31 December, 2013

The fall of the house of Tsarnaev — The Boston Globe

The fall of the house of Tsarnaev — The Boston Globe: If the truth is that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his rangy teenage brother acted out of private motives, reinforced by the fervent entreaties of the Muslim militants whose voices and images boiled on their computer screen, they would join the ranks of homegrown murderers such as the Colorado movie theater shooter and the Oklahoma City bombers. Other than their run-ins with local law enforcement, little about them cried out for intervention. When the FBI, responding to a tip from Russian intelligence, checked out the Tsarnaevs in 2011, they apparently found nothing to trigger alarm or particular precautions — their findings were tucked away in a database with hundreds of other similar cases.

The Tsarnaevs, at the time of the FBI encounter, could easily have seemed just another floundering, fragmenting family. At its core, one more reckless young man. Or perhaps it was two.

Time Inc. Newsroom Staffers to Report to Business Execs - FishbowlNY

Time Inc. Newsroom Staffers to Report to Business Execs - FishbowlNY: With Time Inc. about to be spun off into its own company, some might think now is not the right moment to drastically change things. However, that’s not the case. According to The New York Times, the company is removing the traditional separation between the editorial and business sides and making newsroom staffers report to business executives.

An Unlikely Star of the Holiday-Shipping Season: The U.S. Postal Service - Businessweek

An Unlikely Star of the Holiday-Shipping Season: The U.S. Postal Service - Businessweek: There was a lot of post-Christmas discussion about how UPS fumbled its last-minute holiday deliveries, and FedEx apologized for some late-arriving packages, too. What went largely unmentioned, however, was that the stellar performance of the U.S. Postal Service.

The government-run competitor was swamped with parcels just like UPS and FedEx were, with holiday package volume 19 percent higher than the same period late year. But there were no widespread complaints about tardy deliveries by USPS.

Rap Genius faces Google's wrath.

Rap Genius faces Google's wrath.: Google isn't just a lucrative company with some popular products. It's a powerful company whose Web index and search algorithm are part of the critical infrastructure of 21st-century life. Antitrust law to an extent constrains Google from using its power over search to advance Google's other business interests. But Google apparently feels comfortable zapping a company like Rap Genius. There's a lot of wiggle room here. What if executives start pursuing personal vendettas via the search process? Back in the old days of the telephone book, I take it that Ma Bell wouldn't have been allowed to just make some particular business "disappear" from the white and yellow pages.

30 December, 2013

Sheila Bair’s graph of the year: For many Americans, there’s been no recovery at all

Sheila Bair’s graph of the year: For many Americans, there’s been no recovery at all: This chart, drawn from a report by the Sentier Research Group, shows that for a large number of American households, there has been no economic recovery. Caught in a vice of chronic unemployment and falling wages, real median household income (excluding capital gains and losses but including cash government benefits) has declined 4.4% since the “recovery” began in 2009. For many households, the drop has been more severe. For African-American households, it is 10.9%. For those under 25 years old, it is 9.6%. For single females with children, it is 7.5%. Indeed, the only households to experience an increase in real income are those 65 to 74 years old.

So as the investor class celebrates the stock market’s bubbly 25% gain in 2013 courtesy of quantitative easing, let’s not forget the plight of those Americans who work for a living. And in 2014, let’s face up to the ineffectiveness of monetary policy to help them and the desperate need for fiscal leadership to generate real, sustainable growth.

I flew on a plane without going through security. It was amazing and no one died.

I flew on a plane without going through security. It was amazing and no one died.: The best literature review available on the efficacy of counterterrorism tactics found that, on average, adding metal detectors and security screenings at airports led to about 6.3 fewer airplane hijackings in the years examined (a hijinking-heavy period chronicled in Brendan Koerner's latest book, in case you're interested). But that was more than compensated for by an increase in "miscellaneous bombings, armed attacks, hostage taking, and events which included death or wounded individuals (as opposed to non-casualty incidents) in both the short and long run." In fact, metal detectors and security screenings at airports led to about 6.8 more of these substitute events. "When calculating the overall weighted mean effect size for all of the findings examining the effectiveness of metal detectors, the positive and harmful effects cancel each other out," the review's authors conclude.

Could that literature review be wrong? Sure.

Linda Taylor, welfare queen: Ronald Reagan made her a notorious American villain. Linda Taylor’s other sins were far worse.

Linda Taylor, welfare queen: Ronald Reagan made her a notorious American villain. Linda Taylor’s other sins were far worse.: After her welfare fraud trial in 1977, Taylor went to prison, and the newspapers moved on to covering the next outlandish villain. When her sentence was up, she changed her name and left Chicago, and the cops who had pursued her in Illinois lost track of her whereabouts. None of the police officers I talked to knew whether she was still alive.

When I set out in search of Linda Taylor, I hoped to find the real story of the woman who played such an outsize role in American politics—who she was, where she came from, and what her life was like before and after she became the national symbol of unearned prosperity. What I found was a woman who destroyed lives, someone far more depraved than even Ronald Reagan could have imagined. In the 1970s alone, Taylor was investigated for homicide, kidnapping, and baby trafficking. The detective who tried desperately to put her away believes she’s responsible for one of Chicago’s most legendary crimes, one that remains unsolved to this day. Welfare fraud was likely the least of the welfare queen’s offenses.

Wolf of Wall Street is a whitewash: Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio make a movie with nothing to say about today's problems.

Wolf of Wall Street is a whitewash: Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio make a movie with nothing to say about today's problems.: Still, even here by focusing on cases of egregious criminal fraud the movie elides the real scandal, which, as is often the case, is about what's legal. If you have a 401(k) plan through your employer or an IRA or other investment account through your bank, the financial institution may try to set you up with a "financial adviser" to help steer your investment decision-making. This person will claim to be giving you advice in your own interest but in fact is under no legal or professional obligation to advance your interests. His real job is to steer you into high fee products that are lucrative for his employer. This is not criminal fraud that the FBI will investigate. It's not a civil offense that the SEC will investigate. It's not illegal. The Labor Department tried to change the rule and impose a fiduciary standard at least for employer-sponsored plans but congress stepped in to tell them no. You're never going to have a world without some sociopaths breaking the rules (read Josh Levin's amazing reporting for a spectacular example) but what we have is a world where congress steps in to make sure that deliberately peddling bad advice to middle-class savers isn't against the rules.

Suicide bomber strikes Russia. Another 'black widow?' - CSMonitor.com

Suicide bomber strikes Russia. Another 'black widow?' - CSMonitor.com: Russian media reports suggest that Sochi itself, garrisoned with around 40,000 special police and protected by an array of high-tech security measures, as well as the capital city of Moscow, may have been made relatively impregnable to terrorist infiltration. But scores of other large Russian cities, such as Volgograd, have received less attention and clearly remain vulnerable.

The bombing is bound to increase anxieties in the Kremlin, with the opening of the Sochi Games barely a month away and President Vladimir Putin's prestige heavily invested in a successful outcome

Yes, There IS Evidence Linking al Qaeda to Benghazi - The Daily Beast

Yes, There IS Evidence Linking al Qaeda to Benghazi - The Daily Beast: But two members of the House intelligence committee, Republican Mike Rogers and Democrat Adam Schiff, told Fox News on Sunday that U.S. intelligence assessments concluded al Qaeda did play a role in the attack. While no Republicans have asserted the Benghazi attacks were planned in a manner similar to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, evidence has emerged in the last year that does show the participation of militias and fighters with known ties to al Qaeda.

29 December, 2013

Research shows babies have a moral compass: Children want to see wrongdoing punished at 8 months old.

Research shows babies have a moral compass: Children want to see wrongdoing punished at 8 months old.: Children’s moralizing impulses are sometimes reflected in violence but are also expressed in a more subtle way. Children tattle. When they see wrongdoing, they are apt to complain about it to an authority figure, and they don’t need to be prompted to do so. In one study, 2- and 3-year-olds were taught a new game to play with a puppet; when the puppet started to break the rules, the children would spontaneously complain to adults. In studies of siblings between the ages of 2 and 6, investigators found that most of what the children said to their parents about their brothers or sisters counted as tattling. And their reports tended to be accurate. They were ratting their sibs out, but they were not making things up.

Peggy Noonan: Finding the Good in an Uninspiring Year - WSJ.com

Peggy Noonan: Finding the Good in an Uninspiring Year - WSJ.com: Richard Haass, the diplomat and author who this year marked 10 years as president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the world has some things to say for itself. "I am grateful that Pakistan didn't fail, China and Japan didn't go to war, the euro didn't unravel, Jordan didn't collapse under the weight of refugees, and the U.S. didn't default."

Those were good didn'ts. Here's a good did.

Jeremy Shane, who runs an education foundation in Washington, found himself thinking this year of his native South Africa. When Nelson Mandela died, Mr. Shane remembered how all but fools thought apartheid wouldn't end without "a bloodbath." "And yet Mandela imagined, and with [ Frederik Willem ] de Klerk navigated," a peaceful transition to majority rule. "What Mandela fashioned stands alone in the annals of national reconciliation in improbability and result."

