Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Economy - Q4 06 GDP

Bureau of Economic Research released GDP numbers this morning, (yes, I'm a subscriber).

"Advance" estimates of Q4 2006 GDP have been released, and the numbers ae pretty strong - a 3.5% increase. Things are definitely looking good for the US economy. The yearly numbers come in at 3.4% right now, making the size of the US economy just a shade under $13.5 trillion. The "preliminary" numbers are due to be released on Feb. 28, with "Final" numbers a month after that, and of course revisions are often done years later, but for right now, things are looking pretty grand.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Taxes & the Economy

Brian Riedl at the Heritage Foundation takes on several myths about taxes and the economy, and pretty much eviserates them. (HT: Don Luskin @ Poor and Stupid). (Italics are my comments, heartily paraphrased from Reidl's article.)

Ten Myths About the Bush Tax Cuts—and the Facts
Myth #1: Tax revenues remain low.
Fact: Tax revenues are above the historical average, even after the tax cuts. (18.4% of GDP)

Myth #2: The Bush tax cuts substantially reduced 2006 revenues and expanded the budget deficit.
Fact: Nearly all of the 2006 budget deficit resulted from additional spending above the baseline. ($237 billion more than forcast by the CBO in 2000)

Myth #3: Supply-side economics assumes that all tax cuts immediately pay for themselves.
Fact: It assumes replenishment of some but not necessarily all lost revenues. (Reducing rates often increases the tax base (and hence revenues), but it depends where the tax is on the Laffer Curve)

Myth #4: Capital gains tax cuts do not pay for themselves.
Fact: Capital gains tax revenues doubled following the 2003 tax cut. (2000 Capital Gains taxes raised $50 billion, the CBO projected a 36% increase to $68 billion in 2006, but 2006 Capital Gains raised $103 billion - double the revenues of 2000.)

Myth #5: The Bush tax cuts are to blame for the projected long-term budget deficits.
Fact: Projections show that entitlement costs will dwarf the projected large revenue increases. (Repealing the Bush tax rates would raise revenues from a CBO projected 22.8% of GDP in 2050 to a projected 23.7%. Entitlement spending without any reforms is expected to cost 38% of GDP at that time.)

Myth #6: Raising tax rates is the best way to raise revenue.
Fact: Tax revenues correlate with economic growth, not tax rates. (Despite wide variations in the the tax rate (from as high as 90%), tax revenues have grown in step with economic growth, averaging between 17 and 20% over the last 50 years.)

Myth #7: Reversing the upper-income tax cuts would raise substantial revenues.
Fact: The low-income tax cuts reduced revenues the most. (Tax cuts for lower income brackets and the AMT fix that critics accept totalled $114 billion, while the capital gains, dividend, estate and marriage penalty taxes criticized totalled only $36 billion and income tax rate cuts effected all 2 wage housholds over $62k and single filers over $31K -- hardly "the rich")

Myth #8: Tax cuts help the economy by "putting money in people's pockets."
Fact: Pro-growth tax cuts support incentives for productive behavior. (Government must either tax or borrow money, which simply redistributes income and accomplishes little in the way of growing the economy. Reducing tax rates incentivizes savings, working & investment, increasing investment and productivity and leading to long-term economic growth.)

Myth #9: The Bush tax cuts have not helped the economy.
Fact: The economy responded strongly to the 2003 tax cuts. (Growth averaged 1.7% & the American labor force lost 267k jobs in the 18 months before the cuts, grew 4.1% and added 307k jobs in the 18 months afterward.)

Myth #10: The Bush tax cuts were tilted toward the rich.
Fact: The rich are now shouldering even more of the income tax burden. (The number of filers with zero or negative liability rose from 30 million in 2000 to 40 million, and the bottom 40% of filers proportion of all federal taxes paid were reduced from 5.9% to 5.4%, while the top quintile's proportion paid rose from 66.6% to 67.1%.)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Huskers Name Watson OC

via OWH.

The departure of offensive coordinator Jay Norvell to UCLA for the same position there has allowed Head Coach Bill Callahan to promote TE Coach and recruiting coordinator Shawn Watson to OC, a position he held under Gary Barnett for the Colorado Buffalos. Watson was CU OC for six years, and passed up OC opportunities at both Cal and San Diego St. to join Callhan's staff a year ago.

"The relationship between Callahan and Watson goes back to the 1980s, when they worked together on Mike White's staff at Illinois. Watson was head coach at NCAA Division I-AA Southern Illinois from 1994 through 1996, then joined Barnett for the first time in 1997 at Northwestern. At Colorado, Watson helped the 2001 team become only the third in school history to average better than 200 yards passing and rushing. The 2004 team was only the second at CU to produce a 1,000-yard rusher and 2,000-yard passer.

Watson is likely to give up the RC position after the Feb. 7 recruit signing date. No word yet on potential replacements for the new opening on the Husker staff.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Science - Mars Atmosphere

via Foxnews.

I saw this elsewhere the other day but forgot to comment on it. Scientists believe that due to the low loss of atmospheric gasses measured today on Mars that the once abundant (or believed to be) gasses may be actually locked up under the ground somewhere on the red planet. It was previously theorized that the Sun's solar wind slowly eroded the gasses away from our system's fourth planet.

"New findings suggests the missing atmosphere of Mars might be locked up in hidden reservoirs on the planet, rather than having been chafed away by billions of years' worth of solar winds as previously thought. Combining two years of observations by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft, researchers determined that Mars is currently losing only about 20 grams of air per second into space. Extrapolating this measurement back over 3.5 billion years, they estimate that only a small fraction, 0.2 to 4 millibars, of carbon dioxide and a few centimeters of water could have been lost to solar winds during that timeframe."

The atmophere on Mars must have been much denser than today if liquid water was once present on the surface of the planet, as suggested by geologic evidence. The density of gasses in the atmosphere would have to be thousands of times higher than the traces found today, allowing for higher temperatures to allow liquid water to run freely on the surface, up to a half mile deep in spots if the geological evidence is correct. Earth's atmosphere is at about 1 bar of pressure, Mars must have been around that figure as well at one point, today it is at .008 bars.

There is, however, another competing theory that the Martian atmosphere was lost in a catastrophic cosmic collision with a large meteor over 10 km in diameter. On the other hand, an impact of that size and devastation would probably leave a good sized mark on the planet, which we just don't see evidence of today. Maybe a Total Recall terraforming scenario for our planetary neighbor might just be possible over a period of decades after all.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Webb Revisited

Jonah Goldberg also takes Sen. Webb to task at Townhall. Some of Webb's words on Iraq are below.

""As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be-President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. 'When comes the end?' ... And as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean War to an end." This was part of freshman Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's much ballyhooed stentorian Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address. "

Except that we still have troops in S. Korea sixty years later, the war hasn't ended - there is merely a cease-fire (and a tenous one at that, border violations and pot shots take place pretty commonly) in place. Of course, the fact that the entire nation of N. Korea is a stalinist prison camp isn't worth mentioning either, not that an estimated million people died due to famine in the country over the last decade or two while the leadership parties on caviar and champaigne.

Goldburg retorts:
"So, except for the fact that the Korean War didn't end, our troops are still there, and the outcome has been the source of humanitarian and national security nightmares, Webb's salute to Eisenhower's statesmanship really strikes home."

Ouch, that should leave a verbal mark. And Webb is supposed to be a new breed of responsible Democrat?

Military Re-enlistments

W. Thomas Smith at NRO reviews military re-enlistments numbers for new VA Senator James Webb (D), who stated in his response to the SOU speech that the majority of the military no longer supports the war. Smith finds some pretty conclusive evidence to the contrary that the soldiers and Marines on the ground believe both in the service and in the war.

"The Army’s reenlistment numbers for the past six years break down as follows: For Fiscal Year 2006 (FY06), the Army’s goal was to retain 64,200 soldiers already on active duty. The service exceeded that goal by retaining 67,307 eligible soldiers. In other words, 3,107 soldiers — in addition to the ones the Army had hoped to re-up — raised their right hands and swore to continue defending the nation even if it meant service in Iraq. That’s 105 percent of the goal of re-upping eligible soldiers "

The Army hit 108% of goal in fiscal 2005, 107% in 2004, 106% in 2003, and was around 102% in 2002 and 2001. The Marines have already hit 82% of their 2007 retention targets, with 8 months to go, and routinely exceed their numbers as well in recent years. It would appear that the people doing the fighting certainly think that continued service is worth pursuing, even with multiple deployments and dangers that I can only imagine.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

NM Gov. Richardson

Ed Morrissey of CQ reviews the record of recently announced 2008 Democratic Presidential hopeful Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, and finds him perhaps the most qualified candidate from either side of the aisle. He has Congressional, foreign policy, cabinet level, and executive experience, and he's Hispanic. I seem to recall another article about him, but don't recall where (LATE EDIT: he announced yesterday, so something about that I imagine). I would have to say such a centrist Democrat would be unpalatable, to say the least, to the Dem's left wing , but any rational mind would have to declare him perhaps the most electable candidate the party could field.

