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Fight! Art fight!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.23.14

Showtime reached out to artists for their upcoming Mayweather/Maidona fight, and asked them if they'd like to submit art for the chance to win a chance to work for free.

Lisa Hanawalt's submission is just so great. "Let me know if I win!" she says.

(A more measured response from a different artist, Dan Cassaro.)

Via Jammies


 

horizontal rule

 

Get enough sleep

Posted by Ben
on 08.22.14

Lu Xun:

Since a genuine hermit is someone who disappears from the view of historians, the hundreds about whom we know so much must have been rather less than sincere; being a hermit is a way of making a living like any other, and hence requires the hermit to hang up a sign advertising for himself.

Chris Knight:

Anyone who reveals what he's learned, Chris told me, is not by his definition a true hermit. Chris had come around on the idea of himself as a hermit, and eventually embraced it. When I mentioned Thoreau, who spent two years at Walden, Chris dismissed him with a single word: "dilettante."

True hermits, according to Chris, do not write books, do not have friends, and do not answer questions. I asked why he didn't at least keep a journal in the woods. Chris scoffed. "I expected to die out there. Who would read my journal? You? I'd rather take it to my grave." The only reason he was talking to me now, he said, is because he was locked in jail and needed practice interacting with others.


 

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Guest Post - "Angry Birds Toy Surprise Jake and the Never Land Pirates Disney Pixar Cars 2 Easter Egg SpongeBob."

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.22.14

Mr. Smearcase writes: But this is baffling in a funny way.

Heebie's take: It is so deeply weird. "Unboxings" are YouTube videos of people taking a new purchase out of its packaging.

The DisneyCollector video mentioned earlier, the one watched more than 90 million times, is nothing more than the slow denuding of six surprise eggs, the sticker price of $1.99 still visible on one of the plastic shells.

But unboxings do not end there.


 

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Guest Post:
  • He is a train wreck
  • Posted by Heebie-Geebie
    on 08.22.14

    Snarkout writes: Is this even more brutal than it seems in the context of law firm culture? (Also, I love the progression with: "sloppy" -> "doesn't review his work" -> "glowing self-assessment" -> "there are typos in his self-assessment".)

    Heebie's take: Some context:

    Republican AG hopeful Adam Laxalt was described by his firm's evaluation committee as "a train wreck" who "doesn't even have the basic skill set," according to a review of his performance two years ago.

    Hee! Until he gains a position of power.


     

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    Good Job!

    Posted by Ogged
    on 08.21.14

    We do a lot of hating and mocking, but here's an appreciation of a good life.


     

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    The Future

    Posted by Ogged
    on 08.21.14

    I was going to let this go, because the underlying article is such a mish-mash of ridiculous, unrelated claims and complaints, but then I googled the guy Atrios names, and oh my: Douthat and Mansfield had a baby. Is it bad to make fun of a college sophomore? Probably. But NRO will hire him someday, and retroactively justify us.


     

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    Two links

    Posted by Heebie-Geebie
    on 08.21.14

    1. Great mistakes in English Midieval Architecture. (Half of them I couldn't spot, but the commentary still made me laugh.)

    2. San Antonio is keeping mentally ill people out of jail:

    San Antonio and Bexar County have transformed their mental health system into a program considered a model for the rest of the nation. Today, the jails aren't full, and the city and county have saved $50 million over the past five years. The effort has focused on an idea called "smart justice" -- basically, diverting people with serious mental illness out of jail and into treatment instead.

    I'm really curious how they overcame the lobbying and efforts of the for-profit prison system, which is pretty robust in Texas. I assume that if San Antonio is saving money, there's prisons which are less profitable.


     

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    Water

    Posted by Heebie-Geebie
    on 08.20.14

    My FB feed had hardly anything about people actually participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge on it, but it has a bunch of articles about why your feed is flooded with the Ice Bucket Challenge instead of news about Ferguson (which makes me feel smug about being friends with the right people I guess, ie after the kid and cat photos, most of my feed is from you all. With some overlap.) Moreover I've had a ton of sanctimonious twats sharing memes about how in Greedy America we dump fresh water on our head to avoid donating to charity, while Humble Africa would like us to please remember that they have hardly any water at all. (Were we mailing buckets overseas prior to this gimmick?)

    At any rate, we're off to a water park for the day, but when we're done we'll mail all the chlorinated pool water to a drought-stricken place like central Texas. (Actually the better half of the park is run off river water and you end up in the river at the end of the ride, so halo intact. HOTTEST COOLEST TIME IN TEXAS.)


     

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    Not Quite About Ferguson

    Posted by Ogged
    on 08.20.14

    I followed some twitter links and landed on articles by Matt and Ezra. They're about Ferguson, but I think the points are more broadly important.

    Matt's piece, about the Ferguson cops not wearing badges or name tags, is good, and makes a great point.

    ...it would almost be nicer to hear that nobody in charge thinks there's been any misconduct. After all, a lack of police misconduct would be an excellent reason for a lack of any disciplinary action. What we have is something much scarier. Impunity. The sense that misconduct will occur and even be acknowledged without punishment.

    This is precisely what so rankled about Obama's acknowledgement of torture. Yes, a wrong was committed, but it's important that there not be consequences for the people who committed them. Sure, the powerful have always skated, but there's also a very troubling sense forming that the civilian government is at best a parallel authority, and, at worst, window dressing. Politicians don't dare take on the CIA or the pro-gun/pro-white-authority public.

    Ezra's piece, by contrast, is a steaming turd. Although insofar as Ezra is acting, as I assume he is, as court stenographer, it's more via Ezra than by him. The topic is Obama's tepid response to Ferguson (some good tweets by African-Americans are in the article).

    If Obama's speeches aren't as dramatic as they used to be, this is why: the White House believes a presidential speech on a politically charged topic is as likely to make things worse as to make things better. It is as likely to infuriate conservatives as it is to inspire liberals. And in a country riven by political polarization, widening that divide can take hard problems and make them impossible problems.

    There's still this fetishization of "unity" and "bridging divides," as if consensus is what a President should work toward. But that's, if not false, certainly not the only way to approach the office. Recall Karl Rove, who thought that if you're getting more than 51% support, you've compromised too much on your principles. His principles might have been loathsome, but that approach, of trying to win, rather than unite, is the right one in a huge democracy. Now, there's nothing to be won here, but there's a lot to be gained, insofar as this black president can go on the record to forcefully validate the experience of his people (yes, they are) in this country. As it is, they see a black man in the White House, and feel like even now they don't have a voice.


     

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    Surfing Report (warning, self-indulgent personal post, inappropriate at times of national and international upheaval, follows)

    Posted by LizardBreath
    on 08.19.14

    The rest of this week is going to be a bit of an exercise in masochism and not wanting to waste the money I spent on Adult Surf Camp (in fact, private surfing lessons, given that I'm the only middleaged idiot learning to surf this week). Not that it's not fun at all, but the fun bits are (1) I did get one good ride today. I got up on my feet maybe ten times or so, but one of them I actually kind of got my balance properly and was actually surfing. Which was fun. For, seriously, maybe ten seconds out of the four hours. (2) Just splashing around in the water falling off things is kind of fun. I like ocean swimming, and it's been a long time since I've been in the ocean and not amusing the kids. Who I love, but particularly at the beach, I am sort of energetically physically playing with them, or I'm snarling at them to back off, I'm on land resting. Just fooling around in the water for hours is nice. and (3) I am paying an attractive young man to play with me for four hours. I am a terrible person, I admit this, but having the total focus of a friendly, happy, tan and muscular twenty-six year-old isn't a bad way to spend some time.

    The downsides, though, are pretty big. First, oh my god am I not a natural at this. My original self-conception was weak, unathletic, and useless at anything physical, because that was a fairly good description of me through high school. In the last couple of decades, I've gotten a little more pleased with myself -- I'm fairly strong, and while I'm not in amazing cardiovascular shape, I'm doing okay compared to my age cohort. Among women in my office, I am one of the obvious people to move anything heavy, and I'm mildly smug about that. Surfing, though -- yow. Strength helps some -- that is, I think if I was doing better on other fronts, I'd have enough muscle to manage (although not really enough endurance. I've got about a good hour and a half of attempts in me; the end of the session is pretty weak). But flexibility, balance, and coordination are not strong points, and lord it shows. So it's pretty much straight humiliation. Little Mike is as warm and positive as a human being could possibly be (although not a good coach. Two or three times I've figured out something I should be doing, and run it by him and gotten confirmation: e.g. "Wait, when I pop up, my back foot isn't moving at all?" "That's right." Dude, you're supposed to be telling me that shit.) but nonetheless, four hours straight of failure, in the flailing and falling down comically sense of failure, is a lot of failure.

    Second, pain. First, sunburn: SPF 50 or no, the backs of my knees are fishbelly white, or were until they became fire engine red. I hate and fear the sun, and I really wish they didn't keep the ocean, who I'm very fond of, out in the sun. So that hurts. Second, while I think of myself as fairly physically tough generally, my skin isn't, and it really doesn't like the surfboard. I protected my thighs with bike shorts today, so while they're still covered with a bright red painful rash, hopefully that didn't get worse today, and they'll start healing. But that leaves knees, forearms, and hands as bodyparts that necessarily spend a lot of time rubbing on the surfboard, and wow they hurt. Oh, and the tops of my toes -- I took all the skin off them yesterday, and they're excruciating. That should also get better now that I've figured out that I have to keep my toes braced up rather than resting the tops of my feet on the surfboard, but wow they hurt now. And finally muscle aches -- that's mostly just my shoulders from paddling. I could use more leg and chest muscle, but I do enough for those muscle groups that overworking them doesn't leave me in too much pain. But my shoulders are killing me.

    So, finishing out the week is not, I think, going to net out to actual fun, unless maybe I really get the hang of it tomorrow and have so much fun that I don't mind the pain. But I'm doubting that. On the other hand, though, if the point of a vacation is to get your head out of the office, it is working a charm. I'm not brooding about anything at all; I'm either flailing, in pain, or at the end of the day so exhausted that I'm mostly just staring vaguely into space.


     

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    The Latest

    Posted by Ogged
    on 08.19.14

    I think Ferguson has gone from something horrible with a nugget of hope inside, to something horrible with a nugget of rotten inside.

    --Minivet passes along one consequence of the release of the robbery video.

    Minutes before the Ferguson Police Chief sounded his dog whistle, our petition was getting 1,000 signatures an hour for 48 hours straight. Literally, and I mean instantaneously, after the Police Chief sounded his dog whistle, we went from 1,000 an hour to 150 an hour. In other words, by releasing the video of Mike Brown stealing cigars, the police chief said, "White people. It's OK. You don't have to care"

    --TPM explains why the cop might not even be indicted. And just imagine what's going to happen if that's announced.

    --Antonio French is a local-to-Ferguson alderman who has been involved in the protests and keeping the peace (and very active on Twitter). As of at least yesterday, some white communists came to town, and apparently what they want is to provoke the police. French (in blue) reacted like this. And some people turned on him very quickly. Probably not significant in the larger scheme, but a good example of how protests often flounder due to these divisions.


     

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    Old

    Posted by Heebie-Geebie
    on 08.19.14

    (Sorry, non-parents.) Parents: to what degree do you experience a stigma of having kids late? Obviously this is going to vary dramatically across individual circumstances and context.

    I am definitely on the late side of things for Heebieville, but pretty normal for the online world. I feel a little self-conscious at times - it's vaguely reminiscent of the embarrassment I felt having to say yes, I'm still in grad school, yes, I know it's been a long time. (I also find it a little embarrassing to admit how many kids we have, and how young they are, just because it invites a certain amount of gawking attention that I don't actually find very on target, if that makes sense.)

    (Some of this occurred in the knife skills class last night. The class was up in Austin, where people are not going to bat an eye at my age, but more aghast at the quantity of small children.) Also I have a vague fear that this many young children codes as very religious.


     

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    Metrics!

    Posted by Ogged
    on 08.18.14

    Here's Time Inc. "ranking" its writers on things like "quality of writing" and "newsworthiness," but also, of course, "produces content that beneficial to advertiser relationship." That last isn't exactly surprising, although we can still be disappointed that it's not, but more than anything, I'm struck by how amateurish and intro-MBA the chart is. They're using hundredths precision, but every number is an integer, except those measuring "enthusiasm." How did that happen, I wonder? Wait a minute. You don't mean. These numbers were made up. They're not based on sophisticated underlying metrics? Now I really am shocked.

    Note, also, that quality of writing doesn't correlate at all with traffic. I blame the people.


     

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    Knife Skills

    Posted by Heebie-Geebie
    on 08.18.14

    I'm taking a Knife Skills class this evening. Chopping, slicing, dicing are the parts of cooking I hate the most, and I spend a lot of time cooking, so I figured that maybe making those parts less onerous would pay off.

    OTOH, I am kind of tired, will have to put on a social attitude, and then spend two hours tonight chopping, slicing, and dicing, which I don't really enjoy much. Hopefully this will pay off.


     

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    Bygones!

    Posted by Ogged
    on 08.18.14

    Ray Allen is a black basketball player. His wife was home in their fancy neighborhood with their four kids when she woke up around 2:30am to a group of late-teenaged guys (and one girl) in her bedroom. She screamed, they ran, and she called the cops. The cops found the kids and charged them with...nothing. They were just curious about a basketball player's house, you see. I haven't found the information anywhere, but I have a super good guess about the race of the kids.


     

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    I'm clean

    Posted by Heebie-Geebie
    on 08.18.14

    Do you have "location services" turned on, on your phone? At this website, you can see all the places Google has tracked you. Background article here. What creepy creepsters!


     

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    Tiger Was Already Breaking Par. Go Home.

    Posted by Ogged
    on 08.18.14

    Ah, it's become a topic for discussion.

    "Sports can be a part of that," he said, "but when sports takes on an outsized role, when it works against school, family or faith, then sports has taken on a role it should never have had. Sports is a wonderful thing to do for kids, but it should be kept in its place."

    I guess you should ask me in a few years, but I am mystified by how much time kids spend on sports. There's both a cultural madness (sports just isn't that important, people) and a personal madness (no, your kid is not falling behind/risking ostracism/failing to thrive) here.

    And think of the opportunity cost of not joining a kid's book group, or going on a hike, just hanging out as a family, playing outside with friends, or any of dozens of more interesting and rewarding ways to spend time.

    Is this another case of college admissions anxiety? Simple path dependence: this is what all the kids do, so our kids do it, too? The one remaining domain of communal interaction that's not fully politicized? I don't get it.


     

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    Avoiding confrontation

    Posted by Heebie-Geebie
    on 08.18.14

    This is an example of the kind of article that I'm too chickenshit to post on Facebook: stop calling abortion a difficult decision.

    I think what stops me is not knowing which acquaintances (former students? fellow parents? crossfitters? who knows) will be drawn out of the woodwork for the first time and get into it with me, and also not knowing who will be enraged but not say anything in the thread. It's just seems fraught.


     

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    Piketty Reading Group: Chapter 14

    Posted by LizardBreath
    on 08.17.14

    Minivet has Chapter 15 next week, and Fake Accent finishes the book with 16 the week after. Walt has still contributed nothing. I don't judge, but I can't keep the rest of you from forming your own opinions.

    Parenthetical establishes that Reagan is history's greatest monster below the fold, but we all knew that, right?

    Prior reading group posts:

    Piketty Reading Group Setup
    Initial Scheduling Post
    Introduction and Chapter One -- Robert Halford
    Chapter Two -- Minivet
    Chapter Three -- Essear
    Chapter Four -- Unimaginative
    Chapter Five -- X. Trapnel
    Chapter Six -- Conflated
    Chapter Seven -- LizardBreath
    Chapter Eight -- Lw
    Chapter Nine -- Bave D
    Chapter Ten -- Rob Helpy-chalk
    Chapter Eleven -- LizardBreath
    Chapter Twelve -- Chris Y
    Chapter Thirteen -- Thorn

    Chapter 14

    This chapter ended up being way more interesting than I thought it would be. It addresses the causes of sky-rocketing executive pay, and provides a counter-narrative to the traditional conservative party line on American economics and taxation. Most people, I wager, would be very surprised to know that the US once had the highest taxation rates in the world on the top earners and large estates; and that was during its most productive and innovative years (1950-1970). Also interesting to observe that so often the 1950s are held up as the ideal for conservatives - would they have enjoyed the taxation rate then? But anyway! On to the summary. Apologies if I get wordy; it has been awhile since I've aimed for concision.

    In Chapter 14, Piketty focuses on what he sees as the two central tax innovations of the twentieth century: the progressive income tax and the progressive estate tax. The progressive income tax played a key role in reducing wealth inequity in the 20th century. Both, he cautions, are under fire - firstly, because of international tax competition, and secondly, because they were born out of crises.

    Piketty runs through a brief primer on taxes, explaining the difference between proportional and progressive/regressive taxation (in a nutshell - proportional taxes everyone the same, regardless of income; progressive taxes go up as incomes go up, and regressive taxes go down as incomes go up) and arguing that taxation is 'the crux of political conflict' in any society.

    Currently, total tax payments are essentially proportional in the countries in his study, despite purporting to be progressive. Piketty makes the point that the progressive tax rates of most of the 20th century prevented wealth inequality from returning to Belle Epoque levels, but this has changed in the last few decades. In the United States, as the politicians cut the highest tax rates they simultaneously spurred inequality. Meanwhile, due to tax competition, European taxes on capital have virtually disappeared. Together, the tax cuts since the 1980s mean that taxes have become or about to become regressive at the very top income levels. For instance, in 2010 in France, the bottom 50% bear a burden of 40-45% taxation and the middle 40% incur between 45-50% rate of taxation. For the top 0.1%, the rate hovers at only 35%. Regressive taxation rates lead to increased wealth concentration, and a political situation that Piketty sees as untenable.

    Next, Piketty turns his eye to the history of the progressive tax, which has its intellectual roots in the early 19th century as a just and efficient method of apportioning taxes. Nonetheless, even progressive taxes remained incredibly low before WWI. Only the emergency of war led to the application of high progressive tax rates. Piketty gives us the example of France, where income tax rates rose to modern levels in the 1920s. Much the same is true of the estate tax; while France instituted a state tax during the Revolution, it remained very minimal at no more than 3% at the top.

    Piketty then turns to what is possibly his most surprising (for non-economists and non-tax history buffs, of which I number) section. For it turns out that the UK and the US once led the world in progressive taxation, and invented the confiscatory tax on incomes and fortunes deemed excessive. (I suppose I knew about the legendarily high tax on John Rockefeller, but beyond that....nada.) The US raised the top income tax rate to 70% in 1919-1922, and in 1937-1939 did the same for estates. The goal was not tax revenue but to make such large incomes and inheritances stigmatised as "socially unacceptable" and "economically unproductive."

    Piketty argues that this is the perfect liberal method for reducing inequality in an individualistic nation. Rather than nationalising companies and taking the means of production out of the individuals hands, the state chose confiscatory taxation. Progressive-era economists noted America's rising inequality and chose to combat it with taxation, worried that such concentrations of wealth were contrary to the pioneering ideals of the nation's founders. Every man for himself - up to a point.

    High taxation only continued in the wake of the Depression with the election of Roosevelt. Roosevelt raised the top income tax rate from 25% under Hoover to 63% in 1933, and 79% in 1937. In 1942, it rose again to 88%, and in 1944, the top income tax rate was a whopping 94%. Finally, it stabilised at 90% until the mid-1960s, when it began falling. Between 1932 and 1980 the average top income tax rate sat at 81%. In contrast, France and Germany hovered around between 50 and 70% (with Germany's only rivalling the US during the US occupation). The UK followed similar lines as the US, especially post-WWII with the introduction of an estate tax that peaked at 98%. Granted, this applied only to between 0.1 and 0.5% of the population, but thinkers tended to think of high estate taxes (aka, on unearned income, on capital) as justified because such income was necessarily more "suspicious" than actual wages.

    Beginning in the 1980s, along with the rise of the Right, both the US and the UK abandoned their commitment to extremely high top tax rates. Piketty does not delve into the reason for this, other than hinting to the fear that other countries were overtaking them (when, in fact, they were merely playing catching up). I suspect there are some very interesting books to be written about the causes, and idly wonder about the effect of the Cold War and the aforementioned rise of the right.

    More concretely, the tax cuts came with very real consequences. To use Piketty's own words, "the countries with the largest decreases in their top tax rates are also the countries where the top earners' share of national income ahs increased the most." In other words, it turns out that if you cut taxes for top earners, you give executives (mainly) incentive to negotiate large salary increases. Prior to this, there was no real point - it would just go to taxes. Such large salary increases cannot be tied concretely to an increase in productivity (Piketty seems to believe that there has been a drop in productivity), contrary to supply side theory predictions. Nor has it led to an increase in innovation - the US economy was far more innovative from 1950 to 1970 than from 1990-2010 (smart phones notwithstanding). The elasticity of executive pay comes down to luck, not talent. Only a return to pre-1980 taxation levels will stop the incredible rise in executive compensation.

    Piketty argues that despite popular claims, the United States and other countries can and should institute such tax levels. This is especially the case for a large country like the US - companies are not suddenly going to flee to Canada (I get the sense that this is less true for European countries, and the reason why he's proposing a global progressive income tax in the next chapter, no?) Raising the top level of the income tax would not bring in much extra revenue, but it would do a great deal to reduce income inequality. To actually bring in enough revenue to run the US social state, Piketty claims that taxes between 50 and 60% are necessary on incomes over $200,000. While he acknowledges that such tax hikes are politically unlikely, Piketty wants to believe that this is not a conspiracy of the 1% but rather a matter of changing the course of intellectual debate among politicians and economists.

    Piketty ends on a dark note, and I will quote him in full: "The history of the progressive tax over the course of the twentieth century suggests that the risk of a drift towards oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism about where the United States is headed."


     

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    Disciplinary Architecture

    Posted by Heebie-Geebie
    on 08.17.14

    I've never heard the phrase disciplinary architecture before. They sound like kittens - Stealthy, Slippery, Crusty, Prickly, and Jittery - but they are really describing things like inaccessible public spaces, uncomfortable benches, excessive surveillance, etc.

    "Everyone who's involved in it believes that a design is serving a 'good' purpose, from their perspective, whether that's stopping homeless people sleeping in doorways, or stopping protestors attaching posters to lamp-posts, or trying to persuade obese people to exercise," Lockton tells Co.Design. "Very few people ever believe that their design has 'poor' intentions."

    As always.


     

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