Sunday, October 30, 2011

Looks like Congress has declared war on the internet

Mathew Ingram wrote in GogaOm, Looks like Congress has declared war on the internet "Many internet users in the United States have watched with horror as countries like France and Britain have proposed or instituted so-called “three strikes” laws, which cut off internet access to those accused of repeated acts of copyright infringement. Now the U.S. has its own version of this kind of law, and it is arguably much worse: the Stop Online Piracy Act, introduced in the House this week, would give governments and private corporations unprecedented powers to remove websites from the internet on the flimsiest of grounds, and would force internet service providers to play the role of copyright police."

Occupy Stuff

Caitlin Curran wrote How Occupy Wall Street Cost Me My Job.

Business Insider wrote Marine Says Oakland Used Crowd Control Methods That Are Prohibited In War Zones

Friday, October 28, 2011

House GOP Lays Trap For Obama On Jobs Plan

TPM wrote Next Act In DC’s Kabuki Theater: House GOP Lays Trap For Obama On Jobs Plan. "The House GOP has hit upon a way to undercut President Obama’s attacks on them and advance conservative policy goals all at once. This week, they’ll pass legislation that includes perhaps the least stimulative measure in President Obama’s jobs bill and pay for it with perhaps the most regressive measure in a recent package of deficit reducing proposals he submitted to the joint deficit super committee.

It’s a case study in the perils of offering concessions to your opponents before negotiations have begun. And it will force Democrats in both chambers, but particularly in the Senate, to decide whether to pass a proposal comprised of measures Obama’s backed in the past, even though they’ve been cherry picked to essentially constitute a Republican piece of legislation. If Senate Dems block the measure, Republicans will accuse them of wanting to pick political fights instead of passing Obama jobs legislation. If Dems pass the measure, and Obama signs it, the GOP can cite it as evidence that they’re not simply standing in the way of action on the economy."

TV That Finally Lifts Journalism Back ‘Up’

David Sirota says TV That Finally Lifts Journalism Back ‘Up’ -- In These Times "Up With Chris Hayes purposely rejects the manufactured red-versus-blue mallet that bludgeons every issue into partisan terms."

I've liked Chris Hayes since I started seeing him on Rachel Maddow. I'm also very glad he got his own show and have been (recording and) watching his show since it's start. I do agree with most of Sirota's comments. I wished I liked it more. I think there are too many commercial breaks the break the conversation and I wish there was more back and forth on a topic. I think the show would be better with fewer guests and think they have to work at fitting in remote guests better. Since they can't see who's talking or when comments are directed to them, it gets a bit awkward. Still there are some smart people on there saying interesting things and it's easy to learn a lot. I just wish it would be possible to change someone's mind and since the guests won't, why should a viewer? I hope Sirota's comments are more on the mark than mine.

Coalmines And Military Keynesians

Krugman points out the hypocrisy, Coalmines And Military Keynesians "That’s it exactly. Propose some kind of public investment, say in green energy, and the right screams “Solyndra! Waste! Fraud!” But propose spending the same amount on weapons that we don’t need, and it’s all good."

My sense is most Republicans will agree that "war is good for the economy" but won't make the leap to say, yes, because it's (usually deficit) government spending increasing demand. And they won't go further and say, imagine if we did that for things that have more of an impact on society like infrastructure (roads, energy), education, health care, etc. Yes defense is important, at times very important, but we already spend more on it than basically everyone else combined. Can't we get more for that money?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Android Orphans: Visualizing a Sad History of Support

the understatement has a really good article about an issue I didn't know about, Android Orphans: Visualizing a Sad History of Support "I went back and found every Android phone shipped in the United States1 up through the middle of last year. I then tracked down every update that was released for each device - be it a major OS upgrade or a minor support patch - as well as prices and release & discontinuation dates. I compared these dates & versions to the currently shipping version of Android at the time. The resulting picture isn’t pretty - well, not for Android users:"

How OWS confuses and ignores Fox News and the pundit class

Dahlia Lithwick on Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the No-Spin Zone. She includes a lot of links in her post and those that I followed were all worthwhile.

"I don’t purport to speak for anyone but myself here, although I spent time this weekend at Occupy Wall Street and my husband spent much of last week adding his voice to the protesters there. I saw an incredible array of people that defy any simple demographic characterization and a broad range of signs that made—imagine!—more than a single point. But if I may hazard an opinion, it would be this: One of the most fatuous themes of mainstream OWS coverage is the endless loop of media bafflement at this movement that doesn’t have a message. Here’s CNN’s Erin Burnett in a classic put-down of the OWS’ refusal to tailor its message to her. It takes a walloping amount of willful cluelessness to look at a mass of people holding up signs and claim that they have no message."

"Mark your calendars: The corporate media died when it announced it was too sophisticated to understand simple declarative sentences. While the mainstream media expresses puzzlement and fear at these incomprehensible “protesters” with their oddly well-worded “signs,” the rest of us see our own concerns reflected back at us and understand perfectly. Turning off mindless programming might be the best thing that ever happens to this polity. Hey, occupiers: You’re the new news. And even better, by refusing to explain yourselves, you’re actually changing what’s reported as news. Because it takes a tremendous mental effort to refuse to see that the rich are getting richer in America while the rest of us are struggling. Maybe the days of explaining the patently obvious to the transparently compromised are finally behind us."

Elizabeth Warren

My mayor Setti Warren was running for the Senate but dropped out a few weeks ago. This morning he endorsed Elizabeth Warren at an event a few blocks from me. The campaign sent me an invite last night so I went.

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It was my first time at a meet-the-candidate event. There were maybe a hundred people there including town politicians and some press. As they entered she shook a lot of hands down one side of the room and through the first two rows, including mine. The mayor introduced her with a few words about how they believe in the same thing and the important thing is beating Scott Brown and she has the best chance at that. He's an Iraq War vet and mentioned we have to support them and she repeated that a few minutes later.

She said a few words about fighting for the middle class and investing in our future as we used to do, particularly for education. Then she took questions. One was by an activist for separated fathers and would she look into recent laws that limit their rights. She spoke about family and he repeated would she look into it and I forgot how she answered it, if she specifically used his words or not.

The next question was about how can we get anything done with such a divided Congress. She said she's run one campaign in her life and it wasn't for office, it was for a Consumer Protection Bureau and she made that happen. People told her it's a great idea but don't do it because lobbyists will fight every step of the way. She ignored that and through a lot of hard work building an organization got it done and is willing to do that again.

It's basically her standard answer for everything. I like her a lot but she really has only one item on her resume and she uses it for everything. She then shook more hands for almost a half an hour. The press was waiting around to interview her afterwards. When that happened they basically formed a scrum around her and asked a few things about Occupy Wall Street.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

App Turns iPhone Into spiPhone

Scientific American writes App Turns iPhone Into spiPhone. "The researchers designed a malicious app for the iPhone 4. When you place the phone near a keyboard, it exploits accelerometer and gyroscope data to sense vibrations as the victim types—detecting whether keystrokes come from the left or right side of the keyboard, and how near or far subsequent keys are from each other. Then, using that seismic fingerprint, the app checks a pre-created "vibrational" dictionary for the most likely words—a technique that works reliably on words of three letters or more."

Pretty impressive.

Movie Reviews

Yet again it's been way too long since I reviewed some movies. Here's a bunch.

Ides of March - In 2005 George Clooney directed, co-wrote and starred in a small political film with a great cast, Good Night, and Good Luck. With Ides of March he does the same thing. Clooney plays a Clinton-like governor running in a primary for president. Philip Seymour Hoffman is his campaign chair and Paul Giamatti the campaign chair of his main competitor. Ryan Gosling is his idealistic media consultant and the movie plots his political disillusionment. It's talky but there's good scenery chewing and pairing Hoffman against Giamatti is inspired (I guess Clooney can hire anyone he wants). In the end the plot was predictable and the trailer showed most of it. I enjoyed it (a lot) but somehow expected more.

Moneyball - is based on the book by Michael Lewis about how the Oakland A's managed to rebuild a successful baseball team after losing three star players and having a very limited budget. I hadn't read the book, but I am now. Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, a former player who never lived up to his promise and became the general manager of the A's. Jonah Hill is the wiz-kid statistician who finds players that most scouts overlook. They test a theory that on-base-percentage is the most important statistic and that players who take a lot of pitches (and tire out opposing pitchers) and generate a lot of walks, will lead to more runs and wins. It's not a traditional sports film but it does fit into the genre. Pitt and Hill are quite good and I found the story very engaging. In an era of 10 nominations for Best Picture, at this point, Moneyball will probably get one.

50/50 - tries to find the humor in cancer and it almost succeeds. It's based on the experiences of the writer Will Reiser who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in his twenties. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the lead and Seth Rogen is his best friend. It was pleasant and respectful enough but I found it a bit shallow. His girlfriend breaks up with him but the film hints she was going to do so anyway and while it pays some lip service to how difficult it is for her, it's very one-sided in the treatment. I suspect Reiser is still bitter. His doctors are universally bad, from the inhuman oncologist to the inexperienced (and incompetent) counselor. It's trying to be a comedy but it skips over all the difficulties of treatment. He vomits once, gets high a lot, and there's no mention of how he manages his job or deals with the crazy system of health insurance. But fine, it's trying to be a comedy about how people manage. He goes on dates, makes new friends while getting chemo, gets a dog and avoids his mother. I'm a sucker for scenes where friends (really) talk about (really) dying so I did shed a tear or two, but I found Gordon-Levitt's character to be really one-dimensional, he was all about the cancer. Rogen was his typical character and they give him depth with one object found in his house. I saw it with a group of peole and a good number really liked it, but I wish it tried a little harder.

The Guard - is a small Irish film starring Brendan Gleeson as a small town cop and Don Cheadle as an FBI agent sent to investigate drug traffickers. Gleeson is abrasive, racist, and otherwise flawed. Cheadle is straight laced and out of his element. So a standard buddy cop film, but it's not quite that. It is quite fun and at times quite funny.

Contagion - is a thriller by Steven Soderbergh about a worldwide pandemic and the efforts of the CDC to contain it. It's unusual because of its storytelling style. It's an ensemble cast and while we see a few patients (most notably Matt Damon's family), we mostly see scientists trying to find a cure and track the cause of the outbreak. We also follow an alarmist conspiracy minded blogger. It's almost dragnet like in its just the facts kind of approach. There isn't much character development and there are some bizarre plot points. An investigator gets kidnapped and then that storyline is dropped until there's an unlikely denouement. The outbreak happens over the better part of a year and it seems like a lot of society collapses. I was very curious as to how people and economies were surviving or functioning and nothing covered that. Science does pretty well in this film though several characters have some significant flaws. They aren't there to provide any character arcs, they just make the people more human. But I found it very odd what Soderbergh choose to include in this story and what he choose to leave out.

Killer Elite - is an action thriller with Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro. It got mixed reviews with most of the complaints being that it was too complicated. It sounded right up my alley and it basically was. It reminded me of another Statham film, The Bank Job. It's set in the 80s and based on a supposedly true story. When his mentor, De Niro is kidnapped by a sheik, mercenary Statham is compelled to kill several SAS members who killed the sheik's son. However, Owen works for a secret organization of ex-SAS members and tries to protect them from Statham and his crew. There are a lot of people and it is a bit confusing at times, but there are real characters here with lots of shades of grey and realistic action filmed well. This is a solid thriller.

Point Blank - is a French crime thriller. A male nurse get caught up with a hitman when he witnesses the attempted murder of one of his patients. There are a few fun chase sequences but the story gets sillier as it goes along. Still, it's fun (and short) and unlike a lot of films, it's based in the real world.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil - is a really fun horror comedy. It's the standard story of obnoxious college students being killed by crazy redneck hillbillies in the mountains, except it's told from the point of view of the hillbillies and they aren't trying to kill them. They're just two friends who bought a fixer-up vacation cabin in the woods and rescue a drowning victim. It is bloody as it works it's way through all the cliches, but it's also very funny. Alan Tudyk, and Tyler Labine both make Tucker and Dale (respectively) quite sympathetic.

Trollhunter - I finally saw this IFFBoston film. This is a Norwegian film shot as a documentary in the Blair Witch style. A group of filmmakers come across a government employed trollhunter. Yup, trolls wander around Norway and a government conspiracy keeps the news from the general public. I thought it started out slow but enjoyed the reveals in the end.

Better This World - is about the trial of Bradley Crowder and David McKay who were arrested as domestic terrorists planning to bomb the 2008 RNC. They were caught because of the work of FBI informant Brandon Darby but the film makes a case that Darby really incited their actions. There's a lot here about how the system of using informants and the high stakes the criminal justice system puts on the word terrorism is perhaps leading to some very unjust decisions.

The Interruptors - is a documentary by the director of Hoop Dreams (perhaps the best documentary of all time). It follows members of CeaseFire, who are mostly ex-cons and volunteer in Chicago trying to prevent violence among gangs. They don't try to talk people out of gangs or otherwise address societal problems, they try to intercede right at the point where one person makes a decision to hit, stab or shot another and get them not to. It follows three interruptors as they work with various people. A lot of the stories are compelling and some of the resolutions at the end are quite surprising. A lot of times I wondered how the filmmakers managed to get the shots and be in the places they were. It's not Hoop Dreams, but it's a great film.

The Tillman Story - is a documentary from last year about the army's cover up of the death of Pat Tillman. It's a powerful story and the earnestness of his friends and family compared to cowardliness of those protecting the coverup is disturbing.

The A-Team -I watched the original TV series as a kid and caught this on cable as I had no need to see it in the theater. It was better than I thought but too long with too many missions. Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper were reasonably good and there was a lot of over-the-topness.

The Karate Kid - this was the remake from last year staring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. It's fine though it's a bit too long. There's no need to make this though I doubt kids today would watch the almost 30 year-old original.

United 93 - I rewatched this on 9/11 and think it's great. You know what's going to happen and you're on the edge of your seat the whole time and are brought to tears. It's not at all sensational and it just tries to present the facts as best we know them. Greengrass succeeds in making you feel like you're there with a not too shaky handheld camera. A lot of the people in the control rooms are playing themselves, so it's hard to refute the authenticity. It's really a great film.

Ken Jennings - Solidarity

Ken Jennings - Solidarity.

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Scribblenauts, an iPad Game that Lets You Design It As You Play

Scribblenauts, an iPad Game that Lets You Design It As You Play sounds pretty interesting.

"You control a cute manga-esque avatar named Maxwell, who has the genie-like ability to conjure up almost anything you can dream up--all you have to do is type in a description of it. The tutorial starts you off easy by suggesting things like "ladder" or "box" (for climbing to reach Starites, the floating talismans Maxwell needs to collect in order to advance to the next level). But why stick with that when you can just as easily ask for "a giant blue dragon"? (Beware: he's not exactly well-mannered.)

As long as it's not a swear word, proper noun, or copyrighted product, Scribblenauts will interpret your every whim and make it part of the gameplay. You can use these creations to solve challenges, or simply inhabit a "playground" level and experiment on your own. The latter was more appealing to me, but it took my atrophied adult brain a while to get into the swing of things. I asked for a "huge spinning cube" and got a homely little wooden crate. Then I realized I should stop thinking of useless visual abstractions and channel my inner eight-year-old. Within seconds I had Maxwell flying around in a jetpack blasting things with a machine gun, and I had much more fun. (Hm, what would've happened if I asked for a "huge" machine gun instead...?)"

Why Economic Models are Always Wrong

Scientific American has a nice little article Why Economic Models are Always Wrong. In other words, complex models are complex.

Warren could emerge as voice of Occupy Wall Street, Boston

The Boston Globe wrote Warren could emerge as voice of Occupy Wall Street, Boston - "Warren’s anti-Wall Street rhetoric has paralleled almost perfectly many of the grievances voiced by protesters in New York, Boston, and elsewhere. The striking similarities suggest Warren could become the first senator whose candidacy is driven by the emerging Occupy Wall Street movement, just as Florida Republican senate candidate Marco Rubio was propelled by the Tea Party in 2010.

But Warren’s relationship with the Occupy Wall Street movement has been hard to pin down. She has embraced it to the extent that it comports with her message. Yet she has been careful to avoid public images of herself among the tents and has stopped short of taking the protesters’ side during occasional clashes with police."

I get the hesitation but I don't think it would be hard to say something like the following: I've been to visit and hear them as I have been doing with lots of communities in MA. I obviously support protesting the inequality and doing everything possible to get that message out but the occupy movement is still new and is still working on figuring out what their whole platform is. I support that democratic process and look forward to hearing what they come up with, but I'm running to represent all the people of MA and I have to be specific in what I support so people can evaluate me fairly.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ronald Reagan's Real Legacy

Kevin Drum wrote a couple of weeks ago, Ronald Reagan's Real Legacy "It's probably hopeless to take on the Reagan economic myth at this late date, but honestly, it's long past time to put it to rest. The truth about the '80s is far more prosaic: In 1979, Jimmy Carter appointed Paul Volcker chairman of the Federal Reserve. Inflation was running at about 12 percent when he took office, and Volcker immediately slammed on the monetary brakes in order to bring it down. Whether he was targeting interest rates or monetary aggregates remains a bit murky, but it hardly matters. In the end, he engineered one minor recession in 1980, and when that didn't do the trick, he tightened Fed policy even more and threw the economy into a second recession—this one extraordinarily deep and painful—which he maintained until 1982. When he let up, the economy recovered. Reagan had very little to do with it."

He then talks about the steep drop in oil prices after 1981, Reagan's devaluation of the dollar, deficit spending and tax cuts.

What May be the Most Commonly Misunderstood Fact About the Job Market

What May be the Most Commonly Misunderstood Fact About the Job Market "So, summing up, small businesses, say those with 100 workers or less, account for a minority of both workers and payrolls, and are not the primary engine of job growth."

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"Why then all the favoritism in policy circles...In part, because they need and deserve help. Larger firms have fewer credit and cash flow challenges, nor do they operate on such tight margins. It’s easier for larger firms to sell into and expand foreign markets, which is especially useful to them right now, as that’s where the growth is."

Data Points: An Overview of the Euro Crisis - NYTimes.com

From Sunday's New York Times, Data Points: An Overview of the Euro Crisis.

This American Laugh: Ira Glass Sex Tape

This is pretty hilarious.

Occupy Wall Street

Given what happened last night at Occupy Oakland, (Police raid Occupy Oakland encampment, arrest protesters) maybe this is a bit late. Two weeks ago Matt Taibbi wrote My Advice to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters. It's good and reasonably short.

Or to use another medium, Decades Old Calvin and Hobbes Strip Succinctly Explains Occupy Wall Street Movement:

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I guess this post from Dahlia Lithwick a week ago is more relevant now, Rules of Occupation.

One Drawing Per Day: Every Page of 'Moby Dick', Illustrated by Hand

Maria Popova wrote in The Atlantic One Drawing Per Day: Every Page of 'Moby Dick', Illustrated by Hand "Since 2009, former high school English teacher and self-taught artist Matt Kish has been drawing every page of the 552-page Signet Classics paperback edition of Herman Melville's iconic Moby-Dick, methodically producing one gorgeous, obsessive drawing per day for 552 days using pages from discarded books and a variety of drawing tools, from ballpoint pen to crayon to ink and watercolor. Now, thanks to Tin House Books, Kish's ingenious project joins our running list of blogs so good they became books: Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page gathers his magnificent lo-fi drawings in a 600-page visual masterpiece of bold, breathtaking full-page illustrations that captivate eye, heart, and mind, inviting you to rediscover the Melville classic in entirely new ways."

50 Years Ago: The World in 1961

In Focus wrote 50 Years Ago: The World in 1961 "A half-century ago, much of the world was in a broad state of change: We were moving out of the post-World War II era, and into both the Cold War and the Space Age, with broadening civil rights movements and anti-nuclear protests in the U.S. In 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly in space, Freedom Riders took buses into the South to bravely challenge segregation, and East Germany began construction of the Berlin Wall. That year, Kennedy gave the okay to the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion into Cuba and committed the U.S. to "landing a man on the Moon" with NASA's Apollo program. JFK also oversaw the early buildup of a U.S. military presence in Vietnam: by the end of 1961, some 2,000 troops were deployed there. Let me take you 50 years into the past now, for a look at the world as it was in 1961. [50 photos]"

I found it really amazing looking through these. Some things seem so similar to now and others so completely alien.

The Sci-Fi City: What Dubai Looks Like in the Fog

Alexis Madrigal wrote in The Atlantic The Sci-Fi City: What Dubai Looks Like in the Fog "United Arab Emirates advisor Noah Raford posted this amazing photograph on Twitter of what Dubai looks like as the fog rolls in. Wow. I don't know that I've ever seen a city look more like "the future" than this one at this moment."

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Three Astronomy Articles

Universe Today wrote Earth Vs. Stuff from the Sun "The Sun is big. And comparatively, Earth is a tiny Lilliputian. We’ve all seen images comparing the size of Earth to the Sun, but here are two images from October 10, 2011 that really bring home the size-scale of features on the Sun when compared to the size of Earth."

Ars Technica wrote Astronomers take first-ever image of turbulent gas between the stars "Astronomers have known for decades that turbulent motion mixes and heats the interstellar medium (ISM), the dust and gases between the stars. But until now no one had been able to actually photograph this motion. An article published yesterday in Nature by a team of astronomers not only reveals this turbulent gas, but also that it moves at a low but supersonic velocity."

io9 wrote One of the most intensively studied objects in space has been identified as an impossibly powerful neutron star "The frequency of these pulses, and the intensity of their emission, varies from pulsar to pulsar. Now, more than 40 years after its initial discovery, astrophysicists have observed a neutron star pumping out radiation at energies far greater than current astrophysical models can explain. The neutron star in question is located at the center of the Crab Nebula — the brilliant, gaseous remnant of a massive supernova so bright, residents of Earth back in 1054 are believed to have been able to see it even during the daytime."

Fall Is in the Air

In Focus wrote Fall Is in the Air "The autumnal equinox took place on September 23, marking the end of summer and the start of fall across the northern hemisphere. Autumn is season of harvests, festivals, migrations, winter preparations, and of course, spectacular foliage. Around the north, people are beginning to feel a crisp chill in the evening air, leaves are reaching peak color, apples and pumpkins are being gathered, and animals are on the move. Collected here are some early images from this year's autumn -- more will come later as the season unfolds. [39 photos]"

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Improve AMC HD Feed on Verizon FiOS

If you have FiOS TV and have problems with the video quality of AMC HD, it's not just you. Here's a thread about it on the Verizon forums, Improve AMC HD Feed. Perhaps voting it up will do something.

Food Reform To Fight Obesity

Food reform to fight obesity.

"The food stamp program was front and center on campus and on the Internet Thursday during a session of The Forum at Harvard School of Public Health, which regularly brings experts together to discuss important issues in the field. The session examined reforms needed in the federal government’s farm bill to improve public health. The farm bill, expected to come up for discussion in Congress in 2012, is the federal government’s major agriculture subsidy program."

"Several panelists blamed U.S. agricultural policy over the past four decades for creating a food system where healthier fruits and vegetables are relatively expensive while high-starch, processed foods and red meats are cheap and widely available."

"With ensuing technological changes in the years after World War II, the United States ramped up its subsidies, steering production toward what at the time was thought to be a healthy diet of starches and meat...The problem, Willett said, is that we now know that a healthy diet is not dominated by processed starches and red meat, but is just the opposite. A healthy diet is composed of whole grains, nuts, beans, fruits, and vegetables, with red meat in moderation and very little refined starches and added sugar. The result is that today two-thirds of Americans are overweight or even obese, diabetes is rising across the country, and in some parts of the country, life expectancy is actually dropping."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The ‘47 Percent’ Pay Their Fair Share

TPM had an interesting CHART OF THE DAY: The ‘47 Percent’ Pay Their Fair Share "The fact of the matter, though, is that those other taxes constitute a huge chunk of federal revenues. Check out the charts below. Over the 58 years preceding the Lesser Depression, the share of federal revenues that came from individual income taxes has remained fairly stable, fluctuating between 40 and 50 percent, and peaking just before George W. Bush slashed rates in 2001."

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I think I'd prefer this chart if instead of percentages it showed real inflation adjusted dollars. Did the percentage of the tax paid for payroll taxes go up because they paid more taxes or merely because other things went down? I'd also like to see this in comparison to federal expenditures. So payroll taxes are social security and medicare, I know that a big cause of the increase in government spending is the growth in these programs, maybe it's appropriate that their revenues went up? Still it does seem obvious that the decrease in corporate taxes seems unfair, particularly with Republicans yelling that our corporate taxes are (still) way too high and are stifling job creation. But wait, are all the payroll taxes paid by individuals? Aren't half of them paid by the employer? What if you counted half of the current 32% payroll tax as paid by corporations, so with the 10% corporate income tax, that's 26% paid by corps, which is almost exactly the same as in 1950.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Microsoft’s HoloDesk

This is very cool, Microsoft’s Augmented Reality 3D HoloDesk Lets You Play With Balls In Real Time "Do you mind if Microsoft drops a little future on you like a ton of bricks? This HoloDesk uses a half-silvered mirror and a Kinect sensor to “see” your hands in 3D space then project visible objects on and around them, allowing you to juggle virtual spheres, play with phones, and generally get all Minority Report up in this piece."


Naomi Wolf: How I was arrested at Occupy Wall Street

Naomi Wolf wrote in The Guardian, How I was arrested at Occupy Wall Street | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk "Arresting a middle-aged writer in an evening gown for peaceable conduct is a far cry from when America was a free republic"

"On our exit, I saw that the protesters had been cordoned off by a now-massive phalanx of NYPD cops and pinned against the far side of the street – far away from the event they sought to address. I went up and asked them why. They replied that they had been informed that the Huffington Post event had a permit that forbade them to use the sidewalk. I knew from my investigative reporting on NYC permits that this was impossible: a private entity cannot lease the public sidewalks; even film crews must allow pedestrian traffic. I asked the police for clarification – no response."

There's definitely an issue when people don't know their rights and officials pretend they have more authority then they do (often by just being silent on some point). I know of instances of police telling people they can't take photographs in public places (famously this Amtrak incident at Penn Station). There's also all the TSA stuff that goes with this, like this post from January, Fun With the TSA.

The thing to note is that these people knew their rights and knew how to behave with the authorities (I'm complying, I"m not resisting, I don't consent to any search). There's apparently now a 'I'm Getting Arrested' App Inspired By Occupy Wall Street Protests but it's Android only. For the iPhone I know of the ACLU app Your Rights and another called Know Your Rights though for both of those they are info you should read beforehand and there are differences per state that you need to find out.

A Couple of Articles on Apps

The impact of Apple’s Siri release: From the former lead iPhone developer of Siri "For Siri to be really effective, it has to learn a great deal about the user. If it knows where you work, where you live and what kind of places you like to go, it can really start to tailor itself as it becomes an expert on you individually. This requires a great deal of trust in the institution collecting this data. Siri didn’t have this, but Apple has earned their street cred."

ars has a long article, How I learned to stop worrying and love the App Store. "Yet it's hard to see how to reconcile Richard Stallman's conception of user freedom with an app-store-based computing model. As an accomplished hacker, Stallman is more than capable of selecting the software he wishes to run on his computer, so he has no use for an app store. But most users are not Richard Stallman. Lacking his expertise, they likely benefit from delegating some authority over their software choices to a knowledgeable third party such as Apple or Google. What's needed, then, are mechanisms for users to delegate authority over their devices to third parties while holding those parties accountable for their decisions, along with a less autarkic definition of user freedom that leaves room for such delegation. This is a new problem for the software industry, but fortunately it's not a new problem for Western civilization. Centuries ago, western societies began to develop institutions and principles for delegating authority to third-party regulators while still holding them accountable for their decisions. These principles map surprisingly well into the app store debate. Here are four principles of liberal, constitutional government that can be usefully applied to app stores."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

TPM writes Occupy Wall Street Demographic Survey Results Will Surprise You "Over a month since the demonstrations began in New York’s Zuccotti Park, two demographic surveys of the movement and its supporters are now available online, both of them containing surprising, perhaps even counter-intuitive findings about the makeup of the movement and its supporters."

Ari Berman writes about how Occupy Wall Street Hits K Street with some quotes from Lessig. "Given these facts, it makes sense that the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread to K Street. Since October 1, demonstrators have gathered in MacPherson Square, their numbers and visibility growing in recent days. Yesterday Harvard professor Larry Lessig, one of the pre-eminent advocates of true campaign finance reform, spoke to Occupy K Street. Nation intern Cal Colgan attended the talk and passed on some notes."

Update: Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fukushima Debris On Course to Hit U.S.

Scientific American wrote Fukushima Debris On Course to Hit U.S. "With the exact locations of some of the now widely scattered debris, the scientists can make more accurate projections about when the debris might arrive at the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. The first landfall on Midway Islands is anticipated this winter. What misses Midway will continue toward the main Hawaiian Islands, where it is expected to hit in two years, and then on to the West Coast of North America in three years."

Our Blogs, Ourselves

Krugman on blogging economists, Our Blogs, Ourselves "The concern, or maybe just issue, is whether the rise of econoblogs is undermining the gatekeepers, whether any old Joe can now weigh in on economic debate, whereas in the good old days you had to publish in the journals, which meant getting through the refereeing process.

My take is that the system never worked like that — or at least not in my professional lifetime. And when you consider how economic discussion actually used to work, you see the blogs in a different and more favorable light."

Republicans and Foreign Policy

The New York Times published an editorial yesterday, Republicans and Foreign Policy "Certainly, the Republican hopefuls have put to rest any lingering notion that their party is the one to trust with the nation’s security. The United States is involved in two wars with more than 100,000 troops overseas. China is rising, relations with Pakistan are plummeting, Iran and North Korea are advancing their nuclear programs. The Middle East is in turmoil. Yet the candidates offer largely bad analysis and worse solutions, nothing that suggests real understanding or new ideas."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Visiting Occupy Boston

I had an appointment in Boston today so I stopped by Occupy Boston to take a look at what was going on. I'm sympathetic to a populist movement to reduce inequality and support election and financial reform which I thought is what the Occupy Wall Street movement was about. However I can't say I was impressed with what I saw at Occupy Boston.
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I was there for an hour in the late afternoon and for another hour in the evening and caught one of the General Assemblies, or at the least the first hour of it. I did experience the human microphone and that was interesting, it was also unnecessary as there was a real microphone with a large speaker that everyone could hear. Still some people refused to use it, or more oddly some just spoke next to the microphone and someone else repeated into the microphone. There were 100-200 people at the GA and it was slow going. They've created a process for "horizontal democracy" trying to let everyone have a say or I think more precisely, trying to not have any leaders. They even mentioned that some people instead of being called managers will be called monitors. Still in an hour I heard three or four short announcements (which all went too long) and got to one proposal which was to change their email host from gmail to something else and to use their own domain name. The IT working group made this proposal and then they were going to start 3-5 minute individual discussion with neighbors to then make clarifying questions, points of information, strong disagreements and strong approvals and finally amendments. The process was repeated a lot. You can see some of their process and working group process on their wiki, which at least for now is here, occupyboston.
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So I was pretty impressed with the camp. There are a lot of tents and many of them have purposes. I saw information tents, logistics tents, food tents, a pedal power generation tent, a media tent, a large food tent, a sign collection and a sign making tent. It's a pretty decent community.
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I talked at some length with two people. One has been there 11 days and planned to stay for the duration. He disliked both the Democrats and Republicans and wouldn't vote for either. I also got the corporations are not people speech and how corporations run everything and have the Democrats and Republicans in their pockets. He said he's been interviewed about 20 times and misquoted by Fox. He said he was there for Deval Patrick and wasn't impressed. I asked if Elizabeth Warren had been down and he said no, but she would be interesting. I didn't point out the obvious, that she's running as a Democrat.

The other guy I spoke to has been there 2 days. He was less animated and often took lengthy pauses. He liked the camp. He came with just his clothes and now has a place to sleep and plenty to eat. He feels safer here than he does at his home. I tried to find out his politics but there wasn't much there other than a vague point that America isn't as good anymore and kids have no discipline and only care about American Idol and fashion and in his day (he is 35) parents hit kids if they didn't behave and now if you try that they call social services. He has two kids but hasn't seen them in three years because he was in jail and the judge wants him to show that he has a stable home and car and job. He's unemployed but a mason by trade though he's serious hurt his back. He thought he'd only be able to find a $9/hour job at first but wondered about getting $26,000 in SSD (which I assume was Social Security Disability) and buying a 24' van and starting a moving company. He's against Obama because he doesn't listen to the average citizen, he'd rather have "Clinton or Reagan or Bush Sr."

The people "running" (my word, I'm sure they'd hate to be referred to as doing that) the General Assembly seemed to be in their early twenties and were obviously tech savvy. There were a fair number of people that I'd say were (at least close to) homeless just staying there. There are also homeless heroin addicts living in the Dewey Square and the camp is trying to coexist with them. They were shouting out things during the GA and a flyer was passed by me that says there was some violence in the camp where some masked Direct Action Committee members (I think that was it, it wasn't clear to me) forcibly removed someone from their tent in the middle of the night.

They do seem to be trying to educate themselves. I heard announcements about some people coming to teach about boycotting and forming unions. They have some professors scheduled to come down and talk. For what it's worth, Noam Chomsky is scheduled for Wednesday.

I asked at the logistics tent what donations would be useful. They said they always need blankets and that storage containers, particularly clear ones would be helpful. Also C and D batteries would help and other things like toothbrushes are always useful. Then again, one of the announcements I heard was that the Finance Support Logistics working group was going to put their raised funds into a credit union account. They've raise $30,000 so far and haven't decided what to do with it (that's the General Assembly's job).

If it sticks around, and I suspect it will, I'll try to go back and try to find more interesting people to talk to. The camp logistics were pretty impressive and they seemed to put a lot of effort into that. If they can do the same for a purpose, they might have something.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Scott Brown's website steals childhood anecdote from... Elizabeth Dole

THis is pretty amusing, Scott Brown's website steals childhood anecdote from... Elizabeth Dole "Sen. Scott Brown may have some explaining to do. It seems a passage from his website detailing the values instilled in him as a young child was stolen essentially word-for-word from former Sen. Elizabeth Dole."

The Boston Globe article explains, "Brown spokesman John Donnelly said the language was attributed to Brown in error, while his staff was creating the senator’s website."

I think the most telling part is that the thing posted on his web site as "A Message From Scott" isn't really a message from the Senator but rather from a staffer. And the fact that a message about his upbringing wasn't really about his upbringing. This is just a stupid campaign mistake and it doesn't mean much, but since Brown is so much about being a real person who's for the average guy, it's just not very real of him.

Dennis Ritchie: The shoulders Steve Jobs stood on

For all you non-programmers who read this blog, this obituary does Dennis Ritchie some justice, Dennis Ritchie: The shoulders Steve Jobs stood on.

CHARTS: Here's What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About...

The 41 slides in this presentation are really good, Here's What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Herman Cain 999 Plan: Did It Come From SimCity?

This is hilarious, Herman Cain 999 Plan: Did It Come From SimCity?. "Long before Cain was running for president and getting attention for his 999 plan, the residents of SimCity 4 -- which was released in 2003 -- were living under a system where the default tax rate was 9 percent for commercial taxes, 9 percent for industrial taxes and 9 percent for residential taxes. (That is, of course, if you didn't use the cheat codes to get unlimited money and avoid taxes altogether.)"

Oklahoma Seeks to "Save" Itself from the Requirements of the U.S. Constitution

A month ago the ACLU wrote Oklahoma Seeks to "Save" Itself from the Requirements of the U.S. Constitution. "On Monday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard argument in Awad v. Ziriax, a legal challenge to Oklahoma's proposed "Save our State Amendment", which would prohibit Oklahoma state judges from considering international law, foreign law, or Sharia (Islamic law).

