Thoughts and finds of the day

Month: October, 2011

Prince Charles exercises a secret veto over a wide swath of UK legislation – Boing Boing

UK government ministers have been secretly offering Prince Charles a veto over proposed legislation since 2005, under a little-known law that gives the prince the right to silently kill or amend legislation if it might negatively affect his interests. The legislation the prince was consulted upon includes bills on the Olympics, road safety and gambling. No one knows the full extent of these consultations, nor what changes the prince made to the legislation before it went to Parliament. Among the prince’s assets are the Duchy of Cornwall, worth £700m, and he received £18m/year in income.


The tyranny of Twitter: when 140 characters don’t add up to enough | Media | The Observer

Julian Glover, once chief leader writer of the Guardian, and a fellow pundit alongside Aaronovitch, said farewell to columnising last week. He’s going to write speeches for David Cameron, and the T-word was on his mind, too. For these are acrid, bitter, discontented times, Glover thought, and “digital forms of communication such as Twitter only exacerbate the unhealthy shift to expressing curt, rapid opinions … I fear comment, like a strangler-fig, is getting stronger than the politics on which it feeds. That is the way things have gone in America, and it is not a happy sight.”

Well, what does America think of that? Here’s the New York Times on the Republican party’s honed and highly resourced answer to Obama 2008. “The insta-Tweet has revolutionised rapid response operations that just two years ago relied heavily on cable television, emails and news conferences to spread the word of the opposition, which often took a day or two to gain momentum.” Now the rebuttal, the correction, the snarl comes back in a trice. Now “social media” knocks the stuffing out of society.

Out on the campaign trail, things are different, too. Here’s Jodi Enda, a veteran political reporter, summing up the pace of change for the American Journalism Review. “No longer do reporters slog elbow to elbow with presidential contenders vying for votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. No longer do they get to know the candidates in a way that voters do not – up close and personal, with their feet up, their guard down … No longer do they have the luxury of weeks, days or even hours … to dig deep and analyse before they write a story” – because they are so busy “thumping tweets, tapping out blogposts and shooting or appearing on video.”

BBC Speechless As Trader Tells Truth: “The Collapse Is Coming…And Goldman Rules The World” – YouTube

Syd Hoff’s Teeth: The Leftist Satire of A. Redfield

David Graeber: On Playing By The Rules – The Strange Success Of #OccupyWallStreet « naked capitalism

I mean that word, “conservative,” in its literal sense by the way. This literal sense is now rarely used. Nowadays, in the US, “conservative” has come to mean “right-wing radical,” but it used to mean someone whose main political imperative is to conserve existing institutions, more or less exactly as they are—and this is precisely what Obama has turned out to be.

David Graeber: On Playing By The Rules – The Strange Success Of #OccupyWallStreet « naked capitalism

For all the endless statistical data available on every aspect of our economic system, I have been unable to find any economist who can tell me how much of an average American’s annual income, let alone life income, ends up being appropriated by the financial industries in the form of interest payments, fees, penalties, and service charges. Still, given the fact that interest payments alone takes up between 15-17% of household income,[1] a figure that does not include student loans, and that penalty fees on bank and credit card accounts can often double the amount one would otherwise pay, it would not be at all surprising if at least one dollar out of every five an American earns over the course of her lifetime is now likely to end up in Wall Street’s coffers in one way or another. The percentage may well be approaching the amount the average American will pay in taxes. In fact, for the least affluent Americans, it has probably long since overtaken it.

This has very real implications for how we even think about what sort of economic system we are in. Back when I was in college, I learned that the difference between capitalism and feudalism—or what was sometimes called the “tributary mode of production”—is that a feudal aristocracy appropriates its wealth through “direct juro-political extraction.” They simply take other people’s things through legal means. Capitalism was supposed to be a bit more subtle.[2] Yet as soon as it achieved total world dominance, capitalism seems to have almost immediately begun shifting back into something that could well be described as feudalism.[3] In doing so, too, it made the alliance of money and government impossible to ignore. In the years since 2008, we’ve seen examples ranging from the comical—as when loan collection agencies in Massachusetts sent their employees out en masse to canvas on behalf of a senate candidate (Scott Brown) who they assumed would be in favor of harsher laws against debtors, to the downright outrageous—as when “too big to fail” institutions like Bank of America, bailed out by the taxpayers, secure in the knowledge they would not be allowed to collapse no matter what their behavior, paying no taxes, but delivering vast sums of culled from their even vaster profits to legislators who then allow their lobbyists to actually write the legislation that is supposed to “regulate” them. At this point, it’s not entirely clear why an institution like Bank of America should not, at this point, be considered part of the federal government, other than that it gets to keep its profits for itself.

Primal Propensity for Disgust Shapes Political Positions | Wired Science |

Though people like to believe their convictions are purely rational, a growing body of research links political differences to deep-seated physiological traits.

The latest such finding comes from a study of people who looked at gross images, such as a man eating earthworms. Viewers who self-identified as conservative, especially those opposing gay marriage, reacted with particularly deep disgust.

The study “suggests that people’s physiological predispositions help to shape their political orientations,” wrote the researchers, who were led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln political scientists Kevin Smith and John Hibbing. “Disgust likely has an effect even without registering in conscious beliefs.”

Published Oct. 19 in Public Library of Science One, Smith and Hibbing’s findings are the latest datapoint in a series of investigations into neurophysiological aspects of morality and, by extension, politics. Other researchers have found that conservatives seemingly tend to have a more rigid, structured cognitive style than liberals, who are more open to ambiguity; conservatives are also quicker to feel threatened.

Why the QR code is failing (single page view) –

People will not adopt a technical solution that serves to replace a manual task, if that solution is less efficient than the manual task it replaces. How could we think that QR codes for marketing would work any better than CueCat? Did we not learn the first time?

Want To Create A Great Product? First, Forget “User Friendliness” | Co. Design

User-friendliness is a result, not a tactic. Intuitiveness is a quality, not an approach. Neither term is tangible enough as a design objective to inspire a great product. No matter how strong your jaw, you can’t sink your teeth into vapor and expect it to taste like Apple. You’ll only hurt yourself trying.

Why economic euphoria ain’t what it used to be – By David Rothkopf | David Rothkopf

As for the good month on the stock market, we all know better than reading too much into that, don’t we? Don’t we? There are schools of fish that are more rational than the stock market. Further, while they look all beady-eyed and serious, Wall Street players are as deeply biased toward childish optimism as they are toward over-reaching greed. We all need regular reminding of this. That’s why I keep on my desk, as I have said before, a little cartoon given to me by a very smart Wall Street guy that shows Peter Pan flying out the window with Wendy and her brothers and Peter says “We’re going someplace where everything is wonderful and nothing has anything to do with reality” and the littlest boy whispers to his brother, “You mean we’re going to Wall Street?