Cutting Edge / On Obama's foreign policy, women v. people in the Hobby Lobby case and more ...

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Transatlantic pessimism

The Guardian editorial board: “What will Barack Obama’s legacy be? It is already clear he will leave behind a globe no less disordered and violent than the one he inherited and a country whose political polarization he has been unable to reverse. But how much of this is his fault, attributable to his mistaken judgments, ill-chosen policies or to what harsh critics see as a fatal combination of fecklessness and over-cautiousness? The answer is not a great deal.

“The crisis in Iraq and Syria is only one dramatic and recent manifestation of an unraveling of American power in the world which, with hindsight, began as long ago as the late ’70s, in the years bracketed by defeat in Vietnam in 1975 and the Iranian revolution in 1979. Indeed, Mr. Obama’s new line recalls the Vietnamization policies of Nixon and Kissinger. At moments of weakness and war weariness, the U.S. has always fallen back on the idea that it will help others to fight rather than do the fighting itself.”

Women v. people

The Borowitz Report on the Hobby Lobby decision that treated certain companies as people, allowing them to express their religious beliefs by withholding health insurance coverage for contraceptives:

“By a 5–4 vote on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court settled a dispute that Justice Samuel Alito said was ‘at its core about the rights of women versus the rights of people.’

“Writing for the majority, Justice Alito wrote, ‘It is the duty of this Court, whenever it sees that the rights of people are being threatened, to do our best to safeguard those rights. In this case, it is clear that people’s rights were being threatened by women.’

“Acknowledging that some women ‘might argue that they, too, have some claim to being people,’ Justice Alito wrote, ‘That is an interesting question for another day.’ ”

Virtual guinea pigs

Evan Selinger and Woodrow Hartzog for Wired on Facebook experimenting with its news feeds to see if it could change the moods of its members: “Social media regularly manipulate how user posts appear; the abuse of socially shared information has become a collective problem that requires a collective response.

“Along with Ari Melber, co-host of MSNBC’s ‘The Cycle,’ we’ve previously proposed a People’s Terms of Service Agreement — a common reference point and stamp of approval, like a Fair Trade label for the Web, to govern the next photo-sharing app or responsible social network. Together, we could pressure existing Internet companies to adopt our terms of service, to show us they take some of our basic rights into consideration in the way they operate and behave.”


From Jason Koebler at Motherboard: “BuzzFeed just automated its first listicle, and the Associated Press is starting to use software to automatically write certain business articles. Algorithms and humans are now officially working side-by-side in the newsroom. It’s also going to usher in big data dumps that force (or allow, depending on how you look at it) the reader to find the story for themselves.

“I don’t know if robots will ever be able to write as well as humans, but BuzzFeed and the AP are both looking at using their algorithms to augment reporting, not replace it. If it’s up to the readers themselves to find the story buried in a mountain of numbers, then so be it.”

Money games

From Molly Roberts at NPR: “Judging from email inboxes Monday night, the political apocalypse loomed. Democrats were about to be overrun by GOP hordes. An army of liberal special interests and Hollywood cronies were on the verge of overtaking Republicans. How to explain the dire, all-is-lost pronouncements?”

It was the Federal Election Commission’s deadline day for campaign finance reports.

“Capital letters — signs of a truly terrible situation — abounded. ‘CRITICAL,’ boomed the Democratic Party of Wisconsin . . . ‘CATASTROPHE,’ echoed Florida Rep. Lois Frankel.

“Even if campaigns aren’t likely to quit the chase any time soon, at least some own up to their actions. A [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] message from [Nancy] Pelosi ditched the drama for a plain statement of fact Monday afternoon: ‘We keep emailing.’ An earlier DCCC email said meekly, and all too appropriately, ‘(sorry!)’ ”

Compiled by Idrees Kahloon (

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