Chaos Manor View Thursday, April 02, 2015
I don’t do April Fool stories or jokes anyway, so it’s no great loss that yesterday was devoured by locusts. Actually, I took a preliminary cut at taxes, and found that all’s well: I seem to estimated my quarterly payments just about right. I’ll finish over the weekend, but it appears that it will be a wash this year.
Discrimination vs. Freedom
Discrimination lawsuits have been in the news lately, and I find them appalling, probably because I am not politically correct. The Constitution says Public Service should be available to all, and lawsuits to enforce it are in order, but I have never understood why I have a duty to serve you in my privately owned place of business. If I want only red-haired male customers, why should I not have the right to do so? Why have you a right to force me to sell you goods and services? I have the same view on employment. If I want only Korean employees, why should I not be allowed that? Perhaps it would be a bad idea, economically, but what gives you the right to send armed men to force me to hire you? Again I am not discussing public employment or services; I mean private businesses.
A free country would not be concerned with these matters. If a business wants only women employees in a free country, that should not be a matter for government concern. We might deplore it – or we might not if this is a women’s lingerie store – but it is not a matter of interest to the legislature. If a bar wants only to serve blonde customers, that too should not be a matter for government concern. And if that bar wants only black bartenders to serve those blonde customers, we are likely to think this an odd business model, but why is it otherwise of interest? Where did anyone get a right to employment or service in that establishment?
Well, perhaps prudence? The place might spawn riots in protest? But surely the rioters, not the weird employment and customer rules are the threat to the peace?
Of course this is saying that private business owners have a right to discriminate, to be prejudiced, in their choices of employees and customers; and we don’t permit that, because that is racist or sexist or some such: and of course it can be racist rather than merely weird or unconventional – but that is a consequence of freedom.
I would have thought people are free to associate with whom they wish, sell their property to whom they wish, employ whom they wish, so long as they do so in their private lives, not as public officials. The courts log ago ruled that discriminatory restrictive covenants in real estate deeds were contrary to public policy and would not be enforced. That is fair and proper. But whence comes the obligation to sell your house to anyone: registered sex offender, single parent, handicapped person, public drunk, notorious Lothario, blue-eyed blonde, Irishman, Polack, Gypsy, cross-eyed person—and to send armed public lawmen to enforce your obligation to sell to them?
But, you say, it is unfair to discriminate! You can’t refuse to rent to someone because she is Jewish, or Black! The law lets me send lawyers to harass you, reduce you to poverty as the enrich themselves and me, and I shall do so. You can’t be racist! Anti-Semite!
Now you might be able to infer some kind of residual sovereignty in the States that allows them to do this simply because kings, dukes, and lords once could do such things; but surely it is not in the Constitution to allow the Federal government to do it? No rational interpretation of the Reconstruction amendments gives that power to the general government, and it’s really difficult to find it in the States.
Yes: discrimination hurts. Those who are discriminated against dislike it. But those who want to discriminate and are not allowed to dislike that, also. But, you say, they are bigots and deserve castigation, and I am free to castigate them. I will leave the rest of this paragraph as an exercise to the reader.
Now, at one time a majority of the States had religions by law Established, and from the tenets of that religion one might infer condemnation of bigotry and praise and that those who are free of it are “better” than those who discriminate or want to; but Established Churches are long gone, as are privileged religious principles such as the Ten Commandments. And now we threaten bakers with jail for declining to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding. And no one questions the source of this right, not to marry, but to require a particular baker to sell them a cake.
Internet searches are convincing us we’re smarter than we really are (WP)
By Lenny Bernstein April 1 at 9:27 AM
Is Google creating the next generation of office blowhards? A clever psychological study by Yale University researchers suggests the answer is yes.
It seems that as we look things up on the Web, we become convinced that the information remains in our brains. It doesn’t. But we behave as if it does, and we’re not shy about claiming that it’s there.
“This huge database is leading people to believe this information is in their heads, when in fact it’s not,” Matthew Fisher, the Yale graduate psychology student who led the study, said.
Is that a bad thing? Merely an annoyance? Or no harm at all? It depends on whom you ask. Fisher’s paper, published online Tuesday in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, concludes that by “erroneously situating external knowledge within their own heads, people may unwittingly exaggerate how much intellectual work they can do in situations where they are truly on their own.”
