moldybluecheesecurds 2

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Nation building - due to "American exceptionalism"

MinnPost - The end of American exceptionalism:

"The centerpiece of U.S. national security policy going back basically to the late 1940s is what I call the sacred trinity. Three big principles.

Principle number one: That the United States configures its forces not to defend the United States, but for global power projection.

Second principle, the United States, uniquely, unlike any other country in the world, maintains those forces and establishes a global military presence -- not simply the huge network of bases but overflight agreements and access to ports and that kind of thing -- to facilitate the projection of power.

And then the third principle is this principle of global interventionism.

I see nothing in the Obama administration that is going to question those three principles. In that sense, the continuities vastly overwhelm the discontinuities between Obama and Bush.'"

It's a fascinating essay that suggests that the United States will continue to get embroiled in conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan - even under presidents like Obama - because of a philosophical belief about America's role in history and the world.

When a Nobel Prize winning economist blogs

Economics and Politics - Paul Krugman Blog -
"Yglesias, discussing the woes of right-wing think tanks, alerts us to quality Heritage research: “Pentagon Should Battle Pirates and Terrorists with Laser Technology”.

But the research is sorely lacking — not a mention of putting the lasers on sharks.

You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with [bleep] laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The latest New Yorker cover, drawn on the iPhone

Cover Story: Finger Painting:

"Jorge Colombo drew this week’s cover using Brushes, an application for the iPhone, while standing for an hour outside Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Times Square."

See the video of his drawing:

Twins' Mauer and Morneau truly American League's dynamic duo so far

I don't normally blog about sports, but I'm a big fan of baseball and the Minnesota Twins, and this merits sharing. Twins catcher Joe Mauer is batting .444 since returing to the lineup at the beginning of May, and has hit more homers this month than in most of his full seasons. Aaron Gleeman puts that performance in perspective:
"[Mauer] could go into an 0-for-39 slump and still be hitting .300."


Monday, May 25, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist - State of Paralysis -

"California, it has long been claimed, is where the future happens first. But is that still true? If it is, God help America."

A fascinating look at California's self-imposed budget crisis and the potential ramifications for addressing major social challenges through the political system.

You can get more of this flavor from Minnesota, where the Republican governor is "unalloting" the state budget after he resolutely vetoed all budget measures from the state's DFL majority, all in the name of preserving his already soiled "no taxes" pledge.

FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: The Ultimate Tax on Harmful Activity?

Should the progressive income tax be switched to a progressive consumption tax?:

"Under a progressive consumption tax, each family would report its income to the IRS and also its annual savings, much as many now document their annual contributions to 401(k) and other similar accounts. A family's income minus its annual savings is its annual consumption, and that amount minus a large standard deduction—say, $30,000 for a family of four—would be its taxable consumption. Rates would start low, perhaps 20 percent, then rise gradually with total consumption. For example, a family that earned $60,000 and saved $10,000 would have annual consumption of $50,000, which, after subtracting the standard deduction, would mean taxable consumption of $20,000. It would owe about $4,000 in tax, about the same as under the current income tax."

I like pigovian taxes (taxing bad things to pay for good things), so I'm curious how this might compare to a carbon tax, for example.

Frank at fivethirtyeight follows up this post with more on the reaction and implications, one of the latter perhaps being a de-escalation in the "keeping up with the Joneses" that takes place in America. Sounds good to me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

When jumbo soda, long movies, and the internet mix Suggests the Best Movie Bathroom Breaks - Bathroom Breaks: "If you're checking out 'Star Trek' this weekend, right when Capt. Pike says, 'Chekov, you have the con,' you've got about three minutes of exposition ahead that you can probably pick up on later."

Who still likes the GOP? No one

MinnPost - GOP has lost ground in 25 of 26 demographic categories: "the really devastating analysis, published yesterday, shows that Repubs lost ground in 25 out of 26 demographic subgroups, by race, region, income, education, marital status, etc."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Have you seen the new sunscreen arms race?

It used to be that buying sunscreen was a boring affair, an annual visit to that particular store aisle on your way to the first summer barbecue. But now, there's an arms race in sunscreen reminiscent of the blade-count battle in men's disposable razors (a race that the Onion eerily predicted).  SPF 30?  It's for chumps.  How about Neutrogena's SPF 100+?

Of course, it's all marketing shill:
The difference in UVB protection between an SPF 100 and SPF 50 is marginal. Far from offering double the blockage, SPF 100 blocks 99 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. (SPF 30, that old-timer, holds its own, deflecting 96.7 percent).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Don't talk to the police - ever

An enlightening and engaging lecture on the importance of the 5th Amendment for the innocent - why you almost always put yourself at risk by providing answers to the police.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Two week wrap

A few interesting news items this past two weeks: