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The Barbarous Years

The Shocking Savagery of America's Early History, a look at historian Bernard Bailyn's book.
Bailyn has not painted a pretty picture. Little wonder he calls it The Barbarous Years and spares us no details of the terror, desperation, degradation and widespread torture—do you really know what being “flayed alive” means? (The skin is torn from the face and head and the prisoner is disemboweled while still alive.) And yet somehow amid the merciless massacres were elements that gave birth to the rudiments of civilization—or in Bailyn’s evocative phrase, the fragile “integument of civility”—that would evolve 100 years later into a virtual Renaissance culture, a bustling string of self-governing, self-sufficient, defiantly expansionist colonies alive with an increasingly sophisticated and literate political and intellectual culture that would coalesce into the rationale for the birth of American independence. All the while shaping, and sometimes misshaping, the American character. It’s a grand drama in which the glimmers of enlightenment barely survive the savagery, what Yeats called “the blood-dimmed tide,” the brutal establishment of slavery, the race wars with the original inhabitants that Bailyn is not afraid to call “genocidal,” the full, horrifying details of which have virtually been erased.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 20, 2014 - 40 comments

Seattle’s unbelievable transportation megaproject fustercluck

Seattle's unbelievable transportation megaproject fustercluck — "In short: There is no plan to resolve the dispute over cost overruns, which are ubiquitous on projects like this; at $4.2 billion, it's the most expensive transportation project in state history. The tunnel will have no exits - no ingress or egress - throughout the entire downtown core (which makes the support of downtown businesses all the more mystifying). It won't allow transit, only cars. It will be tolled, highly enough, by the state's own estimates, to drive nearly half its traffic onto the aforementioned side streets. It will be a precarious engineering feat, the widest deep-bore tunnel in history, digging right between a) Puget Sound and b) the oldest part of Seattle, with vulnerable buildings and God-knows-what buried infrastructure. Also: Pollution. Climate change. It's the 21st f'ing century. On and on. People said all this and more, in real time, to no avail." [more inside]
posted by tonycpsu on Dec 16, 2014 - 164 comments

The River of Money

MapLight is a database that "looks at big industries and big interests, their elected beneficiaries and their votes." They also run Voter's Edge for personalized election information. Check out the contributions by vote on Net Neutrality and the Keystone XL pipeline. Maplight also contributes to the national law review. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 10, 2014 - 2 comments

"The contrast between the treatment of produce and of people is stark."

Product of Mexico: Hardship on Mexico's farms, a bounty for U.S. tables — the first in a series of four Los Angeles Times long-form stories about labor conditions discovered during an 18-month investigation of Mexican vegetable farms that supply produce to the United States. [more inside]
posted by tonycpsu on Dec 8, 2014 - 38 comments

"Work Therapy"

Tampa homeless program uses unpaid, destitute residents as steady labor force, revenue source [more inside]
posted by tonycpsu on Nov 30, 2014 - 64 comments

Officially, the Census Bureau considers Arabs to be white.

While the U.S. 2020 Census is still more than five years away, planning has already begun in earnest. Among the chief issues [pdf] under discussion is how to rearrange options for racial/ethnic self-identification [NYT], particularly the (allegedly undercounted [pdf]) Arab/MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) population. The Arab-American Institute argues [pdf] that this proposal will have "positive impact on the treatment and services available to members of the Arab American community" but some have voiced concern that government agencies could use this data for less-savory ends (again) [NYT]. Via 538.
posted by psoas on Nov 25, 2014 - 39 comments

Somewhere in-between Chop Suey and Pork Roll, the truth lies.

Recently on The Blue we've had discussions about American Chop Suey and New Jersey Pork Roll, but what about other regional favorites, like Lutefisk, Scrapple, or the French Dip Sandwich? Just in time for Thanksgiving, here are a few links to get you started:

posted by Room 641-A on Nov 17, 2014 - 97 comments

Stop calling me 'the Ebola nurse'

"I never had Ebola, and politicians who lie do nothing to protect your health."
posted by Artw on Nov 17, 2014 - 113 comments

Around the clock

The Green Monster: How the Border Patrol became America’s most out-of-control law enforcement agency.
A long-form report from Politico.
posted by Joe in Australia on Nov 16, 2014 - 15 comments

The piano is playing itself

Father John Misty performs "Bored In the USA" on Letterman with laugh track accompaniment. [more inside]
posted by Potomac Avenue on Nov 12, 2014 - 52 comments

The first step is admitting that you have a problem.

The US and China just reached a major climate deal on cutting emissions. [more inside]
posted by tonycpsu on Nov 11, 2014 - 46 comments

the cult of the uniform

You don’t protect my freedom: Our childish insistence on calling soldiers heroes deadens real democracy [more inside]
posted by flex on Nov 10, 2014 - 221 comments

“If there’s no god, why should I believe in him?”

The Norden is a Finnish TV series, taking Americans and introducing them to their profession within the Nordic countries. First, James Conway, retired Superintendent of Attica Correctional Facility in New York, visits four Nordic prisons and facilities. An excerpt, and the full episode with English subtitles. [more inside]
posted by Wordshore on Nov 8, 2014 - 70 comments

The Myth of China's Super Schools

The Myth of China's Super Schools China had all the elements necessary for an industrial revolution at least four hundred years before Great Britain, but keju diverted scholars, geniuses, and thinkers away from the study or exploration of modern science. The examination system, Zhao holds, was designed to reward obedience, conformity, compliance, respect for order, and homogeneous thinking; for this reason, it purposefully supported Confucian orthodoxy and imperial order. It was an efficient means of authoritarian social control. Everyone wanted to succeed on the highly competitive exams, but few did. Success on the keju enforced orthodoxy, not innovation or dissent. As Zhao writes, emperors came and went, but China had “no Renaissance, no Enlightenment, no Industrial Revolution.” [more inside]
posted by modernnomad on Nov 2, 2014 - 62 comments

2014 midterm elections: keeping "Will Hillary Run?" off the front pages

(until wednesday). Yes, it's election day in the USA on Tuesday 4th November, with a projected cost of $3.67 billion. "During this midterm election year, all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be contested; along with 38 state and territorial governorships, 46 state legislatures (except Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia), four territorial legislatures and numerous state and local races." The betting markets currently have the Republicans significant favorites to take the Senate and overwhelming favorites to take the House. FiveThirtyEight indicates the same, but with many close Gubernatorial races. Electoral-vote.com currently project the senate at Dem 48, Ties 1, GOP 51. [more inside]
posted by Wordshore on Nov 2, 2014 - 257 comments

"...a tragic and extreme version of a familiar pattern"

One-Fifth of Detroit's Population Could Lose Their Homes Many families could stay put for just a few hundred dollars, if only they knew how to work the system. (SLAtlantic)
posted by tonycpsu on Oct 24, 2014 - 30 comments

The Obama Legacy

The Obama Brief: The President considers his judicial legacy. (SL New Yorker)
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Oct 20, 2014 - 30 comments

All cities are mad, but the madness is gallant.

Planned cities are not a new idea (Palmanova, Italy, 1593). From Washington, D.C. (1791), to Canberra, Australia (1911), to Brasilia, Brazil (1957), planned cities have long been an urban dream (from space), perhaps most frequently applied to national capitals. But they don't always work out as planned. [more inside]
posted by Eyebrows McGee on Oct 14, 2014 - 34 comments

The great thing about standards...

Today, October 14, 2014, is World Standards Day! Except in the USA, where it's celebrated October 23, 2014. (Canada splits the difference by celebrating it on October 15).
posted by GuyZero on Oct 14, 2014 - 23 comments

Race and indigeneity

Can New Zealand teach the US anything about race?
The US was founded on the idea of freedom and liberty. But freedom and liberty, which might be called the “sacred” values of American society, were exclusive ideas. In the colonial period there was, writes Dee Brown in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, “an almost reverential attitude toward the ideal of personal freedom for those who already had it.” Treaties are the mechanism to extend that freedom and liberty – that is, the right to self determination – to indigenous peoples who were promised it, but do not have full exercise of it.

posted by gaspode on Oct 13, 2014 - 25 comments

the dangerous precision worship

Among a rising chorus of folks speaking out about problems caused by America's obsession with football at every level, author (and fan) Steve Almond's voice stands out the loudest. His new book Against Football argues that "our allegiance to football legitimizes and even fosters within us a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia." In a nutshell "Fans should stop watching." Needless to say the book has provoked a strong reaction in fans (and defensive sportswriters), most notably in New York Mag, with Jonathan Chait's personal story of how football made him a better person: "In Defense of Male Aggression: What Liberals Get Wrong About Football". [more inside]
posted by Potomac Avenue on Oct 13, 2014 - 170 comments

How to Destroy a Public-School System

How to Destroy a Public-School SystemIn Philadelphia, education reformers got everything they wanted. Look where the city’s schools are now. [more inside]
posted by tonycpsu on Oct 12, 2014 - 50 comments

Tenny mucho mucho deniro in su trucky-trailer?

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver takes on the issue of civil asset forfeiture, including "Law & Order: Civil Asset Forfeiture Unit", a preview of how police procedurals could handle the topic. [more inside]
posted by tonycpsu on Oct 6, 2014 - 49 comments

Welcome to the 1099 economy

Silicon Valley's Contract Worker Problem Earlier this year, I hired a house cleaner. I wouldn't have done so normally, but my place was a mess, I was busy at work, and I saw an offer on Facebook that looked too good to be true — a San Francisco start-up called Homejoy was offering home cleanings in the Bay Area for $19. (Not $19 per room or $19 per hour. Just $19.) So I booked an appointment through Homejoy's website, and a day later, a young man showed up at my door. [more inside]
posted by modernnomad on Oct 3, 2014 - 142 comments

"something like a sense of despair often took hold of me"

The Colour of Our Shame: 3 AM Magazine interviews Chris Lebron [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Sep 29, 2014 - 3 comments

No children are born hating

"No matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what God you pray to, or who you love, there is something fundamental that we all share."

Obama delivers one of the most humanist, powerful, and intellectual speeches to the United Nations.
posted by four panels on Sep 24, 2014 - 154 comments

Hole in the Border

Moving the Mexican Border
The whole point of setting the border between Mexico and the United States at the deepest channel of the Rio Grande was that the river was not supposed to move. That was the thinking in 1848 [...]
[more inside]
posted by Joe in Australia on Sep 21, 2014 - 8 comments

I.P. Freely

What happened to pay toilets in the USA? In the early 1900s, when railroads connected America’s biggest cities with rural outposts, train stations were sometimes the only place in town with modern plumbing. To keep locals from freely using the bathrooms, railroad companies installed locks on the stall doors—only to be unlocked by railroad employees for ticketed passengers. Eventually, coin-operated locks were introduced, making the practice both more convenient and more profitable. Pay toilets then sprung up in the nation’s airports, bus stations, and highway rest stops. By 1970, America had over 50,000 pay toilets. By 1980, there were almost none.
posted by modernnomad on Sep 17, 2014 - 98 comments

Reconciling the Second Amendment with Public Safety Concerns

Gun Wars: the struggle over gun rights and regulation in America, in the aftermath of the Newtown school shootings and the ongoing congressional stalemate over federal gun legislation. An investigative report from "29 students from 16 journalism schools, as well as an experienced staff of editors" for Carnegie-Knight News21. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Sep 11, 2014 - 62 comments

United Sweets of America

If every state had an official dessert, what would it be? (SLSlate)
posted by Metroid Baby on Sep 8, 2014 - 182 comments

The Original Tea Partier Was an Atheist

Politico: "Young called his creed 'the religion of nature' and 'the religion of nature’s God.' And he made abundantly clear that, in his own mind, this radical philosophical religion was the axis on which the Revolution turned. For him, the project to free the American people from the yoke of King George III was part of a grander project to liberate the world from the ghostly tyranny of supernatural religion." [more inside]
posted by Wordshore on Sep 2, 2014 - 26 comments

It presumably refers to either a kind of sofa or a kind of birth control

The Upshot asked: Where are the hardest places to live in the U.S.? (A bit more on the ranking.) Now, given continuing economic divergence (previously): What do the two Americas search for?
posted by psoas on Aug 19, 2014 - 42 comments

You've Been 'Mingoed!

A company in Tennessee will, for a small fee, cover someone's lawn with pink flamingos for one day.
posted by The Whelk on Aug 17, 2014 - 51 comments

"Don’t shoot me"

Why Did Michael Brown Die in Ferguson? - According to the police of Fergusson, Missouri it was because he reached for an officer's weapon, necessitating that he be shot multiple times as he ran away empty handed. Eyewitness tell a different story. Whatever happened the killing has prompted demonstrations and looting. Ferguson police responded in full force, firing teargas and wooden rounds into crowds of protestors and sealing the area off from the media. In the wake of the tragedy questions of racial profiling, the paramilitarization of police and media depictions of black shooting victims have been raised. Meanwhile the shooter has not been named to preserve his safety.
posted by Artw on Aug 12, 2014 - 3381 comments

Bill of Mights

“Republicans always saw libertarians as nice to have around in case they wanted to score some weed, and we always knew where there was a party. And for a while it made sense to bunk up with them. But after a while, it would be like, ‘So if we agree on limited government, how about opening the borders?’ No, that’s crazy. ‘How about legalizing drugs? How about giving gays equal rights?’ No, come on, be serious. And so I thought, There’s nothing in this for me.”

From Silicon Valley technologists to NYU postgrads, the ‘Libertarian Moment’ may have finally arrived.
posted by four panels on Aug 7, 2014 - 323 comments

"...this is a charity that's supposed to be helping the troops."

ProPublica reports: Pro-Troop Charity Misleads Donors While Lining Political Consultants' Pockets. [more inside]
posted by tonycpsu on Aug 6, 2014 - 47 comments

It's a truth universally recognized that you have no game

How to pick up genteel women in the 18th Century according to period guides.
posted by The Whelk on Aug 2, 2014 - 17 comments

Too many brewers hopped on the craft bandwagon

The highway, however, is getting mighty crowded. Hundreds of different beers debut weekly, creating a scrum of session IPAs, spiced witbiers, and barrel-aged stouts scuffling for shelf space. For consumers, the situation is doubly confusing. How can you pick a pint on a 100-brew tap list? Moreover, beer shops are chockablock with pale this and imperial that, each one boasting a different hop pun.
America has too many craft brewers.
posted by MartinWisse on Aug 1, 2014 - 241 comments

The Not So United States of Infographics

One of the more ubiquitous formats for "infographics" these days is the U.S.A. Map Comparing Individual States and promoting interstate rivalries. After all, wherever you live in the U.S. of A., you need bragging rights for something, right?

Recently, Business Insider featured "27 Maps That Explain America" including ones that compared each state's percentage of residents with passports, most overrepresented job in every state, percentage of each state's population with a 4-year degree, number of billionaires in each state, number of Starbucks locations in each state, states' stances on climate change (judged by Think Progress), fast food consumption and exercise frequency (detail in a weird format here and here), and cavities per capita.

But Business Insider is certainly not the only site 'mapping the states'... [more inside]
posted by oneswellfoop on Aug 1, 2014 - 29 comments

Veto bunnies

Who uses their veto in the UN Security Council the most, and what for?
posted by tavegyl on Jul 31, 2014 - 16 comments

From Above

How the US Stumbled into the Drone Era [WSJ] As ubiquitous as Predators, Reapers, Global Hawks and their ilk may now seem, the U.S. actually stumbled into the drone era. Washington got into the business of using drones for counterterrorism well before 9/11—not out of any steely strategic design or master plan but out of bureaucratic frustration, bickering and a series of only half-intentional decisions.
posted by modernnomad on Jul 29, 2014 - 6 comments

Cardboard Stories

Rethink Homelessness asked a bunch of homeless people from Orlando to write down something about themselves that people who walk by them wouldn't otherwise know.
posted by gman on Jul 23, 2014 - 44 comments

HD Available

Test Pattern: Downscaling 2997fps 10Min. Reviews are streaming in for Test Pattern: Downscaling 2997fps. Test Pattern: Downscaling 2997fps. Test Pattern: Downscaling 2997fps. Test Pattern: Downscaling 2997fps. Satisfied viewers are saying "Not as good as the book" but still a "A start to finish THRILL RIDE!" and "Deeply. Riveting". It's currently the most popular Netlix movie on Instant Watcher and destined to be a classic.
posted by four panels on Jul 20, 2014 - 20 comments

Well, that settles that.

Tip The Pizza Guy is the most exhustive, detailed, old-school website about Tipping and Pizza Delivery I have ever seen. (last seen in 2001 and still being updated.)
posted by The Whelk on Jul 19, 2014 - 59 comments

The Ghetto Is Public Policy

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in The Atlantic:The Effects of Housing Segregation on Black Wealth. As the wealth gap widens between whites and blacks in America, and after reading this list and this list, he concludes The Ghetto Is Public Policy. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jul 12, 2014 - 31 comments

www.pranksters.gop

The Republican Party began selling new web domains ending in .gop today at www.join.gop. Public interest has definitely been sparked, but perhaps not for the reasons Republicans have hoped. [more inside]
posted by porn in the woods on Jul 8, 2014 - 213 comments

I get all steamed up

I love your poise
Of perfect thighs
When they hold me
in paradise ...
If I had you today, I’d kiss and
fondle you into my arms and
hold you there until you said
‘Warren, oh, Warren’

Warren G. Harding, perhaps the worst chief executive in U.S. history, was a poet to longtime mistress and possible German spy Carrie Fulton Phillips.
posted by four panels on Jul 7, 2014 - 48 comments

Rolling Coal: Everything Else About It Is Pretty Good

Slate: "Prius Repellent is a perfect introduction to one of the Obama era’s great conservative subcultures: the men and women who “roll coal.” For as little as $500, anyone with a diesel truck and a dream can install a smoke stack and the equipment that lets a driver “trick the engine” into needing more fuel. The result is a burst of black smoke that doubles as a political or cultural statement—a protest against the EPA, a ritual shaming of hybrid “rice burners,” and a stellar source of truck memes." [more inside]
posted by porn in the woods on Jul 6, 2014 - 134 comments

Happy birthday, Joe Bell

World War II veteran Joe Bell — who gained internet fame when a video of runners shaking his hand went viral — was honored as grand marshal in the San Jose 4th of July Parade yesterday; he led the parade in a motorcycle sidecar driven by his son, Matt. [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Jul 5, 2014 - 2 comments

"Free markets killed capitalism," Or really, the other way around.

Monopoly is back: Barry Lynn on the concentration of American economic power — and how we can restore fairness. Highlights: [more inside]
posted by cthuljew on Jun 30, 2014 - 47 comments

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