Saturday, May 3, 2014


The tabs are sagging with the weight of so much great reading lately. Time to empty them out before the fall out the bottom of my screen.

Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow had a banner 24 hours yesterday/Thursday:

Why your brain keeps you off the train by urban planning writer Marlys Harris at MinnPost. Lots of cognitive dissonance in the comments, too.

Also from MinnPost, by Sarah Willliams: Untangling the relationship (if any) between mental illness and crime. A write-up of a local sociologist's research that tries to explain this graph:

From one of the few economists worth reading, Dean Baker: Outlandish CEO Pay Is a Matter Between Friends. Great examples of how and why corporate boards can't rein in CEO pay. Includes this comment from reader Joe. T.:
Why can they overcharge?

In my youth, I used to posit that most rich people get that way from overcharging. My obvious answer to how they could get away with overcharging was "patents!". But eventually..., I came to see there were several other reasons the market didn't quickly eliminate the overcharging. Here's a list from the top of my head (thanks, Dean, for supplying "deals with friends" in today's post, which we see also in cases of successful salespeople who do little work because they're friends with a powerful buyer):
  • obfuscation (think outlandish investment fees),
  • collusion,
  • bribery or coercion of the regulators (this includes your direct regulator, and the regulators of any competing technologies)
  • patents,
  • deals with friends
  • economic rents (needs to be broken down into specific types).
That's one for the file drawer. Joe T. is onto something.

7 Facts About Our Broken Tax System by George Zornick, writing for The Nation.

Violent Crime Drops Where People Have Access to Marijuana, Study Suggests. From Alternet.

3M's new cooling tech could cut data-center energy use 95 percent. (MinnPost)

A couple for parents: Parental Involvement Is Overrated, from the New York Times Opinionator, which looks at research showing there is no clear benefit from parental involvement in homework and other aspects of school. In many cases, there is actual detriment to the student. And My Children Are Not Gifted, by a mom explaining how her financially advantaged children get labeled gifted in a system that deprives lower-income kids of opportunity. Those labels then build until they become "reality."

Another one for the department of "there's so much we don't yet know": Fungus is the key to soil’s carbon content.

Philosopher John Rawls was outraged by the Supreme Court's 1976 decision, Buckley v. Valeo, which is the source of  the concept that "money equals speech." Matt Bruenig recently recounted some of Rawls's thoughts on that big mistake.

Ta-Nehisi Coates explains the difference between oafish and elegant racism. "'The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,' John Roberts elegantly wrote [in one Supreme Court decision]. Liberals have yet to come up with a credible retort. That is because the theories of John Roberts are prettier than the theories of most liberals. But more, it is because liberals do not understand that America has never discriminated on the basis of race (which does not exist) but on the basis of racism (which most certainly does." And this: "Ahistorical liberals — like most Americans — still believe that race invented racism, when in fact the reverse is true."

Why did humans grow four inches in 100 years? It wasn’t just diet. (Originally seen on Boing Boing, via Maggie Koerth-Baker.)
Something else is at work: exposure to infection. Repeated infection during infancy and childhood slows growth as nutrition intake declines or is used by the body to fight disease. Predominant among these illnesses are respiratory infections, notably pneumonia and bronchitis, and gastro-intestinal infections, especially diarrhoea and dysentery.

The key factor here is the urban environment.
Did you hear about the guy who's trying to bring a liquid food-replacement (called Soylent, yes, really) to market? He's a weird mix of germphobe and Taylorist efficiency expert. No sooner had I read about that than I saw this article from NPR on the role of our gut bacteria, which Soylent promises to kill off with its lack of fiber:
And we need to keep these colon-dwelling critters content, Kashyap says. When they gobble up food — and create gas — they also make molecules that boost the immune system, protect the lining of the intestine and prevent infections.
So go ahead and drink your Soylent and kill your bacteria. Let's see what happens to your immune system.

No comments: