DYSPEPSIA GENERATION

We have seen the future, and it sucks.

Archive for the 'Think about it.' Category

Still Moving to Texas: The 2014 Metropolitan Population Estimates

27th March 2015

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Austin is pretty much the San Francisco of Texas, the low spot toward which all of the SWPL hipsters in the South and West drain if they can’t make it to one of the Left Coasts or don’t want to suffer from those areas’ anti-growth attitudes (an inchoate feeling that they can’t articulate because it would make their heads explode but which motivates them at the subconscious level).

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Fat? Sick? Blame Your Grandparents’ Bad Habits

25th March 2015

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Your DNA genome has “on/off” chemical switches that collectively are known as your epigenome. So your epigenome is unique and changes every time a switch is flipped. Because your epigenome’s switches are considered reversible when they are passed from parent to child, many scientists view this to be “soft evolution,” i.e., not guaranteed to be as enduring as when a mutation arises in the core DNA genome.

The epigenome can be passed on, sometimes reversed, sometimes reinforced. Unlike in classic Mendelian genetics, it is hard to predict and quantify, so you can just imagine how this variation in experimental outcomes has driven many careful, traditional scientists who believed the DNA code was the be?all and end-all of heredity completely crazy. They would try to eliminate all the variables, use genetically identical rats, and sometimes get completely different results. So it is no surprise that for decades epigenetics was ignored or pooh-poohed by funders, senior biologists, and science magazines. There was no reliable way to trace the precipitating event and no way to easily predict which individuals would be affected in future generations.

So how do our epigenomes become informed about life around us, particularly the epigenome of a fetus or a yet?to?be?conceived child? Most of the science points to our neural, endocrine, and immune systems. Our brains, glands, and immune cells sense the outside world and secrete hormones, growth factors, neurotransmitters, and other biological signaling molecules to tell every organ in the body that it needs to adapt to a changing world.

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Why the SAT Isn’t a ‘Student Affluence Test’

25th March 2015

Charles Murray points out some inconvenient truth.

Spring is here, which means it’s time for elite colleges to send out acceptance letters. Some will go to athletes, the children of influential alumni and those who round out the school’s diversity profile. But most will go to the offspring of the upper middle class. We all know why, right? Affluent parents get their kids into the best colleges by sending them to private schools or spending lots of money on test preparation courses. Either way, it perpetuates privilege from generation to generation.

The College Board provides ammunition for this accusation every year when it shows average SAT scores by family income. The results are always the same: The richer the parents, the higher the children’s SAT scores. This has led some to view the SAT as merely another weapon in the inequality wars, and to suggest that SAT should actually stand for “Student Affluence Test.”

It’s a bum rap. All high-quality academic tests look as if they’re affluence tests. It’s inevitable. Parental IQ is correlated with children’s IQ everywhere. In all advanced societies, income is correlated with IQ. Scores on academic achievement tests are always correlated with the test-takers’ IQ. Those three correlations guarantee that every standardized academic-achievement test shows higher average test scores as parental income increases.

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Professional Dancer With Huge Birthmark on Her Face Refuses Surgery: ‘It Makes Me Unique’

25th March 2015

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It’s certainly less disturbing than a tattoo.

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The Case for Cruz

24th March 2015

Almost worth it….

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Brain Scientist Tries to Uncover Why White People Are Prejudiced Against Gypsies

23rd March 2015

Steve Sailer does an extended Fisking of an article in the New York Times by a typical SWPL academic.

Granted that New York Times articles are low-hanging fruit, it’s still a great example of the art. Recommended.

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Misunderstanding the Millennials

22nd March 2015

Read it. Futher discussion of the way that the Peter Pan Party, journalist strain, mistake their fantasies for the real world.

Urban theorists, such as Peter Katz, insist that millennials (the generation born after 1983) have little interest in “returning to the cul-de-sacs of their teenage years.” Manhattanite Leigh Gallagher, author of “The Death of Suburbs,” asserts with certitude that “millennials hate the suburbs” and prefer more eco-friendly, singleton-dominated urban environments.

Such assessments thrill the likes of real estate speculators, such as Sam Zell, who welcomes “reurbanization” as an opportunity to cash in by housing a generation of Peter Pans in high-cost, tiny spaces unfit for couples and unthinkable for families. Others of a less-capitalistic mindset see in millennials a post-material generation, not buying homes and cars and, perhaps, not establishing families. Millennials, for example, are portrayed by the green magazine Gris as “a hero generation” – one that will march, willingly, even enthusiastically, to a downscaled and, theoretically, greener future.

In reality, these views reflect more fantasy than reality, as a host of surveys of millennials demonstrate. When asked – in a 2010 survey by Frank Magid and Associates – where would be their “ideal place to live,” more millennials identified suburbs than previous generations, including boomers. Another survey, published last year by the National Association of Homebuilders, found that 75 percent of millennials favor settling in a single-family house, 90 percent preferring the suburbs or even a more rural area but only 10 percent the urban core.

This, not surprisingly, is not what you read about regularly in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Young reporters, virtually all of whom live in dense, expensive places like New York or Washington, instinctually believe the world they know first-hand, the one in which they and their friends reside, epitomizes their generation. Most Americans, however, are not young, highly educated or likely to ever be Manhattan or Brooklyn residents. Indeed, only 20 percent of millennials live in urban core districts; nearly 90 percent of millennial growth in major metropolitan areas from 2000-10 occurred in the suburbs and exurbs.

 

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Estimating the Impact of Robots on Productivity and Employment

22nd March 2015

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We find that industrial robots increase labour productivity, total factor productivity, and wages. At the same time, while industrial robots had no significant effect on total hours worked, there is some evidence that they reduced the employment of low skilled workers, and to a lesser extent also middle skilled workers.

Told you so.

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Frank Bruni Is Wrong About Ivy League Schools

22nd March 2015

Read it. The picture is of Yale, of course, with Harkness Tower in the distance.

Frank Bruni’s new book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, argues that the college you attend doesn’t really matter so much. The coveted Ivy League—and the wider range of elite schools—have more applications than ever before, but Bruni recommends that anxious students and their status-obsessed parents caught up in the admissions madness should calm down and relax—the school you go to cannot define you.

And, of course, that’s not an argument anybody’s making. The school you go to opens — or closes — doors, and that can be of inestimable value.

Which is, of course, both trite and true. In life, you are what you make of each opportunity. Yet Bruni himself, an influential New York Times columnist and prominent member of the US elite, makes an argument that somewhat contradicts his own educational history. After all, he graduated from a top public institution—The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill—and an Ivy League graduate school—Columbia University.

Would he be where he is today if he had just chosen a college or graduate school at random?

Doubtful.

To Bruni’s credit, he does conduct some research to support his point. For example, he examined the American-born chief executives of the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500 and noted that roughly 30 went to an Ivy League school or equally selective institution.

However, why stop at 100? Why not examine the entire Fortune 500? That is, in fact, what I did in my research (pdf), published two years ago. And in an extended analysis from 1996 to 2014, I uncovered that roughly 38% of Fortune 500 CEOs attended elite schools (see the paper for the full list) for the last two decades.

Of course, that depends on how many schools are on your list of ‘elite schools’. Still, I doubt if it’s more than 25, in which case that 38% looks pretty impressive.

Based on census and college data, I estimate that only about 2% to 5% of all US undergraduates went to one of these elite schools. That makes all these US elite groups well above what you would expect in the general population. And this doesn’t even include the percentage who went to a “non-elite” graduate school.

And that’s puts things in perspective. When 5% of your candidates wind up with 38% of the top slots, there’s something going on.

But among people similar to Bruni’s social and family circle, who appear fixated on which college to go to, perhaps their hunch is not wrong. This is likely because many of these people know that where they went to school opened doors for them, regardless of the quality of the education they received—and that is why they want their kids to have those same opportunities. As members of the US elite, they want their kids to at least match if not surpass them, to have an advantage in life, and to reap the enormous benefits that come with that privilege. As my research shows, if you want to become a member of the US elite, an elite school (or grad school) appears to improve your chances.

And that’s what it’s all about. This is especially the case in the academia cohort of the modern clerisy. It is a truth universally acknowledged that your chances of a tenure-track position are far greater at Midwestern State University if you graduated from Princeton than at Princeton if you graduated from Midwestern State University.

