CRF Blog

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

by Bill Hayes

TED-Ed has a nice video on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

For a free classroom lesson on Plato, see Plato and The Republic from our Bill of Rights in Action Archive.

Man and Uber Man

by Bill Hayes

In Man and Uber Man, Vanity Fair profiles Travis Kalanick and his company, Uber.

[T]he service launched in San Francisco in the summer of 2010, with only a few cars, a handful of employees, and a small seed round. It was a big idea, especially since UberCab was about to ride the most important new trend of the tech scene, the mobile moment. After entering credit-card information on the app, anyone could summon a car with the press of a button. G.P.S. took care of the location, and the cost was automatically charged to the customer’s account, with tipping already figured in. In other words, in a phrase often used by Camp, everyone could ride like a millionaire.

In August, well-known angel investor Chris Sacca tweeted out his love of the service, pretty much summing up the idea: “Rolling in an @ubercab. Eat your heart out Robin Leach.”

But the real attention came in October, when the new company got a cease-and-desist order from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, as well as the California Public Utilities Commission. Both, among other issues, objected to the use of “cab” in UberCab’s name, since it was operating without a taxi license. As it turned out, such a setback was just what Kalanick wanted: an opportunity for a fight.

He still gets exercised when he talks about it: “We’re totally legal, like totally legal, and the government is telling us to shut down. And you can either do what they say or you can fight for what you believe,” says Kalanick, setting a pattern of what he called “principled confrontation” that still persists.

Instead, the start-up ignored most of the order and simply changed UberCab to Uber … [more]

A New View of the Battle of Gallipoli

by Bill Hayes

In A New View of the Battle of Gallipoli, Smithsonian magazine reassesses the bloody battle of World War I.

The invasion of Gallipoli, a peninsula squeezed between the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles in what is now western Turkey, was conceived by Allied commanders as a lightning strike against the Ottoman Empire to bring about a quick end to the Great War, which had bogged down into a bloody stalemate on the Western Front. The Ottomans had signed a pact with the German Empire on August 2, 1914, shortly following the war’s outbreak. As the Germans and their European allies, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, faced the Allies in trenches extending 500 miles from the North Sea to Switzerland, the Turks engaged the Russians on the eastern front, bombarding Russian ports and sealing off the Dardanelles. Allied generals and politicians expected their operation in Gallipoli to be over in a matter of days. “A good army of 50,000 men and sea power — that is the end of the Turkish menace,” declared First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill.

Instead, by the time Allied forces withdrew in defeat in January 1916, close to half a million soldiers — nearly 180,000 Allied troops, 253,000 Turks — had been killed or wounded. Australia suffered 28,150 casualties at Gallipoli, including 8,700 dead, nearly one-sixth of the casualties it endured during the Great War. “Australia was born as a nation on April 25,” says Bill Sellars, a Gallipoli-based Australian journalist, describing the day that the recently independent country mourned the loss of young soldiers on a distant battlefield. As the fighting dragged on, says Sellars, it became “a close-up, in-your-face war, as opposed to the Western Front, where you never even saw your enemy.”

Now, as the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign approaches, both sides are engaging in commemorations that testify to the battle’s resonance. Turkish citizens and visitors from around the world will crowd the battlefield and cemeteries for memorials in March and April.

Thirty-four years ago, Peter Weir’s 1981 film Gallipoli, starring Mel Gibson, captured the innocence of young men who rushed eagerly to the front — only to be sent to pointless deaths by callous and incompetent field commanders. In April, the New Zealand-born star Russell Crowe is releasing in the U.S. the new film he directed, The Water Diviner, about an Australian who travels to Turkey in 1919 to learn the fate of his three sons, reported missing in action. And a flurry of movies by Turkish directors has presented the Ottoman experience of the carnage. The nationalistic Gallipoli: End of the Road dramatizes the battlefield feats of Abdul the Terrible, a real-life Turkish sniper who gunned down a dozen Allied officers before he was shot dead by a Chinese-Australian sharpshooter named Billy Sing. Children of Canakkale (using the Turkish name for the Gallipoli campaign), by Turkish filmmaker Sinan Cetin, takes a starkly different approach, telling of two brothers who fight on opposite sides, British and Turkish, and meet face to face in a climactic bayonet charge. “Turkish people love the fairy tale about nationalism, but I couldn’t with my heart do that kind of movie,” he told me. “This was a disaster, not a victory.” [more]

The Armenian genocide

by David De La Torre

In Seeing through fire, The Economist reviews There Was and There Was Not: A Journey Through Hate and Possibility in Turkey, Armenia, and Beyond by Meline Toumani.

On April 24th 1915 scores of Armenian intellectuals and artists were rounded up in Istanbul, the capital of the collapsing Ottoman empire, and later killed. The killings marked the start of a protracted period of persecution of the empire’s Christian subjects, who were subjected to state-sanctioned murder, rape and huge forced deportations to the Syrian desert. At least 1m people — mostly Armenians — died. [more]

For a free classroom lesson on the Armenian genocide, see “Forgotten Genocide”: The Destruction of the Armenians During World War I from our Bill of Rights in Action Archive.

Workers of the Word Unite

by Bill Hayes

In Workers of the Word Unite for the New Republic, Julia Holmes reviews Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris.

For those who don’t know, the job of a copy editor at a magazine is to take something that’s been written, edited, and revised, and to prepare it for publication. That means reading for typos, spelling, grammar, and clarity, while also upholding the style and reputation of the publication, calling out anything that might be cause for concern. While copy editors grapple with language, fact checkers are busy verifying every claim a story makes. Their queries are combined and given to the editor who approves or rejects them, case by case, and then sends the story back into circulation through all the magazine’s departments. In this way, a story goes round and round, taking shape through an elaborate system of note-passing that probably hasn’t changed much since the fifteenth century, when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press before dying in obscurity. Nearly every word you read in a magazine, from the mealiest Kardashian caption to the novella-length essay on credit default swaps, has been subjected to this treatment. Copy editors and fact checkers are there to protect the writer, and the vast majority of them (usually writers themselves) take that job seriously. They know full well that, as a species, we delight in pointing out mistakes, especially in matters of self-expression, and even a small error has the potential to undermine a writer’s authority. [more]

Crash Course #29, U.S. History: Progressive Presidents

by Bill Hayes

Part of a series: Crash Course #29, U.S. History: Progressive Presidents.

Fierce Devotions

by Bill Hayes

In Fierce Devotions for the New York Times Book Review, Claire Messud reviews The Door by Magda Szabo.

Magda Szabo, who died in 2007, was one of Hungary’s most important 20th-century writers. Not that most of us Anglophones would know it, as very little of her work has been translated into English. “The Door,” her best-known novel, which appeared in Hungary in 1987, was initially translated by Stefan Draughon and brought out here by an academic publisher in 1995. Subsequently translated into French, the book won the Prix Femina Étranger in 2003 and was beautifully retranslated by Len Rix for British publication in 2005. A decade later, New York Review Books Classics — acting, yet again, in its capacity as the Savior of Lost Greats — has now delivered this version to an American audience.

If you’ve felt that you’re reasonably familiar with the literary landscape, “The Door” will prompt you to reconsider. It’s astonishing that this masterpiece should have been essentially unknown to English-language readers for so long …. [more]

Both sides in the New Republic meltdown are wrong about the magazine

by Bill Hayes

The New Republic, which just celebrated its 100th anniversary as a print magazine, is in an uproar. Its senior staff resigned en masse, it is reducing the number of its yearly issues from 20 to 10, and it will not be able to publish its next issue on time. Michael Hiltzik, a Los Angeles Times business columnist, argues that Both sides in the New Republic meltdown are wrong about the magazine.

Considering how devoted everyone involved in the meltdown of The New Republic is to the principles of trenchant journalism and lucid policy analysis, the most remarkable thing about the event is how obtuse they all are about the magazine’s past, present and future.

That includes not only Chris Hughes, the youthful multimillionaire owner of the century-old TNR and the instigator of the uproar, but the army of current and former writers and editors who resigned en masse last week or otherwise expressed their fury with the Hughes regime. In brief, the magazine’s past isn’t quite as glorious as the departing staff makes out, and its future is unlikely to be saved by the draconian vision Hughes seems to offer.

First, a recap. [more]

Chart of the Day: What are the longest-living animals?

Infographic: The Planet's Longest-Living Animals | Statista

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How an Undocumented Immigrant From Mexico Became a Star at Goldman Sachs

by Bill Hayes

In How an Undocumented Immigrant From Mexico Became a Star at Goldman Sachs, a feature story, Bloomberg Businessweek tells the unlikely story of Julissa Arce.

Sitting at her desk at Goldman Sachs, Julissa Arce is doing her best to keep it together. It’s September 2007. Her father is dying in Taxco de Alarcón, a small and hilly city in Mexico, and she has just hung up after a call from her sister with bad news. Arce stands and leaves the row where she and her colleagues create derivatives and market them to rich people. She walks down the hall, opens the bathroom door, and locks herself in a stall.

“Do not be anxious about anything,” she says under her breath, repeating Philippians 4:6. “Do not be anxious about anything.” Then she straightens, washes her face, and returns to work. Her banker colleagues can’t understand why she won’t get on a plane to see her father. Arce tells them that her family will keep her posted, and she might be leaving tomorrow. There is no crying on the private wealth management floor.

The overachievers at Goldman Sachs aren’t all the same. Some have been valedictorians, or Navy SEALs, or the sons or grandsons of the company’s bankers. Some will stop at nothing to amass a fortune; others are patient. And at least one was an undocumented immigrant. Arce, who turns 32 in March, owed her bright career on Wall Street to fake papers bought for a few hundred dollars in a stranger’s living room in Texas. Over seven years at Goldman Sachs, she rose from intern to analyst, associate, then vice president, later becoming a director at Merrill Lynch. When her father died in Taxco hours after the 2007 phone call, she didn’t leave to see her family because with her bogus papers she couldn’t have come back.

Arce was 11 when she moved to San Antonio from Mexico. Despite arriving with little English, she joined the basketball, softball, cross-country, and dance teams, the student council, a Renaissance club, and two honors societies within a few years. She’s still intense. She likes The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How to Win Friends & Influence People and is eager to explain, without irony, why they’re illuminating. She does CrossFit and can hold 150 pounds behind her head. “You have to have a very A-type personality,” she says about weightlifting, sipping a beer in Ulysses, a bar three blocks south of Wall Street. “This workout — it’s not going to win. I’m going to win.”

She didn’t have to adjust to Goldman Sachs’s culture of undisguised ambition because she embodied it. [more]

Everything You Need to Know About the War on Drugs

by Bill Hayes

In 23 short cards, Vox tells you Everything You Need to Know About the War on Drugs. Here is the first card:

“If we cannot destroy the drug menace in America, then it will surely in time destroy us,” Nixon told Congress in 1971. “I am not prepared to accept this alternative.”

Nixon inaugurated the the war on drugs at a time when America was in hysterics over widespread drug use. Drug use had become more public and prevalent during the 1960s thanks in part to events like Woodstock, and many Americans felt that drug use had become a serious threat to the country and its moral standing.

Over the last four decades, the US has committed more than $1 trillion to the war on drugs. However, the crackdown has failed to produce the desired results: the effort hasn’t significantly decreased drug use, and it didn’t cause drug prices to rise. The war on drugs is also blamed for several unintended problems, including the proliferation of drug-related violence around the world.

While Nixon began the modern war on drugs, America has a long history of trying to control the use of certain drugs. Laws passed in the early 20th century attempted to restrict drug production and sales. Some of this history is racially tinged, and, perhaps as a result, the war on drugs has hit minority communities the hardest.

Given the failures, unintended consequences, and racial disparities, many drug policy experts and reformers have called for reforms ranging from a larger focus on rehabilitation to the decriminalization and legalization of all drugs. But so far, few steps have been taken in that direction — and the US continues spending $51 billion on the war on drugs each year. [more]

The Debate Over Obama’s Actions on Immigration

by Bill Hayes

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, legal scholars Erwin Chemerinsky and Samuel Kleiner argue that On immigration policy, the law and facts are on Obama’s side.

The Supreme Court long has recognized that immigration and deportations are closely tied to foreign policy, which is uniquely in the domain of executive power and control. The executive discretion granted by the Constitution certainly includes deciding whether to bring deportation proceedings. Throughout history, the federal government has chosen — for humanitarian concerns or foreign policy reasons — to not try to deport some individuals or classes of individuals, even though they are not lawfully in the United States. [more]

Writing for Justia, Chapman University law professor disagrees in The President’s Power to Waive the Immigration Laws.

[T]he issue is not whether one agrees with the President’s goals. (I share them.) The issue is whether it is constitutional for the President, unilaterally, to rewrite our immigration laws and change the status of about 5 million people. If the President can waive any law (by claiming prosecutorial discretion), future Presidents will be able, for example, to rewrite other laws. For example, if the next President does not favor the Affordable Care Act, he or she can simply grant a waiver to all of that law, just as the present President has already granted a waiver to important parts of the Affordable Care Act. [more]

Hotter Than Lava

by Bill Hayes

Police in Paris used stun grenades, or flashbangs, when they stormed the kosher supermarket in Paris where hostages were being held. In Hotter Than Lava, ProPublica reports that many U.S. police departments routinely use flashbangs in raids, and the devices can lead to serious injuries or even death.

Dukes had been hit by a flashbang, a $50 device used by the police to disorient suspects, often during drug raids. First designed nearly 40 years ago to help military special forces rescue hostages, flashbangs create a stunningly bright burst of light and an ear-splitting boom that temporarily blind and deafen anyone standing within a few feet of them. Last week, French special forces used flashbangs as part of a dramatic operation to free hostages held at a kosher supermarket in Paris. But when these modified hand grenades explode on the human body, they can cause severe injury or death. The flash powder burns hotter than lava. Dukes suffered second-degree burns across her body. When later asked to describe the pain she felt that morning on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the absolute greatest, Dukes said 100.

The military-style assault on the Laurel Park apartment the morning of July 21, 2010, did not uncover a violent criminal’s drug lair. Although Dukes’ boyfriend grabbed a handgun when the window shattered, he tossed it aside as soon as he realized that the intruders were police. He threw himself down on the ground and surrendered immediately. In the end, after storming the apartment and throwing three flashbangs, the police found about a tenth of an ounce of marijuana.

Such aggressive use of flashbangs has become common among today’s militarized police forces. The Clayton County police, who burned Dukes, deployed flashbangs on about 80 percent of their raids in the year prior to her injury, according to police records. Police argue that flashbangs save lives because they stun criminals who might otherwise shoot. But flashbangs have also severed hands and fingers, induced heart attacks, burned down homes and killed pets. A ProPublica investigation has found that at least 50 Americans, including police officers, have been seriously injured, maimed or killed by flashbangs since 2000. That is likely a fraction of the total since there are few records kept on flashbang deployment. [more]

The Best-Selling Vehicles in the U.S. Last Year

Infographic: America's Best-Selling Vehicles In 2014 | Statista

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86 Viral Images From 2014 That Were Totally Fake

by Bill Hayes

Factually has assembled 86 Viral Images From 2014 That Were Totally Fake.

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