Perfect match?

Surely this:


You may find a technical report that you want to share with others or you think worthy of making broadly available on the Web to support the advancement of science. When you search for important science information in your area of interest, you can choose to sponsor the digitization of any adoptable technical report. The cost is $85 (approximately the same cost as ordering a hard copy). Discounts for multiples of 5 or more adoptions may be available. If you are interested in a larger scale project, please contact (865) 576-5699.

is a job for this guy:


… Most recently, Malamud has set up the nonprofit, headquartered in Sebastopol, California, to work for the publication of public domain information from local, state, and federal government agencies. Among his victories have been digitizing 588 government films for the Internet Archive and YouTube, publishing a 5 million page crawl of the Government Printing Office, and persuading the state of Oregon to not assert copyright over its legislative statutes.


(CC-BY image of Carl Malamud from Joe Hall via Wikimedia)

Caste in America (or: hell in a handbasket, yes indeedy)

I don’t spend much time writing about politics any more — my mental health just can’t take it. But, data!
Via 3QuarksDaily: the Office of Management and Budget has a blog, to which director Peter Orszag posted an entry on “The Case for Reform in Education and Health Care“. He describes a talk he gave to the Association of American Universities, and makes his slides available as a pdf. From those slides:
Whether you even start college depends as much on your family’s income as on your ability (insofar as math scores are a decent proxy for such ability). For instance, if you’re an average student (middle third math scores) you are about twice as likely to go to college if your family earned in the highest bracket, relative to your chances if your family earned in the lowest bracket. Similarly, if you’re in one of the two lowest income brackets, you can roughly double your chances of going to college by getting your math score up from middle to highest third.


If you do start college, whether or not you graduate also has a lot to do with family income: almost half of the students from the lowest income background do not finish college, whereas the noncompletion rate drops to less than 25% in the highest family income bracket.


There is a vicious circle in operation: relative to a high school education, a college education returns a premium of over 400%, making you that much more likely to contribute to your children’s success, as shown above. (The ordinate shows the log of the ratio between the return to a college education versus the return to a high school education: 10^0.6 is about 4.)

wage premium.png

The vicious circle encompasses more than just school. If you have money, you’re more likely to be insured and to have more formal education; both factors make you much more likely to take part in routine health screens, which in turn makes you more likely to stay healthy, which in turn keeps your earning potential up, and so on.


gettingahead2.pngIn a similar vein, Ryan Avent adds this figure from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project, which shows that you’re more likely to wind up in the top earning quintile if your parents were in that demographic but you didn’t go to college, than if you did go to college but your parents were in the bottom quintile (click the image at right for a popup or go here):

The rich get richer, the poor get the picture, but Garrett was wrong about one thing: when you’re down so low, that’s right where the bombs are most likely to land. Here’s a little Vonnegut to take us to the news at the top of the hour:

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, “It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.” It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” […]
Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue… Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.

Pop quiz!

Two unrelated quizzes that I recently took, and that might amuse some readers:
Via Peter Suber, Lund University’s ten-question quickie on Open Access. And yes, I got 10/10.
Via 3 Quarks Daily: from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, something that purports to be a Civics Quiz but which looks to me rather more like libertarian/capitalist propaganda. Of the roughly 2500 citizens who took the test as part of a survey, nearly three-quarters failed, and the average score was 49%. (I got 27/33, for those keeping score.)

Recommend OA to President Obama

Via Peter Suber and Bora: Obamacto is a new site where you can make recommendations to Obama’s Chief Technology Officer and vote on recommendations made by others. Peter’s suggestion was this:

Require open access for publicly-funded research
Require open access to the results of non-classified research funded by taxpayers. Extend the exemplary policy now in place at the NIH to all federal agencies.

You can vote anonymously, but registration is a snap — seriously, the fastest and easiest online signup I’ve ever seen. Go vote!

The Devil Lindsay went down to Georgia Virginia

Webb rally.jpgThis is it, folks. Time to find out whether the US is going to be a fascist shithole for the next 50 years, or start to claw its way out of the pit of horrors that BushCo has dug for us. Election time.
You don’t need me to tell you how to vote, or why. If you vote for a Republican, any Republican, even one of the few remaining decent ones, in this election, then you are a moral midget and an idiot and I hope you get chiggers. Genital chiggers.
That said, there is something I would like to suggest. Lindsay Beyerstein is blogging the Jim Webb/George Allen race live from Virginia, and could use a few clams to defray expenses (like, you know, food). Trust me, she’s earning it:

This rally was the most exhausting photo assignment I’ve ever done. The cab got lost, so I ended up being on time instead of early. So there was literally no room on the riser. The place was so packed that if I didn’t make it onto that riser, I wasn’t even going to see the stage, much less photograph it. So, I took up a place on the stairs, but the media people just started yelling, “Hey, you, get off the stairs!” (I had credentials, they just had a rule about people being on the stairs of the rise.) There was nowhere else to go, so I had to force my way onto the platform with all the big TV cameras. This was a small platform about fifteen feet off the ground and nobody was giving an inch.
I had to put my gear down, but there was only about three inches between my bag and the back edge of the platform.
Then my camera battery cut out for no reason. I had a backup charged and ready to go, but when I say there was no room, there was literally none. I couldn’t reach over to grab the battery out of my bag. Local TV news cameramen were screaming at me–Not at the white guys in suits who were pushing me, or ordering me to move over so they could stand in the non-existent empty space on my right, though. (“Let me just squeeze past you, hon…”)
Luckily, I had a backup camera. Unfortunately, there was no room to change the lens, either.
I shot the whole thing standing on one foot because I couldn’t figure out where to put the other one without knocking my bag off the podium or incurring the very vocal wrath of Mr. Local News.

I’ve previously suggested supporting Glenn Greenwald, and now I suggest sending your spare change (or more!) Lindsay’s way for the same reasons. The web, by way of truly professional-class writers and reporters like Glenn and Lindsay, is very likely our Last Best Hope for an effective media, transparency in government, community involvement in a real representative democracy, and all those good things. Schlubs like me won’t do it — I have a day job. What we need, and I mean need, is people like Lindsay who can deliver professional independent journalism. The web makes this possible, but it won’t work in practice unless we who value it are willing to pay for it.
Holding your nose and voting Democrat in this election is essential, but it’s emergency care — a stopgap, treating the symptoms but not the underlying causes. Lindsay is right there with the bandages and the cardio paddles, but she and other independent reporters like her are — if we pony up! — also going to be around in the long term, treating the disease, actually curing what ails the Republic.
So if you don’t have extra, spend what you can to get rid of BushCo. If you do have extra, now or at any later time, consider supporting online independent journalism so that We-The-People, by way of people like Lindsay, can hold the bastards’ feet to the fire.
(Update: The picture is, of course, one of Lindsay’s.)

Rob on a Roll.

poster for LSU teach-inIn lieu of real content, a pointer to excellent things you’d already know about if you were sensible and had picked up my blogroll.
As if directorship of the North Country Academy for the Excruciatingly Fine Arts were not enough, Rob Helpy-Chalk has been on fire lately. Here’s a backgrounder on the Military Commissions Act (aka the We’ll Torture Anyone We Damn Well Please” Act), followed up with lists of the traitorous swine who voted for it (so you can avoid voting for them) and two posts on absentee voting throughout the country (viz, how to vote the way you want to, instead of the way Diebold wants you to). Here’s another backgrounder, this time on torture methods interrogation techniques, with a particular focus on waterboarding, the adoption of which technique our honorable, humanitarian Puppeteer-in-Chief Vice President calls a “no brainer”.
All of this is part of Rob’s activities with Save Our Constitution, an SLU campus organization devoted to pushing back against the Bush Junta’s efforts to gut the US Constitution, the model and gold standard for representative democracy everywhere and one of the principal reasons I still intend to become a US citizen. Next week they are sponsoring a “teach-in”, a four-hour seminar on The Constitution, Human Rights, and the War on Terrorism:

Schedule of Events
Welcome Remarks
Noon: Natalia Singer (Department of English)
The Military Commissions Act
12:10: Eve Stoddard (Department of Global Studies)
12:25 – 1:10 — Panel 1 — Erosion of the Constitution, Moderator: Eve Stoddard
1:15 – 2:15 — Panel 2 — Torture and International Law, Moderator: Rob Loftis
2:20 – 3:15 — Panel 3 — Language, Rhetoric, Politics of Fear, Moderator: Gus diZerega
3:20 – 4:00 — Wrap-up — What You Can Do, Moderators: Natalia Singer and Jon Cardinal

Damn, people, this is what universities are for! This is what “public intellectual” means — or should mean.

Open letter to Reed Elsevier

Further to the petition and boycott pledge I linked a while back, Tom Stafford has put together an open letter to Reed Elsevier that you can sign if you are an academic or researcher. Tom writes:

The letter will be sent to the Times Higher Education Supplement, a leading UK academics’ weekly, with potential for other national and international coverage. This will be the next in what has now become a series of open letters from professional users of Reed products. Previous letters have been signed by medics (in The Lancet) and high-profile writers (in the Times Literary Supplement), and both have received considerable, and worldwide, media attention.

