Many in Nation Tired of Explaining Things to Idiots – Borowitz Report Jun 23 2015

Credit Photograph by Toshi Sasaki/Getty

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—Many Americans are tired of explaining things to idiots, particularly when the things in question are so painfully obvious, a new poll indicates.

According to the poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, while millions have been vexed for some time by their failure to explain incredibly basic information to dolts, that frustration has now reached a breaking point.

Of the many obvious things that people are sick and tired of trying to get through the skulls of stupid people, the fact that climate change will cause catastrophic habitat destruction and devastating extinctions tops the list, with a majority saying that they will no longer bother trying to explain this to cretins.

Coming in a close second, statistical proof that gun control has reduced gun deaths in countries around the world is something that a significant number of those polled have given up attempting to break down for morons.

Finally, a majority said that trying to make idiots understand why a flag that symbolizes bigotry and hatred has no business flying over a state capitol only makes the person attempting to explain this want to put his or her fist through a wall.

In a result that suggests a dismal future for the practice of explaining things to idiots, an overwhelming number of those polled said that they were considering abandoning such attempts altogether, with a broad majority agreeing with the statement, “This country is exhausting.”

Culture is dead — again: It’s the end of civilization as we know it (and maybe we feel fine) – LAURA MILLER SUNDAY, JUN 14, 2015 02:00 PM PDT

Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa says we’re living in an age without culture or conviction, and he has a point

Culture is dead — again: It's the end of civilization as we know it (and maybe we feel fine)

Western Civilization has been going to the dogs for so long that it’s tempting to pipe up, like an aggravating child from the back seat during a long road trip, and ask if we’re there yet. According to Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, we are. His new book “Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society” announces that culture — at least as we used to understand it — is now officially “dead.” Sure, it might survive in a few “small social enclaves, without influence on the mainstream,” but everywhere else it has been replaced with mere entertainment.

To the argument that standards are slipping, “Notes” offers plenty of unwitting support. Vargas Llosa, at 79, has produced novels of genius, most notably “The Feast of the Goat” (2000). But this book is a patchwork affair, a melange of recent writings, transcripts of speeches and short critical pieces published as long ago as the mid-1990s. Given that Western culture has been utterly transformed in the past 20 years by the Internet, these dispatches from the oblivious past seem less than relevant. The fact that the more recent pieces don’t depart much from the opinions expressed in earlier ones does not inspire much confidence, either.

Yet Vargas Llosa lands several palpable hits, and who can deny that our culture — from appalling reality TV shows to those ubiquitous “From Around the Web” links — seems to be getting worse and worse? Of course we have the vague impression that people have always complained about their times, but that doesn’t mean culture hasn’t be rotting for ages. Maybe it’s all been one long downward slide since time immemorial?

This sentiment has a name: declinism. And it has a history, a scholarly one that amounts to much more than the perennial grousing of adults about kids these days. The notion of studying how things go to hell is almost exactly as old as the modern practice of historiography, and begins (let’s say) with Edward Gibbon’s seminal masterpiece, “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”


The end of casual Christianity – By Michael Gerson Opinion writer May 25 at 7:49 PM

The Roman historian Tacitus described Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians: “In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and torn to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights.”

Pope Francis leads the Pentecostal Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City on Sunday. (Alessandro Di Meo/european pressphoto agency)

In spite of what you may have read or heard, the recent Pew Research Center report “America’s Changing Religious Landscape” was better news for Christians than this. “Is Christianity in America Doomed?” asked one headline, about a faith with which 71 percent of Americans still identify.

Most of the actual decline in believers from 2007 to 2014 was concentrated among Roman Catholics and the Protestant mainline, and among those most loosely tethered to religious faith. Evangelical Christians held pretty steady, which set up an odd chain of reactions. Secularists were pleased about the decline of Christianity. Some conservative Christians were pleased about the decline of theological liberalism. The latter is evidence of an old grudge.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Protestant mainline decisively won the battle for cultural preeminence — triumphing in public battles such as the Scopes Trial and leaving fundamentalists to retreat into a subculture. So the mainline’s comeuppance is met with uncharitable satisfaction in some conservative circles — call it William Jennings Bryan’s revenge. The language of “decline,” however, is imprecise. The mainline has not so much declined as faded into the broader culture. “Liberals have learned that it’s difficult for the church to survive,” says historian George Marsden, “if there’s nothing that makes the church distinct from culture.”

And this is what the Pew study is describing: the advance, particularly among the young, of an appealing, powerful culture that has its own standards and values (expressive individualism, moral relativism, lifestyle liberalism) but no longer presupposes religious belief and finds traditionalism to be repressive. For much of the post-World War II period, saying you were a Christian was another way of saying you weren’t a Jew (those being the two available options). This left a large number of Americans identifying with a religious tradition they did not practice. The assumption of faith has gradually — now more rapidly — fallen away. There may or may not be a decline in Christian practice. But we are certainly seeing the collapse of casual Christianity and of religious belief as a civic assumption.

The media are focused on the implications of these changes for family structure and sexual mores. Many reporters and commentators seem pleased and surprised that the values they absorbed at Sarah Lawrence College or Brown University have gained sudden cultural traction.

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Apple and Google met with spy chiefs at an 18th-century mansion in England to secretly discuss government surveillance – STEVEN TWEEDIE MAY 23, 2015, 12:35 PM

The Ditchley Foundation Mansion

Google MapsThe Ditchley Foundation Mansion in England.

