Category: Culture

The American middle class richest in the world? — not anymore, man!


Just one of life’s fragile qualities

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.

Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago…

The struggles of the poor in the United States are even starker than those of the middle class. A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in this country makes significantly less money than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. Thirty-five years ago, the reverse was true.

…The most commonly cited economic statistics — such as per capita gross domestic product — continue to show that the United States has maintained its lead as the world’s richest large country. But those numbers are averages, which do not capture the distribution of income. With a big share of recent income gains in this country flowing to a relatively small slice of high-earning households, most Americans are not keeping pace with their counterparts around the world.

RTFA for up-close-and-personal examples of family life ranging from Sweden to Canada. Consider the reality of family income coupled with social benefits provided by tax dollars — instead of the world’s biggest standing army and military bases distributed around the world to protect corporate wealth.

Go to use the restroom in a WalMart – and it turns out to be a meth lab!

A restroom at a Wal-Mart in eastern Indiana has been closed indefinitely after an employee discovered a working meth lab inside.

State police say a Wal-Mart employee alerted police after seeing a man he described as suspicious enter the restroom about 11:30 p.m. Thursday with a backpack and leave without it. The Star Press reports that members of a state police meth suppression team removed the dangerous chemicals.

Delaware County Health Department inspectors closed the restroom and a nearby women’s restroom until they could be “decontaminated” by a professional cleaning company.

State police say people who make methamphetamine are leaving “the deadly explosive chemicals in public places to return later to get the finished product,” rather than risk explosions and contamination at their own homes.

What? Surely, you didn’t expect drug dealers to be thoughtful and urbane?

Combine tiny house living with hybrid transportation


Click to enlarge

Torquay landscaper James Lawler has given himself room to move — on the back of his Toyota Prius…Made primarily using scraps scavenged from the tip, the miniature house set Mr Lawler back $150 and took just over a week to complete.

The abode sports a tin roof with a chimney, a stained-glass window and a letter box displaying the car’s registration plate.

“There’s a lot of boring camper vans out there. I thought this would be a little bit more quaint and Australiana with a rusted tin roof,” Mr Lawler said…

…Mr Lawler said the extension had served its intended purpose well.

It provided a stylish place to sleep at the Meredith Music Festival in Victoria earlier this month while his fellow campers were forced to rough it in tents.

“It’s quite well insulated in there. It’s more comfortable than a tent,” he said.

After completing the 100km round trip to the festival, Mr Lawler was fined by local police.

He disputes the vehicle is unroadworthy but said his “quirky little caravan” was worth the minor upset.

I especially like the load straps holding the tiny house onto his Prius. :)

New James Bond flick gets “tax breaks” instead of bribes to film in Mexico City

Spectre-clapper-board

Mexican officials have reportedly offered millions in tax incentives for Sony and MGM to shoot the next James Bond installment in Mexico.

A report posted on the American website Tax Analysts, shows emails of Mexico offering up to $20 million in tax incentives for filmmakers to change their script, cast “a known Mexican actress” and shoot Mexico in a positive light to combat the country’s negative image…

The original script included an assassin named Sciarra, who had his sights on the mayor of Mexico City, however, Mexican officials insisted that the villain “cannot be Mexican” and requested his target be changed to an international leader instead.

In exchange for their financial incentives, Mexican officials also reportedly demanded that Stephanie Sigman be given a Bond role, which seems to have been secured with the announcement last week. Sigman will be playing the character of Estrella.

The studio admits Mexico’s changes to the script went beyond what governments typically allow in film deals, however, they apparently allowed Mexico to “make casting decisions, dictate characters’ ethnicities, and even change the occupation of an unnamed character that never appears on-screen or figures into the story outside of the opening scene.”

I’m not certain how lasting the script changes will be in pop culture. The fact remains that most of the news finding its way out of Mexico remains couched in terms of which innocent citizens were killed by drug gangs, which innocent citizens were killed by drug gangs in cahoots with local police – or which drug gangs were killing each other while the police stood by waiting to see who was left alive to pick up the tab for their cooperation in killing innocent citizens.

Today is Pi Day – and you just missed the Pi Instant!

Today is the most magical day of the year: Pi Day.

It’s also the most magical year of the century: Pi Year.

That is, today’s date is 3/14/15 (at least in the US and a few other countries that write dates the same way), which matches up nicely with the first five digits of pi, the ratio of every circle’s circumference to its diameter: 3.1415.

What’s more, at precisely 9:26:53 am, we’ll have Pi Second: an even more magical time at which the date and time match up with the first 10 digits of pi, 3.141592653.

But it doesn’t stop there. As University of Toronto statistician Jeffrey S. Rosenthal has pointed out, at an infinitesimally brief moment just after 9:26:53.58979 am but slightly before 9:26:53.5898 am, we’ll have Pi Instant.

At this impossibly short moment, our particular civilization’s way of marking the amount of time elapsed since an arbitrary date in history will match perfectly with every single digit of pi, an irrational number that literally never ends (when expressed in a base 10 numbering system, or any system that uses a natural number as its base).

Pi will ring throughout the land. It will extend to infinity. For the briefest of moments, pi will fill the gap in your soul.

Savor this moment. Appreciate it. Think of circles…It won’t happen again until 2115, when you’ll probably be dead.

And you just missed it.

Mattel ready to introduce Creepy Barbie

Creepy Barbie
Click to enlarge

Child advocates want toymaker Mattel to pull the plug on a new interactive Barbie doll that records children’s voices and uploads them to a cloud server.

The Hello Barbie doll – expected to arrive in stores this fall – uses WiFi to hold two-way conversations by “listening” to a child’s words and responding appropriately.

In a videotaped demonstration of the doll at the New York Toy Fair last month, a saleswoman chatted with Barbie about New York City. “I love New York, don’t you?” Barbie gushes. “Tell me, what’s your favorite part about the city?”

When the saleswoman says she enjoys Italian restaurants, Barbie says, “You have to take me to try it!”

Susan Linn, executive director of the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says the doll is “creepy” and “dangerous.” The group is calling on Mattel to stop all production and marketing of Hello Barbie…

Mattel says Hello Barbie was developed in response to the wishes of girls from around the world, whose top request was to be able to have a conversation with Barbie.

Hello Barbie conforms to government standards and employs safeguards to protect children’s data from access by “unauthorized users,” Mattel said in a statement.

The last thing I have any confidence in is United States government standards about creepiness and privacy.

Don’t pee on the walls in Hamburg – they may pee back!

Hamburg’s St. Pauli is one of the world’s most famous red light districts. It attracts around 20 million visitors a year, but it’s also a bit smelly because, after a night on the tiles, a good number of those visitors urinate in public places. Now, in a fit of poetic justice, the walls of St. Pauli are being upgraded so they retaliate on micturators in kind.

Almost every major city has a problem with public urination, and party areas like St. Pauli can often seem so much like visiting the inside of a chamber pot. This is particularly distressing for the merchants and residents of the area who have to put up with the stains and smell of wee on a daily basis.

But now, according to Julia Staron of Interessengemeinschaft St Pauli – an interest group for companies and businesses based in St. Pauli – it’s “pee-back time.” Prohibitions and fines haven’t worked very well, so the local authorities are giving chemistry a try. Walls in the district were sprayed with Ultra-Ever Dry super-hydrophobic, oleophobic nano-coating, which is so water – and pee – repellant that urinating on a treated surface becomes a shoe-wetting, trouser-soaking exercise.

Har.

Although there are signs posted periodically, officials warn that some of the painted areas are deliberately left unsigned – just to keep you on your toes. So to speak.

Pic of the Day

Gripe water is a liquid given to infants with colic, gastrointestinal discomfort, teething pain, reflux and other stomach ailments. Its ingredients vary, and may include alcohol, a bicarbonate, ginger, dill, fennel and chamomile. It is typically given to an infant with a dropper in liquid form. Adults may also take gripe water for soothing intestinal pains, gas or other stomach ailments. There is no clinical evidence for the effectiveness of gripe water.

It boggles the mind that this advert from 1934 is representative of the understanding and knowledge of modern science demonstrated by a typical conservative Republican, nowadays.

I suspect the Tea Party-types in particular are a solid market for underwear with copper threads woven in to preserve the purity of precious bodily fluids.

Pitiful.

Dumb crook of the day

Joey Patterson

An Idaho fugitive was caught Saturday after he made a post on Facebook inviting friends to join him at batting practice in Boise.

KTVB TV station in Boise says…that Caldwell police officers showed up at the softball field after seeing the post on social media and arrested 22-year-old Joey Patterson.

He was wanted on a felony warrant for violating his probation on a fraud case out of Twin Falls. Patterson was booked into Canyon County Jail, where he is being held without bond.

Caldwell Police Sgt. Joey Hoadley says police often use social media to track down a fugitive. Hoadley says “even fugitives can’t keep from updating their Facebook status, and it leads to some great arrests.”

Har!

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. You don’t become a petty crook because you’re extra smart.