Blog Archives

Warning: Professional trolls are trolling all over the world

Warning: Professional trolls are trolling all over the world

What if, instead of stirring up trouble for perverse pleasure, Internet trolls were paid and trained to be the creatures of contempt we love to hate? It’s akin to the singular, goat-gobbling monster versus an army of the same with the weapons to match. Think you’ll want to cross that bridge? Neither do the employers […] … learn more→

Phoning home

Phoning home

The summer I was 20, I hatched the insane plan of riding the moped I’d purchased at my job in France through England and Scotland and over to my mother’s ancestral home in Ireland. Various near-disasters ensued, not the least of them occasioned by my ignorance of a war that was then raging directly along […] … learn more→

You have your History, I have mine

You have your History, I have mine

Recently, it seems, one headline after another has been rooted in the long ago. Poland’s prime minister demands an apology after the FBI director suggests that the Poles were complicit in the Holocaust. Turkey’s president rails against the pope for saying that, a century ago, the Turks committed genocide against the Armenians. Japan’s prime minister […] … learn more→

The attack on truth

The attack on truth

To see how we treat the concept of truth these days, one might think we just don’t care anymore. Politicians pronounce that global warming is a hoax. An alarming number of middle-class parents have stopped giving their children routine vaccinations, on the basis of discredited research. Meanwhile many commentators in the media — and even […] … learn more→

Tweeting prepositions

Tweeting prepositions

Toward the end of NPR’s Planet Money podcast last week, the host, Jacob Goldstein, said: “You can tweet at us at ‘planetmoney.’ You can tweet at me at ‘jacobgoldstein.’” In March, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter addressed the U.S. Cyber Command task force and said (I quote from a transcript posted on Lexis-Nexis), “If you […] … learn more→

Do human rights increase inequality?

Do human rights increase inequality?

Imagine that one man owned everything. Call him Croesus, after the king of ancient lore who, Herodotus says, was so “wonderfully rich” that he “thought himself the happiest of mortals.” Impossibly elevated above his fellow men and women, this modern Croesus is also magnanimous. He does not want people to starve, and not only because […] … learn more→

‘Class ceiling’ in workplace suppresses the American dream

‘Class ceiling’ in workplace suppresses the American dream

The American dream of equal opportunity, based on the conviction that intelligence, hard work and character are the keys to success, may be on life support. These days children raised at the top or bottom fifths of the income pyramid tend to stay there, even as adults. Higher education is considered a major contributor to […] … learn more→

Do we really need libraries?

Do we really need libraries?

In New York City, supporters of public libraries say that respect for — and repair of — the libraries is long, well, overdue. A new campaign, Invest in Libraries, puts forth that in the past 10 years, the city government has reduced funding for public libraries by nearly 20 percent and 1,000 workers or so […] … learn more→

The difference between Charlie Hebdo and the American Freedom Defense initiative

The difference between Charlie Hebdo and the American Freedom Defense initiative

In response to the “cartoon contest” in Garland, Texas, that provoked an attack by two “Muslim extremists,” the news media has not been able to avoid making parallels to the much more devastating attack on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Most of those commentators have felt uneasy enough with the comparison that […] … learn more→

Even setting evolution aside, basic geology disproves creationism

Even setting evolution aside, basic geology disproves creationism

In the ongoing conflict between science and creationism, evolution is usually a main point of contention. The idea that all life on Earth evolved from a common ancestor is a major problem for creationists. As a geologist, though, I think that the rocks beneath our feet offer even better arguments against creationism. For the creationist […] … learn more→