I’ve been a subscriber to the San Francisco Chronicle for almost 13 years, the entire time I’ve lived in the city. I started that subscription because I was used to living in a household where newspapers were a daily staple, and because I wanted to support local journalism. I also felt that major cities should have newspapers and I should thus support the city paper.
And now I’m ending my subscription.
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The aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings made clear just how much the media—and apparently a substantial portion of the population—want to promote the notion that the “War on Terror” is a real war, that there’s a real and highly dangerous enemy, and that the US is engaged in a struggle where the nation itself is under threat.
Prior to the identification of the suspects, it seemed like many media figures were thinking, “please let it be Al Qaeda”—and that if if it had turned out to be some disgruntled middle-aged guy protesting IRS policies, they and a chunk of their audience would lose a lot of interest.
I’ve noticed over the last few months that I’ve had more and more difficulty writing about political subjects for my blog. This ranges from commentary on overly political matters such as legislative and judicial decisions to socio-political topics such as various forms of discrimination.
Sometimes, jokes need explanation; TV Tropes says you’re not supposed to explain the punchline, just the context, but in the case of this joke the two aren’t really separable. Furthermore, this one requires a great deal of broad knowledge in order to make sense; more breadth of knowledge than any other joke I’ve encountered so far. This became clear to me in my relating it to American friends; I didn’t notice the amount you need to know for it while I was living in Ireland.
Brief post today, as I’m on vacation in Portland. I highly recommend the Belgian waffles at sympatica; you should get the apple syrup on them rather than the green tomato syrup.
The election is on Tuesday, and you might like to review the California ballot measure overview I wrote last week.
I’m more interested in the state-level measures than I am in this year’s elections at any level, and this is how I’m going to vote on them. Quick highlights: YES on 34, NO on 35, YES on 36.
The death of my old MacBook Pro this evening has caused the loss (hopefully only temporary) of the blog post I was working on today (on androids in Alien and Prometheus), which I will try to recover and finish next week.
In the meantime, here are some interesting things I encountered on the internet this week.
Same-sex marriage has been a major news topic this week, because of the passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One and Barack Obama’s statement that he thinks same-sex couples should be able to marry. A good time, then, to explore the subject.
Dublin has grown a great deal over the last 30 years, and in so doing has become a case study in how not to manage urban/suburban development, planning, or transit policy.
The urban planning process for Dublin County in that period was endemically corrupt, which was common knowledge at the time but has been made extremely clear by the final report, released 22 March 2012, of the Mahon Tribunal, a body set up in 1997 to investigate such matters. It seems unlikely in the extreme that the corruption and the terrible urban sprawl aren’t connected.
I don’t usually comment on vapid “lifestyle” articles, particularly when they’re also year-old Wall Street Journal op-ed pieces, but Kay Hymowitz’s “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” has recently been shared by at least two friends and appears to need refutation.
Unfortunately, while it annoyed me greatly on first reading, further readings exposed a lot of difficulty in discerning what arguments it was making—mostly it’s composed of cultural buzzwords, snobbery, socially conservative hankering for the mores of yore, and the anecdata-driven slandering of an entire generation of males.
I mentioned this on Facebook earlier in the week, but it’s important enough to also write a post about.
Earlier this week I “blacked out” tadhg.com as part of the widespread protests against SOPA. This post includes a number of my reasons for opposing it.
I don’t recall any interactions with the police when I lived in New York, but over the years my accumulated impression has been that it’s a very corrupt organization. That’s not necessarily unusual—I suspect that most of the police forces in major American cities would be just as bad (and nothing I’ve heard about, say, the Los Angeles or Chicago police has made me think otherwise). At the moment, though, the NYPD seem to be at the forefront.
I wasn’t a big Steve Jobs fan; despite my working almost exclusively on Mac hardware for the last several years, I disagreed strongly with the direction I thought he was moving computing in. I was surprised to find myself feeling very sad at the news of his passing.
I’m not entirely sure what drove the extent of that sadness.
Google+ has come under fire recently for banning users who don’t have usernames conforming to the service’s rules about what usernames should be like. Google’s policies on the matter are wrong, and the reasons why they’re wrong, as well as the potential implications of their policy, are important.
I mean the various incidents of unrest in England earlier this week. The reference is not to the Watchmen character, but to the blots, because from what I can tell every commentator (I include myself here) is seeing in the events a confirmation of their already-existing political beliefs. That’s not unique to this particular issue, but it strikes me as a particularly egregious example of the phenomenon.
Would it have been better if McCain had been elected?. The best argument that Obama is better than McCain would have been is that McCain might have started a war with Iran (instead of Libya); then again, he might not have. McCain would also have pushed for Social Security and Medicare cuts, but Democratic resistance would have been significant—now, with the push coming from a Democratic president, it’s highly likely that the Democrats will cave in.
Using data culled from secret police records, John McMillan and Pablo Zoldo examined bribes made (by the secret police) to various figures in Peru during the 1990s: legislators, judges, and… the media. It was the television stations that commanded the most in bribes, about ten times as much per month as the other groups combined. The article explores why the media were worth more than the politicians and judges, and has some interesting hypotheses on how the incentives worked.
Also, it has data tables about bribes, something you don’t come across too often.
I find this really sad and infuriating.
Being kept under surveillance would itself be deeply disturbing, but perhaps most sad about it is its contribution to Hemingway’s feeling that he can’t trust his friends because they might be spying on him for the government; if the FBI is actually spying on you, is that really a paranoid view?
Incidentally, what appears to be the website for the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation has the Hoover line “Justice is incidental to law and order” on its front page, and I can’t figure out whether it’s earnest and really scary or just a phenomenally good parody.
In June 1982, the Institute for the Future published a report, “Teletext and Videotex in the United States”, which discussed the likely impact of teletext and videotex services on American homes, jobs, and lifestyles; an article summarizing the report was published in the New York Times. While in many ways it was utterly wrong, in the sense that those technologies never succeeded in the US, in perhaps more important ways it was almost prescient, describing quite well how the Internet has changed things.
That’s not an ironic title, or one referring to some fictional work—Government Attic has secured the release of the NSA’s writing style guide, and BoingBoing cleaned it up, so that you can now find it on Scribd.
I love the fact that it includes a section instructing NSA writers not to use “bureaucratese”.