Tuesday, May 14, 2013

what does your state's highest paid employee do?



deadspin | You may have heard that the highest-paid employee in each state is usually the football coach at the largest state school. This is actually a gross mischaracterization: Sometimes it is the basketball coach.
Based on data drawn from media reports and state salary databases, the ranks of the highest-paid active public employees include 27 football coaches, 13 basketball coaches, one hockey coach, and 10 dorks who aren't even in charge of a team.

So are my hard-earned tax dollars paying these coaches?
Probably not. The bulk of this coaching money—especially at the big football schools—is paid out of the revenue that the teams generate. 

So what's the problem then? These guys make tons of money for their schools; shouldn't they be paid accordingly?

There are at least three problems.
  1. Coaches don't generate revenue on their own; you could make the exact same case for the student-athletes who actually play the game and score the points and fracture their legs.

  2. It can be tough to attribute this revenue directly to the performance of the head coach. In 2011-2012, Mack Brown was paid $5 million to lead a mediocre 8-5 Texas team to the Holiday Bowl. The team still generated $103.8 million in revenue, the most in college football. You don't have to pay someone $5 million to make college football profitable in Texas.

  3. This revenue rarely makes its way back to the general funds of these universities. Looking at data from 2011-2012, athletic departments at 99 major schools lost an average of $5 million once you take out revenue generated from "student fees" and "university subsidies." If you take out "contributions and donations"—some of which might have gone to the universities had they not been lavished on the athletic departments—this drops to an average loss of $17 million, with just one school (Army) in the black. All this football/basketball revenue is sucked up by coach and AD salaries, by administrative and facility costs, and by the athletic department's non-revenue generating sports; it's not like it's going to microscopes and Bunsen burners

only 150 of 3500 colleges and universities are worth it



yahoo-finance | The U.S. is home to some of the greatest colleges and universities in the world. But with the student debt load at more than $1 trillion and youth unemployment elevated, when assessing the value of a college education, that’s only one part of the story.

Former Secretary of Education William Bennett, author of Is College Worth It, sat down with The Daily Ticker on the sidelines of the Milken Institute's 2013 Global Conference to talk about whether college is worth it.

“We have about 21 million people in higher education, and about half the people who start four year colleges don’t finish,” Bennett tells The Daily Ticker. “Those who do finish, who graduated in 2011 - half were either unemployed or radically underemployed and in debt.”

That average student loan balance for a 25-year-old is $20,326, according to the Federal Reserve of New York. Student debt is second largest source of U.S. household debt, after only mortgages.

Bennett assessed the “return on investment” for the 3500 colleges and universities in the country. He found that returns were positive for only 150 institutions. The top 10 schools ranked by Bennett as having the best "ROI" are below (for the full list he used, click here, and for the latest figures, click here):

young u.s. workers worse off than in parts of europe


fortune | Being jobless is an awful thing for anyone no matter where they live. But it's especially unnerving for young people just starting their careers. A lot has been written about the topic lately, but two new reports show the job employment picture likely won't get any better for young people living in the world's richest countries. And in many ways, America's young people today have it worse than even parts of debt-troubled Europe.

The findings come as thousands graduate from college this month. Graduates may have hung up their hard-earned diplomas today, but for many it will be a huge struggle to find jobs they studied hard for.
Across the world's richest countries, joblessness among 15- to 24-year-olds is estimated at 12.6%, close to its crisis peak, according to the International Labor Organization. The problem is most pronounced in a few parts of the world, including developed economies, such as the United States and parts of Europe.

In 2012, the rate of joblessness in the richest countries rose to a decades-long high of 18.1%, according to the ILO, which doesn't see the rate drop below 17% before 2016.

school will be closed until further notice...,



bvsd | RESPONSES TO COMMON QUESTIONS

REGARDING THE BUENA VISTA SCHOOL DISTRICT BUDGET CRISIS
Buena Vista School District and its community of parents and stakeholders has a long tradition of pride and excellence. We pride ourselves on the caring and committed staff with which we are blessed and consider it our highest calling to be entrusted with the care and education of the community’s children.

Recent reductions in state school aid, combined with a severe drop in enrollment have created a situation where the District has not been able to get small enough fast enough. Adding to this problem is the fact that the District must return to the state funds related to the Wolverine Secure Treatment Center which it continued to receive after the program severed ties with the District in 2012. The District brought its receipt of these funds to the attention of the State during a meeting with state officials to discuss a draft of its deficit elimination plan in February. All of this came into focus when the State did not transmit the District’s April state school aid.

Upon noting that state school aid was not received in April as planned, the District made inquiry of the State and was told that state school aid for April, May and June would be withheld to recoup the funds that were mistakenly sent to the District. We remain in contact with officials at the State, the Intermediate School District and our surrounding districts. We have been told by State officials that a prerequisite to continuing dialogue is the District’s completion of a satisfactory deficit elimination plan. We are and have been working diligently to meet this requirement, and appreciate the technical assistance that State officials have provided regarding the deficit elimination plan. Fist tap Dale.

Monday, May 13, 2013

biology is not fate - but game recognize game...,



guardian | For all Raine's rigour, his discipline of "neurocriminology" still remains tarnished, for some, by association with 19th-century phrenology, the belief that criminal behaviour stemmed from defective brain organisation as evidenced in the shape of the skull. The idea was first proposed by the infamous Franz Joseph Gall, who claimed to have identified over- or underdeveloped brain "organs" that gave rise to specific character: the organ of destructiveness, of covetousness and so on, which were recognisable to the phrenologist by bumps on the head. Phrenology was widely influential in criminal law in both the United States and Europe in the middle of the 1800s, and often used to support crude racial and class-based stereotypes of criminal behaviour.

The divisive thinking was developed further in 1876 by Cesare Lombroso, an Italian surgeon, after he conducted a postmortem on a serial murderer and rapist. Lombroso discovered a hollow part of the killer's brain, where the cerebellum would be, from which he proposed that violent criminals were throwbacks to less evolved human types, again identifiable by ape-like physical characteristics. The political manipulation of such hypotheses in the eugenics movement eventually saw them wholly outlawed and discredited.
As one result, after the second world war, crime became attributable to economic and political factors, or psychological disturbances, but not to biology. Prompted by advances in genetics and neuroscience, however, that consensus is increasingly fragile, and the implications of those scientific advances for law – and for concepts such as culpability and responsibility – are only now being tested.

Raine is by no means alone in this argument, though his highly readable book serves as an invaluable primer to both the science and the ethical concerns. As the polymath David Eagleman, director of neuroscience and law at Baylor College in Texas, recently pointed out, knowledge in this area has advanced to the point where it is perverse to be in denial. What are we to do, for example, Eagleman asked, with the fact that "if you are a carrier of one particular set of genes, the probability that you will commit a violent crime is four times as high as it would be if you lacked those genes. You're three times as likely to commit a robbery, five times as likely to commit aggravated assault, eight times as likely to be arrested for murder and 13 times as likely to be arrested for a sexual offence. The overwhelming majority of prisoners carry these genes; 98.1% of death row inmates do… Can we honestly say that the carriers of those genes have exactly the same range of choices in their behaviour as those who do not possess them? And if they do not, should they be judged and punished by the same standard?"

Raine's work is full of this kind of statistic and this kind of question. (One of his more startling findings is the extraordinarily high level of psychopathic markers among employees of a temping agency he studied, which came as no surprise to him. "Psychopaths can't settle, they need to move around, look for new stimulation," he says.) He draws on a number of studies that show the links between brain development, in particular – and brain injury and impairment by extension – and criminal violence. Already legal defence teams, particularly in the US, are using brain scans and neuroscience as mitigating evidence in the trials of violent criminals and sex offenders. In this sense, Raine believes a proper public debate on the implications of his science is long overdue.

Raine was in part drawn to his discipline by his own background. In the course of scanning his murderers, Raine also examined his own PET profile and found, somewhat to his alarm, that the structure of his brain seemed to share more characteristics with the psychopathic murderers than with the control group.
He laughs quickly when I ask how that discovery felt. "When you have a brain scan that looks like a serial killer's it does give you pause," he says. And there were other factors: he has always had a markedly low heart rate (which his research has shown to be a truer indicator of a capacity for violence than, say, smoking is as a cause of lung cancer). He was plagued by cracked lips as a child, evidence of riboflavin deficiency (another marker); he was born at home; he was a blue baby, all factors in the kind of developmental difficulties that might set his own researcher's alarm bells ringing.

"So," he says, "I was on the spectrum. And in fact I did have some issues. I was taken to hospital aged five to have my stomach pumped because I had drunk a lot of alcohol. From age nine to 11 I was pretty antisocial, in a gang, smoking, letting car tyres down, setting fire to mailboxes, and fighting a lot, even though I was quite small. But at that age I burnt out of that somehow. At 11, I changed schools, got more interested in studying and really became a different sort of kid. Still, when I was graduating and thinking 'what shall I research?', I looked back on the essays I'd written and one of the best was on the biology of psychopaths; I was fascinated by that, partly, I think, because I had always wondered about that early behaviour in myself."
As Raine began to explore the subject more, he began to look at the reasons he became a researcher of violent criminality, rather than a violent criminal. (Recent studies suggest his biology might equally have propelled him towards other careers – bomb disposal expert, corporate executive or journalist – that tend to attract individuals with those "psychopathic" traits.) Despite his unusual brain structure, he didn't have the low IQ that is often apparent in killers, or any cognitive dysfunction. Still, as he worked for four years interviewing people in prison, a lot of the time he was thinking: what stopped me being on their side of the bars?

Raine's biography, then, was a good corrective to the seductive idea that our biology is our fate and that a brain scan can tell us who we are. Fist tap Big Don.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

another IQ-premacist bites the dust...,



slate | Update, May 10, 2013: On Friday afternoon, after this story had already been published, Jason Richwine resigned from the Heritage Foundation.

 Four years ago, long before he’d join the Heritage Foundation, before Marco Rubio was even in the Senate, Jason Richwine armed a time bomb. A three-member panel at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government accepted Richwine’s thesis, titled “IQ and Immigration Policy.” In it, Richwine provided statistical evidence that Hispanic immigrants, even after several generations, had lower IQs than non-Hispanic whites. Immigration reformers were fools if they didn’t grapple with that.

"Visceral opposition to IQ selection can sometimes generate sensationalistic claims—for example, that this is an attempt to revive social Darwinism, eugenics, racism, etc,” wrote Richwine. “Nothing of that sort is true. … an IQ selection system could utilize individual intelligence test scores without any resort to generalizations.”

This week, Heritage released a damning estimate of the immigration bill, co-authored by Richwine. The new study was all about cost, totally eliding the IQ issues that Richwine had mastered, but it didn’t matter after Washington Post reporter Dylan Matthews found the dissertation. Heritage hurried to denounce it—“its findings in no way reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation”—and Richwine has ducked any more questions from the press.

 His friends and advisers saw this coming. Immigration reform’s political enemies know—and can’t stand—that racial theorists are cheering them on from the cheap seats. They know that the left wants to exploit that—why else do so many cameras sprout up whenever Minutemen appear on the border, or when Pat Buchanan comes out of post-post-post retirement to write another book about the “death of the West?”
Academics aren’t so concerned with the politics. But they know all too well the risks that come with research connecting IQ and race. At the start of his dissertation, Richwine thanked his three advisers—George Borjas, Christopher Jenks, and Richard Zeckhauser—for being so helpful and so bold. Borjas “helped me navigate the minefield of early graduate school,” he wrote. “Richard Zeckhauser, never someone to shy away from controversial ideas, immediately embraced my work.”

Yet they don’t embrace everything Richwine’s done since. “Jason’s empirical work was careful,” Zeckhauser told me over email. “Moreover, my view is that none of his advisors would have accepted his thesis had he thought that his empirical work was tilted or in error. However, Richwine was too eager to extrapolate his empirical results to inferences for policy.”

Borjas’ own work on immigration and inequality has led to a few two-minutes-hate moments in the press. He wasn’t entirely convinced by Richwine, either.

“I have never worked on anything even remotely related to IQ, so don't really know what to think about the relation between IQ, immigration, etc,” Borjas told me in an email. “In fact, as I know I told Jason early on since I've long believed this, I don't find the IQ academic work all that interesting. Economic outcomes and IQ are only weakly related, and IQ only measures one kind of ability. I've been lucky to have met many high-IQ people in academia who are total losers, and many smart, but not super-smart people, who are incredibly successful because of persistence, motivation, etc. So I just think that, on the whole, the focus on IQ is a bit misguided.”

But Richwine had been fascinated by it, and for a very long time, in an environment that never discouraged it. Anyone who works in Washington and wants to explore the dark arts of race and IQ research is in the right place. The city’s a bit like a college campus, where investigating “taboo” topics is rewarded, especially on the right. A liberal squeals “racism,” and they hear the political correctness cops (most often, the Southern Poverty Law Center) reporting a thinkcrime. Fist tap Big Don.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

is positional struggle our fate?



guardian | 'I never did anything for money. I never set money as a goal. It was a result." So says Bob Diamond, formerly the chief executive of Barclays. In doing so Diamond lays waste to the justification that his bank and others (and their innumerable apologists in government and the media) have advanced for surreal levels of remuneration – to incentivise hard work and talent. Prestige, power, a sense of purpose: for them, these are incentives enough.

Others of his class – Bernie Ecclestone and Jeroen van der Veer (the former chief executive of Shell), for example – say the same. The capture by the executive class of so much wealth performs no useful function. What the very rich appear to value is relative income. If executives were all paid 5% of current levels, the competition between them (a questionable virtue anyway) would be no less fierce. As the immensely rich HL Hunt commented several decades ago: "Money is just a way of keeping score."

The desire for advancement along this scale appears to be insatiable. In March Forbes magazine published an article about Prince Alwaleed, who, like other Saudi princes, doubtless owes his fortune to nothing more than hard work and enterprise. According to one of the prince's former employees, the Forbes magazine global rich list "is how he wants the world to judge his success or his stature".

The result is "a quarter-century of intermittent lobbying, cajoling and threatening when it comes to his net worth listing". In 2006, the researcher responsible for calculating his wealth writes, "when Forbes estimated that the prince was actually worth $7 billion less than he said he was, he called me at home the day after the list was released, sounding nearly in tears. 'What do you want?' he pleaded, offering up his private banker in Switzerland. 'Tell me what you need.'"

Never mind that he has his own 747, in which he sits on a throne during flights. Never mind that his "main palace" has 420 rooms. Never mind that he possesses his own private amusement park and zoo – and, he claims, $700m worth of jewels. Never mind that he's the richest man in the Arab world, valued by Forbes at $20bn, and has watched his wealth increase by $2bn in the past year. None of this is enough. There is no place of arrival, no happy landing, even in a private jumbo jet. The politics of envy are never keener than among the very rich.

the people's daily building...,


guardian | Beijing's building boom has already spawned a wealth of novelty forms, with a stadium in the shape of a bird's nest, a theatre nicknamed the egg, and a TV headquarters that has been likened to a giant pair of underpants. But the official People's Daily newspaper might have trumped them all with its new office building, which appears to be modelled on a colossal phallus.

Photos of the scaffold-shrouded shaft have been circulating on Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging site, to the authorities' dismay, with censors working overtime to remove the offending images. "It seems the People's Daily is going to rise up, there's hope for the Chinese dream," commented one user. "Of course the national mouthpiece should be imposing," added another.

The 150m-tall tower, located in the city's eastern business district, appropriately near OMA's pants-shaped CCTV headquarters, is the work of architect Zhou Qi, a professor at Jiangsu's Southeast University.
"Our way of expression is kind of extreme," Zhou told the Modern Express newspaper, "different from the culture of moderation that Chinese people are accustomed to." He explained the design was inspired not by part of his anatomy, but by the traditional Chinese philosophy of "round sky and square earth" – the tower tapers from a square base to a cylindrical top. He claimed that the elongated spherical form was designed to recall the Chinese character for "people" from above. The fact it might look like a male member from below was clearly a secondary concern.

food price inflation as redistribution

bnarchives | This paper outlines the contours of a new research agenda for the analysis of food price crises. By weaving together a detailed quantitative examination of changes in corporate profit shares with a qualitative appraisal of the restructuring in business control over the organisation of society and nature, the paper points to the rapid ascendance of a new power configuration in the global political economy of food: the Agro-Trader nexus. The agribusiness and grain trader firms that belong to the Agro-Trader nexus have not been mere 'price takers', instead they have actively contributed to the inflationary restructuring of the world food system by championing and facilitating the rapid expansion of the first-generation biofuels sector. As a key driver of agricultural commodity price rises, the biofuels boom has raised the Agro-Trader nexus’s differential profits and it has at the same time deepened global hunger. These findings suggest that food price inflation is a mechanism of redistribution.

Arnesen, Arnie and Baines, Joseph. (2013). The Attitude, WNHN 94.7 FM. 1 May. (Interview; English).

Friday, May 10, 2013

most highly segregated cities in america...,


businessinsider | Racial segregation remains a problem in America, and it's lasting longer than anyone expected.

Just how bad things are can be determined through analysis of 2010 Census data.

The average black person lives in a neighborhood that is 45 percent black. Without segregation, his neighborhood would be only 13 percent black, according to professors John Logan and Brian Stults at Brown and Florida State.

Logan and Stult evaluated segregation in major cities with a dissimilarity index, which identifies the percentage of one group that would have to move to a different neighborhood to eliminate segregation. A score above 60 on the dissimilarity index is considered extreme.

In the following slides, we have ranked the most segregated cities in ascending order. They are illustrated with maps of cities by race created by Eric Fischer and publicly available on FlickrThe red dots show white people, blue is black, orange is Hispanic, green is Asian, and yellow is other.

for lots of people, off-the-books work is the only work available...,

newyorker | hen we all finished filing our tax returns last week, there was a little something missing: two trillion dollars. That’s how much money Americans may have made in the past year that didn’t get reported to the I.R.S., according to a recent study by the economist Edgar Feige, who’s been investigating the so-called underground, or gray, economy for thirty-five years. It’s a huge number: if the government managed to collect taxes on all that income, the deficit would be trivial. This unreported income is being earned, for the most part, not by drug dealers or Mob bosses but by tens of millions of people with run-of-the-mill jobs—nannies, barbers, Web-site designers, and construction workers—who are getting paid off the books. Ordinary Americans have gone underground, and, as the recovery continues to limp along, they seem to be doing it more and more.

Measuring an unreported economy is obviously tricky. But look closely and you can see the traces of a booming informal economy everywhere. As Feige said to me, “The best footprint left in the sand by this economy that doesn’t want to be observed is the use of cash.” His studies show that, while economists talk about the advent of a cashless society, Americans still hold an enormous amount of cold, hard cash—as much as seven hundred and fifty billion dollars. The percentage of Americans who don’t use banks is surprisingly high, and on the rise. Off-the-books activity also helps explain a mystery about the current economy: even though the percentage of Americans officially working has dropped dramatically, and even though household income is still well below what it was in 2007, personal consumption is higher than it was before the recession, and retail sales have been growing briskly (despite a dip in March). Bernard Baumohl, an economist at the Economic Outlook Group, estimates that, based on historical patterns, current retail sales are actually what you’d expect if the unemployment rate were around five or six per cent, rather than the 7.6 per cent we’re stuck with. The difference, he argues, probably reflects workers migrating into the shadow economy. “It’s typical that during recessions people work on the side while collecting unemployment,” Baumohl told me. “But the severity of the recession and the profound weakness of this recovery may mean that a lot more people have entered the underground economy, and have had to stay there longer.”

The increasing importance of the gray economy isn’t only a reaction to the downturn: studies suggest that the sector has been growing steadily over the years. In 1992, the I.R.S. estimated that the government was losing $80 billion a year in income-tax revenue. Its estimate for 2006 was $385 billion—almost five times as much (and still an underestimate, according to Feige’s numbers). The U.S. is certainly a long way from, say, Greece, where tax evasion is a national sport and the shadow economy accounts for twenty-seven per cent of G.D.P. But the forces pushing people to work off the books are powerful. Feige points to the growing distrust of government as one important factor. The desire to avoid licensing regulations, which force people to jump through elaborate hoops just to get a job, is another. Most important, perhaps, are changes in the way we work. As Baumohl put it, “For businesses, the calculus of hiring has fundamentally changed.” Companies have got used to bringing people on as needed and then dropping them when the job is over, and they save on benefits and payroll taxes by treating even full-time employees as independent contractors. Casual employment often becomes under-the-table work; the arrangement has become a way of life in the construction industry. In a recent California survey of three hundred thousand contractors, two-thirds said they had no direct employees, meaning that they did not need to pay workers’-compensation insurance or payroll taxes. In other words, for lots of people off-the-books work is the only job available.

global youth unemployment continuously worsening


theatlantic | Elevated and lasting unemployment is an awful thing, anywhere, and for anyone. But it is awful in a special way for young people, cutting them off from networks and starting salaries at the moment they need to forge connections and begin to cobble together a career.

A new study from the International Labor Organization takes a global tour of youth joblessness and finds that what's gone up won't come down in the next five years. The youth unemployment rate* among the richest countries is projected to flat-line, rather than fall, before 2018. As a result, the global Millennial generation could be uniquely scarred by the economic downturn. Research by Lisa Kahn has showed that people graduating into a recession have typically faced a lifetime of lower wages.

As Ritchie King from Quartz shows in the graph to the left, it's now "harder for a teenager or young adult to find a job in developed economies than in Sub-Saharan Africa."

Lurking under the rise of youth unemployment among the richest countries is an even scarier trend -- the rise of long-term youth unemployment. Long-term unemployment isn't just a difference in length; it's a difference in kind, because the more time you spend out of a company, the less likely you are to be hired back into one. In many European countries, particularly Spain, the increase in unemployment has come almost exclusively from people being out of work longer than two-years. In advanced economies, "longterm unemployment has arrived as an unexpected tax on the current generation of youth," ILO writes. About half of Europe's unemployed youth have been out of work for more than six months, according to 2011 data.

American audiences are probably most interested in how our Millennial generation compares to young people around the world. So, from table B1 at the end of the paper, I picked a few OECD countries and graphed the last eight years of youth unemployment.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

iran is the end-game...,



rt | Israel used "a new type of weapon", a senior official at the Syrian military facility that came under attack from the Israeli Air Force told RT.

“When the explosion happened it felt like an earthquake,” said the source, who was present near the attack site on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday morning.

“Then a giant golden mushroom of fire appeared. This tells us that Israel used depleted uranium shells.”

Depleted uranium is a by-product of the uranium enrichment process that creates nuclear weapons, and was first used by the US in the Gulf conflict of 1991. Unlike the radioactive materials used in nuclear weapons, depleted uranium is not valued for its explosiveness, but for its toughness – it is 2.5 times as dense as steel – which allows it to penetrate heavy protection.

Countries using depleted uranium weapons insist that the material is toxic, but not dangerously radioactive, as long as it remains outside the body.

The source also claims the attack – if it managed to hit the objects it targeted – served more of a political than a military purpose.

“Several civilian factories and buildings were destroyed. The target was just an ordinary weapons warehouse. The bombing is an ultimatum to us – it had no strategic motivation.”

Western intelligence sources told the media that the strikes targeted transfers of weapons from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, which is sympathetic to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The official who spoke to RT denies this.

“There was no valuable equipment at the site. It was all removed after a previous attack on the facility. The military losses from this are negligible.”

israeli dixiecrats getting heated over high-minded scrutiny of their ways...,


guardian | The celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking became embroiled in a deepening furore today over his decision to boycott a prestigious conference in Israel in protest over the state's occupation of Palestine.

Hawking, a world-renowned scientist and bestselling author who has had motor neurone disease for 50 years, cancelled his appearance at the high-profile Presidential Conference, which is personally sponsored by Israel's president, Shimon Peres, after a barrage of appeals from Palestinian academics.

The move, denounced by prominent Israelis and welcomed by pro-Palestinian campaigners, entangled Cambridge University – Hawking's academic base since 1975 – which initially claimed the scientist's withdrawal was on medical grounds, before conceding a political motivation.

The university's volte-face came after the Guardian presented it with the text of a letter sent from Hawking to the organisers of the high-profile conference in Jerusalem, clearly stating that he was withdrawing from the conference in order to respect the call for a boycott by Palestinian academics.

The full text of the letter, dated 3 May, said: "I accepted the invitation to the Presidential Conference with the intention that this would not only allow me to express my opinion on the prospects for a peace settlement but also because it would allow me to lecture on the West Bank. However, I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster."

Hawking's decision to throw his weight behind the academic boycott of Israel met with an angry response from the organisers of the Presidential Conference, an annual event hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres.
"The academic boycott against Israel is in our view outrageous and improper, certainly for someone for whom the spirit of liberty lies at the basis of his human and academic mission," said conference chairman Israel Maimon. "Israel is a democracy in which all individuals are free to express their opinions, whatever they may be. The imposition of a boycott is incompatible with open, democratic dialogue."

Daniel Taub, the Israeli ambassador to London, said: "It is a great shame that Professor Hawking has withdrawn from the president's conference … Rather than caving into pressure from political extremists, active participation in such events is a far more constructive way to promote progress and peace."

The Wolf Foundation, which awarded Hawking the Wolf prize in physics in 1988, said it was "sad to learn that someone of Professor Hawking's standing chose to capitulate to irrelevant pressures and will refrain from visiting Israel".

But Palestinians welcomed Hawking's decision. "Palestinians deeply appreciate Stephen Hawking's support for an academic boycott of Israel," said Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. "We think this will rekindle the kind of interest among international academics in academic boycotts that was present in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa."

stephen hawking joined academic boycott of israel


guardian | Professor Stephen Hawking is backing the academic boycott of Israel by pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as a protest at Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Hawking, 71, the world-renowned theoretical physicist and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, had accepted an invitation to headline the fifth annual president's conference, Facing Tomorrow, in June, which features major international personalities, attracts thousands of participants and this year will celebrate Peres's 90th birthday.

Hawking is in very poor health, but last week he wrote a brief letter to the Israeli president to say he had changed his mind. He has not announced his decision publicly, but a statement published by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine with Hawking's approval described it as "his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there".

Hawking's decision marks another victory in the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions targeting Israeli academic institutions.

In April the Teachers' Union of Ireland became the first lecturers' association in Europe to call for an academic boycott of Israel, and in the United States members of the Association for Asian American Studies voted to support a boycott, the first national academic group to do so.

In the four weeks since Hawking's participation in the Jerusalem event was announced, he has been bombarded with messages from Britain and abroad as part of an intense campaign by boycott supporters trying to persuade him to change his mind. In the end, Hawking told friends, he decided to follow the advice of Palestinian colleagues who unanimously agreed that he should not attend.

Hawking's decision met with abusive responses on Facebook, with many commentators focusing on his physical condition, and some accusing him of antisemitism.

By participating in the boycott, Hawking joins a small but growing list of British personalities who have turned down invitations to visit Israel, including Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Annie Lennox and Mike Leigh.

can't they even trouble themselves to freshen up the narrative a little bit?



medialens | Last August, Barack Obama told reporters at the White House:
'We have been very clear to the Assad regime... that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised.

'That would change my calculus; that would change my equation.'

This was a clear threat to repeat the 2011 Nato assault which resulted in the overthrow and murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

So what is the evidence that Assad recently chose to do the one thing most likely to trigger a Western attack and similar fate?

On April 25, the White House claimed that US intelligence assessed 'with varying degrees of confidence' that 'the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin'.

Having offered this caveated assertion, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel added:

'We cannot confirm the origin of these weapons... but we do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime.'

He concluded:

'As I've said, this is serious business – we need all the facts.'

A sceptical Alex Thomson, chief correspondent at Channel 4 News, commented:

'WMD, the Middle East, and here we go again... Already a British prime minister is talking about a "war crime" whilst offering the British people no detailed evidence.'

Evidence included video footage said to show victims of chemical weapons foaming at the mouth.

Thomson offered a link to a detailed report of the 1995 sarin attack in Tokyo, noting: 'am advised there's no mention of any prominent bright, white foam at mouths'.

Thomson also asked, reasonably: 'Why doesn't any medic in the film wipe away the white foam on patients' mouths – the basic paramedic fundamental to preserve an airway?'

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

yesterday syria disappeared from the Internet...,

zerohedge | While there have been no new military attacks on Syria since Sunday morning, something more peculiar happened in the past few hours, when according to Akamai and various other Internet traffic trackers, Syria has literally gone "dark", or, as Umbrella Security Labs describes it, as if "Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet."

Some more from Umbrella's blog:
At around 18:45 UTC OpenDNS resolvers saw a significant drop in traffic from Syria. On closer inspection it seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet.

The graph below shows DNS traffic from and to Syria. Although Twitter remains relatively silent, the drop in both inbound and outbound traffic from Syria is clearly visible. The small amount of outbound traffic depicted by the chart indicates our DNS servers trying to reach DNS servers in Syria.

syria_offline

Currently both TLD servers for Syria, ns1.tld.sy and ns2.tld.sy are unreachable.  The remaining two nameservers sy.cctld.authdns.ripe.net. and pch.anycast.tld.sy. are reachable since they are not within Syria.

The Umbrella Security Labs also reported on an Internet blackout in Syria November of 2012, where we shared details of the top 10 most failed domains during the outage.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

survival of the nicest?


yes | A century ago, industrialists like Andrew Carnegie believed that Darwin’s theories justified an economy of vicious competition and inequality. They left us with an ideological legacy that says the corporate economy, in which wealth concentrates in the hands of a few, produces the best for humanity. This was always a distortion of Darwin’s ideas. His 1871 book The Descent of Man argued that the human species had succeeded because of traits like sharing and compassion. “Those communities,” he wrote, “which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring.” Darwin was no economist, but wealth-sharing and cooperation have always looked more consistent with his observations about human survival than the elitism and hierarchy that dominates contemporary corporate life.
 
Nearly 150 years later, modern science has verified Darwin’s early insights with direct implications for how we do business in our society. New peer-reviewed research by Michael Tomasello, an American psychologist and co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has synthesized three decades of research to develop a comprehensive evolutionary theory of human cooperation. What can we learn about sharing as a result?

Tomasello holds that there were two key steps that led to humans’ unique form of interdependence. The first was all about who was coming to dinner. Approximately two million years ago, a fledgling species known as Homo habilis emerged on the great plains of Africa. At the same time that these four-foot-tall, bipedal apes appeared, a period of global cooling produced vast, open environments. This climate change event ultimately forced our hominid ancestors to adapt to a new way of life or perish entirely. Since they lacked the ability to take down large game, like the ferocious carnivores of the early Pleistocene, the solution they hit upon was scavenging the carcasses of recently killed large mammals. The analysis of fossil bones from this period has revealed evidence of stone-tool cut marks overlaid on top of carnivore teeth marks. The precursors of modern humans had a habit of arriving late to the feast.

However, this survival strategy brought an entirely new set of challenges: Individuals now had to coordinate their behaviors, work together, and learn how to share. For apes living in the dense rainforest, the search for ripe fruit and nuts was largely an individual activity. But on the plains, our ancestors needed to travel in groups to survive, and the act of scavenging from a single animal carcass forced proto-humans to learn to tolerate each other and allow each other a fair share. This resulted in a form of social selection that favored cooperation: “Individuals who attempted to hog all of the food at a scavenged carcass would be actively repelled by others,” writes Tomasello, “and perhaps shunned in other ways as well.”

drought across the west spurs resurgence of....,



seattlepi | Along the irrigation canal that cuts through this centuries-old New Mexico town, a small group of churchgoers gathers to recite the rosary before tossing rose petals into the water.

Remnants of a tradition that stretches back to the days of Spanish explorers, the humble offerings are aimed at blessing this year's meager irrigation season and easing a relentless drought that continues to march across New Mexico and much of the western half of the U.S.

From the heart of New Mexico to West Texas and Oklahoma, the pressures of drought have resulted in a resurgence of faith — from Christian preachers and Catholic priests encouraging prayer processions to American Indian tribes using their closely guarded traditions in an effort to coax Mother Nature to deliver some much needed rain.

On Sunday, congregations across eastern New Mexico and West Texas are planning a day of prayer for moisture and rain.

Monday, May 06, 2013

why you church, break bread, and serve the community with folks who don't look like you...,


NYTimes | It’s easy to believe the worst is over in the economic downturn. But for African-Americans, the pain continues — over 13 percent of black workers are unemployed, nearly twice the national average. And that’s not a new development: regardless of the economy, job prospects for African-Americans have long been significantly worse than for the country as a whole.

The most obvious explanation for this entrenched disparity is racial discrimination. But in my research I have found a somewhat different culprit: favoritism. Getting an inside edge by using help from family and friends is a powerful, hidden force driving inequality in the United States.

Such favoritism has a strong racial component. Through such seemingly innocuous networking, white Americans tend to help other whites, because social resources are concentrated among whites. If African-Americans are not part of the same networks, they will have a harder time finding decent jobs.

The mechanism that reproduces inequality, in other words, may be inclusion more than exclusion. And while exclusion or discrimination is illegal, inclusion or favoritism is not — meaning it can be more insidious and largely immune to legal challenges.

Favoritism is almost universal in today’s job market. In interviews with hundreds of people on this topic, I found that all but a handful used the help of family and friends to find 70 percent of the jobs they held over their lifetimes; they all used personal networks and insider information if it was available to them.

In this context of widespread networking, the idea that there is a job “market” based solely on skills, qualifications and merit is false. Whenever possible, Americans seeking jobs try to avoid market competition: they look for unequal rather than equal opportunity. In fact, the last thing job seekers want to face is equal opportunity; they want an advantage. They want to find ways to cut in line and get ahead.

You don’t usually need a strong social network to land a low-wage job at a fast-food restaurant or retail store. But trying to land a coveted position that offers a good salary and benefits is a different story. To gain an edge, job seekers actively work connections with friends and family members in pursuit of these opportunities.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

western civilization since the dark ages, an idiosyncratic and subjective point of view....,


wikipedia | Civilisation—in full, Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark—is a television documentary series outlining the history of Western art, architecture and philosophy since the Dark Ages. The series was produced by the BBC and aired in 1969 on BBC2. Both the television scripts and the accompanying book version were written by art historian Kenneth Clark (1903–1983), who also presented the series. The series is considered to be a landmark in British Television's broadcasting of the visual arts.

Civilisation was one of the first United Kingdom television documentary series made in colour, commissioned during David Attenborough's controllership of BBC2. For technical reasons, colour television was to come to BBC2 before BBC1 and, as a channel aimed at a more highbrow audience, it was appropriate to commission a major series about the arts.[3] It was Attenborough who prompted the title, but due to time constraints the series only covered Western Civilisation. Clark did not "suppose that anyone could be so obtuse as to think I had forgotten about the great civilisations of the pre-Christian era and the east", though the title continued to worry him.[4]

The series won many awards and was sold to over sixty countries. The book which accompanied the series became a best seller in both the United Kingdom and the United States. The American sponsor Xerox paid $450,000 for a single film compilation of the series. Clark earned a peerage on the strength of the series;[5] taking the title Baron Clark of Saltwood; he was sometimes referred to facetiously as "Lord Clark of Civilisation".

Some[who?] have criticised the series for using the title "Civilisation" when it dealt more narrowly with the civilisation in of Western Europe. In this context, the series was considered by some to be Eurocentric,[citation needed] with African works of art acknowledged but seen as the products of superstition, rather than rational thought, and not evidence of civilisation. In the first episode of the series, "The Skin of Our Teeth," Clark acknowledged the vitality of Viking art and the dynamism of Viking society, but found that these were not enough to constitute what he meant by 'civilisation'. In the same episode, Clark made it clear that the series would be concerned with Western civilisation. Furthermore the series' subtitle, "A Personal View by Kenneth Clark", reinforced the subjectivity of the thoughts he expressed.

radical weather patterns cause food production to plummet..,


naturalnews | Simply put, when nature deviates from its normal cycles, it throws food production into chaos. A one-night drop below freezing, for example, can wipe out the entire citrus crop in Florida. A Midwest drought recently collapsed corn production there, and almost two years ago, a severe drought in Texas caused a collapse in grazing grasses, resulting in a mass slaughter of starving cows that could no longer be fed. The upshot of that was plummeting beef prices, followed by a spike the next year as herds had been thinned out far beyond normal.

Here's what you need to remember and weather and food prices:

Stable weather = cheap food

Radical weather = expensive food (or no food at all)

The "latency" between the radical weather and resulting food prices is anywhere from one month (for fresh produce) to a full year (for processed, manufactured foods). This means that crazy weather patterns today might not spike food prices until next year, depending on the crops in question.

Because the weather is becoming more radical, food prices are trending sharply higher. The USDA, which downplays food inflation for political reasons, admits that food prices rose 3.7% in 2011, 2.6% in 2012 and are currently rising at 3% in 2013.

These numbers are artificially low, of course, as is readily evident at the grocery store right now. But even when kept low, they still portray an alarming scenario when you consider these food price increases are compounded annually. That means they pile on top of previous year's increases, causing the resulting price spikes to rise faster than might be expected by intuition alone.

For example, if food prices increase at just 3.5% per year, they will double every 20 years.

But the actual food inflation we seem to be experiencing when you consider the real products that people buy is closer to 6%. And at 6%, food prices double every 12 years!

Food production is extremely resource intensive

For food prices to drop, food production inputs must fall in price at the same time weather patterns become more predictable. This is extremely unlikely to occur any time in the foreseeable future, especially with fresh water, topsoil and fuel all becoming increasingly scarce and therefore more expensive.

For those who don't know, farming is extremely resource intensive, using enormous quantities of water and fossil fuels to produce food. For example, it takes 1,000 liters of water to make 1 liter of milk.

Similarly, it takes 15,400 liters of water to produce just 1kg of beef.

A very informative website that explains all this is:

Also check out:

This report shows that the "water footprint" of a typical U.S. citizen is a remarkable 2,842 cubic meters per year.

That's three quarters of a million gallons of water PER PERSON, per year.

Once you understand this relationship, you'll understand why rainfall and weather patterns are so crucial to the food supply. Just one inch of rainfall on just one acre of land delivers 6.2 million cubic inches of water to the land (and whatever is growing there). That's 27,000 gallons of water per acre with just a one-inch rain.

In a drought, large pieces of land are subjected to huge water deficits running in the billions of gallons. Under such conditions, edible plants simply cannot grow, and even grazing animals like cows are unable to even maintain current weight.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

protect US resource interests by increasing arctic military penetration?


guardian | Senior US government officials are to be briefed at the White House this week on the danger of an ice-free Arctic in the summer within two years.

The meeting is bringing together Nasa's acting chief scientist, Gale Allen, the director of the US National Science Foundation, Cora Marett, as well as representatives from the US Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon. 

This is the latest indication that US officials are increasingly concerned about the international and domestic security implications of climate change.

Senior scientists advising the US government at the meeting include 10 Arctic specialists, including marine scientist Prof Carlos Duarte, director of the Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia.
In early April, Duarte warned that the Arctic summer sea ice was melting at a rate faster than predicted by conventional climate models, and could be ice free as early as 2015 - rather than toward the end of the century, as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected in 2007. He said:
"The Arctic situation is snowballing: dangerous changes in the Arctic derived from accumulated anthropogenic green house gases lead to more activities conducive to further greenhouse gas emissions. This situation has the momentum of a runaway train."
Duarte is lead author of a paper published last year in Nature Climate Change documenting how "tipping elements" in the Arctic ecosystems leading to "abrupt changes" that would dramatically impact "the global earth system" had "already started up". Duarte and his team concluded: "We are facing the first clear evidence of dangerous climate change."

Friday, May 03, 2013

the shape of time...,


archdruid | Patterns of thinking, like patterns of action, are most efficient when they don’t require conscious attention. Just as you can’t really become skilled at playing a musical instrument until you no longer have to consciously move every finger into position on the keys or strings, you can’t really use a way of thinking about the world until it slips below the surface of the mind and starts to structure how you experience other things.  Pay attention to the way your mind works when you wake in dim light in an unfamiliar room, and the vague shapes around you take time to turn into recognizable furniture, and you’ll get a sense of the way this affects your awareness of the world; learn some cognitive skill such as plant identification, and notice the shifts in perception as foliage changes from a vague green blur to a galaxy of legible patterns, and you’ll get a sense of the same process from a different angle.

The difficulty with this otherwise helpful process comes when the unnoticed ideas you’re using to frame your experience of the world no longer tell you the things you most need to know. Wilderness tracker Tom Brown Jr. tells a story in one of his books about a group of students who were learning plant identification, and were out with Brown on a herb walk. Brown stopped them at one point along the trail, pointed to a plant, and said, “What do you see?” The students all correctly named the plant. “Get closer and take another look,” Brown said. The students did so, and confirmed that it was, in fact, the plant they’d named. After several repetitions, they were almost on top of the plant, and it wasn’t until then that the rabbit that was nibbling on the plant leaves bounded away, startling the students. They had been paying so much attention to plants that they hadn’t seen the rabbit at all.

The same thing happens in far less innocuous ways when the unnoticed ideas aren’t simply the product of a weekend workshop’s focus, but provide basic frameworks for the experiences and the thinking of an entire culture. The cognitive framing that I called the shape of time in last week’s post is a case in point. Most people, most of the time, don’t notice that all their thinking about past, present and future is shaped by some set of unnoticed assumptions about time and history.  The assumptions in question usually come out of some fusion of culturally valued narratives and recent experience—not a bad idea, all things considered, unless events begin to move in ways that a fusion of culturally valued narratives and recent experience no longer explain.

It’s easiest to understand this in practice by taking an example that’s as different as possible from the common habits of thinking today; fortunately, the history of ideas has no shortage of those. The one I want to introduce here comes to us courtesy of Hesiod, one of the very first ancient Greek poets whose works still survive. He lived in the eighth century BCE in the harsh if beautiful hill country of Boeotia, halfway down the eastern side of the Greek peninsula. That we know of, he wrote two major poems, The Origin of the Gods and Works and Days, and the latter of these sketches out a vision of the shape of time that was to have a great deal of influence long after Hesiod’s day.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

ultrasociality



agrieusocial | The adoption of agriculture was one of the most momentous transformations in human history. It set into motion forces that changed our species from living in small numbers within the confines of local ecosystems into one that is now changing the biophysical characteristics of the entire planet. We argue that this transformation can be understood as a leap to ultrasociality-a type of social organization rare in nature but wildly successful when it occurs. Several species of ants and termites made a similar leap in social organization and the broad characteristics of their societies are remarkably similar to post hunter-gatherer human societies. Ultrasocial species dominate the ecosystems they occupy in terms of sheer numbers and the scale of ecosystem exploitation. We argue that the drivers for the ultrasocial transition to agriculture are economic. These societies operate as superorganisms exhibiting an unparalleled degree of division of labor and an economic organization centered around surplus production. We suggest that the origin of human and insect agriculture is an example of parallel evolution driven by similar forces of multi-level selection. Only with the evolution of expansionist agriculturalist societies did humans join ants and termites in the social domination of Earth. Viewing agriculture as an ultrasocial transition offers insights not only about the origins of agriculture and its consequences, but also about the forces shaping the current demographic transition and the modern global socio-economic system.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

no rich child left behind


NYTimes | Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.

Whether you think it deeply unjust, lamentable but inevitable, or obvious and unproblematic, this is hardly news. It is true in most societies and has been true in the United States for at least as long as we have thought to ask the question and had sufficient data to verify the answer.

What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.

One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.

To make this trend concrete, consider two children, one from a family with income of $165,000 and one from a family with income of $15,000. These incomes are at the 90th and 10th percentiles of the income distribution nationally, meaning that 10 percent of children today grow up in families with incomes below $15,000 and 10 percent grow up in families with incomes above $165,000.

In the 1980s, on an 800-point SAT-type test scale, the average difference in test scores between two such children would have been about 90 points; today it is 125 points. This is almost twice as large as the 70-point test score gap between white and black children. Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.

why everything else is merely conversation...,



brookings | Many scholars have argued that once “basic needs” have been met, higher income is no longer associated with higher in subjective well-being. We assess the validity of this claim in comparisons of both rich and poor countries, and also of rich and poor people within a country. Analyzing multiple datasets, multiple definitions of “basic needs” and multiple questions about well-being, we find no support for this claim. The relationship between well-being and income is roughly linear-log and does not diminish as incomes rise. If there is a satiation point, we are yet to reach it.

In 1974 Richard Easterlin famously posited that increasing average income did not raise average well-being, a claim that became known as the Easterlin Paradox. However, in recent years new and more comprehensive data has allowed for greater testing of Easterlin’s claim. Studies by us and others have pointed to a robust positive relationship between well-being and income across countries and over time (Deaton, 2008; Stevenson and Wolfers, 2008; Sacks, Stevenson, and Wolfers, 2013). Yet, some researchers have argued for a modified version of Easterlin’s hypothesis, acknowledging the existence of a link between income and well-being among those whose basic needs have not been met, but claiming that beyond a certain income threshold, further income is unrelated to well-being.

The existence of such a satiation point is claimed widely, although there has been no formal statistical evidence presented to support this view. For example Diener and Seligman (2004, p. 5) state that “there are only small increases in well-being” above some threshold. While Clark, Frijters and Shields (2008, p. 123) state more starkly that “greater economic prosperity at some point ceases to buy more happiness,” a similar claim is made by Di Tella and MacCulloch (2008, p. 17): “once basic needs have been satisfied, there is full adaptation to further economic growth.” The income level beyond which further income no longer yields greater well-being is typically said to be somewhere between $8,000 and $25,000. Layard (2003, p. 17) argues that “once a country has over $15,000 per head, its level of happiness appears to be independent of its income;” while in subsequent work he argued for a $20,000 threshold (Layard, 2005 p. 32-33). Frey and Stutzer (2002, p. 416) claim that “income provides happiness at low levels of development but once a threshold (around $10,000) is reached, the average income level in a country has little effect on average subjective well-being.”

Many of these claims, of a critical level of GDP beyond which happiness and GDP are no longer linked, come from cursorily examining plots of well-being against the level of per capita GDP. Such graphs show clearly that increasing income yields diminishing marginal gains in subjective well-being. However this relationship need not reach a point of nirvana beyond which further gains in well-being are absent. For instance Deaton (2008) and Stevenson and Wolfers (2008) find that the well-being–income relationship is roughly a linear-log relationship, such that, while each additional dollar of income yields a greater increment to measured happiness for the poor than for the rich, there is no satiation point.

never forget that economics is politics in disguise...,


NYTimes | A crucial question in the debate over income and wealth inequality is whether its growth necessarily leads to a growth in the inequality of political power. If it does, then this is a powerful reason for the federal government to take active measures to reduce income and wealth inequality — even if it comes at an economic cost to the nation.

Conservatives and libertarians generally do not believe that increased inequality is a political or economic problem. To a large extent, I think that is because they fear that acknowledging the problem would require the adoption of policies they find distasteful, immoral and economically counterproductive.

That is, income and wealth would have to be redistributed — taken via taxation from the wealthy and given to the poor. The higher taxes will reduce the incentive to work, save and invest among the wealthy, conservatives and libertarians believe, which will reduce economic growth and lead to the expatriation of the wealthy from the United States, while fostering a culture of dependency among the poor that will reduce their incentive to better themselves and escape poverty.

Insofar as the political dynamics are concerned, conservatives and libertarians are generally fearful of democracy. That is because, in principle, there is essentially no constraint on the ability of the majority to take from the minority and reward themselves in a pure democracy. The founding fathers very much shared this concern and intentionally enacted numerous restraints on the majority to protect the rights of the minority to their wealth. Among these are the federal system, with relatively strong states and a weak national legislature, as compared to parliamentary systems, and a Senate where small, sparsely populated states, per capita, have more influence than large, populous states; a written constitution with strong protection for property rights; and an Electoral College instead of election of the president by pure popular vote.

One reason that conservatives and libertarians obsess over the large percentage of the population that pays no federal income taxes, often put at 47 percent, is the political concern that the nation is very close to a tipping point where the have-nots can take from the haves almost at will.