Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Signing Off Until Late June

Interesting as the world is (to me at least), I really have to focus on studying until after my big test. Thanks for reading. Until then: whatever you're up to, make sure that you're making yourself and others happy, and really make sure you have actual evidence that's what's happening!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Spot the Difference, or Political Multiple Choice

Time for some political multiple choice. Pick A or B:

"...[former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin/FBI Director Robert Mueller] said s/he's 'all for' profiling [Muslims/conservatives] if it saves 'innocent American lives.'

"Speaking about the [Fort Hood shooting/Tucson shooting], s/he said there were 'massive warning flags that were missed all over the place' because of a 'fear of being politically incorrect.'"

Which do you think it was? If these are not equivalent, why not?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Obesity and the Bad Stripe

Maps here. Obesity splits into two bands in the eastern U.S.; one is the Bad Stripe and one is the Black Belt. I originally noticed the Bad Stripe when it shifted more Republican for president in the 2008 election (the opposite of the rest of the country) and then when the same shape continued to appear in maps of other indicators. My initial surprise about the Bad Stripe is that it was not the Black Belt, which can be clearly seen on the obesity map.

"Chavez Squeezes Scientific Freedom"

To the rallying cries of "Let's be more like West Virginia!" and "Let's be more like North Korea!", we might add "Let's be more like Venezuela!" The headline above is from Nature. (Scientists have noticed Chavez doing other questionable things before.) While Eric Cantor is not yet in Chavez territory, it's worth it (and fair) to ask him directly if he would like to be.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Assorted Links: Transparency and War

1) I Paid a Bribe, a bribe-tracking site with a focus on South India. Has anyone ever estimated the damage that the prevalence of bribes in South Asia does to economies? Also check out the zero rupee note and Transparency International. Future project: multiple regression for happiness indices against factors including transparency (if not already done).

2) Supposedly the 90s were more violent, and the narrative was that the end of the Cold War freed up more national interests to fight without touching off World War III. Turns out violence has decreased steadily since WWII (including in the 90s), and the tail end of Stephen Pinker's observation of a six-century decline is mirrored in this graph. There were however more non-governmental conflicts. This is an interesting development; growth of non-governmental warfare ironically only possible in a wealthier world? There has not been any post-colonial fighting since the 70s, and France was involved in the most international conflicts since WWII. (Really.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Electoral District Reform: Give Seats Directly to the Special Interests

A post at opensecret.org described the outcome of the 2012 Congressional elective"Transportation unions lost three seats...And the mining industry gained two new seats." Many states and Congressional districts are transparently dominated by one or a very few industries. So why don't we cut to the chase? Why don't we have legislators that represent labor unions and mineral extraction interests right on their name tags, instead of pretending to represent New Jersey or Wyoming?