Friday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. It’s all about focus … whaddya think of this art piece?
  2. I haven’t read them all yet, but I agree, a disappointing set of answers. “Action as a principle” is the best one I saw in a quick scan of replies.
  3. Build a better battery and the world will beat that path to your door. How about a better FFT?
  4. Stimulus then … and now on account of decades of environmental activism and barriers to construction … that wouldn’t be possible so stimulus today amounted mostly to repaving roads that didn’t need it yet. Now there’s a legacy for which Mr Obama must be very proud.
  5. In praise of really bad science, and perhaps praise is deserved.
  6. A partial defense of SOPA/PIPA.
  7. On those who think Mr Tebow prays for victory (haven’t apparently noticed he thanks God when he loses).
  8. It’s unclear what they fear, that these two Democrat majority companies might be compared?
  9. Not that’s educational, let’s have a debate … and then in the aftermath one side is termed “a bully” for merely participating.
  10. Losing our edge, evidence here.
  11. Drones in combat.
  12. Zoom.
  13. Apparently every statement made by the DNC is “officially doctrine” for every Democrat.
  14. History and 4 bits.

21 responses to “Friday Highlights

  1. whaddya think of this art piece?

    I love it!

    Not that’s educational, let’s have a debate … and then in the aftermath one side is termed “a bully” for merely participating.

    One side is termed “a bully” for quoting a line saying that gay people should be frickin’ executed! How is that not bullying?? What if it said that nerds should be killed, or Christians?

  2. Actually I disagree here. If the student had personally threatened to kill anyone in particular it would be a different matter but the fact is asserting “men who sleep with other men should be given the death penalty” is an opinion and not in itself bullying. The context here makes a big deal of difference. If someone shouted something like that to a lynch mob congregated outside a gay person’s home with torches, clubs and knives, the speech would clearly not be protected via the ‘clear and present danger’ test. Simply arguing it as a point in a debate is hardly the same thing.

  3. I mean we could split hairs about what bullying does or does not mean, but at the very least this sort of thing has the potential to create a very hostile and threatening environment for gay kids (and of course it’s not just potential but reality all over the world, especially in religious areas.)

    That it’s an opinion is immaterial. A bully telling a smaller kid that he is a worthless piece of shit is also an opinion. I agree that the context makes it less severe than, for example, the same quote being said when a bully is confronting a smaller gay kid in a deserted field, but I don’t think it exonerates him. This is not a formal debate exercise (I don’t think) where it’s understood that the author doesn’t necessarily support the position he’s taking — this is a position he is taking voluntarily, because he agrees with it, and because he wants others to agree with him.

    Imagine a 95% white public school that has two kids with a black dad and a white mom. If a student wrote an editorial saying that blacks who marry whites should be executed along with their children, would that not be bullying?

  4. JA,
    You’re missing the point. First there was a request to debate an issue. Then one side, without reference to their comments, just by virtue of arguing pro (or con depending on statement) was deemed “a bully.” It’s problematic when discourse is deemed bullying. If you can’t see that, I don’t know what to say.

    This is not a formal debate exercise (I don’t think) where it’s understood that the author doesn’t necessarily support the position he’s taking — this is a position he is taking voluntarily, because he agrees with it, and because he wants others to agree with him.

    Why do you say that? The article said “the paper sponsored a debate.” What the eff do you think is being done here if not a call for varying opinions. How can you a prior judge that these are opinions held personally and not merely argued? And that doesn’t really matter. If you call for a debate, you cannot deem one side “a bully” if they then agree to participate. Or rather, you can’t honestly or justly call for that debate and then turn around and claim that by virtue of participation you are now labeled a bully.

  5. I mean we could split hairs about what bullying does or does not mean, but at the very least this sort of thing has the potential to create a very hostile and threatening environment for gay kids (and of course it’s not just potential but reality all over the world, especially in religious areas.)

    I agree it has the potential to create a hostile environment, but that’s a bit like saying kids dressing in flashy and expensive clothes has the potential to create a competitive environment that motivates someone to mug someone else for money. Yes its a potential but the flashy dresser is hardly the same as the mugger.

    That it’s an opinion is immaterial. A bully telling a smaller kid that he is a worthless piece of shit is also an opinion. I agree that the context makes it less severe than, for example, the same quote being said when a bully is confronting a smaller gay kid in a deserted field, but I don’t think it exonerates him.

    The two are actually quite different. The bully in the school yard is not enjoying unrestricted free speech. He has to conform his speech to the standards of the school. This is why, for example, he can be punished for using profanity in the playground.

    Let’s work with that. It’s one thing to punish a kid who blerts out ‘fuck you’ in the playground. It’s another thing to say that the kid who gives a report arguing that the gov’t should not censor curse words out of broadcast TV should be treated the same. In the second, the kid is participating in a debate and giving his opinion. I suppose the school could set a precondition of a debate about censorship that says actual curse words can’t be used….but again here the kid isn’t saying any particular gay kid should be killed, he is only citing his opinion that the death penalty should apply to gays. OK that’s a harsh opinion but in a free society one should be able to hold it and make an argument for it.

    Imagine a 95% white public school that has two kids with a black dad and a white mom. If a student wrote an editorial saying that blacks who marry whites should be executed along with their children, would that not be bullying?

    No it would not. I don’t think the school newspaper is under any obligation to publish such an editorial but are you really saying the kid has no right to his opinion? Are you saying he has no right to give his opinion if asked? As nasty as such an opinion may be, he should be free to give it provided he is not directly threatening people.

  6. Mark,

    If it was actually that kind of debate, then the whole debate was a bad idea and it was a bad idea to participate, especially on the anti-gay side. I’m pretty sure that any school paper that sponsored a debate about whether fat kids should get beaten up would face similar criticism and that anyone who argued the position that they should would too.

    I wonder if your opinion would be different if the op-ed was by a Muslim saying that infidels should be killed?

    Boonton,

    I’m not arguing it should be illegal to say that gay people should be executed, only that it is a form of bullying (or close enough.) Obviously, he should be ALLOWED to say it. Kids should be ALLOWED to say that fat kids suck or that girls are stupid. It’s still bullying.

  7. I’m pretty sure that any school paper that sponsored a debate about whether fat kids should get beaten up would face similar criticism and that anyone who argued the position that they should would too.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but the debate was on whether or not SSM should be legalized, not whether gays should be killed or beaten up. So I see nothing wrong with a debate on that topic whether or not people were taking sides because they really believe in them or taking sides as an academic debate exercise in rhetoric.

    And if you’re talking about academic debate for the sake of debate then no, ‘fat kids should get beaten up’ would actually be an ok topic in my book and I wouldn’t blame someone who took the ‘pro’ side for the sake of the argument.

    I’m not arguing it should be illegal to say that gay people should be executed, only that it is a form of bullying (or close enough.) Obviously, he should be ALLOWED to say it. Kids should be ALLOWED to say that fat kids suck or that girls are stupid. It’s still bullying.

    Ok but then you should advise us of this fact that you don’t believe schools should be enforcing rules against bullying, or verbal bullying. In that case whether or not the editorial is labelled bullying would have no bearing on the student’s right to speak.

    I would say its fine to have rules against bullying. Such rules would inhibit the *ways* a kid who thought gays should be executed or fat kids punished could express his thoughts. Clearly directly threatening gay or fat kids are properly restricted by the school. Speaking abstractly, though, should be allowed even though a gay or fat kid reading or hearing the argument may very well be very offended.

    In terms of the actual debate, I don’t think its a bad idea. There are people who hold to the Biblical POV regarding gays. Let them have their say and make their case. Defeat their arguments not by changing the rules to make them automatic losers but instead demolish their facts and logic and challenge them to show us that they are wrong. This can’t be done if you make the playing field ‘unsafe’ for them. Instead they will quietly nurse their grudges, believing that they are right and the rules you create are intended to keep their perfect and devasting arguments from being given fair consideration.

  8. Stimulus then … and now on account of decades of environmental activism and barriers to construction … that wouldn’t be possible so stimulus today amounted mostly to repaving roads that didn’t need it yet. Now there’s a legacy for which Mr Obama must be very proud.

    Don’t know about where you live, but down here in Rick Perry-land we have several thousands of miles of Interstate that need work, on top of the local roads. Nationally, we have bridges that are worse off than that section of Interstate that collapsed in Minneapolis, roads that should have been fixed back in the 1980s (Reagan administration — go figure).

