Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Nerds Need Not Apply?

Why we still need burly men:
Since 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the information and technology sectors have lost more than 337,000 jobs, in part as traditional media jobs get swallowed by the Internet. Even last year, which may well prove the height of the current boom, the information and technology industry created a net 2,000 jobs. And while social and on-line media may be expanding, having added 5,000 jobs over the last decade, traditional media lost ten times as many positions, according to Pew.

In contrast, energy has been a consistent job-gainer, adding more than 200,000 jobs during the same decade. And while manufacturing lost net jobs since 2007, it has been on a roll, last year adding more than 170,000 new positions. Construction, another sector hard hit in the recession, added 213,000 positions last year. The recovery of these industries has been critical to reducing unemployment and bringing the first glimmer of hope to many, particularly in the long suffering Great Lakes region.
Economies change; the need for people who actually know how to build stuff doesn't...

Web Weight

How much would the Web weigh?
As of July 2013, a crowdsourced effort to print out the entire web had produced 10 tons of pages—the equivalent of three or four baby blue whales, as the Washington Post put it. "It’s a lot of paper. Yet it’s not even a sliver of the whole Internet."

The whole Internet is hardly something that can be counted or printed or put into a shipping container. And so far it's not even something that can be preserved, not comprehensively—not even close. But Kahle is trying.
I wouldn't want to have to carry it...

Genius

Was Isaac Newton the smartest person ever?
What was Newton's IQ? It's impossible to say. IQ tests didn't exist in the 17th Century, and if they had, Mr. Newton certainly would not have deigned to spend 90 minutes filling out ovals on a multiple choice test. Besides, he likely would have finished the test early and then spent the remaining time correcting errors and devising more difficult questions.

Nobody doubts that Isaac Newton was an intelligent man, but he also exhibited in spades the two other characteristics outlined above: knowledge and creativity.

Newton was a true polymath. Not only did he master physics and mathematics, but he was also a theologian. He was obsessed with eschatology (end-times prophecy), and he calculated -- based on his interpretation of the Bible -- that Jesus Christ would return to Earth in 2060. His dedication to religion was so great that, according to Nature, more than half of his published writings were on theology.
If he'd done more on science, who knows what might have been...

Monday, January 26, 2015

Frack On In The UK

Parliament says no to stopping fracking:
Protests took place in Westminster as MPs gathered for a final Commons debate on fracking legislation in the government's Infrastructure Bill.

In the Commons, committee chair Joan Walley backed an amendment tabled by a cross-party group of MPs calling for fracking to be suspended for up to 30 months while an assessment is carried out.

But the measure did not attract front-bench support and was defeated by 308 votes to 52.
Cheers to you, mates...

The Forgotten American

The story of Charles Curtis, America's Native American Vice President:
Admitted to the Bar at age 21, he ran for prosecutor. His slogan was simple: "If you don't want the laws enforced, then don't vote for me." The people of Shawnee wanted their laws enforced. They elected him. He enforced the laws, particularly the local Prohibition laws; this was more than 30 years before passage of the 18th Amendment. He also stood for women's suffrage: the right to vote.

Mainly though, the boy they called Indian Charley believed in assimilation. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1892, he would serve 14 years in the House, and then 20 of the next 22 years in the Senate, where he rose to the Senate majority leader upon the death of Henry Cabot Lodge. As Senate Republican Whip, Charles Curtis had a knack for getting legislation passed, which was why he was the natural successor to Henry Cabot Lodge.
It's intriguing to think what might have been...

Filibuster Follies

Seriously, guys, what?
Of course this move is political. It was political when Reid nuked the filibuster for Obama’s non-SCOTUS presidential appointees. If Democrats win big in 2016, with Hillary elected president and Reid back in charge of the Senate, he’ll go ahead and nuke the SCOTUS filibuster too and most of the hacks in the media who’d be shrieking if the GOP had done it will applaud. If Republicans are willing to base their strategy on something as momentous as Supreme Court vacancies on how media hypocrites react, we’re in more trouble than I thought.
You weren't elected to make Harry Reid's job easier...

Banking The Memory

Your memories will live on:
The idea that a memory could prove so enduring that it might grant its holder immortality is a romantic notion that could only be held by a young poet, unbothered by the aches and scars of age.

Nevertheless, while Sandburg’s memories failed to save him, they survived him. Humans have, since the first paintings scratched on cave walls, sought to confound the final vanishing of memory. Oral history, diary, memoir, photography, film and poetry: all tools in humanity’s arsenal in the war against time’s whitewash. Today we bank our memories onto the internet’s enigmatic servers, those humming vaults tucked away in the cooling climate of the far North or South. There’s the Facebook timeline that records our most significant life events, the Instagram account on which we store our likeness, the Gmail inbox that documents our conversations, and the YouTube channel that broadcasts how we move, talk or sing. We collect and curate our memories more thoroughly than ever before, in every case grasping for a certain kind of immortality.
That which survives may be mere vanity...

No College Credit

Sending your kids to college? Hold onto your wallet even more:
Why target a tax benefit that goes to a lot of your supporters (and donors), that tickles one of the sweetest spots in American politics (subsidizing higher education), and that will hit a lot of people who make less than the $250,000 a year that has become the administration's de facto definition of "rich"?

Presumably, because you're running out of other places to get the money. The top tax rate on people who make more than $413,000 ($464,000 for married couples) is already almost 40 percent. That's on top of Medicare taxes (2.9 percent, not capped), Social Security taxes, state and local taxes (in a deep blue area like New York City, these can amount to 10 percent, though you get some of that back by deducting state taxes from your federal tax) -- a marginal tax rate of around 45 to 50 percent in blue states, and possibly even more if you run a business.
Some say that a four-year degree increasingly isn't worth it. Under this scheme, it really isn't...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Like A Rolling Stone

Music for the senior set:
Wondering Sound is now reporting that 50,000 of AARP’s subscribers will be chosen at random to receive a free copy of Shadows in the Night, which is composed entirely of Sinatra renditions.

In his first interview in three years, Dylan told AARP about the album, which will be released next month. “People talk about Frank all the time,” Dylan said. “He has this ability to get inside of the song in a sort of a conversational way. Frank sang to you – not at you. I never wanted to be a singer that sings at somebody. I’ve always wanted to sing to somebody.”
Ironically, he is now a senior citizen himself. Things have come full circle...

Bean Time

I thought coffee was supposed to wake you up:
Brazilian scientists have discovered a protein in coffee that has effects similar to pain reliever morphine, researchers at the state University of Brasilia (UnB) and state-owned Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation Embrapa said Saturday.

Embrapa said its genetics and biotech division, teaming up with UnB scientists, had discovered "previously unknown protein fragments" with morphine-like effects in that they possess "analgesic and mildly tranquilizing" qualities.

The company added tests on laboratory mice showed that the opioid peptides, which are naturally occurring biological molecules, appeared to have a longer-lasting effect on the mice than morphine itself.
The anti-Espresso?

No Happy Time For Us, Please, We're Japanese

Why aren't the japanese having sex?
To examine Japanese attitudes toward sex, the Japan Family Planning Association interviewed 3,000 subjects, both male and female, about their sex lives. The group found that 49.3 percent of participants (48.3 percent of men, 50.1 percent of women) had not had sex in the past month. 21.3 percent of married men said they were too tired after work (versus 17.8 percent of women). Of men, 15.7 percent answered that they were no longer interested, after having children. 23.8 percent of women said sex was “bothersome.”

There are a number of diagnoses for this aversion to the bedroom. Morinaga Takuro, an economic analyst and TV personality, believes this has something to do with attractiveness. He has suggested a “handsome tax”: “If we impose a handsome tax on men who look good to correct the injustice only slightly, then it will become easier for ugly men to find love, and the number of people getting married will increase.”
Many would argue that love is already expensive enough...

Le Speech, Non?

Where free speech isn't:
Many countries have laws limiting free speech, and on paper most hate-speech rules do not discriminate against any particular faith or group. In Britain, recent prosecutions include a white supremacist convicted of sending a threatening anti-Semitic tweet to a lawmaker; a Muslim teenager tried for posting on Facebook that "all soldiers should die and go to hell"; and a 22-year-old man jailed for posting anti-Muslim comments on Facebook after two al-Qaida-inspired attackers murdered soldier Lee Rigby.
French law bans promoting racial or religious hatred, as well as inciting or defending terrorism or crimes against humanity — a line that prosecutors say Dieudonne's remarks crossed.
Blasphemy, in contrast, is not illegal in France, so Charlie Hebdo's mockery of religion is regarded differently.
But the line between religious satire and hate speech is not always clear, and Charlie Hebdo was sued by Muslim groups for "publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion" over cartoons it ran in 2006. The paper was acquitted, with the court ruling that the cartoons took aim at extremists, not Islam.
It's always free until somebody's offended...

Prince's Lost Trust

What's happening to black wealth?
Today, the nation’s highest-income majority-black county stands out for a different reason — its residents have lost far more wealth than families in neighboring, majority-white suburbs. And while every one of these surrounding counties is enjoying a strong rebound in housing prices and their economies, Prince George’s is lagging far behind, and local economists say a full recovery appears unlikely anytime soon.

The same reversal of fortune is playing out across the country as black families who worked painstakingly to climb into the middle class are seeing their financial foundation for future generations collapse. Although African Americans have made once-unthinkable political and social gains since the civil rights era, the severe and continuing damage wrought by the downturn — an entire generation of wealth was wiped out — has raised a vexing question: Why don’t black middle-class families enjoy the same level of economic security as their white counterparts?
You can make it, but even then...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Blogging In The Years: 1965

Remebering Winston Churchill:
For him as for his countrymen his finest hour came in 1940 when Britain stood alone, beleaguered at sea and in the air. He employed all his skill as an orator to rally British pride and courage and all his ability as a statesman to get arms and sustenance from abroad.

With almost all of Europe under or about to fall under the Nazi jackboot, it was Sir Winston who flung this challenge at the enemy:

"We shall not flag, or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."

As the late President John F. Kennedy said in 1963, in conferring upon him an honorary citizenship of the United States, "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."
The battle may be over, but the legacy lives on. RIP.

The Kids Aren't All Right

Why we really need to keep sick kids out of school:

Europa, Europa?

The rise and fall of the EU:
There are plenty of opportunities for revolt: parliamentary elections take place in Greece, Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Portugal and Spain. Early elections are also expected in Italy.
It might be too early to call this the death of European unity.
But the outlook for what Winston Churchill prophetically called a "United States of Europe" has never been stormier.
the European Concert is becoming increasingly discordant...

No Fear

A woman who is literally unafraid:
Obviously someone with SM's condition (or those with the unrelated inability to feel pain, which helps prevent serious injury) would have had a rough time surviving a few thousand years ago. But when avoiding poisonous snakes isn't an immediate concern, why is lack of fear such a bad thing? In her NPR interview, SM recalls one particularly harrowing event:
"Okay. I was walking to the store, and I saw this man on a park bench. He said, 'come here please.' So I went over to him. I said, 'what do you need?' He grabbed me by the shirt, and he held a knife to my throat and told me he was going to cut me. I told him -- I said, 'go ahead and cut me.' And I said, 'I'll be coming back, and I'll hunt your ass.' Oops. Am I supposed to say that? I'm sorry... I wasn't afraid. And for some reason, he let me go. And I went home."
That's actually just one of two times that SM has been held at knife point. She's also been held at gunpoint twice. And after the above incident, she didn't feel like she should call the police. The threat had passed. She didn't have any lasting trauma, because the event had failed to faze her.
Fear can be a life-saver...

Easy Riders

Supreme Court nominees may have an easier time in the Senate if some Republicans have their way:
Top Senate Republicans are considering gutting the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees — a move that could yield big rewards for whichever party controls the White House and Senate after 2016.

The move, still in its early stages, reflects growing GOP confidence in its electoral prospects next year. But it could also have a major immediate impact if a justice such as 81-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg steps down, making it far easier for President Barack Obama to get a replacement confirmed…

The 60-vote filibuster threshold would remain for legislation.
But for how long? After all, if they're willing to do this for judges...

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Old Arrogant Lady

The editor of the New York Times admits:
SPIEGEL: In May, your internal innovation report was leaked along with its harsh conclusion that the New York Times‘ “journalistic advantage” is shrinking. Did you underestimate your new digital competitors?

Baquet: Yes, I think we did. We assumed wrongly that these new competitors, whether it was BuzzFeed or others, were doing so well just because they were doing something journalistically that we chose not to do. We were arrogant, to be honest. We looked down on those new competitors, and I think we’ve come to realize that was wrong. They understood before we did how to make their stories available to people who are interested in them. We were too slow to do it.
Looking down your nose often causes you to miss what's going on right underneath it...

Rewarding The Fail

Naturally:
GI is a $10.5 billion Montreal-based company that has forever been etched into the public’s mind as the company behind the bungled Obamacare main website.

After facing a year of embarrassing failures, federal officials finally pulled the plug on the company and terminated CGI’s contract in January 2014.

Yet on Aug. 11, seven months later, IRS officials signed a new contract with CGI to provide “critical functions” and “management support” for its Obamacare tax program, according to the Federal Procurement Data System, a federal government procurement database.
In government, you're never too incompetent...

Mike's Times

Michael Bloomberg apparently wanted the New York Times:
Bloomberg’s overture, previously unreported, might be one reason why talk of a Bloomberg-Times eventuality has flared up among insiders in the wake of the most recent round of Times’ layoffs. Given the fact that both sides vehemently deny that there have been recent conversations (Sulzberger “can’t remember the last time he spoke with Bloomberg,” said a spokesperson), this may very well be wishful — or apprehensive — thinking being played out in the echo chamber of media gossip.

But it does seem that Bloomberg is in fact interested in the Times and that his interest has not waned. “Mike has muttered a lot about the Times to a lot of people,” a Bloomberg adviser told me.
Given the state of the Times, it's possible that a Bloomberg takeover might have actually been good for the paper, at least financially. But we may never know-or will we?

In Russia, Food Eats You

Suffering for the greater good:
Russia has for the past year been sliding into recession amid a slump in its energy export prices as well as Western sanctions against Moscow's role in the conflict in Ukraine that has claimed more than 5,000 lives. Questions have been raised in Russia and abroad whether the price that ordinary Russians are having to pay for the annexation of Crimea is too high.
Shuvalov, who is believed to be one of the richest men in the government, said that what he considers the West's attempts to oust Putin will only unite the nation further.
"When a Russian feels any foreign pressure, he will never give up his leader," Shuvalov said. "Never. We will survive any hardship in the country — eat less food, use less electricity."
Shuvalov's comments triggered pithy remarks on Russia social media including an opposition activist who posted photos of Shuvalov's Moscow, London and Austria homes to illustrate where the deputy prime minister would experience the hardships he described.
Suffer as I say, not as I do...

Shut Up, They Said

Muslim students at Vanderbilt don't like what a black professor had to say:
Yamin told The Vanderbilt Hustler, the campus newspaper, that she “could not believe her eyes” when she read Swain’s column. The student also quickly labeled Swain’s opinion as “hate speech.”

She then used Facebook to set up a “Campus-Wide Protest Against Hate Speech Published in the Tennessean” on Saturday afternoon.

Attendance at the fairly brief event was in the low hundreds, The College Fix reports. Students who showed up brought signs emblazoned with slogans such as “Better a brat than a bigot.”

