Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Internal Way-Too-Far-In-Advance Programming Note

A) American Idol, in its 10th season, has finally seen fit to show up at the hometown of Summerfest, Milwaukee. That will be happening on July 21st at the Bradley Center.

I will in all likelihood be nowhere near that even if I happen to have off that day from work. I am no singer, and the fact that that first round is a capella does me no favors. I'd simply be wasting time that could be going to someone with an actual singing voice.

B) I'll in November be in Hawaii for a week, specifically Oahu; that'll be the 16th-22nd.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Go, Balloons!

This is footage of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, immediately after John Kerry was formally nominated.

This is also footage of the coordinator of same trying to get the balloons to come down.

This is also footage of CNN giving breathless coverage of the electoral history of balloons falling at political conventions, as opposed to silly little things like John Kerry's stances on the issues as compared to opponent George W. Bush.

Monday, June 28, 2010

TAXES BAD-- Well, Hang On A Sec; Let's Figure This Out

This one's always bugged me a bit, and it's high time to put this to bed once and for all. If you've spent long enough in Internet political flamewars, inevitably you will eventually get into a row about taxes. Invariably, it will be driven by someone seeking lower taxes, for a variety of reasons personal and societal.

For a long time, they didn't have any real competition. After all, who wants to pay more taxes? In recent years, though, there has been an increase, however small, in people defending higher taxes, on the basis that without a certain amount of taxes, a country can't properly function. Invariably, this side will bring up Somalia as the low-taxes proxy and somewhere in Scandinavia, most likely Sweden, as the high-taxes proxy. And obviously you'd rather be living in Sweden than Somalia, right?

It's just that teeny, tiny sample size, though. And that's what's been bugging me. Without any further information, for all one knows Somalia and Sweden are strawmen.

So while I personally fall on the pro-taxes side of things- make of that what you will- it'd be nice to get some confirmation, disconfirmation, or even inconclusiveness.

So here's what we'll do. We'll tease out the sample size more. We'll take a larger set of global high and low tax rates; we'll use a top 20 on each side. That should be plenty enough. We will then compare the countries shown on a standard-of-living comparison, averaging the scores to provide a mean standard-of-living rating for the high-tax group and for the low-tax group.

Then, it's a simple matter of seeing who did better. Sound good? Good.

The first thing we must do, of course, is identify a pair of suitable data sets to use; we need something that compares a wide variety of countries based on the same set of data.

For tax rate, we will use the Heritage Foundation's 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, showing, among other things, tax revenue as a percentage of GDP. (They also have government spending as a percentage of GDP, but we'll shelve that for perhaps another day.) Somalia was not examined in this dataset, which is a mixed blessing. On one hand, it's bad, as we can't truly get the Somalia/Sweden faceoff this premise demands. On the other hand, even if Somalia assessed taxes, how would they expect to collect?

The Heritage Foundation would not, by the way, be my first choice of source, but the less-taxes crowd is more likely to be Republican and Libertarian, and they would be more willing to use the Heritage Foundation straightaway. So as far as representing a viewpoint, it's not as bad an option as you might think. (Besides, they have the widest variety of countries by several orders of magnitude; everyone else I saw only compared developed nations.)

For standard-of-living, we will use the United Nations 2009 Human Development Index (which was produced with 2007 numbers). They weren't able to get Somalia either, by the way.

We will set the rule that in order to be placed on the high-tax or low-tax list, you must first qualify by being listed on the 2009 Human Development Index list. That's because it would screw things up to try and figure out how or if to score a 'n/a' or if to use data from previous years or anything of the sort. I'll just disqualify the country. This is less about who specifically is on each list and more about how the ones that are on each list compare to each other.

