Chart of the Day

From a nice little Planet Money post looking at government debt in 3 different ways (and charts):

Graph of people age 65+ to people age 20-64 in 2000 and in 2050

We’re doing pretty good on this important demographic measure.  The birth rates of native-born Americans are a bit higher than in places like France and Italy, but this chart really tells the positive impact of immigration.  Immigrants tend to be young and they tend to have more babies (I guess its the immigrant in me that has 4 kids– one held to me by a carrier as I type).  Insofar as a society that guarantees substantial support for its elderly (as we do), immigration is very clearly a good thing.

Invasion of the Body Scanners

I’ve not been entirely convinced on the body scanner either way, though at this point I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.  What doesn’t move me at all is the argument that this is somehow the equivalent of a strip search and some gross violation of privacy.  These images of course capture your shape, but overall bear so little resemblance to an actual person, that I would happily post an image of my own scan right here.  People need to get over themselves.  That said, it’s not entirely clear they actually are making us safer.  NYT had an interesting on-line debate on the matter and I found Bruce Schneier’s take to be the most interesting:

A short history of airport security: We screen for guns and bombs, so the terrorists use box cutters. We confiscate box cutters and corkscrews, so they put explosives in their sneakers. We screen footwear, so they try to use liquids. We confiscate liquids, so they put PETN bombs in their underwear. We roll out full-body scanners, even though theywouldn’t have caught the Underwear Bomber, so they put a bomb in a printer cartridge. We ban printer cartridges over 16 ounces — the level of magical thinking here is amazing — and they’re going to do something else.

This is a stupid game, and we should stop playing it.

I found this part most provocative:

Exactly two things have made airplane travel safer since 9/11: reinforcing the cockpit door, and convincing passengers they need to fight back. Everything else has been a waste of money. Add screening of checked bags and airport workers and we’re done. Take all the rest of the money and spend it on investigation and intelligence.

I’m not entirely convinced that Schneier is right on the above point (in part because it’s hard to know the counter-factual world without any additional steps– maybe there would have been a successful shoe bomber if we weren’t all taking off our shoes), but if he is, boy are we being stupid.

Oh ye of little faith

I just don’t get those people who’s faith is so fragile and easily offended that some avant garde artist’s depiction of something sends them into a frenzy.  The older among you will remember the infamous “Piss Christ” incident.  Anyway, here’s the latest along similar lines:

Officials at the National Portrait Gallery on Tuesday removed a work of video art depicting Christ with ants crawling over him after complaints from a Catholic organization and members of Congress.

The four-minute video, created by the late artist David Wojnarowicz, had been on exhibit since Oct. 30 as part of a show on sexual difference in American portraiture.

An image with Jesus covered in ants from the video “A Fire in My Belly,” part of the ‘Hide/Seek’ exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

I find this part really amusing:

Officials at the museum and the Smithsonian Institution, which includes the Portrait Gallery, said they had not intended to be offensive by showing the work and removed it to better focus on the exhibit’s strengths.

“The decision wasn’t caving in,” said Martin E. Sullivan, the museum’s director. “We don’t want to shy away from anything that is controversial, but we want to focus on the museum’s and this show’s strengths.”

This is no great work of art (you can watch the video– it’s just weird) and it doesn’t sound like this fits the theme of the exhibit particularly well, but I think someone might need to tell Sullivan what “caving in” means.

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