Monthly Archives: July 2012

What the heck!
I only barely caught this story, which is like something out of a TV show where you are both transfixed and rolling your eyes.

Salon investigates the claims of a congressman about how Americans are getting more ignorant of world affairs. The piece is reminiscent of my post on knowledge and righteousness.

The economist looks at the career choices of rom-com characters. Long-time readers will recall that I disapprove of chefs and architects, preferring instead that they have more normal jobs.

Being born-again is linked to brain atrophy! Before we get cocky, so is being irreligious.

It frustrates me to no end that while the rest of the world (outside of earthquake-prone areas!) ought to be looking towards nuclear power, Germany is abandoning it. I have serious issues with taking global warming seriously when realistic alternatives are dismissed based on vague fears.

I have a fascination with subterranean things. Coming from the gulf coast, we didn’t even have basements (though Colosse has an underground tunnel system). Now, I’m not sure how I ever lived without them.

Some day, I want to read through all of this. I just have to be in a state of mind that I seem to rarely be in these days. It touches on a lot of subjects of interest, though.

Women, it turns out, get treated better by the police than men.

As a rail-skeptic (sorry, David!), I of course found this piece about the superiority of air travel versus rail to be very convincing. Actually, it’s an article less about comparing the two and more about fixing our airports.

Surveillance cameras may make us better people. Persistent scrutiny often does, I suppose.

When we talk about foreign call centers, we think of India. We might ought to be needing to think of the Phillippines instead. Due to our history with them, I forget how truly bad-off they are over there. I think of them as being like Puerto Rico, but they’re closer to Mongolia. Their history with us is undoubtedly helping them in this enterprise, so at least there’s that.

Singe in the city? Maybe the problem is the city.

Category: Newsroom

Amanda Marcotte says thus:

I think Goodman actually happened on a couple that’s a great illustration of another, more real phenomenon, which is the impact marriage has on women’s voting patterns. We know that married women are far more conservative voters than unmarried women, and we also know that single men are more conservative generally than single women. One part of this, therefore, might be that in the battle over whose values are going to “win” in a relationship, men tend to dominate and that women are adopting their husbands’ political views alongside taking their husbands’ names. The woman Goodman profiles openly admits that her husband’s views have persuaded her over to the dark side. Since women her age aren’t liberals who married libertarians, I question using her as an example of anything typical to young voters today, much less young female voters who we can still say confidently will turn out in greater numbers at the polls than young men their age.

I was actually thinking about the bolded part the other day. It’s commonly known that married women – and mothers in marriages – tend to be more conservative than single women. It’s hard, however, to tease out why. Some of it would be self-selection, conservative women being more likely to marry and all. There is also the conservatism that more generally occurs with marriage and family, the change of worldview and all that. There are people like my sister-in-law who start attending church when they have kids and religiosity coincides with conservatism.

But I think that there is also what Marcotte herself is observing. It’s something I have noticed in my peers. More have shifted to the left, but those who have shifted to the right are Julianne (who is single) and women who have married more conservative men. My ex-roommate’s wife went from apolitical to his liberalish political preferences almost immediately. I can only think of one case, really, where there as a husband interest piqued or whose politics shifted due to that of his wife.

The real way to test it, though, is to look at what happens when a liberal man marries a conservative woman. Who typically “wins” when there is a winner? If it’s the man, then you’ve really made your case since that accounts for most variables.

In the Himmelreich-Truman household, it’s been… interesting. We were both right of center when we met (indeed, we met through a mutual friend who is a Republican activist), though not necessarily for the same reasons. I am a bit wonky and she is more of an intuitive voter. Over time, we’ve both moved at least somewhat to the left, though there again moving for somewhat different reasons (excluding the gay marriage factor, which we both adamantly support and which is becoming much more of a forefront issue). It may not be a coincidence that we are both looking at the real possibility of not voting for the GOP nominee for the first time in over a decade (well, ever for her – I voted for Clinton).

