September 23, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 PM


The Great Remigration : Blacks are abandoning the northern cities that failed them. (Daniel DiSalvo)

A century ago, nine out of ten black Americans lived in the South, primarily in formerly Confederate states where segregation reigned. Then, in the 1920s, blacks began heading north, both to escape the racism of Jim Crow and to seek work as southern agriculture grew increasingly mechanized. "From World War I to the 1970s, some six million black Americans fled the American South for an uncertain existence in the urban North and West," writes journalist Isabel Wilkerson, the author of The Warmth of Other Suns. Principal destinations in the Great Migration, as the exodus came to be called, included Washington, D.C. (the first stop on the bus), Chicago, Detroit, and New York City. The Great Migration had tremendous political implications, both good and bad. It helped spur the civil rights movement, but it also trapped many blacks in urban ghettos.

More recently, however, the Great Migration has reversed itself, with blacks returning to the South.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Breaking Up the Echo (CASS R. SUNSTEIN, 9/17/12, NY Times)

[E]vidence suggests that balanced presentations -- in which competing arguments or positions are laid out side by side -- may not help. At least when people begin with firmly held convictions, such an approach is likely to increase polarization rather than reduce it.

Indeed, that's what a number of academic studies done over the last three decades have found. Such studies typically proceed in three stages. First, the experimenters assemble a group of people who have clear views on some controversial issue (such as capital punishment or sexual orientation). Second, the study subjects are provided with plausible arguments on both sides of the issue. And finally, the researchers test how attitudes have shifted as a result of exposure to balanced presentations.

You might expect that people's views would soften and that divisions between groups would get smaller. That is not what usually happens. On the contrary, people's original beliefs tend to harden and the original divisions typically get bigger. Balanced presentations can fuel unbalanced views.

What explains this? The answer is called "biased assimilation," which means that people assimilate new information in a selective fashion. When people get information that supports what they initially thought, they give it considerable weight. When they get information that undermines their initial beliefs, they tend to dismiss it.

In this light, it is understandable that when people begin with opposing initial beliefs on, say, the death penalty, balanced information can heighten their initial disagreement. Those who tend to favor capital punishment credit the information that supports their original view and dismiss the opposing information. The same happens on the other side. As a result, divisions widen.

This natural human tendency explains why it's so hard to dislodge false rumors and factual errors. Corrections can even be self-defeating, leading people to stronger commitment to their erroneous beliefs.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 PM


How Canada Saved Its Bacon : Deep cuts in government spending pulled Canada back from an epic fiscal crisis in the 1990s. (MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, 9/23/12, WSJ)

Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has a stern warning for the U.S. political class: Get real about the gap between federal revenues and spending, or get ready for disaster. [...]

When the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien took power in October 1993, Mr. Martin was charged with pulling his nation out of the fiscal death spiral. He did it with deep cuts in federal spending over two years that amounted to 10% of the budget, excluding interest costs.

Nothing was spared. Even federal transfers to the provinces to fund Canada's sacred national health-care system got hit. The federal government also cut and block-granted money for welfare programs to the provinces, giving them almost full control over how the money would be spent.

In the 1997 election, the Liberals increased their majority in parliament. The Chrétien government followed with tax cuts starting in 1998 and one of the largest tax cuts--both corporate and personal--in the history of the country in 2000. The Liberals won again in 2000.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


THE RISE OF TELEWORK AND WHAT IT MEANS (Jeff Khau,  09/17/2012, New Geography)

Teleworking (also known as telecommuting) has taken flight as a global trend. During July of 2002, European Union collectively decided on a shared framework agreement on telework, which regulates issues such as employment and working conditions, health and safety, training, and the collective rights of teleworkers. Following suit, the American the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 served as a rallying call for federal agencies to encourage "work-at-home" employees. In the same year officials in China, eager to reduce gross national carbon emissions, chose the province of Hubei to undergo the country's first telecommuting pilot program  

In the United States, telecommuting is   on the clear increase.  Data from the American Community Survey estimate that the working at home population grew 61% between 2005 and 2009. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


The Brilliant Prudence of Dwight Eisenhower (Evan Thomas, 9 SEP 19 2012, The Atlantic)

In the summer of 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower flew to Geneva for the first summit meeting of the Cold War. Two and a half years into his presidency, Eisenhower was not sure who was running the Soviet Union. Was it Nikolai Bulganin, the chairman of the Council of Ministers? Tall and smiling, Bulganin seemed relatively benign. (With his goatee and white suit, Bulganin bore a striking resemblance to Colonel Sanders of the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain.) Eisenhower hoped the real power lay with Georgy Zhukov, the Red Army field marshal who had been Ike's comrade in arms in World War II. Having seen so much war, Zhukov hated it as much as Ike did. But when Ike sent his son John, an army major, out to do a little informal spying at "tea" (cocktails), John reported back that Zhukov seemed subdued and shaken. "Things are not as they seem," Zhukov whispered John Eisenhower.

Eisenhower found out who was really in charge four days later when he unveiled his major peace initiative, called "Open Skies," to allow the Soviet and American reconnaissance planes to freely fly over each other's territory. The idea was to reduce the threat of surprise attack, the great fear of the new nuclear age. After the speech, a short, round man came straight for the American president wagging a stubby finger and saying, Nyet, nyet, nyet. "Open Skies," said Nikita Khrushchev, the Communist Party chairman, was just a chance for the Americans to peer into Russian bedrooms.

In his diary kept at Geneva, British Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan wrote, "Khrushchev is a mystery. How can this fat, vulgar man with his pig eyes and ceaseless flow of talk really be the head -- the aspirant Tsar -- of all these million of people of this vast country?" The French foreign minister described Khrushchev, as "this little man with his fat paws." Khrushchev seemed to be equal parts bluster and insecurity. He worried to his son Sergei that he was not properly dressed for dinner at the summit and that he had arrived in Geneva in a plane that was smaller than the planes of the western leaders.

Eisenhower reserved his judgment of Khrushchev, or at least concealed it from others. He did not believe in showing his cards until he absolutely had to. At West Point, young Eisenhower had skipped cadet dances to play poker. (He later bought his fiance, Mamie, her wedding dress with his card game winnings.) He was so good at poker he had to give it up--he had won too much money from his fellow officers, and his reputation as a card shark was hurting his career. He continued to play bridge, however. He was not much fun to play with, recalled his son John, who finally quit playing with him because he found his father too humorless and demanding as a partner. Ike's famous, sunny smile was to some degree a façade. Eisenhower was "far more complex and devious than most Americans realize," recalled his vice-president, Richard Nixon, in his memoirs. (Nixon added, "in the best sense of those words.") When I interviewed John Eisenhower, a retired ambassador, brigadier general and professional historian, then in his mid-80s, the son pondered his famous father, with whom he had a loving but complicated relationship. He said Ike seemed evenly balanced between open warmth and cold-bloodedness. He thought for a moment and said, with a slight smile, "Make that 75 percent cold-blooded."

In the game of bridge, partners are not allowed to speak with each other. But they can subtly signal each other by the cards they bid. Eisenhower was accustomed to difficult partners, including Generals Bernard Law Montgomery and George Patton in his role as Supreme Allied Commander during World War II. Comfortable with a hidden hand, Eisenhower was one of those great leaders who are confident enough to appear humble. He had a giant ego, as well as a huge temper he struggled to contain. But he knew when to stay quiet, to appear to acquiesce, while thinking how to gain advantage several moves ahead.

In waging the Cold War, Eisenhower had many partners -- America's allies, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Congress, and the growing national security establishment. But his most important partner, Eisenhower understood, was his nominal enemy, Nikita Khrushchev. in large part what makes Ike's a failed presidency.  Not challenging the New Deal is the other, though the former made the latter inevitable.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Libya's re-rebirth (Daily Star, September 24, 2012)

Libyan security forces head to a compound which had been taken over by an armed group in Tripoli September 23, 2012. Libya's army on Sunday ordered rogue armed groups in and around Tripoli to leave state and military premises or be ejected by force, apparently seeking to capitalize on the withdrawal of militias from Benghazi and Derna. REUTERS/Anis Mili
The Libyan government directive for all militias to either come under state control or to disband represents a courageous and crucial step forward for the country. [...]

Listening to the word on the street and using popular opinion as a catalyst for action is actually commendable, if the government genuinely means to root out those most dangerous groups in society.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


Lincoln's Great Gamble (RICHARD STRINER, 9/21/12, NY Times)

The Emancipation Proclamation wasn't always part of the plan. Republicans, Lincoln included, tried push their anti-slavery program by measured degrees, since they feared a white supremacist backlash. That was what made Lincoln's decision to issue an emancipation edict, and to do it before the mid-term congressional elections of 1862, so extraordinarily risky.

