Technology & Media

HBO Just Made a Brilliant Move to Hook Younger Viewers

HBO and Amazon aren’t only targeting their shared enemy, Netflix, with their major content licensing deal announced Wednesday. They’re going right after me and my friends, millennials aged 18-25, because we’re vaguely aware The Sopranos and The Wire were pretty great shows, but we were way too young to catch ‘em on their first go.

The Sopranos, the most influential show included in a deal that will bring older HBO content to Amazon Prime subscribers even if they don’t separately subscribe to HBO, ran from 1999-2007. That means when Tony Soprano was first beamed into HBO subscribers’ homes, I was eleven years old, more interested in Nickelodeon offerings like Spongebob Squarepants or Rocket Power, both of which premiered in the same year. (HBO is a unit of TimeWarner, which also owns TIME.)

My generation’s tastes changed as we grew older, but it’s tough to fight society’s demands that we spend our time watching whatever’s hot at any given moment, lest we fall out of cultural relevancy. Some college friends watched The Sopranos or The Wire on DVD, but most of us preferred to spend our TV time making sure we were catching the moment’s hot shows, like The Office, The Walking Dead or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—we just didn’t have time for outdated stuff, regardless of how good it was.

Now, though, we want to catch up on what we’ve been told was some pretty great television. While some of us have HBO GO access for Game of Thrones and True Detective (thanks, Mom and Dad!) many of us don’t, because it’s still pretty expensive to add HBO service to most cable packages and we’re kind of broke right now. But we do have Amazon Prime, because we buy lots of stuff online and we want it fast – Prime’s pretty affordable when you consider all the benefits (subscribing to HBO for the video content doesn’t mean I can also get HBO to send me new socks and a box of Cup Noodles in two days’ time).

There’s still some cultural demand to watch today’s best shows, but there’s so much great television that we’ve got to pick and choose anyway: Game of Thrones, True Detective, Orphan Black, New Girl, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Veep, Silicon Valley, the 24 reboot, Orange is the New Black, Justified, Parks and Recreation, Sherlock, The Americans, Scandal and oh, yeah, the Stanley Cup playoffs, among other hits I’m missing here.

That picking-and-choosing that everybody’s doing reduces the cultural pressure to be up-to-date on all the top shows: If we all tried to watch all these shows so we could talk about each and every one of them around the watercooler, we’d all lose our jobs, and with them our access to the watercoolers to begin with. That’s lose-lose.

So, if you’ll need me, I’m taking a break from trying to keep up with today’s TV so I can finally get around to The Sopranos. No spoilers, please.

Religion

The Boy Scouts Banned My Church Because We Support Gays

Geoff McGrath on April 1, 2014, in Bellevue, Wash.
Geoff McGrath on April 1, 2014, in Bellevue, Wash. Elaine Thompson—AP

Earlier this week, the Boy Scouts of America revoked the troop charter of a Seattle-area United Methodist Church because the church would not boot the scoutmaster Geoff McGrath, a married, gay Eagle Scout. Monica Corsaro, the pastor of the church, explains why.

The congregation that I serve, Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, is an incredibly diverse place. We have various racial and ethnic groups. Our people come from various economic strata. We have gay and straight people. Beyond just having the diversity, we are a place that values every person that God has placed within our community.

Because our church sits in the heart of our diverse neighborhood and has become somewhat of a community center, we knew that it was the right time to charter a Boy Scout troop in the congregation. In envisioning this troop we wanted it reflect who the congregation is, and to welcome in the community around us with authenticity.

We didn’t choose Geoff McGrath as a political statement. We chose Geoff because he was the perfect person for the job, an Eagle Scout himself, and someone who has a Master’s degree in Social Work. He has mentoring and leadership skills that someone taking on this role needs. A perfect fit. Geoff was quite willing, to serve as scoutmaster but was also nervous that his being gay would pose a problem for me and for the congregation. I assured him that putting him in the leadership of this troop would reflect and live out the values of our congregation, and that we would not have a troop at Rainier Beach UMC unless it was fully inclusive, because that is who we are.

Apparently, who we are is a problem for the Boy Scouts of America. Our congregation’s new troop was welcomed warmly by the Chief Seattle Council with full knowledge of the values of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, as well as who Geoff McGrath is. Our congregation is the religious partner in this chartering relationship, and it troubles me that our belief that God created and loves each and every one of us, just as we are is being ignored and in fact denied by the Boy Scouts of America.

Last year, when the Boy Scouts voted to remove the ban on gay youth from Scouting, much of the speculation was on how churches might react to the change. It seems as though that speculation was only concerned with the churches that actively exclude LGBT people from congregational life and leadership. The actions of the Boy Scouts has communicated to me that there is little reverence for a congregation that welcomes, includes, and values all people. Rainier Beach United Methodist Church believes putting someone in a closet and not letting him be honest about who he is when asked is not “morally straight,“ to use a Boy Scout term.

Our congregation is the chartering organization for the troop, and yet I, as the pastor, had no contact from the BSA when they told Geoff that he was kicked out as a leader. Further, the BSA asked me and the congregation to violate our conscience and our religious beliefs by removing him as a leader of the Boy Scout troop when we know he is the most gifted for the leadership of the troop we chartered. That is not how a partnership works. The Boy Scouts of America need to recognize the growing number of churches whose beliefs include all people. And by all, we mean all.

Our congregation continues to be committed to serving the youth of our community. At the moment, we are exploring what options exist for the future of the troop that we have worked so hard to build. We hope that the Boy Scouts will support our congregation and our values, as it has supported so many other congregations around the country.

Our Boy Scout troop is a part of our congregation’s ministry to its immediate context. Rainier Beach UMC serves the immigrant, the refugee, the middle class person, the mixed-race person, the single parent, the elderly, the young, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender person, the lonely, the powerful, the least and the lost. We will keep serving all those people who are a part of our context, because that is what the Gospel calls us to do.

Rev. Dr. Monica Corsaro is the pastor of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church in Seattle.

