Greener Pastures

America Unwound

Slate.com's Green Room - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 13:57

Listen to George Packer discuss his new book, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America:

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Supreme Court 2013: The Year in Review

Slate.com's Green Room - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 11:12

It’s such an amazing pleasure and privilege to dive into this year’s Supreme Court rulings with you. This is a venerable Slate tradition, begun by the amazing Dahlia Lithwick with (of course) you, Walter. The rest of us late-comers will do our best to uphold it. Today, the court didn’t do anything blockbuster. So that gives us a chance to look back before we get to chew over the decisions on affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act, and gay marriage next week.

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Practically Perfect

Slate.com's Green Room - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 09:50

The conventional wisdom on the Tesla Model S—the most hyped, decorated, and controversial new car in memory—is that it’s a technological marvel, but prohibitively expensive and ultimately impractical, especially for road trips. For all the accolades (Motor Trend Car of the Year, Automobile Automobile of the Year, the highest rating in Consumer Reports history), the review that sticks most in people’s minds is the one by the New York Times’ John M. Broder. You know, the one where the car ran out of batteries on the freeway and had to be towed to a charging station.

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A Loss in the Family

Slate.com's Green Room - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 07:42

Charisma is measured in contradictions, and Tony Soprano possessed two sides of all of his qualities. He was terrifying and vulnerable, relatable and unfathomable, cuddly and cold. He was a sociopath and a sympathetic victim of his environment. He was a bullying mob patriarch whose mama was the monster in all of his nightmares. He was a master strategist in a fuzzy bathrobe yelling at his lazy kids. He killed men with his bare hands and ate his feelings straight out of the fridge. He was, like many a parent or sibling or old friend, someone we kept hoping might change and kept never changing, someone we loved against our better judgment.

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Are Jessica Alba’s Trendy Diapers Really the Poop?

Slate.com's Green Room - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 07:09

Super-absorbent diapers are a fantastic invention, saving parents hours upon hours of time, laundry loads, and stinky clean-ups. (Just ask your grandparents.) But they’re also the source of much controversy and angst. Baby Dry or Cruisers? Eco-friendly or regular? Pull-ups or unassembled? To make matters more complicated, now there’s Honest, a diaper and baby product company founded by actress Jessica Alba in 2012, which claims that it makes “safer” diapers. Cue immediate feelings of parental paranoia: Wait, safer diapers? Are other diapers dangerous? To help you answer those questions, the Honest website devotes a page to describing just how scary traditional diapers really are, with questions about diaper companies like, “What are they trying to hide?” (Answer: “From what we gleaned, a lot.”)

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Skyjacker of the Day

Slate.com's Green Room - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 06:36

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United States suffered through a skyjacking epidemic that has now been largely forgotten. In his new book, The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking, Brendan I. Koerner tells the story of the chaotic age when jets were routinely commandeered by the desperate and disillusioned. In the run-up to his book’s publication on June 18, Koerner has been writing a daily series of skyjacker profiles. Slate is running the final dozen of these “Skyjacker of the Day” entries.

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We Need a Nuremberg Code for Big Data

Slate.com's Green Room - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 06:17

Recent revelations about the federal government’s PRISM program have sparked widespread debate about the benefits and harms of state surveillance of Americans in the name of national security. But what about the surveillance we submit to in the service of more mundane activities, like improving children’s vocabularies or increasing student engagement in the classroom? This growing world of social-engineering surveillance has garnered far less attention and controversy but poses significant challenges to the future of privacy.

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Sharing Is Caring

Slate.com's Green Room - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 05:15

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

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George W. Bush’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Was a Slave Trader

Slate.com's Green Room - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 04:44

BUNCE ISLAND, Sierra Leone—Twelve American presidents owned slaves, eight while serving in office, and at least 25 presidents count slave owners among their ancestors. But new historical evidence shows that a direct ancestor of George W. and George H.W. Bush was part of a much more appalling group: Thomas Walker was a notorious slave trader active in the late 18th century along the coast of West Africa.

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Screen Capture

Slate.com's Green Room - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 04:34

It’s difficult to overstate how completely we Americans are ruled by television. On a typical day, you and your fellow countrymen watch about four hours and 39 minutes of live TV, plus an additional 26 minutes of “time-shifted” (i.e., DVR’d) programming, according to Nielsen. That’s more time, by far, than we spend with any other technology: more than we surf the Web, more than we use our phones, more than we play video games. In a given week, the average American child will spend more than a full day—nearly 27 hours—in front of the tube. And children don’t even watch as much TV as adults. Generally, the older you get in America, the more television sucks you in. The average senior citizen spends more than two full days of every week in front of the TV.

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Scandal 2.0

Slate.com's Green Room - Wed, 06/19/2013 - 18:39

The single most important politician at Wednesday’s Tea Party rally against the Internal Revenue Service spoke for less than two minutes. He wasn’t drowned out by applause, either. Michigan Rep. Dave Camp was merely explaining how he was going to shoehorn the IRS scandal into the headlines and cable news chyrons again.

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You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent

Slate.com's Green Room - Wed, 06/19/2013 - 17:05

On Monday, in a case called Salinas v. Texas that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, the Supreme Court held that you remain silent at your peril. The court said that this is true even before you’re arrested, when the police are just informally asking questions. The court’s move to cut off the right to remain silent is wrong and also dangerous—because it encourages the kind of high-pressure questioning that can elicit false confessions.

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The Whitey Bulger Trial

Slate.com's Green Room - Wed, 06/19/2013 - 16:32

For the third straight day, blubbery Boston mob enforcer John Martorano perches on the witness stand, befouling the courthouse with his presence. For the second straight day, defense attorney Hank Brennan attempts to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Martorano is a demonic sociopath.

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The Unkindest Cut?

Slate.com's Green Room - Wed, 06/19/2013 - 15:47

Please send your questions for publication to gentlemanscholarslate@gmail.com. (Questions may be edited.)

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Wiretaps and Drones Aren’t Everything

Slate.com's Green Room - Wed, 06/19/2013 - 15:40

When we think of the war on terrorism, we tend to think about drone strikes, SEAL raids, Marine counterinsurgency campaigns, Guantanamo Bay, and, more recently, data mining and surveillance by the NSA.

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Wait, Am I That Baseball Dad?

Slate.com's Green Room - Wed, 06/19/2013 - 15:22

For most of my son’s baseball game, the man in the red folding chair sitting behind me had been just a voice on the hill.  Now he was my enemy. His son was pitching. Mine was batting. When my son fouled off the first pitch, the father was gleeful. When the second pitch was called a ball, he questioned the umpire. After a called strike, he roared: “He can’t hit you.” Impressive—he was trying to intimidate a 10-year-old batter. I wanted my son to get a hit to shut him up, or maybe a line drive foul to do so more directly. In the end, my son lined out to the shortstop.

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How to Fix the Organ Transplant Shortage

Slate.com's Green Room - Wed, 06/19/2013 - 15:08

The plight of Sarah Murnaghan made headlines over the past several weeks. The 10-year-old girl suffers from cystic fibrosis, a crippling respiratory ailment. She was dying, but she was deemed ineligible—then, after an uproar, eligible—for an adult lung transplant. She received a new set of lungs on June 12.

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Why Don’t Cops Believe Rape Victims?

Slate.com's Green Room - Wed, 06/19/2013 - 14:12

When Tom Tremblay started working for the police department of Burlington, Vt., 30 years ago, he discovered that many of his fellow cops rarely believed a rape victim. This was true time after time, in dozens of cases. Tremblay could see why they were doubtful once he started interviewing the victims himself. The victims, most of them women, often had trouble recalling an attack or couldn’t give a chronological account of it. Some expressed no emotion. Others smiled or laughed as they described being assaulted. “Unlike any other crime I responded to in my career, there was always this thought that a rape report was a false report,” says Tremblay, who was an investigator in Burlington’s sex crimes unit. “I was always bothered by the fact there was this shroud of doubt.”

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Bubba in the Holy Land

Slate.com's Green Room - Wed, 06/19/2013 - 13:49

JERUSALEM—Anyone who showed up today to hear Bill Clinton accept the Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest honor, might have expected the firebrand orator, the fierce campaigner who so adeptly served as id to Barack Obama’s superego last fall. But the Clinton who spoke today, to a packed, largely English-speaking audience at Jerusalem's International Convention Center, was elegiac, almost wistful, something of a paradox at the opening session of a presidential conference with the theme “Facing Tomorrow.”

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Which Is Safer: City Streets or Prison?

Slate.com's Green Room - Wed, 06/19/2013 - 13:29

Paul Mannina, the Labor Department lawyer charged with assaulting a colleague using handcuffs and a stun gun, was found dead in his Washington, D.C., jail cell with his throat slashed on Tuesday. It’s not yet clear whether his death was a murder or suicide, but jail and prison murders are regularly in the news. A Missouri man was charged on Tuesday with strangling his cellmate, and a California jury is now considering the death penalty for a 2005 prison murder. Are you more likely to be murdered in jail or on the Washington city streets?

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