BI: Why check-cashing stores are a good deal, according to a UPenn professor( 10 )

The prevailing wisdom from bankers and policy makers went like this: People who used alternative financial services — like check cashers and payday lenders — were making expensive and unwise decisions. If we could just educate the “unbanked” and “underbanked” and usher them into the modern financial system with a bank account, their fortunes would surely improve.

But Servon, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania and a former dean at the New School, spent 20 years studying low-income communities, and to her, that picture didn’t add up. Most of the unbanked (the roughly 7% of US households without checking or savings accounts) and the underbanked (the nearly 20% that had such accounts but still used alternative financial services) that she encountered were neither naive nor irresponsible about money.

“The implication of that” — the biennial surveys of the “unbanked and underbanked” by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — “was these people were making poor decisions,” Servon recently told Business Insider. “I knew that the people I had worked with closely who don’t have very much money know where every penny goes. They budget things. They know where to get the best deals on things. And so it struck me that if they were using check cashers, there must be a good reason for that.”

From: Why check-cashing stores are a good deal, according to a UPenn professor – Business Insider

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Why More Democrats Are Now Embracing Conspiracy Theories( 34 )

“…the shift in vulnerability to conspiracy theories may have deeper psychological roots. Research suggests that people embrace conspiracy beliefs as a way to cope with perceived threats to control. In particular, Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent at the University of Miami have argued that conspiracy theory beliefs increase in response to group threats, including among losers of elections. These beliefs can help rally groups and coordinate action in response to a decline in status or power.”

Brendan Nyhan, Why More Democrats Are Now Embracing Conspiracy Theories.

 

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Ed Morrissey: Does the 9th Circuit really have an 80% reversal rate?( 9 )

“Reviewed by the Supreme Court” is the operative qualifier — and it’s a very, very important one. Very few cases actually get reviewed by the Supreme Court from any of the circuit courts, and most of them don’t even generate appeals to the Supreme Court in the first place. Parties file appeals to the Supreme Court, which then has to decide whether the justices want or need to review the case. If fewer than four of the justices think that the appeal has merit, the application for certiorari is denied, keeping the appellate decision in place. This happens in most cases.

What does that mean in practical terms? It means that the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari tend to favor those cases that are likely to be overturned. It’s a major selection bias, and as we’ll see, it gives a very distorted picture of what happens in the appellate court system.

Let’s take a look at the ABA report that generated this talking point. The study covered ten years (1999-2008) across all appellate circuits. During that period of time, the total number of cases decided by all appellate courts was 604,665. How many did the Supreme Court accept for their review? A mere 660 cases, or 0.109% of all decisions reached by the appellate level. The Ninth Circuit accounted for 175 of the cases reviewed, or about 26.5%, but the same circuit handled 114,199 of all appellate cases — 18.9% of the total.

From: Does the 9th Circuit really have an 80% reversal rate? « Hot Air

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Japan Times: Japan’s suicide statistics don’t tell the real story( 1 )

According to the National Police Agency (NPA), Japan’s annual total of suicides dipped below 30,000 people for the first time in 15 years in 2012 — to 27,766. While the fall is great news, part of me wonders: Has there really been a drop in suicides or should we look at it as a drop in homicides?

According to the government’s 2012 “White Paper on Suicide,” in 2011 there were 30,651 cases recorded of people taking their own lives. The motives listed were in the following descending order of problems related to health; daily life; family; and work.

But here’s an odd thing: The reasons for the suicide were only determined in 73 percent of cases — in more than 25 percent of cases they were for reasons unknown. Many of those cases perhaps presented no reason because they weren’t suicides at all.

From: Japan’s suicide statistics don’t tell the real story | The Japan Times

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Guardian: Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as ‘unreliable’ source( 2 )

Wikipedia editors have voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group “generally unreliable”.

The move is highly unusual for the online encyclopaedia, which rarely puts in place a blanket ban on publications and which still allows links to sources such as Kremlin backed news organisation Russia Today, and Fox News, both of which have raised concern among editors.

The editors described the arguments for a ban as “centred on the Daily Mail’s reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication”.

From: Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as ‘unreliable’ source, The Guardian (Jasper Jackson)

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WaPo: The Silencing of Elizabeth Warren and an old Senate Rule Prompted by a Fistfight( 25 )

Furious that McLaurin was colluding with the other side of the aisle, Tillman used a Feb. 22, 1902, speech on the Senate floor to harangue the younger senator. Gesturing toward McLaurin’s empty chair, Tillman accused his counterpart of treachery and corruption, saying he had succumbed to “improper influences,” according to a Senate history of the dispute.

When McLaurin caught wind of Tillman’s remarks, he rushed into the chamber and shouted that Tillman was telling a “willful, malicious and deliberate lie.”

A fistfight erupted. As Senate historians recounted, “The 54-year-old Tillman jumped from his place and physically attacked McLaurin, who was 41, with a series of stinging blows. Efforts to separate the two combatants resulted in misdirected punches landing on other members.”

From: The Silencing of Elizabeth Warren and an old Senate Rule Prompted by a Fistfight, Washington Post (Derek Hawkins)

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The Real Message Behind Audi’s Super Bowl Ad Isn’t Exactly An Uplifting One( 92 )

Is this the daughter of our handsome protagonist? Don’t get it twisted; the dad, not the daughter, is our protagonist. The daughter is an object of desire. Not sexual desire, but objective desire. She’s something you want to have, not the person you want to be. But I doubt this is the daughter. Let’s look at the visual language. She’s got a coarse, chunky prole face, obvious braces, and an old-style varsity jacket. In other words, she’s poor, just like the fat boys. And just in case you can’t read the message, they’ve actually put stripper glitter on her face — or the suggestion of it, at least.

The inclusion of this other girl seems like a staggering error, because she gets dusted right at the start of the race. If this story is about girls overcoming all odds, then having another girl who is at the back of the pack doesn’t serve the narrative. But the narrative, I assure you, is quite operational. Have you figured out yet what this spot is really about? {…}

Well, if you’ve been reading along, I think you’ve figured out what the real message of this Audi advertisement is, but just in case you’ve been napping I will spell it out for you: Money and breeding always beat poor white trash. Those other kids in the race, from the overweight boys to the hick who actually had an American flag helmet to the stripper-glitter girl? They never had a chance. They’re losers and they always will be, just like their loser parents. Audi is the choice of the winners in today’s economy, the smooth talkers who say all the right things in all the right meetings and are promoted up the chain because they are tall (yes, that makes a difference) and handsome without being overly masculine or threatening-looking.

At the end of this race, it’s left to the Morlocks to clean the place up and pack the derby cars into their trashy pickup trucks, while the beautiful people stride off into the California sun, the natural and carefree winners of life’s lottery. Audi is explicitly suggesting that choosing their product will identify you as one of the chosen few. I find it personally offensive. As an owner of one of the first 2009-model-year Audi S5s to set tire on American soil, yet also as an ugly, ill-favored child who endured a scrappy Midwestern upbringing, I find it much easier to identify with the angry-faced fat kids in their home-built specials or the boy with the Captain America helmet.

From: The Real Message Behind Audi’s Super Bowl Ad Isn’t Exactly An Uplifting One

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The Evolution of Everything( 114 )

The Internet evolved in a very literal sense of the word. Its details emerged gradually by trial and error. Sure, it depends on particular inventions, like computing, communications, and packet switching. But there was an inevitability about these emerging when and where they did. Take search engines. When Google came into existence in 1996, there were already more than 20 search engines on the market.

Likewise, when Edison invented the incandescent light bulb in the 1870s, he was one of 23 different people who independently had the same idea. The progress of technology and science are inexorable. Even Einstein, had he been run over by a Swiss tram before thinking of relativity, was dispensable: Hendrik Lorentz would soon have discovered relativity. Patents and Nobel prizes give a false impression of how discovery works.

The same is true of the English language, which is changing all the time not because of linguistic inventors but by a form of trial and error. Words like “prevaricate” and “oversight” have changed their meaning in recent years. Words that are used frequently get shortened — watch how quickly “e-cigarette” shrinks to “e-cig” or “vape” in the coming years. This happens not because some obscure committee in London decides on what should happen to English, but spontaneously.

Or take money. The gradual emergence of standardized coinage to replace barter, of paper money to replace coins, of electronic transfers to replace paper, and (next, perhaps) of block-chain bitcoins to replace bank-certified money, is a process that nobody directs, commands, or controls. It evolves.

Yet we remain psychologically resistant to this message. Just as we are instinctively reluctant to believe that weather is random, that thunderstorms are not driven by malevolent deities punishing us for our sins (or for using fossil fuels), so we are obsessed with seeing top-down causes of bottom-up phenomena.

From: The Evolution of Everything – Powell’s Books

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The Ringer: The End of “Stick to Sports”( 35 )

Did you read sports Twitter over the weekend? Notice how your favorite sportswriters were blasting Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration like the protesters at JFK’s Terminal 4? As Trump goes, such resistance is becoming typical. For sportswriters, it could be a watershed. If there was a thin line between sportswriting and political advocacy, this weekend erased it forever. The era of “stick to sports” is over.

These days, when a Republican politician does something obnoxious or destructive, we expect them to be met by an advance guard of sportswriters like Craig Calcaterra, Dave Zirin, David Roth, and somebody from Deadspin. You know, the enforcer types.

Source: The End of “Stick to Sports”

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TDB: Trump’s Border Patrol Defies Judge, U.S. Senator at Dulles Airport as His First Constitutional Crisis Unfolds( 258 )

Early in the evening, a huge piece of news broke: Two federal judges, Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York and Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia, had made rulings that would stall the implementation of Trump’s anti-refugee executive order.

For the lawyers at Dulles Airport, Brinkema’s ruling generated a ton of excitement. She ruled that the travelers detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had a right to see lawyers.
After the ruling came out, lawyers bustled around, filling out forms declaring that detainees were their clients (someone had thought to bring a printer). Any minute, they expected, they would be able to see the detainees and try to help them get into the U.S.

At this point, it wasn’t clear how many people were detained and which of them were legal permanent residents of the U.S. Lawyers didn’t even know all the names of the people they were trying to help. It wasn’t clear if some detainees had been put back on planes returning to their countries of origin, or if detainees had been shuttled off to immigrant detention centers in Northern Virginia. The travelers were all being held in what’s called “secondary inspection,” referred to as “secondary.” It’s part of the CBP screening process where lawyers are rarely, if ever, allowed to be present.

But lawyers who spoke to The Daily Beast said it’s also unheard of for government agencies like CBP to prevent people who have the legal right to live in the U.S. from seeing their lawyers. And that’s what was happening.

From: Trump’s Border Patrol Defies Judge, U.S. Senator at Dulles Airport as His First Constitutional Crisis Unfolds – The Daily Beast

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Popehat: Quick Cheat Sheet on First Amendment Rights of Public Employees( 0 )

I’ve done tediously lengthy lawsplainers on the First Amendment rights of public employees before, here and here. Those posts have the explanations and citations. This is the cheat sheet.

When the government is an employer, it’s wearing two hats: government-as-your-government and government-as-your-employer. The government-as-employer can punish employees for things it couldn’t punish them for acting as government-as-government. Which things? It’s complicated.

Source: Quick Cheat Sheet on First Amendment Rights of Public Employees | Popehat

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Hammer: More Than A Year After My Children’s Father Died, We’re Still In Transition( 0 )

I shook my head and strained to turn my mind back to a flat, gray wall. The wall of the room I had shared with my husband, Jake, until weeks earlier. The room he dressed in one Saturday morning and grabbed a backpack full of spare inner tubes and power gels he never used. The room he left for a bike ride he never came back from.

It was our sad, gray room where I stood, newly widowed, the mother of a toddler, eight months pregnant. The room that was— by God—going to have a striped corner for our brand-new baby.

They say not to take on anything major within 6 months of a traumatic event. I used to chuckle when I heard this. “Well, I’m going to push a baby out of me and raise ’em by myself, but sure, I won’t get bangs or anything, I guess.”

I figured changing our master bedroom was safe enough. Something brighter, something new. I wasn’t much of a nursery designer, even with my first child who got no more than a corner either. But I couldn’t see bringing a new baby home to this stark, minimalist memory of a bedroom.

From: More Than A Year After My Children’s Father Died, We’re Still In Transition

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Status 451: Days of Rage( 84 )

Days of Rage is important, because this stuff is forgotten and it shouldn’t be. The 1970s underground wasn’t small. It was hundreds of people becoming urban guerrillas. Bombing buildings: the Pentagon, the Capitol, courthouses, restaurants, corporations. Robbing banks. Assassinating police. People really thought that revolution was imminent, and thought violence would bring it about.

One thing that Burrough returns to in Days of Rage, over and over and over, is how forgotten so much of this stuff is. Puerto Rican separatists bombed NYC like 300 times, killed people, shot up Congress, tried to kill POTUS (Truman). Nobody remembers it.

Also, people don’t want to remember how much leftist violence was actively supported by mainstream leftist infrastructure. I’ll say this much for righty terrorist Eric Rudolph: the sonofabitch was caught dumpster-diving in a rare break from hiding in the woods. During his fugitive days, Weatherman’s Bill Ayers was on a nice houseboat paid for by radical lawyers.

Most ’70s of the bombings were done as protest actions. Unlike today’s jihadists, ’70s underground didn’t try to max body count. And ’70s papers didn’t really give a shit. A Puerto Rican group bombed 2 theaters in the Bronx, injuring eleven, in 1970. NYT gave it 6 paragraphs.

Source: Days of Rage | Status 451

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Alexandra Baldwin: I Wouldn’t Hire Donald Trump, and I Won’t “Wait and See” Either( 4 )

I’ll start with the positive. He is clearly a pretty good developer. I think you can chalk much of his success up to “right place, right time,” but it would be disingenuous to dismiss all of his successes as being a function of just inherited wealth or his accidental location in a market that has generated outsized returns for three decades. Simply noting that he’s not as good at it as Stephen Ross or Richard LaFrek is hardly a damning criticism. He builds beautiful buildings, and he tackles projects that feature incredibly complex approval processes requiring navigation through local, city and state boards in abundance.

Further, with incomplete information, it appears as if people genuinely like working for him. Sure, there are stray anecdotes of disgruntled employees and poor working conditions, but generally speaking, for someone with his profile and that many ex-employees, there is not an overwhelming amount of criticism of him. Again, that is a judgment based only on what I can observe – I haven’t stalked Indeed for reviews, for example – but it appears that he takes care of his people and that they enjoy working for him (Trump Model Management seems to be an outlier on this…)

In other words, his resume is fine. He is not an abjectly incompetent executive. I understand why the recruiter forwarded his name to us…it is an interesting background. But we don’t hire resumes, and we don’t even hire strategic plans or interesting visions of the future. We hire people.

From: Misfit Politics – MisfitPolitics

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CNN: The people you don’t know who could be running the government on Friday( 3 )

While the Senate waits to confirm Trump’s nominees, critical national security and economic posts will be led by designated acting secretaries and agency heads, like Norris Cochran who will lead the Department of Health and Human Services or Catherine McCabe at the Environmental Protection Agency.

This is not unusual. When Obama took office on January 20, 2009, only eight cabinet secretaries were ready to take office and many posts remained vacant. While some like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were confirmed the next day, Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s first HHS secretary, was not confirmed until April of that year.

“You’re not going to get the critical people in place in time,” Max Stier, the president of the Partnership for Public Service, an organization that has been pushing reforms to the presidential transition process, told CNN.

From: The people you don’t know who could be running the government on Friday – CNNPolitics.com

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Swiss Police Are Ready to Blast Drones Out of the Sky at Davos( 11 )

The gunner looks like a character in a dystopian movie in which the ruling elite prepare to fight off a scrappy, tech-savvy rebellion. The reality? Maybe not that far off.

Swiss police were pictured this week in Davos testing anti-drone jammers, which resemble massive machine guns, as part of security preparations for the World Economic Forum. The annual gathering of members of the world’s business and political elite has brought more than 3,000 attendees to the skiing resort.

