Sunday, December 28, 2008

Murders down, except...

...amongst young black males.

The article notes that it is hoped that new resources can be used to stem this tide. What will work, though? Is it reasonable to expect murders to drop amongst all demographics?

It's worth noting also, as Steven Levitt observes, that the statistics are somewhat misleading.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A World Enslaved

There are now more slaves on the planet than at any time in human history.

Disheartening isn't it? Indeed, Buying a slave in Haiti takes just a few minutes...

But the deal isn't done. Benavil leans in close. "This is a rather delicate question. Is this someone you want as just a worker? Or also someone who will be a 'partner'? You understand what I mean?"

You don't blink at being asked if you want the child for sex. "I mean, is it possible to have someone that could be both?"

"Oui!" Benavil responds enthusiastically.

If you're interested in taking your purchase back to the United States, Benavil tells you that he can "arrange" the proper papers to make it look as though you've adopted the child.

Certainly I hope that we all take a moment to consider how we can help the slaves of the world.

(ht: Kottke)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Black and White

Barack Obama:

Black or white?

Congressman G.K. Butterfield:
Black or white?

I just read an interesting article that discusses our president-elect's racial makeup. It notes that,

Many people insist that 'the first black president' is actually not black.

It goes on to discuss the fact that people sometimes view people of mixed races differently, which I don't think is a surprise. But nonetheless, it's a pretty interesting article, and it casts some light on the above questions. Personally, I find it intriguing that just based on a person's actions, they can choose their identity if they are of mixed race.

It reminds me of a great short essay by David Matthews from the NYT a couple years ago. Ultimately, according to him, racial identification can come down to a choice.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Best of LIFE

Google recently began hosting all the photos ever used for LIFE Magazine. Some of these are amongst the most famous American photos ever taken, and most are fantastic.

A blog has begun documenting some of the best of these LIFE photos. Of those posted recently, the below is amongst my favorites. Head on over and find yours.

Madrid scenes de rue

(ht: Kottke)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Discussing Obama

So last night, as has been usual for the last month, some friends and us were discussing Obama. A couple interesting references emerged, and so I thought I'd pass them on. Some of the most interesting articles about Obama are actually interviews with him. It's much better to hear precisely what somebody thinks straight from their mouth as opposed to being rehashed by a journalist. Thus, here are a couple very interesting interviews that highlight some interesting statements by Obama.

First, just before the election, Rolling Stone interviewed the now president-elect. Some highlights include:

At your campaign stop this morning at a high school in Pennsylvania, you made what you called a "solemn vow to the young people of America" that you will make sure they can afford to go to college — "no ifs, ands or buts." How will you do that in a way that doesn't simply add to the crushing debt that students and their families already take on in the form of student loans?
We're going to give a $4,000 tuition credit to every student, every year, in exchange for a minimum of 100 hours of community service a year. That's above and beyond the additional scholarships we're offering for people who are willing to teach, nurses — there are certain categories and occupations where we have a shortage, so there will be targeted scholarships there.
If you're in the White House and could install any one play toy — bowling alley, water polo — what would it be?
Basketball court. If we can get an indoor basketball court, I'd be happy.

Yeah, just because the weather's kind of fickle in Washington.
In what way will people underestimate you as president?
[Long pause] Because I tend to be a pretty courteous person and I don't lose my temper, I think people underestimate my willingness to mix it up. I don't know if they'll continue to underestimate that after this campaign, but I think you'll still get columns saying, "He's too cool, he's too soft." [Laughs] That's OK, actually.

You like being underestimated in that way.
Yeah. No point in having them see you coming.

Second, a few years ago when Obama was running for Senate, he gave an interview on religion to Chicago Sun Times columnist Cathleen Falsani. Now, it's finally been republished in entirety. Some interesting lines:

What do you believe?

I am a Christian.

So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith.
So you got yourself born again?

Yeah, although I don't, I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others.

I'm a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it's best comes with a big dose of doubt. I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.
The conversation stopper, when you say you're a Christian and leave it at that.

Where do you move forward with that?

This is something that I'm sure I'd have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they're going to hell.

You don't believe that?

I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.

I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity.

That's just not part of my religious makeup.