Thursday, December 16, 2010

unfortunately, a lot of people think science should be taught like math

Clay Bennett in the C-J...

Unfortunately, I don't think he can see the irony in the cartoon's opposite.

baby Jesus vs. miracle Jesus vs. Easter Jesus vs. Good Friday Jesus

From Kyle's sermon last week...

A discussion of baby Jesus as non-threatening, along with "miracle Jesus". Kyle didn't show this famous clip, but discussed it.

I'd throw "Easter Jesus" and "Good Friday Jesus" in there as well. The former is tough for non-believers to embrace; the latter is often tough for believers.

Kyle went on to talk about the Romans rejecting him because they didn't like his people. (This is similar to those, today, who reject Jesus because of Christians-- and not just as a smoke screen.) And the Jews rejected him, in part, because he wouldn't solve their short-term problems the way they thought that he should. "Jesus didn't come to save us from 'the Romans', but to save us from our sin and Hell".

We are awful sinners; knowing this, we can worship an awesome savior-- at Christmas and always.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

decline of marriage in the middle class

From Peter Smith in the C-J-- on the decline of marriage for those "of moderate means and education"... For those of less modest means, marriage began to take a big beating in the 1960s, along with far higher illegitimacy rates-- with the beginning of hard-core welfare programs.

The reports take different angles but basically say the same thing — that stable marriages are down and the ranks of children raised by single parents are up among middle-class and moderately educated Americans.

“In Middle America, marriage is in trouble,” warns one of the reports, called “When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America.”

In contrast, higher-income and better educated parents are more likely to marry, stay married and be happy in their marriages, that report said. And they’re more likely to be in church and to have other social networks that reinforce marriage.

In another report, "The Decline of Marriage and the Rise of New Families," the Pew Research Center finds that nearly 4 in 10 Americans believe marriage is obsolete. The report is based on a Pew survey of more than 2,600 adults in October...

evangelical scientist persecuted by fundamentalist scientists in academia

This is what happens when...

a.) people conflate and confuse "old-earth" and "young-earth" versions of "creationism" (a form of ignorance that is often, frustratingly, perpetuated by the media)

b.) one deals with fundamentalists on Evolution (the science-laced narrative that evolution can [or at least will be able to] "explain" everything we see around us in terms of the development of life)-- in the face of someone who advocates critical thinking and the investigation of alternative hypotheses

c.) one deals with academics who supposedly value tolerance and academic freedom

d.) all of the above

The answer, sadly is D.

From Peter Smith of the C-J...

No one denies that astronomer Martin Gaskell was the leading candidate for the founding director of a new observatory at the University of Kentucky in 2007 — until his writings on evolution came to light.

Gaskell had given lectures to campus religious groups around the country in which he said that while he has no problem reconciling the Bible with the theory of evolution, he believes the theory has major flaws. And he recommended students read theory critics in the intelligent-design movement.

That stance alarmed UK science professors and, the university acknowledges, played a role in the job going to another candidate.

Now a federal judge says Gaskell has a right to a jury trial over his allegation that he lost the job because he is a Christian and "potentially evangelical."...

Originally, Gaskell was rated the leading candidate by the UK search committee, which was looking for a founding director for the observatory, which opened in 2008.

Gaskell had a doctorate in his field, had published extensively on such subjects as black holes in space, and had developed an observatory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln atop a campus parking garage — an innovative approach UK eventually would use...

But search committee members also learned of lecture notes Gaskell posted on his University of Nebraska website for a talk, "Modern Astronomy, the Bible and Creation."...Much of the lecture seeks to show the harmony between modern astronomy and the biblical book of Genesis. But on the topic of biology, Gaskell says there are “major scientific problems in evolutionary theory," even though he accepts it...

Gaskell, in his lecture notes, calls [young-earth] creationism “very bad scientifically and theologically” and said it “actually hinders some scientists becoming Christians.”...

One of Gaskell's attorneys, Francis J. Manion, said Gaskell “would have been the perfect foil to what those (UK) decision-makers view as the kind of scientific obscurantism represented by the Creation Museum: an openly Christian man of science who accepts evolution.”...