Top representatives from Apple and Google met with spy chiefs at an 18th-century mansion last week to talk about the growing public concern over government surveillance, according to The Intercept.

The secretive meeting took place over the course of three days at a conference hosted by The Ditchley Foundation at its countryside mansion in England, where everything discussed was under a strict confidentiality agreement called the Chatham House Rule.

Under the Chatham House Rule, “participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

Spy chiefs from seven countries spanning from the U.S. to Australia met with tech giants including Apple, Google, and Vodafone to discuss the balance between national security, bulk surveillance, and personal privacy in the wake of the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

According to the leaked itinerary obtained by The Intercept, the conference’s agenda included topics such as “Are we being misled by the term ‘mass surveillance?’, “How much should the press disclose about intelligence activity,” and “Is spying on allies/friends/potential adversaries inevitable if there is a perceived national security interest?”

Spies and top leaders were attendance from the following organizations: the CIA, President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, the British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the National Crime Agency, the German federal intelligence service the BND, Sweden’s surveillance agency the FRA, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Leading the entire conference was former British M16 spy chief Sir John Scarlett, according to The Intercept, who led talks about how the leaked information on the bulk data collection programs by Snowden had changed the landscape of government surveillance.

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We live in the future AT&T imagined in 1994 – Updated by Timothy B. Lee on May 22, 2015, 10:50 a.m. ET

More than 20 years ago, AT&T ran a series of ads depicting the miraculous things information technology would allow us to do in the future.

“Have you ever borrowed a book from thousands of miles away?” the first ad asks. “Crossed the country without stopping for directions? Or sent someone a fax from the beach? You will. And the company that will bring it to you is AT&T.”

Obviously, the future hasn’t turned out exactly as AT&T anticipated — most of us avoid sending a fax whenever we can. But the basic technologies AT&T is describing here — e-books, turn-by-turn directions, sending documents via mobile devices — are all commonplace. So, too, are many of the futuristic capabilities depicted in other ads in the campaign: video conferencing, electronic tollbooths, electronic ticket-buying kiosks, on-demand videos. Indeed, many of today’s technologies are better than the clunky versions depicted in these ads — we make video calls from smartphones, not phone booths.

Others, including smartwatches, MOOCs, and the internet of things, are just taking off now. Most of the remaining technologies — electronic medical records, wireless supermarket checkouts, efficient driver’s license renewals, telemedicine — are technologically feasible but have been thwarted by logistical or bureaucratic obstacles. (Real-time voice translation and useful virtual assistants are the two technologies that are still clearly in the future.)

Overall, the ads were remarkably accurate in predicting the cutting-edge technologies of the coming decades. But the ads were mostly wrong about one thing: the company that brought these technologies to the world was notAT&T. At least not on its own. AT&T does provide some of the infrastructure on which the world’s communications flow. But the gadgets and software that brought these futuristic capabilities to consumers were created by a new generation of Silicon Valley companies that mostly didn’t exist when these ads were made.

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Christianity faces sharp decline as Americans are becoming even less affiliated with religion – By Sarah Pulliam Bailey May 12

The Memorial Peace Cross is a well-known landmark in Bladensburg, Md. (Mark Gail for The Washington Post)

Christianity is on the decline in America, not just among younger generations or in certain regions of the country but across race, gender, education and geographic barriers. The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years to about 71 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

“It’s remarkably widespread,” said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research for the Pew Research Center. “The country is becoming less religious as a whole, and it’s happening across the board.”

At the same time, the share of those who are not affiliated with a religion has jumped from 16 percent to about 23 percent in the same time period. The trend follows a pattern found earlier in the American Religious Identification Survey, which found that in 1990, 86 percent of American adults identified as Christians, compared with 76 percent in 2008.

Here are three key takeaways from Pew’s new survey.

1. Millennials are growing even less affiliated with religion as they get older 

The older generation of millennials (those who were born from 1981 to 1989) are becoming even less affiliated with religion than they were about a decade ago, the survey suggests. In 2007, when the Pew Research Center did their last Religious Landscape Survey and these adults were just entering adulthood, 25 percent of them did not affiliate with a religion, but this grew to 34 percent in the latest survey.

The trends among the aging millennials is especially significant, said Greg Smith, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center. In 2010, 13 percent of baby boomers were religiously unaffiliated as they were entering retirement, the same percentage in 1972.

“Some have asked, ‘Might they become more religiously affiliated as they get older?’ There’s nothing in this data to suggest that’s what’s happening,” he said. Millennials get married later than older generations, but they are not necessarily more likely to become religiously affiliated, he said.

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This is the Modern American Family – The Business of Life (Episode 2) – Vice News Published on May 6, 2015

The idea of the American family has changed dramatically over the past few decades: Young Americans are marrying later, finding marriage and parenthood to be less central concerns. But what does the structure of the modern American family mean for us, and how much is it costing us? To unpack the issue, we’ve enlisted author Ty Tashiro, New York Magazine’s Maureen O’Connor, and Mona Chalabi of FiveThirtyEight.

Introducing a new kind of talk show from VICE News. “The Business of Life” is a fresh perspective on the most important issues of our time, as told through the facts, figures, dollars, and cents that shape our world. Hosted by journalist Michael C. Moynihan, each episode brings together an eclectic panel of writers, thinkers, policy experts, and scholars to break down everything you need to make sense of the most complicated topics of our time.

All content is the sole property of VICE News. Materials presented are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Bank of America. Bank of America, VICE and/or their partners assume no liability for loss or damage resulting from anyone’s reliance on the information provided