Dave Gilson

Dave Gilson

Senior editor

Senior editor at Mother Jones. Obsessive generalist, word wrangler, data cruncher, pun maker.

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Dave Gilson is a senior editor at Mother Jones. Read more of his stories, follow him on Twitter, or contact him.

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The Charts TED Doesn't Want to Share

| Wed May 16, 2012 8:16 PM EDT

If you want to learn about topics like climate change, sex slavery, global poverty, or solving the world's problems with video games, there's a TED talk for you. But income inequality in the United States? Keep looking. National Journal's Jim Tankersley reported today that the wonkfest's organizers decided not to post the video of a TED presentation by a venture capitalist named Nick Hanauer, who'd spoken about how the American middle class has been left behind:

"We've had it backward for the last 30 years," [Hanauer] said. "Rich businesspeople like me don't create jobs. Rather they are a consequence of an ecosystemic feedback loop animated by middle-class consumers, and when they thrive, businesses grow and hire, and owners profit. That's why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich."

You can't find that speech online. TED officials told Hanauer initially they were eager to distribute it. "I want to put this talk out into the world!" one of them wrote him in an e-mail in late April. But early this month they changed course, telling Hanauer that his remarks were too "political" and too controversial for posting.

TED curator Chris Anderson* emailed Hanauer that while "I personally share your disgust at the growth in inequality in the US," he felt that posting the talk would lead to "a tedious partisan rehash of all the arguments we hear every day in the mainstream media."

Tankersley has posted the text and slides from Hanauer's talk. A couple of his charts will be familiar to MoJo readers—we originally published them as part of our packages on income inequality and the workplace speed-up.

 

Want to borrow our charts for your own alternative TED talk? Go for it—we've posted downloadable versions of the most popular ones here. Let the tedious partisan rehash begin!

Updates, 5/17/12: On his blog, TED's Chris Anderson has responded to what he calls the "non-story" about Hanauer's talk. He says it was not posted on the TED home page because it didn't meet its standards: "It framed the issue in a way that was explicitly partisan. And it included a number of arguments that were unconvincing, even to those of us who supported his overall stance. The audience at TED who heard it live (and who are often accused of being overly enthusiastic about left-leaning ideas) gave it, on average, mediocre ratings."

Here's the actual talk, which Hanauer put on YouTube. You'll see that some audience members gave him a standing ovation.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Chris Anderson is also Wired's editor-in-chief. The sentence has been corrected.

The Tyranny of Dumb Book Titles

| Wed May 2, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Hey, is that a cli-CHÉ Guevara t-shirt?  In his newly released book, The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, Jonah Goldberg argues that liberals craftily use innocuous-sounding yet hackneyed phrases such as "social justice" and "diversity" to obscure their nefarious intentions. Never mind that issue-framing is nothing new in American politics and that conservatives are pretty darn good at it. And never mind that Goldberg's last book, Liberal Fascism, indulged in the very argument-by-sloganeering that he now decries.

Let's focus on the book's title, a call to arms against trite reductionism—which just happens to echo the title of no fewer than 52 previously published books, including:

