We’re simultaneously a country of people who think child molesters are the worst people in the world, and a country of people who, to a surprising degree, dismiss and minimize accusations of molestation, at least when leveled against the right people.
As we have been told time and again since he died on 5 December, Nelson Mandela was instrumental to the political bargain that proposed forgiveness in the hope of a better future. Whatever we think of South Africa now, we still contemplate with horror the abyss into which it was widely expected to plunge twenty years ago. How far have things really moved on? Will the historic compromise hold or has the country been raised up for a moment only to descend with an agonising jolt, like the victims of strappado, once a common practice in its torture chambers, where prisoners whose hands were pinioned behind their back were dropped at the end of a rope tied to their wrists? And what of the moral high ground on which Mandela and his vision of reconciliation are now enshrined? It’s right – and proper – to regard him as the paragon of human integrity, a rare figure in history, but he was more than everybody’s friend on Facebook: he was a politician, and that’s the way he has to be appraised.
Think back to all the messages you have ever sent. All the phone calls and searches you’ve made. Could any of them be misinterpreted? Could any of them be used to damage you by someone like the next McCarthy, the next Nixon, the next Ashcroft? This is the most pernicious and soul-shattering aspect of where we are right now. No one knows for sure what is being collected, recorded, analysed and stored – or how all this will be used in the future. A few years ago, John Villasenor at the Brookings Institution wrote a terrifying study called “Recording Everything: Digital Storage as an Enabler of Authoritarian Governments”, which explains how easy it is for a government to record and store the entire contents of all calls made within any country. The technology is readily available now, and the storage costs are so low that Syria, for example, could record and store all phone calls made by its citizens in a given year for under $1m (£610,000), or about nine cents a person. Taking the leap from any government, including our own, collecting metadata, to collecting all audio, period, is no leap at all. Unchecked, the NSA will surely avail itself of these economies of scale. If and when it begins to record all phone calls, or when a whistleblower reveals that it is already doing this, again the NSA will say that there is no harm done, given that no one is being targeted specifically, that computers are simply scanning all of this audio for certain keywords. It will say that the vast majority of us – those who are presumably doing nothing wrong – will have nothing to worry about. No doubt the NSA looks at the poll numbers, that enabling 50%, and sees it as a mandate to continue and expand.
"If the best experience we can have with technology requires an American-designed platform, we’ll get an American experience: Buy an Apple iPhone, and in a thousand quiet ways, we interact with it the way Cupertino wants us to. The experience is so seamless and fulfilling, that consumers around the world are willing to sacrifice a fraction of cultural identity to obtain it. Multiply this by millions of users, and the effect can be transformative. As cities like Bangalore, Curitiba, and Shenzhen become more affluent and connected, their residents increasingly resemble those in any other tech-savvy city. This is a loss for all of us.
"Enjoying a better user experience shouldn’t require acting more American."
"The irony is that while the end of the government shutdown in October was hailed as a triumph over the obstructionist Tea Partiers and right-wing Republicans more generally, Washington is carrying out the deepest cuts of the entire Great Recession. the Murray-Ryan budget deal will actually have less discretionary spending in 2014 than Paul Ryan’s original budget proposal less than four years ago when Republicans won control of the House—a proposal reviled by Democrats as the work of a budget-cutting maniac.
""It’s about compromising for the sake of compromise," wrote the Atlantic's Matthew O'Brien. “So if one side keeps moving further and further, say, right, they can eventually get a 'compromise' that gets them more than they asked for at the beginning.”
"This has been the pattern for several years now. Back in September, before the government shutdown, Michael Linden and Harry Stein of the Center for American Progress showed that what Democrats were proposing then as a “compromise” was what Republicans had been asking for all along:
The Senate-passed measure to keep the government operating represents an enormous compromise by progressives to avoid a damaging government shutdown. The Democrat-controlled Senate agreed to temporary funding levels that are far closer to the Republican-controlled House budget plan than they are to the Senate’s own budget for fiscal year 2014.
"As for the latest deal, the only thing the Democrats "negotiated" was how big of a hit working people will take in the latest round of austerity."
Over the last few years, the Washington Post has attempted to cut costs by offering certain employees buyouts, essentially paying them to retire early or leave for other work. For some bizarre reason, the Post’s opinion section has been entirely shielded from these buyouts. Last year the paper bought out nearly 50 people. Many of them were actual reporters, including investigative reporters. Many of them were people of color. Not a single one was an opinion columnist.
Lisi’s case lifts Mr. Ford’s spectacle from questions of judgment, personal weakness, perhaps of addiction and a seedy private life and dumps it squarely in the realm of violent criminality, suggesting broader lawlessness, such as obstruction of justice or destruction of evidence, alongside questions over potential vulnerability of the mayor’s office.