On the evening before the holiday of Thanksgiving, with well over a quarter-million American troops stationed around the globe in over 150 nations and territories, with the nation’s budget buckling under the strain of supporting our military obligations, and with tensions on the Korean peninsula arguably higher than at any time since the armistice of 1953, it seems as apt a time as any to ask ourselves: Is it all worth it? Does the United States really benefit from serving as the primary guarantor of security across vast swaths of the globe? There are no easy answers to these questions. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be asked.
“Our program covers all categories of disabilities — mobility, hearing, visual and hidden," the TSA says on its website. "As part of that program, we established a coalition of over 70 disability-related groups and organizations to help us understand the concerns of persons with disabilities and medical conditions.”—
For example, Chief Justice John Roberts in a public employee privacy case before the court earlier this year tried to figure out the role of a text-messaging service in enabling an exchange between two people.
"I thought, you know, you push a button; it goes right to the other thing," Roberts said. Responded Justice Antonin Scalia: "You mean it doesn’t go right to the other thing?"
The report by The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) policy think-tank showed 92 percent of 1,000 Afghan men surveyed in Helmand and Kandahar know nothing of the hijacked airliner attacks on U.S. targets in 2001.
"The lack of awareness of why we are there contributes to the high levels of negativity toward the NATO military operations and made the job of the Taliban easier," ICOS President Norine MacDonald told Reuters from Washington.
“The President of the United States can unilaterally order the assassination of an American citizen, but needs the cooperation of opposition party Senators to get an Assistant Secretary of Commerce or a US Marshall in office.”—Yglesias » Living in America
In July 2009, after a cliff-hanger of an election and an ugly court battle over the results, Al Franken finally arrived in the United States Senate. Eager to lay the groundwork for legislative accomplishments, the author of Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot looked for common ground with his new GOP colleagues. In the case of Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican, that common ground was music. In addition to his senatorial career, Hatch is a prolific songwriter—he has written odes to John McCain, America, Hanukkah, and Princess Diana, among other subjects—and so Franken approached him and asked to hear a few tunes. Hatch played a recording of a song called “Headed Home,” which was written before his close friend Ted Kennedy died and had a metaphor about sailing into the ocean. “It was obvious what that was about, and I began to tear up a bit,” Franken told me. Then Hatch played a sad song in which an American wife entreats her husband, a soldier in Kandahar, to “Come Home.” “The waterworks started,” Franken recalled. “I’m a crier.”
Despite a stubbornly sour national economy congressional members’ personal wealth collectively increased by more than 16 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics of federal financial disclosures released earlier this year.
And while some members’ financial portfolios lost value, no need to bemoan most lawmakers’ financial lot: Nearly half of them — 261 — are millionaires, a slight increase from the previous year, the Center’s study finds. That compares to about 1 percent of Americans who lay claim to the same lofty fiscal status.
And of these congressional millionaires, 55 have an average calculated wealth in 2009 of $10 million or more, with eight in the $100 million-plus range.
Here is our normal: 40 percent of North American adults have metabolic syndrome. The syndrome is caused by being fat, even at levels North Americans would not recognize as abnormal. Obesity prompts the receptors that insulin acts upon to become numb to its effects. As we grow fatter, and insulin resistance proceeds, higher and higher levels of insulin are necessary to get the sugar out of the blood. Eventually, overt diabetes may supervene, as it has for 8 percent of North American adults, a tenfold increase since the turn of the last century. But even prior to the development of diabetes, metabolic syndrome insidiously eats away at the bodies of those it affects.
“Today, Senate Republicans voted unanimously against legislation to close the pay gap between women and men. The Senate voted 58-41 against allowing debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help end discriminatory pay practices against women. It had already passed the House.”—
Tea party critics won’t be surprised to hear that 61 percent of people who identify with the movement said discrimination against whites “is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.” (White evangelicals also saw doors slamming in the faces of white people, with 57 percent agreeing that discrimination against people like themselves was equal to that against minorities.) That view was shared by only 28 percent of Democrats and about half of independents. Republicans were closer to the tea party on that question, with 56 percent agreeing that discrimination against whites is a big problem.
