Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chinese Hackers Infiltrate New York Times Computers

Chinese Hackers Infiltrate New York Times Computers "After surreptitiously tracking the intruders to study their movements and help erect better defenses to block them, The Times and computer security experts have expelled the attackers and kept them from breaking back in."

Here Are the Patterns the Feds Found for U.S. Mass Killings

Danger Room reports Here Are the Patterns the Feds Found for U.S. Mass Killings

"The basic pattern found by the New Jersey DHS fusion center, and obtained by Public Intelligence (.PDF), is one of a killer who lashes out at his co-workers. Thirteen out of the 29 observed cases ‘occurred at the workplace and were conducted by either a former employee or relative of an employee,’ the November report finds. His ‘weapon of choice’ is a semiautomatic handgun, rather than the rifles that garnered so much attention after Newtown. The infamous Columbine school slaying of 1999 is the only case in which killers worked in teams: they’re almost always solo acts — and one-off affairs. In every single one of them, the killer was male, between the age of 17 and 49.

They also don’t have military training. Veterans are justifiably angered by the Hollywood-driven meme of the unhinged vet who takes out his battlefield stress on his fellow Americans. (Thanks, Rambo.) In only four of the 29 cases did the shooter have any affiliation with the U.S. military, either active or prior at the time of the slaying, and the fusion center doesn’t mention any wartime experience of the killers. "

"One of the most striking patterns about U.S. mass killings is visible only through its absence. Terrorists aren’t committing these crimes. Ordinary, unhinged American men are. That’s despite an inability for federal law enforcement to track stockpiled firearms and literally years of al-Qaida sympathizers and propagandists urging disaffected U.S. Muslims to rise up against their neighbors."

Moonrise in Real Time

Full Moon Silhouettes is a real time video of the moon rising over the Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand.

Full Moon Silhouettes from Mark Gee on Vimeo.

102 Spectacular Nonfiction Stories from 2012

102 Spectacular Nonfiction Stories from 2012 "Each year, I track the most exceptional stories I encounter while assembling my twice-weekly newsletter, The Best of Journalism, as well as acting as an editor-at-large for Byliner. These projects afford me the opportunity to read as much impressive nonfiction journalism as any single person possibly can. The result is my annual Best of Journalism List, now in its fifth year. If you’re feeling nostalgic, here’s the 2011 edition.

There are, of course, worthy pieces of writing and reporting that escaped my attention in 2012, but I can assure you that all of the 102 stories listed below deserve wider attention—as do the authors of these stories. The featured bylines are linked to the authors’ Byliner writer pages, which makes it easy to discover and read more of their excellent work. The stories are listed alphabetically by writer."


This Disney short is nominated as Best Animated Short this year.

Introducing Courier Prime

Introducing Courier Prime "Today, we’re introducing a new typeface designed for screenwriters. It’s called Courier Prime. It’s Courier, just better."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Shakespeare Programming Language

The Shakespeare Programming Language "A few weeks earlier we had discovered a number of truly fascinating programming languages, such as Java2k, Sorted!, Brainfuck and Malbolge, and we wanted to make our own. We have no idea why, but that night we were also thinking about Shakespeare in general, and Shakespearian insults in particular and three hours later we had come up with this amazing idea: the Shakespeare Programming Language, SPL."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

Republicans Might Be Outsmarting Themselves on the Electoral College

Kevin Drum explains Republicans Might Be Outsmarting Themselves on the Electoral College

"Republicans, apparently convinced that they really are facing demographic doom, have been taking increasingly desperate measures to ensure their continued existence. Does this include an effort to moderate their views in order to win more votes? Don't be silly. Instead, they're trying to game the mechanics of the voting system itself."

"The plan is simple: There are half a dozen states that are controlled by Republicans but that often vote for Democratic presidents. Since most states (Nebraska and Maine are the only exceptions) use winner-take-all rules, this means that when Democrats win these states they get 100 percent of their electoral votes. So what would happen if these states instead divvied up their EVs by congressional district?"

"If this system of divvying up electoral votes were adopted nationwide, you could make a case for it. But the unfairness of adopting this system only in states that Democrats usually win is palpable. States in the deep South, for example, have no intention of adopting a similar system, and will continue awarding 100 percent of their electoral votes to Republican candidates. Republicans are picking and choosing different systems in different states, with not even a pretense that they're doing it for any reason aside from choosing whichever system benefits Republicans the most in each state. This is so obviously outrageous that it's likely to prompt a backlash."

He then points people at an alternative that I only recently found out about, the National Popular Vote.

Why Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget

Rachel Weiner explains Why Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget. Three things: a budget isn't necessary, Democrats didn't want the blame, and they couldn't decide on one with their deficit hawk budget chair.

Sometimes, the Final Vote Hides the Real Vote

Jonathan Bernstein explains something important about Congressional votes, Sometimes, the Final Vote Hides the Real Vote.

"It was a five minute vote, and Republicans voted rapidly, and at first voted solidly for the measure. Democrats held back their votes, with those who voted against it mostly voting no. It thereby reached…aw, I didn’t take really good notes, but when it reached a winning number Republicans supported it at 199/9 while Democrats opposed it by something like 19/49. After that point, Democrats split fairly evenly but with somewhat more of them voting yes, while Republicans went from 199/9 to…199/33."

"And the thing is: no one says (at least not on the record) that their vote was available if needed, but they were happy not to have to vote for that necessary measure that they just voted against. Not only would that ruin the gain of being on record the other way, but no one wants to be seen as the Speaker’s lackey. Nor can we believe the leadership when they claim vote counts. So, really, we have no certain way of knowing whether Republicans had the votes on this one if they had to do it alone. But I’d bet they had more than the 199 they got."

Room for Improvement

I had preordered several books from Amazon. Three were released this week and all arrived on Thursday. Each shipped separately and was delivered via a different carrier. Since I have Amazon Prime, I didn't really pay for this shipping. I think there's some room for Amazon to optimize its operations.

Distance Traveled, Extraterrestrial Vehicles

Distance Traveled, Extraterrestrial Vehicles "If you thought driving on Earth is a chore, you haven't tried off-roading on another planet. So far, robotic rovers have reached out to the moon and Mars, with astronauts actually driving a lunar car on the moon during NASA's Apollo program. Those missions amount to what could be the first interplanetary road race."


Can you name these famous authors?

Kas posted Can you name these famous authors?. No I can't.


Cute short film using some new animation techniques

Malaria from Edson Oda on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lost Ending To Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' Revealed

Lost Ending To Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' Revealed. "Well, it was a scene set inside a hospital after the events at Overlook, in which Mr. Ullman tells Wendy that Jack Torrance's body was never found. He then gives Danny a tennis ball, which is of course what lured the child to the infamous Room 237 earlier in the film.  

This much is known to anyone who is fan of the movie, but Unkrich got his hands on the actual script so you can now read the full scene right here, and it is pretty remarkable stuff. But additionally there's an epilogue in there that audiences have never seen, which is also eerie, if perhaps over the top:"

I can't say I find it at all compelling.

Conservatives Have Their Worst Week Ever

Matt Taibbi, entertaining as always, explains why Conservatives Have Their Worst Week Ever.

"So to recap: The gun lobby's response to Obama's inauguration was to organize a "Gun Appreciation Day" on Martin Luther King Day that left five of their own gun-loving members accidentally shot. Then they responded to Obama's inaugural speech by doubling down on the "elitist hypocrite" ad that earned them near-universal condemnation previously. So how could things get worse?

