30 November, 2018

George Bush, 41st President, Dies at 94

Mr. Bush was never a man comfortable with self-examination, but in an interview with Mr. Meacham, his biographer, he evinced some insecurity about how history might judge him. “I am lost between the glory of Reagan — monuments everywhere, trumpets, the great hero — and the trials and tribulations of my sons,” Mr. Bush said.
At another point, he asked of those who would examine his career, “What if they just find an empty deck of cards?”
But the 41st president may have best summed up his talents and ambitions in a diary entry on the last day of 1989, as the first year of his presidency drew to a close.
“I’m certainly not seen as visionary,” Mr. Bush wrote. “But I hope I’m seen as steady and prudent and able.”

Louisiana School Made Headlines for Sending Black Kids to Elite Colleges. Here’s the Reality.

BREAUX BRIDGE, La. — Bryson Sassau’s application would inspire any college admissions officer.
A founder of T.M. Landry College Preparatory School described him as a “bright, energetic, compassionate and genuinely well-rounded” student whose alcoholic father had beaten him and his mother and had denied them money for food and shelter. His transcript “speaks for itself,” the founder, Tracey Landry, wrote, but Mr. Sassau should also be lauded for founding a community service program, the Dry House, to help the children of abusive and alcoholic parents. He took four years of honors English, the application said, was a baseball M.V.P. and earned high honors in the “Mathematics Olympiad.”
The narrative earned Mr. Sassau acceptance to St. John’s University in New York. There was one problem: None of it was true.
“I was just a small piece in a whole fathom of lies,” Mr. Sassau said.

Paul Fanlund: UW-Madison’s Kathy Cramer turns the page on the ‘politics of resentment’

In a nutshell, the concept is to host scores of listening sessions with small groups of people who know one another using a new-age recording device they call a “hearth.”
Technology behind the hearth will extract recurring themes and phrases and aggregate results to help journalists, candidates, and members of the public determine what is on the minds of many, not just an anecdotal interview subject or a handful of the loudest and most politically connected people.

29 November, 2018

‘The Numbers Are So Staggering.’ Overdose Deaths Set a Record Last Year.

A class of synthetic drugs has replaced heroin in many major American drug markets, ushering in a more deadly phase of the opioid epidemic.
New numbers Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 Americans in 2017, a record. Overdose deaths are higher than deaths from H.I.V., car crashes or gun violence at their peaks.

My Prayer for Health and Healing

Rest in Peace, Andrew.

Holy One,
Loving Creator and Sustainer of all that is,
  Source and Ground of the Sacred in all things,

We come to you in thanksgiving and celebration
  of the interconnected whole of which we are a part,
and the wholesomeness we have tasted in the communion 
    of our hearts, in relationship, family, community, and nature.

Having tasted also the bitterness
  of inner turmoil, physical illness, relational conflict,
  social injustice, ecological pollution, and war,
We come to you seeking healing of Mind, Body, and Spirit,
   healing of heart, relationship, family, community, and nature.

Relieve us of our illusions.
Help us to recognize whatever may be our contribution, however obscure,
  to the disease, the division, and the chaos-- and to repent.
Allay our pride and fear, and help us seek help from the resources all around us.
Comfort us in our inevitable, necessary, and wholesome grief.

Heal us, we pray. Turn vinegar into wine.
Grant us recovery, reconnection, restoration, resurrection, and joy.
Make us whole and hale, whatever the limitations that may remain.

Help us to be agents of your comfort and care,
  Wounded Healers, offering your healing and wholeness.

Hallow our common lives and our life in common.
And make us Holy as, indeed, you are Holy.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a Wounded Healer,
And the Holy Spirit, who is our breath.

Armor by Sara Bareilles


Consider investment banker Bowen McCoy’s “The Parable of the Sadhu,” published in Harvard Business Review in 1977, and again 20 years later. It addressed what seemed, at least to the H.B.S. crowd, to be an ethical dilemma. McCoy was on a trip to the Himalayas when his expedition encountered a sadhu, or holy man, near death from hypothermia and exposure. Their compassion extended only to clothing the man and leaving him in the sun, before continuing on to the summit. One of McCoy’s group saw a “breakdown between the individual ethic and the group ethic,” and was gripped by guilt that the climbers had not made absolutely sure that the sadhu made it down the mountain alive. McCoy’s response: “Here we are . . . at the apex of one of the most powerful experiences of our lives. . . . What right does an almost naked pilgrim who chooses the wrong trail have to disrupt our lives?”

