"I don't think the report is true, but these crises work for those who want to make fights between people." Kulam Dastagir, 28, a bird seller in Afghanistan
Magic Highway USA, circa 1958
2:47 pm EST, Jan 19, 2008
An excerpt from the 1958 "Disneyland" TV Show episode entitled "Magic Highway USA". In this last part of the show, an exploration into possible future Transportation technologies is made. It's hard to believe how little we've accomplished on this front since 1958, and how limited the scope for imagining such future technologies has become. Witness an artifact from a time where the future was greeted with optimism. Note the striking animation style here, achieved with fairly limited animation and spectacular layouts.
I like how suburban sprawl is anticipated with such glee!
From a technology standpoint, it spans a wide range; some ideas are pure vision, with no sense of reality (cantilevered, fully air-conditioned sky-ways through beautifully desolate mountain ranges?), while others are quaintly myopic (punch cards as storage media for your navigational unit?). Still, a lot of fun.
'Goldilocks needs tax reform ... not root-canal economic populism'
12:55 pm EST, Jan 6, 2008
Here's Larry Kudlow:
The key thing to remember is that businesses drive the economy. Businesses create jobs and incomes for consumers to spend.
Larry Kudlow has managed, unfortunately, to transform himself from an inciteful observer of market events into a fairly one dimensional shill for wall street's political interests. This essay (appearing in NRO, not a business journal) is a perfect example. He cites "facts" that have no relationship to reality (holiday sales suprised on the upside?!?), talks about lazzie-faire economics while pining for government assistance in the form of yet another rate cut, and also, in the passage quoted above, manages to treat his readers like children.
The fact is that we are teterring on the edge of an economic precipice built upon phoney growth and no one is quite sure how deep it is. The current housing crisis, which threatens bank failure, was completely predictable and driven by the extremely irresponsible actions of the creditors whose interests Kudlow here represents. Of course they don't want the government to regulate them, they're rich, but the minute hard times beset them they start screaming for government assistance in the form of rate cuts, literally screaming as Kudlow's former cohost famously did on national television in the late summer, and they get them!
The reason Wallstreet has to generate phoney growth in the form of housing inflation is that we're not getting enough real growth in terms of actual middle class purchasing power, and the fundamental reasons for that aren't addressed by a simple tax cut. Despite Kudlows insistance to the contrary, real wage growth has been anemic through-out this recovery, held back by offshoring and H1-B visas. The reason those programs are required to keep American workers "competitive" is our abysmally stupid healthcare system, wherein employers have to pay truck loads for services that no one can refuse to buy.
Healthcare is not like other market commodities because people who need services cannot refuse to purchase them or choose between acceptible and luxury classes of service. You buy it or you die. So in an unregulated environment there is no force that counteracts price increases. And the vested interests that are making a killing offering those services have hired the exact same libertarian idealogs to defend those interests that Kudlow has now joined.
End the upward spiral of healthcare costs and require job mobility and permanent residency for foreign workers imported into the US and you'll see real, sustainable increases in middle class purchasing power, which will drive real economic growth.
Ultimately, if the rewards of business growth, systemically, aren't seen by employees, consumers don't have money to spend on new products, and so businesses can't grow. Instead you see the money all going to shareholders, and so there is all this excess investment capital out there that isn't going to be spent buying things, but instead wants to fund mortages and the like. This sort of concentration of wealth, which is caused by government intervention on behalf of some people and lazzie-faire for others, can strangle the economy by pulling the liquidity out. Thats exactly what caused the great depression.
The Year in Ideas, 2007 | The New York Times Magazine
1:44 pm EST, Dec 10, 2007
For the seventh consecutive December, the magazine looks back on the passing year through a special lens: ideas. Editors and writers trawl the oceans of ingenuity, hoping to snag in our nets the many curious, inspired, perplexing and sometimes outright illegal innovations of the past 12 months. Then we lay them out on the dock, flipping and flopping and gasping for air, and toss back all but those that are fresh enough for our particular cut of intellectual sushi. For better or worse, these are 70 of the ideas that helped make 2007 what it was. Enjoy.
noteworthy wrote: With every passing day, Johnathan Rapley's conception of the New Middle Ages seems increasingly likely.
I don't follow how this comment relates to the context. Most of the news out of Iraq seems positive. Of course its complicated and fragile, but clearly this is progress. Worrying that too many refugees might return is a good problem to have.
I also don't understand George Packer's comment that these developments were "unanticipated by almost everyone on the American side of the looking glass." These are precisely the kinds of changes that were hoped for as a result of the surge.
I further don't understand why the Democrats are still calling for immediate withdrawl. Putting more troops in (in a calculated way) reduced the violence. As I've said before I think this is exactly what Kerry planned to do. The tactics change was clearly a product of the Democrat's electoral victory in 2006. The fact that there is a chance for peace should not vindicate the decision to launch this extremely bloody conflict in any way. All in all, this should be seen as a political ad tactical victory for the center left. Unfortunately, the left seems to have married itself too closely to over simplified prowar vs. antiwar rhetoric. The fact is that the situation is fragile and calls for immediate withdrawl are not rooted in a careful assessment of the situation.
