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robert reich on clinton April 23, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, berkeley, interviews, news, politics.
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clinton and reich (1994)

nymag:

So what’s changed? I asked Reich.

“I saw the ads” — the negative man-on-street commercials that the Clinton campaign put up in Pennsylvania in the wake of Obama’s bitter/cling comments a week ago — “and I was appalled, frankly. I thought it represented the nadir of mean-spirited, negative politics. And also of the politics of distraction, of gotcha politics. It’s the worst of all worlds. We have three terrible traditions that we’ve developed in American campaigns. One is outright meanness and negativity. The second is taking out of context something your opponent said, maybe inartfully, and blowing it up into something your opponent doesn’t possibly believe and doesn’t possibly represent. And third is a kind of tradition of distraction, of getting off the big subject with sideshows that have nothing to do with what matters. And these three aspects of the old politics I’ve seen growing in Hillary’s campaign. And I’ve come to the point, after seeing those ads, where I can’t in good conscience not say out loud what I believe about who should be president. Those ads are nothing but Republicanism. They’re lending legitimacy to a Republican message that’s wrong to begin with, and they harken back to the past twenty years of demagoguery on guns and religion. It’s old politics at its worst — and old Republican politics, not even old Democratic politics. It’s just so deeply cynical.”

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robert reich speaks the truth on trade March 5, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, berkeley, econ, international, op-ed, politics, tech.
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to sum it up: trade=good, not having safety net for the short term costs=bad

yet the democrats can’t articulate this properly.  they could become the party of pro-growth/free-trade + robust safety net…add in an emphasis on “good governance”/competence/anti-corruption/anti-special interests + middle-class tax cuts, environmentalism, and they might actually win elections by more than 2% points.

that would leave the republicans with the social conservatives and military hawks.  the democrats really have an opportunity to get the fiscal conservatives and tax cutters if they’re able to articulate middle-class tax cuts and trade in a way that appeals to liberals and conservatives.

hillary and barack, afta nafta:

While the overall benefits from free trade far exceed the costs, and the winners from trade (including all of us consumers who get cheaper goods and services because of it) far exceed the losers, there’s a big problem: The costs fall disproportionately on the losers — mostly blue-collar workers who get dumped because their jobs can be done more cheaply by someone abroad who’ll do it for a fraction of the American wage. The losers usually get new jobs eventually but the new jobs are typically in the local service economy and they pay far less than the ones lost.

Even though the winners from free trade could theoretically compensate the losers and still come out ahead, they don’t. America doesn’t have a system for helping job losers find new jobs that pay about the same as the ones they’ve lost – regardless of whether the loss was because of trade or automation. There’s no national retraining system. Unemployment insurance reaches fewer than 40 percent of people who lose their jobs – a smaller percentage than when the unemployment system was designed seventy years ago. We have no national health care system to cover job losers and their families. There’s no wage insurance. Nothing. And unless or until America finds a way to help the losers, the backlash against trade is only going to grow.

Get me? The Dems shouldn’t be redebating NAFTA. They should be debating how to help Americans adapt to a new economy in which no job is safe.

is obama good for business? February 13, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, berkeley, econ, news, politics.
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photo by flickr user Daniella Zalcman used under a creative commons license

businessweek:

On Sunday, Feb. 10, after he found out he’d won that day’s Democratic Presidential caucuses in Maine, but before his appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) sat down at the keyboard of his computer to write an e-mail. Not to a media consultant or a delegate counter, but to banker Robert Wolf, CEO of UBS Americas (UBS). The two men exchanged notes about the Senate-passed economic stimulus package and that weekend’s G-7 economic summit, Wolf says.

A banker as Obama’s pen pal? Hard to believe, given the senator’s liberal image. But in between rallies and airplane flights on the campaign trail, Obama has also taken time to consult on the economy with billionaire Warren Buffett, whose support of rolling back the Bush tax cuts Obama often cites in his stump speeches. Obama has also been in touch with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who endorsed the freshman senator in January. “When I sat down with him, I found him to be unbelievably refreshing and smart and thoughtful,” says Wolf, who first met Obama at the offices of financier George Soros. The UBS chief has gone on to raise more than $1 million for the Obama campaign.

But Obama has also taken several steps that aren’t typical of his fellow liberal senators. He has stocked his Capitol Hill staff with employees whose résumés include McKinsey, the old Andersen Consulting, and other nonpartisan business advisory firms. He joined forces with conservatives on bills designed to improve ethics and transparency in Washington. He voted for a bill in 2005 that made life harder for trial lawyers—a traditional Democratic constituency—by allowing defendants to shift cases more easily to federal court, which can be less favorable to plaintiffs. And he pushed an outside-the-box proposal that would help Detroit automakers pay legacy health-care costs on the condition they reinvest the subsequent savings into hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars. “His whole style of governing is less confrontational,” says Bob Shrum, a long-time Democratic Presidential campaign strategist who’s unaligned in 2008.

Some of the names that might fill in the org chart in an Obama Administration are also telling. Obama—whose own father was a Kenyan economist with a PhD from Harvard University—has cultivated a group of economic advisers. They’re generally careful technocrats, and are led by University of Chicago professor Austan Goolsbee. Among the others: Jeffrey Liebman and David Cutler of Harvard and Christina and David Romer of the University of California, Berkeley. Goolsbee has shown a preference for making economic initiatives easier to understand and use, an effort Obama calls “iPod government.”

On the campaign trail, Obama and Goolsbee have crafted proposals to streamline government programs like the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, which Goolsbee feels is too complicated. Same with student loan applications and tax forms. Goolsbee says the distinction with Clinton is most evident in the candidates’ plans to increase the personal savings rate. Obama would create an automatic 3% savings withholding from every paycheck that employees could opt out of if they want to. Clinton, on the other hand, proposes a targeted tax break to incentivize savings. The Clinton plan, says Goolsbee, “is what the playbook says to do. But the research says tax credits won’t induce very many people to actually open savings accounts.”

futurama is back! grab a can of slurm and settle in November 27, 2007

Posted by KG in animation, arts/culture, berkeley, comedy, film, media, tech.
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wired:

In the early 1980s, while Groening was making a name for himself as a cartoonist chronicling the punk rock and bohemian subcultures of LA, Cohen was making a name for himself on the New Jersey high school math-team circuit. He went on to study physics at Harvard and get a master’s in computer science from UC Berkeley. But he was also the president of The Harvard Lampoon, and he left academia to write comedy.

After he started working on The Simpsons in 1993, he became fascinated by the “freeze framers” — obsessive fans who videotaped episodes so they could pause them and look for gags that lasted only a split second. So he gave them little Easter eggs. In a 1995 episode in which Homer Simpson enters an alternate universe and becomes a 3-D model, Cohen inserted an equation into the background of one scene. It seemed to offer a counterexample to Fermat’s last theorem. Then he lurked on the alt.tv.simpsons newsgroup to gauge the geek response. (Confusion at first, then astonishment when they tested it, then despair when they discovered that it was accurate only to eight decimal places. D’oh!)

After the show (Futurama) got a green light, Cohen assembled the geekiest writing staff television had ever seen: one MA in math, one MA in computer science, one MA in philosophy, one PhD in chemistry, one PhD in applied math, and some normals to balance things out. “I went from Home Improvement, where people earnestly pitched jokes about farting and table saws, to a place where there were discussions about nanophysics and string theory and quantum mechanics,” writer Eric Horsted says. “I could only follow the conversation for a few minutes before my brain would start sweating and I’d have to reach for a copy of People.”

“cal mulls what to do with tree-sitters” November 23, 2007

Posted by KG in berkeley, environment, news.
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huffpost (via ap):

 University of California officials have won the legal right to oust a band of tree-sitters who’ve taken up residence in an oak grove standing in the way of a planned sports center.

But how do you uproot a tree-sitter in Berkeley, one of America’s most politically correct cities?

“Extremely difficult,” acknowledges campus spokesman Dan Mogulof.

As the protest nears its one-year anniversary, plenty of people have suggestions: Fire hoses, skunk spray and tranquilizer darts are among the thorny ideas Internet posters have planted.

Notable milestones have included an appearance by conservationist Sylvia McLaughlin, 91, who briefly sat on a tree platform in January. There have been two nude photo shoots, and two sitters have fallen, breaking bones.

The next big development in the case could be a ruling, expected soon, on lawsuits filed by the City of Berkeley and others challenging the building plans. They argue the athletic center would be environmentally and seismically unsound, which campus officials deny.

welcome to the age of genomics November 17, 2007

Posted by KG in berkeley, health, news, science, tech.
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couple of interesting articles from wired & nytimes

“23AndMe Will Decode Your DNA for $1,000. Welcome to the Age of Genomics”:

A lot of spit, as it turns out. It takes about 10 minutes of slavering to fill the 2.5-milliliter vial that comes in the fancy lime box provided by 23andMe. Wrap it up, call FedEx, and two to four weeks later you get an email inviting you to log in and review your results. There are three main sections to the Web site: Genome Labs, where users can navigate through the raw catalog of their 23 pairs of chromosomes; Gene Journals, where the company correlates your genome with current research on a dozen or so diseases and conditions, from type 2 diabetes to Crohn’s disease; and Ancestry, where customers can reach back through their DNA and discover their lineage, as well as explore their relationships with ethnic groups around the world. Family members can share profiles, trace the origin of particular traits, and compare one cousin’s genome to another in a fascinating display of DNA networking. Avey herself has had roughly 30 members of her extended family genotyped, spanning four generations. The effort has turned her clan into what is likely the most thoroughly documented gene pool in the world.

One afternoon I was working up my own 2.5 milliliters of spit at the company’s office when Jimmy Buffett dropped by to get an early peek at his results. A few month’s earlier, the singer had let 23andMe peruse his genotype and compare his genealogy to Warren Buffett’s. The two men had long wondered if they were somehow related (they aren’t, it turns out). Now Jimmy wanted to check out the whole experience. He sat down in front of a laptop in Wojcicki’s office, and she looked over his shoulder, guiding him through the site. First he clicked through his ancestral genome, noting that his maternal lineage showed a strong connection to the British Isles. “So the women came over with the Saxon invasion; pretty cool,” he said. Another click and he perused his similarity to other ethnic groups, spotting a strong link to the Basque region of Spain. “No wonder I like Basque food so much,” he noted.

Then he clicked over to see his disease risks — and was transfixed. “Wow. Right, that’s about right for my family,” he said as he ran through various conditions. After about 45 minutes of self-discovery, he leaned back in his chair to put it all together. “Boy, this can get pretty fascinating. And every time some research comes out, I can log on and see how it works for me. I get it,” Buffett said with a laugh. “You guys are mad scientists.”

“My Genome, Myself: Seeking Clues in DNA”:

I had refused to drink milk growing up. Now, it turns out my DNA is devoid of the mutation that eases the digestion of milk after infancy, which became common in Europeans after the domestication of cows.

But it could also make me question my presumptions about myself. Apparently I lack the predisposition for good verbal memory, although I had always prided myself on my ability to recall quotations. Should I be recording more of my interviews? No, I decided; I remember what people say. DNA is not definitive.

I don’t like brussels sprouts. Who knew it was genetic? But I have the snippet of DNA that gives me the ability to taste a compound that makes many vegetables taste bitter. I differ from people who are blind to bitter taste — who actually like brussels sprouts — by a single spelling change in our four-letter genetic alphabet: somewhere on human chromosome 7, I have a G where they have a C.

new yorker 2012 conference November 11, 2007

Posted by KG in arts/culture, berkeley, books, econ, environment, international, interviews, media, misc, music, news, politics, science, style, tech.
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video archives from the “inaugural New Yorker Conference, ‘2012: Stories From the Near Future,'” which took place this past may.

“…a variety of exclusive interviews, vivid presentations, and in-depth discussions, as New Yorker writers and editors introduce you to the minds that will make a difference in the coming years”

there’s seventeen of them and they all look really interesting, and the three that i’ve watched so far (the malcolm gladwell ones) definitely were worth it. most of them seem to be around 30 mins. the “genius” malcolm gladwell talk is about “the nature of genius” and whether effort and persistence should be encouraged over innate intelligence in solving today’s problems (btw, he gets a cafe strada reference in there). the music intelligence discussion was also really interesting; platinum blue mathematically analyzes songs for “hit” qualities and uses that technology to recommend songs in what seems to be a more complex and accurate fashion than pandora.

Genius: 2012
Malcolm Gladwell on the importance of stubbornness
and collaboration in problem-solving.
watch this video
Solutions: 2012
A panel on environmental entrepreneurship, featuring Dan Barber, Marianne Cusato, and Adam Lowry. Moderated by Larissa MacFarquhar.
watch this video
Music Intelligence: 2012
Mike McCready and Malcolm Gladwell discuss how technology that analyzes the mathematical patterns in songs can help the music business identify potential hits.
watch this video
Design: 2012
The industrial designer Yves Béhar talks with Judith Thurman about design and presents new commissions, as well as the One Laptop Per Child project.
Regenerative Medicine: 2012
Dr. Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, talks about his latest achievements in growing new human cells, tissues, and organs.
watch this video