FYI: Links Feed at risk

Hi everyone,

I don't know how big the audience is of my links feed (it's at least 20 people, and probably more), but after this announcement I'm not sure what will happen to it - the sharing feature is going to get Google+'d.

My goal is mostly to maintain my ability to curate an archived RSS feed - as long as I can do that, I'll be fine.

Anyhow, just an FYI.

Not convinced

This picture is making the rounds on Facebook, but I'm not really a fan. The information Assange shared was gathered under conditions that it wouldn't be distributed. The information you put on Facebook is given under terms of use that are much more open. This picture ignores the role of the individual - you don't have to use Facebook.

Is Assange good? I'd say its a mixed bag. Wikileaks had a good thing going as a distribution mechanism to newspapers that would vet the content, but allowing the unencrypted files to get distributed (however much not intentioned) was damn foolish. Wikileaks is a target because it annoys powerful people, yes, but also because of Assange's style and ridiculousness. His goal is to remove privacy from deliberations behind closed doors - but we need those. Sunshine is a disinfectant, but it can also kill deals that need a little bit of time to grow.

Thoughts on the value of higher education

Written originally for a friend, on the subject of the usefulness of analysis:

I'd suggest this metaphor: On the Sing-Off, groups perform, sometimes well, and sometimes poorly. One of the best groups, Afro-Blue, does lots of complicated jazzy stuff that is AWESOME to listen to, but I have to read online review to understand how they constructed all of the crazy chords in the arrangement. There's a lot of difficult-to-learn theory in what they do. (

On the other hand, anyone can tell when a performance works - its obvious, and the talent that leads the base in that performance to be so awesome at improvising isn't learned - its grown.

So there's a triad here: everyone can tell if the song works or not; talent (and practice) determines if you can sing it, but education is required to understand what's going on in a communicative way.

Your talent to theorize is different than having real interactions, and different than being able to make rational judgments about the world around you. You can have a constructive voice with just those two, it's true: but there's no learning without the other third; no ability to see, long-term, how things have changed and shifted, and to predict from there the lessons that the first two talents can apply in the future.

Do we need music, or musical training to survive? Nope. Do we need voyeuristic operas? Not really. But are they worth doing, by someone? I'd say so.

And in choosing our leaders, within our own communities and within the wider cities and states and countries we identify with, pragmatic ability and common values might be the most important, but scholarship and study make for valuable components as well. The more stuff our leaders know, the less time they need to spend understanding the complex issues that reach their attention and the more time they can spend leading.

Continued, on the split between educating to do "stuff" or to understand stuff."

The academy is the only professional group in America that gets to take a crack at "everyone" (at least, those who want access to the wide opportunities that a college degree provides in terms of credentials). Ministers used to be the same way - everyone was supposed to go to church, but that role has disappeared. Coaches also only serve a portion of the populace. Only our professors remain.

Out of that comes a dual responsibility - to train and equip *everyone,* and to train and equip those who will join the academy. In a real sense there are two brands of success: the "actual" (and I mean that word in terms of "acting") and the theoretical. Williams has, perhaps inadvertently, promoted both separately: the JA variety for raw social effectiveness (in theory), and the Oxford variety for ass-kicking thinking.

In that way, Williams facilitates both the networking that some of our peers seek and the thinking that we're all "supposed" to be studying, even if its only a true priority for some of us. A lot of me is in the former category - I loved doing things at Williams, and discussions like this, but sticking to established formulae was hardly enjoyable; my largest conflicts were with history books that didn't do what I thought was useful. I picked a fight with the discipline and lost.

But that was fine, for me, because I still learned and grew from the course. I don't want to be a professional historian.

So Williams the institution celebrates its "successful" alumni, and invites Cory Booker to speak at graduation. Williams the faculty DOES NOT approve of the trustees' honorary degrees (and has told me), and celebrates research and so forth.

It's the same fight other D1 schools with big athletic programs have with underfunded classrooms - our professors own the classroom, but the classroom is hardly the whole of the campus.

Some professors engage in the real; they come on Mountain Day and advise Dodd Neighborhood; they bring their children to Shabbat dinner so that I can chase the kiddos around. They step out of math and sociology into this world.

Others choose not to.

Likewise, some at Williams cared a lot about their GPA and others phoned it in. We were a meeting place between the doers, the consultants and leaders and organizers, and the learners. In some occasions, we have individuals that fit both categories, and they (you) can feel the split you describe. 

Brian Williams's expression of shame, after reporting that the % of Americans supprting legalzation is at an "all time high."

On Evangelism and Politics

Responding to this article:
Americans have always trusted in God, and even today atheism is little more than a quiet voice on the margins. Faith, working calmly in the lives of Americans from George Washington to Barack Obama, has motivated some of America’s finest moments. But when the faith of so many Americans becomes an occasion to embrace discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas, we must not be afraid to speak out, even if it means criticizing fellow Christians.
"Evangelical anti-intellectualism" is, to me,  a false pairing. God gave us minds for thinking, and logic for reasoning: to assert that the mind is against God is akin to asserting that the heart is against God - both the mind and heart have done great good, and great evil. The mind has led to great scientific discoveries; it has also led to Eugenics and clever methods of thievery. Or hearts summon us together, and yet draw us to bad decisions, or to rise up in defense of a perceived slight with an assault that outweighs the infraction.

There are those among us who embrace Evangelism, and those who reject it. There are those who embrace the mind, and those who reject it. The groups are not the same, though I'm sure you can find a statistical correlation thanks to hidden variables. But the evangelism I speak of - loving, witnessing, and sharing one's love of Christ - is different than the political Evangelical movement. In that movement of fundamentalism, doctrine is king - regardless of the facts. I fear that, years ago, the leaders  of the Republican party are so worried about a small number of doctrinists attacking them that they fail to call white white and black black.

We are now at the result of that decision taken decades ago - where the absence of truth has allowed falsehood to run rampant; the farthest right can declare truths with impunity - "LET US DEFAULT" - without caring about the economic rampage that would result. This battle between doctrine and evidence is dangerous - but it is not evangelism.

That's the premise of this piece's authors; we only differ on the role of politics in today's Evangelical movement, and how far fundamentalism has infiltrated the Christian heart. Perhaps they are right; I can only speak for my personal experience. But that experience has showed me that fundamentalism isn't the issue - standard politics are the issue, such as differences about abortion, the death penalty, and other questions we wrestle with as a country.

Is there an evangelical "parallel universe?" Sure, but considering the depravity of culture today (Toddlers and Tiaras) in some places I could hardly blame communities for turning inward. We all do that, when we reject politics, the news, in favor of the local, the untainted. Do charismatic leaders manipulate their flock? Yes, but such men and women have always done this. To give a new name to an old phenomenon is not to make a strong argument.

It may appear more extreme now, but I see that as a sign of insecurity as young people turn away from homophobia and towards Christian pursuit of social justice. Just as it is always darkest before the dawn, the language of politics will become the most frightening before the revival of values and the reassertion of truth. There is so much that can be done in partnership, if we can ignore the voices from the verge that urge us towards clashes and their profit.