There is a big problem though. Kucinich has been raising some interesting questions about the privatization of Iraq's oil. I don't have a good linkable reference, but I'll post one when I find it. He might actually have a point, but no one is listening, and unfortunately a discussion of what people are doing with oil also fits too easily into over simplified rhetoric and so the issue has a good chance of staying ignored.
In an economy more and more populated by "knowledge workers", one would expect the productivity and real income of employees to move upward together, as an increasingly skilled workforce benefits from its own improved efficiency. But since 1995, the year when the "new economy" based on information technology began to take off, incomes have not kept up with productivity, and during the past five years the two have spectacularly diverged. Between 1995 and 2006, the growth of employee productivity exceeded the growth of employee real wages by 340 percent. Between 2001 and 2006, this gap widened alarmingly to 779 percent.
Nowhere have "Enterprise Systems" technologies been more rigorously applied to the white-collar workplace than in the health care industry. The practices of managed care organizations (MCOs) have provided a chilling demonstration of how enterprise systems can affect the work of even the most skilled professionals, in this case the physician.
For-profit health care providers that relied on this kind of standardization, such as Aetna and Humana, performed significantly worse than their counterparts in the treatment or prevention of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. But many of these health care companies think that ES technologies have made them profitable, and it seems unlikely that these practices will be discarded anytime soon.
In The Culture of the New Capitalism, a book based on a series of lectures given at Yale in 2004, Richard Sennett describes how the widespread use of enterprise systems has given top managers much greater latitude to direct and control corporate workforces, while at the same time making the jobs of everyday workers and professionals more rigid and bleak.
The spread of ES has resulted in a declining emphasis on creativity and ingenuity of workers, and the destruction of a sense of community in the workplace by the ceaseless reengineering of the way businesses operate. The concept of a career has become increasingly meaningless in a setting in which employees have neither skills of which they might be proud nor an audience of independently minded fellow workers that might recognize their value.
The evidence themselves suggests that from an executive perspective, the most desirable employees may no longer necessarily be those with proven ability and judgment, but those who can be counted on to follow orders and be good "team players."
Here the purpose of the personality tests administered by career coaches becomes clear. They are useless as measures of ability and experience, but they may be reliable indicators of those who are "cheerful, enthusiastic, and obedient." The dismal experiences of many middle-aged job seekers suggest that corporations would rather find conformists among younger workers who haven't been discarded by employers and aren't skeptical about their work.
Yet for many Californians, the looming demise of the "time lady," as she's come to be known, marks the end ofa more genteel era, when we all had time to share.
Following the thread:
The (somewhat dubious) prime symbol of academic knowledge, and more-or-less exclusively masculine educational attainments, was the Classical languages Greek and Latin, to which a great deal of time was devoted in "genteel" boys' education, but which few women studied.
The sheer amount of sewing done by gentlewomen in those days sometimes takes us moderns aback, but it would probably generally be a mistake to view it either as merely constant joyless toiling, or as young ladies turning out highly embroidered ornamental knicknacks to show off their elegant but meaningless accomplishments. Sewing was something to do (during the long hours at home) that often had great practical utility, and that wasn't greatly mentally taxing, and could be done sitting down while engaging in light conversation, or listening to a novel being read.
For women of the "genteel" classes the goal of non-domestic education was thus often the acquisition of "accomplishments", such as the ability to draw, sing, play music, or speak modern (i.e. non-Classical) languages (generally French and Italian). Though it was not usually stated with such open cynicism, the purpose of such accomplishments was often only to attract a husband; so that these skills then tended to be neglected after marriage.
There is a contradiction in the very phrase "software company." The two words are pulling in opposite directions. Any good programmer in a large organization is going to be at odds with it, because organizations are designed to prevent what programmers strive for.
Very true, particularly the last part of the essay.
Katie Hafner puts Virgil on the front page of the Sunday New York Times.
The site, wikiscanner.virgil.gr, created by a computer science graduate student, cross-references an edited entry on Wikipedia with the owner of the computer network where the change originated, using the Internet protocol address of the editor’s network. The address information was already available on Wikipedia, but the new site makes it much easier to connect those numbers with the names of network owners.
WikiScanner is the work of Virgil Griffith, 24, a cognitive scientist who is a visiting researcher at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. Mr. Griffith, who spent two weeks this summer writing the software for the site, said he got interested in creating such a tool last year after hearing of members of Congress who were editing their own entries.
Mr. Griffith said he “was expecting a few people to get nailed pretty hard” after his service became public. “The yield, in terms of public relations disasters, is about what I expected.”
Mr. Griffith, who also likes to refer to himself as a “disruptive technologist,” said he was certain any more examples of self-interested editing would come out in the next few weeks, “because the data set is just so huge.”
It was a week in which everyone focused on the war, but not one that made a whole lot of sense -- at least on the surface.
... The issue, as always, is how good the gut is.
... Precisely what do we mean when we say al Qaeda?
... When the US government speaks about thousands of al Qaeda fighters, the vision is that the camps are filled with these thousands of men with the skill level of the 9/11 attackers. It is a scary vision, which the administration has pushed since 9/11, but it isn't true.