DYSPEPSIA GENERATION

We have seen the future, and it sucks.

Archive for the 'Think about it.' Category

Beretta Dumps Maryland After New Gun Laws

22nd July 2014

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Beretta USA, one of the nation’s largest firearms manufacturers, will move its manufacturing and approximately 300 jobs out of Maryland because of the state’s new gun control laws, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

Rick Perry’s phone number is (512) 463-2000. Just sayin’.

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Thought for the Day

22nd July 2014

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Obama Donor Fights to Keep Riff-Raff Away From Private Beach

21st July 2014

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A wealthy venture capitalist and major Obama donor is fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent others from accessing his private Northern California beach, according to Bloomberg News.

Vinod Khosla’s support for Obama has paid off in the form of millions in taxpayer subsidies for green energy companies in which he has invested.

A prominent environmentalist, Khosla nevertheless cherishes his control over a private beach alongside his 56-acre property near San Francisco—which he bought for $32.5 million—Bloomberg reported on Monday.

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World Mysteries – The Piri Reis Map

20th July 2014

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The admiral’s scanned the yellowed charts and found the tracings to be precise. Using his collection of antique charts, Admiral Piri Reis compiled a world map in 1513. In 1929, a group of historians found the Piri Reis map in a pile of rubble in the harem section of the Palace of Topkapi in Constantinople. These scholars were astonished to discover that the map showed the coastal outlines of South and North America. It also included precise data on the southern polar continent, Antarctica.

Piri Reis could not have acquired his information on this region from contemporary explorers because Antarctica remained undiscovered until 1818 CE, more than 300 years after he drew the map. The ice-free coast of Queen Maud Land shown in the map is a mystery because the geological evidence confirms that the very latest date that it could have been surveyed and charted in an ice-free condition is 4000 BCE. It is not possible to pinpoint the earliest date that such a task could have been accomplished, but it seems that the Queen Maud Land littoral may have remained in a stable, unglaciated condition for at least 9,000 years before the spreading ice-cap swallowed it entirely. There is no civilization known to history that had the capacity or need to survey that coastline in the relevant period, i.e. between 13,000 BCE and 4000 BCE.

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Samsung Electronics Mobile Executives Take Bonus Cuts

20th July 2014

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I’d love to have a job where unsatisfactory performance only resulted in a 25% reduction of my bonus.

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The Benefits of Failing at French

20th July 2014

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Every now and again, something in the New York Times is worth reading. This is one of those rare events.

In the last few years, unable to hold a list of just four grocery items in my head, I’d begun to fret a bit over my literal state of mind. So to reassure myself that nothing was amiss, just before tackling French I took a cognitive assessment called CNS Vital Signs, recommended by a psychologist friend. The results were anything but reassuring: I scored below average for my age group in nearly all of the categories, notably landing in the bottom 10th percentile on the composite memory test and in the lowest 5 percent on the visual memory test.

And yet he is paid to write for the New York Times. ’nuff said.

Seriously, this is yet another recommendation for the position staked out by Scott Adams in his life-changing book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

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Corporations Are Refrigerators

20th July 2014

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An odd article that contains a great deal of inconvenient truth. Most people would profit from having this pasted on their bathroom mirror where they would be forced to read it every damned day.

Don’t allow where you work or what you do become who you are.
There’s more to you than your job. There’s more to you than the title on your business card, the name of the corporation that employs you – while we’re at it, there’s more to you than where you live, what you drive or how much you earn. Sure, there may be some prestige associated with a certain employer or type of work, but one thing is certain: at the end of your life, it’s sure as heck not going to be the most important thing you remember or cherish. Who you are is who your family and friends love; who contributes back to society – not what you do or where you work. What are your talents, what do you love to do, what other roles do you play in your life? Father, Mother, Son, Daughter, Friend – WHO are you – not what do you do.

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No One Said They Wanted Faster Horses, They Wanted Less Horseshit

20th July 2014

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With all the bitching these days about the problems with automobiles, from air pollution to traffic fatalities, you would think that they were an unmitigated disaster — until, of course, you consider the alternative.

