20
Nov
11

Roundup – The Tiny Team

Line O’ the Day:

For those keeping score, Aaron Rodgers is on pace to tie the single-season record for touchdown passes and shatter the record for passer rating. I get angry—physically angry—at how good Rodgers is. It’s not fair that a human being can do what he does. He has the technique to put the ball exactly where he wants it, and more importantly he has the smarts to avoid putting it where he doesn’t.

- Barry Petchesky, Aaron Rodgers And The Ben Roethlisberger School Of Quarterbacking [Deadspin]

Best of the Best:

The Stupid Moral Panic Over Mocking Tim Tebow; Or, What Would Jesus Do About Tebowing? [Tommy Craggs on Deadspin]

The result is that the balance of Tebow coverage, to the extent that it even addresses his religion, is a patronizing mush of willful ignorance that—it seems to this heathen, at least—far more cheapens his faith than would a frank discussion of his beliefs. Tebow was brought up in a conservative and politically influential Baptist church that occasionally preaches doctrine from a distant fringe of American Protestantism. Would you know any of that from reading the many, many mainstream profiles of Tebow?

Organ Gangs Force Poor to Sell Kidneys for Desperate Israelis [Michael Smith, Daryna Krasnolutska and David Glovin on Bloomberg]

With a generally well-educated population of 7.4 million and a modern medical system, Israel has an acute shortage of organs, in part because of religious beliefs. Just 12 percent of Israelis are registered donors, meaning they have consented to let their organs be used for transplants after they die, according to the Israeli National Transplant Center. That compares with 40 percent of Americans. About 730 Israelis are currently waiting for a transplant, which is 13 times more than the number of such surgeries performed legally in Israel in 2010, according to the center.

In Israel, an unresolved religious debate hampers organ donation — from both the living and the dead. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, a leading arbiter of Jewish law in Israel, advises that donating body parts violates religious tradition, which holds that upon death, a body should be buried intact. “It is not permitted to remove any organ,” Elyashiv, who’s 101 years old, said in a public statement in March 2008. Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed, Israel, is leading a drive to get 100 colleagues to sign a document advocating organ donation. He says the Torah tells people to help others when they can, especially if it means saving a life. He says donating an organ is a mitzvah, or good deed. “I hope that many more Jews will become part of the organ donation network,” Eliyahu says.

Fatty Foods Addictive Like Cocaine in Growing Body of Scientific Research [Robert Langreth and Duane D. Stanford on Bloomberg]

A growing body of medical research at leading universities and government laboratories suggests that processed foods and sugary drinks made by the likes of PepsiCo Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) aren’t simply unhealthy. They can hijack the brain in ways that resemble addictions to cocaine, nicotine and other drugs.

Report Says New York Fed Didn’t Cut Deals on A.I.G. [Binyamin Applebaum on The New York Times]

The report, by the Government Accountability Office, says that New York Fed officials have offered inconsistent explanations for their decision to pay other financial companies the full amounts they were owed by A.I.G., and that some of the explanations were contradicted by other evidence. The report also asserts that the decision to pay the full amounts, rather than seeking concessions as the government later did in other cases, disregarded the expectations of senior Fed officials in Washington and the expressed willingness of some of the companies to accept smaller payments.

Americans ’Hooked’ on Government Benefits [Brian Faler on Bloomberg]

Political dysfunction is often blamed for Congress’s inability to curb the U.S. budget deficit. An even bigger obstacle may be the American public. A record 49 percent of Americans live in a household where someone receives at least one type of government benefit, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And 63 percent of all federal spending this year will consist of checks written to individuals for which the government receives currently no services, the White House budget office estimates. That’s up from 46 percent in 1975 and 18 percent in 1940. Those figures will climb in coming years. The 75 million baby boomers have only begun their long march into retirement, while President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul will extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million additional people.