    You live on the one block where roads are good? We’re happy for you — but I’m a little ticked off that you took our tax money to fix your road, and now gripe about it, inappropriately, when we’re discussing the very nice history of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

    Would Republicans allow such a corps today? The mantra of the Republicans is the CCC was a failure, and deepened the depression.

    Seriously, Mark, you’re sounding every bit as drug-addled and divorced from reality as the Republican presidential candidates.

    CCC didn’t get us out of the Great Depression. As Keynes noted to Roosevelt in person, it wasn’t big enough.

    But every dollar spent there was well spent, and every man working there deserved the job and the money, and did great work.

    FDR had to pull some maneuvers then to get Republican opposition at least temporarily sidelined. There’s a moral there in that tale, but it’s a moral you’ve already missed.

    And, isn’t it ironic, that it’s Rick Perry’s TPWD that made the film? They’re just telling the history straight up, no exaggeration — heck most of the good stuff was probably cut out as “too liberal.”

    Truth is powerful, isn’t it? Even filtered through Rick Perry, it makes you mad.

  9. I’m not sure where I’m really disagreeing with you. I’m just saying that expressing an opinion that gay people should be killed is a form of bullying, not that such an opinion should be banned from a paper. I think it’s pretty absurd to split hairs on definitions when it’s clearly a monstrous opinion that creates a hostile and threatening environment.

  10. Well the problem is there’s efforts underway to ban bullying. I have no problem trying to control bulllying behavior, but I do if it becomes a backdoor way to regulation speech and expression. Here, for example, the kid cited the Bible’s statement that a man who lay with another man should be put to death in a debate against SSM. Many people will think that.

    In a debate, its valuable to bring that out and then ask “do you think gays should be killed by stoning”? Many will say no at which point a debator can note that since they are already deviating from a strict reading of the Bible, why should insist that a partial-reading be enforced on society? Or they may say “yes”, while that may make it hard to change their minds, it will probably alienate many who would have initially agreed with them.

    In order for that to happen, though, the person must be free to answer ‘yes’ if that is in fact his answer and not get hauled up on charges he was ‘bulling’ as if he was pushing kids around on the playground.

    Ed,
    Why not first confront Mark on his facts:
    amounted mostly to repaving roads

    If the world ‘mostly means like 10% I suppose this is true. I think what Mark might be more honest in saying is “mental images of stimulus I happen to have mostly involve roads being repaved”. Which is a true depiction of his mental state but a totally useless one if we are talking about economic policy.

  11. Why not first confront Mark on his fact

    Mark didn’t confront me on the facts. His is not a fact-based criticism. That’s a key part of the problem, glad you picked up on it.

  12. But of course, Boonton’s right. Far more went to tax cuts for the middle class than for road construction. More money went to education than for road construction.

    The point is that stimulus spending works, and it works especially well in economic downturns — 100% better than tax cuts to the wealthy, for which there is not even economic hypothesis to cover.

    See spending accounting here: http://www.recovery.gov/Transparency/fundingoverview/Pages/fundingbreakdown.aspx

  13. I do think that if the DNC passes a resolution (which is more formal and official than just a mere “statement”) on a topic, that becomes an “official” plank of the Democratic Party. Isn’t that the point of it?

    That doesn’t mean that every Democrat believes in it (nor does the RNC’s resolution mean every GOPer is a one-stater) — obviously virtually every Democrat and Republican have some issues in which they disagree with the stated position of their party — but it would be fair to call it a “Democratic” (or “Republican”) position.

  14. David,
    Hmm. So, DNC/RNC “resolutions” are likely grist for the silliness mill … but no that isn’t the point.

    And if you call it the “Democratic” vs “Republican” position, I think JA is going to take exception. It’s not Democratic, it’s Democrat.

    Ed,
    Why forfend might be the reason for me to “cite facts” to bolster my position. You wrote a long post in which you spend a lot of ink and space roundly whacking straw men.

    The basis of my brief remark was that in the 30s mass youth employment programs doing public works was enacted Depression counter unemployment, i.e., stimulus. You argue vehemently that it was not the main or sole economic recovery program, yet I never claimed it was. What I did claim was that environmental/left wing measures which require lengthy and expensive of impact studies make such programs impossible today, this your President admitted was the case, and oddly enough you didn’t offer to refute that). Secondly, many public works projects (of which I didn’t claim were the main or majority of stimulus, again a claim you go to great lengths to confront … too bad it wasn’t what I claimed) leave a legacy of improvements which pale besides our national parks, e.g., road improvements that were not needed.

    So, no I didn’t “cite” facts because the basis of my claim was not disputed by you. Nice try.

  15. LOL Mark, you have it backwards again. David is right.

    At least I know now that you aren’t doing it on purpose.

  16. You might want to cite some facts to make a case — otherwise, you don’t.

    The basis of my brief remark was that in the 30s mass youth employment programs doing public works was enacted Depression counter unemployment, i.e., stimulus. You argue vehemently that it was not the main or sole economic recovery program, yet I never claimed it was.

    I only cited a successful “make work” program, one that Republicans have stood staunchly against since 2008 at least, and probably longer.

    Perhaps more to the point, the usual Republican cant, via the Hoover Institute, is that the CCC prolonged the depression, and didn’t help end it, and did little good along the way. That’s total hooey.

    What I did claim was that environmental/left wing measures which require lengthy and expensive of impact studies make such programs impossible today, this your President admitted was the case, and oddly enough you didn’t offer to refute that).

    If Obama said that, he’s wrong. It’s Republican opposition to doing any more tha makes this impossible. There may be exceptions, but generally nothing CCC ever did would require any environmental review, not even a preliminary EIS under NEPA.

    It would require Republicans to agree to it. Sen. McConnell and Rush Limbaugh have made it clear they will not. They don’t favor any stimulus spending at all, claiming, contrary to all analyses, that the stimulus spending that stopped our national employment hemmorhaging simply didn’t work.

    Secondly, many public works projects (of which I didn’t claim were the main or majority of stimulus, again a claim you go to great lengths to confront … too bad it wasn’t what I claimed) leave a legacy of improvements which pale besides our national parks, e.g., road improvements that were not needed.

    Another place where you need to provide documentation. You claim our roads don’t need improving? Where? I asked. You’ve offered not a whit of a scintilla of evidence to back your specious claim. Once again, you make an assumption in the face of the facts; U.S. roads and bridges, nationwide, are in sore need of repair:

    With 45 percent of roads in less than good condition and 12 percent of bridges structurally deficient, the U.S. faces severe infrastructure needs that significantly impact the nation’s economy. State governments face huge gaps between how much they need to spend to repair roads in the coming years and how much they expect to have under current funding. While there are some state success stories, the infrastructure in other states is in danger of backsliding. This brief makes the case for encouraging Congress to consider legislation reauthorizing federal transportation programs soon and for taking steps to ensure infrastructure improvements are adequately funded.

    And, at the same site:

    The U.S. faces significant infrastructure challenges:

    More than 150,000 miles—or 45 percent—of federal highways and major roads in the U.S. are not in good condition, according to the Federal Highway Administration.1
    More than 71,000 of the nation’s bridges—12 percent—are rated as structurally deficient. More than 78,000 are rated as functionally obsolete.2
    More than 20 states this year will likely reduce transportation investments because of federal inaction on a new surface transportation authorization bill.3

    The condition of U.S. roads and bridges has a significant economic impact:

    Poor road conditions cost U.S. motorists $67 billion a year in repairs and operating costs, an average of $335 per motorist.4
    The Associated General Contractors of America estimates the construction industry loses $23 billion annually due to delays caused by traffic congestion.5
    The Washington, D.C.-based transportation research group The Road Information Program reported that Michigan, especially hard hit by the recession, will face a difficult time recovering economically unless it upgrades its deteriorating transportation system.6
    According to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the state will lose 12,000 jobs and the chance to revive its economy if new money is not invested. Doubling the investment in roads and bridges on the other hand could generate more than 15,000 jobs and pave the way for an economic turnaround.7

    States face significant gaps in trying to meet infrastructure needs:

    Wyoming faces a $2.2 billion shortfall over the next 16 years between the transportation funds it expects to receive and the money it needs to keep roads in their current conditions.8 One-fourth of Wyoming’s major roads are in poor condition and 42 percent of state-maintained roads will be in poor condition by 2015 if current funding levels aren’t increased.9
    North Carolina faces a $65 billion transportation funding shortfall over the next 20 years to maintain its current transportation system and to meet future transportation needs. The state used its $735 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to partially offset an estimated $905 million drop in transportation revenues due to the economic downturn.
    The stimulus money was not enough to allow the state to proceed with numerous high-priority infrastructure projects.10
    Mississippi needs $6 billion more than the $6.5 billion expected under current funding to meet the state’s surface transportation infrastructure challenges through 2019.11
    California faces an annual highway transportation shortfall of $4 billion.12
    New York needs to spend $175 billion from 2010 to 2030 to maintain roads, highways, bridges and transit systems and to provide adequate mobility. But under current funding formulas, the state expects revenues will be less than half that amount, resulting in a transportation funding shortfall of at least $87 billion from 2010 to 2030.13
    The West Virginia Department of Transportation projects a transportation funding shortfall of approximately $5 billion from 2009 to 2018.14
    The Maine Department of Transportation estimates through 2019, $6.5 billion will be needed to improve road and bridge conditions, relieve congestion, and enhance safety and economic development. However, only $3.2 billion will be available under current funding.15
    The amount needed just to maintain the state and local road and bridge system in North Dakota is $254 million per year greater than the amount of funding available.16
    Kansas faces a $6.4 billion gap over the next 10 years to maintain the condition of its major roads, highways and bridges, to relieve traffic congestion and to enhance economic development opportunities by expanding key sections of the state’s roads and making improvements to the state’s public transit system.17
    Minnesota faces a $50 billion shortfall between now and 2028 to fund needed projects to achieve state priorities for safety, mobility and infrastructure preservation.18

    A lack of available infrastructure funding is causing some states to backslide:

    In Minnesota, where 13 people were killed in a bridge collapse in 2007, the number of structurally deficient bridges rose from 1,156 in 2007 to 1,206 last year.19
    Pennsylvania has the highest number of structurally deficient bridges in the nation—more than Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Virginia combined. The state’s Transportation Commission recently reported the number will increase in the next four years because of funding shortfalls, reversing progress made in the past three years to fix bridges. In recent years, the state was fixing 500 bridges each year to offset the 300 bridges, on average, that reach the deficient rating each year. Decreased funding, however, will allow the state to repair only an average of 250 spans a year.20

    There are a few state success stories:

    Louisiana’s backlog of needed road, highway and bridge repairs decreased from $14 billion in 2006 to $12.5 billion at the end of 2009, largely as a result of the boost in transportation funding from the use of state surplus revenue from 2007 to 2009 and the use of Recovery Act funding.21
    Between 2000 and 2009, Ohio made significant improvements to more than 2,100 bridges, including one out of every 10 of the state’s most trafficked bridges.22
    Missouri’s Department of Transportation reported this year that 86 percent of the state’s major roads are now in good condition, a nearly 40 percent improvement from six years ago when voters approved a constitutional amendment to provide additional funding for road and bridge construction by dedicating certain transportation-related taxes and fees solely for that purpose. The extra money was used to make 2,200 miles of the state’s most heavily traveled roads smoother and safer, accelerate 50 construction projects that are now complete, and undertake 97 new projects that originally were not going to be funded for several years.23
    Georgia’s roads are in the best shape of any state, due primarily to their relatively young age and the state’s relatively light winters. According to the Federal Highway Administration, about 95 percent of Georgia highways are rated “good” and 5 percent “fair.” None are rated “poor” or “mediocre.” 24

    State officials could solve many of their infrastructure needs by encouraging Congress to pass a multi-year transportation authorization funded in part by an increase in the federal gasoline tax and by voting to increase gas taxes at the state level.

    The federal gas tax has remained unchanged at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993 and has never been adjusted for inflation. Moreover, when gas prices increase, consumption of gas—and therefore gas tax revenues—decrease. Yet, according to a recent survey, 60 percent of Americans believe the tax is increased annually.25
    While increasing federal and state gas taxes is believed to be politically unpalatable, studies show the damage being done to roads from inadequate maintenance (as a result of declining revenues) is costing drivers more than actually paying a slightly higher tax for gas.26 Moreover, the cost to fix pavement can increase by four to five times when repairs and maintenance are delayed for as little as three years, a New Hampshire Department of Transportation study found.27 According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, every $1 spent in keeping a road in good condition precludes spending $6 to $14 to rebuild a deteriorated road.

