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Gthaberlach's Public Library

22 Apr 14

As it happens, the biggest 'safe space' on the planet is the Muslim world. For a millennium, Islamic scholars have insisted, as firmly as a climate scientist or an American sophomore, that there's nothing to debate. And what happened? As the United Nations Human Development Programme's famous 2002 report blandly noted, more books are translated in Spain in a single year than have been translated into Arabic in the last 1,000 years. Free speech and a dynamic, innovative society are intimately connected: a culture that can't bear a dissenting word on race or religion or gender fluidity or carbon offsets is a society that will cease to innovate, and then stagnate, and then decline, very fast.

As American universities, British playwrights and Australian judges once understood, the 'safe space' is where cultures go to die.

22 Apr 14

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens
and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased
Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism

22 Apr 14

inequality truly is the defining issue of our time but it is broader and more challenging than that suggested by the one percent’s increasing share of national wealth. It encompasses both economic and political outcomes. As long as economic elites and business groups are effectively controlling the political process, serious action to reduce economic inequality and improve the lives of average citizens will be conspicuous by its absence.

22 Apr 14

GREAT GRAPHS:

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

. . . . The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.

22 Apr 14

Good review - right wing orientation - summary here:

The simple fact is that large wealth taxes do not mesh well with the norms and practices required by a successful and prosperous capitalist democracy. It is hard to find well-functioning societies based on anything other than strong legal, political, and institutional respect and support for their most successful citizens. Therein lies the most fundamental problem with Piketty’s policy proposals: the best parts of his book argue that, left unchecked, capital and capitalists inevitably accrue too much power -- and yet Piketty seems to believe that governments and politicians are somehow exempt from the same dynamic.

22 Apr 14

The Games for Change Festival, in partnership with the Tribeca Film Festival for the first time, seeks to use video games to bring about social change.

(Models with good visualization that can be easily understood by ordinary people.)

22 Apr 14

Brooks

This kind of leader is warm-blooded and leads with full humanity. In every White House, and in many private offices, there seems to be a tug of war between those who want to express this messy amateur humanism and those calculators who emphasize message discipline, preventing leaks and maximum control. In most of the offices, there’s a fear of natural messiness, a fear of uncertainty, a distrust of that which is not scientific. The calculators are given too much control.

The leadership emotions, which should propel things, get amputated. The shrewd tacticians end up timidly and defensively running the expedition.

21 Apr 14

"The university has no structures of authority, responsibility and accountability, and many of its officers and members have no concept of such structures. The system is a morass of committees with ill-defined and overlapping jurisdictions. . . . . . .

"The consequence of this miasma is not only the waste of time and paper. It is the absence of any means of resolving contentious issues in a consistent way--or often at all.

"In the absence of an effective means of resolving issues, a number of devices are employed. The most frequent is simply to avoid raising any matter that might lead to opposition. This process of evading issues is called "building consensus."

&&&&&&&
This is a pattern common to Universities, and to the invisible colleges. Steve Kline and I said some similar things . . . . What happens if there are essential and strong reasons for disagreement - what if "building consensus" in Kay's sense is impossible, and "building consensus" in any reasonable sense will require resolution of a conflict? What happens, especially, if this pattern of conflict avoidance is superimposed on fundamental and emotionally wrenching perceptual problems about what is being observed?

21 Apr 14

By NICK BILTON 46 minutes ago

By using social media bots, celebrities, politicians and others can falsely inflate the number of friends and followers they have, possibly swaying public opinion about a new song — or a policy position.

AMAZING !

21 Apr 14

The I.P.C.C., composed of thousands of the world’s leading climate scientists, has issued three reports in the last seven months, each the product of up to six years of research.The third report, released last week, may be the most ominous of the three. Despite investments in energy efficiency and cleaner energy sources in the United States, in Europe and in developing countries like China, annual emissions of greenhouse gases have risen almost twice as fast in the first decade of this century as they did in the last decades of the 20th century.

(Avoiding a disastrous warming) will require a reduction of between 40 percent and 70 percent in greenhouse gases by midcentury, which means embarking on a revolution in the way we produce and consume energy.

That’s daunting enough, but here’s the key finding: The world has only about 15 years left in which to begin to bend the emissions curve downward.

20 Apr 14

Piketty's meritocratic extremism has more to do with second-generation meritocracy, which has been accelerating since the 1980s. In this version, multiple-choice tests matter less than market tests. The idea is that money follows quality, so those who attract money must be the best: they must deserve it. Any other test looks spurious: if you're smart, why aren't you rich?

Second-generation meritocracy appeals to rewarding what's useful, measured by whether other people will pay for it. It sees test scores as effete and irrelevant, like the older privileges of birth. The signal win for second-generation meritocracy is libertarian Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel's VC-style offer to bankroll bright kids who agree not to go to college-giving the figurative finger to first-generation meritocracy.

Again, our meritocracy is a hybrid. People still get funneled into investment banks, hedge funds, and rich law firms by testing into top schools. But unlike in the older world, where rites of passage like the SAT were decisive, the testing never stops. Entrepreneurship is the model for everything.
. . . .
An economy that could help us be better than that is possible, not utopian. It would mean reclaiming the New Deal and the Great Society, the mixed economies of the twentieth century that put human beings first, capital returns second. Meritocracy, like markets, was a useful tool in those economies, and, like markets, it has outgrown its right role and taken its competitive logic too far, becoming a prop for inequality and insecurity. To save its better potential, we need to betray what it has become.

20 Apr 14

The United Nations has yet to raise the $5 million necessary to vaccinate 600,000 vulnerable people right away — as the rainy season approaches and the threat of waterborne illnesses like cholera looms — let alone the $2 billion that it promised to raise from rich countries to build Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure, which public health experts say is vital to ridding the country of cholera.

Pedro Medrano Rojas, the United Nations secretary general’s newly appointed envoy for the cholera outbreak, attributed the shortfall to global “donor fatigue” in the face of other humanitarian crises.

“Had we had the resources it would have been different,” Mr. Medrano said. “It’s not expensive. No one should be dying from cholera.”

20 Apr 14

SEE HUGE IMPURITY EFFECTS:

T.F. Ciszek, T.H. Wang, W.A. Doolittle, and A. Rohatgi, "Minority-Carrier Lifetime Degradation in Silicon Co-Doped with Iron and Gallium," in: 26th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialist Conf. Record, Anaheim, CA, Sept. 29-Oct. 3, 1997 (IEEE, New Jersey, 1997) pp. 59-62.

20 Apr 14

Floyd Norris

Of all the major industrialized countries, only Germany and Japan have managed to return to their 2007 employment levels.

20 Apr 14

In effect, Mr. Obama is retrofitting for a new age the approach to Moscow that was first set out by the diplomat George F. Kennan in 1947 and that dominated American strategy through the fall of the Soviet Union. The administration’s priority is to hold together an international consensus against Russia, including even China, its longtime supporter on the United Nations Security Council.

19 Apr 14

To anyone who has actually been around the lawmaking process or the political process more generally, this is mind-boggling. It makes legal what has for generations been illegal or at least immoral. It returns lawmaking to the kind of favor-trading bazaar that was common in the Gilded Age.

With intense competition between parties over election outcomes, with the stakes incredibly high over who will capture majorities in a polarized era, and with money everywhere and intense competition for dollars, the trade of favors for money—and the threat of damage for the failure to produce money—will be everywhere. Access to lawmakers, presidents, their aides, and subordinates is precious, including when they are actually marking up legislation. In the aftermath of Roberts's decisions, this precious access will be sold to the highest bidders.

19 Apr 14

But Mr. Piketty, who writes in the book that the collapse of Communism in 1989 left him “vaccinated for life” against the “lazy rhetoric of anticapitalism,” is no Marxian revolutionary. “I believe in private property,” he said in the interview. “But capitalism and markets should be the slave of democracy and not the opposite.”

Even if he doesn’t expect his policy proposals to find favor in Washington anytime soon, Mr. Piketty called his meetings there gratifying. Mr. Lew, he said, seemed to have read parts of the book carefully. A member of the Council on Economic Advisers corrected a small error concerning Balzac’s novel “Le Père Goriot,” which includes a discussion of getting ahead through advantageous marriage rather than hard work. “I was impressed,” Mr. Piketty said.

19 Apr 14

Irresistible Inequality

The concentration of income and wealth is deepening around the world, driven by more than rising paychecks for top American financiers and chief executives. Returns to invested capital are outstripping economic growth across advanced countries, directing a growing share of economic rewards into the hands of the wealthy.

VIVID CHARTS

19 Apr 14

He adds: “That is, of course, the irony of the patent system. Without patent protection, a competitor can simply replicate an invention and undercut the inventor’s price — which necessarily includes all the time and expense of research and development — so the incentive to experiment and create is severely inhibited. But if innovators such as Glenn Curtiss cannot build on the progress of others without paying exorbitantly for the privilege, the incentive to continue to experiment and create is similarly inhibited.”

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