Fun exercise for the reader: Compute out what percentage of Supreme Court Justices graduated from just Harvard Law, Yale Law, Columbia Law, or Stanford Law.

 

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The Robots Are Coming

22nd March 2015

Read it.

Put all this together, and we can start to see why many people think a big shift is about to come in the impact of computing and technology on our daily lives. Computers have got dramatically more powerful and become so cheap that they are effectively ubiquitous. So have the sensors they use to monitor the physical world. The software they run has improved dramatically too. We are, Brynjolfsson and McAfee argue, on the verge of a new industrial revolution, one which will have as much impact on the world as the first one. Whole categories of work will be transformed by the power of computing, and in particular by the impact of robots.

Frey and Osborne’s conclusion is stark. In the next two decades, 47 per cent of employment is ‘in the high-risk category’, meaning it is ‘potentially automatable’. Interestingly, though not especially cheeringly, it is mainly less well-paid workers who are most at risk. Recent decades have seen a polarisation in the job market, with increased employment at the top and bottom of the pay distribution, and a squeeze on middle incomes. ‘Rather than reducing the demand for middle-income occupations, which has been the pattern over the past decades, our model predicts that computerisation will mainly substitute for low-skill and low-wage jobs in the near future. By contrast, high-skill and high-wage occupations are the least susceptible to computer capital.’ So the poor will be hurt, the middle will do slightly better than it has been doing, and the rich – surprise! – will be fine.

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The Coming Ice Age

21st March 2015

Betty Friedan (you remember her, right?) discusses ‘climate change’ — in 1958.

As Ewing and Donn read the evidence, an Ice Age will result from a slow warming and rising of the ocean that is now taking place. They believe that this ocean flood — which may submerge large coastal areas of the eastern United States and western Europe — is going to melt the ice sheet which has covered the Arctic Ocean through all recorded history. Calculations based on the independent observations of other scientists indicate this melting could begin, within roughly one hundred years.

It is this melting of Arctic ice which Ewing and Donn believe will set off another Ice Age on earth. They predict that it will cause great snows to fall in the north — perennial unmelting snows which the world has not seen since the last Ice Age thousands of years ago. These snows will make the Arctic glaciers grow again, until their towering height forces them forward. The advance south will be slow, but if it follows the route of previous ice ages, it will encase in ice large parts of North America and Europe. It would, of course, take many centuries for that wall of ice to reach New York and Chicago, London and Paris. But its coming is an inevitable consequence of the cycle which Ewing and Donn believe is now taking place.

So ‘global warming’ will lead to a new Ice Age. Who knew?

Of course, Betty Friedan has moved on since than and so has the rest of the ‘progressive movement’, but this certainly accounts for all of the AlGore-come-to-town blizzards we’ve been seeing.

Just sayin’.

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Thought for the Day

21st March 2015

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Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe. . . .

There is no Eden. There never was. What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden?

— Michael Crichton

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Thought for the Day

20th March 2015

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Is London’s ‘Diversity’ to Blame for Its ‘Unprogressive’ Views on Homosexuality?

20th March 2015

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YouGov recently carried out a survey in the UK which sought primarily to judge public opinions on the issue of posthumous pardons to people convicted of homosexuality. So far so hip, cool and with the beat.

But the poll also asked respondents whether they think in general that homosexuality is ‘morally acceptable’ or ‘morally wrong’.  What do you think the figures were?  Well in most regions of the UK those people who thought homosexuality ‘morally wrong’ sat at around 15 per cent.  About what one might have expected.  But what do you think the figure was in that enlightened beacon of progressive diversity which is our capital?  1 per cent?  2 per cent?

Nope.  In London the number of people who said they thought homosexuality is immoral was almost double (29 per cent) what it was in the rest of the country.

Now why might that be?  Is it because lots of straight Londoners have at some point been to a gay bar in the capital and thought the music too cheesy?  Or is it possible that the ‘diversity’ of our capital city is precisely the cause of this ‘un-progressive’ fact?

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Mandatory Voting Is a Terrible—and Insulting—Idea

20th March 2015

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“It would be transformative if everybody voted,” he said. “That would counter money more than anything.”

