Photo of the day

From Smithsonian Magazine best nature photographs:

Cane toad

Small World Highly Honored: Cane Toad

“I was visiting a ranch near Laredo in April 2010. The area had experienced a dry spell until massive rains brought about an abundance of toads, frogs, and wildflowers. I knew I had a chance for a great shot when I saw this six-inch-long toad bounding across a field of yellow dogweed.” – Photographer Rolf Nussbaumer

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One question

Mike (in Chapel Hill) pointed me to an interesting comment on this Charles Blow post which shows all the areas that Democrats have a public opinion advantage over Republicans.  The basic idea being that the country is becoming more diverse and more open-minded, which is good for Democrats.  True, I suppose, but a lot of good that did in 2010 and a lot of good that will do in November if the economic recovery stagnates.  Anyway, Mike directed me towards this interesting comment:

This is what election politics in the USA boils down to for the most part:

1. Voters who are more bothered by the idea that some people are going to get money or advantages which they don’t deserve than they are bothered by the prospect that some people will be deprived of money or advantages they really DO deserve will vote for Republican candidates.

2. Voters who are more bothered by the idea of people not getting money or opportunities they deserve than the converse, will vote for the Democrats.

You can check this among people you know with a surrogate question. Just ask a person which would be MORE DIFFICULT for him/her if he/she were a lawyer: a)defending a person you think is guilty or b)prosecuting a person you think is innocent. Republicans will answer (a), Democrats will answer (b).

Really interesting idea.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I am curious.  I will definitely try it with my large class in the fall to see just how well it correlates with PID.  Of course, you might as well just ask a basic variation of points 1 and 2.  I.e., are you more bothered by undeserving people receiving thing they don’t really deserve or by deserving people failing to receive what they do?  Now, based on my experiences, that’s really going to strongly correlate with PID.

It’s also why I make a point of explaining to my students that where you have government programs and you have human beings as recipients you will either have a) some level of fraud, b) no fraud but lots of deserving people not receiving benefits, or c) monitoring costs that exceed the costs you lose to fraud.   Now, am I happy about people defrauding the government and wasting our tax dollars?  No.  Do I want the government to take reasonable steps to combat fraud where it can?  Of course.  Most importantly, though, do I simply accept that a certain level of fraud and waste is going to be intrinsic to any complex human activity?  You betcha.

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