Jon Stewart's extended interview with Cliff May on torture... A very intense but important dialogue...
See the whole unedited version here...
From here: Google’s entire business model is the commoditization of other people’s content. See Google News, Gmail, AdSense/Adwords, etc. Book Search puts Google in the driver’s seat of determining how online books are monetized, at what rates, what share Google, authors and publishers get, how the metrics are determined. Books are reduced to data. Competitors are cut out. Other players remain unable to use the orphan works. Google leverages the audience. Newspapers will die because they have been commoditized out of existence (with some fatal mistakes of their own along the way.) Do we really want books to go the same way?
Those of us who were in law enforcement in New York City in the late '80s and early '90s remember how drug dealers pioneered the use of 9-mm guns. We heard over and over from our friends in the police department that they were outgunned, that their service revolvers were no match for semi-automatics in a shootout. So what did the police do? The New York City Police Department finally bought 9-mms, too. It was a classic arms race, with the gun manufacturers in the economically enviable position of selling bigger and better guns to both sides. This prompts a simple question: Why do we buy guns from companies that permit their products to be sold to bad guys?
ENG 371WR: Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era; M-W-F: 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Instructor: Robert LanhamPrerequisites: Students must have completed at least two of the following.ENG: 232WR — Advanced Tweeting: The Elements of DrollLIT: 223 — Early-21st-Century Literature: 140 Characters or LessENG: 102 — Staring Blankly at Handheld Devices While Others Are TalkingENG: 301 — Advanced Blog and Book SkimmingENG: 231WR — Facebook Wall Alliteration and AssonanceLIT: 202 — The Literary Merits of LolcatsLIT: 209 — Internet-Age Surrealistic Narcissism and Self-Absorption
The border between the United States and the Federated States (“Confederate” being a word that remains a little too provocative) might not be as trouble-free as that between the United States and Canada, but, compared to the border with Mexico, it would probably require somewhat fewer armed citizen militias and fences topped with concertina wire to thwart illegal aliens desperate for a better life. On balance, trade relations between the U.S. and the F.S. would be advantageous to both. Cultural exchanges, tourism, and even a degree of military cooperation would be far from unthinkable.For the old country, the benefits would be obvious. A more intimately sized Congress would briskly enact sensible gun control, universal health insurance, and ample support for the arts, the humanities, and the sciences. Although Texas itself has been a net contributor to the Treasury—it gets back ninety-four cents for each dollar it sends to Washington—nearly all the other potential F.S. states, especially the ones whose politicians complain most loudly about the federal jackboot, are on the dole. (South Carolina, for example, receives $1.35 on the dollar, as compared with Illinois’s seventy-five cents.) Republicans would have a hard time winning elections for a generation or two, but eventually a responsible opposition party would emerge, along the lines of Britain’s Conservatives, and a normal alternation in power could return. The Federated States, meanwhile, could get on with the business of protecting the sanctity of marriage, mandating organized prayer sessions and the teaching of creationism in schools, and giving the theory that eliminating taxes increases government revenues a fair test. Although Texas and the other likely F.S. states already conduct some eighty-six per cent of executions, their death rows remain clogged with thousands of prisoners kept alive by meddling judges. These would be rapidly cleared out, providing more prison space for abortion providers. Although there might be some economic dislocation at first, the F.S. could remedy this by taking advantage of its eligibility for OPEC membership and arranging a new “oil shock.” Failing that, foreign aid could be solicited from Washington. But the greatest benefit would be psychological: freed from the condescension of metropolitan elites and Hollywood degenerates, the new country could tap its dormant creativity and develop a truly distinctive Way of Life.
From here: The broader symbolism here is that it’s another sign that Barack Obama’s first two years may not look like Bill Clinton’s. In 1993-94, Clinton’s approval ratings sagged, his party lost special elections everywhere, and conservative Democrats were switching to the GOP. Obama’s approval ratings are high and holding steady, Democrats remain far more popular than Republicans, Democrats held the first special election, and now they’ve picked up a party switch. It’s still early, but Obama is starting to build a self-sustaining psychology of success.
Rekha Kalindi, a 12-year-old girl living in Bararola, India,refused to get married when her parents tried to arrange one she wanted to stay in school. Her revolt, and those of two other girls in the region, have halted new child marriages in their rural region of West Bengal, India. The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for girls and 21 for boys. But arecent study published in the Lancet found 44.5 percent of Indian women in their early 20s had been wed by the time they were 18. Of those, 22.6 percent had been married before age 16, 2.6 percent before age 13.
Gone are the new rich — the Russian oligarchs and oil-rich Middle Easterners, as well as the American hedge fund magnates — who in flush times were willing to pay any price. Gone too are the Europeans who were active when the weak dollar made their purchases seem cheap. Today’s buyers tend to be older collectors who bowed out of the market when prices began escalating several years ago. These patrons have far more conservative tastes, preferring works by tried-and-true names like Alexander Calder or Robert Ryman rather than those by younger artists like Takashi Murakami or Damien Hirst who were snapped up by speculators and have now lost some 50 percent of their value.What is selling, said Brett Gorvy, a co-head of Christie’s postwar and contemporary-art department, is “the right artist and the right work.”
We’ve learned much, much more about America and torture in the past five years. But as Mark Danner recently wrote, for all the revelations, one essential fact remains unchanged: “By no later than the summer of 2004, the American people had before them the basic narrative of how the elected and appointed officials of their government decided to torture prisoners and how they went about it.” When the Obama administration said it declassified four new torture memos 10 days ago in part because their contents were already largely public, it was right.
Roughly 1.2 million Armenians would either be slaughtered by Turkish killing squads or would die of exposure or starve to death in camps in the deserts at the southeastern edges of the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian genocide was the culmination of a decades long process of persecution of the Armenians in the Ottoman empire. That persecution was punctuated in the last two decades of the 19th century during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamit, the so-called Red Sultan.
From the interview: Islam played a major role both in the period of the Abdul Hamit massacres [1894-1896] and the 1909 Adana massacres and the World War I genocide. During the Abdul Hamit era, Islam was the main impetus, the direct impetus of the massacres, because 90 percent of the massacres took place on Fridays, which is the religious holiday. Immediately at the end of the religious ceremonies in the mosques, the mobs, harangued by Muslim clerics, were incited and as a result the motivation was reinforced to attack and massacre the Armenian population of the respective regions. In other words, Islam as an institution, and champions of Islam, the Muslim clerics, played a major role in the organization and execution of the series of massacres. In World War I, Islam also was exploited by way of formally declaring jihad, the main target of which became the Christian Armenians. Holy War can only be proclaimed by the sultan who is also the Khalif, the supreme religious authority, and the Sheikh ul Islam, the religious head of Islam. One of the greatest incentives of jihad for motivating people to kill is the promise of celestial bliss, and other kinds of rewards in heaven. This played a major role in mobilizing the masses, the naïve masses. In Archbishop Balakian's book, the Armenian Golgotha, there are scenes in which, after every massacre, the head of the gendarmes units, spread his prayer rug and thanked god for serving him through jihad-borne massacres massacres.
Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime. The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush's quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them."There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity...."The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there." It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003.
Relatives mourned in Dhuluiya, north of Baghdad at the funeral of an Iraqi who was among the 80 killed across the country yesterday. Photo from the Associated Press
From here: Juan Montoya created a piece of “art” by hanging a canvas he painted with Benjamin Moore’s Big Country Blue over an ample sofa. One visitor to the room asked if the painting was by Barnett Newman,” he said. Nobody knows it didn’t come from a gallery.” Mr. Montoya used a 6 by 12 foot canvas; a 24 by 48 inch canvas, sized to fit a less cavernous room, is about $36 at dickblick.com.
The Emmy-winning scientist [Bill Nye] angered a few audience members when he criticized literal interpretation of the biblical verse Genesis 1:16, which reads: "God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars." He pointed out that the sun, the "greater light," is but one of countless stars and that the "lesser light" is the moon, which really is not a light at all, rather a reflector of light. A number of audience members left the room at that point, visibly angered by what some perceived as irreverence. "We believe in a God!" exclaimed one woman as she left the room with three young children.
In Aristotle's thought, women were "deformed" men. In feudal Japan they were barred from climbing Mount Fuji because they would pollute it, and "unhappily married women were expected to commit suicide." A Buddhist text describes woman as the "emissary of hell." Her oppression is universal, her story cyclical; construed less as a human being than as an animal or force of nature, her place is outside history. Even when records begin, most women have no names. At best they are just "wife of" or "daughter of" some illustrious man. In the nineteenth century, women's skulls were measured and their brains were weighed, and found wanting. For the criminologists Lombroso and Ferrero, women were big, vicious children. Through much of recorded history they have been slaves, though in some eras "rhetoric granted them the status of angels." Arguing for women's moral superiority can be a way of keeping them in their place—a way of removing them from the civil space, where power corrupts, to the supposed purity of the private sphere.... Feminism has "changed the discourse" and yet "even intellectual men write about history and literature as if feminism had never occurred." She ends with a chapter on the future of feminism, in which she stresses its radical nature: that it is "a living entity," not a dogma, and one that offers an alternative model to top-down social organization. Feminism is often misunderstood; people think it is about putting women where men are now, but "the ultimate goal of feminism is to change society." The design is to create a cooperative world, a task that will not be achieved in a few generations; to do it we will have to free ourselves from the grip of history, from the assumptions of the societies in which we have grown up. The task is to convince the world that "sexism brings men...emotional and biological loss." She says, "feminism brings joy to people's heart—it is truly a gospel, a good news."
“Casual Encounters was created in response to user demand for a section that allowed for a wide range of personal meeting and relationship options, in that sense, it’s probably an accurate inside look at how people like to connect these days. Our users like the ability to be both candid and, initially, anonymous.” - says Craig Newmark (before the recent murders took place).Tales of sexual encounters via Craigslist run the gamut from the erotic to the bizarre. Nola, a 42-year-old saleswoman who lives in Manhattan, posts elegantly written ads seeking a man who will meet her in a public place so she can go to the bathroom and remove her panties, which she will then hand to him in an envelope. Nola, for instance, said that she got an erotic thrill from giving men her used underwear, knowing they would serve as fetish objects. She started doing this last June after she thought, “I wear underpants every single day of my life, and somebody’s got to want these underpants.” The recipients, she said, pay her a small replacement fee.
For Ron Paul’s growing legion of dope-addled contradictarian libertarians, Somalia is like nirvana. There are no taxes. No public education. No national healthcare. No national debt. No labor laws. No environmental laws. No business regulations. No unions. No import or export restrictions. No meddlesome big government—or small government for that matter. And everyone smokes khat, which is a leafy plant that temporarily deludes its users into feeling as if their problems are gone. Somalia, a country that hasn’t had an operating central government since 1991, is a libertarian Republican’s wet dream.... Killing pirates, it turns out, is a good political move. President Obama, in the eyes of an amoebic media, is now a decisive leader ready to take those 3am phone calls Hillary Clinton and John McCain warned us about. He allowed pirates to be shot. He’s a real leader. Now that he’s cut his teeth, faced that first ritualistic bloodletting of a US president, and experienced the power and prestige that comes from defeating pirates, perhaps it’s time to take on real, big-league pirates. Perhaps it’s time to deal with the pirates on Wall Street who have been holding our economy hostage. Maybe, if they run, we’ll even pursue them to their Somalia-like offshore tax havens.
Twitter — the microblogging service that lets you post and read fragmentary communications at high speed — is fun, but it’s embarrassing. You subscribe to the yawps of a bunch of people; they subscribe to your yawps; and you produce and consume yawps for the rest of your days. The me-me-me clamor brings to mind Emily Dickinson’s poem about the disgrace of fame, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”: “How public — like a Frog — / To tell one’s name — the livelong June — / To an admiring Bog!”
When the Central Intelligence Agency obliterates a dozen suspected terrorists, along with assorted family members, with a missile from a drone, the news rarely stirs a strong reaction far beyond Pakistan. Yet the waterboarding of three operatives from Al Qaeda — one of them the admitted murderer of 3,000 people as organizer of the 9/11 attacks — has stirred years of recriminations, calls for prosecution and national soul-searching.
The New York of the years 1750 to 2008—a city that existed for money and for all the arts and delights and beauties money brings—is for the first time going to struggle with questions about its reason for being. This will cause profound dislocations. For a good while the young will continue to flock in, for cheaper rents. Artists will still want to gather with artists—you cannot pick up the Metropolitan Museum and put it in Alma, Mich. But there will be a certain diminution in the assumption of superiority on which New York has long run, and been allowed, by America, to run. The cities and suburbs of America are about to get rougher-looking. This will not be all bad. There will be a certain authenticity chic. Storefronts, pristine buildings—all will spend less on upkeep, and gleam less.So will humans. People will be allowed to grow old again. There will be a certain liberation in this. There will be fewer facelifts and browlifts, less Botox, less dyed hair among both men and women. They will look more like people used to look, before perfection came in. Middle-aged bodies will be thicker and softer, with more maternal and paternal give. There will be fewer gyms and fewer trainers, but more walking. Gym machines produced the pumped and cut look. They won't be so affordable now. Hollywood will take the cue. During the depression, stars such as Clark Gable were supposed to look like normal men. Physical perfection would have distanced them from their audience. Now leading men are made of megamuscles, exaggerated versions of their audience. That will change. The new home fashion will be spare. This will be the return of an old WASP style: the good, frayed carpet; dogs that look like dogs and not a hairdo in a teacup, as miniature dogs back from the canine boutique do now. A friend, noting what has and will continue to happen with car sales, said America will look like Havana—old cars and faded grandeur. It won't. It will look like 1970, only without the bell-bottoms and excessive hirsuteness. More families will have to live together. More people will drink more regularly. Secret smoking will make a comeback as part of a return to simple pleasures. People will slow down. Mainstream religion will come back.
Well, the greatest churches in the world that have ever existed are in existence right now. Christianity is growing. There are two religions that are growing. Islam is growing, and Christianity is growing. Christianity is growing at a much more rapid rate than Islam. Islam is growing primarily through birthrate, okay? Christianity is growing through conversion rate. And so there are…and the greatest rates of growth are in China, in Southeast Asia, in Africa, and in Latin America. I take usually an around the world tour each year where we go visit our network. I, Hugh, over the last 30 years, I’ve trained over half a million pastors in 162 countries, so we have these networks pretty well connected, and I go back to regularly check on, kind of like Paul’s missionary journeys, go back and see how they’re doing, and encourage, and see what they need, and we learn a lot from them. And it’s the best of times, and the worst of times. Right now, we are in a stage here in America where we’re going to decide a number of major factors. One of them is will America return to the historic roots, Christian roots, that are foundational for every one of our institutions. Or will we go the way of Europe, and go secular. The bottom line is that secularism doesn’t last, because no faith will always be filled by something else, and so that’s why Islam is making strong inroads into Europe, because faith of any kind will always beat no faith.
Upon arrival at the site, the detainee "finds himself in complete control of Americans" and is subjected to "precise, quiet and almost clinical" procedures designed to underscore "the enormity and suddenness of the change in environment, the uncertainty about what will happen next, and the potential dread (a detainee) may have of US custody". His head and face are shaved; his physical condition is documented through photographs while he is nude; and he is given medical and psychological interviews to assess his condition and to make sure there are no contradiction to the use of any particular interrogation techniques.
I do not believe that any American president has ever orchestrated, constructed or so closely monitored the torture of other human beings the way George W. Bush did. It is clear that it is pre-meditated; and it is clear that the parsing of torture techniques that you read in the report is a simply disgusting and repellent piece of dishonesty and bad faith. When you place it alongside the Red Cross' debriefing of the torture victims, the fit is almost perfect. I say "almost" because even Jay Bybee, in this unprofessional travesty of lawyering, stipulates that these techniques might be combined successively in any ways that could cumulatively become torture even in his absurd redefinition of the term. And yet the ICRC report shows, as one might imagine, that outside these specious legalisms, such distinctions never hold in practice. And they didn't. Human beings were contorted into classic stress positions used by the Gestapo; they had towels tied around their necks in order to smash their bodies against walls; they were denied of all sleep for up to eleven days and nights at a time; they were stuck in tiny suffocating boxes; they were waterboarded just as the victims of the Khmer Rouge were waterboarded. And through all this, Bush and Cheney had lawyers prepared to write elaborate memos saying that all of this was legal, constitutional, moral and not severe pain and suffering.
With the facial slap or insult slap, the interrogator slaps the individuals face with fingers slightly spread. The hand makes contact with the area directly between the tip of the individuals chin and bottom of the corresponding earlobe. The interrogator invades the individuals personal space....Cramped confinement involves the placement of the individual in a confined space, the dimensions of which restrict the individuals movement. The confined space is usually dark. The duration of confinement varies based upon the size of the container. For the larger confined space, the individual can stand up or sit down; the smaller space is large enough for the subject to sit down.... Wall standing is used to induce muscle fatigue. The individual stands about four to five feet from a wall, with his feet spread approximately to shoulder width. His arms are stretched out in front of him, with his fingers resting on the wall.... Finally, you would like to use a technique called the 'waterboard'. In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individuals feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, air flow is restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth. This causes an increase in carbon dioxide level in the individuals blood. This increase in the carbon dioxide level stimulates increased effort to breathe. This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of "suffocation and incipient panic" i.e. the perception of drowning. The individual does not breathe any water into his lungs. During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of twelve to twenty-four inches. After this period, the cloth is lifted, and the individual is allowed to breathe unimpeded for three to four full breathes. The sensation of drowning is immediately relieved by the removal of the cloth. The procedure may then be repeated. The water is usually applied from a canteen cup or small watering can with a spout.
From here: Goldman Sachs reported a profit of $1.8 billion in the first quarter, and plans to sell $5 billion in stock and get out of the government’s clutches, if it can.How did it do that? One way was to hide a lot of losses in not-so-plain sight.Goldman’s 2008 fiscal year ended Nov. 30. This year the company is switching to a calendar year. The leaves December as an orphan month, one that will be largely ignored. In Goldman’s earnings statement, and in most of the news reports, the quarter ended March 31 is compared to the quarter last year that ended in February.The orphan month featured — surprise — lots of write-offs. The pretax loss was $1.3 billion, and the after-tax loss was $780 million.Would the firm have had a profit if it had stuck to its old calendar, and had to include December and exclude March?Note: In spite of their profits, the fact that they are blogger bullies remain...
Although federal agents say licensed dealers are the source of most guns going to Mexico, some come from private sellers at gun shows, where even noncitizens can buy guns. Dozens of shows are held each year across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. At a recent show in Pharr, Tex., another border town, a college freshman with a wispy beard arrived with two AR-15 rifles strapped to his body, spidery black guns designed for combat, tricked out with features that soldiers prize: collapsible stocks, pistol grips, extra long magazines. The student, who asked to be identified only as Shane, was asking $1,900 for one of his rifles. As for paper work, he wanted only a handwritten receipt with the buyer’s name and address. He was not worried, he said, about the gun’s falling into the hands of drug cartels in Mexico.“They are going to get their guns either way,” he said. “The only thing that a ban is going to stop is good people being able to get a gun.”
He offered a perspective on economics rooted in physics — the laws of thermodynamics, in particular. An economy is often likened to a machine, though few economists follow the parallel to its logical conclusion: like any machine the economy must draw energy from outside itself. The first and second laws of thermodynamics forbid perpetual motion, schemes in which machines create energy out of nothing or recycle it forever. Soddy criticized the prevailing belief of the economy as a perpetual motion machine, capable of generating infinite wealth — a criticism echoed by his intellectual heirs in the now emergent field of ecological economics.... Soddy would not have been surprised at our current state of affairs. The problem isn’t simply greed, isn’t simply ignorance, isn’t a failure of regulatory diligence, but a systemic flaw in how our economy finances itself. As long as growth in claims on wealth outstrips the economy’s capacity to increase its wealth, market capitalism creates a niche for entrepreneurs who are all too willing to invent instruments of debt that will someday be repudiated. There will always be a Bernard Madoff or a subprime mortgage repackager willing to set us up for catastrophe. To stop them, we must balance claims on future wealth with the economy’s power to produce that wealth. How can that be done?Soddy distilled his eccentric vision into five policy prescriptions, each of which was taken at the time as evidence that his theories were unworkable: The first four were to abandon the gold standard, let international exchange rates float, use federal surpluses and deficits as macroeconomic policy tools that could counter cyclical trends, and establish bureaus of economic statistics (including a consumer price index) in order to facilitate this effort. All of these are now conventional practice. Soddy’s fifth proposal, the only one that remains outside the bounds of conventional wisdom, was to stop banks from creating money (and debt) out of nothing. Banks do this by lending out most of their depositors’ money at interest — making loans that the borrower soon puts in a demand deposit (checking) account, where it will soon be lent out again to create more debt and demand deposits, and so on, almost ad infinitum.
