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America's decline blamed on "baby-boomers"

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Excerpts from a longread:
Lately, most Americans, regardless of their political leanings, have been asking themselves some version of the same question: How did we get here? How did the world’s greatest democracy and economy become a land of crumbling roads, galloping income inequality, bitter polarization and dysfunctional government?

.. the celebrated American economic-mobility engine is sputtering. For adults in their 30s, the chance of earning more than their parents dropped to 50% from 90% just two generations earlier. The American middle class, once an aspirational model for the world, is no longer the world’s richest... too few basic services seem to work as they should. America’s airports are an embarrassment, and a modern air-traffic control system is more than 25 years behind its original schedule. The power grid, roads and rails are crumbling, pushing the U.S. far down international rankings for infrastructure quality. Despite spending more on health care and K-12 education per capita than most other developed countries, health care outcomes and student achievement also rank in the middle or worse globally. Among the 35 OECD countries, American children rank 30th in math proficiency and 19th in science...

...many of the most talented, driven Americans used what makes America great–the First Amendment, due process, financial and legal ingenuity, free markets and free trade, meritocracy, even democracy itself–to chase the American Dream. And they won it, for themselves. Then, in a way unprecedented in history, they were able to consolidate their winnings, outsmart and co-opt the forces that might have reined them in, and pull up the ladder so more could not share in their success or challenge their primacy...

The result is a new, divided America. On one side are the protected few – the winners – who don’t need government for much and even have a stake in sabotaging the government’s responsibility to all of its citizens. For them, the new, broken America works fine, at least in the short term. An understaffed IRS is a plus for people most likely to be the target of audits. Underfunded customer service at the Social Security Administration is irrelevant to those not living week to week, waiting for their checks... On the other side are the unprotected many. They may be independent and hardworking, but they look to their government to preserve their way of life and maybe even improve it. The unprotected need the government to provide good public schools so that their children have a chance to advance. They need a level competitive playing field for their small businesses, a fair shake in consumer disputes and a realistic shot at justice in the courts...

The protected need few of these common goods. They don’t have to worry about underperforming public schools, dilapidated mass-transit systems or jammed Social Security hotlines. They have accountants and lawyers who can negotiate their employment contracts or deal with consumer disputes, assuming they want to bother. They see labor or consumer-protection laws, and fair tax codes, as threats to their winnings–which they have spent the last 50 years consolidating by eroding these common goods and the government that would provide them.

That, rather than a split between Democrats and Republicans, is the real polarization that has broken America since the 1960s. It’s the protected vs. the unprotected, the common good vs. maximizing and protecting the elite winners’ winnings...

 “American meritocracy has thus become precisely what it was invented to combat,” Markovits concluded, “a mechanism for the dynastic transmission of wealth and privilege across generations. Meritocracy now constitutes a modern-day aristocracy.” 
Much more at the Time magazine source.
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diannemharris
4 days ago
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hannahdraper
4 days ago
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Washington, DC
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MC Hammer Age

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Wait, sorry, I got mixed up--he's actually almost 50. It's the kid from The Karate Kid who just turned 40.
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diannemharris
5 days ago
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Wow they are both 56
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alt_text_bot
5 days ago
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Wait, sorry, I got mixed up--he's actually almost 50. It's the kid from The Karate Kid who just turned 40.
alt_text_at_your_service
5 days ago
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Wait, sorry, I got mixed up--he's actually almost 50. It's the kid from The Karate Kid who just turned 40.

Today in Dunning-Krugerrand News

jwz
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Blockchain's Two-Flavored Appeal

A recent story in Medium describes yet again quite well why blockchains don't solve any real problems: Blockchain is not only crappy technology but a bad vision for the future.

So what is their irresistible appeal?

Bitcoins remind me of a story from the late chair of the Princeton University astronomy department. In 1950 Immanuel Velikovsky published Worlds in Collision, a controversial best-selling book that claimed that 3500 years ago Venus and Mars swooped near the earth, causing catastrophes that were passed down in religions and mythologies.

The astronomer was talking to an anthropologist at a party, and the book came up.

"The astronomy is nonsense," said the astronomer, "but the anthropology is really interesting."

"Funny," replied the anthropologist, "I was going to say almost the same thing."

Bitcoin and blockchains lash together an unusual distributed database with a libertarian economic model.

People who understand databases realize that blockchains only work as long as there are incentives to keep a sufficient number of non-colluding miners active, preventing collusion is probably impossible, and that scaling blockchains up to handle an interesting transaction rate is very hard, but that no-government money is really interesting.

People who understand economics and particularly economic history understand why central banks manage their currencies, thin markets like the ones for cryptocurrencies are easy to corrupt, and a payment system needs a way to undo bogus payments, but that free permanent database ledger is really interesting.

Not surprisingly, the most enthusiastic bitcoin and blockchain proponents are the ones who understand neither databases nor economics.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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diannemharris
7 days ago
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acdha
8 days ago
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Washington, DC
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jlvanderzwan
2 days ago
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"In The Golden Compass, Dust permeates the world. It is created by consciousness and is itself conscious, and can condense into angels. Blockchain is not like that." - from the linked Medium article
jimwise
12 days ago
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Lol

Kansas cops can't have sex during traffic stops

jwz
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The new law bans sexual relations "during the course of a traffic stop, a custodial interrogation, an interview in connection with an investigation, or while the law enforcement officer has such person detained."

Kansas was one of 33 states where consensual sex between police and people in their custody wasn't a crime.

