Cory Doctorow explains why Keurig is planning to fight off-brand coffee pods:
The reason they’re adding “DRM” to their coffee pods is that they don’t think that they make the obviously best product at the best price, but want to be able to force their customers to buy from them anyway. So when, inevitably, their system is cracked by a competitor who puts better coffee at a lower price into the pods, Keurig strikes me as the kind of company that might just sue. And not only sue, but keep on suing, even after they get their asses handed to them by successive courts. With any luck, they’ll make some new appellate-level caselaw in a circuit where there’s a lot of startups — maybe by bringing a case against some spunky Research Triangle types in the Fourth Circuit.
Now, this is risky. Hard cases made bad law. A judge in a circuit where copyright claims are rarely heard might just buy the idea of copyright covering pods of coffee. The rebel forces that Keurig sues might be idiots (remember Aimster?). But of all the DRM Death Stars to be unveiled, Keurig’s is a pretty good candidate for Battle Station Most Likely to Have a Convenient Thermal Exhaust Port.
The latest twist in the CIA’s campaign to be above the law emerged this afternoon:
The Justice Department has been asked to investigate whether Senate staffers improperly obtained and removed documents from a CIA computer system at a joint facility created by the CIA and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), TIME has learned.
The DOJ has already launched a criminal inquiry into whether the CIA was actively spying on the Senate staffers investigating the agency’s torture program, so one should count this as an attempted counter-strike. But you still have to sit back and marvel. The CIA is answerable to the Congress in a democratic country. But the CIA, in its current unaccountable form, actually thinks it has the standing to launch an investigation into the Congress! If that doesn’t suggest the CIA answers to no one, what would? Drunk on their own power, the agency is not acting the way a spy agency should in a constitutional republic. They’re acting like they are the government. Time reports, by the way, that “none of the documents allegedly removed were classified.”
I’m dumbstruck by the president’s decision to let this unseemly spectacle continue. In a democracy, we have an absolute right to see what was done in secret in our name – especially when it amounted to war crimes, and when the CIA actually destroyed large swathes of the incriminating evidence. The Senate Committee completed its exhaustive report a long, long time ago. Since then the CIA has done all it can to suppress it, amend it, censor it, and trash it. Enough. The president needs to get tough, fire Brennan for this outrageous stonewalling, and insist on the publication of the full report, in its original form, unredacted and transparent.
Some other posts worth revisiting: how the blind dream; how Americans keep over-estimating their own homophobia; the spirituality of Harriet Beecher Stowe; the English tweet cheekily back at David Cameron; Clinton triangulates herself; my take on Pope Francis’ stance on civil unions; and how the least popular Senator in America – John McCain – is somehow the most popular in Washington.
If you’re a subscriber, check out my intense conversation with Richard Rodriguez, another gay Catholic, on Islam, terror, faith and women. If you need a reminder to subscribe, you just got one. Subscribe!
See you in the morning.
(Photo: A Boxer dog looks out from its kennel on first day of Crufts dog show at the NEC on March 6, 2014 in Birmingham, England. Said to be the largest show of its kind in the world, the annual four-day event, features thousands of dogs, with competitors traveling from countries across the globe to take part. Crufts, which was first held in 1891 and sees thousands of dogs vie for the coveted title of ‘Best in Show’. By Matt Cardy/Getty Images.)
Photographer Dori Caspi spent time with one:
For this particular series, Caspi traveled to Namibia 15 times and formed a close relationship with the people of the Himba village. This village has been encountering a progressive amount of challenges, including the intrusion of roads upon their land, and the increasingly severe threat of the AIDS epidemic which has the potential to eradicate the village entirely. “My camera was never used as a tool of anthropological or research-like documentation of the tribes’ way of life, but always as an instrument with which I could express my love for its wonderful people, and my admiration of their inner and physical beauty.”
Caspi explains the significance of the series:
I have no doubt that on historical time dimension, the Himba, like the Omo Valley tribes, are in the last minute of their existence as traditional tribal societies. The changes which these tribes are going through, those enforced and those at will, are powerful and swift more than ever before. Roads are being broken into the tribes isolated regions, their lands are being given to huge corporates, and cellular communication is arriving at their huts. These days, almost all tribesmen walk around with cellular hanging on their chests. This is not the beginning of the end. This is end itself, and in some sad way – my art documents its last moments.
See more photos from Caspi’s series here.
Generational, according to Ioffe:
The younger a citizen of Donetsk, the more likely she is to view herself as Ukrainian. The older she is, the more likely she is to identify as Russian. And this is the crux of it all: What we are seeing today is the reverberation of what happened more than 20 years ago. This is still the long post-Soviet transition. And this is what it’s like to wander in the desert, waiting for the old generation to die off.
(Photo: A child cries as a Russian Cossack places a traditional Cossack hat on her outside of the Simferopol parliament building in Simferopol, Ukraine on March 6, 2014. The Russian Cossacks surrounded the building in a show of support for Russia. By Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Novelist Ann Bauer ponders the challenge of writing endings:
“We want a novel to swell with a sense of limitless possibility at the start and in the middle,” wrote the book critic Laura Miller in a 2011 article on Salon. “But we also want it to zero in to a point of inevitability as it ends. For this reason, last lines, like first ones, often suffer from a bad case of Trying Too Hard.”
The key is that inevitability Miller talks about, but mixed with a bit of freshness or surprise.
Ukraine was badly hit by the financial crisis and plummeting steel prices. GDP fell by 15% in 2009. That made it a prime candidate for economic streamlining. In 2010 the IMF agreed to loan Ukraine $15 billion—with conditions attached. A major target for reform were Ukraine’s cushy energy subsidies. The state gas company, Naftogaz, only charges consumers a quarter of the cost of importing the gas. Cheap gas discourages investment: Ukraine is one of the most energy-intensive economies in the world and domestic production has slumped by two-thirds since the 1970s. The IMF ended up freezing the deal in 2011 after Kiev failed to touch the costly subsidies.
This is not quite as generous as it seems – the aid is tied to the implementation of an IMF restructuring campaign that is sure to be almost as destabilizing in the short-run as the aid is intended to be stabilizing. If the goal was simply to strengthen the Ukrainian state in the near future, the aid should have been offered with fewer if any strings.
Because we’re willing to pay for it:
Noise ranks as the number one gripe of restaurant-goers nationally according to a Zagat survey, and it is the complaint submitted to New York City’s 311 hotline with the greatest frequency. (From 2012 to 2013, noise-related calls to 311 increased 16 percent according to noise activist Arlene Bronzaft.) Even if these complaints are just cyclical resurgences of an age-old problem—the ancient Greek colony Sybaris mandated that certain noisy tradesmen (potters, tinsmiths) had to live outside the city walls; Elizabethan men couldn’t beat their wives past 10 p.m.—we seem to be dealing with it differently. From noise-canceling headphones to the popularity of silent retreats, there has never been quite so great a premium placed on silence. And not only do we value it in a general sense, we’re willing to pay for it. Silence has become the ultimate luxury.
Yesterday the College Board introduced an overhaul of the SAT, with a return to the 1,600-point scoring system, a revamped and now-optional- essay section, and a new emphasis on American “founding documents” as source material. Todd Balf offers a “simplistic example” of a new SAT prompt:
Students would read an excerpt from a 1974 speech by Representative Barbara Jordan of Texas, in which she said the impeachment of Nixon would divide people into two parties. Students would then answer a question like: “What does Jordan mean by the word ‘party’?” and would select from several possible choices. This sort of vocabulary question would replace the more esoteric version on the current SAT. The idea is that the test will emphasize words students should be encountering, like “synthesis,” which can have several meanings depending on their context. Instead of encouraging students to memorize flashcards, the test should promote the idea that they must read widely throughout their high-school years.
Abby Rapoport thinks political reporters are inventing a GOP establishment-Tea Party divide after Texas’s Tuesday primaries, in which Senator John Cornyn and other establishment figures fought off challenges from the right:
Texas is complicated because there’s no binary opposition between “establishment” candidates and those affiliated with the Tea Party. Should we define “establishment” as Speaker of the House Joe Straus, who has himself a relatively moderate record but has presided over one of the state’s most conservative legislatures? Outside Tea Party groups have tried to topple Straus, yet he also commands support from Tea Party-backed state representatives. Or is the “establishment” closer to Governor Rick Perry, the state’s longest-serving governor, who gave one of the first major speeches at a Tea Party rally in 2009? Or is it David Dewhurst, who hung tight to Perry’s message, passed extreme measures, but then watched his political dreams crumble as Cruz rose to power by accusing Dewhurst of being a moderate?
Benen agrees that the primaries are a contest between the far right and the farther right:
The buffoon from Arizona is one of the most frequent guests on cable news and on the Sunday morning talk shows. He was dead wrong about Iraq, Afghanistan and has never copped to it, clinging to his fantasy that his beloved “surge” made it all worthwhile. It didn’t, as the resilient sectarian warfare in that benighted country demonstrates day after day. He caved to Karl Rove on the torture question in 2006, leaving the CIA program in place. He picked a delusional maniac to be a vice-presidential candidate after close to no vetting whatsoever. He was jumping up and down trying to foment a war with Russia over Georgia in 2008. This week, he was dyspeptically assaulting the president of the United States at a time when, one might imagine, wise souls in Washington might see the benefit in a temporary united front vis-a-vis Putin. He is determined to sabotage any deal with Iran, which would necessitate another war in the Middle East, a war for which there is close to no public support, and which could have incalculable consequences in the region and the world.
A simple question: why does anyone still take him even faintly seriously? Why does David Gregory defer to him? Why does CNN have him on to discuss foreign affairs when he has demonstrated catastrophic judgment time and time again? McCain was on the Sunday morning shows 24 times in 2013 – far more than countless other Washington figures with far better records. The year before, he was invited on 21 times.
In stark contrast, the latest PPP poll in Arizona finds the following results for McCain:
John McCain is unpopular with Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike and has now become the least popular Senator in the country. Only 30% of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing to 54% who disapprove. There isn’t much variability in his numbers by party – he’s at 35/55 with Republicans, 29/53 with Democrats, and 25/55 with independents, suggesting he could be vulnerable to challenges in both the primary and general elections the next time he’s up.
He is the least popular Senator in the country and the most popular among Beltway hacks and TV producers. That tells you something that … well, you already knew.
(Photo from Getty)
Dogs chasing shadows:
“The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction,” – Henry Kissinger, conservative, in a wise piece.
Readers continue the thread with many wonderful emails:
I also relate to the brother-in-law who wanted to support his wife but did not stand in church because he doesn’t believe in God. I also attend church with my family during holidays, or Mass when I’m visiting my boyfriend’s family. But I don’t take communion or say anything that indicates I am a believer. Why? It’s not to be contrary; it’s out of respect. These are very real beliefs for these people, and participating to the point of lying is disrespectful to their traditions and faith (not to mention confusing for my family, who have been told and must continue to be told that I do not share their beliefs). Isn’t Revelations 3:15-16 applicable here? ”‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”
Another broadens the discussion:
I think there’s something missing in these posts: an accurate label. Personal atheism is an apathetic stance, since it only describes one’s absence of beliefs compared to others’. But what is always referred to as New Atheism can better be described as anti-theism. It’s not just a statement of personal beliefs, but a political stance against religion as the basis for legal or political policy. Of course, being “anti” something carries a stigma (so that anti-abortion becomes pro-life, or anti-gay becomes pro-“religious freedom”). So perhaps New Atheists – or in my term, anti-theists – can call ourselves pro-secular. But somehow, that doesn’t have the same ring. My main point is that it’s a branding issue. How do you oppose conflating religion and politics without denigrating others’ beliefs?
Another notes, “Regarding Thomas Wells’ article, there’s already this term: Apatheism.” Another reader, less concerned about labeling, sees the value in being a gadfly:
Liz Wahl, the RT America host who resigned on air yesterday in protest against the network’s biased coverage of Ukraine, gives Jamie Kirchick an inside look at the network’s editorial agenda:
Wahl, for her part, says that while the Kremlin influence over RT isn’t always overt, that journalists there understand what they have to do to succeed and fall into line accordingly. “I think management is able to manipulate the very young and naïve employees,” she says. “They will find ways to punish you covertly and reward those that do go along with their narrative.” …
Wahl recalls a story she attempted to report about last year’s French intervention in Mali, aimed at repelling an al-Qaeda takeover of the country.
Cohn translates the latest Obamacare tweak, which allows people to keep insurance plans that don’t meet the law’s minimum coverage standards through the end of 2016:
Administration officials argue that this announcement merely changes the duration of the transitionary period, without altering the end result. They make a good case. From the get-go, the law had a “grandfather clause,” allowing people with insurance as of March, 2010, when the Affordable Care Act became law, to hold onto their policies. This decision is similar to expanding that protection—and not to a very large group of people. One estimate, from the Rand Corporation, suggests only a half million people still have the old plans. And as Greg Sargent pointed out on Wednesday, that number will dwindle over time, because the non-group market is so volatile, with people moving in and out as they obtain or drop coverage from employers.
Allahpundit calls the delay nakedly political:
From her bio:
Jennifer Michael Hecht is a poet, philosopher, historian and commentator. She is the author of the bestseller Doubt: A History, a history of religious and philosophical doubt all over the world, throughout history. Her new book is Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, out from Yale University Press. Her The Happiness Myth brings a historical eye to modern wisdom about how to lead a good life. Hecht’s The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology won Phi Beta Kappa’s 2004 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award “For scholarly studies that contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity.”
Popova loved Stay, insisting that the book is “more than a must-read — it’s a cultural necessity”:
Hecht argues that, historically, our ideologies around suicide have set us up for “an unwinnable battle”: First, the moralistic doctrines of the major Western religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam condemned suicide as a sin that “God” forbids, one more offensive than even murder because you were stealing directly from divinity with no time left for repentance — a strategy based on negative reinforcement, which modern psychology has demonstrated time and again is largely ineffective. Then came The Enlightenment, whose secular philosophy championed individual agency and, in rebelling against the blind religiosity of the past, framed suicide as some sort of moral freedom — a toxic proposition Hecht decries as a cultural wrong turn. Reflecting on such attitudes — take, for instance, Patti Smith’s beautiful yet heartbreaking tribute to Virginia Woolf’s suicide — Hecht makes the case, instead, for two of history’s relatively unknown but potent arguments against suicide: That we owe it to society and to our personal communities to stay alive, and that we owe it to our future selves …
The Dish featured the arguments of Stay here and Hecht’s ideas about atheism here and here, part of a thread asking, “Where are all the female atheists?” Let us know what you think we should ask Jennifer via the survey below (if you are reading on a mobile device, click here):
The resistance to oversight about torture mirrors similar problems legislators have experienced when it comes to trying to monitor surveillance programs and other secret activities, with one huge exception: The torture report was championed and endorsed by Senate intelligence committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other senior members of that committee. By contrast, Feinstein and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) have emerged as the strongest defenders of surveillance activity, leaving the so-far-losing battle for disclosure to be fought by more rebellious legislators.
Alex Ruthrauff makes the obvious point that the agency must have something to hide:
Agencies that operate in good faith and within the law have no need to obstruct investigations. If you’re doing that, you’re admitting guilt.
The tech sector:
In contrast to the media and arts industries, where interns are notoriously underpaid or just go without compensation altogether, those at tech, finance, and consulting companies can get a hefty sum for their summer or semester of work. According to a survey by Glassdoor, Twitter (No. 3 on the list) pays $6,791 per month, Facebook (No. 4) pays $6,213 per month, and Google (No. 9) pays $5,969 per month. …
Perhaps companies feel it’s worth it to pay interns at this level so candidates will compete heavily for the jobs, do real work once they’re at the internship, and potentially be hireable at the end of their stint. But it’s worth noting that the U.S. Census Bureau is currently reporting median U.S. household income at $53,046.
The Dish approach to our own internship program is here.