Got all that? Great. Time to select our groups. With the disqualified countries noted, and there were two of them:

DISQUALIFIED: Iraq- "negligible", surely under that of the UAE but really it's academic
1. United Arab Emirates- tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is 1.0%
2. Equatorial Guinea- 1.7%
3. Qatar- 2.6%
4. Bahrain- 2.7%
5. Libya- 2.9%
6. Myanmar- 3.0%
7. Kuwait- 3.1%
8. Oman- 3.3%
9. Chad- 4.2%
10. Afghanistan- 5.2%
11. Congo-Brazzaville- 5.4%
12. Nigeria- 5.6%
13. Saudi Arabia- 5.6%
14. Iran- 6.1%
15. Angola- 6.2%
16. Haiti- 6.9%
17. Sudan- 7.0%
18. Central African Republic- 7.3%
19. Yemen- 7.3%
20. Algeria- 7.9%

1. United Kingdom- 37.9%
2. Netherlands- 38.0%
3. Slovenia- 38.4%
4. Bosnia/Herzegovina- 38.5%
5. Hungary- 39.9%
6. Germany- 40.8%
7. Swaziland- 41.2%
8. Iceland- 41.4%
9. Cyprus- 41.6%
10. Austria- 41.9%
11. Finland- 43.1%
12. Italy- 43.3%
13. Norway- 43.4%
14. Cuba- 44.8%
15. France- 45.0%
16. Belgium- 46.1%
17. Sweden- 48.9%
18. Denmark- 49.5%
19. Lesotho- 54.3%
DISQUALIFIED- Kiribati- 69.7%
20. Timor-Leste- 133.9% (Because you are assuredly wondering where THAT number came from, the Heritage Foundation shows it "reflecting large tax revenues from petroleum projects in the Timor Sea.")

So we've got our field and we've got our teams. Now we carry that to the 2009 Human Development Index, and look at the scores our 40 countries got, along with their rankings (out of 182).

1. United Arab Emirates- HDI score is .903 (ranked 35th)
2. Equatorial Guinea- .719 (118th)
3. Qatar- .910 (33rd)
4. Bahrain- .895 (39th)
5. Libya- .847 (55th)
6. Myanmar- .586 (138th)
7. Kuwait- .916 (31st)
8. Oman- .846 (56th)
9. Chad- .392 (175th)
10. Afghanistan- .352 (181st)
11. Congo-Brazzaville- .601 (136th)
12. Nigeria- .511 (158th)
13. Saudi Arabia- .843 (59th)
14. Iran- .782 (88th)
15. Angola- .564 (143rd)
16. Haiti- .532 (149th)
17. Sudan- .531 (150th)
18. Central African Republic- .369 (179th)
19. Yemen- .575 (140th)
20. Algeria- .754 (104th)

1. United Kingdom- .947 (21st)
2. Netherlands- .964 (6th)
3. Slovenia- .929 (29th)
4. Bosnia/Herzegovina- .812 (76th)
5. Hungary- .879 (43rd)
6. Germany- .947 (22nd)
7. Swaziland- .572 (142nd)
8. Iceland- .969 (3rd)
9. Cyprus- .914 (32nd)
10. Austria- .955 (14th)
11. Finland- .959 (12th)
12. Italy- .951 (18th)
13. Norway- .971 (1st)
14. Cuba- .863 (51st)
15. France- .961 (8th)
16. Belgium- .953 (17th)
17. Sweden- .963 (7th)
18. Denmark- .955 (16th)
19. Lesotho- .514 (156th)
20. Timor-Leste- .489 (162nd)

And now for the average scores.

The low-tax group, with an average of 4.75% tax revenue as a percentage of GDP, has a mean HDI score of .6714 (if placed in the HDI, they would collectively be somewhere between South Africa and Morocco), and a mean ranking of 108.35.

The high-tax group, with an average of 51.08% tax revenue as a percentage of GDP (albeit skewed high a bit by Timor-Leste), has a mean HDI score of .87335 (which if placed in the HDI table would get them between Chile and Croatia), and a mean ranking of 41.8.

The numbers pretty much speak for themselves, decisively in favor of the high-tax group.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

American Ethnic Food

This is footage of a gourmet grocery store in Berlin, in which someone came across an American 'ethnic' food section.

International readers, let me show you the food of my people:

More need not be said.

Random News Generator, And Its Bloody Demise

The RNG stops on #78... let's see...


GHANA. Of all the countries.

It turns out you're just in time for a new segment I call "Let's Make Mathematical Algorithms Scream In Pain."

Let's see... Cup, Cup, Cup, Cup, Cup, Cup, Cup, Cup, Cup, press release, those are always death, Cup, Cup, Cup, Cup, Cup, criticism of governmental appointees that I can't make heads or tails of and desperately wish I was able to today, Cup, Cup, Cup, Cup, SCREAM, RANDOM NEWS GENERATOR, SCREAM!

...sigh. You win, RNG. Ghana won and they're over the moon about it. Twice in a row they've knocked us out now. AGH.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I Get Beck All Over Your Nice Internet

I've reached the point with the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh that I try to just cut them, and any mention of same, entirely out of my day. Complaining about them just gives them ratings and you're really not going to convince anyone about them that's not already on your side. Just leave them to wallow in their own muck.

But then this came across the Fark wires, showing such a fundamental lack of basic understanding of American history by Beck that it deserves special mention. He tosses out some trees, but completely missed the forest. I'll allow Beck the courtesy of having his um's and uh's cleaned up for ease of reading...

"Tonight, you will see that... I'll show you clippings from the newspapers of the war heroes as they were buried with full honors from the Revolutionary War, where they were getting full benefits. I will show you, I held in my hand, the statement on benefits from George Washington. It was the last thing he did as the general. And it was-- this is-- these are our benefits, for the troops. There was no delineation between white and black. It was white, black, it didn't matter, if you fought... there was nothing like that from our founders. And when you see the newspaper clippings of African Americans who fought heroically and recieved full military honors and are buried at such-and-such. You see-- I'm gonna give you a piece of a sermon that was preached in the first real megachurch. It was a white and black megachurch. The preacher, at one point, wanted to separate and say 'Hey, let's just do a black church.' The congregation of the church- both white and black- said 'Why? Why would we separate ourselves?'

The things that have happened in the country where it really started to go wrong was in the leadup to the Civil War. And it became politicized and it was all about slavery. Before then, we were moving on the right track. You'll learn things tonight you've never, ever learned before, and ask yourself 'Why?'"

Race relations in America went wrong when we politicized slavery. Apparently. I think we all know why slavery was being politicized- because the north thought it was wrong for whites to keep blacks as slaves (which would tend to be a mildly questionable moment in race relations) and the south rather militantly begged to differ.

But... that said, back to ignoring Beck.

Go Yanks today.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Take A Bite Out Of South Africa

In all the hoopla of the World Cup, just about every facet of South Africa tends to get at least a little bit of attention-- the host cities, the varied cultures, customs, scenery, social issues, even the people that were chosen to participate in that grand old tradition we like to call "hiding the poor people so they don't get on camera and ruin our nice World Cup or possibly Olympics".

But then there's Lesotho.

You know where Lesotho is as soon as you look at a map of South Africa; you likely just don't know it. You see that little circle that got cut out of South Africa? That's Lesotho. They're not the home base of any of the 32 teams despite being a fairly convenient location. North Korea was going to base themselves outside of South Africa... but they were going to do it in Zimbabwe, causing a predictable outcry and North Korea's eventual backing off. (As an aside, it's a curious thing about that link-- every time I see an article about problems in Zimbabwe, even when I see it on Facebook, even though the place is just about universally regarded as a basket case, without fail there will be a flood of comments about how the article is biased and Zimbabwe is actually a wonderful place and Mugabe is just this short of being Jesus incarnate and all manner of like-minded horseshit.)

You won't see Lesotho in the Cup on merit anytime soon; as I write this, they're ranked #153 in Nate Silver's Soccer Power Index. The lowest-ranked team in the Cup- again, North Korea- right now sits at #93, 60 spots above. Despite being entirely encased within the host nation, other than a visit last week from Prince William and Prince Harry, they remain otherwise ignored.

And that's really a shame, because even though the temporary center of the world that surrounds them pays them little heed, they are still affected by it. For starters, South Africa has barred thousands of Lesothoans from crossing the border. Secondly, running that temporary center of the world requires a lot of water.

Water that partially comes from Lesotho.

And this is something Lesotho cannot afford to do. A dizzyingly high AIDS/HIV rate has driven the country into bankruptcy trying to fight it off, with so little success that their death rate nearly matches their birth rate.

As a last resort, there is a growing movement within Lesotho to ask South Africa to annex them outright, on the basis that they already have to go to South Africa, or at least are constantly pointed in that direction, for the lion's share of their outside aid.

South Africa's response so far: ignore.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Random Statistical Minutiae Alert

The largest non-World Cup stadium in South Africa is Odi Stadium in Mabopane, just north of Pretoria. It seats 60,000.

The fact that it's not part of the World Cup? Probably a good thing. You'd be forgetting all about the vuvuzelas once you tried to play a World Cup match in this:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Don't Eat The Soap

You might recognize cocoa butter as a common ingredient in beauty products. But the cocoa butter is unscented. It wasn't always unscented.

Milton Hershey, you see, had some spare ingredient laying around. Lots of spare ingredient. He hated to let things go to waste, and there were a million pounds of surplus cocoa butter strewn about the Hershey factory. He tried to think of a use for it, and in 1936, he came up with the idea of chocolate soap.

To Hershey, that was that. He called in the manager of the Hershey Department Store, John Hosler, told him he was leaving for Cuba until March 1937 and to have a soap plant up and running by the time he got back. Why Hosler? Well, he sold soap, so surely he must know how to make soap.

That mistake was remedied; Hosler would eventually, after running into problems getting the cocoa butter to do what he wanted it to do, called people who actually knew what they were doing.

The bigger problem was the fact that the cocoa butter smelled like, well, cocoa. A perfume would have to be found to mask the smell, which would be fine except for the fact that Milton Hershey didn't want to spend a lot of money on the perfume. He arranged to test all the potential perfumes himself, every time asking how much each one cost while he smelled it. By some amazing coincidence- or rather due to the fact that Hershey had a cold that day and couldn't actually smell anything- he told them to use the cheapest one.

El Cheapo didn't work- what a surprise- and resulted in a long delay while they went through 300-plus perfumes anyway to find one that did.

Eventually, though, they did manage to get some actual soap made. That was Step 1. Step 2 was getting it sold. That process would begin in 1938.

And that would pose its own problems. Take the hockey game in Hershey Sports Arena on March 9, 1939. The Hershey Bears of the AHL (the only team to have uninterrupted AHL membership from then to now, by the way) were playing the Philadelphia Ramblers, with whom they had quickly developed a rivalry. Hershey wished to hand out soap as a promotion. He was advised to have it handed out as the fans left, so they couldn't throw it onto the ice during the game, but Hershey wanted it handed out before the game because a) they might miss some fans on the way out, and b) who would throw free soap?

As it turned out, enough people to stop the game for ten minutes in the second period. (Hershey won 7-3.)

That wasn't the biggest problem, though. Remember that cocoa smell? Once people actually took the soap home, they had... a brown, rectangle-shaped Hershey product that smelled like chocolate. Take a wild guess what the kids ended up trying to do.

Meanwhile, according to the book Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams by Michael D'Antonio, Hershey was busy peeling layers off of his own skin to try to prove that the soap had healing properties.

You're welcome.

He was also setting up shop on the Atlantic City boardwalk so as to give personal demonstrations of the soap to potential customers. Often he would take up residence at the register. "Mr. Hershey will be pleased," he would tell customers, "very pleased, when he learns of your purchase."

You're welcome again.

The soap sold terribly, piling up below the Hershey Sports Arena. Despite the bad sales, Hershey wouldn't stop production until after World War 2, when the price of the raw cocoa butter became more valuable than the soap. That, not the poor sales, was ultimately what got the chocolate soap pulled off store shelves. (Except in the Hershey area, where it would for some reason still be sold until 1953.)

The odd scattered bar is actually still floating around if you're willing to look, though not enough to peg down a going rate.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Xhosa Cattle Killings

Previously on this blog, we explored the willful, excessive, near-total destruction of cattle in the Soviet Union's Riazan oblast in 1959.

