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Paul Krugman provides a list of good science fiction for economists, which includes some news of which I was unaware.

As I see some commenters have already pointed out, the list really must include Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy; ideally the new folio edition, for which guess who wrote the introduction. ...

And any Iain Banks Culture novel; Use of Weapons was my gateway, but Consider Phlebas, or actually any of them, will do. Banks is terminally ill, so his work should be especially treasured now.

Man, that's sad news. Ian Banks, and I don't think there's another way to put this, rocks. The Culture novels combine big ideas, rich characters (many of them not human) and crackling wit. Right at the top of my most admired authors list. So... damn. Go read the books. Surface Detail would be my pick for the best of the series, but Player of Games is the one I most often hand to those new to the Culture. And can someone out there hop to on inventing the neural lace? Thank you.

As happens all to often, the regular NY Times Sunday crew is eminently skip-able.

Ross Douthat is convinced that the IRS is picking on the Tea Party because the leftism equals paranoia.

Maureen Dowd slings an aimless, holier than thou pox on both left and right from her lofty perch on Mt. Snide.

And Thomas Friedman is... Thomas Friedman.

Displace yourself into the rest of the piece, and lefts see if there's not a pundit out there who shows a little culture.

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Robert Skidelsky has a reply for the hugely bigoted ideas of Niall Ferguson.

Speaking to an investors conference early this month, historian Niall Ferguson was asked what John Maynard Keynes meant by his famous statement that “in the long run, we are all dead.” In an ad lib response, Ferguson suggested that Keynes’s philosophy reflected the fact that the “effete” economist was gay and childless, and therefore did not care much about the fate of future generations.

The audience reportedly went quiet at the remark, but once the comments became public, the backlash was anything but quiet. After undergoing heavy criticism online from economists and historians — many of whom pointed out that Keynes wrote a famous essay titled “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” in 1930 — Ferguson issued an “unqualified apology,” noting that his words were “as stupid as they were insensitive.” (Of his subsequent efforts to defend himself against his many critics, the best that can be said is: “Stop digging.”)

Ruth Marcus has a message for the big dogs at the Pentagon.
Generals say the darndest things.

Especially when it comes to issues of gender and sexual assault.

Witness the comments of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh at a hearing this week before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Questioned about the increasing number of sexual assault cases in the military, Welsh deftly shifted the blame elsewhere. To society in general. Even worse — although I would grant that he did not consciously intend it this way — to the victims.

Eugene Robinson looks at the scandal of the endless, fruitless hunt for scandal.
Those who are trying to make the Benghazi tragedy into a scandal for the Obama administration really ought to decide what story line they want to sell.

Actually, by “those” I mean Republicans, and by “the Obama administration” I mean Hillary Clinton. The only coherent purpose I can discern in all of this is to sully Clinton’s record as secretary of state in case she runs for president in 2016.

That’s not a particularly noble way to use the deaths of four American public servants, but at least it’s understandable. Attempts to concoct some kind of sinister Whitewater-style conspiracy, however, don’t even begin to make sense.

Leonard Pitts looks at the import of 3D printed weaponry.
On May 2nd, you see, a group called Defense Distributed, led by law student and self-described anarchist Cody Wilson, accomplished what was apparently the first successful firing of a gun “printed” entirely by a 3-D printer. According to Forbes reporter Andy Greenberg, who witnessed the test, the gun is made almost entirely of plastic, the only metal in it being the nail that served as a firing pin and the bullet it fired.

So we now have technology, largely unregulated, with the potential to turn every desktop into an armory. Forbes reports that, in just two days, 100,00 blueprints were downloaded.

Hold that thought as you ponder another recent headline. It seems one Adam Kokesh, an Iraq War veteran and activist, is organizing an armed march on Washington for Independence Day. Participants— he claims 2,500 so far — with loaded rifles slung across their backs plan to march into the nation’s capital to protest the “tyranny” of the federal government.

I hate to disagree with Mr. Pitts, but the import of what Wilson did is exactly zero. What Cody Wilson built was not a sophisticated weapon, but a zip gun — a single shot, throwaway weapon. Such weapons have always been very easy to make. In fact, you can make one with less than a buck's worth of materials that will probably work every bit as good as Wilson's design while being easier, faster, and cheaper to build. Prisoners build them in jail. Teenagers make them just for the hell of it.  The "3D printed gun" is nothing at all but media hype based around fascination with new technology. Expect more pointless hype around this until 3D printers are common enough to not be thought of as magic.

Carl Hiassen looks as the price tabs on hospital care.

Anyone who thinks the healthcare apparatus in this country doesn’t need radical liposuction should read through the new federal report on hospital costs.

Make that alleged costs. All over the country, hospitals are billing Medicare ludicrously different amounts for treating patients with the same disorder.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services studied the charges for 100 common in-patient procedures at 3,337 U.S. hospitals during fiscal year 2011. The disparities are outrageous and random to the point of whimsy.

Hey, it's not as if the government or big healthcare have to pay attention to these huge price tags. Only poor people really get forced to pay the full amount.

Doyle McManus brings a message for Mother's Day.

There are two things you can do for your mother on Mother's Day. One is to say "thank you." (Over lunch, with flowers.) The other is to ask her for advice — even if she's not convinced you really want it.
Unfortunately, the advice McManus' mom has to offer seems like a brew composed entirely of false equivalency snd confusion.

Jim Robbins says we should stop concentrating on just the threat to life on Earth. The real story my be the decline of life in Earth.

Scientists using new analytical techniques over the last decade have found that the world’s ocean of soil is one of our largest reservoirs of biodiversity. It contains almost one-third of all living organisms, according to the European Union’s Joint Research Center, but only about 1 percent of its micro-organisms have been identified, and the relationships among those myriad life-forms is poorly understood. ...

A 2003 study in the journal Ecosystems estimated that the biodiversity of nearly 5 percent of the nation’s soil was “in danger of substantial loss, or complete extinction, due to agriculture and urbanization,” though that was most likely a very conservative guess, since the planet’s soil was even more unexplored then than today, and study techniques were far less developed.

Happy your day, Moms! Make the kids take you somewhere nice.
Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Devil's Tower on Sat May 11, 2013 at 10:15 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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