28 November, 2018

How to Salvage Congress

I have come to believe that the problem is not the people. The problem is a defective process and a power structure that, whichever party is in charge, funnels all power to leadership and stifles debate and initiative within the ranks. Your average member of Congress, far from being drunk on power, actually has very little of it outside a cable-news studio.

25 November, 2018

China’s Tactic to Catch a Fugitive Official: Hold His Two American Children

WASHINGTON — When Victor and Cynthia Liu landed with their mother on a tropical Chinese island in June to visit an ailing grandfather, they thought they would soon be on a plane back to their East Coast lives — he to start his sophomore year at Georgetown University, and she to work at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company in New York.
Instead, within days, police officers detained their mother, Sandra Han, who, like her children, is an American citizen. They moved her to a secret site, commonly known as a black jail. The children discovered at the airport that they could not leave China, even though the police had said they were not being investigated or charged with a crime, the children told American officials and family associates.
By holding the family hostage, they said, the police are trying to force the siblings’ father to return to China to face criminal charges. The father, Liu Changming, a former executive at a state-owned bank, is accused of being a central player in a $1.4 billion fraud case.

The Steward of Middle-earth

“The value of myth,” C.S. Lewis wrote in an essay defending The Lord of the Rings, “is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity.’” In this, fantasy did precisely the opposite of what its critics alleged—it did not represent a flight from the real world but a return to it, an unveiling of it. A child, Lewis wrote, “does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods,” but “the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”

Academia is a cult

Exploitative labor practices occupy the ground floor of every religious movement, and adjuncts, like cult members, are usually required to work long and hard for little remuneration, toiling in support of the institution to prove their devotion to academia itself. Contrary to stereotypes of professors as contemplative eggheads at best and partisan layabouts at worst, many academics use their summers and sabbaticals as opportunities to catch up on articles and book projects held over from previous academic years, overworking as many as 60 hours per week. The cliche “publish or perish” belies a constant demand to prove one’s commitment and worth, amounting to a crippling fear of being “intellectually pantsed,” as a mentor of mine once said. It’s difficult not to see these abuses as rites of passage in the service of some higher cause. Academics may cast themselves as hardened opponents of dominant norms and constituted power, but their rituals of entitlement and fiendish loyalty to established networks of caste and privilege undermine that critical pose. No one says it aloud, but every graduate student knows: This is the price you pay for a chance to enter the sanctum of the tenure track. Follow the leader, or prepare to teach high school.

Good riddance: Americans need to set aside icons like Robert E. Lee to live up to our potential.


War is often subjected to this tendency to clean up, or at least oversimplify. It is hard to discuss the periodic incompetence, cowardice and criminality that are associated with every military campaign in history without seeming to detract from the very real courage and sacrifice of the vast majority of soldiers. And nothing is more difficult than portraying war in its gritty, brutal reality, or the darker side of soldiers, without the risk of confusing Americans about whether our cause is just or our nation a force for good in the world. As Pericles and others have taught us, we must honor the kinds of service that we seek to have repeated in the future. We must salute and remember the veterans who stepped forward to serve while admitting the complexity of the environment in which they had to operate.

21 November, 2018

Ben Sasse: By the Book

Which books do you think capture the current social and political moment in America?
I’ve been aching over Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” for two years straight. It was widely praised, but still not enough. We ought to be talking constantly about the troubling data Professor Putnam has uncovered. There really are “two different Americas,” but not in the way the phrase lingers in our ears because of how John Edwards’s presidential campaign in 2004 branded the 1 percent and the 99 percent. Putnam shows that the troubling resurgence of socioeconomic class in America centers primarily around the divide between the mobile educated elite (31 percent of our neighbors, according to Putnam) and the majority of America — the 69 percent of kids he says are born into a house with no college graduates. These children have collapsing family structures, decreasing socioeconomic mobility and rapidly thinning networks of kith and kin. I like J. D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy,” but Putnam’s work is, I think, the big backdrop for understanding the vicious cycle of how declining economic opportunities for the non-educationally credentialed and family and neighborhood collapse are becoming mutually reinforcing for broad swaths of America.

About attention theft

Almost every time I write or speak about civic technology, I talk about an over-arching design value: respect for people’s time, dignity, and abilities. (In a 2015 report, California’s Little Hoover Commission adapted this to “respect people’s time, ability, and means”, which also works.) This is critically important for life-impacting services like those government provides, and that goes for education and medicine as well. But I’m ready to propose that we apply it more broadly, and think about how it fits into the developing practice of design ethics: as a first principle, respect your users’ capacities, including the right to direct their own attention.
I’ll go further: designers, technologists, please protect your users’ capacities as seriously as you protect your own. As much as you guard your calendar from frivolous meetings so you can keep enough stretches of maker-time to achieve flow, as much as you turn off your phone for one-on-ones, or whatever you do as a high-capacity knowledge worker to preserve your attention for the tasks that need it most, practice the same respect for your users’ attention:

20 November, 2018

The Second Half of Watergate Was Bigger, Worse, and Forgotten By the Public

“For the first time in the history of the world, a measure for bribery was introduced into law that was universal as far as those subjected to the law were concerned. For the first time, a country made it criminal to corrupt the officials of another country,” John T. Noonan writes in his exhaustive work on the subject, Bribe: The Intellectual History of a Moral Idea. Noonan’s point is that for more than three hundred years, corporate bribery has endured as an inevitable global evil. It was no small feat the United States took it upon itself to prohibit bribery, at a time when other governments essentially looked the other way regarding kickbacks and their impact.

12 November, 2018

Observations of age cohorts in a call center, from reddit

Born after 1985? Call will be fine. Quick, polite, and understanding that you are not the company. Not demanding or rude about things.
1985-1965? 50/50. Good chance of getting yelling and anger. But usually not directed at you personally.
Born 1965-1945? May God have mercy on your soul. Holy s*** the amount of entitlement, and condescention from this group was insane. No concept that the person on the phone doesn't make or have any control over company policy. Will not admit to any ignorance.
Born before 1945? Call will be fine. Person will be very nice, but possibly confused and need extra explanation. Will generally tell you when they don't know somthing. Will talk to you forever, best small talk.

10 November, 2018

Why Does It Take So Long To Count Ballots?

Many people across Arizona, in the media, and across the United States are wondering why it takes so long to count ballots. So we wanted to take the time to explain the process.

In Arizona, there are 15 elected County Recorders and their elections divisions tabulate the ballots and upload them to the Secretary of State’s website.
The Secretary of State’s only role in this process is to display the results once they are uploaded by each county.

One of the major reasons it takes time to count ballots is that there are hundreds of thousands of early ballots dropped off at the polls on election day – approximately 320,000 statewide this time. The counties are currently working to verify the signatures on each and every one of those early ballots before they can be tabulated. Once the county election officials verify the signature on each of those ballots (which is no small task!), they then make sure that a voter didn’t cast an early ballot AND vote in person at a polling location. All of these processes take a little bit of time and is done to ensure that voters can trust the outcome of their elections.

The Sound of Silence

08 November, 2018

Sprint Is Throttling Microsoft’s Skype Service, Study Finds

Sprint Corp. has been slowing traffic to Microsoft Corp.’s internet-based video chat service Skype, according to new findings from an ongoing study by Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts.
More than 100,000 consumers have used the researchers’ Wehe smartphone app to test internet connections. Information from those tests are aggregated and analyzed by the researchers to check if data speeds are being slowed, or throttled, for specific mobile services.

05 November, 2018

Rural America’s Own Private Flint: Polluted Water Too Dangerous to Drink

ARMENIA, Wis. — The groundwater that once ran cool and clean from taps in this Midwestern farming town is now laced with contaminants and fear. People refuse to drink it. They won’t brush their teeth with it. They dread taking showers.
Rural communities call it their own, private Flint— a diffuse, creeping water crisis tied to industrial farms and slack regulations that for years has tainted thousands of residential wells across the Midwest and beyond.