Saturday, May 29, 2010

Republicans---BACK OFF the Pres. for not going to Arlington National Cemetery...

It is NOT unprecedented for a President to not go to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.  In fact, it is a recent event for Presidents to attend on a regular basis.   It is not fair to hold him accountable for something Republican Presidents have not done themselves EVERY year (Click HERE for records)...Lets disagree on POLICIES, and not be petty...He is still presenting himself at a commemoration in Chicago...I am a veteran myself (USMC) and disagree with many of the Presidents policies, but trying to score political points on this issue is, well, just plain wrong and  not productive...Sue me! 

Stressed Out or Tone Deaf? Obama Chicago Vacation Raises Eyebrows
""The Arlington visit is a fairly recent tradition. Former President Ronald Reagan attended four of them in his eight years in office, while former President George H.W. Bush sent Vice President Dan Quayle to every one. Former President Bill Clinton, though, attended every year and George W. Bush missed only one, in 2002, when he was in Normandy, France, visiting the American cemetery. ""

How a law is made--I love how it is choked full of checks and balances...GENIUS!!!

A useful and simple graphic on how a law is made.  It has a nice flow to it. (From: Chartporn)

Degree in "Interdisciplinary Religious and Women's Studies"---is it worth $100,000+???

 I have no problem with anyone going to an expensive private college/university.  I am for the freedom to choose your own way.  However, as with all freedoms there come responsibilities.  In this NTYIMES article ("Placing the Blame as Students Are Buried in Debt")  we see a young women in despair/regret about the massive debt she incurred in going to NYU---$100,000 plus.  Yes, that is alot of money, and a degree from such a prestigious university carries some weight and should explicitly and implicitly contribute to her future prospects in terms of earning power and/or career satisfaction.  HOWEVER, if you are going to "bet the farm" on your education, you should probably (1) be cognizant of your major and ITS ability to compensate you for the time and effort you put in to securing the degree, (2) be cognizant of your OWN abilities to create opportunities to benefit financially from your time and effort.  These two things should be part of a students self-assessment in determining their major.  This makes sense, right?
I had to read through 90% of the article before they mentioned what her degree was in: "Interdisciplinary  Religious and Women's Studies" (would the writer have waited so long if the degree was in engineering?). No, I am NOT interested  in a debate about the merits of such a degree path.  It has value to society, I get that.  I have a degree in Political Science (minor in Economics), for petes sake! I cannot speak ill of any degree or its relative importance.  But some measure of cost/benefit analysis must be performed before undertaking such an expensive endeavor as a college degree .  I am for allowing students choose their own way, but if my daughter wanted to study something akin to what this young woman choose to study, she would NOT be going to NYU but a fine public university (again, I WOULD let her study what she wanted, but not necessarily at the college of her choice, if I were paying for it).  If she told me she wanted to study economics at The University of Chicago AND be a high school economics teacher, I would have to do my best to discourage that (I am not betting MY farm and would not willingly allow her to bet the farm she does not have yet).  Who is to blame in this scenario? The banks who lent her the money? The college for not better assessing her career goals and balance those against her degree? Her mother for letting her have her way in selecting an expensive school? The young woman herself for her decisions? Hopefully, something positive will come out of this article in terms of a warning to others---CHOOSE carefully and build in some future expectations concerning compensation (financially or otherwise)...Parents will appreciate that and certainly the students themselves will also.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Who's on First? The European Debt Crisis Explained...

Source: Chartporn

Unemployment Rate 10%--LOTS of "Americans" would pick fruit for $12 to $16 per hour...right??

An immigration crackdown in Washington State has decreased the number of migrant workers willing to pick various fruits grown in Washington.  An aggressive recruitment effort produced very few workers...They had to FLY in workers from Jamaica (yes, that is right, Jamaica)...Those wages are being paid to migrant workers...Why would unskilled, legal (by birth or immigration status) unemployed workers NOT want these jobs?  Anyone have any suggestions?

The fruits of our labor absurdity
""There was a moment when they first started calling this the "Great Recession," in 2008, that Steve Appel thought this might be the time.

Americans might come back to working on the farm.

"It's just common sense, with the depression and high unemployment and what not, that there ought to be local folks looking to come take some of these jobs," says Appel, 58, a wheat farmer in the Palouse in Eastern Washington. Nope. It hasn't happened. Farm jobs are going unfilled to such a degree that now a huge fruit orchard in Okanogan County, desperate for someone to pick cherries and apples this summer, has turned to flying in hundreds of workers from ... Jamaica.  That's right. From a Caribbean island more than 3,000 miles away.
"That's quite a statement, isn't it?" says Appel, who doubles as president of the Washington Farm Bureau...""
Washington State has the 2nd most generous unemployment compensation in the nation.  If someone took a fruit picking job they would actually LOSE money...Interesting dilemma...

HT: Carpe Diem

There are no more blue ribbons left! Does that mean kids have to settle for 2nd or 3rd place???

There are plenty of 2nd and 3rd place ribbons available.  Everyone finishes first!! Is this proof of the self-esteem movement?  Everyone gets blue ribbon!  At our High School we have a credit recovery program called "A+" that students take to get credit for a failed class.  The name is ironic to me...Seems like it should be called "D-" because that is what the student earned in the first place and they should aspire to a higher grade.  A+ seems a little bit optimistic to me.
(HT: Freakonomics)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Water vs Soft Drink Vending Machines...Things that make you go "Hmmmmm".....

We have two types of drink dispensing machines at school.  One dispenses water as if it were an egg---a high-tech mechanical arm zips across the machine and gently lifts it from its resting place and delivers it softly to the door where you pick it up like a new-born baby. The other machine is for soft-drinks that drops a can of pressurized, carbonated beverage from what seems like a 5 story building that hits the bottom of the machine like a meteor in Siberia.  Why is this? Why don't soft-drink machines use the same technology as the water dispensing machines?  Just askin'...Anyone have an idea???

You are invited to watch this moving documentary "The Greatest Silence..."

Current and former students and teacher's are invited to a viewing of "The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo"---a moving documentary on the horrendous violence being perpetrated against women as various groups vie for the ample natural resources in the eastern part of The Congo.  Please come and learn more about this important human rights issue.  Free Pizza and Drinks will be available.  In Hayward's Room W314 starting at 4pm Wednesday (May 26th)

26 Page Recipe for Brownies? Wonder how many pages for a Hang Nail???

Interesting article on the result of bureaucratic rule-making...I wonder how many pages it will take to outline  taking care of a hang-nail when health care rules are established...

From NPR: A 26-Page Brownie Recipe? Only At The Pentagon
""Baking brownies is one of the easiest things you can do in the kitchen. Most recipes have fewer than 10 ingredients, and the instructions are simple — measure, mix, bake. Well, not if you're baking for the Pentagon. The latest viral sensation to hit the Internet is a 26-page document laying out all the rules and regulations you need to follow to bake appropriate treats for our men and women in uniform.
Take Section 3.2.6 of the recipe, for example, which covers eggs. It reads, in part, "Whole eggs may be liquid or frozen and shall have been processed and labeled in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Inspection of Eggs and Egg Products (7 CFR Part 59)."
You get the picture....""
(HT: Mr Long)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Video games reduce violent crime!! This CANNOT be!! What are old people going to rail against now?

This is only an empirical observation and not serious research, but it does pose an interesting question...Bottonline, kids, you have permission to play video games...It is good for society!!

Do Video Games Equal Less Crime?
""Lawrence Katz, a labor economist, has an intriguing item to add to the list of potential causes: video games. When I spoke to him recently, he was very careful to say it was only an idea. He is far from sure that it’s correct. But, as The Economist put it, “Larry Katz, a Harvard economist, suspects that video games and Web sites may have kept the young and idle busy during this recession, thus explaining the surprising lack of an uptick in crime.”
Video games can not only provide hours of entertainment. They can also give people — especially young men, who play more than their fair share of video games and commit more than their fair share of crimes — an outlet for frustration that doesn’t involve actual violence. Video games obviously have many unfortunate side effects. They can promote obsessive, anti-social behavior and can make violent situations seem ordinary. But might video games also have an upside? I’m willing to consider the idea.

One piece of economic research, looking at violent movies, seems to offer some support for the idea. It found: “violent films prevent violent crime by attracting would-be assailants and keeping them cloistered in darkened, alcohol-free environs. Instead of fueling up at bars and then roaming around looking for trouble, potential criminals pass the prime hours for mayhem eating popcorn and watching celluloid villains slay in their stead.” That quotation is from my colleague Peter Goodman, who wrote about the research in 2008. The full study, by Gordon Dahl and Stefano DellaVigna, was eventually published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.""
Related article that is the basis for this discusssion HERE.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A story on a Baghdad Glazier... My Bastiat Man-Crush is renewed!! :)

From BBC: Baghdad glazier picks up pieces of war...A nice contemporary example of Frederic Bastiat's "Broken Window Fallacy"---literally!  It profiles a VERY busy Baghdad "glazier" (window pane maker/installer).  It is this industry that Bastiat used as an example in the mid-1800's to illustrate the fallacy of believing that a broken window is good fortune for the glazier and for society.  What is not taken into consideration is the opportunity cost of the broken window---(1) society does not get the benefit of an intact window (resources already used and maintaining utility), and (2) the cost of repairing the window is what was NOT purchased because of  the broken window (another industry is does not receive "encouragement"). The main thesis is this:
""On the first hypothesis, that of the broken window, he spends six francs and has, neither more nor less than before, the enjoyment of one window. On the second, that in which the accident did not happen, he would have spent six francs for new shoes and would have had the enjoyment of a pair of shoes as well as of a window. Now, if James Goodfellow is part of society, we must conclude that society, considering its labors and its enjoyments, has lost the value of the broken window. From which, by generalizing, we arrive at this unexpected conclusion: "Society loses the value of objects unnecessarily destroyed," and at this aphorism, which will make the hair of the protectionists stand on end: "To break, to destroy, to dissipate is not to encourage national employment," or more briefly: "Destruction is not profitable." ""
If you have not read  Bastiat before, please give him a shot...He writes about economic concepts in very easy to understand language and relevant examples...It is worth your time if you are interested in understanding economics more deeply...

Video--No redeeming value----bowl of fruit/vegatables decaying--74 days in 1.5 minutes

HT: The Agitator

Wanted: Ambitious, hardworking young people to pay for my Social Security--apply within...

The elephant in the room for the welfare states of the world (US included)...This graph (NYTIMES) shows the Worker per Retiree ratio from the 1950's projected through 2030.  In the US we have gone from 7 workers to 1 retiree in 1950 to appox. 3 to 1 today and it will be close to 2 to 1 in 2030.  Our birth replacement rate has decreased (historically typical for mature and rich societies) and people are living longer than ever.  Math is getting in the way of the social safety net. The largest problem for the US is Social Security and Medicare...Solution?  Higher taxes for workers and raising the retirement age to at least 72 (or more?).  The higher taxes part is controversial, and any one that knows me, knows that I am highly averse to that solution.  However, I don't see an alternative.  Cut spending? Or more accurately, control spending, YES, but the shear number of eligible retirees coming online in the next 10 to 15 years is going to swamp any savings relative to benefits paid out. We can work to save money per beneficiary but the volume of recipients is going to financially overwhelm the social security and medicare system...Look at the graph---it tells the story.  Sorry, young people! There are simply too many of us "olds" for you to support...
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