Well, you could have a spokesman for Political Media, which organized "Gun Appreciation Day," tell the Hollywood Reporter that Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained is the perfect argument in support of gun rights. Political Media's Larry Ward said he's considering a "What Would Django Do?" campaign as part of this new rhetorical line they're thinking of trying to sell, particularly to the black community. The idea is, get this, that there wouldn't have been slavery if slaves had had gun rights."

Chicago's Freezing Fire

In Focus posted Chicago's Freezing Fire "On Tuesday night, a huge vacant warehouse on Chicago's South Side went up in flames. Fire department officials said it was the biggest blaze the department has had to battle in years and one-third of all Chicago firefighters were on the scene at one point or another trying to put out the flames. Complicating the scene was the weather -- temperatures were well below freezing and the spray from the fire hoses encased everything below in ice, including buildings, vehicles, and some firefighting gear. The warehouse was gutted, but the fire was contained. Fire crews remain on the scene as some smaller flare-ups continue to need attention. [16 photos]"

These firefighters deserve hazard pay.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What happened when Ezra Klein asked Paul Ryan why he hates taxes

Ezra Klein describes What happened when I asked Paul Ryan why he hates taxes

"The key to understanding the House Republicans’ mindset, Ryan said, was that ‘our value-add  to the political system on all things is to help prevent a debt crisis.’ But it quickly became clear that the Republican Party’s fear of a debt crisis lags far behind their fear of further tax revenue. For House Republicans, it’s spending cuts or nothing. Actually, I shouldn’t say nothing. It’s spending cuts or House Republicans force another kind of crisis."

"“They already got their revenues,” Ryan said. “So what, we’ll roll over and they get more revenues? That’s not how it works. In the spirit of bipartisan compromise, they’ve gotten revenue increases already. We’ve yet to get anything as a result of it. It used to be 3-1. Isn’t that what Erskine says? $3 of spending cuts to every dollar of tax increase. The president in his own budget last year claimed 2.5 to 1. We’d argue with whether they actually achieved that, but where’s the 3? Where’s the two-and-a-half? Where’s the $1.8 trillion in cuts?”

As Montgomery reminded Ryan, though, Republicans got more than $1.8 trillion in spending cuts during the last session of Congress. “You got — what is it? — $2.2 trillion, $2.4 trillion between the [Budget Control Act] and the

“That was last session,” Ryan said. “We’re going forward now.”

Ryan’s wrong on that. Both the $630 billion in revenue that Democrats got as part of the fiscal cliff deal and the $2.2 trillion (or so) that Republicans got as part of the Budget Control Act both passed as part of the 112th Congress. The House approved the fiscal cliff deal Jan. 1, and President Obama signed the bill into law Jan. 2. The 113th Congress didn’t begin until Jan. 3. So neither side has gotten anything in this session of Congress."

This is why Paul Krugman doesn't take Paul Ryan seriously.

Government Spending is Down in the Obama Era

Kevin Drum: Government Spending is Down in the Obama Era. "Republicans like to say we have a spending problem, not a taxing problem, but the evidence doesn't back that up. Total government spending didn't go up much during the Clinton era, and it's actually declined during the Obama era. In the last two decades, it's only gone up significantly during the Bush era, the same era in which taxes were cut dramatically. What we have isn't a spending problem. That's under control. What we have is a problem with Republicans not wanting to pay the bills they themselves were largely responsible for running up."


Paul Krugman explains it with a bit more rigor, The Non-Surge in Government Spending. "So how can we get a better picture? First, express spending as a share of potential rather than actual GDP; we can use the CBO estimates of potential for that purpose. Second, keep your eye on the business cycle — and, in particular, on how spending is evolving now that a gradual recovery is underway. So, let’s look first at a longish time series of total government spending as a share of potential GDP:"


Mark Thoma points to a few articles expressing America’s Fiscal Policy is Not in Crisis. The long term problems are rising health care costs and the immediate problem isn't the deficit or debt but jobs.

Update: Nate Sliver a few days ago on What Is Driving Growth in Government Spending?

Everyone hates TARP and the stimulus. Alan Blinder thinks everyone’s wrong.

Everyone hates TARP and the stimulus. Alan Blinder thinks everyone’s wrong. "Alan Blinder is the Gordon S. Rentschler Memorial Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at the Princeton Department of Economics, and served both on President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors (1993-94) and as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (1994-96). His new book, a history of the financial crisis called After the Music Stopped, is out tomorrow. We talked on the phone Friday; a lightly edited transcript follows."

Contemplating Obama's Place in History, Statistically

Nate Silver is Contemplating Obama's Place in History, Statistically "As common sense might dictate — and as the statistics will also reveal — it is far too soon to conclude very much about this. Second-term presidents may be derided as lame ducks, but it is often in the second term when reputations are won or lost.

Still, we can say this much: Mr. Obama ran for and won a second term, something only about half of the men to serve as president have done (the tally is 20 or 21 out of 43, depending on how you count Grover Cleveland). We can also note, however, that Mr. Obama’s re-election margin was relatively narrow. Do these simple facts provide any insight at all into how he might be regarded 20, 50 or 100 years from now?"

MP3 files written as DNA with storage density of 2.2 petabytes per gram

Ars Technica writes MP3 files written as DNA with storage density of 2.2 petabytes per gram "It's only within the past few decades, however, that humans have learned to speak DNA. Even then, it took a while to develop the technology needed to synthesize and determine the sequence of large populations of molecules. But we're there now, and people have started experimenting with putting binary data in biological form. Now, a new study has confirmed the flexibility of the approach by encoding everything from an MP3 to the decoding algorithm into fragments of DNA. The cost analysis done by the authors suggest that the technology may soon be suitable for decade-scale storage, provided current trends continue."

Here are all the budget deadlines we’re facing in the next 3 months

Here are all the budget deadlines we’re facing in the next 3 monthsNewImage

The European Southern Observatory

In Focus on The European Southern Observatory "High in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has built several collections of telescopes and observatories on remote, arid mountaintops. The locations are ideal for ground-based astronomy -- far from city lights, high above sea level, with more than 350 cloudless days a year. The ESO is an intergovernmental research organization with 15 member states, founded in 1962. It has been making observations from the southern hemisphere since 1966, and continues to expand its facilities to this day. The sites are La Silla, which hosts the New Technology Telescope (NTT); Paranal, home to the Very Large Telescope (VLT); and Llano de Chajnantor, which hosts the APEX submillimeter telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Construction on the newest project in Chile's desert -- the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), a 40-meter-class telescope -- is due to start later this year in Cerro Armazones. I've collected below some amazing images of the ESO's observatories, and a few of the astronomical images they've been able to make over the years. [34 photos total]"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

moon hoax not

The Climate Change Endgame

It's a good thing Obama mentioned climate change on Monday, but it's practically too late. The Climate Change Endgame "It is abundantly clear that the target of a 2-degree Celsius limit to climate change was mostly derived from what seemed convenient and doable without any reference to what it really means environmentally. Two degrees is actually too much for ecosystems. Tropical coral reefs are extremely vulnerable to even brief periods of warming. The elevated atmospheric CO2 also has raised the acidity of the oceans, which affects the ability of coral and mollusks such as oysters to build shells and skeletons. A 2-degree world will be one without coral reefs (on which millions of human beings depend for their well-being).

