Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Bad Sign?

Via nc links, Bloomberg leads with a bad historical precedent:
U.S. stocks fell, capping the worst Thanksgiving-week drop since 1932 in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as S&P cut Belgium’s rating and a report said Greece is demanding private investors accept larger losses on their debt.
I hope we don't see economic news in 2012 which is similar in nature to 1933, but I can't say I'm optimistic that we won't.

Ohio State-Michigan- A Michigan View

Bob Wojnowski from the Detroit News, without much of his sarcasm from past UM-OSU matchups:
It's the standard set long ago, that Michigan and Ohio State would measure themselves against each other, no matter where each stood. The Wolverines haven't measured up since 2003, losing seven straight, many in embarrassing fashion. Now they're 9-2 and the Buckeyes are 6-5 and change is in the thick, damp air.

The thing is, it doesn't happen until it happens, and it has to happen Saturday or a successful season is severely smudged. Not to be simplistic, but while Michigan is back in many ways, it isn't fully back until it wins this game.

Yes, the timing looks riper than ever. The Wolverines are home and getting better, while the Buckeyes are young and in disarray, awaiting their fancy new coach. Michigan is more than a touchdown favorite and should win. But be careful, folks. Ohio State's defense is still good, and this is a rivalry where the team with nothing to lose often finds a way to win.
Michigan has their best shot today.  I guess we'll see if they succeed or not.

More On The Variable Mind Of Da Vinci

If Da Vinci the geologist wasn't enough this week, via the Dish we've got Robert Krulwich looking into Da Vinci's notes and plans.  Wow.

Race and Inequality

Via Mark Thoma, Daniel Little expounds on a topic I find extremely interesting and relevent to our political debate.  He looks at the work of Douglas Massie, and his 2008 book, Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System. An extremely relevant part is here:
Massey leads off his analysis with a theory of the social psychology of racism and discrimination against poor people. He argues that the stereotyping that is inevitably associated with social cognition leads to a pattern of discrimination against African-Americans, immigrants, women, and poor people that deepens and entrenches their unequal shares in American society. The twin mechanisms of discrimination and opportunity-hoarding both flow on the basis of the categories of discrimination created by these mental constructs – hence "categorical inequality". (Visit a recent posting for a related argument about the social psychology of prejudice.)
In a very real way, stratification begins psychologically with the creation of cognitive boundaries that allocate people to social categories. Before categorical inequality can be implemented socially, categories must be created cognitively to classify people conceptually based on some set of achieved and ascribed characteristics. The roots of social stratification thus lie ultimately in the cognitive construction of boundaries to make social distinctions, a task that comes naturally to human beings, who are mentally hardwired to engage in categorical thought (Fiske 2004). (8)
People use schemas to evaluate themselves and the social roles, social groups, social events, and individuals they encounter, a process known as social cognition (Fiske 2004). The categories into which they divide up the world may change over time and evolve with experience, but among mature human beings they always exist and people always fall back on them when they interpret objects, events, people, and situations (Fiske 2004). (9)
Massey hypothesizes two dimensions of mental categorization, leading to four gross categories of people in one's social category scheme: warm-cold (appealing-unappealing) and competent-incompetent. People who are like us are considered "warm" and "competent". The other three quadrants are categorized as "other": warm but incompetent (pitied), competent but cold (envied), and incompetent and cold (despised). And he asserts that American racism places African-Americans in the final category. This in turn is used to explain the harshly negative tilt that US legislation has shown across lines of race and poverty.

I think this is extremely important to keep in mind, both in terms of what drives political policy, but also in how we look at and categorize others.  I think the competent-incompetent break, in my internal calculations of how people can succeed, breaks two ways, with intelligence and social skills (which is odd, because I'm particularly hit-or-miss in this category).  I see people as either intelligent or not, and either socially skilled or not.  In gross generalization, many very intelligent people aren't very socially skilled, and this holds them out of the "in" group of society, where social acclimation is extremely important.  Whereas, some people can move into the "in" group by being socially skilled and utililizing those skills to earn money, in spite of less than stellar intelligence.  Then there are folks who aren't naturally intelligent and can't charm their way through life.  Clearly, I would like to think of myself as both intelligent and possessing social skills, but I know that isn't completely accurate.  But my root understanding of how people succeed in life is tied to these categorizations, and my policy solutions to income inequality are based on trying to balance out the outcomes resulting from those factors (even though this is obviously a somewhat upotian undertaking).

Nonetheless, in the general scheme of society, I think Massie is right that race is a significant determinant in placing people in the "undesirable" category.  The problem with this, besides its total inaccuracy, is that race can't be changed or hidden.  The other significant problem is with the geographical and social segregation now present in society, this mindset is hard to overcome.  Whereas I run into intelligent and less intelligent people, and socially skilled and unskilled people all the time, and can empathize with people in all of those categories for one reason or another, people in the rural Midwest and Mountain West are extremely unlikely to run into a large number of black or Hispanic people of differing skills and abilities, and are much more prone to stereotype all of them.  I attempt to make up for this by giving all members of those groups the benefit of the doubt by assuming that many of the challenges faced by them are the result of majority racism, which is an easy position to take when one doesn't run into the reality of individual people, and their specific problems.  Unfortunately, I'm in the distinct minority in my region in doing this, whether that is because other people are more familiar with individuals who fit their stereotypes as opposed to mine, or because they more comfortable in their political assumptions by doing this.  I know that my own political assumptions drive my approach, for better or worse.

One chart I found interesting in Little's post was this one, which I don't think needs much explanation:

In other words, policy matters.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Funny Ad of the Day

Via the Dish, a suggestion for a campaign for ads encouraging parents to hope for baby girls:

I think that is obviously true.  I've yet to meet a girl who's a firebug.

2000th Post

Wow, I've published 2000 posts, and maybe a couple of them were somewhat interesting.  Here's a few of my favorites thus far:

The German Triangle and U.S. Beer History- I enjoyed putting together a post highlighting German immigration to the Midwest and beer.  Cincinnati, Milwaukee and St. Louis are fun towns to visit, and beer is definitely one of the main reasons why.

Free Trade and the Near Extinction of the Buffalo- This one receives a lot of hits just because of the picture of the giant pile of buffalo skulls.

Hulett Iron Ore Unloaders- I just think these things are cool. 

Congressman Jim Jordan- I'm not a fan.

Wickard vs. Filburn- Some interesting local legal history which may come into play in the Supreme Court health care ruling next summer.

Vonnegut's words of wisdom- Good advice from a fascinating man.

The Workings of a Civil Engineer's Mind- Who else would notice yellow mastarms, but civil engineers?  By the way, the correct answer was Minot, not Bismarck or Fargo.

A few of my favorite historical posts:

Land Ordinance of 1785
The Northwest Ordinance
Have a Beer and Celebrate
Jimmy Wilson, Unlikely Hero of 1940 World Series

Thanks to all of the folks who have dropped by so far, there have been over 25,000 page views thus far.  Please feel welcome to leave any comments, and tell your friends about the site.

Science Compared To Religion

Via Ritholtz, Smart Planet on why it takes scientists a while to determine whether the OPERA neutrinos travelled faster than light.  This section describes why a reluctance to declare that the neutrinos actually disprove the theory of relativity doesn't stem from scientists clinging to highly valued tenets, but actually from a thorough analysis of potential errors in the data:
Faster-than-light particles don’t seem unlikely just because they are at odds with theories that physicists are loath to give up. Rather, they are at odds with huge amounts of observational and experimental data that gave rise to those theories.

Ring of debris surrounding the remnants of supernova 1987A. (Credit: NASA/ESA/P. Challis and R. Kirshner, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
Ring of debris surrounding the remnants of supernova 1987A. (Credit: NASA/ESA/P. Challis and R. Kirshner, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

For example, one of the stunning vindications of modern astrophysics involved the supernova 1987A: shortly before that star exploded in 1987, it released a burst of neutrinos precisely when models of stellar collapse predicted that it should. But if neutrinos actually move faster than light by the margin OPERA suggests, those neutrinos should have arrived at Earth four years earlier than they did.
Similarly, the theoretical refutation of the OPERA results that Nobel laureate Sheldon L. Glashow and Andrew G. Cohen have offered is that any superluminal neutrinos from CERN should have shed almost all their energy by the time they reached Gran Sasso because of a phenomenon called bremsstrahlung radiation. Bremsstrahlung is observed whenever charged particles interact with matter.
Perhaps some extenuating complexities can explain these discrepancies: maybe neutrinos from CERN and those from stars move at different velocities, and maybe superfast neutrinos may uniquely avoid radiating away their energy. But for now, the more parsimonious explanation is that the OPERA results are wrong.
What’s almost absurd, however, is to think that scientists would steer away from iconoclastic discoveries to protect their professional standing. But the career of any scientist who has the evidence to knock down pillars of his or her field isn’t ruined — it’s made.
The physicists who first prove the existence of faster-than-light particles are instantly in the history books. That credential looks pretty good to tenure committees and granting agencies. The same would be true for any climate scientist who could truly, conclusively prove that worries about climate change from industrial greenhouse gases were groundless, or for any biologist who could knock off evolution as the best explanation for living things’ traits. They wouldn’t be blackballed by their professions: they would be among the most famous scientists alive and able to name their own appointments.
Moreover, revolutions in science aren’t just good for the leaders of the revolution. The demonstrated existence of faster-than-light particles would mean that other new physics remains to be discovered, and lots of new work needs to be done to fit the older observations into the new paradigms. Those opportunities would be welcomed by legions of physicists looking to make their mark. Indeed, the OPERA results have already inspired a number of scientific papers.
Einstein’s theory of special relativity sits on a pedestal of honor, not on an altar. Plenty of physicists would be glad to knock it off and put something else in its place. But it may take something more substantial than OPERA’s superluminal neutrinos to bring it down.
The OPERA results are definitely interesting, but the potential of minor errors may disprove the results.  It will take a large number of repetitions of the results before they are accepted as correct, and by then someone may have come up with a theory to explain the situation.  Whereas religion is based on belief, not calculation.

OSU Issues 100-year Interest-Only Bonds

Dayton Daily News:
OSU advertised that it became the first public university to issue “century bonds” — a financing deal where $500 million in bonds that mature in 100 years were issued at 4.8 percent annual interest. The proceeds will be used to pay for part of capital projects already under way, including a $1.1 billion expansion of the OSU Medical Center.
“The bonds are part of a forward-thinking strategy to ensure Ohio State remains both an economic powerhouse and the University of the American Dream,” the ad read.
OSU President E. Gordon Gee followed up the ad with an opinion column in The Chronicle of Higher Education in which he said it’s no longer enough to advocate for financial support with legislators, alumni and supporters.
“I must look further for the resources required to fuel the work of our faculty, staff and students,” Gee
The century bond deal, orchestrated by OSU Chief Financial Officer Geoff Chatas, calls on OSU to make interest-only payments for 100 years and then pay off the principal in 2111.
Who would want to invest in these?  If you invested $1 million dollars today, you would get $48,000 a year in (presumably tax-free) income this year and you and your heirs would get the same $48,000 each of the next 99 years.  But with even mild inflation, that $48,000 will be worth much, much less in 100 years, and the value of the principal would likewise decrease dramatically.  And if inflation becomes a problem, the bonds will be essentially worthless.  Plus, 100 years?

Calling CME's Existence Into Question

Via nc links, Jesse's Cafe Americain publishes an open letter from Warren Pollock to the CME.  Here is my favorite part:
Worse yet, our “innovative” financial system impedes the effectiveness of the greater “physical economy.” The “physical economy,” consisting of all those individuals and entities tasked with meeting actual need. The "physical economy" consists of many of your customers including farmers, manufactures and electric companies.

Our society needs people working in the "physical world" to create jobs more desperately than it needs the continuity of the CME. Must we endure another market catastrophe to figure this out?

The 2008 bailouts defined “moral hazard,” as the socialization of losses due to over-leverage. MF Global consumers are currently subsidizing losses attributable to over-leverage and “innovation.” Perhaps, small percentage moves in speculation rationalized an internal choice between corporate survival and the sanctity of customer funds. Complexity has been specifically designed, by “modern finance” to intentionally allow over-leverage leading to out sized profits and reactively-subsidized losses.

The word, “theft,” comes to mind.

I believe that, the products traded by your member firms, at the CME exchange and elsewhere, well exceed the capacity of the monetary system to cover relatively small percentage losses or speculative miscalculations. Clearing OTC derivatives on an exchange does not, and will not, correct the problem.
Putting the "physical economy" back ahead of the financial system is well overdue.  Making things is more important than creating money.  Conservatives can attack the Federal Reserve for printing money, but they've been allowing the shadow banking system, and the TBTF banks which operate the system, to create money out of thin air.  Too much of what they create gets stuffed in the bankers' pockets, while the rest disappears again when their leverage pyramids collapse.

College Football Rivalry Trophies- November 26 Edition

Today, Nebraska and Iowa play for the Heroes Game Trophy.  Here is CBS Sports coverage:
Give credit to Iowa and Nebraska for this: the concept of naming their new annual rivalry game the "Heroes Game" and using it as a platform for celebrating "local heroes" is an original, engaging, endearingly Midwestern concept.

So it's a minor shame the trophy unveiled this week to be awarded to the winner -- and upon which the names of said heroes will be engraved -- doesn't quite live up to the uniqueness of the concept. Here it is:

Also, LSU and Arkansas will play for a spot in the SEC Championship Game, and the Golden Boot Trophy:

Saturday, Missouri and Kansas play for the Lamar Hunt Trophy and the Indian War Drum:

Lamar Hunt Trophy

Tennessee and Kentucky used to play for the Beer Barrel Trophy, but got rid of the trophy after some students died in an alcohol-related accident:

Oregon and Oregon State play for the Platypus Trophy (because it has a duck bill and a beaver tail, no kidding):
photo from: Mickey Mantle's Liver
Washington and Washington State play for the Apple Cup:

Alabama and Auburn play in the Iron Bowl for the Foy Trophy:

Stanford and Notre Dame play for the Legends Trophy:

Mississippi and Mississippi State play for the Golden Egg Trophy:

And finally (there are some others, but they can wait for next year), Indiana and Purdue will play for the Old Oaken Bucket:

Also, Ohio State and Michigan play.  Normally it is for a share of the Big Ten title, but this year, it is only for pride.  I wish Governors Snyder and Kasich had bet that the governor from the winning state got to punch the other governor in the face, but alas, they didn't.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Science Project

Pacific Star II from Colin Rich on Vimeo.

Da Vinci The Geologist

The Guardian, via Ritholtz:
As a geologist, Leonardo anticipated the scientists of the 18th and 19th centuries who were to prove that the Earth is far older than it says in the book of Genesis. When scientific pioneers around 1800 recognised fossils for what they are – traces of ancient animals – and analysed the processes that create and erode rocks, they quickly reached a set of conclusions that led to Darwin's theory of evolution and a crisis of Christianity. But amazingly, a self-taught researcher called Leonardo da Vinci thought through a lot of their key discoveries hundreds of years earlier.
Leonardo had the following astonishing insights about geology and fossils:
1) Shells that appear on mountain tops and fish bones in caves must be the remains of animals that long ago swam in these places when they were covered in sea. The claim they were swept there by the biblical flood is a completely inadequate explanation. So the surface of the earth has changed over time, with land where once there was sea.
2) The most powerful natural force is the movement of water in rivers. Water has sculpted the very largest features of the landscape, a process that must have taken a very long time.
3) Therefore slow and relentless natural processes, not the divine instantaneous act described in Genesis, have shaped our planet.
The dude sure was fascinating.  He puzzled through a fascinating number of concepts.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Republican Debate

Via the Dish:

Canton vs. Massillon

November 24, 1906:
The Canton Bulldogs–Massillon Tigers betting scandal was the first major scandal in professional football in the United States. It was more notably the first known case of professional gamblers attempting to fix a professional sport. It refers to a series of allegations made by a Massillon newspaper charging the Canton Bulldogs coach, Blondy Wallace, and Massillon Tigers end, Walter East, of conspiring to fix a two-game series between the two clubs. One account of the scandal called for Canton to win the first game and Massillon was to win the second, forcing a third game—with the biggest gate—to be played legitimately, with the 1906 Ohio League championship at stake. While another accused Wallace and East of bribing Massillon players to throw a game in the series. Canton denied the charges, maintaining that Massillon only wanted to damage the club's reputation. Although Massillon could not prove that Canton had indeed thrown the second game, the scandal tarnished the Bulldogs name and reportedly helped ruin professional football in Ohio until the mid-1910s.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  Here's to the holiday tied with Independence Day as my favorite secular holiday.  I hope everyone has a safe trip to and from their Thanksgiving feast.  Hopefully no large arguments break out in your family gathering, I've learned (somewhat) to just silently simmer off to the side at my family get-togethers.  Around the web, Krugman jokingly calls the Pilgrims soshulists, while Yves Smith reminds those of us who are doing well to remember to help out folks who are struggling during this holiday season.

I'll be gorging myself on a lot of meat and potatoes, along with a beer or two (or more).  I'll tune in to see the resurgent Detroit Lions (formerly the Portsmouth Spartans) take on the undefeated, community owned, non-profit Green Bay Packers.  While I like both teams (which is shocking since a large bit of my sports interests center on a number of teams I love to irrationally hate), I'll be pulling for the Packers to match the 1972 Dolphins and finally get Larry Csonka crowing about being the only undefeated team in NFL history off of TV once and for all (see what I mean about the hate).

To everyone in the United States, enjoy your Thanksgiving, and to everyone in the rest of the world, I hope you enjoy a feast of your own.

A Different Way Of Life

A part-time Arkansas farmer describes rural life:
One man’s drudgery can be another man’s pastime. For reasons it’s hard to articulate, everything about caring for livestock makes me happy. Whenever politics gets me down, a walk through the pasture lifts my spirits. Are the GOP gong-show candidates debating? Who cares? Suzanne’s gone into labor. I’m hoping for a healthy heifer. As Swift noticed, there are rivalries among the ungulates, but no prevarication.
My friend does farm for a profit, although he and his wife also have day jobs. Mainly, it’s a way of life. Knowing his family, I’m guessing he wouldn’t feel right taking advantage of a neighbor on account of a dry spell. He also makes extra work for himself by storing the hay in his barn and loading it onto my truck one bale at a time, sparing me the expense of a tractor. I made a point of saying I appreciated his forbearance. I hoped it didn’t embarrass him.
See, out on the rural route, relationships are personal and communal as much as economic. It’s also smart to take care of local customers first. After all, it might rain in Texas next year, but God willing I’ll still be here and my cows will still be hungry. Meanwhile, nobody’s going long on hay futures in the commodities market. It’d be interesting to know what Federal Express would charge to overnight a bale to Amarillo.
So Mitt Romney-style pirate capitalism hasn’t yet taken over cattle country, although I recently read a depressing Reuters article about “investors who view U.S. farmland as the latest hot commodity” buying up family farms in Iowa. I’d be lying if I didn’t say a big part of me hopes they go broke.
Unfortunately, goodheartedness and empathy in rural areas often doesn't extend to the problems of folks in inner cities.  I can't tell you how many people I know would do anything for me if I needed help, but very few would help out poor folks in Dayton, let alone New York or Philadelphia.  Empathy seems to be closely linked to physical distance.

Also from Salon:
The appetite of red states for federal subsidies mocks the tirades of their politicians against the federal government.  In March 2008, on the verge of the Great Recession, 22 Republican states were net recipients of federal subsidies, while only 10 Democratic-leaning states were. Sixteen blue states were net payers of federal taxes, compared to only one red state, Texas (thanks to the oil and gas industry).
Federal subsidies to the conservative red states take many forms. Beginning in World War II, Southern politicians planted military bases and factories throughout the South and the West, and defense spending continues to be a major part of the red state economy.  Then there are agricultural subsidies and federal highway subsidies.  Nor should we forget the tax-exempt status of evangelical Protestant megachurches, some of which own multiple buildings, schools, camps, bus fleets, TV and radio studies, and bookstore chains — all tax-free.

Irish Push EU For Debt Relief

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, via nc links:
The Irish government has suddenly complicated the picture by requesting debt relief from as a reward for upholding the integrity of the EU financial system after the Lehman crisis, though there is no explicit linkage between the two issues.
"We carried an undue burden for protecting the European banking system from contagion," said finance minister Michael Noonan.
"We are looking at ways to reduce the debt. We would like to see our European colleagues address this in a positive manner. Wherever there is a reckless borrower, there is also a reckless lender," he said, alluding to German, French, British and Dutch banks.
Mr Noonan hinted that Dublin is asking for some of interested relief on a €31bn EU promissory noted linked to the Anglo Irish fiasco, among other matters.
Mr Noonan said Ireland's public mood has turned very sour.
"We have indicated to Europe's authorities that it will be difficult to get the Irish public to pass a referendum on treaty change," he said.
The EU's new fiscal rules would be legally binding and "justiciable" before the European Court, he said. This raises the likelihood that Ireland's top court would insist on a referendum.
The Irish voted `No' to both the Nice and Lisbon Treaties, before being pressured into repeat ballots, and would certainly some form of quid pro quo in this case.
Interesting.  Europe will be the dominant economic issue for the foreseeable future.  In the end, creditors will accept some losses, or they'll see even worse losses when bonds crater.  Things are going to get worse before they get noticably better.

Bad News For Germany

And all of the Eurozone.  From Stuart Staniford:

Is Resource Extraction A Growth Industry?

All Things Considered visits Elko, Nevada:
"In Elko we've been really blessed and really lucky to actually have a good economy," Kaylee says. "We can actually have our hopes and dreams."
Elko is one of the rare Nevada towns that's doing great. The town, which sits in the middle of Nevada's gold mining country, has boomed as the price of gold doubled over the past few years.
  We visited one of the mines that's driving the boom: Barrick Goldstrike. The mine looks like a giant hole the ground, like the Grand Canyon — if the Grand Canyon were black and dusty and filled with explosives.
At the mine, you can't actually see glittery gold. It's all microscopic flecks buried deep underground that have to be crushed, baked, and squeezed out of the rock. It's an expensive process that's only worth it if the price of gold is high enough.
And if the price of gold drops too much, or if the costs of extracting it are too high, Barrick Goldstrike's billion-dollar operation grinds to a halt. And the money stops flowing into Elko.
Gold mining and oil and gas exploration share some similarities to farming, in the fact that market fluctuations drive boom and bust cycles, but mining is much more volatile.  Unfortunately in the case of gold mines, production mainly goes to nonproductive activities.  And the process is an environmental nightmare.

Can somebody explain to me why the "perfect" currency can be dug out of the ground?

Getting Away

For those with a Thanksgiving drive:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Barack Obama Then

Via the Dish:

There is a very interesting reader's letter posted at the Dish, which is well worth the read, but Andrew also put up this:
The above video, uploaded a few years ago, is making the rounds again. The following comment from "Irish Eyes Are Smiling" posted on The Blaze, Glenn Beck's site, illustrates our reader's email on many levels:
my question is – Why was Barak [sic] Obama, a nobody, selected to give this Black History Month moment? Usually someone who is known is selected. He hadn’t run for office yet, all he had done was graduate from Yale [sic]. So who recommended him for this and why was HE selected? That is the point I think Glen [sic] is trying to make and I ask the same question. Who was working behind the scenes. Who paid for his college expenses?
I don't understand the comment from the Beck website.  Could it maybe be that the guy was the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, and that would seem like a good person to narrarate a significant black lawyer's contribution to history?  That would seem to be what using Occam's Razor would determine, as opposed to some large shadowy organization which brought Barack Obama along for more than 20 years.  Anyway, most conservatives would watch it and say he couldn't speak without a teleprompter then, either.  I just haven't figured out why so many conservatives don't think Obama is very intelligent.

The Manchester Martyrs

November 23, 1867:
The Manchester Martyrs are hanged in Manchester, England for killing a police officer while freeing two Irish nationalists from custody. The Manchester Martyrs – William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O'Brien – were members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, an organisation dedicated to ending British rule in Ireland. They were executed for the murder of a police officer in Manchester, England, in 1867. The trio were members of a group of 30–40 Fenians who attacked a horse-drawn police van transporting two arrested leaders of the Brotherhood, Thomas J. Kelly and Timothy Deasy, to Belle Vue Gaol. Police Sergeant Charles Brett, travelling inside with the keys, was shot and killed as the attackers attempted to force the van open by blowing the lock. Kelly and Deasy were released after another prisoner in the van took the keys from Brett's body and passed them to the group outside through a ventilation grill; the pair were never recaptured, despite an extensive search.
Two others were also charged and found guilty of Brett's murder, Thomas Maguire and Edward O'Meagher Condon, but their death sentences were overturned: O'Meagher Condon through the intercession of the United States government – he was an American citizen – and Maguire because the evidence given against him was considered unsatisfactory. Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien were publicly hanged on a temporary structure built on the wall of Salford Gaol, on 23 November 1867, in front of a crowd of 8,000–10,000.
Brett was the first Manchester City Police officer to be killed on duty, and he is memorialised in a monument in St Ann's Church. Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien are also memorialised, both in Manchester – where the Irish community made up more than 10 percent of the population – and in Ireland, where they were regarded by many as inspirational heroes.

The Fenians did some crazy stuff, like trying to invade Canada.  This was an event I wasn't familiar with.

The Next Clicks

Scientific American (h/t Ritholtz):
People who are intrigued with physics are somewhat intrigued with computer science, too, but they are crazy about fashion. Who knew? Hilary Mason did. At Scientific American’s request, the chief scientist at bitly (, which shortens URLs for Web users, examined 600 science Web page addresses sent to the company’s servers on August 23 and 24. Then she tracked 6,000 pages people visited next and mapped the connections.
The results revealed which subjects were strongly and weakly associated. Chemistry was linked to almost no other science. Biology was linked to almost all of them. Health was tied more to business than to food. But why did fashion connect strongly to physics? And why was astronomy linked to genetics?
It is an interesting chart, but, as one of the comments noted, that seems like a pretty small sample size.  Also, the content of the sites may be fairly varied, as I enjoy the links to science stories at a number of economic or political sites.  I go to those sites because I know they have such interesting links.  I'm also not sure what category this blog would fall under.

Medicare Part D

Bruce Bartlett highlights how Newt Gingrich added $16 trillion to the Federal Debt.  I'm not one to defend Newt, or Medicare Part D, but technically, that is the long-term cost of the program.  We don't even want to consider how much traditional Medicare will cost long-term.  He is right though that Gingrich lobbied on behalf of a very expensive program with no funding mechanism to raise revenues.  Also, the Bush administration low-balled the program cost by a significant factor at the time the program was debated.  I agree with Bartlett's point that Newt is a jackass who claims to do things totally different than he actually did.  Some historian!

Amish Splinter Group Arrested For Hate Crimes

Authorities raided the compound of a breakaway Amish group on Wednesday morning and arrested seven men on federal hate crime charges in hair-cutting attacks against Amish men and women. Among those arrested were the group's leader, Sam Mullet, and three of his sons, said Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.
Several members of the group carried out the attacks in September and October by forcefully cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women, authorities have said. Cutting the hair is a highly offensive act to the Amish, who believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards and stop shaving once they marry.
The attacks struck at the core of the Amish identity and tested their principles. They strongly believe that they must be forgiving in order for God to forgive them, which often means handing out their own punishment and not reporting crimes to law enforcement.
Somebody commented that even the Amish have religious zealots.  I noted that people who won't use cars or zippers might be religious fanatics.  Anyway, I'm not a big fan of hate crimes prosecutions.  Wouldn't assault or kidnapping charges be good enough?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Most Passionate Sports Fans In America

Not surprisingly, The Atlantic picks Philadelphia. Also, not surprisingly, Cincinnati doesn't make the top 10.

The Streak Ends

November 22, 1969:
 The University of Michigan upset Ohio State University, 24-12, in Bo Schembechler's first season as Michigan's head coach. The win set off the 10 Year War between Schembechler and Ohio State's Woody Hayes. Schembechler's greatest victory came in his first season, when he led the Wolverines to an upset victory over a standout Ohio State team coached by his old mentor, Woody Hayes. Hayes' Buckeyes dominated the series during the late 1950s and for most of the 1960s as Michigan fielded a number of uncharacteristically mediocre teams. In 1968, the year before Schembechler became head coach, Hayes made it clear how far Michigan had fallen behind its traditional rival, when the Wolverines lost 50–14. At the end of the game, Hayes decided to pursue a two-point conversion rather than a simple kick for an extra point. Legend has it that when Hayes was asked why he "went for two," he responded "Because I couldn't go for three." The embarrassment of that outcome set the stage for the 1969 rematch.
In 1969, the Buckeyes entered the game as defending national champions and 17-point favorites with the top ranking in the country and a 22-game winning streak. Hayes' 1969 squad included five first-team All-Americans. But Schembechler's 7–2 Wolverines dominated a team Hayes later considered his best, beating Ohio State 24–12. In a single afternoon, Schembechler and his charges resurrected Michigan's football tradition and returned the program among college football's elite. Both Schembechler and Hayes, who remained personal friends until Hayes' death in 1987, agreed it was Hayes' best team and Schembechler's biggest victory. Michigan's win over Ohio State in 1969 is considered to be one of the greatest upsets in college football history and the most significant win for a Michigan team ever.
Even though I'm not a fan of Woody, the line about going for two because he couldn't go for three is pretty funny.  Funnier still is that Michigan beat them the next time around.

German Finances Not As Solid As Advertised

Der Spiegel (h/t nc links):
But it is debatable how much longer Germany can be seen as a refuge of stability and security. In reality, German government finances are not nearly in as good shape as the chancellor and the finance minister would have us believe. The way that certain important indices are developing suggests that Germany may not retain its position as a role model in the long term. Government debt as a percentage of GDP is already at more than 80 percent, which compared to other European Union countries is by no means exemplary, but in fact average at best.
When it comes to their debt-to-GDP ratios, even ailing countries like Spain are in better shape, with values significantly lower than 80 percent. Critics, irritated by Merkel's and Schäuble's overly confident rhetoric, are beginning to find fault with Europe's self-proclaimed model country. "I think that the level of German debt is troubling," says Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country has a debt-to-GDP ratio of just 20 percent.
Despite the nascent criticism, Merkel and Schäuble will be patting themselves on the back once again at this week's final debate on the 2012 federal budget in the Bundestag, the German parliament. They will point out that Germany is in much better shape than its partners in the euro zone, not to mention the United States. They will also praise conditions in the labor market, rising tax revenues and the declining budget deficit.
It is certainly true that Schäuble expects the German deficit to decline from 1.3 percent of GDP this year to less than 1 percent next year. But it's none of his doing. In fact, he wants to incur more debt next year than in 2011. It is only state and local governments that are slated to borrow less next year, thereby helping to reduce Germany's deficit. In contrast, Schäuble expects €26 billion ($35 billion) in net new borrowing in 2012, an increase of several billion euros over this year.
The coming austerity will make things worse.  2012 is going to be a really bumpy ride.

Customers May Lose $1.2 Billion At MF Global

To comment on the Reuters story with the $1.2 Billion potential shortfall, Jesse says this:
Ironically a reader sent me their analysis yesterday that showed that the losses were $1.2 Billion. The twist here is that the Trustee may be accruing those losses to the customers even where there is some discretion.

One would think that the customers should be paid first out of all MF Global creditors. But I suspect that where it is possible, their loss will be subordinated to the unsecured creditors like JPM who have a powerful influence with this Trustee and the courts. The customers of consequence, like the Koch brothers, appear to have been tipped off weeks in advance.

This is the perversity of law without justice.

If that happens, then nothing is safe. If a customer in cash and Treasuries can be robbed, and then be made to stand in line with unsecured creditors, then your 401(k)s are not savings but loans to the custodians of your plans.
As he says, if custodians can raid customer accounts, then your retirement account may disappear.  I don't see how unsecured creditors would get in line in front of customers, but if Corzine and company don't go to jail, then we are totally screwed.

Debt Explosion In Europe

From MintLife Blog, via Ritholtz:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Farm Bill On The Ropes

The Des Moines Register gets down to brass tacks when it comes to how Washington impacts Iowa:
So much for that farm bill Congress was writing. The failure of the congressional supercommittee to come up with a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit throws in doubt the future of federal crop subsidies after next year.
A formal announcement of the farm bill’s demise is expected later this afternoon from the House and Senate agriculture committees.
Existing farm programs expire in 2012, and farm groups had hoped to insert a new farm bill in a deficit-reduction plan so that crop subsidies would be protected from attack on the House or Senate floor.  By law, the House and Senate couldn’t change anything that would have been in the supercommittee’s plan, including the farm bill.
But with the supercommittee deadlocked, Congress will have to start over on the farm bill next year.
I've got to say that with 4 great years of farming in a row, direct payments should seriously be reconsidered in the budget balancing debate.  I can see the benefits of the crop insurance subsidies, but the direct payments ought to go away for a few years.

Overall, if this country is as center-right as conservatives claim, I wouldn't see so many stories in local papers about how the budget cuts might affect whatever mjaor local federal spending, and how local congressmen need to protect said spending.  Here, that is Wright-Patterson AFB, in Iowa it is farm subsidies.  It seems certain that everybody wants somebody else's ox gored.  Unfortunately, that isn't how things work.

The Mystery of the Penn State Scandal

Via the Dish, Daniel Mendelsohn tackles an issue which I've been wondering about since the Penn State story broke:
Does anyone believe that if a burly graduate student had walked in on a 58-year-old man raping a naked little girl in the shower, he would have left without calling the police and without trying to rescue the girl? But the victim in this case was a boy, and so Mr. McQueary left and called his dad (who didn’t seem to think that it was a matter for the police either).
Mr. McQueary’s reluctance to treat what he allegedly saw as a flagrant crime, his peculiar unwillingness to intervene “physically,” the narrative emphasis on his own trauma (“distraught”) rather than the boy’s, the impulse to keep matters secret rather than provide rescue, all suggest the presence of a particularly intense shame, one occasioned less by pedophilia than by something everyone involved apparently considered worse: homosexuality.
Mr. McQueary’s refusal to process the scene he described — his coach having sex with another male — was reflected in the reaction of the university itself, which can only be called denial. You see this in the squeamish treatment of the assaults as a series of inscrutable peccadilloes best discussed — and indulged — behind closed doors. (Penn State’s athletic director subsequently characterized Mr. Sandusky’s alleged act as “horsing around,” a term you suspect he would not have used to describe the rape of a 10-year-old girl.)
My particular variation of this question comes down to: why is pedophilia so often covered up?  Everyone agrees it is astonishingly wrong.  Everyone is disturbed by the crime.  So why protect the perpetrator by allowing the crime to be covered up?  Pedophiles are notorious for serial crime.  It would be different if it was a crime you didn't expect to occur again.  I think that people are so horrified by the crime that they want to pretend it didn't happen, especially if the person who discovers the crime is close to EITHER the victim or the perpetrator.  The crime is assumed to be so damaging for the victim that even the vicitm's parents don't want to go public with accusations, making it that much easier for people of authoity who would be harmed by the exposition of the perpetrator to cover it up.  As painful and difficult as it might be, we need to recognize that while the crime is horrific, it has occurred throughout history, and will occur in the future.  The best way to fight it is to be more willing to discuss that it occurs, and to be more supportive of victims and their families when such crimes occur.  Too often, we feel that the victims' parents should have realized the crime was going on, and hold them partially responsible.  Likewise, we assume the victims are permanently scarred and ruined, but such an attitude can prevent parents from coming forward.  Another problem is that we turn these crimes into media circuses, which is the exactly wrong thing for the vicitms.  As hard as it seems, we need to treat these crimes as less horrific.  Mendelsohn is right, homophobia plays a big part in the problem, but I don't understand why the rape of boys is something people would rather cover up than talk about.  In the retreat to silence, witnesses are accessories to crime.

Losing Touch With Reality

David Frum asks, "When Did The GOP Lose Touch With Reality?" (h/t Ritholtz)  He puts it sometime around 2005.  I put it earlier than that.  I admit, I voted for George W. Bush in 2000, but by the time the Republicans pushed the tax cuts of 2001 through, I thought the party was off the rails.  By that time, the Bush Administration had pushed Jim Jeffords out of the Republican Party, when Karl Rove told him to toe the line or get out.  After that followed the tax cuts, 9/11, the fearmongering about terrorism, the Afghanistan war, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the Iraq War, more tax cuts, the 2004 election campaign, and then Katrina.  By that time, I had decided to run for election in 2006, to take on an incumbent who represented the purest form of what would become known as the Tea Party.  Since the 2006 primary election, I have voted for no more than 2 Republicans for any office above the county level.  Anyway, here is Mr. "Axis of Evil" making his argument:
It was not so long ago that Texas governor Bush denounced attempts to cut the earned-income tax credit as balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. By 2011, Republican commentators were noisily complaining that the poorer half of society are lucky duckies because the EITC offsets their federal tax obligations or because the recession had left them with such meager incomes that they had no tax to pay in the first place. In 2000, candidate Bush routinely invoked churches, synagogues, and mosques. By 2010, prominent Republicans were denouncing the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan as an outrageous insult. In 2003, President Bush and a Republican majority in Congress enacted a new prescription-drug program in Medicare. By 2011, all but four Republicans in the House and five in the Senate were voting to withdraw the Medicare guarantee from everybody under age 55. Today, the Fed’s pushing down interest rates in hopes of igniting economic growth is close to treason, according to Governor Rick Perry, coyly seconded by TheWall Street Journal. In 2000, the same policy qualified Alan Greenspan as the greatest central banker in the history of the world, according to Perry’s mentor, Senator Phil Gramm. Today, health reform that combines regulation of private insurance, individual mandates, and subsidies for those who need them is considered unconstitutional and an open invitation to death panels. A dozen years ago, a very similar reform was the Senate Republican alternative to Hillarycare. Today, stimulative fiscal policy that includes tax cuts for almost every American is socialism. In 2001, stimulative fiscal policy that included tax cuts for rather fewer Americans was an economic-recovery program.
I really can't disagree with a single thing he says in this paragraph.  All of these items are things which Republicans seem to have forgotten in their rush to portray Barack Obama as worse than Mao and Stalin.  However, the grassroots base, which came together at our county convention in 2006, would have agreed with all of that back then.  Every speaker at that convention, except myself, gave the same speech about lower taxes, smaller government, banning abortion, getting rid of gun control, bringing back school prayer, etc.  They wouldn't mention income inequality, school funding, local government funding, insuring the uninsured, paying for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or anything else which might lead to prudent goevernance.  At the convention, many of the radical (soon to be Tea Party) challengers upset the establishment Republicans for endorsements in the upcoming primary.  After the event, I spoke with the Chairman of the county Republican party, who said that he and his deputy were fairly scared by the radicalism of the base.  So I take issue with the idea that this occurred only recently.

Here is another excerpt from Frum:

When Congress Mattered

Via Mark Thoma, Economic Principles looks at the most important legislation in U.S. History.  Some of my favorites are the early ones:
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787.  Originally enacted by the Confederation Congress, the measure incorporated the lands west of the Appalachians and north of the Ohio River, provided for creation of new states (no fewer than three, or more than five), set aside land for public schools, and, at the last moment, banned slavery from the territory.
The Louisiana Land Purchase Ratification of 1803.  When Napoleon, defeated by rebels in Haiti and hard at war with the British, offered to sell not just New Orleans but French claims to land west of the Mississippi River, President Thomas Jefferson accepted with alacrity.  A special session of Congress quickly ratified the deal.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas wanted to facilitate the building of a transcontinental railroad west from Chicago. To attract support from delegations of the Southern states, he sought to overturn the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had extended slavery to that state but banned its further spread. The measure passed, leaving the slavery question to “popular sovereignty” in each state, precipitating events that led to the Civil War – “bloody Kansas,” Harpers Ferry and all that.
The Homestead Act of 1862 and the Morrill Land Grant College Act of 1862, passed without controversy in the first months of the Civil War, greatly stimulated the westward expansion by selling off vast tracts of public land to build railroads and canals, establishing colleges and universities throughout the West, and creating 1.7 million homestead farms outside the South in the next twenty years.
It's hard to argue with the significance of those 5.  With the announcement of the failure of the "supercommittee," it is hard to believe that Congress used to be relevant to the governance of the country.  I believe Barack Obama has provided Congress with the opportunity to hold up its duties under the Constitution, but they have failed.  With that 9% approval rating, people recognize how terrible Congress is.  Looking at the representatives in Congress for Western Ohio, it is pretty easy to see why that approval rating is where it's at.  Yeah, I'm looking at you, John Boehner and Jim Jordan.

How The Heart Beats

From the Guardian, via Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Heat Surge HT L.E.D.

P.T. Barnum was right, there's a sucker born every minute (well, maybe not P.T. Barnum, but whoever said it was right).  Check out this description:
This is the revolutionary Heat Surge HT L.E.D., the first-ever appliance with Hybrid-Thermic™ heat technology. Hybrid-Thermic heat is an engineering genius so advanced, it actually uses a micro-furnace from the Coast of China and a thermal heat exchanger to perform its miracles (seriously, wtf is up with that total line of bullshit? Coast of China?). The thermal heat exchanger acts like the rays of the sun to heat you, the kids, the pets and everything else. The micro-furnace then heats all the surrounding air (wow, an electric coil and a fan). Together, this Hybrid-Thermic heat warms both you and the air around you, taking care of all the cold spots. In fact, it actually produces Ortho-Thermic™, bone-soothing heat (way to trademark a load of crap).
This modern marvel uses just a trickle of electricity and saves you money based on a U.S. average that says it uses only about 9¢ of electricity an hour on the standard setting, yet it produces up to an amazing 4,606 British Thermal Units (BTU’s) on the high setting.
But here's the big surprise. It's not just a metal box that belongs in a basement. The Heat Surge HT L.E.D. is a showpiece in any room. That's because it has the ambiance of a real fireplace, but it has no real flames. Its Fireless Flame® technology makes it safe to the touch.
The portable Heat Surge HT comes installed in a genuine Amish-built wood cabinet made in the heartland of Ohio. They are hand-rubbed, stained, and varnished. When it arrives, all you do is just plug it in.
Chinese-made electric heater with a supposedly Amish-made cabinet.  Price- $547, plus shipping and handling, although the newspaper ad includes a $198 coupon.  I like how they use L.E.D. in the product name to make it sound cutting edge.  Too bad LED light bulbs are so efficient because THEY DON'T PRODUCE A BUNCH OF WASTE HEAT.  Here is a picture of the newspaper ad from the Daughter Number Three blog, which has been all over this scam:

I love the picture of the "Amish" guys unloading the heater from their buggy in front of Sears.  Does one believe that these are delivered one at a time by Amish in horse-and-buggies?  I also like how the ad gives the electric usage for the standard 750 watt (2303 BTU) setting but highlights the "amazing" 4,606 BTU produced on the high setting (1500 watt).  What else is a 1500 watt heater?  This $25.72 Holmes 15 Ceramic Heater:

Whoa, ceramic, that sounds like it was developed by DARPA or something.  Get me one of those.  Oh wait, it doesn't have an "Amish"-built cabinet, but it does have a nice thermal heat exchanger and a micro-furnace from (probably) the Coast of China.  Hmm, $25.72 without a $198 coupon for this, or $349 with the $198 coupon for the Heat Surge HT L.E.D.

I'll go with the Holmes 15.

