Friday, November 27, 2015

Collective Action Problem: Who Will Bell the Don

The saying goes, " who will bell the cat", which turns out to be based on a fable from the Middle Ages. Dana Milbank wrote about the Republican problem with Donald Trump.  It would likely be to the benefit of all the other candidates if he lost support, but if only one candidate attacks him he or she might not attract Trump's former supporters.  For some reason I was reminded of this old saying.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


This Technology Review article discusses the use of CRISPR to "engineer babies".

And another article says: "Gene drives are just the latest example of the fantastic power of CRISPR editing to alter the DNA of living things,..."  This is in the context of engineering mosquitoes which stop the transmission of the malaria parasite and ensuring they proliferate, raising the possibility of a victory against malaria. But it raises the ethics of changing the biosphere, permanently.

I first posted about CRISPR back in April, which was pretty good of me, though my post was more about the quandary it poses for opponents of genetic modification.  That quandary becomes more severe as we begin to see the potential uses of the technique.

[Updated: An Atlantic article on understanding our genes.--hat tip  Marginal Revolution.]

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fortran?? Really, Fortran

FCW has a post on supporting Fortran, by "accommodating the legacy code with an open-source Fortran compiler to help integrate the programming language into a larger pool of computer languages in supercomputers."

Fortran was old when I was learning COBOL back in the 70's.  And most of the people in the US have never heard of either, too young.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Appropriating a Cultural Image

Lots of debate over "appropriating" another culture (see Eugene Volokh on yoga).  So I was struck by the image here,
which is entitled "Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression". (Image reached from this post at The Junto.) It's a political cartoon published shortly after the Boston Tea Party.  It shows British and Americans as opposing camps, with the Americans represented as Indians. Excerpts from the explanation/text in the cartoon:

12. America represented by a Woman is an Indian queen, with drawn bow about to loose an arrow at Lord North.
Behind her are six Indian warriors. They are:
13. The Sons of Liberty, represented by the Natives of America, in their savage garb. They emerge from the forest, armed with bows and spears, saying “We will secure our freedom, or die in the Attempt”: “ Lead us to Liberty  or Death”; “Lead on, Lead on.”  Above them the shores of America stretch out from Boston to the Delaware. Seated in comfort on these shores, holding a liberty cap on her staff, a tabby cat curled somewhat incongruously at her feet, is:
14. The Goddess of Liberty, addressing herself to Fame and pointing To her Sons, saying proudly “Behold the Ardor of my Sons and let not their brave Actions be buried in Oblivion.”
 Bottom line: much of our history is appropriated imagery.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Maintenance May Be China's Downfall Future Nightmare

Although China's economy has slowed a bit, it's still growing, after 35 years of impressive growth.  But it strikes me that China will face a big problem down the road.  Because their growth has been so rapid, much of their infrastructure is roughly the same age. That means it will be wearing out about the same time, requiring a lot of repairs or replacement.  China has profited by the ability to modernize their agriculture, freeing/driving workers to the cities.  Meanwhile the 1-child policy has meant fewer children to support, so the ratio of workers to dependents has been high, whereas in the future it will be low.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Rogers

My father's ancestors were heavy on Presbyterianism.  I was very surprised to learn that Donald Trump  is a Presbyterian. :-(  My equanimity was restored by this Atlantic piece reminding me that Mr. Rogers was also a Presbyterian. :-(

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Refugees make good renters, according to this piece from Bloomberg, hat tip Marginal Revolution.  Some of the upstate New York rust belt cities are finding them an asset--Utica, Syracuse.

And the flowchart for the vetting process, (thumbnail below) from the White House.  Makes the old Republican chart on ACA implementation look simple.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Vox, Wikipedia, and Woodrow Wilson

Dylan Mathews has a post at Vox on Woodrow Wilson and race.  IMHO he has two errors:

"Wilson himself was the descendant of Confederate soldiers..."  According to Wikipedia, his father was briefly a chaplain in the Confederate army.

" Wilson lent The Birth of a Nation his approval by screening it at the White House and reportedly telling Griffith that it could "teach history with lightning.""

The bit about the quote is terrible.  Yes, this has been reported, but it's dubious.  Mathews links to the abstract of an article which promises to examine the history of the quote.  The article is behind a paywall so Mathews should give us the article's conclusion, not an abstract.Other sources question the quote.  See Snopes

[updated.  See footnote 25 from this source.[

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Three Times Greece or Poland

No, that's not good.  The US maternal mortality rate is three times that of Greece or Poland, according to this piece.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How Cheap Can Coding Be?

How about one dollar?  This FCW  piece explains how putting a project out for bid, resulted in a cost to the government of one dollar.   Naturally the competitors are upset.  I'm not.  I do wonder about the rise of contractors and free-lance employees: are they really paying the taxes they should, not only income taxes but social security etc.