The History of the World

This is super-cool (h/t Kyle Saunders)

I don’t have any interesting thoughts to add to this (sorry), just watch it.  My one non-interesting thought– I’m so bookmarking gapminder.org now.

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Sex and politics in SC

If you haven’t been following the race for the Republican nomination to replace Mark Sanford (he who spent some time on the “Appalachian Trail”) as South Carolina governor, it’s a fun one.  The current leading contender, Nikki Haley, has been accused of being both an adulteress and a “raghead” as she was born a Sikh.  Here’s the Post:

From the Bible-thumping Upcountry to the breezy beaches, Palmetto State Republicans have become transfixed by allegations in a campaign that has devolved into perhaps the nastiest brawl in a generation. Haley has fended off unsubstantiated claims from two political operatives that she had extramarital affairs with them…

She was elevated by an endorsement from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Herself no stranger to scandal, Palin — who has taken to calling herself the “mama grizzly” — has defended Haley, chalking it all up in robo-calls to “made-up nonsense.”…

Now enter Jake Knotts, a rabble-rousing Republican state senator, who ruminated Thursday on Haley’s Indian heritage on a talk show and concluded: “We already got one raghead in the White House. We don’t need another in the governor’s mansion.”

On a bit of a side note, what an embarrassment this Knotts fellow is.  We’ve had our share of embarrassing politicians in NC, but honestly, it’s a shame we have to share a “Carolina” with our backwards neighbors to the South.  The fact that this guy is actually an elected state Senator is completely pathetic.

On the gender and politics side, Dana Goldberg has written a widely-cited post:

I’m rooting for Haley because after watching so many men in politics fool around and still manage to hold on to their jobs—Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, Clarence Thomas, John Ensign, Eric Massa, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Gavin Newsom, among many others—I hope we have reached the point when a woman, too, can screw up her personal life and still be evaluated on the public stage primarily for her professional achievements. …

if the Republican Party is willing to accept male adulterers into the “family values” fold (John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and about a gazillion others), it should certainly be willing to forgive and forget with Haley, who is bright, beautiful, and has a heart-warming Indian-American immigrant story to tell.

Given that Sarah Palin helped bring her to fame, you also shouldn’t be surprised that she is really right-wing.  Which, again brings us back to gender (and some political science).  All else being equal, voters perceive female candidates as more liberal than males, and thus more extremely liberal when Democrats and more moderate when Republicans.  Of course, whoever wins the Republican primary is almost assured to with the Governor’s office in SC, but being female gives Haley an extra advantage by making her views seem more moderate for a general election.

BP should not have been drilling

If you aren’t able to deal with the worst should it happen, you probably shouldn’t be doing.  Apparently, BP actually told the government they could deal with a spill of up to 300,000 barrels per day.  This, despite the fact that they were clearly unprepared to deal with “only” 19,000/day or less.  Given, how catastrophic an oil spill of this nature is, if BP couldn’t handle it, they quite simply shouldn’t have been drilling.  Did they horribly mis-estimate their ability to actually deal with a spill or did they simply lie that they could handle it because they thought it would never happen?  If nuclear power plants could not prevent catastrophic melt-downs from happening (which, by nature of their design modern ones all pretty much can), we’d never license them.

Federal Judge Richard Posner had an essay in the Post on Sunday about the problems of planning for such events where it hard to estimate risk:

But other forces were similar in the leak and the financial crisis. If deepwater oil drilling had been forbidden or greatly curtailed, the sacrifice of corporate profits and of consumer welfare (which is dependent on low gasoline prices) would have been great. The regulators who could have insisted on greater preventive efforts were afflicted with the usual short horizons of government officials. Elected representatives did not want to shut down deepwater drilling over an uncertain risk of a disastrous spill, and this reluctance doubtless influenced the response (or lack of it) of the civil servants who do the regulating.

Of course, a big part of the problem, as Posner unfortunately fails to mention, is that people systematically under-estimate the risk of low likelihood events like this (airline crashes being a notable exception).  Maybe the risk was 1 in 1000, but BP was treating it as if it was 1 in 1,000,000.  Anyway, if we as a society (it’s not like ExxonMobil rushed in with cool technology BP doesn’t have to fix this) don’t actually have the ability to prevent a catastrophic spill from deep water oil drilling, than we as a society should should not be deep water drilling.

My secret to success? 6’0”

The Times had a really interesting piece last month about the relationship between height and physical appearance and propensity towards crime.  The rub:

A small band of economists has been studying how height, weight and beauty affect the likelihood of committing — or being convicted of — a crime. Looking at records from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, they have found evidence that shorter men are 20 to 30 percent more likely to end up in prison than their taller counterparts, and that obesity and physical attractiveness are linked to crime…

There is already a sizable stack of research that examines the connections between physical characteristics and the labor market. Economists have found, for example, that every inch of additional height is associated with a nearly 2 percent increase in earnings; that employees rated beautiful tended to earn 5 percent more an hour than an average-looking person, while those rated as plain earned 9 percent less; that obesity can cause a drop in white women’s earnings.

Damn, and I thought I owed my success to my smarts and work ethic (okay, not so much the work ethic).  I guess its height and smarts.  So, as for the more diminutive Big Steve (yes, the nicknames are intended ironically) or Mike Cobb, who both put me to shame as a political scientist while giving up several inches on me, they are presumably extra smart and hard-working to make up for the height, or perhaps extra good looking.

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