Archive for the ‘Boston Globe’ tag

#  The Problem with Secularism →

February 17th, 2011 at 18:51 // In Worth Considering 

I’m a little behind, but though this story doesn’t directly address Mubarak’s fall in Egypt (published at the end of January, it couldn’t), it’s the most interesting thing I’ve seen about it. David Mendicoff argues that America’s fetishizing of secularism in Middle Eastern leaders is probably hurting our desire for both stability and liberalization.

Survey research in the Arab world, such as the University of Michigan’s Arab Barometer project, has found that respondents generally consider themselves Muslims above other markers of identity, including national citizenship. As a result, Islam isn’t just a feature of a national government; for many citizens, it may be as important as the idea of the nation itself. By forcing Islam out of state politics, as Tunisia did, the government can actually reduce its own legitimacy in the eyes of the people, leaving it vulnerable and forcing it to lean more heavily on the machinery of a police state.

EDIT (2/19/11): An slightly different take can be found in the New Statesman.

#  Why France Aided America’s Revolution →

April 6th, 2010 at 16:11 // In Worth Knowing 

While this story advertises itself as the time Haiti saved America (a difficult if interesting case, as Haiti didn’t technically exist at the time), it reveal a new-to-me story of why France funded the revolution.

France did not want to lose its jewel, and so it sprang into action when the American colonists began to agitate for their freedom. The king’s advisers worried that the British would use the conflict to shore up their Caribbean possessions, and seize Saint Domingue [today Cap-Haïtien] once and for all. To support the Americans would not only weaken the British and help avert that disaster, it would support a people with a known interest in trading with the French colonists. … Eventually, French support grew open and robust. As recounted by Stacy Schiff in “A Great Improvisation,” France ultimately provided 1.3 billion livres, or the equivalent of $9 billion today.

#  Nature v. Man →

July 21st, 2009 at 9:43 // In Worth Considering 

This blog has briefly mentioned the idea of giving legal rights to nature before, but Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow offers an interesting analysis of the logic, history, and ramifications of the practice. Consider:

Richard Stewart, a law professor at New York University, believes that inanimate objects such as trees and rivers do not have interests or values. Rather, he says, the argument really concerns “human ideas about what’s good for nature.”

#  Thoreau the Arsonist →

April 13th, 2009 at 17:57 // In Worth Reading 

I was surprised to learn that Henry David Thoreau was a pencilmaker, but this is the real meat:

On April 30, 1844, Thoreau started a blaze in the Concord Woods, scorching a 300-acre swath of earth between Fair Haven Bay and Concord. The fire was an accident, but the destruction of valuable woodland, the loss of firewood and lumber, and the narrowly avoided catastrophe that almost befell Concord itself angered the local residents and nearly ruined Thoreau’s reputation. For years afterward, Thoreau could hardly walk the streets of his hometown without hearing the epithet “woods burner.”

The portrait Pipkin paints, of an adrift and struggling writer in his mid-twenties, is an angle on Thoreau I’d never seen before.

#  The American Dog →

March 29th, 2009 at 17:12 // In Worth Considering 

I think there’s something to Michael Schaffer’s thesis that the burgeoning pet industry owes something to American alienation, but really it’s this statistic — whose statistical rigor I doubt — that got my attention:

A 2001 survey for the American Animal Hospital Association revealed that 83 percent of pet owners call themselves their animal’s “mommy” or “daddy.”

#  The Benefits of Slums →

March 9th, 2009 at 19:03 // In Worth Considering 

While they obviously have their nontrivial problems, unplanned urban development has some characteristic that unlikely people are praising:

Prince Charles of [Wales], who founded an organization called the Foundation for the Built Environment, praised Dharavi (which he visited in 2003) for its “underlying, intuitive ‘grammar of design’ ” and “the timeless quality and resilience of vernacular settlements.” He predicted that “in a few years’ time such communities will be perceived as best equipped to face the challenges that confront us because they have built-in resilience and genuinely durable ways of living.”

#  How Words Are Made →

March 5th, 2009 at 19:20 // In Worth Reading 

In explaining how she unintentionally made “Duro” the eponymous name for a style of dress, Erin McKean tells a cogent story about where words come from:

Someone wants an easy way to refer to something, and grabs whatever’s close to hand. Other people with the same need pick up the same tool. If the word fits, people will use it.

#  The Gaza War on Al-Jazeera →

January 18th, 2009 at 13:12 // In Worth Reading 

Eric Calderwood thinks that while the network’s coverage is unquestionably biased, it’s not without merit.

But in a larger sense, Al-Jazeera’s graphic response to CNN-style “bloodless war journalism” is a stinging rebuke to the way we now see and talk about war in the United States. It suggests that bloodless coverage of war is the privilege of a country far from conflict. Al-Jazeera’s brand of news - you could call it “blood journalism” - takes war for what it is: a brutal loss of human life. The images they show put you in visceral contact with the violence of war in a way statistics never could.

#  The New Harvard →

November 18th, 2008 at 12:07 // In Worth Knowing 

From the department of absurd comparisons comes this:

The odds of landing a part-time job at department store operator Bealls Outlet Stores Inc. this holiday season are slimmer than getting into Harvard: It’s one out of every 45.

Don’t think the chances are any better at 7-Eleven. One California store received more than 100 applicants in a week and a half for jobs that pay $8.50 per hour - and the retailer doesn’t even usually hire holiday workers.

(via Tomorrow Museum)

#  In Defense of Big Government →

September 7th, 2008 at 20:21 // In Worth Considering 

Today, in the regularly-provacative Ideas section of the Boston Globe, lurks a piece to warm the hearts of “tax-and-spend liberals” (and will no doubt lead to at least one smug declaration of “That’s what I’ve said for years”). A sampling:

Lindert’s work surveyed a century of data across numerous countries and found that high taxes and social spending did not slow the growth of productivity or GDP. Statistically speaking, Lindert found no relationship between the level of social spending and economic growth. High tax nations like Norway grow rapidly and produce high standards of living. Even the income per hour of work in nations like France and Germany is equal to or even exceeds America’s.