Monday, April 30, 2012

Read This Now - Our Political System Is Broken And It's The GOP's Fault

You know things are really starting to get out of hand when even the big guns from the AEI agree that the Republicans are to blame for the dysfunctional state of Congress and politics in general...

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.
That's from this past weekend's WaPo piece from Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein who were also on NPR this morning to talk about the problem and their new book, appropriately titled It's Even Worse Than It Looks. Be sure to check out both stories in their entirety.

The Corporate World We Live In, Visualized

You know how it comes up every once in a while that there are only really a handful of corporations in the world anymore if you go back up the chain far enough? 

Here's a pretty good graphical representation of that experience...

I'm not sure who put this together (and I just noticed that A&W is in two corporate structures) so I can't vouch for its full authenticity but I decided to share it anyway since I think it helps frame a legitimate point in an interesting and more digestible way even if it isn't perfect.

(via ML on fb)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Read This Now - Guns In America

Americans love their guns, or at least a certain percentage of us do since, as Jill Lepore points out in her excellent recent article for the New Yorker, the US has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world even as the percentage of Americans who own guns has been declining. 

Lepore takes a thorough look at guns in America, historic shootings, the Second Amendment and its political and legal history, the NRA, and several recent shootings. Normally their would be a pull paragraph here, but this piece is so well done, so interesting, and so hard to sum up fairly with a single pull quote that you really do need to just go and read the whole thing (if you need the cliffs notes version check out Lepore's related blog post).

It's also worth noting that the NRA doesn't monolithically represent and speak for all gun owners or even for the majority of them.  Lily Raff McCaulou elegantly made this point recently in the NYT...

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that every N.R.A. member is also a hunter — which is highly unlikely, considering that the most comprehensive national survey of firearm ownership to date found that only 35 percent of gun-owning households say they hunt. Even then, the N.R.A. would represent only about one-third of all hunters in the United States.  
You should be sure to read her whole op-ed as well, it won't take long.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Art Of The Title Sequence

It's much more important than we tend to give it credit for.  Take a minute to think about title sequences though (you'll just end up thinking about them and more than are in the video if you watch it) and watch this short video and you'll probably have a new found appreciation for them...

PBS Off Book is a web series on youtube.  If you liked this one you can check out all 18 of their episodes to date.

(via kottke)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The POTUS With The Most-us

It's just how he rolls (maybe it has a little something to do with helping light a fire under the youth vote this election season as well)...

I'd also like to say that I think Jimmy Fallon keeps doing really interesting stuff on his show, it's a lot better than I ever expected it to be. Well played sir.

(via HP)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Read This Now - Why Austerity Does Not Work

I've been meaning to put something together on the wrong-headedness of the austerity binge as it drags Europe ever further down the economic drain, but I haven't gotten around to it.

Luckily Henry Blodget has; he succinctly explains why austerity doesn't work and why Keynes was right, or at least provided the least bad way to get out of a recession / depression...

The reason austerity doesn't work to quickly fix the problem is that, when the economy is already struggling, and you cut government spending, you also further damage the economy. And when you further damage the economy, you further reduce tax revenue, which has already been clobbered by the stumbling economy. And when you further reduce tax revenue, you increase the deficit and create the need for more austerity. And that even further clobbers the economy and tax revenue. And so on.
Basically, austerity puts you into a death spiral in which you keep trying to cut your way to prosperity, but all you end up doing is digging a bigger hole. And in the meantime, tens of millions of people are out of work, the economy is retrenching, and everything is generally miserable.
The whole thing is worth reading and will only take you a few minutes.

(via BDL)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Should You Check Your Email When You're Done Reading This Post?

Luckily we have a flow chart to help you with that decision...

Flow charts are great, nice work Wendy MacNaughton.
(via LS)

Ze Frank Is Straight Up Bringing It

The Show is back but this time it's called A Show, but it's still with Ze Frank and he got it all re-started with kickstarter, and you should really be watching it.

The most recent episode, Robot Future::TMMTO, was insightful and forward looking and referenced one of my favorite web talks.

Special Effects made me laugh out loud, and while I may be easily amused I laughed because Ze is a very funny dude.

And Ze's Invocation for Beginnings was brilliant and inspiring and an unexpected and lovely little pick-me-up.

(some of the episodes are slightly NSFW due to an occasional f-bomb and the like)

So far so good.

Read This Now - An Impassioned Plea For Teaching Literature

Claire Needell Hollander made a great point, probably several of them actually, when she wrote about the importance of reading to middle school students and how our increasingly test and data driven education system is depriving kids of books...

We cannot enrich the minds of our students by testing them on texts that purposely ignore their hearts. By doing so, we are withholding from our neediest students any reason to read at all. We are teaching them that words do not dazzle but confound. We may succeed in raising test scores by relying on these methods, but we will fail to teach them that reading can be transformative and that it belongs to them. 
Be sure to read the whole thing at the NYT site.

(via BYL)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

On The Importance Of The Oxford Comma

The Oxford comma seems to be a dying breed these days.  The Neurotic Penguin helps explain why this is unfortunate...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We All Love Arcades

Caine's Arcade has been making the rounds on the interwebs this week, I finally took the time to watch the short film about the nine year who built his own arcade in his father's East LA auto parts shop and so should you...

There are some more links to follow on the vimeo page, and a website for the Arcade and film as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Read This Now - Chris Christie Can't Handle The Truth

In rather unsurprising news a(nother) Republican politician is having trouble with the veracity of his statements.  NJ Gov. Chris Christie was apparently less than truthful in his explanation for pulling the funding for that tunnel to NYC last year.  It seems the cost hadn't actually risen like he claimed, but that he wanted to siphon off the money to prop up the state transportation fund so he could avoid raising gas taxes.  The GAO did the investigating and the NYT drops the dime...

...found that while Mr. Christie said that state transportation officials had revised cost estimates for the tunnel to at least $11 billion and potentially more than $14 billion, the range of estimates had in fact remained unchanged in the two years before he announced in 2010 that he was shutting down the project. And state transportation officials, the report says, had said the cost would be no more than $10 billion.

Mr. Christie also misstated New Jersey’s share of the costs: he said the state would pay 70 percent of the 
project; the report found that New Jersey was paying 14.4 percent. And while the governor said that an agreement with the federal government would require the state to pay all cost overruns, the report found that there was no final agreement, and that the federal government had made several offers to share those costs. 
Nice to see an article that does less hemming and hawing around the fact that a politician was lying to the public than normal, it could probably stand to be even more declarative though. Check out the whole thing for some of the other details and the potential impacts of the report.

(via CP)

Plumbing The Depths

The best thing on the internet (aka XKCD) has tackled this issue before but this recent take on the depth of water bodies is pretty great...

It's even better if you click through and check it out full size.

Urban Fish Farming Going Strong-ish

Completely contained on-shore fish farming set ups tend to be better for the surrounding environment than the open net pen oceanic farming style that predominates the industry (especially for salmon, which end up polluting the crap, literally, out of the surrounding ecosystem).

Tilapia, unlike salmon, do well in closed tank systems and some folks have been tinkering with growing tilapia and veggies and other greens in an inter-connected system for a while now.  The latest try at growing fish and greens together is shaping up in Chicago, as this AP video (and story) detail...

This isn't a new idea or plan by any means though.  Brooklyn College professor Dr. Martin P. Schreibman has been chasing this dream since at least 2004, when he got a nice write up in the NYT (SEED followed up in 2006 and NPR checked in with Schreibman in 2011).  Enough other folks have jumped on board, in varying size and scale set ups, that there is now a Recirculating Farms Coalition dedicated to helping forward the movement, it sounds like you can probably start your own mini-farm in the garage if you want to.

Growing fish and veggies together is cool for it's efficiencies and hopefully for its tastiness, but projects like these all exist in the growing shadow of food security and supply issues.  As our global population continues to surge forward we'll have to figure out how to feed everyone and these types of urban farming projects may well end up playing a crucial role to that end.

(via SS)

(and we have a new version of the video sans auto-play, sorry about that)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Step Inside The White House

Thanks to the latest google street view expansion side project you can now get a behind the scenes 360 degree tour of the White House without getting off of your couch...

Just call up google maps and drag the street view man onto the White House to get started...

(via DCist)