In the World
Steve Thorngate on public life and culture
When it comes to conversations about government spending, two subjects tend to get conflated. The first is an ideological debate about whether or not the government is in general any good at doing things. The second regards the actual effectiveness of specific things the government does. And the second conversation is far more concrete, productive, and important, which is why it drives me crazy when the first one prevents people from engaging the second. Ron Haskins's new book is pretty wonky, but the articles he's written to promote it are quite readable.
Here are Steve Thorngate's most-read posts of the year.
Some people see violence as an absolute wrong. Others see it as a sometimes necessary evil, with considerable variation as to just how often these times come up. I’m at the dovish end of the latter group: I believe that there are times—not many, not remotely as many as American foreign policy consensus or law enforcement norms would have it, but some times—when a violent action might be the least-bad available option. But a necessary evil isn’t a virtue; “least bad” doesn’t mean “good.”
"I do question whether belief is a productive framework for this story, because it suggests faith in something that lies outside the bounds of human knowledge. To put claims of rape in this category is to buy the idea that rape reports are by nature ambiguous, and that feelings override facts."
ProPublica has been doing a series of reports about the Red Cross’s misleading rhetoric about how it uses donations:
The American Red Cross regularly touts how responsible it is with donors' money. "We're very proud of the fact that 91 cents of every dollar that's donated goes to our services," Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern said in a speech in Baltimore last year. "That's world class, obviously."
I'm not a big fan of Adele's music, but this week I'm a huge fan of her as a human being. Bob Geldof was assembling a bunch of celebrities to relive that "Do They Know It's Christmas?" glory 30 years later, but for Ebola this time. Never mind that a lot of people in Europe and North America have gotten a little more self critical in recent decades about things like paternalism, white-savior complexes, and the fact that Africa isn't one big country of backward horribleness.
Last night, Congress came within a single senator's vote of passing legislation to authorize a major crude oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico that would pump more than 830,000 barrels of high-polluting tar sands oil a day and carry and emit 51 coal plants worth of CO2 (pdf)—despite the fact that U.S. oil demand is falling and, you know, the planet is burning up—in exchange for 35 whole permanent jobs. I'm sorry, I buried the lede: what I meant to say is that the runoff Senate race in Louisiana hasn't happened yet.
Last week while I was away, Tobin Grant linked to something interesting: new research, based on 40 years of General Social Surveys, that echoes Grant's own parsing of Pew's Religious Landscapes Survey.