Photo of the day

Recent National Geographic photo of the day:

Picture of a colony of emperor penguins in Antarctica

Emperor Penguin Colony, Antarctica

Photograph by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic

Happy Easter

One of life’s little factoids I love knowing is that Easter is scheduled for the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal equinox.  Of course, when figuring out the date of Easter in future years, it’s a lot easier to google “Easter 2014.”  Anyway, when thinking about next year it got me to wondering about the range of possible dates for Easter, as it is definitely on the early side this year and the last side next year.  The Census Bureau  of all organizations, actually put together a cool chart of how often Easter falls on any given day.  This year’s March 31, is among the more common dates, accounting for 4.4% of Easters. It’s only been 11 years since the last one and another 11 years till a March 31 Easter.  Meanwhile, between 1600 and 2099, March 24 gets only two Easters.  Anyway, pretty cool.  Happy Easter should it apply to you (and if not, just enjoy your Sunday)

Easter Bunnies - Assorted.  My butt hurts


Photo of the day

N&O presents a gallery from the “military photographer of the year” competition:

Dust lights up the rotors of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter as paratroopers with 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment load for an air assault mission near Combat Outpost Ab Band May 23, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. This photo placed second, Pictorial, in the 2012 Military Photographer of the Year photo competition. SGT. MICHAEL MACLEOD/USARMY — MCT

Photo of the day

Iditarod (Big Picture):

A musher travels across Norton Sound on their way to Koyuk on March 11. (Bill Roth/The Anchorage Daily News via Associated Press) 

Fewer drug uses; more reckless endangerers

In prison, that is.  Listened to this amazing NPR story earlier this week about the dangers in “walking down the grain” in which workers literally drown to death in corn:

Early the next morning, on a stifling hot day in July 2010, Whitebread joined his buddies Alex Pacas, 19, and Will Piper, 20, at the Haasbach LLC grain storage complex. Piper had begun working there the week before, and it was Pacas’ second day on the job.

The boys carried shovels and picks as they climbed a ladder four stories to the top of the grain bin, which was twice as wide and half-filled with 250,000 bushels of wet and crusty corn. Their job was to “walk down the grain,” or break up the kernels that clung to the walls and clogged the drainage hole at the bottom of the bin.

The work went well at first, with the boys shoveling corn toward a cone-shaped hole at the center of the bin. But around 9:45 a.m., Whitebread began sinking in the corn. He was sucked under in minutes and disappeared. Pacas and Piper also began to sink and desperately struggled to stay on the surface.

Six horrific hours later, only Piper was carried out alive.

It turns out that in case after case the employer is basically sending people out to their doom despite plenty of evidence they very well may be doing so.  Reckless disregard for human life at the very least.   Yet, as the story points out, very, very few of these reckless endangerers are ever prosecuted and when they are fined, the fines typically end up dramatically reduced.

It seems to me in story after story of corporate/business malfeasance managers/owners, etc., make decisions which lead directly to either death or completely ruining people’s lives.   And yet they are almost never punished for it.  Meanwhile, if you are caught with a few pills of Ocycontin that don’t belong to you, you could get years in prison.  Quite simply, as a society we go way to easy on corporate crime.  That should change (not that I think it would will).  That said, it would sure make me happy to see more people like the man who sends a 14 year old into an incredibly dangerous corn bin (or mortgage brokers who defraud people out of their life savings, etc.) in prison and fewer drug addicts.


It’s the prices

Why do we spend so much on health care in America?  Because we charge so much for health care in America?  Why do we charge so much?  Well, that’s complicated, but as much as anything it comes from a lack of a government role.  Hard as it may be for conservatives to accept all those countries with more expansive health care for lower cost due it by using the power of the government to keep prices down.  Truth is, doctors, hospitals, medical device manufacturers, etc., can do quite well and get plenty rich in other countries– just not nearly so rich as in America.  Ezra’s got 21(!) charts on the matter.  Here’s a few:

office visit

bypass surgeryhospital dayMRI

Now, tell me again we don’t need government involved in prices.  Or that somehow all we need is insurance companies to sell policies across states and this absurdity goes away?  Ummm, no.  National single payer health plan with a global budget?  Yep– that would go a long way.

Gay marriage in 2020

Count on Nate Silver to bring the heavy statistical analysis to the future of gay marriage.  Assuming present trends in public opinion continue (certainly a debatable assumption, but the rate of increase in support has been quite stable for a number of years), here’s the state of gay marriage public opinion in 2020:

That’s pretty amazing.  And wow– Alabama and Mississippi in a class by themselves.  There’s a reason those are the two states I pick on all the time in my classes.  Mississippi: “where we keep the poor man, the Black man, and the gay man down– and don’t even get started about education.”



