Email Of The Day

Oct 20 2014 @ 8:21pm

A reader writes:

I choose to believe that Obama will not adopt Bush administration interpretation of torture treaty obligations, will not adopt a West African travel ban, and will not go deep into Syrian quagmire.

Maybe “hope” is a better word.

I’m hoping too. And doing what little I can to help make it so.

Ronald Bailey digs through recent research:

In a September study in the Journal of Marriage and Family, [Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld] uses time series data from the How Couples Meet and Stay Together survey (HCMST) to probe the longevity and breakup rates of America’s marriages. The HCMST, which began in 2009, is a nationally representative survey of 3,009 couples, of which 471 are same-sex. Rosenfeld’s paper reports the breakup rate of the couples surveyed annually through 2012.

What he discovered:

Read On

The State Of The Race In Texas

Oct 20 2014 @ 7:13pm

One of our midterm correspondents from the in-tray directs our attention to a “very important underreported story” in the Lone Star State:

It’s not getting the attention it deserves here because of the sad state of both the news media and the Texas Democratic Party. You are probably aware that Texas is voting on all of its statewide offices in next month’s general election because of the Greg Abbott-Wendy Davis match-up for governor. That is the only statewide election that has received any significant press coverage. This is likely due to Rick Perry’s retirement and Abbott and Davis becoming national celebrities in the last couple of years because of Abbott’s lawsuits against the Obama administration and Davis’s filibuster of HB-2 (the abortion law). Sadly, the other campaigns are receiving almost no press coverage, which will probably result in another Republican sweep of all statewide offices. This disinterest is probably what helped the Republican Party nominate three people for statewide offices who have no business being on the ballot.

The most egregious of these candidates is Ken Paxton, the Republican nominee for attorney general.

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Black Holes Under A Microscope

Oct 20 2014 @ 6:39pm

Ron Cowen relays the news that scientists “have come closer than ever before to creating a laboratory-scale imitation of a black hole.” Why it’s important:

The black hole analogue, reported in Nature Physics, was created by trapping sound waves using an ultra-cold fluid. Such objects could one day help resolve the so-called black hole ‘information paradox’ – the question of whether information that falls into a black hole disappears forever.

Read On

Vengeance Of The Nerds, Ctd

Oct 20 2014 @ 6:14pm

A few readers provide key counterpoints to the controversy:

Your latest post presents only one side of a very complex, many-sided argument and unfortunately perpetuates the narrative that #GamerGate is mostly a reactionary, misogynistic movement. Please understand that the vast majority of GamerGate is not misogynist. The vast majority of GamerGate does not think death threats are trivial. GamerGate is a movement that has embraced women, gays, trans-gender people of all political stripes and nationalities, worldwide.

GamerGate is many things, but it is largely a reaction against the huge amount of abuse that gamers have suffered over the years, culminating in a coordinated campaign by a dozen or so articles that appeared on numerous gaming news sites nearly simultaneously on August 28-29, proclaiming that gamers were dead, spear-headed by a piece on Gamasutra by Leigh Alexander, who called gamers:

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Reacting to news that “the Obama administration is about to announce $100 million worth of apprenticeship grants – and wants to spend another $6 billion over the next four years,” Tamar Jacoby considers whether German-style apprenticeships would work in the US:

The first thing you notice about German apprenticeships: The employer and the employee still respect practical work. German firms don’t view dual training as something for struggling students or at-risk youth. “This has nothing to do with corporate social responsibility,” an HR manager at Deutsche Bank told the group I was with, organized by an offshoot of the Goethe Institute. “I do this because I need talent.” So too at Bosch. …

The second thing you notice:

Read On


Airbnb is having some troubles in New York:

While it’s technically illegal for New York City residents to rent their entire place for fewer than 30 days at a time — room-shares and extended sublets are allowed — the city and attorney general’s office have insisted they’re not interested in small-time Airbnb-ers, but those using the share economy to become mini hospitality moguls. Their first targets: brothers Hamid Kermanshah and Abdolmajid Kermanshah, who own and operate a four-story building on Fifth Avenue and a ten-story building on West 31st Street.

Alison Griswold has more:

Airbnb, according to the AG’s [Attorney General's] analysis of 497,322 transactions for stays between January 2010 and June 2014, is largely illegal, hugely profitable, and quickly consuming lower Manhattan. Rather than helping the average New Yorker make ends meet, much of Airbnb in New York City is making money for a small number of commercial hosts running large, multimillion-dollar operations.

J.J.C. weighs the pros and cons of the service:

Read On

Centers For Damage Control

Oct 20 2014 @ 4:44pm

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After its fumbling of the Ebola outbreak, the public has rightly soured on the CDC:

A new CBS News poll shows just 37 percent of American rate the CDC as either excellent or good, while 60 percent rate it as fair or poor — a virtual mirror image of 17 months ago. The worst part: The agency now ranks below the Secret Service, which has dealt with a series of scandals in recent weeks and years. But the CDC is still slightly more popular than the IRS.

Morrissey isn’t surprised:

Back when I worked for a defense contractor in its technical publications department, one worker had a sign in her cubicle which accurately diagnoses the phenomenon in play here: “One aws**t cancels out a thousand attaboys.” It isn’t what the CDC did for the past ten years, but what they’re doing when the spotlight is on them that counts. In fact, the CDC’s performance over the past few weeks will have people questioning just how well they’ve done their job all along, and perhaps they should.

Read On

Mental Health Break

Oct 20 2014 @ 4:20pm

Riding shotgun through cinema:

The End Of Geniuses?

Oct 20 2014 @ 4:00pm

Darrin M. McMahon, author of Divine Fury: A History of Genius, traces the origins of the modern “genius” from the Enlightenment through the contemporary “wisdom of crowds”:

This is the paradox of genius in our time: On the one hand, the world we inhabit is an inhospitable place for that creature first conceived in the 18th century as a human of sacred exception; on the other hand, we have created a new variety of the species, which threatens to overrun us all.

The risk inherent in this situation is of obscuring genuine differences in aptitude, capacity, and ability, while at the same time becoming apologists for the real inequalities of opportunity and resources that might foster those differences. Recent data on the widening education achievement gap between rich and poor paints a troubling picture of a nation all too ready to squander its human potential. Despite our desire to “leave no child behind,” we do so every day, which prompts the terrible question: How many children living among us have the potential for genius that we’ll never know? As the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould once observed, “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”

Which is not to say that we should mourn the passing of the genius as first conceived in the 18th century. That creature has outlived its cultural usefulness, and perhaps it is time to say the same of the more recent varieties. By kicking the habit of genius, we might better be able to cultivate what is just as important and in the long run more essential to human civilization: the potential in all of us.

More Dish on McMahon’s new book here.