That came as a surprise to members of the House Judiciary Committee, who got the new law passed in a bundled bill with several other law-enforcement measures. Gov. Jeff Colyer signed it into law Thursday.

She said it spun off the case of Lamonte McIntyre, a Kansas City, Kan., man released last year after spending 23 years in prison for a double murder he didn't commit.

The investigation in that case led to multiple affidavits alleging that the detective who made the arrest, Roger Golubski, had a long history of coercing sex from women in Kansas City's black community by threatening to arrest them or their relatives if they didn't comply.

Holscher said she was also moved by a case in New York where a teenager claimed she had been raped by two police officers in the back of their van, but no charges were filed because the officers claimed the sex was consensual and therefore legal.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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diannemharris
7 days ago
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acdha
8 days ago
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Washington, DC
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sirshannon
8 days ago
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"one of 33 states"!
JimB
8 days ago
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!

NBC has saved Brooklyn Nine Nine a day after Fox canceled it

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The cast of Brooklyn Nine Nine, a truly delightful show that will now live on

It’s official: the beloved comedy will have a new home for season 6. Cool cool, cool cool cool.

And lo, just as Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans were hitting the depression stage of their grieving process after Fox announced on Thursday that it had canceled the show after five seasons, an 11th-hour savior swooped in: Late Friday night, NBC announced that it will pick up the beloved comedy for at least a sixth season, which will run 13 episodes.

“Ever since we sold this show to Fox I’ve regretted letting it get away, and it’s high time it came back to its rightful home,” said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt, referring to the fact that NBCUniversal did, in fact, own the rights to Brooklyn Nine Nine — making NBC the most likely network to save it. “[Creators] Mike Schur, Dan Goor, and [star] Andy Samberg grew up on NBC and we’re all thrilled that one of the smartest, funniest, and best cast comedies in a long time will take its place in our comedy line-up. I speak for everyone at NBC, here’s to the Nine-Nine!”

Fox also canceled its comedies The Mick and Last Man on Earth before announcing that it would be reviving Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing from the dead (which, to say the least, feels like something of a telling move in our brave new post-Roseanne revival world). But it was Brooklyn Nine Nine’s cancellation that drew the most visible outrage, with fans from Lin Manuel Miranda(!) to Mark Hamill(!!) to Guillermo Del Toro(?!) expressing their love for the show and hope that it could be saved.

But for now, they and all of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s fans can rest easy. Here’s to at least 13 more episodes of sharp jokes, loving friendship, and maybe one more Halloween heist directed by devoted fan and Oscar winner Del Toro (hey, a girl can dream).

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diannemharris
11 days ago
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!!!
CallMeWilliam
10 days ago
@@@
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One of the biggest stories of West Virginia was hiding in plain sight

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Don Blankenship won’t be the next senator from West Virginia. His third-place primary finish behind opponents Evan Jenkins and Patrick Morrisey, combined with the state’s “sore loser” laws, mean he can’t run on a third-party ticket in November.

Like most people who were watching the primary from afar, most of what I knew about Blankenship, other than his ads, was that he had spent a year in prison for his role in a mining accident that killed 29 people. I’d heard him referred to as a felon or an “ex-con” in a number of stories, so I just assumed he was one.

Tuesday night while we were waiting for results from that race to come in, I decided to do a short piece for the FiveThirtyEight election live blog about whether Blankenship would be able to vote for himself. West Virginia, like many states, deprives felons of their right to vote during their incarceration and probation period. I was ready to dive into the finer points of how registration might work for a felon on probation when one of my colleagues pointed out to me that Blankenship was convicted of a misdemeanor, not a felony.

This wasn’t exactly a deep investigative find. It was reported at the time of his conviction (the linked story also mentions the controversy around the verdict), and news coverage suggests that the prosecution didn’t persuade the jury that a felony had been committed.

I’m not a lawyer or an expert on mine safety, and I can’t comment on the appropriateness of the verdict. But I can comment on the political implications of the distinction. A report in 2016 showed that 6.1 million people were denied the right to vote under felony disenfranchisement laws. About half of these people have already completed their sentences. Numerous studies have linked this practice to the overall democratic health of American politics (before writing about the health of American democracy was cool).

Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza found that felony disenfranchisement had likely affected the outcome of several major political races, and refer to the practice as a “democratic contraction.” Not surprisingly, these policies have had a disproportionate effect on African-American populations; in the words of political scientist Khalilah Brown-Dean, “felon disenfranchisement laws present a formidable barrier to African Americans’ full electoral development.” So it matters for electoral politics which crimes are classified as felonies and how verdicts are rendered.

Blankenship’s post-conviction entry into electoral politics is also not typical. Research also shows that contact with the criminal justice system tends to make people less likely to participate in politics (this link is to a study by Vesla Weaver and Amy Lerman in which they carefully address other explanations for lower participation). These effects are also present in communities that frequently experience such contact. So while bombastic, defiant politicians like the late Jim Traficant and, yes, Blankenship himself make for interesting headlines, we should remember that the larger impact of the criminal justice system on political participation looks much different.

Many commentators observed the clash between Blankenship’s criminal status and his bid for public office. The lessons here are important but somewhat ambivalent. Research on this topic suggests that jumping to make a clear and indelible distinction between criminal and citizen has real consequences and ought to be reconsidered.

But the fact that Blankenship’s conviction for a horrifying incident left his political rights intact — an advantage not shared by 6.1 million people convicted of felonies and disenfranchised for it — is an element of his story that ought to have received more attention.

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diannemharris
12 days ago
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