Video of the day

I hate local news.  90% is so utterly uninformative and vapid.  And really, 8 minutes on the weather when you know all I really want is that 7-day forecast.  Anyway, love this little skewering courtesy of Conan.

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Jedi mind meld

So, back even before Obama had made the “Jedi Mind Meld” famous, I had actually meant to comment upon it because both Chait and Yglesias has used the “Jedi mind trick” term in mocking mainstream journalist/commentators calling for Obama to just bend Republicans to his will.  Chait:

Fellow venerable reporter Ron Fournier has been insisting that Obama ought to somehow mind-control Republicans into accepting higher revenue. “His aides and allies will ask, ‘Exactly what can he do to get the GOP to deal?,’” writes Fournier, “That is a question best put to the president, a skilled and well-meaning leader elected to answer the toughest questions.” Hypnosis! Jedi mind tricks! Whatever! Fournier’s job is to demand that Obama do something that flies in the face of everything we know about the ideological makeup of the Republican Party

In fact, I had already excerpted that choice bit in a longer post.  And Yglesias:

Ron Fournier at National Journal says Obama is “ultimately responsible for the success or failure” of negotiations, no matter what his opponents say.

This is pernicious nonsense. The president of the United States has many powers at his disposal, but the ability to pull a Jedi mind trick and force congressional opponents to agree to deals they don’t favor isn’t among them.

Anyway, mostly I think it is pretty cool that either Yglesias or Chait are filtering through to Obama in some way.  I seriously doubt that it’s a coincidence he framed this in just the way two influential liberal bloggers recently had.

Photo of the day

Very, very cool collection of images from “Sports Photographer of the Year” award.  This is from one of the images of the 2nd place photographer:

Second Place
Quinn Rooney
Getty Images

Heartbeats

One of those totally random things I loved (via Kottke): a chart of the estimated number of lifetime heartbeats for various mammals:

One Billion Heartbeats

And here’s NPR’s Robert Krulwich with a very cool take on it:

2007 paper checked 700 different kinds of plants, and almost every time they applied the formula, it correctly predicted lifespan. “This is universal. It cuts across the design of organisms,” West says. “It applies to me, all mammals, and the trees sitting out there, even though we’re completely different designs.” …

It’s hard to believe that creatures as different as jellyfish and cheetahs, daisies and bats, are governed by the same mathematical logic, but size seems to predict lifespan. The formula seems to be nature’s way to preserve larger creatures who need time to grow and prosper, and it not only operates in all living things, but even in the cells of living things. It tells animals for example, that there’s a universal limit to life, that though they come in different sizes, they have roughly a billion and a half heart beats; elephant hearts beat slowly, hummingbird hearts beat fast, but when your count is up, you are over. Plants pulse as well, moving nourishment through their veins. They obey the same commands of scale, and when the formula says “you’re done,” amazingly, the buttercup and the redwood tree obey. Why a specific mathematical formula should govern all of us, I don’t completely understand, but when the math says, “it’s time,” off we go …

I think you’d have to conclude that through our own technological innovation, humans have turned ourselves into massive outliers.

Changing demographics; unchanging taxes

This was a great post from Ezra last week on the fundamental political conflict facing the Republican Party these days:

Frum’s critique, put simply, is that demographics are destiny for political parties. A party made up of old people will have trouble cutting Medicare, and lo and behold, today’s Republican Party, despite believing Medicare the key cause of our budgetary troubles, is even more protective of its near-term spending than the Democrats. A party so reliant on elderly voters could hardly be otherwise…

The problem is that America’s demographics have no intention of holding true to their 50-year average. As Ed Kleinbard, a tax professor at USC, points out, the share of the country over 65 will increase by a third in the next 10 years alone. That means a greater share of the country depending on the government — and, worse even than that, a greater share depending on the government for expensive health-care services. The idea that we can support America in 2025 with the tax code America had in 1975 is foolishness.

But it’s foolishness that the Republican Party has yoked itself to, and that requires it to make heroically absurd policy assumptions. Even Ryan’s budget can’t credibly argue that Medicare and Social Security spending won’t grow as a percentage of the economy.[emphasis mine]

In the meantime, to make their numbers work in the face of changing demographics and rising health-care costs, they need to make genuinely draconian cuts to the programs that people who aren’t seniors rely on. That makes them even less popular party among the under-65 set, further exacerbating the fundamental tension of the modern GOP: That their core agenda is to turn back the spending patterns driven by the aging of the population, but their core constituency is the part of the population that’s aging and relies most on those programs.

Spot-on.  I think the fact that people talk about taxes based on historical averages when our population is shifting ever further away from historical averages in the percentage of the elderly is a hugely important point.  As our nation grows older, we need to raise more money in order to spend more on the elderly or massively cut from other parts of the economy in ways the American people are entirely unwilling to do.  It’s all well and good to talk about taxes averaging 19% of GDP, or whatever, but we’re talking about averages over a period of time when the elderly were a much smaller portion of our population.  And that matters.  A lot.  Of course, we could be a lot worse off, but our population is not growing older nearly as fast as most other Western Democracies.  And why not?  Those damn immigrants :-).

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