At current global warming of 0.8-0.9 degrees, the fingerprints of climate change can be seen virtually everywhere in nature. The coniferous forests of western North America are currently experiencing massive tree mortality because climate change has tipped the balance in favor of native bark beetles. The Amazon seems to be edging close to dieback in the southern and southeastern portions of the great forest.

At essentially double that current temperature increase, there undoubtedly will be massive extinctions and widespread ecosystem collapse. The difficulty of trying to buffer and manage change will increase exponentially with only small increments of warming.

In addition, the last time the planet was 2 degrees warmer, the oceans were four to six (perhaps eight) meters higher. We may not know how fast that will happen (although it is already occurring more rapidly than initially estimated), but the end point in sea-level rise is not in question. A major portion of humanity lives in coastal areas and small island states that will go under water. The site of the Earth Summit and Rio+20 will disappear under water fairly early on.

More than a 2-degree increase should be unimaginable. Yet to stop at 2 degrees, global emissions have to peak in 2016. The Carbon Tracker organization has examined fossil-fuel investments around the world (including 1,200 new coal plants) and determined that they would lead to a 6-degree world. A recent World Bank report indicates the bank cannot fulfill its development mission in a 4-degree world. Given what we know about planetary biology, 2 degrees seems nightmarish as it is."

For less hope here's These 14 fossil-fuel projects could make our climate goals impossible. "The International Energy Agency estimates that the world can only burn about a third of its proven oil, gas, and coal reserves to have a good chance of keeping global warming below the 2°C threshold. And according to Ecofys, these 14 projects alone have the potential to burn through 30 percent of those reserves by 2030 — making those climate goals extremely difficult to reach."

Inauguration Tidbits

US presidential inauguration speeches: how does Obama's second compare? "Barack Obama has made his second presidential inauguration speech. But how does it compare to previous presidents? Santiago Ortiz has create this guide to every inauguration speech since Richard Nixon became president in 1969. Roll over a word to see which are closely connected to it, search in the box on the right an filter the most common words below."

The alliteration of Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall got some coverage. A Map of Human Dignity is a good primer if you don't know all the places (I didn't). Krugman has a little more.

But of course the really important question is Why Antonin Scalia Is Wearing That Hat to Inauguration which The Atlantic Wire covers in detail.

Virginia Republicans Give Blacks the Finger on MLK Day

Kevin Drum writes Virginia Republicans Give Blacks the Finger on MLK Day "The Virginia state senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, 20-20. Republicans really hate this, but what can they do? Answer: wait for a Democratic state senator to be absent and jam through a mid-decade redistricting plan that switches one seat from D to R by creating a new pack-and-crack majority black district just south of Richmond. The vote was 20-19."

Seriously? Do Democrats do this kind of crap? He goes on to point out the missing senator was a civil rights lawyer who was in DC for the inauguration of the first black president on MLK Day and at the end of the day "the Senate adjourned in memory or [sic] [Confederate] General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson"

Monday, January 21, 2013

President Obama takes the oath ...

The White House tweeted this, President Obama takes the oath of office during the Inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol and included this picture. Notice his mother-in-law on the right...

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They also posted The Second Inauguration of Barack Obama with a transcript and video.

Democrats Are Not Responsible for Republican Dysfunction

A few days ago David Brooks wrote The Next Four Years. He laments it but thinks in Obama's second term Democrats will think: “We live at a unique moment. Our opponents, the Republicans, are divided, confused and bleeding. This is not the time to allow them to rebuild their reputation with a series of modest accomplishments. This is the time to kick them when they are down, to win back the House and end the current version of the Republican Party."

Not surprisingly, some of the regular columnists I read took umbrage to this.

Kevin Drum, Let's Get One Thing Straight: It's Republicans Who Are Picking Fights, Not President Obama. "Politics is everywhere, and I don't doubt that Democrats would like to take advantage of Republican divisions. What party wouldn't? But look: if one party is dominated by a bunch of loons who make every political skirmish into a sign of the apocalypse, you really can't blame the other side for exposing this. What choice do they have?"

He gives the recent example of cabinet appointment fights for Susan Rice, Chuck Hagel and Jack Lew. "So what's he supposed to do? After winning reelection handily, is he supposed to agree that he won't nominate anyone to serve in his cabinet who isn't pre-approved by the most hardcore members of the opposition party? Of course not. That's crazy. Hagel and Lew are perfectly ordinary nominees, and Obama wasn't picking a fight with anyone by selecting them. He was just nominating people who agree with his policy positions. It was Republicans who insisted on turning this into a mortal insult."

"The same is true for Brooks's examples. It's Republicans who picked a fight over the debt ceiling that makes them look like wackos. It's Republicans who picked a fight over hurricane relief, earning the ire of Chris Christie and other members of their own party. (What was Obama supposed to do? Not propose any hurricane relief?) Ditto for gun regulations, where it's the NRA taking an absolutist position, not the president. Obama is plainly willing to compromise here, just as he's plainly willing to compromise over the budget. It's Republicans who aren't."

Ezra Klein, Is the Republican Party Obama’s fault?. First his own opinion, "The logic here is weirdly impeccable. The Republican Party’s dilemma is that House Republicans keeps taking all kinds of unreasonable and unpopular positions. If Obama weren’t president, the House Republicans wouldn’t be taking so many unreasonable and unpopular positions. But since Obama is president, and since he does need to work with House Republicans, he is highlighting their unreasonable and unpopular opinions in a bid to make them change their minds, which is making House Republicans look even worse. And so it’s ultimately Obama’s fault that House Republicans are, say, threatening to breach the debt ceiling if they don’t get their way on spending cuts. After all, if Mitt Romney had won the election, the debt ceiling wouldn’t even be a question!"

Then he comments on Brook's column, "So White House officials’ devious plan to destroy the Republican Party, in Brooks’s view, is that they will propose more moderate, popular policies than they did in their first term, thus making Republicans look terrible when they vote against everything."

Jonathan Chait did the best takedown, David Brooks Now Totally Pathological. He begins:

"Brooks begins by noting that the Grand Bargain on the deficit, which he has spent the last two years relentlessly touting, is not actually possible. Why is it impossible? Because, he writes, “A political class that botched the fiscal cliff so badly are not going to be capable of a gigantic deal on complex issues." Oh, the political class? That’s funny. In 2011, Obama offered an astonishingly generous budget deal to House Republicans, and Brooks argued at the time that if the GOP turned the deal down, it would prove their “fanaticism.” Naturally, they turned it down. Obama continues to offer a bargain including higher revenue through tax reform in return for lower spending on retirement programs, but Republicans refuse to consider higher taxes. So, in summary, this proves “the political class” is to blame."

He then goes through Brooks own examples of simple measures Dems could do that Republicans would like and shows why they're wrong. Education Reform? Obama passed some in 2009 and Brooks praised it. More Visas? Democrates tried last months and Republicans killed it. More natural gas drilling? It's already booming! An infrastructure bank? Republicans have called it DOA. He goes on…

"Right – Obama is the one inviting confrontations over the debt ceiling. Never mind that, before 2011, the debt ceiling was just an occasion for routine posturing, and Republicans insisted on turning it into a showdown with real, dangerous stakes. Also never mind that Obama offered to sign the plan — proposed by Mitch McConnell! — to permanently defuse the debt ceiling and let Republicans use it to posture against him rather than actually threatening a global meltdown. And never mind as well that, by refusing to cave in to extortion, Obama seems to actually be defusing the real danger to the world economy.

This is all Obama’s fault because it makes Republicans “look like whackos willing to endanger the entire global economy.” Brooks displays an almost surreal lack of interest in the underlying reality that Republicans actually are whackos willing to endanger the entire global economy. It is his responsibility to conceal this reality from America."

In These 22 States, Every House Republican Voted Against Sandy Aid

Mother Jones made a map, In These 22 States, Every House Republican Voted Against Sandy Aid "In 22 states, every last Republican representative voted against HR 152 or abstained on the bill, which includes $17 billion for immediate repair and an amendment introduced by a Republican, New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, that tacks on another $33.7 billion for long-term recovery and prevention. These included Maryland and the Carolinas (remember Hugo and Floyd?), states that are vulnerable to seasonal hurricanes but were largely spared by Sandy."

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Of course they'll claim that they would have voted for the bill if it were paid for. If there were cuts someplace else to find the funds. They would of course reject raising any taxes to cover the money. They also ignore that historically disaster funding has usually been unfunded. Pay now, because it's needed now and find the money later. They also ignore that it works this way because Congress has been too stupid to include an emergency fund in the budget.

They also ignore that both sides play this game. If you disagree with a bill you say it's because it's unfunded and if you agree with it you accuse your opponents of being against it. Kerry's "I voted for it before voting against it" was about exactly this. It was for funding the troops. The first bill payed for it and Republicans voted against it. The second bill was unfunded, yes deficit spending, and the GOP was for it and accused Kerry of being against the troops.

It's just seems so ridiculously stupid and inefficient.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Air Quality Suffering in China

NASA posts Air Quality Suffering in China "Residents of Beijing and many other cities in China were warned to stay inside in mid-January 2013 as the nation faced one of the worst periods of air quality in recent history. The Chinese government ordered factories to scale back emissions, while hospitals saw spikes of more than 20 to 30 percent in patients complaining of respiratory issues, according to news reports."

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Great Molasses Flood of 1919

The Boston Globe has pictures of The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 which happened 94 years ago today.

"The infamous molasses flood in Boston was a tragedy like no other. On January 15, 1919, a giant tank in the North End collapsed, sending a wave of an estimated 2.3 million gallons of molasses through the streets of Boston. The devastation the sticky liquid left was shocking. Twenty-one people were killed and 150 injured in its path of destruction."

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Friday, January 11, 2013

The Best of Kickstarter 2012

The Best of Kickstarter 2012 "From groundbreaking projects to inspiring stories, 2012 was a year of many memorable moments on Kickstarter. To celebrate the year that was, our team put together this look back at some of our favorite projects and moments. We hope you enjoy!"

Mapping The Entertainment Ecosystems: A Brief Revisit

Mapping The Entertainment Ecosystems: A Brief Revisit "I’ve decided to briefly revisit the topic today because the original post garnered quite a lot of discussion and feedback and because of two ‘events’ that have since happened. Firstly, Apple yesterday announced an expansion of the iTunes Music Store into dozens of new countries (and Movie store in a few additional countries). Secondly, I have since found two pieces of data on which countries Xbox Music is available in (for some odd reason I cannot find any official Microsoft document detailing the countries it is available in). So below is an update to the Music and Movie diagrams and graphs."

There are more interesting graphs on the page but here's the summary one:

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Qualcomm's insane CES 2013 keynote in pictures and tweets

The Verge describes Qualcomm's insane CES 2013 keynote in pictures and tweets "2013 was the first time in many years that Microsoft didn't host the opening keynote for the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas. Instead, the show went to Qualcomm and its CEO, Dr. Paul Jacobs. We weren't quite sure what to expect beyond a new series of processors, but what we got was weirder than anything we've seen in all of our collective years attending CES. While Chris Ziegler translated the surreal experiences into a liveblog and I took photos of the craziest moments, the rest of the Verge staff took to Twitter to react to the event. You can relive the insanity right here."

Wintry Weather

Wintry Weather "The chill of mid-winter has set in around the northern hemisphere, bringing freezing temperatures to much of Asia, and an unusual snowstorm to the Mideast this week. People are coping where they must and playing where they can, from China to Maine, from Minnesota to Austria. Gathered here are a few recent images of the chilly weather across the north. [34 photos]"

S w33 RTR3BVTN copyWintry Weather: Middle East Edition "Following up on yesterday's essay Wintry Weather, I was struck by photographs of the unusually heavy winter storm that just blanketed many Middle Eastern countries in snow. I discovered a wide range of unique images, from Saudis tossing snowballs to Israelis on sleds to the newly white roofs of Istanbul. Gathered here are a handful of those images, showing that, despite the harshness of the storm, some were able to find a moment of joy in the rare snowfall. [32 photos]"

S w03 59231067 copyS w23 59228776 copyHarbin International Ice and Snow Festival 2013 "The opening ceremonies for this year's Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in Heilongjiang province in northeastern China were held earlier this week. The event, held since 1963, can last more than a month, depending on the weather, and attracts visitors from around the world who come to see the elaborate ice and snow sculptures. -- Lloyd Young (20 photos total)"

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Daily Show on Complaints about Current TV Sale

Thursday, January 10, 2013

25 Handy Words That Simply Don’t Exist In English

25 Handy Words That Simply Don’t Exist In English. Here's an example:

"2 Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude"

Oscar Nominations

I did pretty well in my predictions this year.

I don't know why I only picked 9 nominees for Best Picture, but the Academy did to so that worked out. I got 8 of 9 right. They picked Amour over Moonrise Kingdom. I've seen all of the 8 and Moonrise but not Amour yet.

Director seems to be the big shocker of a category. I got only two picks right, Lincoln and Life of PI which seemed pretty easy. I got three wrong, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo and Django and people seemed quite surprised that Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow didn't get nominated. I'm thrilled that Benh Zeitlin did for Beasts of the Southern Wild. I'm not so sure about David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook or Michael Haneke for Amour. Again, I haven't seen Amour yet (and it's not playing anywhere around me) but I'm still kinda pissed about Cache.

I got three right in Actor. I'm pissed that John Hawkes didn't get picked for The Sessions and think he deserved it over Joaquin Phoenix. I have heard good things about Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour and wasn't as thrilled with Jackman as everyone else seems to be.

I nailed all five picks for Best Actress.

In each of the Supporting categories I went 4/5. I think Leonardo was better than DeNiro and Maggie Smith was better than Jacki Weaver (well, more entertaining at least).

I went 4/5 in each of the writing categories. I really liked Looper and haven't seen Flight yet. I also liked Perks of Being a Wallflower and while Argo was very good, I thought for a 2 hour movie there was very little character development.

Here's the list of feature films (not shorts) by nominations. Aside from Amour, Anna Karenina and Flight, I've seen all the films with more than one nomination. Of the 23 films with just one nomination I've only seen six. I've seen none of the Foreign Language, Animated or Documentary features. I've seen one of the Documentary Shorts, Monday's at Racine at IFF Boston and it was wonderful. And I just watched the nominated Simpsons short on YouTube (a bad illegal copy).