Goldman Sachs has instructed Wall Street law firm Chadbourne & Parke to pursue blogger Mike Morgan, warning him in a recent cease-and-desist letter that he may face legal action if he does not close down his website. Florida-based Mr Morgan began a blog entitled "Facts about Goldman Sachs" – the web address for which isgoldmansachs666.com – just a few weeks ago. In that time Mr Morgan, a registered investment adviser, has added a number of posts to the site, including one entitled "Does Goldman Sachs run the world?". However, many of the posts relate to other Wall Street firms and issues. According to Chadbourne & Parke's letter, dated April 8, the bank is rattled because the site "violates several of Goldman Sachs' intellectual property rights" and also "implies a relationship" with the bank itself. ... He claims he has followed all legal requirements to own and operate the website – and that the header of the site clearly states that the content has not been approved by the bank.
Photo from a recent exhibition of Barry Le Va's works at Mary Boone Gallery titled “Hands, Handles, Blades: Cleaver Configurations 1969-2009”, an exhibition curated by Klaus Kertess. From the press release: Le Va has said that these and other sculptures similarly fraught with danger and created between 1968 and 197l, such as Within the Series of Layered Pattern Acts created by shattering sheets of glass on the floor, were more about exploring mathematical givens in relation to time and space than about threat of danger. In the case of the Cleaver pieces, those givens are the artist’s height and the fixed radius of the arc of his arm’s thrust. Of course, these works were originally created during a time of great violence in our culture.
I live in Kansas and have several family members who fit the mold of these Tea Partiers. The sense I get from them is much like what I felt after the 2004 election - absolute disbelief that this country could make such a decision. The reason that my relatives are so concerned is that Bush stood for everything they truly believed in - US primacy, nationalism, God (the Christianist version), guns, no gays, no illegals, where criminals get a fair trial before we hang them. In their mind, Obama repudiates all of that. These rallies are an effort by a group that feels highly marginalized to find some comfort in the company of others with similar beliefs, and to express their fear and frustration over what they see happening to their country. At least, that's why my uncles and grandparents will be there.... And when you (and others) dismiss these concerns as "adolescent, unserious hysteria," it only hardens their resolve. What will make this go away is time, and the realization that America has "survived" the threat posed by a President who represents so much that they find threatening.
George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki's research has revealed three distinct types of housing markets--and only one of the three shows real signs of distress. Even then, that distress is only in a limited number of areas.The first type of market behaves the way markets are supposed to behave, with smooth adjustments between supply and demand. When prices rose in places such as Dallas and Charlotte, builders constructed new houses. When prices softened, builders stopped. "Prices in these markets rose gradually," Zywicki says, "and now they're settling back to earth. There hasn't been any tragedy."The second type of market, which appears in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., demonstrates a long history of price volatility. "The housing stock in these markets is constrained," Zywicki says, "either by geography--San Francisco is surrounded on three sides by water, for example--or land use controls." When demand in such a market increases, prices soar. And when demand weakens, prices plummet."But the people who live in these markets expect big price swings," Zywicki says. "They've learned to live with them. They're holding onto their homes because they're confident prices will eventually recover. Again, there hasn't been any tragedy."The third type of market displays both the ability to expand the supply of houses that characterizes the first type of market and the price swings that characterize the second type. "Type three markets," Zywicki says, "are concentrated in the Sun Belt. Ordinary investors seem to have calculated that a lot of people would either retire or buy second homes in these places. And when prices went up, speculators moved in. Pure bubbles developed."In type three markets, hundreds of thousands of new homes went up. This oversupply will now keep prices low for years. "Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tampa--those are the places you'll find the tragedies," Zywicki says.Instead of frightening people by talking about the end of the American dream, Zywicki argues, the Obama administration should offer reassurance, stressing the specific, limited nature of the foreclosure problem. "Heck," Zywicki says, "41 out of the 50 states have foreclosure rates below the national mean."
There are several varieties of the mango, but the most delicious is the "mango d'or," originally imported into the island from Cayenne, and greatly improved by generous cultivation. The fruit weighs from twelve to sixteen ounces; the seed is thin, small, and corrugated, without the stringy threads which mar the pleasure of eating some varieties of the mango; the pulp is deep yellow in color, of the consistency of ice-cream and a delicious aroma exhales from it. To partake of the mango in full perfection is one of the indescribable luxuries of tropical life. ..Look at the large tree opposite, its spreading branches bending down under the weight of its delicious burden. What a lovely contrast of the golden globes with the dark green foliage! The gardener, who comes to bring us some of the fruit, says that a tree of this size bears from two thousand to three thousand mangoes. Ah, here is the fruit! If you have never eaten a mango, you must be instructed in the art. Roll up your sleeves, pin a napkin under your chin, and have a basin of water close at hand; strip the peel from the mango, revealing the delicious, golden-hued, creamy pulp; seize the fruit by the ends with both hands, and bite tenderly into it. Be as careful as you will, the abundant juice will overflow from your lips and run over your hands and wrists. But you rinse face and hands in the water beside you, and repeat the operation until the appetite is sated. Excerpted from 'Rambles in Martinique' published in Harpers (January 1874)...
“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” From here.
In 2007 alone, Americans spent $13 billion on 11.7 million cosmetic procedures (both surgical and nonsurgical). An ongoing controversy over what qualifies as “cosmetic” makes it difficult to determine the number of treatments that were purely restorative, necessitated by third-degree burns, mastectomies, and other medical issues. But what’s clear is that the overall number of men and women undergoing cosmetic procedures in the U.S. has increased by 457 percent since 1997, when relevant statistical data was first collected. As many as one in 20 people today reportedly suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (B.D.D.), a sort of “imagined ugly” syndrome. While difficult to diagnose, plastic-surgery addiction is often linked to B.D.D. Dr. Barry Eppley, who writes a blog titled “Explore Plastic Surgery,” estimates that one-third of plastic-surgery patients will eventually return to have additional work done.
... I’ll show you if you like,” says Maria, the svelte, well-dressed 42-year-old manager of Dr. Elliot Heller’s office, when I ask if she’s had her boobs done.
I nod and, without hesitation, Maria approaches me from behind the dark wooden desk, beige cowl-neck sweater peeled from her torso to reveal two perky, C-cup breasts.
“Can I touch?,” I ask, inspired by acute curiosity.
I stand and place a palm on Maria’s left breast, then poke it the way a child would a large block of jell-o. It feels not like human flesh, but like a compressed sack of the pink ectoplasm from Ghostbusters II resting behind a thin layer of skin. All the while, Maria gazes at me with a prideful expression. I have to admire her. Perhaps it’s more arrogant to deny one’s vanity than to embrace it.
On one occasion, I mustered the courage to ask my mother to buy me a skateboard (they were all the rage at the time) and she took me to Sears to have a look. In the middle of the sports department was a bin filled with skateboards in bright bubblegum colors. A sign read $10.99.
"Once the revolution comes,' my mother said to me, 'everyone will have a skateboard, because all skateboards will be free.' Then she took me by the hand and led me out of the store. I pictured a world of long rolling grassy hills, where it was always summertime and boys skateboarded up and down the slopes.
One Christmas a tree was donated to us by a local charity.
'When the revolution comes everyone will have a Christmas tree,' my mother said.
'Will we have them year-round then?' I asked.
'When the revolution comes no one will want a Christmas tree because no one will believe in God.'
Then we spent the afternoon decorating our tree together, stringing popcorn and kumquats, hanging lights from the branches, and when we were done we cut a moon out of cardboard, wrapped it in aluminum foil and placed it on the top.
The difference between our family and other poor families was that my mother actively chose to be poor.
A widely held belief among the liberal intelligentsia, both in the states and in Europe, is that anti-Americanism began under the second President Bush. History tells a different story. Take France, for example. Charles de Gaulle, the most popular political figure in recent French history, staked his presidency on driving a wedge into the American-led NATO alliance during the Cold War’s early years (it was only last month that France finally rejoined NATO’s military command structure). Anti-Americanism goes back to before the founding of the United States; it’s not just a political disposition, but also a theoretical premise based upon deep-seated feelings of historical envy and opposition to capitalism—not to mention cultural snobbery. Another cause, Maddox notes, is the simultaneous decline of Europe alongside America’s international ascendance. No matter what America does, she suggests, it’s unlikely completely to eradicate this inherent European mindset.From here.
“If I were they, I would think carefully before setting foot outside the United States. They are now, and forever in the future, at risk of arrest. Until this is sorted out, they are in their own legal black hole.” - Philippe Sands, a British based lawyer talking about the plight of six senior Bush administration officials who were recently implicated in acts of torture by a Spanish Court. From here.