Friday, February 25, 2011

Links for Later

1. Algorithm for flocking (or swarming) behavior
2. Barbarous hair for Argentinians
3. Helmut Newton on appropriating photographic style
4. Coffee: how to make a flat white
5. 11 lessons from economic papers (via mr)

Points on a Graph of Union Bashing

There were three good articles from the New York Times today about the national debate on union rights and union bashing, with the theme running through them that the union bashing bills rely on maximizing economic uncertainty among average people to provoke a "conservative" response--pushing through a particular agenda that is antithetical to their own interests.

1. Paul Krugman: the Shock Doctrine comes to the US
The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority was the centerpiece of Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine,” which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display.

In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor’s budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.

What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.
2. How union bashing plays in Columbus, OH
The heart of the problem, said Vaughn Carner, a retired risk management specialist who was drinking coffee in a diner on High Street on Wednesday night, is the rapid change that has left Americans confused, disoriented and struggling to adapt.

In Ohio, economic decline has redrawn the map, devastating towns and cities, and making some places unrecognizable. Mr. Carner, now 70, recalled making a wrong turn at night in Toledo a number of years ago, not realizing where he was because population decline had left entire blocks abandoned and dark.

“We’re just a little bit afraid, like an old man who is trying to make his way, but is lost,” he said. “We used to be the big boys on the block, but the rest of the world is catching up with us in so many ways.”

Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard, said he saw the hostility toward unions as a sign of decay in society. Some working-class people see so few possibilities for their lives that it is eroding the aspirational nature that has long been typical of Americans.

“It shows a hopelessness,” he said. “It used to be, ‘You have something I don’t have; I’ll go to my employer to get it, too. Now I don’t see any chance of getting it. I don’t want to be the lowest one on the totem pole, so I don’t want you to have it either.’ ”

3. Proving the theses of the above two articles, here's how Chris Christie wants you to think of the union struggles.

Quote of the Day

Everyone hoping to make money selling economic analysis thinks stimulus works and austerity sucks.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bonus Argument for Strong Unions

Ezra Klein's excellent interview with Jamie Galbraith covers the importance of having organizations representing labor as part of the national political-economic conversation as a "countervailing force". This, in and of itself, is a strong argument from equity, but there's also an embedded arguement from efficiency and competitiveness in the middle of the interview that I find even more interesting:
those countries which have high union coverage manage to stay in the forefront of competitiveness in world industry. If you ask why is it that the Scandinavian countries did so well, it’s not because Sweden discovered oil -- that was Norway. Rather, having to pay decently high wages means businesses have to stay on the front of the technological curve.
"Restrictive" policies on certain business strategies make alternative strategies more likely, but may also lead to gaming of the system. What would be the effect, though, of gradually improving workers' rights in this country? Would businesses become more technologically advanced, or would they just move away entirely?

Income Inequality in America

In 11 graphs from Mother Jones, Gilson and Perot lay out exactly what's wrong with America today: poor economic equity. Biggest finding: people think incomes are more evenly distributed than they really are.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Back to the Walled Garden with You

Don Norman has seen the future of the Internet, and doesn't like it much:
Exorbitant roaming fees and a lack of adequate technological infrastructure reduce me to idiocy. My smartphone doesn't work when I need it most -- when I am in a foreign country. Why? Because of the roaming charges and greed of my service provider and the difficulty of purchasing a temporary subscription to data services when in a foreign land.

My intelligence is in the cloud. My life is in the cloud. My friends, photographs, ideas and mail. My life. My mind. Take away my cloud and I am left mindless.

Notice that my isolation is only partially the result of technological limitations. The hotel's lack of Internet access could be overcome. They had never experienced a technology conference before so they assumed that only a portion of the attendees would be connected to the Internet, and they would primarily do email. Instead, they got a taste of the future world where everyone has multiple devices requiring Internet connection, all wanting a full experience of rich sound and images. That problem, however, is easily remedied.

The much more fundamental problem is caused by the business models of the service providers, whether they be for radio or television, cable or satellite, telephone or mobile phone. Each of these providers wish to maximize their profit while simultaneously minimizing that of their competition. They try to enforce proprietary standards, locking people into their own distribution: Think proprietary digital rights management systems for music, movies and books, think locked cellular phones, think region codes on movie DVDs, think overly restrictive copyrights on content and over-inclusive patents on inventions and ideas. Each system has some basis in logic and business, each has some legitimate reason for existence. But these systems are implemented and enforced in ways that restrict them far beyond what is necessary -- even to the point of reducing creativity and hurting individuals.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Links for Later

  1. Elastic, not sticky websites, "loyalty without lock-in."

Wintersleep - Weighty Ghost

Heard this on the soundtrack of One Week. Had to play it.

Wintersleep - Weighty Ghost

Heard this on the soundtrack of One Week. Had to play it.

Quote of the Day

"This is what I mean by my constant insistence on 'moderation' in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid,"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tales from the Meltdown

Patrick Rodgers, the Philadelphia man who foreclosed on Wells Fargo, turning the tables nicely, is apparently also a vampire undead American. How cool is that?

Why So Many Union Buster Bills?

Why do over a dozen states have union buster bills moving through the legislature at the same time? Why do all of these bills look the same? It's not because collective bargaining is really the problem--it's because someone doesn't like unions, and that someone is apparently the Koch brothers. Firedoglake::
What’s ALEC? The Koch-brothers funded far-right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, which is dedicated to taking over state legislatures to destroy workers’ rights and environmental safeguards (the Koches being heavily into coal and oil). As Bluestem Prairie’s Sally Jo Sorensen notes, they helped write SB 1070, the infamous “Show Us Your Papers” bill that turned the State of Arizona into a police state predicated on harassment of brown-skinned Spanish-speakers. They are the forces behind the cookie-cutter union-busting bills in various state legislatures, not just Wisconsin’s:

Wisconsin has become the critical start point for a much broader assault on worker’s rights and unions. Ohio has seen similar protests over a very similar bill. And states like Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New Mexico are considering additional limits on public employee rights, though not to the extent of Ohio and Wisconsin.

The origins, as I wrote about Monday, come from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a key driver in the conservative movement. One reason why you see similar bills from Republicans pop up in multiple states is ALEC, which pushes an agenda for state legislators to pick up and run with. We know that ALEC brought together Walker and southern state Governors after the elections to discuss so-called “right-to-work” legislation. We know that ALEC commended Walker for his first successful piece of legislation, the bill slashing business taxes that created the budget deficit which he is now exploiting to take away public employee rights. They are basically behind all of this.

Mad yet?

More: from Daily Kos

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Coca-Cola secret recipe revealed by This American Life?


Interview with James Burke on the 25th anniversary of his series Connections. A hugely influential series on most of the tech people I know. (2004)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love's Philosophy

See! the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea: -
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Science Friday on Ice

Featuring my aunt Mariana Gosnell as one of the two guests discussing the wonders of ice.

Pick up the book here:

"I will teach my kids to dream."

Mustafa el Gindy made an amazing speech from Tahrir Square yesterday, captured on MSNBC. This speech is the foundation stone of the new Egypt.

To the US & Obama: "For once you took the position of the people."

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Friday, February 11, 2011

Congratulations to the People of Egypt

Hosni Mubarak resigns following 18 days of peaceful popular protest. It's a bright day in Egypt.

The Skinny on Fox News

"My internal compass was to think like an intolerant meathead."

An insider speaks to Media Matters. Nothing particularly surprising, but still a fun read. The response from inside Fox on this one is going to be fascinating.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Part-Time Revolution

"Twenty reasons why its kicking off everywhere" looks at the social trends that support today's uptick in street protests and shiny happy revolutions.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Links for Later

1. Nicolo Machiavelli begs for a job

2. Darryl Issa: The stimulus cannot work. We must pass a stimulus so it can work.

3. The Feltron Annual Report 2010

4. The Paul Haggis Scientology article in The New Yorker

5. The New Yorker's profile of Gulliermo del Toro, featuring a bizarre fixation on how much he weighs at various points in his life

6. The Nazi Graphic Standards Manual. Wild stuff.

The Ice Book

Davy and Kristin McGuire made a popup book with the idea of using it for a stage show, combining the papercraft stage with projections and other effects to bring the book to life. What resulted is something magical: The Ice Book.
Fast Company Design has more.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Links for Later

1. "Where will demand come from?" In praise of Old Keynesians

2. Old Postcards are More Fun When Aliens Invade Them (via Neil)

3. GOP Presidential candidates charted on the "sane" and "Mormon" axes.

Michael Moorcock and the Meaning of Life

Hari Kunzru interviewed Michael Moorcock for a short article in the Guardian and posted a much longer transcript of their conversation on his own site. They discuss the roots of fandom, JG Ballard, introducing SF writers to rock stars in the 60's, why Texas bars have the names they do, why it pays to be short when the police are around, and the political persuasions of the British publishing world.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Disaster & Disorder Week

I woke up Sunday after Ed's 42nd birthday party, suspecting that I had a hangover, but instead finding that I had the flu. Note that I am not drinking in the above photographs.

I escaped Chicago before Lake Shore Drive became a scene from The Next Day. (Photo source: Chuck Garfien). One of my friend Alicia's parents was part of a group of Gold Coast residents who went to help:

My mom just told me that people from her Lake Shore Drive building climbed through the snow drifts on the Outer Drive to get sandwiches and cupcakes and drinks to people stranded in their cars - and some took them into their homes and fed them. Community spirit rises to the occasion from the most unexpected locations - and gave my heart a little lift today.

Shortly after arriving home, power went out, and has been out for two days. Go, AEP!
In the meantime, how about that revolution in Egypt? I've been glued to Baratunde's Twitter list and Al Jazeera's live stream, watching history happen in real time.