KY's farm bureaucracy lets out the belt by another notch

From the editorialists of the C-J, sudden concern about fiscal conservatism, the size of government, and, I think, farm subsidies...

During the economic crisis of the past several years, almost all of state government in Kentucky has engaged in the most austere belt-tightening in memory. Not so, however, at Richie Farmer's Department of Agriculture...

There have been excessive purchases of new cars for the department's fleet. Travel to the Caribbean for a conference and a little fun in the sun. And now, 11 department employees have received merit-based pay increases this fiscal year — a time when almost all of the state's nearly 34,000 employees received no cost-of-living raises and face six unpaid “furlough” days off from work.

Since Mr. Farmer holds his post as agriculture commissioner as an elected official, he isn't bound by Gov. Steve Beshear's order to suspend merit raises for employees....

Mr. Farmer is a Republican running for lieutenant governor with Senate President David Williams. During the campaign, one hopes that they will clarify what “fiscal responsibility” would mean during a Williams-Farmer administration.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

funny musical terminology (hat tip: Susan Parr)

ALLREGRETTO: When you're 16 measures into the piece and realize you took too fast a tempo

ANGUS DEI: To play with a divinely beefy tone

A PATELLA: Accompanied by knee-slapping

APPOLOGGIATURA: A composition that you regret playing

APPROXIMATURA: A series of notes not intended by the composer, yet played with an "I meant to do that" attitude

APPROXIMENTO: A musical entrance that is somewhere in the vicinity of the correct pitch

CACOPHANY: A composition incorporating many people with chest colds

CORAL SYMPHONY: A large, multi-movement work from Beethoven's Caribbean Period

DILL PICCOLINI: An exceedingly small wind instrument that plays only sour notes

FERMANTRA: A note held over and over and over and over and . . .

FERMOOTA: A note of dubious value held for indefinite length

FIDDLER CRABS: Grumpy string players

FLUTE FLIES: Those tiny mosquitoes that bother musicians on outdoor gigs

FRUGALHORN: A sensible and inexpensive brass instrument

GAUL BLATTER: A French horn player

GREGORIAN CHAMP: The title bestowed upon the monk who can hold a note the longest

GROUND HOG: Someone who takes control of the repeated bass line and won't let anyone else play it


SCHMALZANDO: A sudden burst of music from the Guy Lombardo band

THE RIGHT OF STRINGS: Manifesto of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Violists

SPRITZICATO: An indication to string instruments to produce a bright and bubbly sound

TEMPO TANTRUM: What an elementary school orchestra is having when it's not following the conductor

TROUBLE CLEF: Any clef one can't read: e.g., alto clef for pianists

VESUVIOSO: An indication to build up to a fiery conclusion

VIBRATTO: Child prodigy son of the concertmaster

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

growth in food stamps: recession, recruitment, and reduced stigma

From Greg Beato in Reason, drumming up the demand for food stamps...

Possibly the only cultural phenomenon that had a bigger year in 2010 than Justin Bieber was the needs-based entitlement program formerly known as Food Stamps. Now dubbed the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program, or SNAP...[in] August that number had grown to 41,836,300. At that point, nearly one in seven Americans were receiving monthly payments of approximately $133, for a monthly government outlay of more than $5.5 billion....

But the Great Recession isn't the whole story behind food stamps' Second Great Awakening. The USDA's Food & Nutrition Service has been engaged in a lengthy campaign to boost the program's enrollment rates. In 2000 just 16.9 million people were receiving food stamps, and only 50% of those who were eligible participated in the program. Then FNS and the state agencies that administer SNAP began streamlining application processes and ramping up their outreach efforts. By 2007, 66 percent of "eligibles" had been converted into participants, and preliminary data suggests that that percentage continued to increase in 2008 and 2009. SNAP, it turns out, is a rare and increasingly cosily example of government efficiency...

SNAP'S growth was driven partly by the transition from paper-based coupons to electronic benefit transfer cards...Convenient, stigma-free purchasing power is just one the way government has been, in the words of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, "breaking down barriers to participation" in SNAP....

In part the FNS is pushing SNAP so hard because it believes the program functions as an economic stimulus... (LOL!)

abolish drunk driving laws?

A provocative piece by Radley Balko in Reason...

Among other things, Balko's essay underlines the importance of considering unintended consequences, particularly in government policy.

Last week Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo advocated creating a new criminal offense: "driving while ability impaired." The problem with the current Texas law prohibiting "driving while intoxicated" (DWI), Acevedo explained, is that it doesn't allow him to arrest a driver whose blood-alcohol content (BAC) is below 0.08 percent without additional evidence of impairment...

People do react to alcohol differently...A person's impairment may also depend on variables such as the medications he is taking and the amount of sleep he got the night before. Acevedo et al.'s objections to the legal definition of intoxication highlight the absurdity of drawing an arbitrary, breathalyzer-based line between sobriety and criminal intoxication.

The right solution, however, is not to push the artificial line back farther. Instead we should get rid of it entirely by repealing drunk driving laws.

Consider the 2000 federal law that pressured states to lower their BAC standards to 0.08 from 0.10. At the time, the average BAC in alcohol-related fatal accidents was 0.17, and two-thirds of such accidents involved drivers with BACs of 0.14 or higher. In fact, drivers with BACs between 0.01 and 0.03 were involved in more fatal accidents than drivers with BACs between 0.08 and 0.10....In 1995 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studied traffic data in 30 safety categories from the first five states to adopt the new DWI standard. In 21 of the 30 categories, those states were either no different from or less safe than the rest of the country.

Once the 0.08 standard took effect nationwide in 2000, a curious thing happened: Alcohol-related traffic fatalities increased, following a 20-year decline. Critics of the 0.08 standard predicted this would happen. The problem is that most people with a BAC between 0.08 and 0.10 don't drive erratically enough to be noticed by police officers in patrol cars. So police began setting up roadblocks to catch them. But every cop manning a roadblock aimed at catching motorists violating the new law is a cop not on the highways looking for more seriously impaired motorists....

Several studies have found that talking on a cell phone, even with a hands-free device, causes more driver impairment than a 0.08 BAC. A 2001 American Automobile Association study found several other in-car distractions that also caused more impairment, including eating, adjusting a radio or CD player, and having kids in the backseat (for more on such studies, see the 2005 paper I wrote on alcohol policy for the Cato Institute).

If our ultimate goals are to reduce driver impairment and maximize highway safety, we should be punishing reckless driving. It shouldn't matter if it's caused by alcohol, sleep deprivation, prescription medication, text messaging, or road rage...

Doing away with the specific charge of drunk driving sounds radical at first blush, but it would put the focus back on impairment, where it belongs. It might repair some of the civil-liberties damage done by the invasive powers the government says it needs to catch and convict drunk drivers....

Gore's epiphany on ethanol

From the editorialists of the WSJ...

Anyone who opposes ethanol subsidies, as these columns have for decades, comes to appreciate the wisdom of St. Jude. But now that a modern-day patron saint—St. Al of Green—has come out against the fuel made from corn and your tax dollars, maybe this isn't such a lost cause....

"It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first-generation ethanol," Al Gore told a gathering of clean energy financiers in Greece this week. The benefits of ethanol are "trivial," he added, but "It's hard once such a program is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going."

No kidding, and Mr. Gore said he knows from experience: "One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for President."

Mr. Gore's mea culpa underscores the degree to which ethanol has become a purely political machine: It serves no purpose other than re-electing incumbents and transferring wealth to farm states and ethanol producers. Nothing proves this better than the coincident trajectories of ethanol and Mr. Gore's career.

Ethanol's claim on the Treasury was first made amid the 1970s energy crisis, with Jimmy Carter and a Democratic Congress subsidizing anything that claimed to be a substitute for foreign oil. Mr. Gore, freshman House class of 1976, was an early proponent of what was then called "gasahol."

The subsidies continued through the 1990s, with the ethanol lobby finding a sympathetic ear in Clinton EPA chief and Gore protege Carol Browner, who in 1994 banned the gasoline additive MTBE and left ethanol as the only option under clean air laws. When the Senate split 50-50 on repealing this de facto mandate, then Vice President Gore cast the deciding vote for . . . ethanol. That served him well in the 2000 Democratic primaries against ethanol critic Bill Bradley.

During the George W. Bush years, Big Ethanol adapted again, attaching itself to the global warming panic that Mr. Gore did as much as anyone to foment. Republicans in Congress formalized the mandate and increased subsidies in the 2005 and 2007 energy bills.

Meanwhile, the greens have slowly turned against corn ethanol, thanks to the growing scientific evidence that biofuels increase carbon emissions more than fossil fuels do....

At least on corn subsidies, we now have the makings of a left-right anti-boondoggle coalition. Major corn energy subsidies such as the 54-cent-per-gallon blenders credit expire at the end of the year...

No one could plausibly say the same about ethanol, and maybe now that he's had his epiphany Mr. Gore will join the fight against the subsidized industry he did so much to promote.

(educational) vouchers in Denver?

People support food vouchers all of the time, but educational vouchers are a little tougher, given all of the red herrings and the need for abstract thinking (to imagine something we don't have).

The chief catalysts for reform in education are: quality, costs, and "menu choice" issues (e.g., graduation prayer to Jesus, lukewarm deity, or none). In Denver, it's costs. This will be an increasing issue as the macroeconomy struggles and local/state governments find it difficult to reduce non-education spending.

Here's Stephanie Simon in the WSJ on prospects for educational vouchers in Denver...

The school board in a wealthy suburban county south of Denver is considering letting parents use public funds to send their children to private schools—or take classes with private teachers—in a bid to rethink public education.

The proposals on the table in Douglas County constitute a bold step toward outsourcing a segment of public education...Already hit hard by state cutbacks, the local board has cut $90 million from the budget over three years, leaving some principals pleading for family donations to buy math workbooks and copy paper...

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case involving a voucher program in Cleveland that public money could be used for private religious schools as long as parents were not steered to any one particular faith-based program and had a "genuine choice" on where to use their vouchers. About 160,000 children in the U.S., mostly low-income or with special needs, use vouchers or scholarships subsidized indirectly by the state to attend private schools, according to the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

The Douglas County proposal would allow religious schools in the voucher program to base admissions on faith....

another kick in the pants for the macro-economy: higher state payroll taxes to finance federal-mandated unemployment subsidies

From Sara Murray in the WSJ...

State governments are borrowing heavily from the federal government to keep paying unemployment-insurance benefits and, even with the weak job market, most states are raising payroll taxes to pay off the loans.

Thirty one states, their unemployment-insurance funds empty, have borrowed nearly $41 billion from the federal government....

As states try to replenish the funds and begin to repay the loans, employers are facing increases in both state and federal payroll taxes, a potential barrier to new hiring....

Payroll taxes levied by states fund unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks—and longer in some states. The federal government requires states to pay benefits even if their unemployment funds run out of cash...

Federal loans to states have so far been interest-free under a provision in the Obama administration's 2009 fiscal-stimulus law. But that waiver expires in January...

calling Obama's bluff on his own deficit commission

From Timothy Lamer in World...

President Obama's deficit commission was supposed to be a test of the GOP's seriousness about the deficit. "Next year, when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt step up," said the president in January. "Because I'm calling their bluff."

But when the commission's chairmen—former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles—floated a compromise trial proposal on Nov. 10, Democratic leaders were the ones who refused to step up and take it seriously.

Simpson and Bowles proposed a mix of spending restraints and tax hikes, and they included plenty for both parties to dislike. Their plan would eliminate farm subsidies, cut defense and discretionary programs, and raise revenue by closing popular tax loopholes like the mortgage interest deduction and the child tax credit (while lowering rates) and raising the gasoline tax. Simpson and Bowles would also restrain the growth of Social Security by very slowly raising the retirement age, adjusting the cost of living index, and curbing benefits for wealthier retirees. They would raise the payroll tax on high-income Americans and raise premiums and co-pays for many Medicare recipients...

Two other members of the commission, Ryan and former Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin, took a different approach, proposing to raise slowly the eligibility age for Medicare and turn it into a voucher program to buy private insurance for people who enter the program after 2021...

Obama's pay freeze: why should DC boom while they give us a recession?

From the editorialists in the WSJ...

American Federation of Public Employees President John Gage yesterday derided President Obama's federal pay freeze as a "slap at working people." It might better be described as a small but symbolic first step toward reining in a ballooning federal payroll that is a slap at the non-government workers who pay the bills.

Mr. Obama proposed a two-year pay freeze for all civilian federal employees, a move that will save taxpayers $2 billion in fiscal 2011 and $28 billion over five years. (Congress must approve it.) As cost-cutting goes, this is modest: The freeze doesn't extend to new hiring, bonuses or step increases. It doesn't even match the three-year freeze recommended by the President's deficit commission. But it is more than this Administration has ever been willing to consider, and it suggests that Mr. Obama, post-midterm-shellacking, realizes he must show some willingness to restrain the growth of government.

Gilder in World on Ayn Rand, capitalism, and self-interests

Interviewed by Marvin Olasky...

Ayn Rand, in her last public speech in 1982, just before she died, attacked you furiously. What got her goat?
Altruism. She thought I was ascribing altruism to capitalism. Altruism in her theory is the foundation of socialism, and she thought capitalism is supported by egoism or by individual fulfillment above all. She was blinded in part by her atheism. If you read her books, her characters lead sacrificial lives in order to serve others in many instances. But her objectivist philosophy denies the existence of God, and she found my Christian orientation obnoxious. I said businesses succeed by serving others.

Many on the left also equate capitalism with egoism, and for that reason hate it.
Capitalists do not get to follow their own dreams, whatever they may be. Academic intellectuals can propagate their ideas whether anyone wants to hear them or not. They can enforce their whims if they join the government—but capitalists cannot succeed without serving others....
Why does the left associate self-interest with capitalism rather than socialism?

Self-interest is an all-purpose agency. To say it drives capitalism: How does that distinguish capitalism from any other­ system? Self-interest certainly could be said to drive socialism as well, because what a greedy, self-interested person wants is guaranteed returns....

macro-economic modeling, going forward

An interesting article from Mark Whitehouse in the WSJ on post-crash macro-economic modeling...

Of course, the quick response here is to look at Austrian Economics which has had a lot to offer on macro policy, especially over the last three years. But their work is not formalized/math-heavy enough to count, here, as "models".

In any case, this points to the inherent difficulties in trying to model something as complex as a macro-economy with equations. Such modeling is helpful, but limited. And keep in mind, that we're talking about macro vs. micro (which is a lot clearer and less complex)!

Physicist Doyne Farmer thinks we should analyze the economy the way we do epidemics and traffic.

Psychoanalyst David Tuckett believes the key to markets' gyrations can be found in the works of Sigmund Freud.

Economist Roman Frydman thinks we can never forecast the economy with any accuracy.

Disparate as their ideas may seem, all three are grappling with a riddle that they hope will catalyze a revolution in economics: How can we understand a world that has proven far more complex than the most advanced economic models assumed?...

The problem, says Mr. Farmer, is that the models bear too little relation to reality. People aren't quite as rational as models assume, he says. Advocates of traditional economics acknowledge that not all decisions are driven by pure reason.

Mr. Farmer sees a perhaps greater flaw in the models' mathematical structure. A typical "dynamic stochastic general equilibrium" model—so called for its efforts to incorporate time and random change—consists of anywhere from a few to dozens of interlinked equations, which must agree before the model can spit out a solution. If the equations get too complex, or if there are too many elements, the models have a hard time finding the point at which all the players' preferences meet.

To keep things simple, economists leave out large chunks of reality...

Mr. Farmer says he thinks the traditional models will always be useful for certain types of analysis, but isn't optimistic they'll provide the whole solution. "Economic forecasts have never been very good, and it's not clear that if we stick with the methods we're pursuing we'll do any better," he says. "We need to try something new."

continuing the "tax cuts" for two more years: macro and political implications

This is a mixed bag for the macro-economy. More debt and the clear and prospective troubles in brings. Lower marginal tax rates to stimulate consumption and production; other reduced taxes to stimulate consumption; and most important, lessening the uncertainties of public policy. But will it be enough-- along with expectations of what will [or won't] happen the next two years?-- to allow the economy to recover quickly (doubtful) slowly (most likely), or not at all.

This would seem to be a political victory for the GOP in Congress. Directly, they get a significant legislative victory. In the long-run, Obama's decision to make this two years (instead of longer) puts the GOP in the driver's seat for 2012, as voters will again consider who they want in charge when the topic of taxes comes up again then. (UPDATE: Both of these bother more liberal Democrats-- since it shows "self-abasement" from Obama, defers to the GOP in compromise rather than leadership, and maybe most important, that it ratifies an important and hated policy from the Bush adminstration.)

And it's a victory for Obama and bipartisanship (for the first [significant] time in his administration?). It also makes his election in 2012 more likely-- both because he is pursuing more moderate policies and is signaling that he can govern effectively with a more moderate Congress.

From the AP's Jim Kuhnhenn and David Espo in the C-J...

Brushing past Democratic opposition, President Barack Obama announced agreement with Republicans Monday night on a plan to extend expiring income tax cuts for all Americans, renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and grant a one-year reduction in workers' Social Security taxes. The emerging agreement also includes tax breaks for businesses that the president said would contribute to the economy's recovery from the worst recession in eight decades...

Officials said that under the plan, unemployment benefits would remain in effect through the end of next year for workers who have been laid off for more than 26 weeks and less than 99 weeks. Without an extension, 2 million individuals would have lost their benefits over the holidays, the White House said, and 7 million would have done so by the end of next year.

To some extent, this necessarily undermines the recovery, since people are being subsidized to remain unemployed. At first, I thought they said 13 weeks-- which would have been far better. (Here's another problem with extending UI: states are having to borrow money from the Feds and increase state payroll taxes to finance UI spending!)

The Social Security tax cut would apply to workers, not employers, and would drop from 6.2 percent of pay to 4.2 percent for one year. The White House said the result would be to fatten take-home pay by $120 billion over the course of the year...

This helps all workers, especially those on the lower end. But this is short-term and uses debt to promote consumption.

From what I read elsewhere, the most notable tax break for businesses was full write-off for new capital expenditures. Although artificial, this could give the economy a short-term boost. Of course, aside from distorting incentives, the concern would be that this will encourage investment in 2011 but discourage it in 2012.

UPDATES: The payroll tax cut will use deficit financing leading to a temporary increase in consumption for workers; the unemployment insurance extension will use
deficit financing leading to a temporary increase in consumption for non-workers. In a word, more "stimulus"-- targeting consumption and short-term production at the expense of long-term production and economic health. All things equal, this gets in the way of economic recovery.

Friday, December 3, 2010

amazing statistic from the 9th District election

Todd Young got almost as many votes in 2010 (98%) as Mike Sodrel received in 2008.

Baron Hill got just more than HALF as many votes in 2010 (52.6%) than he did in 2008.

And if you're interested, Greg Knott got more votes in 2010 and than I did in 2008.

Recall that this was an off-year election when voting is much lower, but still...
the precipitous fall of Hill (and the Dems) was amazing...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

want to subsidize the wealthy? keep the home mortgage interest deduction

This came up in a thread on Facebook.

I knew the logic behind this:
One has to itemize deductions to get the subsidy-- and then the gain is only the amount of the itemized deduction over the standard deduction. In 2009, the standard deduction for married couples was $11,400. So, unless your mortgage interest and other deductions (most notably, charitable contributions, state/local and property taxes) exceed that amount, the mortgage interest does not reduce your taxable income. And if you have mortgage interest of $5,000 but total deductions of $12,000, then you only get $600 over the $11,400.

From there, you multiply by
the relevant marginal tax rate (MTR). Both the itemized deduction and the MTR typically increase with income, so it follows that the wealthier should be expected to benefit (greatly) from a policy that will do little for the middle class and nothing for the poor.

Someone pressed me for numbers, so I dug this up from the (lean-lefting) Urban Institute...

The annual benefit of the home mortgage interest deduction: $2,639 for the top quintile ($4466 from the top 5%) vs. $215 for the middle quintile vs. $2 for the lowest.

Who could love a policy like that?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NCAA football on Saturday or not: Louisville, the MAC, the Big Ten, etc.

From Darren Everson in the WSJ...

Here's the details on NCAA football played on Saturday vs. weekdays...

The toughest team in America to keep track of is Louisville. Since 2000, the Cardinals have played 42 non-Saturday games (excluding bowls)—the most in the nation, and nearly one-third of their regular-season total. Toledo is second (34), followed by Boise State (33)...

