Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height
- Who Really Betrayed Detroit?
From Steven Malanga at City Journal: Most press accounts note that city-worker pensions in Detroit are modest. They rarely mention that, for two decades, the city supplemented those pensions with annual, so-called “13th checks” for retirees—an additional monthly pension payment. Pension-fund trustees—themselves city workers, retirees, city residents, and elected officials—handed out nearly $1 billion in [...]
- Paging Cleavon Little
Obamacare isn’t helping Democrats with white women: Remarkably, only 16 percent of blue-collar white women have a favorable view of Obamacare. They disapprove of it by a 4-1 ratio. (The poll found 21 percent did not know enough about the ACA to hold an opinion.) These voters are by no means a strongly Democratic group: Obama [...]
- A New Maunder Minimum?
Still not very many sunspots: But scientists are watching the sun carefully to see whether cycle 24 is going to be an aberration—or if this solar calmness is going to stretch through the next cycle as well. “We won’t know that for another good three or four years,” said Biesecker. Some researchers speculate this could [...]
- Flashback: Orchids
From January, 2009: “He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.” Coloradoans, right now, as I write this, it’s -9 in Denver. Minus. Nine. Remember this when you get [...]
- Top Complaints About Offices
Noise. Everything else is practically non-existent by comparison: The worst part, according to the data, is that these office workers can’t control what they hear — or who hears them. Lack of sound privacy was far and away the most despised issue in the survey, with 60% of cubicle workers and half of all partitionless people [...]
- Obama Changes Course, Accepts China Air Defense Zone
And people wonder why the world thinks we’re unreliable: Japan, a vital American ally, has expressed fury over the Chinese move and ordered its commercial airliners not to provide information about their flight paths to the Chinese military. By contrast, the United States made a point of flying a pair of B-52s through it last [...]
- Unbuilt London
Urban transport as it never was. Some of these are pretty cool, others are a little silly, and some are outright desecrations.
- What is Gene Therapy?
An explanation of why it’s so hard: Several early efforts at gene therapy have focused on diseases of the blood, inherited anaemia, immune deficiencies, and blood clotting disorders. In these cases, the theory is relatively simple. But, in practice, gene therapy has proved much harder than we might have expected. Lots of promising technologies never make [...]
- Perils and Promise of Working Remotely
From a company that waded in at the shallow end, and is now trying it full-time. The good, and the bad. NO COMMUTING! Cutting out the commute means that if you’re working from home, you can spend the time you would be commuting exercising, gardening, cooking, or whatever it is you’d rather be doing than [...]
- Wittes on Drones
Benjamin Wittes takes Eugene Robinson to task for getting just about everything wrong about drones: Over at the Washington Post, columnist Eugene Robinson has a piece decrying the morality of drone strikes—a piece that expresses with an admirable economy of words nearly every conceptual error one can make on the subject. Let’s dissect…. …“I don’t see how drone strikes [...]
- Theodore Dalrymple on the Pope’s Economics
While sympathizing with the impulse to find consumerism disotasteful, Dalrymple points out what ought to be obvious by now: He writes, inter alia, that ‘Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed on the powerless.’ This is demagoguery of the purest kind, the kind that ruined [...]
- Political John Doe Investigation in Wisconsin
In a link-filled guest post for Legal Insurrection, Wisconsin Watchdog report Matt Kittle details what looks like abuse of prosecutorial discretion in Wisconsin, operating secretly but within the law, targeting Governor Scott Walker. There’s a secret war being waged in Wisconsin, and the outcome could have national ramifications on free speech and the rule of [...]
- Shazam for Neo-Nazi Music
German police are building an app that will identify right-wing music: Many themes and ideas can get media placed on the list including, “indecent, extremely violent, crime-inducing, anti-Semitic or racist material,” as well as “media content that glorifies National Socialism… and to media content that discriminates against specific groups of people.” This is the law [...]
- Triathletes And Pain
Apparently, they handle it differently from the rest of us: In the tests, the triathletes could discern pain just as well as non-athletes, but they felt it with less intensity and were able to withstand it longer. The researchers explain that detecting pain is a relatively straightforward sensory experience, whereas evaluating pain and being willing [...]
Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height
- Liberals Lose Effort to Defund the Right Via SEC Disclosure
Via Bainbridge, quoting Marc Hodak: Mary Jo White, former United States Attorney, is bringing a strong prosecutorial agenda. This shift in priorities appears to have manifested itself in a new Rule List that, at least for now, drops the push for disclosure of corporate political contributions. The pro-regulatory crowd is not going to be happy. … Corporate political spending [...]
