This has been in the news some, but I hadn't decided to make a thread about it.
Basically on March 31st the Pegasus oil pipeline ruptured near Mayflower Arkansas. It spilled 10,000+ barrels of oil (A barrel = 53 gal. or 158L) Mayflower is a small town about 20 minutes north of Little Rock, where I grew up, and about 15 minutes south of Conway, where I went to college, so I know this area pretty well.
Interestingly, what spilled is not crude oil. Rather it is "diluted bitumen." What they mine out of the tar sands fields in Canada is far closer to solid tar than it is crude oil. They blast the tar sands with steam and chemicals to free the oil, then they mix the oil with light petroleum compounds to make it liquid enough to flow before transporting it.
Exxon evacuated people and shut the pipeline off the day of the spill, and have been cleaning it up. But at the same time, they, along with police have basicaally created an exclusion zone. If you're trying to approach the spill area on main roads police will tell you to turn around. Reporters are being barred from the site of the spill they also Pissed off the Arkansas Attorney General by trying to herd him into a "tour" of the area rather than freely moving about
Thankfully, this is rural Arkansas and there's more than one way to get into anywhere, and people have been taking videos of the oil.
Killer Kareoke: Reality Television and the death of the middle class
The meat of the article.
The shows that exploded in the early aughts, starting with Survivor and Big Brother, represented a new historical relationship between reality TV actors and employers. Most reality shows today enjoy a spectacularly profitable exploitation of their actors. These shows are attractive to produce because creating the content and, ultimately, much of the show’s value requires them to utilize a class of unorganized low-paid laborer: the American reality contestant.
Capitalist economic systems require one central point of internal logic for them to function; in order to constantly expand profits, workers must be paid less than the value their work creates, ideally as little as possible, as little as the labor market will bear. In classical economic theory, new value only comes from one place, labor. In order to concentrate wealth for owners, shareholders and managers, this surplus value is then concentrated into financial instruments and forms of rent that charge the workers who created the value in the first place. It is a parasitic relationship.
Reality TV contestants are an excellent object for this kind of relationship, because they are a disposable, easily replaced group of workers. Because their working conditions are not regulated by the Screen Actor's Guild, contestants can work unusually long hours, Some shows require a working day as long as 12-18 hours. Appearing on a show requires temporarily leaving, even risking, one's job. Union pay for an actor on a scripted situation comedy is $25,000 per episode. Reality TV contestants are often paid nothing at all for their work, though some receive a modest stipend. Most agree to work for food and shelter during the time they are being filmed, in hopes that the exposure might lead to some future opportunity, if not just for the sheer narcissistic reward of appearing on television.
The worsening conditions for television workers with the advent of reality TV mirror the gradually worsening conditions of the American middle class over the past few decades. Since the early 1970s, business leaders and the pro-business lobby have orchestrated a massive wealth transfer from the middle class to the ruling elite through deregulation and changes in trade and tax policies that favor the upper classes at the expense of the working and middle classes. The Pew Research Center reports that the number of households earning two-thirds to twice the median income has shrunk from sixty-one percent of the US population in 1971 to fifty-one percent today, and that reduced middle class earns a lower percent of total national income. The 1972 adjusted gross wages for the average worker was $738 per week. In 2008 it was $598. In 1970 the average CEO made twice what the average worker made. Today that same CEO makes five hundred times what the average worker makes. The income of the richest one-percent has tripled since 1980, while at the same time the income of the bottom ninety percent has dropped by twenty percent. Bill Clinton and politicians from both sides of the aisles promised to create jobs with NAFTA in the early 1990s, but according to the Economic Policy Institute, NAFTA actually cost the United States nearly 700,000 jobs, mostly in manufacturing.
There has only been one brief moment where the American middle class grew at all in the last thirty years: during the tech bubble of the late 1990s. Reality television as we know it began just after this anomalous growth spurt began reversing itself. Shows like Survivor, Big Brother and Fear Factor dramatized the new economic realities: vicious competition, humiliation, hard work for little reward, and winner-take-all ethics.
The idea for this thread came from a story I read.
Retirement Anxiety grows among young adults
The survey itself
Now, the headline is slightly misleading, when it says "Young adults" it is talking about a 35-44 age group, but it puts forward some statistics.
a. the median net worth of adults 35-44 is less than 50% of what it was for that age group in 2001. By contrast, the 55-64 age bracket was only 20% lower.
b. 53% of adults 35-44 say they are "not at all confident" they will have sufficient savings to retire. By contrast, only 27% of adults 55-64 say the same thing.
I know the age group in this forum is quite a bit younger, but I've got the general sense most of the people posting in this particular sub-forum are 20 something to early 30 something, just under the age group, but I think it's an interesting issue.
1. to what extent have you even considered reitrement? if you have a job do you participate in a 401k or some kind of IRA?
2. Do you have any confidence that social security or another similar government program will provide any meaningful level of income for retirement?
3. Do you think that an expectation that you can stop working at 60 or 65 or 70 is "normal" and do you expect that you'll be able to retire?
4. Regardless of whether you think it's normal, do you anticipate it yourself?
3 years ago
See This Thread: .
I'm working on a project with a committee of the Arkansas Bar association to potentially look at developing an educational flash game (target audience late elementary to jr high I think) on Arkansas History/The Arkansas Constitution somewhat similar to the ones already up here which were developed by the Texas Bar.
This is still in its very early stages so I'm mainly looking to get some general information from anyone who's done flash or similar work, what kind of time is involved in something like the above and what market rates might be for work like that.
I'm on a Committee with the Arkansas Bar Association. This particular committee is the "Law Related Education Committee" and its job is to improve law related education here in the state.
Last year we copied (with permission) some educational flash games that had been developed by the Texas Bar Association. You can see the collection of them here
The Committee wanted to possibly develop a similar game relating to the Arkansas Constitution and Arkansas History. Target audience is late elementary to Jr. High-ish. I have some very minimal experience with Flash (IE I've screwed around with a copy of Adobe Flash), but obviously the time to not only re-teach myself how to do it, but the work of actually doing it is substantial. We do have a potential budget but I don't even know what it is yet. So at this point I'm looking for general info. Anyone with some experience developing flash or similar type games, assuming the written content is provided for you, what kind of time is involved making something like the above and what market rates might be for some contract work like this.
Let me know if you have any info or thoughts. If you'd rather not post details feel free to message me.
"He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.
- John Stuart Mill
The Touring Test was a test devised by Dr. Alan Touring as a measure of artificial intelligence. Although there are many variations, the essential version of the test is a blind conversation between a judge and two other parties, one human and one computer. It is a measure of artificial intelligence if the judge cannot distinguish the machine from the person.
Alternatively, a chess player plays two games blinded as to his opponent. In one game he is playing a real life chess master. In another he is playing a sophisticated computer program. Is he able to tell the difference?
The concept of the "Ideological Touring Test arose recently because of an article by Paul Krugman where he made the claim that liberals (or liberal economists at least) understand conservative arguments but not vice versa.
In my experience with these things – which I find both within economics and more broadly – is that if you ask a liberal or a saltwater economist, “What would somebody on the other side of this divide say here? What would their version of it be?” A liberal can do that. A liberal can talk coherently about what the conservative view is because people like me actually do listen. We don’t think it’s right, but we pay enough attention to see what the other person is trying to get at. The reverse is not true. You try to get someone who is fiercely anti-Keynesian to even explain what a Keynesian economic argument is, they can’t do it. They can’t get it remotely right. Or if you ask a conservative, “What do liberals want?” You get this bizarre stuff – for example, that liberals want everybody to ride trains, because it makes people more susceptible to collectivism. You just have to look at the realities of the way each side talks and what they know. One side of the picture is open-minded and sceptical. We have views that are different, but they’re arrived at through paying attention. The other side has dogmatic views.
It's easy to scoff at Krugman's self-congratulation, but at the meta-level, he's on to something. Mill states it well: "He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that." If someone can correctly explain a position but continue to disagree with it, that position is less likely to be correct. And if ability to correctly explain a position leads almost automatically to agreement with it, that position is more likely to be correct. (See free trade). It's not a perfect criterion, of course, especially for highly idiosyncratic views. But the ability to pass ideological Turing tests - to state opposing views as clearly and persuasively as their proponents - is a genuine symptom of objectivity and wisdom.
He goes on to explain a self test version.
Pick an issue (as he notes it must be a complicated issue, idiosyncratic issues don't work well) on which you have a liberal or conservative position and attempt to explain the position opposite yours. Can you explain it to the point where someone who actually holds the liberal/conservative view will admit you've stated their argument well?
Give it a try.
Post edited 7/10/11 10:42AM
Although the entire United States is graying, the 2010 Census showed how much faster the suburbs are growing older when compared with the cities. Thanks largely to the baby-boom generation, four in 10 suburban residents are 45 or older, up from 34 percent just a decade ago. Thirty-five percent of city residents are in that age group, an increase from 31 percent in the last census.
I thought this was thread worthy because it rings a chord with me. I moved a lot as a kid, but we moved to Arkansas in 1990 and settled down. We lived in a middle to upper middle class suburban neighborhood. It's a good 20 minute drive from the city center without any traffic. The houses were built late 80's to early 90's. We were the second owners but the house was like 3 years old. (and was one of the first in the development)
When we first moved there and for years afterward, on our maybe 2.5 block long side street there were no fewer than 7 other families with children roughly in my age group. At least half the houses on the street, maybe more.
There's been some turnover in the neighborhood but most of the people still live in those houses, on the other hand, all of their kids are grown now. There can't be more than 1-2 families with children under 18 on the street now.
Now people my age are having kids, and for the most part they aren't moving into neighborhoods like that. For one, post mortgage bust few of them can afford to without some pretty serious down payment saving. But for another, most want to love closer to their work and are often moving into older (40's-50's-60's era houses). The kind of houses my grandparents had from the post-war era.
Do you see this change occuring too? and what do you think will come of Suburbs changing from predominately young neighborhoods to much older neighborhoods? Do the kids of today eventually "grow up" and move into exurbs themselves as they become more affluent or do they stay in more compact neighborhoods with closer access to commercial and other areas?
I ran across this article in the New York Times the other day and thought it was interesting.
David Brooks: The Experience Economy
The central point of the op-ed is this.
Tyler Cowen’s e-book, “The Great Stagnation,” has become the most debated nonfiction book so far this year. Cowen’s core point is that up until sometime around 1974, the American economy was able to experience awesome growth by harvesting low-hanging fruit. There was cheap land to be exploited. There was the tremendous increase in education levels during the postwar world. There were technological revolutions occasioned by the spread of electricity, plastics and the car.
But that low-hanging fruit is exhausted, Cowen continues, and since 1974, the United States has experienced slower growth...He argues that our society, for the moment, has hit a technological plateau.
But his evidence can also be used to tell a related story. It could be that the nature of technological change isn’t causing the slowdown but a shift in values. It could be that in an industrial economy people develop a materialist mind-set and believe that improving their income is the same thing as improving their quality of life. But in an affluent information-driven world, people embrace the postmaterialist mind-set. They realize they can improve their quality of life without actually producing more wealth.
Brooks goes on to tell the story of a man named "Sam." Sam was born in 1900 and died in 1974. Although he lacked a formal education, he worked feverishly to build an industrial company from the ground up, and along the way employed dozens or even hundreds of other workers, creating opportunity for a lot of people.
Then he compares Sams Grandson Jared. Jared was born in 1978, and although in many ways Jared lives a better life than Sam did, his focus is on improving himself, and he does so in a way that is not merely through attempting to create wealth.
For Sam, income and living standards were synonymous. But for Jared, wealth and living standards have diverged. He is more interested in the latter than the former. This means that Jared has some rich and meaningful experiences, but it has also led to problems.
This is Paul Krugman's rebuttal: Lifestyles of the rich but not famous - His primary argument is that Americans are working as hard or harder than they ever have.
I think this could be a fun one.
Scientists propose one way mission to mars
Now, really when they say "propose," it means two guys wrote a paper suggesting that if a one way mission were to be sent to prepare a site for an initial permanent colony or research station, the cost of establishing such a venture could be slashed dramatically.
here's the paper published in the Journal of Cosmology.
The exploration of Mars has been a priority for the space programs of several nations for decades, yet the prospect of a manned expedition continually recedes in the face of daunting and well-recognized challenges.
The long travel time to Mars in zero gravity and high radiation conditions would impose a serious health burden on the astronauts. The costs of developing the launch vehicle and assembling the large amount of equipment needed for the astronauts to survive the journey and their long sojourn on the Martian surface, together with a need to send all the fuel and supplies for a return journey make a manned Mars expedition at least an order of magnitude more expensive than the Apollo program.
In our view, however, many of these human and financial problems would be ameliorated by a one-way mission. It is important to realize that this is not a "suicide mission." The astronauts would go to Mars with the intention of staying for the rest of their lives, as trailblazers of a permanent human Mars colony. They would be resupplied periodically from Earth, and eventually develop some "home grown" industry such as food production and mineral/chemical processing (Zubrin and Baker 1992; Zubrin and Wagner 1997). Their role would be to establish a "base camp" to which more colonists would eventually be sent, and to carry out important scientific and technological projects meanwhile.
Later they discuss the technical aspects.
The first colonists to Mars wouldn’t go in "cold." Robotic probes sent on ahead would establish necessities such as an energy source (such as a small nuclear reactor augmented by solar panels), enough food for two years, the basics for creating home-grown agriculture, one or more rover vehicles and a tool-kit for carrying out essential engineering and maintenance work.
The first human contingent would consist of a crew of four, ideally (and if the budget permits) distributed between two two-man space craft to allow for some mission redundancy such as in the Viking mission or for the Mars Exploration Rovers....
Once the humans arrived at the base, their task would be not unlike that of the early settlers in North America – only the underlying technology and utilized tools would be much more sophisticated.
I don't want to quote too much.
So I'll just lead in.
What do you think about the idea? is it a viable means to start a human colony? More importantly is it ethical? Assuming you're qualified, would you volunteer for something like that?
I'm an attorney in central Arkansas. I went t Hendrix College for undrgrad and University of Arkansas for law school.
No Contests, and I will not vote for you for anything.
I will deny random friend requests
Motto: "Illegitimus non carborundum est"