I didn't realize NYTimes columnist David Brooks could be funny.

I loved his column today. It is a slam at the empty platitudes of all politicians (and the reason I can't stand to listen to any of them open their mouths), and he is particularly good at skewering Obama:
[ David Brooks ] My fellow Americans, it is an honor to address the Democratic National Convention at this defining moment in history. We stand at a crossroads at a pivot point, near a fork in the road on the edge of a precipice in the midst of the most consequential election since last year’s “American Idol.”

[...] As a child, I was abandoned by my parents and lived with a colony of ants. We didn’t have much in the way of material possession, but we did have each other and the ability to carry far more than our own body weights. When I was young, I was temporarily paralyzed in a horrible anteater accident, but I never gave up my dream: the dream of speaking at a national political convention so my speech could be talked over by Wolf Blitzer and a gang of pundits.
Read it all. It's good.

Google Street Views

Google Maps Street Views is shockingly out of date! I'm pretty sure my sisters don't have this volvo any more:

and Mom and Dad have resurfaced their driveway:
Our home looks up to date though:
I'm not sure why I'm posting this, other than I think it's impressive.

Ann says: Actually, that's the LR3 (10.4 MPG) we got rid of at the end of July--so it could be as little as a month old.

Go Go Gophers!

The University of Minnesota football team is getting a new stadium.

I don't know how the financing went through, but I generally like the idea of having the stadium back on or near campus. The move to the Humphrey Dome downtown was a disaster. Having been on that campus for 5 or 6 years, I can tell you that student support for the team seemed pretty low. Having the team play on campus should help.

Too bad they tore down Memorial Stadium though.

Tech Hype

Man, there is a lot of science and tech hype out there. Here for example, is a video that purports to show a major advance in computer graphics and animation technology. Have a look.

Very impressive, isn't it? Well, I'm not buying it. First of all, the clip says "What you are about to see is a wholly computer-generated animation." This is not true. It's clear that the facial area is synthetic, but everything else is simply a video. In fact, for each of her answers to the question asked, a new piece of film was shot with the actress saying exactly the words you hear. This is a far cry from having the computer come up with realistic motion from scratch.

Second, this really isn't animation at all, it's motion capture. This means that they put a large number of location sensors at points on the actress's face while she spoke, and a computer recorded all of the positions of those points at each point in time. This data was then used to create a computer model of the speaking actress speaking those exact words. Again, this is not a purely synthetic model of her facial movements, it's literally measuring her face while she's speaking. It is not clear that the computer model could be used to say something other than what was said when the actress's face was measured.

Finally, the only really synthetic thing here is the facial shading and color. Actually, this might have been based in part on color and shading samples from the film, but I'll give the creators the benefit of the doubt there. But this benefit is easy for me to give; upon close inspection I don't really think the color and shading look realistic.

Having worked in the computer graphics and vision research world has made me sensitive to what I think are inflated claims of success in these fields. I often see such claims in the popular press, and popular-science press. I recommend taking such things with a grain of salt. I often suspect that these claims are made as bait while fishing for funding, either venture capital or government grants.

Power up

Ann says: Update: Yep, they're trying to tell us this is an ultra-green convention:
[ Nancy Pelosi ] “The 2008 Democratic National Convention, like our great party, is about the future – the future of our country and the future of our planet,” says House Speaker and permanent Convention Chair Nancy Pelosi. "That is why we are ensuring that this Convention will be the greenest, most sustainable, most successful political Convention in history.”
As Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying: "I'll believe it's a crisis when the people who keep telling me it's a crisis start acting as if it's a crisis." (1, 2, 3, and 4.)

Here's the stage for the Democratic convention:

What are the power requirements of that? And will they actually have the gall to stand up there and preach to the country about energy efficiency?

Steve Says: Bleah. Looks familiar.

Grouchy's Cafe

Update! "Grouchy Don Johnson was my dad." That's not the sign though.

A Google search today for "Grouchy's Cafe" returns nothing:
No results found for "grouchy's cafe".

Now, I know for a fact that years ago Grouchy's Cafe was a truck stop somewhere off I-94 between Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Our family used to pass it on trips to grandma's house when I was a kid. I remember looking out for the sign from the road. As I recall, the sign was in the shape of a standing man, presumably Grouchy himself, holding a placard over his head that read, not surprisingly, "Grouchy's Cafe." He may have had on an Indian headdress... or my imagination may have added that over the years. My vision of him has him looking a bit like Woody Allen. Weird.

I also remember the place because my parents accidentally left one of my sisters and me there! Once back on the freeway, they had to get to the next exit and double back, and that took a while. I was old enough to figure out what happened, I think my little sister was a bit scared though.

In any case, I'm impressed that there is no record on the net of its existence. So I'm writing this post to give it the immortality it deserves. If you've found this post via Google, leave a message, and share your memory of Grouchy's Cafe.

Ann says: I've done the same websearch before too. Nada. I'm not sure it was on I-94, though. Might have been on one of the smaller highways.

Steve: Yes, I thought that too. Perhaps it was off the state highway that was there before I-94 was built. It must have been near the freeway though.

Lost in translation?

I almost hope something was lost in translation here:
[ Sydney Morning Herald ] An Islamic body in Nigeria has issued a death sentence on a man who married 80 women well above the maximum of four allowed, the Guardian newspaper reports.

The Jamatu Nasril Islam (JNI), one of Nigeria's top Islamic bodies, said in a statement that Mohammadu Bello Masaba from the central Niger state stood condemned to death unless he divorced 76 of the women in four days.

"Unless Masaba repents within four days and take only four wives from the herd he remains condemned to death, according to Sharia law," the statement said.
I know people say some Muslims treat their women like cattle, but...

Obama's liability

National Review has an article detailing Obama's position during the Illinois legislature's debate over "born alive" abortions. They quote this section from Obama on the floor of the Illinois state house:
OBAMA: Yeah. Just along the same lines. Obviously, this is an issue that we’ve debated extensively both in committee an on the floor so I — you know, I don’t want to belabor it. But I did want to point out, as I understood it, during the course of the discussion in committee, one of the things that we were concerned about, or at least I expressed some concern about, was what impact this would have with respect to the relationship between the doctor and the patient and what liabilities the doctor might have in this situation. So, can you just describe for me, under this legislation, what’s going to be required for a doctor to meet the requirements you’ve set forth?
Just to be clear, the highlighted section is pretty key. Obama is objecting because of questions about the abortion doctor's "liability".

So here's the question, in a legal sense, liability refers to the right someone else has to sue you for your actions. Who would be doing the objectionable suing, and on what grounds would the doctors be getting sued?

I think it is clear that Obama is not objecting to the child suing the doctor because the doctor refused treatment and the severely-premature baby died. The baby's dead and has no advocate to hire a lawyer.

What Obama is questioning is this: will the doctor get sued by the mother for creating a live baby instead of a dead fetus? In other words, Obama's position is that regardless of the true viability of the fetus/baby and its ability to live apart from its mother, the mother has a right to a dead fetus and can sue the doctor if she doesn't get exactly that. The law, however, would require the doctor to help the infant, should it survive--thus opening the doctor up to the mother's lawsuit. So, in order protect the doctors from such litigation--to protect their right to give the mother a termination, even of a live, already-born baby--Obama essentially sanctioned infanticide.

Penn Says

I've been watching a lot of Penn Jillette on line recently. Both his "Penn Says" bits and his work with Teller, in there Showtime series Bullsh*t! You can find video clips at youtube.

Penn seems to be a libertarian athiest, and I think sometimes a bit extreme. He's often pretty vulgar. On the other hand, I find myself agreeing with him much more often than not when it comes to politics and culture. Case in point, where he voices what I am thinking about this anti-Walmart couple:


In shortening this headline:
Surgeons prepare for world’s first full-face transplant
Drudge dropped a word and left it with this:
Surgeons prepare for world's full-face transplant...
What would Al Gore have to say about changing the entire face of the Earth!?

The Medalists (II)

My bro forgot at least one:

Sheriff Taylor, Mt. Airy North Carolina (another is in Raliegh)

Olympic whitewash

Surprisingly the international edition of the German magazine "Spiegel" has a long article about the Olympic committee's "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" act when it comes to the freedom to protest that the Chinese promised when they won the games, but have--surprise! surprise!--not delivered.

Rogge's Silence: The Phantoms of the Beijing Opera.