While the proposed amendment is clearly intended to demonize American Muslims and limit their religious freedom and access to Oklahoma's legal system, there is another equally troubling and unconstitutional element to its character — the amendment would prevent Oklahoma's judges from appropriately considering international law, including treaties that the United States has ratified.

During the argument, the judges asked Oklahoma Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick about the proposed amendment's prohibition on judicial consideration of international and foreign law and raised questions both about its constitutionality and about the chaos that it could cause in Oklahoma courts. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Wyrick had no real answer to the judges' concerns and claimed that the ban did not single out one religious code, but that the "intent here was to exclude Sharia law and international law.""

It goes on to point out some problems, like recognizing foreign adoptions, marriages, foreign business transactions, etc.

Markets Can Be Very, Very Wrong

Krugman from a couple of weeks ago, Markets Can Be Very, Very Wrong "What it says, instead, is that consumers are paying much too low a price for coal-generated electricity, because the price they pay does not take account of the very large external costs associated with generation. If consumers did have to pay the full cost, they would use much less electricity from coal — maybe none, but that would depend on the alternatives.

At one level, this is all textbook economics. Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right. What Muller et al are doing is putting numbers to this basic proposition — and the numbers turn out to be big. So if you really believed in the logic of free markets, you’d be all in favor of pollution taxes, right?"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

RIP Dennis Ritchie

Rob Pike reports on Google+ I just heard that, after a long illness, Dennis Ritchie (dmr) died at home this weekend. I have no more information..

Programmers know the name but if you don't, his wikipedia entry might help.

Stupid Apple Rumors

Rumor Accounting | Stupid Apple Rumors "Stupid Apple Rumors is all about tracking the accuracy of rumors and the Web sites that publish them. Our first rumor was published on July 24th, 2011 and between then and now, we have tracked rumors from over 130 web sites. After the Apple iPhone 4S announcement, we decided to collate the data."

In short, just ignore them, the best sites are only about 20% accurate.

Scientists Figure Out How To Switch Off Peanut Allergy

Scientists figure out how to switch off peanut allergy. "Now researchers at Northwestern University may have found a solution. The key is finding a way to short-circuit the immune system's response to peanut proteins. To do that, researchers Paul Bryce and Stephen Miller attached peanut proteins to blood cells, which are then reintroduced to the body. The T cells in the immune system recognize the familiar blood cells and start building up a tolerance to the peanut proteins, effectively removing the immune response that creates the peanut allergy. This method has been used before in helping to treat autoimmune disease, and now the researchers have been able to extend it to working with food allergies."

The New Hampshire Economics Debate

I didn't watch the debate last night, but here are two articles I saw (I haven't even kept up with all the feeds I read so I don't know if these are the best) that liked.

TPM wrote The Five Take Home Lessons From The New Hampshire Economics Debate.

NPR wrote Fact-Checking The GOP Debate: What Candidates Said About The Economy

Onion Worthy

Elizabeth Warren Announces Her Bid for Senate

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Woman Who Knew Too Much

Suzanna Andrews has a really article in Vanity Fair on Elizabeth Warren The Woman Who Knew Too Much. "Millions of Americans hoped President Obama would nominate Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer financial watchdog agency she had created. Instead, she was pushed aside. As Warren kicks off her run for Scott Brown’s Senate seat in Massachusetts, Suzanna Andrews charts the Harvard professor’s emergence as a champion of the beleaguered middle class, and her fight against a powerful alliance of bankers, lobbyists, and politicians."

Not only is it a bit of a biography but it's a history of finance reform in this stupid long recession.

The Boston Book Festival

If you're in the Boston area, the The Boston Book Festival is this weekend in Copley Square.

Bathtubs for Beginners

James Kwak goes after David Brooks' latest, Bathtubs for Beginners. "If you look at the Tax Foundation report, it says that those two policies would increase taxes by $306 billion. The Tax Foundation doesn’t even say in what year that would happen, but they link to a series that ends in 2009, so let’s say they’re using 2009 data. In 2009, GDP was $14.1 trillion, so $306 billion is 2.2 percent of GDP.

Now let’s apply that to the CBO baseline. Right now, my updated CBO-style baseline shows national debt at 61 percent of GDP in 2021 and 59 percent in 2035. If you add 2.2 percent of GDP to revenues in every year beginning in 2012, those numbers fall to 44 percent in 2021 and 5 percent in 2035 (a reduction in the debt of 54 percentage points, or 92 percent). In other words, the entire long-term deficit problem goes away.

If you prefer to use the CBO alternative scenario (in which, among other things, the Bush tax cuts are made permanent), my updated alternative scenario shows the debt at 80 percent of GDP in 2021 and 142 percent in 2035. Increase revenues by 2.2 percent of GDP and those number become 63 percent and 91 percent. These are big, big differences—a lot more than “1 percent” and “2 percent” and “nibbling meekly around the edges.”

Saying these tax changes would reduce the deficit by 3 percent (that’s 1 percent + 2 percent, by the way) is the kind of factual mistake that requires a correction—but that would gut the rest of the column, which is based on the idea that major tax increases on the rich wouldn’t matter. It doesn’t surprise me that David Brooks can’t do basic math, but doesn’t he have a fact checker? Or at least an editor?"

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Story Behind the Photograph That Shamed America

Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan: the story behind the photograph that shamed America "One was trying to go to school; the other didn’t want her there. Together, Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan starred in one of the most memorable photographs of the Civil Rights era. But their story had only just begun."

NewImage

Friday, October 07, 2011

Can Someone Explain How This Happened?

Icecube

This is the second time I've seen this happen and there were two like this in the ice cube tray. I didn't do anything unusual.

Senate Goes Nuclear, Kinda

Here's a pretty good explanation by Daily Kos about what happened in the Senate last night. Sensationalist headline about 'nuclear option' in the Senate! But not quite so.. Here's Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein on it and Suzy Khimm gives a little more background.

So the actual issue was small and unimportant. What was significant is that Harry Reid, while annoyed at Republican delaying tactics, called a vote and had the Senate overturn the parlimentarian via a majority vote. This is perfectly legit but rarely done. It's essentially changing the rules of the Senate which are agreed on at the start of each two year term. It's way the Republicans threatened a few years ago to overturn the filibuster the Democrats (novelly) used on some judicial nominations.

So it's odd that Reid did this, that is opened this can of worms and it's odd that he did it on this kind of thing and that he got 51 Democrats to go along with it. People now view it as more likely that when the Republicans have the majority (perhaps after 2012) they will change things and limit the minority's powers. Then again, if you believe the Senate is broken because you need 60% do anything, then you wonder why he didn't do more.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs

I've heard a lot of people say things like he was this generations Newton or Edison. I don't think of Steve Jobs that way because in spite of the fact his name is on 300 patents, he wasn't an engineer or an inventor. I think of him more as a Henry Ford. Sure Jobs had profound influences on the Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. I'm certain that without Jobs they just would have been home computers, mp3 players, cell phones and tablets. But I haven't heard much about the other things he built that enabled these products to be as great as they are.

He rebuilt Apple from a dying company into the largest and most envied in the world. He changed how computers are advertised. He redefined retail stores. He made thin a quality to evaluate computers by and created new manufacturing processes so his machines could be thinner than everyone else's. He cared about the packaging. He got cell phone companies to sell his phones his way instead of their crappy phones their crappy way. I thought Google's short lived Android store might do that, but no, it was Steve Jobs that did it. He convinced record companies to make deals with him and changed the way music is sold. He almost convinced movie studios to do the same. He built his own movie studio and they have the best track record in the world. He invented desktop publishing, let millions edit their home movies and made sharing pictures fun.

When I heard that he died I quickly remembered something Tom Cruise said. I know, that's strange. Steve Jobs was known for being a perfectionist and difficult to work with. I think the only contemporary person that compares is Stanley Kubrick. When Kubrick died, Tom Cruise lamented "There will never be another Stanley Kubrick film." I'm sure the next few products Apple releases will have some Jobs influence but they won't be his. and there will never be another Stevenote.

And fuck cancer.

Steve Jobs Articles

There have been a bunch of articles about Steve Jobs, here are some of my favorites:

John Markoff in the NYT: Apple’s Visionary Redefined Digital Age

Steven Levy: Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011. Here's

Walt Mossberg: The Steve Jobs I Knew

John Gruber: Universe Dented, Grass Underfoot

The Onion: Last American Who Knew What The Fuck He Was Doing Dies

Here are some older pieces:

Steven Levy's 1984 Rolling Stone article on The Birth of the Mac.

Daniel Morrow interviewed Steve Jobs, founder of NeXT Computer in 1995.

John Sculley On Steve Jobs, The Full Interview

The Playboy Interview: Steven Jobs

Everyone is quoting his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address:


Here's Jobs narrating the first Think Different commercial, "Here's to the Crazy Ones". This version never aired:

Nikon Small World 2011

In Focus on the Nikon Small World 2011 competition. "Every year, Nikon hosts the Small World Photomicrography Competition, inviting photographers and scientists to submit images of all things visible under a microscope. The winners for this year's competition have just been announced, with Dr. Igor Siwanowicz taking first prize for his image of a common green lacewing larva that had earlier landed on his hand, trying to take a bite (photo number 21 below). This year's entries cover a fascinating range of subjects and sizes, from the eyes of a freshwater shrimp to the delicate scales on the wing of a butterfly, from a simple yet complex frost crystal to neurospheres and cancer cells. Enjoy a trip into a miniature world through the images shared here with us by the fine folks at Nikon, all from the 2011 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition. [32 photos]"

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The Anti-Politics of #OccupyWallStreet

Matt Stoller has by far the most interesting thing I've read about The Anti-Politics of #OccupyWallStreet.

"I have been through a few general assemblies now, and they are remarkable because the point of the assembly is to truly put listening at the heart of decision-making. There’s no electronic amplification allowed in Zuccotti Square. So the organizers have figured out an organic microphone system. A speaker says a half a sentence, everyone in earshot repeats, until the whole park can hear that half a sentence. Then the speaker says another half a sentence. People use hand signals to indicate approval, disapproval, get a move on, or various forms of objections and clarifications. During these speeches, speakers often explicitly ask for more gender and racial diversity, which is known as “progressive stacking”."

"At the forum, two fairly simple decisions were made. One, a nurse’s union endorsed #OccupyWallStreet, and pledged some food and offered nurses to train some of the protesters on first aid. The group accepted this endorsement. Two, some drag queens endorsed the protest, and offered food. They also said they would perform the next day. The group accepted this endorsement. That was it. These groups figured out ways they wanted to help, and did so. The groups that offered the help gained power based on what they did to build the space. A few days earlier, someone had offered to do a newspaper for #OccupyWallStreet and asked for volunteers. The group gave its approval. And now there’s an “Occupied Wall Street Journal”. There are people who offer to build the space, and then don’t deliver. But they don’t gain power. And that’s the way #OccupyWallStreet has structured its decision-making. Find ways to build the public space, and then gain the trust of the public that occupies the space you’ve helped build. The nurses helped deliver health care. The drag queens made the carnival more fun. This kind of power, the power that comes from the trust and love of other people, doesn’t emerge from a list of policy demands. It comes from the formation of a public, through the appreciation and sharing of a public space. It takes work, but the result is… #OccupyWallStreet. Or the camps in Israel, or Spain, or Wisconsin, or elsewhere there are mini-civilizations sprouting up."

Last Friday In Focus posted some photos from Occupy Wall Street.

Republicans Kill the Jobs Bill

Ezra Klein wrote The jobs bill is dead "It's not much of a surprise, I guess. The American Jobs Act never had a particularly good chance of passing the House. But as of yesterday, it's officially dead. Majority Leader Eric Cantor isn't even pretending the two sides will work something out. "The $447 billion jobs package as a package: dead?" A reporter asked him. "Yes," Cantor replied."

"It's possible, of course, that the administration decided that this is all a moot point, and there is no political strategy right now that wil lead to a serious agreement on jobs spending with Cantor and his members. It's possible that everything is going exactly according to the administration's plan and they're putting the finishing touches on a Truman-like campaign against a do-nothing, block-everything Congress. But if so, that's quite a statement about how much help the American people can expect from the federal government in the face of a weakening economy and a possible double-dip recession. More evidence, I guess, for the thesis that the politicians who will decide America's presidential election all reside in Europe, if only because they're the politicians who are actually making decisions that will affect the global economy."

Jonathan Cohn calls out Eric Cantor and His Dysfunctional House. "According to Talking Points Memo, Cantor said “I think at this point Washington has become so dysfunctional that we’ve got to start focusing on the incremental progress we can make.”

Washington has become so dysfunctional. Yes it has. And why is it that, Mr. Majority Leader? Could it have something to do with the party that uses the filibuster as a matter of routine, imposing a super-majority requirement on all legislation and blocking even uncontroversial presidential nominees from coming to a vote? Could it have something to do with party that decided to play chicken with the country’s credit limit, a virtually unprecedented move that caused real harm to the economy? Could it have something to do with the party that turned down ridiculously lopsided compromises -- lopsided in its favor -- because it holds an absolutist position on taxes that would decimate the welfare state?"

Steve Benen adds Cantor's ironic cries about dysfunction, "Making matters slightly worse, Jason Zengerle has a new profile of the oft-confused Republican, and Cantor told him the message he’s shared with his caucus: “[W]e are in essence a blocking minority in Washington,” he told me. “We control half of one-third of government, and so we can for sure block bad things from happening legislatively"

Bruce Bartlett (from the Reagan and Bush I administrations) shreds the Republican spouted idea that government regulation is the problem, Misrepresentations, Regulations and Jobs. "The table below presents the bureau’s data. As one can see, the number of layoffs nationwide caused by government regulation is minuscule and shows no evidence of getting worse during the Obama administration. Lack of demand for business products and services is vastly more important."

David Frum (Bush IIs speech writer) wrote in What Romney Gets Right, "On the most urgent economic issue of the day – recovery from the Great Recession – the Republican consensus is seriously wrong." He goes on to list a bakers dozen including "It is wrong in its call for monetary tightening. It is wrong to demand immediate debt reduction rather than wait until after the economy recovers. It is wrong to deny that “we have a revenue problem.” It is wrong in worrying too much about (non-existent) inflation and disregarding the (very real) threat of a second slump into recession and deflation."

But really, we know the Republican talking points are just bullshit. They just want Obama to lose and they don't care about what happens to the economy or the country. Steve Benen describes how the Senate GOP plays silly stunt on jobs bill. "In reality, McConnell thought he was playing a fun little game. He knows Senate Democrats aren’t united on the American Jobs Act, so he figured if he could force a vote, there would be bipartisan opposition, which Republicans could then use against the White House. If Harry Reid blocked the move, McConnell could get a few cheap laughs by saying Dems blocked a vote on the president’s jobs bill. “Honoring” a presidential request was the furthest thing from McConnell’s mind. But even this stunt wasn’t quite what it appeared to be. For one thing, McConnell wasn’t trying to bring the jobs bill to the floor, he was trying to tack the entire package on as an amendment to a bill on Chinese currency manipulation. For another, McConnell swore up and down yesterday he wanted a vote on the American Jobs Act, but Republicans were still going to filibuster — he wasn’t calling for a vote on the bill, he was calling for an opportunity for the GOP to obstruct a vote on the bill."

Maybe there's hope. Suzy Khimm writes House Republican: Grover Norquist ‘is paralyzing Congress’. "Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) is one of just six Republican in Congress who haven’t signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. On the House floor Tuesday, he attacked Norquist for single-handedly enforcing this hard line within the GOP, creating a destructive impasse in the legislative process. “Everything must be on the table and I believe how the ‘pledge’ is interpreted and enforced by Mr. Norquist is a roadblock to realistically reforming our tax code,” Wolf said. “Have we really reached a point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?”"

Maybe some Republican will come to their senses. But I wouldn't bet on it. I'm hoping that maybe OccupyWallStreet might be the start of something.

Exoplanets seen by Hubble in 1998 finally revealed

Exoplanets seen by Hubble in 1998 finally revealed "In 1998, the Hubble Space Telescope was pointed at HR 8799, in hopes of seeing any potential planets that might be orbiting that nearby, Sun-like star. None were found… but in 2008 images using the Gemini telescope found several planets orbiting HR 8799. In fact, four planets were discovered there!

So why weren’t they seen in the Hubble data? The star was too bright, and software techniques in 1998 couldn’t sufficiently remove the star’s light to reveal the much fainter planets. But things have changed in 13 years, and astronomers went back to the old HST data, using newly-developed methods to clean the images. And lo, they saw three of the four planets!"

Quasicrystalline Solids

I hadn't heard of quasicrystals before yesterday's Nobel prize. Here are two good brief articles on them. From Ars, Lone researcher gets chemistry Nobel for discovering quasicrystalline solids and from The Economist, Crystal tips

Dissolve My Nobel Prize! Fast!

Robert Krulwich writes for NPR, Dissolve My Nobel Prize! Fast! (A True Story) "On the day the Nazis came to Copenhagen, a Hungarian chemist named Georgy de Hevesy (he would one day win a Nobel of his own) was working in Bohr's lab. He wrote later, "I suggested that we should bury the medal(s)," but Bohr thought no, the Germans would dig up the grounds, the garden, search everywhere in the building. Too dangerous. So Hevesy's thoughts turned to chemistry. Maybe he could make the medals disappear. He took the first one, he says, and "I decided to dissolve it. "

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

So the news cycle will be filled with Steve Jobs has died at 56 and I've already seen lots of thanks and lots of "fuck cancer". Apple has a short page, Remembering Steve Jobs. He made great products and great companies and changed the world for the better.

Innovation Starvation

Neal Stephenson wrote Innovation Starvation for the World Policy Institute in which he laments changes in science and science fiction in which they no longer try for big changes.

Walking Dead Web Series

The Walking Dead is a good show on AMC based on the comic book series. Season 2 begins Oct 16 but they've posted six webisodes "Conceived and directed by The Walking Dead Co-Executive Producer Greg Nicotero, Torn Apart delves into the back story of the “Bicycle Girl,” the walker put out of her misery by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) early in Season 1. Check out all six installments below." The AMC site is a little harder to navigate, I preferred watching them here where all the episodes are on one page. Watch Walking Dead Web Series. Warning, this is quite gory stuff.

The Simpsons May End Due to Salary Dispute

‘The Simpsons’: Money Dispute May Shut Down Fox TV’s Long-Running Hit "Difficult bargaining is nothing new for the show, which was created by James L. Brooks and Matt Groening. Fox studio execs have occasionally threatened to replace uncooperative cast members with sound-alike actors. But for the first time in nearly a quarter century of haggling, the executives have insisted that if the cast doesn’t accept a draconian 45 percent pay cut, The Simpsons will die an abrupt death as a first-run series."

So Fox wants to cut their pay. There are six of them and they currently make about $8 million a year for 22 half hour episodes. They've offered a 30% pay cut with an added percentage in syndication and merchandizing. Fox says no to anything added on the backend and wants a 45% salary cut.

I suspect it will be worked out some way. I think any of these salaries is already high. Even $4 million a year for less than 11 hours of TV time is ridiculous. I also think the people doing the voices of the characters deserve a little something based on the perennial merchandizing profits. It's not clear from the article but I think the whole cast makes the same amount and that's odd to me. Yeardley Smith does one voice, Lisa; Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer and Dan Castellaneta do over a dozen.

Update: Would ‘The Simpsons’ Be Worth More Dead Or Alive? explains the details of a syndication contract they have and suggests the possibility of a Simpsons cable channel.

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Honors Discoverer of Quasicrystals

Scientific American explains The 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Honors Discoverer of Quasicrystals "The 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry went today to Daniel Shechtman of the Technion--Israel Institute of Technology for the discovery of quasicrystals--infinite, nonrepeating ordered materials"

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

John K.'s Simpsons Opening

The season 23 premiere of The Simpsons was really good. Kiefer Sutherland played a retired Jack Bauerish agent and there was lots of fun stuff including a North Korean musical. This weeks wasn't as strong but it did start with a couch gag by Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. Here it is:



I find his stuff odd but somehow fascinating. It could be because he's one of the few animators that talks about his work and critiques and teacher others. Here's an interview with him about this project, EXCLUSIVE: John K. Talks about his “Simpsons” Opening.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Canadian-Born Scientist Dies 3 Days Before Winning Nobel Prize in Medicine

The New York Times writes Canadian-Born Scientist Dies 3 Days Before Winning Nobel Prize in Medicine "A pioneering cell biologist was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for his discoveries about the immune system. Hours later, his university said he had died of pancreatic cancer three days earlier, even as he was using his own research to try to save his life. The Nobel committee, which is only supposed to consider living scientists, said it was unaware of the death of Ralph Steinman when it awarded the 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) prize."

In New Term, Supreme Court To Take On Hot-Button Issues

NPR describes, In New Term, Supreme Court To Take On Hot-Button Issues. "The constitutional challenge to President Obama's health care overhaul almost certainly will be decided this term, but at this point it has not formally made it onto the docket. Also making their way to the court are cases involving almost every hot-button issue in America: immigration; affirmative action; gay marriage; and the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law barring federal recognition of gay marriage even in states where it is legal."

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Calvin & Hobbes Search Engine

I love that there is a Calvin & Hobbes Search Engine. My first and favorite Calvin and Hobbes strip of all time.

The World's Best Subway Maps

The Atlantic lists The World's Best Subway Maps "Mass transit maps can be a big part of the visual culture of cities. The more iconic the map, the more likely it is to be turned into a t-shirt, an umbrella, even a shower curtain. Here's a look at 20 different subway system maps that serve as a window into the culture of their respective cities."