Just as tea partiers think claims of discrimination against minorities are overrated, they also believe by a 6 in 10 margin that the government has paid too much attention to them—and to women’s problems, too. While most Americans, according to the survey, believe that discrimination is still a significant problem for women, more than 58 percent of tea partiers think that women no longer face discrimination in the US.
Tea partiers are no fans of Islam; 66 percent of them said that Islam is at odds with American values. Three-quarters of them also believe that their God has granted the U.S. a special role in the world, a view that makes them much more inclined than other Americans to say that torture is justified in some cases.
“And, you know, politics aside, the success of Sarah Palin and women like her is good for all women — except, of course, those who will end up, you know, like, paying for their own rape kit ‘n’ stuff. But for everybody else, it’s a win-win. Unless you’re a gay woman who wants to marry your partner of 20 years. Whatever. But for most women, the success of conservative women is good for all of us. Unless you believe in evolution. You know, actually, I take it back. The whole thing’s a disaster.”—the missing portion of Tina Fey’s acceptance speech, which was snipped by PBS from last night’s broadcast of the Mark Twain Prize ceremony. (via washingtonpoststyle)
The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.
C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.
People tend to form their impressions of how liberal or conservative something is by looking at how much partisan activity there is around it. And there was, of course, a lot of partisan activity around Obama’s signature legislative effort. But if you believe “liberal” and “conservative” refer to coherent schools of ideological thought, the health-care bill was the most moderate universal health-care proposal offered by any president, of any party, in the last century.
It was far more modest than what Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, or Bill Clinton proposed, relying more on the private sector and tampering less with existing insurance arrangements than any of those plans. It was even more moderate than what George H.W. Bush proposed. As I rarely tire of pointing out, it was a dead-ringer for the bill Republicans rallied around as a conservative alternative to the big-goverment overreach of ClintonCare, not to mention the bill Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts. The individual mandate, now the most controversial element of the law, began life as a Republican idea.
It seems to me that the last year or so in America’s political culture has represented the triumph of untruth. And the untruth was propagated by a deliberate, simple and systemic campaign to kill Obama’s presidency in its crib. Emergency measures in a near-unprecedented economic collapse - the bank bailout, the auto-bailout, the stimulus - were described by the right as ideological moves of choice, when they were, in fact, pragmatic moves of necessity. The increasingly effective isolation of Iran’s regime - and destruction of its legitimacy from within - was portrayed as a function of Obama’s weakness, rather than his strength. The health insurance reform - almost identical to Romney’s, to the right of the Clintons in 1993, costed to reduce the deficit, without a public option, and with millions more customers for the insurance and drug companies - was turned into a socialist government take-over.
Every one of these moves could be criticized in many ways. What cannot be done honestly, in my view, is to create a narrative from all of them to describe Obama as an anti-American hyper-leftist, spending the US into oblivion. But since this seems to be the only shred of thinking left on the right (exacerbated by the justified flight of the educated classes from a party that is now openly contemptuous of learning), it became a familiar refrain - pummeled into our heads day and night by talk radio and Fox. If you think I’m exaggerating, try the following thought experiment.
If a black Republican president had come in, helped turn around the banking and auto industries (at a small profit!), insured millions through the private sector while cutting Medicare, overseen a sharp decline in illegal immigration, ramped up the war in Afghanistan, reinstituted pay-as-you go in the Congress, set up a debt commission to offer hard choices for future debt reduction, and seen private sector job growth outstrip the public sector’s in a slow but dogged recovery, somehow I don’t think that Republican would be regarded as a socialist.
A driver who’s serving a manslaughter sentence for striking and killing a 14-year-old boy is suing the victim’s parents, blaming them for their son’s death because they allowed him to ride his bike in the street without a helmet.
Matthew Kenney’s parents, Stephen and Joanne, sued 48-year-old driver David Weaving shortly after he was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison, accusing him in Waterbury Superior Court of negligence and seeking more than $15,000 in damages.
Weaving, who has a history of drunken driving convictions, responded months later with a handwritten countersuit accusing the Kenneys of “contributory negligence.” He’s also seeking more than $15,000 in damages, saying he’s endured “great mental and emotional pain and suffering,” wrongful conviction and imprisonment, and the loss of his “capacity to carry on in life’s activities.”
We’ve known for some time how this story ends nationwide: only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at the advanced-proficiency level in math, a share that lags behind kids in some 30 other countries, from the United Kingdom to Taiwan. But what happens when we break down the results? Do any individual U.S. states wind up near the top?
Incredibly, no. Even if we treat each state as its own country, not a single one makes it into the top dozen contenders on the list. The best performer is Massachusetts, ringing in at No. 17. Minnesota also makes it into the upper-middle tier, followed by Vermont, New Jersey, and Washington. And down it goes from there, all the way to Mississippi, whose students—by this measure at least—might as well be attending school in Thailand or Serbia.
What did Massachusetts do? Well, nothing that many countries (and industries) didn’t do a long time ago. For example, Massachusetts made it harder to become a teacher, requiring newcomers to pass a basic literacy test before entering the classroom. (In the first year, more than a third of the new teachers failed the test.) The state also required students to pass a test before graduating from high school—a notion so heretical that it led to protests in which students burned state superintendent David Driscoll in effigy.
Twenty-nine leading human rights organizations wrote to President Obama on Friday to express their disappointment with his decision last week to waive sanctions against four countries the State Department has identified as using child soldiers.
The human rights and child advocacy community was not consulted before the White House announced its decision on Oct. 25 to waive penalties under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008, which was supposed to go into effect last month, for violators Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen. The NGO leaders, along with officials on Capitol Hill, also expressed their unhappiness about the announcement, and their exclusion from the decision making process, in an Oct. 29 conference call with senior administration officials. Today, they backed up their complaints in writing and called on the administration to mitigate the consequences.
"We believe that your waiver undermines the intent of the law and sends an unfortunate message that the administration is not seriously committed to ending the use of child soldiers," the groups wrote to Obama. "By giving a blanket waiver, the administration has also given up the significant leverage that the law provides to influence the child recruitment practices of its military allies."
WARNING: Holding a cellphone against your ear may be hazardous to your health. So may stuffing it in a pocket against your body.
I’m paraphrasing here. But the legal departments of cellphone manufacturers slip a warning about holding the phone against your head or body into the fine print of the little slip that you toss aside when unpacking your phone. Apple, for example, doesn’t want iPhones to come closer than 5/8 of an inch; Research In Motion, BlackBerry’s manufacturer, is still more cautious: keep a distance of about an inch.
Henry Lai, a research professor in the bioengineering department at the University of Washington, began laboratory radiation studies in 1980 and found that rats exposed to radiofrequency radiation had damaged brain DNA. He maintains a database that holds 400 scientific papers on possible biological effects of radiation from wireless communication. He found that 28 percent of studies with cellphone industry funding showed some sort of effect, while 67 percent of studies without such funding did so. “That’s not trivial,” he said.
The New Oxford American Dictionary announced Monday that “refudiate,” a word made famous by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, had won its 2010 Word of the Year award.
“Refudiate” became an instant classic back in July when national media and Palin watchers ridiculed her for using a non-existent word that seemed to be a cross between “refute” and “repudiate.”
“From a strictly lexical interpretation of the different contexts in which Palin has used ‘refudiate,’ we have concluded that neither ‘refute’ nor ‘repudiate’ seems consistently precise, and that ‘refudiate’ more or less stands on its own, suggesting a general sense of ‘reject,’ Oxford University Press said in a press release accompanying the announcement.
“And over time that will help us be more targeted about what content choices we present, what advertising we present, how we get better feedback. And data about how many people are in a room when an advertisement is shown, how many people are in a room when a game is being played, how are those people engaged with the game? How are they engaged with a sporting event? Are they standing up? Are they excited? Are they wearing Seahawks jerseys?”—
If it were true — as most Obama defenders argued — that giving civilian trials to accused Terrorists is not merely a good option, but required by the Constitution, the rule of law, and our values, then isn’t it logically and necessarily true that Obama’s refusal to grant such trials constitutes a violation of our Constitution, our rule of law and our values? And if so, doesn’t this require rather severe condemnation from the same people who defended civilian trials as necessary under our system of government? After all, if the President is violating our Constitution, the rule of law, and our values, isn’t that cause for some rather serious protest and denunciation, no matter his motives?
Middle Eastern terrorists hijack a U.S. jetliner bound for Italy. A two-week drama ensues in which the plane’s occupants are split into groups and held hostage in secret locations in Lebanon and Syria.
While this drama is unfolding, another group of terrorists detonates a bomb in the luggage hold of a 747 over the North Atlantic, killing more than 300 people.
Not long afterward, terrorists kill 19 people and wound more than a hundred others in coordinated attacks at European airport ticket counters.
A few months later, a U.S. airliner is bombed over Greece, killing four passengers.
Five months after that, another U.S. airliner is stormed by heavily armed terrorists at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan, killing at least 20 people and wounding 150 more.
Things are quiet for a while, until two years later when a 747 bound for New York is blown up over Europe killing 270 passengers and crew.
Nine months from then, a French airliner en route to Paris is bombed over Africa, killing 170 people from 17 countries.
That’s a pretty macabre fantasy, no? A worst-case war-game scenario for the CIA? A script for the End Times? Except, of course, that everything above actually happened, in a four-year span between 1985 and 1989. The culprits were the al-Qaidas of their time: groups like the Abu Nidal Organization and the Arab Revolutionary Cells, and even the government of Libya.
According to a Wall Street Journal survey released last week, overall compensation in financial services will rise 5 percent this year, and employees in some businesses like asset management will get increases of 15 percent.
But there’s another American economy, and it’s not on the mend. Call it the Average Worker economy.
Last Friday’s jobs report showed 159,000 new private-sector jobs in October. That’s better than in previous months. But 125,000 net new jobs are needed just to keep up with the growth of the American labor force. So another way of expressing what happened to jobs in October is to say 24,000 were added over what we need just to stay even.
Yet the American economy has lost 15 million jobs since the start of the Great Recession. And if you add in the growth of the labor force — including everyone too discouraged to look for a job — we’re down about 22 million.
One out of eight breadwinners is still out of work. Most families in the Average Worker economy rely on two breadwinners. So if one out of eight isn’t working, chances are high that family incomes are down compared with what they were three years ago.
Inhabitants of the Big Money economy are celebrating Republican wins last week. They figure financial regulations will be rolled back, environmental regulations will be canned, the Bush tax cut will be extended to the top 1 percent, and it will be harder for workers to form unions.
Inhabitants of the Average Worker economy aren’t so sure.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which got $10 billion and debt guarantees from the U.S. government in October, expects to pay $14 million in taxes worldwide for 2008 compared with $6 billion in 2007.
The company’s effective income tax rate dropped to 1 percent from 34.1 percent, New York-based Goldman Sachs said today in a statement. The firm reported a $2.3 billion profit for the year after paying $10.9 billion in employee compensation and benefits.
Much of the American public used to gather before the electronic hearth every evening, separate but together, while Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Frank Reynolds and Howard K. Smith offered relatively unbiased accounts of information that their respective news organizations believed the public needed to know. The ritual permitted, and perhaps encouraged, shared perceptions and even the possibility of compromise among those who disagreed.
It was an imperfect, untidy little Eden of journalism where reporters were motivated to gather facts about important issues. We didn’t know that we could become profit centers. No one had bitten into that apple yet.
The transition of news from a public service to a profitable commodity is irreversible. Legions of new media present a vista of unrelenting competition. Advertisers crave young viewers, and these young viewers are deemed to be uninterested in hard news, especially hard news from abroad. This is felicitous, since covering overseas news is very expensive. On the other hand, the appetite for strongly held, if unsubstantiated, opinion is demonstrably high. And such talk, as they say, is cheap.