Video of the day

Just listened to a recent Planet Money history of the income tax (sadly, they ignore the role of prohibitionists in pushing the Income tax– they knew they would need to replace the revenue from alcohol if we outlawed it), but still pretty cool.  They played a bit of this amazing 1943 government income tax propaganda film featuring Donald Duck:

Why female politicians matter

One of the most persistent gender gaps in politics is the fact that women have less knowledge of and less interest in politics (and, yes, those two are closely related).  A big part of this is surely that, in many ways, politics is a “man’s world.”  One of my favorite studies is by my friend Lonna Atkeson and it shows that women in states with prominent state-wide female candidates are more politically engaged as a result.  From the abstract:

The hypothesis that visible and competitive women matter to female citizens is tested by examining the relationship between various political attitudes and behaviors and the presence (or absence) of a viable statewide female candidate. The models indicate that there is overwhelming support for the hypothesis that women citizens in states with competitive and visible female candidates increase their political engagement. These results suggest that descriptive representation matters in important ways.

I was definitely thinking about this as I looked at the gender breakdown of results from a semi-recent Pew News quiz I took recently (inspired by the Science quiz).  What struck me as that while there were the traditional gender gaps we would expect– women were typically 8-10 points less likely to correctly identify a number of male politicians (I won’t name them in case you want to take the quiz).  Meanwhile, one of the figures (okay, I’ll give you one right for free) was Elizabeth Warren.  41% correct for men; 44% for women.  I.e., there’s nothing inherent about women knowing less about politics.  Shake things up a little; give women some more role models, and this gap will really shrink.  Let’s have at it.  Now, if only we could get more women to run for office, but that’s a different story.

Deadly styrofoam!

Or not.  I get it– better safe than sorry.  But if we carry that too far, we never leave our houses.  Yesterday I was late getting home as a bunch of roads on my way home were completely closed off.  I googled the reason why today:

RALEIGH, N.C. — Police closed Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh briefly Thursday afternoon to investigate reports of a suspicious package, which turned out to be pieces of polystyrene foam, a state Department of Agriculture spokesman said.

Someone going to North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine who parked at the State Fairgrounds, shortly after 4 p.m., reported the item which was on the road outside Gate 10.

Authorities closed Blue Ridge Road, from Hillsborough Street to Trinity Road, to investigate and found that it was pieces of yellow foam wrapped in red duct tape, Agriculture Department spokesman Brian Long said.

The Raleigh Police Department’s bomb team confirmed that the item was harmless.

We’ve got to have the police shut down roads because of styrofoam wrapped in duct tape?!  Lord help us.  Occam’s razor: styrofoam in tape at largely abandoned fairgrounds represents some random package that just fell off somebody’s truck, etc., or represents an attempt to bomb a target where nobody actually is.  I’ll take the former.

Photo of the day

So, this is from a pretty awesome photo gallery title, “22 Unbelievable Places that are Hard to Believe Really Exist”  (it’s from BoredPanda– I have no idea what this site is, but it is sure a cool gallery):

Canola Flower Fields, China

Image credits: +Lanzi

Businesses love  pollution!

Sadly, of course, many of them actually do.  Even more sadly, the NC Republican legislature seems to think that allowing businesses to pollute more is the key to luring more jobs to NC:

RALEIGH, N.C. — It took just 45 minutes Thursday morning for the Senate Commerce Committee to approve a massive rollback of rules and regulations meant to protect the state’s environment.

Senate Bill 612 would require cities and counties to repeal any rules stricter than state or federal law. It would also require a list of environmental oversight boards and agencies to repeal or rewrite any state rule stricter than federal regulation on any given matter…

The bill would also do away with riparian buffers on private property throughout the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins.

Those two basins cover a huge swath of eastern North Carolina, stretching from the Virginia border through Raleigh and Rocky Mount all the way to Greenville and New Bern at the coast.  Watersheds include Eno, Falls Lake, Crabtree, Lake Mattamuskeet and Swan Quarter estuaries.

Senate sponsors said they did not know how many acres the riparian repeal would affect. The buffers are intended to protect river water quality from the pressures of development.

The bill would also permit demolition crews, including those working on old power plants, to dispose of potentially toxic materials on site, instead of transporting them to a landfill.

Sponsor Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said the bill “will roll some of these rules and regulations back to make this state more business-friendly.” …

Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, asked for the reasoning behind banning local governments from enacting ordinances and rules stricter than federal rules, which, he pointed out, are “meant to establish a floor, not a ceiling” for environmental regulation.

McKissick said communities in the mountains might have different local needs than those in the Piedmont or at the coast. “Why wouldn’t we want to allow some local variation?” he asked.

Good question indeed.  Ever more evidence that to Republicans “local control” seems to be that Raleigh controls the locals.  If the Town of Cary decides that it wants to be a cleaner, healthier community it is forbidden to by the state legislature under this law.  Yowza!  I find the idea of political hypocrisy boring because it is such a standard part of politics, but come on, there’s hypocrisy and there’s hypocrisy.  Not to mention, this is just plain wrong.  To a degree, Republicans have a point about allowing local variation to serve the needs of different communities.  But to disallow a community to want to be cleaner and healthier?!  Just disgusting.  And shameful.

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