Category: Home, Statehouse

This is part of a series of recommendations for western states. The recommendations range from serious to more of a rant than anything serious. In the case of Montana and the penny, it’s more serious than not.

Montana should do away with the penny. Unilaterally. Of course, Montana can’t exactly do away with the penny unilaterally, but they can and should be the first state to render it useless. Or, at least, I don’t see why they can’t.

Montana, you see, has no sales tax. Like Oregon and other states, it lacks a statewide sales tax. Unlike Oregon, though, it does not generally have local sales taxes, either. You might think that this means that this obviates the need to do away with the penny, but in reality it only makes the problem more pronounced. In Montana, as with everywhere else, prices are set to ninety-nine cents. You know what this means? Lots of pennies. LOTS OF PENNIES. The take-a-penny-leave-a-penny bins overflow with them. Buy something, get a penny back. Buy two somethings, get two pennies back. You have to buy things in increments of five not do deal with pennies back.

How does this differ from states that have a sales tax? There are, after all, a lot of pennies exchanged there, too! Here’s the deal, though: If you’re in Idaho, and you give a penny here and take a penny there and it all evens out in the end. In Montana, however, the exchanges are asymmetrical. You get a lot more pennies than you give, because when you buy something, you have to count out four pennies (three pennies for two somethings) in order to get rid of them. A good portion of the time, you don’t bother. They keep the penny, you put it in the overflowing penny bin. Whatever. You’re not going to mess with it.

On its face, this exposes the problem with pennies in general and why we should do away with them nationally. But nowhere is this more pronounced than in no-sales-tax-states.

So what should Montana do? Montana should require that all transactions within its state be priced to the nearest five cents. Vendors should be required to round down, or alternatively if they round up they should have to post the rounded price on all single-purchase items (a gallon of gasoline, for instance, would be immune because few ever buy a single gallon).

With this, Montana would hopefully be setting the stage for other states to follow suit. Even though the other states have the sales tax which supplies symmetry to penny transactions, it’s still a counterproductive exercise. The states that have a sales tax can simply redesign their tax to x% plus whatever it takes to get an increment of five.

Now, there are some people who say we should do away with the nickel, too. I am not opposed. One step at a time.

Category: Market, Statehouse

Slate looks at what happens to the clothes that get donated. Most of them aren’t even good enough for Africans, who thanks to the Internet have higher expectations of fashion. That most donated clothes go to waste is not news to me, but it is nonetheless one of those things that gnaws at me. I just don’t like the idea of things that are perfectly useful going to waste.

I have to confess that early reports of the Microsoft Surface are making me wonder – just a bit, mind you – if I jumped the gun on my tablet purchase. They look pretty sweet. Will Microsoft start developing smartphones next?

A critical look at New York’s taxi medallion system.

Paying students to learn can be effective, you just gotta know how.

Matt Yglesias argues that the anti-trust scrutiny we gave Microsoft looks smart, in retrospect, because it saved Apple and opened the door for browser competition.

Marvin Ammori makes the case that we ought to be teaching public school students how to code, once they’ve figured out multiplication. I’m on board. I firmly believe that coding doesn’t just teach you how to do something, but makes you smarter. Much, much more useful than higher algebra, to be perfectly honest about it.

Frank Bures writes on the fall of the creative class. I still believe that the entire concept was built around infrastructure improvements that help the people supporting them under the guise of being “good for the community.”

Ever wonder why spam is so transparently absurd in its content? Turns out, it’s intentional.

How community colleges can spur economic development. I worry about all of the emphasis on college, but community colleges have a real role. They’re a relatively straightforward and non-frilly way to do what colleges are primarily supposed to do: educate and train.

Category: Newsroom

A song about an abortion…

A song about retconning away a relationship…

Category: Theater

Well, it’s one part bookstore and one part coffeeshop. A competing chain of B&N. I come here because, aside from Starbucks and convenient stores, it is the only place in Redstone where I can get frou-frou coffee after 5pm. Most of you know that, but I mention it in case you have forgotten.

In order to compensate for the Internet, I have my phone rigged up for tethering. Since I’ve started relying on WiFi at home, I have bandwidth capacity to spare on my plan.

Here’s an odd thing. The poster for this place here in Redstone has a mildly hipster-looking guy a tattoo and a wedding band. The same guy, I’m pretty sure the same picture, back home in the South has neither the tattoos nor the ring. They’ve been photoshopped on, or off. Either one got the poster before the other, or it has something to do with market research. That would be some pretty wicked market research: I would actually bet that people (whites, anyway) around here are more likely to have tattoos, and more likely to marry young.

I arrived in time for happy hour, which is buy-one-get-one-free. Frustratingly, they won’t let me buy one now and get the free one later. I guess they’re betting I say “never mind the second one” but the end result is that I get two, just in case. I may put the second one to waste.

Sitting here alone with two cups of coffee on the table makes me feel oddly lonely.

Next door to this place is a Rent-a-Center. The existence of Rent-a-Center brings out an unpatriotic side of me. It… should… not… exist. At least not in its current form. A more stunning indictment of American consumerism/capitalism does not come to mind.

Category: Downtown

North Carolina has decided that emissions tests ought to be reserved for older cars, either those more than three models years back or with more than 70,000 miles. This sounds logical, but makes me a tad uncomfortable regardless. Mostly because of who is going to be driving the old cars, and who can afford new ones. The tests may have been unnecessary, but there was at least an egalitarianism.

Of course, emissions standards are more generally going to fall on those that can’t afford the latest and greatest anyway. The same applies to safety standards. Even if the folks with new cars had been required to get their car tested, they’d have failed at much lower rates than those prayin’ to the heavens that Old Bessy makes it through another year. If anything, this change merely codifies that distinction, and further recognizes the reality of the situation.

Category: Road, Statehouse

Matthew Yglesias is complaining that too much transit is going towards rural states:

Only 16 percent of Americans live in rural areas, and the quantity is dropping, so naturally the U.S. Department of Transportation proudly announced today that “of the $500 million in TIGER 2012 funds available for grants, more than $120 million will go to critical projects in rural areas.”

This has been one of Yglesias’s ongoing things, the overspending in rural America. To be honest, in the case of transit, the Interstates out here are probably nicer than they need to be. They’re repaving the Interstate between Callie and Redstone when, to be honest, I hadn’t noticed the slightest bit of a problem. So I’m not entirely unsympathetic to his viewpoint.

He goes on…

You see this basic dynamic in all kinds of federal grant programs. Typically any kind of rational grant formula would fail to give money to rural areas in a manner that’s consistent with rural areas’ strength in the U.S. Senate. Therefore you end up with either implicit or explicit special set-asides for rural areas.

It’s an article of faith among many that because of that damnable Senate, we overspend in rural areas. There is some truth to it, but it’s actually more complicated than it appears. Per-capita spending in Montana and the Dakotas, for instance, ranges from somewhat to very high (between 12-30% more than the national average). However, public spending in Idaho is comparable to that of California (-10%) and Utah is downright cheap (-20%, only Minnesota gets less) despite the fact that they have two senators just like everywhere else (it should be noted that the Dakotas and Montana have reservations and not-insignificant military spending). Wyoming is a special case, bringing in a lot of money due on account of its natural resources and the NMLA. Take that out (and we should, since that’s merely kicking half of their money back to them) and they’re somewhere below average. If the senate were as powerful as they say in the making of donor states and beneficiary states, this would not really be the case.

He does have a point with the low unemployment rates.

On Yglesias’s other point, we don’t traditionally spend federal funds in accordance with who delivers the taxation. There are some attempts at this, with Social Security and whatnot, and there are government favors that rich people buy, but it’s not our organizing principle. We try to hand it out according to economic need, and per-capita transit (for example) is going to cost more in rural places than urban ones. Complaints that they’re not “earning their keep” are not ones liberals make when applied to people they don’t already disfavor. To be fair, it may be in our interest to invest more in economic hotspots and areas of economic growth with an eye towards spurring people to move there, but rural America does provide our food and they are going to need services that are expensive on a per-capita rate. If we want to reduce food consumption, denying infrastructure investment isn’t a good way of doing that. Eliminating farm subsidies is (which, as far as I know, Yglesias does not oppose).

Disclosure: Well duh, I live in a rural place. This not a permanent arrangement and it’s unlikely that we will end up in a place as rural as we are now.

Category: Newsroom, Statehouse

A look at whether we are starting to consume less. Also, an argument for more consumption of leisure.

Ever wonder how food is prepared for commercials? McDonald’s shows us. I have to confess that I haven’t watched this video. It sounds interesting, but I like McDonald’s food, love the way it looks in ads, and don’t want the illusion spoiled.

Once written off for near-dead, the great plains is apparently enjoying a revival. With the exception of mineral exploration, there’s not much to expect from a lot of these places, but Fargo and Sioux Falls have become quite the booming little cities and Oklahoma City has really come into its own.

The Last Psychiatrist on sex and comediennes (among other things).

All of my anecdata says that working your way through school is a bad idea. It’s becoming harder and harder to do.

A woman in Mississippi was arrested after trying to reunite a dog with its owner, who believe that she stole it. We have a lot of tagless-but-collared dogs around here. I have little fear this would happen to me if I intervened (I have, once, with a dog that had a tag), but this is a bad situation to put people in. People should help loose animals, or decline to, because they want to or don’t want to. They shouldn’t have liability fears.

Three cheers for Robert Samuelson. It takes a fair amount of courage for a columnist – who isn’t known for being a libertarian or a conservative crank – to make the case against college for all. In two parts!

Portland is concerned about food deserts. So concerned that it couldn’t find enough of them and so redefined them.

Why we root for the underdog. I think a couple explanations are missing. First, when an underdog is doing well, it means that it’s a good game because it’s so much easier for the favored team to stage a comeback. When I watched Boise State beating up on Oklahoma, I never felt comfortable with the lead. Had Oklahoma been ahead by as much, I probably would have stopped watching. Also, there is a bit of counterculturalism. We assume that other people are rooting for the better team, and so rooting for the underdog makes us special (even if 81% of people are doing to the same).

I’ve been given the whole “technology is encroaching on our sanity” arguments an unusual (for me) hearing lately, so I read this article on the subject when I might not have otherwise. Do I agree with it? It’s just a really, really hard river for me to cross. The sheer amount of things I can do on my new smartphone has made me wonder, at least a little bit. Not just about the smartphone. To the author’s credit, he avoids the self-contradicting trap of saying “Technology is ruining us, you should be reading instead.” Instead, he’s saying that we should look out of a window or something. This is significant to me, because there’s little more annoying to me on a personal level than those who argue about technology isolating us but also talking about reading books on a train.

Category: Newsroom

The other day I watched a documentary about Redstone and its mining history (among other things). I’m not going to name the movie, though if you’re genuinely interested in seeing it, shoot me and email and I’ll tell you privately. I’m breaking down my observations into three or four posts. This is the third, the first is here and the second here. You (obviously) don’t need to have seen the film to understand what I’m talking about.

The Company’s execs actually lived in Redstone. Go to the downtown area and you can see their mansions. Nobody who can afford a mansion wants to live downtown anymore, and so they’ve been converted into hotels or subdivided into co-op apartments (it helps that they’re near the university).

Because of this, it was a bit of a surprise to see that they put up the smelters in the city, rather than having them located somewhere else. Smelters are, essentially, smoke-stacks used in the extraction process. They generate a lot of polution. There were a lot of them out in Redstone’s little sister town, Blackrock. Blackrock retained one of them as a monument, but they’re all gone from Redstone, so I didn’t know they had ever been there.

Anyhow, I found it strange that they would put them in town rather than moving them out to somewhere else, since the executives themselves had to breathe the air. I guess NIMBY wasn’t around yet.

Category: Statehouse, Theater