30 April, 2014

Court Backs EPA on Clean Air Act, Cross State Pollution Regulation | New Republic

Court Backs EPA on Clean Air Act, Cross State Pollution Regulation | New Republic:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a key decision, written by Ginsburg, upholding a regulation called the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.
The “good neighbor rule,” as it’s come to be known, seeks to address
air pollution that travels hundreds of miles away from its original
sourcesay, from Ohio to New Englandby
requiring about 1,000 aging coal plans in 28 states to cut the harmful
pollutants that create soot and smog. The Environmental Protection
Agency administers the regulation, using authority it has from the 1972
Clean Air Act.

ruling was a rebuke to the fossil fuel industry, which has fought these
regulations, and to a lower federal court, which in 2012 rejected them
as unconstitutional. It did not appear to be a close call. Chief Justice
John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the decision, giving it
the imprimatur of a six-justice majority. Justices Antonin Scalia and
Clarence Thomas dissented, suggesting the pollution control scheme
verged on Marxism. (Justice Samuel Alito recused himself, presumably
because of a conflict of interest.)

An End to New York's War on Condoms? - Hit & Run : Reason.com

An End to New York's War on Condoms? - Hit & Run : Reason.com: In a 2012 report from the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center (UJC) and The PROS Network, half of sex workers surveyed said they sometimes didn't carry condoms for fear of law enforcement repercussions or had unprotected sex after police had confiscated condoms. "It's not a myth," Sienna Baskin, co-director of the Sex Workers Project at the UJC, told The Village Voice last year. "The practice of using condoms as evidence is very prevalent in New York."

But this isn't a police practice limited to New York. Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh are just a few cities where condoms can still be used as evidence. San Francisco only recently ended the practice. Carrying condoms is still criminalized in all of Louisiana and North Carolina.

29 April, 2014

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Welcome to the Finger-Wagging Olympics | TIME.com

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Welcome to the Finger-Wagging Olympics | TIME.com:

He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years,
preventing them from getting housing. It was public record. We did
nothing. Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with
Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and rope.
Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?

Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private,
intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we
just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy
in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt
Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that
Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape
is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice
to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves
on it.

Make no mistake: Donald Sterling is the villain of this story. But
he’s just a handmaiden to the bigger evil. In our quest for social
justice, we shouldn’t lose sight that racism is the true enemy. He’s
just another jerk with more money than brains.

Questlove on How Hip-Hop Failed Black America -- Vulture

Questlove on How Hip-Hop Failed Black America -- Vulture: Twenty years ago, when my father first heard about my hip-hop career, he was skeptical. He didn't know where it was all headed. In his mind, a drummer had a real job, like working as music director for Anita Baker. But if I’m going to marvel at the way that hip-hop overcame his skepticism and became synonymous with our broader black American culture, I’m going to have to be clear with myself that marvel is probably the wrong word. Black culture, which has a long tradition of struggling against (and at the same time, working in close collaboration with) the dominant white culture, has rounded the corner of the 21st century with what looks in one sense like an unequivocal victory. Young America now embraces hip-hop as the signal pop-music genre of its time. So why does that victory feel strange: not exactly hollow, but a little haunted?

Barak: Peace With Palestinians Or Apartheid

Barak: Peace With Palestinians Or Apartheid: (AP) JERUSALEM - Israel's defense minister warned Tuesday that if Israel does not achieve a peace deal with the Palestinians, it will be either a binational state or an undemocratic apartheid state.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak's comments came in an address to a security conference north of Tel Aviv.

Israeli leaders rarely use the term "apartheid" in connection to the Palestinians. The term, however, has been used by Israel's harshest critics to accuse it of using apartheid tactics against the Palestinians.

"The simple truth is, if there is one state" including Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, "it will have to be either binational or undemocratic. ... if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

Egyptian Democracy's Death Sentence - Bloomberg View

Egyptian Democracy's Death Sentence - Bloomberg View: An Egyptian court today sentenced 683 people to death in a trial that lasted about five minutes. This was both a travesty of justice and an embarrassment for the U.S., which just last week released some of the military aid it froze last year to protest Egypt's human-rights abuses.

For those who may have been distracted by other issues lately: About 1,150 people died in the military coup that deposed the country's first democratically chosen president last July. Since then, as many as 19,000 protesters have been arrested or have disappeared at the hands of security forces.

No one has been charged in connection with those killings. Egypt's courts did, however, sentence 529 people to death last month in connection with the death of a policeman. (That trial lasted about four hours, or 27 seconds per death sentence.) Meanwhile, a new draft anti-terrorism law is so vague and broad that the crackdown is likely to become even more bloody.

28 April, 2014

Reformation or Revolution? A Review of God and the Gay Christian | Canon and Culture

Reformation or Revolution? A Review of God and the Gay Christian | Canon and Culture: Imagine a book with a thesis that calls into question 2,000 years of established Christian theology and biblical exegesis. It recasts basic principles of biblical anthropology and human embodiment. It also puts two millennia of faithful obedience to divine revelation on the side of injustice and ignorance. Now, Christians are accustomed to either non-Christians or liberal Christians making claims of this nature, but not from individuals supposedly nestled confidently within the evangelical camp.

This week a book making such claims is hitting bookshelves written by a young author named Matthew Vines.

Readers may not be familiar with Matthew Vines. But you will need to know him, for the movement he is leading aims to change the way the evangelical church thinks about human sexuality. At the very least, his work will help advance the coming rupture in the evangelical church at large over issues of sexuality.

Sarah Palin's Barbarism | National Review Online

Sarah Palin's Barbarism | National Review Online: Torture — waterboarding being something reasonable people may consider to constitute it — is and should be a question of grave moral consequence for Christians, and is for any Catholic familiar with the Catechism. Palin wasn’t even just jokingly comparing a serious violation of human dignity into one of the most important transcendental recognitions of it – she was mounting an expansive defense of something near torture, on the grounds that our prisoners ”would obviously have information on plots,” and therefore ought to, apparently, be subjected to a horrible practice not as a morally necessary last resort but a habit of quotidian intimidation. There’s a word for that kind of practice: barbaric. The Greeks used to use it to describe the other guys.

Nigerian abducted girls' families fast losing hope of rescue | World news | theguardian.com

Nigerian abducted girls' families fast losing hope of rescue | World news | theguardian.com: Hamma Balumai, a farmer whose 16-year-old daughter Hauwa was snatched, pooled his savings with other parents and ventured on a two-day trek into the forest this week. "Even my wife was begging to come as she is so disturbed she hasn't been able to eat anything. Our daughter Hauwa is only 16 years old and she has been missing for 11 days now," he told the Guardian.

The parents turned around only after being warned by communities in the forest that their rag-tag group, armed with machetes and knives, would be gunned down by the militants, who wield sophisticated weapons.

27 April, 2014

not completely sure on this

Why Affirmative Action No Longer Works - David Frum - The Atlantic: Lyndon Johnson’s America was a country slashed by a color line of racial domination and subordination. Even the most affluent black citizen of the United States could expect to face humiliating economic and social discrimination. Meanwhile, the white majority overwhelmingly regarded itself as “middle class,” standing on a more or less equal footing with other “middle-class” whites.

Today’s America is a country whose class distinctions are growing as extreme as those in Edwardian England. Johnson’s assumption that non-black Americans all enjoyed more or less equivalent opportunities “to learn and grow, to work and share in society, to develop their abilities” seems poignantly out of date. A white skin may still correlate less with poverty than does a darker skin. But that skin alone long ago ceased to convey much in the way of privilege to the less affluent half of white America. It’s true, even Oprah can encounter rude treatment in a Swiss boutique. Day in, day out, however, William Julius Wilson’s prediction has been vindicated and more than vindicated: In 21st-century America, class trumps race.

The top spook’s stupid gag order | Jack Shafer

The top spook’s stupid gag order | Jack Shafer: Directive 119 increases the insularity of the national security state, making the public less safe, not more. Until this directive was issued, intelligence community employees could provide subtext and context for the stories produced by the national security press without breaking the law. Starting now, every news story about the national security establishment that rates disfavor with the national security establishment — no matter how innocuous — will rate a full-bore investigation of sources by authorities.

Directive 119 achieves through executive order much of what the spooks tried to accomplish legislatively in the summer of 2012, when the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a measure that would have banned background briefings between reporters and all intelligence officials except “press officers and agency directors or deputy directors,” as Reuters correspondent Mark Hosenball reported. Such briefings have been routine during most recent presidential administrations, Hosenball wrote. An avalanche of protests smothered the measure, killing it until Clapper resurrected elements of it in Directive 119.

Doing Well by Doing Bad | Political Violence @ a Glance

Doing Well by Doing Bad | Political Violence @ a Glance: Similarly, besieged governments typically insist that they will not cave to threats and violence from terrorists and thugs — Ronald Reagan famously stated in the 1980 presidential debates that there would be “no negotiation with terrorists of any kind”. But is this what actually happens during violent internal conflicts? Do the bad guys lose — as we would like — or do their underhanded tactics pay off by forcing concessions from state leaders?

Two recent studies present similarly unfortunate findings that suggest that the bad guys often do better than we would like. Specifically, these analyses provide evidence that insurgent groups that rely on terror and other forms of civilian targeting are actually more likely to achieve their political goals — at least up to a point.

Pain | VQR Online

Pain | VQR Online: That evening, my father pulled to the side of County Road B, halfway between work and home. He stopped the car on the gravel shoulder, parked neatly, turned off the engine. The Wisconsin winter stretched out on both sides of him, the gray dark, the endless, flat fields stubbled with chewed-up stalks of corn. He sat sweating and hurting, staring up at the red button. All these years later, I’m still struggling to understand why he didn’t just reach up, press it, and speak that single word: “Help.”

He taught me that the worst, the weakest, the most shameful thing you could do was indulge your pain—​swallow it down, don’t say a word. You didn’t talk about it; you certainly didn’t write about it. His methods killed him, but he did with his pain only what he’d been taught to do, all he knew how to do.

Now the question remains: What will I do with mine?

The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest - NYTimes.com

The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest - NYTimes.com: Median per capita income was $18,700 in the United States in 2010 (which translates to about $75,000 for a family of four after taxes), up 20 percent since 1980 but virtually unchanged since 2000, after adjusting for inflation. The same measure, by comparison, rose about 20 percent in Britain between 2000 and 2010 and 14 percent in the Netherlands. Median income also rose 20 percent in Canada between 2000 and 2010, to the equivalent of $18,700.
Continue reading the main story

The most recent year in the LIS analysis is 2010. But other income surveys, conducted by government agencies, suggest that since 2010 pay in Canada has risen faster than pay in the United States and is now most likely higher. Pay in several European countries has also risen faster since 2010 than it has in the United States.

Tehran the secret party town | World news | The Guardian

Tehran the secret party town | World news | The Guardian: Most of the time, however, they are simple gatherings where friends and acquaintances gather in search of release from daily pressures. Nastaran, a 33-year-old translator, says throwing regular parties in her two-bedroom central Tehran apartment gives her something to look forward to as she goes through the weekday grind. "I get up after 6, splash some water on my face and head out into the traffic. In the evenings, if I'm lucky, I make it home by 8, eat dinner and go to bed. If I didn't have this" - she says, raising up her glass of bootleg liquor - "what kind of life would I have?"

Amtin, 35, a regular user of party drugs and hallucinogenics, puts it another way.

After engaging his listener in a 15-minute lecture on the guidelines of LSD use, he suddenly stops short. "You know how it is here," he says, his tone turning apologetic. "With so much pressure from the outside, sometimes you need to find a way to immigrate, at least internally."

Argument preview: Free TV, at a bargain price? : SCOTUSblog

Argument preview: Free TV, at a bargain price? : SCOTUSblog: As long ago as 1931, the Supreme Court interpreted those words from the perspective of what the broadcast audience was or would be for a program, and on how they got it. ”The parties agree,” the Court said then, “that the owner of a private radio receiving set who in his own home invites friends to hear a musical composition which is being broadcast, would not be liable for infringement [of the music's copyright]. For even if this be deemed a performance, it is neither public nor for profit.”

In that case, however, the Court went on to rule that the owner of the LaSalle Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, who put radios in each room so the occupants could pick up a popular song from a master receiver in the hotel, had infringed on the copyright for that music.

That opinion established two concepts for broadcast copyright law: the nature of the middleman in delivering the entertainment counts, but so does the identity of the end user, or listener.

Why Americans Are the Weirdest People in the World - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society

Why Americans Are the Weirdest People in the World - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society: The human brain is genetically comparable around the globe, it was agreed, so human hardwiring for much behavior, perception, and cognition should be similarly universal. No need, in that case, to look beyond the convenient population of undergraduates for test subjects. A 2008 survey of the top six psychology journals dramatically shows how common that assumption was: more than 96 percent of the subjects tested in psychological studies from 2003 to 2007 were Westerners—with nearly 70 percent from the United States alone. Put another way: 96 percent of human subjects in these studies came from countries that represent only 12 percent of the world’s population.

Henrich’s work with the ultimatum game was an example of a small but growing countertrend in the social sciences, one in which researchers look straight at the question of how deeply culture shapes human cognition.

26 April, 2014

Three Springs | whathasgood

Three Springs | whathasgood: As a young high altitude expedition worker, the more you carry, the more you are paid. There is a per kilogram equation for payment, and there is value, both in hard cash and in securing future work, in proving you are good. If you prove you’re good, you get hired next season, possibly recruited by one of the better companies, climbing literally up the mountain and figuratively up the ranks. The best way to do all this is to move fast and carry a lot. And the best way to do that is to dance, possibly unclipped, across the icefall ladders.

And yet. This one potential factor, this one whisper of motivation, the veteran mountaineers did not make mention of when the article posed the question: “Why did Namgya skip a seemingly simple, and potentially life-saving step?”

The Principal of Columbine, Frank DeAngelis, is Retiring - Esquire

The Principal of Columbine, Frank DeAngelis, is Retiring - Esquire:

Mr. D’s job
of reconciling the past with the present and the future is a difficult
one. Because, as the students will readily attest, people are uncommonly
weird about Columbine. Tour buses stop to let their riders
snap pictures during the school day. Visitors take selfies in front of
the school’s sign. Travelers who’ve gotten lost looking for the memorial
end up wandering around the parking lot. The memorial was built in
2007, in nearby Clement Park. It was set away from the school to deter
tourists from bothering students, but that didn’t work. They keep
coming. To them, the school itself is the monument. 

“There was a caravan of tourists,” says
Megan, seventeen, a senior, recalling a recent instance. “About twenty
of them right out there in the parking lot—and they were wearing aloha
shirts. I wondered, Why is this a tourist spot?

23 April, 2014

The city of Decatur, a flourishing model of urban planning, is a “30-year overnight success story” | ArtsATL

The city of Decatur, a flourishing model of urban planning, is a “30-year overnight success story” | ArtsATL: The decision by the citizens of Decatur in the early 1800s was a fortuitous one. While they could not have envisioned the unbridled growth the terminus would bring, their decision allowed for this inner-city suburban enclave to retain the charm and character that now draws people to its streets. The decision by the citizens of Decatur in 1982 was deliberate. In naming Decatur a “great neighborhood,” the American Planning Association recognized as much, attributing its success to “more than three decades . . . of planning, commitment, patience, and investment.” The city, and specifically the planners who helped create and advocate for the plan in the early 1980s, have been in it for the long haul.

At the State of the City address, the mayor recognized Menne for 30 years of service and Saxon for 35 years. Both received standing ovations. As Menne said that day, Decatur is a “30-year overnight success story.”

Why a Plan to Circumvent the Electoral College Is Probably Doomed | FiveThirtyEight

Why a Plan to Circumvent the Electoral College Is Probably Doomed | FiveThirtyEight: My personal view is that the Electoral College should be abolished (even if that means we’d have to change the name of this website). But based on the signatories to the compact, blue and red states seem to think of it as a zero-sum game. And the purple states, which might otherwise swing the balance, have the least incentive of all to sign on.

Vladimir Putin must be called to account on surveillance just like Obama | Edward Snowden | Comment is free | theguardian.com

Vladimir Putin must be called to account on surveillance just like Obama | Edward Snowden | Comment is free | theguardian.com: When this event comes around next year, I hope we'll see more questions on surveillance programs and other controversial policies. But we don't have to wait until then. For example, journalists might ask for clarification as to how millions of individuals' communications are not being intercepted, analysed or stored, when, at least on a technical level, the systems that are in place must do precisely that in order to function. They might ask whether the social media companies reporting that they have received bulk collection requests from the Russian government are telling the truth.

Sears is dying: What the ubiquitous store’s death says about America - Salon.com

Sears is dying: What the ubiquitous store’s death says about America - Salon.com:

In 1972, the year Sears began building the world’s tallest building
in downtown Chicago, three out of every four Americans visited one of
its locations every year — a larger proportion than have seen “The
Wizard of Oz.” Half of all households held a Sears credit card — more
than go to church on Christmas. Sears’s sales accounted for 1 percent of
the Gross National Product.

In an internal merchandising plan
written later that decade, a Sears executive identified the company’s
audience, and its identity: “Sears is a family store for middle-class,
home-owning America. We are not a fashion store. We are not a store for
the whimsical, nor the affluent. We are not a discounter, nor an
avant-garde department store…We reflect the world of Middle America, and
all of its desires and concerns and problems and faults.”

it’s been all downhill for middle-class, home-owning America since
then, and it’s been all downhill for Sears, too. That’s why William
Taylor was standing on State Street in downtown Chicago last week,
wearing a sandwich board that read “SEARS/UP TO 75% OFF/MUST ACT

mapsbynik: Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census...

mapsbynik: Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census...: A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.

Segregation Now ... - The Atlantic

Segregation Now ... - The Atlantic: In 2000, another federal judge released Tuscaloosa City Schools from the court-ordered desegregation mandate that had governed it for a single generation. Central had successfully achieved integration, the district had argued—it could be trusted to manage that success going forward.

Freed from court oversight, Tuscaloosa’s schools have seemed to move backwards in time. The citywide integrated high school is gone, replaced by three smaller schools. Central retains the name of the old powerhouse, but nothing more. A struggling school serving the city’s poorest part of town, it is 99 percent black. D’Leisha, an honors student since middle school, has only marginal college prospects. Predominantly white neighborhoods adjacent to Central have been gerrymandered into the attendance zones of other, whiter schools.

John Roberts and the Color of Money - Tom Levenson - The Atlantic

John Roberts and the Color of Money - Tom Levenson - The Atlantic: In other words: Political money and hence influence at the top levels is disproportionately white, male, and with almost no social context that includes significant numbers of African Americans and other people of color.

This is why money isn't speech.

Freedom of speech as a functional element in democratic life assumes that such freedom can be meaningfully deployed. But the unleashing of yet more money into politics allows a very limited class of people to drown out the money "speech" of everyone else—but especially those with a deep, overwhelmingly well documented history of being denied voice and presence in American political life.

Why the NYPD’s decision to drop a unit that spies on Muslims may help counterterrorism

Why the NYPD’s decision to drop a unit that spies on Muslims may help counterterrorism:

The Muslim-American community has served as a major resource for law enforcement since 9/11, with some scholars
citing Muslim-Americans as the single largest source of initial
information leading to disrupted terrorism plots since 2001. Such
community assistance is particularly important in stopping homegrown
attacks which tend to involve more “lone wolf” actors, making them more difficult to detect by law enforcement. Indeed, it was a Muslim immigrant who first reported suspicious activity in the 2010 case of Faisal Shazad, convicted in the Times Square bombing attempt.

The NYPD’s spying tactics,
guided by a former CIA official, stirred debate over whether the NYPD
was infringing on the civil rights of Muslims and illegally engaging in
religious and ethnic profiling. Findings from recent studies based on
MANOS data– a nationally representative survey of 500 Muslim-American
respondents collected online by YouGov in March 2013 –suggest that such
programs that unfairly target Muslim communities can create feelings of
cynicism and reduce Muslims’ willingness to voluntarily assist police in
criminal investigations.

22 April, 2014

Gay marriage, bigotry, and Mozilla: Conor Friedersdorf explains how gay people should deal with homophobes.

Gay marriage, bigotry, and Mozilla: Conor Friedersdorf explains how gay people should deal with homophobes.: Indeed, it seems the height of privilege blindness to schoolmarm gays about how to engage their aggressors when Friedersdorf, in point of fact, has no idea what omnipresent psychological torture feels like. If he did, he might better understand why many of us can’t really get too exercised about a rich straight dude losing a gig because his company found him a mismatch with its culture; why, in the grand scheme of things, that truly minor incident might not seem like such an Issue of Vital Importance to the Republic. If he did, he might get how maddening it is to see your life reduced to another in a list of issues that are acceptable cocktail chatter this weekend.

The Gun Library | Boston Review

The Gun Library | Boston Review: During my time researching S�o Paulo’s detectives, I was given documents seized from an arrested PCC member.These files reveal an organization that is more than just a powerful drug trafficking outfit. Beyond that, they are also fixated on its own brand of justice and security. Among the documents were Excel spreadsheets itemizing millions of dollars in weekly sales of cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana by area code, but there were also photocopies of membership roles including name, nickname, member number (the same as the official prisoner ID), place of residence, last three prisons stops, names of “Godfathers,” time and place of “baptism” into the organization, lists of drug distribution and sales by member name and/or nickname, quantity and amount of money owed by individual, and, among other things, inventories of cars and guns. One of these documents describes a kind of gun library.

Leaning Out: Placing More Emphasis on Life in the Work-Life Balance - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society

Leaning Out: Placing More Emphasis on Life in the Work-Life Balance - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society:

I have is a fantastic relationship with the guy who has let me cost
us $750,000, and I have an ability to support his work as a medical
educator and physician. I have a libido. I have a strong relationship
with my extended family. I have friends and neighbors who call me when
they need me and help me when I call them. I have two triathlon
“completion” medals and serious plans to do an Olympic-length triathlon
this year. I have a contractor who enjoys muddling with me over lunch
with a new plan for hours. I live in a neighborhood full of rainbow
flags I helped put up, in a house now known as “the flower house” in
town, because I’ve worked the garden so long with the mate. I have a
friendship with a squirrel named Fred, and the other day, I had a
northern flicker at my suet feeder, because I keep the feeders stocked
every day, the birdbath cleaned and watered every day.

19 April, 2014

Voluntary movement shown in complete paralysis | OUPblog

Voluntary movement shown in complete paralysis | OUPblog: Scientists, using epidural stimulation over the lumbar spinal cord, have enabled four completely paralyzed men to voluntarily move their legs.

SERMONS ON THE MOUNT | More Intelligent Life

SERMONS ON THE MOUNT | More Intelligent Life: For a millennium, Athos has been home to monks, hermits and icons. Women are banned and ethics can be murky. But Tom Whipple keeps going back

14 April, 2014

BBC News - How the secret police tracked my childhood

BBC News - How the secret police tracked my childhood:

Walking into my father's prisons, Jilava and
Aiud, the cells completely submerged in darkness and bone-chilling
dampness, reading the records of his admission to the prison infirmary
with fractured ribs and "bruises from hammer applied to fingers", I
understood what I could not have understood before.
When he left home, the car stuffed with placards and
leaflets, my father knew what he was returning to. Yet he had no choice.
For him the family was his country and the country was his family. If
he did not fight for everyone else, he could not have hoped to put food
on our own table. Or a shred of dignity in our lives. He left us out of
desperation and moral conviction.

He protected us by saying nothing to us. But you can only
understand this by going into the prison rooms where he suffered. And by
standing next to him while he shouts that he has no memory of receiving
beatings that fractured his ribs, even though you face him, with the
radiography record trembling in your hands. This is the side of heroism
no-one likes to talk about, not even him. But it is the face of heroism
that now makes me proud.

12 April, 2014

"Waterboard Him Some More"�|�Katherine Hawkins

"Waterboard Him Some More"�|�Katherine Hawkins:

. According to the Washington Post,
after Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002, "Mitchell
and Jessen concluded that the prisoner was broken." The Counterterrorist
Center, then headed by Jose Rodriguez, was not convinced. A former
official told the Post that "[h]eadquarters was sending daily harangues,
cables, e-mails insisting that waterboarding continue for 30 days
because another attack was believed to be imminent...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.""

The Post's source
said Mitchell and Jessen agreed to waterboard Abu Zubaydah one last
time, but insisted that CIA officials come from Langley to the black
site to view what happened. Afterwards, "they all agreed to stop."

The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene

The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene: On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force.

Brenden Eich’s Mozilla resignation proves gay rights are no longer up for debate.

Brenden Eich’s Mozilla resignation proves gay rights are no longer up for debate.:

Once, on a train in from Long Island, two nice, respectable,
smart-seeming people sat down behind me and began to casually deliberate
about the rights I deserved. My face burned so hot that I cannot
remember their exact positions—one thought I should maybe have a certain
thing while the other thought such generosity really wasn’t necessary.
After listening to the pros and cons for an hour or so, I felt I had
gathered enough information about myself that I was qualified to offer
an opinion; but of course, when I turned to join the discussion, my body
betrayed me—I mumbled something annoyingly irrational, certainly overly
emotional, through tears and had to excuse myself from the car.

08 April, 2014

The Culture of Shut Up - Jon Lovett - The Atlantic

The Culture of Shut Up - Jon Lovett - The Atlantic:

The right to free speech may begin and end with the First Amendment,
but there is a vast middle where our freedom of speech is protected by
us—by our capacity to listen and accept that people disagree, often
strongly, that there are fools, some of them columnists and elected
officials and, yes, even reality-show patriarchs, that there are people
who believe stupid, irrational, hateful things about other people and
it’s okay to let those words in our ears sometimes without rolling out
the guillotines.

Look, obviously there’s an important counter-argument here. It is
natural and healthy that as a society we have deemed certain ideas
off-limits. While in this country the government can’t stop you from
saying these things, or punish you for having said those things, it’s
often good that the personal, financial, and social costs of saying the
unsayable are prohibitively high. We all can name examples: hardcore
racism and anti-Semitism and misogyny, Breaking Bad spoilers,
that kind of thing. And it’s also true that hurtful words about, say,
gay people have a disproportionate impact on the vulnerable; it’s easy
for me to say bring on the homophobia, but what about the kid in the closet in a conservative neighborhood worried his mom will stumble onto his browser history?

The trouble, I think, is when ostracizing a viewpoint as “beyond the
pale” becomes not an end but a means to an end; that by declaring
something unsayable, we make it so. It makes me uncomfortable, even as I
see the value of it. I for one would love homophobia to fully make it
on that list, to get to the point where being against gay marriage is as
vulgar and shameful as being against interracial marriage. But it
isn’t. Maybe it will be. But it isn’t. And kicking a reality-show star
off his reality show doesn’t make that less true. Win the argument;
don’t declare the argument too offensive to be won. And that’s true
whether it’s GLAAD making demands of A&E or the head of the
Republican National Committee making demands of MSNBC.

06 April, 2014

"The Ends Justify the Means" - not always said in fiction. The view below is foolish and destructive.

I ran the CIA interrogation program. No matter what the Senate report says, I know it worked. - The Washington Post: When we captured high-ranking al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida in 2002, we knew he could help us track down other terrorists and might provide information to allow us to stop another attack. Those who suggest we should have questioned him more gently have never felt the burden of protecting innocent lives.

How politics makes us stupid - Vox

How politics makes us stupid - Vox: In the mid-20th century, the two major political parties were ideologically diverse. Democrats in the South were often more conservative than Republicans in the North. The strange jumble in political coalitions made disagreement easier. The other party wasn’t so threatening because it included lots of people you agreed with. Today, however, the parties have sorted by ideology, and now neither the House nor the Senate has any Democrats who are more conservative than any Republicans, or vice versa. This sorting has made the tribal pull of the two parties much more powerful because the other party now exists as a clear enemy.

The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld (Part 1) - NYTimes.com

The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld (Part 1) - NYTimes.com: His confrontational style encouraged me to have my facts down cold before I went in there. He’d destroy you if there was a weakness in your question, and you’d end up giving him the exit ramp he was looking for to get out of a difficult question while scoring points with his sizable fan base on TV.

I don’t think anyone could ever get him to admit regret or question his past actions. It’s not in his DNA, and I don’t think he feels regret for anything. This is a supremely self-assured person who believes he makes the best decisions possible given the information and the situation at hand, and then lets the chips fall where they may.

 Critics attacked us because they thought they could do our job better — that if they had the opportunity to interrogate Rumsfeld, by golly they’d break him and get the truth!

Never gonna happen. He is, I believe, exactly who he presents to the world.

High Seas Wreck Shipping Trade | Outdoor Adventure | OutsideOnline.com

High Seas Wreck Shipping Trade | Outdoor Adventure | OutsideOnline.com: Every hour of every day, behemoth container ships cruise the highways of ocean commerce, loaded with stereos and lobster and plastic air fresheners. And during the winter storm season, massive waves from out of nowhere can wreck these arks of global trade. Donovan Hohn stows away on a transpacific voyage to learn what life is like on a still wild and unpredictable sea.

Game of Thrones as Theory | Foreign Affairs

Game of Thrones as Theory | Foreign Affairs: Lords and kings no less than oath-breakers are punished for violating custom and agreement -- either explicitly or through the inability to convert their hard power into material successes. Contrary to Cersei's assertion, kings cannot always "do as they like": Ned and the chivalry he represented may appear to have been the loser at the end of book and season one, but Joffrey's disregard for basic standards of justice will return to haunt him as it did his predecessors. The true moral of the story is that when good rules are disregarded, disorder and ruin follow -- just as Thucydides' story of Melos, some argue, when paired with his description of Pericles' death and Athens' fall, is meant to suggest that the gains that power achieves without justice cannot endure.

05 April, 2014

Breyer’s dangerous dissent in McCutcheon (the campaign finance case)

Breyer’s dangerous dissent in <em>McCutcheon</em> (the campaign finance case):

In any event, Breyer adds that “corruption,” by which he means
individuals engaging in too much freedom of speech via campaign
donations, ”derails the essential speech-to-government-action tie. Where
enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard.
Insofar as corruption cuts the link between political thought and
political action, a free marketplace of political ideas loses its

The danger of this argument is that analogous reasoning could be used to censor major media corporations such as the New York Times,
Hollywood, and so on, to wit: ”When Hollywood spends billions of
dollars each year advancing a liberal agenda, the general public will
not be heard.  Instead of a free marketplace of ideas, we get a
marketplace in which major Hollywood moguls have hundreds of thousands
of times the ‘speech power’ of the average American.”

 And given that
almost everyone deems it appropriate to regulate the economic
marketplace to counter inefficiencies and unfairness, why should the
much-less-efficient (because it’s much more costly for an individual to
make an error in his economic life than to have a mistaken ideology)
 marketplace of ideas be exempt from harsh regulation? 

Free Speech at Last: McCutcheon Decision Just Right | National Review Online

Free Speech at Last: McCutcheon Decision Just Right | National Review Online: The practical results of this decision will be to make fundraising easier for party committees and candidates. That is almost certainly a good thing and should help ease concerns that “super PACS” are too influential with parties. Don’t expect a landslide in new giving, however, as the old aggregates did not affect most donors, who contribute to only a few candidates.

Ultimately, this decision is a significant victory for the First Amendment. Perhaps more important than the immediate result is the insistence that the government must have an actual, rather than conjectural, theory of corruption to be prevented. The “monsters under the bed” theory of constitutional jurisprudence seems headed for the dustbin.

As Justice Roberts wrote, “If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades — despite the profound offense such spectacles cause — it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”

High-Frequency Trading May Be Too Efficient - Bloomberg View

High-Frequency Trading May Be Too Efficient - Bloomberg View:

There are two competing forces:

  1. High-frequency trading quickly propagates information across markets, reducing the need for fundamental investors to do research and make capital allocation decisions.

  2. High-frequency trading drives down the rewards to
    fundamental investors, by making prices react instantly to their
    activity so that they can never make a profit by buying (selling)
    undervalued (overvalued) stocks.

If force 1 outweighs force 2 then markets will be more
efficient: The David Einhorns of the world will make less money finding
undervalued companies, but their work will have more effect on market
prices and capital allocation. If force 2 outweighs force 1, then ...
well, you could imagine a world where high-frequency trading is so
speedy and efficient that there's no way for fundamental investors to
make any money: As soon as David Einhorn even thinks about buying a
stock, its price snaps up to what he'd consider a fair price, so he
can't profit from buying it.

On A 'Rigged' Wall Street, Milliseconds Make All The Difference : NPR

On A 'Rigged' Wall Street, Milliseconds Make All The Difference : NPR: On high-frequency trading and how milliseconds matter

If I get price changes before everybody else, if I know a stock price is going up or going down before you do, I can act on it. If you're coming in to buy shares in Procter & Gamble and you think the price is 80 ... and I'm sitting there as a high-frequency trader and I know that the price of Procter & Gamble is actually lower — it's gone down [to] 79 — I can buy it [at] 79 and sell it to you at 80. So it's a bit like knowing the result of the horse race before it's run. ... The time advantage of a high-frequency trader is so small, it's literally a millisecond. It takes 100 milliseconds to blink your eye, so it's a fraction of a blink of an eye, but that for a computer is plenty of time.

Portraits of Reconciliation - NYTimes.com

Portraits of Reconciliation - NYTimes.com: Sinzikiramuka, Perpetrator (opening image, left): “I asked him for forgiveness because his brother was killed in my presence. He asked me why I pleaded guilty, and I replied that I did it as someone who witnessed this crime but who was unable to save anybody. It was the order from authorities. I let him know who the killers were, and the killers also asked him for pardon.”

Karorero, Survivor: “Sometimes justice does not give someone a satisfactory answer — cases are subject to corruption. But when it comes to forgiveness willingly granted, one is satisfied once and for all. When someone is full of anger, he can lose his mind. But when I granted forgiveness, I felt my mind at rest.”

NASA's About To Release a Mother Lode of Free Software

NASA's About To Release a Mother Lode of Free Software: It's pretty obvious that specific industries like aerospace will have a field day with this new catalog of free code. "Some things are expected," said Lockney, naming the aerospace and medical industries as obvious beneficiaries of this new catalog of free code, he said. "It's the unexpected that we're looking forward to seeing."

The catalog will go live in PDF form on April 10, but that's only the beginning. A print version will follow on May 21, and in the months after that, NASA will develop a fully searchable database and a software repository. The code is free for anyone to use, though some applications are restricted for government use only. Everything is organized into 15 broad subject matter categories, from autonomous systems to vehicle management.

So think up some thoughts and dream up some dreams. In just a few days, NASA's going to make it much easier to reach them. Because that's what they're here for.

03 April, 2014

New Robert Faris study: Popular kids go after each other for social status, and suffer anxiety and depression.

New Robert Faris study: Popular kids go after each other for social status, and suffer anxiety and depression.: Faris and Felmlee come out with one clear proposal for schools: Bullying-prevention programs should try to de-emphasize hierarchy. The more that students feel there are multiple routes to social success—the choir as well as sports, chess champion as well as class president—the better. That sounds right to me, but also hard for adults to construct. Teenagers have to have their own ways of taking each other’s measure separate from adult wishes and meddling. That’s part of growing up. The trick is for them to lead each other to social rewards that come from building other people up rather than tearing them down. This study is an important reminder that all kinds of kids benefit from making that shift, from all points in the high school universe.

'Who Am I to Judge': Will the Pope Condemn Homophobia in Uganda? - Matt Ford - The Atlantic

'Who Am I to Judge': Will the Pope Condemn Homophobia in Uganda? - Matt Ford - The Atlantic:

But sooner or later, the pope may have to confront growing homophobia
in Uganda, whether or not he travels there. The country's religious and
political leaders—including its high-ranking Catholic clergy—have used
Martyrs Day to campaign against LGBT rights, and frequently invoke the
Uganda Martyrs in their warnings about homosexuality. Pope Francis,
meanwhile, has softened the Vatican's stance on homosexuality in words
if not deeds, recently suggesting that the Church might support civil unions even as he reaffirmed its opposition to same-sex marriage. The pontiff's famous reply to
a reporter’s question about gay and lesbian Catholic priests—“If
someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I
to judge?”—prompted a fierce debate about the Catholic Church's approach
to LGBT rights.

Will that debate come to Uganda next?

02 April, 2014

Every review of Black Widow in 'Captain America' is wrong | The Daily Dot

Every review of Black Widow in 'Captain America' is wrong | The Daily Dot: As a pop culture fan, you get used to the fact that mainstream critics are rarely going to share your glowing adoration of trashy entertainment. Justin Bieber albums may sell like hotcakes, but that’s not because they get good reviews.

For me, it’s superhero movies. The genre may have come a long way over the past decade or so, but most film critics are still less than thrilled to evaluate the latest installment of Wolverine Punches the Bad Guy. Luckily, it’s no skin off my back if some middle-aged dude at the New York Times can’t tell the difference between Quicksilver and The Flash.

The divide between fans and critics only becomes a problem when I notice professional reviewers making judgments based on their own preconceptions, rather than what actually took place onscreen. There is no better example of this than the ongoing coverage of Scarlett Johansson’s role as Black Widow in The Avengers franchise. Regardless of what ScarJo says, does, or wears while playing this character, countless well-respected film critics continue to mistake her for a vacuous 1960s Bond Girl.

No US troops Killed in Combat last Month for first time since 2003 | Informed Comment

No US troops Killed in Combat last Month for first time since 2003 | Informed Comment: For the first time since 2007, no US troops were killed in Afghanistan in March, and for the first time since early 2003 no US troops were killed in combat anywhere in the world for a whole month.

01 April, 2014

Is It Too Late to Prepare for Climate Change? : The New Yorker

Is It Too Late to Prepare for Climate Change? : The New Yorker: As we merrily roll along, radically altering the planet, we are, as the leaked I.P.C.C. report makes clear, increasingly in danger of committing ourselves to outcomes that will simply overwhelm societies’ ability to adapt. Certainly they will overwhelm the abilities of frogs and trees and birds to adapt. Thus, any genuine “preparedness” strategy must include averting those eventualities for which preparation is impossible. This is not something that the President can do by executive order, but it’s something he ought to be pursuing with every other tool. As Obama himself put it in a speech this past spring, “Those of us in positions of responsibility, we’ll need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors, and more concerned with the judgment of posterity. Because you and your children, and your children’s children, will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.”

CIA misled on interrogation program, Senate report says - The Washington Post

CIA misled on interrogation program, Senate report says - The Washington Post: A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years — concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.

The report, built around detailed chronologies of dozens of CIA detainees, documents a long-standing pattern of unsubstantiated claims as agency officials sought permission to use — and later tried to defend — excruciating interrogation methods that yielded little, if any, significant intelligence, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed the document.

Evan Osnos: A Chemical Spill in West Virginia : The New Yorker

Evan Osnos: A Chemical Spill in West Virginia : The New Yorker:

The staff initially said that there was nothing out of the
ordinary, but, when the inspectors asked to look around, a company
executive, Dennis Farrell, told them that he had a problem at Tank No.
396, a forty-eight-thousand-gallon container of industrial chemicals. At
the foot of the tank, the inspectors found a shallow open-air lake of
an oily substance, gurgling like a mountain spring. When
hazardous-material crews arrived, they followed a liquid trail under a
concrete wall, into the bushes, and down a slope, where it disappeared
beneath ice on the river.

Freedom Industries was obligated to
report the spill to a state hot line. The operator, who identified
herself as Laverne, asked what was leaking; the caller, a staff member
named Bob Reynolds, said, “Uh, MCHM.”

“MCHM?” Laverne asked.

“Right,” he said, and offered the scientific name.

Laverne paused and said, “Say again?”

methanol—is part of a chemical bath that the mining industry uses to
wash clay and rock from coal before it is burned. There are more than
eighty thousand chemicals available for use in America, but, unless they
are expected to be consumed, their effects on humans are not often
tested, a principle known in the industry as “innocent until proven

Paying for the Party — Crooked Timber

Paying for the Party — Crooked Timber: The problem is that other students (all their subjects are women), who do not have the resources to get jobs in the industries to which the easy majors orient them, and who lack the wealth to keep up with the party scene, and who simply cannot afford to have the low gpas that would be barriers to their future employment, but which are fine for affluent women, get caught up in the scene. They are, in addition, more vulnerable to sexual assault, and less insulated (because they lack family money) against the serious risks associated with really screwing up. The authors tell stories of students seeking upward social mobility switching their majors from sensible professional majors to easy majors that lead to jobs available only through family contacts, not through credentials. Nobody is alerting these students to the risks they are taking. So the class inequalities at entry are exacerbated by the process. Furthermore, the non-party women on the party floor are, although reasonably numerous, individually isolated—they feel like losers, not being able to keep up with the heavy demands of the party scene. The authors document that the working class students who thrive are those who transfer to regional colleges near their birth homes.

Russia, Ukraine, and NATO: The alarmist claims that the Western alliance can’t defend Europe from Russia are preposterous.

Russia, Ukraine, and NATO: The alarmist claims that the Western alliance can’t defend Europe from Russia are preposterous.: Still, a Russian invasion of Ukraine—or an incursion into the southern and eastern parts of the country, where pro-Russia sentiment can easily be mustered—would rouse enormous fear and tension across Europe—not just for the fate of Ukraine, but for what Putin might do next. This is the real reason for the West’s countermoves (the sanctions, the deployments, the speeches, the meetings): not to regain Crimea (it’s gone, and everyone knows it), but to deter Putin from going further. Putin has dreams of restoring Great Russia (he once, famously, lamented the Soviet Union’s breakup as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”), but his actions are those of an opportunistic tactician. He will go as far as he can, but—so far—no farther. Crimea was easy: He already had troops there, as well as the headquarters for a large naval fleet. Most Russians regarded the peninsula as theirs already. He exploited the turmoil in Kiev to grab it for good. The task now, as Obama and other Western leaders see it, is to convince Putin that grabbing more land will mean real trouble.

Erdogan's election victory could be good news for Turkish democracy | Mohammed Ayoob | Comment is free | theguardian.com

Erdogan's election victory could be good news for Turkish democracy | Mohammed Ayoob | Comment is free | theguardian.com: Some Turkish commentators seem puzzled by the fact that "half of the corruption claims [faced by Erdo─čan] in any other democratic country would be enough for the collapse of the government." However, the election outcome is less puzzling when analysed in the Turkish political context. Corruption had been an endemic part of the Turkish political system until the AKP came to power in 2002, and the party seemed to have a relatively clean record until recently. Turkish voters are therefore used to taking corruption claims in their stride. The difference between earlier governments and that of the AKP is that the former were corrupt as well as economically inefficient, if not disastrous. The AKP government, even if corrupt, has delivered on the economic front with a very visible rise in the income level and standard of living of the average Turkish citizen.

Egypt Imprisons Muslim Brotherhood Members, Sentences 500 to DIe | New Republic

Egypt Imprisons Muslim Brotherhood Members, Sentences 500 to DIe | New Republic:

Horrendous conditions in police custody are not new in Egypt. Police
brutality and the death in detention of activist Khalid Saeed in June
2010 helped fuel the 2011 uprisings against Hosni Mubarak. Reports of
beatings and torture are common.Under repressive governments across the
region, such incidents are commonplace. There is an Arabic literary
genre called “prison literature” written by artists and dissidents about
their time in detention. It is as rich and varied as the region itself.
There are Yemeni versions, and Egyptian, Syrian and Libyan, dating back
to colonial times.These days, conditions in Egypt are particularly bad.
Detainees report an attitude of retribution for the humiliation and
defeat the police felt after they were chased off the streets in January
of 2011. “You have state institutions that have decided to take up the
idea of final revenge,” said Emad Mubarak, Executive Director of the
Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression.Students, journalists,
former government ministers, doctors, professors, shopkeepers—all are
represented inside Egypt’s prisons and police stations. Some of the
detainees are under 18. Rights groups report that over 300 children have
been detained in the past seven months. In some cases, police have been
known to detain family members to pressure people to turn themselves
in. “This is a normal thing…to take the father to get to the son”
Mubarak said.