Saturday, January 24, 2015

Late January Weekend Links

A few cool reads for a mild, mid-winter weekend:

The Carver Mobb - SB Nation

Blood, Sweat and Teeth: Wild Nights with an NHL Dentist - Bleacher Report

Imagining an America Without Sports - Pacific Standard.  It's easier to imagine America without air.

New Zealand Farmers Have a New Beef: Drought Threat - Wall Street Journal

Deere to lay off more than 1,000 workers in Iowa, Illinois - Omaha World-Herald.  Fallout from the end of the ag boom.

Why the Great American Oil Bust Will Be Long & Painful - Wolf Street.  Fallout from the end of the oil boom.  Also, see This Time It'll Be Different - Texas Monthly

With million dollar investment, Dakota City farm dives into aquaculture - Omaha World-Herald.  Raising barramundi.  For more about that fish, see this article.  And see, Investment Fund Pours Cash into Cleaner, Greener Fish Farming - The Salt

Reinventing the Potato - Modern Farmer.  That could be my last link from Modern Farmer.  See below.

Modern Farmer Owner Says It Will Live On, Despite Staff Exit - NPR

REVEALED: The 14 Ingredients in McDonalds FRIES - including a petrol-based chemical and form of silicon found in Silly Putty - Daily Mail.  I don't really care, I love those fries.

Happy Birthday, Beer Can! 80 Beers for 80 Years - Bloomberg

These Priests' Invention Could Help Us Drill Into Icy Alien Worlds Someday - Wired

Google's Atlas robot severs its power cord - BBC.  That thing looks bad ass.  If the Professor is reading, maybe he could ballpark the cost of that thing for us.

A fault in our design - Aeon.  Complexity and fragility.

Wolflandia: The Fight Over The Most Polarizing Animal in the West - Outdoors

The Rise and Fall of the U.S. Government - Washington Monthly

Watch the rapid decline of "white America" over three decades - Wonkblog.  Meh.  It shows the number of counties that are at least 98% white decreasing significantly.  But all of west central Ohio is 94% white or higher.  Much ado about nothing.

Caught between greed and religion: the battle for Kansas public education - The Guardian.  Plenty of British haughtiness, but a very good analysis of the motivation for charter schools and vouchers.  Looking at the straits parochial schools are in, I'm sure that state money looks really enticing.

The People Most at Risk of Losing Insurance in the Supreme Court's Health Ruling - The Upshot.  You can't make this shit up.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lotawana On Ice

Lotawana On Ice from MAMMOTH on Vimeo.

State of the Union, and Other Matters

Wow, there seems to be a lot of stuff going on this week.  First, the President rolled out a bunch of policy initiatives that have a snowball's chance in Hell of passing.  I didn't actually listen to the speech, as the bromides about American Exceptionalism, the War on Terror, entrepreneurship and the essential goodness of the American citizen, along with all those standing ovations, really wear on me.  It blows me away how Obama's weak sauce tax increases make Republicans totally lose their shit.  Don't they remember that Saint Ronnie's tax reform taxed capital gains at 28%, which was equivalent to the top earned income tax rate in the Raygun system.  And dividends were always taxed as regular income until George Bush the Incompetent got them special tax status.  It wouldn't seem like changes to give greater respect to earned income would be a non-starter for a party whose rural base rarely collects dividends and capital gains.  But I would be wrong.

Second, the European Union seems to be coming apart at the seams, and may see the rise of right-wing parties that make Republicans look like sensible world citizens.  Many of the economic problems over there are driven by the Germans' seemingly pathological fear of debt and inflation.  They seem to have no understanding of the made up nature of money, and want fiscal and monetary policy based on a sense of morality that just doesn't work out in a federal fiat system.  Throw on top of that a massive wave of Islamophobia and you've got a mess of massive proportions.

Third, my Congressman, the august Speaker of the House, has gone and invited a foreign Prime Minister, who hates our President, and wants to undermine our foreign policy because it just isn't quite to his liking, to speak to a joint session of Congress.  This is after some of the supposedly "Constitutional Conservative" members of the Speaker's party didn't want to invite Obama to give the State of the Union speech.  Maybe it's just me, but that seems ironic, since the State of the Union speech is one of the few parts of the job of the President that is explicitly laid out in the Constitution.  It also seems ironic that a party which is very quick to label others as traitors is so interested in promoting the interests of a foreign country ahead of the interests of the United States.

But not everything is bleak.  The weather here has been pretty mild for the heart of winter, which is a nice reminder that spring is on the way.  Also, I dropped my crazy bull off at Bovine University, where he will pursue an advanced degree in Food Science. Besides that, all is quiet at home.  Strangely enough, it seems like the outside world is even crazier than life here in the heart of middle America.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Undeveloped World War II Film Discovered

Undeveloped World War II Film Discovered from The Rescued Film Project on Vimeo.

Iowa Farmland Prices On Decline

From an article at Vox, on "The Bachelor," of all things:

So far, we haven't really seen any decline in land prices yet, but we will.  While I like that chart, the best part of the post was this photo and caption:

Standing around, looking pensive, thinking about commodity prices -- this is the way of the farmer.                                                                             Getty Images

Ok, that is awesome. "This is the way of the farmer."  Excuse me while I go stand around and look pensive.