Since the base premise is around the usage of horses as a metaphor for the “status quo” of transportation, let’s look at it for a minute. Horses have been a preferred means of transportation for thousands of years. The earliest record of domestic horse usage for transportation goes back as far as 2000 BCE. As we built more and more complex, crowded villages, towns, cities, horses became a real problem. Here are some of the things people would have responded with if you asked a mid-late 19th century city planner what he needed with regards to equine transportation:

  • An easier way to remove the average of 41 dead horses a day on the streets of New York
  • Some place to relocate the 1200~ metric tons of manure produced each day, and someone to do the relocating
  • Some place to stable the 100,000+ horse that operated within New York, and food to feed them

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Thought for the Day

20th July 2014

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Let’s Start Telling Young People the Whole Truth About College

19th July 2014

Karen Cates, Professor at Nortwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, tells it like it is.

The idea that college is appropriate—essential, even—for all Americans is a myth. We’ve been told there are no decent jobs without a college education. While unemployment among recent college grads is 8.5 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute, if you dig into the numbers you’ll find that 46 percent of them consider themselves “mal-employed.” Translation: They’re working largely in retail and entry-level hospitality, jobs that do not require their college degree.

One folktale that’s been spun from this is that you’ll never earn a living wage unless you have a college degree. This is patently untrue. Our trade professions are clamoring for quality employees to keep up with the demands of a recovering economy. “The homebuilding industry faces a chronic shortage of skilled workers,” laments Jerry Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Home Builders. In many professions, workers can earn as much or more than someone with a degree in marketing or advertising.

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Thought for the Day

18th July 2014

Bad rich people

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Hitler, Continued

16th July 2014

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There is one respect in which I would take Evans’s characterization further, as Lucy Dawidowicz does in Chapter 20 of my book: Hitler didn’t lose the war. Not the war Evans argues was most important to him: the racial war. Hitler won that war. Six million to one. Yes, he committed suicide at the end. (And yes, 50 million others lost their lives so he could win the part of the war he cared about most. Collateral damage.)

Thinking about that suicide now, in the light of 9/11 and the subsequent exaltations of suicide bombing on messianic, theological grounds, does in fact offer a radical new way of characterizing Hitler. In retrospect at least, it’s tempting to argue that Hitler was, if not the first, then by far history’s greatest single suicide bomber. He blew up Europe to kill the Jews in it, even if it meant killing himself and tens of millions of others in the end.

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What Exactly Is in McDonald’s Famous French Fries?

16th July 2014

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In the good old days, McDonald’s fries were cooked in beef tallow. But customer demand for less saturated fat prompted a switch to vegetable oil in the early ’90s.

No, it’s because they were sued by some asshole Hindus. Diversity means never being allowed to live like an American.

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All Clintoned Out

14th July 2014

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Barack Obama did not blow apart Hillary Clinton’s huge lead during the 2008 Democratic primaries just because he was a landmark African-American candidate, new to the scene, and a skilled campaigner. Even Democrats were all Clintoned out.

By such weariness, I don’t suggest that either of the Clintons is unpopular. Indeed, Americans apparently look fondly back on the high-growth 1990s as the continuation of the Reagan-Bush boom years, and a time when Democrats and Republicans finally fixed budget deficits. (Note well that when Obama went back to the Clinton-era tax rates for the more affluent, the deficit dipped, but certainly did not approach the balanced budget that was once achieved by spending discipline under the Clinton-Gingrich compromise.)

The problem instead is Hillary Clinton herself. She is not a very good speaker, and is prone to shrill outbursts and occasional chortling. She has a bad habit of committing serial gaffes (e.g., speaking too candidly), and what she says on Monday is often contradicted by her rantings on Tuesday. She seems cheap and obsessed with raking in free stuff. When Bill steps in to correct her mistakes, either sloppily or out of some strange psychological spite, he usually makes things even worse. We saw that often in 2008 and are seeing it again now. But aside from the cosmetics of her political style, the Clintons are faced with two fundamental obstacles in 2016.

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Which Immigration Impasse?

13th July 2014

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The trouble with a piece like the billionaires’ op-ed is that there are really two immigration debates, and their article will turn up as an exhibit in the immigration argument they don’t endorse. They join hands with the Silicon Valley magnates who want more H1-B visas for tech Ph.D.’s, and I’m happy to join with them in supporting that argument, though I can’t help but notice that some of the most fabled names in the tech business allegedly have conspired to fix the wages of their highly qualified engineers by forming illegal non-competitive hiring pacts, so it’s hard to tell just how pressing the demand for engineering talent really is. Still, since human knowledge and ingenuity are the most valuable of all natural resources, it’s impossible not to think that the more of them we have, the better. And if our own schools and colleges aren’t turning out enough of such skills, by all means let’s import as much as we can.

But this argument has nothing whatever to do with the massed children at our southern border, admitted through a foolish loophole unintentionally created by the Bush administration and exploited by the Obama regime as a way of changing the character of the American people, both by enlarging the underclass whom Democrats can claim it is their mission to rescue with ever more generous welfare programs, and by creating yet more Democratic voters, if these kids ever become citizens—or if they become anchor babies who can then legally bring in their parents and siblings under our existing, and harmful, family-unification immigration policy.

The real immigration debate is over illegal immigrants like these—Hispanics with no skills, little social capital, and less education. To be sure, they have been a boon to industries that depend on cheap unskilled labor, from agriculture to construction to hotels and restaurants. And they are a boon to the prosperous, who hire them as nannies, pool-boys, gardeners, butlers, what-have-you—though I take for granted that our billionaire-authors make Social Security payments for such employees, after making sure they are legal immigrants.

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The Post-Post-Apocalyptic Detroit

13th July 2014

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In downtown Detroit, at the headquarters of the online-mortgage company Quicken Loans, there stands another downtown Detroit in miniature. The diorama, made of laser-cut acrylic and stretching out over 19 feet in length, is a riot of color and light: Every structure belonging to Quicken’s billionaire owner, Dan Gilbert, is topped in orange and illuminated from within, and Gilbert currently owns 60 of them, a lordly nine million square feet of real estate in all. He began picking up skyscrapers just three and a half years ago, one after another, paying as little as $8 a square foot. He bought five buildings surrounding Capitol Park, the seat of government when Michigan became a state in 1837. He snapped up the site of the old Hudson’s department store, where 12,000 employees catered to 100,000 customers daily in the 1950s. Many of Gilbert’s purchases are 20th-century architectural treasures, built when Detroit served as a hub of world industry. He bought a Daniel Burnham, a few Albert Kahns, a Minoru Yamasaki masterwork with a soaring glass atrium. “They’re like old-school sports cars,” said Dan Mullen, one of the executives who took over Quicken’s newly formed real estate arm. “These were buildings with so much character, so much history. They don’t exist anywhere else. And it was like, ‘Buy this parking garage, and we’ll throw in a skyscraper with it.’ ”

In the process, the Motor City has become the testing ground for an updated American dream: privateers finding the raw material for new enterprise in the wreckage of the Rust Belt. Whether or not they’re expecting to profit, Gilbert and other capitalists — large and small — are trying to rebuild the city, even stepping in and picking up some duties that were once handled by the public sector. Shop owners around the city are cleaning up the blighted storefronts and public spaces around them. Only 35,000 of Detroit’s 88,000 streetlights actually work, so some owners are buying and installing their own. In Gilbert’s downtown, a Rock Ventures security force patrols the city center 24 hours a day, monitoring 300 surveillance cameras from a control center. Gilbert is proposing to pay $50 million for the land beneath the county courthouse and a partly built jail near his center-city casino, with the intention of moving the municipal buildings to a far-off neighborhood; his goal is to clear the way for an entertainment district that flows south, without interruption, from the sports arenas past his casino and into downtown. Detroit’s new mayor, Mike Duggan, told me he had no problem with the private sector doing so much to shape his city: Other metropolises had their entrepreneurs and deep-pocketed magnates who built and bought and financed things. With a state-appointed emergency manager overseeing various aspects of Detroit’s operations, with many civic services inoperable for years and with a dire need for investment, Duggan said he felt lucky that his town was getting its turn.

In a city where a government based on machine politics and cronyism is collapsing, the inhabitants are learning that you can do for yourself what the government promised and can no longer deliver, if you’re clever enough.

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A Theory of Jerks

13th July 2014

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We need a theory of jerks. We need such a theory because, first, it can help us achieve a calm, clinical understanding when confronting such a creature in the wild. Imagine the nature-documentary voice-over: ‘Here we see the jerk in his natural environment. Notice how he subtly adjusts his dominance display to the Italian restaurant situation…’ And second – well, I don’t want to say what the second reason is quite yet.

Precedents for this type of work include the Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s essay ‘On Bullshit’ (2005) and, closer to my target, the Irvine philosopher Aaron James’s book Assholes (2012). Our taste in vulgarity reveals our values.

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Robot Writes Torah at Berlin’s Jewish Museum

11th July 2014

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The Torah-writing  was developed by the German artists’ group robotlab and was presented for the first time Thursday at Berlin’s Jewish Museum. While it takes the machine about three months to complete the 80-meter (260-foot) -long scroll, a rabbi or a sofer—a Jewish scribe—needs nearly a year. But unlike the rabbi’s work, the robot’s Torah can’t be used in a synagogue.

I have always found fascinating the strictures around writing a Torah scroll.

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Why Teenagers Today May Grow Up Conservative

11th July 2014

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A very odd thing to appear in the New York Times.

To Americans in their 20s and early 30s — the so-called millennials — many of these problems have their roots in George W. Bush’s presidency. But think about people who were born in 1998, the youngest eligible voters in the next presidential election. They are too young to remember much about the Bush years or the excitement surrounding the first Obama presidential campaign. They instead are coming of age with a Democratic president who often seems unable to fix the world’s problems.

“We’re in a period in which the federal government is simply not performing,” says Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center, the author of a recent book on generational politics, “and that can’t be good for the Democrats.”

Good to see more recognition that Democrats are the party of big government.

It has always astonished me that anyone could possibly think that the same government that gave us the Post Office and the Transportation Security Administration could be safely entrusted with running our economy and our health care.

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The Pointlessness Crusade

10th July 2014

Freeberg lays down some inconvenient truth.

“It’s funny how so many far-left posers get a hard-on for violence and smashing stuff.”

But what kind of grown-ups do kids become after watching “don’t kill that bad guy, bring him to justice instead” movies? Non-vengeful, angelic types? Or, are they taught to de-value human life, to see it as not worth avenging, or for that matter, much of anything else. The latter, I think. For that reason, and some others, after watching the recent Star Trek installment I always come away with the same aftertaste as the closing credits roll: I don’t want to see the “don’t kill the bad guy” trope, ever again. Let’s go back to Han shooting first again. It isn’t that I entirely disagree with the point, that the desire for vengeance should be checked. The problem is that it’s bland, boring, reeks of lazy writing and that’s probably what it is. My impression is that the writers never even bothered to contemplate the other problem with vengeance, that those who crusade against it may have as many problems as those who crusade for it. They may pose just as grave a threat against what we think of as “civilization,” which, if it relies on anything at all, must rely on the idea that humans are worth something. Also, that actions have consequences.

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One Cheer for Meritocracy

10th July 2014

John Derbyshire, Patron Saint of Dyspepsia, considers George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh.

As both writers foresaw, meritocracy has come upon us. We don’t, thank goodness, have it in the pathological form that Orwell described, although some elements of the current political correctness regime strongly resemble Orwell’s vision. Those of us who write commentary on social topics, especially on matters of race and sex, have to keep checking ourselves to stop overusing phrases out of Nineteen Eighty-Four: “Thought Police,” “crimestop,” “Two Minutes Hate,” and so on.

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I’ll Check My White Male Privilege Right After You Check Your Arrogant Liberal Assumptions

10th July 2014

Matt Walsh has had it with leftist jerks.

I read this email from a reader, and now I’ve spent the whole day checking all over my house to find my privilege. I don’t know, I must have misplaced it….

This is one of the best fiskings of an arrogant left-wing jerk that I’ve ever read.

And, in the end, what have we accomplished? You assume that by the mere fact of being a Caucasian male I’m as privileged and elite as the wealthy son of an oil tycoon, and I assume that you’re an oblivious, sheltered, brainwashed, insufferable liberal college student. We both negate the other based on the caricature we’ve painted, and then we go on with our lives. This whole exchange proves utterly pointless, but at least we get to stay in our comfort zones where our ideological opponents are narrow and manageable categories, rather than dynamic and uncontainable individuals.

But I guess that is the point, isn’t it? The ‘white male privilege’ shtick wasn’t invented to foster a dialogue, it was invented to suppress it. You tell someone to ‘check their privilege’ because you want to discount everything they just said. It’s a Get Out of Thinking card. It allows you to push wide swaths of people into a nice little box labeled ‘privileged’ and summarily disqualify every thought and idea they bring to the table.

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15 Ways Liberals Are Like Bratty Kids

9th July 2014

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4) Half their vocabulary seems to consist of the words, “That’s not FAIR!” It’s not FAIR that they’re not allowed to lie as much as they want! It’s not FAIR that other people get to have opinions, too! It’s not fair that after yelling at someone for 30 minutes, someone said something back to them. It’s not fair! It’s not fair! It’s not FAIR!

14) Little kids believe in Santa Claus. Liberals believe big government works. Both beliefs are equally dumb.

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Amazon Rainforest Was Farms Once

8th July 2014

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It’s generally assumed that it would mean a disaster for the planet if the rainforests of the Amazon were to be replaced with farmland. But it turns out that, actually, much of the area was indeed farmland just a few thousand years ago.

We learn this from new research just published in the august Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A team of mainly British-based scientists carried it out, seeking to explain the presence of various large human-dug ditches and earthworks criss-crossing today’s thick Amazon jungles – and pre-dating them.

Some in the paleo-boffinry community suggest that the ditches mean that the pre-Columbian civilisations of South America had slashed and burned the immemorial rainforests to create large intensively farmed areas home to dense populations. Others contend that actually the jungles remained largely intact, with just a few incursions by small communities of people.

Neither of these scenarios are true, apparently.

“We went to Bolivia hoping to find evidence of the kinds of crops being grown by ancient Amerindian groups, and to try to find how much impact they had on the ancient forest,” explains Dr John Carson of Reading uni. “What we found was that they were having virtually no effect on the forest, in terms of past deforestation, because it didn’t exist there until much later.”

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Insights From a Real Swordfight

8th July 2014

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I am as appalled as anyone at the outbreak of violence at the Golden Temple in India last week. It is amazing and very fortunate that so few were injured. It does however give us a (thankfully) rare insight into how trained fighters (I am assuming that these chaps actually practise with their weapons; there is a long tradition of Sikh warrior arts) actually behave under the stress of combat.

I am as appalled as anyone at the outbreak of violence at the Golden Temple in India last week. It is amazing and very fortunate that so few were injured. It does however give us a (thankfully) rare insight into how trained fighters (I am assuming that these chaps actually practise with their weapons; there is a long tradition of Sikh warrior arts) actually behave under the stress of combat. – See more at: http://guywindsor.net/blog/2014/06/insights-from-a-real-swordfight/?fb_action_ids=10152520065582354&fb_action_types=news.publishes&fb_ref=pub-standard#sthash.4NevmRg1.SsQraMqC.dpuf

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Speakings Fees Potentially Huge Tax Deduction for Hillary

6th July 2014

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Trying to quell a controversy over a $225,000 speaking fee at UNLV, Hillary Clinton told ABC News Friday that all her speaking fees from colleges were “donated” to the family’s Clinton Foundation. It naturally didn’t occur to ABC News to ask whether Hillary deducted this “pass-through” from her taxes, as would likely be legal under the tax code.

“All of the fees have been donated to the Clinton Foundation for it to continue its life-changing and life-saving work. So it goes from a foundation at a university to another foundation,” Clinton told ABC.

The political value of large amounts of money comes not from the power to spend it but rather from the power to determine how it is spent. Control of spending on the part of a well-funded ‘non-profit’ is just as politically valuable as having it in your own bank account. You don’t have to own an airplane if whenever you fly somewhere you can charter one and charge it to someone else. The power of the Presidency doesn’t stem from the magnitude of the office’s salary.

The Clinton Foundation has grown to a non-profit behemoth, with over $225 million in assets. It isn’t entirely clear what the foundation actually does. Reading a summary of its activities filed with its annual 990 reads like a Clinton State of the Union address. With over $50 million in annual donations, Hillary’s speaking fees would be a very small part of its operations.

Hillary says it does “life-changing and like-saving work,” but it pays twice as much in salaries as it gives out in grants. It stands astride the nexus between government, big business and mega-wealthy individuals. The potential conflict of interest between its work and a Hillary presidential term would ordinarily invite thorough media scrutiny and vetting.

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HAPPY DANCE SUNDAY

6th July 2014

Safety Dance

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Reading in Restraint: The Last Chained Libraries

5th July 2014

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The original DRM.

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How the Middle Class Lifestyle Became Unaffordable

5th July 2014

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Why have the costs of a middle class lifestyle soared while income has stagnated?Though it is tempting to finger one ideologically convenient cause or another, there are four structural causes to this long-term trend:

1. Baumol’s Cost Disease
2. Systemic headwinds to the current version of capitalism
3. Dominance of global corporate capital
4. Financialization

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Nathan Myhrvold’s Recipe for a Better Oven

5th July 2014

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Most of us bake, roast, and broil our food using a technology that was invented 5,000 years ago for drying mud bricks: the oven. The original oven was clay, heated by a wood fire. Today, the typical oven is a box covered in shiny steel or sparkling enamel, powered by gas or electricity. But inside the oven, little has changed.

Well, except for me — if it can’t be cooked on a range or in a microwave, I don’t eat it. But it’s a problem for other people.

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The Presidency Has Turned Into an ‘Elective Monarchy’

5th July 2014

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And not the British kind, either.

It’s about time for some constitutional impiety on the right, and F.H. Buckley answers the call in his bracing and important new book, The Once and Future King. Buckley, a professor of law at George Mason University and a senior editor at The American Spectator, is unmistakably conservative. But that doesn’t stop him from pointing out that America’s not so all-fired exceptional—or from arguing that our Constitution has made key contributions to our national decline.

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Happy Independence Day

4th July 2014

And happy birthday to a great American:

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Hillary Clinton Raked in Nearly $2 Million in Campus Speaking Fees

4th July 2014

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Democrats — the party of the 1%.

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Why the Deep Norms of the SF Genre Matter

2nd July 2014

Eric Raymond, more famous as a computer geek than as a literary critic, nevertheless has some firm and well-argued opinions on my favorite form of writing.

It is not fashionable these days to be so normative about any kind of artistic form, let alone SF. The insistence that we should embrace diversity is constant, even if it means giving up having any standards at all. In a genre like SF where the core traditions include neophilia and openness to possibility, the argument for exclusive definitions and hard boundaries seems especially problematic.

I think it is an argument very much worth making nevertheless. This essay is my stake in the ground, one I intend to refer readers back to when (as sometimes happens) I’m accused of being stuck on an outmoded and narrow conception of the genre. I will argue three propositions: that artistic genres are functionally important, that genre constraints are an aid to creativity and communication rather than a hindrance, and that science fiction has a particular mission which both justifies and requires its genre constraints.

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US Book Publishers Are Making More Through Online Sales Than Physical Stores

1st July 2014

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Speaking as someone who hasn’t bought a physical book in a walk-in bookstore in about ten years, I find this unsurprising.

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Feminism As a Mating Strategy Among Beta Males

30th June 2014

Jim Goad turns over a rock.

First they came for the male feminists, and no one spoke out—because no one likes them, not even the female feminists.

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Education Fads: Female-brained v. Male-brained

30th June 2014

Steve Sailer has seen it all before.

Education theorists usually have a very hard time remembering that people who thought much like them have been in charge for a long, long time and that most of their ideas have been tried (unsuccessfully) several times before. I don’t know how many times I’ve lived through cycles of fads based on the assumption that the reason for mediocre test scores is because American schools have been run like madrassas until last week, but now we’re finally going to emphasize critical thinking skills and put our chairs in a circle for the first time ever.

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Being a Liberal Means Looking Down on Non-Liberals

29th June 2014

Freeberg captures an eternal truth.

Liberals are such a funny lot. They write their tomes about the challenges humanity faces and how it’s time to dig in and really mean business — but once they’re done running things a little while, nobody’s digging in or meaning business because it’s like running through a thicket. Suddenly, everyone is dodging little-laws. Or breaking them. And the place doesn’t look like utopia; it looks like Detroit. You look around and there isn’t anybody acting on the values the liberal was discussing; nobody helping each other, nobody being grown-up or compassionate, beginning with the end in mind, looking down the road, thinking ahead, building a better world. Just litter in the sidewalks, abandoned factories, rotting houses and people awaiting in long lines talking about “foostamps.”

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Ebooks v. Paper

29th June 2014

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An excellent examination of how e-books are affecting people’s reading habits and patterns.

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Say No to the Distraction-Industrial Complex

29th June 2014

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What’s devastating to our productivity: interruptions we didn’t invite, especially if they draw our attention to an unrelated task, such as an incoming email, instant message or other alert.

Or working in an open-plan office because managers (who have private offices) think they’re ‘cool’ and ‘collaborative’ whereas they’re actually just distracting and irritating.

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‘Amazon Is Not My Publisher’

29th June 2014

A Real Author explains it all to you.

Look at it this way: you have a widget you’ve invented. It’s shiny; it’s awesome. You’re pretty sure everybody’s going to love it. Problem being, you have no way to tell anybody about. You’ve spent your fortune developing the widget, and you live on an island in the middle of the ocean and phone calls are expensive. You met a guy a while back who expressed interest in your widget, but he wants you to givesell him the rights to produce the widget. And incidentally, he swears he’ll promote the hell out of your shiny widget, and also make it SHINIER! You don’t really need that; you’ve got production facilities going (your island happens to house the last robotic fabrication facility from the lost Mu Empire) but you just don’t have a way to distribute the crates and crates of beautiful widgets to the downtrodden masses whose lives are poorer for lack of your widget.

Then you get a visitor.

She – because strong, female characters are important, I’m told – offers to sell your widgets, under your name, at her enormous network of widget emporia. And not to reverse-engineer them, and cut you out of the market, as she sells widgets, and has no interest in getting into widget production, because taxes. All it’ll cost is roughly a third the retail price of each widget sold.

The other guy offered you a month’s salary or so paid over a year, and maybe about 12% retail of each widget, if anybody’s interested. Oh, and you have to give him the opportunity to buy any more widgets you invent. And you can never sell your widget through anybody else. Oh, and he doesn’t actually have any storefronts. He has relationships with other people, who will also take a cut from the sales of your widget (which is not the same thing as “your widget sales”).

Which deal do you take?

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Heterogeneity: A Capital Idea!

29th June 2014

Sandy Ikeda in The Freeman illuminates how the Marxian dependence on the Aggregation Fallacy (in this case treating ‘capital’ as an undifferentiated commodity — like, say, phlogiston) leads them into error.

When Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century was released in English earlier this year it sparked vigorous debate on the issue of wealth inequality. Despite the prominence of the word in the title, however, capital has not itself become a hot topic. Apparently none of his defenders have taken the opportunity to explore capital theory, and, with a few exceptions, neither have his critics.

Well, that would depend on them treating ‘capital’ as an actual thing worth investigating, rather than a bugbear to be used solely as a target.

Capital is heterogeneous. Now, mainstream economics treats capital as a homogenous glob.

And, in many instances, treats ‘labor’ the same way.

A capital good can’t be used for just any purpose:  A hammer generally can’t be used as a harbor. Second, to make a capital good productive a person needs to combine it with other capital goods in ways that are complementary within her plan: Hammers and harbors could be used together to help repair a boat. And third, heterogeneity means that capital goods have no common unit of measurement, which poses a problem if you want to add up how much capital you have:  One tractor plus two computers plus three nails doesn’t give you “six units” of capital.

Unless you’re an intellectual, of course.

But if capital goods are heterogeneous, then whether or not you earn an income from them depends crucially on what kinds of capital goods you buy and exactly how you combine them, and in turn how that combination has to complement the combinations that others have put together. You build an office-cleaning business in the hopes that someone else has built an office to clean.

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A Miasma of Untruth

29th June 2014

Theodore Dalrymple is delightfully dyspeptic today.

Science does not need women any more than it needs foot fetishists, pole-vaulters, or Somalis. What science needs (if an abstraction such as science can be said to need anything) is scientists. If they happen also to be foot fetishists, pole-vaulters, or Somalis, so be it: but no one in his right mind would go to any lengths to recruit for his laboratory foot fetishists, pole-vaulters, or Somalis for those characteristics alone.

It would be no consolation to know while on a collapsing bridge and about to plunge into the deep ravine below that it had been built by a truly representative sample of the population, and was therefore a monument to social justice.

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HAPPY DANCE SUNDAY

29th June 2014

Video Killed the Radio Star

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Piketty and Inheritances, WASPs and Jews

27th June 2014

Read it.

French economist Thomas Piketty has succeeded in raising the always important and fascinating topic of inheritances back into the public spotlight, even though his contention of a return to pre-20th Century French norms mostly doesn’t seem to have gone through the formality of coming into existence yet, unless Piketty is right about their being countless vast concentrations of hidden inherited wealth that have wholly escaped the attention of taxmen, fundraisers, salesmen, and divorce attorneys.

And good luck with that. Unless you’re a Kennedy or a Rockefeller or some other flavor of Democrat. Then you’re good.

One reason is that the pre-Baby Boomer “Greatest Generation” didn’t inherit all that much, since their ancestors tended to have been hit hard by the Depression and confiscatory income tax levels at the high end. Moreover, new homes were cheap during the era of suburbanization, so inheriting grandma’s old house wasn’t typically very exciting.

My grandmother lived in a house that had a basement that my grandfather (and friends) dug out from under it. She used one of those open washing machines with an attached mangle to wring the water out. My cousin wound up with it in return for looking after her in her final years; don’t think she got much for it.

These days, the parents of many Baby Boomers are dying off and often leaving significant sums, but the large average family sizes of the Baby Boom mean that the inheritances tend to get split up among three or four kids. Individuals in Post-Baby Boom generations with smaller family sizes may do even better. The oldest post-Baby Boomer (b. 1965) is just shy of 50, although many of them are younger siblings of large Baby Boom families. But in another decade or so, the average number of children an inheritance is split among will probably be down notably.

When my mother died, my share of the estate was about half of my then annual salary. Not something you could retire on.

After WWII, however, the entire topic of inheritance and trust funds virtually disappeared from popular culture. This helps explain the often-noticed “How can they afford that place?” mystery in movies and television shows (e.g., Friends). Characters tend to live in apartments and houses for which they have no visible means of support.

Ever notice how people like TV-show police sergeants in NYC live in places for which in real life they couldn’t even have afforded the utilities?

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U.S. Sends 10,000 Green Berets To Iraq

26th June 2014

Read it.

I didn’t know the U.S. had 10,000 Green Berets. Must have been a no-bid contract.

But that’s Obama for you — all hat and no cattle.

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Tech Moguls Raise Cash to Fight Washington’s ‘Big Money Problem’

25th June 2014

Read it.

Much like Democrats complaining about ‘the rich’, irony is lost on some people.

Great picture of Woz looking like a Taliban mullah — all he needs is the callus on his forehead.

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Mr. Piketty’s Big Book of Marxiness

24th June 2014

Jonah Goldberg points out that the Emperor’s new clothes are merely recycled rags.

Piketty attempts to avoid Marx’s scientistic messianism by proffering caveats like “one should be wary of economic determinism.” Yes, one should. But Piketty has a grating habit of offering seemingly deflating qualifiers and “to be sures” only to proceed—à la an unreconstructed Marxist—to argue as if science and objective truth are unquestionably on his side.

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‘Greenhouse’ Plug-In Lets You See Where Politicians Get Their Money

23rd June 2014

Read it.

There is indeed an app for that….

Unfortunately, the campaign finance laws don’t have a category for ‘stupid rich kid’.

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One unvaccinated child was patient zero of a measles epidemic

22nd June 2014

Read it.

I don’t ordinarily pick up anything from DailyKos, but this attracted my attention.

The problem, at least in the USA, is that those unvaccinated children tend to be clustered in small geographical areas where individuals who share the typical characteristics of many vaccine deniers tend to live.

Love that term: ‘vaccine deniers’.

The complication is that the herd immunity can break down rather quickly when the vaccination uptake drops below 80-90% in these clusters. And all it takes is one person carrying a vaccine preventable disease from an area, where it is endemic, to then start an outbreak or epidemic very quickly in one of these low vaccine uptake clusters.

In evolutionary terms, this would seem to be a self-correcting problem — the offspring of those who are inclined to refuse vaccination get the disease; either they form the same immunity that those of us did who went through it before the vaccine was available, or they die, thereby removing their offspring from the gene pool.

Maybe I’m missing something….

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