Sunday Reading – 04/12/15

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

Insider Exposes Sports Media’s Strange, Sudden Obsession with Politics – “We’re fast approaching a point where there’s going to be no real difference between Bob Costas and Rachel Maddow,” Dylan Gwinn writes in Bias in the Booth: An Insider Exposes How Sports Media Distort News. “Except one of them is a man. I think.”

Gwinn’s book, a similar mix of the serious and the silly, follows the above pattern of making light of the ideological heavies who now use sports as their political plaything.

Fans have surely encountered the phenomenon Gwinn describes. Perhaps ESPN switched to MSNBC and without them turning the channel or they received Mother Jones in the mail when they subscribed to Sports Illustrated. The games that served as an escape can’t escape the political harpies.

Their hypocrisy can’t escape Dylan Gwinn’s pen. Rush Limbaugh thinking about buying a piece of the Rams elicits a media firestorm but Bill Maher owning a piece of the Mets eludes notice. Native Americans who speak out in favor of the Redskins nickname become nonpersons while those who oppose it receive a media platform. The same writers who openly root for Michael Sam loudly boo Tim Tebow.

“And if you don’t like Tebow’s stance on abortion, fine; ignore it the same way I ignore the seven children, as of this writing, that Adrian Peterson has fathered out of wedlock when I cheer his brilliance on the football field,” Gwinn advises. “Ignore Tim Tebow tebowing the same way Eagles fans ignored Michael Vick’s dog-torturing and mutilation when they cheered for him.” Read More > at Breitbart

Hayward Mayor Proposes ‘Work-at-Home, Skip-a-Shower Day’– Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday said she has been known to forsake a shower, but only if she plans to spend the entire day at home. The idea is just another of many for residents to conserve water during the state’s enduring drought.

“Maybe we can start a stay-at-home, work-at-home, skip-a-shower day?” Halliday joked Tuesday night as the Hayward City Council applied to own conservation plan additional cutbacks prescribed last week by Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order to reduce statewide water usage by 25 percent.

The amendments to Hayward’s existing Water Shortage Contingency Plan include a prohibition on watering lawns and ornamental landscapes during and within 48 hours since the last rainfall, an instruction to restaurants and bars to only provide water when a customer specifically asks for it, and for hotels in Hayward to notify guests of an option to not launder their towels and linens

Hayward residents, however, already do a good job of saving water. Each day, they average 52 gallons of water per resident, said Alex Ameri, director of Public Works Utilities and Environmental Services. The amount is one of the lowest in the state and Hayward’s previous conservation efforts may translate to a lower restriction than the 25 percent across-the-board reduction ordered by Brown. Read More > at Public CEO

Cheese changed the course of Western civilization – This is the story you’ll often hear about how humans discovered cheese: one hot day 9,000 years ago, a nomad was on his travels, and brought along some milk in an animal stomach—a sort of proto-thermos—to have something to drink at the end of the day. When he arrived, he discovered that the rennet in the stomach lining had curdled the milk, creating the first cheese.

But there’s a major problem with that story, according to University of Vermont cheese scientist and historian Paul Kindstedt: the nomads living in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East in 7000 BC would have been lactose-intolerant.

Kindstedt, author of the book Cheese and Culture, explained on Gastropod that about 1,000 years before traces of cheese-making show up in the archaeological record, humans began growing crops.Those early fields of wheat and other grains attracted local wild sheep and goats, which provide milk for their young.

Human babies are also perfectly adapted for milk. Early humans quickly made the connection and began dairying—but for the first thousand years, toddlers and babies were the only ones consuming the milk.

Human adults were uniformly lactose-intolerant, says Kindstedt. What’s more, he told us that “we know from some exciting archaeo-genetic and genomic modeling that the capacity to tolerate lactose into adulthood didn’t develop until about 5500 BC”—which is at least a thousand years after the development of cheese.

The real dawn of cheese came about 8,500 years ago, with two simultaneous developments in human history. Read More > at Quartz

Don’t ever feel sympathy for the Lakers – The Lakers will finish with the fourth-worst record in the NBA. They have barely crawled over the 20-win mark. This is the second straight season for which the Lakers will miss the playoffs.

You may be tempted to feel bad for the Lakers or Lakers fans. Do not do this. You must never feel sympathy for the Lakers. This is why.

…If L.A. wanted to, it could outspend every other team in the NBA in every facet of the organization and still turn a profit. The team’s local television deal pays out an average of $150 million per season. For comparison’s sake, other local deals have been below $10 million in recent years. (The Hornets were making $7 million locally when the Lakers signed their deal with Time Warner Cable.) The Kings’ new deal pays around $35 million a year and is considered by many to be a huge, lucrative boon. The Celtics’ “massive” new deal pays $60 million per season.

