Link roundup May 17

Having a great time. Here are a few things that have penetrated the haze of red wine and espresso to catch my attention.

Giordano Bruno is not amused by your antics.

Giordano Bruno is not amused by your antics.

Google launches self-driving cars in public tests this summer.

There’s no environmental disaster quite like a Soviet environmental disaster.

Follow up to article about redlining and riots. Jamelle Bouie describes the lingering legacy of redlining in Baltimore.

Video from Aeon: The psychology of the ever-imminent apocalypse.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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88 comments on “Link roundup May 17
  1. 1mime says:

    Be careful what you ask for………..”States Quietly Consider Obamacare Exchange Mergers”

    “By most accounts, creating a multi-state marketplace would be a logistical nightmare.

    It’s unlikely that states could ever merge the full responsibilities of a marketplace, such as regulating plans and managing risk pools.”

    Universal health care, anyone?

    http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/242885-exclusive-states-consider-obamacare-mergers

  2. 1mime says:

    To all: sorry to make a post inviting participation and then bail. Very busy, long day yesterday and couldn’t get to computer. I will respond if I can offer something worthy and look forward to your replies. It may seem to you that this is something we individually cannot impact. That, “it’s out of our hands”. I emphatically disagree and hope to support that position in my responses. Until I take my last breath, I will always believe that I CAN make a difference on issues that are important to me. To lose this belief is to belie all that I hold true in our democratic form of government.

    • Doug says:

      No need to apologize, although it probably would be better to make bail first, and then the post. You just never know when you’re going to be able to get to a computer in there.

    • Creigh says:

      Ok, I’ll put in 2 cents.

      It has been noted that the solution to the public pension problem has to come from the political process, and I think that’s right. That solution has to be informed by accurate financial accounting, of course. (I’ll just note in passing that scary sounding numbers are sometimes used to try to influence political decisions. It happens.) And of course citizen interest and participation is a good thing. Citizens have lives to get on with, but if nobody is paying attention bad things tend to happen. That’s where you come in, 1mime.

      A few months ago, I thought President Obama said something thought-provoking to a college student who said that he (or she, I don’t remember) hated politics. He said something like “Politics is how we decide what kind of society we are going to live in.”

      • 1mime says:

        Yes, Creigh, I do pay attention and I try to make a difference as I can as we all should. Pension problems are going to be tough – just like entitlement reform. People (rightly or wrongly) fear reductions, i.e., “chained CPI” – (SS), or “voucherization” (Medicare) – as retirements were planned with certain assumptions. This is particularly perilous for those whose wages were at the lower end of the scale. And, yes, politics is how America delivers on Democracy – or, not.

        BTW, met with financial consultant about SS taxation and he confirmed that we are indeed paying taxes (at our tax rate) on 85% of our SS earnings, as are lots of middle class folks who probably don’t realize it. The fact that SS taxation was not tied to inflation is the culprit and every year is reaching a lower income level than was ever envisioned. With the advent of tax filing software, details of how certain final numbers are determined can be less obvious for those who are less sophisticated (like me (-: ). Be forewarned.

  3. fiftyohm says:

    Closer to Chris’ home, Moody’s dropped Chicago’s bonds to junk status the other day. The city’s unfunded pension debt equals six times the annual city’s budget, or about $60K for every household in pension debt alone. That’s OK. Keynes will fix it.

    That, my friends, is a complete Mongolian Charlie Foxtrot of epic proportion. And they just reelected the mayor! Tube city, Chi-town.

    • 1mime says:

      Keynes will fix it. Trickle down economics sure hasn’t.

      America has a big problem with un/under-funded pensions – at all levels of government as well as at the corporation level. At this point, it doesn’t matter “why” or “who” is to blame for irresponsible financial planning, the problem exists. Cities and states have cut basic services to the bone, underfunded schools, failed to maintain (and expand) infrastructure, shifted dedicated revenues, and have simply punted the pension issue down the field.

      So, how should government solve the problem? In the name of “balanced budgets”, taxes are not increasing despite population growth and escalating, unavoidable problems described above. In fact, as KS, TX, and other “red” states continue to reduce taxes below levels which are already inadequate to meet obligations, basic services are being decimated.

      I think this topic is worthy of objective, rational discussion on the blog. Separate out politics and try to focus on basic solutions. If we can’t have dispassionate conversation at this level, how can we hope that government will be successful? It is not a problem we can continue to ignore – be it entitlements or pensions or military expansion or, whatever. Offer your ideas and concerns if you can, without getting personal or condescending. You are all bright people, let’s talk about this. No idea is too crazy (national sales tax dedicated to address the federal deficit and properly fund basic services and programs that are needed and wanted?). Put it out there.

      • moslerfan says:

        Doesn’t really have anything to do with Keynes. The problem was caused by politicians making promises they couldn’t keep, and the solution will be a political one; namely, how will the pain be spread around.

      • 1mime says:

        Mosler, Yes, that is how it will come down, but what will be the priorities? How do you see that occurring? What would you do if you were able to provide input? Is this a problem you can simply “cut your way out of”? Or, will it take some tough love prioritization based upon the needs of the people vs pure political needs? Let’s get down into the nitty gritty.

      • fiftyohm says:

        mime – The answer to gross financial mismanagement is not continually raising taxes. Illinois a few years ago raised the state income tax by 66% in one whack. Would you trade Texas’ financial position for Illinois’? Or Houston’s for Chicago’s? Look at the numbers. Illinois taxpayers have been getting soaked for decades, and where has that lead?

        Attempting to smother a fire with gasoline is a very bad idea.

      • 1mime says:

        Raising taxes doesn’t “cure” bad management or all problems. We agree on that. But, deliberately under-funding basic services doesn’t resolve short term or long term needs. America is a civilized society with over 300 million citizens with many priorities. Whose or what needs should be greatest? Does it all come down to the priorities important to the dominant party in power? Or, is there a greater responsibility to consider broader societal needs – ones that make our country a great place to live for all and that allows it to function effectively? Is kicking the can down the road on funding for the FHA as Congress just did any less responsible than ignoring or delaying hard decisions on pensions/entitlements/immigration? Our Constitution designed the governmental system to determine basic priorities and how they should be funded. It’s clearly not working. So, is the problem those who are elected by we, the citizens, or, we the people who accept the decisions they are making?

        What I am suggesting is that unless and until America comes to an agreement as to “what” are highest priorities for the nation at large, not only will the political process be ineffective at managing its responsibilities, but the current political divide will exacerbate the very challenges they are elected to manage. Sooner or later, it will become evident to business that demand is driven by people who have sufficient income to participate in the economy.

        So, compare the economic situation of Chicago vs Houston, the latter city being “better”? A little research reveals that pension issues in Houston are huge….it is the strength of the underlying energy sector (struggling now) that has provided sufficient revenue to maintain a healthy jobs market to retain its “strong economy” title. Yet, Houston politicians have also “punted” on critical long term problem of pensions, infrastructure repair/expansion, health care, education, etc. Chicago may have junk bond status, but Houston and many of our nations’ large cities, have similar challenges ahead….(Somehow, the TX Legislature has found $800 million in this budget to fortify border surveillance while not fixing pot-holes…in some very “toney” neighborhoods, and to reduce business taxes and local property taxes – all without raising a dime in new taxes. Explain that to teachers struggling to educate children, or doctors who are overwhelmed in ER centers. Once you pull the covers back and see what is not being addressed, it’s not as easy to be critical.

        We have the ballot box to correct problems, you say, yet, people are voting for candidates who have helped create or perpetuate the very problems that are resulting in economic peril. Rahm Emmanuel may have “caved” on teachers earlier, but stood up to them in advance of the recent election and almost got beat by a political novice as a result….Sam Brownback was re-elected despite absurd tax decisions that have caused great harm to the people of his state. Bobby Jindal is in the same spot, and continues to blindly adhere to conservative principles that are clearly not working in LA…while proudly asserting his Grover Norquist pledge to not raise taxes. And, this is only three states experience. It is just as difficult for government to decide “what” to fund as a priority as it is for a family to determine their budget – depending upon what life throws their way.

        America is serving more people – basic services have costs – I repeat for all to consider: what should be retained – changed or eliminated? Sweeping statements are easy; governing is hard.

      • Doug says:

        “In fact, as KS, TX, and other “red” states continue to reduce taxes below levels which are already inadequate to meet obligations, basic services are being decimated.”

        I see somebody hasn’t gotten her 2015 property appraisal yet. 😉

      • moslerfan says:

        1mime, I gotta punt on this one. It’s a political question, and it’s up to the politicians to come up with an answer. And if the citizens of Chicago don’t like the answer, they need to elect different politicians. That’s how this crazy thing we call democracy works. But I was sort of trying to make the point that blaming Keynes, or any other economist, is misdirection. Economists didn’t cause the problem, and don’t have any particular insight on how to solve it.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Mosler – Oh fiddle. The Keynes crack was not an attempt at my ‘misdirection’ or ‘blaming economists’. It was a simple swipe at those who attempt to justify fiscal irresponsibility with Keynes while never having read him, let alone Hayek.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Mime – Raising taxes in an attempt to correct Chicago’s financial crisis is about the worst thing one could do. Review the history of Detroit. People will just leave, and so will businesses. Furthermore, giving more money to that crowd is *exactly like* pouring gasoline on a fire.

        On Houston, you suggest its problems are even close to Chicago’s. They are not. And you go on to say that Houston’s current, fairly good status is because of the energy sector. This is flat wrong as well. Both cities have very diversified economies.

        Yes, we must decide what services should have priority. And what are needed at all. The question is not about more money, necessarily. In Chicago’s case, the money went to the same labor cabal that has run that city for over a century. I’d say that particular ‘priority’ should have no priority at all.

        A question for you: Can you, off the top of your head, give me an example of am government program that gives money away to anything other than business, that you don’t like, or think should be reduced?

      • 1mime says:

        Several points, Fifty.

        Regarding Chicago – I never suggested raising taxes to “bail out” Chicago with more taxes. What I did say was that properly designed, allocated and managed taxes are important to the smooth functioning of our state and national economy. In many states, in moves that smack more of political grandstanding than sound fiscal policy, cuts to basic services have been enacted that have disrupted sound government function hurting the least able and rewarding (or so they think) others. Taxes are an important tool to fund necessary services and sometimes it is necessary to increase them though always responsibly. The “no new taxes” pledges are ridiculous, elitist and an abrogation of responsibility to voters.

        Regarding Houston – I didn’t state that Houston’s problems were close to Chicago’s, only that their reputation as a solid economy does not acknowledge serious pension problems that have been building for years with no one willing to address them…..just like in Chicago and other big cities. TX has benefited from a strong energy sector but it has falsely touted a balanced budget through “shell”economics…..shifting dedicated funds, cutting basic services, ignoring basic needs while funding dubious programs. Houston does have a diversified economy, but mining still comprises a solid 20% of its industry, and when energy cycles down, Houston jobs, real estate, sales tax and property revenue, etc are negatively impacted. It bothers me to hear of the TX bravado about its economic prowess when I know the needs that are being ignored.

        We agree that services should be prioritized and some changed or eliminated as long as there is a recognition of the importance of programs/services that address basic needs and quality of life.

        A question for you: Can you, off the top of your head, give me an example of am government program that gives money away to anything other than business, that you don’t like, or think should be reduced?

        Why would you exclude business from things that the government should not aide? But, since you asked, I would greatly reduce the federal military budget, eliminate federal subsidies for duplicative programs and private event and business subidies. I would reform entitlement programs so that they are sustainable but do so in a responsible manner. More important than what I would cut is what I would increase funding for: better infrastructure, early childhood programs, health care access for those whose incomes fall below arbitrary state levels, improved technological equipment for agencies who run government so that they could more efficiently operate, rail to reduce vehicular travel, increased contributions from recipients of federal health and retirement benefits (military retirees have gotten a real pass on this).

        I’m not sure exactly what you were hoping to hear from me but maybe this will be a good start….off the top of my head….

      • Doug says:

        “Taxes are an important tool to fund necessary services and sometimes it is necessary to increase them though always responsibly. The “no new taxes” pledges are ridiculous…”

        Do you have an opinion on how much taxation is enough? Is there a limit? Government revenue (at all levels) in the U.S. has increased from about 7% of GDP at the turn of the last century to over 35% today. At the federal level (and some state and local levels) spending has gone up even more. Is there a point in your mind where “no new taxes” makes sense?

        http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/revenue_history

      • fiftyohm says:

        Mime – Illinois and Chicago are bankrupt messes. Houston and Texas are not. Say what you will about ‘missing services’, but programs without money to fund them are worse than no programs at all. And programs that bankrupt a society, likewise. And union cabals are probably the worst of all. No, Texas and Illinois are not alike in any way. I grew up and went to university there. Anymore, I can barely stand to visit.

        Doug asks a relevant question. How much government as a percentage of GDP do you think is enough?

        And your list was not surprising – especially because it included ‘more importantly’ things on which you would *increase spending*. Do you figure your list is a net zero? If not, and you think more taxes are necessary, which of the taxes you currently pay would like to see increase, and by how much? (And remember that answers like “I pay or have paid enough, and it’s ‘the rich’ that should pay more, and I’m not rich”, will bring down the rhetorical Hammer of Thor.)

      • 1mime says:

        Doug and Fifty – Great informative article on U.S. revenue, Doug.

        How much government as a percentage of GDP do you think is enough?

        It is an important question. I don’t have the financial knowledge to offer a specific answer to this question, Doug/Fifty, but I will try to explain how I feel about this. My “admitted” armchair analysis tells me this: In 1900, America’s population stood at 76 million, today it is 321 million plus. 115 years have brought about many changes in the United States: industrialization, militarization, public education, health care, medicare, SS, infrastructure growth and maintenance – all of which (an incomplete list, obviously) are important to our quality of life and require funding and, consequently, taxation. SOMEONE wanted these things or they wouldn’t be part of the budget. But the budget is not static; it is subject to the political process as to what is funded and its priority – which is not always fair or efficient, but it is the operating mechanism we operate under. How much government as a % of GDP is enough? Broadly, it needs to be sufficient to provide basic services wanted and needed by the people of America, including protection and the necessary regulatory and administrative means (that includes personnel and equipment) to effectively get the job(s) done well. I do not believe in the “balanced budget” approach to federal government spending as it is impossible; however, I do believe we need to operate within financially sound parameters.

        The areas where I feel more funding is necessary are those that have a direct important benefit to civilized society generally – the very areas that are most vulnerable to cuts. Meanwhile, an excessive defense budget gobbles up over 51% of all budget revenue. My list is not a net zero one. It could be more or less depending upon priorities that are important for our people and our country. Undoubtedly, there are areas that can and should be cut, eliminated, collapsed into other programs, but there are areas that deserve and need greater investment because of the needs they meet and their value to the country. My belief in the need for a strong safety net will undoubtedly put us at odds in terms of fiscal priorities, including percent of budget to GDP. Other smarter people can sort that out even though we all may have opinions on the subject.

        If more taxes are required to meet a responsible delivery of services, etc., as determined by a fair budgetary process and given existing revenue and debt, I would pay more taxes – via whatever would be the appropriate area of taxation. I have voted to increase personal taxes for schools, hospitals, roads only to see these supposedly “dedicated” funds be shifted away from the purpose of original intent. THAT upsets me. We are not wealthy but we would pay more if the purpose was valid and existing funds inadequate. As I have noted in this blog, we are already paying taxes on 85% of our SS so we are contributing even in retirement.

        Before you start beating up on me (-: , give me the benefit of your opinions on all of these issues. And, as I requested earlier, what would you cut to achieve your budgetary goal?

      • unarmedandunafraid says:

        Such a complicated topic.

        Thought I would list some problems that plague northern cities. Did not touch on taxing policies, that is another list. As someone that lived through the 60s and 70s in the northeast, I saw how most northern cities and even small towns were affected. Some of these also affected cities in both north and south. This is a rebuttal to “Democratic governance taxes too highly and creates city problems”. I am not saying that we have had brilliant government, just that there are problems that politics cannot fix.

        All we have to do is reverse or undo the following.

        1. Uneducated poor have migrated to northern cities. (black and white)

        2. Much higher education requirement now than at the turn of century.

        3. Walmart.

        4. Manufacturing losses due to imports.

        5. White flight to suburbs.

        6. Population loss due to sun belt migration.

        7. Air conditioning.

        8. Malls.

        9. Organized labor that live within the community and will vote.

        Of these, the last one is the one that got us municipal pension problems. A problem I don’t have clue how to solve.

        IMHO, our original sin (slavery and the resultant racism) is the root most, not all, of our problems.

      • 1mime says:

        All that you said is true, unarmed, and so hard to address. I fear our nation is irrevocably divided and the resulting outcome saddens me for the people of America.

      • 1mime says:

        One addition to your thoughtful list, Unarmed, would be the “internet”. This development has had changed the way we communicate, do business, work, etc.

        Slavery is a sad, significant part of the history of mankind and a tragic flaw in man’s nature whereby a person feels entitled to control another human being.

      • unarmedandunafraid says:

        Sorry if I hijacked your thread. I thought it would add to it but, maybe not. Really liked fifty’s, doug’s and your comments.

      • fiftyohm says:

        mime – The math is really pretty simple. At the federal level, nothing of any substance whatsoever can be done without addressing entitlements and defense spending. Nothing. To begin with anything – and I mean anything else – is pure political “grandstanding”, as you rather aptly put it. I’m pretty damn sick of footing a disproportionate share of the global security bill. Our trading partners need an ultimatum, and our defense spending needs to be cut. Social Security and Medicare need serious readjustment. Only when all of that happens can you possible hope to get all those other shinny things you want.

        State and local governments cannot print money, and therefore need to live within budgets. When they don’t, their credit ratings suffer, debt service increases, and they go bust. Then everyone gets screwed, from the taxpayers, public employees, bond holders, everyone. And also (somewhat) unlike the federal government, when taxes get too high in a city or state, people can simply move – vote with their feet. Texas seems to have a large amount of this ‘foot voting’ going on – but we’re on the receiving end. Does that mean anything to you?

        And finally to the subject of taxes “dedicated” to specific purposes: Hah! You mean like Social Security? That is an old ruse foisted on the credulous by every level of government from city to federal, and never, never works. Einstein had a few words about such things.

      • 1mime says:

        Fifty, we don’t disagree. You are confused about my reference to “dedicated” taxes. Let me explain more clearly. In TX, ballot propositions ask for approval on specific projects for specific amounts of taxation. The wording uses the term “dedicated”; however, these funds have either been: not spent at all (kept within the general fund to “balance the budget”) or, only a “portion” of the tax revenue collected was disbursed for the intended purpose, or, the funds were spent for an entirely different project/purpose than the voters approved. It’s a trust issue for me. Granted, government has to have some flexibility in managing its revenue, but when ballot initiatives routinely are ignored, that bothers me.

        Two examples I can quickly cite: additional funds approved for hospital ER centers and increased transportation funding. Revenue didn’t get to these centers and the problems have continued to build as a result. I consider this “bait and switch” and I resent it.

      • fiftyohm says:

        unarmed – Your list is long, and to a very large extent, simply folly. In order:

        1. Uneducated poor have migrated to northern cities. (black and white)

        Whatcha gonna do? Make ’em move back?

        2. Much higher education requirement now than at the turn of century.

        No reversing or undoing this one.

        3. Walmart.

        Really? Just who do you think shops there and why? Eyah – I agree – if a low-income person can’t afford that TV from Bill’s TV downtown, they can just wait until they can. And while we’re at the subject of efficient commerce, let’s do something about Amazon too! Wow! talk about streaming merchandise to the public without employing anyone!

        4. Manufacturing losses due to imports.

        Address this one with increases in productivity. And you know how productivity is measured, right?

        5. White flight to suburbs.

        See #1 above, but as a point of fact, this trend is slowly reversing itself.

        6. Population loss due to sun belt migration.

        Heat up the North?

        7. Air conditioning.

        Shut ’em down!

        8. Malls.

        Ban ’em.

        9. Organized labor that live within the community and will vote.

        Probably the best item on the list, and one that can actually be addressed.

        Sorry for the tone here, but really this is mostly a list of social trends that cannot be reversed. It’s social evolution. Things change. The same bit about competition with local merchants was raised when Sears and Roebuck, and Montgomery Ward rose to predominance, for example. Nothing stays the same. Adapting to change rather then resisting it or attempting to reverse it is the one and only possible solution.

      • 1mime says:

        I don’t think Unarmed meant that the problems he listed could be “solved”; rather, he was noting that these factors influenced social change. On that, you and he agree. I do take a little issue with your comment on manufacturing and imports being one solved through “productivity”. The world is getting smaller and this definitely impacts this category. Here’s an interesting piece by Brookings on the subject….all worth reading but the last section, “Why Official U.S. Productivity Statistics Overstate Manufacturing Productivity Growth” was especially interesting on the subject. See what you think.

        http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Papers/2012/2/22%20manufacturing%20helper%20krueger%20wial/0222_manufacturing_helper_krueger_wial.pdf

      • unarmedandunafraid says:

        fifty sez “Sorry for the tone here, but really this is mostly a list of social trends that cannot be reversed”. No problem

        I really was trying to make the point that when your tax base disappears, no amount of clever juggling of taxes can save you. One of the possibilities is to renege on your promises to people who worked their lives expecting certain remuneration.

        I see a lot of blame going to these city goverments as they try to remake themselves, sometimes with success and sometimes not. But you cannot blame them for the negative forces in my list.

        Speaking of voting with there feet, I understand the Dakotas are experiencing a larger, relatively, population boom. And it’s not warm there. At least in the winter. Is that tax policy?

        So i was going to make the tongue-in-cheek warning light brighter, but then 1mime got it. ;>)

      • 1mime says:

        Yeah, takes me a while, sometimes (-:

      • fiftyohm says:

        Unarmed – *looks down, sighs* – OK, I get it now. You see, we had a big party here at the house last night! (That’s my excuse, and I’m stickin’ to it!)

        Happy Memorial Day to all!

      • 1mime says:

        Ditto on Happy Memorial Day, and, while I’m at it, thanks to all our men and women who have served to help keep America safe. You are appreciated!

    • Crogged says:

      Not certain what “Keynes” or any macro economics has to do with this. Moody’s took pains to say they weren’t issuing any concerns of Chicago defaulting on its debt, and the issues regarding previously agreed “promises” of pensions and contract law gets awesomely sticky-the Illinois Supreme Court just held the Legislature couldn’t do it the way they just tried-by extension the City of Chicago will ‘fail’ in courts too.

      “Illinois’ pension funds aren’t predicted to run out of money until 2066, she noted. Two of Chicago’s four pension funds are predicted to become insolvent in 2025 and 2028. “Illinois has a very, very broad base of revenue-raising options,” she added.”

      Math sucks. People become ‘unproductive’-they get old, they can’t work. How do we deal with this?

      http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20150519/NEWS02/150519770/moodys-analyst-chicago-downgrade-was-basic-mathematics

      • Crogged says:

        Yup–promises don’t pay the bills……….you and I both know about assumptions made regarding ‘investment grade’ entities and default rates proving wrong…

        Thank goodness I’m in Texas, nothing can go wrong with oil based economies. We don’t have public unions with the strength of those in the infernal North, and those people who lose those pensions will come down here. They’ll make good public school teachers, despite our threatening to cut their pay in half every other year.

        http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/7/71/612451/watchdogs-generous-benefits-one-part-state-city-pension-mess

      • fiftyohm says:

        CPS teachers? Not only are the CPS really, really crappy, the teachers are the first or second highest paid in the country. I think we neither want ’em, or want to afford ’em.

        http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/06/12/how-much-do-chicago-public-school-teachers-make/

        The teacher’s union is a significant part of the problem.

      • Creigh says:

        Teachers unions, like all organizations, sometimes get caught up in self-serving behavior. Perhaps a different organizational structure, more like the German industrial workers circles, would be something to try. But I think that the biggest problem with recruiting and retaining the best quality educators is a long-term and pervasive lack of respect – one could even call it disrespect – for the profession. While pay might be the most visible part of that, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Creigh – I think that’s a fair comment.

      • Crogged says:

        I think we should take pains to separate the teacher union from the teacher’s themselves and for the majority of those writing here–our own experience with public education is vastly different than from now. Anyone attending public schools before 2000 has no idea of the vastly increased testing and advanced curriculum, which is not modified at all on any level for the student population. Our Texas teachers work hard, long, difficult hours, on their damn feet and many must work the summer school for their own economic reasons. So yes, curse the unions in the Northern states for diligently protecting the subset of ‘bad’ teachers, I read the New York Times expose regarding the difficulty of firing substandard teachers. This situation is not true in Texas–and we have demanded much out of our own while basically giving them less and less to work with.

        So yea, bad pension policy paying a bunch of layabouts 100k a year to retire. We paid a freaking football coach 9 million dollars–the Keynesian in me says they will do better up there because the football coach won’t eat as many hamburgers or buy as many houses……….

      • 1mime says:

        America needs to find its soul where caring for the elderly is concerned. Aging today is presenting new problems – health, housing, transportation, social connectivity that were non-issues in earlier generations. Other cultures revere their old, and aging is not a time to be afraid, it’s an opportunity to contribute in a different way within the extended family and to society. Job mobility has changed critical mores about caring for our elders. Now it is expected that they should care for themselves. Many can; many can’t. How do we deal with this is the right question to ask, Crogged. How do we help our elderly age with dignity.

    • BigWilly says:

      Junk bonds still have salvage value.

  4. lomamonster says:

    As an aside, I gave up on the smart meter bruhaha and bought a smart refrigerator just for spite. They can listen to my icemaker all they want now…

  5. johnofgaunt75 says:

    Oh Giordano Bruno. A man ahead of his time who was condemned by extremists of the church unable and unwilling to consider that science has some answers to the universe around us. A real lesson for our own time given the rejection of scientific reason and theory by so many of our political leaders. He’s a personal hero of mine as well.

    As an aside, I stayed near the Campo de’ Fiori last time I was in Rome. I watched Italy get stomped by Spain in the Euro Championships in that square at a wine bar. Fun place.

  6. 1mime says:

    For those who are interested in the Export/Import Bank debate, here’s a letter to the Houston Chronicle today on the subject that I found interesting. I found the final paragraph telling. I know there are different viewpoints on this, so, weigh in!

    Export-Import
    Regarding “U.S. job openings fall, hiring rises in mostly positive report” ( Chron.com  , May 12), an overall positive April jobs report unfortunately had one dark spot — manufacturing jobs continue to decline. This should be a wake up call to Congress and the administration that we cannot take economic recovery for granted and must work to create quality manufacturing jobs and boost growth at every opportunity. One simple step our leaders can take is to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank before its charter expires in June.
    Ex-Im provides loans and insurance to help U.S. manufacturers sell their products overseas. It supported more than $27 billion in exports last year — $3 billion in Texas — and 164,000 American jobs, all without costing taxpayers a dime (the Bank pays its own way by charging fees and interest on its services and loans). The bank is a critical tool to level the playing field for U.S. business, which must compete overseas against rivals backed by interventionist governments such as Germany and China that prop up their countries with subsidies and much larger export credit operations.
    Bank critics call it “crony capitalism” and “corporate welfare,” but 90 percent of Ex-Im transactions involve small and medium-sized businesses, and the bank is barred by law from competing with private lenders.
    Linda Dempsey, vice president, International
    Economic Affairs, National Association of Manufacturers,
    Washington, D.C.

  7. Turtles Run says:

    President Obama started a twitter account for his office. As easy as it is to predict the mooning sunrise the nitwit crowd was quick to appear. Of course none of these people are racists.

    Side note the comment from Bill Clinton is gold.

    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/05/18/welcome-to-twitter-ngger-righties-go-full-racist-potus-twitter-account-tweets/

    • flypusher says:

      Check out this from the comments:

      “Patricia Guenther
      But it’s alright for people other than Whites and Christians to point fingers and an call every White or Christian racist? I don’t disrespect him because of the color of his skin, I don’t like what he has done to this country and the world with his failed policies and lies. It has nothing to do with skin color. Those calling him the “n” word should just stfu and take their hatred elsewhere. The true test of a man is in his ability to overcome hatred like that rather than foster it. The real racism in this county exist against Whites by Black and others. What did I ever do to Black or other races? Nothing. So why am I automatically a racist based on my skin color or religious beliefs. We need to quit pointing the racist finger and start pulling together for the sake of our country.”

      Racist deniers are not as bad as the racists, but they are definitely part of the problem.

    • flypusher says:

      Also, I really want to see the next “mooning sunrise” 😉

      • Turtles Run says:

        Mooning Rise???? I must of had some old high school prank on my mind. I will spare the image.

  8. flypusher says:

    Here’s a good one:

    http://www.vox.com/2015/5/19/8620357/waco-biker-shootout-race

    This really does highlight a racial double standard. These bikers could be called the dregs of the White population. But other White people aren’t judged by/ don’t have to apologize for/ aren’t blamed for their horrid behavior the way it is with Black people.

    The sarcastic tweets are very well done.

    • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

      I personally, am waiting for the leaders of the White community to step up and condemn this violence.

      The way they dress, their music, there “culture” is just not acceptable in a civilized society.

      Personally, I blame all the Barry Manilow music.

  9. flypusher says:

    A conservative smacks down Pam Geller’s trolling:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/gellerhypocrite/

  10. fiftyohm says:

    What’s all this stuff I’ve been hearing lately about the Rupture? Seems to me that’s a private thing between you and your truss. I don’t think people ought to be going around giving interviews and making videos about it!

  11. flypusher says:

    Hot off the presses, the latest bit of racial controversy:

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/duke-professor-defends-comments-comparing-blacks-asians-171424956.html

    Personally I think there can be benefits to looking at the histories of different groups of people who came to this country, and asking how they got to where they are now. But even though my areas of expertise involve biology and not history, I seriously have to question some of this guy’s reasoning. While I don’t diminish the awfulness of things like throwing Americans of Japanese descent into prison camps, or all those discriminatory laws against the Chinese immigrants in the west, dude, are you really saying that they were just as bad as centuries of slavery and decades of Jim Crow?????? Really????

    I’m hoping Mr. Coates at The Atlantic is typing a response even as we chew on this.

  12. Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

    There are well over three million truck drivers in the US and probably double that amount of delivery drivers (e.g., pizza).

    Until we build Star Trek-like transporters of goods, the self-driving vehicles will be the wave of the future (with the big “if” of prices coming down). Driving an 18-wheeler is a far different thing than driving a Google bubble-car, but as the data already suggest, ultimately the self-driving vehicles will be safer than us humans driving (even if we fight that conclusion under the illusion that our split second reactions and judgments will be better than the computer’s).

    The trucking industry actually is going to experience a big shortage of drivers (safe drivers who want to spend all week on the road are getting harder and harder to find), so the new technology (with better rail systems also) is not likely to seriously damage the employment prospects for drivers for a while.

    As someone who gets little joy out of driving (particularly in a Houston commute), I welcome my new driving overlords as I sleep an additional 20-30 minutes on my commute to/from work.

    • tuttabellamia says:

      Too Twilight Zonish for me.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Drive

    • 1mime says:

      Light rail, Homer, Light rail! Think of all the parking lots and towers we wouldn’t need – leaving valuable real estate for residential and commercial development. Think of the extra winks and the reduced vehicular accident rates. Think of cleaner air, less frustration, arriving at work and home relaxed. Oh, the things we could do…

  13. flypusher says:

    Regarding the Aral Sea, anyone who keeps repeating the mindless BS mantra of “humans can’t cause significant changes to the planet” really needs to be dropped there for a few days to get the full experience of just what human greed/short-sightedness/ignorance/indifference can do.

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      The Aral Sea was a stalwart answer in clues in crossword puzzles for decades.

      Now I notice the puzzles clues are about what borders the Aral ‘sea’.

      That’s sad.

      I saw a documentary and couldn’t believe the images. In the program, the host walked miles from the former shore of the sea to where there was remaining water. It was illegal for him to even be there, he implied. It wouldn’t do to admit to catastrophe, I suppose.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Well, cyanobacters are not technically speaking algae, though we commonly call them that. But yup – they completely transformed the planet. It did take more than a billion or so years, though…

      • 1mime says:

        So, who’s counting?

      • fiftyohm says:

        Good god – I did it again! Please see below Hobo. Sheesh!

    • RobA says:

      And yet, organisms as small as algae created a massive climate change when they first started to synthesize oxygen from carbon dioxide.

      The vast majority of oxygen on Earth are just exhales from ancient algae

    • fiftyohm says:

      Central planning, Bobo. Why should a government in Moscow give a rat’s about the locals when cotton production is an ideological ideal?

  14. tuttabellamia says:

    Regarding the redling article … it would seem that Whites’ aversion to living in predominately minority neighborhoods has little or nothing to do with political persuasion. And it’s not just about.economics (ie property values) or the quality of schools but about one’s personal sphere. No one is immune to wanting to choose who or what is in one’s immediate surroundings. It’s easy to be an armchair activist. We want to help, but from a distance.

    • tuttabellamia says:

      Sorry. REDLINING, not redling.

    • tuttabellamia says:

      I don’t mean to imply that Lifer is an armchair activist. I admire his involvement not only in the political process as a precint chairman but also in that think-tank he posted a link to recently. He is doing something, which is more than I can say about myself. All I can say about myself is that I try not to do harm, and sometimes I will donate money. Still, most of us seem to draw a line as to how far we will go and how physically close we are willing to get to the actual problem. Not just to put our money.where our mouth is, but to put ourselves and our families where our mouths are.

  15. 1mime says:

    Happy you’re having fun….My husband is Sicilian-Italian and we have enjoyed travel in both Italy and Sicily. Relax and enjoy every minute of your trip, Chris.

    A thought about self-driving cars….and SIRI….gonna be some challenging times getting to self-driving cars, as Apple users have found out with Ms. SIRI!

    • flypusher says:

      One really nice thing about self-driving cars- they’re going to be great for the elderly folk once everything gets worked out. Being able to go places is critical to independent living. From the POV of someone who still most likely has a number of decades to go before possibly being physically unable to drive, I’m liking to odds of those cars being ready should I end up needing one!

      Also I see great potential in reducing death/injury caused by impaired drivers. So go Google!!

      • bubbabobcat says:

        Great points fly. I see this as the economic equalizer for the poor and middle class to be able to affordably have your own personal chauffeur as you become physically impaired from driving safely due to age or inebriation or for whatever reason. And that safety improvement and lives saved is going to be quite the kicker.

      • 1mime says:

        You are correct, Fly, about the link between driving and independence. If you talk to older people who have had to give up driving, it was a huge blow. Isolation through aging is a sad and real problem for seniors. Families are so busy and so stretched out in our generation, that older members lack familial interaction. Grandma/pa and Aunt/Uncle are left to fend for themselves.

        There is a growing awareness of the need to keep seniors “connected” by offering housing that integrates social opportunities, but the ability to independently go somewhere – anywhere- would be so beneficial. There is also an awareness that older people are an underserved market in many respects. The google car is neat and I hope it becomes mainstream quickly. Heck, I’m a fan of light rail to the burbs of the Houston Region! Still, one has to get to and from the depot to access either rail or the metro bus system.

        We take so many things for granted that it’s easy to overlook the value of being able to simply get in the car and go where we want.

      • unarmedandunafraid says:

        I imagine a great many positives that will come with self driving cars. But we should be aware of the possibility of unintended consequences. Will we be enabling our social separation? Living in bedroom communities will be easier if the commute is an easy ride in a self driving car. We will be able to commute further and further, causing more sprawl.

      • 1mime says:

        Would self-driving cars increase isolation? I believe the opportunity for safe, driverless travel will increase social interaction. What is needed to address the distance commuter is rail or metro. Riding the same public conveyance to and from work introduces one to many lifelong friends. I believe people will “mostly” go for convenience if it is comfortable, affordable, and offers broad scheduling.

        Of course, I could be wrong (-:

      • unarmedandunafraid says:

        mime – I am sure you make lifelong friends everywhere you go. Like my wife. We were once at a breakfast buffet setting next to a stranger. I went back to the buffet and when I got back the stranger commences to comment on the cities we lived in and our past employment. At some point i turned to my wife and said, Jeez, I just went for a biscuit!

        “Of course, I could be wrong” – You may be right. But I see self driving cars displacing light rail and buses. And definitely replacing taxis. And like the automobile and interstates, they will change society. It would be comforting to say that the changes will be positive, but usually the best we can hope for is a mixed blessing.

      • 1mime says:

        It’s a good thing you only went back for a biscuit and not a second helping – or your “new” friends would also have your SS number!

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