Category Archives: new york times

Sunday 8.13.2017 New York Times Digest


1. You’ll Never Be as Radical as This 18th-Century Quaker Dwarf

“Lay, a hunchback as well as a dwarf, was the world’s first revolutionary abolitionist. Against the common sense of the day, when slavery seemed to most people as immutable as the stars in the heavens, Lay imagined a new world in which people would live simply, make their own food and clothes, and respect nature. He lived in a cave in Abington, Pa., ate only fruits and vegetables — ‘the innocent fruits of the earth’ — and championed animal rights. He refused to consume any commodity produced by slave labor and was known to walk abruptly out of a dinner in protest when he found out that his host owned slaves.”

2. Stay, Hide or Leave? Hard Choices for Immigrants in the Heartland

“In small agricultural towns that supported President Trump by 20-point margins, residents are now seeing an immigration crackdown ripple through the families that have helped revive their downtown squares and transform their economies.”

3. In the Land of Internet Subcultures, Try Not to Look Like a Tourist

“One user’s home platform is another’s foreign land. A point made by a subculture at home on Facebook might look funny to another on Twitter, which can read as evidence of a conspiracy to yet another on YouTube, which might be seen as offensive on Tumblr, which could be a joke on Reddit.”

4. Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes

“Chile, Mexico and Brazil are now among the top 10 renewable energy markets in the world.”

5. A New Kind of Classroom: No Grades, No Failing, No Hurry

“Students are encouraged to focus instead on mastering a set of grade-level skills, like writing a scientific hypothesis or identifying themes in a story, moving to the next set of skills when they have demonstrated that they are ready. In these schools, there is no such thing as a C or a D for a lazily written term paper. There is no failing. The only goal is to learn the material, sooner or later.”

6. The Incredible Shrinking Sears

“At the turn of the 20th century, as Americans established roots across the nation, they turned to Sears. Through its robust mail-order business — some catalogs were more than 500 pages — Sears shipped groceries, rifles, corsets, cream separators, davenports, stoves and entire prefab houses to some of the most remote regions of the country.”

7. Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd

“The myth that programming is done by loner men who think only rationally and communicate only with their computers harms the tech industry in ways that cut straight to the bottom line.”

8. Google Doesn’t Want What’s Best for Us

“We have an obligation to care about the values of the people who run Google, because we’ve given Google enormous control over our lives and the lives of our children.”

9. Donald Trump Is Giving North Korea Exactly What It Wants

“If President Trump thinks that his threats last week of ‘fire and fury’ and weapons ‘locked and loaded’ have North Koreans quaking in their boots, he should think again. If anything, the Mao-suit-clad cadres in Pyongyang are probably gleeful that the president of the United States has played straight into their propaganda.”

10. Why Are Police Officers More Dangerous Than Airplanes?

“You are far more likely to die at the hands of a cop than to perish in an plane crash.”

11. Making Affirmative Action White Again

“The most important pieces of American social policy — the minimum wage, union rights, Social Security and even the G.I. Bill — created during and just after the Great Depression, conferred enormous benefits on whites while excluding most Southern blacks.”

12. Trump Isn’t a Threat to Our Democracy. Hysteria Is.

“A dysfunctional economy, not lurking tyranny, is what needs attention if recent electoral choices are to be explained — and voting patterns are to be changed in the future.”

13. Fleeing to the Mountains

“Flee to the mountains, deserts and babbling brooks to get in touch with wild spaces, to find perspective and humility. The wilderness nourishes our souls, if we let it.”

14. Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism

“A comparative sociological study of East and West Germans conducted after reunification in 1990 found that Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women.”

15. ‘Virtue Signaling’ Isn’t the Problem. Not Believing One Another Is.

“The real problem, of course, isn’t the signaling part: Everyone is signaling all the time, whether it’s about social justice or their commitment to Second Amendment rights or their concerns about immigration law. Those who accuse others of virtue signaling seem angry about the supposed virtues themselves — angry that someone, anyone, appears to care about something they do not.”