But Clive Thompson, author of the book “Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better,” wasn’t so sure. “I’m not quite as concerned about it as they seem to be at the end of the article,” he said after reading the study. “The truth is that we’re not that often truly on our own.”
I recall when I was in school the Brothers were more concerned that we knew how to find out things than they were with memorization of facts. We were required to memorize and recite poetry including rather log epics, but that involved poise and public presentations as well as memory exercises. Rote memory of the addition and multiplication tables, and of a reference base of history, is important; but how much beyond that is a subject for debate.
‘The failure of models to reproduce this hemisphere synchronicity raises interesting implications regarding the fidelity of climate model-derived sensitivity to CO2.’
‘If this Stevens/Lewis result holds up, it is the death blow to global
I doubt that anything will cause global warming hysteria to go away, but thoughtful people surely will question the ability of the existing models to predict much of anything. Now, I find, we have changed the instrumentation used to measure atmospheric temperatures from satellites. We have mad the instruments smaller, presumably without compromising reliability and accuracy – but it turns out that this change increases the error bar for differential comparisons of measurements taken with the old instruments to those taken with the new. The old ones are gone, so you can’t take simultaneous readings of the same point in the atmosphere with both the old and new instruments. This isn’t really serious. The new are better in every way, and the inaccuracies in comparison are not larger than two degrees Kelvin – but when you proclaim that 2014 is the hottest year on record by a whole 0.02 Kelvin and you know that comparison of new to old readings from the most accurate source that we have are subject to a 1.00 Kelvin error bar, the absurdity is transparent.
They have done a great deal of work refining the climate models, but they really have no better predictions than Arrhenius had in 1900. The Earth is warming and has been since 1800. CO2 levels are rising and will have an effect. The Earth was warmer in Viking Times than it is now, and very probably was warmer in Roman and Bronze Age times than it is now. CO2 levels are rising but how much that contributes to warming trends is not known; we do know it affects plant growth, plant growth affects albedo, albedo affects climate. We now may discuss numbers.
IBM to Invest $3 Billion in Sensor-Data Unit
The Weather Channel crunches 700,000 forecasts a second and already sells such data to customers. Photo: Mike Spencer/Wilmington Star-News/Associated Press
March 31, 2015 12:01 a.m. ET
International Business Machines Corp. plans to invest $3 billion over four years on a new business helping customers gather and analyze the flood of data from sensor-equipped devices and smartphones.
And perhaps we will have some data, not subject to climate Believer vs., Denier selection.
Suiting Up for the Moon
Hyundai pushes for commercial self-driving cars by 2020
No thanks. I’ll keep my dumb car. The more gadgets there are, the more things to go wrong. I’m terrified that someone will upload a virus into all these “smart cars” and cause a traffic collision that the Almighty couldn’t untangle.
Let’s stay with dumb cars, even if some of them are driven by dumb people. There’s a limit to the damage this can cause.
And yet statistics show fewer accidents with robot than human drivers. Admittedly there are not much data. But there are models, and we trust climate models do we not?
Amazon Wants to Be Your Home Services Middleman (WSJ)
Amazon.com AMZN +0.70% is extending nationwide an offering that connects shoppers with local service providers, including Dish satellite-television service, Pep Boys auto-parts stores and handyman marketplace TaskRabbit.
The initiative, known as “Home Services,” is Amazon’s latest effort aimed at ensuring the e-commerce giant’s customers never have a reason to leave its site.
Amazon has been testing the service, which helps connect customers with professionals like electricians and yoga instructors, since the fall in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Use a ‘Fake’ Location to Get Cheaper Plane Tickets (Time)
I can’t explain airline pricing but I do know some plane tickets can be cheaper depending on where you buy them or, even better, where you appear to buy them from. This is all about leveraging foreign currencies and points-of-sale to your advantage.
For reasons I never quite understood, every time I tried to book a domestic flight in another country, the prices were always exorbitant. But, say, once I was in Bangkok, that same flight that was once $300 would fall to $30 almost inexplicably. This phenomenon is because a ticket’s point-of-sale—the place where a retail transaction is completed—can affect the price of any flight with an international component.
Most people don’t know there is a simple trick for “changing” this to get a cheaper flight on an airline’s website; it’s how I managed to pay $371 for a flight from New York to Colombia instead of $500+. Though it can be used for normal international flights, it often works best when you’re buying domestic flights in another country. (Point in case: A Chilean friend once told me Easter Island flights were much cheaper to buy in Santiago instead of abroad.)
macs vs. pc’s: the eternal question
Ah yes, the eternal question of Macs vs. PCs. It’s kind of like the Sunni/Shia divide in Islam, but with less bloodshed (but no less argument!)
Granted I think the world is becoming more OS agnostic. I run browsers, MS Word, and Matlab, and that’s it. So the OS doesn’t really matter. (If only Google Chrome ran Matlab¦).
Sure windows gives you more hardware choice. Granted. But one major difference: macs don’t come with ‘crapware’, windows pcs do. Sure, you can buy ‘signature’ windows machines direct from MS (!!!! why can’t I buy these direct from Dell or whatever! I’d pay $50 for a cleaner optimized system no hesitation). But given how valuable my time is, I like the idea that when I start a mac it comes already tuned to top performance – a windows machine, not so much. That $1500 mac laptop is almost free when I have used it steadily for a lot of my work for 6 years¦ If I am going to rely on a tool for a large part of my professional life I just want it to WORK, and paying a little more is not such a big deal.
That said, I still use DOS 6.2 in my lab (an amazingly good RTOS if you disable the clock interrupts! DOS is good. DOS is eternal. Praise be to DOS. You can’t do real time stuff with OSX or Windows or a raspberry piâ€¦). Also the other day I resurrected an old windows 2000 machine because I had some high-performance openGL code on it – and was surprised at how good it was! It zipped along like a greyhound, and compiled C programs in a flash. It was so responsive! Sure, it can’t run modern apps, but progress is not always an unmixed blessingâ€¦
I remember once in one of your novels the good guys used machines with the OS burned in ROM with no possible firmware updates to avoid the possibility of corruptionâ€¦ Would that I could find such a rock-solid OS todayâ€¦ I don’t want dancing marshmallows, I just want my machine to do it’s job and not hassle me.
I have about the same sentiments. When I was more active in journalism I had no choice but to keep up with both. But now I do not have to, and I am more tempted simply to go to Mac; but the Surface tempts me. Mostly I want to see competition…
Poverty rates near record levels in Bay Area despite hot economy (MN)
By George Avalos
POSTED: 04/01/2015 03:19:19 PM PDT
SAN JOSE — Despite being a nationwide leader in job growth, the Bay Area suffers from a poverty rate that still hovers near historic highs, with more than 800,000 people in the region living below the poverty line, a report released on Wednesday shows.
About 11.3 percent of Bay Area residents are living at or below the poverty level, according to the report, “Poverty in the Bay Area,” that was released by the Joint Venture Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies. The data reflects levels reached in 2013, the most recent year for which these statistics are available.
“Despite being one of the world’s wealthiest regions, there were 829,547 people living in poverty in the Bay Area in 2013,” the report stated. The study used federal poverty thresholds that ranged from annual income of $11,490 for a one-person household to $23,550 for a family of four.
“The Bay Area has a fast-growing frontier economy that is the starting point for much of the technology created nationwide,” said Jon Haveman, a San Rafael-based economist who prepared the report for Joint Venture Silicon Valley.
That has created some dislocation between those who are riding the innovation-fueled surge of job creation and wage growth, and those who don’t have the skills to keep up. And all of this is happening in a region with runaway housing and rental prices.
“The Bay Area does have something of a have and have-not economy,” Haveman said.
Despite the double-digit poverty levels in the Bay Area, the nine-county region is doing well when compared with trends in California, which has a 16.8 percent poverty rate, and the United States, at 15.8 percent.
San Francisco had the highest poverty level in the Bay Area in 2013 at 13.8 percent, the study found. Alameda County’s poverty rate was 12.9 percent, Contra Costa County was 10.8 percent and Santa Clara County was 10.5 percent. The lowest rate in the nine-county region was San Mateo County at 7.8 percent.
The poverty figures in the Bay Area are below the record level of 12 percent, an ominous benchmark that was reached in 2009 during the Great Recession. Yet the current levels are well above the historic average for Bay Area poverty of 9 percent.
Of course poverty in the US is upper class income in about half the countries of the world…
Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.