Culture

How Sexist Are This Summer’s Blockbusters? An Informal Ranking

Film Summer Preview
Angelina Jolie in Maleficent AP/DIsney

From Maleficent to The Other Woman and X-Men, we looked at trailers for 15 of the season's most anticipated movies to see how women are faring on the big screen

It’s summer movie time again, and with the Cameron Diaz vehicle The Other Woman premiering Friday, it’s time to see what Hollywood’s take on 51 percent of the population will be this season. It’s no secret that women aren’t getting a fair share of worthwhile screen time in Hollywood: only 30 percent of all speaking roles belonged to women in 2013, even with huge hits starring women like Gravity and The Hunger Games. And summer tends to be the worst for women who are often relegated to playing a superhero’s damsel in distress.

But after The Heat’s success last year, it looks like we’re getting more women on screen—though that doesn’t necessarily mean more nuanced women. I’ve gone through the trailers for the big summer films starring the fairer sex. (I skipped movies like 22 Jump Street and Godzilla due to the total lack of women in the trailer.) And, wherewith my “woman rating” for each movie as “good,” “bad” or “ugly” based on the following factors:

  • How prominently the woman is featured in the trailer
  • How likely the movie looks based on the trailer to pass the Bechdel test—a handy metric that asks if two women talk to each other in a film about something other than a man
  • How original the female role looks

I have not seen any of these films, so I cannot judge them based on their quality. I also cannot predict if a movie like Walk of Shame is secretly a feminist manifesto that is being advertised as a movie full of prostitute jokes. I am basing my sexism analysis on the trailers alone. And full disclosure: I will see and likely enjoy many of the movies to which I gave “bad” or “ugly” ratings.

The Other Woman (April 25)

A romantic comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton about three women who find out they are all dating (or married to) the same guy

Ruling: UGLY

It’s like they tried to write a script that violated the Bechdel test by stuffing as many blondes as possible in one movie and having them only talk about one (extremely sexy, plucked right from Game of Thrones) man the whole time. Sure, they’re getting their vengeance, but can’t they all just dump him? Does Cameron Diaz’s high powered lawyer character have time for this?

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2)

The next installment in Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man series starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone

Ruling: BAD

I watched three different Spider-Man 2 trailers to find one where Emma Stone had more than one line to say. I was unsuccessful. At least in this trailer her and Peter have a “meaningful” interaction where he traps her with his web so she can’t follow him into a dangerous situation and then she accidentally yells out his secret identity. Damsels in distress are so useless. Please, someone give Emma Stone an Easy A-like script again. Free her!

Walk of Shame (May 2)

A comedy about a news anchor doing a—you guessed it—walk of shame starring Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden

Ruling: UGLY

Apparently every woman wearing a bandage dress has sex for money. I count six prostitution jokes in this single trailer. Pair that with the working-woman-learns-to-let-go-with-a-nice-guy cliché plot line, and you have yourself an “ugly” ranking.

Belle (May 2)

A biopic on Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the mixed-race daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay who helped influence her uncle Lord Mansfield to pave the way for slavery’s abolition in England.

Ruling: GOOD

The movie shines a light on a strong young woman who changed history. Bonus: she has things on her mind other than love (though, this being 18th Century England, that Jane Austen-esque aspect is part of it too).

X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23)

The time-bending prequel/sequel to previous X-Men movies starring Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry and about a million other people.

Ruling: BAD

The X-Men franchise really lucked out signing Jennifer Lawrence on before she got too big. I imagine now she’ll have an enhanced role in the ensemble film (she gets more air time than Halle Berry in the trailer, and Ellen Page is nowhere to be seen). Still, nothing in this trailer indicates that this movie will pass the Bechdel test. Plus, we can’t forget that Lawrence’s superhero “costume” is just a bunch of blue body paint.

Maleficent (May 30)

The untold story of the villain from Sleeping Beauty starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning.

Ruling: GOOD

Yes! More movies about women villains, please—especially if they’re played by Angelina Jolie. Though Jolie action movies have been hit and miss in the past (Tomb Raider, Salt, Wanted), she’s still the go-to woman for such flicks. Let’s hope this movie opens the doors for other female-driven blockbusters (Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy could be a start) and a whole new genre of evil women movies.

Edge of Tomorrow (June 6)

Sort of like Groundhog Day meets War of the Worlds: in a battle against aliens, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt discover that they’re caught in a time loop: every time they die in battle, they wake up in the past and must fight again.

Ruling: GOOD

It’s still a Tom Cruise action movie at heart. But Emily Blunt gets to wield a gun and train him in the art of killing off aliens. She’s even the one on that badass poster. She’ll probably end up falling for him, but, hey, it’s a step in the right direction.

The Fault in Our Stars (June 6)

A love story about two teens who meet in a cancer support group, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort

Ruling: GOOD

Pass the tissues, please. Every summer has to have a heart-wrenching, doomed romance, and who better to anchor this summer’s than Hollywood’s newest it-girl Shailene Woodley? Woodley is, by the way, growing into an awesome role model for young women.

Tammy (July 2)

After losing her job and finding out her husband had been cheating on her, Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) hits the road with her profane grandmother (Susan Sarandon).

Ruling: GOOD

This could be the worst movie ever, but the fact that Hollywood decided to trust Melissa McCarthy to carry a movie without a male co-star like Jason Bateman or even a “hot” female co-star like Sandra Bullock is a good sign for things to come. (Not that Susan Sarandon isn’t super sexy.) Of course, let’s hope it’s even funnier than The Heat or Bridesmaids—the funny female flicks that preceded it.

Begin Again (July 4)

A fired music business exec (Mark Ruffalo) “forms a bond” (read: helps professionally then probably falls in love with) a young singer-songwriter (Keira Knightley).

Ruling: BAD

I’m ambivalent about this clichéd romance where a man who is a mess is rehabilitated by caring for a talented woman. But I downgraded this trailer to “bad” because Mark Ruffalo could be Keira Knightly’s dad, reinforcing a greater trend of movies featuring older-guy, younger-girl couples—and never the other way around.

Jupiter Ascending (July 18)

A futuristic sci-fi flick starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum.

Ruling: BAD

I really want to give Jupiter Ascending the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ll eventually cut the Mila Kunis damsel-in-distress bit. This did come, after all, from the makers of the Matrix who gave us the badass Trinity character. Plus, Mila Kunis is literally the Queen of the Universe in the movie. And yet throughout the trailer, she’s being rescued or kidnapped or falling from things. Let’s hope for a twist ending.

Sex Tape (July 25)

A married couple’s sex tape disappears into “the cloud,” and they frantically search for it, starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel.

Ruling: GOOD

Say what you want about the premise—this isn’t how “the cloud” works—or whether it was actually a good idea to do a Bad Teacher reunion with Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel. At least Segel gets as naked as Diaz in the trailer (though Segel hasn’t exactly been nudity shy before). Plus, they’re equally dim-witted throughout the trailer, and that’s all we ask for. So hooray for equality in stupidity!

Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1)

Marvel’s first tongue-in-cheek superhero blockbuster featuring a talking raccoon and starring Christ Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana.

Ruling: BAD

I’ve decided we’re past the point where we applaud superhero films just for having a woman in uniform instead of one in danger. That era ended with Black Widow in the Avengers films. Now, we have to hold superhero movies to a higher standard, and this trailer does not meet it. You have Zoe Saldana in your movie, and yet she doesn’t get a line in the trailer? You even showed her topless without giving her lines? That’s crazy! She’s arguably the most famous (visible) person in this film. (The actual most famous but non-visible people are Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel voicing a raccoon and a tree, respectively.)

Lucy (August 8)

A sci-fi action movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman.

Ruling: GOOD

We’ve gotten a lot of fighting teen heroines lately: Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games and Shailene Woodley in Divergent. But we need a grown up version. With Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson proved she can be an action star. Now here’s her shot to carry her own movie. And nobody gives a movie gravitas quite like Morgan Freeman.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (August 22)

The sequel to the crime noir action thriller Sin City, starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba and a dozen other celebrities.

Ruling: UGLY

Almost every woman in this trailer is wearing only a bra or boustier or leather outfit—basically all things you can find in a sex shop.

Race

We Can Affirm That Race Matters—But Much Less Than It Used To

Sonia Sotomayor
This Sept. 19, 2013 file photo shows Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaking at the University of Delaware in Newark, Del. The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Michigan's ban on using race as a factor in college admissions. In dissent, Sotomayor said the decision tramples on the rights of minorities, even though the amendment was adopted democratically. “But without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups,” said Sotomayor, who read her dissent aloud in the courtroom Tuesday. Patrick Semansky—AP

In 1970, it made sense to treat being black as a disadvantage in itself. But today, the Affirmative Action should be about socioeconomics.

Now that the Supreme Court has decided that citizens, as well as judiciaries, have the right to decide against Affirmative Action policies — the import of the decision in favor of Proposition 2 in Michigan — we are hearing the usual cries that benighted people are rolling back good people’s quest to “take race into account.” This time, as usual, it’s Affirmative Action in college admissions that is at stake, and specifically the kind based on race and gender.

But in the grand scheme of things what we are seeing is a preservation of what Affirmative Action was originally supposed to be about — acknowledging disadvantage. In 1970, it made a certain sense to treat being black as a disadvantage in itself. But today, the proper Affirmative Action should be about socioeconomics.

Most Americans would understand this if the way we discuss Affirmative Action weren’t so coded. A leading misimpression is that college admissions policies are always a mere thumb on the scale — that among candidates with equivalent grades and test scores, race is “taken into account” only to ensure diversity. And that kind of Affirmative Action is great. I, for one, would dread teaching a class where everybody was a privileged white kid from the suburbs. Or, where everybody was anything.

But that’s not the kind of Affirmative Action decisions like Tuesday’s by the Supremes addresses. Too often, colleges have had a two-tier admissions system, in which black and brown students are, as a matter of policy, admitted with lower grades and scores than other students’ in a quest to fill a quota. This has been identified over the years at the University of California, Rutgers, the University of Michigan, and countless others.

That kind of taking race into account made perfect sense when most black people were poor and had no access to decent education. But what about now, when it is not rare to be middle class and black? We must avoid pretending that such people are mere hothouse rarities — i.e. last time I checked, it was racist to declare that being black means being poor.

So, do we “take into account” the race of the child of a lawyer and a systems analyst by exempting them from the standards we apply to white kids? Many say that the issue is simply whether race “matters” in life. But is that the smackdown point we are often told? In contesting this decision, Justice Sotomayor has it that “Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed ‘No, where are you really from?’, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country.”

Those things are real — but even black people can question whether they make it morally corrupt to expose middle class black kids to serious scholastic competition. Sure, polls often show that people of all races “approve of” Affirmative Action. But the topic is too complex for that question to have any useful meaning. It’s like asking people whether they approve of feeding children warm muffins, without considering how many, how often, and what’s in the muffins in question.

Too seldom do we hear things such as that in a book that got too little attention because it came out in the wake of 9/11, Paul Sniderman and Thomas Piazza polled 715 black people on whether they approved of policies regularly admitting black students with lower scores than other students and found that 90% disapproved. “Taking race into account”? Sure. But in which ways?

Here’s something. Despite my comfortable middle-class upbringing, race most certainly “mattered” in my life, thank you very much. A kid liked calling me “blackey” in camp. I was once denied a summer job because of my race. A couple of times I caught an expression of alarm on a shopkeeper’s face when I walked in. In schoolyard interactions with white boys, there were occasions when it was clear that I was to “know my place” on a certain unstated level. The dating age as a black kid in mostly white schools in the 70s and 80s was no picnic — most of the women around you could only see you as a brother. Your rating was gratifyingly less abysmal in all black settings, but your day-to-day existence was in a world where you were, in a sense, not considered a whole man.

Yes, race mattered. But my mother would have — well, I can’t even imagine — if I had said that those things qualified me for lower standards of evaluation in college admissions than a white kid. Race “mattered” for me to the same extent as any number of things for other kids, regarding health, family issues, appearance, disabilities, and much else.

It’s socioeconomics that create the kind of obstacles to scholastic success that truly justify altered standards. Your school is lousy. Your school doesn’t offer Advanced Placement courses. You had to help raise your siblings. Few people in your family value higher education. You barely knew anybody who went to college.

A society that insisted that people with burdens of that kind come up with grades and scores equal to those of more privileged people would be backwards and unsophisticated. Therefore, we do need Affirmative Action.

However, what needs to be affirmed in today’s America, as opposed to Lyndon Johnson’s, is disadvantage suffered by all people. This is quite different, in 2014, from the more particular fact that race matters.

Decisions like Tuesday’s are, therefore, progress. We should celebrate it.

psychology

Too Busy? 7 Ways To Increase Leisure Time, According to Science

Feeling overwhelmed? Are you constantly running from thing to thing but never getting it all done?

When researchers survey people, they say they’re too busy — about everything.

Too busy to make friends, date, sleep, have sex, to go on vacation… or to even have lunch.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

In surveys, people say they’re too busy to make friends outside the office, too busy to date, too busy to sleep, and too busy to have sex. Eight in ten Britons report being too busy to eat dessert, even though four in ten say dessert is better than sex. We’re in such a rush that the typical sound bite for a presidential candidate has been compressed from forty seconds in 1968 to 7.3 seconds in 2000. Remember those unused vacation days? People say they’re too busy to take a vacation and too busy for a lunch break.

“The average high school kid today experiences the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient of the 1950s.”

And being this busy isn’t healthy — in fact, neuroscientists have found it shrinks your brain.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

…the prefrontal cortex. It is the key to human intelligence. In its size and complexity, it is, in short, what distinguishes humans from animals and makes us who we are. And, Ansell says, what she and other neuroscientists are finding is that when a human feels pressed for time, rushed and caught up in the overwhelm, that yellow blob does something alarming: It shrinks.

How did we get here? How did this happen?

I have an answer but it’s going to surprise you and might even make you angry…

It’s all an illusion. You have more free time than you ever did.

Do I sound insane? Keep reading.

You’re Not Busy. You Just Feel Busy.

John Robinson is the leading sociologist who studies time use. His colleagues call him “Father Time.”

Looking at time diary studies he shows that globally we all have more leisure time than ever.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

He insists that although most Americans feel they’re working harder than ever, they aren’t. The time diaries he studies show that average hours on the job, not only in the United States but also around the globe, have actually been holding steady or going down in the last forty years. Everybody, he says, has more time for leisure.

So why do we feel like we’re overwhelmed even though we’re not? Partly, it’s because our time is so fragmented.

Switching between checking email, making dinner, watching TV and finishing that report is more mentally draining than doing one at a time.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

“It’s role overload,” she explains. “It’s the constant switching from one role to the next that creates that feeling of time pressure.” When all you’re expected to do is work all day, you work all day in one long stretch, she says. But the days of the mothers she studied were full of starts and stops, which makes time feel more collapsed.

Multitasking is killing us. And the best part?

Multitasking doesn’t even work. It makes us less efficient even though we feel we’re getting more done.

In fact, it makes you dumber — effectively stupider than being drunk or stoned.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

No two tasks done simultaneously, studies have shown, can be done with 100 percent of one’s ability. Driving while talking on the cell phone slows reaction times and awareness to the same degree that driving over the legal alcohol limit does. And the distractions from too many things going on at once hamper the brain’s “spam filter” and the ability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. Or, as one British study found, multitasking makes you stupid— dumber than getting stoned.

Ed Hallowell, former professor at Harvard Medical School and bestselling author of Driven to Distraction, says we have “culturally generated ADD.”

Via CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast- Paced Life:

Having treated ADD since 1981, I began to see an upsurge in the mid-1990s in the number of people who complained of being chronically inattentive, disorganized, and overbooked. Many came to me wondering if they had ADD. While some did, most did not. Instead, they had what I called a severe case of modern life.

Why do we do this to ourselves? In recent years being busy has become a status symbol.

When you ask anyone what they’ve been up to, what’s always the first word? Busy.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

Psychologists write of treating burned-out clients who can’t shake the notion that the busier you are, the more you are thought of as competent, smart, successful, admired, and even envied.

So what can we do about it? Here are seven things experts recommend:

1) Write It All Down

What’s the first step toward killing that overwhelmed feeling?

Do a brain dump and write everything down that’s on your mind. Writing reduces worry and organizes your thoughts.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

“Right now, you need to free up all this energy that’s being consumed by worry.” She told me to take out a piece of paper, set a timer for five minutes, and write furiously about absolutely everything that was bugging me… “If your to-do list lives on paper, your brain doesn’t have to expend energy to keep remembering it,” Monaghan said.

More on the power of a notebook here.

2) Prioritize or Die

Repeat after me: you cannot get it all done. And some things are more important than others.

So you need to prioritize or you will have a clean garage but get fired from your job.

Decide what is important and do that first. Otherwise you may never get to what really matters.

Via CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast- Paced Life:

At the heart of making the most of life today is the ability to treasure and protect your connections to what you care most about: people, places, activities, pets, a spiritual connection, a piece of music, even objects that are dear to you. But you must not have too many connections or none will flourish. Pick the ones that matter most to you and nourish them religiously; make that your top priority in life, and you can’t go wrong.

More on the power of work/life balance here.

3) Make Things Automatic

Things that are habitual don’t tax your willpower. The more activities you make into habits, the less overwhelmed they will make you feel.

Build routines and habits so that you’re not deciding, you’re just doing.

The secret to getting more done is to make things automatic. Decisons exhaust you:

The counterintuitive secret to getting things done is to make them more automatic, so they require less energy.

More on how to build great habits here.

4) Work Like an Athlete

We were not designed to go 24/7. We were designed to sprint, rest, sprint — just like an athlete.

You sleep in cycles and your mind naturally works in cycles. Alternate hard work with breaks to be at your best.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

We ignore the signs of fatigue, boredom, and distraction and just power through. But we’re hardly doing our best work. “We’ve lost touch with the value of rest, renewal, recovery, quiet time, and downtime,” Schwartz told me. It’s hardly a wonder, then, with the pressure of long hours, putting in face time, and the constant interruptions of the modern workplace, less than 10 percent of workers say they do their best thinking at work.

More on working like an athlete here.

5) Switch To Singletasking

Forget multitasking. That’s what causes the feelings of burnout and it’s not effective.

Discover what your peak hours are and protect them.

Focus on the most important thing of the day. No interruptions, email or calls.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

Terry Monaghan sought to train me to work in pulses. The idea was to chunk my time to minimize the constant multitasking, “role switching,” and toggling back and forth between work and home stuff like a brainless flea on a hot stove. The goal was to create periods of uninterrupted time to concentrate on work— the kind of time I usually found in the middle of the night— during the day.

More on how to use your best hours here.

6) Live in OHIO

Not the state. It’s an acronym: Only Handle It Once.

That email you’ve opened sixty times today, unsure of what to do with it? Stop it.

Make a decision. Reply, trash it or set a time to properly deal with it.

Revisiting unimportant things over and over is a huge time and energy thief.

Via CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast- Paced Life:

OHIO: only handle it once. When it comes to a document or journal or any concrete item, try your best to 1) respond to it right away, 2) put it in a labeled file, not a pile, or 3) throw it away. In the majority of instances, choice “3” is the best.

More on how to be efficient with the onslaught of email here.

7) Have Leisure Goals

Ironic, right? Most of us think about “leisure” as doing nothing. But that’s a dangerous way to view it.

Research shows we’re happier when we accomplish things (playing tennis with a friend vs. flipping TV channels.)

And given our habits, we’re prone to start checking email and firing up the usual 17 things we multitask on.

So set a goal for leisure. When you have a fun thing to accomplish, you can singletask on relaxing.

Via Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

Roger Mannell, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, has directed perhaps the only lab studies of leisure time. His research has found that when people have a sense of choice and control over what they do with their free time, they are more likely to get into flow, that engrossing and timeless state that some call peak human experience. “Part of the problem with leisure is that people aren’t quite sure what they really want. They don’t know what leisure time is for them,” Mannell said. “And they never slow down long enough to figure it out.”

More on how to make your free time more awesome here.

Sum Up

Just because the other people at the office are overscheduled and the other parents are doing 1000 things doesn’t mean you need to.

We all only have 1440 minutes a day. Accept you can’t do it all, focus on what’s important and do that well.

We’re all jealous of the people who are calm and cool under pressure. Be that person.

Next time someone asks how you’re doing, don’t talk about how busy you are. Don’t get sucked into thinking busy means important.

Busy doesn’t make you important. Doing the important things you need to do makes you important.

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Related posts:

How To Achieve Work-Life Balance In 5 Steps

Time Management Skills Are Stupid. Here’s What Works.

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

The Problem With Following in the Footsteps of a Genius

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League
Sir Alex Ferguson Alex Livesey—Getty Images

There have been a some big management changes this week. In automobiles, Ford Motor Co. has apparently decided to hand the CEO job to Mark Fields, the COO, who will replace current boss Alan Mulally as Ford’s driver. In football, David Moyes was canned as coach of Manchester United after less than a year on the job, to be replaced on an interim basis by Ryan Giggs, 41, a star player who has spent his entire career at the team.

The connection between Fields and Moyes neatly describes one of the big problems of management succession. Moyes followed a legend, Sir Alex Ferguson, whose success on the field helped make Man U. a billion dollar global franchise with an enormous and almost militant fan base, particularly at home. Whoever followed Fergie was always going to be handed a poisoned chalice. Even if Moyes had been successful initially, the credit would have gone to Sir Alex for providing the horses. And given that those horses couldn’t finish this season (including the injured top scorer Robin Van Persie), Moyes get tagged as a pale imitation of the real thing.

Fields follows another star boss. Mulally took over at Ford at the worst possible time—just as the auto industry was crashing—and steered the company away from the abyss to becoming healthy and profitable. Like Moyes, Fields will take over with Ford at the top of the table. All of Ford’s major problems have been resolved (with the possible exception of its European operation), and the company is fulsomely profitable. Any slump or slowdown in the next couple of years will immediately bring out the comparisons—and they won’t be in Fields’ favor. The fact that Fields was a key member of Mulally’s team would likely be held against him.

If following Mulally is tough, following Ferguson is even worse than following a founder like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Even England’s next king will have a much easier time at succession than did Sir Alex’s successor. The “Chosen One,” a Scotsman like Ferguson, Moyes had proven himself as manager at Everton, Liverpool’s poorer cousin of a club. He was a diligent coach who got the most out of limited resources—the most typically being midtable in the Premier League. But Moyes had never been charged with winning anything at Everton. Pretty good was good enough.

Ferguson had been nothing if supportive of his countryman, showing up at games to confirm his belief in Moyes. Moyes should have banned him from the stadium. Every moment Sir Alex was visible was merely a reminder to fans that someone inferior was standing in the technical area.

Luckily, Fields isn’t going to have such problems— there’s nothing worse in the corporate world than having your predecessor hang around the boardroom to “help” you. Mulally, who dabbled with the idea of becoming CEO of Microsoft, isn’t likely to remain at Ford as chairman or even director. He may run another company or sit on corporate boards of his choosing. And Ford shareholders or car owners aren’t necessarily going to be howling for Fields’ head should the company have a couple of down quarters.

Not so in soccer, of course. “Football managers now just get tossed around, chucked about, disregarded, rubbished. Decent men, good men just get thrown away, and that’s not just David Moyes, that’s all the way through football,” noted former Man U. player-turned-pundit Gary Neville. The coaching churn remains insane. Consider that the executives of England’s top teams, including Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool, Newcastle change managers the way they would their socks. Yet the same rules do not apply to the top management of these clubs, in part because they take a longer term view of things. Man U. is a publicly traded company; management turnover is not perceived as a good thing.

The bookies have made Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal as the favorite to succeed Moyes. Van Gaal, who coaches the Dutch national team and has run Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax. He’s been hired, fired, and retired enough to not care what anyone things of him, (one nickname: the Iron Tulip), which makes him a modern coach. He’s been called a slow starter. Good luck with that one, Man U.

Drugs

The Drinking Age Is Past Its Prime

The age-21 rule sets the U.S. apart from all advanced Western nations, and it has pushed kids toward pills and other antisocial behavior

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act, passed by Congress 30 years ago this July, is a gross violation of civil liberties and must be repealed. It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant. The age-21 rule sets the U.S. apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Congress was stampeded into this puritanical law by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who with all good intentions were wrongly intruding into an area of personal choice exactly as did the hymn-singing 19th century temperance crusaders, typified by Carrie Nation smashing beer barrels with her hatchet. Temperance fanaticism eventually triumphed and gave us 14 years of Prohibition. That in turn spawned the crime syndicates for booze smuggling, laying the groundwork for today’s global drug trade. Thanks a lot, Carrie!

Now that marijuana regulations have been liberalized in Colorado, it’s time to strike down this dictatorial national law. Government is not our nanny. The decrease in drunk-driving deaths in recent decades is at least partly attributable to more uniform seat-belt use and a strengthening of DWI penalties. Today, furthermore, there are many other causes of traffic accidents, such as the careless use of cell phones or prescription drugs like Ambien — implicated in the recent trial and acquittal of Kerry Kennedy for driving while impaired.

Learning how to drink responsibly is a basic lesson in growing up — as it is in wine-drinking France or in Germany, with its family-oriented beer gardens and festivals. Wine was built into my own Italian-American upbringing, where children were given sips of my grandfather’s homemade wine. This civilized practice descends from antiquity. Beer was a nourishing food in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and wine was identified with the life force in Greece and Rome: In vino veritas (In wine, truth). Wine as a sacred symbol of unity and regeneration remains in the Christian Communion service. Virginia Woolf wrote that wine with a fine meal lights a “subtle and subterranean glow, which is the rich yellow flame of rational intercourse.”

What this cruel 1984 law did is deprive young people of safe spaces where they could happily drink cheap beer, socialize, chat and flirt in a free but controlled public environment. Hence in the 1980s we immediately got the scourge of crude binge drinking at campus fraternity keg parties, cut off from the adult world. Women in that boorish free-for-all were suddenly fighting off date rape. Club drugs — ecstasy, methamphetamine, ketamine (a veterinary tranquilizer) — surged at raves for teenagers and on the gay male circuit scene.

Alcohol relaxes, facilitates interaction, inspires ideas and promotes humor and hilarity. Used in moderation, it is quickly flushed from the system, with excess punished by a hangover. But deadening pills, such as today’s massively overprescribed antidepressants, linger in body and brain and may have unrecognized long-term side effects. Those toxic chemicals, often manufactured by shadowy firms abroad, have been worrisomely present in a recent uptick of unexplained suicides and massacres. Half of the urban professional class in the U.S. seems doped on meds these days.

As a libertarian, I support the decriminalization of marijuana, but there are many problems with pot. From my observation, pot may be great for jazz musicians and Beat poets, but it saps energy and willpower and can produce physiological feminization in men. Also, it is difficult to measure the potency of plant-derived substances like pot. With brand-name beer or liquor, however, purchased doses have exactly the same strength and purity from one continent to another, with no fear of contamination by dangerous street additives like PCP.

Exhilaration, ecstasy and communal vision are the gifts of Dionysus, god of wine. Alcohol’s enhancement of direct face-to-face dialogue is precisely what is needed by today’s technologically agile generation, magically interconnected yet strangely isolated by social media. Clumsy hardcore sexting has sadly supplanted simple hanging out over a beer at a buzzing dive. By undermining the art of conversation, the age-21 law has also had a disastrous effect on our arts and letters, with their increasing dullness and mediocrity. This tyrannical infantilizing of young Americans must stop!

Paglia is the author of Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars.

Here’s Why This Best-Selling Book Is Freaking Out the Super-Wealthy

FRANCE-ECONOMY-PIKETTY
Thomas Piketty FRED DUFOUR—AFP/Getty Images

There are many reasons why French academic Thomas Piketty’s 685-page tome, “Capital in the 21st Century,” has vaulted to the top of the Amazon.com best seller list and is being discussed with equal fervor by the world’s top economic policy makers and middle class Americans who wonder why they haven’t gotten a raise in years. The main reason is that it proves, irrefutably and clearly, what we’ve all suspected for some time now—the rich ARE getting richer compared to everyone else, and their wealth isn’t trickling down. In fact, it’s trickling up.

Piketty’s 15 years of painstaking data collection—he poured over centuries worth of tax records in places like France, the U.S., Germany, Japan and the U.K—provides clear proof that in lieu of major events like World Wars or government interventions like the New Deal, the rich take a greater and greater share of the world’s economic pie. That’s because the gains on capital (meaning, investments) outpace those on GDP. Result: people with lots of investments take a bigger chunk of the world’s wealth, relative to everyone else, with every passing year. The only time that really changes is when the rich lose a bundle (as they often do in times of global conflict) or growth gets jump started via rebuilding (as it sometimes does after wars).

This is particularly true in times of slow growth like what we’ve seen over the last few years. I’ve written any number of columns and blogs about how quantitative easing has buoyed the stock market, but not really provided the kind of kick that we needed to boost wage growth in the real economy, because it mostly benefits people who hold stocks–that’s the wealthiest 25 % of us. Meanwhile, consumption and wage growth remain stagnant. And as Piketty’s book makes so uncomfortably clear, it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. No wonder I saw an advertisement for a storage company on the subway the other day that read, “The French aristocracy didn’t see it coming, either.”

That’s one of Piketty’s biggest messages–inequality will slowly but surely undermine the population’s faith in the system. He doesn’t believe, as Marx did, that capitalism would simply burn itself out over time. In fact, he says that the more perfect and advanced markets become (at least, in economic terms), the better they work and the more fully they serve the rich. But he does believe that rising inequality leads to a less perfect union, and a likelihood of major social unrest that mirrors the sort that his native France went through in the late 1700s. Indeed, the subsequent detailed collection of wealth data in the form of elaborate income and tax records made France a particularly rich data collection ground for his book. (Bureaucracy is good for something!)

My feeling about this book is similar to that of New York Times’ columnist Paul Krugman. It’s going to be remembered as the economic tome of our era. Basically, Piketty has finally put to death, with data, the fallacies of trickle down economics and the Laffer curve, as well as the increasingly fantastical notion that we can all just bootstrap our way to the Forbes 400 list. It’s telling and important that Piketty credits his work to the fact that he didn’t forge his economic career in the States, as so many top thinkers do, because he was put off by the profession’s obsession with unrealistic mathematical models, which blossomed in the 1980s to the exclusion of almost all other ideas and disciplines, and the false ideologies that they were used to justify. “The truth is that economics should ever have sought to divorce itself from the other social sciences and can only advance in conjunction with them,” he argues.

Indeed, had more top economists followed the lead of other social scientists and ditched their black box models in favor of spending time in the field—meaning on Main Street, where trickle down theory hasn’t ever really worked—they might have come to the same conclusions that Piketty has. We can only hope that the politicians crafting today’s economic programs will take this book to heart.

Foreign Policy

The Problem With the New Isolationism

Power, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine and Russia has once again focused attention on the question of America’s international role. There is, across the political spectrum, a strong streak of anti-interventionism which holds that we should minimize our involvement abroad except for clear-cut national security purposes. In this view, the United States should avoid not only any non-defensive use of military force but any exercise of its power to influence world affairs — especially for “moral” causes such as human rights or democracy. Leftists wary of American power deplore what they see as President Obama’s continuation of his predecessors’ imperialist policies. Libertarians and libertarian conservatives wary of government power and foreign entanglements, such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and his father, ex-Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, reject what they see as the mindless hawkishness of the mainstream Republican Party.

Caution about adventures abroad, which have cost the United States dearly in lost lives and morale as well as money in the past decade, is entirely sensible. But a prudent foreign policy is not the same as an American retreat from an active global role — which would be bad for the world, bad for Americans and, at the risk of lapsing into Team America cliché, bad for freedom. Power, like nature, abhors a vacuum. If the United States scales back its presence on the international scene, others will step up to fill the gap.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia, as the latest events starkly remind us, is seeking to reclaim its great-power status — under the banner of an explicitly authoritarian ideology, this time in “conservative” colors. A shadowy guru of the Putin regime, political theorist Alexander Dugin (head of a think tank at Moscow State University who has close ties to top government figures and is directly involved in stirring up pro-Russian separatism in Ukraine) speaks of Russia as a central player in the struggle against Western “liberal hegemony” with its principles of “the free market… parliamentarian democracy, human rights, and absolute individualism.” Putin may not share this messianic vision, but he is quite likely to use it purpose of maintaining his power; indeed, Dugin’s idea of an anti-liberal coalition of radical religious, right-wing nationalist, and far-left socialist forces is startlingly similar to the Kremlin’s actual alliances.

Elsewhere, there is resurgent radical Islamism, often vying for control with brutal secular tyrannies; there is China, combining capitalist-style economic success with communist political dictatorship. A world in which these forces are dominant, and able to spread their influence, will not be a freedom-friendly one.

Would this affect Americans? Even aside from the moral dimension of abandoning our present-day democratic allies — and, say, standing by while Poland is brought back under Russia’s boot — the interconnected world of the 21st Century is a reality. Anti-interventionist libertarians and conservatives nearly always support free trade; but international trade, and American business abroad, would not fare well under the ascendancy of authoritarian nationalism in other countries. At best, American companies would have to deal with repressive regimes that use the benefits of trade to solidify their power, which they may later use against U.S. interests. At worst, they may see their foreign assets seized by lawless governments, or their local employees terrorized and persecuted (like Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian lawyer working for a U.S. investment fund who died in prison after being framed for fraud).

Such abuses would sorely test the limits of American non-interference. So would inevitable collisions between American freedoms and authoritarian regimes and movements around the world — from the “corrupting” influence of American culture to the “subversive” work of émigré dissidents living in the U.S. or of American activists and private organizations promoting human rights. This factor alone makes it very unlikely that, as proponents of retrenchment often claim, anti-Americanism would wane if we only stopped “meddling” — particularly since authoritarians and extremists often assume that all private activity and expression in the U.S. takes place with the government’s blessing. Russians obsessed with American subversion barely distinguish between George Soros’s Open Society Foundation and the CIA; Islamist radicals attacked U.S. diplomatic missions and American schools over the YouTube video, “Innocence of Muslims.”

To some extent, the neo-isolationist trend is an understandable result of the fiasco in Iraq, which started as a grandiose experiment in the use of American power for democracy-building. It is sobering to recall that in 2003, not only neoconservative hawks but many liberals and even libertarians supported what was officially known as “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Shortly before its launch, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, “It is not unreasonable to believe that if the U.S. removed Saddam and helped Iraqis build not an overnight democracy but a more accountable, progressive and democratizing regime, it would have a positive, transforming effect on the entire Arab world.” In retrospect, it does seem vastly unreasonable to stake a war on such a big “if” — on the hope that a country with no base for democratic self-government, decades of brutal dictatorship, and deep tribal and religious divisions could be steered toward stable democratization by an occupying force.

But the Iraq Syndrome has generated its own myths and knee-jerk reactions. Among those is an oversimplification of the Iraq war itself, often portrayed (both by leftists and Ron Paul libertarians) as a criminal act of wanton slaughter by the U.S. In reality, nearly 90 percent of war-related Iraqi deaths were at the hands of other Iraqis in sectarian or insurgent violence — and numerous surveys over the years have found Iraqis themselves consistently ambivalent about the invasion, with just over a quarter calling it “absolutely wrong” and three out of four agreeing that Saddam Hussein’s removal was worth it. A similarly simplistic narrative of American evildoing shows up in denunciations of drone strikes, which even some critics grudgingly admit are far less deadly to civilians than either terrorist attacks or anti-terror operations by the domestic military in the same regions.