As far as my extremely-rusty German goes, I can not find the same article in the German edition. But on Monday they did print an article about a protester that was arrested when he applied for a permit to demonstrate--this was what the Chinese government promised to allow: like in the US, the Chinese set up specific protest areas and were to allow permits to grant people the right to protest. So far, 77 applications to protest have been filed. None resulted in permits, but most resulted in the arrest of the person filing the request.

Newsweek has a similar article: Why China Sentences 70-Year-Olds
If anyone needs an example of how brittle China's Communist Party leaders think their country is, look no further than the case of Wang Xiuying and Wu Dianyuan. The elderly women, who both walk with canes and have failing eyesight, were sentenced to serve one-year terms in a labor camp after they applied to hold a legal protest in Beijing. And if you think there was no method to this madness, that it's somehow the fault of some random thug in the Ministry of Public Security, I'd caution you to think again.

[...] So when Wang and Wu heard that, with the Olympics, authorities in Beijing had set aside special protest zones in three parks, they applied. Not once but four times. On the fourth time, they were detained and then sentenced -- by the cops, not a judge -- to a labor camp. (They haven't been incarcerated yet but will if they violate various provisions or regulations.)
Time picked up the same story about the grannies being sent to a labor camp.

The Washington Post picked up the non-existent protests too. In fact, they went along when a prominent protester invited the media with him when he went to apply. He ended up disappearing: After Friend Disappears, Ji Sizun Confronts Police and is Detained Himself.
When the Chinese government announced at the end of July that it would set up special zones where people could demonstrate during the Beijing Olympics, it seemed almost too good to be true. For months, the country had been under fire from critics who accused it of trying to kill dissent ahead of the games.

While optimists said the fact that Beijing is allowing any public protest at all is a victory for human rights, pessimists worried that the whole thing was a set up and the applications would be used to round up protesters and control their movements during the games.
Obviously, the pessimists were right.

WaPo: "The three protest zones have so far remained empty of demonstrators."
At least the IOC has made a little noise about this.
[Globe and Mail] In a tacit criticism of China's intolerance of dissent, the International Olympic Committee says the Chinese government should have allowed its official protest zones to be "genuinely used" by demonstrators, rather than letting them sit empty.

It is the latest sign of IOC discontent with China's unwillingness to permit any demonstrations at the three parks where the government had promised to allow protests during the Beijing Olympics.

Beijing announced this week that it had received 77 applications from 149 people who wanted to protest at the designated zones during the Games. Yet no protests have taken place. All of the applications were "withdrawn" or rejected for various reasons, according to the city government.

In reality, many of those who applied were detained or jailed by the authorities, human-rights groups say, arguing that China used the protest zones as a propaganda tactic to give the appearance of complying with international standards, while actually using the application process to identify potential protesters.
Other articles: Daily Telegraph (London), New York Times, AP, The Star (Toronto).

The Medalists

The Gold: Chicago's Dr. Bob Hartley:

The Silver: Minneapolis' Mary Richards:
The Bronze: Milwaukee's Arthur Fonzarelli :

There and back again

I made it home from work with my scooter, but...I actually had to walk part of the way. I didn't know how far I could go on one charge--maximum is 15 miles, but that depends on terrain, speed and the weight of the rider. The terrain was pretty flat, my stomach is not. And I floored it pretty much all day.

I figure with an overweight rider at full speed, I got about 5 miles of range out of it.

Still good enough, and I can certainly charge it while at work.

Dr. Who - 45 Year Tribute

This one is for my sister. Every Dr Who ever made is represented:

Well done! Via Scienceblogs.

Ann says: To which an old-time Dr. Who fan would likely say..."Shada"!

Steve Says: Shada at 3:36. :)

Ann says: And the walls fell.

Steve Says: Good grief. Is that a TNG reference? If so, I feel embarrassed to have known so.

Ann says: The kids wanted to get your baby this:

McCain and Pro-Lifers

A letter to The Corner from someone calling himself "Palin - Jindal 2012":

Here's the bottom line for me: I strongly prefer John McCain on every issue, but not at the cost of ending the pro-life litmus test for GOP nominees to the WH and SCOTUS. (It ain't much, but it's all we've got.)
Finally, a reason to vote for McCain. I am sick and tired of Pro-Life an Pro-Choice zealots and their "litmus tests." Like the vast majority of Americans, I am ambivalent when it comes to abortion. But not the zealots. They know they have the one and only correct answer. For them, there is one and only one central issue governing any campaign. Around election time, certain bloggers at sites like the Corner seem to have little else to talk about.

Give it up people. Abortion is not going to be outlawed. It's not going to be unrestricted. Somehow, miraculously, we as a society have been able to hammer out a compromise which is not ideal to many of us, but is reasonable to the vast majority, allowing unrestricted abortion in the early stages of pregnancy, and allowing for legal restrictions it in the later stages. That's the way it's been for years now, that's the way it will be in the foreseeable future.

If McCain is able to break the GOP out of the zealots' "litmus test" stranglehold, I would feel better about voting for him.

Ann says: The issue is a pain in the butt. In particular because there is a solid consensus in the country about it. Most people want late-term abortion outlawed, except for life of the mother (and maybe rape), and most people want it rare in the middle of a term, but legal at the start.

The problem and the frustration come with the fact that no matter what the consensus is, no matter how many people agree to basically take it off the table as an issue, it can never be.

Because it is no longer an area for democratic debate and policy.

That's the problem. The Supreme Court has declared that the law is what they say it is, and no legislature can touch it. It's anti-democratic and depressing.

Most abortion zealots see the abortion issue as primary, with the Supreme-Court over-reach issue as a side effect. For me, the Supreme Court is the issue, and the abortion wars are the side effect.

My new toy

This is what I was thinking...parking near the hospital runs $30 a month and a bus pass costs you the same. I've been paying cash for the bus at about $2.50 a day, or $12.50 a week. At that price, I can buy something like this:

Which I just did. It had to charge overnight, but this morning I've been testing it out. It's very cool, and at $303 should be able to pay for itself within a year.

Big Wind

Updated below...

It was only a matter of time, but I didn't expect the wind power industry to be referred to as "Big Wind" so soon.

For decades, dairy farmers have wrested a living from the Tug -- accepting lives of wind-swept hardship with little prospect of much change...

"Is it worth destroying families, pitting neighbor against neighbor, father against son?" asks John Yancey, whose family has farmed Tug Hill for generations. "Is it worth destroying a whole way of life?"

Similar questions are being asked across the country as more small towns grapple with big money and big wind...

So there you have it. Evil Corporate Big Wind preying on poor desperate farm families, tricking them into signing away the air rights over their land. Where have you gone Woody Guthrie? We need you more than ever.


Found via Instapundit, a related story from the New York Times

But in town after town, some residents say, the [wind] companies have delivered something else: an epidemic of corruption and intimidation, as they rush to acquire enough land to make the wind farms a reality.

Those photos have been more effective in black and white. What are they teaching in j-school these days?

Why I can't stand watching the Olympics

This is funny and explains perfectly why I can't stand watching any NBC coverage of the Olympics:

"Athlete without Compelling Personal Drama Expelled from Olympics"

Chinese Cheating

Who, I wonder, is surprised that the Chinese have flouted the rules and allowed gymnasts under 16 to compete in the Olympics?

I think the lesson to be learned here is that unenforceable laws only serve to benefit the unscrupulous.

I would advocate getting rid of this age limit. This would help to make the competition more fair. The intent of the rule, they say, was to keep girls under 16 from getting hurt. But I find it hard to believe that young gymnasts will train any less hard, or push themselves any less in the competitions in which they are allowed to participate.

The same lesson should be learned and applied in contexts beyond the Olympics. Remember the our treaty with the USSR to stop producing biological weapons? They kept right on producing them, of course, while the USA actually followed the treaty and stopped. Remember Carter's disastrous agreement with North Korea during the Clinton Administration? Who was surprised when the North Koreans took our aid money and kept right on going with their nuclear program?

Consider international environmental agreements. It doesn't seem to register with people who advocate greenhouse gas treaties that these treaties are essentially unenforceable. Does anyone believe that China's emissions could be verified by some inspection process? I don't believe that any international agency would have the manpower or funding to do so. Nor do I think that such an agency would be insusceptible to bribes.