"Richardson has an impressive resume. He worked in the State Department as a congressional liaison after college, then worked on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as an aide.
He spent 14 years in Congress representing New Mexico, starting in 1980, mostly focusing on foreign affairs. He moved from Congress to leadership of the Democratic Party’s 2004 convention, working with President Bill Clinton on bolstering the party’s credibility with centrist voters.
Bill Clinton appointed Richardson as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., where he served a year, and then appointed him as Secretary of Energy, where he served from 1998 until Clinton’s term ended. In 2002, Richardson was elected to his first term as New Mexico’s governor and was re-elected last November."

Morrissey speculates if Richardson will pull out the knives and go after Hillary Clinton, having knowledge that could possibly embarass the former First Lady after serving in Bill's cabinet. Richardson is the only Clinton era cabinet level executive to formerly announce his candidacy for the White House. Based on what I know about him, this could be a democratic candidate I would vote for, depending on his Republican opponent.

Global Warming Examined

William Tucker at The American Spectator, talks about climate change in reasonable terms. We know warming is happening, but how much of it is humanity responsible for, we have no real way of knowing.

"What finally occurred to me is that maybe both are right. It's possible that the sun forces a 1500-year cycle of warming and cooling and that recent carbon emissions from industrial civilization are exaggerating the pattern. That would suggest there's nothing too unusual about the recent pattern (everybody agrees it's getting warmer), but carbon emissions could still be playing a part. "

Tucker is an advocate of nuclear power, and trying to unite conservatives (avoid oil) and liberals (avoid coal & warming). I guess I'd fall into the conservative camp on this. I think we do need ways to burn coal in a cleaner fashion, which we are certainly working on.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Early Civilization

via ScienceDaily.

Excavations at ancient site of Hamalkour in modern Syria show the walled city was destroyed around 3500 BC, with evidence of large fires. Large scale semi-industrial areas near the city were discovered that leads archaeologists to believe that obsidian workings there were an impetus toward urbanization, much in the same way the large scale agricultural production and public hydroworks were an impetus toward urbanization in Mesopotamia.

"Hamoukar was on a key trade route that led from Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) across Northern Syria and the river Tigris into Southern Mesopotamia. Some evidence of this long-lasting trade was found in an area to the south of Hamoukar's main site-- a large mound. The team found obsidian fragments in an area of over 700 acres (280 hectares), which they dated to 4,500 -- 4,000 B.C. using pottery fragments found with the obsidian. In addition to tools and blades, the team found large amounts of production debris such as cores, a discovery that is even more significant than finding actual tools.

"Finding cores and other production debris tells us that they are not just using these tools here, they are making them here," Salam al-Kuntar, the Syrian co-director of the expedition, explained. Obsidian does not occur around Hamoukar but had to be brought in from Turkey with the nearest sources being over 70 miles away. "

Specialization and trade allowed for the accumulation of wealth and the development urbanization, allowing the local population to purchase or trade for their food from surrounding communities and exporting their manufactured goods, and building the defensive walls to protect themselves. Interestingly enough, it appears as though the city may have been in the process of converting toward working in copper when it was destroyed, as a large number of copper implements have been found in the excavation.

Presidential Speech

Jay Nordlinger over at NRO points to very nice Presidential speech given to the American Newspaper Publisher's Association. Link above is to the entirety of the text, but I, like Jay will just give you a few highlights.

"I want to talk about our common responsibilities in the face of a common danger. The events of recent weeks may have helped to illuminate that challenge for some; but the dimensions of its threat have loomed large on the horizon for many years. Whatever our hopes may be for the future--for reducing this threat or living with it--there is no escaping either the gravity or the totality of its challenge to our survival and to our security--a challenge that confronts us in unaccustomed ways in every sphere of human activity. "

Yes, we face a common danger, but this new danger is one different than we have faced together before, as the President explains further:

"But I do ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the nation to reexamine his own standards, and to recognize the nature of our country's peril. In time of war, the government and the press have customarily joined in an effort, based largely on self-discipline, to prevent unauthorized disclosures to the enemy. In time of "clear and present danger," the courts have held that even the privileged rights of the First Amendment must yield to the public's need for national security.

