How much of the world’s porn traffic is directed to the GOUSA?

So, all the protestations of piety from our politicians, blathering self-congratulation [or is it self-gratification?] from priests and pundits, seems to come to naught. Just maybe it’s because most Americans don’t consider porn a big deal in their lives.

They’re wrong, of course. Especially since it seems to be about 99% constructed to service male supremacy. Though, I also think that’s another expression of the lameness of individual feelings of power and voice in this society. Frankly, not the highest priority for economic analysis on my horizon.

Anyway – here’s the link to Pornhub’s Annual Report to the congregation. Some of it is worth a chuckle.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Are Democrats dumb enough to support a “bipartisan” carbon tax that no Republicans support?

❝ The dream of a bipartisan deal on carbon taxes is evergreen in US political circles. Lately, it has taken on a somewhat more specific form. The Climate Leadership Council (led by emeritus Republicans George Shultz and James Baker III) and the libertarian Niskanen Center have both proposed various forms of a deal in which Republicans would agree to a carbon tax in exchange for Democrats agreeing to repeal regulations on carbon emissions and fuel economy (among others).

Reporter Amy Harder…points out that no Republicans support the deal. But she also says that environmental groups and Democrats will not accept it — and their refusal is “the logjam preventing any climate compromise.”

❝ Niskanen’s David Bookbinder…told Harder that green groups actually would accept the trade if the price was right, they just won’t say so. “Like most entities that have no experience in actual negotiations,” he said, “[environmental groups] believe that they can’t say publicly that they will make the trade until the R’s put the tax on the table.”…

❝ This is shaping up to be a classic Washington dynamic: Democrats being pressured to compromise in advance, with phantoms.

❝ There is zero authentic support from the conservative movement or elected Republicans for a carbon tax. So the “debate” mostly consists of journalists and pundits (who have received these proposals rapturously) pressuring the left to reveal what it’s willing to give away.

Bookbinder would have us believe that real, experienced negotiators blab about what they’re willing to trade away in advance not only of a concrete offer but of anyone to negotiate with.

It would be indescribably stupid of Democrats to fall for this…

❝ There’s nothing wrong with people pushing this idea, if they think it’s a good idea. But elected Democrats are surely aware that a) there is no actual support for it among the GOP and b) when it comes to carbon, federally speaking, EPA regulations are the only tool left on the table.

David Roberts concludes with “Showing your cards…in exchange for the approval of the DC cognoscenti … well, surely that’s a mistake Democrats won’t make.”

Um, I hope so. Meanwhile, read the whole article. Roberts has done his homework and there is much to consider – even if there’s damned little on offer from the rightwing side of our political spectrum.

Life expectancy vs. health expenditure in the Greatest Land on Earth – or so we are told


Click to enlargeThe visual capitalist

Understand and appreciate one thing: our politicians, liberal, conservative and populist nutball all prate about the wonders of American-style capitalism. When, frankly, there’s a lot going on where we suck. On the largest scale – being the leading economy no matter the decay – means that we can bring down most of the world when we get caught out as in the recent Great Recession. The inanities of reactionary and racist history dear to the hearts of the class warriors running the show distort every aspect of our lives – from the dream of equal opportunity to classifying healthcare as a privilege not a right.

Our healthcare system and crap results are an outlier on the face of global political economy. Someday, somehow, the broad populace of this nation will wake up, stand up and shake off this foolishness and the pimps selling it to us.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Scientists slowly reintroducing group of normal, well-adjusted humans into American society

In an ambitious attempt to revive a population long considered to be on the brink of extinction, scientists announced Friday they have slowly begun to reintroduce normal, well-adjusted human beings back into society.

According to officials at Cornell University, where for the past 18 years conservation researchers have operated an enclosed sanctuary for humans who are levelheaded and make it a habit to think before they speak, the endangered group is being cautiously reintegrated into select locations nationwide in hopes that they can reestablish permanent communities and one day thrive again.

“We’ve worked for years to stabilize our society’s dwindling population of sane, generally reasonable people, and within the safe confines of our refuge we’ve finally seen their numbers start to bounce back a little,” said Josh Adelson, head of the Cornell research team, which moved the remaining members of the group into a protected habitat in 1998 to keep them from dying off completely. “Now, we can very gradually begin to release this rare breed of rational humans back into the general public. With luck, they can survive and prosper…”

Prior to the conservation efforts, it is believed that even-tempered people with sound judgment and the ability to put the needs of others before themselves had dwindled to less than 150 within the country’s borders, and had gone completely extinct in the nation’s businesses and civic institutions. Experts widely agree that without isolation, protection, and captive-breeding programs, the remaining thoughtful, foresighted individuals would have been totally wiped out…

Though researchers have expressed cautious optimism for the reintroduction program, many leading scientists have noted that the number of areas in the U.S. capable of sustaining well-adjusted humans has drastically decreased. According to experts, there is almost no chance the population will ever thrive again anywhere in the state of Florida…

Top researchers confirmed that it was already far too late to halt the country’s dominant breed of humans — assholes — from spreading uncontrollably to every region on earth.

Gotta love the Onion.

The psychology of irrational fear

image

Last week Sen. Rand Paul, a doctor, laid out the threat of Ebola in America thusly, to CNN: “If someone has Ebola at a cocktail party, they’re contagious and you can catch it from them.”

That statement is, of course, not true, unless the person is symptomatic, in which case he or she would not be up for hummus and chardonnay. But it’s not as untrue as what Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, also a medical doctor, wrote to the CDC:

“Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus, and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”

If Gingrey were to consult a map, he might be relieved to find that West Africa is several thousand miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. And that, Ebola being what it is, someone in the throes of the hemorrhagic fever would be unlikely to muster the strength to fly to Mexico and then sprint through the South Texas desert…

It’s a big time of the year for fear. Not only is it Halloween, a holiday more recently known for sexy hamburgers but originally famous for its spookiness, but also because the U.S. has had four (now one) cases of Ebola diagnosed on its soil. Maybe it’s the combination of the two that helps explain the abundance of ridiculous statements like the above in recent weeks…

Of course, Ebola is partly a stand-in for our ongoing collective anxieties, ever simmering and child-leash-purchase inducing. In calmer times, we might instead be wringing our hands over gluten, swine flu, or that illegal immigrants are coming here to “steal our jobs.”

A recent survey from Chapman University found that Americans are most afraid of walking alone at night, identity theft, safety on the Internet, becoming the victim of a mass shooting, and having to speak in public.

The study also found that Democrats were most likely to be worried about personal safety, pollution, and man-made disasters. Republicans, meanwhile, had the highest levels of fear about the government, immigrants, and “today’s youth.” It also found that having a low level of education or watching talk- or true-crime TV was associated with harboring the most types of fear. Despite the fact that crime rates have decreased over the past 20 years, most Americans, the survey found, think all types of crime have become more prevalent…

RTFA. A compendium of silliness we get to view every day of our lives in what is reputed to be the leading modern nation on this planet. I’m more certain of the silliness than the leadership part.

Thanks, Mike

Flu crisis prompts broad redesign in vaccines

With the worst flu outbreak since 2009 gripping the U.S., vaccine makers are determined to do better next season. They’re developing powerful vaccines that hold the promise of cutting incidences of flu by the thousands.

The new immunizations represent the broadest flu treatment update in three decades, while more than 200,000 American are hospitalized yearly with the disease, according to U.S. health officials. Health officials were caught off-guard last month when the flu season started earlier than in past years, with 48 states now reporting widespread disease, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.

Existing vaccines miss significant quantities of the virus circulating in any given year. This year, for instance, as many as 4 million people may develop influenza from a strain of virus that isn’t included in the current vaccine. Now, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca are each preparing immunizations that for the first time will cover all four main forms of the virus, including both influenza B strains that often infect children…

Because flu is so unpredictable, with different strains becoming dominant year to year, producing a four-in-one vaccine can be a big step forward toward keeping breakouts under control, said John Treanor, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

Still, making changes to vaccines is a lengthy and expensive process. The cost to develop a novel vaccine that goes even further and provides long-lasting umbrella protection in the face of constantly mutating viruses may be at least $1 billion, said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minneapolis. That can be a tough sell for a product that brings in little profit for the companies that make them.

Drug makers say the severity of this year’s flu outbreak validates their decision to move forward.

“It’s not by any means a high-margin area, but it is a linchpin, a foundation for what you do as a vaccine company,” said Len Friedland, head of clinical and medical affairs at London-based Glaxo’s vaccine division. “It really is critical to our company in terms of what we can do for public health and responsibility that we have to society.”

Still, the rate of immunization as of last season was less than 40 percent of U.S. adults.

“Prior to this year, we had two mild seasons,” said David Greenberg, senior director of scientific and medical affairs for Sanofi Pasteur. “My impression is that with a couple of mild seasons, people think it’s not so critical to go out and get an immunization. This is a potentially deadly disease. It varies, but tens of thousands of people die each year from influenza. How do you make that relevant?

Americans in general haven’t anymore understanding of science and the products of science than their elected representatives. Sounds like there’s some correlation, eh? Ignorant people electing incompetent politicians.

It’s only been a century or so since vaccines have become the success they are at preventing deadly disease. Yet, religious pundits in the United States are no less criminal than the Taliban at opposing widespread use for the flimsiest of excuses. Their decisions are no less criminal.

Nate Silver’s psephologist brigade crushes pundits and pollsters


Nate Silver

Silver, the computer expert who gave Obama a 90 percent chance of winning re-election, predicted on his blog, FiveThirtyEight (for the number of seats in the Electoral College), that the president would receive 51 percent of the popular vote as he called each of the 50 states, including all nine battlegrounds…

Gallup’s daily national tracking poll put Republican nominee Mitt Romney ahead by five points until it was suspended for Hurricane Sandy, and a final national survey released Nov. 5 gave the Republican a one-point advantage…

Two university-based pollsters joined Silver in correctly predicting Obama’s win, and one of them will be dead-on about the electoral vote tally.

Drew Linzer, an assistant professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta and a former pollster based in California, predicted yesterday morning on the website votamatic.org that Obama would end the race with 332 electoral votes and Romney 206.

Of Silver, Linzer wrote in that post, “his most likely outcome is still Obama 332, followed by 303 and 347, just like me.” Linzer also wrote that his model for votamatic.org had been predicting since June the Obama win with 332 electoral votes.

Sam Wang, a Princeton University professor of neuroscience, posted his final prediction — that Obama would likely receive 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 235 — on the school’s election blog at 2 p.m. yesterday. He reduced Obama’s total from 332 based on late polls yesterday.

Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, hasn’t been called by the Associated Press. Its outcome will determine which of those professors’ final forecasts was accurate.

The Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports poll also had Romney winning the popular vote by one point. It missed on six of its nine swing-state polls. Rasmussen is an automated poll, meaning that it cannot call mobile phones and relies instead on an online polling tool to reach those without landlines. Rasmussen also adjusts data to reflect political party identification, which other pollsters say can change from survey to survey.

Rasmussen Reports had Obama winning Nevada and New Hampshire, tying Romney in Ohio and Wisconsin, and losing in the other five, including North Carolina…

Silver infuriated conservatives with his model, which uses a number of measurements and calculations, including attention to state polls.

I don’t pretend to understand all the maths that Silver obviously excels in. If you click through to the article and the video – please do watch the video. Mike McKee is one of the best economists in the country.

Glad he works down here instead of back up in the GWN.

Hurricane Sandy and climate change

In the waning weeks of the North American hurricane season – a time when a superstorm is not expected to cause widespread damage to the eastern coast of the United States – Hurricane Sandy is a grim reminder of the menace of extreme weather events. With the lowest central pressure of the 2012 hurricane season, Sandy may have caused up to $20 billion in damages, making it one of the costliest superstorms in history.

Sandy interacted with a weather system moving toward it from the east, posing difficult challenges for forecasters and nearly unprecedented weather conditions for the region. A similar storm hit New England 20 years ago. But Sandy was worse, delivering hurricane-strength winds, drenching rains, and severe coastal flooding throughout the populous mid-Atlantic and northeast corridor.

…From the perspective of climate change, it is best to take a measured view of Sandy, lest hasty reaction harm scientific credibility…But that is little cause for comfort.

According to the giant insurance company Munich Re, weather and climate disasters contributed to more than one-third of a trillion dollars in damage worldwide in 2011, and this year’s total may rival that amount. There is growing evidence of links between climate change and sea-level rise, heat waves, droughts, and rainfall intensity, and, although scientific research on hurricanes and tornadoes is not as conclusive, that may be changing…

…Today, thanks to satellites, weather balloons, supercomputers, and skilled forecasters, we can anticipate hazardous weather up to a week in advance. Similar advances in climate modeling are occurring, thanks to methodological improvements and better data…

The world will need more cooperation in the coming years, as climate change begins to interact with and exacerbate extreme weather events, in order to gain the lead-time needed to prepare for disasters. We will also need the collaboration among governments, the private sector, and academia that often leads to improvements in forecasting…

We do not know whether superstorms like Sandy are harbingers of a “new normal” in the uneasy and unpredictable relationship between climate change and extreme weather events. That does not mean that there is not or cannot be such a connection, but rather that the scientific research needed to prove (or disprove) it must still be conducted. That is how good science works. Sandy has provided a powerful demonstration of the need to support it.

If politicians could get past ignorance, their anti-science habit, they might aid study and research simply by getting out of the way. Unfortunately, their opportunist lifestyle makes it easier to wallow in agitprop, fight against funding knowledge gathering and rely on spooky sloganeering for their endless election campaigns.

Fighting for understanding, trying to rebuild infrastructure that fits a changing world really shouldn’t require disaster and death to prompt reasonable concern from our elected officials.

2012 Presidential Debate Drinking Game

The Mitt Romney/Barack Obama debates are finally here – which means it’s time for the 2012 Presidential Debate Drinking Games! So stock up on your favorite beverages, follow us on Twitter and check back here before each debate to drink along with us.

These were the rules for last night – Debate #1

Select a candidate to drink to:

It doesn’t have to be the person you plan to vote for – in fact it’s often more fun if it isn’t. If you are at a party, try assigning candidates randomly to the guests.

Take a drink* every time your candidate says anything on his list

If you are drinking to Barack Obama: the words may include millionaires, let me be clear, General Motors, middle class

If you are drinking to Mitt Romney: the words may include unemployment, ObamaCare, job creators, private sector

You can participate and socialize on Twitter with other players…and check back in a couple days for details on the Biden/Ryan – Vice Presidential Debate Drinking Game!

What TV pundits could possibly offer this much chemical aid to survive American politics.

Thanks, Ursarodinia