No, it wouldn’t, not really. Well, first of all, let’s backtrack to the idea. Mandatory voting is a violation of our civil rights, just as denying a citizen a right to vote is a violation. Casting a vote is speech. It is showing support or opposition to a candidate or proposal. Making voting mandatory means voting is no longer a right. It’s an obligation. It’s forced speech. If we were forced to attend a church, but had a choice of several churches, we would still (most of us, anyway) recognize that this is a violation of our freedom to decline to practice religion at all. Not voting isn’t just an expression of apathy. It’s also a form of protest.

One of the purposes of not voting is to express the notion that ‘none of the above are correct’. If they would add that choice to every ballot, then my objections to mandatory voting would shrink amazingly. (But still not make them go away. The legitimate functions of government all involve making one not do something. Every time the government attempts to make one actually do something is an usurpation.)

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U.N. Orders Review of 1961 Crash That Killed Dag Hammarskjold

19th March 2015

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Some would quote Ms Hillary, ‘At this point, what difference does it make?’, but not me. I love the smell of conspiracy in the morning.

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Quotation of the Day

18th March 2015

Don Boudreaux, a Real Economist.

It’s important to keep in mind the distinction between inequality and poverty.  To confuse the two (as is common today) risks addressing the wrong malady.  Just as we do not blame a cancer victim’s suffering on an unequal distribution of good health – that is, just as we recognize that a cancer victim’s illness is not caused by the good health of others and cannot be cured by making healthy people less healthy – we should recognize that a poor person’s poverty is not caused by the prosperity of others and cannot be cured by making wealthy people less wealthy.  Indeed, recent research suggests that simply transferring more money to relatively poor people in rich societies does not provide much relief; poverty persists for reasons that run far more deeply than the fact that some people earn more income than do others.

The whole ‘inequality’ fetish is the perennial refuge of low-information people  who mistakenly believe that an economy is a zero-sum game, i.e. if X has more then Y necessarily has less.

I blame Rawls and the professors who make him required reading.

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The Quantified Citizen

18th March 2015

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In 1992, when The Man from Hope established a new standard for campaign trail empathy, there were no smartphones, no wireless activity wristbands, no life-tracking apps, no cloud. Bill Clinton felt our pain, but couldn’t do much about it. In contrast, today’s government caregivers have a vast new arsenal of tools at their disposal. They can feel our pain, aggregate it, analyze it, and implement policies that will reduce it by at least 10 percent. Or at least they can aspire to such grand ambitions.

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What Jennifer Aniston’s Love Life Tells Us About Unemployment

17th March 2015

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Just in case you were wondering. I know I was.

In Aniston’s case she’s not unmarried because she can’t find someone willing to tie the knot with her. In truth, 99.9% of available single men on the earth’s land mass would gladly marry her yesterday if she were to simply look their way. Surely many others would eagerly exit their existing marriages just to be with her. Aniston is funny, exceedingly talented as her active film career and wealth make plain, and after all that, she’s by most any standard beautiful. If Aniston wanted to be married she could make that happen between breakfast and lunch. With time to spare.

Still, when the work outlook for those “between jobs” is considered, it’s no reach to say that those who are unemployed aren’t jobless because they can’t find any work; rather they’re unemployed because much like Aniston vis-à-vis marriage, they haven’t found employment that meets their standards. As my upcoming book Popular Economics points out, labor is a price like any other. And it’s not a stretch to suggest that the vast majority of unemployed aren’t that way because there aren’t any jobs, but because they haven’t reduced the price of their toil to a level that would attract buyers.

Aniston could once again have millions of suitors were marriage her objective, and then on a smaller scale, many unmarried women and men who desire wedlock could have just that were they similarly willing to accept less in the way of a life mate than what they presently seek. Work is no different. Leaving aside the numerous flawed ways in which unemployment is calculated in the first place, that the jobless number presently stands at 5.7% doesn’t signal that there are no jobs for 5.7% of those actively seeking work; rather there are no jobs that meet the standards of roughly 5.7% of the work-interested. There’s a big difference.

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ALL IS NOT WHAT IT APPEARS!

17th March 2015

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The great psychological advantage of conspiracy theories is that they explain the most disparate phenomena effortlessly and indubitably. They thus satisfy man’s intellectual longing to understand the world, but also, as importantly, man’s desire to be superior in his understanding to his fellows. To have penetrated the mystery of things is an achievement not given to everyone. Those who have developed a conspiracy theory both want to keep it to themselves so that they can retain their superiority over others and spread it as far as possible to recognized for their enormous contribution to human understanding.

I love the smell of conspiracy in the morning.

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Thought for the Day

17th March 2015

The End of the Rainbow

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Thought for the Day

16th March 2015

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What Happens to You on a Plane: Scary Health Effects Of Flying

16th March 2015

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Let’s face it: Human beings weren’t designed to spend hours at a time packed inside a pressure-controlled capsule with recycled air and manufactured heat with hundreds of other people tens of thousands of feet in the air. But that’s what we do — some of us often — every time we get on an airplane. Add in the jet lag and sleeplessness, and you have a recipe for true physiological torture.

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Lain, the Whom of the Verb World

15th March 2015

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You want hairsplitting? I got yer hairsplitting, right here.

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Urine Deflectors in Fleet Street

15th March 2015

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The average (male) Londoner of the early 1800s, out and about, was quite happy to relieve himself in the nearest alley. Urinals were becoming more common – usually outside pubs – but typically one found a quiet corner and had a pee.

Those who lived in said alleys, or who owned commercial property adjoining, were not entirely forgiving of this practice, as this quote from 1809 suggests:

in London a man may sometimes walk a mile before he can meet with a suitable corner; for so unaccomodating are the owners of doorways, passages and angles, that they seem to have exhausted invention in the ridiculous barricadoes and shelves, grooves, and one fixed above another, to conduct the stream into the shoes of the luckless wight who shall dare to profane the intrenchments. 

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Why the Apple Watch Is Designed to Break China

14th March 2015

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I love the smell of conspiracy in the morning.

 

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How Much Did the Musicians of Woodstock Get Paid?

14th March 2015

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The relative amounts show who was hot and who wasn’t yet. (Some of these people I’ve never heard of.)

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Thought for the Day

14th March 2015

Govt Blames Govt copy

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What Triggered Utah’s Firing Squad Push

12th March 2015

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States, though, have struggled to maintain supplies of the most commonly used drugs — or find suitable alternatives — as more suppliers have refused to let their drugs be used in executions. Recent executions that took much longer than planned have brought more scrutiny around the method. In January, months after Oklahoma bungled the execution of Clayton Lockett, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would examine Oklahoma’s lethal-injection protocol.

Fine. Let’s go back to hanging, a perfectly sensible solution that requires common materials.

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Where Have All of Los Angeles’s Mega-Rich People Gone?

12th March 2015

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In 2013, Los Angeles had 4,520 mega-rich people, aka ultra high net worth individuals, aka people with more than $30 million in net assets; it had the fifth most mega-rich after New York, London, Tokyo, and San Francisco. Today it has 969 mega-rich people and is ranked twentieth. Where have the mega-rich gone? The numbers come from Knight Frank’s 2015 Wealth Report (via CityLab), which also found that, while Los Angeles was considered one of “the best investment opportunities in 2015″ among the mega-rich, it’s only the twenty-second “most important” city to these people, tailing Madrid and Milan.

Gone for taxes, every one….

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Is it Healthier to be Republican?

12th March 2015

Scott Adams is not afraid to ask the hard questions.

If you become a Democrat, you have to worry about climate change annihilating humanity on your watch. If you are a Republican, climate change isn’t even a problem. Personally, I rest easier when I am not worried about a super-typhoon killing me during REM sleep.

Consider economics. If you are a Democrat, you have to balance all sorts of complicated economic theories in your head. That stuff is hard to understand and almost always wrong anyway. But if you are a Republican, all you need to know is that cutting taxes will make us all rich. Both approaches are ridiculous, but only one is easy. So take the easy, stress-free path. Then let the economy heal itself while the government is in gridlock, like always.

Democrats are always worried about issues of fairness and equal opportunity. For example, workplace gender issues are a huge deal for Democrats. But if you are Republican there is no problem there to fix, except for all the whining. And you can learn to ignore that too.

My kinda program.

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High Apple Store Traffic Distorting Mall Rent, Lifting Mall Sales

11th March 2015

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Apple Stores’ ability to generate a high rate of foot traffic in malls is allowing Apple to win “sweetheart deals” from mall operators while increasing mall sales 10%, according to a new Wall Street Journal report.

Because Apple Stores bring in so much traffic that leads to increased sales in other parts of the mall, Apple has been able to win rental agreements that see it paying as little as 2% of its sales a square foot. Typically, rents paid to mall operators are based on how much the retailer expects to sell, which is influenced by overall mall traffic.

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How FarmLogs Is Building Software to Power the Future of Farming

10th March 2015

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Say goodbye to the family farm, unless the family is named Kennedy or Clinton.

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Don Young Suggests Wolves Could Help Get Rid Of Homeless People

10th March 2015

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Young made the comment during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing during an exchange with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. He was arguing that gray wolves should be taken off the endangered species list, criticizing the National Park Service and his congressional colleagues who seek to protect the animals.

“How many of you have got wolves in your district? None. None. Not one,” Young said, calling the gray wolf “a predator.”

“We’ve got 79 congressmen sending you a letter, they haven’t got a damn wolf in their whole district,” Young added. “I’d like to introduce them in your district. If I introduced them in your district, you wouldn’t have a homeless problem anymore.”

I like it. It has texture, and scope.

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How the Photocopier Changed the Way We Worked—and Played

10th March 2015

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I remember having to make six copies of a form using carbon paper. I love photocopiers.

Nowadays, of course, we just scan stuff.

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The In-Betweeners

10th March 2015

Richard Fernandez points out some inconvenient truth.

The United States was founded by men well acquainted with greatest power of the age: Britain.  The Founders were not ignorant of efficiencies of parliamentary government. The British Army came perilously close to getting them “done”. Rather they both respected and feared it.

The instrument of government they created to replace the Crown was calculated to both exercise power and protect its citizens from that power.  What they did not provide was an adequate mechanism for resolving fundamental differences of principle within the mechanism of government.  As the Lincoln-Douglas debates suggested, that had to be fixed by other means. Once “a house is divided” gridlock ensued; and there is no remedy until the house was united again.  The Constitution seems designed to force the body politic to reach a consensus externally before it would allow the wheels to turn again. The Amendments are peace treaties marking the resolution of various crises.

Permanently resolving the crisis in favor of single body may not be a “better system”. The crises themselves cannot be finessed. They will fester until they are fundamentally resolved. Examples of this abound. Only today the White House and Democratic lawmakers expressed indignation at a letter sent by 47 GOP lawmakers to Iran reminding the Ayatollahs that the government of the United States consisted of more than one man.

Yeah … the nerve!

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Rise of the Nation-States

9th March 2015

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The Main Event: Texas vs. California

Today’s two leading economic models come, not surprisingly, from our two megastates, California and Texas.

The difference in domestic migration is particularly revealing. Since 2010, Texas has gained over a half million migrants, while California lost 200,000 residents. The Lone Star State has taken over California’s historic role as the primary destination for middle- and working-class people looking to start a new life; the Golden State’s growth now stems from immigration and inertia – from among all the families formed after decades of rapid population growth.

These differences reflect policy choices. California, one can say, charitably, is looking for “quality” growth that touches the environment very lightly and creates high-end jobs, along with many lower-end service positions. Yet many aspects of state policy – the drive for renewables, stricter land-use regulations and expanding the welfare state – makes the Golden State the national model for progressives, even as middle-class and working-class people head for the exits.

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It’s Time to Kill Daylight Saving

9th March 2015

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Like millions of other Americans who have slogged through an uncomfortably cold winter, I’m looking forward to the change of season. But Daylight Saving Time is an annual tradition whose time has passed. In contemporary society, it’s not only unnecessary: It’s also wasteful, cruel, and dangerous. And it’s long past time to bid it goodbye.

Further: 5 myths about daylight saving time

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Markets Are Conversations

8th March 2015

Wisdom from the Cluetrain Manifesto.