16. Letter of Recommendation: Gum

“I always chew gum while I’m writing and while I’m driving — not just one or two of the little pellets, but several sticks at a time.”

Sunday 8.6.2017 New York Times Digest


1. The Transformation of the ‘American Dream’

“In the 1930s and ’40s, the term appeared occasionally in advertisements for intellectual products: plays, books and church sermons, book reviews and high-minded articles. During these years, it rarely, if ever, referred to business success or homeownership.”

2. The Secret Life of the City Banana

“You don’t want to stress the bananas.”

3. The Policies of White Resentment

“White resentment needs the boogeyman of job-taking, maiden-ravaging, tax-evading, criminally inclined others to justify the policies that thwart the upward mobility and success of people of color.”

4. America Is Running Out of Bomb-Sniffing Dogs

“Despite decades of trying, researchers have yet to develop a machine as exquisitely sensitive and discerning as a dog’s nose.”

5. On a Date While Venezuela Burns

“What do you talk about on a date when your country is collapsing?”

6. Racial Violence on the Screen

“White America is connected, whether it wishes to be or not, to a history that has shot and lynched black folk into silence. When visual evidence of police brutality circulates widely, it is a warning to black folk to keep in place.”

7. The Pianist Jeremy Denk on the Joys of Chopin, Our Most Catlike Composer

“He frequently writes the act of listening into the music, aware that somehow composing a good phrase is only half the job, and the beauty of moments must be given space to sink in.”

8. An Encore for the Native Americans Who Shook Up Rock ‘n’ Roll

“The film reveals how Native American rhythms and stylings became a part of the larger tapestry of American music.”

9. What’s So Hard About Casting Indian Actors in Indian Roles?

“When vetting is a challenge even for tribes, which can become embroiled in controversies over identity, how can casting directors do it? Physical appearance can be deceiving, and requiring tribal membership may exclude those who are not enrolled.”

10. Who Owns a Tweet?

“If someone uses another’s work for commercial purposes … it becomes much easier for the owner of the content to file a cease-and-desist order or to argue that compensation is necessary.”

11. Why Kids Can’t Write

“Students continue to arrive on college campuses needing remediation in basic writing skills.”

12. How to Conquer the Admissions Essay

“Don’t brag about your achievements. Instead, look at times you’ve struggled or, even better, failed. Failure is essayistic gold. Figure out what you’ve learned. Write about that. Be honest and say the hardest things you can. And remember those exhausted admissions officers sitting around a table in the winter. Jolt them out of their sugar coma and give them something to be excited about.”

13. In the Era of Digital Composition, What Should a Writer Keep?

“Some writers keep every draft; others keep just one. But there are many points on the line between those two extremes.”

14. If SoundCloud Disappears, What Happens to Its Music Culture?

“The death of SoundCloud … would mean more than the sunsetting of a service: It could mean the erasure of a decade of internet sound culture.”

15. Letter of Recommendation: Ghosting

“Ghosting … provides a line of flight. Freed from the ties that hurt us, or bore us, or make us feel uneasy, finally we can turn our attention inward.”

16. The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe

“They also may be the last people left on the planet who can operate the spacecraft’s onboard computers, which have 235,000 times less memory and 175,000 times less speed than a 16-gigabyte smartphone.”

17. Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age

“If you had been watching closely, you could see that the change had come slowly. ‘Dieting; was now considered tacky. It was anti-feminist. It was arcane. In the new millennium, all bodies should be accepted, and any inclination to change a body was proof of a lack of acceptance of it.”

Sunday 7.30.2017 New York Times Digest


1. When Life on Earth Was Nearly Extinguished

“The planet’s most profound catastrophe struck 252 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, killing 90 percent of life in the ocean and 75 percent on land.”

2. How to Repair the Health Law (It’s Tricky but Not Impossible)

“The politics are exceedingly tricky in a divided and dysfunctional Washington, but economists, insurers, doctors and health policy experts across the political spectrum agree that immediately addressing three or four basic shortcomings in the existing system would go a long way toward making the law more effective and financially stable.”

3. Why Health Care Policy Is So Hard

“The magic of the free market sometimes fails us when it comes to health care.”

4. Finland Has a Sports Screw Loose

“We have some weird hobbies.”

5. White Economic Privilege Is Alive and Well

“The income gap between black and white working-class Americans, like the gap between black and white Americans at every income level, remains every bit as extreme as it was five decades ago. (This is also true of the income gap between Hispanic and white Americans.)”

6. How We Make Black Girls Grow Up Too Fast

“All women in our culture are subject to this kind of symbolic violence, when people judge their bodies to decide if they deserve abuse. But for black women and girls that treatment is refracted through history and today’s context.”

7. Artificial Intelligence Is Stuck. Here’s How to Move It Forward.

“A.I. systems tend to be passive vessels, dredging through data in search of statistical correlations; humans are active engines for discovering how things work.”

8. Young Digital Artists, Anxious About … Technology

“The young artists in the show … tend to share, despite their immersion in digital technology, a profound ambivalence about where it is taking us. They also seem to share the ‘Black Mirror’ sensibility…: The perception, endemic to the satirical British TV series, that technology has led us into a digital fun house where nothing is as it seems and everything is as we fear it might be.”

9. A Doctor Gives Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop a Pelvic Exam

“Dr. Gunter has emerged as the most ardent critic of Ms. Paltrow’s website, routinely responding with snark and medical data to its pronouncements on diet and female genital health.”

10. Keeping Up, on Camera, Is No Longer Just for the Kardashians

“Mr. Henry is one of a small but growing number of entrepreneurs who have turned their lives into do-it-yourself reality shows. They pay videographers, editors and producers thousands of dollars a month to shadow them and create content for their social media platforms. They ‘star’ as part motivational speaker, part life coach, as they dispense advice and speak enthusiastically about the hustle. They are earnest to a fault; you’ll find no melodrama here (or even much drama).”

11. A Lot Like Prayer: Remembering Denis Johnson

“He never assumed a tough-guy persona. His stories, fiction and nonfiction alike, exalt the innate dignity inherent in cowardice and failure, in loserdom, in life at the bottom of the barrel. He seems to ask whether at some level, cowardice might not be the same as love of life.”

12. Is It O.K. to Protest Trump by Withholding Taxes?

“Today nearly two-thirds of the federal budget covers so-called mandatory spending: Medicare and other health expenditures, Social Security payments, unemployment benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If secretly reducing your tax payments prevented you from being complicit with expenditures you dislike, it would also make you complicit in trying to reduce expenditures you do like.”

13. Letter of Recommendation: Duolingo

“Any online time-waster offers an escape from the world, often by preying on your worst instincts: envy, pettiness, poor impulse control. But Duolingo offered an escape that made me feel connected to the better parts of the world, and of myself.”

14. How to Be Selected for a Jury

“We are wary of people who are trying to get on a jury.”

15. How to Make a Movie Out of Anything — Even a Mindless Phone Game

“There are no protagonists or antagonists in Fruit Ninja. There’s no mythology. No moral. The game play involves staring at a wall as pineapples, watermelons, kiwis, apples and oranges fly up into view. The only thing you do is swipe at the fruit with your finger, cutting them in half. Sometimes there are bombs, and you’re not supposed to swipe at those. ‘There’s a fun game to play, but that’s it,’ Vinson says. ‘The challenge was: What the [expletive] am I going to do with Fruit Ninja?’”

16. The Majestic Marble Quarries of Northern Italy

“There is no avoiding the tyranny of weight.”

Sunday 7.23.2017 New York Times Digest


1. The Glory of a Summer Sleep

“Sleep is the most generative part of our day because it is when our ego gets out of the way.”

2. How Arline Jacoby, Artist, Spends Her Sundays

“I read the obituaries religiously, but only about people I think are going to be interesting.”

3. In China, Silicon Valley Giants Confront New Walls

“Just about every American tech company from Amazon to Zynga has taken a shot at China. But outside of Apple and a group of older companies like IBM and Intel, few have a major presence in the country today.”

4. One Family, Many Revolutions: From Black Panthers, to Silicon Valley, to Trump

“There’s a sense in which we’re all David Horowitz now.”

5. When the (Empty) Apartment Next Door Is Owned by an Oligarch

“Anger at who is causing that harm can stray uncomfortably close to xenophobia. But politicians and anxious residents often add that their real grievance is with foreign money, not foreigners. And maintaining that distinction is important if cities that have long prided themselves on being cosmopolitan want to continue embracing immigration while curbing speculation.”

6. Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s, According to Women Who Almost Were

“What their stories show is that in business, as in politics, women who aspire to power evoke far more resistance, both overt and subtle, than they expected would be the case by now.”

7. The Men Who Never Have to Grow Up

“If boys will be boys, then girls must be grown-ups, whose job it is to protect men from their worst impulses.”

8. Let’s Get Excited About Maintenance!

“Americans have an impoverished and immature conception of technology, one that fetishizes innovation as a kind of art and demeans upkeep as mere drudgery.”

9. A Warrant to Search Your Vagina

“Can police officers actually get a warrant to search someone’s vagina? The answer is yes.”

10. What Is America to Me?

“Talking with these teenagers, I’m always struck by how familiar they seem. There’s the class clown, raising his hand to ask a silly question that makes his classmates laugh. There’s the school beauty, who never leaves her seat — she knows the others, vying to be her partner, will come to her if she waits. There’s the sleepy kid trying to nap undetected behind an open book, and the Type A kid with a hand always in the air. Their clothes and hairstyles are different, but they seem exactly like the suburban students I once taught; exactly like my own three sons, the youngest still a teenager himself; exactly like my high school classmates.”

11. Don’t Believe in God? Maybe You’ll Try U.F.O.s

“Interests in nontraditional supernatural and paranormal phenomena are driven by the same cognitive processes and motives that inspire religion.”

12. Jay-Z and the Politics of Rapping in Middle Age

“As popular culture archetypes, these used to be scary black men. But every once in a while, they’re granted a humanity that, with old-school rappers, is harder to come by.”

13. Thanks to Venmo, We Now All Know How Cheap Our Friends Are

“By rendering payments between friends nearly invisible — no cash changes hands, no checks are written — Venmo theoretically should make these relationships less obviously transactional. Yet not only does it encourage pettiness, distilling the messiness of human experience down to a digitally precise data point, but by making it so easy to pay someone back for purchases as trifling as a coffee, the app arguably promotes the libertarian, every-user-for-himself ethos of Silicon Valley.”

14. What the Magician Penn Jillette Can’t Travel Without

“I always have the Bible that I’m reading, because I’m an atheist. And I always have Moby Dick because I’m an American.”

15. How Inequality Erodes the Foundation of Modern Societies

“The greatest threat to Western liberal democracies in the future is more likely to come from extreme inequality than from Islamic extremism.”

16. American Surveyor

“Asked once why he was so eternally curious about things, Thoreau responded, ‘What else is there in life?’”

17. The Birth of the Modern Middle East

“Far from spurning or avoiding modernity, Muslims are ‘drenched in it.’”

18. What Will Service Work Look Like Under Amazon?

“In contrast to Whole Foods, which focuses in its marketing on fair-trade and locally sourced offerings, Amazon is made up of a dizzying array of supply chains that are effectively invisible: not hidden, just easily omitted from the consumer experience.”

19. Letter of Recommendation: Cold Showers

“I have been taking cold showers for a couple of months now, and I have noticed zero changes in my skin or spirits or metabolism. I have, however, noticed a significant, though perhaps unintended, change in my entire disposition toward the outside world.”

20. The Accent Whisperers of Hollywood

“With the rise of prestige TV in the United States, the demand for skilled performers from around the world — particularly well-trained British performers — has increased, as has the desire to quickly communicate quality with authentic-sounding accents. Actors have worked hard to deliver.”

Sunday 7.16.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Please Prove You’re Not a Robot

“Robots are getting better, every day, at impersonating humans. When directed by opportunists, malefactors and sometimes even nation-states, they pose a particular threat to democratic societies, which are premised on being open to the people.”

2. This Instagram Dog Wants to Sell You a Lint Roller

“Pet influencers outperform humans.”

3. When Big Pharma Spends, Research Isn’t No. 1.

“Big pharmaceutical companies have spent more on share buybacks and dividends in a recent 10-year period than they did on research and development.”

4. Make Everyone Take the SAT or ACT. And Make It Free

“The two standard college admission tests — the SAT and the ACT — could be administered universally and free of charge to students.”

5. You Don’t Have to be College-Bound to Take a Gap Year

“Gap years are especially helpful for older people working through career transitions.”

6. If Tech Execs Act Like Spoiled Brats, Should We Spank Them?

“Deal with these men as we would deal with very naughty children. No dessert! You’re grounded! I’d suggest spanking, but that could backfire, too. You never know what some people might be into.”

7. An Ancient Cure for Alzheimer’s?

“Are certain parasites more beneficial to the brain while others are harmful?”

8. The Playboy President and Women’s Health

“American women are being stripped of their sexual and reproductive autonomy not by a moralizing puritan but by an erotically incontinent libertine.”

9. Don’t Let Our Democracy Collapse

“The health of our electoral process is likely to deteriorate further, with some of the threats striking at the very basis of democratic society: our confidence that votes have been fairly and accurately counted. What’s worse, we cannot count on the courts, the president, Congress or state legislatures to save us.”

10. Cliffhangers Are Ruining the Golden Age of TV

“I … think artistry is in special danger of becoming mere stimulation.”

11. When Is Speech Violence?

“Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain — even kill neurons — and shorten your life.”

12. A British Expat in Norway Gets Beyond the Scandinavian Stereotypes

“In small, homogeneous nations governed by a rigid social conformity, it takes a particularly extreme temperament to stand out.”

13. Understanding Poetry Is More Straightforward Than You Think

“Poetry has an unfortunate reputation for requiring special training and education to appreciate, which takes readers away from its true strangeness, and makes most of us feel as if we haven’t studied enough to read it.”

14. Letter of Recommendation: Detroit Techno

“The radical act of Detroit’s techno rebels was that they entered an inhuman network of machinery and found a voice within it.”

15. Arks of the Apocalypse

“It seems to be a human impulse to collect things just as they’re vanishing.”

Sunday 7.9.2017 New York Times Digest


1. Why Single-Payer Health Care Saves Money

“The total cost of providing health coverage under the single-payer approach is actually substantially lower than under the current system in the United States. It is a bedrock economic principle that if we can find a way to do something more efficiently, it’s possible for everyone to come out ahead.”

2. Rooftop Solar Dims Under Pressure From Utility Lobbyists

“The decline has also coincided with a concerted and well-funded lobbying campaign by traditional utilities, which have been working in state capitals across the country to reverse incentives for homeowners to install solar panels.”

3. Racism Is Everywhere, So Why Not Move South?

“To me it’s beginning to seem that black millennial culture — the center of black life — and the idea of black hope and opportunity are now squarely located in the South.”

4. What to Do With the Swastika in the Attic?

“It is actually pretty difficult to offload a swastika.”

5. What Gucci Can Teach the Democrats

“Consumers of clothing began to make choices dictated not by what was expected of them or what had been prescribed for them from head to toe by a brand whose value system they inherited, but by whatever fit them best — whatever felt most tailored to them individually — at that moment.”

6. What Do We Think Poverty Looks Like?

“In America, ‘real’ poverty is not about a lack of work, but a lack of compensation.”

