Saturday, August 25, 2012

Travers Stakes Ends In A Dead Heat

Alpha and long-shot Golden Ticket finished in a historic dead heat in the $1 million Travers Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
It appeared as if Golden Ticket would pull off a huge upset in the field of 11 3-year-olds. But 2-1 favorite Alpha closed strongly in the final yards and the two hit the finish line in tandem.
The photo finish sign flashed on the toteboard, and a few minutes later, the crowd roared when the dead heat sign made it official. It was the first dead heat in the 143 runnings of the Travers, and a rare finish for any Grade 1 race.
Alpha paid $4.10 and 33-1 shot Golden Ticket returned $26.80 to win.
I was flipping between the Reds game, A League of Their Own, and Travers Day at Saratoga.  This race was pretty cool.  First time I've seen a dead heat.

The Last Roll-Out

The Last Roll-Out from Philip Andrews on Vimeo.

America, Fuck Yeah

A map of f-bombs on Twitter:

We know, at this point, how the nation tweets. But what about how the nation swears?
The Ukrainian-based web development firm Vertaline, aiming to answer that question, scanned tweets posted from across 462 specific locations in the U.S. The team then isolated particular phrases from those tweets -- one of those phrases being, yep, "fuck you," which they tracked between July 14 and July 24, 2012. They then created a dynamic heatmap that portrays the density of the F-bomb-laden tweets as they were distributed geographically throughout each day of their date range, measured once per hour.

A Poor Outlook for Harvest

Des Moines Register:
The U.S. corn and soybean harvest will be worse than the government has forecast, the Professional Farmers of America crop inspection tour said Friday.
The ag media outlet gave another indication of the drought’s impact, predicting a U.S. corn production of 10.5 billion bushels at an average yield of 120.3 bushels per acre.
That would come in under the 2011 corn production of 12.4 billion bushels with a yield of 148 bushels per acre.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast on Aug. 9 a harvest of 123 bushels per acre totaling 10.8 billion bushels, the lowest production since 2006.
Farm Futures Magazine projected earlier this month a 2012 corn crop of 9.86 billion bushels on a yield of 117.6 bushels per acre.
For Iowa, Pro Farmer predicts a yield of 139 bushels per acre.
“Corn yields in the western one-third of the state were down 11 percent from last year, but the real problem is in the eastern two-thirds of the state,” Pro Farmer said. “Iowa’s early start to the growing season turned into a mid-season nightmare for corn trying to pollinate and fill kernels.”
It's going to be pretty ugly here.  

Quote of the Day

The trouble with you, Byron [Byron Wein – Morgan Stanley], is that you go to work every day [and think] you should do something. I don’t, I only go to work on the days that make sense to go to work. And I really do something on that day. But you go to work and you do something every day and you don’t realise when it’s a special day.

George Soros

The Mysterious Management of Tootsie Roll

Tootsie Roll's Chicago headquarters is a modern-day Willy Wonka factory. Massive puffs of steam billow out of humming machines on the roofs of the gray cinder block and red brick buildings, which sit surrounded by off-kilter "no trespassing" signs. The Gordons haven't granted an interview in years. The company declined repeated interview requests, saying "we have opted to use our quarterly earnings releases as a way to provide continuing updates to all business media at once."
Mr. Gordon is currently the oldest CEO of a business listed on the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq Stock Market, according to research company S&P Capital IQ. The company's proxy statement in March lists his age as 92, and his wife's as 80. The three non-Gordon members of the Tootsie Roll board ranged in age from 65 to 74, and at least one other top executive is over 70.
The Gordons have given no hint that they intend to retire and no indication of health problems. "Their age is no concern, none whatsoever," said Jerry Schmutzler, 70, who works the midnight shift in the boiler room of Tootsie Roll's Chicago factory. The company also has plants in four other states, as well as Canada and Mexico.
It is hard to believe it is a publicly traded company.

The New Wonder Material

Wood pulp?:
THE hottest new material in town is light, strong and conducts electricity. What's more, it's been around a long, long time.
Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), which is produced by processing wood pulp, is being hailed as the latest wonder material. Japan-based Pioneer Electronics is applying it to the next generation of flexible electronic displays. IBM is using it to create components for computers. Even the US army is getting in on the act, using it to make lightweight body armour and ballistic glass.
To ramp up production, the US opened its first NCC factory in Madison, Wisconsin, on 26 July, marking the rise of what the US National Science Foundation predicts will become a $600 billion industry by 2020.
So why all the fuss? Well, not only is NCC transparent but it is made from a tightly packed array of needle-like crystals which have a strength-to-weight ratio that is eight times better than stainless steel. Even better, it's incredibly cheap.
"It is the natural, renewable version of a carbon nanotube at a fraction of the price," says Jeff Youngblood of Purdue University's NanoForestry Institute in West Lafayette, Indiana.
The $1.7 million factory, which is owned by the US Forest Service, will produce two types of NCC: crystals and fibrils.
That is interesting.  Hopefully, they are right about the potential there.

"Fiscal Conservatives"

Simon Johnson:
The United States is very different in this respect. There, leading politicians who choose to call themselves “fiscal conservatives” – such as Paul Ryan, now the Republican Party’s presumptive vice-presidential nominee to run alongside presidential candidate Mitt Romney in November’s election – care more about cutting taxes, regardless of the effect on the federal deficit and total outstanding debt. Why do US fiscal conservatives care so little about government debt, relative to their counterparts in other countries?
CommentsIt has not always been this way. For example, in 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s advisers suggested that he should cut taxes in order to pave the way for his vice president, Richard Nixon, to be elected to the presidency. Eisenhower declined, partly because he did not particularly like or trust Nixon, but mostly because he thought it was important to hand over a more nearly balanced budget to his successor.
CommentsThe framework for US macroeconomic policy changed dramatically when the international monetary system broke down in 1971. The US could no longer maintain a fixed exchange rate between the dollar and gold – the cornerstone of the postwar Bretton Woods system. The arrangement collapsed because the US did not want to tighten monetary policy and run more restrictive fiscal policy: keeping US voters happy was understandably more important to President Nixon than maintaining a global system of fixed exchange rates.
CommentsIronically, however, rather than undermining the predominant international role of the US dollar, the end of Bretton Woods actually boosted its use around the world. Much has been written, and many hands wrung, about the dollar’s decline over the last four decades, but the fact remains that holdings of US dollar assets by foreigners today are vastly greater than they were in 1971.
The idea of the Republican party as a conservative entity is ludicrous.  The Romney/Ryan tax cut plans are ridiculous.  Their idea that the market is always right is insane.  While Democrats are a pretty shitty alternative, they are a much better choice than the GOP.