NASA Photo of the Day

W5: Pillars of Star Formation
Image Credit & Copyright: Lori Allen, Xavier Koenig (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA) et al., JPL-Caltech, NASA
Explanation: How do stars form? A study of star forming region W5 by the sun-orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope provides clear clues by recording that massive stars near the center of empty cavities are older than stars near the edges. A likely reason for this is that the older stars in the center are actually triggering the formation of the younger edge stars. The triggered star formation occurs when hot outflowing gas compresses cooler gas into knots dense enough to gravitationally contract into stars. Spectacular pillars, left slowly evaporating from the hot outflowing gas, provide further visual clues. In the above scientifically-colored infrared image, red indicates heated dust, while white and green indicate particularly dense gas clouds. W5 is also known as IC 1848, and together with IC 1805 form a complex region of star formation popularly dubbed the Heart and Soul Nebulas. The above image highlights a part of W5 spanning about 2,000 light years that is rich in star forming pillars. W5 lies about 6,500 light years away toward the constellation of Cassiopeia.
link: November 20

Battle of Tarawa

November 20, 1943, the Battle of Tarawa begins:
The Battle of Tarawa, code named Operation Galvanic, was a battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II, largely fought from November 20 to November 23, 1943. It was the first American offensive in the critical central Pacific region.
It was also the first time in the war that the United States faced serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing. Previous landings met little or no initial resistance. The 4,500 Japanese defenders were well-supplied and well-prepared, and they fought almost to the last man, exacting a heavy toll on the United States Marine Corps. The US had suffered similar casualties in other campaigns, for example over the six months in the campaign for Guadalcanal, but in this case the losses were suffered within the space of 76 hours. Nearly 6,000 Japanese and Americans died on the tiny island in the fighting.
 At the end of the day, of the 5,000 Marines put ashore, 1,500 were dead or wounded.
The Battle of Tarawa was a tremendous demonstration of courage under fire by the Marines who landed there.

Germans Learn Of Irish Tax Increase Plans Ahead of Irish People

Oops (via nc links):
The government has complained to the European Commission over the release in Germany of a document disclosing confidential details about new taxes to be introduced in Ireland over the next two years.
In a deeply embarrassing development the document – identifying austerity measures of €3.8 billion in next month’s budget and €3.5 billion in budget 2013 – was made public after being shown to the finance committee of the German Bundestag yesterday.
The document, seen by The Irish Times , confirms the Government plans to raise VAT by 2 percentage points to 23 per cent, which would generate €670 million. Next month’s budget would also contain a €100 a year household charge, yielding €160 million, it says.
A further €100 million would be raised from a reform of capital gains tax.
That is pretty symbolic of the clumsiness and bumbling which has been part and parcel of the EU's handling of the Eurozone mess.  After the Irish people voted out Fianna Fail because they made the Irish taxpayers shoulder the debts of the Irish banks, it doesn't do Fine Gael any favors to have the German Parliament discussing Irish tax increases which the Irish people haven't even heard about.  If the EU can't even handle the easy things, how are they going to handle the difficult things?

Tweet of the Day

Washington's Blog:
The following tweet captures the fact that the laws are only being enforced in favor of the 1% … and against the 99%:
If only they enforced bank regulations like they do [Zuccotti] park rules, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
That is entertaining and pretty accurate.  Unfortunately, since the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the creation of the shadow bank system, there really aren't very many regulations to follow.  Of course, Republicans want even fewer regulations, instead of better, stronger regulations. 

Division III Roundup

UW-Whitewater, Mount Union, St. Thomas and  Mary Hardin-Baylor all won easily.
Linfield squeaked by Pacific Lutheran, 30-17. 
St. John Fisher upset Johns Hopkins, 23-12.
Franklin got by Thomas More, 24-21.
All the rest of the results are here.

Ayn Rand, Economist?

Also via Ritholtz, Jim Wright pens a brilliant takedown of NPR's inclusion of Ayn Rand in their discussion of economists:
According to the lead-in by NPR correspondent Andrea Seabrook, Rand was given equal time with actual economists because a number of folks seem to think that Atlas Shrugged is somehow on an equal footing with the General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money and The Road to Serfdom instead of the depressingly painful piece of schlock science fiction that it really is. Sure she sold a lot of books, so? So did L. Ron Hubbard.  What folks take Rand’s crap seriously?  Folks like Congressman Paul Ryan and Texas Governor Rick Perry, Speaker of the House John Boehner, not to mention certain Tea Party types who repeatedly paraphrase Rand’s silly nonsense about taxes being the same as a government mugging citizens at gunpoint – not that most said Tea Party types have actually read John Galt’s endless excruciating sixty page long monologue on the virtue of being a self-centered bastard flavored bastard with bastard filling and little bastard sprinkles on top at the end of Atlas Shrugged (How do I know they haven’t read it? Simple, they haven’t jammed knitting needles through their eyes).
Before we go any further, please understand something: I’m not saying your can’t, or shouldn’t, read and even enjoy Ayn Rand if that’s your thing. Hell some people actually like tofu, Justin Bieber, and the Ewok Christmas Special.  Me? Given a choice I’d rather be forced to sit with a hemorrhoidal badger in my lap through every single George W. Bush and/or Al Gore speech ever recorded than to have to read either Atlas Shrugged, or please God no Anthem, ever again.  If you like reading Rand as entertainment, as science fiction, as something that makes you think, well good on you. However, and this is my point, while you might enjoy reading an Alan Dean Foster knock off Star Wars novel, you probably don’t think we ought to run the country by the Jedi Code.
Objectivism is only a weak justification for selfishness, not a form of economics.  Thanks to Mr. Wright for saying this so entertainingly.  He even makes the point that conservative Christians shouldn't follow the teachings of a woman who hated religion, and whose philosophical tenets completely contradict the teachings of that Jesus Christ guy.

U.S. Versus Western European Values

Pew Global Attitudes Project (h/t Ritholtz):

As has long been the case, American values differ from those of Western Europeans in many important ways. Most notably, Americans are more individualistic and are less supportive of a strong safety net than are the publics of Britain, France, Germany and Spain. Americans are also considerably more religious than Western Europeans, and are more socially conservative with respect to homosexuality.
I find it somewhat odd that people who are more religious are less likely to think success in life is determined by forces outside of our control.  I guess they figure that if they accept Jesus as their personal savior, their success is determined by a factor they control.  Or maybe that their choices to sin or do good are punished or rewarded by the Man upstairs, so in essence they are controlling the outcome.  Seems a little specious to me.

On a similar note, today's sermon was a letter from the Archbishop of Cincinnati telling us to put pressure on Congress to avoid throwing poor folks under the bus in the budget debate.  He also touched on providing people with health insurance, helping those in poverty, addressing inequality and Catholic social teaching.  Hopefully he sent a copy to the members of Congress who represent the archdiocese: Speaker of the House John Boehner, Steve Austria, Mike Turner, Steve Chabot, Jean Schmidt, Bob Latta and Jim Jordan.  Of those, only Jordan isn't Catholic.  Unfortunately, I don't think they will heed his advice.