Archive for April, 2013

Mitch McConnell Is Funny. Mitch McConnell??!!

April 30th, 2013 Comments off

This is actually a pretty clever riposte to B.H. Obama’s incredulous “Get a drink with Mitch McConnell?  REALLY?”



I thought it quite gratuitous for the President to go out of his way to belittle the minority leader of the Senate.  Not how to win friends and influence people.  McConnell could have railed against the insult; he chose instead a rather clever comeback.  Or his staff did.  This was a twitter foto; does McConnell tweet?  Really?



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Gay Particles (It’s Elementary)

April 28th, 2013 Comments off

From Wikipedia:

There are six types of quarks, known as flavorsupdown,strangecharmbottom, and top.

From which I conclude that quarks are definitely gay.

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Kindle Footnotes Live! (At least in one instance)

April 24th, 2013 Comments off

Well, my rant about Kindle and footnotes turnfs out to have been somewhat incomplete. Brad Plumer of the Washington Post informs me that, at least in the case of the WonkBlog Book Club’s choice, Fear Itself,  there are footnotes that are linked to the text.

Footnotes are active links, yes–which is terrific and extremely handy. Not sure about the index. And yeah, the Kindle table of contents had what appeared to be page numbers, but apparently they were all wrong, which is too bad. Normally everything else is just by location.

Categories: Economics, politicas, Uncategorized Tags:

Of Course, Krugman Beat Me To It (re: Robots)

April 23rd, 2013 Comments off

Aha!  Paul Krugman has already noted the Advance of the Robots ()

Smart machines may make higher GDP possible, but also reduce the demand for people — including smart people. So we could be looking at a society that grows ever richer, but in which all the gains in wealth accrue to whoever owns the robots.

And then eventually Skynet decides to kill us all, but that’s another story

And here:

This is an old concern in economics; it’s “capital-biased technological change”, which tends to shift the distribution of income away from workers to the owners of capital….

If this is the wave of the future, it makes nonsense of just about all the conventional wisdom on reducing inequality. Better education won’t do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an “opportunity society”, or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won’t do much if the most important asset you can have in life is, well, lots of assets inherited from your parents. And so on.

I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.

But I think we’d better start paying attention to those implications.


Categories: Economics, politicas, Uncategorized Tags:

Robots Is Us

April 22nd, 2013 Comments off

When I was a boy (back in the Dark Ages), predictions of the future were bright with the labor-saving devices that would free up our time for happy pursuits: longer vacations overseas, more time at home spent with the kids, leisure to learn about our wonderful new world.

The future is here, and it’s playing out just as predicted: more work-saving devices than had been imagined: in the home there are housework robots (dishwasher, clothes washer and drier, nuker, Rhumba; But especially in the workplace, more robotic gadgets are doing the work that humans used to: welding, inspecting, lifting, sorting, packing, displacing workers at a dizzying clip.  The computer age has brought automation to millions of jobs.  When I was young, to earn money for college I worked summers as a comptometer operator, operating that glorified adding machine, bunching in the keys by hand; today all that would be done by a compter, replacing me and fifty others in that one office.

As more capital is invested in robots and other forms of automation, the produce of the automatons is returned to the contributors of the capital invested.  So, a small minority–the capitalists–accrue a larger and larger share of the wealth produced by the nation.  Meanwhile, the labor ‘market’ becomes disfunctional, creating no jobs, or just barely remunerative ones. Labor can no longer demand wages: it’s more efficient for the capitalist to invest in automation than in those pesky human beings, with their duty-shirking and health benefits.

The problem is, then, what to do about this inequitable distribution of the fruits of production?  Some might say that there is no inequity in this at all: things are as they should be, where capital is rewarded.  I really can’t agree with that: we’re all humans, and if the wealth of the nation is not equitably distributed among the populace, than the system of distribution is disfunctional, and needs revision.

Categories: Economics, politicas, Uncategorized Tags:

The Problem with Kindle

April 19th, 2013 Comments off

I love my Kindle.  With reservations.

It’s great for reading novels.  It’s light-weight, I can read it lying in bed, or take it to the beach or doctor’s waiting-room, and it carries within it a number of books I have yet to exceed.  I’m the kind of person who can be reading 2, 3 or even four novels at at time, and there they all are together in one neat little package, always saving my place and returning me there when I pick it up.  I can also read magazines on my Kindle, and the latest issue is always available at the touch of a button.  I love my Kindle.

But I hate the Kindle.  It is terrible.  Terrible for reading non-fiction.  Kindle non-fiction books suck big weeners.

Kindle books have no page numbers.  None at all.  (“Have you no shame, sir?”)  There is a lttle number showing the percentage of the book you are at; but with a 500-page book, to know you are at 25% tells you you are on page 125, or maybe 124, or 123, or maybe page 126, or 127, maybe 128—in other words, no page numbers.  But the TEXT will refer to PAGE NUMBERS: within the text itself (“see pp 99-103”), or in the index, or in the endnotes.

And then there are the mysterious “location numbers”.  You can choose, from a menu, to “go to” a certain ‘location’.  But who knows where those positions might be?    Admittedly, if you position the cursor in the text, the location number will pop up; make a “note” or highlight, and it will be identified by location number. But without such a reference, the location number is meaningless.

What ever happened to page numbers?  Would they really be so hard to associate with the text?

Speaking of endnotes, or footnotes:  why are they not LINKS?  How shall I find a footnote that appears at the end of a chapter (or really, the end of a page, of which there are none–pages, that is).

All in all, the Kindle is great for reading fiction.  But for non-fiction, it sucks.


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Pederasty in Medieval Times

April 15th, 2013 Comments off
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Today must be April 15

April 15th, 2013 Comments off
Categories: Economics, politicas, Uncategorized Tags:

Notes for “The Evolutionary Basis for Morality”

April 14th, 2013 Comments off

Six Foundations of Morality

(Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind)

Intuitions:  (intuition ≠ emotion)

Moral Foundation /  Moral Antonym

Care    / Hate
Fairness, Reciprocity    /  Cheating
Loyalty , Ingroup   /  Betrayal
Authority, Respect   /  Subversion
Sanctity, Purity     /  Degradation, Disgust
Liberty   /  Oppression   (this one is new)

(This list as found in the essay “Of Freedom and Fairness” Issue Spring 2013)

(Care + Fairness + Liberty = Classical Liberalism (Hume -> Locke, Kant, Mills)

Video we watched at Sunday meeting:

 Haidt’s website with morality surveys you can take:

Further Reading:

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Incognito by David Eagleman

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond

The Social Conquest of Earth by E.O. Wilson

The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin

Supersense by Bruce M. Hood

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Not-So Progressive Shares of Tax Burden

April 5th, 2013 Comments off
Categories: Charts, Economics, politicas, Uncategorized Tags: