Current Affairs

CBS 42 News in Texas Investigates One Person, One Vote

While you watch this expose on TX state legislkature members entering votews for each other, you might have an overpowering and debilitating feeling of cynicism. Then again, you might also not live in TX, so you can relax.

I ask: Does journalism hit any harder than CBS 42 news? I think not. Thanks to co-worker AC.

YouTube - Texas Legislation.

12,000 Tons a Day: Incinerating is the new recycling

Apparently, NYC has a choice with what to do with its garbage: ladfill or incinerator.  You might have known that already.  But did you know that some people actually favor incinerator?  I couldn;t believe this either, but apparently incinerating is the new recycling- all via "waste to energy" plants.

Link: 12,000 Tons a Day, and What to Do With It - City Room - Metro - New York Times Blog.

Want to Advertise Your new Content? screen it at the library!

A poster promoting a screening of the new HBO documentary "Alive Day Memories" is being viewed by some as advertising for HBO on a public building, and by the library as and advertisement for an event- public information.    A copy is being donated to the library and will be available to library patrons.

Are we so unwilling to believe it could be both information AND smart advertising?

At the Library, Useful Information, or an HBO Ad? - City Room - Metro - New York Times Blog.

Something about IMUS

I was just thinking about the Don Imus firestorm and all of the people who are dirtecting their resposnes right back at the african american music community, which does plenty of references to "hos" and their hairdos, and certainly regulartly profits from doing so. 

Is this what we are about now?  If this ushers in a new wave of censorship of any kind of media, whatever the race of the performer, we all lose.  More to follow as my mind wraps around this.  See also books by George Orwell.

Education and Getting In

I went to an Ivy League School, and there were plenty of people who were just devastated that they did not get into Harvard (a smaller number for Yale and Princeton, I think; see also "We Didn't Go To Harvard").  Cornell has a reputation as the easiest Ivy to get into and the hardest to get out of, and to a certain extent maybe the numbers bear that out.  It's accept rate is higher than many of the Ivies, around 20%.

The stories in the New York times in the last several days (For Girls, It’s Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too and A Great Year for Ivy League Schools, but Not So Good for Applicants to Them ) have been interesting, but send conflicting messages about what may really be going on.

The article about how in order to secure admission to the best colleges, especially liberal arts colleges, suggest that these high school girls feel pressured to excel in all subjects, play a sport, do community service, and be perfect perfect perfect (sorry, I just keep thinking of Empire Records).  I wish I could feel sorry for them.  Is there a lot riding on the college you choose, and which options you'll have in April of your senior year of high school/after graduation?  Hell yes.  Is it worth sacrificing your own personality just to look like the perfect applicant?  Hell NO.

One student at my high school was reportedly admitted to a state school just for being able to play a particular instrument- this may or may not be true, but it was disturbing to me then because I had real qualms about gaming the system- I thought it was questionable.  Upon reflection, it would just be a sad compromise of one's integrity. 

But as to the claims that students with perfect SATs and grades might still be rejected by  Harvard:

  • High test scores and grades don't make you interesting.  Plus, with the number of favors that are doled out in admissions to super-elite universities, the number of spots open to truly interesting and excellent students gets an automatic cut (see The Price of Admission by Daniel Golden; review)
  • High test scores and grades don't mean what they used to.  The SAT has be re-centered twice in the last 10 years, and it is surely just as possible as it was when I was in high school to miss some questions and still receive a perfect score on the SAT.  Grade standards and curricula are not as stringent as they used to be, all across the country.  See the decline of public education everywhere. So doesn't that mean it's easier to end up with "perfect," thereby rendering the statistics less valuable?

Did I miss anything? 

The Motives of a Tyrant

I read on Slashdot last night that everyone's favorite Korea (sarcasm) conducted a nuclear test.  This is bad.  Mulling this over as I read the NYTimes story this morning, and also Paul Kedrosky's post on the subject, I was thinking that Paul is right in that we should all wonder why a nation as poor as NK would do such a thing.

On the one hand I am reminded of my international relations course, where we looked at  foreign policy scholars who wrote that most of the "crazy dictators" are unwilling to deploy nuclear weapons- their "craziness" render them unaware of realist perceptions of the strategic consequences of their actions.  Rogue states are ultimately realists.    So, we're probably not going to see NK start a war tomorrow.

NK's economy is weak.  Very weak.  Additional sanctions will not help to create a job base or jump-start manufacturing for export, and those seem fairly likely.  However, I would guess that NK doesn't care about this because the sanctions don;t affect their standing in high-margin markets like counterfeit currency, nuclear fuel, arms, and technology markets.  That the profits from such deals never reaches the people is relevant, but only to illustrate that Kim Jong Il is concerned with the survival of his regime. 

This is like a press release or a launch party (forgive the terminology) for an expansioon of product lines.  It seems to me that those countries labeled by the Bush Admionsytration as an "Axis of Evil" have more to gain by harnessing the power of that image than they do from attempts to reconcile with the west.  We've seen this in Iran/Lebanon and Iraq.

I'm no expert, but from an economic perspective it seems like the object of the PR is more to increase demand for its illegitimate commercial dealings than anything else.

A comment on Air Travel "Secuirty Theatre"

Dave Farber's IP list  had an interesting post about the list of prohibited items now appearing on the TSA web site.  KY Jelly is explicitly authorized. 

I wondered what was on the list, and surfed to the TSA's page for "Law Enforcement Officials Traveling Armed."


Our Office of Law Enforcement / Federal Air Marshal Service would like to remind officers and agents not to transport prohibited items through security checkpoints or onboard aircraft while traveling armed.  Regulations surrounding prohibited carry-on items such as lighters, stun gun devices, replicas of firearms and knives are covered in the training material, as well as information regarding security checkpoint procedures. Particular attention should be given to the prohibition against carrying hazardous materials, such as pepper spray or mace, in carry-on bags.  For more information read our prohibited items section.

So, a gun, but no liquids, lighters, or lip gloss?  Does the TSA worry that a <bad guy> will overpower an Air Marshall, steal the aerosol deodorant from his carry-on, and take over the plane?

Priorities...WiFi or Butter?

Last week, Morgan Spurlock's show 30 Days featured the story of an American IT worker whose job was outsourced to Bangalore.   (the show is on the same premise as Spurlock's Documentary, "Super Size Me" - what if you did <uncomfortable thing> for 30 days?)  The IT worker in question moved to Bangalore for 30 days to see what kind of job he could get.  He got a job not as a programmer but as an operator in a call center.

The show is, in general, very well done and also highly original and thought provoking. 

Today, GigaOm has an  interesting note about Bangalore wanting to be the next city with a wifi cloud.  Last week's episode of 30 Days showed that there are still many many extremely poor areas of Bangalore, that the city is prone to riots and violence- not every day, but if the city can be held hostage by violent mobs when a movie star dies, things are not swell and dandy...

It seems to me that Bangalore has two very different sets of issues requiring attention: creating a nexus of competitive advantage to serve the world's economies highly efficiently, and the jagged divide between its own middle class and the ultra-poor citizens living nearby. 

I'm not usually one to proselytize about poverty, but it used to be pollution that we were exporting.  Now it's jobs and the stratification of societies?