Monday, December 26, 2016

And the Trade War Came - The New York Times

Wow, another highlighted comment, this time for a response to Krugman's post, And the Trade War Came:
Trump might have made inflammatory statements about trade, from his cabinet choices it looks like a ploy to increase defense expenditures and oil profits. His hard-right appointees will unsettle regions, if not lead to all-out war, and doing so requires increases in defense, and a disrupted oil flow will increase the cost of oil that will increase Exxon's profit margin and turn US extraction profitable. Even his anti-terrorism slant would lead to profits in companies tied to Peter Thiel, Palantir. Expanding infrastructure and real estate deals, disguised as urban renewal, could also assist Trump, or at least enlarge his influence over the real estate world.

You might be right in predicting he will increase tariffs, as well as foul trade in other ways, but most presidents tone down their rhetoric once they are in power. Unless Trump's business empire can benefit from disrupted trade, why would he bother going after it, but then again, why would he care about oil and defense?
An additional thought, posted after the original:
One has to wonder, how does Trump, or Ivanka, benefit from tariffs? Considering that Trump himself is a know-nothing, anti-intellectual, what has shaped his view of trade. I would guess it is the family clothing lines. That said, how are they impacted? Regardless of the effect on the US, Trump cares about himself, and to some degree his family. If the Trumps will benefit, tariffs will be implemented, and if it might hurt their businesses, tariffs won't be implemented.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Populism, Real and Phony - The New York Times

Another comment was noted as a NYT Pick, this one in a Krugman comment thread, Populism, Real and Phony - The New York Times
A recent article implied that liberals weren't accepting populism, and of course we aren't, at least the US variant. In Europe there are different populist movements, left and right, although underlying the hostility of the fringe might be economics issues, the the left looks to be against austerity while the right tends to be proto-fascist. In the US, there only seems to be an authoritarian right. Obviously we are not incorporating the fascism of the right, and would only be willing to deal with the underlying human welfare concerns, not directly support the racist, xenophobic, militaristic, and sexist policies those groups express.
Another post of mine in the same comment section was somewhat more popular, although not noted as a NYT Pick, in response to someone writing that we shouldn't imitate Republican obstructionism:
The agendas are entirely different. I can in no way say the the Republican agenda is humanitarian, and in fact see it as regressive, plutocratic and fascist, while the Democratic agenda - certainly not perfect - is progressively humanitarian. We have good reason to obstruct the inhumanity that will flow from Republican control.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

For Millions of Immigrants, a Common Language: WhatsApp - The New York Times

Often, the editors or authors of articles some posts as being NYT Picks, presumably because they are insightful and uncommon. I was gratified to find one of my posts was marked as such, on an article about immigrants and messaging,
For Millions of Immigrants, a Common Language: WhatsApp
It doesn't matter is they are legal or illegal, it is the benefit of the app to people. It is increasing the welfare of many people, those in good places with stable lives, and refugees without a home.

The downside, is that it can be used by some for illicit activities, terrorism and crime, but the benefit here seems to greatly outweigh the possible harm.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Slaughterhouse 90210

Slaughterhouse 90210 Slaughterhouse 90210 by Maris Kreizman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The juxtaposition of beautiful quotes from literature against the often quotidian mundanities of TV is deeply insightful and moving.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

In Brooklyn, Stifling Higher Learning Among Hasidic Women

This is a comment on a NY Times article, In Brooklyn, Stifling Higher Learning Among Hasidic Women.
Not Jewish, nor a believer, myself, I have been blessed to know many highly-intelligent, educated women of Jewish background, especially my spouse. It is a shame that so much talent and energy is squelched, and that we, the people of New York, implicitly support it.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Helping the Elderly Downsize - The New York Times

In respomnse to Helping the Elderly Downsize I commented:
Moving is stressful and can possibly kill, particularly older people. I found the line, "In a few weeks she managed to get him moved in with his wife, who died four days later at age 82." telling. Yes, it is good for our elders to live in places that are easy for them to ambulate comfortably, but we must be careful about how we go about this. We should should not 'kill the patient', and we need to be watchful of the mental effects of relocation, e.g., depression, feelings of isolation, loneliness, etc.

Hotels vs. Airbnb: Let the Battle Begin - Responses

In response to Hotels vs. Airbnb: Let the Battle Begin, I wrote the following:
Although we have had some good, and even excellent, experiences via VRBO, I prefer hotels, inns and B&B's. On trips, I have no interest in cooking or cleaning up after myself. Travel for me is about pleasure, relaxation, and enjoying local experiences. It helps that we can afford the costs, and the times we opted for a short rental was for cost, either because we had less money, or because hotels seemed to offer little for their high costs. Respectively, once on our honeymoon to Italy where we rented an entire house for a week on the Italian Riviera, and another a flat in Amsterdam, situated within the canals and near a university.

I am not a big fan of such services, but what gets me annoyed is the illegality and the exposure to risk that these services create. We own our condo in a doorman building, and have entertained the idea of subletting for a year or more so we can enjoy the country and/or cities abroad. We understand the rules, that we need board approval and notification to do sublet, and both the board and we would strictly vet our tenants, but we have two illegal AirBnB sublets in our 1100 unit complex, that have essentially jumped the queue and exposed us to a variety of risks the board would never agree to. There is no such approval or vetting, no recourse if these people commit crimes or harm the building, and although the risk is low, the laxity of these services expose our communities to issues we carefully avoid.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

What Is a Man For? - The New York Times

In response to an article What Is a Man For? in The New York Times, I responded:
I saw this quote from the short article description and did a double-take, "woman realizes she doesn’t need a man to provide, protect or procreate" and I was dumbfounded. For some of us, it has always been about desire, about sharing one's life, about a marriage of equals. Granted, my spouse, takes care of me in many ways, but then again, so do I take care of her. In truth, we both provide and protect each other, but we also enjoy each other, build a life together, enable each other.

Sorry, We Don’t Take Obamacare: A Response

In response to Sorry, We Don’t Take Obamacare in the The New York Times I wrote the following:
The 'failures' of the ACA will be used differently by the major parties. The Republicans will use it as a cudgel to reduce it, while the Democrats will see it as a reason to move toward single-payer ala Medicare. Even under a single-payer type system, there will be problems, but as a progressive and humane citizenry, we need to move toward a better system, one that covers all, regardless of the ability to pay, paired with FDA, FTC, and USDA - there are other related enablers of poor public welfare - that act in citizens' interests, not corporations.

Monday, June 20, 2016

AirBlabNBore - The New York Times

A response to an article, AirBlabNBore in the The New York Times:
From our own travels, if anyone was a chatty nuisance it was me. 
We have used VRBO before AirBnB came along, and we have never had to socialize much, luckily. Our first experience was on our honeymoon, an entire house overlooking the Italian Mediterranean, and other than meeting someone to get the keys, we were entirely alone. Another was in Savannah, where we rented an apartment owned and designed by a professor at SCAD, Savannah College of Art and Design, and again, if anyone was a nuisance it was me, curious about the designer. More recently, we had a wonderful apartment in Amsterdam, across from a university and hemmed by the canals, where we were met by the owner's friend. Although she was civil, she was rushed, needing to get back to work, and not interested in getting to know us. 
Imagine what the hosts must put up with...

Monday, June 13, 2016

Churchgoers May Live Longer - The New York Times

A response to NY Times Well article, Churchgoers May Live Longer:

There are other studies that have shown this correlation, but it does not really get at the heart of the matter, that any regular social activity has the same effect. The benefits accrue to people and activities that are regular and social, but of course, living in a religious state - I mean the US as state - means that the questions support the religiosity of its populace.

A quote from the Harvard Gazette:
"Social and productive activities that involve little or no enhancement of physical fitness lower the risk of all causes of death as much as exercise does," says Thomas Glass, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. 
The actions they refer to include going to church, restaurants, and sports events, taking short trips, playing cards and games, socializing for its own sake, gardening, cooking for others, shopping, community work and, of course, paid employment.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

An Retort to the Typical Sexist Post on Lack of Female Programmers

A response to There are so few female programmers because they find it BORING:
As usual, the assumption that math predicts ability is assumed. Did you do any research of published data? Also, you likely do not realize that Mathematics majors, score about equally on the mathematical and verbal portions of the SAT/GRE. Math is not simply math.

Some samples, from four different studies:
  • The results of the study indicate that high scores on the verbal part of the SAT test facilitate generating solutions on the word programming problems; however, the high scores obtained on the SAT test are not significant if the students do not posses specific problem solving skills in their background.
  • About 60% of the variance in programming aptitude was accounted for by this single factor. Six, out of 18, cognitive factors loaded significantly on this factor: REASONING, LOGICAL (Loading: r = .81, p < .0001, n = 45) Ability to reason from premise to conclusion or to evaluate the correctness of a conclusion. VERBAL COMPREHENSION (Loading: r = .61, p < .0001, n = 45) Ability to understand verbal symbols. INTEGRATIVE PROCESS (Loading: r = .54, p < .001, n = 45) Ability to keep in mind several things simultaneously. FLEXIBILITY OF USE (Loading: r = .41, p < .01, n = 45) Ability to think of different uses for objects. CLOSURE, SPEED OF (Loading: r = .39, p < .01, n = 45) Ability to quickly recognize ambiguous visual stimuli. SEQUENTIAL MEMORY SPAN (Loading: r = .30, p < .05, n = 45) Ability to remember distinct items in correct sequence. These cognitive tests have also served well for prediction equations using stepwise regression. The multiple-R was .71, p = .000, n = 45. With other variables (preference for graphics, gender, algorithm comprehension), the multiple-R climbed to .82, p = .000, n = 45. To the best of my knowledge .82 is the highest multiple-R in the literature. Only variables with F-ratios of 3 or more were allowed into the equation.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sorry, We Don’t Take Obamacare - A Response

I was pleasantly surprised to find that a comment of mine was a flagged a NYT Pick in an article, Sorry, We Don’t Take Obamacare, implying that it was somehow 'worthy':
The 'failures' of the ACA will be used differently by the major parties. The Republicans will use it as a cudgel to reduce it, while the Democrats will see it as a reason to move toward single-payer ala Medicare. Even under a single-payer type system, there will be problems, but as a progressive and humane citizenry, we need to move toward a better system, one that covers all, regardless of the ability to pay, paired with FDA, FTC, and USDA - there are other related enablers of poor public welfare - that act in citizens' interests, not corporations.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

In my life, the most important books...

Unwilling to pass around a question on Facebook, I decided to answer the question privately, "What are the ten most important books I've read?".

As a teen...
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Brave New World / Brave New World Revisited
  • The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Beyond Freedom and Dignity
  • Siddhartha
  • I'm OK - You're OK / Games People Play
  • The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
  • Anthem / The Fountainhead
  • Johnny Got His Gun
  • Fahrenheit 451
As an adult...
  • The Story of English
  • Ender's Game
  • Collected Fictions (Borges)
  • The Economics of Innocent Fraud
  • Mercier and Camier
  • Debt: The First 5,000 Years
  • Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?
  • Miss Lonelyhearts / The Day of the Locust
  • How to Read and Why
  • Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
  • The Affluent Society
  • The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better
  • Literary Occasions: Essays
  • As I Lay Dying

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Is That Even a Thing? - The New York Times

A response to an article in the NY Times, analyzing the phrase Is That Even a Thing?:
I would think that asking whether something is a 'thing' reflects, not an inability to define, an inarticulateness, but a basic function of what humans do intellectually, validate and classify. Making new classifications, defining and naming cultural changes, particularly assigning significance to new phenomena and checking validity, seems an important activity of what defines the thinking classes. It is asking whether something is worthy of being defined, of being recognized, or is simply part of the junk mill that has grown with the internet.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Why Luck Matters More Than You Might Think

Responding to an article The Atlantic, Why Luck Matters More Than You Might Think:

First, I am not a major success, but I am looked on others in my family as successful, partially because they know how troubled I was in my youth. Fortune, for me, is a mixture of good and bad, a series of events that changed my life, and along with my intelligence and newfound drive, enabled me to succeed. The complexity of my story, or at least how I tell it, exemplifies the complexity of success.

