Daily Archive: 08/27/2015

Aug 27 2015

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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New York Times Editorial Board: Killings of Journalists Bring Gun Violence to Dark New Level

It is an increasingly horrific fact of life and death in the United States that easily available guns offer troubled Americans the power to act out their grievances in public. This trend, dramatized in recent years by macabre shootings in schools, churches, movie theaters and workplaces, was taken to a dark new level on Wednesday in southwestern Virginia by a disturbed former reporter who chose not only to murder two journalists as they reported live for a television station that had fired him, but also to record and broadcast the crime on social media. [..]

Many politicians will focus on the gunman’s troubled personality and try to cast this shooting as a summons for better mental health care, certainly not gun control. Yet that ignores a grim reality: the estimated 300 million guns in America owned by a third of the population, far more per capita than any other modern nation. Guns are ubiquitous and easy to acquire, as statehouse politicians, particularly Republicans, genuflect to the gun lobby to weaken, not tighten, gun safety.

We all know no change is likely, for all the social media grotesquerie. The woeful truth underlying this latest shooting is more mundane than alarming. There are too many guns, and too little national will to do anything about them.

Trevor Timm: Many police departments spy on you without oversight. This must end

Local police around the country are increasingly using high-tech mass surveillance gear that can vacuum up private information on entire neighborhoods of innocent citizens – all to capture minor alleged criminals. Even worse, many cops are trying to put themselves outside the reach of the law by purposefully hiding their spying from courts to avoid any scrutiny from judges.

Two important news reports from the last week have shed light on the disturbing practices, and new technology that’s never been previously reported. The first investigation, done by USA Today’s Brad Heath, found: “In one case after another … police in Baltimore and other cities used the phone tracker, commonly known as a stingray, to locate the perpetrators of routine street crimes and frequently concealed that fact from the suspects, their lawyers and even judges.”

Dean Baker: The Stock Market Is Not the Economy

We are seeing the usual hysteria over the sharp drop in the markets in Asia, Europe, and perhaps the US. (Wall Street seems to be rallying as I write.) There are a few items worth noting as we enjoy the panic.

First and most importantly, the stock market is not the economy. The stock market has fluctuations all the time that have nothing to do with the real economy. The most famous was the 1987 crash, which did not correspond to any real-world bad event that anyone could identify.

Even over longer periods, there is no direct correlation between the stock market and GDP. In the decade of the 1970s, the stock market lost more than 40 percent of its value in real terms; in the decade of the 1980s it more than doubled. GDP growth averaged 3.3 percent from 1980 to 1990, compared to 3.2 percent from 1970 to 1980.

Amanda Marcotte: Why Fox News’ Defense Of Megyn Kelly Is Going To Backfire

Donald Trump has reignited his sexist harassment campaign against Megyn Kelly, and the folks at Fox News are, in seemingly coordinated fashion, striking back. Fellow Fox News hosts and pundits are asking Trump to cool it, and even Roger Ailes has released a statement calling Trump’s abuse “unacceptable” and “disturbing.” It’s almost touching, watching all these conservative media people who usually profit at peddling sexism choose, this time at least, to join together in an effort to stop this one particular instance of it.

It’s also going to backfire.

Conservative media and Fox News in particular have spent years – decades, if you count talk radio – training their audiences to believe that exhortations against sexism and racism are nothing but the “political correctness” police trying to kill your good time. Indeed, one reason that Trump was able to get so much attention for his presidential run in the first place is that Fox has spent years building him up, knowing that their audience enjoys vicariously needling imagined liberals and feminists with his loud-mouthed insult comic act.

Seamus Milne: China can ride out this crisis. But we’re on course for another crash

It may not yet be the moment to get in supplies of tinned food. That was what Gordon Brown’s former adviser during the 2008 crash, Damian McBride, suggested on Monday as stock markets crashed from Shanghai to New York and $1tn was wiped off the value of shares in one day. But seven years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers brought down the global financial system and plunged half the world into a slump, it’s scarcely alarmist to see the financial panic as the harbinger of a new crisis in a still crippled world economy.