    If only we could get some Republicans to join the Democrats, instead of filibustering those bills, we could make jobs and make better roads, too.

    But then, they probably believe as you do, Mark, contrary to the evidence, that everything is hunky-dory in America — at least, that’s the way it looks from the country club dining room.

    As you can see, Boonton, Mark doesn’t appear to have looked for facts at all, let alone facts to back his case — and so I merely pointed that out.

    Now I have done so again, at length, with further citation.

    Fact is that stimulus spending works, and works well. I hope to God it doesn’t take another World War to get the government to do what the government should be doing to stimulate jobs and spending, as all economic theorists hold.

    This radical, anti-capitalism economic experiment of the Republicans is as mysteriously idiotic as it is destructive.

    Brother can you spare a moment’s sensible thought? Then spare a dime, too, and do some good for America.

    So, no I didn’t “cite” facts because the basis of my claim was not disputed by you. Nice try.

  17. Ha! I missed proper formatting of a line of Mark’s response — but it generates its own response, and accurately, too.

  18. What I did claim was that environmental/left wing measures which require lengthy and expensive of impact studies make such programs impossible today

    So you’re claiming that if we had fewer impact studies, we could have had fewer tax cuts in the stimulus package and instead did more bridge building, more dam building, and more massive construction faster? Sure that’s perfectly true. But there’s a slight problem here, stimulus should use unused resources during the depression and ideally increase capacity for when the economy’s returned to full employment. The Hoover Dam is a nice example. During the time when we had 20% unemployment, it put a lot of people to work who would otherwise have remained unemployed. When the economy was at full employment later on, the Dam is here decades upon decades later producing power that we otherwise wouldn’t have had.

    But that’s a nice project. What about the possibly mythical story of paying one group to dig a ditch and another to fill it up? Years later our capacity is reduced by the environmental damage of diging and filling an unneeded hole. While pouring new 18-lane highways cutting thru the nation may be something we could have done quickly in the recent recession if we ignored spending too much time studying where an 18-lane highway should go….years later we may find our capacity cut by being ‘locked in’ to infrastructure that was poorly thought out.

    The tax cut/consumption based stimulus has a nice decentralized advantage to it. Where it gets spent is a pretty much decentralized, individual decision. This has the downside of limiting the potential benefits in the future of a massive investment directed top down by government…but also has the upside of making it unlikely we’d have to was scarce labor in a full employment economy cleaning up a massive investment project that turned out to be poorly thought out. Massive gov’t investment projects that are a great idea (Hoover Dam, the Internet, the Interstate highway system, the space program) merit investment even if there is no recession.

  19. The Hoover Dam is a nice example. During the time when we had 20% unemployment, it put a lot of people to work who would otherwise have remained unemployed. When the economy was at full employment later on, the Dam is here decades upon decades later producing power that we otherwise wouldn’t have had.

    But the Boulder Dam Project was on the boards years before the 1929 Stock Market Crash. Serious surveys were done in 1922. Congress authorized construction of the dam in 1928. It was built by the Bureau of Reclamation to control flooding on the Lower Colorado, and for water storage, and for electrical production — and not as a make-work program. Construction started in 1930, two years before FDR was elected.

    What part of CCC work would have required any significant regulatory approval today? What part of repairing the 45 percent of state roads that badly need repair would require regulatory work today?

    Claiming regulations get in the way is at best a straw man argument, and at worst, a shameful falsehood.

  20. Good point, we should be careful of confusing mental images of policies with actual policies. An image of people working on a road or building a dam is an illustration, perhaps, of ‘stimulus’ but not a very good one. Even in the Great Depression, most stimulus was not in the form of massive construction projects but it’s easier to get a picture of hundreds of people working on an assembly line making tanks or pouring a great dam than it is to get a picture illustrating millions of people modestly being able to maintain or partially slow the decline of their spending due to help from stimulus.

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