Naturally, the schools that aren't starving for attention virtually never move from Saturday. The Big Ten has played by far the fewest non-Saturday games of any conference (30) since 2000, while the Mid-American Conference has played the most (282). Six schools have played exclusively on Saturdays since 2000: Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan State, Florida, Georgia and Duke.

demographics and dealing with (U.S.) budget debt

I'm asked frequently about the extent to which the US can accumulate debt. The answer is complicated.

The best answer is broad: we're in a car driving the wrong direction quickly, but no one knows where the edge of the cliff is.

Why can't we be more specific? To draw an analogy to personal finance (a much simpler topic), there still isn't A number. But it's more complicated because the financial solvency of a nation is not simply a matter of past spending over revenues vs. some measure of (future) "ability to pay" and interest rates. It's complicated by figuring out reasonable expectations of that future, including demographic considerations (e.g, workers vs. non-workers) and commitments to make payments in the future (e.g., pensions, Medicare).

This article in the WSJ, by Nick Eberstadt and Hans Groth is a useful effort to lay out a "demographic stress test"...

Financial crises can erupt suddenly and unexpectedly. Demographic pressures, by contrast, gather slowly and predictably—but over just a generation they can transform the economic and social landscape irreversibly.

Such a transformation is already underway in the developed world. Twenty years from now, Western economies will be characterized by stagnating populations, shrinking work forces, steadily increasing pension-age populations, and ballooning social spending commitments. These demographic changes will mean major increases in public debt burdens and slower economic growth, as savings are diverted from investments and innovation that enhance productivity.

Consider the "big three" Western economies: Germany, Japan [which is in especially rough shape] and the United States...

• The U.S., meanwhile, can expect to see continuing population and manpower growth between now and 2030, thanks to relatively high birth rates and a robust inflow of immigrants (roughly half of them legal). America will remain the most youthful Western society, although its 65-plus population will be about 19% of the total, up from 13% today.

Nevertheless, entitlement liabilities—especially the unfunded liabilities in the health-care system—are on course to skyrocket in the decades ahead. The country's recently enacted health reform will make the burden heavier...

Maintaining economic growth in the face of these demographic trends will require rethinking current approaches to work and retirement, pension and health-care policies, and government budget discipline. Thanks to the recent financial crisis, we're now familiar with the concept of the "financial stress test" used to evaluate the soundness of banks and allied institutions. A "demographic stress test" for Western economies is now in order, so that voters and their elected representatives can cope with aging populations and declining work forces.

Such an exercise would assess how manpower availability, labor force participation rates, aging and budgetary commitments would, over the next 30 years, affect key measures of national economic well-being like growth and productivity, fiscal balances, and government debt. It would also indicate the extent to which adverse "baseline" costs and consequences could be mitigated or offset by changes in lifestyle, personal behavior and public policy. These could include, for example, later retirement thanks to healthy aging, increased attention to preventive health care, enhanced personal savings, and adjustments to health and pension schemes....

Pelosi: extremist and obstructionist?

Why not paint her that way?

See the title of this article by the AP's Julie Davis in the C-J (chosen by the editor): "Pelosi's new mission: Curb Obama deals with the GOP".

What is this called if it's done by the GOP?

faith (cont'd)

Here's my blog post covering the first two parts of the Southeast sermon series on faith-- and its applications to a particular path we're walking right now.

I loved a line in the third sermon, distinguishing between the faith we have in our faith vs. the faith we should have in God's faithfulness.

In the fourth sermon, there was a lot of good stuff:

Kyle notes that faith "always has a story"-- as opposed to being merely a feeling (in fact, it often contradicts feeling) or merely a cerebral understanding. And if you don't have a story, then you don't have "faith" or an exercised/strong faith. How do you get there? You (and one's church) should be willing to take (God-appointed) risks.

Two other highlights:

-40% through the sermon: on the "empty chairs" at Thanksgiving and in church.

-75% through the sermon: on Christian Smith's "moral therapeutic deism" and its appeal to this generation. In fact, it has appeal to every generation-- and greatly influences preaching in many churches and the avid focus on small groups that are low-commitment while being sold as high-commitment.