Today no war has been declared--and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.

If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of "clear and present danger," then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent. "

However, the President sees a potential problem, and asks that the journalists think of the consequences, for disturbing things have happened in the recent past.

"For the facts of the matter are that this nation's foes have openly boasted of acquiring through our newspapers information they would otherwise hire agents to acquire through theft, bribery or espionage; that details of this nation's covert preparations to counter the enemy's covert operations have been available to every newspaper reader, friend and foe alike; that the size, the strength, the location and the nature of our forces and weapons, and our plans and strategy for their use, have all been pinpointed in the press and other news media to a degree sufficient to satisfy any foreign power; and that, in at least one case, the publication of details concerning a secret mechanism whereby satellites were followed required its alteration at the expense of considerable time and money.

The newspapers which printed these stories were loyal, patriotic, responsible and well-meaning. Had we been engaged in open warfare, they undoubtedly would not have published such items. But in the absence of open warfare, they recognized only the tests of journalism and not the tests of national security. And my question tonight is whether additional tests should not now be adopted.

That question is for you alone to answer. No public official should answer it for you. No governmental plan should impose its restraints against your will. But I would be failing in my duty to the Nation, in considering all of the responsibilities that we now bear and all of the means at hand to meet those responsibilities, if I did not commend this problem to your attention, and urge its thoughtful consideration."

The trick here, of course, is that the President here is not George W. Bush, but John F. Kennedy, talking about the Cold War, on April 27th, 1961.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Possibly Oldest Human Artifacts in N America Found

Missed this yesterday from LiveScience as well.

Archaeologists in Minnesota surveying a planned construction route find stone tools beleived to 13-15,000 years old. If the dates are confirmed, they would be the oldest human tools ever found in North America by almost 2,000 years.

"The items were found beneath a layer of glacial deposits that had been covered by windblown deposits. Based on what's known about the geology of the area, they believe the objects are between 13,000 and 15,000 years old....Not only do the age of the items and the soil in which they were found need to be confirmed, it must also be determined whether the objects are really human-made artifacts or merely rocks that were chipped in interesting ways by glaciers during the Ice Age. And it's not yet certain if the items were left at the site by humans, or carried there by glaciers or flowing water."

Other researchers had already discovered that the area was an glacial "oasis", an area free from ice although surrounded by glaciers except to the southeast. If the dates for this find are confirmed, it would help prove a growing scientific consensus that humans migrated to the New World much earlier than 11,000 years ago, which is the generally accepted date for the Clovis points found in New Mexico in the 1930's, the oldest conclusively proven artifacts found in the Americas, athough some other sites have their own proponents as well.

Strange Fossil Skull

via Livescience.

Odd shaped human skull found in Romania, has both modern human AND what appear to be Neanderthal traits. Skull is among oldest ever found in Europe, dating to at least 35,000 and perhaps more than 40,000 years old.

"The reconstructed cranium is called Oase 2. Radiocarbon dating revealed only that it is at least 35,000 years old. But its mandible is similar to Oase 1, found previously at the surface of the cave and dated more firmly to about 40,500 years ago. The team has concluded that both fossils are the same age. These are the earliest modern human remains so far found in Europe.
Oase 2 has the same proportions as modern human craniums and has other features that are non-Neanderthal. But other features are unusual for a modern human, the scientists say. These include a retreating forehead and exceptionally large upper molars found principally among the Neanderthals."

Weird. There has been speculation among some scientists that modern and Neanderthal humans may have interbred, but this is the first significant evidence I've heard of to date. Other scientists believe the two species competed for habitat (to the detriment of the Neandethals), some think humans aggressively wiped them out, while others don't believe the two species ever even met, so the the scientific consensus isn't terribly clear. About the only thing that is clear is that the Neanderthals aren't around any more, so something happened after modern humans appeared in Europe. Interesting to see if this team uncovers anything else of note.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Stellar Neighborhood

via our geek friends at Astrobiology Magazine.

New survey of near-Sun stars raises the count to 384 stars in 249 systems within 33 light-years. Most of these are class M, or red dwarf stars, but interest in these is growing with the higher possibility that they could hold planets, perhaps even habitable ones. The increase in the number of stars in local neighborhood holds interesting implications for both the number of stars in the galazy, but also the universe, and may hold implications for the amount of mass it contains.

