2013

The Tea Party Mindset � Commentary Magazine

The Tea Party Mindset � Commentary Magazine: A final thought: There is no question that a great deal of repair work needs to be done. But the growing sense among some on the right that a curtain of darkness is descending on America is both unwarranted and can lead people to act in ways that are self-destructive.

Without understating our challenges for a moment, I rather hope a figure will emerge from within the conservative ranks who is not only principled but also winsome, who possesses an open and flexible mind and has not learned the art of being discontent. A person who doesn’t find fulfillment in amplifying anxiety and anger. Who doesn’t dwell in the lowlands because he’s too busy aiming for the uplands. And who knows that this fallen world is not a world without hope.

A Republican Senator Doubts His Party Can Govern - Bloomberg

A Republican Senator Doubts His Party Can Govern - Bloomberg: It’s the day after Congress voted to fully reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling. The senator I’m meeting, who would fall roughly in the middle of the Senate’s Republicans if they were lined up by ideology, voted with the majority. “I’m being shredded by the Tea Party radio people today,” he says, although he doesn’t seem concerned about it. “That is what it is.”

His bigger concern: He doesn’t think that his party is ready to govern the country.

Why Energy Boomtowns Are a Nightmare for Law Enforcement - Mike Riggs - The Atlantic Cities

Why Energy Boomtowns Are a Nightmare for Law Enforcement - Mike Riggs - The Atlantic Cities: The issues officers shared with Archbold ranged from a dramatic increase in alcohol-related violence ("Ninety percent of the problems we deal with involve alcohol," one officer said), to an inability to balance emergency calls with proactive community policing ("I used to know people. I used to know their vehicles. I no longer know people or their vehicles," said another officer.) Here are some of the biggest problems police shared with Archbold.

Biography of Mother Antonia Brenner

Biography of Mother Antonia Brenner: First married at a young age, Mary eventually raised seven children in two marriages. Not content with just raising a family, she was also heavily involved in charitable activities, all the while running her deceased father's business. After twenty-five years of marriage, and after most of her children were out of the house, she drastically changed her life. In a period of just a few years, she divorced, sold her home and possessions and began to serve full time the prisoners at La Mesa penitentiary in Tijuana, Mexico, and with permission to take private vows, she put on a religious habit. After a year, her service to prisoners came to the attention of Bishop Juan Jesus Posadas of Tijuana and Bishop Leo Maher of neighboring San Diego. She was officially welcomed and blessed by both Bishops: Bishop Maher made her an auxiliary to him while Bishop Posadas made her an auxiliary Mercedarian, an order which has a special devotion to prisoners. At age fifty, she had become a sister.

profrhodes comments on What in your study of history have you found especially moving or touching?

profrhodes comments on What in your study of history have you found especially moving or touching?:

'I still don't really understand it. The insane bravey of it, this man lying there in the hot dark night as his life ebbed away, taunting his own assassins rather than suing for survival. And yet, when against all the odds, he does survive, he hauls himself back and sits with them in council chambers....People like Chenjerai are the real asine mabvi - the men without knees. Not only were his legs covered in plaster casts for months, but he has refused to kneel, refused to prostrate himself before the dictatorship, whatever the consequences.'

It just gets to me that an ordinary man, beaten to within an inch of his life, staring death in the face, not only gets back up and survives, but then goes out and faces his attackers in their own arena. He doesn't stoop to their level - he just does what is right. Truly admirable. And he is not special, he is not a famous leader or military hero; he is just an ordinary man, and so he speaks for thousands of others all across the world who have been similarly as brave in their own pursuit of 'right'.
(see Peter Godwin, The Fear (London, 2010), pp.342-345.)

23 October, 2013

Barneys busted student for ‘shopping while black’ | New York Post

Barneys busted student for ‘shopping while black’ | New York Post: A college student from Queens got more than he bargained for when he splurged on a $350 designer belt at Barneys — when a clerk had him cuffed apparently thinking the black teen couldn’t afford the pricey purchase, even though he had paid for it, a new lawsuit alleges.

“His only crime was being a young black man,” his attorney, Michael Palillo, told The Post.

Lawfare › Thoughts on the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Reports

Lawfare › Thoughts on the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Reports: I have now read both of the two major human rights reports released yesterday on civilian casualties in drone strikes—one by Amnesty International on strikes in Pakistan and the other by Human Rights Watch on strikes in Yemen. I have a few thoughts on them.

First, it is impossible for a modestly-moral person to read these reports without something approaching nausea. They are grisly. They involve the deaths of numerous apparently-innocent people. The deaths appear to have taken place at the hands of the United States. The reports involve some substantial new reporting on these incidents. And they thus raise serious questions about the way at least those drone strikes they cover took place: What went wrong, why, and how we can minimize the chances of such disasters in the future?

The power of both reports, however, is diminished—to what degree I am honestly not sure—by two factors that are worth spelling out.

Why ESPN Is Worth $40 Billion As The World's Most Valuable Media Property

Why ESPN Is Worth $40 Billion As The World's Most Valuable Media Property: There are fears that spending on sports rights fees will crimp ESPN’s profitability going forward as competition heats up from Fox Sports and NBC Sports. ESPN recently agreed to double the annual rights fees it pays for Major League Baseball and last year reached an eight year, $15.2 billion deal to broadcast the National Football League.

The reality is that the value of sports on television is only increasing, as much of the viewing public moves to watching programs on delay, limiting the effectiveness of advertising. It is a problem that ESPN does not have to worry about as 99.4% of sports events on TV are watched live, according to Disney CFO Jay Rasulo.

New York's Looming Food Disaster - Siddhartha Mahanta - The Atlantic Cities

New York's Looming Food Disaster - Siddhartha Mahanta - The Atlantic Cities:
In New York City, locating a bite to eat is rarely a difficult task. The city is a food paradise or, depending on your mood, a place of overwhelming glut.

But when Superstorm Sandy pummeled New York last fall, it revealed the terrifying potential for sudden food shortages. Flooded stores like Red Hook’s Fairway Market were forced to haul off loads of ruined produce, while persistent power outages and scant fuel supplies turned the banality of restocking into a nightmare for stores across the city. For markets nestled in lower Manhattan, the physical challenges were most grave. One bridge or tunnel shutdown might delay countless deliveries—amid disaster, a terrifying notion for stores like Met FoodMarkets in SoHo. "They only can get here if they can get here," says Met manager Franklin Fernandez.

Smaller stores like Met have limited storage capacity, and often get cleared out in the days before an event like Sandy. Disturbingly, that supply headache can extend long past the immediate post-storm period. For Met, it took nearly two weeks to restore a working supply chain, Fernandez says.

Sandy is not New Yorkers' first glimpse of potential disaster. The massive blackout of 1977 (and the subsequent looting), the great northeastern blackout of 2003, and Hurricane Irene in 2011 all caused similar crises.

22 October, 2013

Adventures of a Serial Trespasser - In Focus - The Atlantic

Adventures of a Serial Trespasser - In Focus - The Atlantic: Bradley Garrett, a photographer and researcher with a background in anthropology and archeology, has spent the past five years of his life exploring hidden and forgotten parts of cities all over the world. Sneaking into sewers and bunkers, through metro tunnels and up skyscrapers, Garrett calls his work place-hacking: "I see the access to secret spatial information available to those willing to dive through the loopholes in the system as akin to virtual hacking." These images, selections from his new book Explore Everything, from over 300 locations in eight countries, relays some of the excitement, terror, and wonder that comes with being a serial trespasser. [21 photos]

Six Key Parts of a New Report That May Change Your View on Drones - The Daily Beast

Six Key Parts of a New Report That May Change Your View on Drones - The Daily Beast:
The HRW report alleges that Obama has continued to approve drone strikes in which a target’s “imminent threat” is not defined, or the option of capture not fully exhausted. On top of potentially unlawful strikes, Tayler writes, the U.S. has neither offered consolation to the families of civilians killed, as promised by former CIA Director John Brennan, nor so much as acknowledged their role in the death of innocent Yemenis.

America’s failure to acknowledge these wrongful deaths is demonizing it, Tayler concludes. “It’s gotten to the point where many Yemenis fear the U.S. more than they fear al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” she said. “When the U.S. government is considered more of a demon that one of the most notorious groups in the world...Obama has a major image problem.”

21 October, 2013

Pope Francis: Prayer keeps us from losing faith

Pope Francis: Prayer keeps us from losing faith

“The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh? Already the Apostle John, in his first Letter, spoke of this. Christians who lose the faith and prefer the ideologies. His attitude is: be rigid, moralistic, ethical, but without kindness. This can be the question, no? But why is it that a Christian can become like this? Just one thing: this Christian does not pray. And if there is no prayer, you always close the door.”“The key that opens the door to the faith,” the Pope added, “is prayer.” The Holy Father warned: “When a Christian does not pray, this happens. And his witness is an arrogant witness.” He who does not pray is “arrogant, is proud, is sure of himself. He is not humble. He seeks his own advancement.”

20 October, 2013

Obamacare, Failing Ahead of Schedule - NYTimes.com

Obamacare, Failing Ahead of Schedule - NYTimes.com: But it seemed that way because it was hard to imagine the Obama White House botching the design and execution of its national health care exchange. Building Web sites, mastering the Internet — this is what Team Obama does!

Except this time Team Obama didn’t. Like the Bush administration in Iraq, the White House seems to have invaded the health insurance marketplace with woefully inadequate postinvasion planning, and let the occupation turn into a disaster of hack work and incompetence. Right now, the problems with the exchange Web site appear to be systemic — a mess on the front end, where people are supposed to shop for plans, and also a thicket at the back end, where insurers are supposed to process applications.

18 October, 2013

Was It All Boehner's Fault? - NYTimes.com

Was It All Boehner's Fault? - NYTimes.com: This, again, doesn’t let Boehner off the hook for blame. But it’s evidence that the problem here runs much, much deeper than the House leadership, and most everybody involved knows it.

Former C.I.A. Lawyer Stephen Preston's Undisclosed Answers on Detentions : The New Yorker

Former C.I.A. Lawyer Stephen Preston's Undisclosed Answers on Detentions : The New Yorker: The C.I.A. has defended its record on keeping Congress informed. In contrast, Preston, in his answers to Udall, concedes that, during the Bush years, the C.I.A. “fell well short” of current standards for keeping the congressional oversight committees informed of covert actions, as is required under the 1947 National Security Act.

In fact, Preston admits outright that, contrary to the C.I.A.’s insistence that it did not actively impede congressional oversight of its detention and interrogation program, “briefings to the Committees included inaccurate information related to aspects of the program of express interest to Members.”

Inside the Fox News lie machine: I fact-checked Sean Hannity on Obamacare - Salon.com

Inside the Fox News lie machine: I fact-checked Sean Hannity on Obamacare - Salon.com:
I decided to hit the pavement. I tracked down Hannity’s guests, one by one, and did my own telephone interviews with them.

First I spoke with Paul Cox of Leicester, N.C.  He and his wife Michelle had lamented to Hannity that because of Obamacare, they can’t grow their construction business and they have kept their employees below a certain number of hours, so that they are part-timers.

Obamacare has no effect on businesses with 49 employees or less. But in our brief conversation on the phone, Paul revealed that he has only four employees. Why the cutback on his workforce? “Well,” he said, “I haven’t been forced to do so, it’s just that I’ve chosen to do so. I have to deal with increased costs.” What costs? And how, I asked him, is any of it due to Obamacare? There was a long pause, after which he said he’d call me back. He never did.

17 October, 2013

Jeff Weintraub: A solid majority of House Republicans just voted to crash the US economy and the world financial system

Jeff Weintraub: A solid majority of House Republicans just voted to crash the US economy and the world financial system: => Second, even though the most catastrophic outcome was averted in this case, the Republican strategy of government-by-crisis-and-extortion has nevertheless done significant and accumulating damage to the US economy, to the effectiveness and legitimacy of our political system, and to America's position in the world—and will continue to do so. A report in today's New York Times spelled out some of this damage:

The GOP’s income verification ‘concession’ is meaningless

The GOP’s income verification ‘concession’ is meaningless: There's nothing about the income verification measures that passed Wednesday night that will change Obamacare, aside from a few staff members at Health and Human Services devoting some hours to gathering the data and writing up these reports. And that probably explains why Democrats were okay with passing this language in the first place.

16 October, 2013

House Republicans Show Themselves To Be Dangerously Incompetent, Again - Business Insider

House Republicans Show Themselves To Be Dangerously Incompetent, Again - Business Insider: The bill would have raised the debt ceiling. It would have changed Obamacare, Republicans' white whale, in only the most trivial ways. The powerful conservative pressure group Heritage Action opposed it. Of course Speaker John Boehner couldn't get the votes.

The only stunning thing is that anyone still looks at House Republicans and says: "You know what would be great? Giving these people more power over public policy."

Roughly one-third of this caucus thinks hitting the debt ceiling and shutting down the government are great strategies to try to stop Obamacare. The other two-thirds of the party has realized all along that this strategy sucks, but they could not find any way to stop their party from implementing it — even though these "reasonable" Republicans outnumber the crazies.

Obamacare Needs a Drop-Dead Date - Bloomberg

Obamacare Needs a Drop-Dead Date - Bloomberg: -- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services inexplicably decided to take on the role of central project manager itself, assuming responsibility for integrating all the various software pieces they’d subcontracted, rather than assigning that role to a lead contractor. CMS is not known to maintain a pool of crack programming talent with extensive project management experience that can be deployed to this sort of task.

Seeing Its Own Money at Risk, China Rails at U.S. - NYTimes.com

Seeing Its Own Money at Risk, China Rails at U.S. - NYTimes.com: But economists who follow China’s monetary policy say that while Beijing has somewhat diversified its foreign exchange reserves, it continues to rely heavily on Treasury bills and other American government-backed debt.

Part of the problem is the lack of easy alternatives: euro-denominated debt has been hurt by the European Union’s crisis, except in Germany. Analysts estimate that 60 percent of China’s $3.66 trillion in reserves are still in dollar-denominated debt, though the precise numbers are a secret.

In its commentary, Xinhua embellished its call for a new reserve currency with a scathing indictment of the United States’ broader role in the world, saying that the Obama administration claimed “the moral high ground” while covertly “torturing prisoners of war, slaying civilians in drone attacks and spying on world leaders.”

Government shutdown unleashes racism - Roger Simon - POLITICO.com

Government shutdown unleashes racism - Roger Simon - POLITICO.com: Question: What is the difference between the people who shut down the government and the people who have been furloughed?

Answer: The people who have been furloughed actually want to work.

14 October, 2013

Street Pope | Commonweal Magazine

Street Pope | Commonweal Magazine: In the give and take of conversation, Pope Francis’s ad hoc interviews play off his interlocutors. From Skorka to Spadaro to Scalfari, he does not fear to give up full control and places himself in their hands. The in-flight interview had the highest degree of spontaneity, while Spadaro heavily edited the Jesuit interview. Amazingly, the conversation with Scalfari appears in the latter’s own redaction. Despite variations, the three papal interviews to date have much in common. The pope’s irrepressible and unaffected spiritual joy comes through each time. His interviews do not appear in Acta Apostolicae Sedis. Rather he injects them into the flow of the secular news cycle where they share its immediacy, interactivity and ephemeral nature. Expect more interviews as well as adjustments.

The Only Hope For The GOP Is To Be More Like Chris Christie - Business Insider

The Only Hope For The GOP Is To Be More Like Chris Christie - Business Insider: Christie's path to sustained popularity and massive electoral success isn't complicated.

He stands up for conservative principles when the electorate shares them. For example, he capped property taxes (New Jersey has the country's highest) and he implemented reforms to bring public employee benefits more in line with the private sector, saving money and helping local governments deliver services better.

But when conservatives want Christie to do things that would anger his electorate, like rejecting the Medicaid expansion or snubbing the president in the aftermath of a hurricane, he refuses.

This makes him popular for two reasons. One, it means he tends to take popular policy stances. Two, he shows the electorate that he cares first about them, not his political party.

Football Isn’t the Same After League of Denial -- Daily Intelligencer

Football Isn’t the Same After League of Denial -- Daily Intelligencer:

Ultimately, though, the threat to the NFL won't come from squeamish fans. It will come from a growing scientific body of evidence of the risk of playing football at any age, and from the parents who become increasingly aware of that risk. The NFL fully understands the danger this would pose. In one scene in League of Denial, neuropathologist Bennet Omalu, the first doctor to find CTE in the brain of a football player who had killed himself, recounts a private meeting he had with an NFL doctor.

"The NFL doctor at some point said to me, 'Bennet, do you know the implications of what you're doing?" Omalu replied that he did, but that the doctor should go ahead and tell him what he thinks the implications are. "He said, 'If 10 percent of mothers in this country would begin to perceive football as a dangerous sport, that is the end of football.'"

13 October, 2013

Jim Bradford, Olympic weightlifter, dies at 84 - The Washington Post

Jim Bradford, Olympic weightlifter, dies at 84 - The Washington Post: Jim Bradford, who died Sept. 13 at 84, spent much of his life in quiet obscurity at the Library of Congress as an assistant bookbinder and a researcher. But he was a most unusual library employee — a 6-foot, 287-pound weightlifter and two-time Olympian. He could easily have been mistaken for a National Football League tackle, Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich once said of him.

In the heavyweight category, Mr. Bradford twice took home a silver medal, at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki and the 1960 Games in Rome.

He was an African American, largely unfeted in Washington in the 1950s. He had to take unpaid leave from the Library of Congress to compete on the world stage. “Nah, they just ignored it,” he told Washington Post journalist David Maraniss, author of the book “Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World.” “I come back to my job and that is it. That was par for the course then.”

Time Running Out for Obamacare Fixes | TIME.com

Time Running Out for Obamacare Fixes | TIME.com: Since the Oct. 1 launch of state-based insurance web sites where uninsured Americans can shop for new health coverage, the exchanges have been riddled with computer problems causing crashes and error messages. Administrators for both state-run exchanges and those being managed by the federal government have brushed off concerns that the glitches mean the health care law is fundamentally flawed. They point out that the open enrollment period that began this month lasts until March 31, 2014, and the earliest new coverage can begin is Jan. 1, 2014.

Why the Shutdown Is a Disaster for Small-Government Principles | The American Conservative

Why the Shutdown Is a Disaster for Small-Government Principles | The American Conservative: Reducing and restructuring government is going to take time and careful planning, but what we see from the Republicans—abetted by certain activist groups and entertainers who feed off over-emotional listeners, viewers, and donors—is a party whose leadership and record in power is big government and whose committed small-government faction is crippling rather than augmenting its appeal to the country as a whole. This is a recipe for defeat of the small-government faction in future presidential nominating contests—where the Republican Party has shown a longstanding preference for candidates who seem like they can win over centrist voters—and that means even if a Republican can win the White House again in the near future, he’s more likely to be a Republican in the Bush mold.

The challenge for small-government Republicans today—the principled, consistent, and serious ones—is to win over the center of the country and a national electorate. Does the shutdown, let alone a threat of default, really help with that?

The Power of No

The Power of No: Many Tea Partiers are people who hadn't run for office before 2010, or maybe had served briefly in a state legislature where they were bomb-throwers, not legislators. They won their primaries by promising to be the most conservative, Obama-hating member of Congress the folks of their district had ever seen. In contrast, almost none of the safe Democratic members got elected just by saying that they were the most liberal candidate in their race. Most of them worked their way up through the lower political ranks, getting used to cutting deals, making compromises, and solving problems for constituents. They may be very liberal ideologically, but they're also old-school pols in many ways.

That gives them a practicality that their conservative counterparts don't have. For instance, during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, most of those members of the Progressive Caucus preferred a single-payer system, but they didn't say they'd refuse to support reform unless they got that. They also fought for the inclusion of a public option, but when that got dropped too (just to appease a couple of conservative Democrats in the Senate), they didn't withhold their support for the bill over it. They could have killed Obamacare right then, but they decided to take half a loaf.

More media won’t solve political ignorance | Jack Shafer

More media won’t solve political ignorance | Jack Shafer: The surplus of quality journalism in print, on the Web, and over the air should give the public little to no excuse for being uninformed about political issues. Never before has so much raw and refined political intelligence been available at such a low cost to citizens willing to buy a cheap computer and Web connection — or pay the bus fare to the local public library.

But uninformed the people are, as Ilya Somin delineates in his subversive new book, Democracy and Political Ignorance, and their ignorance is willful!

Nightmare in Maryville: Teens’ sexual encounter ignites a firestorm against family - KansasCity.com

Nightmare in Maryville: Teens’ sexual encounter ignites a firestorm against family - KansasCity.com: Few dispute the basic facts of what happened in the early morning hours of Jan. 8, 2012: A high school senior had sex with Coleman’s 14-year-old daughter, another boy did the same with her daughter’s 13-year-old friend, and a third student video-recorded one of the bedding scenes. Interviews and evidence initially supported the felony and misdemeanor charges that followed.

Yet, two months later, the Nodaway County prosecutor dropped the felony cases against the youths, one the grandson of a longtime area political figure.

The incident sparked outrage in the community, though the worst of it was directed not at the accused perpetrators but at a victim and her family. In the months that followed, Coleman lost her job, and her children were routinely harassed. When it became too much, they left, retreating east to Albany.

Coleman had hoped the move would allow them to heal in peace, that the 40 miles separating the towns would be enough to put an end to their bitter saga.

Now, though, as she stared at the charred remains of her house, the distance didn’t seem nearly enough.

Everything here so familiar!

From the Start, Signs of Trouble at Health Portal - NYTimes.com: Confidential progress reports from the Health and Human Services Department show that senior officials repeatedly expressed doubts that the computer systems for the federal exchange would be ready on time, blaming delayed regulations, a lack of resources and other factors.

Deadline after deadline was missed. The biggest contractor, CGI Federal, was awarded its $94 million contract in December 2011. But the government was so slow in issuing specifications that the firm did not start writing software code until this spring, according to people familiar with the process. As late as the last week of September, officials were still changing features of the Web site, HealthCare.gov, and debating whether consumers should be required to register and create password-protected accounts before they could shop for health plans.

One highly unusual decision, reached early in the project, proved critical: the Medicare and Medicaid agency assumed the role of project quarterback, responsible for making sure each separately designed database and piece of software worked with the others, instead of assigning that task to a lead contractor.

Affordable Care Act: High deductibles could pinch consumers - chicagotribune.com

Affordable Care Act: High deductibles could pinch consumers - chicagotribune.com: Insurers say the price and cost hikes result from new benefit mandates, additional taxes levied as part of the law and a requirement that they can no longer deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

The vast majority of insurance plans for 2014 must include a list of 10 essential health benefits, some of which, like maternity care, weren't necessarily included in all health plans a year ago.

The law also includes mandatory coverage of mental health and substance-abuse treatment, prescription drugs and rehabilitative care. All preventive care, including annual physicals and routine immunizations like flu shots, must be covered at no cost.

Further, insurers are required to take all applicants, regardless of whether they have pre-existing medical issues that may have locked them out of coverage in the past. And they're prohibited from charging their oldest, sickest members any more than three times as much as their youngest, healthiest members, causing premium prices to rise for many younger people.

Costs associated with those mandates are passed along to all members of a health plan.

New measures at S.F. General after patient death - SFGate

New measures at S.F. General after patient death - SFGate: San Francisco General Hospital put new security measures in place Friday in response to the death of a patient whose body was found in a rarely used stairwell beyond an alarm-equipped door 17 days after she went missing during treatment.

Hospital officials have not said whether an alarm triggered when Lynne Spalding, 57, entered the stairwell after she vanished Sept. 21 from her bed on the fifth floor. But it wasn't until Tuesday that she was found during a routine quarterly check of the stairwell, which was used as a fire escape, officials said. She was found on the fourth floor.

Crew members: ‘Captain Phillips’ is one big lie | New York Post

Crew members: ‘Captain Phillips’ is one big lie | New York Post: Not all of the crew cooperated with the movie, and those who did were paid as little as $5,000 for their life rights by Sony and made to sign nondisclosure agreements — meaning they can never speak publicly about what really happened on that ship.

It’s the film’s version of events — and Hanks’ version of Phillips — that will be immortalized.

“They told us they would change some stuff,” says the crew member, laughing. By the end of Friday, opening day, he had seen the film. “It’s a good movie,” he says dryly. “Real entertaining.”

10 October, 2013

JPAC Admits to Phony Ceremonies Honoring Remains | Military.com

JPAC Admits to Phony Ceremonies Honoring Remains | Military.com: WASHINGTON -- The Department of Defense unit charged with recovering servicemembers' remains abroad has been holding phony "arrival ceremonies" for seven years, with an honor guard carrying flag-draped coffins off of a cargo plane as though they held the remains returning that day from old battlefields.

09 October, 2013

Is the Administration Misleading People on Obamacare's Web Failures, Or Is It Just Incompetent? - Hit & Run : Reason.com

Is the Administration Misleading People on Obamacare's Web Failures, Or Is It Just Incompetent? - Hit & Run : Reason.com: Despite repeated promises that the implementation process was on schedule and the exchange system would be ready on time, it wasn’t. It wasn’t fixed within a few hours, or a few days, or most of a week—even with hours of offline time for retooling. And the massive traffic volume that was supposed to be responsible for the site problems was, at most, only one part of the problem.

So if the administration knew that the problems were due to more than just traffic, and that they would not be resolved in the first week, then they weren’t telling the truth. And if the administration did not know, then that suggests they may lack the understanding or capability to easily resolve the technical flaws with the exchanges. Either way, at this point, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the administration is either intentionally misleading people, or incompetent, or both.

Good Populism, Bad Populism and the Shutdown - NYTimes.com

Good Populism, Bad Populism and the Shutdown - NYTimes.com: And yet none of this matters right now, because the current populist strategy isn’t going to work, isn’t going to make the populist’s ideas or the Republican Party more popular, and has marched the entire party into a cul-de-sac from which, it seems, only the uncourageous dealmaking K Street-friendly leadership types can rescue it. There was, as I’ve noted before, some kind of plausible populist case for threatening a shutdown around the health care law, as a kind of exercise in noisemaking and base mobilization. But the shutdown itself is just a classic march of folly. From RedState to Heritage to all the various pro-shutdown voices in the House, nobody-but-nobody has sketched out a remotely plausible scenario in which a continued government shutdown leads to any meaningful, worth-the-fighting-for concessions on Obamacare — or to anything, really, save gradually-building pain for the few House Republicans who actually have to fight to win re-election in 2014, and the ratification of the public’s pre-existing sense that the G.O.P. can’t really be trusted with the reins of government.

Destroying the Destroyer by Ed Kilgore | Political Animal | The Washington Monthly

Destroying the Destroyer by Ed Kilgore | Political Animal | The Washington Monthly: 71% think Obama is “destroying the country.” Wow. So is it any great surprise that these same people, and the House members who identify with them, are willing to go to dangerous lengths to mess up Obama’s signature policy achievement and force a significant change in the federal government’s direction? Who cares about the risk of destroying the economy if the destruction of the country itself is the current trajectory?

Christie "Kills with Kindness" in First Debate with Buono | The Save Jersey Blog

Christie "Kills with Kindness" in First Debate with Buono | The Save Jersey Blog: Swinging wildly all night in search of an elusive score, when asked to “say something nice” about her opponent, Buono stayed consistently nasty and snorted that Christie was “good on late night television.”

Governor Christie remained disciplined and proceeded to compliment Sen. Buono’s dedication to public service. “While we have policy agreements,” Christie said in a serious tone, “I would never denigrate her service.”

Killing’em with kindness. Works every time.

Top 8 players in payroll accounted for 0 IP, and 2H collectively. : Braves

Top 8 players in payroll accounted for 0 IP, and 2H collectively. : Braves: Our 3 best hitters (Freeman, Johnson, Heyward) combined with our best reliever (Kimbrel), and three best starting pitchers(Medlen, Minor, Tehran) cost something like 11 million combined while we had $32 million worth of Uggla, Upton, and Maholm off the roster or useless.

Onion Beats AP By Months On Vatican Damage Control Of Pope Francis

Onion Beats AP By Months On Vatican Damage Control Of Pope Francis: The satirical news website published the headline "Vatican Quickly Performs Damage Control On Pope’s Tolerant Remarks" on July 29th, 2013.

Today an Associated Press story, "Pope Francis' Controversial Remarks Prompt Vatican 'Damage Control'," was published, and it's strikingly similar to the original Onion piece.

Coincidence, or foresight?

08 October, 2013

The Perfect Nazi Bride : The New Yorker

The Perfect Nazi Bride : The New Yorker: But expertise in craftsmanship and the culinary arts was not the essence of the school; it existed to drill Nazi dogma into “sustainers of the race,” those women who, under the Law for the Encouragement of Marriage, would be effectively bribed to produce babies. The course insisted that women “acquire special knowledge of race and genetics” and only when a woman had acquired such knowledge could she gain certificates of accomplishment (which were also found in the archive, embellished with the Germanic ‘Tree of Life’; a woman who did not comply was refused not only this certificate but also permission to marry). The course also entailed a commitment to Nazi doctrine until death, and a placement of faith in the F�hrer over religious faith: marriages had to be neo-pagan rituals officiated by party members, not in a church ordained by a cleric. Children had to be raised to worship not Jesus, but Hitler.

