Lifes Worth Knowing

The Weekender

In Current events, Economics, Fascinating, Interesting, Politics, Uncategorized on January 20, 2012 at 10:33 am

The Weekender is a weekly column devoted to the ideas/articles/videos that I find fascinating and wish I had more time to explore.

“Out of the Crooked Timber of Humanity, no straight thing has ever been made.” The most influential work of literature I had ever read was Isaiah Berlin’s essay “The Pursuit of the Ideal” which holds (at its essential level) that the biggest threat to humanity is absolutism in any form, because humanity is far too complex to fit into one mold, whether it be religious or political. I recently stumbled across this website, aptly called “crooked timber” which is basically what lifesworthknowing is…except with really smart authors.

Out of Control Spending is Ruining America! This report looks at the different budget plans offered by the Republican candidates…and finds that all of them increase the deficit as well. Gee, you would’ve thought that with all that fiery rhetoric about the out of control spending in Washington, somebody would’ve been able to put together a plan to do something about it.

You mean, it hasn’t ALWAYS been that way? Krugman takes a quick look at the history of capital gains taxes and finds that the current level of 15% has only been in place since Bush II, and the tax rate has fluctuated between 20%-40% since the 1950s. So, explain to me again how a higher tax rate on capital gains is class warfare, or a hindrance to the economy? How is it that we assume that the current rate is the only rate that it should be? Mitt Romney came out this week saying his tax rate is about 15% because his income is primarily from investments. He is worth somewhere between $200-$250 million and his tax rate is the same as his bus driver. My head hurts.

That Jonas Salk sure knew his stuff. In a win for humanity, India has now gone an entire year without a new polio case. This is nothing but good news for the world – and all thanks for the power of vaccines. There was only one case of polio reported in the world in 2011, a triumph of public health.

Forget 40 years in the desert, try 400 years in Europe. While his conclusion is a little unsatisfying, an interesting look at the migrations in Europe following the Roman Empire by tracking genetic variance. Also, with a cool map.

It’s not Mufasa in the stars – but it’s just as cool. This short video taken from the International Space Station shows the Milky Way rising over Africa, while lightning storms rage below. It is beautiful and awe inspiring. It manages to help place our little world in context of our larger galaxy.

The sky crashed…but not the way you would expect. This eery photo is from the Ukraine, where one of those electronic billboards malfunctioned….leaving a Windows error message in the night sky. Combine that with a foggy night, and it appears that someone needs to Ctrl+Alt+Delete the sky. (via Boing Boing)

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