In February 1950, LIFE published a feature on what the magazine called “the gold-bricking existence” of ski bums at Sun Valley, Idaho. Eight months later, in its August 28 issue, LIFE published a follow-up piece with the wonderful title, “LIFE Revisits the Ski Bums (and Finds That They Are Now Beach Bums).”
One of the curious things about social networks is the way that some messages, pictures, or ideas can spread like wildfire while others that seem just as catchy or interesting barely register at all. The content itself cannot be the source of this difference. Instead, there must be some property of the network that changes to allow some ideas to spread but not others. Today, we get an insight into why this happens thanks to the work of Kristina Lerman and pals at the University of Southern California. These people have discovered an extraordinary illusion associated with social networks which can play tricks on the mind and explain everything from why some ideas become popular quickly to how risky or antisocial behavior can spread so easily.
AS INVENTIONS go, the public company is one of capitalism’s greatest. Initial public offerings promote innovation, by providing an exit route for entrepreneurs; being listed makes a firm open to scrutiny; and ordinary people have a chance to invest in capitalism’s wealth-creating machines.
But the past 15 years have cast a shadow over the public company. There was not much sign of scrutiny or wealth creation in fiascos like Enron and Lehman Brothers. Governance has been weakened by the rise of passive index funds, which means that many firms’ largest shareholders are software programs. Institutional investors prefer to sell at the first sign of trouble rather than manage problems—so chief executives obsess about quarterly earnings and grab pay and power while they can. At the same time, tycoons in Silicon Valley have often turned outside investors into second-class citizens, by creating special voting rights for their own shares.
5 Countries That Do It Better: How Sexual Prudery Makes America a Less Healthy and Happy Place | [alternet.org]
To extreme social conservatives of the far right, the word “prude” is not an insult — it’s a badge of honor. “Prudes,” they would argue, should be upheld as exemplary role models because a sexually repressive society is also a society with fewer unplanned pregnancies and fewer sexually transmitted diseases. But not only do the facts not bear that out, they also demonstrate that the exact opposite is true. Countries that embrace many of the things social conservatives detest comprehensive sex education, pro-gay legislation, nude or topless beaches, legal or decriminalized prostitution, adult entertainment tend to be countries that have less sexual dysfunction than the United States, not more. And when one compares sexual attitudes in the United States to sexual attitudes in Western Europe, it becomes evident that there is a strong correlation between social conservatism and higher rates of teen pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases.
Robert Reich: Just Imagine If People Were Paid What Their Work Is Really Worth to Society – [alternet.org]
What someone is paid has little or no relationship to what their work is worth to society. Does anyone seriously believe hedge-fund mogul Steven A. Cohen is worth the $2.3 billion he raked in last year, despite being slapped with a $1.8 billion fine after his firm pleaded guilty to insider trading?
On the other hand, what’s the worth to society of social workers who put in long and difficult hours dealing with patients suffering from mental illness or substance abuse? Probably higher than their average pay of $18.14 an hour, which translates into less than $38,000 a year.
How much does society gain from personal-care aides who assist the elderly, convalescents, and persons with disabilities? Likely more than their average pay of $9.67 an hour, or just over $20,000 a year.
As Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica likes to say, his personal story seems like the stuff of fiction.
He was a leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned for more than a decade. He’s known for driving a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle, wearing sandals to meetings and living in a simple farmhouse on the outskirts of the capital.
And more recently, his country became the first in the world to legalize marijuana, from growing to consumption. The country has also legalized gay marriage during his tenure. And while Mujica frequently criticizes U.S. policies, President Obama hosted him at the White House on Monday.
In short, Mujica is a political maverick who is full of surprises.
“When you think you’ve understood Mujica, when you think you’ve defined him, he will surprise you with something completely different and new and even contradictory,” says Pablo Brum, the Uruguayan author of a new English-language book called The Robin Hood Guerrillas: The Epic Journey of Uruguay’s Tupamaros.
Out in the Open: An Open Source Website That Gives Voters a Platform to Influence Politicians [wired.com]
This is the decade of the protest. The Arab Spring. The Occupy Movement. And now the student demonstrations in Taiwan.
Argentine political scientist Pia Mancini says we’re caught in a “crisis of representation.” Most of these protests have popped up in countries that are at least nominally democratic, but so many people are still unhappy with their elected leaders. The problem, Mancini says, is that elected officials have drifted so far from the people they represent, that it’s too hard for the average person to be heard.
“If you want to participate in the political system as it is, it’s really costly,” she says. “You need to study politics in university, and become a party member and work your way up. But not every citizen can devote their lives to politics.”
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