The worst night in Atlanta sports history | Mark Bradley | www.ajc.com

The worst night in Atlanta sports history | Mark Bradley | www.ajc.com:
Fredi Gonzalez had deployed Kimbrel for a four-out save in Game 2, and apparently the manager was waiting to do the same in Game 4. He waited too long. The Braves were eliminated without the best closer in the business throwing an actual pitch. They were eliminated on a night when Freddy Garcia, a journeyman more traveled than Marco Polo, matched the mighty Clayton Kershaw inning for inning -- to absolutely no avail.
Thus did Oct. 7 and the early moments of Oct. 8 in the year 2013 stand alongside the dark doings of Oct. 9, 2005, in the annals of Atlanta sporting infamy. That day the Falcons had rallied from a 28-13 fourth-quarter deficit behind No. 2 quarterback Matt Schaub -- starting because Michael Vick was injured -- to tie New England at 28 in the Georgia Dome, whereupon Tom Brady drove the Patriots within sight of Adam Vinatieri's winning field goal with 17 seconds remaining.
Then the Braves would squander a 6-1 lead as closer Kyle Farnsworth, who WAS summoned in the eighth inning, yielded a grand slam to Lance Berkman and then, in the ninth, a tying homer to Brad Ausmus. The end would come much, much later, when Chris Burke homered off Joey Devine with one out in the 18th. The winning pitcher? Roger Clemens, who entered in the 16th.
That remains the worst day in Atlanta sports history. But we now have a comparable worst night. And woe, yet again, is us.
- See more at: http://m.ajc.com/weblogs/mark-bradley/2013/oct/08/worst-night-atlanta-sports-history/#sthash.ZBksRExL.dpuf

Clemens, who entered in the 16th.
That remains the worst day in Atlanta sports history. But we now have a comparable worst night. And woe, yet again, is
- See more at: http://m.ajc.com/weblogs/mark-bradley/2013/oct/08/worst-night-atlanta-sports-history/#sthash.ZBksRExL.dpuf
Fredi Gonzalez had deployed Kimbrel for a four-out save in Game 2, and apparently the manager was waiting to do the same in Game 4. He waited too long. The Braves were eliminated without the best closer in the business throwing an actual pitch. They were eliminated on a night when Freddy Garcia, a journeyman more traveled than Marco Polo, matched the mighty Clayton Kershaw inning for inning -- to absolutely no avail.
Thus did Oct. 7 and the early moments of Oct. 8 in the year 2013 stand alongside the dark doings of Oct. 9, 2005, in the annals of Atlanta sporting infamy. That day the Falcons had rallied from a 28-13 fourth-quarter deficit behind No. 2 quarterback Matt Schaub -- starting because Michael Vick was injured -- to tie New England at 28 in the Georgia Dome, whereupon Tom Brady drove the Patriots within sight of Adam Vinatieri's winning field goal with 17 seconds remaining.
Then the Braves would squander a 6-1 lead as closer Kyle Farnsworth, who WAS summoned in the eighth inning, yielded a grand slam to Lance Berkman and then, in the ninth, a tying homer to Brad Ausmus. The end would come much, much later, when Chris Burke homered off Joey Devine with one out in the 18th. The winning pitcher? Roger Clemens, who entered in the 16th.
That remains the worst day in Atlanta sports history. But we now have a comparable worst night. And woe, yet again, is us.
- See more at: http://m.ajc.com/weblogs/mark-bradley/2013/oct/08/worst-night-atlanta-sports-history/#sthash.ZBksRExL.dpuf

Senate Chaplain Shows His Disapproval During Morning Prayer - NYTimes.com

Senate Chaplain Shows His Disapproval During Morning Prayer - NYTimes.com: “Save us from the madness,” the chaplain, a Seventh-day Adventist, former Navy rear admiral and collector of brightly colored bow ties named Barry C. Black, said one day late last week as he warmed up into what became an epic ministerial scolding.

“We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness and our pride,” he went on, his baritone voice filling the room. “Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.”

07 October, 2013

The 13 reasons Washington is failing

The 13 reasons Washington is failing:
killing filibuster
When the Senate was created, there was no such thing as the filibuster. In fact, when the filibuster was created no one even knew they'd created the filibuster: They'd deleted a rule they thought was redundant  — "the motion to move to the previous question" — and it was only a few decades later that they realized they'd deleted the only way the Senate had of shutting people up.
But that was okay. Because for most of American history senators used the filibuster extremely judiciously. That's all changed in recent years. The Senate had to spend more time breaking filibusters in 2009 and 2010 than in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s combined. The Senate has gone from a majority-rules institution to one where only a supermajority can govern — and supermajorites are exceedingly rare in American politics.
“Over the last 50 years, we have added a new veto point in American politics,” says Gregory Koger, author of Filibustering: A Political History of Obstruction in the House and Senate.

06 October, 2013

How can we be better than the fundamentalists? � Pharyngula

How can we be better than the fundamentalists? � Pharyngula: We’d like to believe that the triumph of secularism is inevitable — how can we fail when we’re going up against such nutty ideas? — but maybe it isn’t, if we neglect social and community and family ideals and pander only to nerdy asocial guys in tech.

We really need to wake up to the reasons normal people find value in weird religions.

(TSA FAIL) Boy Flies To Vegas from MSP Without Ticket

Boy Boards Plane To Vegas At MSP Without Ticket � CBS Minnesota: MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — A 9-year-old Minneapolis boy was able to get through security and onto a plane at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport without a ticket, an airport spokesman said Sunday.

Security officials screened the boy at airport shortly after 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Patrick Hogan said. The boy then boarded Delta Flight 1651, which left for Las Vegas at 11:15 a.m.

05 October, 2013

The Promise and Peril of Pope Francis - NYTimes.com

The Promise and Peril of Pope Francis - NYTimes.com: The most traditional groups have been relatively resilient. The more liberal, modernizing bodies have lost membership, money, morale. And the culture as a whole has become steadily more disengaged from organized faith. There is still a religious middle today, but it isn’t institutionally Judeo-Christian in the way it was in 1945. Instead, it’s defined by nondenominational ministries, “spiritual but not religious” pieties and ancient heresies reinvented as self-help.

Of late, this process of polarization has carried an air of inevitability. You can hew to a traditional faith in late modernity, it has seemed, only to the extent that you separate yourself from the American and Western mainstream. There is no middle ground, no center that holds for long, and the attempt to find one quickly leads to accommodation, drift and dissolution.

And this is where Pope Francis comes in, because so much of the excitement around his pontificate is a response to his obvious desire to reject these alternatives — self-segregation or surrender — in favor of an almost-frantic engagement with the lapsed-Catholic, post-Catholic and non-Catholic world.

It's OK to overreact to shootings in Washington - The Week

It's OK to overreact to shootings in Washington - The Week: The Secret Service, Capitol Police, Park Police, and Washington, D.C. police have prepared and rehearsed for all sorts of unknown troubles; the biggest X factor is simply trying to respond proportionately when there is no way of knowing what is actually happening; whether one event is connected to another, or whether others are yet to come. Interoperability between those agencies is better, but not perfect. And until the voice of God says, "This is only a crazy person trying to ram her car into a White House perimeter stanchion and nothing else," I'm fine if the Secret Service triggers contingency plans while it prepares for something much worse.

04 October, 2013

Great Places in America: Neighborhoods

Great Places in America: Neighborhoods: Constantly changing and evolving, downtown Decatur's character comes from the successful marriage of historic and contemporary buildings and uses. The emergence of downtown as a dynamic and prosperous neighborhood spans more than three decades and is a story of planning, commitment, patience, and investment.

03 October, 2013

‘Shame on us’: How businesses brought the debt limit mess onto themselves

‘Shame on us’: How businesses brought the debt limit mess onto themselves:
Look, I had the chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee, Fred Upton, tell me that he got into an argument with one of these young guys on his committee about the defunding of Affordable Care Act. Well the argument was 'look, Energy and Commerce had 50 hearings on that bill. Like it or not, it passed. The president signed it. The Supreme Court upheld it. So you don't get to pick a bill you don't like and link it to the entire financial well being of the United States.' Well the response is, 'I didn't come here to govern.' Well what did you come here for? What did you come here for? To burn it to the ground?

So when you talk about getting back to the fife and drum and getting back to American roots, are you kidding me? This is so antithetical to everything that America has been about.

So there's a sense in the business community that this is just appalling. You don't get to default on the United States. I've got 70 offices in 26 countries. I've got CEOs and government leaders around the world who take me aside privately and say 'what on earth are you doing over there? If you can't get this right, how the hell are we going to get this right?'

And all this stuff about China and India and Brazil? Baloney. We are still 24 percent of the world's GDP and we are the flywheel that drives all those other economies. And we are out to lunch.

5 Americans who used NSA facilities to spy on lovers

5 Americans who used NSA facilities to spy on lovers: Last month, we reported on LOVEINT, the facetious term used to describe NSA analysts who misuse their surveillance powers to spy on romantic interests instead of terrorists. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) asked the NSA to get more specific about the misconduct the NSA had uncovered. So the NSA sent Grassley a letter with details of the 12 LOVEINT incidents it has uncovered since 2003.

GOP stands firm against funding bill, will link to debt ceiling fight | WashingtonExaminer.com

GOP stands firm against funding bill, will link to debt ceiling fight | WashingtonExaminer.com: Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who is close with leadership, suggested that the House majority is prepared to hold the line on a government funding bill and the debt ceiling increase if Senate Democrats refuse to negotiate a compromise.

When asked if House Republicans would vote on a "clean" continuing resolution, he said, "Why in the world would you do that?” Cole said of the clean funding bill. “That’s basically, at this point, a surrender to the Democratic position.”

On Capitol Hill, the Obamacare fight is no longer about Obamacare | WashingtonExaminer.com

On Capitol Hill, the Obamacare fight is no longer about Obamacare | WashingtonExaminer.com: Sometimes fights become so intense and so tangled that the original cause becomes obscured. In the government funding battle, the issue that sparked it all, Obamacare, was no longer center stage less than 24 hours after the shutdown began. The fight is now about the shutdown itself, and Obamacare has been pushed to the side.

02 October, 2013

Marc Thiessen: The GOP flunks Hostage Taking 101 - The Washington Post

Marc Thiessen: The GOP flunks Hostage Taking 101 - The Washington Post: Obama has accused Republicans of hostage taking. Let’s be clear: I’m all for taking hostages. Both sides do it all the time. But one of the first things they teach you in Hostage Taking 101 is that you have to choose a hostage the other side cares about saving. Obama and the Democrats don’t care about stopping a government shutdown. With a shutdown, Republicans are essentially putting a gun to their own heads and threatening to pull the trigger if the Democrats don’t capitulate. Not surprisingly, it’s not working.

Some congressional Republicans can’t seem to get it though their heads: When it comes to a government shutdown they . . . have . . . no . . . leverage. By contrast, when it comes to the debt-limit showdown, they do have leverage; while Obama can let the government close and blame the GOP, he cannot allow the United States to default.

Was The "Breaking Bad" Finale All Just A Fantasy In Walter White's Head

Was The "Breaking Bad" Finale All Just A Fantasy In Walter White's Head: Earlier today, Norm Macdonald, (who you should follow on Twitter if you A) Love Breaking Bad B) Love golf C) Love gambling) posited this theory that the final episode of Breaking Bad, “Felina” was actually nothing but a fantasy. Sounds a little far-fetched… until......................

Bot & Dolly | Box

Bot & Dolly | Box: "Box" explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping on moving surfaces. The short film documents a live performance, captured entirely in camera. Bot & Dolly produced this work to serve as both an artistic statement and technical demonstration. It is the culmination of multiple technologies, including large scale robotics, projection mapping, and software engineering. We believe this methodology has tremendous potential to radically transform theatrical presentations, and define new genres of expression.

The American Spectator : When Paul Corrected Peter

The American Spectator : When Paul Corrected Peter: Has Pope Francis not been paying attention for the last 50 years? The only vibrant religious orders are traditional ones; the only packed churches are traditional ones; the only seminaries producing shepherds for the flock are traditional ones. To use his analogy, at the Catholic Left’s “field hospitals,” all the patients are dead.

Pope Francis has made many commendable remarks about the Virgin Mary, Satan, and the need to go to confession, among others. And some of the criticism does seem petty: Who cares if he bunks at the Vatican hotel or putts around in a used car? That’s fine. But it is not petty, disrespectful, or un-Catholic to object to the liberal parts of his agenda. Indeed, the need for a St. Paul to correct him grows with each passing week as his pontificate emboldens the Church’s enemies and undercuts her friends and most loyal members.

