State Taxes

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Created an interactive state map using the D3, d3-tip, and jQuery libraries and the GeoJson encoding format. I took a lot from the book, Interactive Data Visualization for the Web.

statetaxesIt uses data from a Mercatus Report to show the tax burden per capita of various tax instruments. It’s a lot of data, so can take a while to load and works best for me in Chrome.

Not sure if it would be good for policy making, but it’s interesting and fun.

Check it out.

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AGW Policy

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Fine. The anthropogenic climate change debate is settled in the direction of assention.

Now that that’s settled, what policies did you have in mind? Or were you just looking for a conclusion so you could hand it over to government to solve for you?

Do you turn out the lights when leaving a room you don’t soon plan to return to? Do you compost or would you if you had the opportunity? Do you generally bring your groceries home in re-used bags?

These questions of environmental stewardship are irrelevant. Consensus uber alles.

Here’s the WaPo mocking the Farmer’s Almanac prediction of a cold winter in the midwest (egg meet face) in August 2013:

If you believe it, residents of the Plains to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast may want to start stocking up on warm weather gear, snow shovels, and salt right now! The Farmers’ Almanac is calling for a “bitterly cold” winter for much of the region.

“Yes, the Farmers’ Almanac believes that the “days of shivery” are back,” says the Farmer’s Almanac press release.

For the record, it’s 17 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing off and on in midwest Indiana.

 

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Academic Justice, Anyone?

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An editorial by Sandra Y.L. Korn in the Harvard Crimson, “The Doctrine of Academic Freedom: Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice,” has commenters wondering whether this is an Onion piece or if the author is trolling, but she appears to be serious. The fact that she is a “joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator” (concentrator is apparently what majors are called now) lends some credence to her seriousness.

You really need to read the whole thing (and peruse the comments), but I think the crux is this quote:

If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

If you don’t immediately see the problem with the above quote, it’s that not “put[ting] up with research that counters [y]our goals” is not a valid reason to not put up (aka, not ban) research projects. Good reasons to ban research projects would be poor methodology, inhumane methods, fudged results, etc.

Ms. Korn begins by recounting a Harvard Professor in the early 70′s who “claimed that intelligence is almost entirely hereditary and varies by race.”

Students for a Democratic Society protested his introductory psychology class with a bullhorn and leaflets. They tied up Herrnstein’s lectures with pointed questions about scientific racism. SDS even called for Harvard to fire Herrnstein, along with another of his colleagues, sociologist Christopher Jencks. …

This, Herrnstein seems not to have understood, was precisely the goal of the SDS activists—they wanted to make the “certain kinds of views” they deemed racist and classist unwelcome on Harvard’s campus.

If you’re not familiar, the SDS, whose most radical faction became the Weather Underground, was not a moderate group as evidenced above. They didn’t debate opposition, they did their best to shut it down.

The author then comes to this conclusion about the important question to ask:

 Did SDS activists at Harvard infringe on Herrnstein’s academic freedom? The answer might be that yes, they did—but that’s not the most important question to ask. Student and faculty obsession with the doctrine of “academic freedom” often seems to bump against something I think much more important: academic justice.

Another paragraph and then:

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

It goes on, but to get back to my point, what is the meaning of:

  1. SDS: They wanted to make the “certain kinds of views” they deemed racist and classist unwelcome
  2. Define oppression: When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

?

Long story short, I think Ms. Korn is nuts, but I appreciate her opening such a frank dialogue. And I’ll quote a commenter whose username is “libtard”: “The proper way to combat offensive research is to disprove it

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Organic Farmers and the FDA

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The L.A. Times reports Planned food safety rules rile organic farmers. While it clarifies that “full enforcement of the rules is still years away,” …

Now, farmers are discovering that the FDA’s proposed rules would curtail many techniques that are common among organic growers, including spreading house-made fertilizers, tilling cropland with grazing animals, and irrigating from open creeks.

Obviously there are negative implications for small businesses:

“They are going to drive farms out of business,” said Dave Runsten, policy director for Community Alliance with Family Farmers in Davis, Calif.

“The consumer groups behind this don’t understand farming,” Runsten says. “They talk out of both sides of their mouth. They demand these one-size-fits-all regulations, then say, ‘I don’t want to hurt those cute little farmers at the farmers market. I shop at the farmers market.’ It is frustrating.” …

“The public loves to love and idealize us little family farmers,” he [Crawford, a farmer] said. “But the vast majority of us are hanging by a thread. Now, the government is saying, ‘We are going to put a lot more weight on that thread.’”

And I hate to get back into regulations being trade-offs, but the shoe seems to fit. Of course we need common sense food regulations, but isn’t the trickle up economics obvious? Small farms close and big-agra is either unaffected or can subsume and move on.

And what about the EPA and the environmental groups that shape its agenda (as the consumer groups shape the FDA’s)? Petrochemical fertilizers rather than compost or animal manure? Get your water from someplace far away rather than the nearby creek? Using fossil-fuel driven machinery rather than grazing animals (granted, I’m sure PETA is pleased)? I can’t see Greenpeace, etc., getting behind that.

Somehow we need to find a more comprehensive view of the regulation environment. There are shared goals of liberty, economy, ecology, and safety here. To pursue one without heeding the others will not end well.

Side note:
I also find interesting that when the L.A. times says, “Tens of millions of consumers are sickened by tainted food each year, and some 3,000 die annually as a result,” they link to this page from the CDC. I’m not sure where they got the “tens of millions” number, as the five illnesses listed here make up 91% of all cases and add up to less that ten million. That said, the number one cause of illness (58%) is Norovirus, which the CDC itself says you can get, “from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.” The question this raises is how many of these 5,461,731 cases of Norovirus were directly related to food and not from person-to-person or surface-to-person contamination? If it includes the other two, isn’t the five million plus figure misleading? I may just be cynical and this may be above board, but it just seems like they’re using these numbers to justify constrictive regulations which will have little to no impact on said numbers.

 

 

 

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The Quick

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According to Wictionary, “Cut to the quick” means:

  1. Used other than as an idiom: see cut,? quick.
  2. To hurt a person deeply, especially emotionally.
  3. To get to the most essential idea or point.

In the Bible, the quick is contrasted with the dead.

And then there’s DJ Quik:

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Money in Politics

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This post is not about whether we need to reform campaign finance or get money out of politics. That’s a post for another day. This post is about who the current and recent top political donors are and what party they give to.

I never stop hearing about how the Koch brothers are running the country and ruining Democracy, but how can they be doing that when they are 59th in the list of top 1989-2014 donors?

Who occupies the 58 spots ahead of the Evil Koch Bros? Six of the top 10 are … wait for it … unions. They gave more than $278 million, with most of it going to Democrats.

These are familiar names: AFSCME ($60.6 million), NEA ($53.5 million), IBEW ($44.4 million), UAW ($41.6 million), Carpenters & Joiners ($39.2 million) and SEIU ($38.3 million).

In other words, the six biggest union donors in American politics gave 15 times more to mostly Democrats than the Evil Koch Bros.

The list at opensecrets.org shows the full story, with the top 16 having no Republican leaning donors (with 4 on the fence and 12 leaning Democrat.) As the Washington Times article linked above points out, the number one donor for the period, Act Blue, only started donating in 2004, as opposed to the Koch brothers, who have been donating for the entirety of the dataset.

Read the rest of this entry

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Mere Creationism

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The title of this post is the product of my love for C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and the recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Creationism versus Evolutionism.

If you’re not familiar with Lewis’s classic, he does his best to offer a thought out reasoning for a Christian perspective (right or wrong). But it’s kind of a lowest common denominator Christianity: Not that it’s not demanding, but it doesn’t get into, say, varying beliefs about baptism. Hence, “Mere” Christianity.

The debate attracted my interest because there is a lot of controversy over this discussion.

How this all ties together is that this was a debate between two extremes, which makes a good debate, but don’t necessarily reflect popular sentiment. I mean, where do deists fall in this debate?

Deism holds that God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world in any way, allowing it to run according to the laws of nature. For Deists, human beings can only know God via reason and the observation of nature, but not by revelation or supernatural manifestations (such as miracles) – phenomena which Deists regard with caution if not skepticism.

Creator? Yes. Intervention? No.

Sorry, no room for deists. Pick a side. Nye or Ham.

So Mere Creationism doesn’t have space for whether or not some God intervened since creation. Nor does it try to prove itself. It merely states that this world is too incredible to be a random accident.

 

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God Whispers

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A co-worker had a sign above her desk today about God whispering and the world being loud and taking time out from the world, etc. I was trying to find that exact quote, but found this:

god-whispers

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Minimum Wage

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The minimum wage has been a topic lately, including President Obama’s State of the Union address:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will announce during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address that he’s raising the minimum wage for workers under federal contracts to $10.10 per hour, an administration official told The Huffington Post.

The new policy, to be instituted via executive order, may affect hundreds of thousands of workers whose jobs are supported by federal dollars. The move is designed in part to ratchet up pressure on Congress to pass legislation raising the minimum wage for all workers. The current federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 per hour, and hasn’t been raised since 2009, after the last of a series of increases signed into law by then-President George W. Bush.

Before we get into the costs and benefits of raising the minimum wage and by how much, take a look at this map from CNN showing the current variety of the minimum wage among the states. The current span is between the Federally mandated minimum $7.25 and $9.25.

  1. Why haven’t these states with minimum wage above the federally required level considered $10.10 already?
  2. Why did the current administration choose $10.10, as opposed to $9.99, for example?
  3. Is it fair that minimum wage workers in Oregon only get a $.85 raise while other minimum wage workers get a $2.85 raise?

Point being federalism and subsidiarity.

That said, I think a lot of proponents of the minimum wage may not understand the counter arguments, which are summed up here:

The idea being that, given an untenable minimum wage (imagine $50.50 instead of $10.10 for this exercise), employers will hire less low skilled workers, stretch the current workforce, minimize benefits, and automate.

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Kronies

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This is brilliant. Super-hero style action figures based on aspects of Crony Capitalism (fighting their enemies, the small business entrepreneurs.) They’re Konnected!

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