Face Of The Day

Jul 31 2014 @ 7:15pm

Wacken Heavy Metal Festival 2014

Fans attend the Buelent Ceylan performance at the 2014 Wacken Open Air heavy metal music festival in Wacken, Germany on July 31, 2014. Wacken is a village in northern Germany with a population of 1,800 that has hosted the annual four-day festival, which attracts 75,000 heavy metal fans from around the world, since 1990. By Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Jul 31 2014 @ 6:47pm

Discussing the controversy over the F-35 jet fighter boondoggle, Charles Kenny points out that the Pentagon overpays for practically everything it spends money on, not just military equipment:

Across the military, the average major Pentagon acquisition comes in at 40 percent over budget, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. In spite of the Pentagon’s well-documented history of profligacy, the Congress continues to enlarge its responsibilities. The DOD’s mandate now includes wide-ranging scientific and medical research and international infrastructure projects, diffusing the focus on its core mission—like buying planes that don’t set themselves afire on the runway. That’s a disservice to America’s military and a burden to the country’s taxpayers. … If the Pentagon is so bad at providing good weapons to soldiers at a reasonable price, you might not expect it to be any better at buying anything else—and the evidence suggests it isn’t.

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[Re-posted from earlier today]

Our first big screen-printing is underway and more orders for t-shirts and polos keep pouring in. If you haven’t decided on your shirt yet, full details on designs and sizing are here. Or just go here to purchase now. A hesitant customer:

I am pretty much the last person to buy a “band t-shirt” at this point, but I may actually buy one of the polos (prolly navy) with the customary alligator replaced by the dog. It’s super subtle and pretty adorable. Most people will just think it’s a cool shirt, but those in the know will get it.

That reader soon followed up: “Caved, bought one.” Another reader:

So glad there are T-shirts and polos – thanks. It will be fun for me and other Pacific Northwest fans to recognize one another – kind of like a secret handshake. But when I go to BustedTees, they offer me 30% off my order for giving up personal information, and then I learn that I cannot apply the discount code to my Dish product because of a “stipulation of our agreement” with The Dish (a quote from the online chat in which I tried to figure this out). Grrrrr.

The Dish’s privacy policy is different than BustedTees’, and they offer a different kind of shirt than we do, so their coupon agreement isn’t compatible with our shirts. But after buying your Dish shirt, definitely look around the rest of the BustedTees’ site to check out their own shirts and offers. Some Dish faves:

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Meanwhile, Back In Syria …

Jul 31 2014 @ 5:59pm

Hassan Hassan suspects that Assad is poised to recapture Aleppo, which would be a potentially fatal blow to the rebels:

The regime’s recent gains mean that it may be able to strangle the opposition’s strongholds in Aleppo, and threaten its support networks outside the city. Sheikh Najjar is a strategic gateway for the regime into Aleppo’s northern countryside, and if it can capture the still rebel-held Infantry School and Handarat camp, it can secure northeastern Aleppo and encircle the rebels. It can also disrupt the rebels’ supply lines to Turkey, which represent their main source for arms and supplies.

Thus, the rebels in Aleppo find themselves squeezed from all sides:

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A Preying Mantle

Jul 31 2014 @ 5:43pm

Octo-blogger Katherine Harmon Courage flags new research into the tragic carnal habits of our favorite cephalopod:

[Scientist Christine] Huffard came across a pair of mating day octopuses (Octopus cyanea) near Fiabacet Island in Indonesia. The female, as is often the case in this species, was larger—with a body about seven-and-a-half inches long; the male was closer to six inches long. They were positioned on a reef, outside the female’s den, the male’s mating arm (hectocotylus) inserted into the female’s mantle from a (presumably) safe distance.

After about 15 minutes of mating, the female inched closer to the male. And, as if lunging for a quick embrace, the female encircled the male’s mantle with her two front arms, “dragging him nearer,” the researchers describe. The female’s two arms wrapped around the male’s funnel and mantle opening. The male turned white (a common escape attempt response) and seemed to fight to slink away. But the female continued her constriction for two full minutes before wrapping an additional arm around the male. Two minutes after that, the male stopped moving.

“The female enveloped his body with her web and carried him to what appeared to be her den,” Huffard and [scientist Mike] Bartick write. Apparently the male was both date and dinner.

A reader continues the discussion:

The next book club topic is to discuss whether Montaigne was Christian or Atheist? Puh-montaigneleeze. Does it matter? Does it matter to God Himself what you, me, Montaigne or anyone believes? Isn’t that a little prideful?

Do you think the first question God will ask all his Super Christian followers (or atheists) upon their death is what they believe in? Will their God want their opinions on evolution? Global warming? It’s like asking your dog’s opinion when casting your ballot.

It’s much more interesting to see how beliefs are played out. And for that, Montaigne/Sarah Bakewell is fabulous. We’re this Super Christian nation but that doesn’t always play out so well. Sure we don’t drown witches (anymore), but we torture and murder innocent people, turn refugee children away at our border. We justify these actions, as all extremists in crisis conditions do, by claiming exceptional times and unusual circumstances.

If, as Montaigne states, it’s just politics and therefore part of the cycle of decay and rejuvenation, then why react in such extremes? Why sue the President? Why intervene everywhere? Why listen to Hannity or McCain on bookclub-beagle-tranything? However bad things are, as Montaigne says, most of life goes on undisturbed. In the long view, fanatics wear themselves out. Preserving your dignity, your soul, and remaining true to yourself is forever.

Keep picking books like this one and the world will be a better place. No shit!

Send your thoughts on How To Live to bookclub@andrewsullivan.com.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: A bachelor’s degree from a public university costs 40 percent more in the US than in Canada, but American financial aid policies mean that poor US students wind up paying a lower net tuition than their counterparts north of the border. Christopher Flavelle wonders why, given that fact, low-income Canadians are still more likely to attend college than low-income Americans are:

[Economist Lance] Lochner offered a few possible explanations. One is price transparency: The gap between the sticker price and what you’ll actually pay to attend most US. colleges is enormous and hard to quantify, and that may be more of a disincentive to low-income families than to those for whom money is less of a concern. A more troubling explanation, and one that’s far harder to fix, is that people are less likely to come into contact with those from other income groups in the US.

“In the US, people are much more segregated in where they live,” Lochner said. “It could be, because of that, you have more segregation of knowledge.” In Canada, by contrast, “you’re more likely to go to a school where everybody hears about” the advantages of going to college, and where somebody can help you figure out what steps to take to get there. If that’s true, it means that income inequality hasn’t just increased the economic value of going to college, by increasing the earnings premium associated with a degree. It has also made going to college harder, by reducing the odds that young people from poor families will be told that a college degree is something they can attain, or should even try to attempt.

David Leonhardt emphasizes how Americans generally pay less than the sticker price for their degrees:

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Mental Health Break

Jul 31 2014 @ 4:20pm

Your favorite British commentator tries to decipher NASCAR:

Propaganda Is A Powerful Thing

Jul 31 2014 @ 3:57pm

The latest poll from Russia is proof:

A poll released by the independent Russian pollster Levada on Wednesday has found that a large number of Russians believe that Ukraine shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, with 46 percent saying they think it was brought down by a Ukrainian army antiaircraft missile and 36 percent saying a Ukrainian military plane shot it down (multiple answers were allowed, meaning the percentages do not add up to a hundred and people may have chosen more than one answer). … Almost no one in Russia is buying the story that the rest of the world accepts. Just 3 percent believe pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine might have shot down the plane.

Sarah Palin, Democratic Fundraiser

Jul 31 2014 @ 3:40pm

Impeachment

All that impeachment chatter in the fever swamps is a gift to Democrats, Cillizza argues:

You can be sure that Boehner is making it abundantly clear to members of his conference not to mention the word “impeachment” in public and, if asked about it, to insist that it is absolutely not an option. But, whether they listen is another thing entirely. Some may genuinely believe that Obama has committed acts that warrant impeachment, others may see the possibility of personal political gain out of being on Team Impeachment.

Meanwhile, any and all talk of impeachment may well be the secret ingredient Democrats have been desperately searching for to energize their base in advance of the midterms. (Eighty six percent of Democrats oppose impeaching President Obama.) If Democrats can make their base voters believe that the results of this election could mean the difference between impeaching Obama and not, that’s a major win for them. And, yes, impeachment talk will further stoke passion among some within the conservative base. But, between the IRS, Benghazi and Obamacare do those voters really need a whole lot more motivation to turn out and vote against Obama?

But also more literally, a gift, as in cash money:

It’s a great rallying point for the party’s voter and fundraising base. The Democrats’ House Campaign Committee says that in a single day, in response to the supposed threat of impeachment and reality of a lawsuit against the president, it hauled in 50,000 contributions, 60 percent from women, totaling $1 million.

Perhaps that’s why left-leaning media outlets are talking it up, by Nate Silver’s count, far more than their counterparts on the right:

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