Archive for January 4th, 2013
From James Fallows’s interview of Google’s Michael Jones:
James Fallows: The entire concept of a “map” seems radically different from even a decade ago. It used to be something in a book or on a wall; now it’s something you carry around on your smartphone. Which changes have mattered most? And what further changes should we be ready for?
Michael Jones: The major change in mapping in the past decade, as opposed to in the previous 6,000 to 10,000 years, is that mapping has become personal.
It’s not the map itself that has changed. You would recognize a 1940 map and the latest, modern Google map as having almost the same look. But the old map was a fixed piece of paper, the same for everybody who looked at it. The new map is different for everyone who uses it. You can drag it where you want to go, you can zoom in as you wish, you can switch modes–traffic, satellite—you can fly across your town, even ask questions about restaurants and directions. So a map has gone from a static, stylized portrait of the Earth to a dynamic, inter-active conversation about your use of the Earth.
I think that’s officially the Big Change, and it’s already happened, rather than being ahead.
So what might still happen?
Well, actually it’s a TV series of 10 one-hour episodes. In my previous experience, TV series with long story arcs have tended in each episode to include one or more story arcs that are resolved within the episode, so that (I presume) an occasional viewer gets the satisfaction of at least one complete story arc. This one has no truck with that, and (I now learn) apparently that is becoming the new rule.
At any rate, this is a Danish production, The Bridge, that has me in its spell. I watch it on my computer and can’t take my eyes off of it. I think GorillaVid, the player, requires registration, but it’s free and easy: just ignore the payment option. Then watch each episode:
Profound thanks to Linda of Santa Cruz, who told me of the series and how to watch it.
Without Pilates, my activity level has dropped, and thus my caloric requirements as well. That means some meal readjustments, and I just recently (following a vicious 24-hour gastric flu) found that my regular standard breakfast was rather larger than I realized. So I’ve adjusted it:
1/2 tsp tumeric
6 grindings black pepper
1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
1 or 1.5 Tbsp homemade pepper sauce
That goes into the pot along with 1 Tbsp (rather than 2 Tbsp, as before) of:
rolled mixed-grain cereal (formerly rolled oats)
Then I add:
1 scant cup boiling hot water (from tea kettle)
1/4 c (instead of 1/3 c) oat bran
while stirring briskly. I cook it, stirring it, until it thickens, then top it with:
1 egg, over easy, sautéed in 1 pat butter
That and a pint of black tea (which is why I boiled the water) is my new standard breakfast, and very tasty it is, too.
Fruit snacks have shifted from fuyu persimmons to Clementines.
Within hours of the unspeakable massacre of twenty first graders and six teachers and staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday, December 14th, bookers for the television networks’ Sunday-morning political talk shows hit the phones, trolling for guests. They were seeking, among others, politicians, public officials, and prominent citizens willing to defend the proposition that military-style munitions—high-powered semiautomatic assault rifles and pistols that can fire a round every second, use magazines holding as many as a hundred bullets of a type specially engineered to liquefy the insides of human beings, and be outfitted with accessories like grenade launchers, flash suppressors, bayonet lugs, pistol grips, and collapsible stocks—should continue to be readily available to all comers, with or without minimal background checks or waiting periods. The bookers came up empty.
“We reached out to all thirty-one pro-gun-rights senators in the new Congress to invite them on the program to share their views on this subject this morning,” David Gregory, of NBC, told his “Meet the Press” audience. “We had no takers.” The National Rifle Association, which had instantly deactivated its Facebook page and silenced its Twitter feed, refused all interview invitations and issued a statement explaining—admitting?—that it was shutting its big mouth “as a matter of common decency.” When it finally opened that mouth, a week later, out came a demand for N.R.A.-trained guards in every single American school: a hundred thousand schools, a hundred thousand guards, a hundred thousand guns, a hundred million dollars in new business for the N.R.A.’s “corporate partners” in the gun industry.
It was hard, in the massacre’s immediate aftermath, to find a presentable advocate for the view that the No. 1 cause of gun violence is a shortage of guns. (The No. 2 cause, presumably, is a surplus of people, since people, not guns, kill people.) “Fox News Sunday” and its host, Chris Wallace, had to settle for Representative Louie Gohmert, of Texas. Representative Gohmert, a birther and a climate-change denier, is normally dismissible as an amusing eccentric, a self-lampooning clown. Not this time. His chilling advice for Sandy Hook’s murdered principal—“I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up, so when she heard gunfire she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off, before he can kill those precious kids”—has been widely quoted and widely deplored. What Gohmert said next has received less notice. Wallace pressed him further on why he thinks civilians should possess weapons like the M-4 (the Congressman’s choice) and the AR-15 (the school shooter’s choice and the top-selling rifle in the nation, notably in the past two weeks). “Well,” Gohmert replied,
for the reason George Washington said: a free people should be an armed people. It insures against the tyranny of the government. If they know that the biggest army is the American people, then you don’t have the tyranny that came from King George. That is why it was put in there. That’s why, once you start drawing the line, where do you stop?