"If our neighborhood is representative of the galaxy, and the galaxy is representative of the universe, the new local density measurement may lead to a more precise calculation of the universe’s overall mass. More nearby stars also translates into the possibility of more nearby planets, and perhaps life. The possibility of habitable worlds around red dwarfs is still being debated, though. Because red dwarfs have such low heat output, only planets in close orbit would be warm enough to have liquid water on the surface."

The issue with being so close to a star is that the planet, like Earth's moon, might become tidal locked and only face one side of the planet to the Sun. This would cause that side to heat excessively and blow all chances of wate remaining, with the opposite side in a perpetual deep freeze. However, examples like Mercury, within our own system, lead many scientists to believe that most close orbiting planets would not be so locked, since they form from the same interstellar dust cloud that the star forms from. The really interesting thing about these stars holding planets is that they are the most common (up to 75% of all stars) type of star, so if planets commonly form around them (and we have examples), the number of exoplanets is likely to be much higher than previously thought. And with more planets, more chances for both habitable planets and life to evolve. Cool, unless they hold Klingons that want to eat us.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Site Changes

I made some changes to the site to take advantage of some of the new Blogger site functionality, which is a decidedly easier than previously. I think they are good improvements and the site looks quite nice, hope you all feel the same, let me know.

I have also added a number of links to locally oriented blogs, not all of whom I am likely to agree with, but I try to at least support local bloggers, whatever their content. That said, take particular care when going to New Nebraska Network and Behind Enemy Lines, both of which may cause your blood pressure to rise, although for different reasons.

Earliest Modern Humans in Europe

Cool science news via ScienceDaily.

Human artifacts dating back 45,000 years have been found in Russia at an excavation along the Don River. It is the earliest find of human artifacts in Europe, and shows evidence of a long distance trade network.

"The excavation took place at Kostenki, a group of more than 20 sites along the Don River that have been under study for many decades. Kostenki previously has yielded anatomically modern human bones and artifacts dating between 30,000 and 40,000 years old, including the oldest firmly dated bone and ivory needles with eyelets that indicate the early inhabitants were tailoring animal furs to help them survive the harsh climate. Most of the stone used for artifact construction was imported from between 60 miles and 100 miles away, while the perforated shell ornaments discovered at the lowest levels of the Kostenki dig were imported from the Black Sea more than 300 miles away"

These are the earliest human finds outside of Africa and Australia, which has finds dating back 50,000 years ago. The importance of the finds are that it shows humans innovating quite well to adapt to a colder climate, and also shows indications that they were expanding their food sources utilizing both fishing and hunting small game with snares and traps, in addition to hunting big game and gathering plants. An ivory artifact thought to be the head of a small figurine found at the site might be the oldest example of decorative art ever discovered, at over 40,000 years.

Alan Reynold's New Book Examined

Dave Henderson over at TCS finishes his examination of economist Alan Reynold's new book, Income and Wealth. His third installment examines the Reynold's deconstruction of the myth of the "top 1%", most of which comes from a NEBR study by economists Emmanual Saez of the University of California, Berkeley and Thomas Piketty of École normale supérieure in Paris. Their study reportedly found that the top 1% of income earners share of total income increasing from the 8-9% range in the 1960's up to 16% in 1998.

Henderson refers first (as he did in the first installment) to Reynold's questioning of the use of "tax units", not families, in the data, which distorts the study, then to Reynold's note of the effects of the changes in tax laws, primarily noting the changes in the numbers of C (fewer) and S (more) type coporations, from the 1986 Tax Reform Bill. The effect of these changes is that people owning corporations had an incentive to change their companies to S types and benefit from the lower individual tax rate (28%) vs the corporate tax rate (34%). Formerly the coroporate rate was lower than the individual rate, so people had been filing their earnings under the C type, taxed as corporate income, not individual. Additional changes were also made in 1986, including the taxing of income earned from municipal bonds, which further distorts the study.

Reynolds then totally devastates the commonly repeated argument that CEO pay is 500 to 1000 times that of the average worker by simple arithmetic, using the same data shown in the Wall Street Journal article making that claim, showing it to be completely bogus. If average CEO pay is $2.16 million, it's not 500 times average worker income, which computes to around $4500. As I recall from the CIA World Factbook, GDP per capita is around $42,000, maybe someone forgot a zero in there.

Also pointed out is another error on the part of our favorite Princeton professor, Herr Doktor Paul Krugman, who included grants of stock options in his calculations of CEO pay for a 2002 article. He referred to a Fortune article on options granted in 1999, but he ignored the fact that the stock market tanked in 2000, and the Fortune magazine numbers appraised those options as 1999 value plus added an expected increase of one third. In reality, the pay of S & P 500 CEOs fell by 48% from 2000 to 2003, what you might expect when those executives have much of their total compensation tied to stock and the market falls flat on its face.

China and the New Century

Time via RCP.

Michael Elliot provides a surprisingly balanced and realistic view (coming from Time, anyway) of the growing importance of China in the world, the challenge to the West it poses, and the challenges it has to faces, both internally from its citizens and externally as it seeks the raw materials to feed its growing economy. Read the whole thing, it's actually pretty insightful.

"China is now so significant a player in the global economy that the alternative--waiting until China changes its ways--won't fly. There is still time to hope that China's way into the world will be a smooth one. Perhaps above anything else, the sheer scale of China's domestic agenda is likely to act as a brake on its doing anything dramatically destabilizing abroad.
On the optimistic view, then, China's rise to global prominence can be managed. It doesn't have to lead to the sort of horror that accompanied the emerging power of Germany or Japan. Raise a glass to that, but don't get too comfortable. There need be no wars between China and the U.S., no catastrophes, no economic competition that gets out of hand. But in this century the relative power of the U.S. is going to decline, and that of China is going to rise."

Elliot has some interesting notes on Chinese leader's diplomatic efforts as well. Chinese President Hu Jintao was thought to be a pretty conservative pick, with a decidedly domestic focus, but he has been pretty active in Chinese diplomatic efforts.

"While Wen Jiabao, China's Premier, was visiting 15 countries last year, Hu spent time in the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya. In a three-week period toward the end of 2006, he played host to leaders from 48 African countries in Beijing, went to Vietnam for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, slipped over to Laos for a day and then popped off for a six-day tour of India and Pakistan. For someone whose comfort zone is supposed to be domestic affairs, that's quite a schedule."

Bottom line is that China, (and in my opinion, India and possibly Brazil as well), is going to be a global power in the coming years. We're rapidly moving away from a unipolar world to a multipolar one. The question for U.S. policy makers is how to both maintain its influence in world affairs while at the same time carefully mananging its relations in a positive direction with the new powers to be.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Europe and US Living Standards

TCS Daily.

A Danish immigrant to the US absolutely destroys the popular myth that the Scandanavian economic model is just as good as the US. While I've often heard of comparisons to Sweden in the past, I guess that has lost some steam recently as the Swedish economy tanked, and liberals are now pointing to Denmark. The main point is that US citizens have bigger homes, more & larger autos, just as much leisure time, and better healthcare, along with higher incomes, while the bottom 10% in both countries are about equal.

"The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the poorest 10% of Americans on average earn 39% of the US median income while their Danish counterparts earn 43% of the US median income, as Tim Worstall recently pointed out. Thus, the poorest 10% in America and in Denmark have about the same annual income (accounting for purchasing power parities and all social income transfers). Not surprisingly, the top 10% of Americans are much better off than their Danish counterparts with an average income of 210% of the US median income compared to 123% in Denmark. "Rich" people in Denmark thus do not make much more than the median income in the United States.

As for the average industrial worker, the Danish Ministry of taxation estimates that American workers earn roughly 33% more than their Danish counterparts when accounting for purchasing power parities and social transfers of income. Taken together, these numbers indicate that the 10% poorest in the United States have roughly the same standard of living as their Danish counterparts while the remaining 90% of Americans are better off than the Danes. "

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Michael Yon is back In Iraq

Independent embed reporter Yon is back in Iraq, and talks about how it is important to talk more with senior NCOs and troops in the field than the generals. Michael has traveled extensively with CSM Jeffrey Mellinger, the top enlisted man in theater, who has a number of brushes with the enemy.

