Browser Daily Newsletter 1183

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

The Mercenary Position

James Marcus | Harper's | 11th December 2013

Entertaining review of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, by Brad Stone, which includes some "truly archaeological digging" into Amazon's history and ideology. Central question: Is Amazon a missionary company, or a mercenary one? “Missionaries have righteous goals and are trying to make the world a better place. Mercenaries are out for money and power and will run over anyone who gets in the way.”


Robert Gottlieb | New York Review Of Books | 9th December 2013

The Leonard Bernstein Letters, edited by Nigel Simeone, show flashes of wit and brilliance, but they bring us little closer to an understanding of Bernstein's deep self: "Is he for real or is he an act? Do we love him or do we want to kick him in the ass? Is his heart only on his sleeve, or is there another one inside him? The confusion between genius and narcissism, heroism and self-pity, generosity and exploitation remains unresolved"

The Last Taboo

Jennifer Hecht | Politico | 9th December 2013

Not a single acknowledged atheist holds national office in America. A count in 2007 found only five atheist elected officials at local and national levels — of whom the lone Congressman has since lost his seat. The taboo has its roots in the Cold War, when atheism was easy to conflate with Godless Communism. But who would have guessed that 50 years on it would be easier to come out as gay than as atheistic?

The Politics Of Adjustment

Michael Pettis | China Financial Markets | 8th December 2013

After nearly thirty years of spectacular economic growth and impressive social and political advances, China has "probably exhausted the growth model that had once served it so well". Its job now is to manage the adjustment in which imbalances generated by the growth miracle are addressed and resolved as the basis for more decades of stability and prosperity, and perhaps for political liberalisation

Crazy Ants Terrorise Texas

Jon Mooallem | New York Times | 8th December 2013

Wonderful piece of writing and reporting. In ten years, a new ant species has infested half of Texas. "They effectively terrorise people by racing up their feet and around their bodies, coursing everywhere in their impossibly disordered orbits. They overtake beehives and destroy the colonies. They may smother bird chicks struggling to hatch. They swarm into cows’ eyes. So far, there is no way to contain them" (Metered paywall)

Recognizing Nelson Mandela

Alex De Waal | African Arguments | 10th December 2013

Nelson Mandela alone did not change South Africa. The African National Congress did, under a collective leadership of which Mandela was a loyal part; he was projected as the human face of the struggle, for publicity purposes. He was indeed a great man. But "the way he has become idolized and idealized tells us more about the world’s need for such a figure, than about Nelson Mandela himself"

Video of the day:  Wyoming Wild Scapes

Thought for the day:

"The object of mathematics is not certainty. It is explanation" — David Deutsch

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