"Certainly our countrymen’s palates are become as fanatical as their brains; how else is it possible they should apostatize from the good old primitive way of ale drinking, to run a whoring after such variety of destructive foreign liquors, to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money—all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking, nauseous puddle water."

The Women’s Petition Against Coffee, 1692. Compare and contrast with this love letter to coffee circa 1962 and the secret history of coffee. (via explore-blog)

(Source: , via explore-blog)


The Dems are winning a clear, though not overwhelming, majority of low-income non-Southern white voters. That’s the same pattern observed with labour/social democratic parties elsewhere.

In other words, if it weren’t for the South, the US would be a lot more similar, in this as in other ways to other developed countries. Conversely, from the Southern perspective, large parts of the US are, indeed, more like Europe than like the America they know and love.


John Quiggin, discussing the canard that low-income white voters are reactionary in all regions of the country

"The minute I get away from the idea that mainly what I’m supposed to be doing is delivering pleasure to a reader, is the minute I get in trouble. The minute I start thinking my opinion is important, that’s when I get in trouble."

Please can every nonfiction writer learn this, above all, from Michael Lewis. Especially if you’re writing a book. The book has to be a pleasure to read. And 99% of nonfiction fails at that simple job.

Michael Lewis On How and Why He Writes | Conversations 2012 | Arts and Life | SlateV

(Source: felixsalmon)

"Only two hundred years ago it was physically impossible to see yourself doing something you had done yesterday, that is, to see it in three dimensions, speaking and moving. It’s a miracle! It’s really unprecedented. The ancient myths thought that if we stared at ourselves in this way too long we’d fall in the water and drown. The myth preceded the technological reality (as seems to happen), but now we’re really here, relating to ourselves as objects. My daughter takes it completely for granted that the day after we go to the park I can show her a video of herself in the park. Two hundred years ago she would have thought she was having a dream, or losing her mind. Four hundred years ago she would have screamed and wept, denounced me to the elders of the village as a witch and dedicated herself to the Lord …"

Zadie Smith puts the pace of technology in perspective (via explore-blog)

(Source: , via explore-blog)


Contributing in a knife-edge election

Earlier this year, gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson gave $10 million of his $23 billion fortune to Newt Gingrich, funding ads that called Mitt Romney a “predatory corporate raider.” Adelson may have been right about Mitt, but his money was wasted on the feckless Newt.

Those of us who would prefer more progressive, humane, reality-based candidates do not want to waste our money. And for progressive initiatives to have a chance of being enacted into law, it’s important to win not only the Presidency but also control of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Since most of us have a more modest fortune than Adelson’s, we must target our contributions carefully on those close races where money will make the greatest difference. 

According to Sam Wang, a neuroscientist (and author of Welcome to Your Brain) who writes about electoral probabilities at Princeton Election Consortium, a three-way Democratic sweep is possible. He projects that if the election were held today, the median outcome would be:

  • Obama beats Romney, 309 electoral votes to 229
  • In the Senate, Democrats hold on to a very slim majority (51 to 49—or, equally likely, a 50-50 tie, with VP Joe Biden casting the deciding vote)
  • In the House, Democrats eke out a majority by about 12 seats (roughly 225 to 213)

Professor Wang’s projections are somewhat heartening; however, each of these three outcomes remains on a knife edge, and every race counts. Wherever you decide to contribute your time or money will make a difference. 

But Wang concludes that your money is likely to produce the greatest leverage in six tight Senate races, which he lists on an ActBlue webpage here:

  • Heidi Heitcamp, North Dakota
  • Joe Donnelly, Indiana
  • John Tester, Montana
  • Tim Kaine, Virginia
  • Chris Murphy, Connecticut
  • Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts

The Senate will have much to say in the next two years about healthcare, immigration, women’s rights, global warming, Social Security, and the makeup of the Supreme Court. These candidates could turn the tide.

Please consider giving to their campaigns through ActBlue


Our conservative president

Mark Kleiman parses the many meanings of “conservative” and concludes:

Obama, as I read him, is indeed Oakeshottian rather than radical, but he is also moderately progressive rather than traditionist, quite liberal rather than authoritarian, reasonably universalist, and purely pragmatic about regulation and state production. But most of all, Obama is strongly egalitarian: he wants both more social mobility and gentler status gradients. That’s the feature of health care reform that the plutocrats really hate, however much they maunder on about death panels and stifling innovation: it’s a twelve-digit-per-year income transfer downwards.

The current Republican party is radically reactionary rather than conservative in any ordinary sense of that term: how else could you explain wanting to destroy public education? It’s traditionalist to the point of obscurantism, and it’s deeply, deeply hierarchical and plutocratic.

Obama – precisely because of his Oakeshottian virtues – is these people’s worst nightmare. Of course his skin color is offensive to them, since it challenges the strongest status gradient of all. But their hatred of him is more than skin-deep, and it’s by no means foolish.


Take a nap. You know you want to.


“…the most effective way to rejuvenate your brain.” The science of how power naps actually work – and why you should invest in them.

(Source: explore-blog)


Obamacare: It’s really popular

Most Americans, gulled by the Fox News/Republican slime machine, would like to see the Affordable Care Act overturned, if not by the radical reactionaries on the Supreme Court, then by the radical reactionaries in Congress. But much of this opposition rests on pure ignorance, because most Americans support the policies and mechanisms that constitute the ACA (except for the individual mandate). They simply don’t know that the healthcare policies they support are in fact part of the ACA.

That’s why Ezra Klein’s post is so important. He lists “11 Facts about the Affordable Care Act,” and if facts can change people’s minds, the ACA (and its progenitor, Barack Obama) will soon be much more popular. Here’s Klein’s enlightening list:

  1. It insures 33 million uninsured.
  2. It covers all up to 133% of the poverty line, and gives tax credits to all up to 400%.
  3. It caps premiums for all up to 400% of the poverty line on a sliding scale.
  4. The individual mandate will cost only $695 or 2.5% of income.
  5. Small businesses get large tax credits.
  6. Insurance companies can’t discriminate by preexisting conditions, though they can discriminate somewhat by age or tobacco use.
  7. Employers must pay 35% tax on very expensive employee plans.
  8. Insurance companies must use 80-85% of premiums on actual medical care, and they must rebate the excess.
  9. The ACA will reduce the federal deficit.
  10. Medical providers are already reducing costs as they prepare for implementation.
  11. The ACA will change how medicine is delivered and so reduce costs further.

Read the article for more details. And tell everyone you know.

"What those first artists invented was a language of signs for which there will never be a Rosetta stone; perspective, a technique that was not rediscovered until the Athenian Golden Age; and a bestiary of such vitality and finesse that, by the flicker of torchlight, the animals seem to surge from the walls, and move across them like figures in a magiclantern show."
—Judith Thurman on the Stone Age art of Chauvet and other caves (New Yorker, 2008)

"What those first artists invented was a language of signs for which there will never be a Rosetta stone; perspective, a technique that was not rediscovered until the Athenian Golden Age; and a bestiary of such vitality and finesse that, by the flicker of torchlight, the animals seem to surge from the walls, and move across them like figures in a magiclantern show."

—Judith Thurman on the Stone Age art of Chauvet and other caves (New Yorker, 2008)

"The economic conditions through which Britain is living reflect a disgraceful abdication of responsibility by a government that has consigned millions of lives to unnecessary and avoidable hardship and great anxiety about their future prospects. It is simply wrong to blame this on the economic tsunami sweeping through Europe. Clearly a break-up of the euro would hit the UK hard and add greatly to the peril we face. But that has not happened yet and might still be avoided. What is clear is that Britain confronts this risk from a position of great weakness in substantial measure because of the economic strategy being pursued by the coalition government, whose leaders shamelessly blame an event that has not occurred for their mistakes. The true problem is that the framework in which economic policy is cast is 100% wrong."

— Editorial, The Observer (via @delong)

(Source: Guardian)