The kind of corruption we’ve got today is not bad souls. It’s good souls, it’s good people who are living within a system that forces them to behave in a certain way to succeed. And I think what we need to do is to say to those people, “We understand. But you are responsible for fixing this. And you could fix this. Without changing the constitution you could take the most important first step in fixing this. And if you don’t, then you are responsible for destroying the most important democratic branch we’ve got.”

Lawrence Lessig

Even more troubling, many people seem somehow to overlook the basic fact of what the [education] crisis is about. It’s not about graduation rates and test scores. It’s about what those things mean to the outcome of human lives. It’s about potential realized or squandered, dignity enhanced or denied.

— Salman Khan, The One World Schoolhouse

Humans are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde.

Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now

David Attenborough


"Seven billion is a number we should think about deeply,” said Dr. Eric Tayag of the Philippines’ Department of Health. “We should really focus on the question of whether there will be food, clean water, shelter, education and a decent life for every child. If the answer is ‘no,’ it would be better for people to look at easing this population explosion.”

The strip, they argued, with its riot of billboards and neon, was (literally) a place of signs rather than things, where the buildings were only a minor part of an environment of semiotic seductions, designed to be legible to a person travelling by at 35mph.

This is the essence of postmodernism: the idea that there is no essence, that we’re moving through a world of signs and wonders, where everything has been done before and is just lying around as cultural wreckage, waiting to be reused, combined in new and unusual ways. Nothing is direct, nothing is new. Everything is already mediated. The real, whatever that might be, is unavailable. It’s an exhilarating world, but uncanny too. You look around at your beautiful house and your beautiful wife and you ask yourself, like the narrator of the Talking Heads song: ‘Well, how did I get here?” After that, it’s only a short step to deciding that this is not your beautiful house and your beautiful wife at all. The world of signs is fast, liquid, delirious, disposable. Clever people approach it with scepticism. Sincerity is out. Irony is in. And style. If modernism was about substance, about serious design solving serious problems, postmodernism was all manner and swagger and stance.

— Hari Kunzru, Postmodernism: from the cutting edge to the museum

I don’t think that we should speak about those kinds of numbers, because what it does is it turns off the part of the mind that probably transmits that information to the heart. I think we need to talk about this in ones and twos, it gets normalized in a way. And I feel that we are not doing the people that are suffering any justice.


Consider, though, that if the question of how to live a good life has challenged us since ancient times, and the unprecedented technologies of today have complicated that conundrum, the matter remains something of a luxury in a world where a billion or more people still live in the most extreme poverty despite endless labor. For the moment, the question of justice in global distribution remains at least as urgent as that of optimal production and consumption among the affluent.

John Quiggin, The Economics of Unhappiness

Has it ever struck you how absurd it is that as a society we have so much work that needs doing and at the same time, so many unemployed people who would love to be doing productive work? How absurd, that two of our defining problems are homeless people and vacant houses? We are told there is no money to put the unemployed people to work meeting unmet needs and to put the homeless into the empty houses. What a powerful demonstration of system failure.

David Korten

It’s a depressing yet predictable spectacle — those in positions of power can’t help but help themselves to the help. They scream at underlings and have sex with the secretaries; they assault hotel maids (or at least are accused of such) and sleep with the nanny. The question, of course, is what motivates this awful behavior? Why does power corrupt?

Psychologists refer to this as the paradox of power. The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power. Instead of being polite, honest and outgoing, they become impulsive, reckless and rude. According to psychologists, one of the main problems with authority is that it makes us less sympathetic to the concerns and emotions of others. For instance, several studies have found that people in positions of authority are more likely to rely on stereotypes and generalizations when judging other people. They also spend much less time making eye contact, at least when a person without power is talking.

Undocumented immigrants are not, contrary to myth, people who show up to take advantage of social assistance. The risk and expense of migration are too great to make idleness an ambition.

— Doug Sanders, America’s Army of Non-Citizens: A Greater Threat than Terrorism

People go to lunch for many reasons, including eating, but often lunch is gratuitous (pause, head-tilt). Sometimes a restaurant is more convenient, but I’ve had many lunches meeting people in the shadows of the skyscrapers where they work. I travelled an hour mostly horizontally; they travelled three minutes mostly vertically. Why don’t I just go upstairs and save them the trip? Why must we cram our interactions with the wider world into 75 minutes sometime between 12:30 and 2PM, which usually involves something drizzled over something else and then a light garnish, Diet Coke with the lemon wedge that makes it into a $3.50 Diet Coke, and expenditures of between $22 and $248, followed by an ape-dominance demonstration of who can pay? Unless you’re actually hungry, but who is actually hungry?

Of course there is a whole industry—the restaurant industry—dedicated to preserving lunchism and promoting a lunchist agenda. If anything ever happened along my outline there will be ads in major newspapers aboutLUNCH: An American Institution as Important as Marriage but Totally for Gays Too and if he hasn’t already David Carr will write a thoughtful, informed essay about how the web wasn’t satisfied to destroy publishing but was now gunning for midday meals. But is lunch necessary? It’s not really where the conversation is. The conversation is on and around devices and computers and up in the office. It’s about the desk toys and the picture of the kids on the little hutch that they let you keep above your standing desk. Offices are almost always overstructured, outmoded, and annoying, but so are sonnets. Limits give us structure, structure lets us define goals and measure our success. And seeing how people push against the limits of the order around them tells you a lot about who they are, and about how the world is going. When I start at a new office I like to take a small copy of a famous picture of a sad baby monkey desperately hugging a “mother” monkey made of chicken wire, and I pushpin that through the cloth of the cubicle-skin into the cushiony sponge-flesh below. That is how I tell the world.

An office, even a good one, is always a place where human beings are daily reminded that their individuality and weirdness are to be suppressed in the interests of tribal uniformity. People get upset and adbustery about this, and well they should because it often sucks, but have you seen what happens when you let people do whatever they want with their time?

Sure, people in Kansas City are nice. But I think there’s something about life in Kansas City, something about the pace, something about the ease of parking, something about the small market sports, something about the farming background, something about the opposing harshness of summer and winter, something that makes that good-hearted part of themselves come out. People in New York are nice too — many of the nicest people I know are New Yorkers — but in New York there isn’t often TIME to be nice. If you’re nice and let people in at the Holland Tunnel you will NEVER get where you’re going. In Kansas City, people have the time to be nice.

Joe Blogs: Home in Capital Letters

To the people who love you, you are beautiful already. This is not because they’re blind to your shortcomings but because they so clearly see your soul. Your shortcomings then dim by comparison. The people who care about you are willing to let you be imperfect and beautiful, too.

— Victoria Moran

In hurling, the ball moves 100 miles per hour. So why don’t goalkeepers want to wear facemasks?

This is the sort of story people offer when they talk about the “Miracle of Medellín.” In 1991, the city had an astronomical 381 homicides per 100,000 residents (by contrast, the murder rate in Ciudad Juárez, the bloody epicenter of Mexico’s drug war, was only half that last year). But today Medellín has, incredibly, become as safe as Washington.