|Ken Novak's Weblog
Purpose of this blog: to retain annotated bookmarks for my future reference, and to offer others my filter technology and other news. Note that this blog is categorized. Use the category links to find items that match your interests.
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Friday, January 27, 2006
: Software for Starving Students (SSS) version 2006.01 released, with many useful free utilities, both Windows and Mac. 11:42:03 PM
Lessons of post-Cold War development:
Summarizes and links to papers by Harvard's Dani Rodrik, especially an excellent review of economic development policies since 1990, "Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion?"
For example: "While it is true that over the past ten years scores of developing nations have not experienced economic growth, and in some cases have actually fallen backwards, despite following the rules of the Washington Consensus, paradoxically, that doesn't mean the era of globalization has been an unmitigated disaster. Quite the contrary: "From the standpoint of global poverty," writes Rodrik, "the last two decades have proved the most favorable that the world has ever experienced. Rapid economic growth in China, India, and a few other Asian countries has resulted in an absolute reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty."
But what's fascinating is that China and India made their march forward, according to Rodrik, not by willy nilly opening up their markets with neoliberal abandon, but with great attention to policy choices, and with explicit government involvement in the economy that can only be described as industrial policy. The same was true of many of the East Asian nations who developed earlier, like Taiwan and South Korea, which only started to seriously open up after
they had achieved substantial economic growth through a mix of protectionism, export subsidies, and other policy choices." 11:17:30 PM
Dollars and Sense:
Provocative article by David Brooks on voter alignments in the US, explaining why economic issues seem to matter less than cultural to most voters. "Over the past few decades, Democrats have generally conceived of America as a society divided between comfortable haves and insecure have-nots. Having read thousands of gloomy articles about downsizing, outsourcing and wage stagnation, they've tried to rally the insecure working majority against the privileged minority — or, as Al Gore put it, the people against the powerful...
Last year, the liberal economist Stephen Rose ..observed, "It is an occupational hazard of those with big hearts to overestimate the share of the population that is economically distressed." Rose concluded that only 19 % of males and 27 % of females are poor or working poor — a percentage that is "probably much smaller than most progressive commentators would estimate." .. [In recent decades] the share of bad jobs fell significantly as more workers with postsecondary education moved into an expanding set of managerial and professional jobs." "
Excluding the young (who vote less often) the point gets sharper. "Rose calculated the household incomes for people between 26 and 59 and found that the average annual family income is somewhere around $63,000 a year — an impressive figure. Opinion polls consistently show that people at these income levels feel as if they're doing quite well and don't feel oppressed by forces beyond their control. ..
over the past year the Democratic polling firm of Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner has noted that voters don't separate values issues from economic issues. They use values issues as stand-ins and figure the candidates they associate with traditional morality are also the ones with sensible economic policies. In the current issue of The American Prospect, Garance Franke-Ruta [writes] "Traditional values have become aspirational. Lower-income individuals simply live in a much more disrupted society, with higher divorce rates, more single moms, more abortions, and more interpersonal and interfamily strife, than do the middle- and upper-middle-class people they want to be like." ..
especially in the information age, social values and cultural capital shape a person's economic destiny more than the other way around. If you are a middle-class woman, you have more to fear from divorce than from outsourcing. If you have a daughter, you're right to worry more about her having a child before marriage than about her being a victim of globalization. This country's prosperity is threatened more by homes where no one reads to children than it is by big pharmaceutical companies.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed that the core conservative truth is that culture matters most, and that the core liberal truth is that government can reshape culture. But liberals have turned culturally libertarian. Afraid to be judgmental about things like family structure, they've dropped out of the core values debate. Conservatives, especially evangelicals, have had free rein .. Middle-class Americans feel social anxiety more acutely than economic anxiety because they understand that values matter most." 11:10:19 PM
My Outsourced Life:
Funny article on individual outsourcing. I wonder how close to true it is? 10:59:40 PM
Text messaging, thumb drives, and Web mail for disasters:
"Communications systems were largely useless when
Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region, “but text messaging
did work,” said John Lawson, CIO of Tulane University in New Orleans. Lawson and other officials who were on the ground
during Katrina’s aftermath told a gathering of public-sector CIOs that
because text messaging requires so little bandwidth, and in very short
bursts, it became a primary means of communicating during
“Our young folks figured that out for us,” said Joe
Castillo, chief of operations for the Coast Guard district serving New
.. Castillo [also] said the Coast Guard relied on thumb drives to
courier data around the area. The miniature storage devices contain
flash memory and typically connect to computers through a USB port. “I
bought a ton of them,” Castillo said.
Agencies on the ground also relied heavily on
commercial e-mail services and recommended off-site e-mail systems as
part of a continuity of operations plan (COOP). Eric Rasmussen, a
director of emergency medicine for the Navy, said his group set up
accounts on Yahoo Mail, Google and others in order to share
Lawson said he learned to have an off-site e-mail
system in place in case of disaster. Tulane was eventually able to find
an offsite partner to set up accounts for students and personnel, but
the school was unable to populate the system on the fly with all user
Rasmussen was pleased with the Groove peer-to-peer
collaboration tools his team employed in New Orleans, but they weren’t
perfect. In order to establish secure collaboration, Groove’s
communications are encrypted end to end. Therefore, an emergency
response official must be invited to a Groove workgroup in order to
collaborate. COOP plans should include technologies for workgroup
discovery, Rasmussen said.
.. “The ability to find out who is doing collaborative
work … by having some Web-based discovery capability or some
e-mail-based discovery capability would be very useful,” he said. “A
lot of work that was done in a collaborative workspace was not
available to anyone else.”
" 10:38:17 PM
Cows make fuel for biogas train, buses, taxis:
"The world's first biogas-powered passenger train is taking its first passengers between the Swedish cities of Linkoping and Vastervik. And the biogas comes from the entrails of dead cows. .. the organs and the fat and the guts [are] enough, from one cow, to get you about 4km (2.5 miles) on the train." Processing of the cow waste takes a month from abbatoir to vehicles. "the train between Linkoping and Vastervik will cost 20% more to run on methane than on the usual diesel. But the oil price is going up and up.. Nor is it just trains. In Linkoping, the 65-strong bus fleet is powered by biogas. .. The taxis, the rubbish trucks and a number of private cars also fill up at the biogas pump..
And if methane doesn't light your fire, you can choose to have your car run on a high-grade biofuel mix. This year, Saab started selling a biopowered version of their 95 model. Its engine will take a fuel cocktail which is up to 85% bioethanol, made, principally, from Brazilian sugar cane. The bio-powered version of the Saab 95 costs around $1,000 (£500) more than the normal model. But with pump prices for the E85 mix a third cheaper than normal petrol, company car tax breaks, and exemptions for parking and congestion charges, Saab reckons you get that $1,000 back within the first year. ..
Across Europe, transport is not pulling its weight when it comes to meeting the Kyoto targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Industry is. So, to a lesser extent, are households and agriculture. But now the European Commission .. has set binding targets for the amount of fuel use it wants taken up by bio-products by the end of this year, and by 2010. " 10:27:15 PM
Finding a Place for 9/11 in American History:
"where does Sept. 11 rank in the grand sweep of American history as a threat to national security? ..
Here is my version of the top tier: the War for Independence, where defeat meant no United States of America; the War of 1812, when the national capital was burned to the ground; the Civil War, which threatened the survival of the Union; World War II, which represented a totalitarian threat to democracy and capitalism; the cold war, most specifically the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, which made nuclear annihilation a distinct possibility.
Sept. 11 does not rise to that level of threat because, while it places lives and lifestyles at risk, it does not threaten the survival of the American republic, even though the terrorists would like us to believe so. ..
My second question is this: What does history tell us about our earlier responses to traumatic events? .. My list of precedents for the Patriot Act and government wiretapping of American citizens would include the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, which allowed the federal government to close newspapers and deport foreigners during the "quasi-war" with France; the denial of habeas corpus during the Civil War, which permitted the pre-emptive arrest of suspected Southern sympathizers; the Red Scare of 1919, which emboldened the attorney general to round up leftist critics in the wake of the Russian Revolution; the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, which was justified on the grounds that their ancestry made them potential threats to national security; the McCarthy scare of the early 1950's, which used cold war anxieties to pursue a witch hunt against putative Communists in government, universities and the film industry.
In retrospect, none of these domestic responses to perceived national security threats looks justifiable. Every history textbook I know describes them as lamentable, excessive, even embarrassing. Some very distinguished American presidents, including John Adams, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, succumbed to quite genuine and widespread popular fears. No historian or biographer has argued that these were their finest hours. ..
It is completely understandable that those who lost loved ones on that date will carry emotional scars for the remainder of their lives. But it defies reason and experience to make Sept. 11 the defining influence on our foreign and domestic policy. History suggests that we have faced greater challenges and triumphed, and that overreaction is a greater danger than complacency" 8:36:36 PM