Here’s the text of the letter (also available as a pdf here):

Mr Jan Hommen
Reed Elsevier PLC
1-3 Strand
xx October 2006
Dear Mr Hommen
We are an international group of academics who are extremely concerned
about Reed Elsevier’s involvement in organising major arms fairs in the
UK and around the world.
We rely on our academic work to be disseminated chiefly by means of
books and peer-reviewed articles, a significant share of these via Reed
Elsevier publications. Being both contributors and (unpaid) referees,
and readers of Reed Elsevier journals makes us stakeholders in the Reed
Elsevier business.
On its website, your company states that it is “committed to making
genuine contributions to the science and health communities” and that it
is “proud to be part of [these] communities”. Conversely, we are not
proud to be associated with Reed Elsevier as we feel your statements are
undermined by the conflict between your arms fair activities and our own
ethical stance. Arms fairs, marketing the tools of violence, are a major
link in the chain of the global arms trade which proliferates arms
around the world and fuels a cycle of human, scientific, economic and
cultural destruction.
This is entirely at odds with the ethical and social obligations we have
to promote the beneficial applications of our work and prevent their
misuse, to anticipate and evaluate the possible unintended consequences
of scientific and technological developments, and to consider at all
times the moral responsibility we carry for our work.
We call on Reed Elsevier to cease all involvement in arms fairs since it
is not compatible with the aims of many of your stakeholders.
Yours sincerely

If you want to sign it, send email to tDOTstaffordATsheffieldDOTacDOTuk with “open letter to Reed Elsevier” in the subject line and a brief note including your full academic title, name, discipline and institution (or former institution if retired). The petition is ongoing, so also please sign that if you haven’t already. As I write there are 357 signatories; if you’re reading this you will probably recognize #19, 32, 55 and 90 (I’m #28).
I know that, after the umpteenth petition or letter or fundraiser or whatever, outrage fatigue starts to set in; and I know that, as world affairs go, there are more important issues than scumbags Reed Elsevier branching out into arms dealing. But — and here I’m speaking to my colleagues: researchers, teachers and academics the world over — this is our issue. It’s in our professional backyard; we own a chunk of it. Not only is a major academic publishing house part of our community, or at least of its infrastructure (whether we like it or not), but as the primary consumers of their primary products and services we have an unusual degree of leverage in this situation. Reed Elsevier is a business: if enough of their customers sign Tom’s letter and petition (and Nick’s boycott), they will get out of the arms trade.

David Weinberger for President!

I’d vote for him. Highlights from his platform:

End the current superstitious rituals at airport security that any fifteen year old could figure out how to get around. Instead, require every passenger to rub a lucky rabbit foot.
Put the “pro-life” back into “nuclear non-proliferation” by unilaterally scrapping all of our nuclear weapons.
New high priority task for the Army Corps of Engineers: Build drive-in movies. Everyone loves drive-ins.
New policy about gays in the military: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Care. Be Fabulous.”
Tough new copyright law provides works with a full fifteen years of protection…one more than our Founding Parental Units intended.
Government offices will use open source software unless they’re being punished.
I’m tired of tough justice. Let’s get some tender-hearted judges on the bench.
Since we’re not trying to turn out standard kids, why do we educate them to pass standardized tests? New option: To get a high school diploma, either pass a standardized test or be a wiseass in public.
I’d be wrong in public. A lot. I’m good at that!
Any senior government official who does not blog has “[bureaucrat]” appended to her title.
Secretary of the Internet becomes the first wiki-based cabinet post.
I will never ever clear brush on vacation.

David is, of course, kidding around — but many a true word, etc.
Update: oh, nooooo!

I don’t want to talk about politics, dammit.

I don’t want to, but I have to, at least a little; the US political situation is intolerable. Here are some photos from today’s World Can’t Wait rally in Portland. The organization was poor and the pre-event publicity worse, but they still got around 1000 people (my estimate; the local idiots claim 400 and the WaPo estimate is 800).
Wherever you live, I hope there was a rally and I hope you were in it.

wcwprotest05.jpg wcwprotest04.jpg
wcwprotest06.jpg wcwprotest07.jpg
wcwprotest08.jpg wcwprotest12.jpg
wcwprotest13.jpg wcwprotest09.jpg
wcwprotest14.jpg wcwprotest10.jpg
wcwprotest11.jpg wcwprotest02.jpg
wcwprotest15.jpg wcwprotest03.jpg
wcwprotest16.jpg wcwprotest17.jpg