Immediate events, when I was 26
  • Deciding to quit in series, two horrible, low-end jobs, and the realization that I needed to change my life
  • A struggle to deal with insomnia, which lead to me finding fitness, then vegetarianism, and deciding to go back to school
  • Fitness helped phenomenally me with my horrible insomnia and dysphoria, leaving me mood-free for over 2 years, and to this day has kept me emotionally stable
  • My grandmother dying, leaving me a small amount of money, enough to finish school and work part-time for most of it

Historical events that allowed me to benefit from my intelligence
  • My father dying, but the government that provided benefits, since my father was a veteran of the Korean War, via Social Security and the VA, that kept us in a middle-class neighborhood, with its good schools and safe environment
  • A mother that worked like a dog, and although she was abusive, we never wanted for the necessities
  • Growing up in an era of general equality, before Reagan
  • A father that worked in technology since the 50's, and although I hated him for a while - he deserted us and died shortly thereafter - it pushed people to push me toward the same professional domain
  • A friend's father, who saw in me someone he wanted to support and develop, who allowed me to upgrade his business network, and twice lent me a few thousand dollar to make ends meet

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hunter S. Thompson Would No Longer Recognize San Francisco

Responding to the NYT article Hunter S. Thompson Would No Longer Recognize San Francisco:

Not that NYC ever had a heart, other than for business, although it has been a cultural center, but fighting each other does not win this 'war'. On some level, I would be part of the barbarian invasion, in that I work for financial firms using technology, have a high income, and am relatively immune to the invasion of the 'plutocrats'. I work for them.

That said, the problem is not so much an us against them, but as us against an electorate that has allowed money to gain disordinate power, to control and ruin the lives of most people. San Francisco might be the poster child for this inequality, but it is happening everywhere.

Bernie Sanders is a step in the right direction; I don't wholly agree with him, but we need something more. Our country needs to move in a better direction, one in which people's lives matter, where a higher quality of life matters, where our lives are not directed by the interests of marketers and the wealthy.

From Obama to Trump

Responding to a NYT article by Russ Douthat:

Sure, blame the victim, and accuse Obama for the rise of a racist, xenophobic right-wing populace. Hard to see how he actually created this problem. It is like saying gays and lesbians caused hate crimes. Trump's followers are disenfranchised and authoritarian in ideology, and although the extremism of Trump's followers is a reaction to Obama's race and calm, Obama did not cause their extremism. In fact, the Republicans themselves do that. The GOP is to blame for the ongoing economic crisis impacting much of our country, and that, along with Republicans' racist and hostile rhetoric, drives Trump's followers.

Is the Era of Big-Program Liberalism Over?

Responding to the NYT article Is the Era of Big-Program Liberalism Over?:

Being concerned about the welfare of people, I see big government programs as the only viable alternative. Ceding control to the wealthy and corporations, essentially what the anti-government focus of Republicans has done, has only led to decreases in the quality of life for most Americans. For some of us, the favored few, the educated, those with technical skills, the wealthy, life has improved under corporatization and increasing plutocracy, as we've accumulated much of the prosperity of the last few decades. Universal programs are the only real, time-proven, option.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Dr. Sacks - An Alien in New York

Dr. Sacks preferred to be an alien in New York rather than in California, he told The Calgary Herald. “Living there was too easy and too sweet,” he said. “I needed ugly and violent, ferocious and challenging. ... There is a tremendous richness of life here, Tourette’s visibly present on the streets.”

Good or bad, New York.