Yamin, who is the publicity chair for Vanderbilt’s Muslim Student Association, told the audience in no uncertain terms that a black female professor’s speech must be restricted if she says “these kinds of things” in the future.

“What I’m really trying to show her is that she can’t continue to say these kinds of things on a campus that’s so liberal and diverse and tolerant,” Yamin declared.
The lack of irony here would be astounding, if it weren't coming from someone at a "liberal, tolerant" university...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Jersey Effect

The Garden State has some weeds:
By losing those 10,000 millionaire households, the Garden State returns to third, where it was ranked from 2010 through 2012. Since the last report, Connecticut lost only 1,000 millionaire households, as it vaulted to the second spot, the group said.

Some groups doubt the millionaire-migration theory. Jon Whiten, a deputy director of New Jersey Policy Perspective, said long-term statistics show that tax rates do not cause the rich to flee.

"If millionaires were truly trying to flee NJ's top income tax rate, we probably would have lost a lot more when the rates were higher," Whiten said. "But during the 2000s NJ almost doubled the number of tax filers above $500K at a time when the tax rate was increased on them, twice."

Wealth has been reported leaving the Garden State before, however. In 2010, a Boston College team found that in a five-year period some $70 billion in total wealth left for other parts of the U.S.
You get what you vote but won't pay for...

No Needle And The Damage Done

The price of fear:
Some parents have expressed concern over potential harmful side effects of vaccinations including deafness, long-term seizures, permanent brain damage and serious allergic reaction as documented by the Centers for Disease Control. Others have alleged a connection to autism while a number of medical professionals refute the connection.

An estimated 82% of measles cases identified in the outbreak and for which vaccination records were obtained, were not vaccinated for the disease, KTLA 5 reports.

Of the 59 measles cases reported in California, the California Department of Public Health notes that 42 have known links to the Disneyland outbreak. In addition, eight cases linked to the theme park have arisen between Mexico, Utah, Washington, Colorado and Oregon.
Spread the disease, share the responsibility, ignoramuses...

The King Is Dead

King Abdullah has died:
His aim at home was to modernize the kingdom to face the future. One of the world's largest oil exporters, Saudi Arabia is fabulously wealthy, but there are deep disparities in wealth and a burgeoning youth population in need of jobs, housing and education. More than half the current population of 20 million is under the age of 25. For Abdullah, that meant building a more skilled workforce and opening up greater room for women to participate. He was a strong supporter of education, building universities at home and increasing scholarships abroad for Saudi students.

Abdullah for the first time gave women seats on the Shura Council, an unelected body that advises the king and government. He promised women would be able to vote and run in 2015 elections for municipal councils, the only elections held in the country. He appointed the first female deputy minister in a 2009. Two Saudi female athletes competed in the Olympics for the first time in 2012, and a small handful of women were granted licenses to work as lawyers during his rule.

One of his most ambitious projects was a Western-style university that bears his name, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which opened in 2009. Men and women share classrooms and study together inside the campus, a major departure in a country where even small talk between the sexes in public can bring a warning from the morality police.

The changes seemed small from the outside but had a powerful resonance. Small splashes of variety opened in the kingdom — color and flash crept into the all-black abayas women must wear in public; state-run TV started playing music, forbidden for decades; book fairs opened their doors to women writers and some banned books.

But he treaded carefully in the face of the ultraconservative Wahhabi clerics who hold near total sway over society and, in return, give the Al Saud family's rule religious legitimacy.

Senior cleric Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan warned against changes that could snap the "thread between a leader and his people." In some cases, Abdullah pushed back: He fired one prominent government cleric who criticized the mixed-gender university. But the king balked at going too far too fast. For example, beyond allowing debate in newspapers, Abdullah did nothing to respond to demands to allow women to drive.

"He has presided over a country that has inched forward, either on its own or with his leadership," said Karen Elliot House, author of "On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines."
The question for Saudi Arabia now may be, will the kingdom continue to inch forward, or will it go backward by miles?

Moneybags

A crooked New York politician has been caught doing, well, what crooked politicians do:
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver mastered “the greedy art of secret self-reward” while lining his pockets with ​nearly ​$4 million in kickbacks and bribes, prosecutors said Thursday, after arresting the powerful Democrat.
Federal authorities also seized $3.8 million from Silver, freezing eight of his bank accounts at six different banks, authorities said.
“The greedy art of secret self-reward was practiced ​with particular cleverness and cynicism by the speaker himself,” Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said of Silver.
Most politicians are never as clever as they think they are...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

National Communism

Yes, the Nazis were in fact militaristic socialists:

Behind The Mask

What mummies' masks are revealing:
Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them.

[...]

The first-century gospel is one of hundreds of new texts that a team of about three-dozen scientists and scholars is working to uncover, and analyze, by using this technique of ungluing the masks, said Craig Evans, a professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

“We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters,” Evans told Live Science. The documents include philosophical texts and copies of stories by the Greek poet Homer.
Who's your historical Mummy?

Drive Time

Californians still like to drive:
Southern California has long been a nurturer of dreams that, while widely anticipated, often are never quite achieved. One particularly strong fantasy involves Los Angeles abandoning what one enthusiast calls its ‘car habit’ and converting into an ever-denser, transit-oriented region. An analysis of transit ridership, however, shows that the region is essentially no better off than when the the modern period of transit funding began in 1980, with the passage of Proposition A, which authorized a half-cent sales tax for transit. In 1980, approximately 5.9 percent of workers in the metropolitan area (Los Angeles and Orange counties) used transit for their commute. The latest data, for 2013, indicates the ridership figure has fallen to 5.8 percent.
Mass transit simply doesn't sell in a city where everything is spread out for miles...

Reprieve

There will be no civil rights charges against Darren Wilson:
A broader civil rights investigation into allegations of discriminatory traffic stops and excessive force by the Ferguson Police Department remains open, however. That investigation could lead to significant changes at the department, which is overwhelmingly white despite serving a city that is mostly black.

The state authorities concluded their investigation into Mr. Brown’s death in November and similarly recommended no charges.

There is a high legal bar for bringing federal civil rights charges, and federal investigators had for months signaled that they were unlikely to do so. The Justice Department plans to release a report explaining its decision, though it is not clear when.
And thus is "outrage" consigned to history...

Deflated

There seems to be something to this, after all:
According to a National Football League letter about the investigation into the controversy that was shared with the Globe, the Patriots were informed that the league’s initial findings indicated that the game balls did not meet specifications. The league inspected each of the Patriots’ 12 game balls twice at halftime, using different pressure gauges, and found footballs that were not properly inflated.

According to ESPN, 11 of the 12 game balls were found to be underinflated by about 2 pounds each. The NFL specifications say they must be inflated to 12½ to 13½ pounds.

The investigation is still ongoing.
So, what next? Disqualification?

When Revolution Fails

Why Venezuela's socialist experiment is in freefall:
The difference between Venezuela and the nanny-state petro-economy in Norway is that the latter preserves itself by respecting private property and foreign investment. From the beginning, Hugo Chavez attacked both, nationalizing oil production and criminalizing private investors as part of his “Bolivarian” revolution. When it did that, it chased off the talent needed to run oil production and the investment needed for all other kinds of goods and services. For a short period of time, their oil revenue allowed it to succeed in ignorance. When that failed, Chavez and now Maduro reacted to those predictable consequences by predictably imposing all sorts of rationing mechanisms which only decreased incentives for production and investment, especially in the legitimate economy. Now that the price of oil has collapsed, so has the official Venezuelan economy — and a populace used to a high standard of living now endures massive shortages and ever-increasing oppression to cover it up.
Chavez and Maduro forgot that the Soviet Union collapsed for the same reason...