Newsletter 923

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

Burning Down The House Of S&P

John Cassidy | New Yorker | 5 February 2013

Good, accessible explanation of one of the more arcane aspects of the 2007-2008 financial crash: the role played by the credit-rating agencies, such as Standard and Poor's, which is now being sued by the Department of Justice. The agencies certified that very risky financial products were safe investments. Was this stupidity, or fraud?

Civil Disobedience

David Byrne | David Byrne's Journal | 6 February 2013

Aaron Swartz started an argument that he wasn't ready to finish. "If Swartz had admitted the theft and publicised his willingness to go to jail, thereby bringing attention to the inordinate punishment he was receiving and to the inequities of databases like JSTOR, then he might have better made his point ... His method was sloppy"

Who Is This Herr Ratzinger?

Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens | Daily Dish | 7 February 2013

Fragments of a conversation about religion, transcribed from a rediscovered tape. Hitchens: "Who is this Herr Ratzinger? By what right does he arbitrate? Do these people want power in this world or the next? It’s always this world. That’s how religion strikes me as absolutely material, nothing to do with the spiritual or after-existence"

A Westboro Scion Leaves Her Church

Jeff Chu | Reporter's Notebook | 6 February 2013

Megan Phelps-Roper, public face of infamous "America-is-doomed" Westboro Baptist Church, grand-daughter of church's founder, quits. Casual conversation planted seeds of doubt within her: What if homosexuality is not an unforgivable sin, and a ticket to eternal damnation, and root-cause of all the evils in the world, after all?

The Risk Ownership Society

Steven Randy Waldman | Dissent | 6 February 2013

Learned essay on the contradictions between freedom and risk. We almost all want freedom, but few of us want to carry the risks that go with freedom. The history of finance is the history of attempts to lay off or mitigate risk: all of which are doomed to failure. The risk has to accumulate somewhere. And, as in 2008, it eventually blows up

Drone Strike Memo Is Unconsitutitional

Jeffrey Rosen | New Republic | 6 February 2013

Law scholar's commentary on US government's drone strike policy paper authorising killing of US citizens. "The memo's arguments are troubling on many levels. Although the Obama administration's brief is directed at the assassination of Americans abroad, the arguments could apply with equal force to the assassination of Americans at home"

Video of the day: Namibian Nights

Thought for the day:

"No one but the privileged believes they are in a meritocracy" — David Roberts

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