Cutting Edge: New ideas / Sharp opinions

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Carefree Taliban

Andrew Garfield and Alicia Boyd, from a study of Afghan Taliban they conducted for the Foreign Policy Research Institute: "Perhaps the most significant finding of this project is simply the fact that not one of the Taliban fighters interviewed voiced any concerns, fears or objections about participating in this project. All 78 interviewees agreed to participate in a lengthy and intensive in-depth interview, with an Afghan interviewer from outside of their group, extended family and even district. They freely admitted that they were active members of an illegal insurgent group. They offered detailed insights into their insurgent activities and motivations ...

"Almost all interviewees were living in, or close to, their homes when interviewed and did not seem unduly concerned that they were putting themselves, their friends and family at risk ... [I]t seems that their summer 'occupation' is reasonably well known to neighbors, friends and family, yet they did not fear being 'turned in' to the authorities. They were clearly able to hide -- one might even say live -- in plain sight, apparently without fear of compromise, detection, arrest or death."

Start screwing up!

The Borowitz Report: "A growing chorus of Republican lawmakers are demanding that President Obama take some action in Syria so that they can attack whatever action he took in Syria. Appearing on CBS's 'Face the Nation' on Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., laid out the situation in stark terms: 'The time for President Obama to do something in Syria that we can eviscerate him for is long overdue.' Arguing that there are a variety of options available to Mr. Obama for dealing with Syria, Sen. Graham said, 'The president needs to choose one of those options so that we can immediately identify it as a catastrophic choice and demand that he be impeached.'

"Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., used an appearance on NBC's 'Meet the Press' to express impatience ... 'The American people have grown weary of my nonstop criticism of the president's handling of Libya,' he said. 'They are ready to hear me incessantly berate him for his handling of a different country.' "

Fighting words

Via Atlantic Wire: Nicholas Jackson at Pacific Standard thinks free speech must give way to regulation when words might inspire gay kids to kill themselves. He was referring to ESPN analyst Chris Broussard's comment in reaction to NBA player Jason Collins' coming out as gay that is it a "sin" to "live an openly homosexual lifestyle."

"Over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court has tightened the definition of free speech over and over again," Mr. Jackson writes. What Mr. Broussard said, Mr. Jackson argues, fall under the court's "fighting words" doctrine, which allow limits on speech that directly causes harm: "After a couple of years in which we've seen dozens of studies -- LGBT youth who are bullied are far more likely to consider and commit suicide ... -- and a similar number of deaths, Broussard's words, and the arguments by otherwise reasonable people that they should be protected by free speech, are no longer acceptable. They're fighting words."

Medicare's straitjacket

While Congress loudly criticizes the growth in Medicare costs, it quietly agrees to regulations that prevent the system from saving money, writes Art Kellermann, a physician and analyst at RAND Corp. He says a provision in January's fiscal cliff deal will cost Medicare $500 million by explicitly preventing price negotiations over a dialysis drug for two years. Other regulations in effect promote a $2,000-per-dose drug over an equally effective alternative that costs $50 per dose.

Dr. Kellerman argues that "if budget hawks are serious about lowering entitlement spending, they'll remove Medicare's straitjacket."

Tracking teens

Helena Fitzgerald at The New Inquiry: Diving into the #followateen phenomenon, in which working-age adults follow the tweets of, but do not interact with, teenagers on Twitter, Ms. Fitzgerald finds a clear window into the adolescent world: "In a teen's experience, everything is a crisis -- school, clothes, parents, cars, prom, shoes, backpacks, homework. Every tiny thing is crucial and worth crying about -- or, in this case, worth tweeting about. Teens are the ideal tweeters because they are never happy and always interesting."


Greg Victor (


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