May 23, 2013
Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM
YOU'RE NO ANGELINA:
What Angelina Jolie forgot to mention (H. Gilbert Welch, 5/18/13, CNN)
[M]ore than 99% of women do not have the BRCA1 mutation -- or the BRCA2 mutation, for that matter.Let's be clear, the BRCA1 mutation is a bad thing. Although I might quibble with the exact numbers in the piece, the big picture is this: the mutation increases the risk of developing breast cancer about five fold and increases the risk of ovarian cancer more than 10 fold.It is a powerful risk factor for these cancers -- almost as powerful as cigarette smoking is for lung cancer.When people are at very high risk for something bad to happen, preventive interventions are more likely to be a good deal; that is, the benefits are likely to exceed the harms. I'm not saying that prophylactic mastectomy is the right choice for a woman with BRCA1, simply that it is a reasonable one.When people are at average risk, the deal changes. The opportunity for benefit is less, simply because the bad event is less likely to happen. But the harms of preventive intervention remain roughly the same.It is a fundamental precept of medicine -- one I hammer home with undergraduates (future patients) and medical students (future doctors): Patients with severe abnormalities stand to gain more from intervention than patients with mild ones. Patients with mild abnormalities are more likely to experience net harm from intervention, simply because they have less opportunity to benefit.The vast majority of women don't have the BRCA1 mutation. They are at average risk for breast cancer. They are not Angelina Jolie. They should not have a preventive mastectomy.
May 22, 2013
Posted by orrinj at 9:15 PM
DIDN'T MAKE US PROUD, DID MAKE US MONEY:
Electric carmaker Tesla pays off U.S. loan (Ben Klayman, May 22, 2013, Reuters)
The automaker said on Wednesday that it wired $451.8 million to repay the full loan with interest."I would like to thank the Department of Energy and the members of Congress and their staffs that worked hard to create the (Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing) program, and particularly the American taxpayer from whom these funds originate," Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a statement. "I hope we did you proud."
Posted by orrinj at 8:55 PM
IT WOULD CERTAINLY HELP WITH OUR OVEREMPLOYMENT PROBLEM:
This country needs another financial crisis (Allan Sloan, May 22, 2013, Fortune)
Almost a century ago Thomas Marshall, Woodrow Wilson's Vice President, got tired of listening to senators blather on about the nation's needs and uttered the words that made him immortal: "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar." Today, with 24/7 blathering as our national political pastime, let me adapt Marshall's 1917 remark: What this country needs to get its act together is a good five-alarm financial crisis.
I mean, look around. Except for the Federal Reserve, which has consistently tried to help the economy, misguided though some of its actions may be, about the only real changes our government has made since the onset of the financial crisis were induced by fear. The Troubled Asset Relief Program, which played a vital role in restoring confidence and stability to the financial system, was passed only because the House's rejection of it on Sept. 28, 2008, set off a 778-point plummet in the Dow. That scared the House into reversing itself.
Should have listened to Rahm and not wasted the "crisis".
Posted by orrinj at 8:49 PM
AND THE ALGORITHM IS PRODUCTIVE 24/7:
Living by the Numbers: Big Data Knows What Your Future Holds (Martin U. Müller, Marcel Rosenbach and Thomas Schulz, 5/22/13, Der Spiegel)
The expression "Big Brother" has become dated. Experts would seem to have reached consensus on the term "Big Data" to describe the new favorite topic of discussion in boardrooms, at conventions like Berlin's re:publica last week, and in a number of new books. Big Data promises both total control and the logical management of our future in all aspects of life. Authors like Oxford Professor Victor Mayer-Schönberger are calling it a "revolution." According to Mayer-Schönberger, Big Data, which is also the title of his current book on the subject, will change our working environment and even the way we think.The most important factor is not the sheer volume of data, even though it is currently growing faster than ever. An estimated 2.8 zettabytes of data were created in 2012. One zettabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilobytes. Experts predict that the volume of new data could increase to 40 zettabytes by 2020. It would take about 250 million DVDs to store the amount of data being transmitted on the Internet in a single day. This volume doubles about once every two years.New is the way companies, government agencies and scientists are now beginning to interpret and analyze their data resources. Because storage space costs almost nothing nowadays, computers, which are getting faster and faster, can link and correlate a wide variety of data around the clock. Algorithms are what create order from this chaos. They dig through, discovering previously unknown patterns and promptly revealing new relationships, insights and business models.Though the term Big Data means very little to most people, the power of algorithms is already everywhere. Credit card companies can quickly recognize unusual usage patterns, and hence automatically warn cardholders when large sums are suddenly being charged to their cards in places where they have never been. Energy companies use weather data analyses to pinpoint the ideal locations for wind turbines down to the last meter. According to official figures, since the Swedish capital Stockholm began using algorithms to manage traffic, drive times through the city's downtown area have been cut in half and emissions reduced by 10 percent. Online merchants have recently started using the analyses to optimize their selling strategies. The widespread phrase "Customers who bought this item also bought ..." is only one example of the approach.
Posted by orrinj at 3:55 PM
THERE'S A CURE FOR THAT:
How to Humble a Wing Nut (Cass R. Sunstein May 20, 2013, Bloomberg)
There is no standard definition of the all-important term "wing nut," so let's provide one. A wing nut is someone who has a dogmatic commitment to an extreme political view ("wing") that is false and at least a bit crazy ("nut").A wing nut might believe that George W. Bush is a fascist, that Barack Obama is a socialist, that big banks run the Department of the Treasury or that the U.S. intervened in Libya because of oil.When wing nuts encounter people with whom they disagree, they immediately impugn their opponents' motivations. Whatever their religion, they are devout Manicheans, dividing their fellow citizens into the forces of light and the forces of darkness.Wing nuts have a lot of fellow travelers -- people who don't fit the definition, yet who are similarly dogmatic and whose views, though not really crazy, aren't exactly evidence-based. You can be a wing nut on a particular issue without being a wing nut in general. Most human beings can hear the voice, at least on occasion, of their inner wing nut.The good news is that wing nuts usually don't matter. The bad news is that they influence people who do. Sadly, more information often fails to correct people's misunderstandings. In fact, it can backfire and entrench them. Can anything be done?For a positive answer, consider an intriguing study by Philip Fernbach, a University of Colorado business school professor, and his colleagues. Their central finding is that if you ask people to explain exactly why they think as they do, they discover how much they don't know -- and they become more humble and therefore more moderate.
Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM
You Do Not Have Asperger's (Amy S.F. Lutz, May 22, 2013, Slate)
[A] 2011 study by Catherine Lord (another member of the task force) and more than 35 colleagues reported, "In these 12 university-based sites, with research clinicians selected for their expertise in ASD and trained in using standardized instruments, there was great variation in how best-estimate clinical diagnoses within the autism spectrum (i.e., autistic disorder, PDD-NOS, Asperger's disorder) were assigned to individual children." In other words, the diagnoses children received depended largely on where they were diagnosed.Yet those diagnoses had serious implications. Certain states provide services for children diagnosed with autism but not for those diagnosed with Asperger's. "It was difficult to get kids with Asperger's services because their deficits can be subtle, so they were left on their own to some degree," says Matthew Siegel, director of the Developmental Disorders Program at Spring Harbor Hospital in Maine.
Posted by orrinj at 3:47 PM
NOR WILL FRANCE BE MISSED:
Franglais row: Is the English language conquering France? (Agnes Poirier, 5/22/13, BBC)
On 20 March, when French higher education minister Genevieve Fioraso unveiled the proposed road map, she mentioned that there were only 3,000 Indian students in France.In order to attract more foreign students, she added, French universities would have to start offering courses taught in English."We must teach in English or there will only remain in France a handful of experts discussing Proust around the table," she said.
Posted by orrinj at 3:42 PM
WORRY ABOUT FITNESS, NOT FATNESS:
The big fat truth : More and more studies show that being overweight does not always shorten life -- but some public-health researchers would rather not talk about them. (Virginia Hughes, 22 May 2013, Nature)
The report, a meta-analysis of 97 studies including 2.88 million people, had been released on 2 January in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)1. A team led by Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland, reported that people deemed 'overweight' by international standards were 6% less likely to die than were those of 'normal' weight over the same time period.The result seemed to counter decades of advice to avoid even modest weight gain, provoking coverage in most major news outlets -- and a hostile backlash from some public-health experts. "This study is really a pile of rubbish, and no one should waste their time reading it," said Walter Willett, a leading nutrition and epidemiology researcher at the Harvard school, in a radio interview. Willett later organized the Harvard symposium -- where speakers lined up to critique Flegal's study -- to counteract that coverage and highlight what he and his colleagues saw as problems with the paper. "The Flegal paper was so flawed, so misleading and so confusing to so many people, we thought it really would be important to dig down more deeply," Willett says.But many researchers accept Flegal's results and see them as just the latest report illustrating what is known as the obesity paradox. Being overweight increases a person's risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many other chronic illnesses. But these studies suggest that for some people -- particularly those who are middle-aged or older, or already sick -- a bit of extra weight is not particularly harmful, and may even be helpful.
Posted by orrinj at 2:37 PM
IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD:
This App Will Make You Feel Better, Using No Medicine At All : Instead, it uses the power of your own positive thinking to create a placebo effect--which works even if you know it's happening. (Ben Schiller, Co.exist)
Daniel Jacobs also wants to use placebos for good. His new app, which he's crowd-funding on Indiegogo, is an attempt to take the placebo out of the doctor's office and into your home. He hopes it will make people feel better, and contribute further to placebo research.You start by setting a goal: say, more joy or love in your life. Then, you choose someone to give you the placebo (maybe a friend or family member), what you want it to be (a pill, say), and where you want to take it (maybe a forest where you go running with a friend). You then "take" the placebo whenever you want to, following a pre-set ritual built into the app.The point is to replicate what's important about the placebo effect, which isn't the pill itself, but the experience. "If we think about placebo as a transformational symbol, then people get to choose what placebo they want," says Jacobs. "It can be a pill, magic wand, holy book, communion wafer, or herbs. It just needs to be meaningful for them."
Posted by orrinj at 2:35 PM
MACRO, NOT JUST MICRO:
When shining a light is a problem in itself : Heisenberg's uncertainties are starting to cause problems for some very big experiments (Steve Jones, 21 May 2013, The Telegraph)
In science, as in life, the old jokes are the best. The physicist Werner Heisenberg was once stopped for speeding. "Professor Heisenberg," the cop said, "do you know how fast you were going?" "No," he replied, "but I know exactly where I am!" [...]All that may seem irrelevant to daily life. But now the mechanical effect of light has been found to influence things on what, to a physicist, is a gigantic scale (or, at least, can almost be seen with the naked eye). It's a tiny membrane that acts as a mirror and is vibrated fast. Shine a laser beam on it, and suddenly the mirror begins to shake even more violently, and in an unpredictable way. The energy of the photons means, once again, that the reflected light beam cannot be used to give a precise picture of both the position and the speed of movement of the mirror's surface, just as Heisenberg predicted.
Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM
A MALE PARTY AND A FEMALE PARTY:
Study Finds Correlation Between Fiscal Conservatism And Big Biceps : Does physical strength lead to conservative beliefs? (Dan Nosowitz, 05.20.2013, Popular Science)
Conducted by researchers at Denmark's Aarhus University and the University of California, Santa Cruz, the study surveyed subjects by upper-body strength, socioeconomic status, and then compared those with the subject's response to a questionnaire about economic redistribution. The hypothesis: men with more upper-body strength would be less open to economic redistribution. And it turned out to be true, to an extent, depending on socioeconomic status.
May 21, 2013
Posted by orrinj at 3:53 PM
SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO THE TIMES:
The I.R.S. Does Its Job (NY Times, March 7, 2012)
Taxpayers should be encouraged by complaints from Tea Party chapters applying for nonprofit tax status at being asked by the Internal Revenue Service to prove they are "social welfare" organizations and not the political activists they so obviously are.Tea Party supporters claim they are being politically harassed with extensive I.R.S. questionnaires. But the service properly contends that it must ensure that these groups are "primarily" engaged in social welfare, not political campaigning, to merit tax exemption under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code.Such I.R.S. inquiries are long overdue and should be applied across the board to the growing number of organizations, allied with the major political parties, that are also ludicrously posing as "social welfare" groups. Legitimate social welfare organizations are allowed limited political activity. But these political offshoots are using that tax status in a transparent ploy to keep big donors secret while funneling the money to campaigns. Chief among these groups are American Crossroads, the campaign machine created by Republican guru Karl Rove, and Priorities USA, the Democratic counterpart founded by former White House aides, now openly encouraged by President Obama as he runs for re-election.These groups, which already have 501(c)(4) status, should be as thoroughly investigated as any Tea Party chapter applying for that tax exempt status.
May 20, 2013
Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM
CUT CORPORATE WELFARE:
Sweet-Toothed Senators Push Back on Sugar Supports (Niels Lesniewski, 5/20/13, Roll Call)
[Republican Mark S.] Kirk is one of three senators leading a push to reduce price-support levels for sugar. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., and Kirk will reintroduce their sugar program overhaul as an amendment to this year's farm bill after it reaches the Senate floor Monday afternoon."The sugar program is broken and this is a smart, commonsense fix. Right now, American families are footing the bill for an outdated program that offers a sweet deal to a small group of sugar growers and processors. All the while, we're losing manufacturing jobs all over the country as a result," Shaheen said in a statement.
Posted by orrinj at 2:19 PM
OUR REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT:
On climate change, Obama faces an attack from his left flank (Juliet Eilperin, May 20, 2013, Washington Post)
"flank" suffices.If you want to get a sense of how impatient some of President Obama's most loyal supporters are getting when it comes to climate change, consider this: They're planning to conduct protests at meetings of the grassroots advocacy organization run by his former top campaign aides.Environmentalists have become increasingly frustrated that Organizing for Action, the non-profit 501(c)(4) group that conducts issue advocacy on behalf of the president's agenda, isn't doing more to press for executive action on global warming. So these grassroots groups -- including CREDO Action, the political arm of the company CREDO Mobile, 350.org and others, intend to demonstrate at events OFA will conduct in the weeks ahead. [...]Climate activists are particularly upset that OFA is not lobbying the president to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial project that would ship carbon-intense crude oil from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries.
Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM
JUST A NORMAL BUREAUCRACY IN ACTION:
Confusion and Staff Troubles Rife at I.R.S. Office in Ohio (NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI and MICHAEL LUO, 5/18/13, NY Times)
The whole kerfuffle is an argument to simplify the tax code.Overseen by a revolving cast of midlevel managers, stalled by miscommunication with I.R.S. lawyers and executives in Washington and confused about the rules they were enforcing, the Cincinnati specialists flagged virtually every application with Tea Party in its name. But their review went beyond conservative groups: more than 400 organizations came under scrutiny, including at least two dozen liberal-leaning ones and some that were seemingly apolitical.Over three years, as the office struggled with a growing caseload of advocacy groups seeking tax exemptions, responsibility for the cases moved from one group of specialists to another, and the Determinations Unit, which handles all nonprofit applications, was reorganized. One batch of cases sat ignored for months. Few if any of the employees were experts on tax law, contributing to waves of questionnaires about groups' political activity and donors that top officials acknowledge were improper."The I.R.S. is pretty dysfunctional to begin with, and this case brought all those dysfunctions to their worst," said Paul Streckfus, a former I.R.S. employee who runs a newsletter devoted to tax-exempt organizations. "People were coming and going, asking for advice and not getting it, and sometimes forgetting the cases existed." [...]Administering the nearly four-million-word federal tax code involves so many arcane legalities, and is so fraught with potential to ignite Washington's partisan skirmishes or infuriate taxpayers, that much of the I.R.S. is run by lawyers.But the Exempt Organizations Division -- concentrated in Cincinnati with fewer than 200 workers, according to I.R.S. officials -- is staffed mostly with accountants, clerks and civil servants. Working for one of only three I.R.S. divisions not charged with collecting tax revenue, specialists in the Determinations Unit in Cincinnati primarily review and process roughly 70,000 applications for exemptions each year, relatively few from groups engaged in election activity.Inside the agency, the unit was considered particularly unglamorous. "Nobody wants to be a determination agent," said Jack Reilly, a former lawyer in the Washington office that oversaw exempt organizations. "It's a job that just about everybody would be anxious to get out of it."In recent years, the office's biggest headache was not the rising tide of political groups seeking tax exemptions or the growing calls from Washington lawmakers, chiefly Democrats, demanding closer scrutiny of big-spending political operations claiming tax-exempt status. The office was consumed with a different problem: a tweak Congress had made to the tax code that threatened more than 400,000 nonprofit groups around the country with an automatic loss of tax exemption, potentially putting some out of business, according to a report by the Taxpayer Advocate Service, which handles complaints about tax cases. Tens of thousands of such groups had reapplied for exemptions, overwhelming the office with queries and paperwork.The rules governing those traditional charities, known as 501(c)3 groups, are relatively clear. But after the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision on campaign financing freed corporations and unions to spend money on elections, hundreds of new applications began to arrive from Tea Party and other organizations. Most sought a different status, 501(c)4, under which "social welfare" nonprofit groups may engage in a limited amount of election activity without registering as political action committees and disclosing their donors.Those indicating that they will intervene in elections typically receive closer scrutiny, former I.R.S. officials said, because of the potential that they may not be entitled to a tax exemption.It is not unusual for I.R.S. specialists to search for patterns in applications, in part for clues toward fraud and scams -- a single tax preparer employing the same tax gambit for multiple clients, for example -- and in part to ensure that similar groups are treated in a consistent way, the former officials said.It is not yet clear which manager in Cincinnati asked for an initial keyword search of Tea Party applications, Congressional aides said. One of the employees that the House committee is seeking to interview this week, Joseph Herr, had been a manager in charge of the group of specialists in Cincinnati from its inception through August 2010, according to the aides.By October 2010, a batch of 40 cases were under heightened review, 18 of them with "Tea Party" in the group names. Specialists throughout the Determinations Unit had been issued a "Be on the Lookout" notice for Tea Party applications, and some were given training on how to evaluate groups planning to do election-related work, according to the I.R.S. inspector general.In October 2010, as part of a reorganization of the unit, responsibility for the cases was shifted to a different group of specialists. Some applications that had been farmed out to Determinations Unit specialists elsewhere were moved back to the Cincinnati office.One manager there complained that the "technical unit" -- lawyers, chiefly in Washington, who advise the specialists on the tax law -- had been slow in providing guidance on the applications, according to the inspector general. Over the next several months, the inspector general said, low-level specialists, managers and the lawyers appeared to struggle to come up with a consistent set of criteria and questions to ask the groups.Philip Hackney, who was an I.R.S. lawyer in Washington, occasionally reviewed the exempt unit's work until 2011 and was not involved in the Tea Party cases. He said that several times he and other lawyers revised the procedures the Cincinnati employees devised to scrutinize applicants because their questions might be interpreted as intrusive or politically insensitive."We're talking about an office overwhelmed by 60,000 paper applications trying to find efficient means of dealing with that," said Mr. Hackney, who is now a law professor at Louisiana State University. "There were times where they came up with shortcuts that were efficient but didn't take into consideration the public perception."
Posted by orrinj at 2:04 PM
OUR REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT:
EXCLUSIVE: Organized labor to oppose President Obama's nomination of Penny Pritzker for commerce secretary (JAMES WARREN, 5/20/13,NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Organized labor will break its silence and oppose President Obama's nominee for Commerce Secretary, Chicago's Penny Pritzker, the Daily News has learned.The decision stems from long-standing grievances with labor practices at the Hyatt Hotels chain, a source of her family's fortune, and despite earlier reports that unions would not raise objections to the nomination.
May 19, 2013
Posted by orrinj at 11:43 AM
POD FODDER:We haven't done this for awhile and I need some ideas for a trip to DC next weekend, so, what's everybody listening to, watching, reading playing...
Friend and coworker, Brian Barthelmes, and his band, Tallahassee, have a great new album out:
Fans of Patrick O'Brian, in particular, will really enjoy:
With Lewis ending, we still have:
Still the most amazing app ever:
and the addictive https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/endeavourgame
Posted by orrinj at 11:36 AM
KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:
Hamas confiscates rockets from Fatah's armed wing (KHALED ABU TOAMEH, 05/19/2013, Jerusalem Post)
Hamas has confiscated rockets and other types of weaponry belonging to Fatah's armed wing, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Palestinian sources revealed Sunday.The sources told the Fatah-affiliated Palestine Press News Agency that Hamas confiscated 100 rockets and 500 "combat units" when Fatah tried to move them from one location to another in the Gaza Strip.
Posted by orrinj at 11:32 AM
THERE IS NO EUROPE:
Postcard: Love thy neighbor? Europeans say 'no' : A Pew Research Center study shows public support for the European project has fallen and distrust between countries is growing. And the most down on the EU are the French. (John Laurenson, 5/19/13, Deutsche Welle)
Pew talked to 7,646 people in eight EU countries in March this year. Their conclusion is that no-one believes in the European Union any more; except the Germans. And that the process of European integration that was supposed to bring down barriers between European countries has had the opposite effect.Belief that European economic integration has strengthened the economy slipped right across Europe from 2012 to 2013. It decreased five points in Germany. Now only 54 percent of Germans think economic integration is making us richer. But that's the only place in the survey where most people think this. In Britain it's now 26 percent, in Greece and Italy 11 percent. France registered the biggest drop in confidence in the economic benefits of the EU, at 22 percent they are now more disillusioned than the British.French approval of the EU as an institution has also plummeted; approval ratings are 19 percent down on last year. That is much more than any other country, again overtaking the British.When the French have to look to Britain to be convinced that the European Union is a good idea, you know you're in trouble.
Nations don't have neighbors--they're ethnic entities.
Posted by orrinj at 11:14 AM
WHICH ISN'T GOING TO HAPPEN...:
Jaron Lanier takes a hard look at the wired world : The Writer's Life: The smart, accessible 'Who Owns the Future?' peers critically at the online state of affairs and finds it out of balance. (Carolyn Kellogg, 5/16/13, Los Angeles Times)
He's not an economist, he's a futurist, so his ideas are rendered in abstractions. For example, he coined the term "Siren Servers" to describe the powerful, enriched operators that gather and trade upon information provided by others. You and I know them as Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and the automated trading algorithms that contributed to the 2008 recession. And the term, which comes from the sirens of Greek myth -- so alluring that they caused sailors to wreck their ships on their rocky shores -- alludes to what he sees as their danger."An amazing number of people offer an amazing amount of value over networks. But the lion's share of wealth now flows to those who aggregate and route those offerings, rather than those who provide the 'raw materials,'" he writes in "Who Owns the Future?" "A new kind of middle class, and a more genuine, growing information economy, could come about if we could break out of the 'free information' idea and into a universal micropayment system."By stepping back and grouping them all together, Lanier is able to draw connections between invisible stock trades and MP3 downloads. "I'm not saying all finance is bad and all networking is bad and all sharing is bad," he says. "What I'm criticizing is very specifically the way we're doing it now."Lanier would like to see musicians, writers, coders, data generators and all content creators get tiny payments for their inputs into our vast system. You'd get paid for that status update about delicious tacos, especially if it showed up in a Facebook advertisement.His ideas for brokering those payments are a bit fuzzy and, because they'd require a two-way accounting of who does what where online, run counter to some of the underlying ideas of the Internet, both structurally and ideologically. He's able to layer his argument so that it makes sense to a Silicon Valley outsider, while communicating some of the insider's point of view.In part, Lanier is arguing against "the Singularity," Raymond Kurzweil's idea that computers will become intelligent, more intelligent that humans, by 2050 and change our civilization forever. As farfetched as it may sound, it's a dominant trope in futurism discussions, based on the accelerating speed with which computers have advanced.For Lanier, the difference between human intelligence and machine intelligence is key. Much of what we think of as the Internet's free information exchange is actually based on the real work of people -- online translation tools are based on millions of previous translations done by real humans.Lanier wants to force the acknowledgment, financially, that humans are essential part of the picture. We might create a robot that could provide nursing support to aging baby boomers -- but its success would be built on observing human nurses, aggregating the data collected as they go about their work. The human nurses should get paid for their contribution -- otherwise, they're freely offering the data that will put them out of work.
...not least because administering the payment system is too complex. But, what will happen is that we'll redistribute the wealth we all contributed to creating.
Posted by orrinj at 10:57 AM
CORMAC McCARTHY'S BLEAK ROAD: Landscapes of the Mind: in a new series, Robert Macfarlane roams fictional worlds, starting with "The Road" (Robert Macfarlane, May/June 2013, INTELLIGENT LIFE)
I have read "The Road" more, probably, than any other book. A tale so fiercely bleak, so cauterised in its vision, is still a page-turner. It has entered my soul as a black version of a possible future, its effects felt bodily first: the steady creep of chill, an urge to hold my children tight. Man and boy plod on, page after page, and I read on, page after page, puzzled at my own persistence.Hope lurks in both activities. It survives in McCarthy's language: austerely beautiful, and proving the paradox of apocalyptic art, that to annihilate the world one must also summon it into being. Hope is there, too, in the boy, whom the father strives so hard to protect, and whose presence brings the possibility, however faint, of life after ruin.
It's not faint.
Posted by orrinj at 10:50 AM
HAIL TO THE CHIEF:
'We Can Be Great Again' (Jeb Bush, Newsmax Magazine)
We also must address the spending side, particularly entitlements. This is an area of great opportunity. The other party has shown no willingness to bring much needed reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.Despite ample evidence that such reforms could be done gradually and effectively, the entitlement programs remain as expensive as ever. The American people know this, and are looking for answers.We have to be willing to accept that these programs are part of America's social safety net. And for millions, these programs are essential, providing a valued source of stability. But a nation that looks to the future does not treat such programs as beyond reform and improvement.We devote far more resources to today's seniors than we do today's young; often those resources come at the expense of the young.If nothing else, we can't address deficits -- projected as far as the eye can see -- without having an honest conversation about the growth rates in entitlement programs. These programs, designed and promised to be self-sustaining, will completely overwhelm the rest of the government's budget responsibilities by the time today's youngest workers retire. Wherever possible, conservatives should propose, through waivers from federal law and through state law, alternatives to the steady march to government control of healthcare.Elements of a conservative plan would include lower premiums, consumer-directed care, catastrophic coverage, rewards for healthy lifestyle behaviors, and paying for quality.This is a test of policy maturity. Today, the Republican Party has an opportunity to embrace gradual and productive reforms to these programs. We have the ability to present, by our own policies, a thoughtful approach to something all Americans correctly fear.The other party has the power to do the work, but is unwilling to take it on. In such a context, we have the ability to prove ourselves worthy to govern. If we fail on that score, we can scarcely hope to be given the political power to do other great things. And think of what we could do: shrink the size of the government and its debt, refocus American energy on the growth of the economy, adopt much needed reforms to our education and immigration systems, and inspire hope and confidence in American households everywhere.
Posted by orrinj at 10:43 AM
NO FORCE REQUIRED:
Nudging Conservatives to Harness Behavioral Science (Rich Thau and Celeste Gregory, May 3, 2013, American)
In 1982, social scientist James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling published their "Broken Windows" article in The Atlantic, an idea that launched a savvy assault on crime. One unrepaired broken window, they posited, signals a community's indifference and leads to many broken windows. "Vandalism can occur anywhere once communal barriers -- the sense of mutual regard and the obligations of civility -- are lowered by actions that seem to signal that 'no one cares.'"Fighting crime became a Republican wedge issue, and the psychology of broken windows served as the weapon of choice. Rudy Giuliani wielded it most famously as mayor of New York City by vigorously policing minor crimes. In 1998, Giuliani said, "Obviously, murder and graffiti are two vastly different crimes. But they are part of the same continuum, and a climate that tolerates one is more likely to tolerate the other."It seemed to work. Thirty years after "Broken Windows," some of New York City's citizens aren't even aware of its crime-ridden past.The anecdotal evidence of New York's success has been buttressed by research published in the journals Science and Criminology: a disorderly environment leads to more -- and more serious -- disorderly behavior. It's an example of what behavioral scientists call the "priming effect" -- exposure to one stimulus influences a response to a later stimulus. Broken windows, and other repeated signs of societal deterioration, prime people to believe disorderly behavior is acceptable, and they act accordingly.The broken windows story is a true conservative success rooted in social science. Yet since then, especially in recent years, conservatives have not followed up with similar public policy formulation and implementation. Meanwhile, the Left is deploying knowledge from emerging fields, such as applied behavioral science, with stunning success. [...]Conservatives should be thinking now about building at least a small corps of social psychologists and behavioral scientists who could help the next conservative president govern as effectively as possible.A growing body of compelling research shows that sometimes we follow the "Homer Simpson" in our minds, as Ariely likes to say. In fact, we very often behave irrationally, but in predictable ways. According to Ariely, if we recognize where we fall short and make mistakes in our rational thinking, then we can improve the world.The 2002 Nobel Prize winner in economics, Daniel Kahneman, a patriarch of applied behavioral science, posits this premise: we each possess two systems of thought, called (unsurprisingly) System 1 and System 2. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional. System 2 is analytical, deliberative, and logical. Too often we make decisions based on the biases of System 1 -- even when we think we're using System 2.To illustrate his point, Kahneman cites myriad questions such as this one: a ball and a bat together cost $1.10. The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Very predictably, the initial System 1 response is typically "10 cents." It's fast, intuitive -- and wrong. Only when System 2 is engaged, and acts as a check on System 1, would a person determine the correct answer is "five cents."In addition to System 1 and System 2, behavioral scientists have discerned and labeled numerous patterns in people's intuitive decision-making -- such as "priming effects," "loss aversion," and "what you see is all there is." By recognizing these seemingly irrational phenomena, humans potentially can understand their errors in judgment and avoid them in the future.The understanding of these tendencies can also be deployed to "nudge" people toward certain behaviors and away from others. "People have a strong tendency to go along with the status quo or default option," write Sunstein and Thaler in the introduction to Nudge. "Research shows that whatever the default choices are, many people stick with them.... Two important lessons can be drawn from this research. First, never underestimate the power of inertia. Second, that power can be harnessed."So, if conservatives could harness that same power, what would they do with it?Perhaps conservatives would nudge people to stay in school and get married. Maybe they'd nudge them to save more for retirement and take more personal responsibility for their health care spending. But first they'd need to come to terms with the uncomfortable idea of government using these tools.Indeed, while conservatives rightfully are wary of government nudging (which might appear to some as shoving), there are several policy initiatives where conservatives should pull the behavioral science tool kit off the shelf and start using it, because it brings them closer to the policy objectives they want to see realized, which would benefit society. And by continuing to not use these tools, they're ceding more to the Left than they need to.Below are a handful of policy examples that outline how applied behavioral science could advance conservative principles on far-ranging policies related to marriage, education, retirement savings, and Medicare.
Posted by orrinj at 9:32 AM
Landfill sites find reuse as locations for solar electricity plants (Miranda Green, May 19, 2013, Daily Beast)
Many states and cities have long been turning trash into treasure by burning garbage to create heat and electricity, or by harvesting the methane gas that is released as junk decomposes. But in a new twist on this theme, several cities and municipalities are transforming capped landfills - the ultimate waste of space - into solar power plants.
"When you get done with a landfill that property's primary function can no longer be used anymore, it's a great pyramid of waste," said Mark Roberts, vice president of HDR, an engineering company that constructs solar voltaic landfills. "So the question is what do you do with these facilities when you've filled it up. What you can do is cap the landfill in such a way that it meets the EPA requirements but gives you an opportunity to still get benefits from its use."
Those benefits come in the form of renewable electricity. Instead of letting landfills sit for years as the land settles and compacts, towns can place solar panels on the wide-open space and continue to make money from the energy collected. "In order to make old systems work properly you have to maintain the grass, fertilize and mow and maintain them for perpetuity, about 20 plus years," said Roberts. "We do these exposed solar caps and the maintenance goes down significantly and there's an economic incentive there."
Walmart announces completion of 8 solar arrays at Mass. stores (Chris Reidy, MAY 16, 2013, Boston Globe)
Eight of the 50 Walmarts in Massachusetts now have such systems, a company spokesman said. The other local Walmarts with solar arrays are in Springfield, Ware, Lunenberg, Northbridge, Halifax, Abington, and Tewksbury, he said.Collectively, the installations at those eight Walmarts are projected to provide 2.8 million kilowatt hours of energy annually, saving about 1,484 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually - roughly the equivalent of taking 309 cars off the road, Walmart said.
Posted by orrinj at 9:25 AM
THERE'S ONLY ONE SAFE HAVEN:
Maligned dollar flourishes in Venezuela (Juan Forero, May 17, 2013, NY Times)
Because the bolivar is artificially overvalued and practically worthless outside of Venezuela, everyone here is desperate for dollars, from auto-part importers to supermarkets to ordinary Venezuelans planning to travel abroad. Even government officials and the politically connected businessmen who have made fortunes off the free-spending state search out and trade in dollars.The dollar may fluctuate in other markets, or even make a spirited comeback against some currencies, as it has this year. But here in Venezuela people know that the greenback skyrockets in just one direction -- up, to be bought and sold on an illegal and shadowy parallel market the government has been unable to control."We depend completely on the dollar," said one black-market dollar dealer, who asked that he only be identified by his first name, Fernando, for fear of winding up in jail. "Buying dollars is practically the national sport."
Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM
IN A THIRD WAY EPOCH, THE LEFT IS NECESSARILY THE REACTIONARY PARTY:
Reactionaries in New York (Joe Klein, May 18, 2013, TIME)
The Democratic candidates for mayor in New York are campaigning to win the support of the teachers union. They threaten to return the city to the horrors of the David Dinkins era.Back at the turn of the 1990s, New York City was a mess. Crime was rampant. The schools were dreadful. Children in foster care were brutalized because-as the head of the Child Welfare Agency said-"oversight is racist." The mayor was an incompetent. And, above all, the city was run for the benefit of its employees rather than its citizens.What followed was 20 years of governance by moderate Republicans, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.
Posted by orrinj at 9:12 AM
A WHITER SHADE OF W:
This is not the President Obama we voted for : Candidate Obama promised a different kind of culture in Washington, but it's looking similar to the Bush era (Heather Long, 5/17/13, guardian.co.uk)
I was in Washington DC the night that Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. As usual, people were hopping from bar to bar to watch the returns come in and high five friends (or boo, in some cases). When it became clear that Obama had won and he gave his victory speech, something happened that I have rarely witnessed in America: spontaneous demonstrations broke out. People started marching down some of the main streets, many shaking keys or banging on pots and pans. Others carried American flags. Cars honked (more than usual) in solidarity.It was mostly young people marching - from varied backgrounds. Many of these parades ended up in front of the White House where chants of "goodbye Bush" (or some variation thereof) began. It was the same slogan heard as Barack Obama was sworn in as president in January 2009 and Bush flew away in a helicopter.There was a belief, especially among voters in their 20s and 30s, that Obama was going to be different. That his promises to "change the culture in Washington" were real. That his administration wouldn't be beholden to lobbyists and conduct executive power grabs. That any wars would be justified.This was, after all, the candidate who put statements on his website like:"The Bush administration has ignored public disclosure rules and has invoked a legal tool known as the 'state secrets' privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court."Don't get me wrong, we've seen cracks in Obama's idealism since he was sworn in as president. It is typified in the fact that prisoners - 166 of them - are still detained at Guantanamo Bay despite Obama's promises to close the prison swiftly after he took office.But this week was one head-shaking moment too many for me, and it appears from the president's sinking approval rating that others - including some who gave Obama a real chance - are with me. As a registered Republican, I thought long and hard about whether to vote for Obama, but I crossed party lines, as did many of my young peers. I wanted a more transparent and accountable government. I wanted America to make a very different statement after the Bush years.Yet even setting aside Benghazi and the IRS conservative targeting ordeal, which is a big set aside considering reports now suggest that officials in Washington were very much involved, there's still plenty that makes Obama's presidency eerily reminiscent of the Bush administration, especially when it comes to these "trust us, this is in the name of national security" kind of statements.
Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM
WHEN YOU'VE LOST POWERLINE... (via Bart):
THREE CHEERS FOR TESLA (John Hindraker, 5/18/13, Powerline)
I have always been skeptical of electric vehicles, mostly because of my perception that electric car makers are more interested in subsisting on government subsidies than in competing on a level playing field for my business. So I was intrigued when I got an email this morning from Jeff Evanson, Tesla Motors' Vice-President of investor relations. Evanson, a long-time Power Line reader, pointed out that the company raised over $1 billion last week, and will use a portion of those proceeds to pay off its loan with the Department of Energy ahead of schedule. This will make Tesla the only US-based auto maker with no government debt. [...]The Model S starts at $58,570 and costs a mere 6 cents per mile to run-and that's at California electricity prices.All of this may be old hat to you, but it was news to me. Tesla's success, financial as well as technical, suggests that the long-awaited era of electric vehicles may be closer at hand than we thought.
May 18, 2013
Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM
JOBS THE rIGHT ISN'T COMPLAINING ABOUT LOSING:
Massive, open, online disruption (Zachary Karabell, MAY 17, 2013, Reuters)
Efficiency is the enemy of employment in all fields.The United States has a problem: rapidly rising student debt. It also has a solution: online education. The primary reason for spiraling student debt is the soaring costs of a college education at a physical college. Online education strips away all of those expenses except for the cost of the professor's time and experience. It sounds perfect, an alignment of technology, social need and limited resources. So why do so many people believe that it is a deeply flawed solution?Because it means massive swaths of higher education is about to change. Technology has disrupted many industries; now it's about to do the same to higher ed.
Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM
THE QUESTION REMAINS...:
The real scandal: IRS gives tax exemptions to political partisans (David Horsey, May 15, 2013, LA Times)
...whether it is appropriate to tax political speech at all? As Robert Bork argued, the only speech protected by the First Amendment is political speech.The reality is that numerous high-powered political operatives for both Republicans and Democrats have formed 501(c)(4) organizations. The GOP's most prominent political guru, Karl Rove, has Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) entity that spent $70 million during the 2012 campaign encouraging voters to cast their ballots for Republican candidates. Under the guidance of former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, the president's reelection apparatus has been reorganized as a 501(c)(4) group that no doubt will "educate" the public about the need for more Democrats in Congress. [...]The fact is that none of the right-wing applicants were turned down, even though they are probably as engaged in partisan campaigning as Karl Rove or Jim Messina. A 501(c)(4) group is, by law, supposed to be a social welfare organization whose primary activity is not politics. Can anyone honestly say that about Rove or Messina or any of the many tea party organizations?