In Davos, police were testing to make sure the equipment was ready and able to take down any drones potentially carrying out covert missions, said Steffen Wicker, managing director at H.P. Marketing & Consulting Wüst, which makes the jamming guns pictured.

From: Swiss Police Are Ready to Blast Drones Out of the Sky at Davos

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Why Both Counterculturs Failed( 13 )

Systematic eternalism depends on a foundation: some eternal ordering principle. On that, it builds a structure of justification, which gives everything meaning. By the mid-twentieth-century, this had clearly failed. Nihilism seemed the only possible alternative.

Both countercultures recognized that the 1950s American mainstream was an empty shell, based on collective pretense, with mere materialism at its core. It might as well be outright nihilism, they thought.

But… there is a more generous way of interpreting the “hypocrisy” of the 1950s. Everyone understood, at some level, that the structure of justification no longer worked. However, everyone also understood, at some level, that just pretending was enough to keep the system working. This was actually right, because there never was a genuine foundation for systematic eternalism. In reality, it had always largely run on ritual: everyone acting as if the system was justified. This is a good thing! The ritual “as if” is the only way functional societies can work.

Source: Why both countercultures failed | Meaningness

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An insidious new Gmail phishing attack is tricking even the most careful of users( 20 )

A new phishing technique is fooling internet users into giving hackers access to their Gmail accounts. According to WordPress security plugin creator Wordfence, the way that the attack works is that hackers send emails to the contacts of compromised accounts containing a seemingly innocuous attachment. When the user clicks the attachment, a new tab opens in the browser that looks nearly identical to the Google sign-in page. If the user inputs their log-in information, it goes straight to the attacker.

From: An insidious new Gmail phishing attack is tricking even the most careful of users – BGR

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Dalton: The blinders of partisanship and the 2016 US election( 35 )

From 2000 to 2012, the degree of party loyalty is striking. A full 97% of strong Democrats voted for their party across these elections, and 97% of strong Republicans did the same. It didn’t matter if the Democratic candidate was a white southerner with a long political resume (Gore in 2000), a liberal senator from New England (Kerry in 2004), or an upcoming freshman senator from the Midwest who just happened to be black (Obama in 2008). The same pattern exists among Republicans. Virtually all of the partisan groups voted more than 85% of the time for their own party’s candidate. It should also be noted that the Democratic vote share among independents is shown here. As you can imagine, they are more likely to change their voting preferences across elections.

The 2016 election seemed to challenge this conventional model of partisanship and voting. Hillary Clinton’s campaign targeted women, Hispanics, and gays more explicitly than any Democratic candidate in the past. Donald Trump supposedly appealed to a different type of Republican voter, and swung three major states from the Democrats’ blue Midwestern wall. The rhetoric of the campaign also seemed to test traditional partisan loyalties. In almost every way, this was not a “normal” election. Or was it?

Russell J. Dalton: The blinders of partisanship and the 2016 US election. Pub. by Oxford University Press’ OUPblog.

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Hot Air: In California, you can’t publish actors’ ages on IMDB anymore( 6 )

So the stated purpose of this law is supposedly to prevent age discrimination in employment. Seriously? First of all, we’re talking about famous people in the case of IMDB. It’s not as if you could just go on Wikipedia or any of a million fan sites and look up their ages, right? But even if this were having some sort of positive effect (which it’s not), is that really how we’re supposed to go about preventing discrimination in hiring? Shall all web sites now be banned from showing pictures of people so as to prevent prospective employers from figuring out their race? And what about gender? If an employer is unsure of your gender there must be countless ways to figure that out.

From: In California, you can’t publish actors’ ages on IMDB anymore « Hot Air

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Daniel Summers: Donald Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. just made pediatricians’ jobs a lot harder( 24 )

If enough parents refuse to have their children vaccinated, the herd immunity that protects the nation as a whole will wane. There were a record number of measles cases in 2014, the majority in people who were unvaccinated. Does anyone want to share the experience of the Spanish parents whose unvaccinated son died of diphtheria in 2015, after that country had been free of the disease since 1986?

Of course not. But vaccine-preventable illnesses will only stay at bay if parents are appropriately reassured that the means of preventing them are safe and effective.

Will that be the conclusion of a Trump-created, Kennedy-led commission? I have absolutely no confidence that it will be. The mere creation of the commission, meant to investigate a question that has already been asked and answered many times over, is ominous, even aside from the anti-vaccine agenda both men unmistakably share. Given Trump’s disdain for facts that inconveniently conflict with his opinions, to believe the commission will land on the side of vaccination requires an optimism bordering on the deranged.

From Donald Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. just made pediatricians’ jobs a lot harder

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Sam Dresser: The increasingly mobile US is a myth that needs to move on( 21 )

The evidence that mobility has declined is more robust for roughly the past 65 years, thanks to annual census-bureau mass surveys. Around 1950, about 20 per cent of Americans changed homes from one year to the next. In the 1980s, under 18 per cent did. By the 2000s, under 15 per cent – and now we are approaching annual moving rates of only 10 per cent. About two-thirds of movers do not go far, relocating within the same county, and the frequency of such local moves has dropped by about half since the Second World War. The proportion of Americans who move across county and state lines is considerably lower, but that rate, too, has dropped substantially, from about 6.5 per cent in the 1950s to under 4 per cent now.

This trend toward staying in place has accelerated since 2001. Why? The geographer Thomas J Cooke at the University of Connecticut largely credits the economic crisis, but he argues that mobility would still have declined in any event because of a general societal trend toward ‘increased rootedness’. The economists Raven Molloy, Christopher L Smith and Abigail Wozniak have speculated that perhaps technological changes have made telecommuting easier and therefore moving for job reasons is less necessary. Another explanation offered is that US communities have become so similar in terms of employment that there’s no financial point in moving. But, in short, no clear explanation has yet emerged for what many economists, as I discuss later, consider a problem.

From: The increasingly mobile US is a myth that needs to move on | Aeon Essays

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Hal Walker: The Front of the Classroom( 155 )

The office in Brooklyn was filled with the best and brightest. The little offices in Michigan and Wisconsin were not. People in the field reported that they were giving out too few yard signs, that door-to-door canvassing revealed life-long Democrats saying they would vote for Trump, and that rallies were under-attended. It didn’t feel like a winning campaign in crucial states. But the valedictorians listened to their data experts, their fellow A students, and did not divert from their algorithmically determined strategy.

In the end, the snobs lost to the slobs, but true to the character of the well-educated, they simply will not hear criticism that does not come from the similarly credentialed. The loss is the fault of every stupid person. The voters were racist and sexist, those stupid hippy millennials didn’t turn up, morons believed fake news. The front of the class don’t need to change a thing, they’ve made good grades their whole lives, they’re never wrong, and they’re going to just keep on being right and losing fights.

From: The Front of the Classroom – Medium

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Wittes et al. — About that Explosive Trump Story: Take a Deep Breath( 73 )

First, we have no idea if any of these allegations are true. Yes, they are explosive; they are also entirely unsubstantiated, at least to our knowledge, at this stage. For this reason, even now, we are not going to discuss the specific allegations within the document.

Second, while unproven, the allegations are being taken quite seriously. The President and President-elect do not get briefed on material that the intelligence community does not believe to be at least of some credibility. The individual who generated them is apparently a person whose work intelligence professionals take seriously. And at a personal level, we can attest that we have had a lot of conversations with a lot of different people about the material in this document. While nobody has confirmed any of the allegations, both inside government and in the press, it is clear to us that they are the subject of serious attention.

Benjamin Wittes, Susan Hennessey, and Quinta Jurecic — About that Explosive Trump Story: Take a Deep Breath, Lawfare

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Obama — Farewell Address( 3 )

In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken…to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;” that we should preserve it with “jealous anxiety;” that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.

We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent.  We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

Barack Obama — Farewell Address, transcript as published in Los Angeles Times

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Morning Ed: Society {2016.01.11.W}( 6 )

A cool hockey story… of revenge.

This is the conclusion I found most surprising: [T]he gender difference [in self-esteem] was larger in more developed countries characterized by values that espouse equality and freedom.

This is a funny story.

How Lucille Ball made Star Trek happen.

Message in a bottle! And another, and another…

Beware the man (or woman) with the passport, for they are immoral!

Finn Paul writes of choosing one’s trans name. The only trans person I knew as one gender and then the other took her grandmother’s.

Wow, comic book writer Gerard Jones arrested for child pornography, and manga editor Park Jung-Hyun was arrested for murder. I really like just about everything I read of Jones. Really off-the-wall. Of all the child pornography crimes to commit… uploading it to YouTube is a really weird one.

And lastly, a song for your enjoyment:

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Tom Pepinsky: Everyday Authoritarianism is Boring and Tolerable( 29 )

The mental image that most American harbor of what actual authoritarianism looks like is fantastical and cartoonish. This vision of authoritarian rule has jackbooted thugs, all-powerful elites acting with impunity, poverty and desperate hardship for everyone else, strict controls on political expression and mobilization, and a dictator who spends his time ordering the murder or disappearance of his opponents using an effective and wholly compliant security apparatus. This image of authoritarianism comes from the popular media (dictators in movies are never constrained by anything but open insurrection), from American mythmaking about the Founding (and the Second World War and the Cold War), and from a kind of “imaginary othering” in which the opposite of democracy is the absence of everything that characterizes the one democracy that one knows.

Still, that fantastical image of authoritarianism is entirely misleading as a description of modern authoritarian rule and life under it. It is a description, to some approximation, of totalitarianism. Carl Friedrich is the best on totalitarianism (see PDF), and Hannah Arendt of course on its emergence (PDF). But Arendt and Friedrich were very clear that totalitarianism is exceptional as a form of politics.

The reality is that everyday life under the kinds of authoritarianism that exist today is very familiar to most Americans. You go to work, you eat your lunch, you go home to your family.* There are schools and businesses, and some people “make it” through hard work and luck. Most people worry about making sure their kids get into good schools. The military is in the barracks, and the police mostly investigate crimes and solve cases. There is political dissent, if rarely open protest, but in general people are free to complain to one another. There are even elections. This is Malaysia, and many countries like it.

Source: Everyday Authoritarianism is Boring and Tolerable | Tom Pepinsky

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Politico: Germany mulls scrapping minimum wage for refugees( 28 )

Refugees and migrants could be paid less than minimum wage if they do not have equivalent qualifications under a new proposal in Germany, Süddeutschen Zeitung reported Monday.

The plan, co-authored by the employment, finance and education ministries, would see employees permitted to pay refugees and migrants who are in the process of acquiring professional skills within a company less than the normal minimum. During that period, their work would be considered a “mandatory internship” and therefore not bound by wage rules.

From: Germany mulls scrapping minimum wage for refugees – POLITICO

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Jacobin: The CIA Is Not Your Friend( 35 )

The CIA is rebranding as a rational, progressive arm of the US state. And some liberals are buying it.

The Central Intelligence Agency used to be the “bad guy.” After the coup in Chile and Operation Phoenix in Vietnam; after spying on and repressing the antiwar movement; after secret mind-control experiments and bizarre assassination plots, the agency became liberals’ ultimate bogeyman.

Since then, the CIA has rebranded: now home to nerdy liberals like Edward Snowden or true-hearted defenders of democracy like Joe Wilson, the liberal public sees it as an important balance to war-mongers from Dick Cheney to Donald Trump. The revelation that Russian operatives apparently provided Wikileaks with the Podesta e-mails cemented the CIA’s new image. Langley valiantly tried to warn voters that the election had been hijacked, but petty politics got in the way. Now some liberals are pinning their hopes for an electoral mulligan on the intelligence community’s ability to discredit Trump.

This fantasy comes from liberals’ desire to ostentatiously distance themselves from Russia’s increasingly belligerent foreign policy and to displace the blame for Clinton’s surprising, but deserved, loss. But make no mistake, liberals: despite its new image, the CIA is not your friend.

Source: The CIA Is Not Your Friend | Jacobin

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BI: Putin chooses not to respond to Obama sanctions, diplomat expulsion( 84 )

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, initially suggested that Russia would respond in kind by ejecting 35 US diplomats in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

That idea was shot down by Putin, however, who has effectively chosen “not to dignify the measures taken against Russia with a response,” said Michael Kofman, a global fellow at the Wilson Center who specializes in Russian and Eurasian affairs.

“This is frankly the most damaging and embarrassing answer we [the US] could receive,” Kofman told Business Insider on Friday. “It’s quite clear that both the Obama administration and Congress are trying to box Donald Trump in on Russia policy. But instead of responding to this latest salvo with predictable retaliatory measures, Russians have chosen to make them a nonissue.”

From: Putin chooses not to respond to Obama sanctions, diplomat expulsion – Business Insider

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Us Weekly: Parents Claim Their Hatchimals Have Been Saying ‘F–k Me’( 4 )

Is the must-have Christmas toy of 2016 not all it’s cracked up to be? Sarah and Nick Galego swear that the Hatchimal they bought for their 6-year-old is cursing in its sleep.

“I’m pretty sure it says ‘F–k me’” the Victoria, Canada–based dad told CTV Vancouver Island News on Wednesday, December 28, just days after his son, Fred, opened the interactive egg that hatches into a furry animal. Added Sarah: “We’re not going to return it … it’s pretty funny!”

From: Parents Claim Their Hatchimals Have Been Saying ‘F–k Me’ – Us Weekly

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Seattle voters will soon get $100 in ‘democracy vouchers’ to donate to candidates( 35 )

Seattle voters will receive “democracy vouchers” for the first time next week.

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission plans to mail the taxpayer-funded campaign-contribution vouchers on Tuesday to every registered voter in the city.

Each voter will get four $25 vouchers to distribute among candidates in 2017. The City Council’s two citywide seats and the City Attorney’s Office are up for election.

The vouchers will be part of mayoral races starting in 2021 but won’t be allocated to candidates as Ed Murray seeks re-election next year. Mayoral races are the city’s most expensive and the wait will allow the voucher program more time to accumulate funds.

Seattle voters ensured the city would be the first in the country with democracy vouchers when they approved Initiative 122 in 2015. The “Honest Elections” measure authorized a 10-year, $30 million property-tax levy to pay for the program.

From: Seattle voters will soon get $100 in ‘democracy vouchers’ to donate to candidates | The Seattle Times

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Ben Dreyfuss: How To Be Crazy The Right Way – Medium( 1 )

In 2009 there was this violent event in my life (knives! Cops! Oh my!) that left me with some PTSD bullshit and triggered a mental health crisis. I spent months playing it down and pretending like I was fine and everyone, including my family, seemed to believe me but in reality I was falling apart and truly unwell. After months of that I woke up one day and was crying in my apartment in LA and for some reason thought “I don’t want to be like this anymore” and I called Carrie. I hadn’t seen her in years. I wasn’t even sure the fucking number would work. It went to voice mail. I left a message that didn’t say much. “Hey Carrie, this is Ben Dreyfuss. Richard’s son. I was hoping you could give me a call when you get a chance.” I might not have said “help me help me” but my cracking-voice probably did. I was crying in the back of a Beverly Hills Cab when she called me back and I let it all pour out and she asked me if I was currently medicated and I confessed I was not and she said “I’ve been there and I get it, but right now you need to be medicated.” And she told me what anti-psychotics she was on and forced me to direct the cab to a therapist.

It was a very kind act that however small set me on a very good road. A few days later I saw her and by that point was ashamed of how whatever I’d been but she had none of it and made me feel much better.

From: How To Be Crazy The Right Way – Medium

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Quartz: List of the best things that happened in 2016, from Ebola being eradicated in West Africa to saving the mantees( 2 )

15. Malawi achieved a 67% reduction in the number of children acquiring HIV, the biggest success story across all sub-Saharan nations. Since 2006, they’ve saved 260,000 lives. Al Jazeera

16. Child mortality rates came down by 12% in Russia. Article

17. Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000, thanks to improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control, and expanded access to ARVs. Quartz

18. Mobile phones made significant inroads in the fight against rabies, a disease that kills more people annually than all terrorists combined. Ars Technica

From: List of the best things that happened in 2016, from Ebola being eradicated in West Africa to saving the mantees — Quartz

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