The anti-interventionist tendency to demonize America’s actions is often paralleled by a bias against the U.S.-backed side in foreign conflicts and in favor of the opposing side — which can lead to defending the reprehensible. Ron Paul has portrayed Iran as a victim of American bullying while casting the solitary vote against a 2009 U.S. House resolution condemning the Iranian regime’s violent crackdown on protests against perceived election fraud; more recently, he has defended Russia’s annexation of Crimea, arguing that the referendum under Russian guns was no less fair than elections in U.S.-occupied Iraq (as if Iraqis in those elections were pressured to vote for becoming an American colony). Glenn Greenwald, the lawyer-turned-journalist and crusader against America’s imperialist “National Security State,” has commented on the Russia-Ukraine crisis only to praise the Kremlin’s foreign-consumption propaganda network, Russia Today, for allowing host Abby Martin to make a brief on-air statement criticizing the invasion of Crimea — without mentioning the Putin regime’s ongoing crackdown on dissenting media at home.

Even Rand Paul, far more mainstream than his father, initially suggested that the U.S. mustn’t “tweak” Russia and should respect its interest in keeping Ukraine “within [its] sphere.” Yet, as Russian aggression escalated, he shifted to a more hardline position, calling for the U.S. to be “a global leader” in punishing and isolating Russia. While Sen. Paul stressed that our response should not involve military action, he did propose resuming the missile shield program in Eastern Europe (with the caveat that European nations should pay for it). This shift may reflect Sen. Paul’s response to changing circumstances; but it may also reflect his realization that anyone wanting to be a serious contender in American politics should have a vision for an active U.S. role on the world stage.

Obviously, the U.S. should tread carefully in using its muscle in foreign conflicts, especially when there may be no best-case scenario in sight and no minimally reliable friends. (Syria may well have been one such situation.) But prudence does not equal abdication. There are meaningful things we can do to support pro-freedom forces where they exist and to exert some check on aggressive anti-freedom regimes.

Writing recently on the independent Russian website Grani.ru, dissident writer and left-wing activist Alexander Skobov noted that today’s conflict between Russia and the West was not so much a clash of civilizations as a “clash of systems”: “The essential difference between them lies in who has ‘primacy’: the individual or the state, society or the ‘elite’? The conflict over this issue is not between civilizations but within each of them. Every state seeks to dominate the individual; every elite seeks to dominate society. But some countries have succeeded at developing a set of institutions that limit the power of the state and the elite over the individual and society, while others have not.”

Obviously, these institutions don’t always work. Yet, while the United States and the other capitalist liberal democracies may be very far from either the libertarian ideal of freedom or the progressive ideal of social justice, the unvarnished truth is that it’s only within this loosely knit global community — the “global liberal hegemony” deplored by far-left and far-right radicals — that these ideals have any chance to survive and develop. A world in which these values are on the ascendancy rather than in retreat is very much a part of our national interest.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine. You can follow her on Twitter at @CathyYoung63.

Silicon Valley

Ed Norton’s Charity Company Doesn’t Sound So Charitable

Mat Hayward—Getty Images

How do you become a $23 million darling in Silicon Valley? By building a for-profit business that serves nonprofits, apparently

What’s one of the rare blessings of living in an era characterized by tremendous asset inequality and a chastened, hamstrung welfare state? Charitable giving has by some accounts reached an all-time high, both among the general public and among the American wealthy. What a time to be alive.

As has been the case with many a popular activity in our time, techies have now come along to philanthropy to offer the piggy-back ride they like to call disruption, claiming to fix something that may not have needed fixing while skimming a fee for doing business. The crowded crowdfunding field offers any number of sites that handle charitable donations, from Indiegogo to GoFundMe to Causes to JustGiving. All tend to follow the same basic formula, allowing users to register their own charitable causes and to donate to established ones. It’s hard for any one site to make a name for itself.

But on Monday one of the pack stepped forward from the others with big news: CrowdRise, a charity-specific crowdfunding venture, had landed $23 million in venture capital funding from a group including Twitter/Tumblr investors Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures, and Jeff Bezos’s personal investment fund, Bezos Expeditions. (This funding round followed an earlier seed round that included investment from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.)

Those big names join the biggest one that had previously been attached to the site: Edward Norton, the actor and director. Norton and a band of cofounders launched the site in November 2009 after they raised a surprising $1.2 million for a wildlife preservation concern in eastern Africa. They figured, If we can raise good money like this, why shouldn’t we let everyone else do the same? That was a giving notion, and it’s of a piece with CrowdRise’s passionate and playful message. The site’s motto says its users will “have the most fun in the world” while fundraising, and little jokes pepper its official literature. To wit: “CrowdRise is way more fun than anything else aside from being all nervous about trying to kiss a girl for the first time and her not saying something like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’” Fun!

But what does altruistic fun have to do with a $23 million round of funding? That cash would do some good in the pockets of the charities CrowdRise users support. The site’s literature explains its business plan this way: “When a donation is made through Crowdrise, we deduct a transaction fee so we don’t go out of business (GOB).” No, ExxonMobil’s corporate communications team would never write such a plain thing. But perhaps what they would write would not fudge things, either. Those transaction fees not only kept CrowdRise from going under but made the business promising enough to land all that venture money. As TechCrunch put it: “[CrowdRise is] profitable and … viewed the Kickstarter goal of $1 billion raised on CrowdRise as very doable.” (CrowdRise had not responded to questions from TIME as of late Tuesday afternoon.)

Capitalist techniques have gained an increasingly stable foothold in the world of nonprofits. Universities, hospitals and big foundations are lousy with MBAs and executives who command (citing market logic) salaries close to what their for-profit counterparts make. CrowdRise’s big-bucks waltz into this moral vacuum might be a little brazen—but at least it’s clever. The opposite of clever is the spirit that accompanies any event like this. A perusal of the comments on TechCrunch’s post, and the Twitter response to the same, indicates an unflinchingly positive reaction to the news. “Great to see.” “Psyched.” “Congratulations.” That’s a whole lot of accolades for a common middleman who just got a whole lot richer.

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