31 December, 2014

Putin and the Art of Political Fantasy | Standpoint

Putin and the Art of Political Fantasy | Standpoint:

The Stalinist system came to Russia 90 years ago and with it the
frequent belief in manifestly untrue assertions. This practice has been
more pronounced in some periods than in others. It has been denounced on
various occasions by experts, but it has by no means been rejected. If
in recent years there has been increased sympathy, even a certain
longing, for the Stalin period in Russian history, it should not be
surprising that this includes the readiness to believe manifestly untrue
assertions. President Putin himself argued not long ago that Stalin was
no worse than Oliver Cromwell.

race “science” and shoulds | Fredrik deBoer

race “science” and shoulds | Fredrik deBoer:

The response that I both respect the most, and which discourages me
the most, is this one: black people should not have to debate their
intellectual equality. And indeed, it’s true. They shouldn’t have to.
But I don’t know what that “should” means. I don’t know what it refers
to. I don’t know what valence it has. What does should have to do with
anything? Eric Garner should be alive. Chelsea Manning should be free.
The poor should be clothed and fed. Racism should be over. Of course
black people shouldn’t have to debate their intellectual equality, and
it’s nice that in progressive environs, they largely don’t have to. But
America writ large does not operate by the social norms of lefty
Twitter, and the effects of the presumption of black stupidity are
pernicious and destructive, and so that should has no meaning, to me.
Lots of things should be, and aren’t, and so you are forced to deal with
the world as it is.

The word “should” is the worst thing that ever happened to the left.
“Should” has become a virus in the contemporary left, a word that is
more effective at defeating left-wing resistance than any right-wing
argument ever could be. It seems like every day I read fellow leftists
telling me what they should and shouldn’t have to do, rather than what
they are compelled by injustice to do.

30 December, 2014

Harvard Law School Found in Violation of Title IX, Agrees to Remedy Sexual Harassment, including Sexual Assault of Students | U.S. Department of Education

Harvard Law School Found in Violation of Title IX, Agrees to Remedy Sexual Harassment, including Sexual Assault of Students | U.S. Department of Education: The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Harvard University and its Law School after finding the Law School in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for its response to sexual harassment, including sexual assault.

29 December, 2014

How Gary Hart Tried to Change Military History - The Atlantic

How Gary Hart Tried to Change Military History - The Atlantic: Late 20th century and early 21st century conflicts have been irregular and unconventional with less Congressional involvement and oversight, much less involvement of civil society and without an official beginning and end. Victory is increasingly elusive and difficult to define.

There are three fundamental reasons to pursue military reforms. First, every period of technological change implies the adoption of new, oft-times radically different, military “tools and practices.” Second, our stressed economic situation and consequent fiscal constraints require us to invest in our military with far more circumspection than in the past. Last, the external security environment, filling up with rising regional powers – and ever more potent networks – should spur us, in our straitened economic condition, to pursue innovative approaches that will restore our somewhat blunted “edge.”

28 December, 2014

APNewsBreak: DC farm site is ecological disaster - Yahoo News

APNewsBreak: DC farm site is ecological disaster - Yahoo News: The property technically belongs to the National Park Service, but it transferred control to the city in 1972. It's not clear how long the illegal dumping has been going on, but it didn't stop once BrightFarms showed up — someone cut a lock on the fence the company installed and continued dumping, Lightfoot said.

The greenhouse project could have provided a lift to struggling Ward 8, an impoverished, mostly black section of the city east of the Anacostia River. Both Gray and Bowser have said development east of the river is a top priority.

Absent a commitment from the incoming Bowser administration by Dec. 31, Lightfoot said he'll leave the District and build his next greenhouse in rural Virginia instead.

"We want to build here. We can build here. We have the money to build here," Lightfoot said. "But without the city supporting us, a messy site that's festering is never going to get better."

James Fallows on the draft

James Fallows on the draft: It was, initially, a generalized shame at having gotten away with my deception, but it came into sharper focus later in the day. Even as the last of the Cambridge contingent was throwing its urine and deliberately failing its color-blindness tests, buses from the next board began to arrive. These bore the boys from Chelsea, thick, dark-haired young men, the white proles of Boston. Most of them were younger than us, since they had just left high school, and it had clearly never occurred to them that there might be a way around the draft. They walked through the examination lines like so many cattle off to slaughter. I tried to avoid noticing, but the results were inescapable. While perhaps four out of five of my friends from Harvard were being deferred, just the opposite was happening to the Chelsea boys.

We returned to Cambridge that afternoon, not in government buses but as free individuals, liberated and victorious. The talk was high-spirited, but there was something close to the surface that none of us wanted to mention. We knew now who would be killed.

Sharing one more quote

The Tragedy of the American Military - The Atlantic: In clear contrast to the A-10, the F-35 is an ill-starred undertaking that would have been on the front pages as often as other botched federal projects, from the Obamacare rollout to the FEMA response after Hurricane Katrina, if, like those others, it either seemed to affect a broad class of people or could easily be shown on TV—or if so many politicians didn’t have a stake in protecting it. One measure of the gap in coverage: Total taxpayer losses in the failed Solyndra solar-energy program might come, at their most dire estimate, to some $800 million. Total cost overruns, losses through fraud, and other damage to the taxpayer from the F-35 project are perhaps 100 times that great, yet the “Solyndra scandal” is known to probably 100 times as many people as the travails of the F-35. Here’s another yardstick: the all-in costs of this airplane are now estimated to be as much as $1.5 trillion, or a low-end estimate of the entire Iraq War.

The Tragedy of the American Military - The Atlantic

The Tragedy of the American Military - The Atlantic: Now the American military is exotic territory to most of the American public. As a comparison: A handful of Americans live on farms, but there are many more of them than serve in all branches of the military. (Well over 4 million people live on the country’s 2.1 million farms. The U.S. military has about 1.4 million people on active duty and another 850,000 in the reserves.) The other 310 million–plus Americans “honor” their stalwart farmers, but generally don’t know them. So too with the military. Many more young Americans will study abroad this year than will enlist in the military—nearly 300,000 students overseas, versus well under 200,000 new recruits. As a country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years. As a public, it has not. A total of about 2.5 million Americans, roughly three-quarters of 1 percent, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many of them more than once.

The Necessity of Stress | Heads and Tales at Marin Academy

The Necessity of Stress | Heads and Tales at Marin Academy: The Biosphere 2 project was created as a research tool for scientists to study Earth’s living systems, and it allowed scientists to play with farming and innovation in a way that didn’t harm the planet. One of the most profound discoveries made by the scientists had nothing to do with a cure for some new disease or a new way of farming land. Rather, the discovery had to do with the wind’s role in a tree’s life. The trees inside Biosphere 2 grew rapidly, more rapidly than they did outside of the dome, but they also fell over before reaching maturation. After looking at the root systems and outer layers of bark, the scientists came to realize that a lack of wind in Biosphere 2 caused a deficiency of stress wood. Stress wood helps a tree position itself for optimal sun absorption and it also helps trees grow more solidly. Without stress wood, a tree can grow quickly, but it cannot support itself fully. It cannot withstand normal wear and tear, and survive. In other words, the trees needed some stress in order to thrive in the long run.

ISIL 'killed foreign fighters in its ranks' - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

ISIL 'killed foreign fighters in its ranks' - Middle East - Al Jazeera English: The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has killed 120 of its own members, most of them foreign fighters trying to return home, during the past six months, a Syrian monitoring group has said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that the group also killed 1,175 civilians, including eight women and four children, in the same period.

Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Syrian monitoring group, told Reuters news agency that 930 of the civilians were members of the Sheitaat, a Sunni Muslim tribe from eastern Syria that fought ISIL for control of two oilfields in August.

He said that 116 foreign fighters, who had joined ISIL but later wanted to return home, were executed in the Syrian provinces of Deir Ezzor, Raqqa and Hasakeh since November. Four other ISIL fighters were killed on other charges, Abdulrahman said.

27 December, 2014

"People say, 'That's not fair. Where's the money going to come from? Who's gonna pay for it?' The answer is the machine. The machine pays for it, because the machine works for the manufacturer and for the community." -Alan Watts : BasicIncome

"People say, 'That's not fair. Where's the money going to come from? Who's gonna pay for it?' The answer is the machine. The machine pays for it, because the machine works for the manufacturer and for the community." -Alan Watts : BasicIncome:

Theobald points out that every individual should be assured of a
minimum income. Now you see that absolutely horrifies most people. “Say
all these wastrels, these people who are out of a job because they're
really lazy see... ah giving them money?” Yeah, because otherwise the machines can't work.
They come to a blockage.
This was the situation of the Great Depression when here we were still,
in a material sense, a very rich country, with plenty of fields and
farms and mines and factories...everything going. But suddenly because
of a psychological hang-up, because of a mysterious mumbo-jumbo about
the economy, about the banking, we were all miserable and poor -
starving in the midst of plenty. Just because of a psychological
hang-up. And that hang-up is that money is real, and that people ought
to suffer in order to get it. But the whole point of the machine is to relieve you of that suffering.
It is ingenuity. You see we are psychologically back in the 17th
century and technically in the 20th. And here comes the problem.

So what we have to find out how to do is to change the psychological
attitude to money and to wealth and further more to pleasure and further
more to the nature of work. And this is a formidable problem.

James Surowiecki | What the History of Silicon Valley Teaches | Foreign Affairs

James Surowiecki | What the History of Silicon Valley Teaches | Foreign Affairs: Thiel obviously thinks that entrepreneurs should do the latter—if they have genuinely great ideas. (Otherwise, he suggests, they’re better off going to work for someone else who has a great idea.)As he puts it, “better to risk boldness than triviality.” And although he recognizes that luck plays a role in whether or not one succeeds, he contends that entrepreneurs need to “prioritize design over chance.” Even though they may know that the potential outcomes of their actions are uncertain, they need to plan, and not use that uncertainty as a crutch. These are the things that Isaacson’s innovators did. Isaacson’s history suggests that by its very nature, successful innovation requires a leap of faith, a willingness to believe that one can go from zero to one. Or, as the computer scientist Alan Kay has put it, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

'ISLAMIC STATE' - Seven Impressions Of A Difficult Journey - J�rgen Todenh�fer - J�rgen Todenh�fer

'ISLAMIC STATE' - Seven Impressions Of A Difficult Journey - J�rgen Todenh�fer - J�rgen Todenh�fer: 1.) THE WEST IS DRAMATICALLY UNDERESTIMATING THE THREAT EMANATING FROM ISIS, and ISIS’ fighters are much more intelligent and dangerous than our politicians realize. The Islamic State is drenched in almost infectious enthusiasm and confident of victory – something I have never before experienced in a warzone. More importantly, the ISIS fighters are convinced that their totalitarian faith and demonstrative brutality will help them move mountains. In Mosul, less than 400 ISIS fighters routed many as 25,000 Iraqi soldiers and militias despite their ultra-modern equipment. Within months, the ISIS has conquered a territory larger than Great Britain and dwarfed Al Qaeda.

Occasional losses or changes of terrain don’t seem to concern ISIS in any way. While some media outlets tend to exaggerate those events, ISIS considers them as normal in guerilla warfare.

BBC - Future - Can you live a normal life with half a brain?

BBC - Future - Can you live a normal life with half a brain?:

Earlier this year, a case was reported of a woman who is missing her cerebellum,
a distinct structure found at the back of the brain. By some estimates
the human cerebellum contains half the brain cells you have. This isn't
just brain damage – the whole structure is absent. Yet this woman lives a
normal life; she graduated from school, got married and had a kid
following an uneventful pregnancy and birth. A pretty standard biography
for a 24-year-old.

The woman wasn't completely unaffected – she
had suffered from uncertain, clumsy, movements her whole life. But the
surprise is how she moves at all, missing a part of the brain that is so
fundamental it evolved with the first vertebrates. The sharks that swam when dinosaurs walked the Earth had cerebellums.

The condensed Bob Woodward.

The condensed Bob Woodward.:

Page 186-87: Bush cites a CIA report that says 71 percent of the
French population sees Saddam as a "threat to world peace." The report
is bogus—the French vigorously oppose the war.

Page 247-49: At a December 2002 briefing, Tenet's deputy makes the
case that Iraq is harboring weapons of mass destruction. Bush says,
"I've been told all this intelligence about having WMD and this is the
best we've got?" Tenet raises his arms and says, "Don't worry, it's a
slam-dunk!" To date, no WMD have been found in Iraq.

Page 387-99: On March 19, 2003, Tenet informs Bush of CIA reports
that suggest Saddam and his sons are hiding out on an Iraqi farm. Later,
after an airstrike ordered by the president, Tenet says, "Tell the
president we got the son of a bitch." Saddam and his sons survive the

Heidi Woodman - Gold Fever | LensCulture

Heidi Woodman - Gold Fever | LensCulture: As such, Ghana’s health and success as a country and as a population is inextricably linked to its environment. So, the relentless pursuit of gold, while profitable in the short-term, is ultimately destroying the things that are most precious to Ghana. As long as the price of gold remains at the mercy of the emotional whims of the international investment community, the situation will remain unstable. Nevertheless, it is important that the Ghanian government try to implement measures that limit the damage and ensure that those who are reaping the rewards are also sharing their spoils.

I Don’t Want to Be Right - The New Yorker

I Don’t Want to Be Right - The New Yorker: A climate-change study from 2012 found a similar effect. Strong partisanship affected how a story about climate change was processed, even if the story was apolitical in nature, such as an article about possible health ramifications from a disease like the West Nile Virus, a potential side effect of change. If information doesn’t square with someone’s prior beliefs, he discards the beliefs if they’re weak and discards the information if the beliefs are strong.

25 December, 2014

It's US currency, and you have to take it! : TalesFromRetail

It's US currency, and you have to take it! : TalesFromRetail:

Fast forward a month and the local news is wall to wall coverage of
an embezzlement scandal. Mr. and Mrs. Chase, two meter maids and the
city accountant all get a televised perp-walk for stealing from the
city. The meter maids were skimming beer money, their boss was skimming a
lot, and the accountant was using what was left like a personal slush
fund to run for county government.

Their downfall? The officer from the auto parts store got curious why a city employee's wife was driving a V12 Mercedes and trying to pay with $500 in quarters.

Why String Theory Still Offers Hope We Can Unify Physics | Science | Smithsonian

Why String Theory Still Offers Hope We Can Unify Physics | Science | Smithsonian:

Many researchers have pinned their hopes on finding a
new class of so-called “supersymmetric” particles that emerge from
string theory’s highly ordered mathematical equations. Other collider
signals could show hints of extra-spatial dimensions, or even evidence
of microscopic black holes, a possibility that arises from string
theory’s exotic treatment of gravity on tiny distance scales.

While none of these predictions can properly be called
a smoking gun—various non-stringy theories have incorporated them too—a
positive identification would be on par with the discovery of the Higgs
particle, and would, to put it mildly, set the world of physics on
fire. The scales would tilt toward string theory.

But what happens in the event—likely, according to some—that the collider yields no remotely stringy signatures?

24 December, 2014

The Obamas, Race and Slights - NYTimes.com

The Obamas, Race and Slights - NYTimes.com: But that is, in part, what racial discussions come down to: feelings. These feelings are, of course, informed by facts, experiences, conditioning and culture, but the feelings are what linger, questions of motive and malice hanging in the air like the stench of rotting meat, knotting the stomach and chilling the skin.

As Maya Angelou once put it: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Obama economy: What should Republicans say now that the GDP is growing, the deficit is shrinking, and gas prices are falling?

Obama economy: What should Republicans say now that the GDP is growing, the deficit is shrinking, and gas prices are falling?: What should Republicans do now? They could do worse than to build on the work of Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, all of whom have been thinking hard about the barriers to upward mobility in modern America. Good economic news today won’t change the fact that one in six American adults lacks the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, or that high-quality educational opportunities are beyond the reach of most American kids raised in low- and middle-income families. Nor will it change the fact that while Obamacare has expanded access to subsidized medical care, our health system remains a dysfunctional mess that limits our economic potential. Even though the worst of the housing bust is behind us, rigid regulations have made some of our most productive cities unaffordable, which in turn has driven millions of Americans to regions with cheap homes but also low wages.

Who Do You Work For?

Who Do You Work For?: The conflicts over policing are ones that need to be worked out at the grass roots level in the hard but critical work of police-community relations and at the grander level of city politics. But what has been disturbing to me for weeks, well before this tragedy this weekend, is the way that at least the leadership of the police unions has basically gone to war against the Mayor over breaking even in small ways from lockstep backing of the police department in all cases and at all times. When we hear members of the NYPD union leadership talking about being forced to become a "wartime" police department, who exactly are they going to war with? WTF does that mean? And who is the enemy?

against the five paragraph essay [in the form of a five paragraph essay] | Fredrik deBoer

against the five paragraph essay | Fredrik deBoer: There are many commonplaces in teaching and pedagogy. One of these commonplaces is accessible templates or forms that students can use to gain control over complex and intimidating learning tasks. These consistent formats demonstrate the essential “moves” of particular learning tasks, which the students can apply to their own work. Ideally, they will then let go of those formal constraints, having learned to perform these moves on their own. However, sometimes these forms have negative unintended consequences, and their weaknesses outweigh their benefits. One such example is the five paragraph essay. I believe that the five paragraph essay should be abandoned as a teaching tool.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The Police Aren’t Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is. | TIME

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The Police Aren’t Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is. | TIME: In a Dec. 21, 2014 article about the shooting, the Los Angeles Times referred to the New York City protests as “anti-police marches,” which is grossly inaccurate and illustrates the problem of perception the protestors are battling. The marches are meant to raise awareness of double standards, lack of adequate police candidate screening, and insufficient training that have resulted in unnecessary killings. Police are not under attack, institutionalized racism is. Trying to remove sexually abusive priests is not an attack on Catholicism, nor is removing ineffective teachers an attack on education. Bad apples, bad training, and bad officials who blindly protect them, are the enemy. And any institution worth saving should want to eliminate them, too.

23 December, 2014

De Blasio’s nightmare - Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush - POLITICO

De Blasio’s nightmare - Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush - POLITICO: But the action that turned off cops most of all was his defense of City Hall staffer Rachel Noerdlinger, a longtime Sharpton aide whose son and boyfriend posted anti-police messages on their Facebook accounts. The boyfriend allegedly tried to drive a cop off the road in Edgewater, New Jersey, and later pleaded to a lesser offense, according to the New York Post. The mayor stood behind Noerdlinger for weeks until her son was arrested for trespassing — and even then he didn’t fire her. When she left her job, City Hall officials said she was on leave.

22 December, 2014

AP News : Pope in blistering critique of Vatican bureaucrats

AP News : Pope in blistering critique of Vatican bureaucrats: Pope Francis issued a blistering critique Monday of the Vatican bureaucracy that serves him, denouncing how some people lust for power at all costs, live hypocritical double lives and suffer from "spiritual Alzheimer's" that has made them forget they're supposed to be joyful men of God.

Francis' Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Holy See was no joyful exchange of holiday good wishes. Rather, it was a sobering catalog of 15 sins of the Curia that Francis said he hoped would be atoned for and cured in the New Year.

21 December, 2014

Blaspheming Dorothy Parker � The Dish

Blaspheming Dorothy Parker � The Dish: What bothers me is this reference to Dorothy Parker’s “cagey sapience.” It’s so totally wrong it took my breath away. An insane overreaction, I know. This is the problem with writing a book about dead writers: you sometimes find yourself with highly developed opinions about other people’s tossed-off remarks about them.

So, caveat emptor, this is a nitpick. But I’m going to unpack it anyway in the interest of intellectualism and all that.

Cuba: Ra�l Castro Imprisons Critics, Crushes Dissent | Human Rights Watch

Cuba: Ra�l Castro Imprisons Critics, Crushes Dissent | Human Rights Watch: The 123-page report, "New Castro, Same Cuba," shows how the Ra�l Castro government has relied in particular on the Criminal Code offense of "dangerousness," which allows authorities to imprison individuals before they have committed any crime, on the suspicion that they are likely to commit an offense in the future. This "dangerousness" provision is overtly political, defining as "dangerous" any behavior that contradicts Cuba's socialist norms.

Marissa Mayer and the Glass Cliff -- NYMag

Marissa Mayer and the Glass Cliff -- NYMag:

“Women who assume leadership offices may be differentially exposed to
criticism and in greater danger of being apportioned blame for negative
outcomes that were set in train well before they assumed their new
roles,” the original study’s authors conclude. “This is particularly
problematic in light of evidence that directors who leave the boards of
companies which have performed poorly are likely to suffer from a
‘tarnished reputation.’” That might be why the stock of a company drops after the announcement of a female chief executive, but not a male executive.

The bias is bad enough. It is the feedback loop — the fact that women
are asked to lead failing businesses, then blamed for the failure of
those businesses — that really stings.

It's OK That Sony Is Scared of 'The Interview' - Bloomberg View

It's OK That Sony Is Scared of 'The Interview' - Bloomberg View: All of which brings us back to “The Interview.” Despite all the calls for Sony to stand up to the blackmail in the name of artistic freedom, it seems to me that the criticism is misdirected. Nothing will detect and respond to the reality of fear as swiftly as a market, and here the market has spoken. The relevant market actors are moviegoers. Theater owners are guessing that with “The Interview” in their multiplexes, holiday audiences will stay away in droves. From everything.

I’d like to think the owners are mistaken. I’d like to think that were “The Interview” in the theaters, millions of us would flock to the mutiplex and watch a movie -- any movie -- as an act of protest, to show the world we aren’t afraid. But I can’t say that in predicting the opposite the theater owners have made a wrong call. And if they’re right, so is Sony.

Pakistan Taliban Attack of Peshawar School Should Be the Final Straw | The New Republic

Pakistan Taliban Attack of Peshawar School Should Be the Final Straw | The New Republic:

While successive Pakistani governments supported terrorist
groups, so they also embarked on the politically expedient but morally
criminal mission of Islamizing the country, transforming Pakistan from a
state for Muslims into a Muslim state. Alcohol was banned, a parallel
Sharia system of justice was instituted, interest was abolished,
amputation became the punishment for theft, adulterers were stoned,
women who were raped were tried for
adultery, and blasphemy became punishable by death. Thousands of
madrassas were created to indoctrinate the youth while intolerant lies
made their way into official school textbooks. Even the country’s name
was changed to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1973.

20 December, 2014

Manhattan would need 48 new bridges if everyone drove. Here's what it would look like - Vox

Manhattan would need 48 new bridges if everyone drove. Here's what it would look like - Vox:

A single visit to Manhattan makes it pretty obvious that most people
there depend on the subway, buses, bikes, cabs, and walking for
transportation. Just 16 percent of people who commute into Manhattan for work do so by car — by far, the lowest percentage of any US city.

But what would Manhattan look like if everyone drove into the city instead of taking public transport?

'The Sing-Off' recap: One Night with Nick Lachey and his blazers | PopWatch | EW.com

'The Sing-Off' recap: One Night with Nick Lachey and his blazers | PopWatch | EW.com: Well, here we are, at the most wonderful time of the year: The Sing-Off is back, and you can never really know for how long, so cherish every minute, even when they all come on the same night. In its fifth season of dodging the eviction notice NBC keeps hiding in Shawn Stockman’s dressing room, The Sing-Off returned as a one-night, two-hour holiday special. And even at just two hours—half the length of a typical singing show’s weekly allotment—I stand by this being the best happiest show on television.

18 December, 2014

Torture, 'Meet the Press' and Cheney's Quest for Revenge - The Intercept

Torture, 'Meet the Press' and Cheney's Quest for Revenge - The Intercept:

Because our elite political media is unwilling to call out the
morally abhorrent self-interested ravings of a torturer, Cheney’s
statements effectively push the envelope for what is treated as
legitimate debate.

So while we finally have this long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report,
full of achingly detailed descriptions of abuse and lies even more
depraved and duplicitous than any of us had imagined, the media just
sees the “revisiting of a debate” about torture.

Last year, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established by the Constitution Project did a good job of explaining how absurd it is that we are actually still arguing about any of this.

Vladimir Putin vs. the Currency Markets: What to Know About the Ruble’s Collapse - NYTimes.com

Vladimir Putin vs. the Currency Markets: What to Know About the Ruble’s Collapse - NYTimes.com: But the move shows how Russian policy makers are stuck with no good options. Already the central bank has reportedly been intervening to try to short-circuit the sell-off, buying rubles to try to arrest the declines.

The problem is that if you try to defend your currency and lose, you are essentially throwing your money at currency traders for nothing. As Russia has deployed its reserves to (so far unsuccessfully) stop the currency collapse, it has made traders betting against the ruble richer while leaving the Russian government poorer. Poorer by $80 billion, to be precise.

The myth of the good war | Geoffrey Wheatcroft | News | The Guardian

The myth of the good war | Geoffrey Wheatcroft | News | The Guardian: The myth of the Bad War and the Good War has become very dangerous, insofar as it has conditioned our attitude to war as a whole. The notion that the second world war was finer and nobler than the first is highly dubious in itself, since it sanitises so much, from the slaughter of civilians by Allied bombing to the gang rape of millions of women by our Russian allies at the moment of victory.

Trial by Cash - The Atlantic

Trial by Cash - The Atlantic: And evidence is mounting that these campaigns have a life after Election Day. Research published in October by the American Constitution Society, a liberal legal group, found that as more TV campaign advertising aired in judicial-election campaigns, elected state-supreme-court justices became less likely to rule in favor of defendants. Defense attorneys in several states say they are worried that judges are doing more than playing tough on TV; they are acting out their promises on the bench for fear of being pilloried in the next election.

Hollywood Shocked, Disappointed About ‘The Interview’ Cancellation | Variety

Hollywood Shocked, Disappointed About ‘The Interview’ Cancellation | Variety: In a statement, Aaron Sorkin said, “Today the U.S. succumbed to an unprecedented attack on our most cherished, bedrock principle of free speech by a group of North Korean terrorists who threatened to kill moviegoers in order to stop the release of a movie. The wishes of the terrorists were fulfilled in part by easily distracted members of the American press who chose gossip and schadenfreude-fueled reporting over a story with immeasurable consequences for the public–a story that was developing right in front of their eyes. My deepest sympathies go out to Sony Pictures, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and everyone who worked on ‘The Interview.'”

Hollywood Cowardice: George Clooney Explains Why Sony Stood Alone In North Korean CyberTerror Attack | Deadline

Hollywood Cowardice: George Clooney Explains Why Sony Stood Alone In North Korean CyberTerror Attack | Deadline:

DEADLINE: You said you won’t name names, but how many people were asked and refused to sign? 
It was a fairly large number. Having put together telethons where you
have to get all the networks on board to do the telethon at the same
time, the truth is once you get one or two, then everybody gets on
board. It is a natural progression. So here, you get the first couple of
people to sign it and … well, nobody wanted to be the first to sign on.
Now, this isn’t finger-pointing on that. This is just where we are
right now, how scared this industry has been made. Quite honestly, this
would happen in any industry. I don’t know what the answer is, but what
happened here is part of a much larger deal. A huge deal. And people are
still talking about dumb emails. Understand what is going on right now,
because the world just changed on your watch, and you weren’t even
paying attention.

You should be furious about Hollywood's gutless retreat on The Interview - The Week

You should be furious about Hollywood's gutless retreat on The Interview - The Week:

The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement
saying there was "no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot
against movie theaters within the United States." Repeat: The Department
of Homeland Security, which was expressly created to protect Americans
from threats like this, issued a statement stating that this threat was
not credible. Everyone involved with The Interview immediately backed down anyway.

Hollywood's retreat is not about public safety. It's not even about
fear. It's about money. This decision is the result of a financial
calculation that The Interview is no longer worth the trouble
it's causing — and the ramifications of that calculation will be
factored into every movie Hollywood produces from now on.

Colbert’s First Head Writer on the Show’s Start -- Vulture

Colbert’s First Head Writer on the Show’s Start -- Vulture: There’s a sort of strange, ambiguous line between Real Stephen and Character Stephen. I used to have this secret wish that Stephen would break his contract with Comedy Central to do a different show. Then Comedy Central would turn around and say, “Okay, but we own the character of Stephen Colbert.” Colbert would say, “What character?” And there would be this amazing court case trying to define what parts of Stephen are real and what parts are fiction.

Here Are The Companies That Want To Charge You $2,500-$100,000 For Negative Reviews | Techdirt

Here Are The Companies That Want To Charge You $2,500-$100,000 For Negative Reviews | Techdirt:

In an effort to ensure fair and honest public feedback, and to
prevent the publishing of libelous content in any form, your acceptance
of this TOS prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts
Acer Capital Recovery llc™, its reputation, products, services,
management or employees. You hereby agree to liquidated damages of $100,000.00 USD plus costs and actual damages for violating this provision.

17 December, 2014

From MTP

Dick Cheney - The Atlantic: If it cannot be compared with 9/11, if it is not morally equivalent, then it should not be verboten.

That is the moral standard Cheney is unabashedly invoking on national television. He doesn't want the United States to honor norms against torture. He doesn't want us to abide by the Ten Commandments, or to live up to the values in the Declaration of Independence, or to be restrained by the text of the Constitution. Instead, Cheney would have us take al-Qaeda as our moral and legal measuring stick. Did America torture dozens of innocents? So what. 9/11 was worse.

16 December, 2014

Interviews Offer Look at Roles of CIA Contractors During Interrogations

Interviews Offer Look at Roles of CIA Contractors During Interrogations:

"Headquarters was sending daily harangues, cables, e-mails insisting
that waterboarding continue for 30 days because another attack was
believed to be imminent," the former official said. "Headquarters said
it would be on the team's back if an attack happened. They said to the
interrogation team, 'You've lost your spine.' "

Mitchell and Jessen now found themselves in the same position as Soufan, Shumate and others.

"It was hard on them, too," the former U.S. official said. "They are psychologists. They didn't enjoy this at all."

The two men threatened to quit if the waterboarding continued and
insisted that officials from Langley come to Thailand to watch the
procedure, the former official said.

After a CIA delegation arrived, Abu Zubaida was strapped down one more
time. As water poured over his cloth-covered mouth, he gasped for
breath. "They all watched, and then they all agreed to stop," the former
official said.

A 2005 Justice Department memo released this year confirmed the visit.
"These officials," the memo said, "reported that enhanced techniques
were no longer needed."

Psychologist James Mitchell Admits He Waterboarded al Qaeda Suspects | VICE News

Psychologist James Mitchell Admits He Waterboarded al Qaeda Suspects | VICE News: "There were some abuses that occurred" at the black sites, Mitchell acknowledged. The Senate report says the CIA "marginalized and ignored numerous internal critiques, criticisms, and objections concerning the operation and management of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program." But what the report omitted, according to Mitchell, is that he and Jessen were the unnamed interrogators identified in the Senate report who raised many of the concerns about "abuses" and "unauthorized techniques" that were used on detainees. Moreover, Mitchell said he is also one of the interrogators who reported abuses to the CIA's inspector general, which sparked an internal review of the CIA program.

Russia’s economy: The rouble’s rout | The Economist

Russia’s economy: The rouble’s rout | The Economist: There are other reasons to sell roubles and buy dollars. Across the economy there is over $120 billion in external debt maturing in the next year according to central bank data. Roughly a third of this is owed by banks, and the remaining two-thirds by other firms. Some of these outfits—notably Russia’s energy giants—have dollar revenues. A big chunk of the remainder, including the banks, do not. Since sanctions prevent many Russian companies from borrowing abroad to refinance these dollar debts, this creates sustained demand for dollars. With chunky repayments due in December, there could be another rouble rout before the end of the year (see chart).

Brothers On C-SPAN Divided By Politics, United In Mortification By Mom's Call : The Two-Way : NPR

Brothers On C-SPAN Divided By Politics, United In Mortification By Mom's Call : The Two-Way : NPR: Brad and Dallas Woodhouse are brothers. Brad is president of the liberal group Americans United for Change. Dallas Woodhouse, a conservative, is president of Carolina Rising. They were both on C-SPAN's Washington Journal to talk about their documentary, Woodhouse Divided.

The documentary "is the story of all families and and the kinds of stories they have around their thanksgiving tables and the conversations they'll have with their extended families round the Christmas table," Dallas Woodhouse said.

The brothers proceeded to field calls, argue about politics in general and the Affordable Care Act in particular. That's when their mother called in.

14 December, 2014

ULM, Germany: Yet no apology: CIA’s mistaken detention destroyed German man’s life | Europe | McClatchy DC

ULM, Germany: Yet no apology: CIA’s mistaken detention destroyed German man’s life | Europe | McClatchy DC: Why? It’s not as simple as the fact that Masri was wrongly arrested. He was. And it’s not as simple as the torture he had to endure, the life he lost. The great tragedy here is that there was no reason for him to be a part of the CIA rendition program. Yet he was, and the CIA has yet to publicly own up to that mistake.

“Masri brought his case, he told his story, and they knew it was true,” Dakwar said. “Yet he never received redress. He never received an apology. He never even received acknowledgment. His case gives you an idea of the level of lawlessness, the magnitude of this atrocity. His life was devastated. And the United States didn’t care.”

13 December, 2014

The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On - NYTimes.com

The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On - NYTimes.com: About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist (who also contributes to The Upshot).

There are many reasons for the drop in divorce, including later marriages, birth control and the rise of so-called love marriages. These same forces have helped reduce the divorce rate in parts of Europe, too. Much of the trend has to do with changing gender roles — whom the feminist revolution helped and whom it left behind.

Emails Of The Day � The Dish

Emails Of The Day � The Dish: What everyone does understand, though, is the fundamental importance of legal protection. They have been assured that if they, in good faith, seek and receive legal guidance from the Inspector General that what they are doing is legal, they can rest assured that they will not be help responsible even if this legal ruling is incorrect.

Call this the Nuremberg defense if one wishes. However, it is the same legal protection that military snipers rely upon when they squeeze the trigger. And a key aspect of this protection is the protection of identity.

A person legally authorized to do things is protected from the vengeance of those who might not agree.

My assessment is that upholding this promise to leave no man on the battlefield is so crucial to the bond of trust upon which all those who have sworn an oath to the government that it is worth fighting for.

▶ VICE News Exclusive: The Architect of the CIA's Enhanced Interrogation Program - YouTube

▶ VICE News Exclusive: The Architect of the CIA's Enhanced Interrogation Program - YouTube

EITs were part of a good cop, bad cop routine

David Simon | American torture

David Simon | American torture: That there are elements of the American government still arguing against this cold blast of truth, offering up the craven fear that the rest of the world might see us as we actually are, or that our enemies will perhaps use the evidence of our sadism to justify violent retribution or political maneuver — this further cowardice only adds to the national humiliation.

12 December, 2014

A Flawed Report’s Important Lesson - WSJ

A Flawed Report’s Important Lesson - WSJ:

But America should never again do what is asserted and outlined in
the report, which enumerates various incidents of what I believe must
honestly be called torture. American policy should be to treat prisoners
the way we would hope—with clear eyes, knowing it is a hope—our
prisoners would be treated.

The war we are engaged in is
different, we know, and it is still going on and will be for some time,
but it won’t help us fight it to become less like ourselves and more
like those we oppose. Torture is not like us. It’s not part of the
American DNA. We think of ourselves as better than that because we’ve
been better than that.

It is almost childish to say it, yet
children sometimes see obvious truths. We can’t use torture methods and
still at the same time be the hope of the world. You’re an animal like
the other animals or you’re something different, something higher, and
known to be different and higher.

11 December, 2014

The Torture Report: Inhumane Scenes From the C.I.A.’s Prisons - The New Yorker

The Torture Report: Inhumane Scenes From the C.I.A.’s Prisons - The New Yorker: Of those, twenty-six were held wrongly—that is the C.I.A.’s own assessment; the number may be greater—either because there was no real evidence against them or because of outright Hitchcockian cases of mistaken identity. There’s a footnote where the report mentions the twenty-six who “did not meet the standards for detention.” Footnote 32, the same one that outlines the motives for holding Nazar Ali, has a devastating litany, starting with “Abu Hudhaifa, who was subjected to ice water baths and 66 hours of standing sleep deprivation before being released because the CIA discovered he was likely not the person he was believed to be,” and including many others......

Watching Cheney: He’s Got Nothing - The Dish

Watching Cheney: He’s Got Nothing � The Dish:

Here’s the truly revealing part. Cheney is told about a prisoner, Gul
Rahman, who died after unimaginable brutality – beaten, kept awake for
48 hours, kept in total darkness for days, thrown into the
Gestapo-pioneered cold bath treatment, and then chained to a wall and
left to die of hypothermia. The factors in his death included “dehydration, lack of food, and immobility due to ‘short chaining.” This is Cheney’s response:

3,000 Americans died on 9/11 because of what these guys
did, and I have no sympathy for them. I don’t know the specific details …
I haven’t read the report … I keep coming back to the basic,
fundamental proposition: how nice do you want to be to the murderers of
3000 Americans?
But Gul Rahman had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 plot.

He had engaged in no plots to kill Americans. He was a guard
to the Afghan warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, part of an organization
that began by fighting the Soviets in occupied Afghanistan. It had
alliances with al Qaeda at the time, but subsequently engaged in peace
negotiations with the Karzai government. His brother claims Rahman was
even involved in rescuing Hamid Kharzai in 1994. To equate him with
individuals who committed mass murder of Americans or who were actively
plotting against Americans is preposterous. He was emphatically not a
threat to the US. Yet we tortured him to death. And the man running the
torture camp was promoted thereafter.

10 December, 2014

The Senate Torture Report and Foreign Policy | The American Conservative

The Senate Torture Report and Foreign Policy | The American Conservative: It is extremely convenient for these people to discover the possibility that a report about past U.S. abuses might inspire outrage and even violence in response. There was no such concern among hawks about the foreign policy implications of torturing people when it was being done, and they expressed no similar worries that other U.S. actions would provoke violent responses. If one raises the possibility that aggressive U.S. actions in other parts of the world could have dangerous consequences for Americans later on, that is normally denounced as “blaming” America. Strangely enough, that doesn’t seem to apply when there is a chance of exposing our government’s egregious abuses to public scrutiny and having some small measure of accountability for those abuses.

Civil Rights Attorney On How She Built Trust With Police : Code Switch : NPR

Civil Rights Attorney On How She Built Trust With Police : Code Switch : NPR: He doesn't feel like it's racism. The black community experiences it as racism, that's very clear. So what I'm saying is that for people who have to be in the business of solving this dilemma you have to be able to step into the frightened tennis shoes of black kids; black male kids in particular. You have to be able to step into the combat boots and scared cops, and racist cops, and cruel cops, and good cops. You have to be able to distinguish between all of those human experiences and bring them together. On a single platform of we're going to solve this by empathizing. We're going to solve it with compassion and we're going to solve it with common sense.

07 December, 2014

House Intelligence Chairman Rogers: Report will spur attacks | Fox News

House Intelligence Chairman Rogers: Report will spur attacks | Fox News:

Foreign governments and U.S. intelligence agencies are predicting
that the release of a Senate report examining the use of torture by the
CIA will cause "violence and deaths" abroad, the chairman of the House
Intelligence Committee said Sunday.

Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, is regularly briefed on
intelligence assessments. He told CNN's "State of the Union" that U.S.
intelligence agencies and foreign governments have said privately that
the release of the report on CIA interrogations a decade ago will be
used by extremists to incite violence that is likely to cost lives. The
480-page report, a summary of a still-classified 6,000 page study, is
expected to be made public next week.

06 December, 2014

Tony Blair: For True Democracy, the Right to Vote Is Not Enough - NYTimes.com

Tony Blair: For True Democracy, the Right to Vote Is Not Enough - NYTimes.com: In both the U.S. and the U.K., increasingly, as a result of the way constituencies’ boundaries have been drawn, some have fallen into the “ownership” of parties. So if you win your party’s nomination to be the candidate, you win the seat. This pushes would-be candidates to take positions that appeal to the party activists who select nominees, not to the broader public. So politicians have been moving away from the center ground — where the public tends to congregate — to the detriment of policy-making.

Psycho Frames Ex with Fake Racist Facebook Posts

Psycho Frames Ex with Fake Racist Facebook Posts: It's a well-known fact that unsourced, unverifiable, anonymous Tumblr posts are an agent of social progress and meaningful change. So it's surprising that some prick used "Racists Getting Fired," an enormously popular new web attraction, to smear his ex.

The premise of RGF is simple, and a perfectly representative product of 2014 Internet: send screenshots of people saying racist shit on Facebook or Twitter to their employers, get them canned, and thus end American racism, or something. This is foolproof until someone uses the formula to frame someone who didn't actually say anything racist.

Montier: The World’s Dumbest Idea | The Big Picture

Montier: The World’s Dumbest Idea | The Big Picture: Let’s now turn to the broader implications and damage done by the single-minded focus on SVM. In many ways the essence of the economic backdrop we find ourselves facing today can be characterized by three stylized facts: 1) declining and low rates of business investment; 2) rising inequality; and 3) a low labour share of GDP (evidenced by Exhibits 7 through 9).

05 December, 2014

Mum takes out classified ad to show support for son Kai Bogert who used to be a daughter | The Courier-Mail

Mum takes out classified ad to show support for son Kai Bogert who used to be a daughter | The Courier-Mail: “In 1995 we announced the arrival of our sprogget Elizabeth Anne as a daughter. Oops our bad. We would like to present our wonderful son – Kai Bogert.”

Kai Bogert, as he is now called, was known as Elizabeth Anne for 19 years. Ms Bogert last night told The Courier-Mail that placing the ad was “a no-brainer”.

The lesson of Rolling Stone and UVA: protecting victims means checking their stories - Vox

The lesson of Rolling Stone and UVA: protecting victims means checking their stories - Vox: I have no idea how much, if any, of Jackie's story is true. I didn't speak to her. It is of course possible that it is all a lie, or that some parts of it are true but she intentionally changed some details for reasons of her own. If so, then she bears responsibility for that decision. But it also seems like she could be in a similar situation as the people I worked with in the past. According to the Washington Post, she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which can affect memory and make it more difficult to retell a story accurately. This could explain the apparent errors in the Rolling Stone story: the date of the attack, the name of the fraternity.

Before I had experience working with trauma victims, I would have scoffed at the idea that anyone could make that kind of mistake. But now I can easily believe it. By failing to check Jackie's story, Rolling Stone and Erdely weren't protecting her. They were leaving her vulnerable. That was wrong and irresponsible, not just toward the the alleged perpetrators, but toward their readers, and toward Jackie herself.

04 December, 2014

dallast313 comments on Charles Barkley: ‘Unintelligent’ Blacks ‘Brainwashed’ To Keep Successful Black Men Down

dallast313 comments on Charles Barkley: ‘Unintelligent’ Blacks ‘Brainwashed’ To Keep Successful Black Men Down: Attempts to force conformity amongst those leaving "the group" to ascend (or descend) the class ladder is a universal condition of humanity. There isn't a poor or ethnically isolated community in the world that doesn't give someone the business for leaving it and adopting mainstream norms. Just as a well-to-do daughter/son is pilloried for dating "the help". This is magnified if the mainstream community is of a different ethnicity and/or with a checkered relationship to the poorer community. This happens all over the world. The only difference is, there isn't a socially reinforced, "[Insert ethnic group] is inherently bad because... [insert universal human condition]" due to the suppression of culture.

30 November, 2014

Our Better Angels | RedState

Our Better Angels | RedState: Society is out to get them. Instead of judging them individually, police and others judge young black men collectively. In a group? Probably up to no good, whether it is true or not.

Conservatives have a tendency to say young black men need to rise so far about the stereotyped behavior they cannot be blamed. Liberals say that is unfair. And the truth is that in some cases they could rise as close to the standard of Jesus as possible and some policeman somewhere still might pull them over.

 If only we could all rely on our better angels. But I am a pessimist on this issue. Too many people on both sides have too much of an incentive to keep tensions going. It is a TV ratings bonanza for cable news and reality shows. Too many profit off it.

Fire Chief suspended after publishing book calling homosexuality ‘unclean,’ ‘vulgar’ - Atlanta Business Chronicle

Fire Chief suspended after publishing book calling homosexuality ‘unclean,’ ‘vulgar’ - Atlanta Business Chronicle: Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran is suspended for one month without pay after publishing a book that says homosexuality and having multiple sexual partners is "vile," "vulgar", and "inappropriate".

The Truth | RedState

The Truth | RedState: Republicans will not stop Barack Obama’s executive overreach. In fact, while you were enjoying your Thanksgiving there were a number of stories out that the Republican leadership wants to give its members an opportunity to express their outrage and opposition.

Expression is not action.

29 November, 2014

A eulogy for RadioShack, the panicked and half-dead retail empire - SBNation.com

A eulogy for RadioShack, the panicked and half-dead retail empire - SBNation.com: I bet RadioShack was great once. I can't look through their decades-old catalogs and come away with any other impression. They sold giant walnut-wood speakers I'd kill to have today. They sold computers back when people were trying to understand what they were.

When I was a little kid, going to RadioShack was better than going to the toy store. It was the toy store for tall people.

By the time I got tall and worked there, RadioShack had already begun to die, I think. It failed exotically, with great flourishes, on canvases large and small, and in ways previously unimagined, taking pause only to kick around the souls who kept it alive. It doesn't have me to kick around anymore, and soon, it won't have anyone.

Oil prices keep plummeting as OPEC starts a price war with the US - Vox

Oil prices keep plummeting as OPEC starts a price war with the US - Vox: This marks a big shift in global oil politics. Essentially, OPEC is now engaged in a price war with oil producers in the United States. The cartel will let prices keep falling in the hopes that many of the newest drilling projects in the US will prove unprofitable and shut down.

This is a risky stand-off for OPEC, as many of its member countries require high oil prices to balance their budgets. Iran, for one, is facing a real pinch. It's also a sign that OPEC's influence over global oil markets may be waning.

28 November, 2014

The Astonishing Rise of Angela Merkel

The Astonishing Rise of Angela Merkel: Merkel can be tough to the point of unpleasantness, while offering Putin ways out of his own mess. Above all, she tries to understand how he thinks. “With Russia now, when one feels very angry I force myself to talk regardless of my feelings,” she said at the German Historical Museum. “And every time I do this I am surprised at how many other views you can have on a matter which I find totally clear. Then I have to deal with those views, and this can also trigger something new.” Soon after the annexation of Crimea, Merkel reportedly told Obama that Putin was living “in another world.” She set about bringing him back to reality.

Senator Paul’s War Resolution - NYTimes.com

Senator Paul’s War Resolution - NYTimes.com: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has asked Congress to declare war — something it has not done since World War II — on the Islamic State. The resolution would limit military action to one year and restrict the use of ground forces.

Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the ‘right to be comfortable’ � The Spectator

Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the ‘right to be comfortable’ � The Spectator:

This is what those censorious Cambridgers meant when they kept saying
they have the ‘right to be comfortable’. They weren’t talking about the
freedom to lay down on a chaise longue — they meant the right never to
be challenged by disturbing ideas or mind-battered by offensiveness. At
precisely the time they should be leaping brain-first into the rough and
tumble of grown-up, testy discussion, students are cushioning
themselves from anything that has the whiff of controversy. We’re
witnessing the victory of political correctness by stealth. As the
annoying ‘PC gone mad!’ brigade banged on and on about extreme instances
of PC — schools banning ‘Baa Baa, Black Sheep’, etc. — nobody seems to
have noticed that the key tenets of PC, from the desire to destroy
offensive lingo to the urge to re-educate apparently corrupted minds,
have been swallowed whole by a new generation. This is a disaster, for
it means our universities are becoming breeding grounds of dogmatism. As
John Stuart Mill said, if we don’t allow our opinion to be ‘fully,
frequently, and fearlessly discussed’, then that opinion will be ‘held
as a dead dogma, not a living truth’.

Bogus Journal Accepts Profanity-Laced Anti-Spam Paper | Scholarly Open Access

Bogus Journal Accepts Profanity-Laced Anti-Spam Paper | Scholarly Open Access: After receiving a spam email from the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology, Dr. Peter Vamplew of Federation University Australia’s School of Engineering and Information Technology sent the anti-spam article as a reply to the spam email without any other message, expecting that they might open it and read it, but not that it would be considered for publication.

To his surprise, the journal accepted the paper and sent him an acceptance email that had two PDF attachments. One was a formal statement of acceptance and the second was the reviewer report.

I’m an evangelical minister. I now support the LGBT community — and the church should, too. - The Washington Post

I’m an evangelical minister. I now support the LGBT community — and the church should, too. - The Washington Post: For me, the answer to this debate has become simple: There is a sexual-minority population of about 5 percent of the human family that has received contempt and discrimination for centuries. In Christendom, the sexual ethics based in those biblical passages metastasized into a hardened attitude against sexual- and gender-identity minorities, bristling with bullying and violence. This contempt is in the name of God, the most powerful kind there is in the world. I now believe that the traditional interpretation of the most cited passages is questionable and that all that parsing of Greek verbs has distracted attention from the primary moral obligation taught by Jesus — to love our neighbors as ourselves, especially our most vulnerable neighbors. I also now believe that while any progress toward more humane treatment of LGBT people is good progress, we need to reconsider the entire body of biblical interpretation and tradition related to this issue.

27 November, 2014

Chris Christie’s Moral Dilemma | National Review Online

Chris Christie’s Moral Dilemma | National Review Online: All of their whining to Governor Christie about how misunderstood they are, how little the average American knows about what goes on at factory farms, would be more convincing if these very same people had not sought to make it a crime in Iowa, as of 2012, to produce, possess, or distribute any record of a “visual or audio experience occurring at [an] animal facility.” How are we supposed to “step foot on a pig farm,” as Mr. Tentinger puts it, when there are criminal penalties and barbed-wire fences to stop us?

The Endlessly Examined Life - The Baffler

The Endlessly Examined Life - The Baffler: My mental health file whirs to life in 1969 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I’d recently left Opus Dei, the Catholic religious order to which I’d committed my young soul, and a major depression had followed. The records printed below are out of the mouths of my many caretakers; they chronicle my treatment at various medical offices and psychiatric clinics in the Boston area, from then until 2012.

The press is responsible for ignoring Bill Cosby rape allegations : Columbia Journalism Review

The press is responsible for ignoring Bill Cosby rape allegations : Columbia Journalism Review: The odd thing about Cosby’s downfall is that nothing had changed in the last decade; there was no suggestion that any of the events described by his new accusers had happened since the first allegations and an accompanying civil case, which was settled. The initial lack of followup by influential outlets created a sort of reverse pack mentality—a reinforcing silence. No one mentioned it, because no one else had.

This was helped along by the feel-good nature of much arts writing: If the point of the story is to promote a comedy appearance, or a new book or other product, a digression into allegations of drugging and sexual assault was buzzkill.

The decade-long silence should be fodder for students of the press and of public relations. Cosby’s lawyers and publicists had always given furious and dismissive denials to the allegations. For a decade, helped along by an unquestioning media, the strategy worked.

Iranian nuclear talks will likely miss their deadline: Both sides should keep talking.


Article 4 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
(which Iran has signed, like every country in the world except India,
Pakistan, Israel, and South Sudan), states: “Nothing in this Treaty
shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the
Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production, and use of
nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.”

This was the essential selling-point of the treaty: that in exchange
for foregoing nuclear weapons, a country would be granted “the
inalienable right” to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In
fact, Article 5 requires the big five countries—those which already had
nuclear weapons at the time of its drafting in 1969 (the United States,
Great Britain, France, Russia, and China: the same P5 countries
negotiating with Iran)—to provide nuclear materials, at a low price, to
any country that signs the treaty.

Obama’s Immigration Order Isn’t a Power Grab | Brookings Institution

Obama’s Immigration Order Isn’t a Power Grab | Brookings Institution: Let’s get serious. Republicans used their majority foothold in the House to guarantee that Congress would be the graveyard of serious policymaking, a far cry from the deliberative first branch of government designed by the framers. They have reduced the legislative process to nothing more than a tool in a partisan war to control the levers of public power. The cost of such unrelenting opposition and gridlock is that policymaking initiative and power inevitably will flow elsewhere -- to the executive and the courts.

Obama’s advantage is that he has an immigration policy. Republicans don’t. - Vox

Obama’s advantage is that he has an immigration policy. Republicans don’t. - Vox: But one way or another, Republicans need to decide what to do with the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country now. They need to take away Obama's single strongest argument — that this is a crisis, and that congressional Republicans don't have an answer and won't let anyone else come up with one.

“For Decades, I Have Cringed Whenever Someone Called Me ‘Illegal’” - Jose Antonio Vargas - POLITICO Magazine

“For Decades, I Have Cringed Whenever Someone Called Me ‘Illegal’” - Jose Antonio Vargas - POLITICO Magazine: Of all the questions I get asked as an undocumented immigrant in the United States, there are two—asked in various permutations via email, social media or in person—that chill me to the bone: “Why don't you just make yourself legal?”

And: “Why don’t you get in the back of the line?”

The questions underscore the depth of misunderstanding about how the immigration process works, and doesn’t work. They imply that, short of self-deportation, there is a process for undocumented people like me to follow, a way to rectify the situation and adjust our status. Just show up at an office, fill out a form, and get in the back of a line. Somewhere. Anywhere.

Reflections on the Arab uprisings - The Washington Post

Reflections on the Arab uprisings - The Washington Post:

One point that emerged in the workshop discussions is the
extent to which we became too emotionally attached to particular actors
or policies. Caught up in the rush of events, and often deeply
identifying with our networks of friends and colleagues involved in
these politics, we may have allowed hope or passion to cloud our better
comparative judgment. That’s a fine quality in activists, but not so
helpful for academic rigor.

Libya: The Libya intervention is one of the very few
military actions in the region that I have ever supported – and the
results overwhelmingly suggest that I was wrong. I do not in any way
regret my support for that intervention, which saved many thousands of
lives and helped to bring an end to a brutal regime. Still, it is
impossible to look at Libya’s failed state and civil war, its proxy
conflict and regional destabilization, and not conclude that the
intervention’s negative effects over the long term outweigh the
short-term benefits. Moammar Gaddafi’s fall, combined with the
prominence of armed militias, left Libya without a functioning state and
little solid ground upon which to build a new political order. The
likelihood of such an outcome should have weighed more heavily in my

26 November, 2014

jeffp12 comments on "Innocent young man" Michael Brown shown on security footage attacking shopkeeper- this is who people are defending

jeffp12 comments on "Innocent young man" Michael Brown shown on security footage attacking shopkeeper- this is who people are defending: So think about the tension of living in that town with a police force that you know is not going to hesitate to kill you if they feel at all threatened. They're supposed to be protecting and serving you, not getting trigger happy the moment they feel at all threatened.

So imagine living in that kind of poor community, with all these single-mothers and fathers in jail, many of them on non-violent drug charges. And even if they are in jail for violent crime, why did they become criminals? What kind of environment were they raised in?

So when they hear that a policeman killed an unarmed teenager, they already know that there won't be justice. That's why they protest. Because they have no other recourse.

Writing their congressman won't do any good. They can't lean on the mayor (who used to be a Ferguson cop). They can't wait for justice to run its course fairly. They already know the white cop will get away with it. That's why they protested even before the investigation was over. Because they already knew that the white cop would get away with it, regardless of the details of the crime.

What do the newly released witness statements tell us about the Michael Brown shooting? | PBS NewsHour

What do the newly released witness statements tell us about the Michael Brown shooting? | PBS NewsHour: In the grand jury case against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, the prosecution revealed that physical evidence weighed in Wilson’s favor and that he had not unlawfully shot 18-year-old Michael Brown to death.

Over the course of the investigation, federal agents interviewed dozens of witnesses—some compelled to come forward by subpoena—to piece together what happened on that August 9 afternoon. Shortly after the press conference announcing the jury’s decision, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch released the transcripts of interviews with witnesses and Wilson.

We read and analyzed more than 500 pages of witness testimony and compared each statement to those given by Wilson. Below is a chart comparing several key details of the officer’s report to the witness statements. Was Brown facing Wilson when he was shot, or was his back turned to him? Did Brown have his hands in the air, or were they reaching toward his waist?

24 November, 2014

Can Climate Change Cure Capitalism? by Elizabeth Kolbert | The New York Review of Books

Can Climate Change Cure Capitalism? by Elizabeth Kolbert | The New York Review of Books: What’s going to determine how much the planet on average warms is how much CO2 gets added to the atmosphere in total. To have a reasonable shot at limiting warming to two degrees, the general consensus among scientists is that aggregate emissions since industrialization began in the mid-eighteenth century must be held to a trillion metric tons. Almost 600 billion of those tons have already been emitted, meaning that humanity has already blown through more than half of its “carbon budget.” If current trends continue, it will burn through the rest in the next twenty-five years. Thus, what is essential to preserving the possibility of 2 degrees is reversing these trends, and doing so immediately.

23 November, 2014

Har Nof Synagogue Attack in Israel Was Anti-Semitic, Not Political | New Republic

Har Nof Synagogue Attack in Israel Was Anti-Semitic, Not Political | New Republic: This is not to say that, for instance, last week’s murder of 26-year-old Dalia Lemkus was less obscene because it happened near a West Bank settlement. But the senselessness and brutality of the synagogue assault, and the otherworldliness of the victims, lays bare the inadequacy of rational political explanations for terror. No doubt the murderers had their grievances (and some perhaps were reasonable), but the butchery in Har Nof shows that any sense of strategy has been overwhelmed by hate. The murder of non-Zionist Torah scholars is an attack on Jews more than Israel, and explaining it requires an understanding of hatred, not of politics. Perhaps the current celebrations throughout the West Bank and Gaza—replete with songs of praise on mosque loudspeakers and the festival-like delivery of sweets to children—goes at least part of the way to providing that.

Canada's Former Liberal Party Leader Offers Advice to Young Liberals | New Republic

Canada's Former Liberal Party Leader Offers Advice to Young Liberals | New Republic: I may have come into politics with an unacknowledged condescension toward the game and the people who played it, but I left with more respect for politicians than when I went in. The worst of them—the careerists and predators—you find in all professions. The best of them were a credit to democracy. They knew the difference between an adversary and an enemy, knew when to take half a loaf and when to insist on the whole bakery, knew when to trust their own judgment and when to listen to the people.

Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my Bill Cosby allegations? - Chicago Tribune

Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my Bill Cosby allegations? - Chicago Tribune: I have never received any money from Bill Cosby and have not asked for it. I have nothing to gain by continuing to speak out. He can no longer be charged for his crimes against me because the statute of limitations is long past. That is also wrong. There should be no time limits on reporting these crimes, and one of my goals is to call for legislation to that end. Famous and wealthy perpetrators use their power to shame and silence their victims. It often takes years for young women to overcome those feeling and gain the confidence to come forward (by which point physical evidence is long gone). Our legal system shouldn't silence them a second time.

Zero to Three issues common-sense advice on toddler screen time.

Zero to Three issues common-sense advice on toddler screen time.: Worse, the “no screens” dictates have led to confusion. As a journalist who has spent a decade reviewing research on screentime and young children, I have spoken with families across the country about how they use technology with their children. Parents have told me about exhausting maneuvers they have attempted to keep their baby’s head turned away from screens when their older children are watching. One mother in Portland, Ore., was visibly upset when she approached me after a public forum on the subject. She and her 1-year-old had been Skyping with her mother in China, and she desperately wanted to keep doing so because they all loved the interactions, but she worried that something emanating from the screen would harm her baby. In fact, a 2013 study in the research journal Child Development shows the opposite: Webcam-like interactions with loved ones can help young children form bonds and learn new words.

Automation Makes Us Dumb - WSJ

Automation Makes Us Dumb - WSJ: Bright concluded that the overriding effect of automation was (in the jargon of labor economists) to “de-skill” workers rather than to “up-skill” them. “The lesson should be increasingly clear,” he wrote in 1966. “Highly complex equipment” did not require “skilled operators. The ‘skill’ can be built into the machine.”

We are learning that lesson again today on a much broader scale. As software has become capable of analysis and decision-making, automation has leapt out of the factory and into the white-collar world. Computers are taking over the kinds of knowledge work long considered the preserve of well-educated, well-trained professionals: Pilots rely on computers to fly planes; doctors consult them in diagnosing ailments; architects use them to design buildings. Automation’s new wave is hitting just about everyone.

22 November, 2014

IASC: The Hedgehog Review - Volume 16, No. 3 (Fall 2014) - Falling -

IASC: The Hedgehog Review - Volume 16, No. 3 (Fall 2014) - Falling -: Any reasonably intelligent reader could blow that generalization apart in the time it takes to write it. But as with most generalizations, a truth lies behind it. Ultimately, what binds the rich together is that they have more money, lots more. For one reason or another, the poor don’t have enough of it. But poverty doesn’t bind the poor together as much as wealth and the need to protect it bind the rich. If it did, we would hear the rattle of tumbrels in the streets. One hears mutterings, but the chains have not yet been shed.

House intel panel debunks many Benghazi theories

House intel panel debunks many Benghazi theories: Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found.

The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

Standards, Fallen - Peggy Noonan's Blog - WSJ

Standards, Fallen - Peggy Noonan's Blog - WSJ: “The West Wing” was so groundbreaking, and had in so many ways such a benign impact. But I wonder if it didn’t give an entire generation the impression that how you do it on a TV drama is how you do it in real life.

 And so the president calls the senator and the aide listens in and cuts the president off. And things in Washington are more like a novel than life, but a cheap novel, and more like a TV show than life, but a poor and increasingly dark one.

21 November, 2014

BigBennP comments on "The justices, she argues, are no longer equipped to understand how their decisions affect average Americans. This decline in judicial empathy is a function of the increasing insularity of the men and women in black."

BigBennP comments on "The justices, she argues, are no longer equipped to understand how their decisions affect average Americans. This decline in judicial empathy is a function of the increasing insularity of the men and women in black.": When it comes to lawyers and judges there are basically three levels. Mechanics, engineers and physicists.

Most lawyers and many judges are mechanics. Their job is to rely on
established precedent and written law, take the facts, and fit the facts
to the law. SOmetimes there's some creative problem solving, but they
don't usualyl change the law.

Some lawyers and many judges are engineers. (Some law professors
too) Their job is to take new facts, and develop new solutions to meet
those facts, and make new law in the process. They create new law, but
it's usually limited to the specific application.

A select few judges and law professors are physicists. They study the
system as a whole, and convert guiding principles of ideology into
concrete rules that become broad new points of law, and guide everyone
else in their work.

20 November, 2014

9 Rules For Emailing From Google Exec Eric Schmidt | TIME

9 Rules For Emailing From Google Exec Eric Schmidt | TIME: In a new book out this week chock full of Google-flavored business wisdom, How Google Works, Google executive chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt and former Senior Vice President of Products Jonathan Rosenberg share nine insightful rules for emailing (or gmailing!) like a professional

16 November, 2014

Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo

Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo: Plural marriage was difficult for all involved. For Joseph Smith’s wife Emma, it was an excruciating ordeal. Records of Emma’s reactions to plural marriage are sparse; she left no firsthand accounts, making it impossible to reconstruct her thoughts. Joseph and Emma loved and respected each other deeply. After he had entered into plural marriage, he poured out his feelings in his journal for his “beloved Emma,” whom he described as “undaunted, firm and unwavering, unchangeable, affectionate Emma.” After Joseph’s death, Emma kept a lock of his hair in a locket she wore around her neck.

Emma approved, at least for a time, of four of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages in Nauvoo, and she accepted all four of those wives into her household. She may have approved of other marriages as well.39 But Emma likely did not know about all of Joseph’s sealings.40 She vacillated in her view of plural marriage, at some points supporting it and at other times denouncing it.

15 November, 2014

'Billionaires' Book Review: Money Can't Buy Happiness | New Republic

'Billionaires' Book Review: Money Can't Buy Happiness | New Republic: He asked these rich people how happy they were at any given moment. Then he asked them how much money they would need to be even happier. “All of them said they needed two to three times more than they had to feel happier,” says Norton. The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that money, above a certain modest sum, does not have the power to buy happiness, and yet even very rich people continue to believe that it does: the happiness will come from the money they don’t yet have. To the general rule that money, above a certain low level, cannot buy happiness there is one exception. “While spending money upon oneself does nothing for one’s happiness,” says Norton, “spending it on others increases happiness.”

14 November, 2014

My hero: Jim Shepard by Joshua Ferris | Books | The Guardian

My hero: Jim Shepard by Joshua Ferris | Books | The Guardian: If you haven’t read Shepard, you should, because he’s also one of the US’s finest writers, full of wit, humanity and fearless curiosity. These are the same qualities that mark his teaching and define his character. It’s a hell of a thing to walk the earth with Jim Shepard.

11 November, 2014

John Oliver Is Outdoing The Daily Show -- Vulture

John Oliver Is Outdoing The Daily Show -- Vulture: Oliver's show threw a wrench into that possible outcome by taking core bits that once were the sole province of The Daily Show (the punny/smart-assed headlines, the "gotcha" deconstructions of political chicanery, the "Does this person I am interviewing know I am putting them on?" segments, the occasionally surreal imagery) and putting them at the service of education. I've watched every installment of Last Week since its debut. Every time, I've come away feeling that I've truly learned something. In an increasingly degraded journalistic landscape, that's an astonishing achievement.

10 November, 2014

ObamaCare architect: 'Stupidity' of voters helped bill pass | TheHill

ObamaCare architect: 'Stupidity' of voters helped bill pass | TheHill: "Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” Gruber said. "And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass."

Ten bad assumptions about 2014. | RedState

Ten bad assumptions about 2014. | RedState: Dice have a memory. This applies to both sides, including the Republicans: because let me tell you something. A day will come when the incumbent President’s party will clean up in the sixth-year midterm election, whether or not the President is popular. Or that incumbent Senators will be able to distance themselves from an disliked President. Or any of the other rules of thumb that haven’t been tossed in the wastepaper basket yet. And I absolutely assure you that the GOP winning big this year does not give them some sort of mystical protection from future failures. Especially if the Republicans try to rest on their laurels: complacency kills electoral careers faster than almost anything else I can think of**.

Republicans May Finally Get Their Wish to Watch the Affordable Care Act Destroyed

Republicans May Finally Get Their Wish to Watch the Affordable Care Act Destroyed: This is a country where people shake their fists at their members of Congress and say, "Tell the government to keep its hands off my Medicare!", where people like their state Obamacare exchange but hate Obamacare, where people approve of almost everything this law does but disapprove of the law itself. You think the public as a whole is going to understand this lawsuit and know who to blame? Don't bet on it. They'll only know that now they can't get insurance anymore. "Obamacare took away my subsidy!" they'll cry. And Republicans will laugh and laugh.

Supreme Court's Next Chance to Kill Obamacare - Bloomberg View

Supreme Court's Next Chance to Kill Obamacare - Bloomberg View: What seems almost certain is that the other conservative justices have decided to put Roberts to the test. They will not let him get away without standing up and being counted on Obamacare once again. They have nothing to lose in any case by taking the gamble. For better or worse, the rest of us will be along for the ride. Stand by for a long six months of speculation while this case gets briefed and argued. A decision will come by the end of June. Its d�j�vu all over again.

The Rise of Invisible Unemployment - The Atlantic

The Rise of Invisible Unemployment - The Atlantic: We're adding lots of jobs in industries with stagnant wages, and a few jobs in industries with rising wages, according to new research out of the Cleveland Fed. "It may seem counterintuitive that wages and salaries are growing the slowest in industries where jobs are growing the fastest, but it actually is not," writes LaVaughn M. Henry, vice president of the bank's Cincinnati branch. We're adding few jobs in goods-producing industries like manufacturing, which have the highest overall post-recession wage growth, and lots of jobs in service-producing industries (e.g. health care, leisure and hospitality, and education), which have the lowest real wage growth.

09 November, 2014

The Next Technology Revolution Will Drive Abundance And Income Disparity

The Next Technology Revolution Will Drive Abundance And Income Disparity: As Karl Marx said, “when the train of history hits a curve, the intellectuals fall off”. Extrapolation of our past experiences, a favorite technique of economists, may not be a valid predictor of the future—the historical correlation may be broken by a new causality. Efforts at estimating the number of jobs that are susceptible to computerization underestimate how technology may evolve and make assumptions that seem very likely to be false, similar to past “truths” (like the waning correlation between productivity and income growth for labor). Even with this underestimate, researchers concluded that of the 702 job functions studied, 47-percent are at risk of being automated.

Mr. Miller Doesn’t Go to Washington - Matt Miller - POLITICO Magazine

Mr. Miller Doesn’t Go to Washington - Matt Miller - POLITICO Magazine: Campaign fundraising is a bizarre, soul-warping endeavor. You spend your time endlessly adding to lists of people who might be in a position to help. You enter them on a spreadsheet (dubbed “The Tracker”) and sort the names from high to low in terms of their giving potential. You start to think of every human being in your orbit as having a number attached to them. You book breakfasts, lunches, coffees and drinks at which you make the case for your candidacy … and ask for money. Always money. You call dozens of people a day … and ask for money. When people ask how they can help, you mostly ask them for the names of folks you can … ask for money.

The Real Meaning of Ich Bin ein Berliner - The Atlantic

The Real Meaning of Ich Bin ein Berliner - The Atlantic: So he fashioned a new speech on his own. Previously, Kennedy had said that in Roman times, no claim was grander than “I am a citizen of Rome.” For his Berlin speech, he had considered using the German equivalent, “I am a Berliner.”

Moments before taking the stage, during a respite in West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt’s office, JFK jotted down a few words in Latin and—with a translator’s help—the German version, written phonetically: Ish bin ein Bearleener.

Afterward it would be suggested that Kennedy had got the translation wrong—that by using the article ein before the word Berliner, he had mistakenly called himself a jelly doughnut. In fact, Kennedy was correct.

To state Ich bin Berliner would have suggested being born in Berlin, whereas adding the word ein implied being a Berliner in spirit. His audience understood that he meant to show his solidarity.

How the Fall of the Berlin Wall Radicalized Putin - The Daily Beast

How the Fall of the Berlin Wall Radicalized Putin - The Daily Beast: His country, which he had served as well as he could, patiently accepting whatever role it saw fit to assign him, had abandoned Putin. He had been scared and powerless to protect himself, and Moscow had been silent. He spent the several hours before the military arrived inside the besieged building, shoving papers into a wood-burning stove until the stove split from the excessive heat. He destroyed everything he and his colleagues had worked to collect: all the contacts, personnel files, surveillance reports, and, probably, endless press clippings.

08 November, 2014

The Man Who Disobeyed His Boss And Opened The Berlin Wall : Parallels : NPR

The Man Who Disobeyed His Boss And Opened The Berlin Wall : Parallels : NPR: To many Germans, Harald Jaeger is the man who opened the Berlin Wall.

It's a legacy that still makes the former East German border officer uncomfortable 25 years after he defied his superiors' orders and let thousands of East Berliners pour across his checkpoint into the West.

"I didn't open the wall. The people who stood here, they did it," says the 71-year-old with a booming voice who was an East German lieutenant colonel in charge of passport control at Bornholmer Street. "Their will was so great, there was no other alternative but to open the border."