12 Lincoln
11 Life of Pi
8 Silver Linings Playbook
8 Les Misérables
7 Argo
5 Zero Dark Thirty
5 Skyfall
5 Django Unchained
5 Amour
4 Beasts of the Southern Wild
4 Anna Karenina
3 The Master
3 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
2 Snow White and the Huntsman
2 Flight
1 Wreck-It Ralph
1 War Witch
1 The Sessions
1 The Pirates! Band of Misfits
1 The Invisible War
1 The Impossible
1 The Gatekeepers
1 The Avengers
1 Ted
1 Searching for Sugar Man
1 Prometheus
1 ParaNorman
1 No
1 Moonrise Kingdom
1 Mirror Mirror
1 Kon-Tiki
1 How to Survive a Plague
1 Hitchcock
1 Frankenweenie
1 Chasing Ice
1 Brave
1 A Royal Affair
1 5 Broken Cameras

I am surprised at how many categories I've already completed. I've seen all the nominees in 7 categories (both supporting, adapted screenplay, editing, makeup, and both sound categories). In another 8 categories I only need to see one film to complete them, and once I see just two films (Amour and Anna Karenina) I'll have completed five of these 8 categories.

Oscar Nomination Predictions

Oscar nominations are tomorrow morning, here are some last minute predictions for the big categories:

Picture: Lincoln, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, Moonrise Kingdom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained

Director: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln; Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty; Ben Affleck, Argo; Ang Lee, Life of Pi; Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Actor: Daniel Day Lewis, Lincoln; John Hawkes, The Sessions; Denzel Washington, Flight; Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook; Jean-Louis Trintignant, Amour

Actress: Jessica Chastin, Zero Dark Thirty; Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook; Naomi Watts, The Impossible; Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild; Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln; Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained; Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master; Alan Arkin, Argo; Leonardo diCaprio, Django Unchained

Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables; Sally Field, Lincoln; Helen Hunt, The Sessions; Amy Adams, The Master; Maggie Smith, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Adapted Screenplay: Lincoln, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Perks of Being a Wallflower Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi

Original Screenplay: Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, Moonrise Kingdom, Amour, Looper

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

2012 Was Hottest Year Ever in U.S.

2012 Was Hottest Year Ever in U.S.

"The numbers are in: 2012, the year of a surreal March heat wave, a severe drought in the corn belt and a massive storm that caused broad devastation in the mid-Atlantic states, turns out to have been the hottest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States.

How hot was it? The temperature differences between years are usually measured in fractions of a degree, but last year blew away the previous record, set in 1998, by a full degree Fahrenheit."

Movies Seen in 2012

In 2011 I saw 366 feature length films. I didn't do that in 2012. I saw a respectable 197 features and 44 shorts. Of those 197 features, 4 were TV original movies.

I used the Academy's definition of short, that is under 40 minutes long. 46% I watched on cable, and 44% were in a theater (this is the first question people usually ask). The rest were online or via netflix or DVD. 11% I had seen before, the rest were first times. (This is the second question people ask and yes reruns count. Seeing Casablanca a second or third time is still seeing a movie).

Screen Shot 2013 01 08 at 2 15 12 PM

My year was definitely front loaded with lots of movies. That's mostly Oscar season and IFFBoston (which is awesome).

Screen Shot 2013 01 08 at 2 16 06 PM

The bulk of the films I saw were from 2011 and 2012. I rated all the films on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the best. I use what's mostly a Netflix scale. 3 is ok, 4 I really liked and 5 is great. 2 I didn't like and 1 I hated. I didn't see many fives this year and I was pretty good about only seeing reruns that I liked. It's not quite a balanced bell curve of quality.

Screen Shot 2013 01 08 at 2 16 20 PMScreen Shot 2013 01 08 at 2 25 52 PM

These don't include shorts, I think I saw too few foreign films.

Screen Shot 2013 01 08 at 7 22 21 PM

I'm mostly happy with how I break down genres but it's still hard to get one and only one sub-genre for a film and I didn't always do that (particularly for dramas). These charts include shorts.

Screen Shot 2013 01 08 at 7 24 33 PM

I kept track of which theaters and TV channels I saw movies. These get a little rainbow in the long tail, but there are a few surprises. These don't include shorts (some of which I saw at IFF Boston) and still the Somerville Theatre was got 26% of all my theaters. I'm also surprised the Kendell got almost that much (no shorts there). I'm not surprised that TCM and HBO came in first in cable channels, but I'm a little surprised that EPIX came in third (I think I got that channel just a year or so ago).

Screen Shot 2013 01 08 at 7 22 04 PM

Here's the list of everything:

Jan 1FeatureRango2011US4
Jan 2FeatureSophie’s Choice1983US4
Jan 3FeatureAngels Crest2011US2
Jan 4FeatureThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo2011US4
Jan 5FeatureThe Adventures of Tintin2011US3
Jan 6FeatureMission Impossible: Ghost Protocol2011US4
Jan 7FeatureStardust Memories1980US2
Jan 8FeatureThe Gold Rush1925US4
Jan 8FeatureWages of Fear1953France5
Jan 9FeatureThe Kid1921US4
Jan 12FeatureInception2010US5
Jan 14FeatureAirplane1980US4
Jan 15FeatureMonty Python and the Holy Grail1974Britain5
Jan 24FeatureParadise Lost1996US4
Jan 24ShortSmall Fry2011US3
Jan 24FeatureThe Muppets2011US3
Jan 25FeatureParadise Lost 32011US4
Jan 25FeatureParadise Lost 22000US3
Jan 25FeaturePina2011Germany4
Jan 26FeatureCeleste and Jesse Forever2012US3
Jan 27FeatureThe Grand Illusion1937France4
Jan 28FeatureHell and Back Again2011US4
Jan 29FeatureThe Train1964US5
Jan 29FeatureHaywire2012US4
Jan 31FeatureArthur2011US2
Feb 1FeatureAlbert Nobbs2011US3
Feb 1FeatureThe Iron Lady2011US1
Feb 2FeatureA Better Life2011US4
Feb 3FeatureJane Eyre2011Britain4
Feb 4FeatureCarnage2011France3
Feb 7FeatureBridesmaids2011US2
Feb 9FeatureWar Horse2011US2
Feb 11FeatureBrigadoon1954US4
Feb 11FeatureWarrior2011US4
Feb 12FeatureKevin Smith: Burn in Hell2012US3
Feb 12ShortPentecost2011Ireland4
Feb 12ShortTime Freak2011US4
Feb 12ShortDimanche/Sunday2011Canada4
Feb 12ShortLa Luna2011US4
Feb 12ShortA Morning Stroll2011Britain4
Feb 12ShortTuba Atlantic2011Norway3
Feb 12ShortNullarbor2011Australia3
Feb 12ShortSkylight2011Canada3
Feb 12ShortHybrid Union2011US3
Feb 12ShortRaju2011Germany2
Feb 12ShortThe Shore2011Ireland2
Feb 12ShortThe Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore2011US2
Feb 12ShortAmazonia2011US2
Feb 12ShortWild Life2011Canada1
Feb 13FeatureA Separation2011Iran4
Feb 14FeatureRio2011US3
Feb 14FeatureExtremely Loud & Incredibly Close2011US2
Feb 15FeatureTransformers: Dark of the Moon2011US1
Feb 15ShortSaving Face2011US5
Feb 15ShortIncident in New Baghdad2011US4
Feb 15ShortThe Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom2011US4
Feb 15ShortThe Barber of Birmingham2011US3
Feb 19FeatureThe Big Fix2011US4
Feb 19FeatureThe Heir Apparent: Largo Winch2011France4
Feb 19ShortTherapy2011US3
Feb 19ShortRuby and the Wolf2011US2
Feb 19FeatureCracks2011Britain2
Feb 23FeatureReal Steel2011US3
Feb 24FeatureBullhead2011Belgium2
Mar 1FeatureCasino Jack2010US2
Mar 1FeatureHobo with a Shotgun2011US2
Mar 1FeatureAttack the Block2011Britain4
Mar 2FeatureLouis C. K.: Hilarious2010US4
Mar 2FeatureThe Long Hot Summer1958US2
Mar 4FeatureHanna2011US4
Mar 4FeatureLouis C. K.: Live at the Beacon Theater2011US4
Mar 4FeatureKill List2012Britain2
Mar 5FeatureExporting Raymond2012US3
Mar 5FeatureThe Temptress1926US2
Mar 6FeatureShadows and Fog1991US3
Mar 6FeatureCedar Rapids2011US3
Mar 6FeatureRubberneck2012US4
Mar 8FeatureFreakonomics2010US4
Mar 9FeatureThe Curious Case of Curt Flood2011US4
Mar 9FeatureShaft1971US2
Mar 10TVGame Change2012US3
Mar 11FeatureIn Darkness2011Poland4
Mar 12FeatureFat Man and Little Boy1989US3
Mar 12FeatureWin Win2011US4
Mar 12FeatureX-Men: First Class2011US4
Mar 13FeatureFive Fingers2006US3
Mar 13FeatureThe Loving Story2011US3
Mar 14FeatureThe Speed of Thought2011US1
Mar 15FeatureThor2011US3
Mar 18FeatureGreen Lantern2011US2
Mar 18Feature21 Jump Street2012US3
Mar 18FeatureBeing Flynn2012US3
Mar 19FeatureBad Teacher2011US3
Mar 23FeatureJohn Carter2012US3
Mar 25FeatureThe Hunger Games2012US4
Mar 31FeatureMoonrise Kingdom2012US2
Apr 1FeatureThe Raid: Redemption2012Indonesia2
Apr 6FeatureThe Hunter2012Australia3
Apr 6FeatureGoon2012US2
Apr 7FeatureMonogamy2011US2
Apr 8FeatureDaybreakers2010Australia3
Apr 8FeatureIndiscreet1958US3
Apr 8FeatureThe Adjustment Bureau2011US3
Apr 8FeatureJiro Dreams of Sushi2012US3
Apr 10FeatureFriends With Benefits2011US3
Apr 11ShortGod is the Bigger Elvis2011US3
Apr 11ShortCaine’s Arcade2012US4
Apr 15FeatureThe Cabin in the Woods2012US5
Apr 19FeatureThe Thin Blue Line1988US4
Apr 19FeatureIndie Games2012US4
Apr 22FeatureConan the Barbarian2011US2
Apr 22FeatureMonsieur Lazhar2011Canada3
Apr 23FeatureRevenge of the Electric Car2011US3
Apr 23ShortYou’re Darn Tootin’1928US3
Apr 23ShortTwo Tars1928US3
Apr 23ShortPutting Pants on Philip1927US3
Apr 23ShortDo Detectives Think?1927US3
Apr 25FeatureSleepwalk With Me2012US4
Apr 26FeatureThe Imposter2012US4
Apr 26FeaturePolisse2012France3
Apr 27FeatureBurn2012US5
Apr 27FeatureHeadhunters2012Norway5
Apr 28ShortCatCam2012US5
Apr 28FeatureWe’re Not Broke2012US4
Apr 28ShortNeve & Sons2012US4
Apr 28FeatureKunckleball!2012US4
Apr 28FeatureWe Are Legion2012US4
Apr 28FeatureGod Bless America2012US4
Apr 28ShortThe Lookout2012US3
Apr 28ShortExtraordinary Harvest2012US2
Apr 29ShortAglow2012US5
Apr 29ShortMondays at Racine2012US5
Apr 29ShortThe Love Competition2012US4
Apr 29FeatureFrom Nothing, Something2012US
Apr 29FeatureDowneast2012US2
Apr 29FeatureTrishna2012Britain2
Apr 30FeatureBeware of Mr. Baker2012US5
Apr 30FeatureBeauty is Embarrassing2012US4
May 1FeaturePaul Williams Still Alive2012US4
May 1FeatureRubberneck2012US3
May 2FeatureThe Queen of Versailles2012US4
May 6FeatureThe Avengers2012US5
May 13FeatureAlien1979US5
May 13FeatureDark Shadows2012US1
May 15FeatureMeeting Evil2012US2
May 24FeatureEverything Must Go2011US4
May 24FeatureThe Men1950US3
May 24FeatureLarry Crowne2011US2
May 26FeatureRififi1955France4
May 27FeatureThe Avengers2012US5
May 28FeatureSuper 82011US1
May 28FeatureAlien 31992US3
May 28Feature30 Minutes or Less2011US2
Jun 2FeatureAlien Resurrection1997US2
Jun 3FeatureBest Exotic Marigold Hotel2012Britain4
Jun 5ShortLucky Day Forever2012Poland3
Jun 6FeatureBeasts of the Southern Wild2012US5
Jun 10FeaturePrometheus2012US3
Jun 12FeatureCenturion2010Britain3
Jun 16FeatureCaptain America2011US4
Jun 16FeatureThe Beaver2011US3
Jun 17FeatureFace/Off1997US1
Jun 22FeatureStreet Scene1921US3
Jun 24FeatureCure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story2011US3
Jun 30ShortMultiple Sidosis1970US3
Jul 1FeatureYour Sister’s Sister2012US3
Jul 13FeatureHesher2010US3
Jul 13TVPage Eight2011Britain3
Jul 14FeatureWith Great Power: The Stan Lee Story2010US3
Jul 14FeatureDays of Heaven1978US4
Jul 14FeatureIn Time2011US2
Jul 14FeatureKissing Jessica Stein2001US3
Jul 15FeatureSafety Not Guaranteed2012US4
Jul 17TVRoadracers1994US3
Jul 17FeatureTake This Waltz2012US4
Jul 17FeatureMeek’s Cutoff2011US2
Jul 22FeatureNixon1995US4
Jul 22FeatureThe Dark Knight Rises2012US4
Jul 23FeatureBatman Begins2005US5
Jul 24FeatureThe Dark Knight2008US5
Jul 24FeatureThe Dark Knight Rises2012US5
Aug 2ShortSight2012Israel4
Aug 5FeatureEasy Money2012Sweden3
Aug 12FeatureThe Bourne Legacy2012US2
Aug 19FeatureKiller Joe2012US4
Sep 3FeatureBarefoot in the Park1967US4
Sep 3ShortThe Guilt2012Spain4
Sep 4FeatureFrom the Terrace1960US2
Sep 4FeatureIn a Better World2011Denmark5
Sep 6FeatureMartha Marcie May Marlene2011US3
Sep 9FeatureOslo, August 312012Norway
Sep 11ShortTime Piece1965US4
Sep 14FeatureOnce Upon a Time in the West1969Italy4
Sep 14FeatureMan on Fire2004US2
Sep 18FeatureThe Merry Widow1925US1
Sep 21ShortThe Daredevil1923US3
Sep 21FeatureThe Extra Girl1923US2
Sep 23FeatureThe Master2012US2
Sep 25FeatureTower Heist2011US2
Sep 26FeatureWild Target2010Britain3
Sep 27FeatureWinchester ’731950US4
Sep 27ShortPeace on Earth1939US4
Sep 27ShortGood Will to Men1955US4
Sep 30FeatureLooper2012US4
Oct 7FeatureTaken 22012US3
Oct 13ShortPartysaurus Rex2012US3
Oct 14FeatureArgo2012US4
Oct 20TVThe Girl2012US2
Oct 21FeatureSeven Psychopaths2012US4
Oct 24FeaturePerks of Being a Wallflower2012US4
Oct 30FeatureThe Last Hurrah1958US3
Nov 3FeatureContraband2012US3
Nov 5FeatureThe Sessions2012US4
Nov 10FeatureChronicle2012US3
Nov 10FeatureCloud Atlas2012US4
Nov 11FeatureRed State2011US2
Nov 11FeatureSkyfall2012UK3
Nov 21FeatureSilver Linings Playbook2012US3
Nov 23FeatureIdes of March2011US3
Nov 23FeatureDial M For Murder1954US5
Nov 23FeatureKiss The Girls1997US3
Nov 24FeatureRed Tails2012US3
Nov 25FeatureAliens of the Deep2005US3
Dec 2FeatureWe Bought a Zoo2011US3
Dec 2FeatureThe Greatest Movie Ever Sold2011US3
Dec 4FeatureThe Recruit2003US3
Dec 4Feature3602012Britain3
Dec 10FeatureThe Rainmaker1997US4
Dec 10FeatureHitchcock2012US3
Dec 11FeatureLincoln2012US4
Dec 14FeatureLife of Pi2012US3
Dec 16FeatureThe Hobbit 12012US3
Dec 18FeatureDeadfall2012US2
Dec 20ShortNotes on Liberty2009US2
Dec 20FeatureChasing Ice2012US3
Dec 23FeatureThe Big Year2011US3
Dec 23FeatureThe Distinguished Gentleman1992US4
Dec 24FeatureHope Springs2012US3
Dec 25FeatureThe Odd Life of TImothy Green2012US3
Dec 26FeatureThe Visitor2011US4
Dec 31FeatureLes Miserables1934France4

