Matt Leidholm

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How politics makes us stupid

Wonkblog alum Ezra Klein writes about identity politics shapes our reason for his new online publication Vox:

There’s a simple theory underlying much of American politics. It sits hopefully at the base of almost every speech, every op-ed, every article, and every panel discussion. It courses through the Constitution and is a constant in President Obama’s most stirring addresses. It’s what we might call the More Information Hypothesis: the belief that many of our most bitter political battles are mere misunderstandings. The cause of these misunderstandings? Too little information — be it about climate change, or taxes, or Iraq, or the budget deficit. If only the citizenry were more informed, the thinking goes, then there wouldn’t be all this fighting. It’s a seductive model. […] But the More Information Hypothesis isn’t just wrong. It’s backwards. Cutting-edge research shows that the more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become.

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Our Comrade The Electron

Maciej Ceglowski gave this as a talk at the Webstock conference on February 14 in Wellington, New Zealand. The conference describes it as “A meditation on the surveillance state, interface design, tech culture, and the dangers of thinking you know what will happen next, told through the astonishing life of Lev Termen.” It’s long, rant-y, and wonderful. Read it all. Here’s the teaser:

In 1952, an American attaché in Moscow was innocently fiddling with his shortwave radio when he heard the voice of the American ambassador dictating letters in the Embassy, just a few buildings away. He immediately reported the incident, but though the Americans tore the walls out of the Ambassador’s office, they weren’t able to find a listening device.

When the broadcasts kept coming, the Americans flew in two technical experts with special radio finding equipment, who meticulously examined each object in the Ambassador’s office. They finally tracked the signal to this innocuous giant wooden sculpture of the Great Seal of the United States, hanging behind the Ambassador’s desk. It had been given as a gift by the Komsomol, the Soviet version of the Boy Scouts.

Cracking it open, they found a hollow cavity and a metal object so unusual and mysterious in its design that it has gone down in history as ‘The Thing’.

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The Father of the Sandy Hook Killer Searches for Answers

Adam Lanza’s father sorts through his feelings and the history of his tortured son as he speaks to Andrew Solomon, who writes about it in The New Yorker:

In Peter Lanza’s new house, on a secluded private road in Fairfield County, Connecticut, is an attic room overflowing with shipping crates of what he calls “the stuff.” Since the day in December, 2012, when his son Adam killed his own mother, himself, and twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, strangers from across the world have sent thousands upon thousands of letters and other keepsakes: prayer shawls, Bibles, Teddy bears, homemade toys; stories with titles such as “My First Christmas in Heaven”; crosses, including one made by prison inmates.

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Being Gay in Russia

Jeff Sharlet documents the beatings, child kidnappings, and the blessed killings of Russia’s “family values” in a heartbreaking article for GQ:

For Dmitry Kiselyov, the director of Russia’s massive new state media corporation—created in December to swallow up state media entities that show any hint of autonomy—laws are not enough. He’s concerned about organ donors, the possibility of a queer heart beating in a straight body.

When homosexuals die, he says, “their hearts should be burned.”

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The internet is fucked

Excuse the impolite language; Nilay Patel makes a series of important points in this essay from_The Verge_:

Here’s a simple truth: the internet has radically changed the world. Over the course of the past 20 years, the idea of networking all the world’s computers has gone from a research science pipe dream to a necessary condition of economic and social development, from government and university labs to kitchen tables and city streets. We are all travelers now, desperate souls searching for a signal to connect us all. It is awesome.

And we’re fucking everything up.

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Dear America, I Saw You Naked

Former TSA agent and once-anonymous blogger Jason Edward Harrington for Politico:

Most of us knew the directives were questionable, but orders were orders. And in practice, officers with common sense were able to cut corners on the most absurd rules, provided supervisors or managers weren’t looking.

Then a man tried to destroy a plane with an underwear bomb, and everything changed.

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Is Amazon Bad for Books?

George Packer explores the pros and cons of Amazon’s domination of books for The New Yorker:

In the era of the Kindle, a book costs the same price as a sandwich. Dennis Johnson, an independent publisher, says that “Amazon has successfully fostered the idea that a book is a thing of minimal value—it’s a widget.”

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On and Off the Road with Barack Obama

David Remnick profiles the president in The New Yorker:

Obama’s Presidency is on the clock. Hard as it has been to pass legislation, the coming year is a marker, the final interval before the fight for succession becomes politically all-consuming.