The market gyrations that followed “Black Monday” this week and the 40% drop in the value of Chinese stocks since June have only underlined the fragility of what is supposed to be an international recovery. For all the finger-wagging hubris of western commentators over the fact that the latest mayhem has erupted in China, this is a global firestorm. And after three decades of deregulation punctuated by financial crises and a systemic meltdown, there is every reason to fear more fallout from casino capitalism.

Scott Lemieux: Gun control is political. So is refusing to address the politics of gun violence

After the 24-year-old television reporter Alison Parker and her 27-year-old cameraman Adam Ward were killed while on camera from a lake outside of Roanoke, Virginia on Wednesday morning, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, somewhat predictably tweeted that “[w]e must act to stop gun violence, and we cannot wait any longer” and Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe called for new gun control measures in the form of background checks .

The conservative response to Democrats’ anodyne reactions is even more predictable:  it’s wrong, they say, to “politicize” individual acts of firearm violence. But gun violence in the United States has everything to do with politics – and we should be talking more, not less, about the impact of America’s failed gun policies on victims and their families and communities.

Aug 27 2015

The Breakfast Club (Poohstick)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgIt’s not what you think.  This is the game Christopher Robin played with Winnie the Pooh in many of their A.A. Milne adventures.

The basic concept is simple- find some sticks, drop them in a stream or river on one side of a bridge, see which one emerges on the other side first.

Since this a childlike and contemplative game it’s best not to choose a rushing torrent as your course and turbulence can make it difficult to determine stick identity when it emerges.  Your best bet is a slowly meandering waterway on a hot summer day with a broad bridge to enhance the suspense and encourage deep philosophical conversation while awaiting the outcome.  

If your nature is more, ahem, competitive there are some tricks (all very fair and within the rules and spirit of the game).  They involve, as you might expect, stick selection since it is the only variable under your control.

Revealed: how to pick the perfect Poohstick

Press Association

Wednesday 26 August 2015 03.52 EDT

Poohsticks, the timeless game made famous by Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and Christopher Robin, is not a game of chance, according to scientists – and there’s even a formula to win.



Egmont Publishing joined Dr Rhys Morgan, director of engineering and education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, to equip the 39% of people who already take time sourcing the perfect Poohstick with the formula to ensure they pick the speediest stick to sail to victory.

It comes after a survey of 2,000 British parents revealed that 41% of players take the time to personalise their sticks to ensure they take no chances in knowing exactly who wins.

It turns out that just 11% of Britons naturally pick the right sort of stick, with a third of people (30%) heading straight for a long and thin stick, which according to Dr Morgan is only half right.

The scientist, a father of two and avid Poohsticks player himself, said the main variables that need to be considered when designing the optimum Poohstick included cross-sectional area, density/buoyancy, and the drag coefficient.

The perfect Poohstick would be tubby and long, fairly heavy (but not so heavy it will sink to the bottom of the river), with quite a lot of bark to catch the flow of the river like paddle.

Science and Technology News and Blogs

Science Oriented Video

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

Aug 27 2015

New Orleans: A Tale of Two Cities

It is 10 years since Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast causing $108 billion in damages, killing over 1300 people and completely changing the city of New Orleans and the coastline.

Today New Orleans has changed in many ways, it is whiter, richer and the poor are poorer:

Ten years later, it is not exactly right to say that New Orleans is back. The city did not return, not as it was.

It is, first of all, without the more than 1,400 people who died here, and the thousands who are now making their lives someplace else. As of 2013, there were nearly 100,000 fewer black residents than in 2000, their absences falling equally across income levels. The white population decreased by about 11,000, but it is wealthier.

The city that exists in 2015 has been altered, by both a decade of institutional re-engineering and the artless rearrangement that occurs when people are left to fend for themselves.

Empowered by billions of federal dollars and the big ideas of eager policy planners, the school system underwent an extensive overhaul; the old Art Deco Charity Hospital was supplanted by a state-of-the-art medical complex; and big public housing projects, at once beloved and notorious, were razed and replaced by mixed-income communities with housing vouchers.

In a city long marinated in fatalism, optimists are now in ascendance. They promise that an influx of bright newcomers, a burst of entrepreneurial verve and a new spirit of civic engagement have primed the city for an era of greatness, or, at least, reversed a long-running civic-disaster narrative.

“Nobody can refute the fact that we have completely turned this story around,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, talking of streamlined government and year-over-year economic growth. “For the first time in 50 years, the city is on a trajectory that it has not been on, organizationally, functionally, economically, almost in every way.”

The word “trajectory” is no accident. It is the mayor’s case that the city is in a position to address the many problems that years of government failures had allowed to fester. He did not argue that those problems had been solved.

Aug 27 2015

On This Day In History August 27

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 27 is the 239th day of the year (240th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 126 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1883, The most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurs on Krakatau (also called Krakatoa), a small, uninhabited volcanic island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia, on this day in 1883. Heard 3,000 miles away, the explosions threw five cubic miles of earth 50 miles into the air, created 120-foot tsunamis and killed 36,000 people.

Krakatau exhibited its first stirrings in more than 200 years on May 20, 1883. A German warship passing by reported a seven-mile high cloud of ash and dust over Krakatau. For the next two months, similar explosions would be witnessed by commercial liners and natives on nearby Java and Sumatra. With little to no idea of the impending catastrophe, the local inhabitants greeted the volcanic activity with festive excitement.

On 27 August four enormous explosions took place at 05:30, 06:44, 10:02, and 10:41 local time. The explosions were so violent that they were heard 3,500 km (2,200 mi) away in Perth, Western Australia and the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, 4,800 km (3,000 mi) away, where they were thought to be cannonfire from a nearby ship. Each was accompanied by very large tsunamis, which are believed to have been over 30 meters (100 ft) high in places. A large area of the Sunda Strait and a number of places on the Sumatran coast were affected by pyroclastic flows from the volcano.

The pressure wave generated by the colossal final explosion radiated from Krakatoa at 1,086 km/h (675 mph). It was so powerful that it shattered the eardrums of sailors on ships in the Sunda Strait and caused a spike of more than two and half inches of mercury in pressure gauges attached to gasometers in the Jakarta gasworks, sending them off the scale. The pressure wave radiated across the globe and was recorded on barographs all over the world, which continued to register it up to 5 days after the explosion. Barograph recordings show that the shockwave from the final explosion reverberated around the globe 7 times in total. Ash was propelled to a height of 80 km (50 mi).

The eruptions diminished rapidly after that point, and by the morning of August 28 Krakatoa was silent. Small eruptions, mostly of mud, continued through October, though further reports continued through February 1884. These reports were discounted by (Rogier) Verbeek.

The combined effects of pyroclastic flows, volcanic ashes and tsunamis had disastrous results in the region. There were no survivors from 3,000 people located at the island of Sebesi, about 13 km (8.1 mi) from Krakatoa. Pyroclastic flows killed around 1,000 people at Ketimbang on the coast of Sumatra some 40 km (25 mi) north from Krakatoa. The official death toll recorded by the Dutch authorities was 36,417, although some sources put the estimate at 120,000 or more.

Ships as far away as South Africa  rocked as tsunamis hit them, and the bodies of victims were found floating in the ocean for weeks after the event. The tsunamis which accompanied the eruption are believed to have been caused by gigantic pyroclastic flows  entering the sea; each of the four great explosions was accompanied by a massive pyroclastic flow resulting from the gravitational collapse of the eruption column.

In the aftermath of the eruption, it was found that the island of Krakatoa had almost entirely disappeared, except for the southern half of Rakata cone cut off along a vertical cliff, leaving behind a 250-metre (820 ft) deep caldera.

In the year following the eruption, average global temperatures fell by as much as 1.2 C (2.2 F). Weather patterns continued to be chaotic for years, and temperatures did not return to normal until 1888.

The eruption darkened the sky worldwide for years afterwards, and produced spectacular sunsets throughout the world for many months. British artist William Ashcroft made thousands of colour sketches of the red sunsets half-way around the world from Krakatoa in the years after the eruption.