[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson


And not one of the last 6 polls has OUT ahead amongst CON voters

The big BREXIT polling news overnight is splashed on the front page of the Telegraph – that in its latest ORB referendum phone poll the over 65s are splitting for REMAIN.

After taking out those who did not give a voting preference the 65+ group split was 54%-46%. Given that the overall poll sample size of 800 that ORB has been using for its BREXIT phone polls then clearly the older voter subset is going to be very small.

What gives this an added resonance is that this is the second phone poll in less than a week to have found the oldies splitting like this. Ipsos-MORI had the same picture in its Standard phone poll last Wednesday.

One of the great hopes of the BREXIT campaigns is that whatever the polls might be saying generally the oldies were going for them and, as we all know, these are the voters who are most likely to turn out.

    If other pollsters start showing the same trend then OUT could be in real trouble. At the moment this is just two polls.

Another subset split that is looking more robust statistically is what Tory voters are saying. ORB has them splitting 59%-41% to IN. This means in all of the past six referendum polls both online and phone that OUT doesn’t have a lead with any of them.

YouGov had the Tories dividing 50-50 while ICM phone, ICM online, Ipsos-MORI, Opinium and now ORB have REMAIN in the lead amongst supporters of Cameron’s party.

This is the revised polling table the month so far.


Mike Smithson

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

By playing, I do mean playing: I have been happily married for a year and a half, and am not looking for dates, just subjects to chat with. My editor asked me to write a piece on what seems to be a perennial question: why isn’t there Grindr (a dating app for gay men with a reputation for facilitating quick hook-ups) for straight people? In other words, why, after decades of feminism and sexual revolution, at a time when new HIV infection rates aren’t rising in the United States and contraception and abortion are legally available – at least for now – are there not more venues for straight people to have no-strings-attached sex? Why don’t more straight couples want it?

I’ve heard the question many times before and I’ve disliked every answer. Most of them seem to boil down to stereotypes. They go something like: gay men are promiscuous. Straight women are frigid. Heterosexuality always has been, and always will be, a sad compromise between men who want to get as much sex for as little affection as women can wheedle out of them, etc. I think these stereotypes are both unkind and untrue. I wanted to see whether I could come up with something better.

From somewhere in The Guardian…..and here’s what really confuses me. This was written by an adult woman. Who is married. And yet has so little self knowledge about sex?

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Britain would receive a disadvantageous deal after leaving the EU because Boris Johnson’s remarks about Hitler have insulted foreign leaders, the bloc’s most senior British official has said.

Jonathan Hill, the Commissioner for financial services, said EU governments would be more determined to use a Brexit to secure a “competitive advantage” over the UK and would “roll out the red carpet to our bankers” as a result of the Leave campaign’s rhetoric.

We’d best flee such malevolent little turds then, eh?

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Developers should build more in the north of England to save England’s green fields from being bulldozed, pottery millionaire Emma Bridgewater says today.

The two disciplines are so alike you see?

She told The Daily Telegraph: “I live in Oxfordshire where the building is frenzied, and I work in Stoke on Trent where there is not enough being done to create the infrastructure to make it attractive for people to think about living and working there.

Of course, she herself would never dream of living in some northern town. That’s for the little people.

yhlee: wax seal (Default)

Arrrow 1.3

May. 23rd, 2016 11:29 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
Arrow. 1.3. "Lone Gunmen." Read more... )
yhlee: Moto Maratai and her horse (L5R handle) (Maratai (art by yhlee))

Arrow 1.1

May. 23rd, 2016 09:30 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
Arrow 1.1 "Pilot." Read more... )

A billion prices can’t be wrong

May. 17th, 2016 08:29 am
[syndicated profile] tim_harford_feed

Posted by Tim Harford

Undercover Economist

‘A “big data” approach to inflation is helping us understand the fundamental question of why recessions happen’

In the dying days of 2015 came news to set any geek’s pulse racing: the declaration of a “statistical emergency” by Mauricio Macri, the new president of Argentina. Macri’s move enabled Jorge Todesca, head of the statistics bureau, to suspend publication of some basic economic data. That might seem extreme but Argentina’s inflation numbers were widely discredited.

The International Monetary Fund censured Argentina in 2013 for its implausible numbers under previous president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Government statisticians say they were leaned on by her administration to report low inflation. Todesca himself used to be a private-sector economist, and, in 2011, his firm was fined half a million pesos for publishing numbers that contradicted the official version. (Half a million pesos was about $125,000 at the time; it is $35,000 these days, which rather proves the point.)

But one economist found a way to publish plausible inflation statistics without being prosecuted. His name is Alberto Cavallo, and he realised that by gathering price data published by online retailers, he could produce a credible estimate of Argentine inflation from the safety of Massachusetts. Cavallo’s estimate averaged more than 20 per cent a year between 2007 and 2011; the official figure was 8 per cent.

So began the Billion Prices Project and its commercial arm PriceStats, both collaborations between Cavallo and fellow MIT economics professor Roberto Rigobon. “Billion Prices” sounds hyperbolic but that is the number of prices collected each week by the project, from hundreds of retailers in more than 60 countries.

While the project confirmed that Argentina’s inflation numbers could not be trusted, it also showed that the US inflation numbers published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics could be. Several maverick commentators had argued that hyperinflation would be the inevitable consequence of money printing at the Federal Reserve. When hyperinflation plainly failed to materialise, some critics suggested the BLS was hiding it — as if nobody would notice.

A second advantage, swiftly noted, was that the daily flow of data from PriceStats was a good predictor of official inflation statistics, which are typically published once a month. Cavallo and Rigobon like to point out that their US online price index started to fall the day after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy; the official Consumer Price Index took a month to respond at all, and two months to respond fully.

The BPP is also shedding light on some old economic mysteries. One is the problem of adjusting inflation for changes in quality. To some extent this is an intractable problem. The Edison phonograph cost $20 at the end of the 19th century; an iPod Nano costs about $145 today. What inflation rate does that imply over the past 117 years? There is simply no good answer to that question.

But statistical agencies are always wrestling with smaller slices of the same problem. A new model of washing machine is introduced at a premium price, gradually discounted over the years and eventually sold at clearance prices and replaced with a swankier model. The same thing is happening over differing timescales with computers, summer dresses and cars. If the economic statisticians mishandle these cases, they will get their measure of inflation badly wrong; usually they rely on careful substitutes and clever theory, but success can never be assured.

Cavallo and Rigobon argue that the sheer volume of prices collected by the BPP helps resolve the problem. Every day, the project gathers the prices of hundreds of washing machines. By observing that the availability of the Scrub-O-Mat 9000 overlaps with that of the Cleanado XYZ, it’s possible to adjust as new products are introduced and old products discounted and then phased out.
The Narcissistic City by Takashi Homma published by MACK

This “big data” approach to inflation is also helping us to understand the fundamental question of why recessions happen. Without opening a big bag of macroeconomics at this stage in the column, one influential school of thought is that recessions happen (in part) because prices don’t adjust smoothly in the face of a slowdown. Like a small rock that starts an avalanche, this price rigidity causes big trouble. Unsold inventory builds up, retailers slash their orders, and manufacturers go bankrupt.

The trouble with the idea that price stickiness causes recessions is that, according to official inflation statistics, prices routinely change by amounts large or small, which suggests no price rigidity.

But it turns out that many small price changes are statistical illusions. For example, if a product is missing from four monthly inflation surveys and is 1 per cent more expensive when it returns in the fifth month, official statisticians will quite rightly smooth over the gap by imputing a 0.2 per cent rise per month. But it would be a mistake to take this as evidence that retailers did, in fact, repeatedly raise prices by 0.2 per cent. Collecting billions of prices removes the need to fill in these gaps, and in the BPP data very small price changes are rare. Prices will move by several per cent if they move at all. One might guess that in physical stores the cost of relabelling products is higher, and small price changes are even rarer.

The BPP’s big data approach has rescued the important macroeconomic idea of price stickiness. It is a reminder that we often gain from having a second opinion — or a billion of them.

Written for and first published at ft.com.

[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by Ingrid Robeyns

The Austrians just elected Alexander Van der Bellen, a Green politician, as their new President – with 50,3% of the votes. The other half of those holding the right to vote preferred Norbert Hofer, the candidate of the populist right-wing (or, as some have it, neo-fascist) party FPÖ. I haven’t followed Austrian politics close enough to know whether that qualification is justified. It’s a difficult debate about which qualifications are justified for the various European radical right-wing parties, but either way it seems that their becoming more mainstream has not made them less radical (Dutch political scientists who have studied various radical right-wing European political parties claim that they do not moderate their principles and ambitions when they gain power – they only moderate their tone).

Either way, those of us who see the European radical right-wing parties as dangerous for values such as toleration, solidarity and international cooperation, have an uphill battle to fight. Van der Bellen may have won last night – but we should not forget that half of the Austrians prefer a radical right-wing president. Too much of this reminds us of the toxic political climate we had in Europe in the past. And I find it increasingly hard not too worry that there are too many signs of some of that returning.

Shrill by Lindy West

May. 23rd, 2016 07:00 pm
[syndicated profile] skepchick_feed

Posted by Amy Roth

It’s true that you don’t really know what it feels like to be targeted with the nonstop deluge of obsessive online harassment until it happens to you. How it seeps into your life, how it is real life. It has happened to me. It has happened to other women who write for this blog and it’s also happened to Lindy West.

Lindy just wrote a book called Shrill that is so powerfully funny and also eloquently puts into crisp perspective what it means to be an outspoken woman on the internet.

I for real can not recommend this book enough to my fellow friends and sisters on the intertubes. Lindy tells it like it is, before, during and after a rise to literary and internet fame in such a beautifully, easy to relate-to way, that I feel like for the first time that yeah, maybe you lucky lurkers out there who have never been targeted with online abuse might for once actually be able to understand what it is like and how some of us learn to deal with it.

I was honored to have Lindy share with me just a smidgen of the harassment she received a few years back when I created the Woman’s Room Online art exhibition. A smidgen means I could cover walls with it. I was trying to do in a visual art installation form a similar thing to what she has brilliantly put into words. I wanted other people, who didn’t understand harassment, to at least for a moment, feel what it’s like.

The book Shrill shares part of Lindy’s childhood years up until her well-known, loud-and-proud present incarnation that is touching, empowering and insightful and delivered with that thoughtful and funny razor-sharp wit that has allowed so many of us to fall in love with her writing over the years. She has such a fantastic ability of making you laugh while making you think. Her writing feels like you are sitting and talking with a good friend.

The book explains why so many trolls online have targeted her and women like her with vicious hatred. She enlightens us all with the strange tale of the events leading up to the time when she actually had a conversation on This American Life with one of the trolls who posed online as her dead father. It’s mind expanding for anyone who wants to understand what life-events and what motivation is behind the psyche of an online troll.

I started this book just before I left for Maker Fair this weekend and I had finished by the time my plane was landing back in Los Angeles, tears streaming does my cheeks as I nodded in understanding. It’s so goddam real and on the mark you guys! Finally someone had put into words what I could only put into my art. Held in my hand was a small book that I felt like had literally made a HUGE difference in my life. Someone else not only understands what it is like to live a creative life as a woman online but this someone else has encouraged my art in the past and has now encouraged me to continue making public art. Thank you so, so much Lindy!

Go read Lindy West’s book now and keep speaking up! Shrill- Notes From a Loud Woman is available on Amazon.

PS: My women’s group is having a bookclub meetup about this book next month. If you would like to join us to chat about it, join our Meetup and RSVP.

Featured image by my friend Liz.

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Donald Brind


Don Brind with some comradely advice

One Twitter user was apparently disappointed when she followed tag #LabEcon2016. She was looking for Labradors but what she got was Labour’s State of the economy conference.

The organisers were delighted that the event, hosted by shadow treasurer John McDonnell and closed by party leader Jeremy Corbyn was trending second on Twitter after the Cup Final.

The large and enthusiastic gathering heard Corbyn’s signature line “austerity is a political choice not a necessity” endorsed by the Cambridge based Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang who for many was the star of the day. He said “No sensible economist agrees with the way the Conservatives are handling the economy at the moment, so I hope this conference will play a major part in developing Labour’s alternative plans for a more dynamic, fairer, and more sustainable economy”.

Chang was in an impressive line up of speakers ranging from Unite general secretary Len McCluskey to Adam Marshall of the British Chambers of Commerce and Helen Walbey from the Federation of Small Businesses by way of the economists Linda Yueh, Jonathan Portes and Paul Mason.

Chang observed: “Perhaps if the Conservatives listened to a broader range of viewpoints the economy wouldn’t be in such a mess.” But as one speakers observed during a session on debt the Tories are still getting way with the Big Lie that Labour caused the crash in 2008.

The conference unfortunately clashed with the Fabians’ summer conference which meant Labour front benchers including Angela Eagle the shadow business secretary and Seema Malhotra the shadow chief secretary to the treasury were shuttling between South Kensington and Bloomsbury to chair workshops and breakout sessions. No great hardship — it’s six stops on the Piccadilly line.

For those of us who did both events we got two Labour leaders in one day.In a witty and passionate 45 walk-and-talk address to the Fabians Gordon Brown made the Labour case for Remaining in the EU. He said the party should appeal to the nine million Labour voters, to young people and to mothers who, he said “are worried about the prospects for their children in the future and want to know where the jobs will come from.”

Hearing the two men a few hours apart prompted the question of Team Corbyn’s attitude to the last Labour government. On his way the conference walked past the South Ken museums – he observed that they were free of charges thanks to the Labour government. Many Corbyn supporters are, however, lukewarm about Labour’s 13 years in power.
Yet those governments had many achievements – and they are part of the current case for voting Labour. Bright new radical policies only get you so far – especially if voters hear you trashing what went before.

A Twitter spat involving Ann Pettifor, one of the party’s economic advisers, provided an interesting example. He initial tweet suggested that John McDonnell’s commitment to a sustainable low carbon economy was a break with the past. Under challenge, she quickly conceded that Ed Miliband, as the first Climate Change Secretary, introduced the Climate Change Act in 2008. She claimed however these achievements and policies were “not part of Labour’s narrative & speeches.”

In piled John Ruddy in defence of fellow Scot Gordon Brown. An NHS workers tweeting from Montrose, 60 miles up the coast from Brown’s old seat Ruddy fired off a series of tweets:

“Gordon Brown introduced the Climate Change Levy, reformed company car taxation, introduced APD (advanced passenger duty), set up Stern Review.
“He also created Landfill tax (related to methane emissions), and escalated the tax, created the fuel duty escalator.
“He created differentials for vehicle excise duty, so that more polluting vehicles paid more, the aggregates levy.
“He cut VAT on energy saving materials & micro generation, and introduced Council Tax rebates for energy efficiencies.”

Quite an impressive list. For me, one of the mysteries of the 2015 election was that Ed Miliband, who would have become the greenest Prime Minister we ever had, was virtually silent on the environment. Did that matter? Well, look at these 10 ultra marginals seats where the Tory majority is less than the Green vote.

Seat Tory Majority Green vote
Gower 27 1161
Derby North 41 1618
Croydon Central 165 1454
Bury North 378 1141
Morley&Outwood 422 1264
Plymouth Stn & Dport 523 3401
Brighton Kempton 690 3187
Weaver Vale 806 1183
Telford 730 930

Without those ten seats David Cameron wouldn’t have an overall majority. Voted Green got Blue, was how it worked out.

Jeremy Corbyn’s has differences with his predecessors, especially Tony Blair but he should surely embrace the Miliband-Brown record on the environment. If you want voters to back you need to show them that when they vote Labour good things happen.

Don Brind

yhlee: recreational (peaceful) tank (recreational tank)

writing question of the day

May. 23rd, 2016 02:49 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
By [personal profile] swan_tower's request: Tactics Kit.

Notes on Victory and Deceit: Dirty Tricks at War by James F. Dunnigan & Albert A. Nofi. Notes are by no means complete; I picked the stratagems that appealed to me most and seemed to fit in best with the story I had in mind. If you like these, you'll love the book, which goes into more depth and has more stuff.

Cut for length.
Read more... )

Have a writing question? Leave it in comments--remember, NO QUESTION IS TOO RANDOM! =)

[Back later, have a bunch of stuff I need to write today.]
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

India has successfully test launched its first ever indigenously built reusable space shuttle — Re-Usable Launch Vehicle - technology demonstrator (RLV-TD). 

Tatooine Rainbow

May. 23rd, 2016 12:00 am
[syndicated profile] what_if_feed

Posted by xkcd

Tatooine Rainbow

Since rainbows are caused by the refraction of the sunlight by tiny droplets of rainwater, what would rainbow look like on Earth if we had two suns like Tatooine?


A planet with double suns would have double rainbows.

Or rather, quadruple rainbows. Our rainbows here on Earth are already double rainbows—there's a second, fainter bow above the main one. You can't always see this second rainbow, since the clouds need to be just right, so people get excited when they see one.

The area between the two rainbows is darker than the area outside because raindrops reflect light more strongly in certain directions. That region has a name, by the way—it's called Alexander's dark band.

The first and second rainbows are the only ones you can see easily, but there are actually many more bows beyond those two, each one fainter than the last. Rainbows are formed by light bouncing around in raindrops, and the different bows are formed by different paths the light can take. The main rainbow is formed by the most common paths through the droplet, and other paths—where some of the light bounces around in more unusual ways—make the fainter second, third, fourth, and even fifth rainbows.

Usually, only the first and second rainbows are bright enough to see; it was only in the last five years that anyone took pictures of the third, fourth, and fifth rainbows.

Rainbows appear on the other side of the sky from the Sun, so to figure out what a double rainbow would look like on a planet with two suns, we need to figure out where the suns usually appear in the sky on that kind of planet.

There are planets with two suns out there, although we didn't know that for sure until recently. Double-star planets come in two main varieties:

In the first kind of system, the two stars are close together and the planet goes around them far away. This kind of planet is called a circumbinary planet. In the second kind of system, the two stars are farther apart, and the planet orbits one of them[1]Not necessarily the bigger one. while the other stays far away. This kind of planet is called [the other kind of planet].[2]I'm sorry, I've just never learned a good word for these.

If you lived on [the other kind of planet],[3]Sorry. the two Suns would spend most of the year in different parts of the sky. Depending on how big they were, they may also be very different in brightness. If you were orbiting the larger star, the smaller one might be no brighter than the Moon,[4]Which would still be bright enough to cast a rainbow! or even look like an ordinary planet or star.

Tatooine, in Star Wars, looks like it's probably a circumbinary planet. The two stars appear pretty close together in the sky and similar in color and size, so it seems reasonable to guess they're actually near one another, with Tatooine orbiting both of them. Two suns would create two overlapping rainbows. The main bow of the rainbow is a circle about 84 degrees across, centered in the sky exactly opposite the Sun.[5]This is why you never see more than half of a rainbow above the horizon. If the center of the rainbow were above the horizon, it would mean the Sun was below it behind you, so there wouldn't be sunlight to make a rainbow in the first place. The farther apart the two suns were, the farther apart the rainbows would be. If the two suns were 84 degrees apart, the main bows of the two rainbows would barely touch.

A pair of suns 84 degrees apart would be possible around [the other kind of planet], but not around Tatooine-type[6]If Star Wars had just used the other kind of planet, we could use its name for them and solve this problem. circumbinary planets. The reason is simple: A planet orbiting two stars can't get too close to them or its orbit becomes unstable. If it gets too close, the irregular tugging from the gravity of the two stars as they orbit will eventually cause the planet to crash into one of them or get flung out of the system.

For a system with two similar-sized stars, this "critical radius" is around six times the distance between the two stars.[7]This is a very rough number; it can range from four to eight depending on the exact arrangement. We've found a lot of planets close to that critical radius, which suggests that maybe they slowly migrate inward until they reach it and are ejected or destroyed. Strangely, we haven't found many big Jupiter-sized planets around binary stars in general; we should be seeing them if they're there, so the lack of them is a mystery. This means that the two suns would never get more than about 20 degrees apart in the sky:

This tells us that the two rainbows in a Tatooine-like system would always overlap.[9]Assuming the raindrops are made of water, or something with similar refractive properties. The colors would blend together where the bows crossed, and the dark bands would too.

I suppose doubling all the rainbows would also double the number of pots of gold at the end of each rainbow.[8]Come to think of it, do our rainbows have one pot of gold or two? I've never really thought about it. And it's not just pots of gold; I guess we'd need to rethink all kinds of rainbow references.

Overlapping rainbows would be beautiful, but definitely a lot more complicated.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice


We have just caught up with an article by Alistair Carmichael in The Independent. The headline itself offers a jolt: “The Extremism Bill means that the Queen’s speech might be the only one you hear from now on”. Writing just before the Queen’s Speech last week he claimed:

This Government still seems wedded to the notion that if you ban something it will go away.They banned psychoactive substances, despite zero evidence that it would reduce harm. They tried banning encryption, making all of our data less secure. Now they are trying to ban “extremist speech” via an Extremism Bill which they will introduce in the Queen’s Speech tomorrow.

Alistair makes it clear that he believes we should be tackling violent extremism but …

It is vital that we differentiate between violent extremism and non-violent extremism. For those who incite violence and preach hate there are already laws that the Home Secretary can use to shut them down. There are public order laws, hate speech laws and terrorism laws that could all be used in these instances.

For those who hold extreme views and are attempting to persuade others, surely the answer is not to ban them but to win the argument – on the grounds of efficiency, if nothing else.

The current definition of extremism as “the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs” is drafted so widely that it will not only catch terrorist sympathisers but perhaps even those who oppose the government, believe the monarchy should be abolished or disagree with same-sex marriage.

And he gives this commitment:


The Liberal Democrats are clear: we will work with all those in Parliament (even those whose views may come across as extreme or distasteful to us) in order to block this Bill. It has no place in a liberal, open and tolerant society.

You can read the full article here.

[syndicated profile] jon_worth_feed

Posted by Jon

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 18.54.19So Austria does not have a right wing populist President. Alexander Van Der Bellen defeated Norbert Hofer by 31000 votes, or 50.3% to 49.7% – summary of the result from Der Standard here. But that was too close for comfort. It’s also not enough to point out that Van Der Bellen was not the best candidate – that may be true (and the TV ‘debate’ between the candidates was excruciating), but the parties that have dominated Austrian politics for decades (SPÖ and ÖVP) ended up letting a slightly cranky former Green get into the second round. The SPÖ is also the party that, not able to find a Bundeskanzler from within its own ranks had to go for a former boss of the railways instead.

Today we can breathe a little sigh of relief, but little more.

Looking at the electoral map of Austria (click here, then scroll down), where cities predominately voted for Van Der Bellen and the countryside for Hofer, can lead to the conclusion most succinctly tweeted by Jeremy Cliffe that cosmopolitans versus nativists is the way European politics is going to look in the future. Yet such a conclusion fills me with dread – playing the politics of identity that way can only lead to groups being pitted against one another, with each choosing its enemies onto whom blame can be apportioned. Listening to Hofer makes me wince, with his second hand car salesman smarm edged with malice, complaining about the system stacked against him, and how Austrians are at a disadvantage and how no-one who has not worked in the private sector is not entitled to a view on how the economy works, and how the challenge of migration is more than Austria can bear (while the country also contributes little to solving the root cause of the issue).

Yet the discontent expressed by the people who vote for Hofer, and for the likes of Le Pen and Farage, is very real. That is why today’s result cannot just be shrugged off. Hofer did not win this time, but he might well next time. He and his ilk are not going to be pushed back with rhetoric about the dangers of the far right, because at least a decent chunk of those voting for him are trying to send a signal that the ‘system’ is somehow broken. The populists are the anti-system choice. What reassurance can Van Der Bellen, or indeed the SPÖ’s Kern, actually give that the system is not indeed broken? In other contexts the reassurance given by the British political class against Brexit is that leaving the EU will make things worse, not that the future will look better. Hollande’s appeal is that he is not Le Pen, but what is his way forward, actually?

One way, I think, would be to find ways of shoring up the economic stability of nervous populations who have been buffeted by the financial crisis, fear their life chances are less good than those of their parents, and see the central planks of the post-war European economic bargain slipping away from them. Get a decent education, work hard, and you too can live a secure and comfortable life. That’s actually called social democracy. But that seems to be very much in short supply. There ought to be common ground between me (an urban dwelling, self employed, liberal-lefty-Green) and factory workers in the Ruhr or farm labourers in Styria. That’s the kind of big-tent left that (whisper it quietly) Blair and Schröder tried to construct back at the start of the 1990s, unifying those who identify with the ideals of the left with those who need the political economy of their countries and of the EU as a whole to help re-stack the system more in their favour, rather than accept the neoliberal view that we are all just inputs into the global economy.

We would do best to take account of the worries and concerns expressed by those who voted Hofer, rather than focus on trying to keep the populist right out of power. I am not holding my breath that is going to happen, but until it does every election in Europe is going to leave battered mainstream parties clinging onto power.

[syndicated profile] liberal_bureaucracy_feed

Posted by Mark Valladares

One of the things about urban campaigning that I don't miss was that finding things was pretty easy. Streets are clearly named, houses have numbers. Villages are not always like that and, as a result, canvassing can be made rather more difficult than it might be. Barking is like that, a long, fairly linear village, where there are very few numbers - Fox Meadow and Tye Green are the only two clusters that come immediately to mind. So, how do you find them? What you need is a map. Technology will help to a certain extent, but local knowledge is far better.

Thursday saw me canvassing postal voters. There are approximately 250 postal voters in Barking and Somersham ward, and as the turnout among such voters tends to be about 75% in Mid Suffolk, as opposed to a more likely 30% among those obliged to vote in person, if you can do well with postal voters, you have a decided advantage. And, because they vote early, you have less time to canvass them. Thus, I wasn't knocking on every door - I had some particular addresses to find. 

The evening started off well, if somewhat accidentally, when I knocked on the first door, only to find that the postal voter listed had moved. However, the very friendly lady who answered the door seemed happy to tell me that I could count on her support. 

I made my way northwards, until I ran into a voter who had been helped by the outgoing Conservative Councillor. Not a natural Conservative, she was a reminder that, in rural seats, a record of hard work and attentiveness to local issues can trump political allegiance. Note that I use the word 'can', as it isn't a given, but it does help, especially in the world of rural districts, where wards are small (about 1,800 in Mid Suffolk) and issues more personal.

Into the second week, I was beginning to build some momentum...
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

sometimes devilmen are so busy planning scoundrel attacks they forget to REGISTER important website names. this is a SOFT WAY of the antibuckaroo agenda but is also good because it makes it easy for BUDS WHO KNOW LOVE IS REAL to prove love (all).

please understand this is website to take DARK MAGIC and replace with REAL LOVE for all who kiss the sky. here are some links that make bad dogs blue very upset (as angry NORMAL men)
[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

I love a good coincidence. Especially a series of them. To wit:

Last week I wrote an article about a massively viral optical illusion photo of a brick wall—if you haven’t seen it yet, I won’t spoil it; just go to my post and be amazed.

The very next post I put up after that had images taken by the Dawn spacecraft of the protoplanet Ceres, showing the cratered surface.

The funny thing is I got a few emails and tweets from people saying they were seeing the craters not as depressions in the surface, but as domes popping up out of it.

I had to chuckle about that. That’s another illusion I know very well, usually called the crater illusion. It was a funny (if minor) coincidence that people saw it in the post following a post about an illusion. It was funnier to me because in the brick wall post, I actually (and also coincidentally) linked to one of my favorite examples of the crater illusion, where dunes in the north African desert look like holes in the ground.

The icing on the coincidental cake? The very next day, the European Space Agency posted a photo of the Rub al Khali desert in the Arabian Peninsula, showing this same illusion, also featuring sand dunes!

The photo at the top of this post shows a part of the (much larger) image, taken by the Sentinel-2A satellite in December 2015. To me, the illusion that the dunes are actually pits in the surface is very strong. Does it look that way to you?

The reason for this is that we evolved to interpret scenes assuming the light is coming from above, like sunlight. When we see a photo, our brains assume the sunlight is coming down from the top of the picture. Something popping up out of the surface (like a sand dune) would be illuminated by that source of light, with the upper part of it (the part nearer the top of the photo) bright and the lower part shadowed.

But in the Sentinel photo, the lower parts of the dunes are bright, and the upper parts dark. That’s because the sunlight is coming from more or less the bottom part of the photo. But our brains have a hard time with that, assume the light is coming from above, and think the dunes must actually be pits. To our addled brains, something with its brighter part toward the bottom must be depressions in the surface, not something popping up out of it. So we see the dunes as pits.

Don’t believe me? I flipped the image over. Take a look:

Now that the light looks like it's coming from the top of the image, do they look like dunes to you? They do to me!

I played with the images for a while and found the illusion to be stronger when I shrank it down quite a bit; if I zoomed in on the dunes I saw them as dunes, and not pits. That was odd. I suspect the wavy lines of dunes give clues to my brain that the lighting doesn’t make sense if they’re pits (especially where the dunes make tight Z-shaped jogs in the lines). Those clues are too small to resolve when the image is smaller, so the illusion is stronger.

As always, while fun, there’s an underlying message here too: Your brain is lying to you. All the time. It does not see the world for what it is, but instead interprets it through a vast number of filters and preconceptions.

What you see is not what you get. It’s a pretty important lesson to remember.

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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October 2015


Stuff and nonsense

I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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