"Grandparents should know that a grandparent is watching out for the young men and women who are fighting in Iraq. CSM Mellinger has spent three consecutive Christmases in Iraq and is going on his third straight year walking the line. One young sergeant, a team member on CSM Mellinger’s crew, told me the CSM’s team has been hit 26 times so far, and when I asked the CSM, he shrugged and said, “Sounds about right.” Five of his Humvees have been destroyed by IEDs, two that he was riding in at the time. Astonishingly, nobody in his crew has even been seriously wounded. He goes into combat, but you’d have to see how he rolls to understand why nobody has been killed so far. Experience multiplied by luck."

Science - Stellar Development

via ScienceDaily.

"Observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope show that gas giants either form within the first 10 million years of a sun-like star's life, or not at all. The study offers new evidence that gas-giant planets must form early in a star's history. The lifespan of sun-like stars is about 10 billion years. "

The study consisted of 15 young stars (undder 30 million years old) using both the Spitzer and the SMT telescope at Mount Graham, AZ to invetigate different regions of the stars orbits and found that the stellar gasses surrounding the stars were almost all depleted, leading to the conclusion that either the stars had already had gas giant class planets form or that these systems would never develop these type of planets. It is also suspected that the stellar gas cloud is important in the development of elliptical orbits for small rocky earth type planets. A highly elliptical orbit would lead to wild temperature swings and inhibit the development of life on such worlds. Most of the systems studied to not appear to have enough gas to assist any such terrestrial planet into an elliptical orbit.

Venezuela's Chavez

Washington Post via RCP.

President Chavez, not satisfied with stifling opposition media and running his mouth off in the filed of foreign affairs, now plans to go completely Fidel and nationalize both the telecommunications and electrical industries and eliminate the independence of the national banking system.

"In the past couple of weeks Mr. Chávez has shaken up his cabinet to eliminate quasi-independent voices, said he will form a single ruling party and announced plans to govern by decree in the coming year. He has said he will close down the country's most popular television network, which has been critical of his government, eliminate the independence of the Central Bank, and nationalize telephone and electricity companies -- including one partly owned by Verizon and another by Alexandria-based AES. The commercial code will be changed; one minister said the intent is to place new limits on the profits of the remaining private companies. Though some private media will remain, Andres Izarra, the head of a state network and a close collaborator of Mr. Chávez's, declared that the regime's plan is "a communications and information hegemony for the state."

He has already crippled the oil industry by nationalizing it. It is unbelievable this moron won re-election in Decemeber. I wonder how long it will be before the riots start.

World's Tallest Trees

via LiveScience.

These two guys have an interesting hobby. Using laser range finders (since they became commercially available in 1995), they seek out the tallest trees in world (coastal redwoods), and have found the vast majority of them, including the four tallest.

"Coast redwoods grow in a 470-mile ribbon from southern Oregon to Big Sur, and routinely top 300 feet, or the height of a 30-story building. (The giant sequoia, the redwood's inland cousin, have massive trunks that make them the world's biggest trees by volume.) Only 36 coast redwoods taller than 360 feet have been recorded. Atkins or Taylor had a hand in locating 28 of them. In the 370-feet-and-up category, there are only four. Atkins and Taylor found them all. "

They are almost done with their survey and expect to complete it next summer. They believe there is almost no chance of finding any tree taller than the 379 ft Hyperion they found last summer.

Husker Basketball

via OWH.

Doc Sadler has the Huskers 11-3 to open Big 12 play against ISU and coming off a big win vs. highly regarded Western Kentucky. Doc has the Huskers shooting better, scoring higher, and playing much better defense than former coach Collier.

"Last season, Nebraska was No. 286 out of 326 teams nationally in field-goal shooting (41 percent). This season, with nine of the same players but a new coach, the Huskers are No. 8 (51.5 percent). Check the shooting improvement of four returning regulars: Aleks Maric 47.2 percent to 63.8 percent; Marcus Perry 34.7 to 50; Jamel White 36.1 to 45.7; Charles Richardson 36.3 to 45.1....Even with more possessions in a game this season and playing six games outside the state so far compared to one at this point a year ago, Nebraska has allowed a lower scoring average this season (60.6) than last season (63.8)."

Huskers already have 11 victories of over 10 points this season; they had only 8 all of last season.

Baseball Hall of Fame

Also via OWH.

Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken are in, both with extremely high percentages, while Big Mac, once thought of as an automatic selection, is not even close, with less than 25%. Goose Gossage, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson anfd Bert Blyleven, all guys I think should be in the Hall, miss narrowly again.

