Archive

  • Why Do We Love The Incumbents?

    My cubicle-mate Matt has a mostly-right post on redistricting (in short, you don't want nonpartisan redistricting wherever Democrats are and massive, DeLay-led gerrymandering where Republicans rule the roost, it's unilateral disarmament) that ends is a potentially wrong way: As a general matter, gerrymandering is less important to the declining competitiveness of congressional elections than is generally believed. State boundaries haven't changed at all in decades, but Senate races are becoming less competitive, too. The main problem here is that elections are becoming increasingly expensive. Thanks to a variety of studies, this is seeming much less true than we once thought. It's true that most incumbents outraise their opponents, but that advantage is no longer thought of as causal to their triumph, it's more correlated to the simple fact that they're incumbents with more ties to party machinery and more votes for lobbyists to buy. Indeed, the much stronger factor is polarization...
  • Mommy? What Are HSA's For?

    Joe Paduda on how various patients will react to consumer-driven health plans (HSA's, MSA's, and all the rest): Catastrophic patients – about 5% of the population...are also not affected – they’ll blow through their MSA account balance in a month or two, after which the insurance company or Medicare or Medicaid pays the rest. So, no funds out of their pockets, and realistically, no way for them to pay the huge costs of their health care. By the way, the top one percent of the population that falls into this category spends 40% of all health care dollars, the top five percent that falls into this category spends over 50% of all health care dollars. OK, that leaves the medium users. The remaining part of the population consumes more than $1000 in health care (a typical MSA plan deductible), and therefore might be more influenced by finances than the other two groups. But there’s a problem here. Studies indicate that a significant percentage of people with high deductible plans tend to...
  • Pick-Up Lines

    Over at Feministe , they're compiling the worst pickup lines they've ever heard. I remember, back in the day, a book listing bad ones, of which my favorite was: "Hey baby, I have cable." I guess now it'd be "wireless". In any case -- I find this whole conversation fairly bizarre. Does anyone actually use pickup lines? I don't. None of my friends do. And while that means my sample size is approximately wildly unrepresentative , I'm still having trouble with the concept. When folks go up to start conversations they don't just, you know, say something? About the game, about the place, about the day, about the event? Because to me, pickup lines are fundamentally flawed, they don't offer a next step. You're just damning yourself to the ninth circle of awkward conversation hell if your first sentence is a dead end and your second needs to reopen a closed discussion. But hey, I'm young, I might be missing something. Anyone use pickup lines in a non-ironic way and see some beauty in them that...
  • There's A Word For This...

    Man, I don't know what it is with this President. It's just like flip : In 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it cannot be the basis of a sound energy policy." Also that year, Ari Fleischer, then Mr. Bush's press secretary, responded to a question about reducing American energy consumption by saying "that's a big no." "The president believes that it's an American way of life," Mr. Fleischer said. And flop : With fears mounting that high energy costs will crimp economic growth, President Bush called on Americans yesterday to conserve gasoline by driving less. He also issued a directive for all federal agencies to cut their own energy use and to encourage employees to use public transportation. "We can all pitch in," Mr. Bush said. "People just need to recognize that the storms have caused disruption," he added, and that if Americans are able to avoid going "on a trip that's not essential, that would be helpful." Nice to see him...
  • Conking Kunkel

    Low Culture's parody of the insufferably pedantic, unbearably long-winded, and awkwardly erudite interview with Ben Kunkel on Why Modern Males Suffer From Torpor And Flaccid Personalities is pitch-perfect. The article, meant to be a Q&A with profound self-help implications, is so strangely bad as to be most interesting as a fugitive from good editorial judgment. The interviewer, Rebecca Traister, is single, dissatisfied, and totally bewildered by the lack of literary-caliber lovers populating her nightlife. So she looks up a Hot Young Novelist who just published a book about a directionless dude to provide her with answers. Kunkel, the writer in question, takes the opportunity to sound like an academic journal trying, and failing, to publish an article that'd work for popular consumption. So we get "ennui", expenditures of "libidinal energy", and references to Hannah Arendt's theory of bureaucratization. Meanwhile, back on some planet that makes sense to me, rehashing old concerns...
  • School Integration

    Today's LA Times rightly laments that LA Unified is home to quite a few teachers, supervisors, and program directors who're totally incompetent at teaching math: For instance, middle school teachers are erroneously taught that fraction division is repeated subtraction. This makes sense only for special examples such as 3/4 divided by 1/4 . In this case, 3/4 may be decreased by 1/4 a total of three times, until nothing is left, and the quotient is indeed 3. Understanding division as repeated subtraction, however, is nonsensical for a problem like 1/4 divided by 2/3 because 2/3 cannot be subtracted from 1/4 even once. No wonder students have trouble with fractions in high school. District "pacing plans" are another example. These tell teachers the order in which they should teach topics for each math class. Some of the plans hinder rather than promote understanding. One draft plan called for 10th-grade geometry teachers to teach the so-called distance formula before the Pythagorean...
  • My Day in DC

    Sorry I've been so out of touch this afternoon, was at a Heritage event on The Lessons of the Roman Empire for America Today. Fairly banal stuff, save for a puzzling assertion that the ancient Romans only worked two days a year to pay taxes (ever heard of tribute ?) and a peculiar, though I guess standard for Heritage, insistence that Rome possessed a remarkably lean and efficient civil bureaucracy that only began bloating as their empire crumbled. So there ya go -- bloated, inefficient bureaucracies are the harbingers of doom, which makes Bush, Rumsfeld, Chertoff and Brown the four horsemen of America's apocalypse. Best question of the day, "Why did the West create such a brilliant Empire as Rome while all the East could furnish was Genghis Khan?" Uh, ok . The speaker's answer, for those interested, is that the West learned from Greece and Khan didn't. Praise Jupiter! Once the bizarro history lesson wrapped up, I went out to the lobby, got a bunch of folks mad at me for being an anti...
  • All Hail Our New Dolphinic Overlords

    We were never quite able to give them friggin' laser beams , but the toxic dart guns should still do some damage: Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico. Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing. One wonders exactly which underwater terrorists they were targeting -- who knew al-Qaeda had gone amphibious? The GWOT is sounding more like a GI Joe cartoon every day...
  • Urban Navigation

    I am directionally-challenged. It's always been so. When driving new places, I spend a lot of time rolling down the window and begging strangers for help (I'm not one of those guys afraid to plead, if anything, I'm too eager, liable to bug pedestrians for confirmation long before I'm lost), which is fine. But since I moved to DC, challenged has transformed into incapable. We're no longer talking directions, we're talking ways, as in I'm constantly walking/metroing/heading the wrong way. Whatever I think is up is down, whichever side I judge west invariably turns out to be east, when I start strolling home I'm always aimed at the next town. You'd expect me to get this right about half the time, but I don't. I almost never get it right. It's bizarre.
  • If a Protest Happens in DC ...

    Posted by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math ... but the press doesn't cover it , does it really matter? I think that the answer is yes. Taking a historical view, mostly by looking at the Vietnam War and its opposition, modern anti-war forces are significantly more successful in influencing public opinion.

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