Why Am I Right-Handed? | FiveThirtyEight

In response to Why Am I Right-Handed? | FiveThirtyEight:

I have been aware of the strength of genetic correlations to intellectual and personality traits for over 20 years, and I get irritated by people that more recently learning of such things tending to take an "it's all the genes" mentality. One evening, after being annoyed yet again, this time by someone overgeneralizing about mental health, I went looking for such studies, but found something interesting, the placental environment. Studies of twins show the correlation with mental health issues to be strong, but one study attempted to asses the likelihood of having a shared or separate neonatal environment. The result was that if shared, the correlation shot up to ~.8, but if separate it dropped to about .3. It adds an interesting nuance to the genes/environment debate.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Douthat's Nonsense: From Obama to Trump

Sure, blame the victim, and accuse Obama for the rise of a racist, xenophobic right-wing populace. Hard to see how he actually created this problem. It is like saying gays and lesbians caused hate crimes. Trump's followers are 'loser-fascists' in ideology, and although the extremism of Trump's followers is a reaction to Obama's race and calm, Obama did not cause their extremism. In fact, the Republicans themselves do that. The Republican are to blame for the ongoing economic crisis impacting much of our country, and that, along with their own racist, hostile rhetoric, drives Trump's followers.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

At the Gym, Abs and Stats


I responded to the NY Times article on fitness, about new competitive classes, since I have been working out for over 25 years, and was previously certified as a fitness trainer:

#1:
To answer the question "Can't we just work out because it feels good?" 
No, we can't. Some people can, many, if not most people, can't.  
I am self-driven, been devising my own workouts and targets for decades, was certified as a trainer, and have taken almost no classes, except for ballet one semester, but I acknowledge that many people require some social aspect to their routines, either a friend, a trainer, or a class. Even more so, we all have different sets of goals. For some, getting healthy is fine, but some are competitive, some are athletic, some like novelty, while others like routine. 
People are different.
#2:
It seems many commenters are hostile to these people, berating class-takers' ambition, describing them with a variety negative terms. Some might see these people as narcissistic and overly competitive, but they might be driven, and either new to fitness or people looking to push their limits after finding themselves bored. The class format gives some people a way to strive without being 'jerks' to their fellow humans. 
I've been working out for 27 years, mostly on my own, was certified as a trainer over 20 years ago, and was a member of a competitive rowing club in my late 20's and early 30's. I found the rowing club atmosphere, as well as club competitions, as a way to push myself harder, without having to be directly competitive. Now, at 55, I aim for the gym four (4) times per week, and engage in either rowing machine or spin bike workouts, but there were periods where I was driven to improve and aimed for beating the curve, and group activities helped me do that.
#3:
Not taking anything away from your fun, but some of us like hard work, the rewards and the feeling of accomplishment, and that is a kind of pleasure. The most rewarding activity for me was rowing - I still use the machines several times a week - something that often has people responding that it is a hard. To be honest, I love the visceral aspects of rowing while listening to my favorite rock/metal/dance music, again, another pleasure. 
#4:
You obviously aren't considering the pressures and concerns of women. While strength and muscle might be perfectly healthy, and socially acceptable if you are a man, for women, and in particular, smart, ambitious women, you live with a different set of concerns, which although it comprises fitness, health and strength, it also covers social expectations about beauty and appropriate behavior.

Daily Fantasy Fools


The NY Times ran a piece on daily fantasy sports, of which I felt the need to say something:

#1:
The skilled and privileged taking advantage of the stupid and the ill.
#2:
I remember being disgusted after reading how a startup founder for Box targeted the biggest losers on a poker site to raise 100K for his venture. Well, you could think him smart, or you could think him corrupt, taking advantage of the stupid and addicted, but regardless, do you want to buy anything from him, knowing that his path to success is based on taking advantage of others? Eventually, that means taking advantage of you...

Government and Human Welfare

A response to the NY Times article, Is the Era of Big-Program Liberalism Over?
Being concerned about the welfare of people, I see big government programs as the only viable alternative. Ceding control to the wealthy and corporations, essentially what the anti-government focus of Republicans has wrought, has only led to decreases in the quality of life for most Americans. For some of us, the favored few, the educated, those with technical skills, the wealthy, life has improved under corporatization and increasing plutocracy, as we've accumulated much of the prosperity of the last few decades. Universal programs are the only real, time-proven, option.

NY Times Opinion by Devorah Baum: Jewishness

In response to a NY Times piece in the Opinion section We Are All Jew-ish Now , with the synopsis "Jewishness” can be the sensibility o...