Archive for June, 2011

19
Jun
11

Roundup – Even World Cup Had a Montage, MONTAGE!

Line O’ the Day:

Maybe I do need to be more of a fan, or at least find more to celebrate. The questions for each of us, I think, are the basic ones: Could I have been more?

And, Is there still time?

- Robert Lipsyte, My Lunches With Costas: A Series Of Frank Encounters With The Journalist And Shill (UPDATE) [via Deadspin]

Best of the Best:

What Price War? Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Costs of Conflict [Anthony Gregory on The Independent Institute]

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been the most expensive and deadly for the United States since the Cold War, and in particular since Vietnam. Many Americans saw this as a consequence of the particular policy approach taken by the George W. Bush administration, and many expected that the trajectory of U.S. foreign policy, especially in Iraq but also in general terms, would change incontrovertibly, if not completely, once Barack Obama became president and had time to implement his changes. Now, more than two years into Obama’s presidency, it is time to examine the new administration’s record in Iraq and Afghanistan and its general approach to foreign policy and the war on terrorism. In doing so, we should compare what has happened to what was promised, as well as to what was undertaken during the last administration.

Gil Scott-Heron, Voice of Black Protest Culture, Dies at 62 [Ben Sisario via The New York Times]

Mr. Scott-Heron often bristled at the suggestion that his work had prefigured rap. “I don’t know if I can take the blame for it,” he said in an interview last year with the music Web site The Daily Swarm. He preferred to call himself a “bluesologist,” drawing on the traditions of blues, jazz and Harlem renaissance poetics. Yet, along with the work of the Last Poets, a group of black nationalist performance poets who emerged alongside him in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Mr. Scott-Heron established much of the attitude and the stylistic vocabulary that would characterize the socially conscious work of early rap groups like Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions. And he has remained part of the DNA of hip-hop by being sampled by stars like Kanye West. “You can go into Ginsberg and the Beat poets and Dylan, but Gil Scott-Heron is the manifestation of the modern word,” Chuck D, the leader of Public Enemy, told The New Yorker in 2010. “He and the Last Poets set the stage for everyone else.”

Brothel industry falls short in desire to pay state taxes [The Las Vegas Sun]

So the industry, at least since the 1990s, has volunteered to pay into the state’s tax coffers. If the brothels pay money to the state, the thinking goes, it’s one more reason that lawmakers won’t ban prostitution. (The industry pays money to counties, tens of thousands of dollars, in privileged business license fees.)

Blanks for the Memories: What’s Your Earliest Childhood Recollection? [Wall Street Journal]

The inability of adults to remember the earliest years of childhood—also known as infantile amnesia—has been the subject of speculation for more than a century. Modern researchers think that storing and retrieving memories require language skills that don’t develop until age 3 or 4. Others believe that while children can recall fragments of scenes from early life, they can’t create autobiographical memories—the episodes that make up one’s life story—until they have a firm concept of “self,” which may take a few more years. Researchers are finding intriguing cultural differences, too. In a study published in Child Development in 2009, Dr. Peterson and colleagues asked 225 Canadian children and 113 Chinese children, aged 8, 11 and 14, to write down as many early memories as they could in four minutes. The Canadian children were able to recall twice as many memories from their early childhoods, going back six months earlier, than Chinese children. What’s more, the Canadian children’s memories were much more likely to be about their own experiences, whereas the Chinese children focused on family or group activities. The difference isn’t in memory skills, experts believe, but in how experiences are encoded in children’s brains, which is greatly affected by the attention adults pay to them. In this case, researchers concluded, the Western parents were more likely to savor and tell stories about moments when a child said something funny or did something unusual, underscoring their individuality, while Asian cultures value collective experiences.