The first markets were markets. Not bulls, bears, or invisible hands. Not battlefields, targets, or arenas. Not demographics, eyeballs, or seats. Most of all, not consumers.

The first markets were filled with people, not abstractions or statistical aggregates; they were the places where supply met demand with a firm handshake. Buyers and sellers looked each other in the eye, met, and connected. The first markets were places for exchange, where people came to buy what others had to sell — and to talk.

The first markets were filled with talk. Some of it was about goods and products. Some of it was news, opinion, and gossip. Little of it mattered to everyone; all of it engaged someone. There were often conversations about the work of hands: “Feel this knife. See how it fits your palm.” “The cotton in this shirt, where did it come from?” “Taste this apple. We won’t have them next week. If you like it you should take some today.” Some of these conversations ended in a sale, but don’t let that fool you. The sale was merely the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.

Market leaders were men and women whose hands were worn by the work they did. Their work was their life, and their brands were the names they were known by: Miller, Weaver, Hunter, Skinner, Farmer, Brewer, Fisher, Shoemaker, Smith.

For thousands of years, we knew exactly what markets were: conversations between people who sought out others who shared the same interests. Buyers had as much to say as sellers. They spoke directly to each other without the filter of media, the artifice of positioning statements, the arrogance of advertising, or the shading of public relations.

These were the kinds of conversations people have been having since they started to talk. Social. Based on intersecting interests. Open to many resolutions. Essentially unpredictable. Spoken from the center of the self. “Markets were conversations” doesn’t mean “markets were noisy.” It means markets were places where people met to see and talk about each other’s work.

Conversation is a profound act of humanity. So once were markets.

Similarly, prices are signals. Those who force prices to behave in ways that they ‘ought’ to behave — minimum wage laws, price controls, subsidies, punitive taxation — are living a lie, and making others make decisions based on a lie, and reality will eventually come round to bite them right square on the butt.

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A Brit in California Moves to the Lone Star State – Just Swerve the TexMex Grub

8th March 2015

Read it.

This is a fun read, but the really interesting bit is this one:

In the intervening years it’s become progressively harder to get an H1-b and start the process. From what I hear they are basically snapped up in advance by the big outsourcing firms. The flip-side to that is that once you have one then transferring between employers needn’t be the nightmare it was a decade ago – assuming that your original employer plays ball. If they don’t then it’s indentured servitude. Which is why the outsourcers love them (as do their clients – the “lack of technically skilled people” is largely a myth. What there is a lack of is people willing to work for the pittance that some of the temps will take). [emphasis added]

Yet more evidence is that the push for expanded immigration is driven mainly by employers wanting cheap labor, not by high-minded worship of America’s position as a home for the people that other nations don’t want.

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Why Spaceflight Will Never Be as Safe as Modern Aviation

7th March 2015

Read it.

And modern aviation is insufficiently safe, in my view.

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The Coming Chinese Crackup

7th March 2015

Read it.

Despite appearances, China’s political system is badly broken, and nobody knows it better than the Communist Party itself. China’s strongman leader, Xi Jinping , is hoping that a crackdown on dissent and corruption will shore up the party’s rule. He is determined to avoid becoming the Mikhail Gorbachev of China, presiding over the party’s collapse. But instead of being the antithesis of Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Xi may well wind up having the same effect. His despotism is severely stressing China’s system and society—and bringing it closer to a breaking point.

Predicting the demise of authoritarian regimes is a risky business. Few Western experts forecast the collapse of the Soviet Union before it occurred in 1991; the CIA missed it entirely. The downfall of Eastern Europe’s communist states two years earlier was similarly scorned as the wishful thinking of anticommunists—until it happened. The post-Soviet “color revolutions” in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan from 2003 to 2005, as well as the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, all burst forth unanticipated.

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Sponsors Can Now Fund Remote-Controlled Weapons for War in Remotely Controlled Lands.

5th March 2015

Read it.

Ukraine is embroiled in a civil war against Russian-backed separatists, and some volunteers on the pro-Ukrainian side have set up a crowdfunding page for people to fund a tiny robot tank. Dubbed “The People’s Project,” the initiative is currently 73 percent of the way toward raising the $8,000 needed to complete the machine.

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Why Full-Fat Dairy May Be Healthier Than Low-Fat

5th March 2015

Read it.

More ‘consensus science’ down the Memory Hole. (When are they going to connect the dots and do the same with ‘climate change’?)

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The Bizarre Way Economists Calculate Real Income

5th March 2015

Read it.

Over the years I’ve argued that economists are horribly confused about the concept of “income.” They use income for tax incidence discussions and also economic inequality, whereas on theoretical grounds consumption is clearly the appropriate variable. And yet until a few minutes ago I never realized just how confused we were (which I guess means I was equally confused).

Heavily theoretical, but worth the effort.

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Feldman on King v. Burwell

5th March 2015

Sonic Harm looks behind the smoke & mirrors of a Voice of the Crust.

That question can actually be put rather simply: What should happen when Congress writes a law with some internal incoherence?

No. I do not cede this territory. There is nothing – nothing – ‘internally incoherent’ about reading the law the way King v. Burwell plaintiffs say (i.e., the way it is actually written). The law as written, among other things, (a) imposes a tax penalty tax for those who do not have such-and-such level of health ‘insurance’ [sic]; (b) describes how ‘exchanges’ [sic] may be set up by the states; and (c) provides for means-tested tax credits for those who purchase insurance through the ‘exchanges’ [sic] set up per (b). That’s fully coherent. Yes, under that law as written, people who lived in states that did not set up such ‘exchanges’ [sic] would not be eligible for that tax credit in (c). So? How does that make it ‘internally incoherent’? There’s a whole bunch of stuff that varies from state to state. This would be one more.

Yes, it would be a fairly large difference, representing a tax hardship on folks in the non-‘exchange’ states. The plaintiffs’ theory, of course, is that that was the idea of writing the text that way in the first place. The government-side of the argument, meanwhile, has no counter-explanation for why the text is written that way. None whatsoever. Absent that, it’s pretty weak sauce to call the result ‘incoherent’. Rather, on the face of it, it’s asymmetric but coherent – the asymmetry, of course, being by design in the original drafts. Again, I’m happy to hear an alternative theory, but there clearly is none.

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Advantages of Striker-Fired Pistols

5th March 2015

Read it.

Just in case you were wondering. I know I was.

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Thought for the Day

2nd March 2015

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‘Let me give you some advice.’

27th February 2015

Ammo Grrrll dishes it out.

I don’t care if you are a sane person who understands that there are two, and only two, “genders,” or more accurately, “sexes” (M & F), or if you are convinced that there are dozens of genders or none at all. It is – more or less – a free country except on college campuses, and you can believe what you want.

But if you are looking for advice on any particular topic, let me give you the benefit of some wisdom gleaned from my many decades upon this wacky planet.

If you want short, practical solutions to a problem at hand, ask a man.

If you want to just vent, or be listened to without even coming close to solving the problem, consult with a woman. In fact, there is substantial research claiming that that is precisely what women want when they ask a man about, say, a vexing issue at work. They just want him to listen; they do not want him to “solve” it. Further, it will even make the woman angry at the man if he tries to solve it. Talk about sandbagging someone!

This matches my experience as well.

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The Myth That Everyone Naturally Prefers Trains to Buses

25th February 2015

Read it.

For the study, Hensher and Mulley gave survey respondents the two images above, plus two others whose only difference was older-looking vehicle styles (one bus and one train), and asked them to rank the four images in terms of “which one you would like to travel in most.” They found that 55 percent chose the modern light rail image, and another 18 percent chose the older light rail. Only about 17 percent chose the modern BRT. Just 10 percent chose the classic old bus.

The responses varied slightly among individual cities—Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth—but only slightly. A majority of respondents ranked the modern light rail image first in every city except Sydney, where 49 percent gave it the top rating. The modern BRT got more first-place votes than the old bus across the board, but it never eclipsed 20 percent in any city.

What makes those findings more vexing is that every city involved in the survey is familiar with both modes. In other words, lack of awareness of BRT couldn’t explain the preference gap. Even in Brisbane and Adelaide, where BRT is more prevalent than light rail, the train earned top marks: 53 and 56 percent chose it first, respectively, to about 18 percent in each place for modern BRT.

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