7. One Thing Silicon Valley Can’t Seem to Fix

“The built environment of the Valley does not reflect the innovation that’s driving the region’s stratospheric growth; it looks instead like the 1950s.”

8. Watching Coral Reefs Die

“Even the most remote marine ecosystems in the Central Pacific and the North Atlantic and around Antarctica are being radically altered as oceans warm and become more acidic.”

9. The West and What Comes After

“They were Western-educated Francophones who read deeply in the European canon, who believed in the ‘miracle of Greek civilization,’ who drew on Plato and Virgil and Pascal and Goethe. At the same time, they argued for their own race’s civilizational genius, for a negritude that turned a derogatory label into a celebration of African cultural distinctiveness.”

10. Tiptoeing (and Tweeting) Through the Tulips With DJ Khaled

“People say, ‘Respect your mother.’ I say, ‘Respect Mother Nature.’”

11. Laugh and the World Laughs With You. Type ‘Ha,’ Not So Much.

“These days, a HAHAHA versus a ha in a text can indicate the difference between ‘I’m dying laughing’ and ‘I literally never want to see you again.’”

12. Airlines Try Biometric Identification for Boarding and Bags

“Fliers who choose to try it out step up to a camera at the boarding gate for a quick photo. This image is matched with passport, visa or immigration photos in the Customs and Border Protection database, and once flight details and identity are confirmed, a check mark appears on the camera and fliers can board the plane.”

13. The History of the London Zoo

“Close to 90 percent of the animals now in large modern zoos are not snatched from their native habitat; they are the offspring of other zoo animals. They get excellent medical care and the right diet, but still what they experience is incarceration.”

14. America’s Top Prosecutors Used to Go After Top Executives. What Changed?

“Why was virtually no one prosecuted for causing the 2008 financial crisis, which devastated the global economy and cost the United States almost nine million jobs? Some people think the fix is in: Bankers control the government, so they can get away with anything. Others claim that the banks did nothing wrong to begin with — or, alternatively, that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone in particular committed a crime. In this new book, the ProPublica reporter Jesse Eisinger tells a different story: Since the turn of the century, changes in the political landscape, the defense bar, the courts and most important the Justice Department have undermined both the ability and the resolve of America’s top prosecutors to go after corporations or their executives.”

15. Thoreau’s Wilderness Legacy, Beyond the Shores of Walden Pond

“In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

16. A New History of the Donner Party and the Dark Side of Manifest Destiny

“Here were a group of westward pioneers, the very picture of courage, resourcefulness and pluck, who ended up reduced to a level of squalor and barbarism almost beyond words.”

17. Do Grants, Professorships and Other Forms of Institutional Support Help Writers but Hurt Writing?

“There is an ever greater expansion of the bureaucratic demands made by institutions on writers in exchange for a salary as well as an insistent pressure to professionalize.”

18. Finding a More Inclusive Vision of Fitness in Our Feeds

“The fitness universe on Instagram is almost incomprehensibly vast — there are hundreds of millions of photographs with hashtags like #fitness, #workout, #fitfam, #fitnessjourney or #fitlife, featuring people in various states of undress, lifting weights, making and drinking shakes, demonstrating techniques and documenting inches and pounds lost, all alongside messages about staying motivated to hit the gym and eat right. It’s as inspiring and vapid as anything else on social media — and somehow manages to invoke awe and envy at the same time.”

19. How the Death of a MuslimRecruit Revealed a Culture of Brutality in the Marines

“‘Making’ Marines, as the corps calls recruit training, is a three-part process, with boot camp being the first and most grueling test. Its purpose, unlike Army boot camp, is not to train war-fighters; for Marines, that comes in the second and third phases of training. Boot camp is meant to create the ‘warrior spirit,’ as the corps puts it, over three months of group indoctrination intended to strip recruits of individuality and, through repeated exposure to pain and physical challenge, condition them to accept and perform violence.”

20. The Art at the End of the World

“Time turns metaphors into things.”

Sunday 7.2.2017 New York Times Digest


1. The Constitution, By Hand

“Hand copying a document can produce an intimate connection to the text and its meaning. The handwriter may discover things about this document that they never knew, a passage that challenges or moves them. They may even leave with a deeper connection to the founders and the country, or even a sense of encouragement.”

2. Counseled by Industry, Not Staff, E.P.A. Chief Is Off to a Blazing Start

“He reversed a ban on the use of a pesticide that the E.P.A.’s own scientists have said is linked to damage of children’s nervous systems.”

3. It’s Not Just Mike Pence. Americans Are Wary of Being Alone With the Opposite Sex.

“A majority of women, and nearly half of men, say it’s unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.”

4. Retirement Savings, the Muslim Way

“Investments are banned in companies with too much debt as a percentage of their assets. Interest on loans (known as riba) is also haram, which rules out investing in conventional banking and insurance sectors. Investing in companies earning a minimal amount of interest, typically 5 percent or less, may be allowed, so long as the dividend income derived from that interest is donated to charity.”

5. What Cookies and Meth Have in Common

“Even people who are not hard-wired for addiction can be made dependent on drugs if they are stressed. Is it any wonder, then, that the economically frightening situation that so many Americans experience could make them into addicts? You will literally have a different brain depending on your ZIP code, social circumstances and stress level.”

6. The Problem With Participatory Democracy Is the Participants

“Cheap participation reflects a troubling infirmity in how partisans of both parties engage in politics. In fact, it is not because of gerrymandering, Citizens United, cable news or any of the other common scapegoats that our system is broken, but because of us: ordinary people who are doing politics the wrong way.”

7. That Diss Song Known as ‘Yankee Doodle’

“The song is an insult. It’s not just any insult, either. With ‘Yankee Doodle,’ the Redcoats were delivering the most puerile, schoolyard insult in the schoolyard insult book. They were suggesting that American soldiers were gay.”

8. Why Can’t We All Just Go to the Pool?

“In 1950, there were only 2,500 in-ground residential pools in the country, but by 1999 there were four million.”

9. Forgot Where You Parked? Good

“Our retrieval failures help prune away memories that we don’t really need.”

10. Ticktock as Taskmaster: A Show About Metronomes and Musical Time

“Beginning in the 17th century came attempts to link musical time to the motion of a clock. Around the same time scientists discovered that the length of a pendulum affects the speed of its motion, with a pendulum of just under one meter swinging at one second each way. Instrument makers seized on this to build musical timekeeping devices in which the length of a pendulum is adjusted according to specific gradations to make it swing at a desired speed.”

11. How an Agency of Oddballs Transformed Modern War and Modern Life

“This small Pentagon enclave has spawned some of the transformative inventions not just of modern war but of modern life: the Saturn rocket, stealth aircraft, armed drones, biofeedback systems and — biggest of all — the internet.”

12. Whose Fault Is It Anyway? Three Books on the Shifting Nature of Responsibility in American Politics

“Where ‘responsibility’ once referred to the duties of the nation to its citizens, or of the citizens to the nation, or of fellow citizens to one another, it now came to mean the obligations of the individual to himself.”

13. Why the Far Right Wants to Be the New ‘Alternative’ Culture

“There is no burgeoning right-wing ‘alternative’ Facebook or YouTube yet, but that development feels inevitable. The structures and communal ideals of the internet’s biggest platforms — the closest thing that exists to a dominant culture online — are just waiting to be inverted, seized and used for new ends, like the liberal discourse before them.”

14. Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us.)

“They caution that an assumption of interstellar friendship is the wrong way to approach the question of extraterrestrial life. They argue that an advanced alien civilization might well respond to our interstellar greetings with the same graciousness that Cortés showed the Aztecs, making silence the more prudent option.”

15. Can a Tech Start-Up Successfully Educate Children in the Developing World?

“The company’s pitch was tailor-made for the new generation of tech-industry philanthropists, who are impatient to solve the world’s problems and who see unleashing the free market as the best way to create enduring social change.”