Suppose the US and China enter into a greenhouse gas agreement. Compare what would happen in the US:

A Federal agency within the US government comes up with a plan to reduce emissions. Emitters such as power plants and factories are required to report their emissions. The agency enforces its regulations through some sort of financial penalties. Environmental watchdog groups make sure that the agency follows through, using the Freedom of Information Act to request copies of industries' reports, and suing the industries and the Federal agency if they detect non-compliance. Reports in the free press highlight failures in the system, and the people demand action. The US economy takes a hit from the additional cost associated with meeting the new regulations.
to what would happen in China:

No real actions to reduce emissions are taken. The day before the annual report is due, a bureaucrat somewhere within the Chinese government fills out a form showing that China not only met its goal, but exceeded the goal by 5%. Meanwhile, a statement by the propaganda minister is prepared for publication in China's government run newspapers heralding this great success and scolding the corrupt West for falling short.
If we feel that reducing greenhouse gasses is the right, i.e. moral, thing to do, and we are willing to let the Chinese get a competitive advantage, then let's go ahead and cut our emissions. But let's not kid ourselves about what China and other dictatorships would do under an international agreement.

Some of the People All of the Time

From the Brookline Police Blog, via the blog at our local paper:

Victim states she sold a futon on Craig list for $250 and received a check from the buyer. Upon reviewing the check, she saw that it was made out for more money than she asked for. She contacted the buyer who instructed her to deposit the check into her account and return $3000 in cash via money gram, which she did. She was notified later that the check the buyer had given her had bounced.
No amount of governement laws and regulation will ever eliminate this sort of thing. There will always be someone this naive. $3000!?!? Live and learn I guess.


I thought, way back in the Bush I administration, that we missed a golden opportunity with Russia.

This might not have worked, of course, but we could have reminded Russia that prior to the Soviet revolution, US and Russia had long been traditional allies. Of course, we were traditional allies against the French, but that wouldn't be a bug in the new alliance, but a feature.

Anyway, it's too late now, post-Soviet Russia has defined itself as the Soviet Union without all that soviet mumbo jumbo. We're stuck with them now.

Gold plated

I find this pathetic. The Olympics are a multi-billion dollar industry, which at the end of the day rides on the talents and literal blood and sweat of the athletes. The Olympic committee members are wined and dined around the world with the status of heads of state.

Yet the best athletes in the world. Those who win a gold medal. Don't actually get a gold metal.

It's gold-plated silver. It must contain at least 6 grams of gold (roughly $150 on the current market.) I've seen some different statistics, one saying the medals are 150 grams, another saying roughly 250. Let's assume the last one, and assume that the Jade makes up 50 grams, that leaves 200 grams of metal. Current gold prices are about $710 for 28 grams. So a medal would be worth about $5050 in gold. According to Yahoo answers, there will be 302 gold medals issued. For a total of just over 1.5 million dollars worth of gold.

The Olympics can afford that. NBC paid more than 800 million dollars to win the broadcast rights in the US. Internationally, the bids add up to well over a billion dollars.

With all the money behind the Olympics, the least they could do is give actual gold medals to the winners.

Team Handball

We played Team Handball in high school gym class back in good old Wisconsin. It is perhaps the most bizarre sport I've played. Imagine soccer, but you use your hands and dribble the ball like in basketball. Rather than a basket, keep the goal as in soccer. Imagine the goalie trying to stop a guy from throwing the ball into an enormous goal. Good luck. Anyway, my impression of the sport was pretty much this guy's, from the Corner:

As my brother and I were trying to figure it out (we were watching Spain versus Poland), one of the Spanish players actually clotheslined one of the Poles — I mean he hammered this poor Polish dude. We both howled. It was cartoon funny — like when Bugs Bunny clotheslines the wolf. All that was missing was the head and body going forward while the rubber-like neck goes ten feet in the opposite direction to a reverberating “boing!”

Play stopped, but no foul was called. The poor dazed guy picked himself up, rubbed his jaw, and incredulously gestured to the referee — arm fully extended in the proper clothesline position. The ref and the Spanish clothesliner both just shrugged, like, “Sorry dude, all part of the game.”


Ann adds: I would only add that at our high school...only the boys played handball. I believe at the time, the girls were outside playing field hockey.

One Body, Seven Counts of Murder

From the AP, via the Minneapolis Star-Trib:
LUVERNE, Minn. - Randy Swaney will spend the rest of his life in prison without a chance for parole in the death of a state park worker in 2001. The 37-year-old man was sentenced Friday morning in Luverne after being convicted of all seven murder charges in the death of Carrie Nelson at Blue Mounds State Park...

