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.