A Different Kind of March Madness

The 2016 World Chess Candidates Tournament:

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) and Agon Limited, the commercial partner of FIDE, are pleased to announce that the next FIDE World Chess Candidates tournament will take place in Moscow, Russia in March, from 10th to 30th 2016.

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8 players, including 6 of the World’s top-10 rated grandmasters, representing 6 countries, will take part in this prestigious chess event.

The winner will determine the challenger to compete against the reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship. The World Championship match is planned to take place in November 2016 in the USA.

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Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the President of the World Chess Federation, said: “We are looking forward to an exciting tournament in Moscow. The Candidates tournaments usually receive wide media attention and this one is likely to be one of the most televised chess events as FIDE and its partners are working to make chess a television spectator sport. We hope chess fans around the world will follow the tournament and will enjoy it.”

It might be hard to believe, but there are many countries in the world where chess matches are televised and top players are (at least) B-level type celebrities.  Some players, like Kasparov, are obviously famous for other reasons as well.  Below (PROFANITY ALERT!) is an interesting discussion of the players:

Drafting Apple?

All the controversy over the government trying to force Apple to create software to unlock a terrorist’s cell phone brings to mind the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

While usually thought of in terms of slavery, “involuntary servitude” refers to being forced through coercion to work for another. Isn’t this what is happening to Apple? They are being forced through coercion (a court order) to work for another (the US Government).

One can say that Obamacare sort of does this already since the Federal Government has forced everyone to buy insurance or be fined. But buying insurance is not preforming a service. What the government is trying to do to Apple goes way beyond purchasing something. One could also argue that taxation does the same thing and that anyone in say the 25% tax bracket is forced to work one out of every four days for the government. But this argument falls flat since individuals are not “compelled” to earn any income at all. This seems more akin to the military draft and, for us, raises the question that if Apple can be ordered to aid the US government, where is the limit to what the government can force anyone to do?

Spanish civil servant off work unnoticed for six years

A recent story from the BBC News:

A Spanish civil servant who failed to turn up for work for “at least” six years has been caught after becoming eligible for a long service award.

Joaquin Garcia, 69, was fined €27,000 (£21,000; $30,000) after the award brought his long absence to light.

Mr Garcia, whose job was to supervise the building of a waste water treatment plant, has since retired.

He denies the allegations and his lawyer says he has gone into hiding after suffering a media “lynching”.

Mr Garcia said he had been a victim of political bullying in the job and moved to a post where there was no work to do.

He was paid €37,000 a year before tax by a water company run by local authorities in the south-western city of Cadiz. A court found in the authority’s favour and ordered him to pay the fine ,which is equivalent to one year’s salary after tax and was the most that the company could legally reclaim.

Hmm… Six years?  Same length as the term of a U.S. Senator.

Every year, more people watch the Super Bowl. Why did it hit its ratings peak in 1982?

Vox explains that if you watch tomorrow’s Super bowl you will likely be in the minority:

The Super Bowl is the most-watched show on TV, year in and year out. Nothing else can even come close. And if you look at the game’s viewership trends, it’s a pretty safe bet that each year’s Super Bowl will become the new most-watched program in American TV history.

Yet at the same time, the Super Bowl’s ratings have remained more or less consistent since the 1980s. Indeed, the highest-rated Super Bowl to date aired in 1982. Even as more and more people watch the big game, the percentage of Americans who tune in has stayed at roughly 45 percent.

This is all thanks to how Nielsen calculates its ratings, the growth of the US population, and the slow decline of just about all other television programming. Or, put another way, it might seem like everybody in the country watches the Super Bowl — but only a little under half of us do.

[….]

[t]he overall viewership numbers for the game have climbed, more or less nonstop, for the past 30 years.  And yet the rating (again, the percentage of people watching the game) has remained fairly stable.  For example, the highest-rated game of the past 30 years was in 1986—when approximately 48.3% of American TV viewers watched the Chicago Bears destroy the New England Patriots.

The 1986 ratings were probably due to a great Chicago 46 defense and a really cheesy video.

Nebraska Keeps Killing School Choice Bills

From the Hit and Run blog:

Hundreds of restless parents and kids rallied outside Nebraska’s state capitol last week to widen the options their state’s public school system. Nebraska is one of seven states with no charter schools, no vouchers, nor any other publicly funded alternatives—and it’s been this way for a while.

Our nation has a lot of problems, but perhaps the most unfathomable failure in the entire country is our inability to wrench education away from the failed and failing state educational monopoly. We know that the teachers’ unions that today control the government school system would not relish real educational competition.  But, given that there is currently a lot of fashionable talk about “income inequality” maybe we can hope that the time may be ripe to focus on the role of our often dysfunctional government schools in widening the labor market skills gap.