"Ripken, the Baltimore Orioles shortstop who set baseball's ironman record, was picked by 537 voters and appeared on 98.53 percent of ballots to finish with the third-highest percentage behind Tom Seaver (98.84) and Nolan Ryan (98.79).
Gwynn, who won eight batting titles with the San Diego Padres, received 532 votes for 97.61 percent, the seventh-highest ever, also trailing Ty Cobb, George Brett and Hank Aaron.
If he had been picked by two of the eight voters who didn't select him, Ripken would have set the percentage record, but he didn't mind. Two voters submitted blank ballots."

Fire whomever submitted the blank ballots. Idiots, why even vote?

Tom Osbourne Returns to UNL

via OWH.

Former Husker coach is now teaching Management 467 at UNL to about 50 students.

"He lectured the approximately 50 students about leadership for more than an hour, quoting Aristotle from memory, referencing Warren Buffett and reminiscing about what his 1996 Huskers learned from their 19-0 loss to Arizona State. Mostly he talked about the country's need for strong leadership if Americans want to avoid the fate of the Romans, Greeks and Soviets.

Those societies got lazy, Osborne said, becoming self-absorbed, preoccupied with material wealth and uninterested in helping others. He said he sees the United States stagnating, its populace accepting methamphetamine use and deadbeat dads, its business leaders cooking the books, everyone failing to "tighten their chinstraps" when things get tough."

He ran almost 15 minutes over - but every student stayed. I've met the coach twice - once on campus, another time near his cabin in Ogallalla. Amazing man.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Husker FB Season in Review

No link, just commentary from yours truly.

When I look back on the football season, I see alot of different viewpoints on the season. First, I'm still not entirely sold on Callahan; that being said, I think the program does have better athletes than when he arrived, and I think that if the Husker faithful are patient, he'll eventually mature as a head coach and we'll again be competitive at a high level. Will we completely dominate the sport for a long stretch? Possible, but not probable, the glory years of the mid-90s may never come again, but I think some Big 12 titles and BCS games are certainly within reach, as they should be for a traditional power like Nebraska.

Looking back, it's obvious that I underestimated USC, Okie St, KU and (slightly) A & M; overestimated UT, ISU, Mizzou and Colorado. A 9-5 season is more or less the same as the 8-4 of 2005, with a little extra luster from at least winning the Big 12 North. I thought a 9-3 regular season was probable, and it happened, but I did not expect to win the Big 12, and I thought the bowl matchup with Auburn was a tough one, as it proved to be.

The Huskers had a number of chances for more victories this year, and simply left too many of them slip by, often shooting themselves in the foot with disasterous turnovers (UT, OU, Auburn in particular), ill-concieved gameplans (USC), bad playcalling, bad special teams work, etc. More consistency is needed, and badly, particularly to close games out, and halftime ajustments must be made. It is embarassing how many times the team came out totally flat in the second half of games this year, completely unable to move the ball.

Looking ahead, next year's schedule looks pretty brutal. We open the season with Nevada (WAC bowl team), go to Wake (BCS team, ACC champ) and then host USC (BCS team, Pac-10 champ), with Ball St from the MAC to follow. Big 12 season then starts with ISU, at Mizzou, Okie St, A&M, then at UT, at KU, K-St and at CU to finish the season. Only bye week: Nov 17. Sam Keller had better be really, really good, and right out of the gate. On the plus side, we have 7 or 8 guys on the line returning, all four backs and all but one receiver for Keller to work with. If he lives up to expectations, we should be pretty solid offensively.

Defensively, we lose LB Stu Bradley, S Andrew Shanle and the entire D-line, although the returning tackles played extensively. Heir apparents at end, Zach Potter and Barry Turner, had better be good, and quickly. Linebackers should obviously be a strength, but the secondary will again a question mark. Will CB Zach Bowman come back from injury as effective as 2005? Will any of the recruits make an impact? I guess we'll have to see spring ball and take a look then. On paper, I'm guessing we go 9-3 and win the North again, but I am certainly an optimist.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year's Ice Storm

via OWH.

Thousands still without power as utilities survey millions of dollars in damage to the electrical grid due to the massive ice storm in central Nebraska over New Year's.

"Damage stretched across 29 central Nebraska counties, from the Kansas border to South Dakota. Because damage to the state's electrical grid is so extensive, most communities still without power will have their electricity restored via industrial-size generators, said Ron Asche, president of NPPD."

It may be weeks before thousands of utility poles and high power transmission lines are replaced.