Interview On Obamacare With Jonathan Gruber - A Brief Interlude With Expert Opinion - Esquire

Interview On Obamacare With Jonathan Gruber - A Brief Interlude With Expert Opinion - Esquire:
"In my experience," he said, "it is totally unprecedented to keep challenging a law that's already been passed. The Republicans know that, once this takes place, they're in big trouble because it's going to work."

Gruber shares my amusement with the fact that the Republicans are all in favor of those parts of the law that poll really, really well -- the protections for folks with pre-existing conditions, the ability of kids to stay on their parent's insurance until they're 25, and the ban on lifetime caps -- but have announced their unyielding opposition to all the provisions in the law that make those things possible, specifically the individual mandate. This, he reminds us, hearkens back to the golden days of St. Ronnie, who told us we could have a massive tax cut, a massive military spending spree, and no cuts at all in the programs we love because...sparkle ponies!

"What's been great about this process is that it's been a fairly intellectually honest process," said Gruber. "You have to have your spinach if you're going to have your cake. That's what the Republicans are pretending not to understand. Up here in Massachusetts, the biggest opponent of the individual mandate was John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO. He said it was going to be the end of employer-based health-care here. Well, that certainly wasn't the case.

Why The Right Fights - NYTimes.com

Why The Right Fights - NYTimes.com: This divide, I think, explains a lot of the mutual incomprehension surrounding size-of-government debates. To liberals and many moderates, it often seems like the right gets what it wants in these arguments and then just gets more extreme, demanding cuts atop cuts, concessions atop concessions, deregulation upon deregulation, tax cuts upon tax cuts. But to many conservatives, the right has never come remotely close to getting what it actually wants, whether in the Reagan era or the Gingrich years or now the age of the Tea Party — because what it wants is an actually smaller government, as opposed to one that just grows somewhat more slowly than liberals and the left would like. And this goal only ends up getting labeled as “extreme” in our debates, conservatives lament, because the right has never succeeded in dislodging certain basic assumptions about government established by F.D.R. and L.B.J. — under which a slower rate of spending growth is a “draconian cut,” an era of “small government” is one which in which the state grows immensely in absolute terms but holds steady as a share of G.D.P., and a rich society can never get rich enough to need less welfare spending per capita than it did when it was considerably poorer.

House Republicans are failing Americans in their effort to kill Obamacare - The Washington Post

House Republicans are failing Americans in their effort to kill Obamacare - The Washington Post: This time, fiscal responsibility isn’t even a topic. Instead, Republicans have shut much of the government in what they had to know was a doomed effort to derail the Affordable Care Act. That law, in case you've forgotten in the torrent of propaganda, is hardly revolutionary. It is an effort to extend health insurance to some of the 40 million or so people in this country who have none. It acts through the existing private-insurance market. Republicans tried to block its passage and failed; they hoped to have it declared unconstitutional and failed; and they did their best to toss Mr. Obama out of the White House after one term in order to strangle it in its cradle, and they failed again.

They’re entitled to keep trying, of course — though it would be nice if someday they remembered their promise to come up with an alternative proposal. But their methods now are beyond the pale.

Why Boehner doesn’t just ditch the hard right

Why Boehner doesn’t just ditch the hard right: RC: What we're seeing is the collapse of institutional Republican power. It’s not so much about Boehner. It’s things like the end of earmarks. They move away from Tom DeLay and they think they're improving the House, but now they have nothing to offer their members. The outside groups don't always move votes directly but they create an atmosphere of fear among the members. And so many of these members now live in the conservative world of talk radio and tea party conventions and Fox News invitations. And so the conservative strategy of the moment, no matter how unrealistic it might be, catches fire. The members begin to believe they can achieve things in divided government that most objective observers would believe is impossible. Leaders are dealing with these expectations that wouldn't exist in a normal environment.

Lincoln on the shutdown

The Idiocy of the Shutdown, in 3 Acts: Map, Thought Experiment, Speech - James Fallows - The Atlantic: Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong...

FBI shuts alleged online drug marketplace Silk Road - Orlando Sentinel

FBI shuts alleged online drug marketplace Silk Road - Orlando Sentinel: NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. law enforcement authorities have shut down "Silk Road," an anonymous Internet marketplace for illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine and criminal activities such as murder for hire, and arrested its alleged owner.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday it arrested Silk Road owner, Ross William Ulbricht, 29, known online as "Dread Pirate Roberts," in San Francisco on Tuesday, according to court filings.

Don't compromise with hostage takers!

U.S. Congress’s dereliction of leadership on government shutdown - The Washington Post: Ultimately, the grown-ups in the room will have to do their jobs, which in a democracy with divided government means compromising for the common good. That means Mr. Boehner, his counterpart in the Senate, Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), minority leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the president. Both sides are inordinately concerned with making sure that, if catastrophe comes, the other side takes the political hit. In truth, none of their reputations stands to benefit.

Why This Is Not Just 'Washington Breakdown,' in 3 Graphs (and 1 Story) - James Fallows - The Atlantic

Why This Is Not Just 'Washington Breakdown,' in 3 Graphs (and 1 Story) - James Fallows - The Atlantic:
Still, all evidence suggests that without post-2010 gerrymandering, the Democrats might well control the House right now, along with the Senate and White House. For instance: Obama easily beat Romney in Pennsylvania, but post-2010 gerrymandering means that Republicans now hold 13 House seats there, versus only
fivefor Democrats.
In short, we have a faction making historically unprecedented demands -- give us everything, or we stop the government and potentially renege on the national debt. And it is doing so less than a year after its party lost the presidency, lost the Senate (and lost ground there), and held onto the House in part because of rotten-borough distortions.
You can call this a lot of things, but "gridlock" should not be one of them. And you can fault many aspects of the President's response -- when it comes to
debt-default,I think he has to stick to the "no negotiations with terrorists" hard line. But you shouldn't pretend that if he
hadbeen more "reasonable" or charming he could placate a group whose goal is the undoing of his time in office.