A Deadly Mix in Benghazi - The New York Times

A Deadly Mix in Benghazi - The New York Times:
Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on | Heather Linebaugh | Comment is free | theguardian.com

I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on | Heather Linebaugh | Comment is free | theguardian.com: But here's the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.

An Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Wolf Himself

An Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Wolf Himself: Belfort's victims, my father's victims, don't have a chance at keeping up with the Joneses. They're left destitute, having lost their life savings at the age of 80. They can't pay their medical bills or help send their children off to college because of characters like the ones glorified in Terry Winters' screenplay.

Let me ask you guys something. What makes you think this man deserves to be the protagonist in this story? Do you think his victims are going to want to watch it? Did we forget about the damage that accompanied all those rollicking good times? Or are we sweeping it under the carpet for the sale of a movie ticket? And not just on any day, but on Christmas morning??

28 December, 2013

Everyone should wait tables - Salon.com

Everyone should wait tables - Salon.com:
A required year on the front lines would not just be a refresher in simple good manners, but the reminder of the underlying purpose of those manners: Even in a privileged dining room, this is a crowded, uneasy world, and being considerate of each other at the moments our lives unavoidably intersect can smooth the rough edges just a little bit. A former server is more likely to treat wait staff as sentient beings, yes, but I’d like to think we also retain some measure of empathy, too, much as we try to squelch it. A lot of lives came into my orbit when I was a server, drawing me in at moments that were joyous, sorrowful, nerve-wracking and all the more delightful or harrowing for occurring so publicly. You can’t live in your own hermetic world if you’re a server; you can’t avoid learning about the lives of others, not when those others arrive in your life each and every night, bringing with them a bundle of hopes and worries and celebrations and rifts.

27 December, 2013

Christmas 2013 Around the World - In Focus - The Atlantic

Christmas 2013 Around the World - In Focus - The Atlantic: Indonesia: Christian worshipers attend a Christmas prayer in Surabaya, on December 25, 2013. Indonesian Christians celebrated Christmas amid a warning on December 12 from Indonesian police that Islamic extremists may be planning to target worshippers during Christmas and New Years celebrations in the capital Jakarta and other parts of the country. (Juni Kriswanto/AFP/Getty Images) #

Biram Dah Abeid: An interview with a modern-day abolitionist.

Biram Dah Abeid: An interview with a modern-day abolitionist:
Joshua Keating: What's the current legal situation regarding slavery in Mauritania and what changes are you pushing for?

Biram Dah Abeid: The legal framework in Mauritania is very fluid. This fluidity contributes to the maintaining of slavery. There are two types of laws in Mauritania. You have the "slave code," which legitimizes and codifies slavery, and which gives the law a sacred aspect. These are books that were written in the Muslim Middle Ages in the Maghreb area between the ninth and 16th century. These laws authorize the owning of black people. They decree that the black race is inferior. They allow for the selling of black people, the castration of black people, the rape of black women. These codes also state that women are legal minors for their whole lives and are not equal to men.

These books are currently being used to train the imams, the police forces, and the judges. These books are recognized by the Mauritanian Constitution as the only correct interpretation of the Quran. In the Constitution of Mauritania, they are the primary source of law. But it completely contradicts the letter and the spirit of the actual Quran, which is in its nature egalitarian.

South Sudan and the “Supposed Good Guys” | The American Conservative

South Sudan and the “Supposed Good Guys” | The American Conservative: The “supposed good guys” happened to be the people in charge of the armed insurgency that the U.S. chose to support. Like many other insurgent groups over the years, their “goodness” was defined by their opposition to the government they were rebelling against. Like other cases of separatism gone awry, the new state that the U.S. helped to bring into being was plagued by so many political ills that its turn to authoritarianism, corruption, and internal conflict was practically guaranteed from the start. Given our recent experiences with ill-advised foreign interventions and the constant pleas to support “good” rebels in one conflict after another, Americans will have no trouble believing that the people that Washington anointed as “good guys” proved to be much less than that. They may begin wondering why our government thinks that it knows what it’s doing when it supports the creation of new states that always seemed almost doomed to fail.

26 December, 2013

What if None of This is Real?: Digital Love in ‘Her’ | The Artifice

What if None of This is Real?: Digital Love in ‘Her’ | The Artifice: One such object is the feature film and its various forms. Whether projected on a screen in a darkened room, rendered on a compact disc, or streamed through a digital device, movies have been a constant presence in our lives. We watch them, we feel them, we think about them, we talk about them, and we write about them. We do all of this in spite of the knowledge that cinema is artifice. We take it all so seriously even when we are aware that films are constructed by professionals for a profit. We comprehend that the characters we’ve come to love are fabricated by movie stars for millions of dollars, but we care about them anyway.

Her captures this tension.

Why is Christmas on Dec. 25: Marketing pagan rituals and calendar quirks.

Why is Christmas on Dec. 25: Marketing pagan rituals and calendar quirks.:
But some put forward another, less well-known explanation for the Dec. 25 date—one with appeal for anyone uncomfortable with a connection between Christmas and the old solstice festivals. According to some scholars, Christmas was set near the winter solstice not because of any pagan traditions but based on a series of arcane calendrical computations. This argument hinges on an ancient Jewish tradition that had the great prophets dying on the same dates as their birth or, alternatively, their conception. Thus, to follow this peculiar assumption, the first step in dating Jesus’ birth would be to date his death, which the Gospels say happened at Passover. The early Christian writer Tertullian calculated that the date given for Jesus’ death in John’s Gospel corresponds to March 25 in the Roman calendar. Many Christian churches came to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, marking the angel Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin Mary to tell her that she would become the mother of Jesus, on this date. Adding nine months to this date produces a Dec. 25 Christmas.

24 December, 2013

Choir With Elite Pedigree Promotes Red Songs, and Red Values - NYTimes.com

Choir With Elite Pedigree Promotes Red Songs, and Red Values - NYTimes.com: The Founding Figures may be restricted to the offspring of senior party officials, but most of the singers are unpretentious, middle-class retirees from the ranks of the civil service. They wear simple overcoats and loose-fitting pants. Some reject leather dress shoes in favor of the cheap black cotton slippers that were ubiquitous during the Mao era. Others cannot afford to cover their own travel costs when they travel outside Beijing.

23 December, 2013

A simple explanation of how money moves around the banking system | Richard Gendal Brown

A simple explanation of how money moves around the banking system | Richard Gendal Brown: In my expecience, almost nobody actually understands how payment systems work. That is: if you “wire” funds to a supplier or “make a payment” to a friend, how does the money get from your account to theirs?

In this article, I hope to change this situation by giving a very simple, but hopefully not oversimplified, survey of the landscape.

NSA reform report: Panelist Cass Sunstein on metadata storage | New Republic

NSA reform report: Panelist Cass Sunstein on metadata storage | New Republic: JR: You recommend that the government shouldn’t have access to private information held by third parties (like telephone companies or Internet providers) without a court order. In her concurrence in the Jones GPS case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor identified the “third party doctrine,” which holds that Americans have no constitutionally protected expectations of privacy in data held by third parties, as the biggest threat to privacy today. Were you trying to address the problems with the third party doctrine?

CS: Our group wasn’t thinking in constitutional terms, but we were saying that if people’s bank records are of concern to the government, the government should have access only if there’s sufficient reason to get them. We believe that whatever the Fourth Amendment was originally understood to mean, it’s right in the modern era to say that fact that people dealing with a credit card or internet company doesn’t mean it’s open season on their transactions or communications.

Chart of the Day: When Southwest Comes Calling, On-Time Performance Goes South | Mother Jones

Chart of the Day: When Southwest Comes Calling, On-Time Performance Goes South | Mother Jones: Here's an interesting, unintuitive tidbit about the airline market. When Southwest enters a market, it forces incumbent carriers to lower their fares. No surprise there. But according to a recent study, it does more than that. It also reduces everyone's on-time performance:

22 December, 2013

Soccer opens up a new world to an American living in Afghanistan - latimes.com

Soccer opens up a new world to an American living in Afghanistan - latimes.com: The first time Nick Pugliese's mother wondered if her only son had lost his mind was when he announced he was going to work for a telecommunications company in Afghanistan.

The day she was sure of it came last spring, when Nick called from Kabul to say he was quitting that job and leaving the secure compound where he lived to rent a room in a ramshackle boarding house so he could play professional soccer in the Kabul Premier League.

"I was, like, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" his mother, Kim Pugliese, recalled. "I was speechless. That can't really be happening. Then I realized it was and it wasn't really going to be my decision."

21 December, 2013

A Solar Boom So Successful, It's Been Halted: Scientific American

A Solar Boom So Successful, It's Been Halted: Scientific American: Photovoltaics proved so successful in Hawaii that the local utility, HECO, has instituted policies to block further expansion

Half a Life in Solitary: How Colorado Made a Young Man Insane - Andrew Cohen - The Atlantic

Half a Life in Solitary: How Colorado Made a Young Man Insane - Andrew Cohen - The Atlantic: For that, Colorado prison officials in 1998 put Mandez away, in lockdown, where he more or less has remained for nearly 16 years. What happens when you take a young man and confine him in such conditions for such a long period? The young man becomes severely mentally ill. And his illness causes him to act out. And in acting out he gets in more trouble, which justifies his continuing placement in solitary confinement which in turn causes him to act out more.

Colorado officials, including state judges, have known about Mandez's deteriorating condition for many years. Years ago, he was finally classified as "seriously mentally ill." And yet to date, no one has granted him any relief. No one has ordered state correctional officers to adequately treat Mandez's mental illness. And because he hasn't been properly treated he's doomed to fail the test to be released from solitary. "Progression out is contingent on program compliance," the state contends, and "demonstrating appropriate behavior."

Teaching in America’s highest-need communities isn’t rocket science. It’s harder.

Teaching in America’s highest-need communities isn’t rocket science. It’s harder.:
Because I’ve worked as an aerospace engineer and later as a teacher through Teach for America—this is my second year of teaching 11th grade math and robotics at Sierra High School in Colorado Springs—I find the public perception of both careers to be fascinating. When I tell people that I worked on the design of a NASA spacecraft, their mouths drop and their eyes pop, and their minds are no doubt filled with images of men in white lab coats running between rocket engines and blackboards filled with equations of untold complexity. Most people will give aerospace engineers tremendous respect, without having any idea what they actually do.
But no one can fully understand how difficult teaching in America’s highest-need communities is until he or she personally experiences it.

19 December, 2013

Government Jobs Shouldn’t Be Soul-Killing - Bloomberg

Government Jobs Shouldn’t Be Soul-Killing - Bloomberg: Consistent with these comparisons is data from the Best Places to Work survey indicating that the crucial driver of federal employee satisfaction and commitment is effective leadership. This year, government employees scored their senior leaders an average 45 points out of a possible 100 for leadership.

One reason federal workers are frustrated with their senior leadership is that the government isn’t doing much of substance. People are attracted to public service in no small part because they believe government can be a force for good; when the government does little, that belief is harder to sustain. Similarly, political polarization and a general decline in public expectations for government make it harder to attract talented people to lead the bureaucracy.

The political columnist you must read - The Week

The political columnist you must read - The Week: But Fournier doesn't write primarily about Republican dysfunction. More often, he writes about Obama's failure to lead. And leadership is not an abstract conception. It is not the same thing as shouting more loudly than Republicans. It is not the same thing as forcing the other party to bend to your will. Fournier believes that leadership is about the slow and cumbersome and often frustrating process of putting one foot in front of the other and bringing more and more people along with you. Specifically, Obama promised too much, overestimates how weak he is institutionally, overestimates how strong Republicans are, and retreats to the comfort of a small group of advisers who exacerbate his worst instincts. Like President Bush, he became a captive of a city he was sent to reform.

The Obama = Bush Meme by Ed Kilgore | Political Animal | The Washington Monthly

The Obama = Bush Meme by Ed Kilgore | Political Animal | The Washington Monthly: What Bush actually did after “listening” on Iraq (and suffering a subsequent midterm disaster) was to launch the “surge,” an escalation of the war that certainly did nothing to placate war opponents. But never mind. Given Fournier’s Iraq = Obamacare equation, he seems to be advising Obama to give up on implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a surrender of unimaginable magnitude.

The funny thing is Fournier probably thinks this was an entirely even-handed column—you know, one Bush criticism for every Obama criticism. But to the extent that he explains away Republican obstruction of Obama as retaliation, and blames every impasse on Obama, it’s hard to view this sort of “analysis” as anything other than GOP agitprop.

North Korea is more accessible to foreign journalists than Tibet is

North Korea is more accessible to foreign journalists than Tibet is: The Associated Press even has a tiny bureau in Pyongyang; a deal with the devil, some critics charge, but if nothing else it produces an awful lot of very good photos of life in North Korea. There is nothing close to an analogous foreign media presence in Tibet. Sometimes the best we can do is satellite images, taken from thousands of miles away in space.

"There have been a handful, a very small handful, of journalists who've managed to get in and do some reporting," McGranahan says. "But in general, the line that I like to use is that there are more foreign journalists right now in North Korea than there are in Tibet."

The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted? by Jed S. Rakoff | The New York Review of Books

The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted? by Jed S. Rakoff | The New York Review of Books:
But if your priority is prosecuting the company, a different scenario takes place. Early in the investigation, you invite in counsel to the company and explain to him or her why you suspect fraud. He or she responds by assuring you that the company wants to cooperate and do the right thing, and to that end the company has hired a former assistant US attorney, now a partner at a respected law firm, to do an internal investigation. The company’s counsel asks you to defer your investigation until the company’s own internal investigation is completed, on the condition that the company will share its results with you. In order to save time and resources, you agree.

Six months later the company’s counsel returns, with a detailed report showing that mistakes were made but that the company is now intent on correcting them. You and the company then agree that the company will enter into a deferred prosecution agreement that couples some immediate fines with the imposition of expensive but internal prophylactic measures. For all practical purposes the case is now over. You are happy because you believe that you have helped prevent future crimes; the company is happy because it has avoided a devastating indictment; and perhaps the happiest of all are the executives, or former executives, who actually committed the underlying misconduct, for they are left untouched.

There would be enough legal jobs for law graduates if law schools hadn’t slashed admissions standards - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money

There would be enough legal jobs for law graduates if law schools hadn’t slashed admissions standards - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money: In 2004, 55.8% of 100,600 applicants were accepted to at least one school, and 47.9% of applicants ended up enrolling: this fall, about 76.8% of 59,400 applicants were accepted, and 66.8% ended up enrolling. Applicant totals are heading down to a projected total of about 51,300 in this admissions cycle, which means that if law schools had maintained the admissions standards that prevailed a decade ago, next fall’s incoming class would feature about 24,600 matriculants, which is a number about 13% larger than the average annual total of jobs for lawyers that the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates will become available over the course of this decade. (Actually applicant totals would probably be even lower if so many schools hadn’t started offering to admit anyone with a college degree who can sign a federal educational loan document, but let’s not make this hypothetical unnecessarily complicated). Since currently about 10% of matriculants fail to graduate, simply maintaining admissions standards would have essentially eliminated the current oversupply of law graduates.

The Muppet Christmas Carol – The Ultimate Christmas Movie | One Room With A View

The Muppet Christmas Carol – The Ultimate Christmas Movie | One Room With A View: This was the first Muppet film released since the death of Muppeteer Richard Hunt and Muppets creator – and voice of Kermit – Jim Henson. Although Steve Whitmire brilliantly took up playing Kermit, Hunt and Henson’s deaths resonated among the team and none more so than for the director of The Muppet Christmas Carol, Brian Henson – Jim’s son. When the camera focuses on Tiny Tim’s empty chair in the Cratchit home, it symbolises the void Henson and Hunt have left in the Muppet family, but through, song, colour and humour Tim is saved and lives on, as will they through the Muppet legacy.

A joyous, hilarious, sing-along treat for the festive season, the film is faithful to the source while also being riotously anarchic. But at its core the film contains an emotional honesty that finds form in its redemptive message of love, understanding and goodwill to all men (and Muppets).

18 December, 2013

Your LinkedIn password is now art | The Verge

Your LinkedIn password is now art | The Verge: Forgot Your Password is a set of eight books containing some 4.7 million passwords that were leaked in June 2012. Visitors to the exhibit, which has toured Europe and is currently residing in Bartholl's native Germany, are invited to look through the volumes to see if their password is inside. Each password is arranged alphabetically and presented without its linked username(s).

Pope Replaces Conservative U.S. Cardinal on Influential Vatican Committee - NYTimes.com

Pope Replaces Conservative U.S. Cardinal on Influential Vatican Committee - NYTimes.com: Pope Francis moved on Monday against a conservative American cardinal who has been an outspoken critic of abortion and same-sex marriage, by replacing him on a powerful Vatican committee with another American who is less identified with the culture wars within the Roman Catholic Church.

17 December, 2013

Long-term unemployment: Doom.

Long-term unemployment: Doom.: But we're not going to do that. And we're not going to do relocation assistance. And we're not going to do direct hiring and public works. We're going to do nothing. We're going to tell people to go out and look for work, even though employers looking to hire can still afford to be very choosy and generally refuse to even consider the long-term unemployed as job applicants. The country failed these people first by letting the labor market stay so slack for so long that they became unhirable, and now we're going to fail them again.

Washington Cares More About Deficits Than the Long-Term Unemployed: That's Crazy - Matthew O'Brien - The Atlantic

Washington Cares More About Deficits Than the Long-Term Unemployed: That's Crazy - Matthew O'Brien - The Atlantic: Michael Strain of AEI, for one, thinks the government should give people relocation vouchers to cover the cost of moving from high to low unemployment states. Or subsidize wages for the long-term jobless. Or provide better jobs training. Kevin Hassett of AEI agrees with all of the above, but thinks the government might need to directly hire the long-term unemployed too.

But all of these things cost money, and Republicans don't want to spend money on the long-term unemployed. They want to cut spending—at least when that spending isn't for sugar-growers or farmers. Democrats do want to spend money helping the long-term unemployed, but not enough to blow up a budget deal that barely, just barely, cuts red ink.

I hope $23 billion of deficit reduction is worth that.

On Dirty Bombs


For a start, an “overwhelming” number of buyers turn out to be undercover cops, says Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think-tank. A sizeable network of informers helps Georgia’s interior ministry to keep a close eye on the four or five cells in the country currently trying to obtain or sell radiological material, says Mr Pavlenishvili. When one of them is lining up a potential deal, it is almost always because his or a foreign unit is preparing a sting operation, he adds. Mr Pavlenishvili’s unit has not got wind of a single profitable sale—Georgia’s underworld makes its money on other crimes such as drug-running.

Considering the growing risk and persistent lack of money to be made, it is amazing that smugglers continue to give it a shot, says Lyudmila Zaitseva, an academic working on a University of Salzburg database on nuclear and radiological trafficking. Many traffickers no doubt reckon that terror groups will pay dearly for dirty-bomb ingredients. After all, counterterrorism officials citing seized al-Qaeda documents have said as much. Yet although a terrorist-made dirty bomb of mass destruction cannot be excluded, it remains unlikely. For one thing, rooting around to obtain dangerously radioactive material is a great way to attract the attention of the authorities. A bust could doom a painstakingly assembled terror cell.

Year-End charitable giving: Most people are terrible at it. Don’t be one of them.

Year-End charitable giving: Most people are terrible at it. Don’t be one of them.: ’Tis the season of giving: of gifts, of parties, and of donations to charities. Some 40 percent of all individual charitable donations are made in December. For many charities—such as Teach for America, which received 80.5 percent of all individual donations for 2012 in December, and Save the Children, which raked in 68.6 percent of donations in that same month—end-of-year fundraising is the difference between a successful year and financial hard times.

The American charitable sector is the largest in the world, with Americans contributing more than $300 billion per year in money plus $260 billion in volunteer time. With 1.1 million charities to choose from, it’s not easy to decide where all that money should go. Yet all the data show that American donors are just not interested in putting in much time or effort into making those decisions.

Unintentional child shootings are an outrage. Here’s how to prevent them.

Unintentional child shootings are an outrage. Here’s how to prevent them.: CAP laws get little attention from gun control advocates. They are no one’s top legislative priority. As far as I can tell, there are no organizations exclusively devoted to lobbying in their favor. And yet they still manage to attract a surprising amount of support. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have some form of CAP law, and some of these states—including Oklahoma and Utah—are among the reddest on the map. In a nation where it is difficult to pass any firearms restrictions whatsoever, CAP laws are among the most palatable gun policy solutions around.

Do these laws work?

The jury is still out.

McCain: Shaking Castro’s Hand Is Appeasement -- Daily Intelligencer

McCain: Shaking Castro’s Hand Is Appeasement -- Daily Intelligencer:
Yet here is John McCain, respected foreign-policy voice and recipient of 60 million votes for president, rambling bizarrely that he would not have shaken Castro's hand because "Neville Chamberlain shook hands with Hitler."

Well, okay, yes he did. And yes, Castro and Hitler are both dictators. Here are a few differences:

1. Cuba poses just a wee bit less of a military threat to its neighbors than Nazi Germany did in 1938.
2. The problem with Chamberlain's negotiating strategy was not that he shook Hitler's hand.
3. Castro is not promising that, in return for a handshake, he will refrain from invading our allies.

Apparently the lessons McCain has drawn from the failure of the Munich Accords was not that offering territorial concessions to insanely aggressive totalitarian dictators in return for unenforceable promises is a questionable strategy, but that offering concessions of any kind, or even a public pleasantry, to any dictator is always a betrayal. But, then, if a year from now, Raúl Castro sits atop a vast empire of conquest, with Cuban troops burning and pillaging American cities, I will concede that McCain saw it coming.

Harvard grade inflation: The real problem is admissions.

Harvard grade inflation: The real problem is admissions.: One thing to note about this is that the inflationary dynamic at elite schools is pretty literally a case of inflation. Between 1990 and 2013, the size of the American population has grown 27 percent. The size of the Harvard freshman class has grown about zero percent. As measured by NAEP, the quality of the average American high school student has risen slightly during that period and the size and quality of the international applicant pool has grown enormously. With demand for a fixed supply of slots skyrocketing, you see a lot of inflationary dynamics. University spending per student is much higher at fancy private colleges than it was a generation ago. And it is entirely plausible that the median Harvard student today is as smart as a A-minus Harvard student from a generation ago. After all, the C-minus student of a generation ago would have very little chance of being admitted today.

From 1985

FALWELL DENOUNCES TUTU AS A 'PHONY' - NYTimes.com: WASHINGTON, Aug. 20— The Rev. Jerry Falwell called Bishop Desmond M. Tutu a phony today and began a campaign to block imposition of economic sanctions against South Africa. The step came amid growing evidence that American conservatives were deeply divided on the issue.

Mr. Falwell, just back from a five-and-a-half-day visit to South Africa, denounced the Anglican Bishop who is South Africa's most prominent clergyman, saying, ''If Bishop Tutu maintains that he speaks for the black people of South Africa, he's a phony.''

Bishop Tutu, a leading critic of the Pretoria Government's racial policies who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, has offered theological as well as social arguments against apartheid.

Refusing Vaccination Puts Others At Risk - Reason.com

Refusing Vaccination Puts Others At Risk - Reason.com: Oliver Wendell Holmes articulated a good libertarian principle when he said, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." Holmes’ observation is particularly salient in the case of whooping cough shots.

Infants cannot be vaccinated against whooping cough, so their protection against this dangerous disease depends upon the fact that most of the rest of us are immunized against it. Unfortunately, whooping cough incidence rates have been increasing along with the number of people refusing immunization for their kids. The annual number of pertussis cases fell to a low of 1,010 in 1976. Last year, the number of reported cases rose to 48,277, the highest number since 1955. Eighteen infants died of the disease in 2012, and half of the infants who got it were hospitalized.

In 2005, an intentionally unvaccinated 17-year-old girl brought measles back with her from a visit to Romania and ended up infecting 34 people.

The Most Common Lies I Tell My Kids | Fearless Feisty Mama

The Most Common Lies I Tell My Kids | Fearless Feisty Mama: I’m not gonna tell you again.

I say this regularly. And immediately regret it. Because I most certainly, absolutely, no-doubt-about-it am going to tell him again. Pretty much immediately after I tell him I won’t. In fact, I say it about 16 more times, on average.

I will totally stop this car and leave you on the side of the road.

I mean, that would just be crazy, and definitely illegal. Just to keep them guessing, though, I start slowing down and look towards the shoulder, so they think I’m serious. But the fact that I’d never be evil enough to actually do it makes this a lie.

I’m in charge here.

I wipe their butts, change their diapers, feed them appetizing meals according to their personal taste preferences like they’re czars….and I’m in charge?

Nelson Mandela Demanded Justice Before Forgiving White South Africans - The Daily Beast

Nelson Mandela Demanded Justice Before Forgiving White South Africans - The Daily Beast:
In the early 1990s, when Botha’s successor, F.W. de Klerk, proposed creating an interim government in which whites would retain a veto, Mandela refused  and for a time withdrew the ANC from negotiations in protest against the white government’s complicity in a massacre against ANC supporters.

And perhaps most important of all, Mandela refused to grant legal absolution to the perpetrators of apartheid’s crimes until they publicly confessed their guilt. In the run-up to South Africa’s first free elections, de Klerk granted clemency to 4,000 members of the South African police and security services. But after winning those elections, the ANC overturned de Klerk’s action and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which required detailed, public confessions by anyone seeking amnesty. In the words of Mandela ally Bishop Desmond Tutu, who ran the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth…because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.”

Why, in recent days, has the American media focused so much more on Mandela’s capacity for reconciliation than his demand for truth? Perhaps it’s because, all too often, America wants reconciliation without truth itself.

Did ‘Anchorman 2’ Invent a Prototype for Reverse Product Placement?

Did ‘Anchorman 2’ Invent a Prototype for Reverse Product Placement?: What’s striking about the exceeding cross-promotion for Anchorman 2 (in both conventional and viral ads) is that it seems to have entirely replaced direct advertising for the film itself. Having not yet seen it, I have no way of knowing whether the movie actually incorporates any of these products besides Paul Rudd’s “retro-briefs” (a moment that potentially verges more on Wayne’s World territory than, say, The Island). But if the film utilizes relatively little product placement, and presents its few niche products solely in a winking, self-reflexive manner, then Anchorman 2 will have achieved something altogether different in the evolving conflict between advertising and filmmaking: reverse product placement.

And as annoying as those Durango ads can be, this might be good for moviegoing.

I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System - Bobby Constantino - The Atlantic

I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System - Bobby Constantino - The Atlantic: I woke up the next morning and Fox News was reporting that unknown suspects had vandalized City Hall. I went back to the entrance and handed the guard my driver’s license and a letter explaining what I’d done. Several police officers were speaking in hushed tones near the gates, which had been washed clean. I was expecting them to recognize me from eyewitness descriptions and the still shots taken from the surveillance cameras and immediately take me into custody. Instead, the guard politely handed me back my license, explained that I didn’t have an appointment, and turned me away.

I went home and blogged about the incident, publicizing what I’d done and posting pictures, before returning to the guard tower the next day, and the next, to hand over my license and letter. Each time, the guards saw a young professional in a suit, not the suspect they had in mind, and each time they handed me back my license and turned me away. On my fifth day of trying, a reporter from Courthouse News Service tagged along. At first skeptical, he watched in disbelief as the officer took my license, made a phone call, and sent me on my way.

Obama selects gay athletes for Sochi delegation

Obama selects gay athletes for Sochi delegation: Billie Jean King will be one of two openly gay athletes in the U.S. delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies, Obama announced Tuesday. For the first time since 2000, however, the U.S. will not send a president, former president, first lady or vice president to the Games.

NSA goes on 60 Minutes: the definitive facts behind CBS's flawed report | World news | theguardian.com

NSA goes on 60 Minutes: the definitive facts behind CBS's flawed report | World news | theguardian.com:
First, even if NSA doesn’t mean to break the law, the way its data dragnets work in practice incline toward overcollection. During a damage-control conference call in August, an anonymous US intelligence official told reporters that the technical problem bothering Bates in 2011 persists today. The NSA even conceded to Walton in 2009 that “from a technical standpoint, there was no single person who had a complete understanding” of the technical “architecture” of NSA’s phone data collection.

Second, there is a fundamental discrepancy in power between the Fisa court and the NSA. The court’s judges have lamented that they possess an inability to independently determine how the NSA’s programs work, and if they’re in compliance with the limits the judges secretly impose. That leaves them at the mercy of NSA, the director of national intelligence, and the Justice Department to self-report violations. When the facts of the collection and the querying are sufficiently divergent from what the court understands – something the court only learns about when it is told – that can become a matter of law.

In other words, it can be simultaneously true that NSA doesn’t intend to break the law and that NSA’s significant technical capabilities break the law anyway. Malice isn’t the real issue. Overbroad tools are. But that’s not something that NSA had to address during its prime-time spotlight inaugurating its publicity tour.

Shia LaBeouf plagiarizes Daniel Clowes comic for his film, responds with plagiarized apology � The A.V. Club

Shia LaBeouf plagiarizes Daniel Clowes comic for his film, responds with plagiarized apology � The A.V. Club: But it turns out there may be a deeper artistic intention and/or psychological problem behind this whole thing, seeing as LaBeouf also seems to have plagiarized his apology, again: His first tweet is incredibly similar to a Yahoo! Answers comment from four years ago, written in reply to a question about plagiarism. Which, again, is either deeply ironic, or deeply pathological.

16 December, 2013

Tea Party Rep Likes Wasteful Government -- Daily Intelligencer

Tea Party Rep Likes Wasteful Government -- Daily Intelligencer: Meanwhile, sugar subsidies are one of the oldest boondoggles in Washington, a combination of quotas limiting imports, price supports, and taxpayer-financed loans that boosts the price and profitability of the domestic sugar industry, which costs taxpayers more than a billion dollars a year. Despite lacking any public-policy merits whatsoever, the program survives with strong bipartisan support, ranging from Al Franken to Marco Rubio. The story ends on the comical note of quoting Florida Representative Ted Yoho, tea party maven and avowed enemy of big government, defending his strong advocacy of sugar subsidies: “I ran on limited government, fiscal responsibility and free enterprise, but when you’ve got programs that have been in place and it’s the accepted norm, to just go in there and stop it would be detrimental to our sugar growers.”

David Simon: 'There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show' | World news | The Observer

David Simon: 'There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show' | World news | The Observer: The treatment comes because you have enough people in your law firm so you're able to get health insurance enough for them to stay healthy. So the actuarial tables work and all of you, when you do get sick, are able to have the resources there to get better because you're relying on the idea of the group. Yeah. And they nod their heads, and you go "Brother, that's socialism. You know it is."

And ... you know when you say, OK, we're going to do what we're doing for your law firm but we're going to do it for 300 million Americans and we're going to make it affordable for everybody that way. And yes, it means that you're going to be paying for the other guys in the society, the same way you pay for the other guys in the law firm … Their eyes glaze. You know they don't want to hear it. It's too much. Too much to contemplate the idea that the whole country might be actually connected.

Nelson Mandela and the ANC: South Africa needs new leaders.

Nelson Mandela and the ANC: South Africa needs new leaders.: In this narrow sense, the ANC now functions like the Chinese Communist Party: The most important political debates in South Africa take place within its ranks and at its congresses. Actual electoral contests matter much less. The consequences of 20 years of mostly one-party rule are the same for South Africa as they are in China: ANC-owned companies enjoy privileged access to state contracts, ANC politicians have been involved in complex cases of corruption, businesses often succeed or fail because of their political contacts and not because of their merit. Without real political competition, ANC politicians are not motivated to reform a state that still doles out patronage to black insiders, just as the apartheid state once reserved its jobs and contracts for whites. While in Johannesburg, I met a politician from the Democratic Alliance, the ANC’s most serious rival. He explained, convincingly, how his party has made big changes in the Western Cape, where it runs the regional government. But no one yet believes the party can win a national vote.

Judge deals blow to NSA phone data program | Fox News

Judge deals blow to NSA phone data program | Fox News: "The Fourth Amendment typically requires 'a neutral and detached authority be interposed between the police and the public,' and it is offended by 'general warrants' and laws that allow searches to be conducted 'indiscriminately and without regard to their connections with a crime under investigation,'" he wrote.

He added: "I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely such a program infringes on 'that degree of privacy' that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Indeed I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware 'the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power,' would be aghast."

Why I Try Not to Write Bad Reviews - Bloomberg

Why I Try Not to Write Bad Reviews - Bloomberg: I have written some epic snark, and I have written a book, and let me just tell you, there is no comparison. Books are hard. Reported features are hard. Sarcasm and outrage are easy, which is why they tend to peak in adolescence, unlike, say, mastery of nuclear physics.

Macklemore is being used to paint the rest of hip-hop as 'uncivil' | David Dennis | Comment is free | theguardian.com

Macklemore is being used to paint the rest of hip-hop as 'uncivil' | David Dennis | Comment is free | theguardian.com: If the Grammys were to give Macklemore Album of the Year, it would only bolster the crowd who wants to use Macklemore's image to criticize and demonize the rest of the rap community. Furthermore, The Heist isn't even the best rap album on the Album Of The Year list. Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city is a transcendent listening experience, and one of the best rap debuts of all time. The album tells the tale of a day in Compton where socioeconomic factors, poor education, and peer pressure turn an honor roll student into a child lost in the street. Now, with Kendrick's clearly superior album in the same category as Macklemore's, the stage is set for a divided relationship between Macklemore, hip-hop traditionalists and those who want to use Macklemore as a symbol of anti-rap.

15 December, 2013

'Sing-Off's' differences make it better than the competition - TODAY.com

'Sing-Off's' differences make it better than the competition - TODAY.com: Most underrated judges
In Ben Folds, Jewel and Shawn Stockman, “The Sing-Off” has a trio of judges who treat contestants seriously but don’t make this out to be the Ultimate A Cappella Battle of Doom.

Folds is made of awesome, looks like a professor and has both the specific advice and the arcane slang to match that image. (Here’s hoping that “loosey goosey” takes wider hold and replaces “pitchy” on all shows where vocals are critiqued.) Stockman’s his usual mix of praise and hard-nosed realism, while Jewel’s a great addition who adds both warmth and realism to the proceedings.

All three judges add value — and more to the point, criticism. They’re not Pollyannas who tell everyone they’re awesome, and they’re not sarcastic jerks who are out to make themselves look entertaining by cutting down unknowns. They’re teaching people how to sing better ... a revolutionary concept.

Pope Francis Rebukes "Marxist" Attack From Rush Limbaugh & Conservative Media | Blog | Media Matters for America

Pope Francis Rebukes "Marxist" Attack From Rush Limbaugh & Conservative Media | Blog | Media Matters for America: In an interview with Italy's La Stampa newspaper, Pope Francis defended his remarks: "Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended." He added, "There is nothing in the exhortation that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the church."