Trouble In China

The glut of everything from steel and household appliances to cars and apartments is hampering China’s efforts to emerge from a sharp economic slowdown. It has also produced a series of price wars and has led manufacturers to redouble efforts to export what they cannot sell at home.
The severity of China’s inventory overhang has been carefully masked by the blocking or adjusting of economic data by the Chinese government — all part of an effort to prop up confidence in the economy among business managers and investors.
But the main nongovernment survey of manufacturers in China showed on Thursday that inventories of finished goods rose much faster in August than in any month since the survey began in April 2004. The previous record for rising inventories, according to the HSBC/Markit survey, had been set in June. May and July also showed increases.
“Across the manufacturing industries we look at, people were expecting more sales over the summer, and it just didn’t happen,” said Anne Stevenson-Yang, the research director for J Capital Research, an economic analysis firm in Hong Kong. With inventories extremely high and factories now cutting production, she added, “Things are kind of crawling to a halt.”
If China rolls over, the world economy is going to fall off of a cliff.  The resources countries, like Canada and Australia, will hit the economic wall they avoided in the Great Recession.  2013 is going to be a rough year, no matter who is president.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Definition of Projection

Alex Pareene:
Consider yourself warned: If Obama loses to Mitt Romney in 2012, might he run again in 2016? Kathryn Jean Lopez says probably!
First, the National Review’s Jim Geraghty suggests that if Obama loses, the whining Democrats will, as always, cry foul, and say the result was illegitimate, just like they always do, especially as they did that one time when the Republican became president despite actually losing the election, and they will of course blame “Voter ID laws” just because said laws are designed to disenfranchise certain Obama voters, but most important, Obama is such a craven political hack that he will refuse to politely abide by the result of the election and he’ll definitely continue trying to run for president:
In that scenario, do you envision President Obama accepting defeat gracefully? Do you picture him congratulating President Romney on his victory, and pledging to do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition? Do you think the president will be ready to move on to post–White House life, focusing upon memoir-writing, building his presidential library, some charitable and foundation work, and plenty of golf?
If there’s anything we’ve seen, it’s that President Obama loves to campaign — to hold fundraisers, to attend rallies, to attend “town meetings” where the questioners mostly ask why people aren’t smart enough to see how great he is. In January 2013, former president Obama would find himself with a lot of time to do all that.
Seriously, if a Republican accuses a Democrat of it, the Republican does it.  Crying the result was illegitimate?  They did that when Obama won , they did that when Clinton won.  The whole voter ID law is based on the idea that Democrats win because they commit massive voter fraud.  It is crazy.  Whatever Republicans are saying, they are talking about themselves.  But Grover Cleveland?  Seriously?

A Sad Day

August 24, 1989:
Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose is banned from baseball for gambling by Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti.
I remember how much Schadenfreude I felt when Bart Giamatti died.  I really thought that God or karma or something struck that man dead.  Actually, I thought it was a little voodoo, because I cut his picture out of the newspaper after he banned Pete from baseball, and I threw darts at it for a couple of days.  I felt pretty powerful.  Damn hero worship.

The Toll Of Inequality On The Middle Class

The last forty years have been good if you are rich:

Lucky for me, people poorer than me have been voting for policies that favor me more than them.  If they are waiting for me to provide them jobs, they are probably out of luck.  I barely heat my fucking house.

The Efficient Private Sector

From Balloon Juice:
Business justify all sorts of things on “efficiency” grounds. Business class travel and corporate jets supposedly allow managers to be more rested and work on the go and so on, but really it is about comfort and prestige, not efficiency. Lavish retreats supposedly promotes better communication and teamwork, but really is mostly about getting a paid vacation. Expensive office space and furnishings are supposed to reassure clients and set a tone of quality, but really just make more enjoyable places to work. And, of course, outsized salaries for CEOs and other senior managers are supposed to be about attracting top talent, and yet are often divorced from any objective measure of performance.
The idea that the private sector is efficient and adept at cutting waste, fraud, and abuse is just one of the empty zombie concepts that VSPs mouth mindlessly. But actually demonstrating private sector efficiency turns out to be hard to accomplish, and if you actually look at the excesses of the private sector in terms of spending on luxuries and outsized senior compensation it should be pretty obvious that the claim of efficiency is largely an empty assertion.
Flournoy just came out of government. As Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, her salary as a Level III Executive Schedule was $165,300. I’m pretty willing to be she makes a heck of a lot more as a “senior adviser at Boston Consulting Group.” But BCG is, by definition, more efficient. Did she get smarter? Is she working harder now? She’s apparently generating more value added now, right? I know that is just a little gotcha, but it is the kind of thing that might make a person think a little… if they weren’t so wedded to conventional wisdom that is.
Exactly.  All things are inefficient, but they are inefficient in their own ways.  Government is often inefficient in the struggle to be equitable.  The private sector is often inefficient in the effort of being inequitable.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Greatest Moments In Sports

Some are missed, but this is pretty good:

Old Time Photo Manipulation

From Wired:

For over 150 years, industrious manipulators have tampered with photos and their meaning, like the Abe Lincoln composite at right which places the president’s head on Southern politician John Calhoun’s body. Early 20th century photo studios preferred photomontage – the production of images by physically cutting and joining combined photos – to create the For tall-tale postcards fictions.
“I think of them as a gag, and I think everyone else did too,” says Jim Linderman, a writer, popular culture historian and collector who edits the printed ephemera blogs Dull Tool Dim Bulb and Vintage Sleaze. “I often wonder if the fellows who sent home *this is how big the fish are here* were really fishing at all.”
Tall-tale postcards are also known as “Exaggerations” in collecting circles. According to Linderman, the postcards of crafty photographers such as Oscar Erickson, M.W. Bailey, Edward H. Mitchell, William H. Martin and the well-known Alfred Stanley Johnson Jr. include semi-realistic photos as well as heavy-handed examples which “could never fool the eye.”
People have always had a slightly odd sense of humor.

Uncertainty Is Such A Copout

Stan Collender:
But to bemoan the uncertainty as immobilizing and make it into its own issue is disingenuous if not completely deceitful. It's time to call it what it really is: Wall Street Whining.
Here's why.
1. When isn't there uncertainty facing Wall Street about what's going to happen? Whether it's weather, Geo-political, economic or political, uncertainty is one of the most basic elements of capitalism and free enterprise.
2. In fact, it's one of the first things you learn on your first day in Econ 101: Uncertainty -- that is, the lack of perfect information -- is one of the things that drives markets. If everyone knew...or assumed...the same thing, there wouldn't be different investment strategies, alternatives, funds or trading. Everyone would want to buy or sell the same things for the same price. In other words, for all the complaints about it, without uncertainty Wall Street wouldn't exist.
3. For all its whining, Wall Street doesn't really want certainty unless it's a guarantee that what it wants will happen. Would it feel better if a decision were made on Capital Hill right now that the Bush/Obama tax cuts will expire on January 1 and that the sequester spending cuts won't be changed, that is, if the uncertainty were completely taken out of the system?
He has a little bit more.  The thing is, he's right.  The claim that uncertainty about whether the Bush tax cuts will end is going to disrupt the economy is just a threat to get their way.  These guys will be fine if the Bush tax cuts expire, just like they were before the Bush tax cuts.  All the talk about uncertainty is a way to weigh on the collective psyche of businessmen, and it works like a charm.  But did these same businessmen worry about uncertainty when they launched their businesses?  No, because they never would have done it if they had.  I may just punch the next person I hear who claims that they don't want to make a business decision because of uncertainty.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Billy Hamilton Sets Stolen Base Record

Cincinnati Reds minor leaguer Billy Hamilton bolted to his record 146th stolen base of the season and kept running Tuesday night, swiping four in the first game of a Double-A doubleheader.
Hamilton added his 147th steal in the final inning of Pensacola's 4-2 loss to Montgomery. Hamilton stole 104 in the first half of the season with Class A Bakersfield, then was promoted to the Southern League.
Hamilton broke the record for steals by minor league teams affiliated with big league organizations set by Vince Coleman in 1983 with 145 for Macon in the Class A South Atlantic League.
The modern major league record was set by Rickey Henderson with 130 in 1982.
Hamilton single-handedly has more steals than any major league team; the Miami Marlins lead the majors with 121 steals this season.
Hamilton stole second base in the first inning, then swiped second and third in the third inning to eclipse Coleman's mark. Hamilton made a headfirst slide for the record-breaker and Pensacola manager Jim Riggleman, who was coaching third base, gave him a hearty handshake as the crowd rewarded the speedster with a standing ovation.
147 steals in a season?  That is incredible.  As the story says, he has more steals than any team in the major leagues this season.  I'm looking forward to seeing him with the big club.

Fire History I Was Unfamiliar With

Emily Badger:
One of the most fascinating essays in the book is one by historian Daniel Kerr about much more recent history in Cleveland. The city experienced a spate of riots in the 1960s by blacks who sought more control over their own communities. Less well remembered is what happened next: In the '70s, some 24,000 housing units in some of these same neighborhoods were set on fire by arsonists – usually the property owners themselves – with the tacit approval of the city government. In all, more than 15,000 fires were intentionally set that decade, wiping out as much as 40 percent of the housing stock in some neighborhoods that the city hoped to redevelop.
These neighborhoods had begun to deteriorate as manufacturers and the middle class abandoned the city. Landlords no longer found it profitable to keep up basic maintenance and repair. Many simply abandoned their properties, pushing the final costs associated with them – their demolition – onto taxpayers. In the '70s, Kerr writes, demolition was one of the fastest growing municipal expenses in Cleveland. And so the city began to allow owners to simply burn down these buildings themselves (often taking insurance claims with them), as the city shut down fire departments in the neighborhoods where this practice was most common.
In the end, whole tracts of land were cleared by fire to rebuild the types of housing that officials had long hoped would lure middle- and upper-class families back into the city. But today, few people in Cleveland remember the history of these neighborhoods this way. Rather, public memory has coalesced around the story that these communities were once destroyed by riots in the 1960s. Those thousands of cases of arson, Kerr writes, are Cleveland's "forgotten fires."
The story in Cleveland speaks to the other side of the political nature of urban fires: throughout history, they have been blamed on social scapegoats, on Jews and Gypsies, the poor and minorities.
Having read "The Bronx Is Burning," I would assume this happened in a number of places as white flight left properties empty in the cities.  It was a damn messy waste of infrastructure.  I didn't realize that such events were so widespread back in the day.

What Is Wrong With These Lunatics?

Houston Press:
 Lubbock County judge Tom Head. On Monday night, flanked by Lubbock County Commissioner Mark Heinrich, Head went on Lubbock's FOX TV affiliate and warned the flatlanders of the dire consequences of their possibly turning down a proposed 1.7 cent boost of the tax rate next year. County law enforcement really needs that money, he said; otherwise neighboring counties will come swooping in waving dollar bills around and poaching assistant DAs, and the sheriff claims to need to hire seven more deputies.
But that's humdrum, stuff you hear all the time from conventional politicians in sane parts of the country. Head just had to open up a can of paranoid Panhandle whoop-ass on the Lubbock electorate. (Watch Head's video here.)
Why, Head continued, just think of what could happen should Barack Obama win reelection:
"He's going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the UN, and what is going to happen when that happens?," Head asked, before quickly answering his own question. "I'm thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we're not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy."
If that calamity should unfold, Obama will have no choice but to send in vast hordes of UN troops to every corner of this unruly land, most especially to that hotbed of Red State patriotism, Lubbock, Texas.
"I don't want 'em in Lubbock County," Head fumed, as an interviewer nodded in seeming agreement. "Okay. So I'm going to stand in front of their armored personnel carrier and say 'you're not coming in here'."
What the fuck is this nitwit talking about?  What is it about a Democratic president that makes Republicans strap on their tinfoil hats and talk like mental patients?  How on earth can half of the population think this way?  I just don't get it.

Electric Car Recharges May Strain Grid

Scientific American:
So would car owners all plug in at similar times? Early statistics from a concentration of electric car owners in Texas say, yes, they would.
The data come from a new, 280-hectare neighborhood in Austin, Tex., known as Mueller. The community is designed to maximize sustainable living, exploiting green building construction, intelligent appliances, smart electric meters and home management systems, as well as integrated residential, work, shopping and entertainment spaces. When complete, it is supposed to offer homes for 13,000 residents and jobs for about as many individuals.
Although energy planners for Mueller and many places worldwide had made assumptions about when and where electric car owners would charge their vehicles, real-world studies of actual consumer behavior were lacking. So Pecan Street, Inc., a research consortium based at the University of Texas at Austin, heavily instrumented homes throughout Mueller to take data every 15 seconds that would show what is really happening. The consumers have not been encouraged to use their cars in any particular way, and electricity rates do not change with the time of day, so costs do not influence their decisions.
Brewster McCracken, executive director of Pecan Street, and Chris Holcomb, data scientist at the organization, have just analyzed the first set of data, taken from 10 households over two months. "What we assumed turned out to be true," Holcomb says. "People come home at the end of a day and turn everything on." That means the television, computer, air conditioning, other appliances—along with plugging in their electric car for a recharge. The pattern held up across the two months—even on weekends, when it might be easy to plug in during the morning hours, and even though dozens of charging stations have been installed at convenient locations in and around Mueller.
Couldn't utilities set up deals like the hot water heater controls where they remotely control when things in your house are using power.  I would think that they could spread out the charging of the cars overnight rather easily with modern computer technology.  We ought to be moving that way on a lot of things, like when clothes are washed and dried, or when air conditioners run the hardest.  You know, cool the house down at night and let it warm back up some during the day. But, damn it, that might take a little new equipment or something.

The Death of Michael Collins

August 22, 1922:
Michael Collins, Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Free State Army is shot dead during an Anti-Treaty ambush at Béal na mBláth, County Cork, during the Irish Civil War.
On 22 August 1922 an ambush was prepared for the convoy when it made its return journey back to Cork city. They knew Collins would return by the same route, as the two other roads from Bandon to Cork had been rendered impassable by Republicans. The ambush party, commanded by Liam Deasy, had mostly dispersed to a nearby pub by 8:00 p.m., when Collins and his men returned to Béal na mBlath but the remaining five ambushers on the scene opened fire on the Collins convoy. The ambushers had laid a mine at the scene, which could have killed many more people in Collins's party, but they had disconnected it by the time the firing broke out.
Collins was killed in the subsequent gun battle, which lasted about 20 minutes, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. He was the only fatality. He had ordered his convoy to stop and return fire, instead of choosing the safer option of driving on in his touring car or transferring to the safety of the accompanying armoured car, as his companion, Emmet Dalton, had wished. He was killed while exchanging rifle fire with the ambushers. Under the cover of the armoured car, Collins's body was loaded into the touring car and driven back to Cork. However the group became lost in the back roads of the area eventually taking the route of Beal Na mBlath - Crookstown - Cloughduv - Aherla - Killumney - Ballincollig - Victoria Cross to Cork City. On the way they sought last rites for Michael seeking out Canon Tracey of Crookstown having received directions at Belmont Mills, but taking the wrong turn they ended up in Cloughduv at the parish house. Here the priest Fr. Timothy Murphy was brought to the car and according to his own report upon seeing how distraught the men were he turned to fetch his oils. However some of the men thought he was refusing to administer last rites to Michael and one soldier, (Sean O'Connell) actually discharged a shot at Fr. Murphy but the gun was struck by Emmet Dalton and the shot missed. Eventually Michael received last rites at the Sacred Heart Mission Church at Victoria Cross. At the time of his death, he was engaged to Kitty Kiernan.
There is no consensus as to who fired the fatal shot. The most recent authoritative account suggests that the shot was fired by Denis ("Sonny") O'Neill, an Anti-Treaty IRA fighter and a former British Army marksman who died in 1950. This is supported by eyewitness accounts of the participants in the ambush. O'Neill was using dum-dum ammunition, which disintegrates on impact and which left a gaping wound in Collins's skull. He dumped the remaining bullets afterwards for fear of reprisals by Free State troops.
Collins's men brought his body back to Cork where it was then shipped to Dublin because it was feared the body might be stolen in an ambush if it were transported by road. His body lay in state for three days in Dublin City Hall where tens of thousands of mourners filed past his coffin to pay their respects. His funeral mass took place at Dublin's Pro Cathedral where a number of foreign and Irish dignitaries were in attendance. Some 500,000 people attended his funeral, almost one fifth of the country's population.
No one was more responsible for the establishment of the Republic of Ireland than Collins.  DeValera outlived him, and led the nation to separation from the UK, but Collins was the heart and soul of the War of Independence.

Amish Face Rising Land Costs

The Atlantic:
The scenario facing the Swartzentrubers, who account for the second-fastest-growing Amish settlement in New York, could spell caution for any locavore or family business frustrated by economic shifts. After generations of relative prosperity and seclusion, the Swartzentrubers and their horse-drawn ploughs are losing territory to subsidized growers buying up St. Lawrence County's clay-loam soil.
"They are not shy about saying that they can't compete with large agribusinesses," said Karen Johnson-Weiner, a lecturer of Amish studies at SUNY-Potsdam University, who has studied the group for 30 years. Over the course of her research, the county has transformed into a $100 million farming sector, as a sulfurous odor of synthetic manure has settled in, as if to circumscribe the Swartzentrubers. "It's getting harder for young people to find farms in the area. People are having to move further afield because there is more competition for farmland."
For Amish fathers, who are expected to pass down land to each of their 10 to 15 children, acquiring new land is an escalating burden. When they first arrived upstate by Greyhound bus in 1974, the Swartzentrubers -- considered the most conservative of more than 100 Amish sects nationwide -- rejuvenated thousands of idle acres, making way for general stores and, eventually, a cheese factory. But the continuous farmland they purchased in bulk 30 years ago is now prized by corn and soybean growers, who are attracted by high commodities prices and often willing to pay three or four times the market rate.
I'm confused, what is synthetic manure? I have yet to come across such a thing.  Generally there is plenty of the natural stuff.  Anyway, if the Amish had something else they could do, now would be a good time to cash out and wait for the crash, at least on the days I feel more comfortable with the tin foil hat.  I said the same thing about housing in 2002, so it might be a few years.

Paying 0% Tax On Capital Gains And Dividends

Smart Money (via Ritholtz):
Some Examples

Example 1: Married Joint Filer.

You're a married joint filer with two dependent children and show the following on your 2012 Form 1040.
  • $110,000 salary.
  • $11,000 of 401(k) contributions at work.
  • $20,000 of itemized deductions for mortgage interest, state and local taxes, charitable contributions and so forth.
  • $15,200 write-off for four personal exemptions ($3,800 each).
Your 2012 taxable income is $63,800 ($110,000 minus $11,000, minus $20,000, minus $15,200). You have $6,900 of "room" left within the 15% bracket ($70,700 ceiling for 15% bracket minus your $63,800 of taxable income). That means you could have up to $6,900 of long-term gains and dividends that would be taxed at the 0% federal rate. Any additional 2012 long-term gains or dividends would be taxed at the maximum federal rate of 15% (still pretty good).

Example 2: Single Filer.

