Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

Angus Johnston has your fact-based bludgeoning of the Marriage of some rich people in Britain: “Progressives and the Royal Wedding” and “Did Two Billion People Watch the Royal Wedding?”

Carla Fran has some thoughts on costume dramas, and weddings that art royale.

Johann Hari reviews two biographies of Ayn Rand:

The worst anti-Jewish violence since the Middle Ages was brewing, and the family was terrified of being killed by the mobs—but it was the Bolsheviks who struck at them first. After the 1917 revolutions, her father’s pharmacy was seized “in the name of the people.” For Alisa, who had grown up surrounded by servants and nannies, the Communists seemed at last to be the face of the masses, a terrifying robbing horde. In a country where 5 million people died of starvation in just two years, the Rosenbaums went hungry. Her father tried to set up another business, but after it too was seized, he declared himself to be “on strike”…

Rand was broken by the Bolsheviks as a girl, and she never left their bootprint behind. She believed her philosophy was Bolshevism’s opposite, when in reality it was its twin. Both she and the Soviets insisted a small revolutionary elite in possession of absolute rationality must seize power and impose its vision on a malleable, imbecilic mass. The only difference was that Lenin thought the parasites to be stomped on were the rich, while Rand thought they were the poor.

The null hypothesis, via Gerry:

“Given that global warming is unequivocal,” climate scientist Kevin Trenberth cautioned the American Meteorological Society in January of this year, “the null hypothesis should be that all weather events are affected by global warming rather than the inane statements along the lines of ‘of course we cannot attribute any particular weather event to global warming.’”

Justin E. H. Smith on The Blog as Mask and Gravestone.

The Popular Literature of Tahrir: street art, protest signs and literature.

Shotgun Shack on the fragility of everyday life in many parts of the world. (Via Chris Blattman’s shared items feed).

Natalia Cecire on academic blogging, a nice piece on the subject from Dictionary of Neurology, and an old one from Chris Blattman.

Mahmood Mamdani, “The importance of research in a university” on higher education in Africa.

Peter Moskos on flogging:

“Stalin, at the height of the Soviet gulag, had fewer prisoners than America has now”

The Bechdel test in the long duree, and also the Smurfette principle.

Liz Dwyer, “Rejected From College: If You’re a Woman, A Less-Qualified Man Probably Took Your Spot”

The issue first came to the forefront back in 2006 in “To All the Girls I’ve Rejected” a New York Times op-ed by Kenyon College dean of admissions and financial aid Jennifer Britz. Britz described the real angst of sitting in a room of admissions officers rejecting women in favor of sometimes less-stellar male applicants all because of school’s desire for gender balance. Women earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees and, if admitted according to merit, they’d easily be two-thirds (or more) of the students on a given campus. Apparently, in pursuit of diversity, campuses don’t want the student body to be more than 60 percent women.

The Last Psychiatrist on Sofia Vergara’s Diet Pepsi ad.

Ezra Klein on how Obama is a moderate republican.

3arabawy on the myth of nonviolence:

One of the biggest myths invented by the media, tied to this whole Gene Sharp business: the Egyptian revolution was “peaceful.” I’m afraid it wasn’t. The revolution (like any other revolution) witnessed violence by the security forces that led to the killing of more than 800 protesters.

But the people did not sit silent and take this violence with smiles and flowers. We fought back. We fought back the police and Mubarak’s thugs with rocks, Molotov cocktails, sticks, swords and knives. The police stations which were stormed almost in every single neighborhood on the Friday of Anger–that was not the work of “criminals” as the regime and some middle class activists are trying to propagate. Protesters, ordinary citizens, did that.

Egyptians understand well what a police station is for. Every family has a member who got abused, tortured or humiliated by the local police force in his/her neighborhood. And I’m not even talking here about the State Security Police torture factories. I’m talking about the “ordinary police.”

Other symbols of power and corruption were attacked by the protesters and torched down during the uprising. Revolutionary violence is never random. Those buildings torched down or looted largely belonged to Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.

Khaled Mattawa’s “The Milk of Resistance,” on Gaddafi and Libya’s dairy industry.

Xavier Marquez blogs about Qaddafi’s Chickens.

It turns out that he can has cheeseburger.

Aerial before and after views of Tuscaloosa.

“Intellectually Disabled” left in Australian jail 10 years without conviction. It’ll startle you to learn that he is brown.

Amazing photos of Kampala protest riots.

N+1’s “Bad Education” kills it on student loan debt.

Maryam Monalisa’s “Special Bodies, Speculative Personhood: Bradley Manning and Mohamed Bouazizi”

Ananya Vajpeyi’s review of Lelyveld’s Gandhi:

“A big factor in Lelyveld hitting the right notes…is the peculiarly American mastery of the genre of the biography of a founding father”

Hannah Arendt’s “Lying in Politics.”

This Christian parody (“Sunday”) of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is sort of vertiginously fascinating.

Hemingway’s beer commercial.

Google contractor films the working class; gets fired.

On the French national team trying to get more whites into uniform.

Heebie Jeebie reads the back of a student’s t-shirt:

“Everybody gets knocked down…it’s whether you choose to get back up again!”

(Ok, first, that’s a great example of non-wisdom arising from locus-of-control perception. We tend to attribute bad things to an external locus of control, and good things to an internal locus of control. Did you decide to get back up? Or did you choose to stay down? You can’t really tell until your situation improves, can you? This is even more muddled, because it’s taking a hindsight phenomenon, and switching it to advice about the future.)

Constantly I see this kind of exhortation on t-shirts, PSAs, key chains/coffee mugs, religious messages, etc. It’s all about taking individual responsibility of failure. It’s really internalized capitalism. It’s kind of sad how few pep-you-up messages you see that reflect community and cooperation, and how everyone must support everyone.

Texas in Africa suggests that Ben Affleck might actually be a non-terrible celebrity activist.

Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Caligari on “The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries”:

WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition. And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.

At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender…This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible…So how do teachers cope? Sixty-two percent work outside the classroom to make ends meet. For Erik Benner, an award-winning history teacher in Keller, Tex., money has been a constant struggle. He has two children, and for 15 years has been unable to support them on his salary. Every weekday, he goes directly from Trinity Springs Middle School to drive a forklift at Floor and Décor. He works until 11 every night, then gets up and starts all over again…

The consulting firm McKinsey recently examined how we might attract and retain a talented teaching force. The study compared the treatment of teachers here and in the three countries that perform best on standardized tests: Finland, Singapore and South Korea.

Turns out these countries have an entirely different approach to the profession. First, the governments in these countries recruit top graduates to the profession. (We don’t.) In Finland and Singapore they pay for training. (We don’t.) In terms of purchasing power, South Korea pays teachers on average 250 percent of what we do. And most of all, they trust their teachers. They are rightly seen as the solution, not the problem, and when improvement is needed, the school receives support and development, not punishment.