More free birth control = less abortion

If pro-life people really wanted there to be less abortions, they’d spend more time lobbying for free high-quality birth control and less time in front of abortion clinics.  I.e., put the focus on stopping unplanned pregnancies before they happen.  Yet more research on how amazingly effective free birth control– especially IUD’s– can be:

Providing birth control to women at no cost substantially reduced unplanned pregnancies and cut abortion rates by 62 percent to 78 percent over the national rate, a new study shows. The research, by investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, appears online Oct. 4 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Among a range of birth control methods offered in the study, most women chose long-acting methods like intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants, which have lower failure rates than commonly used birth control pills. In the United States, IUDs and implants have high up-front costs that sometimes aren’t covered by health insurance, making these methods unaffordable for many women…

From 2008 to 2010, annual abortion rates among study participants ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per 1,000 women. This is a substantial drop (62 percent to 78 percent) over the national rate of 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available.

The lower abortion rates among CHOICE participants also is considerably less than the rates in St. Louis city and county, which ranged from 13.4 to 17 per 1,000 women, for the same years.

Among girls ages 15-19 who had access to free birth control provided in the study, the annual birth rate was 6.3 per 1,000, far below the U.S. rate of 34.3 per 1,000 for girls the same age.

This is just pure win.  That is, unless your moral sense tells you it’s better to preach abstinence despite the evidence that preaching abstinence doesn’t work.  And cost/benefit wise, this is obviously, a huge win.  You know I really would like there to be fewer abortions and this certainly strikes me as about the best way to get there.  I really wish more of the pro-life crowd could get over their aversion to women having sex and join with liberals in funding programs like this.

What Kay Hagan tells us about gay marriage

So, NC’s incredibly risk-averse Democratic Senator Kay Hagan finally came out in favor of gay marriage today.  Plenty of speculation about how this might hurt her for the general election, but I’m pretty convinced otherwise.  As much as for any reason because I don’t think Hagan would do this if she thought it might cost her the election.  The initial report I read came from the N&O included this line:

“I’m not interested in playing political pundit,” Hagan said when asked how she thought her stance would affect her re-election prospects. “I’ve never made a decision based on future elections.”

I think I laughed out loud when I read that.  Hagan is a very calculating politician.  Thus, when a very calculating politician makes this move, it tells us that more likely than not, it’s a winning one.   Somewhat to my dismay, gay marriage has become the sine qua non of liberal politics.  I think Hagan realized that she could not afford to further alienate/antagonize the liberal base on this issue and with politics changing so fast her benefit from pleasing the left would likely outweigh lost 2014 voters, as most of those anti gay marriage voters were never available to her anyway.

You can watch me break it down in highly-edited format for the local news here.

I also wanted to share Seth Masket’s comment about a similar call from Virginia Senator Mark Warner:

Hackish centrist, running for reelection statewide in Virginia, not known for taking a strong stance on anything, has just endorsed same sex marriage because he thinks it will help him keep his job. *That’s* what change looks like.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s photos of the week.  Awesome:

A bolt of lightning flashes in an erupting volcano in Japan in this photo taken by German photographer Martin Rietze at Sakurajima volcano, Japan. Sakurajima had been silent for 100 years when there was a huge eruption in 1914 which swallowed up nearby islands and created an isthmus to the mainland, ending its life as an island.  Sakurajima's rumbled into life again in 1955 and has been erupting almost constantly ever since.

A bolt of lightning flashes in an erupting volcano in Japan in this photo taken by German photographer Martin Rietze at Sakurajima volcano, Japan. Sakurajima had been silent for 100 years when there was a huge eruption in 1914 which swallowed up nearby islands and created an isthmus to the mainland, ending its life as an island. Sakurajima’s rumbled into life again in 1955 and has been erupting almost constantly ever since.Picture: Martin Rietze/National

Top 10 reasons to oppose gay marriage

As seen on FB. This is really, really good:

The Supreme Court and gay marriage

Honestly, don’t have a whole lot to say on the subject.  Is it wrong of me to be a little bothered on all the red equals signs in my FB feed today.  Supporting gays– hooray?  Conformity– boo?  Just too much a Members Only jacket for my tastes.  Also, I’ve used this caveat before and surely will again, but I know it’s easy for me to say “be patient” but same-sex marriage is so, just a matter of time.   Honestly, the on-line headline for Dana Milbank’s column pretty much says it all, “Equality is Inevitable  the Supreme Court can only slow the march to gay marriage.”  Yep, that’s pretty much the case.  As for what the Court will decide, I really don’t expect any sort of Roe v. Wade moment where the court simply declares there’s a nation-wide right to gay marriage.  I do, however, expect that they will strike down DOMA and that this will just accelerate what is already an amazingly rapid change in public opinion.   I’m not going to hazard a time-line on when two gay people can get married to each other in Alabama or Mississippi, but where once I thought that was surely many decades away, I don’t really think that’s the case anymore.

Meanwhile, Wonkblog put together 9 charts that make the same point.  I like this one because it shows the change across all age groups:


I also think these two related charts a very big part of the story (i.e,. hooray to those who came out when it really wasn’t easy):

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