May 25, 2014

Long and interesting reads for a rainy and cold weekend

Political Correctness makes race and genetics taboo in the West which is why China is winning

Most scientists will tell you that race has no biological basis—it is, in academic-speak, a “social construct.” But a new book by distinguished journalist Nicholas Wade challenges that assumption, concluding that race is real and human social behavior is subject to natural selection just like everything else.

Everything Is Broken

It’s hard to explain to regular people how much technology barely works, how much the infrastructure of our lives is held together by the IT equivalent of baling wire. Computers, and computing, are broken.
For a bunch of us, especially those who had followed security and the warrantless wiretapping cases, the revelations weren’t big surprises. We didn’t know the specifics, but people who keep an eye on software knew computer technology was sick and broken. We’ve known for years that those who want to take advantage of that fact tend to circle like buzzards. The NSA wasn’t, and isn’t, the great predator of the internet, it’s just the biggest scavenger around. It isn’t doing so well because they are all powerful math wizards of doom……The NSA is doing so well because software is bullshit.
In theory, the reason we’re so nice to soldiers, that we have customs around honoring and thanking them, is that they’re supposed to be sacrificing themselves for the good of the people. In the case of the NSA, this has been reversed. Our wellbeing is sacrificed to make their job of monitoring the world easier. When this is part of the culture of power, it is well on its way to being capable of any abuse.

Precision agriculture becomes mainstream in Minnesota

The techniques, known as precision agriculture, incorporate global positioning systems and digital mapping software linked to machines that apply just the right number of seeds and just the right concentrations of fertilizers and herbicide to get the most out of the fields.

“The technology’s been figured out, and now the guys are saving money doing it,” Amundson said. “Ninety percent of the guys I know are using it.”

The Serious and the Smirk: The Smile in Portraiture

Today when someone points a camera at us, we smile. This is the cultural and social reflex of our time, and such are our expectations of a picture portrait. But in the long history of portraiture the open smile has been largely, as it were, frowned upon.

Chasing Pulitzers has ruined American journalists. That’s why they're edited by Brits  US journalists think they're public servants. We know we're hacks – and we're good at it

Yes, yes, we’re ghastly knuckle-dragging troglodytes and, when it comes to man’s inhumanity to man, about as sentimental as a bog brush. The foreign correspondent Edward Behr once overheard a colleague ask the following question at a scene of carnage and devastation in some far-flung hell hole: ‘Anyone here been raped and speak English?’ (Christopher Hitchens described that as ‘the standby slogan of the Express foreign desk’.) As we in the trade can testify, Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop is probably the most accurate work of reportage a British journalist has ever produced.

Yet we also have an unerring nose for what will pique a reader’s interest, what we call ‘news sense’, and it’s this that makes us the best journalists in the world. Not ‘the best’ as in the most worthy of praise — we leave that to our American cousins — but ‘the best’ when it comes to spotting stories. That’s why, wherever you look in the American media, whether it’s editing a New York tabloid, running a prime-time talk show or sitting at the top of Vogue, you’ll always find a Brit. We might not be much good at winning prizes, but we know what’s going to capture the public’s imagination.

Toward a Universal Theory of 'Cool' The concept of "cool" seems to resist definition. In a paper published this week, two business and psychology professors just defined it.

Cool means departing from norms that we consider unnecessary, illegitimate, or repressive—but also doing so in ways that are bounded.

They Had a Dream by Noemie Emery  Rule by experts comes a cropper

They had a dream. For almost a hundred years now, the famed academic-artistic-and-punditry industrial complex has dreamed of a government run by their kind of people (i.e., nature’s noblemen), whose intelligence, wit, and refined sensibilities would bring us a heaven on earth. Their keen intellects would cut through the clutter as mere mortals’ couldn’t. They would lift up the wretched, oppressed by cruel forces. Above all, they would counter the greed of the merchants, the limited views of the business community, and the ignorance of the conformist and dim middle class.
“It is actually harder to do some of these things in reality than we thought when we put it down on paper,” a book review in the Washington Post quoted a former Obama health care adviser as saying. This can stand as the last word for the great aspiration, and the people who held it. They wanted their chance, and they got it. They had it. They blew it. They’re done.
Posted by Jill Fallon at May 25, 2014 9:51 PM | Permalink