The Hoover Hog: My “Open Letter” Concerning the Amazon Blacklist and Freedom of Speech( 83 )

But you already know this. Since I assume you’re a stakeholder situated somewhere above my marginal niche in the larger world of book culture, I’d wager that your fingerprints are probably on some books that many people – perhaps I? – will find offensive. And when the would-be censors rattle, I’m guessing you know just where you stand. You might write the occasional check to the ACLU, or maybe you attend the annual “Banned Books Week” events at the local library. Or, if you’re of a certain age, you may even have been a signatory when the Association of American Publishers and other groups protested the decision of a once-ubiquitous bookstore chain not to sell copies of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. I thought that was a good move, by the way. A proud moment for the AAP.

And I sincerely believe that those of us who devote our lives to books have had quite a few good moments over the centuries. Whatever our differences, we belong to a tradition that has from the beginning stood for the liberal advancement of knowledge and human understanding. As publishers and as readers, we’re guided by an ethos that runs from the broadsides of Martin Luther to the trials of Henry Miller. If there’s anything to the notion of being on the “right side of history,” publishers have set the odds.

Thus I am addressing this “open letter” to you, my fellow publishers and book mavens. And now that I’ve done my worst to butter you up, I mean to draw your attention to a recent event that has received little above-ground media coverage but that I think should be of profound concern to all publishers, not just naughty pipsqueaks like me.

Specifically, I am referring to the decision of Amazon.com, which is now the world’s largest book retailer, to discontinue the sale of dozens of books that promote, or are said to promote, Holocaust denial. This policy seems to have taken full effect on March 8, 2017, and a bit of Googling convinces me that it was in large part a capitulation to mounting pressure from presumably well-intentioned people who vocally objected to the content – if not the mere the existence – of such literature. In a communication to Castle Hill Publishers, the primary target of the delisting (or ban), Amazon justified its decision with a vague reference to a “content guidelines” violation.

From: The Hoover Hog: My “Open Letter” Concerning the Amazon Blacklist and Freedom of SpeechImage by Lamessen

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Beinart: Donald Trump, Frank Gaffney, and the Looming Threat to American Muslims( 0 )

For years, Washington conservatives ridiculed these arguments and stigmatized Gaffney for making them. In 2003, after Gaffney attacked two Muslim staffers in the Bush White House, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist banned him from his influential “Wednesday meeting” of conservative activists. In 2011, according to sources close to the organization, the American Conservative Union informally barred Gaffney from speaking at CPAC, the ACU’s signature event. In 2013, the Bradley Foundation, which had backed the Center for Security Policy since 1988, cut off funds. That same year, Gaffney lost the Washington Times column he had been writing since the late 1990s. As late as December 2015, The Daily Beast declared that, “Frank Gaffney has been shunned by pretty much everyone in conservative intellectual circles.”

Yet less than 18 months later, America is led by a president, Donald Trump, who has frequently cited the Center for Security Policy when justifying his policies towards Muslims. Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has called Gaffney “one of the senior thought leaders and men of action in this whole war against Islamic radical jihad.” Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions—who has said “Sharia law fundamentally conflicts with our magnificent constitutional order”—in 2015 won the Center for Security Policy’s “Keeper of the Flame” Award. Trump’s CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, has appeared on Gaffney’s radio program more than 24 times since 2013. Sebastian Gorka, who runs a kind of parallel National Security Council inside the White House called the Strategic Initiatives Group, has appeared on Gaffney’s radio program 18 times during that period. He’s called Sharia “antithetical to the values of this great nation” and recently refused to say whether he considered Islam a religion.

From: Donald Trump, Frank Gaffney, and the Looming Threat to American Muslims – The Atlantic

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Kuznicki: In Search of a Post-Godwin Politics( 5 )

In my office there’s a framed poster of Godwin’s Law: as the length of a conversation increases, the probability of a Nazi reference rises to one. After that, all rational discussion comes to an end. The author of the meme, internet legend Mike Godwin, autographed it for me, and as the editor of an online debate journal, I refer to it often. Sadly.

When Donald Trump was elected president, I draped my print of Godwin’s Law in black: It was clear that we were going to need some entirely new and more flexible laws in the time to come. How else to even talk about politics, with anyone?

More to the point: in a world dominated by a quite oddly specific political disaster narrative, what happens when the genuinely disastrous occurs – or even just the inexcusably lousy – and when whatever is happening is not entirely in keeping with our script? What do we do when a disaster looms all around us, right at this moment, only it’s not in a form that we’re expecting? What if it’s one that we’re not even trying to care about yet? That’s close to where I think we are today.

From: In Search of a Post-Godwin Politics – Liberal Currents

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Will Dropping the LSAT Requirement Create More Miserable Lawyers?( 96 )

The move might succeed in expanding the pool of applicants. But here’s what it won’t do: increase the number of people in law school who actually want to be lawyers.

See, the LSAT is a speed bump with potential to separate those who truly want to be lawyers — the ones who thrive doing logic games in the same way they’ll relish adding Bluebook-style footnotes to briefs and motions in years to come — from those who just aren’t sure what else to do with their lives.

I practiced at a firm for seven years. Lawyers are notoriously dissatisfied and depressed, but I had an unusually positive experience. Even so, I eventually quit, to pursue the TV writing career I’d always wanted.

But not after spending — some would say wasting — 10 years and six figures to get there.

The LSAT was rough. The logic games that make up its most infamous section are real killers, and my name, which means “logical” in Arabic, failed to give me any sort of edge. Studying was grueling, repetitive and at times mind-numbingly boring, adjectives that happen to have quite a bit of overlap with the way some lawyers would describe their jobs.

From: Will Dropping the LSAT Requirement Create More Miserable Lawyers? – The New York Times

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Noah Smith: The Man Who Made Us See That Trade Isn’t Always Free( 206 )

If empirical studies can lead top mainstream economists to question this once-universal belief, then the profession really is shifting from theory to evidence. With this in mind, I recently contacted Autor to ask him how his research on China has altered his own thinking about the costs and benefits of trade.

Autor told me that he had been astonished by his own findings. Autor, like most top economists, was once an orthodox thinker on the trade issue. He had expected American workers would adjust well to the shock of Chinese imports, finding other jobs for similar wages after a short period of dislocation. That was largely what happened in the 1980s and 1990s in response to Japanese and European competition. Instead, he and his co-authors found that trade with China in the 2000s left huge swathes of the U.S. workforce permanently without good jobs — or, in many cases, jobs at all.

This sort of concentrated economic devastation sounds like it would hurt not just people’s pocketbooks, but the social fabric. In a series of follow-up papers, Autor and his team link Chinese import competition to declining marriage rates and political polarization. Autor told me that these social ills make the need for new thinking about trade policy even more urgent. A large population of angry, unmarried men with deteriorating career prospects is a dangerous thing for any democracy.

From: The Man Who Made Us See That Trade Isn’t Always Free – Bloomberg View

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Meanwhile in another universe: The allure of dystopian alternative histories | The Economist( 38 )

For all their nuance, both “SS-GB” and “The Man in the Castle” are, at root, hero narratives whose protagonists attempt to overthrow a foreign invading force. (The heroine of “The Man in the High Castle”, Juliana Crain, first appears on-screen practicing aikido; by the end of episode two, she’s putting her moves to use on a Nazi bounty hunter.) And yet, for those wishing to draw parallels with today, wouldn’t the Nazis’ rise be a more ripe area for exploration? As Jochem Bittner wrote in the New York Times last May, “Some people today imagine that Hitler sneaked up on Germany, that too few people understood the threat. In fact, many mainstream politicians recognised the danger but they failed to stop him. Some didn’t want to: The conservative parties and the nobility believed the little hothead could serve as their useful idiot…” The parallels many viewers see in today’s Washington are almost too obvious. Meanwhile on British shores, the unravelling mess that is the Labour Party is testimony to the dangers of having a divided and useless opposition.

Certainly, there is precedent for the “homegrown fascism” narrative in the history of alternate-history: CJ Sansom’s 2012 novel “Dominion” takes as its historical point of divergence the appointment of Lord Halifax, rather than Winston Churchill, as prime minister in 1940. Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America” takes a similar tack in replacing Roosevelt in the White House with an isolationist president, as does “It Can’t Happen Here”, Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel intended as a wake-up call to American complacency in the face of fascism. (Sales of Lewis’s novel soared after Trump’s election in November.)

From: Meanwhile in another universe: The allure of dystopian alternative histories | The EconomistImage by Smabs Sputzer

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In The Future, Our Attention Will Be Sold( 2 )

There are three common complaints against social media and the internet in general: 1) that it’s making us all narcissistic and shallow,2 2) that it’s crapping on our ability to maintain meaningful relationships and therefore making us lonelier,3 and 3) that it’s interfering with our ability to focus and get quote, unquote “more important shit” done in our lives.4

Interestingly, after quite a bit of research, it turns out that none of these claims are completely accurate. Social media doesn’t necessarily cause people to become more narcissistic, it just gives narcissistic people more opportunities to indulge their narcissism, and to a larger audience.5 It’s not interfering with either the closeness we feel to others or how many people we feel close to, it simply expands our network of casual acquaintances and the quantity of our casual social interactions.6 And while technology does present more opportunities for distraction (which we’ll get to), it also presents easier transmission of information, tools for collaboration and opportunities for organization.7

What I’m saying is that the whole “the internet is ruining us” argument is a big whiff. It’s likely just the anxiety that’s always wrought by new technologies. When TV and radio were invented, people complained that everyone’s brain was going to go to mush. When the printing press was invented, people thought it was going to destroy our ability to speak eloquently. Complaints about the minds of children being ruined by technology are as old as technology itself.8

Modern technology isn’t changing us. It’s changing society. There’s a difference. One is how we are, and one is simply how we react every day to the world around us. The social media age is changing the basic economics of our day-to-day lives. It’s changing them in profound ways, ways that most of us likely don’t notice. And surprisingly, it’s people like Kim Kardashian who are taking advantage of it.

From: In The Future, Our Attention Will Be Sold

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

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.

According to the NPA, since 1998 there have been 45 cases of murder initially ruled by police to have been due to natural causes or suicide. Among those, one was a man from Nagano Prefecture whose murder in 1980 was treated as a suicide until the killer confessed in 2000 — after the statute of limitations had passed.

The NPA has admitted that in Japan only 10 percent of suspicious deaths result in an autopsy. However, when a death initially appears to be due to suicide, only 5 percent are autopsied. The lack of a comprehensive use of autopsies was only brought to the public’s attention after several cases of “missed murders” came to light. The 45 known cases may just be “the edge of the graveyard” as some cops have put it.

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

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Fight Club’s dark fantasies have become an even darker reality( 117 )

If, meanwhile, you followed the Gamergate problems a few years ago, saw those message boards develop into nodes of far-right agitation, or had the misfortune to hear the likes of Milo Yiannopolous, you will find many of Fight Club’s ideas about carving out a niche for men eerily familiar; frighteningly so, given the wider context of the book and the violence at its core.

Rereading the novel in 2016 is chilling. Researching the book online, I found myself falling down a dark wormhole of fascistic websites that quote big chunks of David Fincher’s film adaptation as parts of their credo; even though parts are almost verbatim from the book, alt-right types tend to quote the film – because they either don’t agree with the overall message of Palahniuk’s book or they haven’t bothered to read it.

From: Fight Club’s dark fantasies have become an even darker reality | Books | The Guardian

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Chris Caldwell: American Carnage( 25 )

There have always been drug addicts in need of help, but the scale of the present wave of heroin and opioid abuse is unprecedented. Fifty-two thousand Americans died of overdoses in 2015—about four times as many as died from gun homicides and half again as many as died in car accidents. Pawtucket is a small place, and yet 5,400 addicts are members at Anchor. Six hundred visit every day. Rhode Island is a small place, too. It has just over a million people. One Brown University epidemiologist estimates that 20,000 of them are opioid addicts—2 percent of the population.

Salisbury, Massachusetts (pop. 8,000), was founded in 1638, and the opium crisis is the worst thing that has ever happened to it. The town lost one young person in the decade-long Vietnam War. It has lost fifteen to heroin in the last two years. Last summer, Huntington, West Virginia (pop. 49,000), saw twenty-eight overdoses in four hours. Episodes like these played a role in the decline in U.S. life expectancy in 2015. The death toll far eclipses those of all previous drug crises.

And yet, after five decades of alarm over threats that were small by comparison, politicians and the media have offered only a muted response. A willingness at least to talk about opioid deaths (among other taboo subjects) surely helped Donald Trump win last November’s election. In his inaugural address, President Trump referred to the drug epidemic (among other problems) as “carnage.” Those who call the word an irresponsible exaggeration are wrong.

From: American Carnage by Christopher Caldwell | Articles | First Things

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Breaking Down the Father on BBC Being Interrupted by His Children( 10 )

The most important thing to notice about this quite nice home office, particularly for Asia (it’s really big!), is the stack of books on the bed over Kelly’s left shoulder. As should be rather obvious, those books aren’t there by accident! Kelly almost certainly placed them there for this interview; sadly, given the terrible compression applied to Twitter video, I have no idea what books they are, but rest assured they are very befitting Kelly’s position as Professor of Political Science at Pusan National University and BBC expert on South Korea.

The map on the wall is also a nice touch: this is a man who almost certainly knows his way around the globe, but a blank wall just doesn’t play well on TV.

There are two flaws, though, in Kelly’s premeditated presentation: one, the door is ajar. Obviously that will figure prominently. Two, on the left hand side of the screen something is intruding into the picture. I have no idea what it is; it’s just an excuse to explain that these interviews are done using the webcam in computer displays. It’s true! There is no cameraperson there; indeed, often you are looking into the camera and seeing nothing on your own screen. It’s really disorienting and honestly one of the reasons I don’t like doing these kinds of TV hits.

From: Breaking Down the Father on BBC Being Interrupted by His Children – Medium

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GOP Hard-liners’ Obamacare Incoherence( 82 )

Rhetorically, GOP hard-liners such as Paul claim that they are implacably opposed to federal subsidies for health insurance, that they’re taking a brave stand against big government. Operationally, however, they support subsidies for the rich, and only oppose subsidies for the poor and the sick. That comes across not as a principled stand against statism, but as a political stand against Americans whose votes they don’t need.

Real conservative reformers, who have been studying this problem for years, understand that the way to make our health-care system freer and fairer is to rectify that imbalance between how we subsidize health insurance for the wealthy and how we do it for the poor. That would involve reorienting Medicare away from the wealthy and toward the middle class and the poor. It would involve reforming the tax subsidy for, yes, Cadillac health insurance plans. It would involve helping vulnerable and poor Americans buy private coverage and build health savings accounts.

Conservative Health Expert, Avik Roy.

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Daylight saving time is just one way standardized time zones oppress you( 8 )

Standardized clock time is immensely useful. It is no exaggeration to say that the modern world depends on it: Ships once required it to navigate. The GPS systems that guide our cars, planes and farm combines count on standard time to calculate their positions. If you think setting up a phone call between Washington and London is difficult now because of differing time zones, imagine if local time varied by a few minutes between Washington and Pittsburgh, a few degrees of longitude west. In a society dependent on just-in-time supply chains and automated trading that works in microseconds, accurate, precisely calibrated time is as important as electricity.

But standardized time can be, and has been, used against us. Whether you get more out of clock time than it gets out of you is largely a function of your economic security. Almost 90 years after John Maynard Keynes’s prediction that the future would hold 15-hour workweeks and lives of leisure, we feel increasingly time-starved. Sociologist Judy Wajcman, in her book “Pressed for Time,” calls this the “time-pressure paradox”: Standardized time — in which DST is an archaic wrinkle — contributes to a world of labor-saving innovations. But the time they free up is immediately filled by demands for more work, and greater and more varied demands on our attention.From: Daylight saving time is just one way standardized time zones oppress you – The Washington Post

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Greenwald: Democrats Now Demonize the Same Russia Policies that Obama Long Championed( 50 )

In other words, Democrats are now waging war on, and are depicting as treasonous, one of Barack Obama’s central and most steadfastly held foreign policy positions, one that he clung to despite attacks from leading members of both parties as well as the DC National Security Community. That’s not Noam Chomsky drawing that comparison; it’s an Obama appointee.

The destructive bipartisan Foreign Policy Community was furious with Obama for not confronting Russia more, and is now furious with Trump for the same reason (though they certainly loath and fear Trump for other reasons, including the threat they believe he poses to U.S. imperial management through a combination of ineptitude, instability, toxic PR, naked rather than prettified savagery, and ideology; Glasser writes: “‘Everything I’ve worked for for two decades is being destroyed,’ a senior Republican told me”).

From: Democrats Now Demonize the Same Russia Policies that Obama Long Championed

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Mexican congressman climbs U.S. border fence to illustrate that Trump’s wall is ‘totally absurd’( 45 )

A Mexican congressman went to great lengths — and heights — Wednesday to illustrate why he believes that President Trump’s controversial U.S.-Mexico border wall is “unnecessary” and “totally absurd.”

Braulio Guerra, a congressman from the state of Queretaro, tweeted photos and a video of himself perched atop a 30-foot tall fence that separates the Mexican border city of Tijuana from the U.S.

“I was able to scale it, climb it, and sit myself right here,” Guerra said in the video. “It would be simple for me to jump into the United States, which shows that it is unnecessary and totally absurd to build a wall.”

From: Mexican congressman climbs U.S. border fence to illustrate that Trump’s wall is ‘totally absurd’ – Yahoo

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California Supreme Court rules government emails on private devices should be public( 7 )

California’s highest court Thursday unanimously ruled the public has a right to see emails and text messages about public affairs on government officials’ personal devices, ending a decade-long legal battle that began in San Jose and sets a statewide precedent for records disclosure.

The ruling closes what government watchdogs said was a loophole that let public officials conduct the people’s business privately on personal phones and computers outside the reach of records requests that until now covered only their government-issued devices and accounts.

“We hold that when a city employee uses a personal account to communicate about the conduct of public business, the writings may be subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act,” the court opinion said. “If public officials could evade the law simply by clicking into a different email account, or communicating through a personal device, sensitive information could routinely evade public scrutiny.”

From: California Supreme Court rules government emails on private devices should be public

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Globe & Mail: Is Canada ready for Donald Trump’s refugee crisis?( 5 )

For the moment, Canada is right to continue to live up to the Safe Third Country Agreement. In the end, it may not even matter. The real question is, Are we prepared for a refugee crisis?

In Quebec alone, the number of asylum claims rose from 42 in January, 2015, to 452 last month. As the U.S. ramps up Mr. Trump’s deportation orders this year, those numbers could jump again.

What has Ottawa got in place to deal with a flood of humanity probing the world’s longest unprotected border? Do we have the manpower and resources to handle it?

It would be good to know that Canada has a plan. So far, Ottawa has only given us platitudes about our compassionate and welcoming ways. It’s not enough.

From: Globe editorial: Is Canada ready for Donald Trump’s refugee crisis?

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Independent: European Parliament committee votes to lift Marine Le Pen’s immunity from prosecution over Isis images( 13 )

European Union legislators have “overwhelmingly” voted to lift the EU parliamentary immunity of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen for tweeting pictures of Isis violence.

Ms Le Pen, a member of the European parliament, is under investigation in France for posting three graphic images of Isis executions on Twitter in 2015, including the beheading of the United States journalist James Foley.

Responding to a request from the French judiciary, the EU MEPs in the legal affairs committee voted to lift her immunity, EU officials said. The committee’s decision will have to be backed by the whole parliament in a second vote, possibly this week.

Ms Le Pen’s immunity shields her from prosecution and lifting it would permit legal action against her. The offence being considered is “publishing violent images,” which under certain circumstances can carry a penalty of three years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (£64,000).

From: European Parliament committee votes to lift Marine Le Pen’s immunity from prosecution over Isis images | The IndependentImage by Abode of Chaos

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Helen Rosner — Actually, How Donald Trump Eats His Steak Matters( 99 )

Adults who won’t eat pink-hearted steaks might lean on any number of reasons for their position, but almost always it comes down to an aversion to risk, which is at its core an unwillingness to trust the validity and goodwill of any experiences beyond the limited sphere of one’s own. It is — and we’re talking about steak here, so don’t get huffy — a confession of a certain timidity, a defensiveness, an insecurity. It’s not just a fear of change, it’s also a bone-deep fear that the way you’ve always done something — the way that, without outside intervention, you might continue always do it — will turn out not to have been the best way for you after all. The risk of that private humiliation can easily outweigh any benefit that could come from your new, better way. It means that when presented with a risk, you make the choice not to trust.

Helen Rosner — Actually, How Donald Trump Eats His Steak Matters, in Eater

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Julian Sanchez — War of the Worst Case Scenarios( 6 )

A few nightmare scenarios haunt the dreams of civil libertarians—scenes drawn from our long and ignominious history of intelligence abuses. One—call it the Nixon scenario—is that the machinery of the security state will fall into the hands of an autocratic executive, disdainful of the rule of law, who equates “national security” with the security of his own grip on political authority, who is all too willing to turn powers meant to protect us from foreign adversaries against his domestic political opponents, and who lacks any qualms about quashing inquiries into his own illegal conduct or that of his allies. Another—call it the Hoover scenario—is that the intelligence agencies anxious to protect their own powers and prerogatives will themselves slip the leash, using their command of embarrassing secrets to intimidate (and in extreme cases perhaps even select) their own nominal masters. As the American surveillance state has ballooned over the past 15 years, we’ve often invoked those scenarios to argue out that the slippery slope from a reasonable-sounding security measure a tool of anti-democratic repression is disquietingly short and well-oiled. You may trust that some new authority will only be used to monitor terrorists today, but under a more authoritarian administration, might it be used to suppress dissent—as when civil rights and anti-war activists became the targets of the FBI’s notorious COINTELPRO? You may be reassured by all the rigid rules and layers of oversight designed to keep the Intelligence Community accountable, but will those mechanisms function if the intelligence agencies decide to use their broad powers to cow their own overseers?

Julian Sanchez — War of the Worst Case Scenarios, in Just Security

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David French — When the Pursuit of Happiness Becomes the Flight from Pain( 112 )

Americans are less willing to move, to start new companies, or to live or work with people from different socioeconomic classes. We’re clustering with people of like mind, similar income, and the same race. It’s a devastating portrait of a nation that is losing its dynamism in favor of, essentially, “digging in.”

* * *

The reality is that the pursuit of “true and solid happiness” often represents the hard and risky earthly path. It’s easy in the abstract to say that we should model the virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice; it’s harder to make the decisions that actually build those virtues. These virtues are often forged in pain, through mistakes, and in the face of profound risk. Consequently, Locke understood the vital role of the hope of Heaven in the human mind, declaring it “unavoidable that the infinitely greater possible good should regularly and constantly determine the will in all the successive actions it directs.”

David French — When the Pursuit of Happiness Becomes the Flight from Pain, at National Review

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Scientific American — Red State America Acts on Climate Change But Calls It Other Names( 7 )

Research shows… that even in the fly-over red states of the U.S. Great Plains, local leaders in small- to medium-size communities are already grappling with the issue. Although their actions are not always couched in terms of addressing climate change, their strategies can provide insights into how to make progress on climate policy under a Trump administration.

From: Rebecca J. Romsdahl, Red State America Acts on Climate Change But Calls It Other Names, in Scientific American

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Commentary: Our Miserable 21st Century( 156 )

“The funny thing is, people inside the bubble are forever talking about “economic inequality,” that wonderful seminar construct, and forever virtue-signaling about how personally opposed they are to it. By contrast, “economic insecurity” is akin to a phrase from an unknown language. But if we were somehow to find a “Google Translate” function for communicating from real America into the bubble, an important message might be conveyed:

The abstraction of “inequality” doesn’t matter a lot to ordinary Americans. The reality of economic insecurity does. The Great American Escalator is broken—and it badly needs to be fixed.”

Source: Nicholas N. Eberstadt: Our Miserable 21st Century, in Commentary

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NY Post: Hero dogs who stopped mugging euthanized in city shelter( 2 )

The two stray dogs who became heroes when they foiled a mugging in Queens earlier this month were tragically euthanized by the city after officials decided they were “too aggressive” for adoption.

Animal lover George Petruncio desperately tried to adopt the German shepherd and pit bull after they chased down a teen mugger in Springfield Park on Feb. 7 — but the pooch pal learned the sad news on Friday.

“They never gave the dogs a chance,” Petruncio told The Post. “They did a good thing and this is how you repay them? It’s garbage.”

The dog devotee from Sewell, New Jersey said the death of the dogs was just the latest in the city’s animal blunders.

“You already knocked off Charlotte the groundhog, Lefty the Deer and the bull in Queens,” he said. “I wanted to adopt them. I am really angry.”

Source: Hero dogs who stopped mugging euthanized in city shelter | New York Post

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Daily Mail: Witches gather at midnight to cast spell on Donald Trump( 21 )

There was much fanfare when witches across the world – and singer Lana Del Rey – pledged to stand together and cast a spell on President Donald Trump on Friday night.

But it seems the self-proclaimed witches gathered outside Trump Tower in New York couldn’t conjure up much of a crowd.

There was only a handful of people gathered outside the president’s Manhattan Midtown penthouse as witches worldwide prepared to cast a magic spell at midnight.

Men and women had pledged to cast spells under the crescent moon in a bid to stop Trump from doing harm while also possibly banishing him from office.

From: Witches gather at midnight to cast spell on Donald Trump

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BI: Why check-cashing stores are a good deal, according to a UPenn professor( 14 )

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( 35 )

“…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(Comments Off)

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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