- Using Nanographene Oxide to Destroy Tumors
More nanotechnology promises: Scientists have learned over the years that the cells in cancerous tumors are more sensitive to heat than normal cells in the body (it makes them more porous). To take advantage of this property, researchers have developed techniques for heating such cells before applying other techniques meant to kill them—heating tumors before using chemo or radiotherapy [...]
- Origins of Common UI Symbols
Not all of them got their start with Tech.
- A New Book On the Mumbai Massacre
The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark gets a favorable review at Lawfare. The Siege discloses a new intriguing wrinkle about Headley. The two British authors’ investigations in Pakistan, India and the US led them to believe LeT and the ISI became suspicious that Headley was a double agent, secretly [...]
- LA’s Former Forest of Oil Rigs
LA used to look like this: They’re still there, often hidden under a building or a decorative shell, but there are some down near the airport, if I recall. I do remember a season of 24 opening with Jack working at one of today’s oil pumps.
- 3D-Printed Modular Cell Phones?
So say Motorola and 3D Systems: Last month, Motorola announced a plan for a modular smartphone. Project Ara, the company said, will be a simple way for users to individualize their phones, swapping out parts like the battery and camera until users have a phone that’s just for them. How do they plan on doing that? With 3-D [...]
- The 5 Coldest Places To Live
Congratulations, Fraser, Colorado!
- Pensions, Midwestern Style
Detroit finally gets a break: Rhodes — in a surprise decision this morning — also said he’ll allow pension cuts in Detroit’s bankruptcy. Rhodes emphasized that he won’t necessarily agree to pension cuts in the city’s final reorganization plan unless the entire plan is fair and equitable. Illinois is considering its own pension reform plan, and [...]
- Thanksgiving, The Founders, and Religion
There’s a reason that religious liberty was specifically written into the 1st Amendment. If we seek evidence of the broadly shared public view of the meaning of the Establishment Clause at the time of the Founding, we find not an insistence on strict separation of church and state but instead a largely uncontroversial willingness to see the [...]
- How Elon Musk Thinks
Reason things out from “first principles” rather than by analogy: The benefit of “first principles” thinking? It allows you to innovate in clear leaps, rather than building small improvements onto something that already exists. Musk gives an example of the first automobile. While everyone else was trying to improve horse-drawn carriages, someone looked at the [...]
- Young Adult Readers ‘Prefer Printed To Ebooks’
Hope from, of all places, the youth of Britain: Sixteen to 24-year-olds are known as the super-connected generation, obsessed with snapping selfies or downloading the latest mobile apps, so it comes as a surprise to learn that 62% prefer print books to ebooks…. The top-rated reasons for preferring physical to digital products were: “I like to hold the [...]
- Happy 250th, Touro Synagogue
One hundred years to the day before the completion of the Capitol Dome, the current building of the recipient of Washington’s famous letter was dedicated. Documents associated with the letter are much sought after by collectors today, not least because contemporary printings of Washington’s letter in Rhode Island newspapers, the Newport Mercury and the Providence [...]
- Someone Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe
Along with everyone else: So almost everywhere in Europe, people are living longer but having fewer years of healthy life. Only in the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands did people buck this trend with the numbers of years of healthy life increasing in these places since 2003. That raises an obvious question: what happened in [...]
In 82 BCE, Sulla returned to Italy, and touched off three years of Civil War. By the end, he had killed tens of thousands of people, entered Rome by force, butchered thousands in civic buildings, and ordered the deaths of perhaps 5000 of the most prominent Romans. He not only broke the taboo against using legions against Rome itself, he killed pretty much any Roman who had even thought to oppose him, and many who hadn’t. As a result, he was able to leave office voluntarily, and wander the streets of Rome unprotected by any bodyguard. His reforms took Roman governing law back to the rules it had operated under prior to the rise of Tiberius Gracchus about 60 years earlier, while still trying to deal with the land and military issues that led to Gracchus’s rise in the first place.
Sulla used radical means to achieve arch-conservative ends. And yet, in the end, it was the radicalism that endured and the restoration that was forgotten.
To listen to the Denver Post, you’d think that the Colorado recalls were a similarly seminal moment in the destruction of our Republic. And some Democrats agree.
Whatever the merits of using unconventional, if perfectly Constitutional, means to achieve politics ends, the Democrats have no room to complain.
The Democrats are the party that invented changing the rules in the middle of the game, and it didn’t start with Harry Reid and the Magical Disappearing Rulebook, or the Florida Supreme Court’s creative ballot accounting.
This is the party that has, here in Colorado, weaponized vote fraud this past year. They’re the party who, in 2004, sued to allow anyone to vote a full ballot, non-provisional, in any precinct, without ID.
They’re the party that is suing its own citizens to overturn a 20-year-old Constitutional Amendment in order to raise their taxes without end. It is the party that filibustered its own redistricting bill because it preferred its odds in court to having to negotiate Congressional districts with the other party.
The Democrats are the party that passed out of the State House a bill to overturn the Electoral College, by joining an interstate compact without Congressional sanction. They cheerfully accepted out-of-state money for a popular referendum to apportion our Electoral votes proportionally, which would have reduced the value of winning the state from nine votes to one.
They sued to get an ineligible school board candidate declared “duly elected,” in order to have her disqualified, so that a favorable committee could appoint her successor.
It’s not as though Colorado Dems invented this game, they just learned it from their brethren elsewhere. They’re the party that popularized the recall election in Wisconsin, after occupying the state capitol failed to achieve the desired results. (I have half a mind to just blame this tantrum on recall-envy, given the different parties’ relative success in making the tactic stick.) There, too, they politicized a state Supreme Court election, in an effort to overturn the laws that caused the uproar in the first place. Most Wisconsinites weren’t aware that Supreme Court elections were partisan affairs, complete with allegations of physical assault.
In New Jersey, the late Senator Frank Lautenberg was only Senator at all because the party got a judge to agree that even though the law said they couldn’t replace Bob Toricelli on the ballot within 30 days of the election, it didn’t really mean it.
The Democrats will claim that this is just politics as usual, that the game is played by trying to change the rules on the fly. If so, it reduces the Republicans’ sin to one of not being sufficiently shameless.
In other words, of not being enough like Democrats.
Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height
- Greeks and Jews
For Hanukkah, via Mosaic. Leo Strauss on the separate missions of the Jews and the Greeks. Yet our intention to speak of Jerusalem and Athens seems to compel us to go beyond the self-understanding of either. Or is there a notion, a word that points to the highest that both the Bible and the greatest [...]
- Japan’s Solar Ring Around The Moon
Behold the power of this fully-operational substation! Shimizu, a Japanese architectural and engineering firm, has a solution for the climate crisis: Simply build a band of solar panels 400 kilometers (249 miles) wide (pdf) running all the way around the Moon’s 11,000-kilometer (6,835 mile) equator and beam the carbon-free energy back to Earth in the form of microwaves, which [...]
- Appreciating Bagehot
A review of a new biography of The Greatest Victorian, written in the form of memoirs. From what I’ve known of Bagehot, I’ve always liked him, now I have a better idea of why. Quoting from Bagehot’s actual writings, which assert that free institutions thrive among dullards, Prochaska goes on, “The English are unrivalled in [...]
- Time-Varying Pricing For Electricity
Pricing electricity by demand saves consumers money and encourages more efficient usage: Sacramento Metropolitan Utilities District (SMUD) has decided that time-varying pricing makes sense. It saves the utility money because it doesn’t have to buy as much expensive wholesale power during peak periods. And, it can pass these savings on to customers. It thus has [...]
- Curiouser and Curiouser
Practically nothing about quantum mechanics surprises me any more: In their proposed experimental set-up, the physicists show that a photon will travel through the left arm of an interferometer with 100% certainty, yet its polarization can be detected in the right arm, where there is 0% probability of the photon traveling. That is, the photon [...]
- Billionaire Lobbyists On Keystone XL
It’s not what you think: Billionaire Tom Steyer plans to renew his fight against Keystone XL in Washington on Monday. NextGen Climate Action, founded by Steyer, will host a summit where participants will argue the Keystone XL pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp. cannot pass President Obama’s climate test…. Steyer is opposed to the pipeline project [...]
- How Partisan Are Your Representatives
A cool interactive info-graphic from Visualizing.org. In Colorado’s case, pretty partisan. If you’ve been listening to feminist propaganda about what the world would look like if women ran it, filter by Sex.
- Bad Time for Climate Alarmist Predictions
First, Roger Pielke, Jr. notes the relatively constant rate of US hurricane landfalls over the last century, which has culminated in a record time between Category 3+ landfalls: The red line in the graph above shows a decrease in the number of US landfalls of more than 25% since (which given variability, may just be [...]
- Cheap Cute Dog Post
Good to end the day with:
- No, Your GMO Corn Isn’t Killing You
The paper that gave so much hope to anti-GMO luddites is being retracted by the journal in which it appeared: All of these criticisms of the study could have been incorporated into the original press coverage, except for the fact that the people behind the study manipulated journalists to ensure that they were unable to obtain any [...]
- Howdy, Neighbor
The Solar Neighborhood, with locations, temperatures, and sizes of the nearest stars.
- More Openness, More Sales
So says a study showing a sales boost from removing DRM from music: According to Zhang, the 30% sales increase for lower-selling albums can be explained by the fact that DRM-free music makes it easier for consumers to share files and discover new music. The finding that removing DRM from top-selling albums has no effect [...]
That doesn’t even include tens of millions more that states have contributed for additional investment in ports and high-speed passenger trains that’s boosted the nation’s freight railroads….
The public dollars have built new overpasses to separate trains from one another, as well as cars and trucks. They’ve replaced aging bridges, laid new track and upgraded signal systems. They’ve paid to enlarge tunnels and raise bridges so that shipping containers may be double-stacked. They’ve built new facilities where cargo containers can be transferred from trucks to trains, or vice versa.
Supporters say these public investments, combined with private capital, are model infrastructure partnerships that will help take trucks off crowded highways, reduce pollution and improve the flow of goods to and from the nation’s seaports.
And another $450 million by the states. If you add up the numbers in the story, the total cost of the projects is about $5.7 billion, so governments have picked up about 17.5% of the overall tab. That leaves $4.7 billion in cap ex by the railroads themselves. In a properly functioning economy, they wouldn’t need the extra $1 billion to get most of these off the drawing board. But when the money’s available, and when the banks are doing better by leaving their money on deposit rather than loaned out in the world, this is what happens.
I work in the trucking industry, and I can tell you that intermodal traffic – freight that gets delivered to and from ramps from truck, but is delivered cross-country by train – is one of our fastest-growing businesses. It’s that way because over a long route, rail takes less fuel than trucks, given that most of the infrastructure is already in place. Rail, of course, is much more capital-intensive that road. But the Class I rails are long-since paid-for except for maintenance, and the containers tend to be owned by the shipping companies rather than the railroads.
But this is telling:
For all the public money that freight railroads have received, they haven’t talked much about it. The industry spent years trying to free itself from government regulation, and it doesn’t want federal money with too many strings attached.
No kidding. This is largely how they got into their mess in the first place, with massive land grants that left the door open for massive regulation. Then trucks and trains spent several decades battling each other over regulatory hegemony rather than on price and efficiency.
I’ve never been as hostile to good infrastructure spending as some other conservatives, provided that it’s not disastrously pointless spending like high-speed rail. There’s a good argument to be made that the transcontinental railway was a national security project as much as an economic one. Walter Russell Mead points out that in the 19th Century, by ship, San Francisco was closer to London than it was to New York because Brazil juts so far out into the Atlantic. There was some concern that unless we actually cemented our claims to the West Coast with people, the British might set up shop there and raise the price, or carve out some sort of permanent presence there a la Hong Kong or Gibraltar.
And while there’s always waste, sometimes you put up with some of that to create platforms that everyone can use. In the case of the railways, the platform was the land grant. In the case of the interstates, it was the roads themselves. Also, in the case of multi-user facilities like ports or urban rail crossings, there are property rights issues that need civil authority of some sort to work out, and better beforehand than in the courts for years.
Still, it seems as though most of this has gone not to resolving legal tangles, but to actual CapEx, and to protect Amtrak’s hopelessly outdated interests. So even at the cost of 1/800th of the “stimulus,” we probably overpaid.
Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height
- Babbage, Ready For His Close-Up
From a little over a year ago, some beautiful pictures of the Babbage Difference Engine #2: For some reason, we’ve been conditioned to think of old technology as clunky or ugly. Often, it was anything but. The clean lines and repetition, lend even things like power stations, telephone exchanges, and pneumatic tube centers elegance and [...]
- 150 Years Ago Today
The Capitol Dome was topped off: On December 2, 1863, the last section of the Statue of Freedom was put in place on top of the dome amid a great celebration with military salutes. The interior of the dome was finished in January 1866 when the scaffolding was removed from below Constantino Brumidi’s great fresco, the Apotheosis of [...]
- How Bitcoin Works
A great infographic explaining everyone’s favorite alternative currency:
- Cave Photography
Phenomenal cave shots from all over the world:
- Amazon PrimeAir
For those of you not watching 60 Minutes tonight: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took to 60 Minutes to reveal the company’s latest delivery method: drones. In what is likely a cunning reminder of the e-tailer’s upcoming Cyber Monday sales, these bots will apparently be capable of delivering packages up to five pounds (86 percent of orders are apparently under [...]
- Reform to Repatriate?
Rumblings of rational reform of our corporate tax code, including how we handle foreign earnings: As the Senate Finance Committee’s draft proposals suggest, the US should jettison its worldwide approach to corporate taxation and adopt a territorial system for taxing US MNCs’ foreign earnings. Such a system would provide a level playing field that supports [...]
Evelyn Gordon, at Commentary:
Answer: Never, as proven by Exhibit B–the administration’s silence in the face of an anti-Semitic slur against some even closer allies that same week. I’m referring, of course, to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s outrageous assertion that lawmakers are siding with Israel against Obama on Iran not “from any careful consideration of the facts,” but “from a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.”
Not only is this another classic example of the anti-Semitic “Jews control the world” trope, but many of the lawmakers whom Friedman accused of blindly obeying Jewish dictates rather than thinking for themselves are President Obama’s fellow Democrats, who have loyally shepherded his domestic agenda through Congress. Yet even so, the administration couldn’t be bothered to utter a word in their defense.
When an administration doesn’t see fit to condemn anti-Semitic slurs even against its closest allies–its negotiating partner abroad and congressional Democrats at home–you know anti-Semitism has attained the height of respectability. My only question is when all the American Jews who voted for this administration are going to wake up and start objecting.
This isn’t exactly the Coolidge Administration. Obama, Holder, and their underlings have no problem popping off on just about any subject they care about, so their silence here isn’t accidental – it’s carefully calculated to marginalize Israel, and if that means marginalizing Jews or readmitting anti-Semitism to polite company, it’s just eggs and omelets. Not like the President spent decades attending the sermons of an obviously anti-Semitic preacher, or anything.
It’s a commonplace to remember that William F. Buckley led the charge to rid conservatism and the Republican party of its anti-Semitic and paranoid elements, perceiving not only that they weren’t helping the cause, but that they were morally wrong. It’s long past time for some Democrat or visionary on the Left to do the same thing. The problem is, it’s hard to do this with a Progressive President in power, and when doing so would evidently offend so many other important client groups.
And unfortunately, we won’t hear much from Jewish Democrats about this. Too many of them have already decided they’re more Democrat than Jewish.
Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height
- Creeping China
We were always worried that the Soviets would use ‘salami tactics,’ pushing us far enough to provoke a crisis that needed to be resolved, and not far enough to provoke a war. We put an effective end to that in Europe by standing by Berlin, eventually. But China seems to have perfected the method: Here, [...]
- Good By Stealth
Via Standpoint‘s Tom Gross: Which is one reason why one of the more remarkable stories coming out of the Middle East over the last two and a half years has been largely overlooked: the bravery of Israeli doctors and civilians who have gone into war-ravaged neighbouring Syria to treat the injured, and feed and clothe [...]
- Hot Stove League
Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height
- Ken Nordine, Call Your Office
Mirrored Infinity Room:
Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height
- 17th Century London in 3D
Courtesy of the Off The Map Challenge: Following the development of the environment on the team’s blog you can see some of the gaps between what data was deemed noteworthy or worth recording in the seventeenth century and the level of detail we now expect in maps and other infographics. For example, the team struggled to pinpoint [...]
- Old Movie Theaters
Staten Island Paramount:
- “Lassie, Come Home:” Thurber Responds
On Thanksgiving, Turner Classic Movies plays a “Family Favorites” Marathon, which includes “Lassie, Come Home.” James Thurber expands on the theme, in his “Look Homeward, Jeannie:” The homing dog reached apotheosis a few years ago when “Lassie Come Home” portrayed a collie returning to its young master over miles of wild and unfamiliar terrain in [...]
- ESA to Make Raw Copernicus Data Available
For free: The European Delegated Act on Copernicus data and information policy will enter into force in the coming days. This Act provides free, full and open access to users of environmental data from the Copernicus programme, including data from the Sentinel satellites. As always, the question is who the gatekeepers consider to be a [...]
- Programming for Kids
Kids adapt, toys adapt to help kids adapt: All of Primo’s electronics are concealed inside wooden boxes, so from the child’s point of view they’re playing with blocks, a board and a cute little robot. But as they snap the coloured pieces (instruction blocks) into the board (the physical programming interface) they are building up [...]