You're unmarried with no kids and show the following on your 2012 Form 1040.
  • $45,000 salary.
  • $4,500 of 401(k) contributions at work.
  • $5,950 standard deduction.
  • $3,800 personal exemption deduction.
Your 2012 taxable income is $30,750 ($45,000 minus $4,500, minus $5,950, minus $3,800). You have $4,600 of "room" left within the 15% bracket ($35,350 ceiling for 15% bracket minus your $30,750 of taxable income). That means you could have up to $4,600 of long-term gains and dividends that would be taxed at the 0% federal rate. Any additional long-term gains or dividends would be taxed at the maximum 15% rate.
I've actually qualified for zero percent tax on some of my dividend income, because all of my deductions went against my earned income.  So even though I had income that would have been taxed at regular tax rates, once my charitable deductions were taken out, the first $35,350 was taxed at 0%.  Some schmuck going to a job everyday to get that $35,350 would have paid tax on that money.  Thank you George W. Bush for looking our for all us folks wealthy enough to get $35,350 in dividends.  Divide that by a utility stock's 5% dividend yield, an that would indicate the person had $707,000 invested.  You know, the struggling middle class.  Paul Ryan would make all dividend income and capital gains untaxed, even if the person was making, say $20 million a year, like his running mate.  Fucking jackasses.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fun With Excel

At least somebody is having some:

Taking Down Niall Ferguson

Noah Smith does a damn fine job of it:
Niall Ferguson wants the United States to be an empire. An historian, Ferguson has always been enchanted with the British Empire of his forebears. He has also long been enchanted with the notion that the United States can and should become the successor to the British Empire, and that we Americans have been shirking our duty by pretending to be just another live-and-let-live nation-state. He seems to have been especially enchanted by that magic moment in 2003 and 2004, when it seemed that under George W. Bush and the neoconservatives, America was finally taking up the mantle of empire. The failure of the Iraqi adventure, and the collapse of popular support for similar adventures, must have felt to Niall Ferguson like something beautiful was being snatched from his hands.

Now, Ferguson hopes, under a Romney/Ryan (or Ryan/Romney?) presidency, America has a chance at completing the mission that George Bush started, and returning to its path to glory as British Empire II.

But - and this is why he makes me so angry - Niall Ferguson badly misunderstands my country. We are a Republic, not an Empire, and we always will be. We rejected the mantle of Anglo-Saxon world domination in the Philippines, again in Vietnam, and again in Iraq. And we will always reject it. We do not want to go forth and educate and enlighten the brown people at the point of our Tomahawk missiles, Mr. Ferguson. We want to invite them here, to live with us, to work for us and hire us, to marry our children, to become part of this country. Even, yes, to lead this country, as Barack Obama, for all his faults, has done. We do not want to conquer the world. We want to become the world.

The British Empire is over, Niall. It had its day. We can debate eternally how much good it did, but now it is done, and it is not coming back. Stop trying to screw up my Republic in your doomed effort to bring it back.
One can look at most of the really screwed up places in the world, and see the hand of the British Empire.  We do not need another British empire.  Probably the greatest accomplishment of World War II after destroying the Nazis was the fact that afterwards, the European overseas empires finally collapsed and died.  The Neocolonialists in the Republican party, and their fellow travelers in the Democratic party can piss off.  We don't need them or an empire.

Solid Smoke Improves

Aerogels have been around for a long time, and have been described as "solid smoke" because they are so light.
But these traditional types - made from silica - are fragile and brittle.
By altering the composition and structure of these materials, scientists have now produced aerogels that are hundreds of times stronger.
The advances were described at the 244th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.
Traditional aerogels developed decades ago and made from the silica that is found in beach sand are brittle, and break and crumble easily.
The new varieties are made by altering the innermost architecture of traditional silica aerogels.
Scientists use polymers, a plastic-like material, to reinforce the networks of silica that extend throughout an aerogel's structure.
Never heard of the stuff.  Learn something new every day.

The Largest Library On Earth

And it’s Kahle’s impulse to copy and preserve that prompted the Internet Society to induct the serial entrepreneur and digital archivist into the Internet Hall of Fame on April 23 in its inaugural year.
Kahle took the library of libraries — the internet — and made a couple of copies of it, and keeps making copies. One he keeps in servers in San Francisco, the other in mirror servers in Alexandria, where the world’s most famous library burned 2,000 years ago. (His data survived the Egyptian revolution unscathed.)
Through the Wayback Machine, you can see what the web looked like in 1996. And 1997. And 2011.
It’s just one arm of Kahle’s ambitious goal to provide the world with universal access to all knowledge.
His vehicle is the Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization Kahle founded in 1996, the same year he started analytics firm Alexa Internet, a pioneer in collaborative filtering, which he sold in 1999 to Amazon for $250 million.
“I won the internet lottery,” Kahle says.
Or, more aptly, the internet won the internet lottery. Since selling Alexa, Kahle has grown the Internet Archive, which he refers to as Alexandria 2.0, into a massive digital repository that has not only made copies of the internet, but has made available 200,000 e-books (and digitizes 1,000 more each day), 100,000 concert recordings, and some 700,000 films.
All are available online for free.
How do you keep an archive of everything on the internet?  That seems impossible to keep up with.

Can You Root Against The Nationals?

Charlie Pierce:
On a purely baseball level, there's very little not to love about these guys. They're a young team led by an old guy; manager Davey Johnson looks at this point like nothing more than Hubie Brown coming out of the past to lead the Memphis Grizzlies a few years back. They have a legitimate rookie star in Bryce Harper, who broke out of a terrible slump Sunday with a triple and a monstrous home run, and who, at the end of a season in which he became both a baseball and YouTube sensation, shows all the signs of a man exhausted by a year's worth of clown questions. On those occasions, being able to lapse into fluent Belichickian is a valuable skill, bro.
"It doesn't matter whether my numbers are crappy or not," Harper said Sunday. "We're in first place, that's all that matters."
"I think he was trying to send a message to me — 'Don't bench me.' That's what you're missing," Johnson said. "I think that, sometimes, he just gets a little frustrated and overaggressive."
And, Sunday, they were led by pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who earned his 16th win on a day in which he left his best stuff back around noon, when he prepared for a game that wouldn't actually begin until four hours later. Gonzalez is a throwback — a Whitey Ford–size guy in an era in which the gap between major league pitchers and NBA three-men is closing rapidly. On Sunday, with almost everything he threw staying up and dangerously over the plate, Gonzalez battled out of deep trouble on several occasions — most impressively in the fourth inning, which began with a leadoff triple by New York's Ronny Cedeno — and kept his game alive long enough for the Nationals offense to build him a cushion.
I love to see former Reds manager Davey Johnson doing well (fired from the Reds for living with his girlfriend), but if the Reds meet up with the Nationals in the playoffs, I'll be damn sure to be rooting that the Nats lose like Teddy Roosevelt in the Presidents' race.

Chart of the Day

Boy, that Obama is just strangling the economy with his tax increases.  Wait, what?  Oh, the facts:

In some ways I agree with Republicans that we need to go back to just before the 1960's ruined America.  Lets have some of those Republican President Eisenhower tax rates, thank you very much.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Rubber Cartel Tries To Drive Up Prices

The three Southeast Asian countries that control 70% of the world's supply of natural rubber said Thursday they would withhold supply now and keep supply tight by burning older rubber trees, hoping to boost prices, which have fallen 60% since their February 2011 peak.
The move by the Bangkok-based International Tripartite Rubber Council, which represents Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia and is the OPEC of the rubber market, rippled through markets. At one point on Friday, benchmark rubber futures at the Tokyo Commodity Exchange were up 9% from a nearly three-year low on Tuesday before settling at ¥221 ($2.78) a kilogram, 7% above the Tuesday low.
Higher rubber prices would hit tire makers, the largest consumers of natural rubber, as well as makers of rubber gloves, shoes, condoms and toy balloons.
But the Rubber Council faces challenges to its effort to boost prices.
"It's something like OPEC. There's always cheating somewhere," says Alvin Tai, plantations analyst for OSK Investment Bank in Kuala Lumpur.
Adding to the challenge, the world's fourth-biggest rubber exporter, Vietnam, isn't part of the club, despite recruiting efforts by the other three.
I'm surprised this doesn't involve Goldman Sachs. Damn, condom prices may go up?  Oh wait, that really isn't going to cut into my disposable income. 

Are We Worse Off Than Four Years Ago?

Since George W. Bush is not president now, I'm guessing the answer is no:

As Fallows points out in the post accompanying this graph, Niall Ferguson puts together a really shitty argument about why the country would be better off with Republican dumbfucks running this country instead of Obama.  Not surprisingly, at least one of the right-wing loons I graduated with in high school (well, I think he graduated) liked a photo of the Newsweek cover.  Geez, this is going to be a really long next couple of months.

State Budgets And Local Services

Camden, New Jersey looks to a county police force to police the city, since budget cuts from the state leave the city unable to afford its police force:
Though considered one of the most dangerous places in the country, past budget cuts in Camden, N.J., have forced police layoffs. Now the city is considering even more dramatic steps: replacing the city's police force with one operated by the county.
Camden is on pace to break a record for homicides and shootings this year, and many in the crime-ravaged city say something has to change.
"The status quo is not working with our current policing model," says Camden City attorney Marc Riondino. He says it's time for Camden to take a new approach to public safety, with a new police force operated by the county.
"We have explored our options and the best model for us is shared services," he says. "In Camden, it's well-known we have an uptick in violence; we have to enter into a new paradigm and make residents feel safe and that's the only reason we're doing this."
Camden City Council President Frank Moran, who was born and raised in Camden, says even with financial help, Camden is struggling to protect itself.
"We are under a transitional aid agreement with the state and every year the state will reduce our aid and it's what the governor has implemented," Moran says. "Unfortunately we have to live with [it], so we have to do everything in our power to be creative."
Since Camden has no real tax base, they need help from county or state residents.  The Republican plan in state governments is to cut state taxes and leave local communities on their own.  This screws inner cities and rural areas and benefits the already wealthy suburbs.  In the Republican plan, this is a feature, not a bug.  So the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and any semblance of an equal opportunity for all goes out the window.

What Are Republicans Complaining About?

Amy Davidson looks at Joe Biden's, "They're going to put y'all back in chains" line from last week:

Biden later said that he has been referring to the frequent use of shackle imagery by Republicans talking about reducing regulations on business. Indeed, CNN came up with a whole highlights reel of Republicans using that phrase, including Paul Ryan (“We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy”) and John Boehner (“unshackle the private sector”), who has also talked about economic freedom and slavery. CNN, though, said that Biden’s language was different, “given where he was and who he was talking to”—that is, an audience that included many black people, in a town that had been the capital of the Confederacy. There is something awkward, though, about the argument that something that works as a metaphor for a general audience becomes toxic because it’s Danville—weren’t Boehner and Ryan also addressing black Americans? What was confusing was whether Biden’s critics felt that he was being racially insensitive or racially inflammatory. Of course, slavery and the decades of imperfect freedom that followed are no secret, to black or white audiences (or mixed ones, as in Danville), and neither is the fact that medical bills, unemployment, and student loans can leave one (metaphorically) indentured. This is not to let Biden off entirely: one does wonder if, in another context, the imagery would have struck him as useful. The offensiveness here is not that he used an image associated slavery but that he subjected his audience to rhetoric as simplistic and reductive as anything Mitt Romney writes on his whiteboard. But the real complaint seems to be that Biden was being inflammatory—not that Biden and Obama are angry themselves, but that they might make other people mad at Republicans. Artur Davis, a former Democratic Congressman who is now a Republican (and will speak at the G.O.P. convention), summed up the accusation by saying that Biden was accusing conservatives of “racial viciousness.”
I don't understand why Republicans can race bait to white people but Democrats get screamed at for similar things with black people.  Biden gave a poor line there, but in his own awkward way, he was making a point that Republicans are using outrageous language to whine about business regulation, when businesses have screwed lots of people in the past few years, and letting businesses run wild isn't going to make anything better for anybody.  And I can't really feel sorry for the folks who used the Willy Horton ad to scare people, or who go to Philadelphia, Mississippi and talk about states rights.  As Lee Atwater discussed how to use the English language without saying the obvious, he demonstrated Republican race-baiting at its worst:
Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn't have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he's campaigned on since 1964 and that's fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.
Questioner: But the fact is, isn't it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?
Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."
This has been Republican strategy throughout my lifetime.  The fact that blacks vote for Democrats has much less to do with Obama being black than with Republicans portraying blacks as the enemy to this country.  If Joe Biden ruffled some feathers and hurt some Republicans' feelings, so be it. I would like him to take a little higher road while campaigning, but Joe Biden will be Joe Biden.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

NASA Photo of the Day

August 16:

NGC 6888: The Crescent Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: J-P Metsävainio (Astro Anarchy)
Explanation: NGC 6888, also known as the Crescent Nebula, is a cosmic bubble about 25 light-years across, blown by winds from its central, bright, massive star. This colorful portrait of the nebula uses narrow band image data combined in the Hubble palette. It shows emission from sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms in the wind-blown nebula in red, green and blue hues. NGC 6888's central star is classified as a Wolf-Rayet star (WR 136). The star is shedding its outer envelope in a strong stellar wind, ejecting the equivalent of the Sun's mass every 10,000 years. The nebula's complex structures are likely the result of this strong wind interacting with material ejected in an earlier phase. Burning fuel at a prodigious rate and near the end of its stellar life this star should ultimately go out with a bang in a spectacular supernova explosion. Found in the nebula rich constellation Cygnus, NGC 6888 is about 5,000 light-years away.

USS Constitution To Set Sail

The world's oldest commissioned warship will sail under its own power for just the second time in more than a century to commemorate the battle that won it the nickname "Old Ironsides."
The USS Constitution, which was first launched in 1797, will be tugged from its berth in Boston Harbor on Sunday to the main deepwater pathway into the harbor. It will then set out to open seas for a 10-minute cruise.
The short trip marks the day two centuries ago when the Constitution bested the British frigate HMS Guerriere in a fierce battle during the War of 1812. It follows a three-year restoration project and is the first time the Constitution has been to sea on its own since its 200th birthday in 1997.
Before that, it hadn't sailed under its own power since 1881. The Constitution is periodically tugged into the harbor for historical display.
Chief Petty Officer Frank Neely, a Constitution spokesman and crew member, said the crew wants to honor and preserve the Constitution with Sunday's sail.
That ship is very neat, but it really seems like an odd assignment for somebody in the Navy to be manning a tourist attraction.

The Dieppe Guinea Pigs

August 19, 1942:
The Dieppe Raid, also known as the Battle of Dieppe, Operation Rutter and, later, Operation Jubilee, was a Second World War Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe. The raid took place on the northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. The assault began at 5:00 a.m. and by 10:50 a.m. the Allied commanders were forced to call a retreat. Over 6,000 infantrymen, predominantly Canadian, were supported by limited Royal Navy and large Royal Air Force contingents.
The objective of the raid was discussed by Churchill in his war memoirs: "I thought it most important that a large-scale operation should take place this summer, and military opinion seemed unanimous that until an operation on that scale was undertaken, no responsible general would take the responsibility of planning the main invasion". Churchill continues: "In discussion with Admiral Mountbatten it became clear that time did not permit a new large-scale operations to be mounted during the summer (after Rutter had been cancelled), but that Dieppe could be remounted (the new code-name "Jubilee") within a month, provided extraordinary steps were taken to ensure secrecy. For this reason no records were kept but, after the Canadian authorities and the Chiefs of Staff had given their approval, I personally went through the plans with the C.I.G.S., Admiral Mountbatten, and the Naval Force Commander, Captain J. Hughes-Hallett." Objectives included seizing and holding a major port for a short period, both to prove it was possible and to gather intelligence from prisoners and captured materials, while assessing the German responses. The Allies also wanted to destroy coastal defences, port structures and all strategic buildings. The raid could have given a morale boost to the troops, Resistance, and general public, while assuring the Soviet Union of the commitment of the United Kingdom and the United States. Research published in 2010 proposes that the Dieppe raid was also a "pinch" raid for the Naval Intelligence Division (NID) overseen by Ian Fleming. A group of No. 30 Commandos were sent into Dieppe to steal code books, setting sheets and a German-made Enigma code machine for encryption and decryption of secret messages.
No major objectives of the raid were accomplished. A total of 3,623 of the 6,086 men (almost 60%) who made it ashore were either killed, wounded, or captured. The Royal Air Force failed to lure the Luftwaffe into open battle, and lost 96 aircraft (at least 32 to flak or accidents), compared to 48 lost by the Luftwaffe. The Royal Navy lost 33 landing craft and one destroyer. The events at Dieppe later influenced preparations for the North African (Operation Torch) and Normandy landings (Operation Overlord).
Well, it wasn't as large of a failure as Churchill's Gallipoli campaign, but the Dieppe Raid resulted in a stunning 68% casualty rate.  That is amazingly bad.

One Episode X-Files Characters

The Awl looks at now-better-known actors who made one episode appearances on The X-Files.  One interesting one:

Appeared: Season 3, Episode 3, as Bart ’Zero’ Liquori
Character profile: Black plays Zero, a dimwitted teen who works at the local arcade in the small town of Connerville, Oklahoma. His character is similar to Seth Green’s in that he says “huh,” “what” and “um yeah” a lot. His best friend Darren has recently gained powers that allow him to conjure lightning on command, which translates into Darren killing a bunch of people for silly reasons such as stealing his Street Fighter game while he was in the bathroom. The writers insinuate that Black's character drinks (to get drunk) a lot because in one scene he’s chugging a beer, and as far as “The X-Files” goes, that’s all the character development a viewer deserves.
Did he live or die? Casualty of the truth. Darren convinces himself, incorrectly, that Black has been helping Mulder and Scully with their investigation. He proceeds to kill Black outside the arcade as a really great and angsty song, "Hey Man, Nice Shot" by the band Filter, plays in the background.
I love the guy killing people with lightning for ticking  him off storyline.  Man, just reading through those stories makes me remember how weird that show was.

Talking Reason To Israel

YNetnews, via nc links:

Once every few years Israel needs a slap in the face to remember where it stands in the world. On Tuesday it was US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey who assumed the role of the responsible adult and slapped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the duo orchestrating the national hysteria surrounding the possibility of an attack in Iran.

Israel can "delay but not destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities," he said while sitting next to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who visited Israel a few weeks ago to allay the concerns of the leadership in Jerusalem. Dempsey's comments should be taken seriously, as should the stern message conveyed by Panetta, the White House and the American security establishment: If we can't reason with you, the Israelis, we will have to get tough.
The general's remark was not a slip-of-the-tongue. It was a calculated statement from a general of Irish descent and character. His words constituted a slap in Israel's face, a punch in the face, and a kick to the most sensitive part of the body. To be more precise, the US slammed Israel's head against the wall and said: "Shut up. Stop babbling about Iran. Without us there is not much you can do, and don't assume for a second that we are dancing to your tune. You shouldn't do anything stupid, and stop driving the entire world crazy."
The furor over Iran is completely overblown.  While the regime is made up of religious fanatics, they are not irrational religious fanatics.  They are not going to attack Israel with nuclear bombs.  Israel is still by far the strongest nation in the Middle East, but their paranoia is extremely dangerous.  It has been completely irresponsible on the part of the Republican party to fan the paranoia and promise their support for anything that Israel does.  Republicans have time and again sided with a foreign country against the interests of their own country.  How do they wrap themselves in the American flag and declare themselves more patriotic than Democrats?  They are complete asshole morons.  At least somebody will tell Israel they need to act in their own best interests and chill out about Iran.