The jury deliberated for six hours before returning its verdict before dawn Friday. It convicted him on three counts of first-degree murder and four counts of second-degree murder.

Why didn't Minnesota charge him with genocide? In any case, I'm glad to hear they put him away for good.

New York Times Won't be Scooped Again!

After sitting on its hands, letting the National Enquirer take the lead on the whole "John Edwards' Love Child" affair, it's clear that the New York Times has decided that the best defense is a good offense.

Two Georgians Say They Have Bigfoot’s Body

But on Friday at a hotel in Palo Alto, Calif., a pair of Bigfoot hunters say they will present what they contend is the most definitive proof yet of an animal that science says does not exist: DNA evidence and photographs of a dead specimen they say they found in a remote swath of woods in northern Georgia.

Yes, that should help sales. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Graphing Obama's Tax Plan

Char has a good point, I think, about a recent report on Obama's tax proposal by Alex Brill and Alan D. Viard, which was linked by Greg Mankiw. You can read about it in Char's posts, and in the comments thereto. One of the authors of the report, Alan Viard, replied to Char's original post. I added some comments too, less snarky than usual.

However, I still disagree on a technical point, which is the claim that you can increase marginal tax rates across the board and still lower the total tax.

Char writes:

I don't have the tax code in front of me, so I'll have to use a cartoon example (again). A firefighter with two kids earns $50,000 per year. Under the current tax code (let's say) after taking the personal exemption and so on, she pays taxes on $30,000. She's in the 20 percent tax bracket, so she pays $30k x .2 = $6000. She has two kids, so she gets a tax credit of $1000 x 2 = $2000, so her final tax burden is $4000.

Under Obama's plan (again, I'm making up numbers here just to demonstrate the point), say the marginal tax rate is raised to 25 percent while the child tax credit is doubled. She pays $30k x .25 = $7500 minus the tax credit of $4000 = $3500. She pays less in taxes despite the fact that she pays at a higher marginal tax rate.

Brill and Viard's point is that the higher marginal tax rate will reduce peoples' incentive to work and therefore will reduce growth. Debatable, but not an outlandish speculation. To avoid confusion, they should have made clear that low and middle income earners will at the same time be paying less under Obama's plan than they do now.

I understand his point, but since people who currently make no gross income pay no taxes, marginal rates can only decrease across the board while total taxes fall if there is to be negative taxation, i.e. if a person with two kids and no income gets a $2000 check in the mail. I assume marginal rates are non-negative under any plan..

Specifically, let T(y) be the average tax collected from everyone making y dollars gross income, and suppose m(y)>0 is the marginal rate, so that

T(y)= ∫0y m(z) z dz
and in particular T(0)=0. If a new marginal rate comes along, say with Obama's plan, and m0(y)>m(y) for all y, then clearly T0(y)>T(y) for all y.

I conclude that marginal rates must fall somewhere below $25k, the region not shown in the orginal graph of Brill and Viard. If the marginal tax rate falls for people earning less than $25k, then they will have more incentive to work. That's the basis of Brill and Viard's analysis after all. Perhaps it's better to provide such incentives to the poor than the rich? One could argue that incentives for the rich are more effective, because they will start new businesses which will help everyone. But then perhaps it would be better to fiddle with corporate income taxes and capital gains taxes instead.

Unfortunately, Alex Brill and Alan D. Viard don't provide a graph for the marginal rates under $25,000. Let's guess at what it might look like. In the first scenario, let's suppose Obama's plan lowers the marginal rate under $25k as shown, so that near zero income the marginal rate goes down by about 6% from a current level 10%. This seems to be in line with what the plan's goal is. I've guessed that the current rate decreases to 10% at zero income. Here is the graph:

It's easy to calculate the effective total tax by income, and the percent change in after-tax income, shown here:

You can see from the graph that with Obama's plan under scenario 1, people will be paying more taxes if they make $40k or more. That's not what the plan will do, according to the analysis in the report Alex Brill and Alan D. Viard cite. Let's guess again, making Obama's plan more progressive. Suppose the marginal tax rate under $25k is zero, under scenario 2. We get the following graphs:

Under this scenario, people making over about $67k will be paying more taxes. It doesn't seem to me that this is in agreement with the Obama plan either. My understanding is that the income level where people will be paying more tax is higher than that.

Something doesn't seem to be adding up right. It is unfortunate that Alex Brill and Alan D. Viard didn't provide all the data.


Greg Mankiw posts a note from Alan Viard:

Given some confusion on the blogosphere, I want to reiterate that my and Alex' article does not find an increase in average tax rates, or in tax payments, at the income ranges shown in the chart. On the contrary, our article makes clear that Obama's proposed tax cuts would cause average tax rates and tax payments to decline throughout this income range...

Ok, this is not possible. Even if Obama's plan calls for 0 taxes below $25k and the current plan has a constant marginal rate of 21% from $0 through $40k, average tax rates go up at the $105,000 dollar point. This scenario clearly over-estimates of the tax break Obama will be giving to low-income people, so I don't think Mr. Viard's data and conclusion are in agreement. See the graphs below.

Bubble Wrap Your Kid!

This site claims that the "Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments" was banned by the Federal Government:

The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments, written by Robert Brent and illustrated by Harry Lazarus, is a children's book published in the 1960s that was intended to explain to kids how they could set up a home chemistry lab and conduct simple experiments. Supposedly the US government had the book removed from libraries and banned for sale on the grounds that the projects were too dangerous for its intended audience. I would have to agree that you probably don't want your kids making and igniting hydrogen in the garage, ...
Well, I made and ignited hydrogen in my bedroom. What's the big deal? Some electrolysis and a match gives you get a little 'pop.' It would be difficult for a kid to make enough to hurt himself.

You can download "The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments" here. Share with a child in your life.

Christmas travel

This being the heat of August, naturally thoughts turn to Christmas air fares.

They are ridiculous this year. Within a couple days it went up several hundred dollars for the 4 of us to travel from Los Angeles to Milwaukee. In the end, for my sister to fly Sun-Sun around Christmas, and for me and the kids to fly Sun-New Years Eve is costing about $2,100.

That's what comes from airlines cutting millions of seats.

Book now, or forever stay on the ground!

Daddy's Little Girl

My wife Jui and I went to the pediatrician's office today to get our daughter Shivani's ears pierced. Shivani is seven months old. Like my wife, practically all little girls in India get their ears pierced, so it sounded like a good idea. I was pretty nervous though.

In the waiting room, Shivani was looking up me and smiling. She looked so trusting!

In the exam room, when the nurses held her down and marked her ears with ink, Shivani started wailing. When they were done marking, and Shivani started to calm down, it was clear to everyone that I was having second thoughts. The nurses gave my wife and me a minute alone to discuss it. In the end, we decided not to go through with it. Thanks to Jui for being so understanding.

I don't want my little girl to suffer, even something as minor as ear piercing. She can get it done later, if she wants. Besides, wouldn't giving her earrings be gilding the lily?

Honest Greens

I've written a few posts [1,2,3,4] on economic growth, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Essentially I've pointed out that energy conservation plans, and the energy plans of both McCain and Obama are not going to help us for long, because with economic growth will come ever-increasing demand for energy.

Now there is this report from the UK on Greens who see GDP growth as the real root cause of the problem:

John Barrett, one of the authors of the reports by the Stockholm Environment Institute at York (SEI-Y) for the government and campaign group WWF*, was quoted by the BBC today:

"We are constantly battling against increases of wealth... There's a very fundamental problem here that no one really wants to talk about..."

Stuart Bond of WWF told the Beeb: "Our claims on emissions are simply a big lie.

"There is no way the government can hope to achieve any of its emissions targets without cheating unless it changes its policies on encouraging flying and hoping to satisfy people's insatiable demands for buying more and more stuff."

As to how that should be done, Bond was reluctant to give specifics. But he said there was a need for a "strategic plan to set out very clearly how the UK will become a low carbon economy by 2050... at the moment there is no central priority for environmental issues. Consumers' consumption of goods is the driver of emissions. The continued pursuit of GDP, of economic growth - that is a mantra that we must question."

So with one hand, I salute them for their honesty and recognition of economic growth as a factor. With the other I point to my temple and move my finger in small circles, the universal symbol for "cookoo."

Breaking News

Frozen water found near Mars' polar ice cap!

Now if only NASA would launch a probe to see if the Sun is really hot.