…I look at the standings, and I see the Lakers at 20 wins. It’s now April, and I do not see an entity that requires or deserves sympathy. I do not pity the Lakers. This is what the Lakers deserve. Develop your humility, Lakers and Lakerkind. Realize that while this is new and shocking for you, losing is a way of life for most NBA teams. Misery in March is a once-in-a-generation event for the Lakers. It is a perennial concern for some of us. Read More > at SB*Nation

Bay Area residents slam plan to phase out high-polluting fireplaces – Angry homeowners and real estate sellers Thursday denounced a proposal to phase out high-polluting open-hearth fireplaces in the Bay Area as expensive, intrusive and unnecessary.

More than 100 people packed a public workshop to criticize a regional air district proposal that would be the strictest in California in regulating old-fashioned wood-burning fireplaces with no emission controls.

People selling their homes would be required to retrofit such fireplaces with gas- or electric-heated logs, or with federally certified low-emission wood-burning fireplace inserts or stoves. Alternatively, consumers could seal off their fireplace to make it inoperable.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District also proposes to require the fireplace retrofits in rental houses by Nov. 1, 2016, and to ban wood-burning fireplaces or stoves of any kind in new construction by Nov. 1 this year. Read More > in the Contra Costa Times

Republicans Propose New Gas Tax Amendment – The amendment would guarantee that California abides by Proposition 42, which voters passed in 2002. That measure allocated state gas tax revenues to road repairs and public transportation. Republicans say, starting in 2010, some of the money began to be diverted to the state’s General Fund.

Republican Senate Leader Bob Huff says California’s roads need nearly $60 billion worth of maintenance and that 90 percent of counties have street pavement ratings of “at risk” or “poor.”

If the Legislature passes the amendment it will be placed on the November, 2016 ballot. Read More > at Capital Public Radio

State regulator says PG&E may be too big to operate safely – Minutes after the California Public Utilities Commission levied a record $1.6 billion penalty against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. on Thursday for the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion, the state’s top regulator said the utility is still plagued by gas-system problems, shrugs off even the harshest sanctions and may be too big to operate safely.

Despite promising to make reforms after the September 2010 blast that killed eight people and leveled 38 homes, PG&E has been cited repeatedly in recent years for violating natural-gas safety regulations, commission President Michael Picker noted at the panel’s meeting in San Francisco.

…Picker said the state’s lawyers would look into the question, and gave no details about what steps the commission might take. But he suggested that PG&E’s profitability made it immune, even to hefty penalties such as the one the utilities commission approved Thursday on a 4-0 vote.

The $1.6 billion sanction — the largest penalty against a pipeline operator in U.S. history — forces shareholders to pay for $850 million in pipeline upgrades. The company must also issue $400 million in rebates to customers and pay a $300 million fine to the state’s general fund. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Obese ‘have lower dementia risk’ – Obese middle-aged people are nearly 30% less likely to develop dementia than those of a healthy weight, a study has revealed.

It also found that underweight people of the same age were a third more likely to develop the condition than those who had a healthy body mass index (BMI).

The new research published in the The Lancet Diabetes And Endocrinology journal contradicts findings from previous studies, which suggested that obesity leads to an increased risk of dementia.

Researchers based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Oxon Epidemiology, also in London, analysed data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). Read More > at Yahoo!

Walgreens to close 200 stores, boost cost cutting – Drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) announced plans to close about 200 U.S. stores as part of its first earnings report since it merged with European drug retailer Alliance Boots last year.

Walgreens, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, said it will close the stores amid plans to boost its previously announced cost-cutting initiative by $500 million.

Walgreens expects to reduce costs by a projected $1.5 billion by the end of fiscal 2017, the company said.

…The soon-to-be closed stores make up roughly 2% of the Walgreens’ 8,232 drugstores in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Walgreens also said it opened 71 new drugstores in this region in the first half of fiscal 2015, including 25 relocations. Read More > at USA Today

The Dry Math of Scarcity – I am glad California is having a drought. Not because I hate California (I love California) or Californians (I hate them only a little, for what they’ve done to California) or Central Valley farmers (some of my best friends . . .) or even Governor Jerry Brown, droll disco-era anachronism that he is, but because the episode presents an excellent illustration of the one fundamental social reality that cannot be legislated away or buried under an avalanche of government-accounting shenanigans and loan guarantees or brought to heel by politicians no matter how hard the ladies and gentlemen in Sacramento and Washington stamp their little feet: scarcity.

California has X amount of water at its disposal, and it has politicians in charge of overseeing how it gets divvied up. Which politicians? The same ones responsible for the current sorry state of California’s water infrastructure, of course.

Should be a hoot.

…California’s largest crop is grass — by which I do not mean marijuana, but lawns. Until the day comes when a ton of fresh-cut grass fetches a higher price than a ton of avocados, my guess is that California’s farmers will do fine under a market-based water regime. But maybe not. Everyone has his own favorite drought bugaboo: suburban lawns, almond farms, the delta smelt, golf courses, illegal marijuana cultivation, etc. Given enough time, somebody will figure out a way to blame this all on the Koch brothers, illegal immigrants, or the Federal Reserve. But the fact is that nobody knows — nobody can know — what the best use of any given gallon of water in California is. Californians can put their money where their parched mouths are, or they can let Governor Brown play Ceres-on-the-Bay, deciding which crops grow and which do not.

Whether the commodity is water or education or health care, if you care about something, put a price tag on it. You can’t afford for it to be cheap, and you sure as hell can’t afford for it to be free. Read More > at National Review

Teachers sue to join union without paying for political activities – An advocacy group has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop teachers unions in California from using member dues for political purposes unless individual instructors provide their permission..

The effort, if successful, could weaken the influence of these unions by limiting their spending.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court by StudentsFirst, a Sacramento-based organization that has opposed candidates and measures backed by teachers unions nationwide, while also working to pass laws that curtail union power.

In the suit, four teachers, including two from the Los Angeles Unified School District, assert that union rules and state laws violate their 1st Amendment rights to free speech because they cannot belong to the union unless they allow a portion of their dues to be spent on political activity. The teachers claim they should be able to join without subsidizing viewpoints they may oppose. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

CalPERS state worker rate increase: $487 million – Actuaries recommend a $487.2 million annual increase in state payments to CalPERS in the new fiscal year that begins in July, an increase for state worker pensions of about 10 percent to $4.9 billion.

Most of the increase is the result of expecting retirees to live longer and a change of actuarial methods aimed at getting to full funding sooner. More rate increases are expected for another four years.

The proposed rates that the California Public Employees Retirement System board will be asked to adopt next week are a little lower than expected in the new state budget proposed by Gov. Brown in January.

His Finance department expected the annual payment to CalPERS for state workers to be $5 billion ($2.9 billion from the general fund) in the new fiscal year, up from $4.5 billion this year.

The five state worker retirement plans as of June 30, 2014, had an average of 72 percent of the projected assets needed to pay future pension obligations, up from 66 percent the previous year due to strong pension fund investment earnings.

The debt or “unfunded liability” (pension obligations over the next 30 years not covered by the projected assets) dropped to $43.3 billion as of June last year, down from about $49.9 billion in the previous year. Read More > at Calpensions

Is the Modern American University a Failed State? – Modern American universities used to assume four goals.

First, their general education core taught students how to reason inductively and imparted an aesthetic sense through acquiring knowledge of Michelangelo, the Battle of Gettysburg, “Medea” and “King Lear,” Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” and astronomy and Euclidean geometry.

Second, campuses encouraged edgy speech and raucous expression — and exposure to all sorts of weird ideas and mostly unpopular thoughts. College talk was never envisioned as boring, politically correct megaphones echoing orthodox pieties.

Third, four years of college trained students for productive careers. Implicit was the university’s assurance that its degree was a wise career investment.

Finally, universities were not monopolistic price gougers. They sought affordability to allow access to a broad middle class that had neither federal subsidies nor lots of money.

The American undergraduate university is now failing on all four counts. Read More > at Townhall

Marijuana Plants Soak Up Billions of Gallons of Water in California – California’s terrible drought has become — like just about everything else in the United States — a political issue. Many liberals have taken to blaming anthropogenic climate change for the drought, while some conservatives have placed the blame at the feet of “liberal environmentalists.” The political point-scoring is tiring and just plain silly, given that the drought is almost certainly a result of natural processes — processes that we humans, conservatives and liberals alike, have precious little to do with. Another problem is that our partisan pugilists are conflating two separate issues: the drought, which is the lack of rainfall that California has suffered over the past four years, and the water shortages, which may indeed have some man-made causes.

To that end, a San Francisco-based author with a PhD in Nutritional Ethnomedicine floated an interesting theory regarding those water shortages earlier this week. Speaking on the radio, he suggested that California’s huge crop of marijuana plants is “depleting the water table,” and is partially responsible for the massive shortfalls in water that the state is now facing.

It may sound outlandish, but it turns out that there may be something to the good doctor’s theory.

As anyone who has ever had the misfortune to visit, say, Santa Cruz can attest, there’s a lot of marijuana in California. (This despite the fact that it’s only legal for medicinal use in the state.) Indeed, by some estimates, California now produces more marijuana than Mexico.

Unfortunately, a reliable count hasn’t been done in years, but back in 2006, there were approximately 17.5 million outdoor marijuana plants in the state. (That number has almost certainly skyrocketed since, given that the DEA has eased its enforcement, but we’ll be conservative and use the old number.) Meanwhile, one outdoor marijuana plant requires approximately six gallons of water per day during its roughly 150-day growing season. That means that, over California’s four-year drought, outdoor marijuana plants — based on the six-gallon a day estimate, and the 2006 figure — have used roughly 63 billion gallons of California water. Read More > in The Weekly Standard

New Data Reveals Excessive Drinking By County – A new list of excessive drinking by county reveals which California regions like to imbibe—perhaps a little too much.

The rankings were based on data obtained by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and reported to the National Center for Health Statistics/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An excessive drinker was defined as a man or woman who has consumed more than 4 and 5 alcoholic beverages respectively on a single occasion in the past 30 days. Heavy drinking was defined as consuming more than one (women) or two (men) drinks in a single day.

The County of Tuolumne topped the list with an excessive drinking rate of 27%. It was followed by the counties of Mono (26%), Mendocino (24%), Calaveras (24%), and San Benito (24%). Rounding out the top ten were the counties of Napa, Humboldt, Marin, and Sonoma.

Although Marin County has consistently been ranked as the healthiest county in California, officials have long recognized its weakness when it comes to alcohol. Excessive drinking among Marin’s youth is a particularly pressing problem. Half of all 11th graders in Marin consume alcohol and one-third of them are considered binge-drinkers, statistics show.

Sutter, Merced, and Kings counties ranked at the bottom of the list for heavy drinking, with the percentage of heavy drinkers at 11%, 14%, and 15% respectively. Despite its bustling nightlife, Los Angeles also earned a relatively low excessive drinking rate (15%) and came in at #45. Read More > at California County News

Will Hollywood Be Unraveled by Unbundling? – It seems that the digital revolution is finally reaching cable television. Multiple companies, including Dish Network, have announced new streaming services that you might call “narrow cable”: a stripped-down array of channels at a stripped-down price. An excellent article by my colleague Alex Sherman argues that “The largest U.S. cable companies may be approaching a cliff they’ve long tried to avoid — competition with each other.” Whether we like it or not, whether it even saves us money or not, it seems that the future is going to be less bundled.

The first thing to point out about movies — and pardon me for stating the obvious — is that they’re incredibly expensive to make. The low-budget horror film “Insidious Chapter 2” cost $5 million to make; indie movie “Boyhood” was in the same range. “Selma,” a prestige drama without elaborate special effects, was about $20 million.

The second thing we need to point out about the film industry is that on average, it no longer makes a profit on the box office for blockbuster films. The box office covers some of the costs, but movies break even on the “ancillary revenue”: pay per view, cable, streaming services, syndication, merchandising.

By one analysis, cable now contributes more than half of all operating profits generated by movies. What this means is that cable and network television and the movie business are not as distinct as they seem; they are actually an ecosystem that is tightly bound together. A change to one niche may have big reverberations.

…The first-order effect of unbundling is pretty obvious: It makes it easier for people to pay less by consuming a restricted bundle of content, rather than the current model, which is basically “all you can eat.” Read More > in Bloomberg

Why people with no religion are projected to decline as a share of the world’s population – For years, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has been rising, a trend similar to what has been happening in much of Europe (including the United Kingdom). Despite this trend, in coming decades, the global share of religiously unaffiliated people is expected to fall, according to the Pew Research Center’s new study on the future of world religion.

To be clear, the total number of religiously unaffiliated people (which includes atheists, agnostics and those who say they have no particular religion on censuses and surveys) is expected to rise, from 1.1 billion in 2010 to 1.2 billion in 2050. But this growth is projected to occur at the same time that other religious groups – and the global population overall – are growing faster.

These projections, which take into account demographic factors such as fertility, age composition and life expectancy, forecast that people with no religion will make up about 13% of the world’s population in 2050, down from roughly 16% as of 2010.

This is largely attributable to the fact that religious “nones” are, on average, older and have fewer children than people who are affiliated with a religion. In 2010, for instance, 28% of people who belong to any of the world’s religions were younger than 15 years old, compared with just 19% of the unaffiliated. And adherents of religions are estimated to give birth to an average of 2.6 children per woman, compared with an average of 1.7 children among the unaffiliated. Read More > at Pew Research

After thrilling tournament, critical off-season ahead for college hoops – We can all agree that this NCAA tournament lived up to its annual billing as a seminal American sporting event. Fueled by the inclusive nature of gambling in office pools, the chaos of the knockout format and the inherent charm of the underdog, the tournament is engineered to lure everyone in year after year. With the drama subsided and your office pool decided, however, there’s no need for another homage to March magic.

As college basketball fans wake up to the off-season on Tuesday, we are again reminded of the yawning gap between the popularity of college basketball’s postseason compared to the irrelevancy of its regular season. “I don’t think internally we’re blinded by the success of the NCAA tournament,” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships. “We realize the game needs to be worked on the other 11 months.”

The hangover from the NCAA tournament can’t be long, as college basketball enters one of its most critical off-seasons in recent memory. Outside of select pockets around the country—Lexington, Lawrence and the Triangle among them—college basketball has taken a free fall from the nation’s consciousness in every month not named March. (Or early April, if you want to be persnickety). The game has reached a crisis of relevance, pace and skill. It sits at a crossroads that shouldn’t be obscured by the historic ratings from Kentucky’s tournament games with Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Ultimately, the storyline about the Wildcats’ pursuit of perfection bailed out this regular season from being a major dud. And without strong leadership and significant rules changes, the regular season will be as anonymous as the postseason is electric.

…The highest rated regular season college basketball games this year—two contests between North Carolina and Duke that did a 2.6—rated worse than 50 college football regular season games. Yep, a middling game between Tennessee and Georgia on ESPN at noon on a Saturday crushes the best college basketball can muster.

Why? Iona coach Tim Cluess gave perhaps the season’s defining quote when he told The New York Times, “The product stinks.” College basketball is being played at a historically slow pace, and the scoring levels all year trended toward dismal lows. Scoring is lower than its been since before the shot clock was introduced in 1985-86 and the three-point line was implemented the next season. The skill level is too low, the officials too unpredictable and the leadership void that’s hovered over the sport for decades—who, um, is in charge?—has allowed the product to atrophy while conference commissioners keep cashing their checks from the $10.8 billion NCAA tournament television contract. Read More > in Sports Illustrated

Timm Herdt: Shades of blue in a one-party state – If you want a glimpse of the near-term future of California politics, pay attention to a special election next month for a state Senate seat in the East San Francisco Bay area.

Republicans are out of the picture. The contest is between two Democrats, with different interest groups lining up on each side.

For simplicity’s sake, it boils down to a battle between organized labor, the Democratic Party’s traditional financial supporter, and business interests, which have figured out that if a Republican can’t win they’re better off backing a Democrat of their choosing.

Both sides are all-in, having combined to spend $2.4 million on the first round of the special election. The runoff pits Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, backed by labor interests, against Steve Glazer, a former top aide to Gov. Jerry Brown who is backed by business interests.

…The runoff election, at least in the eyes of some, has become a battle for the soul of the political party that dominates California government.

That is an overstatement, but the outcome will surely affect the direction of California Democrats on some specific issues and also influence the kinds of candidates who will step forward in future campaigns.

Glazer says the kind of fights that have marked his campaigns “are going to create a greater fracture within our party. The Democratic Party celebrates diversity of backgrounds, but they don’t accept diversity of opinions.”

That view is somewhat self-righteous. Campaigns, after all, are about issues, and Glazer’s view on some issues — principally the right to strike and public employee pensions — differ from those of labor-aligned Democrats. Read More > in the Ventura County Star

Will California become a victim of its own success? – …That’s right. Only in California (and Biggie Smalls songs) can billions of dollars in new money be cause for concern.

As the controller continues to count the cash this tax season, the warning bells are being sounded from the state’s Legislative Analyst Office, which issued a report this week outlining the pitfalls of economic prosperity.

The analysis runs down a list of scenarios the state may face when Gov. Jerry Brown releases revised budget figures next month. The report finds that the money is pouring in, and there’s little reason to believe it’s going to stop as the state prepares for its busiest personal income tax collection month of the year.

…But there’s a catch. “History cautions that such revenue surges prove temporary,” the report warns. “Surprisingly perhaps, these revenue trends pose a risk for the state budget mainly because higher revenues in 2014–15 boost ongoing spending on schools and community colleges under Proposition 98, potentially making it harder for the state to balance its budget in 2015–16 and beyond. The factors driving school spending upward now make it more difficult to fund other potential state budget priorities, such as augmentations for non–school programs, debt payments, and budget reserves.”

Thanks to Proposition 98, a temporary spike in revenues permanently increases the state’s obligation to public schools and community colleges. So, if those revenues decline in future years, schools will still be entitled to a larger payout, squeezing health, welfare and other services that are not protected or codified in the state’s voluminous Constitution.

After Proposition 98 was passed by voters in 1988, budget experts marked this phenomenon in the terms of the time. They worried that schools were becoming the “Pacman” in the budget, gobbling up revenues. Read More > at the Grizzly Bear Project

Poor Statewide Conservation Prompts California To Develop Water-Waste Snitching System – California officials say residents aren’t doing enough to conserve water, and now state officials want residents to report their neighbors and business owners who waste water.

The controversial system to “snitch” was created after a report found statewide February was the worst conservation month since they started keeping track last July, with residents only cutting use by 2.8 percent.

The worst of the conservation is concentrated in Southern California, with all 10 of the worst agencies being in the lower part of the state.

…Because of the disappointing conservation numbers, the California Water Resources Board plans to lay out a more detailed water restriction policy. One will include a statewide system where people can report neighbors or business owners who waste water. That system is expected to be up and running in the next few weeks. Read More > at CBS Sacramento

Calling Out the High-Tech Hypocrites – The recent brouhaha over Indiana’s religious freedom law revealed two basic things: the utter stupidity of the Republican Party and the rising power of the emerging tech oligarchy. As the Republicans were once again demonstrating their incomprehension of new social dynamics, the tech elite showed a fine hand by leading the opposition to the Indiana law.

This positioning gained the tech industry an embarrassingly laudatory piece in the New York Times, portraying its support for gay rights as symbolic of a “new social activism” that proves their commitment to progressive ideals.

…Yet beneath the veneer of good intentions, the world being created by the tech oligarchs both within and outside of Silicon Valley fails in virtually every area dear to traditional liberals. On a host of issues—from the right to privacy to ethnic and feminine empowerment and social justice—the effects of the tech industry are increasingly regressive.

The valley elite may have won its gender discrimination lawsuit against Ellen Pao, but this does not dispel the notion that it runs largely on testosterone. The share of women in the tech industry is barely half of their 47 percent share in the total workforce. Stanford researcher Vivek Wadhwa describes Silicon Valley as still “a boys’ club that regarded women as less capable than men and subjected them to negative stereotypes and abuse.”

Race is another hot spot for progressives, but outside of Asians, the valley’s record is nothing short of miserable. Some of this reflects the rapid de-industrialization of the industry—the valley has lost 80,000 manufacturing jobs alone since 2000—as companies shift their industrial facilities either to China or to states like Utah and Texas, where they can escape the tax and regulatory regime that they so avidly support back in California.

So good blue-collar jobs go elsewhere, and the valley’s own African-Americans and Hispanics (who make up roughly one-third of the population) now occupy barely 5 percent of jobs in the top Silicon Valley firms.

…And what about the sensible liberal idea that the rich and corporations should pay their “fair share” of taxes? That’s a progressive ideal paid for by your Main Street businessman or your local dentists, but don’t expect your tech oligarchs to play by the same rules. True, Bill Gates has voiced public support for higher taxes on the rich but tech companies, including Microsoft, have bargained to evade paying their own taxes. Facebook paid no taxes in 2012, despite profits in excess of $1 billion. Apple, which even the New York Times described as “a pioneer in tactics to avoid taxes,” has kept much of its cash hoard abroad to keep away from Uncle Sam. Read More > at New Geography

When Eating Healthily Becomes a Fixation – Orthorexia nervosa, the “health food eating disorder,” gets its name from the Greek word ortho, meaning straight, proper or correct. This exaggerated focus on food can be seen today in some people who follow lifestyle movements such as “raw,” “clean” and “paleo.”

American doctor Steven Bratman coined the term “orthorexia nervosa” in 1997 sometime after his experience in a commune in upstate New York.

…There is a blurry line separating “normal” healthy eating and orthorexia nervosa, but one way to define the condition is when eating “healthily” causes significant distress or negative consequences in a person’s life.

They may be “plunged into gloom” by eating a piece of bread, become anxious about when their next kale, chia or quinoa hit is coming, or eat only at home where “superfood” intake can be tightly controlled.

Such behaviours can have a significant impact on relationships with family members and friends, let alone on their mental health.

Orthorexia nervosa is not a clinically recognized eating disorder but researchers have developed and tested questionnaires in various populations to get an idea of its prevalence. Read More > in Newsweek

Few, if any, consequences for those involved in perpetuating rape hoaxes – When a sensational rape story is found to be fraudulent, there are few ramifications for those who perpetuated the hoax in the first place.

To take the most recent example, no one is getting fired at Rolling Stone for its fraudulent article about a brutal gang rape at the University of Virginia. The fact-checkers who failed to raise sufficient concerns about the lack of corroborating evidence, the editors who removed crucial details that would have made the article’s weaknesses clear, and the author who sought a sensational story to fit an agenda will all keep their jobs.

And beyond those at RS who allowed the hoax to go forward, those who helped spread the story once it was published faced no consequences either. U.Va. president Teresa Sullivan offered no apology for her role in treating Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity accused in the RS article, as guilty from the start. Similarly, there appears to be no investigation to discover the vandals who smashed windows and spray-painted hateful messages at the fraternity house.

Jackie, the source of the false article, still has her privileged status as a victim, despite there being no evidence that she is the victim of anything.

The same was true of the Duke lacrosse hoax nearly a decade ago. Richard Brodhead is still the president of the university. Wendy Murphy, who spread lie after lie about the case on television throughout the ordeal, is still being asked for her opinion (in fact she was quoted in the now-retracted Rolling Stone article — go figure). The activists and professors who smeared the lacrosse players were never held accountable.

At least with Duke, the prosecutor who targeted the lacrosse players to advance his own personal ambitions was disbarred. The police officer who helped railroad the students was merely reassigned. (He retired in 2008 and committed suicide in 2014, although it is unclear whether his role in the hoax had anything to do with his death.) The accuser, Crystal Mangum, faced no repercussions for filing a false report, and in fact went on to write a book. But in an unrelated twist, she is now serving a prison sentence for second-degree murder. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

VIDEO: Meet the Man Building Elon Musk’s 760mph Hyperloop: Interview with Dirk Ahlborn

In 2012, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, released a proposal for a futuristic tube transport system that could go faster than the speed of sound, cutting travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco to 35 minutes or less. He described it as a “cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table” that “can never crash,” and called it the Hyperloop.

But what exactly is the Hyperloop? “Imagine a capsule with 28 people that’s hovering inside a tube at really high speeds of 760 miles per hour,” says Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), which is turning Musk’s idea into reality. “It’s completely solar-powered, it’s cheaper to be built, it’s earthquake-stable,” he adds.

Ahlborn recently sat down with Reason TV’s Justin Monticello to talk about the technology behind the Hyperloop, his vision for a fully integrated system that would span the country, and the stark differences between it and publicly-funded high-speed rail projects.

Among the relative benefits of his project are that it would cost 10-20% of the estimated $68 billion being spent to construct California’s high speed rail, cut down on environmental harm and land seizures by running along highways on pylons, actually produce energy, and be at least four times as fast. Read More > at Reason

Unions, CalChamber square off over bill requiring notice for shift changes – Major retailers in California would face penalties for changing a worker’s schedule without two weeks of warning under a bill from the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council.

Assembly Bill 357 would apply to food and retail establishments with at least 500 employees and 10 stores. The penalty would take the form of additional pay for the worker, though the amount is yet unspecified.

Proponents say the bill is designed to target the “worst offenders of unfair scheduling” and counter a trend in employers abruptly changing the work schedules of workers. Read More > in the Sacramento Business Journal

Gavin Newsom takes risk by seeking to legalize recreational pot use – A few weeks into his first term as mayor of San Francisco in 2004, Gavin Newsom made a bold and controversial decision, ordering the city-county clerk to violate state law and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples..

Newsom was ultimately vindicated, with gay marriage gaining public acceptance and becoming legal in California and three dozen other states. But at the time, even some of his supporters thought he was committing political suicide.

As Newsom, now lieutenant governor, prepares for a gubernatorial campaign in 2018, he finds himself at a similar crossroads. This time, his issue is the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes.

Newsom, a Democrat, is the highest-ranking state official to support legalization. If an expected 2016 ballot measure to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana includes safeguards that he views as crucial, Newsom will endorse it and effectively be the public face of the effort.

Although legalization would probably be popular with liberal and young voters, others Newsom must court in his run for governor could present a challenge. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Poll: Yes to more aggressive deportations, no to welfare, citizenship for kids of illegals – Despite President Obama’s efforts to cool the nation’s views on illegal immigrants storming over the U.S.-Mexico border, Americans have reached a new level of anger over the issue, with most demanding a more aggressive deportation policy — and reversal of a law that grants citizenship to kids of illegals born in the U.S.

A new Rasmussen Reports survey released Monday also finds Americans questioning spending tax dollars on government aid provided to illegal immigrants. A huge 83 percent said that anybody should be required to prove that they are “legally allowed” to be in the country before receiving local, state or federal government services.

…For example, 62 percent told the pollster that the U.S. is “not aggressive enough” in deporting those illegally in the United States. Just 15 percent believed the administration’s current policy was “about right” and 16 percent said it was “too aggressive.”

That 62 percent number is a jump from a year ago when it was 52 percent. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

Scotland: The Most Nannying of Europe’s Nanny States – …Last month, a 24-year-old fan of Rangers, the largely Protestant soccer team, was banged up for four months for singing “The Billy Boys,” an old anti-Catholic ditty that Rangers fans have been singing for years, mainly to annoy fans of Celtic, the largely Catholic soccer team. He was belting it out as he walked along a street to a game. He was arrested, found guilty of songcrimes—something even Orwell failed to foresee—and sent down.

It’s all thanks to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, which, yes, is as scary as it sounds. Introduced in 2012 by the Scottish National Party, the largest party in Scotland the Brave New World and author of most of its new nanny-state laws, the Act sums up everything that is rotten in the head of this sceptred isle. Taking a wild, wide-ranging scattergun approach, it outlaws at soccer matches “behaviour of any kind,” including, “in particular, things said or otherwise communicated,” that is “motivated (wholly or partly) by hatred” or which is “threatening” or which a “reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive.”

…Even blessing yourself at a soccer game in Scotland could lead to arrest. Catholic fans have been warned that if they “bless themselves aggressively” at games, it could be “construed as something that is offensive,” presumably to non-Catholic fans, and the police might pick them up. You don’t have to look to some Middle Eastern tinpot tyranny if you want to see the state punishing public expressions of Christian faith—it’s happening in Scotland.

…And then there’s the authoritarian icing on the cake, if Scotland will forgive such an obesity-encouraging metaphor: the SNP’s Children and Young People Act. This Act plans to assign a Named Person, a state-decreed guardian, to every baby born in Scotland, in order to watch him or her from birth to the age of 18.

Due to come into force in August 2016, the Named Person initiative is truly dystopian. Once, it was only abandoned or orphaned children who became charges of the state; now, all Scottish children will effectively be wards of the state under a new, vast system of, in essence, shadow parenting. In an expression of alarming distrust in parents, and utter contempt for the idea of familial sovereignty and privacy, the state in Scotland wants to attach an official to every kid and to keep tabs on said kid’s physical and moral wellbeing. Read More > at Reason

Guest Commentary: California Cannot Conserve or Over-Regulate Way out of Drought – This week Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed that “a historic drought calls for unprecedented action,” when handing down the latest executive order instating mandatory statewide water restrictions aimed at conserving 1.5 million acre feet of water over the next nine months.

This ambitious “first-time-in-state-history” action and goal is admirable, one I wish can be achieved. But do more laws or in this case, a set of 31-point executive directives, create or even free up more water?

A suggested goal of 20 percent reduction of water use last year was never achieved, despite gallant efforts made by communities statewide.

So now, well into the fourth year of drought, the governor now ups the ante with a 25 percent statewide conservation mandate. In doing so, he has opened the door for a myriad of programs, restrictions and regulations to be administered by the bureaucratic, increasingly powerful and gubernatorial-appointed State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB).

Heat index charts and pictures of empty reservoirs and barren Sierras emphasize the need for all of us to conserve; respecting the resource and what it does in our lives remains essential.

But the ongoing preoccupation on the rules, rule breakers and potential punishment is nothing more than a distraction. While treating the symptoms of drought are important, what must really occur is a concerted effort to cure the disease – in California this means dilapidated infrastructure, undersized reserves, ineffective water policy and dysfunctional, non-scientific environmental regulations. Read More > at Public CEO

Major ‘failures’ found in Rolling Stone’s ‘A Rape on Campus’ – An institutional failure at Rolling Stone resulted in a deeply flawed article about a purported gang rape at the University of Virginia, according to an outside review by Columbia Journalism School professors.

The review, published Sunday night, says the failures were sweeping and “may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations.”

At the same time the review came out, Rolling Stone officially retracted the story and said sorry. But the publisher, Jann Wenner, has decided not to fire anyone on staff. He believes the missteps were unintentional, not purposefully deceitful.

One thing is clear: All of this could have been avoided if the writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had made more phone calls.

“The editors invested Rolling Stone’s reputation in a single source,” Columbia’s 12,866-word report concludes.

The source was Jackie, a student who leveled allegations of a violent gang rape against a group of fraternity students. None of her allegations have been corroborated. Read More > at CNN Money


About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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