Fermat's Mysteries

Ariane Coffin remembers Fermat on August 17, his birthday:
Fermat is best known for his little theorem and last theorem. Fermat’s little theorem states that if p is a prime number, then for any integer a, the number ap − a is an integer multiple of p. He introduced this theorem in 1640 in a letter to a friend, which read:
“Et cette proposition est généralement vraie en toutes progressions et en tous nombres premiers; de quoi je vous envoierois la démonstration, si je n’appréhendois d’être trop long.”
(And this proposition is generally true for all progressions and for all prime numbers; the proof of which I would send to you, if I were not afraid to be too long.)
And on that cliffhanger, Fermat’s little theorem was left unproven until 1683 by Leibniz and again in 1736 by Euler.
As for Fermat’s last theorem, Fermat scribbled it in 1637 in the margin of a book:
“Cubum autem in duos cubos, aut quadratoquadratum in duos quadratoquadratos, et generaliter nullam in infinitum ultra quadratum potestatem in duos eiusdem nominis fas est dividere cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi. Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet.”
(It is impossible to separate a cube into two cubes, or a fourth power into two fourth powers, or in general, any power higher than the second, into two like powers. I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.)
In other words, no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two. Perhaps the most deceptive of all mathematical theorems, Fermat’s last theorem looks simple but quickly became mathematics’ holy grail. Centuries of geniuses unsuccessfully attempted to discover a proof, let alone one elegant enough to be Fermat’s alleged marvelous proof.
Fermat’s last theorem was finally proven by Andrew Wiles, a professor at Oxford University, in 1994 (published in 1995). However, Wiles’ very long and very complex proof used principles of modern mathematics that were completely unknown and unimaginable to Fermat at the time, insinuating that Wiles’ proof was clearly not the same as Fermat’s.
So while Fermat’s last theorem was proven at last, the mystery remains. Is it possible Fermat devised an elegant proof that no one in the world could fathom for centuries thereafter? Did he possess a proof but later realized it was incorrect? Did he outright lie, time after time, about having proofs to his theorems in order to look smarter?
That is really funny.  You have to say that even if he did just lie about having proofs, in fact, he was right.  He probably cranked through enough permutations to convince himself that nobody else was ever going to come up with an example to prove him wrong.  I may have to check out the book, Fermat's Enigma.

Republican Liars Piss Off Bob Lutz

From James Fallows:
Bob Lutz, a long-time titan of the auto industry, has in recent years devoted himself to the development of GM's electric car, the Chevy Volt. This is what he says in an interview with Charged, a magazine covering the electric-vehicle business. For context it's worth noting that Lutz, a former Marine Corps aviator, is on the right-wing side of the normal U.S. political scale (emphasis added).
The level of owner satisfaction is extremely high. Quality and reliability is extremely high. But the downside is that the political extreme right has been distorting the facts of the Volt.

The Volt passed the government crash tests with a five-star safety rating, and didn't roll over. But the testing protocol requires that even if the vehicle doesn't roll, it has to go through the rotisserie maneuver, which is five minutes on one side, five minutes on its back, five minutes on the other side, and then back on its wheels again. At some point during the rotisserie, some fluid leaked out, and three weeks later caused a short in the battery and the vehicle caught fire. I mean, how safe it that? Three weeks should give people adequate time to exit the vehicle.

And what did all these right-wing commentators make of that? "Chevy Volts catch fire." All of them were talking about "yeah, they all catch fire. GM's gonna recall 'em. There's just another Obama-inspired program - a misguided socialist automotive policy. And not only did they spend a lot of your hard-earned tax dollars creating this vehicle, but now they put a $7500 tax credit on it."

Well, there are a couple of things wrong with all those statements. First of all, the Volt was my idea in 2006. We showed the first prototype at the Detroit Auto Show in 2007. Obama wasn't elected until late 2008, so Obama could not be the progenitor of the Chevy Volt. And what they also conveniently forget is that the $7500 tax credit for electric vehicles was enacted under the Bush administration....

And these people are supposed to be for American jobs? They did such reputational damage to the Volt that the demand dipped to a very low level. So GM did the right thing, which was to idle production for 5 weeks and lay off workers. So here are these right-wing pundits who are always talking about jobs, jobs, jobs. Actually through their irresponsible reporting on the Chevrolet Volt they managed to put American workers out of their jobs for five weeks! It annoys me to no end. ...
As a conservative myself politically, it annoys me no end to see deliberate lying and misinformation coming out where they will trash an outstanding American product and do damage to American employment just to get at Obama. That's just plain unethical.
Wait, people are noticing that Republicans will lie and cheat to win elections, and will even intentionally damage the economy and screw innocent people to give themselves a better chance to do so.  If a Republican president was in the White House in February 2009, we would have seen a massive stimulus plan, because Republicans wouldn't have wanted any blame to fall on their President.  These guys have cut spending and done everything they could to make sure that the economy would struggle.  They've brainwashed a bunch of small businessmen into believing that the government is the root of all their problems, and then those businessmen are convinced they can't hire people until some idiot Republican is elected.  It is insane.  As Lutz says, these guys are lying assholes who don't give a fuck about Americans.

Hey, You Still Have My Linear Algebra Book

Megan Garber highlights a really funny exchange with the Curiosity rover team:
Yesterday afternoon, a group of the scientists and engineers orchestrating NASA's Curiosity mission got together to do an "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit. They got -- and answered -- questions about the mission itself, about the engineering that went into the Curiosity rover, about the lifestyle the mission requires of them. (For example: They reset their alarm clocks by 40 minutes every day to keep Mars time.)
The many exchanges of the AMA were, unsurprisingly, informative and illustrative and educational. But my favorite was, practically speaking, none of those things. It went like this:

That is hilarious. She goes on to point out that with robots doing the space exploration, the NASA folks don't seem as heroic as the old astronauts do.  Anyway, the work the engineers do is damn impressive.

Climate Change And Crop Production

Big Picture Agriculture points to an article on climate change and plant growth:
Ken Caldeira (Stanford) wrote “The Great Climate Experiment – How far can we push the planet?” for the September 2012 issue of Scientific American. In my opinion this was an outstanding article and I liked his style of presentation from his huge picture outlook on the amount of carbon which humanity will most likely continue to extract from the Earth’s crust, to the maps, to his comments about food.
“In a high CO2 world, plants can grow more using the same amount of water. … The outlook may be for increased crop productivity overall, with increases in the north exceeding the reductions near the equator. Global warming may not decrease overall food supply, but it may give more to the rich and less to the poor.” (Statement based upon geography.) “Climate change may usher in a world of weeds.”
Some of the bean fields are starting to look like a world of weeds, as the marestail gets heavier and heavier.  The possible outcomes of climate change are innumerable, but I have a feeling they won't be overly positive.