Drones Mean the Iraq War Is Never Over [Sam Biddle on Gizmodo]

As the Washington Post reported earlier this year, “The CIA doesn’t officially acknowledge the drone program, let alone provide public explanation about who shoots and who dies, and by what rules.” And given the agency’s explosion of counter-terror operators, laboring to dig up “targeting” data and pulling triggers, the agency has every reason to stay aloft in Iraq. “Presumably, we’re finding people to blow up in Yemen,” agrees defense think tank GlobalSecurity’s John Pike, “so [from the CIA's perspective] there will be some who need to be blown up in Iraq.” Pike, who has testified before Congress in matters of national defense and collaborated with NASA, knows drones. And he doesn’t think they’re going anywhere…Iraq has no air force. Iraq’s ability to prevent itself from harboring enemies of the CIA is dubious. This gives America’s drone fleet a self-justification to fly ad infinitum, and for a smaller war of distant humming and craters to continue as long as the CIA wants. So how will we ever know when we continue attacks inside Iraq? We won’t—except “the people who get blown up. And even they won’t know what happened,” says Pike.

Why American Roads Are So Bad [Rachel Swaby on Gizmodo]

“The challenge is that the roads are always in some sense of a reactive mode to what businesses want to do,” explains Lomax. “The transportation network is being used to help companies make more profit. That’s a difficult trend to resist.” He points to ‘just in time manufacturing,’ where each individual part is made at its own plant and then trucked to another plant for rapid assembly, as a recent example of how companies are pushing the limits of what our roads can take, which increases their profits—but at the taxpayer’s expense.

The Shadow Superpower [Robert Neuwirth via Foreign Policy]

System D is a slang phrase pirated from French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean. The French have a word that they often use to describe particularly effective and motivated people. They call them débrouillards. To say a man is a débrouillard is to tell people how resourceful and ingenious he is. The former French colonies have sculpted this word to their own social and economic reality. They say that inventive, self-starting, entrepreneurial merchants who are doing business on their own, without registering or being regulated by the bureaucracy and, for the most part, without paying taxes, are part of “l’economie de la débrouillardise.” Or, sweetened for street use, “Systeme D.”

In 2009, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a think tank sponsored by the governments of 30 of the most powerful capitalist countries and dedicated to promoting free-market institutions, concluded that half the workers of the world — close to 1.8 billion people — were working in System D: off the books, in jobs that were neither registered nor regulated, getting paid in cash, and, most often, avoiding income taxes.

In many countries — particularly in the developing world — System D is growing faster than any other part of the economy, and it is an increasing force in world trade. But even in developed countries, after the financial crisis of 2008-09, System D was revealed to be an important financial coping mechanism. A 2009 study by Deutsche Bank, the huge German commercial lender, suggested that people in the European countries with the largest portions of their economies that were unlicensed and unregulated — in other words, citizens of the countries with the most robust System D — fared better in the economic meltdown of 2008 than folks living in centrally planned and tightly regulated nations. Studies of countries throughout Latin America have shown that desperate people turned to System D to survive during the most recent financial crisis.

Troy Davis update: Supreme court denies stay; Davis executed at 11:08pm ET. [BoingBoing]

The final words of Troy Davis at his execution, according to media witnesses:

The incident that took place that night was not my fault. I did not have a gun. [Addressing the victim's family] I did not personally kill your son, father, brother; I am innocent. Look deeper in this case, so you can find the truth. To the people who are about to take my life: May God have mercy on your soul. May God bless your soul.

Insiders voice doubts about CIA’s 9/11 story [Rory O'Connor and Ray Nowosielski on Salon]

Did Tenet fail to share intelligence with the White House and the FBI in 2000 and 2001 that could have prevented the attacks? Specifically, did a group in the CIA’s al-Qaida office engage in a domestic covert action operation involving two of the 9/11 hijackers, that — however legitimate the agency’s goals may have been — hindered the type of intelligence-sharing that could have prevented the attacks? And if not, then what would explain seemingly inexplicable actions by CIA employees?

Generation Jobless: Students Pick Easier Majors Despite Less Pay [Joe Light and Rachel Emma Silverman on The Wall Street Journal]

Time will tell if the poor job market persuaded more students to push into disciplines such as engineering and science. Although the number of college graduates increased about 29% between 2001 and 2009, the number graduating with engineering degrees only increased 19%, according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Dept. of Education. The number with computer and information-sciences degrees decreased 14%. Since students typically set their majors during their sophomore year, the first class that chose their major in the midst of the recession graduated this year.

U.S. Soldier Found Guilty in Afghan Killings [Wall Street Journal]

A U.S. Army soldier accused of exhorting his bored underlings to slaughter three civilians for sport was convicted of murder, conspiracy and other charges Thursday in one of the most gruesome war-crimes cases to emerge from the Afghan war.

A New ‘James Bond Gang’ Lives On [Sean Gardiner on The Wall Street Journal]

When their mentors went to prison in the late 1980s, the four principal members of the James Bond Gang—Terence Lawton, David “Keith” Kirkland, Bruce “Cap” Anderson and Drew Black—fined-tuned what they had learned. “They had it down to a system,” Mr. Bukowski said. Nothing burnished the gang’s myth more than its cars, the main reason police coined their nickname (the gang itself didn’t call itself by a name). They chose luxury vehicles such as BMWs and customized them for a thief’s lifestyle. Some of the vehicles had secret compartments that could be opened only by triggering a sequence of car functions such as flicking on the turn signal, pushing in the defrost button and then hitting a window switch. One car was equipped with a retractable license plate that flipped down to reveal a set of halogen lights used for blinding police officers. A legend soon spread—still widely believed, but false, authorities would later learn—that the James Bond Gang car had a 007-like set of tailpipes that spewed oil to literally slip up those trying to catch them.

Unemployment for Young Vets: 30%, and Rising [Dan Beucke on Bloomberg Businessweek]

Why would someone coming out of military service have a harder time finding a job? Think about the demographics of a young soldier. Most are men, and unemployment is worse now for men: 9.5 percent in October vs. 8.5 percent for women. Younger vets are coming right out of high school; the job market punishes those with less education. Many vets come from and return to rural and rust-belt areas that are struggling. And the cut-throat competition for jobs has been hardest on those out of work the longest; fair or not, eight years in the Army is viewed by some employers as eight years without private-sector skills and experience. At a job summit held by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs in September, Gallucci says, some companies said many vets have a hard time adjusting to corporate culture.

Smokers Who Try to Quit Dogged by High Failure Rate [Betsy McKay on The Wall Street Journal]

Of the nearly 69% of adult smokers who wanted to quit in 2010, more than half tried but only 6.2% succeeded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those who try can double or triple their chances with counseling or medicine, but most of those who tried to quit last year didn’t use either. Nor did they receive advice to quit from a doctor.

How to Avoid Becoming a Person You Hate [Peter Bregman on Harvard Business Review via Bloomberg Businessweek]

But Ian was on to something deep and important. Something all leaders need to understand: When empathy plays favorites, we should all be scared. It makes us feel better to separate ourselves from people whose behavior we don’t like. It makes us feel moral, safe, and beyond reproach. But separating the other people as evil means we are more likely to lash out at them and, before we know it, become cruel ourselves. I am not saying that we should excuse violence or poor behavior. There must be consequences to people who act destructively. But psychologically separating ourselves from them makes us dangerous.

How Delonte West’s Mental Illness Affected LeBron’s Final Year In Cleveland, And Why You Never Heard About It [Scott Raab on Deadspin]

In fact, the most compelling storyline of the Cavs’ 2009-10 season wasn’t LeBron James, or Shaquille O’Neal. It was the saga of Delonte West, starting with his arrest on Sept. 17, 2009, when he was booked on weapons charges. West was pulled over while riding his trike on a D.C.-area highway armed with a 9mm Beretta, a .357 Magnum, a Remington 870 in a guitar case, 100 rounds of shotgun ammo, and an 8-inch Bowie knife. On the Cavs’ Media Day a few weeks later, West sloughed off the arrest as no big thing. Not long after that, in the locker room before a preseason game, he verbally assaulted a reporter after the reporter asked him how he was doing. “Step the fuck off,” he snarled. “Motherfucking faggot. Fuck you.” The team’s media relations people cleared the room and denied that any such incident had occurred. The journalists covering the team agreed among themselves to ignore what had happened.

Curiously Strong Remains:

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