After Sandy Hook, as after the Columbine horror, in 1999, and the dozens of mass shootings since, many Americans, gun owners among them, wondered why any sane person would require a rapid-fire killing machine with a foot-long banana clip to feel safe in his or her home or person, let alone to take target practice, shoot skeet, or hunt rabbits. But, for Hobbesian gun nuts of Gohmert’s ilk, the essence of the Second Amendment, when all is said and done, is not about any of that. Its real, irreducible purpose is to enable some self-designated fraction of the American people, in a pinch, to make war against the American government—to overthrow it by force and violence, if that is deemed necessary. If that’s the line you draw, then where, logically, do you stop? In Georgian times, when the amendment was ratified, the most fearsome weapon anyone, soldier or civilian, could carry was a single-shot musket. And today? “Shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles don’t shoot down black helicopters, people with shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles shoot down black helicopters”? Gohmert is a fringe figure, but the fringe is as long as an AR-15’s barrel. His seditious fantasies of freelance insurrection are shared by a nontrivial portion of the N.R.A. membership and board, by the N.R.A.’s feral kid brother, the Gun Owners of America, and by a gaggle of locked-and-loaded politicians who, not long ago, were threatening “Second Amendment remedies” for policy offenses like the Affordable Care Act. . .
Paul Krugman writes in today’s NY Times:
The centrist fantasy of a Grand Bargain on the budget never had a chance. Even if some kind of bargain had supposedly been reached, key players would soon have reneged on the deal — probably the next time a Republican occupied the White House.
For the reality is that our two major political parties are engaged in a fierce struggle over the future shape of American society. Democrats want to preserve the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — and add to them what every other advanced country has: a more or less universal guarantee of essential health care. Republicans want to roll all of that back, making room for drastically lower taxes on the wealthy. Yes, it’s essentially a class war.
The fight over the fiscal cliff was just one battle in that war. It ended, arguably, in a tactical victory for Democrats. The question is whether it was a Pyrrhic victory that set the stage for a larger defeat.
Why do I say that it was a tactical victory? Mainly because of what didn’t happen: There were no benefit cuts.
This was by no means a foregone conclusion. In 2011, the Obama administration was reportedly willing to raise the age of Medicare eligibility, a terrible and cruel policy idea. This time around, it was willing to cut Social Security benefits by changing the formula for cost-of-living adjustments, a less terrible idea that would nonetheless have imposed a lot of hardship — and probably have been politically disastrous as well. In the end, however, it didn’t happen. And progressives, always worried that President Obama seems much too willing to compromise about fundamentals, breathed a sigh of relief.
There were also some actual positives from a progressive point of view. Expanded unemployment benefits were given another year to run, a huge benefit to many families and a significant boost to our economic prospects (because this is money that will be spent, and hence help preserve jobs). Other benefits to lower-income families were given another five years — although, unfortunately, the payroll tax break was allowed to expire, which will hurt both working families and job creation.
The biggest progressive gripe about the legislation is that Mr. Obama extracted less revenue from the affluent than expected — about $600 billion versus $800 billion over the next decade. In perspective, however, this isn’t that big a deal. Put it this way: A reasonable estimate is that gross domestic product over the next 10 years will be around $200 trillion. So if the revenue take had matched expectations, it would still have amounted to only 0.4 percent of G.D.P.; as it turned out, this was reduced to 0.3 percent. Either way, it wouldn’t make much difference in the fights over revenue versus spending still to come.
Oh, and not only did Republicans vote for a tax increase for the first time in decades, the overall result of the tax changes now taking effect — which include new taxes associated with Obamacare as well as the new legislation — will be a significant reduction in income inequality, with the top 1 percent and even more so the top 0.1 percent taking a much bigger hit than middle-income families.
So why are many progressives — myself included — feeling very apprehensive? . . .
Although much lip service comes from NRA types that we simply need to keep mentally ill people from owning guns, that is (a) a distraction from the real problem of too many firearms flooding the country (based on differences in mass shootings between the US and other developed nations, who have as many mentally ill as does the US), and (b) something that the NRA types will fight tooth and nail from being implemented. Joaquin Sapien writes for ProPublica:
Following the mass shooting in Connecticut, the Obama administration and lawmakers around the country have promised to re-examine gun control in America.
ProPublica decided to take a look at what’s happened legislatively in states where some of the worst shootings in recent U.S. history have occurred to see what effect, if any, those events had on gun laws.
We found that while legislators in Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, New York, Texas and Colorado sometimes contemplated tightening rules after rampage shootings, few measures gained passage. In fact, several states have made it easier to buy more guns and take them to more places.
Here’s a rundown of what’s happened in each of those states:
Virginia: After 23-year-old Virginia Tech student Seung Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty members at the university in April 2007, then-Gov. Tim Kaine assigned a blue-ribbon task force to examine gun policies in the state. The task force made dozens of recommendations that, among other things, suggested that the state intensify background checks for gun purchasers, and ban firearm possession on college campuses. None of the recommendations became law.
The most significant change in Virginia came two weeks after the shooting when Kaine signed an executive order requiring the names of all people involuntarily committed to mental health facilities to be provided to a federal database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Licensed gun dealers are supposed to check the database before they sell anyone a gun.
President George W. Bush subsequently signed federal legislation requiring all states to submit their mental health records to NICS, but to gain the support of the NRA, Congress agreed to two concessions. It made changes to the way the government defined who was “mentally defective,” excluding people, for example, who had been “fully released or discharged” from mandatory treatment. The law also gave mentally ill people an avenue for restoring their gun rights if they could prove to a court that they had been rehabilitated. After the law passed, the NRA pushed state lawmakers to limit roadblocks for people applying to regain their rights.
Virginia is particularly open to restoring peoples’ gun rights. A 2011 New York Times investigation found that the restoration process in the state allowed some people to regain access to guns simply by writing a letter to the state. Others were permitted to carry guns just weeks or months after being hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.
This past year the Virginia state legislature repealed a law that had barred people from buying more than one handgun per month — a law put in place because so many guns purchased in Virginia were later used in crimes committed in states with more restrictions.
The legislature also has made several changes to its gun permitting process. In March, the state eliminated municipalities’ ability to require fingerprints as part of a concealed weapon permit application. The state used to require gun owners to undergo training with a certified instructor in order to get permits, but in 2009 it adopted a law allowing people to take an hour-long online test instead. Since Virginia adopted the law, the number of concealed handgun permits the state has issued increased dramatically and many of the permits were issued to people who live in other states where Virginia permits are accepted.
In 2010, Virginia became one of five states to allow permit holders to carry concealed and loaded weapons into bars and restaurants. . .
Another terrific shave—it would seem to get boring (and possibly is, for you the reader), but somehow for me it’s still a wonderful pleasure.
Let me comment especially on the brush: the Vie-Long 11737C “Bombitoo” boar brush, which costs but $15. It is a totally terrific brush, from handle shape and size to knot capacity and characteristics. Wet it well before you shower and simply let it sit beside the sink. When you’re ready the shave, the knot will feel like horsehair: softer and wonderful at making lather—and indeed I did get a wonderful lather from Geo. F. Trumper’s Coconut Oil shaving soap: fragrant, thick, abundant, and very nice indeed to beard and skin.
Once again I had a peculiar feeling of immunity—as though I could do not wrong and no harm with the razor—this time with the Gillette 1940’s Aristocrat razor shown. (Previously, I had the feeling with the Apollo Mikron.) I ran the razor, holding a Swedish Gillette blade, swiftly and smoothly over my beard, three passes, with no sign of nick or burn, and getting again a BBS shave. I’m not sure whether it’s these razors or I’m just getting good at shaving, but I have to say I enjoyed the sensation and the shave. The lather, I’m sure, was a significant help. (This razor, BTW, is the very one pictured in the photo on the cover of the book.) For me, the 1940’s Aristocrat has the exactly right amount of aggressiveness: not too mild, not yet harsh, and quite efficient.
Since Trumper’s Coconut Oil lather seems to moisturize my skin nicely, I decided to continue in that direction with a balm and used Saint Charles Shave Avocado Oil balm. I point out that she sells all her aftershaves in sample sizes if you want, so I encourage you to try out a few, including some splashes, which have a very nice feel on dry-down.
And would you believe that there are men who hate the morning shave? They don’t know what they’re missing—literally. If every blog reader would give one such man a copy of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving, a lot of men would be made happier (including me, of course. :) ).