Monday, January 07, 2013

Winners of the National Geographic Photo Contest 2012

Winners of the National Geographic Photo Contest 2012 - In Focus - The Atlantic "The winners have just been announced of this year's National Geographic photo contest. The Society received more than 22,000 entries from over 150 countries. Presented here are the winners from the three categories of People, Places, and Nature, captions provided by the photographers. The Grand Prize Winner receives $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual National Geographic Photography Seminar in January 2013. Be sure to also see earlier In Focus collections of entries: Part I and Part II. [14 photos]"

S n01 explosio copy

Saturday, January 05, 2013

We Don't Have a Spending Problem. We Have an Aging Problem

Kevin Drum explains We Don't Have a Spending Problem. We Have an Aging Problem.

"But even with the 2008 recession, federal spending is still on track to be lower a decade from now than it was when Reagan took office…tax revenue was 19.6 percent of GDP when Reagan took office, and it's projected to be 19.2 percent of GDP in 2017."

"The facts are pretty clear. Spending isn't our big problem. The recession spike of 2008 aside, it's about the same as it was 30 years ago. But instead of paying for that spending, we've repeatedly cut taxes, which are now at their lowest level in half a century. Tax revenue will go up as the economy improves, but even five years from now it will still be lower than it was when Reagan took office.

So what's our real problem? That's simple: America is getting older and healthcare costs are rising. That means we'll need to spend more money in the future on Social Security and Medicare. There's simply no way around that unless we're willing to immiserate our elderly, and that's not going to happen. Not only is it politically inconceivable, but the truth is that even Republicans don't want to do it, no matter how tough a game they talk. Like it or not, this means that over the next 20 or 30 years, spending on the elderly is going to go up by three or four percent of GDP."

"Add in the increased spending on the elderly, and federal outlays are going to be in the neighborhood of 23-24 percent of GDP by around 2030. Those are simply the facts. Even under a scenario where we control spending pretty tightly, spending is going to go up to about 24 percent of GDP."

He showed some graphs and they were simple enough I tried to recreate them in FRED. It's always a little tricky as FRED has lots of different versions of economic statistics and I don't understand the subtle (or maybe not so subtle differences) but I got basically what he showed for Current Federal Expenses (red) and Current Federal Receipts (green) and divided by GDP, I also ran it back to 1947 (note his include estimates out to 2017 that I couldn't do in FRED).

Yes, House Republicans supported the fiscal cliff deal

Yes, House Republicans supported the fiscal cliff deal "What we saw, in other words, wasn’t Boehner betraying the will of most House Republicans. It’s that what most House Republicans wanted was for the fiscal cliff deal to pass without them having to provide the votes to pass it. A majority of the majority favored passage of the fiscal cliff deal, even if they didn’t favor voting ‘yes’ themselves, and that’s why the bill was sent to the floor without being amended."

Why the fights over disaster relief in Congress keep getting worse

Why the fights over disaster relief in Congress keep getting worse

"Since the 1980s, Congress has been picking up a bigger portion of the tab for damage caused by tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms and all manner of disasters.

Now, there are arguments for and against the federal government getting more involved in disaster relief. On the plus side: It’s easier for Congress to borrow money for emergencies than it is for state and local governments. On the minus side: Many federal aid programs encourage development in disaster-prone areas. That makes future hurricanes and floods even more expensive.

But whatever the merits, the authors point out that Congress has never planned for this rapid growth in federal disaster aid. A huge portion of relief spending isn’t budgeted ahead of time — it’s just approved on an emergency, ad hoc basis. That’s not very transparent, and it’s not a great way to make policy. 

How big a deal is this? Quite big: ‘Given the current approach to disaster relief funding,’ the NBER authors write, ‘we project an ‘unfunded’ liability for disaster assistance over the next seventy-five years comparable to that of Social Security.’ And the problem could get worse still as climate change and sea-level rise make floods and other natural disasters more frequent and more destructive."

Does Lead Paint Produce More Crime Too?

Kevin Drum followed up on his lead/crime idea, Does Lead Paint Produce More Crime Too? ""

The jobs report in six charts

The jobs report in six charts "December’s jobs report showed a holding pattern. A gain of 155,000 jobs is a decent but hardly spectacular figure, while unemployment stayed constant at 7.8 percent. As we do every month, let’s break down the Bureau of Labor Statistics report’s main findings, in six charts."

Friday, January 04, 2013

The December jobs report proves the fiscal cliff deal a farce

I agree with Ezra Klein, The December jobs report proves the fiscal cliff deal a farce

"Let’s say I gave you three pieces of information about the U.S. economy. First, we have a terrible unemployment problem that’s not solving itself anytime soon. Second, we’re running big deficits that we expect will become unsustainable in the coming years, though there’s no evidence that the market is even mildly concerned about them right now. Third, we can borrow for next to nothing because the world sees us as a rare safe harbor during a time of global economic turmoil. What sort of economic policy would you design?

It’s not a particularly hard question. First, you’d want policies to create jobs, like a big tax credit for businesses that hire new workers and a large investment in rebuilding infrastructure. Then, you’d want a plan that brought both deficits and debt-to-GDP down in the coming years.

Typically, this is where you’d run into trouble: The policies to create jobs cost money, making it harder to reduce the deficit. The policies to reduce the deficit require you to cut spending and raise taxes, which tend to destroy jobs.

But, happily, America’s lucky situation means you don’t have to choose. We can borrow for nearly nothing right now — actually, less than nothing after accounting for inflation — and so the obvious answer to your dilemma is to borrow now to create jobs while putting in place a significant deficit-reduction plan that would begin once unemployment fell below, say, seven percent. If you didn’t want to work very hard at coming up with all these plans yourself, you could just pass the White House’s American Jobs Act now and then the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan after that."

This all makes so much sense to me and liberals have been saying it for years (and I've been linking to them). I know that politics is polarized and I know that in negotiations if the two sides both say "I want this" and "I want that" you don't get very far. But I always got around that by saying "I want this because…" and explaining what the problem is and why I think the thing I want will help that. Usually that means the other side will offer solutions they think will help the problem and we can figure out which is better. But with polarized sides each getting information from their own sources I don't expect that much in the media.

That's sad and wrong but shouldn't be destroying our country's ability to function. But I don't see the elected officials having talks like this (see this from yesterday). I keep wondering, if Boehner can't rally the tea partiers, when does Obama meet with them (or have Biden or Geithner meet with them) to explain the above and explain why they have their positions? I don't expect Eric Cantor to be convinced while on TV but in a closed meeting with the president? As Paul Krugman says, the facts have a liberal bias, it should be easy to use them to convince someone (anyone) to change their position. But no, as Ezra points out, Washington continues to have the wrong debate.

Now This is a Cast

I caught a bit of Shame on TV last night and looked up director Steve McQueen's next film. It's called Twelve Years a Slave and has an interesting premise, "A man living in New York during the mid-1800s is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deep south." But what really impressed me was the cast, it's amazing:

Sherlock Holmes, Tyler Durden, Magneto/David,Carl Jung, Paul/Eli Sunday, Miss Isringhausen, John Adams/Harvey Pekar, Omar/Chalky White, The Operative, John Henry/Francis Wolcott/Jack McCall, Hushpuppy, Jonathan Cavanaugh-san and Lafayette's mother.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Mark Lynas, environmentalist who opposed GMOs, admits he was wrong.

Mark Lynas, environmentalist who opposed GMOs, admits he was wrong.

"If you fear genetically modified food, you may have Mark Lynas to thank. By his own reckoning, British environmentalist helped spur the anti-GMO movement in the mid-‘90s, arguing as recently at 2008 that big corporations’ selfish greed would threaten the health of both people and the Earth. Thanks to the efforts of Lynas and people like him, governments around the world—especially in Western Europe, Asia, and Africa—have hobbled GM research, and NGOs like Greenpeace have spurned donations of genetically modified foods. But Lynas has changed his mind—and he’s not being quiet about it. On Thursday at the Oxford Farming Conference, Lynas delivered a blunt address: He got GMOs wrong."

I've never really looked at the issue in detail. My understanding has always been that farmers have crossed plants to make new hybrids and GMOs are just another way of doing that. GMOs can be more controlled in what they change, though it's really hard to know the effects on humans, particularly over the long term, without studies that probably don't happen to the extent we'd like (particularly over the long term). Still I'm for trying to improve things using best current practices. I'm not sure how it all pans out with patent issues and monopolies and while labeling is fine, there's no way to provide the public with information that would be at all useful in a decision. Still, given all that, I'm happy to see that someone discovered science, looked into the issue, and came to a conclusion, particularly one that was different from their original position. That's the way it's supposed to work.

The date for filibuster reform: Jan. 22. Probably.

The date for filibuster reform: Jan. 22. Probably.

"But Thursday was the first day of the 113th Congress. And it came and went without filibuster reform. So is filibuster reform dead? Nope. Majority Leader Harry Reid is just making the first day of the session last far longer than the typical 24 hours: 

The way this technically works is that Reid is ‘recessing’ rather than ‘adjourning’ for the day. The Senate is a weird place. But the filibuster reform debate is still on the way. Reformers tell me that the expected deadline is Jan. 22, or thereabouts."

Politicians Should Learn Bigger Lessons From Their Pet Causes

Kevin Drum writes Politicians Should Learn Bigger Lessons From Their Pet Causes.

"But too many politicians, and this especially includes self-described fiscal conservatives, simply can't draw the obvious conclusion from all this: namely that you shouldn't support help for the poor and the sick and elderly only if you personally happen to know someone who's poor or sick or elderly. All of these people exist whether or not they happen to be family members.

So I'd suggest to Kirk that he broaden his horizons. Making sure that Medicaid helps stroke victims is a great idea. But an even better idea is making sure that Medicaid also helps victims of diseases that Mark Kirk hasn't personally confronted. "

I totally agree.

10 Reasons Why We Know the Earth is Round

This is from Minute Physics, is short and fun and has some non-obvious points (at least to me).

The 10 juiciest tidbits from the ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

Ezra Klein collects The 10 juiciest tidbits from the ‘fiscal cliff’ talks "Three excellent reconstructions of the fiscal cliff talks have been released by the Washington Post, the National Journal, and Politico. Here are the juiciest and most important parts:"

How Obama Decides Your Fate If He Thinks You're a Terrorist

The Atlantic shows How Obama Decides Your Fate If He Thinks You're a Terrorist.

"Over the years, U.S. authorities have responded with astonishing variety to American nationals suspected of terrorism, from ignoring their activities to conducting lethal drone strikes. All U.S. terrorists are not created equal. And the U.S. response depends heavily on the role of allies, the degree of threat the suspect poses, and the imminence of that threat -- along with other factors. What follows is a flow chart that takes us through the criteria and decision points that can lead to a suspect terrorist’s being ignored as a minor nuisance, being prosecuted in federal court, being held in a Pakistani prison, or being met with the business end of a Hellfire missile."

It's a flow chart, and clicking on each box shows some interesting details.

America's Real Criminal Element: Lead

Kevin Drum writes America's Real Criminal Element: Lead. "New research finds Pb is the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic. And fixing the problem is a lot cheaper than doing nothing."

It's sounds pretty crazy, but he cites several studies, both econometric and biological and then does some estimates on a cost-benefit analysis of the cleanup. It's a little long, but worth a read.

"Put all this together and you have an astonishing body of evidence. We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level. Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century.

Like many good theories, the gasoline lead hypothesis helps explain some things we might not have realized even needed explaining. For example, murder rates have always been higher in big cities than in towns and small cities. We're so used to this that it seems unsurprising, but Nevin points out that it might actually have a surprising explanation—because big cities have lots of cars in a small area, they also had high densities of atmospheric lead during the postwar era. But as lead levels in gasoline decreased, the differences between big and small cities largely went away. And guess what? The difference in murder rates went away too. Today, homicide rates are similar in cities of all sizes. It may be that violent crime isn't an inevitable consequence of being a big city after all."

"So lead is a double whammy: It impairs specific parts of the brain responsible for executive functions and it impairs the communication channels between these parts of the brain. For children like the ones in the Cincinnati study, who were mostly inner-city kids with plenty of strikes against them already, lead exposure was, in Cecil's words, an "additional kick in the gut." And one more thing: Although both sexes are affected by lead, the neurological impact turns out to be greater among boys than girls.

Other recent studies link even minuscule blood lead levels with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Even at concentrations well below those usually considered safe—levels still common today—lead increases the odds of kids developing ADHD."

"So is this all just an interesting history lesson? After all, leaded gasoline has been banned since 1996, so even if it had a major impact on violent crime during the 20th century, there's nothing more to be done on that front. Right? Wrong. As it turns out, tetraethyl lead is like a zombie that refuses to die. Our cars may be lead-free today, but they spent more than 50 years spewing lead from their tailpipes, and all that lead had to go somewhere. And it did: It settled permanently into the soil that we walk on, grow our food in, and let our kids play around."

"Put this all together and the benefits of lead cleanup could be in the neighborhood of $200 billion per year. In other words, an annual investment of $20 billion for 20 years could produce returns of 10-to-1 every single year for decades to come. Those are returns that Wall Street hedge funds can only dream of."