John Hayward

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Easy money goes to an administrator's head, both at universities and in Washington

I've heard conflicting opinions about whether or not a systemic student-loan crisis is building up, i.e. a bubble comparable to the subprime mortgage bomb we all had so much fun with back in 2008.  But there's no doubt an individual crisis is saddling students with ridiculous debt loads, as tuition rates skyrocket.   Oct 15, 2014 8:38 PM PT

Wendy Davis: portrait of a campaign in full retreat

When you're down by double digits in the polls, the last thing you need is to be playing defense following a massive unforced error.  Democrat gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis of Texas spent the day proving that she can stand in a group of disabled people without making them violently ill: Oct 13, 2014 11:10 AM PT

Movie review: 'Gone Girl'

Director David Fincher loves his big third-act reversals, which can make his movies tough to review in detail, since it's hard to examine their strengths and virtues without spoiling the surprise.  "Gone Girl"  starts dropping its plot bombs about halfway through, transforming into a considerably different film in much the same way "Fight Club" stopped being a movie about underground boxing.  Instead of that earlier film's blue-collar hooligans, "Gone Girl" goes to work on the upper middle class with Fincher's favorite power tools, including everything from a dash of unreliable narration, to protagonists who might deserve less sympathy than the audience is accustomed to giving characters in that position.  The extreme head games of "Fight Club" were really just an over-the-top way to chide the audience for placing too much faith in characters simply because they expect somebody to be the "hero" of the story; he's playing a longer, lower-key, somewhat less deranged version of the same game here. Oct 12, 2014 12:39 PM PT

EV-D68 marches on

One of the many stories the U.S. media doesn't want to examine too closely is the spread of EV-D68, a "non-polio enterovirus" that's been acting an awful lot like polio lately.  I've written about it several times here at The Conversation, as the outbreak spread far beyond early estimates, in defiance of reassurances from the authorities.  Watching them get EV-D68 wrong, while the national media stubbornly refused to promote the story to Big Effing Deal status, is one of the reasons I'm skeptical of their breezy reassurances about Ebola. Oct 11, 2014 8:47 AM PT

Regrets? The ISIS Ladies' Auxiliary has a few

There were rumors a few weeks ago that one of the teenybopper Austrian cuties who went nutso for jihad and signed up with ISIS had been killed in Syria, but according the UK Telegraph they're both still alive, and having second thoughts about life in the caliphate.  It all looked like so much fun from a distance! Oct 11, 2014 8:23 AM PT

ISIS on the move... in Libya

Operation Goose My Poll Numbers isn't going well for President Obama.  He thought he could sprinkle a few bombs around, get everyone off his back about the Islamic State, and maybe pick up a point or two in the polls from the traditional "rally around the President in wartime" effect.  Instead, he's actually managing to lose the war to ISIS.   Oct 11, 2014 8:04 AM PT

Porn scandal in PA

Pennsylvania's Republican governor, Tom Corbett, was already down by double digits in the polls before a rather suspiciously-timed and highly focused release of information from the state's Democrat Attorney General concerning highly improper behavior by state employees.  Fox News reports: Oct 10, 2014 11:44 AM PT

Cyber warfare in the financial sector

The stories about data theft at retail outlets such as Target and Home Depot - the latter of which, incidentally, resulted in a wave of fraudulent transactions, which means crooks are trying to use the stolen credit-card data - raised concerns because of their size, and because the stores turned out to be relatively soft targets for hackers.  As security reports revealed, including one prepared by the Department of Homeland Security, the hatches were not battened down.  There were clear points of vulnerability in the data infrastructure of the retail chains, including weaknesses at the local store level that could open pathways into corporate systems.  Some of these vulnerabilities seemed surprisingly obvious to those with knowledge of computer security, while others were obscure software and structural flaws that could understandably escape the notice of IT departments setting up computerized cash and inventory systems for a retail store. Oct 10, 2014 8:44 AM PT

Red Bull sued for not giving people wings, settles out of court

At the intersection of neurotic dumbassery and opportunism lies the American legal system, where the beverage company that makes Red Bull just decided to settle after being sued for the failure to give people "wings," as promised in their advertising.  It's not the literal unfurling of feathery pinions from their shoulders customers were after - we're not quite there yet, but maybe give it a couple of years.  No, they charged that the company was over-estimating the stimulant effects of the beverage, to a degree that went beyond "puffery" into "deceptive and fraudulent," according to the suit. Oct 9, 2014 1:15 PM PT

Movie review: 'The Boxtrolls'

It's hard to say what audience the makers of "The Boxtrolls" were aiming for.  Judging by the box office returns, they seem to be having a bit of trouble finding one.  It's a stunning achievement in stop-motion animation, but its sensibilities seem guaranteed to keep it walled off as a cult film.   Oct 8, 2014 3:12 PM PT

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