Archive for the ‘USA’ tag
This editorial is a great explanation of a problem I’d heard expressed a lot but never mentioned here, it seems. The problem:
Something else began to happen around 1980. College graduation rates kept soaring for the affluent, but for those in the bottom half, a four-year degree is scarcely more attainable today than it was in the 1970s. And because some colleges actually hinder social mobility, what increasingly matters is not just whether you go to college but where.
An awesome work of original mapping whose source I succeeded in discovering. This guy is putting out great stuff — including that gay marriage laws piece I linked recently — so pay attention. His explanation of the motivation behind this:
Specifically, the homicide rate in the United States has reached a 50-year low. Using data I compiled from FBI Uniform Crime Reports, the GIF above shows the decline in the homicide rate for each state between 1965 and 2012. Every state in the country has seen a decrease in the rate of murder and non-negligent manslaughter committed within its borders.
Dave Pell’s NextDraft is a great way to find cool things on the internet. In a recent issue he linked two stories about novel methods schools to improve peacefulness and safety other than the too conventional in America metal detectors and police officers.
- In San Francisco, Quite Time — rebranded meditation — is getting notice. It’s impacts at one school: “In the first year of Quiet Time, the number of suspensions fell by 45 percent. Within four years, the suspension rate was among the lowest in the city.”
- In Philadelphia, a charter school is using “the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), a noncoercive, nonviolent conflict resolution regimen originally used in prison settings that was later adapted to violent schools” to great effect.
A bit old news, but as I’ve said I’m a big map fan. The Washington Post has a very cool map of the countries that are more favorable to either the US or China. Some notes:
- Pakistan’s strong favor for China wasn’t something I’d have immediately guessed. It makes sense that there are few fans of the US there, but I wonder if low-level India-China tensions push them further in that direction.
- In South America, Venezuela’s favor for China doesn’t surprise me. Argentina’s does a little.
- All Israeli neighbors seem to prefer China. If Israel didn’t exist I feel like that might be different.
- Western Europe’s favor for the US is largely predictable, but why the favor slips toward China in Greece and Turkey isn’t obvious to me.
Comments are open, if you have any other notes, or explanations to some of mine.
A nice and clear animated-GIF map of how the laws with respect to same-sex marriage laws have changed across US states over time.
The New York Times put together a pretty awesome quiz that uses an understanding of the nuances of the American lexicon to pin down where in the states your vocabulary best represents. It’s actually, I believe, based on the exact same dataset as that pretty cool video I linked two weeks ago.
The Divisions of US Land Area
This is a pretty cool animated GIF, which shows the way that American states, territories, and future spaces were organized over time. It also moves pretty fast, and because it’s an animated GIF, doesn’t natively allow you to pause. Which is why you should also use it as an excuse to try out this pretty neat tool: JSGIF, a little bookmarklet that makes it easy to pause and step through GIFs.
(via Christian Heilmann’s Oredev talk, where he’s primarily quickly highlighting the bookmarklet, but my attention was more caught by the map)
This is a really neat project: The Atlantic called people around the US and asked them to say specific words with their distinctive regional accents. Then they made that into a beautiful video with a map for the area in which each pronunciation of the word is most common.
This article is about all the bogus benefits the NFL has, but it’s approximately true of all major sports leagues in the United States, and the mentioned tax incentives are realized by copious other businesses at smaller scales. Still, if you’re unfamiliar with the whole political structure of it, it’s hard not to be incensed by a summary like this:
Taxpayers fund the stadiums, antitrust law doesn’t apply to broadcast deals, the league enjoys nonprofit status, and Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $30 million a year. It’s time to stop the public giveaways to America’s richest sports league—and to the feudal lords who own its teams.
Amidst most of the hubbub that came in the wake of the Edward Snowden story is the awkward reality that the man himself now faces. Amy Knight’s explanation of the problems that confront him, whether you consider him a true asylum seeker taking the only accommodation he could procure or an eager Russian accomplice, in his new existence.
But Snowden will nonetheless feel isolated and tightly controlled by Russian authorities. His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, who Snowden selected from two names offered him to by the Russian border police at the airport, is known to have close ties with both the Kremlin and the Federal Security Service (FSB), which controls the border police.
Really strong (and long, because it’s the New Yorker) essay about how the way some civil forfeiture laws are written make them prone to reckless abuse, and how that abuse actually happens. It’ll probably make you at least a little angry, but knowledge of the practice is probably one of its most powerful antidotes.
They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services.
“Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?” Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears.
I enjoyed Freddie Deboer’s review of Jaron Lanier’s Who Owns the Future, a book about which it seems I was right to be both interested in and dubious of. This paragraph is, I’m increasingly convinced, the trenchant and unanswered question facing the future of the capitalistic economies:
It is hard to overstate: This country, in its current condition, has no other option but something close to full employment. Our pathetic social safety net, even absent the contracting effect of austerity measures, can’t fill in the gaps caused by the demise of ubiquitous employment. Even the counterrevolution has no other idiom; the most common epithet directed toward Occupy protests, after all, was “Get a job!” That the near impossibility of getting a job was the point for many who were protesting was too destabilizing a notion to be understood. In the short term, I have no doubt that the unemployment rate will fall. The question is the long-term structural dependability of a social contract built on mass employment.
James Bamford’s piece about the NSA, its history, and it’s likely cache of legally-questionable data about US citizens is a valuable nugget of sanity among all the hubbub that’s followed the Edward Snowden’s data release. I liked this slice of history:
On July 1, 1920, a slim balding man in his early thirties moved into a four-story townhouse at 141 East 37th Street in Manhattan. This was the birth of the Black Chamber, the NSA’s earliest predecessor, and it would be hidden in the nondescript brownstone. But its chief, Herbert O. Yardley, had a problem. To gather intelligence for Woodrow Wilson’s government, he needed access to the telegrams entering, leaving, and passing through the country, but because of an early version of the Radio Communications Act, such access was illegal. With the shake of a hand, however, Yardley convinced Newcomb Carlton, the president of Western Union, to grant the Black Chamber secret access on a daily basis to the private messages passing over his wires—the Internet of the day.
XKCD may be a poorly-drawn stick-figure webcomic, but this chart — posted as a strip — is damn great. A breakdown of the ideological history of both houses of Congress throughout the over 200 years they’ve existed. It’s not exactly deep or rich history, but it’s both pretty and informative.
Prison rape is so common in America that most confronted with the reality either go for the joke or greet it with a “well they shouldn’t have gone to prison, then” attitude rather than face the catastrophe that it is. It’s good to know that the Obama administration has created a program that, though late, has some reasonable hope of bringing the problem under control.
“Atul Gawande” is a consistently promising byline, and this piece about the balkanization and standardization of the health care industry is no exception. You’ll get a number of thoughts about the pluses and minuses of the biggest trend in American healthcare administration, but also a thorough look at the high-end American restaurant chain The Cheesecake Factory. About the kitchen of the restaurant:
Two things struck me. First, the instructions [delivered to a touchscreen right beside the cook] were precise about the ingredients and the objectives (the steak slices were to be a quarter of an inch thick, the presentation just so), but not about how to get there. The cook has to decide how much to salt and baste, how to sequence the onions and mushrooms and meat so they’re done at the same time, how to swivel from grill to countertop and back, sprinkling a pinch of salt here, flipping a burger there, sending word to the fry cook for the asparagus tempura, all the while keeping an eye on the steak. In producing complicated food, there might be recipes, but there was also a substantial amount of what’s called “tacit knowledge”—knowledge that has not been reduced to instructions.
Second, Mauricio never looked at the instructions anyway.
You really don’t know yourself until you know how other people see you. Whether or not that’s true, I really enjoyed this brief description of how travel books seek to explain my country to the world.
But maybe the topic that gets the most attention in these books is food, which they praise for its quality and variety (and portion size) in a tone of near-disbelief. As in any culture, the niceties of dining — especially at someone’s home — can get complicated. Here, from Wikitravel, is some sage advice on a ritual that even I did not realize was so complicated until I read this passage:
When invited to a meal in a private home it is considered polite for a guest to ask if they can bring anything for the meal, such a dessert, a side dish, or for an outdoor barbecue, something useful like ice or plastic cups or plates. The host will usually refuse except among very close friends, but it is nonetheless considered good manners to bring along a small gift for the host. A bottle of wine, box of candies or fresh cut flowers are most common. Gifts of cash, prepared ready-to-serve foods, or very personal items (e.g. toiletries) are not appropriate.