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Links: April 2018

A Betrayal

A teenager risked his life to give the police vital info about the MS-13 gang. He’s being repaid with deportation.

Gun Culture Is My Culture. And I Fear for What It Has Become.

All I could think about was how things might have been different if the situation was reversed and that young black state trooper with braces had been behind the wheel, a white trooper cautiously approaching the car. It was impossible not to think that if I were black, I’d be too scared to carry a gun. It was impossible not to recognize how gun culture reeks of privilege.

Fear is the factor no one wants to address — fear of criminals, fear of terrorists, fear of the government’s turning tyrannical and, perhaps more than anything else, fear of one another. There’s no simple solution like pulling fear off the shelf.


I don’t need a Real Time Strategy Game for my Privacy with my phone’s OS. I don’t need to be constantly notified to improve Google’s data-driven products. I don’t need a phone begging me to use its AI Assistant. I need a phone that disappears and connects me to the world.

Why can’t I have a phone without giving up my privacy? Why can’t I have a phone that doesn’t intentionally throttle my CPU? Why can’t I have a phone that embraces the Open Web over their proprietary, 30%-cut-off-the-top native app ecosystem?

I wish our society was more tolerant of third contenders. It’s always iOS or Android, Coke or Pepsi, Republicans or Democrats. I wish there was a third option… and I don’t mean Blackberry or Nokia Windows Phones. I mean like a really viable third option with decent hardware, great privacy, and support for Progressive Web Apps.

Boys of a Feather

If men flirted like birds.

Extreme Brutality and Detailed Record-Keeping

Fascinating documentation of ISIS governance. A tyrannical theocracy is still a bureaucracy.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Crisis Pregnancy Centers

“Crisis pregnancy centers,” which use fake facts to steer women away from abortion, are often government funded.

What About “The Breakfast Club”?

Molly Ringwald on John Hughes:

John’s movies convey the anger and fear of isolation that adolescents feel, and seeing that others might feel the same way is a balm for the trauma that teen-agers experience. Whether that’s enough to make up for the impropriety of the films is hard to say—even criticizing them makes me feel like I’m divesting a generation of some of its fondest memories, or being ungrateful since they helped to establish my career. And yet embracing them entirely feels hypocritical. And yet, and yet. . . . 

How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.

Fox News host slams incorrect reports saying graphic showed network is least trusted

Bad design is bad.

President Trump has never been in more trouble than right now

I’m still inclined to regard headlines like this as wishful thinking, but still, this is quite a rap sheet:

Making this more problematic, Trump isn’t someone who played close to the line a time or two, or once did a shady deal. He may well be the single most corrupt major business figure in the United States of America. He ran scams like Trump University to con struggling people out of their money. He lent his name to pyramid schemes. He bankrupted casinos and still somehow made millions while others were left holding the bag. He refused to pay vendors. He exploited foreign workers. He used illegal labor. He discriminated against African American renters. He violated Federal Trade Commission rules on stock purchases. He did business with the mob and with Eastern European kleptocrats. His properties became the go-to vehicle for Russian oligarchs and mobsters to launder their money.

What Trump has that Nixon didn’t

Contrasting the political climate surrounding Trump’s impeachment rumblings and that of Nixon’s resignation.

The Eponymous Laws of Tech

A superb Dave Rupert post of collected wisdom. (In the spirit of Cunningham’s Law, I say Sturgeon’s Law is missing.)

Beverly Cleary, Age 100

For Beverly Cleary’s 102nd birthday, I revisited this delightful piece from two years ago.

In her writing, Cleary sees children with an amused eye, and a loving and understanding one. I never got the feeling that she was talking down to us—in fact, she was helping us figure something out. She was one of us, just grown up.

Frank Chimero

The sun is out and Frank has a lovely new site.

The Making of Isle of Dogs

Not as deep a dive as Adam Savage did on the set of Early Man, but still quite a treat for lovers of stop-motion animation:

In Pennsylvania, It’s Open Season on Undocumented Immigrants

Together, these cases paint the picture of an ICE region emboldened by a new commander-in-chief to disregard previous norms that distinguished among undocumented immigrants based on their family ties, work records, and conduct in this country. They reflect an organization that valued high arrest numbers and sometimes skirted the law, with little accountability in a system that rarely scrutinizes arrests.

ProPublica Pulitzer Prize Finalists

Congratulations to my colleagues at ProPublica who are 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalists, especially Nina Martin (for the Lost Mothers series); and Jason Grotto and Sandhya Kambhampati (for the Tax Divide series)!

Billion-Dollar Blessings

The two recruiters also said they were told not to mention Liberty’s Christian orientation until people agree to apply, when this fact is made clear in the user agreement they sign online. It also becomes clear at the moment that the recruiters sign up students for their first classes, typically an orientation class and three required Bible studies classes. Students often can’t transfer credits for these courses to other colleges, which deters many from dropping out: Leaving L.U.O. without signing up for more courses would mean wasting the money spent on the first four.

Most striking, though, is how little the university spends on actual instruction. It does not report separate figures for spending on the online school and the traditional college. But according to its most recent figures, from 2016, the university reports spending only $2,609 on instruction per full-time equivalent student across both categories. That is a fraction of what traditional private universities spend (Notre Dame’s equivalent figure is $27,391) but also well behind even University of Phoenix, which spends more than $4,000 per student in many states. It is also behind other hybrid online-traditional nonprofit religious colleges like Ohio Christian University, which spends about $4,500. In 2013, according to an audited financial statement I obtained, Liberty received $749 million in tuition and fees but spent only $260 million on instruction, academic support and student services.

Nothing Compares 2 U: the secrets of Prince’s original recording, unheard until today

Susan Rogers’ remembrances of Prince are my favorites. Also, even more of a treasure than finally hearing Prince’s original recording of “Nothing Compares 2 U” (Sinéad O’Connor’s version is still my favorite) is the Purple Rain-era rehearsal footage shown in the background.

“Prince was the most courageous person I ever met,” Rogers explains. “He realised he had to socially handicap himself to be the artist he wanted to be, and that to do that without being an asshole he had to be a complete enigma. My gut feeling is that everything he recorded should be released, so that people can understand where he came from and keep his memory alive.”

Prince Discography Annotated

Sweet Jesus I will be spending a lot of time with this annotated discography just launched by the Prince Estate.

We won’t know how foolish we look until a long time from now

[T]he story line of America, with all its imperfections past and continuing, is about the steady expansion of human freedom and unprecedented, widespread material prosperity.

That ongoing journey took its longest step forward in the lives and work of the so-called Founding Generation. Their work was incomplete, but essential, and all that their times made possible. They made — gasp — compromises. They declined to let the ideological perfect be the assassin of the achievable good.

‘I Feel Pretty’ and the Rise of Beauty-Standard Denialism

Consider the model Emily Ratajkowski (17 million Instagram followers), who plays Ms. Schumer’s “hot friend” in the film. Last year, she appeared in a video for Love Magazine wearing lingerie and mittens and writhing in a pile of spaghetti. Love published the clip alongside what it called an “amazing polemic on female empowerment” written by Ms. Ratajkowski herself. “To me, female sexuality and sexiness, no matter how conditioned it may be by a patriarchal ideal, can be incredibly empowering for a woman if she feels it is empowering to her,” she wrote, adding: “My life is on my terms and if I feel like putting on sexy underwear, it’s for me.”

But part of the conditioning of the “patriarchal ideal” is to make women feel empowered by it on their “own terms.” That way, every time you critique an unspoken requirement of women, you’re also forced to frown upon something women have chosen for themselves. And who wants to criticize a woman’s choice?

These descriptors poke at another lie in “I Feel Pretty”: that all regular women need to succeed is a healthy dose of confidence. That new beauty mantra mirrors corporate messaging around “impostor syndrome” and “leaning in” — the idea that women’s lack of confidence is holding them back from professional success, not discrimination. In fact, our culture’s ideal woman is beautiful and modest.

‘You can never have too many mimosas’: How brunch became the day-wrecking meal that America loves to hate

I thought brunch was just a late breakfast with maybe a bit of booze, not this drunken bourgeois douchebaggery. (As Jeff Chausse pointed out on Twitter, it’s the difference between brunch as a noun and brunch as a verb.)

“You can never have too many mimosas,” Lincoln Powell, 35, visiting from Ahoskie, N.C., explained as his wife posed for photos in front of an ivy-covered BrunchCon backdrop and organizers located more OJ.

Actually, I protested, it is entirely possible to have too many.

“You can?”

That was debatable at BrunchCon, which set up shop for one Sunday at the waterfront tourist magnet outside Washington known as National Harbor, drawing 2,500 people who armed themselves upon entry with tote bags that proclaimed “Brunch so hard” and plastic flutes brimming with cheap champagne and orange juice.

The NRA said guns will be banned during a Pence speech. Parkland students see hypocrisy.

Apparently the Secret Service doesn’t believe that more guns equals more safety. Interesting.

I tried leaving Facebook. I couldn’t.

But Facebook didn’t become ubiquitous because it’s useless or facile or time-wasting. In the year I was off Facebook, I thought hard about what I was missing.

Facebook had replaced much of the emotional labor of social networking that consumed previous generations.

Facebook lets me be lazy the way a man in a stereotypical 1950s office can be lazy. Facebook is the digital equivalent of my secretary, or perhaps my wife, yelling at me not to forget to wish someone a happy birthday, or to inform me I have a social engagement this evening. If someone is on Facebook, I have a direct line to them right away — as though a switchboard operator has already put them on Line 1 for me. Facebook is one step away from buying my kids their Christmas presents because I’m too busy to choose them.