Biden-Ryan: an impressive draw: “The event saw the incumbent, Joe Biden, score points for passion, clarity (most of the time) and a strange, hybrid sort of scrappy, fist-flailing elder statesman’s condescension that (much of the time) was pretty effective. Correctly judging that his main role as a presidential understudy was to savage the other side’s principal, rather than his counterpart across the debate table, Mr Biden lobbed repeated mud pies at the absent Mitt Romney. At one point, dragging the debate back to Mr Romney’s secretly-recorded remarks dismissing 47% of the population as feckless welfare dependents, Mr Biden accused the Republican nominee of insulting the entire extended Biden family, starting with his parents. […] On balance, too, Mr Biden was better than Mr Ryan at casting key arguments in brutally simple terms, as when he ended a long discussion about the wisdom of announcing a timetable for American troops to leave Afghanistan with the warning to the government in Kabul: “step up, step up, we’re leaving.” In a discussion about Medicare health coverage for pensioners, Mr Biden looked directly into the camera and asked watching retirees to trust their instincts, and ask themselves which party was more likely to defend Medicare entitlements. It was not pretty or clever, but it was probably effective.” From the Economist. Watch the full debate here.
The Obama administration drone war on civilians: In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false. Following nine months of intensive research—including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting—this report presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policies. Based on extensive interviews with Pakistanis living in the regions directly affected, as well as humanitarian and medical workers, this report provides new and firsthand testimony about the negative impacts US policies are having on the civilians living under drones. Real threats to US security and to Pakistani civilians exist in the Pakistani border areas now targeted by drones. It is crucial that the US be able to protect itself from terrorist threats, and that the great harm caused by terrorists to Pakistani civilians be addressed. However, in light of significant evidence of harmful impacts to Pakistani civilians and to US interests, current policies to address terrorism through targeted killings and drone strikes must be carefully re-evaluated. It is essential that public debate about US policies take the negative effects of current policies into account.” From livingunderdrones.org. Read the full report here, and watch:
Marijuana and the law: “Voters in three states — Washington, Oregon and Colorado — will decide on Election Day whether to take marijuana out of the black market shadows and put it under the daylight of state licensing and supervision. Each proposal has problems and pluses. But Washington’s is the one most likely to pass, judging from the polls. In a twist of time that any aging baby boomer can appreciate, this measure has the full backing of what used to be called the Establishment. And if, on Nov. 6, a state finally says no to one of the most counterproductive prohibitions in the nation’s history, it will be because the two sides in this continuing sham of Wile E. Coyote versus Road Runner have essentially switched. That’s right: those on the front lines of the endless drug war, the police and prosecutors, are now citing futility and common sense on behalf of legalization — at least in this state. And many of those who now profit from the unregulated medical marijuana industry, and the larger, organized crime gangs that control the illegal wholesale scene, are against legalization. The opposition to accessible pot in this state is led by a medical marijuana clinic. Go figure.” Tim Egan in the Times.
European Union wins Nobel Peace Prize despite debt crises: “The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize today for its historic role in uniting the continent in an award meant as a morale boost for the bloc as it struggles to resolve its debt crisis. The EU has been a key in transforming Europe “from a continent of wars to a continent of peace,” Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said in announcing the award in Oslo. “This is a message to Europe to do everything they can to secure what they’ve achieved and move forward,” Jagland said, saying it was a reminder of what would be lost “if the union is allowed to collapse”. He praised the 27-nation EU for rebuilding after World War Two and for its role in spreading stability after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. The prize, worth $1.2 million, will be presented in Oslo on 10 December. The decision by the five-member panel, led by Jagland who is also Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, was unanimous. The EU won from a field of 231 candidates including Russian dissidents and religious leaders working for Muslim-Christian reconciliation. But the EU is mired in crisis with strains on the euro, the common currency shared by 17 nations. The prize was a surprise given the EU’s current woes.” From the UK Independent.
How to Catch a Monster Wave: The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing: “Drawing from roughly 30 hours of interviews with Long, his parents, and the surfers and photographers who’ve worked with him, the film reveals the calculated risk and passion that go into the sport. “You look at a [surf photo in a] magazine, you look at 1/2,000 of a second of a moment of what happened on a lifelong pursuit to get there,” Todd Glaser, a staff photographer at Surfer Magazine, explains. What isn’t captured in the shot is a surfer’s dedication to physical training, grueling travel, and studying the weather patterns that create the waves of a lifetime. […] Sine Qua Non runs long but the stories are epic indeed. The team recounts an incredibly daring (or just plain stupid) mission to surf Cortes Bank, 100 miles from dry land, in the small window between two storms. Long also describes a near-death experience at the hazardous surf spot Maverick’s that brings home just how close to the edge the sport can get. “It can easily be seen as selfish (and a lot of people do): ‘Why are you going out there risking your life for your own personal satisfaction?’ You’ve got people who care about you. Some people have family,” Long concedes. “Surfing big waves just becomes part of your heart and soul and who you are.” From the Atlantic. Watch: