Shocked and Persuaded

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Separating Fact From Fiction

Fly Me To The Moon (aka, Chart Of The Day (COTD))

Below I have plotted the average annual income here in the US back to 1815 for the US Senate and 1967 for us little people. I mean that in all seriousness, because if ever there was a graph that said it all it is this one. The inset simply shows the same data for the period between 1967 and 2009, which is the timeframe where data is available for all percentiles. You will note the inset also has a number followed by the letter x, which if you remember back to any statistics or math courses you may have taken is simply the slope of a given trend (i.e., in this case it is a linear regression). The # that proceeds each x corresponds to the annual increase in each percentile’s average annual income. There are two extremely disquieting trends in this data: 1) the “haves” (i.e, Top 5th percentile) and “have nots” spread is widening at an ever great clip, with annual income increases for the former 2.3 to 22× that of the latter percentiles and 2) the DC fat cats are gaining on this nation’s net-worth “elite” at a pace that one would hope would cause them a mild case of opprobrium. Fat Cat Fat Chance!

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Maybe those Tea-Partiers are on to something if you strip away their bigoted, xenophobic, and often hypocritical bluster. The gentlemen and women that occupy the The Dirksen Senate Office Building have seen their wallets explode “George Costanza” style, however, only poor George who’s wallet was stuffed with junk our esteemed senators have jammed their wallets, pocketbooks, or man-purses full of Cold Hard Cash. Yet, in an effort to to not appear crooked – like Mr. Costanza did when he stuffed his other pocket with napkins – these folks shower us with patronage in the form of huge defense contracts, agricultural subsidies, and a static retirement age even though life expectancy in this country has risen to 148% of what it was at the turn of the 20th century.

Years

Total

Males

Females

1900-192

52.4

51.1

53.8

1929-1951

63.6

61.6

65.9

1959-1981

71.5

70.0

75.1

1989-1991

75.4

71.8

78.8

2002

77.3

74.5

79.9

2003

77.5

74.8

80.1

2004

77.8

75.2

80.4

2005

77.8

75.2

80.4

To those on the right that preach against Obama’s predilection for industrial policy I would challenge them not to avert their eyes when the next defense or farm bill comes their way, because if they don’t they will see plenty of industrial policy in these two massive pieces of legislation. The fact is that when we hear senators and their little brothers and sisters in the House talk about putting a freeze on non-discretionary spending they appear to be including their own salaries in the non-discretionary portion of the ledger. It seems to me that one of the reasons The Capitol Hill Gang doesn’t really attack everyone from Lloyd Blankfein and Rex Tillerson to their buddies Warren Buffett and Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant because they know that the only way they can maintain their excessive $3,676 annual salary increase is if they cajole the club they are set to surpass within the next ten years.

If you will humor I would like to return briefly to the George Costanza analogy vis à vis DC Motley Crue in order to put a bow on this portion of the story. As this particular episode of Seinfeld came to an end Mr. Costanza’s wallet suffered a tragic end at the hands of its greedy owner who decided to stuff a guitar lesson advertisement in it. This was the last item placed in the poor wallet as it exploded due to an excess of everything from hard candy and coupons to the requisite cash and receipts. Unfortunately the only people in this country willing to expose congress for its glutinous ways, both personal and as it relates to the aforementioned ill-apportioned largesse, are the Tea Partiers on the right and the folks I have marched proudly with at The UN, The Capitol, The RNC in St. Paul, etc. Both sides have heroes and when you scrape away the veneer each makes valid points. However, they (we) couch our arguments in so much irrational exuberance and non sequitur attacks that the message and the facts that directly – or indirectly – back them up are easily marginalized or out-and-out mocked by the media and the lawmakers alike.

From the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” File

Seriously does it get any better than this?

Ohio: Lightning Destroys 6-Story Statue of Jesus

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I chuckle as I write because I was struck by the materials used in this wonderful project at Solid Rock Church$250,00 worth of Styrofoam and fiberglass at 16,000 feat and 62 feet high.

In case your interested here is a picture of Pastor Lawrence and Darlene Bishop. What a cute couple! Judging by the First Couple of Solid Rock’s attire they are big fans of St. Augustine’s famous quote “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet”.

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I’m sorry I have to do this as this is a must read from the original citation in The Times when Big J as it is referred to was built:

“MONROE, Ohio – Jesus first appears in a flash, a white statue rising from the flat cornfields 40 miles north of Cincinnati. Then he is gone, hidden behind a gas station.

Drive another quarter-mile up Interstate 75, past the billboards for Bristol’s Strip Club and Trader’s World Flea Market, and suddenly the image appears in all its full dimensions. Jesus, depicted from the waist up, is six stories tall and seems to burst from the ground, as if he might gather a tractor-trailer in his Honda-size hands and lift it to heaven.

After dark, the figure is illuminated by spotlights from below. “It sort of looms out at you, especially at night,” said Aaron Andrews, a trucker from Milwaukee.

The statue, erected in 2003, was the inspiration of Lawrence and Darlene Bishop, evangelical Christian pastors of the 3,400-member Solid Rock Church here, which spent $250,000 on a project that did not go smoothly.

The image’s steel frame was built in nearby Lebanon, Ohio, and the body, made of Styrofoam and fiberglass, on the beach in Jacksonville, Fla. The body was then trucked north. But when workers started installing the statue on an island in a man-made reflecting pool behind the church, they found that the head and arms were too small for the chest.

The builder, James Lynch, then spent three months ripping the fiberglass apart and recasting the outstretched arms and upturned face. The completed figure weighs 16,000 pounds and, at 62 feet, stands 20 feet taller than originally planned, though its skin is so thin that it bends to the touch of a finger.

Some congregants say the statue keeps watch over a section of freeway that was once among the most dangerous in Ohio. Twelve people died along that 15-mile stretch of I-75 in the two years before the image was erected, eight of them killed after cars jumped the median into oncoming traffic. Since the statue went up more than two years ago, there have been no such crossover deaths.

“Can’t too much go wrong next to a big statue of Jesus,” said one member of the church, James Nelms, 23.

Officials at the Ohio Department of Transportation attribute the improved safety to a $1.1-million high-tension cable that the department built in the freeway’s median about the time, coincidentally, that the statue was erected. Cars have hit the cable 183 times since then, and in three of those cases, crashes have occurred within three-tenths of a mile of the church.

There is also a running disagreement over the statue’s name. Postcards for sale in the church’s gift shop refer to it as the King of Kings. Many locals call it Touchdown Jesus, since, a bit like the famed mural at the University of Notre Dame, it resembles a robed and bearded referee signaling a score at the goal line. Others call it Super Jesus, MC 62ft Jesus (for the technomusician of a similar name) or simply Big J.

The Bishops’ original idea was for a sculpture of Jesus that was no larger than life-size. That it turned into something much bigger than envisioned was entirely apt, given the couple’s own lives.

Mr. Bishop, now 63, was born in the Appalachian village of Zag, Ky. He bought his first horse for $25 at the age of 10 and, though it was blind, sold it for $250 and went on to become one of the nation’s biggest quarter horse dealers.

He opened Solid Rock Church with 12 members above a fire station in 1978. Together with his wife, he built it into a megachurch on a 100-acre campus with its own Bible college and music amphitheater.

Four years ago Mr. Bishop wrote his first song, for church. Now he has recorded five hits. On Nov. 10, he went to Nashville to perform at the Christian Country Music Awards Show. He was nominated for three awards, and won one of them, as music evangelist of the year.

As for Mrs. Bishop, who dropped out of high school at 17 to marry him, she now has her own Christian talk show for women, called “Sisters,” which appears nationally seven days a week on various cable television channels.

Solid Rock Church, with its atmosphere of unplanned gigantism, is one of the few places where a 62-foot statue of Jesus could fit right in. In March, the Bishops squeezed a 1,000-seat balcony into their worship hall to accommodate all the new members who have joined their rapidly growing church in the last two years.

“God ordained all of this to happen,” Mr. Bishop said. “I never even wanted to be a preacher.””

The Cherry On Top! (aka Master of the Obvious Part Deux)

There really is no need to say any more as the title says it all.

U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan

I wonder if Big (What a..) Dick Cheney knew about this one! He couldn’t have otherwise he would have insisted on a more concerted and muscular presence in Afghanistan throughout the War On Terror. Oh well chalk one up to good ol’ fashion Mullah Omar misdirection. Something tells me you will be hearing that Freeport-McMoRan (FCX)out of New Orleans will be getting their grubby nefarious hands involved in this operation given their robust play in the global copper market. Okay you heard it hear folks with FCX’s near monopoly on the global copper market and a large presence in gold we will absolutely see a strong push by them into this nascent opportunity. Just for the record FCX shares are currently trading at $65.26 on the NYSE, traded as high as $87 on January 8th, 11, and April 5th of this year, BUT are far below highs of $114 and 122 on October 10, 2007 and May 19, 2008, respectively. These two dates and the general peak in copper prices happened to coincide with a commercial and residential housing construction boom in China and lead some to believe that we had reached Peak Copper, although the latter has yet to be proven, but it stands to reason we will reach some sort of peak given the finite nature of copper availability, the world’s insatiable appetite for it, and the fact that last I checked creating it out of thin air ain’t an option! I will keep a keen eye on this and I suggest anyone reading this do the same as I demonstrated with an earlier posting on Roche and it’s share skyrocket in the weeks leading up to and after The Great H1N1 scare.

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I would just say to the Pashtuns of Southern Afghanistan caveat emptor with Exhibit A being FCX’s Grasberg copper and gold mine in Indonesia, where the natives are restless and growing more so by the day. FCX is determined to see this mine to it’s complete exploitation given that it accounts for $4 Billion of FCX’s $6.5 Billion operating profit (i.e., Nearly 2/3). Some have even decided that peaceful protest is no longer helpful resorting instead to primitive but effective methods of “Message Delivery”. However, when the Indonesian government equips the mine bosses with a security force of 3,000 troops and police the odds are stacked against the indigenous peoples of Papua and Papua New Guinea (See Map courtesy of The Economist).

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When the facts change I…

…change my mind? Wrong! You stay strong and resist waffling even if it means keeping a man wrongly accused of murder – by his own wife – in prison past the 35 years he has already served. Now I know most people wouldn’t choose this path in upholding the law, but one female Republican governor has decided to go rouge and in the name of politics. No no no I am not talking about the Mama Grizzly/hockey mom from Alaska Sarah Palin folks. I am talking about her mirror image in Arizona’s very own Prickly Pear Governor Jan Brewer. There are so many places I could go with the comparisons but most are totally inappropriate and mean spirited, which is what these 2 women appear to revel in along with their brothers and sisters in arms.

Anyway if there is anyone that reads this blog I urge you to call the AZ governor and demand that she abide by the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency’s unanimous 5-0 decision to release William Macumber given that the evidence against him is non-existent and another man has emphatically copped to the double murder of a couple outside Scottsdale, AZ that Mr. Macumber’s mean spirited and apparently slightly evil wife framed him for back in 1974. You can’t make this stuff up and on top of her Orwellian passage of the much publicized and downright cruel SB1070 Ms. Brewer has succeeded in topping what appeared to be the ultimate sign of ignorance with this prank.  As P. S. Ruckman Jr., a political science professor at Rock Valley College in Illinois said. “I have been following state clemency for 30 years, and this is easily, easily, the most disturbing. It’s borderline despicable.” Amazing! I must at this point apologize to the great John Maynard Keynes for paraphrasing one of his classic quotes to fit this post and know I must apologize to him for including his name in a post with the former governor of Alaska and current governor of Arizona. It will never happen again! I included this entry in the Education category as an example of what can happen if you never receive any or in the case of Ms. Palin actively seek it…What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. Some men (women) you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it… well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.

Image Of The Day

Thanks to a great article by Nelson D. Schwartz in The New York Times. Can you believe this?

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Of course we have been doing the same here in the US since September of 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed. This type of mixing and matching would make even the most devious street hustler blush given the trickle down, up, left, and right of a group of greedy bankers and profligate sovereign governments. The idea that this type of thing couldn’t have been stopped is nonsense and to go one step further the Greenspanian idea that you don’t prick a bubble is pure hubris mixed with a large dose of Cigarette Smoking Man “After all, villains don’t think they are villains”.

What was it that John Maynard Keynes said about capitalism run wild. Oh yeah…Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

Well say what you want about Lord Keynes politics and the bastardization of his work and theories by the left and the right, but the fact remains we have never seen a paradigm proved so faulty, so often, in so many disparate economies, and with so many casualties than we have with Capitalism. Don’t even think I am espousing Socialism across the board I am not and would never, but a reexamination of the facts when they change should lead us to change our minds about Capitalism as it’s universal application is clearly misguided and when you wipe away the muck and bombast very dangerous for lots of folks.

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Fallen Update

The Department of Defense has identified 1,082 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the deaths of the following Americans this week:

NEENAN, Brendan P., 21, Specialist, Army; Enterprise, Ala.; 82nd Airborne Division.

RANKEL, John K., 23, Sgt., Marines; Speedway, Ind.; First Marine Division.

iCasualties.org to date:

Afghanistan = US 1,108, UK 294, Other 416 = Total 1,787

HOWEVER if we look at some data compiled by Iraqi Body Count we see that the costs are being forced asymmetrically upon the Iraqi people. Now whether you believe in this endeavor or not a 23:1 Iraqi Civilian to US troop casualty ratio should not be acceptable. I mean leaving aside those of you with no pulse (i.e., Dick Cheney and Donny Rumsfeld). The data below demonstrates a disturbing trend albeit one that appears to be waning for the time being. However, that is only because the fight has shifted to Helmand and Kandahar in Afghanistan not because the war against terrorism is getting cleaner and more accurate or precise.

We are talking about over 101,036 civilians killed in Iraq alone and that doesn’t account for the poor access to data and medical records, which would most assuredly push this number up by at least 5-10%. It also doesn’t account for the even worse data for Afghanistan, which I am trying to find and will post here when I do. We have dehumanized Iraqis the same way McNamara, Johnson, and Kennedy dehumanized the Vietnamese. It is a shame this is what we have to do in order to kill someone. Doesn’t take much guts and it doesn’t take much planning just a complete and utter disregard for the human condition.

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Todays Master of the Obvious

Two stories in the news that are like duh!!!

1. Tanning causes skin cancer? Are you kidding me?

2. The southern legal system is racially asymmetrical.

Do we need to conduct studies and spend tons of money researching the obvious?

Should we make laws to prevent underage tanning booth use or excessive use across the board? OR is this simply a case of caveat emptor.

The question that really needs to be asked is how do the eight southern states studied in #2 compare to the rest of the country? My worry is that they aren’t the outliers those of us in the “liberal north” would hope they are/were. I had a friend I worked with while landscaping in Connecticut when I was a kid named Eddie Brown and he was (is?) a black man from South Carolina. Anyway I remember asking him if racism was worse in the north or the south. He immediately said it was worse in the north, because at least in the south everyone knew where everyone stood. As he said “Our women didn’t sleep with their men and we didn’t sleep with their women.” However, in the north as he pointed out he was put off by the fact that when I or others he worked with asked a customer if we could use their bathroom they said absolutely, but when he asked there was an ever so slight hesitation and even when obliged he was “monitored” as he put it. So, my point is that we rip on the south and deservedly so in many instances, but as we are seeing with the couched criticism of President Obama from all over the country there is latent racism everywhere and it will not be resolved if we continue to pillory the south while not looking in our own bathroom mirrors.

Motor City BOTE

BOTE stands for Back-Of-The-Envelope and is a common phrase applied to macroscale or overly coarse calculations done kinda haphazardly. Well given this caveat I came across an article from The Telegraph (UK) titled “Detroit to Bulldoze Thousands of Homes in Fight for Survival”, which quoted the following statistic:

“Almost a third of the city’s 139 square miles is vacant or derelict, though its land area would comfortably fit Manhattan, San Francisco and Boston, cities with combined populations of three million.”

I thought it would interesting to apply some of my dissertation data to figuring out how much of Detroit’s CO2 footprint could potentially be offset if this land was reforested. So, here it goes step by step.

(33%*139 Sq Miles)=45.87 Sq Miles of vacant or derelict land

Convert to Hectares=45.87*259>11,880 Hectares

Hectares to Square Meters=11,880*10,000>118,803,229 Square Meters

Grams of Carbon per Square Meter Per Year (From my Thesis work we assume the average for Great Lakes forests is 10,849 g C m-2 yr-1)=118803229 Square Meters*10,849 g C yr-1>1,288,896,240,464 g C m-2 yr-1

Metric Tons Per Year=1,288,896,240,464 g C m-2 yr-1*0.000001>1,288,896 Metric Tons of C captured Per Year IF the 45.87 Sq Miles of vacant or derelict land was reforested!

NOW lets put this number in perspective relative to Detroit’s actual emissions.

If we assume Detroit’s population (For Now!) is 951,270 and residents of the city emit approximately 23.4 Tons of CO2 per person per year that comes out to 22,260,764.4 Tons of CO2 per year for the city of Detroit, which means……..

The figure calculated above for potential carbon captured by reforestation of vacant and derelict land (i.e., 1,288,896 Tons of CO2 per year) equals 5.80% of total city-wide emissions. This number while not jaw dropping is far from trivial and any efforts to implement such plans should be encouraged locally and nationally as 5.8% of anything at that scale adds up and would greatly increase the quality of life in Detroit. Similar projects are sprouting up in neighboring F lint, Michigan as well as places as far off as Chilibre, Panama. Likewise we have data on those areas as well and could do similar BOTEs in an effort to quantify the impact of reforestation, both above- and belowground.

We have an interesting love affair with shopping in this country and I thought it would be illustrative to quantify its influence on our land to capture carbon. First lets quickly look at how much we love shopping and how much our economy (and by association China, Japan, the EU, etc etc) depend on our insatiable appetite for stuff. It is true that we have come down off our Great Depression high of 83% Consumption as  a percent of GDP, but for the better part of the last 63 years we have maintained a relatively static 65% of GDP attributable to consumption.

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However, this figure has risen substantially in the last 20 years from 62% in 1981 to 70.8% in 2009.

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You might say well what does my local strip mall have to do with CO2? Well your local strip mall displaced some sort of native ecosystem that, up until the big trucks and earth-moving equipment came, was drawing down CO2 via photosynthesis and decomposition of biomass to produce soil carbon.

Well that has had a cumulative effect and I have attached a couple of graphs to demonstrate this phenomenon. Using Gross Leasable Area (GLA in sq feet) per person data back to 1990 we can calculate above- and belowground carbon displacement via shopping center expansion (Blue Line), which sums to about 218 Million Metric Tons between 1990 and 2009, which when subtracted from Total US CO2 Emissions gives us the inset in the figure below.

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How you might ask does this relate in-terms of percentages? Well it turns out it is quite similar in magnitude to what I described for Detroit. If we assume – based on EIA assumptions – that Residential emissions is 6.65% of the story here in the US with respect to CO2 emissions than the above removal of native ecosystems for shopping centers translates to anywhere from 2.78 to 3.31% of Residential CO2 emissions across the entire US. However, if we had implemented the type of plain they are considering in Detroit across all fifty states beginning in 2005 we would have had the opportunity to “offset” 3.13% of our emissions per year as opposed to 2.85% between 1990 and 2004. You may say what is the big deal about 2.85 to 3.13%? Well when you consider we are measuring our fiscal and monetary peril here in the US with values like 3 to 12% of GDP and the fact that US GDP is expected to grow by 3.0% in 2010 v. 0.18, a decline of 1.83, and 2.53% in 2009, 2008, and 2007, respectively…Then the numbers I present here start to take on a whole new meaning. The harm inflicted by shopping centers – never mind the removal of capital and liquidity from local markets via large multinationals like Wal-Mart and Best Buy – is not just skin or in this case soil surface deep. It impacts the ability of communities and watersheds to withstand flooding, retain nutrients that would otherwise pollute reservoirs and aquifers, moderate temperature and moisture volatility, and propagate a sense of ownership among residents. The data back it up. Chalk another one up for BOTEs!

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