The Tyranny of the Majority

The Tyranny of the Minority

The Tyranny of the Two-Party System

The Tyranny of The Status Quo

The Tyranny of Dead Ideas

The Tyranny of Liberalism

The Tyranny of Socialism

The Tyranny of Corporations

The Tyranny of The Market

The Tyranny of The Bottom Line

The Tyranny of Poverty

The Tyranny of Work

The Tyranny of Words

The Tyranny of Numbers

The Tyranny of Mathematics

The Tyranny of Data

The Tyranny of Values

The Tyranny of Elegance

The Tyranny of History

The Tyranny of Choice

The Tyranny of Ambiguity

The Tyranny of Health

The Tyranny of Slenderness

The Tyranny of Food

The Tyranny of Taste

The Tyranny of Pleasure

The Tyranny of Sex

The Tyranny of Guilt

The Tyranny of Noise

The Tyranny of Change

The Tyranny of The Urgent

The Tyranny of Unintended Consequences

The Tyranny of Magical Thinking

The Tyranny of Kindness

The Tyranny of Nice

The Tyranny of Malice

The Tyranny of Science

The Tyranny of Experts

The Tyranny of Shams

The Tyranny of Judges

The Tyranny of Reason

The Tyranny of Relativism

The Tyranny of Opinion

The Tyranny of Tolerance

The Tyranny of E-Mail

The Tyranny of Gun Control

The Tyranny of Time

The Tyranny of Heaven

The Tyranny of God

The Tyranny of Love

The Tyranny of Hate

The Tyranny of Irony 

Book titles via Library of Congress

Front page image by Tom Newby Photography/Flickr

Charts: The Real Cost of Killing Bin Laden

| Tue May 1, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

In a message released in November 2004, Osama bin Laden declared, "We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy." The United States' reaction to the September 11 attacks, he reasoned, proved that terrorism's power lay not simply in its potential for carnage but in its ability to prod a superpower to incur costly, crippling financial expenses in its pursuit of security. "The real loser," he concluded, would be "the American people and their economy."

Bin Laden was killed a year ago, ending what was arguably the most costly manhunt in history. However, his death did not mark the end of the massive expenses racked up during the decade following September 11, many of which will be with us for the forseable future. A quick look at the numbers:

Estimated amount Al Qaeda spent on the September 11 attacks:
$400,000 to $500,000
Estimated homeland security spending, 2002-2011:
$690 billion
Estimated costs of airport delays due to security screening, 2002-2011:
$100 billion
Estimated economic impact of the September 11 attacks on New York City:
$82.8 billion

 

Freedom Isn’t Free
Homeland security expenditures and opportunity costs (in billions of 2010 dollars)

Share of federal terrorism cases since September 11
that did not involve any terrorism-related charges:
53%
Estimated cost of US military operations in Afghanistan, 2001-2011:
$443.5 billion
Estimated annual cost per soldier of US operations in Afghanistan in 2011:
$694,000
US soldiers killed in action by hostile forces in Afghanistan, 2001-2012:
1,507
US soldiers wounded in action in Afghanistan, 2001-2012:
15,560

Outspending the Cold War
Pentagon spending including supplemental funding and overseas operations after 2002 (actual and projected, in billions of 2011 dollars)

Reported US drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2004-2012:
296
Estimated share of drone casualties who were not militants:
17%
Civilians killed in Afghanistan, 2006-2011:
12,793
Death toll on September 11:
3,389

This Week in Dark Money

| Fri Apr. 20, 2012 6:01 AM EDT

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money...

CU Later? Vermont legislators passed a resolution calling on Congress to draft a constitutional amendment that would undo the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. (New Mexico and Hawaii have passed similar measures.) On Wednesday, Democratic senators held a rally where they expressed their support for such an amendment. New York Sen. Charles Schumer said the 2010 ruling was "the worst decision since Plessy v. Ferguson." He also suggested that bitter rivals Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Hamilton would have agreed on taking down Citizens United: "They’d say, 'Go forward, right on, because our democracy is being ruined by these decisions.'"

The price of a White House visit: The New York Times reports that major donors have been made welcome at the White House. Around 75 percent of donors who gave $100,000 to Obama and the Democratic party have visited, and approximately two-thirds of the president's top 2008 fundraisers have visited. Many of the visitors showed up with the Washington equivalent of a bottle of wine for the hosts—a lobbyist.

New York TimesNew York TimesAttack ads on Antiques Roadshow? Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a longstanding ban on political advertising on public TV. So what does the ruling really mean? Short answer: PBS stations can accept (or turn down) political ads—assuming that candidates would even want to advertise there in the first place.

Rove's $100 million money machine: Karl Rove's American Crossroads super-PAC and Crossroads GPS 501(c)4 are expected to announce that they've raised nearly $100 million in this election cycle, Politico reports. Of the $28.4 million brought in by Crossroads GPS, $10 million, or 35 percent of its haul, has come from one person or corporation. Who that megadonor might be is a mystery, since GPS doesn't have to disclose the identity of its donors.  

The sleeper super-PACs: Big national-level super-PACs like Crossroads have been getting a lot of attention, but the Sunlight Foundation reports that smaller groups are already having an impact on the state level.

Energy ad war heats up: The American Energy Alliance, a Koch-funded pro-oil advocacy group, has been taking to the airwaves in swing states with the ad below, which slams Obama's "failing energy policies." It's just one of several groups that have spent nearly $17 million attacking the president's energy record. Meanwhile, the Obama's campaign and super-PAC have spent just one-tenth that touting his record on one of the campaign's most contentious issues.  

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