How to Get Girls Into Coding –

WHEN I was 7 years old, I knew the capitals of most major countries and their currencies. I had to, if I wanted to track down a devious criminal mastermind in the computer game “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” On screen, the ACME Detective Agency would spit out clues like notable landmarks to help players identify the city where Carmen’s globe-trotting henchmen were hiding out. I wouldn’t learn how to pronounce Reykjavik for more than a decade, but I could tell you that its currency was called the krona.

I was the child of Indian immigrants, and like any begrudging Bengal tiger cub, I penciled in fill-in-the-blank maps and memorized multiplication tables after dinner. I was much more motivated to learn about geography by chasing Carmen Sandiego on the family Macintosh Plus. I couldn’t confidently point to Iceland on a map. But I did become a technology reporter.

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Rima NYT Comment SmallYour assessment is spot-on, Nitasha!

The problems we’re up against are the strong resurgent sexist and anti-intellectual sentiments in our lives today. It is unsurprising to read about the discouragement of those girls who gave after-school programs a try. Where is the nurturing and support from the rest of us? Where would they get the sense that society is encouraging them? Where is that wind of change that tells a girl that it’s ok, she can be whoever she wants to be and she’ll have the same chance at a technical career as her male peers? If even Google can’t manage to hire more women… Right?

My daugher is a second year fine arts major with a strong interest in gaming design. Here’s what she has to say:

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Full Screed Ahead –

Frank Bruni

WE no longer have news. We have springboards for commentary. We have cues for Tweets.

Something happens, and before the facts are even settled, the morals are deduced and the lessons drawn. The story is absorbed into agendas. Everyone has a preferred take on it, a particular use for it. And as one person after another posits its real significance, the discussion travels so far from what set it in motion that the truth — the knowable, verifiable truth — is left in the dust.

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Rima NYT Comment Small“… Americans have seemingly grown accustomed to this. They may even hunger for it.”

Not this American. No, sir! There isn’t a day when I don’t lament the fact that our national press looks more like the National Enquirer used to look to most of us up until a dozen years ago. CNN and its obsessively ludicrous coverage of Flight 370 is only one example of how a news outlet undergoes a “Foxification.” So, when the Jill Abramson story hit the wire, it wasn’t so much the whys of her story, but how the Times handled it. The handling was as far from classy as you can get. People come and go. They succeed or fail. That’s expected. How those successes and failures are handled, on the other hand, need to inspire confidence.

To read the rest of my comment, click here.

Prisoners of Sex –

Ross Douthat

Prisoners of Sex

IN an ideal world, perhaps, the testimony left by the young man who killed six people in Santa Barbara would have perished with its author: the video files somehow wiped off the Internet, his manifesto deleted and any printed copy pulped.

Spree killers seek the immortality of infamy, and their imitators are inspired by how easily they win it. As Ari Schulman argued last year in The Wall Street Journal, there would probably be fewer copycat rampages if the typical killer’s face and name didn’t lead the news coverage, if fewer details of biography and motive circulated, if a mass murderer’s “ability to make his internal psychodrama a shared public reality” were more strictly circumscribed.

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Rima NYT Comment Small“A culture that too tightly binds sex and self-respect is likely, in the long run, to end up with less and less of both.”

So, we’re back to that…

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How Book Publishers Can Beat Amazon

Bob Kohn

AMAZON has caused no small controversy of late by refusing to accept presale orders on books to be released by the publisher Hachette and by understocking Hachette’s titles. These punitive maneuvers, which follow a dispute between Amazon and Hachette about e-book contracts, have led to significant delays in shipments of Hachette’s books to Amazon’s customers.

If you are wondering why Amazon would subject its customers to this inconvenience and wish to understand what’s really happening between Amazon and Hachette — and, indeed, all the major book publishers — you need to know the meaning of the word monopsony.

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The question we all need to ask ourselves, honestly, is whether, given what we now know, are we willing to give up the conveniences we’ve grown accustomed to? Amazon has insinuated itself into the lives of tens of millions of Americans, not only by selling new and used books in every category including textbooks, but every product imaginable, including food, and now TV, via its Fire line of products.

Jeff Bezos’ success, it seems, is based in no small part on the bullying of his suppliers and the workforce he employs.


To read the rest of my comment, click here.

Inventing a Failure

Paul Krugman

Last week, House Republicans released a deliberately misleading report on the status of health reform, crudely rigging the numbers to sustain the illusion of failure in the face of unexpected success. Are you shocked?

You aren’t, but you should be. Mainstream politicians didn’t always try to advance their agenda through lies, damned lies and — in this case — bogus statistics. And the fact that this has become standard operating procedure for a major party bodes ill for America’s future.

About that report: The really big policy news of 2014, at least so far, is the spectacular recovery of the Affordable Care Act from its stumbling start, thanks to an extraordinary late surge that took enrollment beyond early projections. The age mix of enrollees has improved; insurance companies are broadly satisfied with the risk pool. Multiple independent surveys confirm that the percentage of Americans without health insurance has already declined substantially, and there’s every reason to believe that over the next two years the act will meet its overall goals, except in states that refuse to expand Medicaid.

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What’s amazing, in all this, is that “Obamacare,” AKA “Romneycare,” is the very same “good” insurance one always got through an employer.

How in the world can that be bad? Oh, right! President Obama signed the legislation that expanded its reach to millions of uninsured citizens.


To read the rest of my comment, click here.

Springtime for Bankers

By any normal standard, economic policy since the onset of the financial crisis has been a dismal failure. It’s true that we avoided a full replay of the Great Depression. But employment has taken more than six years to claw its way back to pre-crisis levels — years when we should have been adding millions of jobs just to keep up with a rising population. Long-term unemployment is still almost three times as high as it was in 2007; young people, often burdened by college debt, face a highly uncertain future.

Now Timothy Geithner, who was Treasury secretary for four of those six years, has published a book, “Stress Test,” about his experiences. And basically, he thinks he did a heckuva job.

He’s not unique in his self-approbation. Policy makers inEurope, where employment has barely recovered at all and a number of countries are in fact experiencing Depression-level distress, have even less to boast about. Yet they too are patting themselves on the back.

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“And basically, he thinks he did a heckuva job.”

The problem wasn’t so much what Geithner thinks, although that too is a problem, but what a majority of Democrats voters thought about how the Great Recession was handled up until the GOP took the House. That the Obama administration was advised by a bunch of corporate Democrats and there weren’t sufficient progressives in Congress to rein them in is the real problem. The stimulus and healthcare might have looked different.

To read the rest of my comment, click here.

What Did the Framers Really Mean?

Joe Nocera

Three days after the publication of Michael Waldman’s new book, “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a killing spree, stabbing three people and then shooting another eight, killing four of them, including himself. This was only the latest mass shooting in recent memory, going back to Columbine.

In his rigorous, scholarly, but accessible book, Waldman notes such horrific events but doesn’t dwell on them. He is after something else. He wants to understand how it came to be that the Second Amendment, long assumed to mean one thing, has come to mean something else entirely. To put it another way: Why are we, as a society, willing to put up with mass shootings as the price we must pay for the right to carry a gun?

My comment on the New York Times Site:

It really shouldn’t matter what the framers meant. We live in the here and now and unless one has clinically-significant rigidity issues, we need to live by today’s mores and needs.

Logically-speaking, what is the known side-effect of a population saturated with legal and illegal weapons? How stable can a nation that is armed to the teeth be?

To read the rest of my comment, click here.


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On The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty,by Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen

From the Amazon description of this book:

“Borderline personality disorder, autism, narcissism, psychosis, Asperger’s: All of these syndromes have one thing in common–lack of empathy. In some cases, this absence can be dangerous, but in others it can simply mean a different way of seeing the world.

In The Science of Evil Simon Baron-Cohen, an award-winning British researcher who has investigated psychology and autism for decades, develops a new brain-based theory of human cruelty. A true psychologist, however, he examines social and environmental factors that can erode empathy, including neglect and abuse.

Based largely on Baron-Cohen’s own research, The Science of Evil will change the way we understand and treat human cruelty.”

The first few pages of this book can be read on Amazon.