Ira Stoll Says Guacamole Is the Real Winner of the Super Bowl

On the sidelines of the Super Bowl battle
between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos is a classic
immigrant success story. It’s the food you’ll be eating as you
watch the game – guacamole. Ira Stoll says the international
influence on Super Bowl snack food is just one way that immigrants
and their descendants have enriched the big game and America as a
whole.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1et6v2w
via IFTTT

Political Analysis vs. Tech Business in the Real World, or, Why Ezra Klein Might Not Conquer the World

Interesting and news-to-me numbers from Nicholas Carlson
at Business Insider with some
insight into why
the Washington Post was willing to
make what seemed to the political pundit class such an obvious
mistake as allowing the Brilliant Young Star ® Ezra Klein
leave them for other internet pastures.

Turns out that the same company, Vox Media, that poached Klein
and his Wonkblog did the same successfully a few years back with
the Engadget blog, on tech business and culture, and did well with
it under new umbrella of The Verge.

But those two worlds of journalism are way more different than I
knew, proving that the world (healthily) is more interested in tech
business than they are in Washington brouhahas and Bigthink:

Unlike Engadget, Wonkblog is tiny.

….Wonkblog averages 4 million pageviews per
month.

By comparison, when Vox raided Engadget, Engadget was
huge. In December 2010, Engadget had more than 12 million
unique visitors and more than 200 million pageviews……

With various reasonable guesses, Carlson concludes
that:

….a safe estimate for Wonkblog 2.0 is that it will
generate $500,000 in annual revenues for Vox in its first few
years. {But] [f]
or the bottom line figure, Bankoff
will probably need red ink. Klein already has 8 staffers and
he wants to hire 22 more. Each staffer will probably cost at least
$100,000 in salary and benefits. 

And getting fresh traffic, even with old stars, isn’t that
sure a thing:

….three years after…Vox raided Engadget, The Verge is
now up to 10 million unique visitors per month – about 83% the size
of Engadget back then.

Vox is, of course, thrilled to have a site that is 83% the size
of Engadget in 2010. 

But, in 2016, will it be thrilled to have a site that 83% the
size of Wonkblog in 2014? 

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1mPkrZ5
via IFTTT

Bitcoin-Inspired Project Launched to Decentralize the Internet

Bitcoin, the peer-to-peer cryptocurrency is
taking the conventional financial system by storm. The Bitcoin boom
has inspired developers to explore additional applications of the
same fundamental protocols. Ambitious Bitcloud developers are
asking, why not the use the same tools to decentralize the
Internet?

BBC News
quotes
the project’s anonymous founders issuing this call to
arms:

If you’re interested in privacy, security, ending internet
censorship, decentralising the internet and creating a new mesh
network to replace the internet, then you should join or support
this project.

The advantages of a Bitcloud network are many. Bitcloud’s
decentralized structure would allow users to sidestep National
Security Agency (NSA) snoops. While natural disasters and wars
threaten a centralized structure, a decentralized structure would
mean the Internet is more likely to remain intact.

How does it work? Under the current system, consumers are
dependent on concentrated Internet Service Providers, businesses
like Comcast and AT&T, that offer Internet access. Just as
Bitcoin removes financial intermediaries from the system, Bitcloud
hopes to displace intermediary ISPs. While ISPs are at risk of
interference, a decentralized system is irrepressible. Shutting
down a decentralized internet would require targeting and
destroying each individual node.

Bitcoin requires miners who contribute computing power to
process transactions. Similarly, Bitcloud rewards users for
contributing bandwidth. Basically, ISPs would be replaced by
individuals whose computers “would perform tasks such as storing,
routing and providing bandwidth, in return for payment.”

Some tech intellectuals have called for a decentralized Internet
structure, or mesh networks, in the past. Primavera De
Filippi, a Harvard research fellow of distributed online
architectures,
argues
 that beyond the “obvious benefits” like
NSA-resistance and enhanced reliability, it provides some
interesting cultural benefits. “What’s really revolutionary about
mesh networking isn’t the novel use of technology. It’s the fact
that it provides a means for people to self-organize
into communities and share resources amongst themselves: Mesh
networks are operated by the community, for the community.
Especially because the internet has become essential to our
everyday life” she wrote in Wired.

According to BBC News,
Bitcloud developers hope Bitcloud will ultimately supplant the
Internet. De Filippi, on the other hand, thinks mesh-networks would
make a good supplementary tool.

But either way, BitCloud is a revolutionary project with global
reach. It would provide users with more reliable Internet, handicap
government surveillance, and maybe even save
lives
.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/Mmqidx
via IFTTT

Take a Look Inside the Wasteful Spending of the Most Expensive Winter Olympics Ever

Free-market-loving, pro-transparency, anti-corruption activist
and former Moscow mayoral candidate Alexei Navalni has launched a
stellar website to help world citizens see exactly who is raking in
the rubles at the Sochi Olympics.

The site is here, and it’s
in English, allowing people to discover which oligarchs and friends
of President Vladimir Putin are building overpriced facilities for
the most expensive Olympics ever. The Associated Press
notes
:

Russia has spent about $51 billion to deliver the Olympics in
Sochi, which run Feb. 7-23, making them the most expensive Olympics
ever even though winter games have many fewer athletes competing
than summer games do.

Navalny claims that Russia spent twice as much as necessary to
build at least 10 of the Olympic venues — including the Bolshoi Ice
Palace, the Fisht Stadium for the opening/closing ceremonies and
the speed-skating arena.

Allegations of corruption have dogged preparations for the Sochi
Games for years, as reported by The Associated Press and others.
Navalny’s new website — Sochi.FBK.info — combines data gathered
during his own investigations along with media reports and other
activists’ analysis.

But who can put a price on the respect the country would get ... if everybody weren't horrified about them beating up the gays.

The site is very slick and will make Western data-driven
investigative reporters applaud. It documents a couple dozen sites
connected to the Olympics themselves or the infrastructure to host
the Olympics, detailing the financial travails, overpayments, and
potential problems for each location. For example, the builders of
the Olympic Village received a state loan for more than $670
million to build housing. After the Olympics, the company expects
to recoup the costs by selling the housing in the resort community.
But based on the construction prices, in order to recoup the costs,
the site claims, a single guest room will have to be sold for the
price a two-bedroom apartment goes for in Moscow. Experts don’t
believe there is enough demand for the housing. The state bank has
already declared the loans “bad,” and if the village tanks after
the Olympics, the losses will be covered by the federal budget.

The site documents how overpriced each Olympic venue is with
breezy comparisons (instead of buying a seat at the Bolshoy Ice
Dome, you could buy a new Toyota Corolla) and compares them to the
prices of similar previous Olympic venues.

Olympic overspending is nothing new and Russia is hardly unique,
though clearly they’re taking it to a degree not yet seen before.
Despite an audit from the Russian government showing at least a
half-billion in overspending, Putin was dismissive, saying the
whole problem was due to “honest mistakes” in estimating costs,
according to the AP. Putin must classify himself among those
honest-mistakers, as he said last spring the Olympics would cost
$6.5 billion, according to the site. Off by a factor of about
eight, there, Mr. President.

Reason’s Zenon Evans analyzed Navalny’s failed effort to defeat
a Putin crony to become mayor of Moscow
here
. Nick Gillespie notes that Olympics are always big money
losers here.
The Sochi Olympics may yet end up being the money-losingest of them
all, except for those friends of Putin’s.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1hFC2BQ
via IFTTT

Modern Liberalism: It Can Be Very Strange, Or, Don’t You Know People Have Traditionally Been Slaves?

In the latest of a now apparently endless stream of generic
attacks on libertarianism in more mainstream or liberal-leaning
intellectual outposts, see
this from Claude S. Fischer (a U Cal Berkeley sociology prof)
in

Boston Review
.

It refreshingly headlines what is pretty much the intellectual
heft of most such plaints against libertarianism: “Libertarianism
is Very Strange.”

Why? Is it because some of us advocate such avant-garde notions
as competing private defense agencies, tort over regulatory law to
keep businesses from harming people, or full liberty of drug and
food consumption?

Nah, libertarianism’s weirdness is deeper than that. We are
truly through the rabbit hole here, my mainstream liberal friends,
dealing with libertarian loons who seem to believe that people
are individuals and should be treated as such!

Why, don’t libertarians realize that:

For most of history, including Philadelphia, 1776, more humans
were effectively property than free. Children, youth, women,
slaves, and servants belonged to patriarchs; many patriarchs were
themselves serfs to chiefs and lords. And selling oneself into
slavery was routine for the poor in many societies. Most world
cultures have treated the individual as a limb of the household,
lineage, or tribe. We moderns abhor the idea of punishing the
brother or child of a wrongdoer, but in many cultures collective
punishment makes perfect sense, for each person is just part of the
whole.

What difference does this history and anthropology make to
libertarian arguments about the good life? Plenty. If libertarians
would move real-world policy in their direction, then their
premises about humans and human society should be at least remotely
plausible; we are not playing SimCity here.

In other words, post-Enlightenment modernity is very
strange
, and libertarians take aspects of it so seriously it
freaks me out. It isn’t just that Mr. Fischer is bothered by
Rothbard, Nozick, or even Rand Paul. Everything that has led us as
far as we have toward modern democratic capitalism strikes him as
apparently anti-human in a deep and profound sense. 

Indeed, Mr. Fischer, we aren’t playing SimCity. It’s a shame so
much modern governance, even today, tries to pretend we are as it
tries to manipulate people by force to meet the goals of the
state.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1hFC24J
via IFTTT

Modern Liberalism: It Can Be Very Strange, Or, Don't You Know People Have Traditionally Been Slaves?

In the latest of a now apparently endless stream of generic
attacks on libertarianism in more mainstream or liberal-leaning
intellectual outposts, see
this from Claude S. Fischer (a U Cal Berkeley sociology prof)
in

Boston Review
.

It refreshingly headlines what is pretty much the intellectual
heft of most such plaints against libertarianism: “Libertarianism
is Very Strange.”

Why? Is it because some of us advocate such avant-garde notions
as competing private defense agencies, tort over regulatory law to
keep businesses from harming people, or full liberty of drug and
food consumption?

Nah, libertarianism’s weirdness is deeper than that. We are
truly through the rabbit hole here, my mainstream liberal friends,
dealing with libertarian loons who seem to believe that people
are individuals and should be treated as such!

Why, don’t libertarians realize that:

For most of history, including Philadelphia, 1776, more humans
were effectively property than free. Children, youth, women,
slaves, and servants belonged to patriarchs; many patriarchs were
themselves serfs to chiefs and lords. And selling oneself into
slavery was routine for the poor in many societies. Most world
cultures have treated the individual as a limb of the household,
lineage, or tribe. We moderns abhor the idea of punishing the
brother or child of a wrongdoer, but in many cultures collective
punishment makes perfect sense, for each person is just part of the
whole.

What difference does this history and anthropology make to
libertarian arguments about the good life? Plenty. If libertarians
would move real-world policy in their direction, then their
premises about humans and human society should be at least remotely
plausible; we are not playing SimCity here.

In other words, post-Enlightenment modernity is very
strange
, and libertarians take aspects of it so seriously it
freaks me out. It isn’t just that Mr. Fischer is bothered by
Rothbard, Nozick, or even Rand Paul. Everything that has led us as
far as we have toward modern democratic capitalism strikes him as
apparently anti-human in a deep and profound sense. 

Indeed, Mr. Fischer, we aren’t playing SimCity. It’s a shame so
much modern governance, even today, tries to pretend we are as it
tries to manipulate people by force to meet the goals of the
state.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1hFC24J
via IFTTT

New Snowden Revelation: NSA, GCHQ Look Through Apps To Find Personal Data

According to reporting from The New
York Times
, the NSA and the British GCHQ have been gathering
information on individuals from smartphone apps.

From
The New York Times
:

The N.S.A. and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters
were working together on how to collect and store data from dozens
of smartphone apps by 2007, according to the documents, provided by
Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. Since then, the
agencies have traded recipes for grabbing location and planning
data when a target uses Google Maps, and for vacuuming up address
books, buddy lists, phone logs and the geographic data embedded in
photos when someone sends a post to the mobile versions of
Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter and other services.

The eavesdroppers’ pursuit of mobile networks has been outlined
in earlier reports, but the secret documents, shared by The New
York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica, offer far more details of
their ambitions for smartphones and the apps that run on them. The
efforts were part of an initiative called “the mobile surge,”
according to a 2011 British document, an analogy to the troop
surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. One N.S.A. analyst’s enthusiasm was
evident in the breathless title — “Golden Nugget!” — given to one
slide for a top-secret 2010 talk describing iPhones and Android
phones as rich resources, one document notes.

The New York Times mentions one document that
highlights the sort of information spy agencies can obtain through
examining apps:

A secret 2012 British intelligence document says that spies can
scrub smartphone apps that contain details like a user’s “political
alignment” and sexual orientation.

More from Reason.com on the NSA here.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/Lgf7SV
via IFTTT

Afghan President: U.S. Should Leave, Not Signing Security Agreement Without Peace Talks (on Afghanistan, Not Syria or Israel-Palestine)

let's pretend it's the 90s, or notHamid Karzai wants the U.S. to
start peace talks with the Taliban as a condition to signing a
security agreement that would govern the American military presence
in Afghanistan after this year’s “withdrawal,” the Afghan president

said in a news conference
this weekend. The as-yet unsigned
agreement (full text)
does not specify the level of U.S. and NATO troops to remain in
Afghanistan after the end of 2014, although the Obama
administration appears to be considering leaving about 10,000
troops in Afghanistan after 2014,
”or none”
. The U.S. also
attempted to keep
a residual force of 10,000 troops in Iraq
past the withdrawal date set in a 2008 agreement between the U.S.
and Iraq. Karzai, who is supposed to leave office after a
presidential election in April he is not permitted to compete in,
is not expected to sign the agreement, and
has said previously
he’d rather leave that decision up to his
successor.

An attempt at peace talks fell apart
fairly quickly
last summer. Karzai, who
skipped
a peace conference in Qatar over “foreign
conspiracies,”
insisted
Pakistan had to be a part of the conversation. The
Taliban in Pakistan withdrew completely from the negotiating table
in November, after
electing
a hardline commander to replace one killed in an
apparent U.S. strike.

In his
forthcoming
memoirs, Bob Gates writes that President Obama was
convinced
the mission in Afghanistan would fail. Gates, Bush’s last and
Obama’s first secretary of defense, left the cabinet a year and a
half before John Kerry joined as secretary of state, but given
Kerry’s intense focus on peace talks over the Syrian civil war and
Israel-Palestine, it appears he shares Obama’s pessimistic outlook.
Yet neither, either, appears ready to do the hard work of
extricating the U.S. from the Afghanistan situation, choosing
instead to operate based on political calculations as thousands of
U.S. and NATO troops remain in Afghanistan with no discernible
purpose.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1mOPrZl
via IFTTT

Chuck Schumer, Marijuana Federalist

Today on MSNBC, Sen. Chuck
Schumer (D-N.Y.)
said
that states should be free to try different approaches to
marijuana and that the results of those “experiments” will help
inform federal policy:

Chuck Todd: Do you see it as inevitable
that recreational use is going to be legal in all 50 states in your
lifetime?

Chuck Schumer: You know, it’s a tough
issue. We talk about the comparison to alcohol, and obviously
alcohol is legal, and I’m hardly a prohibitionist. But it does a
lot of damage.

And so the view I have—and I’m a little cautious on this—is
let’s see how the state experiments work. We now have the states as
laboratories, different states at different levels. Colorado and
Washington sort of opened the door. The governor’s [medical
marijuana] proposal in New York, much more cautious. I’d be a
little cautious here at the federal level and see the laboratories
of the states, see their outcomes before we make a decision.

Todd: But you believe that the federal
government should let the states do this, because they could crack
down and say no.

Chuck: Well, I think having the states
experiment is a good idea.

This is pretty similar to what President Obama
has said
: that it’s useful for states to function as
laboratories of democracy in this particular area. That view is
rather different from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s
position
, which is that federalism is not just a good idea;
it’s the law. Obama and Schumer probably both are more sympathetic
to marijuana legalization than Perry, who says it’s not right for
Texas. But a principled
federalism
is a more reliable protector of state policy
experimentation, since it does not depend on the whims of the
president or Congress. 

You can watch Schumer’s comments
here
, starting around the 10:40 mark.

[Thanks to Tom Angell for the tip.]

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1f71G0g
via IFTTT