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HLG Notebook | August 2014

1. Why American Institutions Are Failing

Francis Fukuyama’s huge new essay in Foreign Affairs details why American institutions are failing. It covers familiar ground – the rise of interest groups, the increase in political polarization. But the writing and analysis are very good. Expect it to be cited repeatedly by editorial pages and politicians of both parties throughout the next political cycle. One sample:

There is intense populist distrust of elite institutions in the United States, together with calls to abolish them (as in the case of the Federal Reserve) or make them more transparent. Ironically, however, polls show the highest degree of approval for precisely those institutions, such as the military or NASA, that are the least subject to immediate democratic oversight. Part of the reason they are admired is that they can actually get things done.

 

2. The NFL Keeps Getting Bigger

Everyone knows that football players are getting bigger with each passing decade. This dynamic infographic is the best illustration yet. The creator, Noah Veltman, shows how the definition – and worth – of being “big” has changed:

Nowadays if you’re 6′ 3″ and 280 pounds, you’re too big for most skill positions and too small to play line.

 

 3. Statistics and the Ebola Panic

The Guardian offers a much-needed reminder that fears about contracting the Ebola aren’t based in reality:

The 800-plus deaths from Ebola in Africa so far this year are indisputably tragic, but it is important to keep a sense of proportion – other infectious diseases are far, far deadlier. Since the Ebola outbreak began in February, around 300,000 people have died from malaria, while tuberculosis has likely claimed over 600,000 lives. Ebola might have our attention, but it’s not even close to being the biggest problem in Africa right now.

 

Similarly, Dr. Peter Bach’s column on breast cancer and mammograms is worth reading.

4. When the Fake News Is Better

“Paul Revere was both America’s first newscaster and its first retweet request,” observes Grantland’s Brian Phillips in his analysis on the rise of news parody shows:

The important news just now is very much the fake news. I am talking about The Daily ShowThe OnionLast Week Tonight, ClickHole, Stephen Colbert: all ostensibly irresponsible, all ostensibly comic, yet all sources to which the liberal half of the electorate regularly turns to hear it told like it is, away from the Botoxed inanity of serious media.

5. A Big Speech by India’s Prime Minister

India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave an hour-long, extemporaneous speech – a startling move in a country with a highly scripted political culture. The most powerful moment came when he spoke about the country’s epidemic of sexual assaults:

I want to ask every parent that [has] a daughter of 10 or 12 years age: you are always on the alert, every now and then you keep on asking “where are you going,” “when would you come back,” “inform us immediately after you reach [your destination].” Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions, but have any parents ever dared to ask their son as to where he is going? Why he is going out, who his friends are. After all, a rapist is also somebody’s son.

 

6. You Wouldn’t Like Fries with That

Pablo Goldstein offers a brilliant parody in McSweeney’s of the menus in new age restaurants:

In the mood for two pieces of toast, a couple of eggs over easy, and several strips of bacon? Then you’ll treasure our open-faced brioche toast with imported ricotta and handmade boysenberry jam, cage-free fried eggs with a dollop of lacto fermented hot sauce, and our signature Bahn Mi pan-fried pork belly. It’s unnecessarily complicated food fit for an 18th-century European monarch or any modern urban dweller uncomfortable making eye contact with poor people.

The post appeared first on High Lantern Group.