Photo of the day

A dam burst in Brazil filling a village with red sludge.  Gallery in In Focus:

A chicken walks on a cable in Bento Rodrigues, three days after an avalanche of mud and mining sludge buried the town in southeastern Brazil, on November 8, 2015.

Christophe Simon / AFP / Getty

The ultimate trigger warning

Love Jonathan Rauch’s take on over-sensitivity on college campuses.  He suggests we just handle it with one big trigger warning:

The trouble is that intellectually safe places are finishing schools, not universities. They can confer connections, polish and useful skills, but they will not educate, because to educate is to inflict and to endure criticism, which is not comfortable…

So it is only fair to warn students and their parents that higher education is not a Disney cruise. Tell them in advance so they can prepare. Not, however, with multiple trigger warnings festooning syllabi. One will suffice:

“Warning: Although this university values and encourages civil expression and respectful personal behavior, you may at any moment, and without further notice, encounter ideas, expressions and images that are mistaken, upsetting, dangerous, prejudiced, insulting or deeply offensive. We call this education.” [emphasis mine]

Display that trigger warning prominently on the college website. Put it in the course catalog and in the marketing brochures. Then ask students and their parents to grow up and deal with it. And watch as they rise to the challenge.


Quick hits (part II)

1) Stan Greenberg argues the future belongs to Democrats.

But the culture war ignited by Rove is a fire that requires ever more toxic fuel – it only works by raising fears of the moral and social Armageddon that would follow a Democratic victory.

The Republicans have, of course, won big numbers of seats at state level and inoff-year elections in the past decade. However, their conservative supporters, motivated by moral purpose, are now angry that Republican leaders have failed to stop Obama, particularly as the country, as they see it, tips into global and economic oblivion.

On the other hand, this intensifying battle for values has also left the Republicans with the oldest, most rural, most religiously observant, and most likely to be married white voters in the country. These trends have pushed states with large, growing metropolitan centres, such as Florida, Virginia and Colorado, over the blue Democratic wall, creating formidable odds against Republicans winning theelectoral college majority needed to win the presidency.

Encamped in the 20 states of the south, the Appalachian valley, parts of the plains states and Mountain West, conservatives have waged their culture wars to great effect. But those states account for only 25% of the voters. Success here turns Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz into plausible candidates – but not plausible presidents in a country that is past the new electoral tipping point. America will get to send that message 12 months from now.

2) My mom used to do facilitated communication with my severely autistic older brother.  She was absolutely convinced it works.  Alas, the science suggests otherwise.

3) Relative, not absolute, poverty is what matters to  most people and it’s way better in Scandinavian countries.

4) Not at all surprising (but nonetheless interesting) to learn just how nutty Ben Carson’s foreign policy adviser is.

5) I was never a regular viewer of the Daily Show– just Jon Stewart’s best clips that went viral.  That said, I find it quite interesting to see where Noah is not living up to Stewart’s legacy.

6) I did think this week’s Thursday NFL game looked a little weird.  Little did I realize what a disaster this was with red/green color-blindness.

7) Enjoyed Yglesias‘ thorough take on this week’s Republican debate.

8) Love this Connor Friedersdorf take on the intolerance of student activism.  Been meaning to write a post on it all week.  Oh well

9) And a great take from Bill Ayers— especially on the problem of a lack of clear goals:

Earlier today I likened the ongoing protests (some of which are occurring on my campus today, in solidarity with others) to a conflict. As a conflict scholar, the steps towards resolution are clear:

– Identify the essentials of the conflict. Who are the players? What are their interests, and what are they fighting about? What are the rules of the surrounding environment that shape how the conflict is conducted?

– Decide on the desired end goal. If the conflict were over, what would you want that to look like? What resolution do you seek, and what does that resolution look like for ALL of the actors involved?

– Evaluate and choose a strategy for achieving that goal. Can I get there through unilateral action, or do I need the cooperation of those with different views? Can I engineer a solution that meets my needs regardless of what the other side wants, or do I have to persuade others to join with me in a mutually-agreed settlement?

I don’t think we’ve yet had much clear thinking about any of these things. Conflicts often arise between aggrieved students and university administrators or faculty, which is an example of the lamppost fallacy: tackling what you can see, rather than going where the problem really is. The fundamental conflict is between members of minority groups (blacks, latinos, transgender, etc.) and members of the majority group who want to discriminate against and oppress them. [emphasis mine] If that is the core of the conflict, there is no unilateral solution – neither group can wipe the other out, both must continue to live in the same society together. The question is, how?


10) The wonderful world of streaming video isn’t really all the wonderful and will become less so.  And on a related note, Netflix is no longer so interested in it’s DVD back catalog.  This is a problem (I’ve been on “very long wait” for “Aliens” for half a year.  I’m just going to buy it).

11) It’s always been kind of amazing how GWB essentially took no blame for 9/11.  Now some more research on all the dire warnings his administration ignored.  Chait:

Chris Whipple’s revelations about the CIA’s urgent, ignored pleas to focus on the threat from Al Qaeda before 9/11 flesh out an increasingly consistent portrait drawn byKurt Eichenwald and other reporters. A broad and consistent body of evidence had persuaded intelligence officials that Al Qaeda was poised to carry out a devastating attack against the United States. It was not just the famous August memo, “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” — the one Bush dismissed at the time as ass-covering — but a much longer and more desperate campaign to wake up Bush’s inner circle. Whipple reports, “Months earlier, starting in the spring of 2001, the CIA repeatedly and urgently began to warn the White House that an attack was coming.”

But the Bush White House was dominated by neoconservatives, who were ideologically fixated on the threat posed by states and dismissed the threat of non-state actors…

In retrospect, Bush’s ability to portray himself to America as a committed and triumphant vanquisher of terrorism rested almost entirely on emotional manipulation. Bush standing on the rubble at Ground Zero; Bush throwing a strike at Yankee Stadium before a cheering crowd; Bush landing on an aircraft carrier — it was all brilliant political theater. And it supported a conclusion 180 degrees from reality. Of the manifold failures the Bush administration wrought, its handling of the terrorist threat should rank as the worst.

12) Women are better-suited to the modern workplace.

13) A great lesson in how to abuse intellectual property law.  Now that the copyright for Diary of Anne Frank is expiring, the owners of the copyright are saying that Anne Frank’s father was a co-author in an effort to extend the copyright.

14) Graeme Wood’s great Atlantic article on Isis from this past spring is definitely required reading now.

15) Nice column from Frank Bruni on every shameless pundit (eg., Gingrich, Coulter, etc.) trying to use the France attack to further their own unrelated political agenda.  (And for what it’s worth, if concert-goers had been packing heat and started firing back at the terrorists–presumably not exactly easy in a crowded theater– they would’ve just blown themselves up sooner).

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