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On what the Charleston shooting was REALLY about

Rick Perry referred to it was an "accident" and probably involved overuse of prescription drugs: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/rick-perry-charleston-shooting-accident-due-drug-use-manipulated-obama-ban-guns

Michael Savage thought it might be drugs, too. Or maybe a government assassin: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/michael-savage-maybe-charleston-shooter-was-set-loose-government

But Rick Santorum said it was all about attacks on religious liberty: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2015/06/18/rick-santorum-reacting-to-charleston-shooting-denounces-assaults-on-our-religious-liberty/

Fox & Friends agreed, it might very well be part of the ongoing attacks on Christians: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/06/18/fox_and_friends_on_charleston_shooting_it_s_extraordinary_that_they_re_calling.html

Regardless of the motivation, we know why it turned out as tragic as it did ... because the church was a "gun-free zone": http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/06/18/gun-free-zones-easy-target-for-killers.html

Brian Fischer confirms the shooting took place because it was a "gun-free zone": https://twitter.com/BryanJFischer/status/611530746625421312

Fox & Friends is definitely behind the idea that more guns would have averted the tragedy: http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/06/18/fox-amp-friends-exploits-south-carolina-church/204046

Mike Huckabee definitely thinks the prayer group should have been packing: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/mike-huckabee-charleston-shooting-couldve-been-prevented-if-church-members-were-armed

Yup, no question that it was because the church was a "gun-free zone": http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/06/18/discredited-gun-researcher-john-lott-botches-sc/204052

And one NRA board member makes it clear that it was actually the fault of the killed pastor of the church because of his support for gun control laws: http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/06/18/nra-board-member-blames-murdered-reverend-for-d/204057

It surely had nothing to do with why a guy would wear a jacket with the flags of white-minority-government Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa on it, nor how he was able to get a gun because of loopholes in the law in South Carolina. That's just crazy talk.
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This is absolutely worth reading.
 
I occasionally will write a long article. This article is, I have to say, longer than even what I would write. But it explains a tremendous number of really important things extremely clearly: power production and use, the history of cars, how these things all fit together, and how Tesla is trying to change that. There's no way I could give you a useful short summary, because the point of this article is that, by the time you're done reading it, you'll understand all of the things well enough that you can join in very serious conversations about them.

So don't feel compelled to read this at one sitting -- but this is an article you may want to bookmark, and read bit by bit, because by the time you reach the end, you'll have learned a lot.
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It should be fairly obvious that discrimination imposes costs on the people being discriminated against. But if you think about it for a moment, it should also be fairly obvious that discrimination -- be it explicit or implicit -- also imposes costs on the economy as a whole.

The reason is fairly simple: if a market were truly "free" (with all the subtleties that that phrase entails), people would be doing what they're best at, in the way that rewards them the most. Discrimination is, by its nature, something that keeps people from doing what they want to. And general principles of economics tell us that, when resources are allocated inefficiently, the economy as a whole slows down.

More concretely, if there's someone who would have been a great doctor, but is instead forced by circumstance -- be it being the wrong race or growing up poor -- to be a janitor instead, then not only does she lose out on everything she would have gained as a doctor, but everyone else loses out on everything she would have done as a doctor.

This brings us to this rather interesting paper from four researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research, who wanted to put some numbers to this. (http://klenow.com/HHJK.pdf) For example, in 1960, 94% of doctors and lawyers were white men; in 2008, 62% were. Since there's no reason to believe that white men are intrinsically better at being doctors than anyone else, that gives us a way to estimate how many people would have been doctors who weren't. By building a mathematical model out of this, they estimate the real economic impact of discrimination -- and it turns out that somewhere between 15-20% of our total economic growth during that period comes from that.

For a sense of scale, during this time the inflation-adjusted GDP grew from $3.95T (in 2008 dollars) to $14.7T. That means that at the lower end of the estimate, the discrimination that went away between 1960 and 2008 was costing the US about $33 billion (in 2008 dollars, again) per year.

Note that this is just the aggregate cost to society as a whole, summed up between rich and poor. Obviously some people gained from this as well -- e.g., the people who became doctors who wouldn't have been able to, had the full pool of people who could have been doctors been allowed to participate. (And there's your next unsettling thought for the day: if you take the people who want to be doctors and line them up in order of how good a doctor they would be, and cut it off after you have enough doctors, you've got the best possible pool of doctors. If you take any one of them out of eligibility for some reason, then his replacement is mathematically guaranteed to be a worse doctor. You have just promoted some undeserving schmuck to perform surgery on you. Congratulations.) 

But leaving aside the question of how different people fared under this, consider as well: this difference accounts for all of the discrimination that went away between 1960 and 2008.

We have not, by any stretch of the imagination, gotten rid of all the discrimination. The girl growing up in the Appalachian back country, the boy growing up in Baltimore, the child of migrant farm workers, these people are not likely to be able to go to college, get a BA or MD, work in the job of their choice. 

When we talk about the economic costs of inequality, this is the sort of thing that really matters: not just the costs to those at the bottom, but the fact that inequality of opportunity has huge costs for society as a whole. Since in our society in particular, opportunity is greatly tied to existing resources -- consider anything from access to out-of-school enrichment, to having a good suit to wear to an interview, to knowing how to interview for a job in the first place (you learned that; it wasn't innate. You learned it from other people, and access to those people is a resource) -- resource inequality leads in turn to opportunity inequality, and that drags everyone down, even as it enriches the incompetent few.

Macroeconomics says: Trade makes everyone wealthier. You can't impoverish some people without that screwing everyone else over, as well. Trying to flout those laws tends to work about as well as trying to flout gravity: it might work really well, briefly. There's just that sudden stop at the end.


(Illustration via Paul Townsend: https://flic.kr/p/dVva6h. What goes up tends to come down somewhat rapidly, at times.)
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PSA time

I've had a few friends ask me lately where they should be getting their credit score from. With so many places offering it either for free or "free" it's hard to know where is best.

TLDR: Pay for MyFico.com

The first thing I explain to them is that there are different models used to create a credit score. You have to decide which model you want to get a score from and then go from there.

The two popular ones currently are FICO 8 and Vantage Plus 3 (a model created by Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). FICO is used by the majority (~90%) of lenders, and is the score you should really be looking at if you're actively looking to get any type of loan. That's not to say that Vantage doesn't have it's perks though. Vantage scores can be obtained for free, where as the only way you're getting a FICO score is from the Fair Isaac Corporation itself. Getting a FICO score through Discover? That's because they're paying Fair Isaac Corporation to get it. FICO is never free, someone is always paying for it. Vantage on the other hand can usually be obtained many different ways to where if anyone is paying for it, it's not you and it's not much.

If you're going the free route, and your credit card doesn't offer you a FICO score, you should look at CreditKarma.com. They offer a truly free Vantage Plus 3 score updated periodically. The way they're able to offer this score for free is they anonymously use your data and provide you with credit and bank offers. These offers are sponsored. Credit card providers get to target people more accurately through a platform like Credit Karma so they pay Credit Karma to suggest their cards to certain people. I've been signed up for CK since it was in beta years ago and they've always been a great free service.

Rebuilding your credit or want to take a more active approach to monitoring your credit? Your FICO score is what you should be looking at. As mentioned above the only people calculating this score is the Fair Isaac Corporation. Your bank doesn't know how your score is calculated, your credit card company doesn't, your auto dealership can't tell you how your score was calculated. Only Fair Isaac Corporation.

If you're paying anyone for your FICO score other than the Fair Isaac Corporation you may want to reconsider. Those people are reselling your FICO score to you and taking a cut. They may offer other services along with it, but you're allowing them access to this data. That access needs to come with some perks else it's not worth it.

https://www.myfico.com/ is offered by Fair Isaac Corporation. When you're paying this site, you're paying for your FICO score directly. myfico.com isn't free, of course, but their costs are pretty reasonable for what they offer in my opinion. At $24.95 you get a report from Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. You also get multiple versions of your FICO score (yes, there's different versions used by different types of lenders) instantly. Most importantly, in my opinion, is that you get alerts any time something is reported to either of those 3 bureaus as well as an updated credit score. This means any time you look at this site you're viewing your most up to date FICO 8 scores.

The site provides numerous helpful tools, and it's very well laid out. One of those tools is a credit score calculator that lets you estimate how your score will be affected based on different things. Who better to get a tool like this from than from FICO themselves? 

If you're getting a score through your credit card or bank, take a moment to find out what kind of score it is. Capital One, for example, gives you a credit score. The fine print? The model they use is the " TransUnion New Account Model". This model isn't one that even Capital One uses for lending purposes, let alone anyone else. 

Even if your credit card or bank offers a FICO, they almost never offer one for all 3 bureaus. You may have a FICO Bankcard 8 for Equifax but if you go to finance a car through Mercedes you'l find out they use Fico Auto 8 Transunion only. Not everything is reported to all 3, and your scores will typically vary between them. a couple of points can sometimes be the difference in your loan rate. 600-649 is considered a 27% risk, where as 650 to 699 is a 13% risk, and 700-749 is a 5% risk (according to FICO). Those are pretty huge differences.

Confused about any of the above or just have some questions I might be able to answer? Feel free to put them in the comments below
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People who say that property destruction that happens by a small group of people in a larger protest causes them to not be favorable towards the cause of said protest most likely didn't care much about the issue to begin with.

It's not property damage versus issue group is outraged about, you can still support the larger group of non violent protesters without damning them all because of the actions of some. Stop being ignorant.
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How better to deal with an infestation of aphids than to introduce an army of ladybugs?
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Sure did!
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The perpetrator of yesterday's terrorist strike was captured a few hours ago, and the bodies of the dead have not yet been buried, and already I'm seeing a refrain pop up in news coverage and in people's comments: How do we understand this killer? What made him turn out this way? Was he mentally ill, was he on drugs, was he abused, was he influenced by someone in his life? Were his motivations about politics, religion, personal relationships, psychological? We can't form opinions about why he did this yet; we shouldn't assume that, just because [insert thing here], it was about race.

You might mistake this, at first, for a genuine interest in understanding the motivations that would turn a young man into a terrorist and a mass murderer. But when other kinds of terrorists -- say, Muslims from Afghanistan -- commit atrocities, the very same people who are asking these questions are asking completely different ones: Why are Muslims so violent? What is it in Islam that makes them so prone to hating America, hating Christianity, hating Freedom?

I think that there are two, very important, things going on here. The more basic one is that, when terrorists are from a group you've never met, it's far easier to ascribe their behavior to the whole group; if it's from a group you know, and you know that the average member of that group isn't malicious or bloodthirsty, then people start asking individual questions. 

But the more important one is that the group that this terrorist belonged to was not merely familiar: it's the same group to which most of the people asking the questions belong. Not merely the same broad group -- "Muslims" and "Christians" are groups of over a billion people each, groups far too broad to have any deep commonalities -- but a far narrower group, a group with a common culture. And there's a reason that people don't want to ask "What is it about this group that caused it:" because in this case, there's a real answer.

The picture you see below is of the Confederate flag which the state of South Carolina flies on the grounds of its state house, and has ever since 1962. (That's 1962, not 1862: it was put there in response to the Civil Rights movement, not to the Civil War) Today, all of the state flags in that state are at half mast; only the Confederate flag is flying at full mast.

The state government itself is making explicit its opinion on the matter: while there may be formal mourning for the dead, this is a day when the flag of white supremacy can fly high. When even the government, in its formal and official behavior, condones this, can we really be surprised that terrorists are encouraged? (Terrorists, plural, as this is far from an isolated incident; even setting aside the official and quasi-official acts of governments, the history of terror attacks and even pogroms in this country is utterly terrifying)

Chauncey DeVega asked some excellent questions in his article at Salon (http://goo.gl/3AZWy7); among them,

1. What is radicalizing white men to commit such acts of domestic terrorism and mass shootings? Are Fox News and the right-wing media encouraging violence?

6. When will white leadership step up and stop white right-wing domestic terrorism?

7. Is White American culture pathological? Why is White America so violent?

8. Are there appropriate role models for white men and boys? Could better role models and mentoring help to prevent white men and boys from committing mass shootings and being seduced by right-wing domestic terrorism?

The callout of Fox News in particular is not accidental: they host more hate-filled preachers and advocates of violence, both circuitous and explicit, than Al Jazeera. 

There is a culture which has advocated, permitted, protected, and enshrined terrorists in this country since its founding. Its members and advocates are not apologetic in their actions; they only complain that they might be "called racist," when clearly they aren't, calling someone racist is just a way to shut down their perfectly reasonable conversation and insult them, don't you know?

No: This is bullshit, plain and simple. It is a culture which believes that black and white Americans are not part of the same polity, that they must be kept apart, and that the blacks must be and remain subservient. That robbing or murdering them is permissible, that quiet manipulations of the law to make sure that "the wrong people" don't show up in "our neighborhoods," or take "our money," or otherwise overstep their bounds, are not merely permissible, but the things that we do in order to keep society going. That black faces and bodies are inherently threatening, and so both police and private citizens have good reason to be scared when they see them, so that killing them -- whether they're young men who weren't docile enough at a traffic stop or young children playing in the park -- is at most a tragic, but understandable, mistake.

I have seen this kind of politics before. I watch a terrorist attack on a black church in Charleston, and it gives me the same fear that I get when I see a terrorist attack against a synagogue: the people who come after one group will come after you next.

This rift -- this seeing our country as being built of two distinct polities, with the success of one having nothing to do with the success of the other or of the whole -- is the poison which has been eating at the core of American society for centuries. It is the origin of our most bizarre laws, from weapons laws to drug policies to housing policy, and to all of the things which upon rational examination appear simply perverse. How many of the laws which seem to make no sense make perfect sense if you look at them on the assumption that their real purpose is to enforce racial boundaries? I do not believe that people are stupid: I do not believe that lawmakers pass laws that go against their stated purpose because they can't figure that out. I believe that they pass laws, and that people encourage and demand laws, because consciously or subconsciously, they know what kind of world they will create.

We tend to reserve the word "white supremacy" for only the most extreme organizations, the ones who are far enough out there that even the fiercest "mainstream" advocates of racism can claim no ties to them. But that, ultimately, is bullshit as well. This is what it is, this is the culture which creates, and encourages, and coddles terrorists. And until we have excised this from our country, it will poison us every day.

First and foremost, what we need to do is discuss it. If there's one thing I've seen, it's that discussing race in my posts is the most inflammatory thing I could possibly do: people become upset when I mention it, say I'm "making things about race" or trying to falsely imply that they're racists or something like that. 

When there's something you're afraid to discuss, when there's something that upsets you when it merely comes onto the table: That's the thing you need to talk about. That's the thing that has to come out there, in the open.

We've entered a weird phase in American history where overt statements of racism are forbidden, so instead people go to Byzantine lengths to pretend that that isn't what it is. But that just lets the worm gnaw deeper. Sunshine is what lets us move forward.

And the flag below? So long as people can claim with a straight face that this is "just about heritage," that it isn't somehow a blatant symbol of racism, we know that there is bullshit afloat in our midst.

The flag itself needs to come down; not with ceremony, it simply needs to be taken down, burned, and consigned to the garbage bin.
"The stars and bars promised lynching, police violence against protestors and others. And violence against churches."
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"What's worse, public use of this drug has become widely accepted in some circles. In New Orleans, several men and women in their 20s and 30s shouted that they're going to get "wasted" — a slang term for coming under the effects of alcohol. Some have even turned drinking alcohol into a game that involves ping pong balls and cups."

Brilliant.
Meet alcohol, the drug making people run around nude and collapse in the streets.
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There's also Google's echo-chamber problem. Think about the fractured political landscape we live in, where meat-munching Red Staters can punch in "Obama's a Muslim," while patchouli-scented libertarians can type up "Bush did 9/11," and both can be validated with pages giving them "evidence" for whatever they'd like to see. "Google is extremely good at giving you what you want," says Epstein. "They're doing more customized rankings, they're getting better at knowing who you are. It's a feel-good experience."

Interesting take on the personalized internet.
"The internet is the biggest source of misinformation about mental health that has ever been created," says Dr. Robert Epstein, mental health expert and former <i>Psychology Today</i> editor-in-chief.
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Every time there's a riot people cry out "I can't believe the police let people destroy things!!". Even when history has shown us that "an intimidating police presence didn’t prevent confrontation, it invited it". Police have to attempt to maintain a delicate balance when dealing with riots. More often than not people seem to forget lives are more important than property. I don't think a single person has been killed during these riots, and injuries have been kept to a minimum. There's no perfect way to handle a riot, but if you managed to keep a riot down to just some destruction of property and a few injuries I think you could have done a lot worse.