The Pope expanded on his critique of "trickle-down" economics, noting that "The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor."

The Meaning of China's Crackdown on the Foreign Press : The New Yorker

The Meaning of China's Crackdown on the Foreign Press : The New Yorker: The government is adapting a policy that it has used with other businesses, but it is one that misunderstands the incentives for news organizations. For years, China expected foreign companies not to publicly voice their complaints about hacking, or intellectual-property violations, in order to protect their broader interests in the country. But over the years, that strategy failed: foreign companies began to complain openly, and the United States government took up their cases. News organizations have little reason to keep quiet; unlike a company selling industrial equipment, a company selling news depends, for its survival, on the perception of objectivity and credibility. Staying silent was not an option.

14 December, 2013

Afraid of Free Speech, on Many Fronts: PEN, Google, China, Goliath - James Fallows - The Atlantic

Afraid of Free Speech, on Many Fronts: PEN, Google, China, Goliath - James Fallows - The Atlantic:

Someone other than me can put in perspective all the offsetting forces within Israel’s current political-social dynamics. But I can say that Blumenthal has made a sobering prima facie case that there are extreme forces to be aware of, and reckoned with more fully that American discourse usually does. And, very importantly, his doing so is no more “anti-Israel,” let alone anti-Semitic, than The Shame of the Cities and The Jungle and The Grapes of Wrath were anti-American for pointing out extremes and abuses in American society. 

Or Death At Any Early Age or The Octopus or Black Like Me or Gentleman’s Agreement or An American Dilemma or The Other America or The Autobiography of Malcolm X or Mississippi Burning or Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee or any other documentary/dramatized polemic about American injustice. Or any more than David Simon’s magnificent The Wire saga was anti-American in portraying a society that, from top to bottom and in ways big and small, was violent and predatory and corrupt. To return to our PEN panel: Free societies need this kind of cleansing discussion, and they need to be able to tolerate and hear it even when it’s “unbalanced” or "goes too far."

Critical thinking #4: Daniel Mendelsohn

Critical thinking #4: Daniel Mendelsohn: I want to end by asking you about your experience of teaching. Do you think it might be worth teaching undergraduates not only how to write academic essays but also how to write criticism of the kind one finds in magazines and popular journals?

First of all, I think undergraduates should be kept away from Theory at all costs. I don’t think people should be allowed to even hear the word “theory” until they’re doing graduate work—for the very good reason that it’s impossible to theorise about texts before one has deep familiarity with them (not that that stopped anyone in the 1980s when I was in grad school). Undergraduates should be taught to have a clean appreciation of what texts say and how they say them, and learn how to write intelligently and clearly about that. If undergraduates had to have a model of criticism it ought to be popular criticism rather than traditional academic criticism.

Nelson Mandela, R.I.P | National Review Online

Nelson Mandela, R.I.P | National Review Online: The example of the Ayatollah Khomeini also was fresh in our minds. He went swiftly from exile in Paris to edicts in Tehran and quickly turned Iran into a vicious and bloodthirsty dictatorship at the vanguard of militant Islam.

Nelson Mandela was just another Fidel Castro or a Pol Pot, itching to slip from behind bars, savage his country, and surf atop the bones of his victims.


On Smarm

On Smarm: What is smarm, exactly? Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves.

Smarm would rather talk about anything other than smarm. Why, smarm asks, can't everyone just be nicer?

Teen killer's 'affluenza' defense is a lot of baloney - latimes.com

Teen killer's 'affluenza' defense is a lot of baloney - latimes.com: The affluenza claim rightfully strikes the most absurd note since Dan White’s infamous 1979 “Twinkie defense.” Psychologists have loosely used the term for years to describe the emotional pitfalls unique to children raised in affluent settings.

In this case, it's being used tautologically, and non-sensically: A rich kid whose divorced, dysfunctional parents set no rules and imposed no consequences will not strictly be held accountable for taking four lives and ruining two others because his rich, divorced, dysfunctional parents set no rules and imposed no consequences.

Dave Eggers, Tom Scocca, and Why It's Not Awful to Be Nice : The New Yorker

Dave Eggers, Tom Scocca, and Why It's Not Awful to Be Nice : The New Yorker: Now that is an argument worthy of a manifesto. What defines our era, after all, is not really the insistence of those in authority that we all behave properly and politely. It is defined, instead, by the institutionalization of satire. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart and “Saturday Night Live” and, yes, Gawker have emerged, all proceeding on the assumption that the sardonic, comic tone permits a kind of honesty in public discourse that would not be possible otherwise. This is the orthodoxy Scocca is so anxious to defend. He needn’t worry. For the moment, we are all quite happy to sink giggling into the sea.

REPORT: Cable News Focuses On Handshake, Selfie In Coverage Of Mandela Memorial | Research | Media Matters for America

REPORT: Cable News Focuses On Handshake, Selfie In Coverage Of Mandela Memorial | Research | Media Matters for America: All Three Networks Focused Memorial Coverage On Handshake And Selfie. According to a Media Matters analysis, CNN covered Mandela in nine evening news segments, with 67 percent focused on the handshake or selfie. 65 percent of Fox News' 14 segments focused on the handshake or selfie, as did 55 percent of MSNBC's nine segments. Only 33 percent of CNN's coverage focused on the memorial service or Mandela's legacy, the smallest percentage of all three networks.

13 December, 2013

Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, 2013

Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, 2013:

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

12 December, 2013

Apologists Without Remorse

Apologists Without Remorse: Indeed, like the leftists who praised the Soviet Union, conservatives did not just defend South Africa, they often sympathized with it. In their admiration of the Soviet Union, leftists who were entranced by notions of equality refused to recognize the horrors of the Gulag. That was bad enough. And yet, the South African regime was even more morally odious, more akin in spirit to the Nazi dictatorship than the Bolshevik one. Apartheid was the first cousin of Nazism. In both the South African and Nazi regimes, an entire class of people was singled out for persecution and degradation solely on the basis of arbitrary racial categories. Remarkably, almost no attention has been devoted to the history of the conservative defense of South Africa. The silence must end. Now that apartheid has crumbled, American conservatives have an obligation to confront their shameful complicity with white-ruled South Africa.

How Music Makes Us Feel Better : The New Yorker

How Music Makes Us Feel Better : The New Yorker: In a review of over eighty studies on the use of music in therapeutic settings, the pediatrician Kathi Kemper and the psychologist Suzanne Danhauer concluded that music had multiple direct physiological effects: steady rhythms helped regulate breathing and elicited increased activity in the lateral temporal lobe, an area of the brain that helps integrate sensory inputs. In particular, classical music helped improve heart-rate variability, a measure of stress and resilience, while relaxing music led to decreased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in a group of students who were engaged in stressful activities. Music had, as well, more indirect effects on both emotion and behavior, making people happier, more relaxed, less anxious, and less overwhelmed. As a result of both the physiology and the psychology, the authors concluded, music was an effective way of improving outcomes for patients who had undergone surgery, or, indeed, any medical procedure.

What it’s like to take and withdraw from morphine | Addiction Blog

What it’s like to take and withdraw from morphine | Addiction Blog:
I slip off the tourniquet and slowly press the plunger fully in; the drug goes in easily, no sense of resistance that might suggest the vein wasn’t patent.

I need to act quickly now to prepare for the rush, to experience it fully; I don’t want any outside stimuli which might interfere with the consummation. My movements are practiced; I whip out the needle, and throw the syringe away, I’ll pick it up later, I’ve no time to set it aside carefully. I press my left hand firmly on the site with a dark red paper tissue. A white tissue would show up the blood too obviously and might turn up somewhere inconvenient and hard to explain away. The firm pressure will restrict localized bruising and make the injection site less easy to spot, if someone was looking for it. There will inevitably be a mark of some sort, but I hope nothing too obvious, and as everything has gone smoothly it should clear up in a few days. Firm pressure will also help keep the vein patent for future use, so I’ll keep the pressure on even during the rush.

I take off my glasses, switch off the light, lie back and close my eyes. Alone in the dark, in my own little bubble, no light, no noise, I wait.

Within seconds, I feel the rush coming on, firstly a tingle coming up my right arm, then a wonderful warm tidal wave stroking my whole skin, my whole body; it seems to find a centre deep within my chest. I try to savour each moment, each instant, but just as quickly as it comes it is gone; that’s it, done, all over, it lasted a few breaths at most.

Nelson Mandela Dead at 95 | TIME.com

Nelson Mandela Dead at 95 | TIME.com:
Prison was the crucible that formed the Mandela we know. The man who went into prison in 1962 was hotheaded and easily stung. The man who walked out into the sunshine of the mall in Cape Town 27 years later was measured, even serene. It was a hard-won moderation. In prison, he learned to control his anger. He had no choice. And he came to understand that if he was ever to achieve that free and nonracial South Africa of his dreams, he would have to come to terms with his oppressors. He would have to forgive them. After I asked him many times during our weeks and months of conversation what was different about the man who came out of prison compared with the man who went in, he finally sighed and then said simply, “I came out mature.”

His greatest achievement is surely the creation of a democratic, nonracial South Africa and preventing that beautiful country from falling into a terrible, bloody civil war. Several years after I finished working with him on Long Walk to Freedom, he told me that he wanted to write another book, about how close South Africa had been to a race war. I was with him when he got the news that black South African leader Chris Hani was assassinated, probably the closest the country came to going to war. He was preternaturally calm, and after making plans to go to Johannesburg to speak to the nation, he methodically finished eating his breakfast. To prevent that civil war, he had to use all the skills in his head and his heart: he had to demonstrate rocklike strength to the Afrikaner leaders with whom he was negotiating but also show that he was not out for revenge. And he had to show his people that he was not compromising with the enemy. This was an incredibly delicate line to walk — and from the outside, he seemed to do it with grace. But it took its toll.

Nelson Mandela, the Father of South Africa : The New Yorker

Nelson Mandela, the Father of South Africa : The New Yorker: I interviewed Mandela in 1994, a few days before he was to be sworn in as President of the Republic of South Africa. I apologized to him for not being able to be at the inauguration itself, explaining that there was hardly anything on earth that would make me miss that historic occasion, but that my son Chuma was graduating from Emory University, in Atlanta, on the same day. And I needed to fly back for it. At that, Mandela relaxed his stiff, about-to-be-interviewed posture, leaned forward slightly in his chair, and smiled, with an enveloping warmth.

“Of course you have to be there. You can always interview me,” he said.

I found myself responding, “Thank you, Tata”—just what a child of Mandela would have called him.

The Exploited Laborers of the Liberal Media | VICE United States

The Exploited Laborers of the Liberal Media | VICE United States: Experience is great and can open doors, but unpaid and low-paid internships can also slam doors shut. Failing to pay young journalists a decent wage is effectively a way of saying that those too poor to work for nothing need not apply. That socio-economic filter leads to a pool of journalists—even at good, upstanding progressive publications—that is wealthier and whiter than the public as a whole. And that hurts the final product.

“Any time you have a more diverse workforce, you get better coverage,” said Tofel. “Any time you have a less diverse workforce, you get worse coverage.”

Liberals should know all about the virtues of diversity and providing ways for poorer people to climb into positions of influence. Yet maddeningly, they continue to exploit the idealistic people who are willing to give their labor away for free, which isn't just wrong, it hurts the mission of a liberal news organization.

Conservatives and Poverty � Commentary Magazine

Conservatives and Poverty � Commentary Magazine: Helping those most in need should be considered more than a peripheral virtue; and like Jews and Christians of old, we should all make more room in our moral imaginations for the care of the poor. Certainly if we’re told that God identifies with the least of these, so should we.

George F. Will: Better a contained Iran than an all-out war - The Washington Post

George F. Will: Better a contained Iran than an all-out war - The Washington Post: The agreement will not stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; only a highly unlikely Iranian choice can do that. The agreement may, however, prevent a war to prevent Iran from acquiring such weapons. If Pollack is right, and he certainly is persuasive, we have two choices, war or containment. Those who prefer the former have an obligation to clearly say why its consequences would be more predictable and less dire than those in the disastrous war with Iraq.

The Nike Fuel of cycling: Copenhagen Wheel turns your bike into a smart hybrid (Wired UK)

The Nike Fuel of cycling: Copenhagen Wheel turns your bike into a smart hybrid (Wired UK):
A "smart" wheel unit that can be attached to almost any bike, transforming it into an electric hybrid that powers up seamlessly when you need it most, is now available for pre-order. The Copenhagen Wheel is being positioned as the Nike Fuel band for cycling, with an integrated app keeping you and your friends up to date with your urban cycling progress.

Unlike other similar products coming to market -- including the FlyKly, which recently smashed its Kickstarter target by $600,000 -- Superpedestrian's unit (which slots on to your back wheel) is not about powering up continually to save your lazy legs. A series of sensors are embedded in the red casing, which track your speed, incline, pedal-pushing prowess and other factors, in order to calculate when you need the power most. As such, the battery-powered 5.5kg pack will save energy, while also recharging every time you brake, powering up to speeds of 32km/h with a range of 48km.

11 December, 2013

Interpreter for deaf at Mandela memorial service was a fake, advocates for deaf say - The Washington Post

Interpreter for deaf at Mandela memorial service was a fake, advocates for deaf say - The Washington Post: JOHANNESBURG — He made waves with his arms, touched his forehead and reached out with an embracing motion. And as the official interpreter for the deaf watching the Nelson Mandela memorial event Tuesday, he stood right behind the world’s most powerful leaders, including President Obama.

And he was a fake, advocates for the deaf say.

Those rich kids, never learning right from wrong...

Texas rich kid who killed 4 in drunken car crash spared jail - NY Daily News: Wealthy brat Ethan Couch killed four people, including a mother and daughter, while blacked-out drunk and driving 70 mph on a rural road in June. Defense attorneys said the boy suffered from 'affluenza' and blamed the boy's parents, saying they gave him everything he wanted and didn't teach him about consequences.

10 December, 2013

The Sing-Off Season Four Premiere Recap: All In -- Vulture

The Sing-Off Season Four Premiere Recap: All In -- Vulture: Element are the Barden Belles of The Sing-Off, except they’re all Anna Camp. Their version of Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” is super sterile and immediately forgettable. But Jewel tells us that women only have two octaves in their chest voice, so female singers are forced to do more with less. This is information that is actually good to know.

‘The Sing-Off’ is Back! And It’s More Pitch-Perfect Than Ever | Yahoo TV - Yahoo TV

‘The Sing-Off’ is Back! And It’s More Pitch-Perfect Than Ever | Yahoo TV - Yahoo TV: Sure, "The Sing-Off" is cheesy enough to be jointly sponsored by Kraft and Velveeta. But beneath that gooey layer of TV cheese, it's probably the most intelligent, highbrow talent show this side of "So You Think You Can Dance." Much of this has to do with the judges, who never talk down to contestants or viewers. Ben Folds phrases his critiques like he's a music theory professor giving a lecture at Berklee. Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman and new judge Jewel (stepping in for recent Album of the Year Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles) dole out actual advice about actual singing techniques, instead of just tossing off pre-scripted one-liners (like "Idol's" Steven Tyler), telling everyone they're "amazing" and "fabulous" ("The X Factor's" Britney Spears, "Idol's" Mariah Carey, every single "Voice" judge), or being cruel for cruelty's sake (I'm looking at you, Simon Cowell). "The Sing-Off" is genuinely educational! It's edutainment! When people describe this as "family viewing," it's because kids could actually learn a thing or two about music from this show.

'The Sing-Off' Season 4 Premiere Recap: 10 Groups Hit All the Right Notes

'The Sing-Off' Season 4 Premiere Recap: 10 Groups Hit All the Right Notes: The only a capella competition on television makes a return.

The Voice has some wonderful judges, but no one compares with the professor, Ben Folds. I'm super excited for him to school us with his knowledge of music. I wasn't sure what to expect with Jewel, but she makes fun of her snaggletooth, and I'm in love.

React: 'The Sing-Off' Season 4 premiere | PopWatch | EW.com

React: 'The Sing-Off' Season 4 premiere | PopWatch | EW.com: The Sing-Off exists in this bubble of a world where it’s not important to be cool. In fact, it’s better not to be. It’s full of questionable matching outfits, silly song choices and more music puns than you could have possibly believed existed. Its host is a former second-tier boy bander, its judges are acclaimed, but not exactly charting anymore, and its productions consists solely of the bodies on the stage and the voices they produce. But those judges are more charming and musically educated than just about any other, that host literally has nowhere else he’d rather be, and those voices can, at times, take your breath away. Who needs cool when you can just have fun? In its earnestness and specificity, The Sing-Off presents a few weeks of television that don’t attempt to change the world, just give you some good and interesting music from some quirky and modest dreamers.

Ryan Lizza: Why Won’t Obama Rein in the N.S.A.? : The New Yorker

Ryan Lizza: Why Won’t Obama Rein in the N.S.A.? : The New Yorker: On December 16, 2005, the Times broke the news about some aspects of the President’s four-pronged surveillance program. After the story appeared, Bush addressed the country to defend the P.S.P., calling it the “Terrorist Surveillance Program.” He claimed that it had been “thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and N.S.A.’s top legal officials,” and that N.S.A. analysts “receive extensive training to insure they perform their duties consistent with the letter and intent of the authorization.” Wyden didn’t know whether to be more shocked by the details of the N.S.A. program or by the way he learned about it. “I read about it in the New York Times,” he told me.

The Times had uncovered many details about the two programs that collected the content of e-mails and phone calls, and won a Pulitzer for its investigation, but the two metadata programs run by the N.S.A. were still largely unknown, even to most members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Some details of the metadata programs soon appeared in the Times, in USA Today, and in a story by Seymour Hersh in this magazine. But the Bush Administration never officially confirmed the existence of the programs, which remained secret until this year.

09 December, 2013

Why The Sing-Off Is the Most Important Show on Television | TIME.com

Why The Sing-Off Is the Most Important Show on Television | TIME.com: Regular readers of this blog might be familiar with NBC‘s The Sing-Off, which returns tonight for a holiday run, by my preferred name for it: The Most Important Show on Television. That’s a joke, sort of, and it’s sort of not. It’s a joke because an a cappella singing competition airing for a couple of weeks during the slow Christmas season is the opposite of momentous, bombastic, event TV. And it’s dead serious because that’s precisely what’s great about The Sing-Off: it lays no claims to world-blowing spectacle or to creating the next international music celebrity. (Though previous winners Pentatonix are doing just fine for themselves.)

Rumsfeld’s War and Its Consequences Now by Mark Danner | The New York Review of Books

Rumsfeld’s War and Its Consequences Now by Mark Danner | The New York Review of Books:
Nearly a quarter-century would pass before George W. would bring him back as the oldest, proving by his willingness to hire his father’s famous rival that, as Rumsfeld tells Morris, the younger Bush “was his own man, made his own decisions”—and proving it again, not long after, by ordering him during that tearful private chat in the Oval Office to “develop a plan to invade Ir” and to “do it creatively.” As for Rumsfeld, the calm, “aw shucks” demeanor was still there, and barely concealed beneath it the driving force of his ambition, which, during a quarter-century mostly spent outside the White House looking in, had only grown.

07 December, 2013

What Would You Have Done? Nelson Mandela and American Conservatives | Gingrich Productions

What Would You Have Done? Nelson Mandela and American Conservatives | Gingrich Productions:
Mandela was faced with a vicious apartheid regime that eliminated all rights for blacks and gave them no hope for the future. This was a regime which used secret police, prisons and military force to crush all efforts at seeking freedom by blacks.

What would you have done faced with that crushing government?

What would you do here in America if you had that kind of oppression?

Some of the people who are most opposed to oppression from Washington attack Mandela when he was opposed to oppression in his own country.

After years of preaching non-violence, using the political system, making his case as a defendant in court, Mandela resorted to violence against a government that was ruthless and violent in its suppression of free speech.

As Americans we celebrate the farmers at Lexington and Concord who used force to oppose British tyranny. We praise George Washington for spending eight years in the field fighting the British Army’s dictatorial assault on our freedom.

Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote and the Continental Congress adopted that “all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Doesn’t this apply to Nelson Mandela and his people?

Harvard Gazette: Academic turns city into a social experiment

Harvard Gazette: Academic turns city into a social experiment: The fact that he was seen as an unusual leader gave the new mayor the opportunity to try extraordinary things, such as hiring 420 mimes to control traffic in Bogot�s chaotic and dangerous streets. He launched a "Night for Women" and asked the city's men to stay home in the evening and care for the children; 700,000 women went out on the first of three nights that Mockus dedicated to them.

Artist Turns Her Small Studio Room Into Surreal Dreamscapes Without Using Photoshop | Bored Panda

Artist Turns Her Small Studio Room Into Surreal Dreamscapes Without Using Photoshop | Bored Panda: Young Korean artist Jee Young Lee recently presented her beautiful, surrealistic and Photoshop-free photography exhibition named “Stage of Mind”. The magic happens in the artist’s small 3,6 x 4,1 x 2,4-meter studio in Seoul. The artist builds these highly dramatic, psychedelic and visually intense scenes herself, ensuring that every teeny tiny detail is hauntingly perfect and leaves the viewer in awe.

Jee Young Lee works with such precision that the creation of a set often takes weeks or even months of work. As soon as the otherworldly sets are done, the artist incorporates herself in them in various different ways and takes these stunning self-portraits.

06 December, 2013

Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won't Talk About | ThinkProgress

Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won't Talk About | ThinkProgress: 2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right.” Mandela considered poverty one of the greatest evils in the world, and spoke out against inequality everywhere. “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,” he said. He considered ending poverty a basic human duty: “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life,” he said. “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

Sexual Assault: A Co-Complaint | The Amherst Student

Sexual Assault: A Co-Complaint | The Amherst Student: While my counselor urged me to go on antidepressants, I had suspicions, so she suggested that I talk to the psychiatrist, framing the meeting as a chance to learn more and make my own, proactive choice. Instead, I was interrogated as if I had to prove the veracity of my depression. I felt like I was being made to beg for help. After answering many leading questions and being pressured to address how I would go about killing myself “if my depression grew worse” — which felt like a possibility as I was receiving no constructive help — I was abruptly notified that Amherst had sent for an ambulance to take me to Cooley Dickinson. I told the counseling center team that surrounded me that I had zero intention of killing myself and pleaded with them to change this manipulative and extreme course of action, but they would not reverse their decision. I was told that if I did not cooperate that they would call the police to track me down.

05 December, 2013

Unarmed Man Is Charged With Wounding Bystanders Shot by Police Near Times Square - NYTimes.com

Unarmed Man Is Charged With Wounding Bystanders Shot by Police Near Times Square - NYTimes.com: An unarmed, emotionally disturbed man shot at by the police as he was lurching around traffic near Times Square in September has been charged with assault, on the theory that he was responsible for bullet wounds suffered by two bystanders, according to an indictment unsealed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday.

04 December, 2013

Machiavelli Was Right - Michael Ignatieff - The Atlantic

Machiavelli Was Right - Michael Ignatieff - The Atlantic: All of this looks like cynicism only if we fail to see its deep realism. In his book, Alan Ryan captures Machiavelli’s hold on the modern moral imagination when he says, “The staying power of The Prince comes from … its insistence on the need for a clear-sighted appreciation of how men really are as distinct from the moralizing claptrap about how they ought to be.”

This moral clarity remains bracing in an era like our own, when politicians hide the necessary ruthlessness of political life behind the rhetoric of family values and Christian principles and call on citizens to feel their pain when they make difficult decisions. We are still drawn to Machiavelli because we sense how impatient he was with the equivalent flummery in his own day, and how determined he was to confront a problem that preoccupies us too: when and how much ruthlessness is necessary in the world of politics.

Congressman Says U.S. Should Use Nuclear Weapons If It Attacks Iran | ThinkProgress

Congressman Says U.S. Should Use Nuclear Weapons If It Attacks Iran | ThinkProgress: HUNTER: I think a ground war in Iran with American boots on the ground would be a horrible thing and I think people like to toss around the fact that we have to stop them in some way from gaining this nuclear capability. I don’t think it’s inevitable but I think if you have to hit Iran, you don’t put boots on the ground, you do it with tactical nuclear devices and you set them back a decade or two or three. I think that’s the way to do it with a massive aerial bombardment campaign.

Politico Stonewalls Mike Allen Payola Scandal -- Daily Intelligencer

Politico Stonewalls Mike Allen Payola Scandal -- Daily Intelligencer: Now, one possible defense of Allen is that what appears to be simple payola is actually a more sociologically complex phenomenon. Allen, as Wemple reports, has personal friendships with many of his sponsors, uses them as sources, and generally shares their point of view on most issues even while failing to acknowledge he has a point of view at all. This is less a defense than a concession that Allen is so hopelessly embedded within the Establishment that he can't cover it in a remotely fair way. (This is exactly the argument I made.)

Why Elan Gale Made Up an Epic 'Note War' on a Thanksgiving Flight - ABC News

Why Elan Gale Made Up an Epic 'Note War' on a Thanksgiving Flight - ABC News:
When did you realize that it had gone viral?
I didn't realize it had gone viral until late that night [Thursday]. Once I woke up the next morning on Friday and realized people were reporting this as news, I thought it was the craziest thing I had ever seen.
Anyone who would scroll back [through my tweets] would see what I am all about as a tweeter. My thought was I can't believe anyone is taking this seriously. I thought "Why isn't anyone doing any fact checking?" Then I saw it was on the evening news in Sacramento and it became this totally absurd thing.

Why didn't you reveal that it was a fictional story then?
I didn't see how this was news. I was telling a story, I didn't feel a particular responsibility to address what other people were making of it. I never claimed it to be true. I never said, "this is news, please read it." And I honestly I liked the message.
I wasn't trying to paint myself as a hero. I said horrible things in those notes that I would never say to a human being. That nobody would ever say. In fact, in all of my live tweets, I try and portray my character as an anti-hero -- as kind of a jerk with good intentions.

BuzzFeed and Elan Gale's Internet hoax: Too good to check.

BuzzFeed and Elan Gale's Internet hoax: Too good to check.: This is fairly messed up. Yes, people on the Internet want to believe salacious stories. Reporters want to publish stories that people read. If there’s a great reward, and little downside, to be had in publishing B.S., the Internet’s going to get more B.S. As one of my colleagues put it, "'Too good to check' used to be a warning to newspaper editors not to jump on bullshit stories. Now it’s a business model."