New Jersey lifts licensing laws for shoveling snow

Here is the story from Fox News:

Just days ahead of an expected blizzard on the East Coast, New Jersey has officially repealed a nonsensical rule banning the shoveling of snow without a license.
Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday signed a bill making it legal for New Jersey residents to offer snow shoveling services without first registering with their town. Last year, two entrepreneurial teens going door-to-door and offering to shovel snow for a small fee were stopped by local police in Bound Brook.
The cops told the two boys, Matt Molinari and Eric Schnepf, they were not allowed to solicit businesses without a permit.
In Bound Brook, that license costs $450 and is only good for a period of 180 days.
After the story made national headlines, state lawmakers began working on a solution.
Republican State Sen. Mike Doherty, who sponsored the so-called “right-to-shovel” bill, said it was incredible that some towns wanted teens to pay expensive licensing fees just to clear snow off driveways.

Having the “right to shovel” in New Jersey? It seems pretty reasonable but they might not want to push things too far.  Who knows where it could lead?  You might have people thinking they should be free to pump their own gas.

Trump on Outsourcing

Gizmodo discusses a recent Trump speech at Liberty University:

First, in the span of a few sentences, he insisted that he’d impose a 35 percent tax on businesses producing goods overseas while claiming to support free trade. At the end of his rambling, decidedly non-MLK-themed speech, he said this:

“We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of other countries.”

A few questions:

  1. If such a change occurred, what would happen to the price of IPhones?
  2. Would moving all of Apple’s production to the USA make Americans richer?
  3. Would the Apple plants consisting of fully robotic assembly change your answer to #1 or #2?

House Masters Agree to Change Title

From the Harvard Crimson:

The masters of Harvard’s 12 undergraduate residential Houses have unanimously agreed to change their title, a term that some students criticize as associated with slavery and has come under scrutiny as debates about racism take hold of college campuses nationwide.

College and House administrators will soon meet to select a new name to replace the “House master” title, according to Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, who informed the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of the decision at its monthly meeting on Tuesday. Khurana, himself a master of Cabot House, said he will inform the College of the new title early next year.

If they televised the announcement it could well be sponsored by Visa.  Next up: a golf tournament in Augusta?

Not That Hot

Via the Washington Post:

In a sweeping new study published Wednesday in Nature, a team of researchers say there is a strong relationship between a region’s average temperature and its economic productivity — adding another potential cost to a warming climate.
Culling together economic and temperature data for over 100 wealthy and poorer countries alike over 50 years, the researchers assert that the optimum temperature for human productivity is seems to be around 13 degrees Celsius or roughly 55 degrees Fahrenheit, as an annual average for a particular place. Once things get a lot hotter than that, the researchers add, economic productivity declines “strongly.”

Wow. A truly amazing article highlighting a study that shows that global warming reduces productivity growth. It nicely illustrates the depths to which liberals will sink to convert us to their religion of climate change. The notion that a slightly warmer clime would reduce our productivity is an amazingly banal bit of specious reasoning that reminds us of Montesquieu’s argument that warm weather is bad for economic development since it leads to increased laziness.

The dangerous separation of the American upper middle class

Via Brookings:

The American upper middle class is separating, slowly but surely, from the rest of society. This separation is most obvious in terms of income—where the top fifth have been prospering while the majority lags behind. But the separation is not just economic. Gaps are growing on a whole range of dimensions, including family structure, education, lifestyle, and geography. Indeed, these dimensions of advantage appear to be clustering more tightly together, each thereby amplifying the effect of the other.

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American society is divided along economic and educational lines, but also on the fault-line of the family. There is a much-discussed ‘marriage gap between affluent, well-educated Americans and their less-advantaged peers. Families in the top income quintile are much more likely to feature a married couple than those lower down the distribution. Of course, the fact of being married helps to push up family income, since two adults have twice the earnings potential. Nonetheless, the gaps by income in family structure are striking. There are more never-married than married adults (aged 35 to 40) in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution (37 percent v. 33 percent). In the top quintile, the picture is reversed: a large majority of household heads (83 percent) are married, while just 11 percent have never been married:

In itself, the relationship between upper middle class status and family structure may seem of little concern. Whether people choose to marry or not is a personal choice. But family structure, as a marker and predictor of family stability, makes a difference to the life chances of the next generation. To the extent that upper middle class Americans are able to form planned, stable, committed families, their children will benefit—and be more likely to retain their childhood class status when they become adults.

Please read the whole thing.  It is a classic illustration of the liberal mindset.  The upper middle class tends to marry and stay married at higher rates.  That, of course, is “bad” since children raised in a stable, intact, household have an advantage over those who are not raised in such a favorable environment. The author doesn’t seem to be suggesting that the “solution” is to somehow try to minimize out of wedlock births or other manifestations of family instability, rather, he hints at their being something wrong with the upper middle class’s social and economic success.  The same goes for their proclivity to invest in education for themselves (see, “where did you get your second degree?”) and their children. Guess there must also be something wrong with their having lower rates of crime and problems with substance abuse.  These, of course, are problems if you think the apparent lack of downward mobility is a major social problem.