"One of the pioneers of community policing — a form of policing that stresses interaction over reaction, deescalation over brute force, and that police should have a stake in the communities they serve —is Jerry Wilson, who was appointed police chief for Washington, D.C. in 1969. Wilson was of course appointed during a very turbulent time in America, and he took office just after the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. had ripped the city apart. But Wilson went to great pains to recruit police officers from the city’s residents, and to try to make the police force more reflective of the city. He also took a much different approach to protest. I interviewed Wilson for my recent book on police militarization. Here’s a passage from the section about Wilson’s approach to protest:

Wilson believed that an intimidating police presence didn’t prevent confrontation, it invited it. That didn’t mean he didn’t prepare, but he put his riot control teams in buses, then parked the buses close by, but out of sight of protesters. Appearances were important. In general, instead of the usual brute force and reactionary policing that tended to pit cops against citizens—both criminal and otherwise—Wilson believed that cops were more effective when they were welcomed and respected in the neighborhoods they patrolled. “The use of violence,” he told Time in 1970, “is not the job of police officers.”

It’s worth noting that during Wilson’s tenure, not only did Washington, D.C. not see the level of rioting and protest violence we saw in other parts of the country, crime actually fell in the city, even as it soared across the rest of the country."

Via http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/08/14/after-ferguson-how-should-police-respond-to-protests/
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Yet another peer reviewed article of a large sample of children showing no link between MMR vaccines and autism.

In this large sample of privately insured children with older siblings, receipt of the MMR vaccine was not associated with increased risk of ASD, regardless of whether older siblings had ASD. These findings indicate no harmful association between MMR vaccine receipt and ASD even among children already at higher risk for ASD.

#vaccines #autism
Importance Despite research showing no link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), beliefs that the vaccine causes autism persist, leading to lower vaccination levels. Parents who already have a child with ASD may be especially wary of vaccinations. Objective To report ...
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A programmer turned Labor Board investigator with a love of potted plants, aquariums, smart phones and Chinese food.
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Shopping here has been one of my favorite shopping experiences ever. There were sample hammocks hung everywhere and my wife and I tested every single one. The manager we worked with was incredibly nice and very helpful, and is perhaps my favorite salesperson of all time. We ended up buying an 'Admiral' size hammock, a wonderfully soft but weatherproof long pillow, and a mosquito net. I don't care if you can save a few bucks buying similar duracord hammocks from Amazon. This is the place to buy.
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Public - in the last week
reviewed in the last week
The staff is always friendly and helpful, and the selection is surprisingly good for a small store. It's a lot closer than the nearby Lowe's and Home Depot super centers, so I visit frequently to purchase last minute project supplies.
Public - 4 months ago
reviewed 4 months ago
Always a consistently positive experience for me. I can only speak to the quality of the sushi, but in my experience it is the best in the city. The sushi rice is perfection, and the chefs take great care with the preparation. The atmosphere of the sushi bar is especially good. I love those guys!
Food: ExcellentDecor: Very GoodService: Excellent
Public - 2 years ago
reviewed 2 years ago
5 reviews
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This complex is of the finest I have ever seen. I've been here since early 2012, and I am very pleased with the quality of my unit and with how friendly the managers are. The complex is only a few years old, and you can definitely tell by looking the walls, closets and fixtures. Shiny! There is a definite difference between the units here and those I checked out at nearby complexes. They're always very timely with repairs and I appreciate the little touches like the occasional free doughnut on my way to work. The grounds are always clean and quiet, and the community seems to be a very mature and responsible one. I'm sure it depends on your neighbor (this is a fairly large complex), but I have never been bothered by loud music, and the neighbors are never rowdy. I suspect the other reviewer may have just had a bad neighbor. It happens. In the summer, the pool is great and well maintained, and Bethabra park is almost exactly a mile's walk down the road. Do yourself a favor and put this place on your list of apartments to check out. Also, it's probably good to pay your rent on time. I should note that the one time that I was late on rent (a day past the final due date), I was forgiven and wasn't even charged a late fee.
• • •
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
I've stopped by several times now, and the sushi has been excellent every time. I've been to four or five other sushi places all over the city, but this one is the best. Their spicy salmon and tuna rolls are phenomenal, and rice in the sushi is perfect. I'd recommend this place hands down.
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago