Juan Vidal shares his:

My favorite place to read is in a dark bar mid-day. Although I can read almost anywhere, we’re each allowed our preferences and mine is so. Coffee shops feel pretentious, the gym is freaking weird. Libraries are fine but there’s so much candy and I can’t handle it all calling my name. The last thing I read was The Conversations by Cesar Aira, and I devoured it in this quaint little dive up the road from my house. Aira’s stuff is super meandering and detailed and it requires all of my senses working in unison; the bar is always close to empty when I go, so it’s everything I need.

Bars, especially the ones I read in, are gifts. They’re warm and brooding, and if you go early enough, it can be just you, a bartender, and enough open space to react to plot twists without judgment. All that’s happening is the cleaning and the setting up shop for the lunch crowd. And so I’ll sit with a book. Sometimes I’ll even stand a while, which I did through part of the closing section of Wise Blood.

(Photo by John Stephen Dwyer)

Rachel Feintzeig flags a recent study that “found that women and non-whites executives who push for women and non-whites to be hired and promoted suffer when it comes to their own performance reviews”:

A woman who shepherds women up the ranks, for example, is perceived as less warm, while a non-white who promotes diversity is perceived as less competent. Both end up being rated less highly by their bosses, according to the paper, which is set to be presented at an Academy of Management conference next month. … Often, having women or minorities atop a company is perceived as a marker of progress for diversity efforts, but [David] Hekman’s research suggests their presence might not have a large impact on the rest of the organization. If they believe it’s too risky to advocate for their own groups, it makes sense that successful women and non-white leaders would end up surrounded by white males in the executive suite, he said.

The study also discovered that “White men, on the other hand, actually got a bump in their performance review scores from valuing diversity.” Amanda Hess considers why “white male managers who promote women and people of color aren’t penalized”:

Read On

Mental Health Break

Jul 30 2014 @ 4:20pm

The Onion has all you e-book readers figured out:

Trophy Children, Ctd

Jul 30 2014 @ 4:00pm

Lots of reader pushback on Molly Knefel’s case for participatory trophies:

Instead, that kid [who doesn't get a trophy] is supposed to get the message: If you didn’t score a lot of points, no one gives a shit about you. And if that makes you sad, or if you feel that it’s not fair, get used to it. The world is a sad and unfair place. Score more goals next time. This message has always felt at odds, to me, with the equally ubiquitous platitude that children are the future. If children are the future, then why are we so gung ho about preparing them to be treated unfairly?

I don’t know, maybe because the world IS unfair and we’re realists and not delusional purveyors of utopian fantasy?

So kids who ARE good at something have to live with the satisfaction that scoring a goal is enough, but the kid who sucks (like me) NEEDS a trophy to keep him from feeling bad about himself more than the kid scoring the goal? NO. Why can’t we celebrate the exceptional? When a kid does something well we’re supposed reinforce it by telling him it’s just what’s expected so don’t get too excited because there’s no awards in life for being exceptional? But, um … there are. From the Oscars to the Olympics to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Another adds, “Knowing that life is not fair, and that your achievements are not handed to you, makes earning them sweeter.” Another key point:

Giving trophies to everyone is practically like giving away none, because with the ubiquity comes devaluation.

Read On

Chart Of The Day

Jul 30 2014 @ 3:37pm

Capital Flight

Tim Fernholz wonders whether sanctions are increasing capital flight from Russia:

Russia’s had a real problem with capital flight in recent years, as its wealthiest citizens and corporations have moved assets to tax havens and wealthy economies to avoid instability and political interference in Russia. (The erstwhile shareholders of Yukos, the oil company that the Kremlin seized and broke up in the mid-2000s, just won a $50 billion compensation claim in the Hague.) That left Putin plaintively asking oligarchs to bring back their cash, please. No dice: Capital flight has increased this year, already exceeding each of the last two years in preliminary data for the first two quarters of 2014. Is that the fault of the sanctions? In part—few investors want their money to be trapped if a new iron economic curtain is raised.

Jason Koebler offers a primer on the new bill that has tech companies and some civil libertarians excited:

On Tuesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would completely end mass surveillance under Section 215 of the Patriot Act – a loophole in the law that effectively let NSA agents scoop up metadata and other information about American citizens. If this sounds at all familiar, it’s because earlier this summer, the House of Representatives also passed the USA Freedom Act – after a House committee completely gutted any teeth it had and also added in new loopholes that would let bulk surveillance continue unscathed. Leahy’s bill looks much closer to the one that many civil liberty groups initially endorsed before the House had at it, and it’s expected to go straight to the Senate floor, where it will have less chance of being ruined by back room White House dealings or in closed committee hearings.

Andrea Peterson details the bill’s contents:

Read On

Frederic Wehrey cautions against buying into the conventional wisdom about what’s going down in Libya:

Outside observers are often tempted toward a one-dimensional reading of Libya’s turmoil. It is easy to trace Libya’s breakdown as a political struggle between Islamists and liberals: The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Justice and Construction Party and more rejectionist, jihadi factions like Ansar al-Sharia versus the “liberals” under the National Forces Alliance (NFA). Another level of conflict seems to be regional: A contest between the towns of Zintan and Misrata for economic power and political leverage in Tripoli, or amongst federalists and their opponents in the long-marginalized east. Yet an additional layer is between remnants of the old order – ex-security men, long-serving and retired officers, former Gaddafi-era technocrats – and a newer, younger cadre of self-proclaimed “revolutionaries,” often Islamists, who were either exiled and/or imprisoned during the dictator’s rule.

Elements of all these dimensions are at play, but none of them alone has sufficient explanatory power. At its core, Libya’s violence is an intensely local affair, stemming from deeply entrenched patronage networks battling for economic resources and political power in a state afflicted by a gaping institutional vacuum and the absence of a central arbiter with a preponderance of force. There is not one faction strong enough to coerce or compel the others.

Meanwhile, Friedersdorf lays into the hawks who supported our role in overthrowing Qaddafi:

Read On

Can Israel “Win” This War? Ctd

Jul 30 2014 @ 2:37pm

Brent Sasley says yes to that question:

When the dust settles, Israel will also have restored some of its deterrence against its enemies. Against Hamas specifically, it demonstrated it’s gotten over what we might call Cast Lead Syndrome: recoiling from the type of international opprobrium that war generated against Israel because of the scale of Palestinian deaths. In that conflict, between approximately 1,100 and 1,400 Gazans were killed, depending on what source one looks to for casualty figures. Yet already in Operation Protective Edge, more than 1,000 Palestinians may have been killed. Though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become a cautious administrator since his first term in office, the temptation to keep going to destroy Hamas’ tunnel infrastructure has overcome his reluctance to use large-scale force. And the Israeli public has rallied behind him.

In a debate among Brookings experts, Michael Doran contends that whether or not Israel is “winning”, Hamas is definitely losing:

Six months from now, many Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, will ask themselves what all the pain and destruction that Hamas brought down on them was worth. Their disgruntlement will not weaken Hamas’s grip on power, because it is a dictatorship supported by foreign money. But the organization, as it stands before its people and lectures them on the need for more sacrifice, will surely clock the sullen faces that stare blankly back. As for the “support” that Hamas gets from public opinion in other parts of the Arab world that will certainly dissipate. Of course, it’s never been worth much anyway, throughout modern Arab history, because it never translates into lasting change in the behavior of states, the true power brokers in the region. Meanwhile, Hamas will have lost considerably on the battlefield.

But Shadi Hamid is not so sure:

Even if Hamas “loses” in the ways that you describe, it seems to me that they’re likely to at least be better off than they were before the conflict started.

Read On

The View From Your Window

Jul 30 2014 @ 2:21pm

Nampa, Idaho, 8-30 am

Nampa, Idaho, 8.30 am

Keating looks at why the current epidemic has been so severe:

As political scientist Kim Yi Dionne notes, a number of factors have combined to make this the most deadly Ebola outbreak in history, and most of them are political rather than biological.

For one thing, none of these countries has experienced an outbreak of the disease before, so knowledge of it is low. For another, the fact that it’s spread to multiple countries makes a coordinated response more difficult. (Liberia has now shut almost all of its borders.) As Dionne notes, all three countries have poor health infrastructure, due in part to years of civil war in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Liberia has just .014 doctors per 1,000 people, and a common joke is that JFK Medical Center, Monrovia’s main hospital, has long had the unflattering nickname “Just For Killing.”

Which is why a major Ebola outbreak in America is unlikely. Olga Khazan tries to determine how this outbreak started:

Read On