Bridge Collapse in Cincinnati Kills One


An old bridge on Interstate 75 was undergoing preparation for demolition late Monday when it collapsed, killing a construction worker and shutting down a stretch of the interstate for what could be days.
The "catastrophic pancake collapse" happened about 10:30 p.m. as a crew prepared for demolition of the old Hopple Street overpass, according to a statement from the City of Cincinnati. It was part of the old northbound off-ramp to Hopple Street. The new bridge is now open.
Yikes.  I would guess that somebody accidentally removed the wrong column or cut the wrong beam, or the demolition engineers missed how deteriorated a main support actually was.  Now the job is to clean up the mess as quickly and safely as possible.  It's not everyday you have a major interstate highway shut down in a metro area, but considering the amount of infrastructure in need of repair, and the lengths to which projects have to go to maintain traffic, it is somewhat surprising we don't have more of these accidents.  Luckily this wasn't as big of a disaster as the I-35W bridge collapse, but it is a reminder of the potential dangers and massive challenges facing the Tri-State region as it slowly moves toward the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge.

Monday, January 19, 2015

NASA Photo of the Day

January 15:

Venus and Mercury at Sunset
Image Credit & Copyright: Tamas Ladanyi (TWAN)
Explanation: Inner planets Venus and Mercury can never wander far from the Sun in Earth's sky. This week you've probably seen them both gathered near the western horizon just after sunset, a close conjunction of bright celestial beacons in the fading twilight. The pair are framed in this early evening skyview captured on January 13 from the ruins of Szarvasko Castle in northwestern Hungary. Above the silhouette of the landscape's prominent volcanic hill Venus is much the brighter, separated from Mercury by little more than the width of two Full Moons. On Friday, planet Earth's early morning risers will also be treated to a close conjunction, when Saturn meets an old crescent Moon near the southeastern horizon at dawn.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Regressive State Taxes in One Chart (or Two)

The New York Times reports on the tax study I previously posted on, and created this nice graphic:

Also, if anybody was wondering about how regressive the cigarette tax Kansas is proposing is, you can look at this graphic from the Washington Post:

Yep, pretty freaking regressive. 

Brownback Proves Trickle-Down Won't Die

After a multiple year failure of income tax cuts to stimulate the Kansas economy or fund basic government, Governor Sam Brownback proves that Republican tax cut religion isn't just "voodoo" economics, but zombie economics.  These brain-eating ideas just won't die:
Kansas would nearly triple its cigarette tax, raise taxes on alcohol and slow down promised income tax cuts to balance its budget under proposals Republican Gov. Sam Brownback outlined Friday.
Brownback presented detailed recommendations to the GOP-dominated Legislature for eliminating projected shortfalls totaling more than $710 million in the current budget and for the fiscal year beginning July 1. He also presented a spending blueprint for the fiscal year beginning in July 2016 designed to leave the state with some cash reserves.
The state's budget problems arose after lawmakers aggressively cut personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging to stimulate the economy. Brownback's budget-balancing plans would make those reductions more gradual, without abandoning his long-term goal of eliminating income taxes. The aggressive cuts had cemented Brownback's reputation in conservative circles and he has promoted them as something other states could emulate.
He proposed increasing the cigarette tax to $2.29 a pack from 79 cents and raising the tax on other tobacco products to 25 percent from 10 percent. The tax paid by consumers on beer, wine and liquor at liquor stores would jump to 12 percent from 8 percent. The increases would raise $394 million over two years, starting in July....
The governor's proposals also would divert funds for highway projects to general government programs and delay the elimination of a long-term funding gap in the pension system for teachers and government workers. Overall state aid for public schools would remain flat through June 2017 — with higher spending on teacher pensions.
Brownback is proposing more than $15 billion in total spending for the current fiscal year and each of the next two fiscal years. The state would end June 2017 with $253 million in cash reserves (ed. note: which it won't).....
Brownback promised during his State of the State address Thursday night that Kansas would keep moving to eliminate its income taxes, despite its budget problems.
He and top aides defended his proposals to raise cigarette and alcohol taxes, saying it's better to tax consumption rather than "productivity."
"You can't get out of a tax on productivity, but you can on consumption," Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said in an interview. "You can decide how you're going to spend your money and what you're going to spend it on."
The state has cut its top personal income tax rate 29 percent and exempted the owners of 191,000 businesses altogether. Those changes would remain in place.
However, future cuts would be slower. For example, the state's lowest income tax rate, now 2.7 percent, was set to drop to 2.4 percent for 2016 and would dip to 2.66 percent instead.
What a goddamned idiot.  First off, the income tax cuts didn't increase economic activity, job creation and state revenues, so they failed on all counts.  Secondly, it is pretty clear that in a consumer economy, taxing consumption in place of "productivity" should put a dent into consumption, which is 2/3 of the economy.  Third, it is perfectly logical why regressive taxes are more damaging than progressive taxes in an economy with high income inequality.  Kansas has been the perfect model for the deficiencies of trickle-down economics, but the governor is too stupid to learn from what should be plain common sense.I also have trouble with this statement:
"You can't get out of a tax on productivity, but you can on consumption," Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said in an interview. "You can decide how you're going to spend your money and what you're going to spend it on."
What in the fuck does that mean?  I thought Republicans believed the wealthy would just "go Galt" and quit working if income taxes were increased.  You can definitely get out of a tax on productivity (which is bullshit Frank Luntz terminology, since most lawyers and bankers, for example, do nothing productive), although almost nobody will.  But in the case of a sales tax (which was increased in the last Kansas budget), you actually have to work pretty hard to grow all your food and make all your clothing.  Sure, now the Governor just wants to jack up taxes on drinkers and smokers.  Well, I've got to say that having people like Sam Brownback running our country makes it pretty necessary to consume alcohol.  It's going to be hard for sensible Kansans to avoid that alcohol tax.  Well Kansans, you get what you vote for.  Have fun eating that seed corn, but don't watch out for brain-eating economists.  The zombie economics apocalypse is upon us.