Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fact of the Day

85% of upstate New York residents live within 25 miles of the Erie Canal.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

Plantiga's definition of a fundamentalist:
A stupid ass whose theological beliefs are to the right of me and my enlightened friends.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Indictment of President George W. Bush

I'm not, nor ever have been a Bush hater. I didn't vote for him, but I don't think he was some loon running amok. The Iraq War wasn't a net positive, but I understand the impetus and the seemingly necessity of taking care of rogue nations. Nevertheless, from a more fundamental point of view President Bush was a disaster. At a time when our nation needed (and could afford) fiscal/domestic leadership, he flushed it down the toilet.

As the Mr. Douthat points out in a response to Mr. Mead's excellent post:
In hindsight, I suspect, the most damning judgment on the politics of the 2000s will be that our leaders (well, many of them, at least) misjudged how long they had before the fiscal crunch arrived. It was understood, throughout the decade, that once the baby boomers retired there would have to be an era of belt-tightening and fiscal retrenchment — but that moment still seemed a long (or at least a medium) way off, and the problem of the entitlement system’s sustainability seemed like it could wait for the late 2010s or early 2020s.
He goes on to say:
Looking backward, though, it’s very bad news for the legacy of George W. Bush, whose fiscal record looks much more irresponsible in the cold light of hindsight than it did while he was in the White House. For a time, Bush’s hope for rehabilitation seemed to rest on the possibility of a decent outcome in Iraq, but now I suspect that even that won’t be enough to rescue his reputation: Both right and left bear responsibility for letting the 2000s slip away, but Bush was the decider, and his budgetary decisions look worse and worse with every passing day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Funding Your State

The Great Recession may be officially over, but states throughout the land are still facing difficult budget decisions. They need to decide what to fund and how to raise the money. Too often in discussions of taxation we focus on income tax or just federal taxes when in fact we have a whole slew of taxes. Instead we need to talk about the tax burden citizens face rather than particular tax rates (e.g., the rich may face the highest income tax rate, however, if their income is from dividends their tax burden is significantly less).

You particularity see this tax reality with separate states. For example, in my lovely state of South Dakota we have no income tax, yet one of the higher property tax rates. As far as sales tax we are on the lower end, however, many more items are tax (e.g., groceries and clothes, while high tax MN exempts those items). Needless to say, tax policy is super fun.  Check out these state graphics:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A 5 year old Girl's Prayer OR Semper Fi, Moon

From the Sandbox, via Best Defense:

          God bless all our friends and daycare,
          and all our teachers at daycare ...

          God bless soldiers and sailors,
          polar bears and penguins ...
God bless astronauts and Space Shuttles.
God bless marines and ballerinas.


A Picture

From: APOD
Copyright: Credit & Copyright: Bret Webster

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


The NBA draft lottery was held today. The Timberwolves, once again, were in position to receive a great pick with odds on to receive the second pick. But, of course, it didn't happen. Take it away Star Trib:
Minnesota was awarded the fourth pick in next month’s NBA draft during Tuesday’s lottery, extending its history of never moving up via the league’s talent raffle. The Wolves’ 15-67 record was the second-worst in the NBA, but for the seventh time in 12 lottery appearances, they were moved down in the draft-selection order when two other teams, this time Washington and Philadelphia, were randomly drawn ahead of them.
Sweet... sure this is a deep draft, but sheesh...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Diversity and the Supreme Court

As widely reported President Obama has nominated Elena Kagan to replace Justice Stevens on the Supreme Court of the United States (or SCOTUS). Much ink has been spilled on your qualifications, her point of view (Democrat, but too much or too little?), her gender, and her religious affiliation (with her on the court we'd have 3 Jews and 6 Catholics).

However, one point that has been little discussed is the lack of geographical diversity on the court. With Ms. Kagan's appointment we have 4 justices from NYC, 1 from New Jersey, 2 from California. 1 from Georgia, and one from Indiana. That's 8 justices growing up within 50 miles of the ocean. This isn't necessarily bad, but it does highlight a true diversity "issue." Nine justices can't represent the whole country, but it's a worrying trend when justices aren't familiar with rural areas, don't really know what a starry night looks like, and have no experience with life in the middle of the country.

For some interesting analysis read David Brooks, who highlights the problem of our nominating incentives. I'm also with Matthew Yglesias who argues that we should change the lifetime appointment to 15 years.  

An Excellent Political Ad

We are soon coming to political ad season across America, but some states get an early taste with primary season. Here is an excellent political ad from Pennsylvania by Sestak attacking Spector for switching parties. You may not agree with the sentiment, but it's a good one.

For some short analysis, check out this post by The Atlantic's Joshua Green.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

El Sol

I've always wanted to be an astronaut.



Here's what you should be doing instead of watching television.
Check out the rest of the story at the Madshobbithole's Blog.

Don't Believe the News

Every few years or decades out trots the alluring "high-speed rail." Pundits crow about the transformation of transportation, politicians promise big bucks, and journalists write puff pieces. Don't believe it unless the money is over $100 Billion, cause anything else is chump change.
It's a pretty map, but that is way too many corridors to get anything. Just knock out the Northeast and go from there.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Los Suns

Much to the dismay of b-ball experts everywhere, the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association swept the San Antonio Spurs. I'm happy, cause the Suns are lots of fun to watch and have fun basketball players like Dudley, Amundson, Dragic (who went lights out in the 4th quarter of the 3rd game), and the one and only Steve Nash. Much better writers will say much more profound things about Mr. Nash's game and his place in NBA history. As a fan, let me just say that Nash is fun to watch as he weaves and bobs and passes and throws 'Y' ball shots high off the glass. Go Suns. And Go Mr. Nash.
UPDATE: From an old post by Matthew Yglesias. First, this table from ESPN's Hollinger:

And then Yglesias' commentary:
Look at the best offense ever. Then look at the second best. Then look at the fourth best. And look at the fifth best. Now look back at the third best. Then consider that Steve Nash was the starting point guard on all five of these teams! After being seemingly overrated for a while, is it possible that Nash has slipped into underrated status. Floor general for all five of the top-rated offenses of the past 35 years is a pretty gobsmacking achievement.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why the Greek Debt Problem Ain't Going Away...

...a structural deficit of 9%. In other words, year after year, not including interest payments, Greece spends 9% more than it takes in in income.
This graph is structural deficit as % of GDP in 2010. Ain't looking good for many countries.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Quote of the Day

From a letter by Douglas Harrison, an English professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, to Kevin Drum of Mother Jones on why no one knows about the Shack, even though it has sold 7 million copies:
You haven’t heard about it for the same you reason you probably didn’t hear about Rick Warren’sPurpose Driven Life series of books until Warren become a lightning rod figure in the news or about the Gaither Homecoming Friends Gospel Music Series, which outsold Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and Rod Stewart for worldwide ticket sales not too long ago. MSM and mainstream American culture just doesn’t know where to look and/or how to talk about or take seriously evangelical culture if it’s not through the culture war or political polarization lens. I study and write about evangelical culture for a living and it used to be astonishing to me how many otherwise very bright and engaged, informed and curious intellectuals and scholars of American culture and literature I’d meet who simply had NO CLUE about vast swaths of contemporary American (religious) culture that isn’t exactly hiding. After a decade or so of this work, I’ve come to expect it, and indeed, to capitalize on it (I’m writing a book right now about the cultural function of white gospel music — yes there is such a thing ... gospel doesn’t only mean BLACK gospel). But in general, you aren’t alone in having no clue about this stuff.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Unintended Consequences

Back in my previous life I worked on some agriculture issues. Though no longer paying daily attention to issues facing the farmers of America, I do check into them from day to day. One great advancement in farming over the last 20 years is the rise of Roundup Ready GM crops. With Roundup Ready corn or soybeans or cotton farmers could plant the crop, spray with Roundup, and not worry about weeds. This saved the farmers time and was better for the environment. Of course, the weeds aren't just dying, but growing, and now we have the rise of "superweeds."
Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds.
To fight them, Mr. Anderson and farmers throughout the East, Midwest and South are being forced to spray fields with more toxic herbicides, pull weeds by hand and return to more labor-intensive methods like regular plowing.
“We’re back to where we were 20 years ago,” said Mr. Anderson, who will plow about one-third of his 3,000 acres of soybean fields this spring, more than he has in years. “We’re trying to find out what works.”
Not good.

Me NBA Playoff Picks

I'm a wee bit late to this party, but let me throw out my picks. Having missed the first round, I'm able to smartly not choose the Mavs or the Nuggets and understood that the Celtics are proverbially bringing it. Also, I was able to see that Mr. Yglesias was right, the best predictor is point differential,* not win/loss record. Look at the first round, to a series the team with the better point differential won the series.

For the 2nd round that would mean the Jazz, Spurs, Cavs, and Magic will win and the Magic coming out Final victors. I don't think that will happen, because not every team plays the same schedule, so here we go:
  • Lakers over the Jazz
  • Suns over the Spurs
  • Cavs over the Celtics
  • Magic over the Hawks
Conference Finals:
  • Lakers over the Suns
  • Cavs over the Magic
  • Cavs over the Lakers
Boring, yes.

* Please note that the team with the worst point differential is the one and only Minnesota Timberwolves. Sheesh...