Tagged: Andrew Sullivan

The amazing levitating Slinky

All the actions is in the first 140 seconds.The remaining four minutes of explanation, involving claims of “information transfer” and “signals,” strike me as, frankly, bulltwaddle. Much more plausible is the explanation furnished by Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, which in turn came from an even more thorough explanation on Rhett Allain’s blog at Wired.com.

What you’re seeing:

If a slinky is hung by one end such that its own weight extends it, and that slinky is then released, the lower end of the slinky will not fall or rise, but will remain briefly suspended in air as though levitating.


[T]he best thing is to think of the slinky as a system. When it is let [go], the center of mass certainly accelerates downward (like any falling object). However, at the same time, the slinky (spring) is compressing to its relaxed length. This means that top and bottom are accelerating towards the center of mass of the slinky at the same time the center of mass is accelerating downward.


Dishing it out – feedback

Filmmaker Tony Comstock goes contrarian on Contrarian:

We’ve had a smattering of inbound links from the Dish going back to his days at Time, and our experience is that a link from Andrew Sullivan doesn’t generate the volume of inbound traffic, or the cash, it used to. Not nearly.

Whatever Tina paid Andy, I think he was smart to take it. I think he’s selling while his stock is high, and with more downside than upside. Business is, after all, business.

I’m not sure. One of the highest traffic days in Contrarian’s short history came fon an inbound link from the Dish — to Rosie the beagle’s obituary.  News stories about the Dish sale speculated that Andrew’s blog accounts one-quarter to one-third of TheAtlantic.com’s traffic.

The decision to sell does seem to have been all about money, a topic on which Andrew’s conspicuous silence continues.

Dishing it out, and out with The Dish

Andrew Sullivan, who writes the Daily Dish blog on The Atlantic‘s website, is one of these rare commentators who’s fun to read when you agree with him, more so when you don’t. If he weren’t the sole member of the selection committee, he’d be a perennial shoo-in for his own Yglesias Award, which honors partisans willing to criticize their own side when warranted.

In that spirit, I’ll register my disappointment at Sullivan’s recently announced decision to decamp for Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, which itself recently merged with the faded Newsweek.

sullivan-150CI’m a Dish addict, but following Sullivan to the Beast will be a tough slog. Tina Brown’s circus master tenure at the New Yorker tenure left a queasiness in my gut that bromides cannot erase. With the New York Times and The Guardian, The Atlantic is among a tiny handful of mainstream publications to embrace the internets with grace and wit. Andrew’s soon-to-be-former colleagues are too gentlemanly to say so, but that ought to have earned some loyalty. (Am I alone in reading a Zen subtext into their sparing au revoirs?)

Glenn Greenwald-125Coverage of the impending Dish-Beast nuptials in other media was notable for its lack of attention to the terms of the deal. When AOL bought Huffpo, the coverage was all about price. Not so when Brown and Colvin bought the Dish. (Andrew did not respond to an email asking about the financial details.)

But… onward and upward, as the pre-1992 New Yorker might have said. Who should fill the Dish space at TheAtlantic.com? I nominate Glenn Greenwald. Though superficially poles apart, he and Andrew share many qualities that make for great reading. Both are fearless, prolific, stubborn, indefatigable, diligent, whip-smart, and occasionally intemperate. Both read voluminously, with steely eyes for detail. Both harbor abiding respect for America’s battered democratic values. The Atlantic rightly prides itself on being a big tent operation, and Glenn would expand the canvas into welcome, and hitherto neglected, territory. Then again, maybe Greenwald feels some loyalty to Salon.com, which has hosted him for years.

Urinal cakes and the Genuine Progress Indicator

Ron Coleman, please note: Tim Hartford, the Underground Economist, weighs Genuine Progress as it plays out in the men’s room of your favorite neighborhood pub. The question:

urinal cake-200Whenever I go to the gentlemen’s toilet in a pub, I’m unsure how to behave… Should I urinate on the urinal cakes or not? At first, I think that if I urinate on them I’ll help to finish them earlier, thus making the publican purchase more of them, and helping the economy. But then I think, while I’m urinating, that if the publican has to buy more tablets, eventually he will probably have to raise the price of the beer, to my huge disappointment. So the question is, where should I urinate in the gentlemen’s toilets in the pub?

The answer: here.

H/T Daily Dish

Viral solitude – updated

How a video goes viral:

Sullivan TweetSometime on Wednesday, Halifax filmmaker Andrea Dorfman uploaded her lovely video, featuring Tanya Davis’s poem about solitude, to YouTube.

At 6:38 a.m., Friday, when Halifax artist Shelagh Duffett reposted the video to her website, it had been viewed 40 times. Kimberley Mosher, an account manager for a Halifax Advertising agency, saw it on Shelagh’s site and put it on her Facebook page, where, in turn, fashion blogger Allison Garber saw it and reposted the link to her FB page. All this happened in less than three hours.

Allison’s and my mutual friend (and brilliant, Baddeck-based communications strategist) Stacey Pineau sent me the link at 9 a.m. Acting the slowpoke, I didn’t get the video onto Contrarian until just before noon. By then, it had been viewed more than 600 times. But I also sent it to Andrew Sullivan, whose Daily Dish blog at The Atlantic magazine’s website is phenomenally popular. Sullivan published it the following day, Saturday, at 2 p.m.

About eight p.m. Saturday night, celebrity film critic Roger Ebert tweeted the link with a melancholy note hinting at its appropriateness for a Saturday night.

Ebet Tweet
Now I am only speculating, but I suspect Ebert saw the video on Sullivan’s blog. By Sunday morning, three days after Dorfman uploaded it, more than 100,000 people had seen How To Be Alone. As of this posting (5:49 p.m., Tuesday), the tally stands just shy of 190,000. As of Wednesday noon, it has 273,899 views.

In case you are wondering, Dorfman and Ebert have a Bacon number of three.

WaPo unmasks a hidden, top-secret America

The blogosphere is agog at a Washington Post series that uncovers the astonishing, bloated, secret, and likely ineffective national security apparatus that has grown up in the United States following 9/11. Two crack WaPo reporters, Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, spent two years tracking down the story, an increasingly rare example of what the dead-tree media can do when it taps its traditional strengths. Here’s the opening sentence:

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

Some highlights:

— Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on Top Secret programs related to counter-terrorism, homeland security, and intelligence at over 10,000 locations across the country. Over 850,000 Americans have Top Secret clearances.

— Redundancy and overlap are major problems and a symptom of the ongoing lack of coordination between agencies.

— In the Washington area alone, 33 building complexes for Top Secret work are under construction or have been built since September 2001.

Andrew Sullivan rounds up blogger reaction. Money quote to Glenn Greenwald:

We chirp endlessly about the Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, the Democrats and Republicans, but this is the Real U.S. Government:  functioning in total darkness, beyond elections and parties, so secret, vast and powerful that it evades the control or knowledge of any one person or even any organization.

Flowingdata highlights the infographic:


Click the image (or here) to activate the graphic and explore that the Post calls, “an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight.” [Note: the graphic was sluggish this morning, presumably owing to heavy traffic.]

After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine…

Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications….

The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases. The same problem bedevils every other intelligence agency, none of which have enough analysts and translators for all this work.

9/11 happened not because intelligence agencies hadn’t detected elements the plot, but because inter-agency secrecy meant no one could put the pieces together. A core finding of the WaPo investigation is that this inability to connect the dots is worse than ever. They detail how various agencies collected ample evidence about alleged Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hassan and attempted Christmas Day bomber Umar Abdulmutallab, but didn’t recognize its significance.

PBS even has a “making of” video:

Canada’s Progressive Tories?

First Fivethirtyeight.com gets Canadian politics bassackwards, now the Daily Dish’s Andrew Sullivan compounds the error:

The Americanization of British politics continues. First the TV debates, now fixed parliamentary terms. If that’s true, it means that the new government will not be a caretaker before another snap election, but a potential fusion of the Liberal and Tory brands over several years – perhaps the embryo of a whole new center-right party. It feels a little like Canada’s Progressive Tories. [Emphasis added.]

Canada’s Progressive Tories? How is it possible for US* journalists to misperceive Canadian politics so utterly? The Conservative Party of Canada was formed when an ultra-right party persuaded the right wing of a centre-right party to amalgamate,** leaving its time-honored moderate elements to choose between banishment (Joe Clark) and copious servings of humble pie (Peter MacKay). Successive minority governments have forced Prime Minister Stephen Harper, chief architect of this union, to water his wine ever so slightly, though not into anything that could be termed remotely progressive. The one time he thought he could rule as if he had a majority, Harper proposed a sweeping series of far right measures, touching off a Constitutional crisis that led to his full retreat. The measures never became law.

Harper did push through a law fixing the date of Canadian elections in 2006, but broke it (along with oft-repeated promises) less than two years later, when he judged, mistakenly as it turns out, that he could win a majority.

* Sullivan is an British citizen, but his journalistic career has been centered entirely in the US.

** Technically, the merger took two steps, from here to here, thence here.

Hitch and Maher do Raztinger

America’s most lovable atheist interviews Anglo-America’s most irritating on Pope Benedict’s cover-up crisis, and though it pains Andrew Sullivan to say it, “he’s right, isn’t he?” Moneyquote:

Suppose you and I are having a martini… and I ask you [if you’ve ever been in trouble with the law], and you say, “Well, there was that thing with the joint, and that thing with the traffic light, and there was that time I was really short of money and the bank of Santa Monica…” and I think “OK, all right, we’re all human.”

But if you say, “And I had some friends once who had two little boys, and they trusted me as a babysitter, and, boy, I had a lot of fun with those kids!” And if you say, “Want to have lunch with me next Friday?” No, I don’t. It’s the one crime that no one can think of without vomiting—that’s the one the great moral church wants wiggle room for.

…The Pope, when he did his letter to the Irish on the weekend, you probably saw, everyone reported saying, “Strange he didn’t call for anyone to resign or anyone to be arrested. He only expressed regret.” Well, if he called for anyone to be arrested, or anyone to resign, he’d be starting his own impeachment process, because the reasons they’d have to quit are the reasons he has to quit.

Tarnishing the green halo

A study [pdf] by U of T researchers Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong purports to show that people who purchase green products behave less altruistically.

[P]eople act more altruistically after mere exposure to green products than after mere exposure to conventional products. However, people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal, after purchasing green products than after purchasing conventional products

UK Guardian columnist James Baggini thinks he know why:

The general truth lurking behind these findings is that the feeling of being pure is a moral contaminant. In ethical terms, the best never think that they are the best, and those that believe themselves to be on the side of the angels are often the worst devils.

Why should this be so? One reason is that complacency is as dangerous in ethics as it is in any other area of life where we strive for excellence. If we think we are “good people” we might think less about the possibility that we might actually be doing wrong.

This explanation echos my long ago analysis of former Premier Donald Cameron, a basically good man who was so convinced of his pure motives, he took actions he would have condemned in others, thinking they must be OK because he was doing them. Outcome: Westray.

Life lesson: Beware of people who have God on their side.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

The Ten Commandments redux

Displaying customary humility, atheist showboat Christopher Hitchens takes a stab at re-writing the Ten Commandments in the current Vanity Fair and on YouTube. Andrew Sullivan responds by recalling a parallel attempt by Walt Whitman, in the prose preface to Leaves of Grass:

Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers or families, re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.

As between Moses, Hitch, Walt, and Sully, Walt gets Contrarian’s vote.

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