Tyler Cowen, America’s Hottest Economist [Brendan Greeley on Bloomberg Businessweek]

In some ways, Cowen has skipped a step in the normal path of the economist from academy to celebrity, which may explain why three notable economists contacted about Cowen declined to comment. There’s an idea among academic economists that the privilege of writing a narrative argument must be earned through the hard work of modeling and econometrics. “There is a view that what can’t be disproven isn’t science,” says Raghuram Rajan, a former director of research at the International Monetary Fund who now teaches at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He has published his own work for a general audience, most recently Fault Lines, on economic risks the financial crisis has yet to uncover. Rajan doesn’t think that narrative economics is any less difficult than writing models. “I don’t see your having to prove yourself before moving on to something that is ‘less rigorous,'” he says. “Both are hard. Both are important.” Tyler Cowen can do the math, but he works in narrative. “Economists talk of models,” he says. “Is a novel a model? What do you learn about society from novels? They’re false, but so are models.”

Adjusting Wage Disparities for Cost of Living [Joe Light on WSJ Blogs: Real Time Economics]

Where are workers getting a good deal? St. Louis breadwinners take home about the same pay as the U.S. average, according to the Labor Department, but their cost of living is more than 9% cheaper, according to the CCER. Another locale where earners have an advantage: Houston, Texas. The Labor Department says workers there earn about 99% of the U.S. average, but they get about a 7% cost of living discount. Similarly, in Dallas, they get a 7% discount and earn 98 cents on the dollar. And one of the worst-paid cities relative to its cost is Honolulu, Hawaii, where workers only made 5% more than the mean but shell out nearly 68% extra. Maybe that’s just the price you pay for 70-degree winters. In Florida, living in Miami costs 7% extra and Ft. Lauderdale costs an additional 14%, according to the CCER. Meanwhile, pay in that combined metro area is only 97% of the U.S. average. In Orlando, living is only 2% cheaper, but pay is 9% below average.

As Physicians’ Jobs Change, So Do Their Politics [New York Times]

But doctors are changing. They are abandoning their own practices and taking salaried jobs in hospitals, particularly in the North, but increasingly in the South as well. Half of all younger doctors are women, and that share is likely to grow. There are no national surveys that track doctors’ political leanings, but as more doctors move from business owner to shift worker, their historic alliance with the Republican Party is weakening from Maine as well as South Dakota, Arizona and Oregon, according to doctors’ advocates in those and other states. That change could have a profound effect on the nation’s health care debate. Indeed, after opposing almost every major health overhaul proposal for nearly a century, the American Medical Association supported President Obama’s legislation last year because the new law would provide health insurance to the vast majority of the nation’s uninsured, improve competition and choice in insurance, and promote prevention and wellness, the group said. Because so many doctors are no longer in business for themselves, many of the issues that were once priorities for doctors’ groups, like insurance reimbursement, have been displaced by public health and safety concerns, including mandatory seat belt use and chemicals in baby products.

Your Commute Is Killing You: Long commutes cause obesity, neck pain, loneliness, divorce, stress, and insomnia. [Annie Lowery on Slate]

In the past decade or so, researchers have produced a significant body of research measuring the dreadfulness of a long commute. People with long transit times suffer from disproportionate pain, stress, obesity, and dissatisfaction. The joy of living in a big, exurban house, or that extra income left over from your cheap rent? It is almost certainly not worth it.

When Did You Lose Your Dead Body Card? [Big Daddy Drew on Deadspin]

The flowerpot toilet brush exists already. A simple Google search verifies it.. Frankly, I’m stunned there isn’t one in my house as we speak. Because wives are disgusted by toilet brushes. The fact that you have to keep something in the bathroom that has a history of touching the inside of the toilet bowl is almost too much for them to bear. May as well keep a mistress in the basement.

Are Tyler Cowen’s Observations on Economics about as Good as His Observations about Basketball? [Robert Wenzel on Economic Policy Journal]

I think what attracts so many to Keynes is his convoluted way of saying things along with a tendency to throw in an occasional observation that few others have spotted. Because they recognize the interesting observation, they spend most of the time trying to understand the convoluted part of the writing, However, if you have a strong mind and willing to pull Keynes’ writing apart, you realize that although he was very smart, he really only understands things at a surface level. Hayek took the time and fully understood this about Keynes. I think it applies to Cowen as well. Cowen is very observant, tending to present in a convoluted manner, but if you understand the subject Cowen is discussing, you realize that although he observes interesting facts, it is at a very surface level.

Criminalizing free speech [Glenn Greenwald on Salon]

Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress rightly takes Sen. Rand Paul to task for going on Sean Hannity’s radio program — one week after commendably leading opposition to the Patriot Act on civil liberties grounds — and advocating the arrest of people who “attend radical political speeches.”  After claiming to be against racial and religious profiling, Paul said:  “But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.”  Seitz-Wald correctly notes the obvious:  “Paul’s suggestion that people be imprisoned or deported for merely attending a political speech would be a fairly egregious violation on the First Amendment, not to mention due process.”

The Rays Have More Or Less Every Pick In Today’s MLB Draft [David Roher on Deadspin]

That’s thirteen picks before the start of the third round. From their first selection to the end of the supplemental round tonight, they’ll get the rights to over a quarter of the players taken. How did this happen? A combination of an antiquated compensation system and a front office smart enough to execute the plan before anyone else did.

Libya has one dictator, but Kosovo has many Gaddafis [Fatos Bytyci on Reuters]

During the socialist era of 1970s and 1980s, dozens of parents in Kosovo named their sons after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, someone they admired for his non-aligned stance and devotion to Islam. With NATO, a supporter of mainly Muslim Kosovo’s independence, now fighting Gaddafi’s regime and calling for him to leave office, these are awkward times for such children.

Shocking FBI Discovery: Austin Is Weird [Jesse Walker on Reason]

One comes from Michael German, a former FBI agent now doing excellent work for the ACLU. (Read his terrific takedowns of fusion centers herehere, and here.) “You have a bunch of guys and women all over the country sent out to find terrorism,” German tells the Times. “Fortunately, there isn’t a lot of terrorism in many communities. So they end up pursuing people who are critical of the government.”

Obesity — Not Aging — Balloons Health Care Costs [Miller-McCune]

Unfortunately, there’s a giant exception to the rule that the longer life tends to be a healthier one: Obese people are living longer, thanks to factors such as cholesterol-cutting medicines (as is the entire population), but much of their extra time is spent in ill health, and as a result, their annual medical bills are some 42 percent higher than those of normal-weight people. In fact, the obesity epidemic has greatly increased the prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, but contrary to much of the media coverage on the epidemic, it has had little effect on mortality rates. As the title of one study put it, “Smoking kills, obesity disables.”

The ECB’s stealth bailout [Hans-Werner Sinn on VOX]

The longer the cheap money drug is indulged in, the more painful the withdrawal. Wait too long and no cure will be possible.

U.S. subsidizes Brazilian cotton to protect Monsanto’s profits [Think Forward]

In a 2009 WTO “framework agreement,” the U.S. created the Commodity Conservation Corporation (CCC), and Brazil created the Brazilian Cotton Institute (BCI). Rather than eliminating or substantially reforming cotton subsidies, the CCC pays the BCI $147 million dollars a year in “technical assistance,” which happens to be the same amount the WTO authorized for trade retaliation specifically for cotton payments. In essence, then, the U.S. government pays a subsidy to Brazilian cotton farmers every year to protect the U.S. cotton program—and the profits of companies like Monsanto and Pioneer.

Why Grantland Rice Sucked [Tommy Craggs on Deadspin]

Grantland Rice was everything his namesake website should aspire not to be. He was a pandering mythmaker who wrote verse and prose the way Thomas Kinkade paints carriage lanes (“The Hills of Fame still beckon where the Paths of Glory lead …”). Reading him today is not unlike looking at your maiden aunt’s collection of Precious Moments figurines. Moths come flying off every word. He was responsible for a lot of the worst pathologies of sportswriting today, and the fact that a major web site now unironically carries his name tells me we’ve done to Rice what Rice did to so many ballplayers over the years. We’ve godded up the godmaker.

Stay Soft, Dirk Nowitzki [Luke O'Brien on Deadspin]

Even before Dirk Nowitzki lifted a championship trophy on Sunday night, he was being held up as a new man. Nowitzki had reinvented himself, we were told. He’d finally “shed” the Euro-soft label plastered to him throughout his career and, to much adulation, morphed into the sort of rugged warrior that wins titles. The tale of an individual transforming himself to wrestle destiny into submission satisfies a special American yearning. In this case, it’s obscuring an even more fundamentally American story.

The Slow, Sad Death Of A Riot’s Symbol [Barry Petchesky on Deadspin]

In April 2001, just as baseball season started up, Bubba Helms put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. “Helms’ 2-year-old son was in his grandpa’s arms, watching, as his dad pulled the trigger,” the Free Press reported. The shot didn’t kill him, just shattered his jaw, and the hospital eventually sent him on his way with a prescription for painkillers. He took an entire bottle, and died. His nephew found something in Helms’s closet while going through his belongings, the Free Press wrote. It was 1984 Detroit Tigers pennant. The family still had the newspaper clippings of Helms holding it at the riots. It had always been the highlight of his life.

One Night in Bangkok Can Lead to Quite a ‘Hangover’ for Thailand  [The Wall Street Journal]

Thailand’s tourism chief hasn’t seen the Warner Bros. box-office smash “The Hangover: Part II,” which is based in Bangkok. Maybe that’s just as well. “What’s it like?” asked Supol Sripan, general-director of the country’s tourism department, on a recent Thursday afternoon. Well, it shows his nation’s capital as chock-full of drug-dealing mobsters, drunken bar fights and hazily remembered sex in the back rooms of brothels. In the movie there are also car chases through teeming streets, and a chain-smoking monkey. “Hmm,” Mr. Supol sighed. “Well, I suppose it’s true. We have all those things.”

The Dugout by Bill Simmons [Brandon Stroud on WithLeather]

SportsGuy33: b. Derek Jeter stands too close to whatever the baseball sideline reporter equivalent is to Erin Andrews and goes on the DL; calls up his roommate Bill Simmons, who gives up his Clippers season tickets to put on Jeter’s jersey and fills in for a game, or several.

JetersNeverProsper: aren’t you a Red Sox fan?

SportsGuy33: Sure, but in this scenario you’re in first place, so I like you more

Louis C.K. Weighs In On The Tracy Morgan Scandal As All The “Videogum Promises” Crash Into Each Other And Explode [Gabe on Videogum]

In closing: fart noise.

Missing Iraq money may have been stolen, auditors say [Los Angeles Times]

Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time. This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash…For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be “the largest theft of funds in national history.”

Why We Shouldn’t Blame Roberto “LeBrongo” [Jack Dickey on Deadspin]

Watching the Bruins play, especially in the playoffs, you knew that their defensemen would shove anyone in front of the net. No one would own the crease against them like Boston’s forwards did against Vancouver in game seven. The Bruins’ triumph resulted from a steely team effort. But we’ve lost that story because the tourists, dropping in for a hockey come-down after basketball, want to make this about a meltdown, because that’s what they know and enjoyed, earlier in the week. LeBrongo, amirite? If they looked harder, though, they would have seen one of the greatest goalies ever fighting in vain to save his underperforming teammates—some of whom quite literally got in his way—from themselves. Does that sound like LeBron to you?

The Crash of 1993: As the great comic-book bubble showed, sometimes there’s no recovery from a speculative boom [Johnathan Last on The Weekly Standard]

I have a comic book like that. In 1984, DC launched what became an immensely popular series, The New Teen Titans. The first issue carried a premium cover price of $1.25, the result of the series being printed not on the usual newsprint but on higher quality “Baxter” paper. I missed the first issue when it debuted, and the back-issue price quickly climbed. In a few months I saved up the scratch to buy a copy.  I paid $25, a not-inconsiderable sum for a 10-year-old. It was the jewel of my collection. Today you can buy a copy in near-mint condition for $1.50.

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