In the first half of 1862, he had tried to institute a program of gradual and compensated emancipation in Delaware, Kentucky and Maryland, the slave states that had not fallen under the control of secessionists. But the border-state leaders refused to listen. So Lincoln decided in July that he would turn his attention to rebellious slave states, and there, in the name of preserving the Union, he would institute immediate and uncompensated emancipation.

In the months that followed, he worked to soften public opinion in the North -- to get the public ready for the fact that he intended to free some slaves. In August, he wrote a letter to Horace Greeley, editor of The New York Tribune. This letter would soon become famous. Lincoln claimed that his "paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."

This was a clever deception in light of the fact that no breach in the Union would have happened in the first place had Lincoln and his fellow Republicans not refused to admit more slave states to the Union. Lincoln's letter to Greeley was misleading; he wrote it in an effort to appeal to patriotic Unionists and get them used to the idea that he might start freeing slaves. What he hoped was that people would view the proclamation as a patriotic necessity.

Some observers got the point; Sydney Howard Gay, a leading abolitionist, wrote to Lincoln:

Your letter to Mr. Greeley has infused new hope among us at the North who are anxiously awaiting that movement on your part that they believe will end the rebellion by removing its cause. I think the general impression is that as you are determined to save the Union tho' slavery perish, you mean presently to announce that the destruction of Slavery is the price of our salvation.

Lincoln himself confided to Representative Isaac N. Arnold that, as Arnold recounted, "the meaning of his letter to Mr. Greeley was this: he was ready to declare emancipation when he was convinced that it could be made effective, and that the people were with him."

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Romney and Obama: Separately But Equally Elitist? (Peter Lawler, September 22, 2012, Big Think)

The Republican rich guy often thinks that American is on "the road to serfdom" of burgeoning dependency.  And that the progressive logic of the welfare state is close to giving the Democrats a permanent majority in favor of big and bigger government paternalism.

The more bookish of those Republicans cite as their theorist the great Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville at one point wrote that he feared that democracy would culminate in a "soft despotism" of schoolmarmish and endlessly meddlesome administrators who would take control of all the details of ordinary people's lives. People would be allowed to surrender all control over and so all responsibility for their personal futures.  Tocqueville, in his bleakest moment, even worried that they might lapse into a kind of subhumanity.

I could bore you with my opinion that Tocqueville didn't intend those worries to be a serious prediction about the American future.

Or, I could just let you know that we now know enough to know that the road to serfdom never gets to serfdom. 

In point of fact, the progressive logic of the fiscally responsible welfare state has created an Anglosphere wide majority in favor of bigger paternalism with less government.  Successful parties are those that favor strengthening the social safety net by using capitalist mechanisms.  The required mandates are paternal, the resulting personal accounts and independent making wealth reduce government.  Mandates, after all, are just defined contributions.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us : Medical errors kill enough people to fill four jumbo jets a week. A surgeon with five simple ways to make health care safer. (MARTY MAKARY, 9/21/12, WSJ)

When there is a plane crash in the U.S., even a minor one, it makes headlines. There is a thorough federal investigation, and the tragedy often yields important lessons for the aviation industry. Pilots and airlines thus learn how to do their jobs more safely.

The world of American medicine is far deadlier: Medical mistakes kill enough people each week to fill four jumbo jets. But these mistakes go largely unnoticed by the world at large, and the medical community rarely learns from them. The same preventable mistakes are made over and over again, and patients are left in the dark about which hospitals have significantly better (or worse) safety records than their peers.

As doctors, we swear to do no harm. But on the job we soon absorb another unspoken rule: to overlook the mistakes of our colleagues. The problem is vast. U.S. surgeons operate on the wrong body part as often as 40 times a week. Roughly a quarter of all hospitalized patients will be harmed by a medical error of some kind. If medical errors were a disease, they would be the sixth leading cause of death in America--just behind accidents and ahead of Alzheimer's. The human toll aside, medical errors cost the U.S. health-care system tens of billions a year. Some 20% to 30% of all medications, tests and procedures are unnecessary, according to research done by medical specialists, surveying their own fields. What other industry misses the mark this often?

It does not have to be this way. A new generation of doctors and patients is trying to achieve greater transparency in the health-care system, and new technology makes it more achievable than ever before.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Architects are the last people who should shape our cities: New, shiny buildings are all well and good, but what architects forget about is a sense of place - and the beauty of wastelands (Jonathan Meades, 9/18/12, The Guardian)

New buildings are simple: imagination and engineering. New places are not. It seems impossible to achieve by artifice the parts with no name, the pavement's warts and the avenue's lesions, the physical consequences of changed uses, the waste ground, the apparently purposeless plots.

It shouldn't be impossible. One cause of this failure is architects' lack of empathy, their failure to cast themselves as non-architects: architect Yona Friedman long ago observed that architecture entirely forgets those who use its products. Another cause of failure is their bent towards aesthetic totalitarianism - a trait Nikolaus Pevsner approved of, incidentally. There was no work he admired more than St Catherine's College, Oxford: a perfect piece of architecture. And it is indeed impressive in an understated way. But it is equally an example of nothing less than micro-level totalitarianism. Arne Jacobson designed not only the building, but every piece of furniture and every item of cutlery.

At macro-level, a so-called master planner will attend to the details of streets, avenues, drop-in centres, houses, offices, bridges. The master planner is almost certainly an architect, even though planning and architecture are contrasting disciplines. There are countless differences between a suburb and, say, a shopping mall in that suburb. We are all familiar with the hubristic pomp that often results when actors direct themselves. Appointing architects to conceive places is like appointing foxes to advise on chicken security.

The human ideal is to revel in urbanistic richness, in layers of imperfection. I got sick of Rome when I worked there: too much perfection, too constant a diet of masterpieces - the lumbering, sod-you-ness of Basil Spence's British Embassy was peculiarly attractive. The only town in the Cotswolds that attracts me is Stroud, where the tyranny of oolitic limestone is ruptured by brick and slate.

The overlooked can only survive so long as authority is lax. When authority goes looking for the overlooked, the game is up - as it is today in the Lea Valley in east London. The entirely despicable, entirely pointless 2012 Olympics - a festival of energy-squandering architectural bling worthy of a vain, third-world dictatorship, a payday for the construction industry - occupies a site far more valuable as it was. It was probably the most extensive terrain vague of any European capital city. The English word "wasteland" is pejorative, lazy and more or less states that the place has no merit - so why not cover it in expressions of vanity?

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 AM


Having a wonderful time... really wish you were here! (PJ Hamel, 9/22/12, Baking Banter)

Come with us now as we celebrate, in pictures, our grand opening party this weekend, an event that drew bakers from all over the country - ready to enjoy good food, good fun, and good friends.

If you've visited us in the past, but haven't been up to Vermont in awhile, our wonderful wood-burning stone oven is all that remains of the original King Arthur Flour store (1992), and more recently, our bakery and education center.

We intend to build a pavilion over the oven, so we can continue to bake the crusty, wood-fired breads and pizzas so many of you have enjoyed in the past.

But enough of the past - let's check out the new King Arthur campus.

If you do get to the KAF Grand Opening, please disregard the improvised handicap parking symbols, I honestly wasn't trying to make fun of anyone, I'm just an inept artist.... 


Posted by orrinj at 5:07 AM


Sadly, one play defined Merkle's career, life (Ed Sherman, 9/23/12,

Tuesday marks the 100th anniversary of the play that forever cemented Merkle's legacy in baseball. The Chicago Cubs and New York Giants were locked in a dramatic pennant race when they met on Sept. 23, 1908.

With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Merkle, who had singled, was on first base and Moose McCormick was on third. With two outs, Al Bridwell then hit an apparent single to drive in McCormick with what seemed the winning run.

It looked to be a huge victory for the Giants, and jubilant fans mobbed the field at the Polo Grounds. But in the commotion, Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers noticed Merkle never touched second base.

Evers frantically waved for the ball, and there's considerable dispute about whether he actually got the game ball. Evers then stepped on second and umpire Hank O'Day called Merkle out on a force, thus nullifying the Giants' run. Keep in mind, this was the same umpire who let a similar play stand up when a base runner didn't touch second at the conclusion of a game earlier in the month.

Despite O'Day's ruling, the game couldn't go on because of all the fans on the field, and it was declared a 1-1 tie. Merkle's nightmare then was compounded when the Cubs and Giants finished the regular season tied. The Cubs won the one-game playoff to win the pennant, propelling them to their last World Series title.

Merkle, who was only 19 at the time, was vilified. The Sporting News, the game's official bible back then, wrote of "the stupidity of Fred Merkle." Newspapers quickly labeled him "Bonehead."

Merkle went on to become a decent player during a 16-year career, finishing with a .273 average. He had 49 stolen bases in 1911, an impressive total considering he was 6-foot and 190 pounds.

Yet Merkle never seemed to get over the top. He was on the losing side of six World Series. When he was blamed for a botched popup that helped cost the Giants the 1912 World Series, the headlines blared, "Bonehead Merkle does it again."