South Africa underwent something similar. But while the Soviet destruction was undertaken for political reasons, the South African destruction came due to simple faith and desperation.

Dateline, April 1856. The Xhosa people have been spending the last 80 years fighting the odd skirmish with British colonials. On this day, along the banks of the Gxara River, is a young girl named Nongqawuse, along with her friend Nombanda (who will play no further part in this story). She sees spirits, thought to be ancestors, come to her and give her a message. A message she relays to her uncle, Mhalakaza.

The message: all Xhosa cattle are to be destroyed. All Xhosa grain is to be destroyed as well. No new cattle or grain is to be produced. Once it was all gone, nothing else was to be done except to prepare for a new beginning in which food would issue forth from the earth- new, better food, including new cattle- and the English would be driven out. The Crimean War was fresh in their minds, and the Russian soldiers who fought in it were thought to be Xhosa ancestors reborn there.

(NOTE: Save that link for later. We'll be coming back to it at the end.)

When the message was originally received, naturally, it didn't go over very well. But then Nongqawuse returned to the Gxara soon afterward, with Mhalakaza, and the spirits gave her the same message. Mhalakaza could not see the spirits, but Nongqawuse assured him they were only visible to her. Mhalakaza couldn't hear them either, but could after Nongqawuse translated their speech.

Contemporary theories speculate that there may have been something wrong with the cattle, perhaps a lung disease that was in the area at the time. But whatever the cause, eventually, Mhalakaza was not only convinced, but proceeded to lead the charge.

And eventually, tribal chief Sarili went along with it, ordering a slaughter. The British in the area, according to some theories, may have been complicit at some point, but more likely they were merely spectators to something which to them was nothing less than horrifying, and if it was started as an effort to drive out the British, there wasn't much the British could do to stop it.

Not all of the cattle would die, as some Xhosa thought the kill-the-cattle idea to be pretty obviously crazy. They were facing a losing battle, as Mhalakaza and Nongqawuse would later bring Sarili to the Gxara. Sarili, as the Guinness Book of Historical Blunders noted, bore witness to corn and beer, a recently-dead son, and a favorite horse. His faith affirmed, the slaughter continued.

Until people started pressing for details as to just when exactly the salvation would happen once the task was carried out. This is where Mhalakaza began to unravel: he began giving specific dates. The prophecy had gone from a vague 'whenever the ancestors are satisfied' to a much more verifiable 'on this day'.

It was only a matter of time. First it was the end of July- a full moon. Nothing. Then it was August 16- a new moon. Nothing still. The Xhosa were frantic, thinking any odd noise could be the one heralding the resurrection and the exile of the British. Mhalakaza did his part to keep them that way, continually adding new wrinkles to the events that would occur once all the cattle and grain were destroyed. Above all, he used the fact that cattle still remained alive to explain away any delay in the resurrection as new moons continued to come and go. He increased the pressure by making dire predictions of doom on anyone who failed to slaughter their cattle.

Finally, on January 31, 1857, Mhalakaza made his final prophecy: February 18. The sun would rise, the sea would dry up, the sky would fall to head height.

On the morning of February 18, the Xhosa watched the sun rise. They watched the sea just as wet as ever. They watched the sun set. They saw no cattle. They saw no grain.

Game over. Sarili was out of patience. But Mhalakaza was not his chief target for blame.

"The reason we are broken today," Sarili exclaimed, "is on account of this girl."

Nongqawuse. The girl that had seen the visions in the first place.

It may not have been her in the driver's seat for most of the ordeal, but it was impossible to argue her role. She, along with many of those able, fled into the arms of the British, who would temporarily place her in protective custody on Robben Island. Mhalakaza would, fittingly, become a victim of the self-imposed famine.

The British, finally with an opening to act, would relieve the famine as best they could, but by now there was little they or anyone else could do. The damage was done. Many by this time were simply too far gone to save, if they were not already dead. By the end, 300,000-400,000 cattle were killed, and the Xhosas were reduced from 105,000 people to under 27,000.

Sarili would die in a later frontier war with the British in 1879. Nongqawuse, upon her release from Robben Island, would settle on a farm in the Eastern Cape until her death in 1898. The day of judgment Nongqawuse, Mhalakaza, Sarili, and the rest of the Xhosa hoped against hope would arrive was a day they would not live to see.

At least they wouldn't. Years later- many, many years later- the Xhosa would stage a miraculous comeback. Perhaps you've heard of a few modern-day Xhosa.

Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.


POSTSCRIPT: If you'll scroll back up, the link reading 'Xhosa ancestors' goes to an article by South Africa's 'Christian Action' magazine, 2004, Vol. 2, entitled 'The National Suicide of the Xhosa'.

This article, it was noticed over the course of my research, is a top-to-bottom plagiarization of another one of my sources, The Guinness Book of Historical Blunders by Geoffrey Regan, copyright 1994. Specifically, the unnamed "author", with only the feeblest of alterations- substituting a period with an exclamation point and similar cosmetic adds and subtractions of words like "the", adding Bible verses at the beginning and end of the "article", deleting the last paragraph of the original piece, inserting subheadings between sections of the piece- copied nearly word-for-word the entry entitled 'Dies Irae' seen on pages 155-160 of the Guinness Book.

Guinness and Christian Action have both been notified of the infraction.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Have Some David Attenborough

New Zealand became the latest team to produce a ridiculous result this Cup. The host nation's on the brink of elimination, England is in turmoil, France is in outright revolt, Switzerland beat Spain, North Korea held Brazil to 2-1, Serbia beat Germany, and now the All Whites have tied not only Slovakia but Italy as well. This Cup just doesn't make any damn sense anymore.

But New Zealand did what New Zealand did, and since I didn't really get as much time this morning as I'd have hoped to get a big piece done, New Zealand gets rewarded with David Attenborough in their backyard.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I Don't Get It

Usually around here, whatever I post, be it on baseball or Japanese minorities or something I call 'fuigmism' or attempting to bypass the public positions of racists so as to address what I believe they're actually thinking- gets, on average, 15 hits a day, give or take.

But you bash one World Cup referee and the hit counter spikes fivefold.

It just mystifies me.

Friday, June 18, 2010

True Facts About Koman Coulibali

*Koman Coulibali of Mali, the referee for the US-Slovenia game, was present at the Hindenburg crash, severely reprimanding the victims for impeding the fire's progress.
*Koman Coulibali's favorite game is 52-card pickup.
*Koman Coulibali once stopped a Presidential inauguration in progress on the basis that a vote in Colorado looked funny. Upon further inspection, it was revealed that Coulibali has never been to Colorado, or in fact North America.
*Koman Coulibali once stopped police officers mid-pursuit for speeding.
*Koman Coulibali's favorite hobby is drinking tears.
*Koman Coulibali once handled a homicide case as a prosecuting attorney. Upon learning that the victim was shot in the face, he requested that the corpse be given the death penalty.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Random News Generator- Peru

After a false start with Bermuda.

...oh, no. Nonononononono. We are not doing Joran van der Sloot. Screw that story.

Let's instead cover the smelter at La Oroya, known for being so environmentally lax that the town is one of the world's most polluted. The Peruvian government had imposed a deadline of July 15 to comply with various environmental regulations, triggering a strike by the town. La Oroya, despite the crippling levels of sulfur dioxide emitted by the plant, has nothing else going for it, and American-owned company Doe Run is thought to be enticing the workers to persist.

The plan, however, has fallen on deaf ears, as the Peruvian government has respnded by warning that if the plant does not resume operations by July 24, they will shut it down for good. Doe Run had asked for a 20-year moratorium on paying debts and back taxes that amount to $200 million. Peru has said no.

The workers at the plant, which has been shuttered for several months now, have threatened to block a highway, causing Peru to guard the highway with troops so traffic won't be disrupted.

Where would the workers go if the plant was shut down? Peru's minister of energy and mines, Pedro Sanchez, has stated that the workers could easily disperse to other mines in the area. Without knowing the area, though, I can't tell whether that's true or not.

Here's a video about it from 2006- really, any year is about as good as any other when bringing this one up:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The First Jail (Meant As A Jail)

Something we take for granted in our criminal justice system is the existence of jails and prisons. They're one of the staples of punishment used for people who commit crimes. You don't want a criminal on the streets, but the death penalty just seems far too harsh, so... lock them up for a period of time where you can safely watch them.

They're not exactly ancient, though. Jails have existed for a good long while, but for most of history, they were simply used as a place to keep the prisoner while they prepared his real punishment, be it beatings, mutilation or death. The jail was not the punishment in and of itself. The Tower of London was built in the 11th century, but it was a holding area.

The problem is that there are several candidates to the title of 'first true prison', as there hasn't been a clear titleholder. It's not exactly a title worth crowing about. There's the Gevangenpoort in the Hague, from the 15th century. There's Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, opening in 1829. The London system in general is a claimant in the 19th century. As far as a widespread thing, London and Eastern State fall more in line with the real popularity of the system.

Beating all of them, though, as far as I can find, is what is now Border History Museum in Hexham, Northumberland. Their jail- or gaol in local terminology- was constructed in 1330. The diagram can be seen here on the museum's website.

It was really an accidental punishment, as they intended it as a holding place as well, but since trials were only held once every three months, jail became a de facto punishment in and of itself, especially as once the trials got underway, the harsh nature of the intended punishments- the death penalty was common- caused many juries to declare defendants not guilty simply because the punishment didn't fit the crime.

If someone was held in the dungeon, though, they got punishment enough.

For the dungeon was infested with rats. In a prison that opened a mere 18 years before the Black Plague began.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Back To The Soccer Well

Internet has been down on me for much of the day, leaving me unable to press forward on what it was I was trying to do. So I guess we go back to the soccer well. And since that's what we're doing, it's as good a time as any to address without debate the biggest question concerning American sports fans.

Just what IS it about soccer, anyway? Nobody ever scores! Halfback passes to center, back to wing, back to center! Center holds it! Holds it! Holds it!

Here's what is it about soccer.

By purely looking at the scoreline, you're not really watching the right thing. The excitement of a soccer match doesn't so much come from the actual goals- though those make fans go nuts- so much as it comes from scoring chances, which are much more frequent... or so everyone hopes. Those are where matches live or die. Scoring chances equal excitement. The ball remaining in midfield all day, it's true, is boring. You will get no arguments there. Soccer fans think those games boring too. But when the game is moving back and forth, decent shots are being taken, excitement is generated regardless of whether or not the ball actually goes in the net. (The US/England game, for reference, saw 18 shots on goal by England, and 13 by the US. 31 shots, about one every three minutes... it doesn't look like 'center holds it, holds it, holds it' anymore, does it?)

If a team marches down the field, takes a screamer of a shot, and it has a real chance but it ends up going juuuuuust wide of the post, sure, no goal was scored. If the shot is deflected by the goalkeeper's fingertips and ends up volleyed just over the crossbar, sure, no goal was scored.

But wasn't that fun to watch?

Now imagine the ball ricochets off the keeper, or the crossbar, back into play, and a second shot is taken almost immediately afterwards. The goalkeeper, having just sacrificed his body to make the first save, has to get up immediately and save another. And maybe a third, or even a fourth if the offense is bearing down particularly hard. Even if none of these shots go in, the excitement of the original scoring chance hasn't yet worn off, and while the fans are still coming down from that, they see one or more additional shots in quick succession. The excitement builds with each attempt on goal. By the time the assault is over, the fans are delirious.

And because actual goals are so rare, the appreciation for each goal that does occur increases accordingly. Each and every goal has a huge bearing on the match, because you don't know when or if another one is coming, if any are coming at all. So when a goal does get scored, the fans go absolutely crazy.

Compare to basketball. If Lionel Messi scores a goal, it's huge. It's almost a religious experince for some fans. If you're at that match, 30 years later you can tell your kids "I saw Lionel Messi score a goal." Now imagine saying "I saw Kobe Bryant score a basket." Just the one. You're not thrilled. You're disappointed, because you expected, nay demanded him to score 10-15 more just like it. Your reaction to any one basket is likely "(clap clap) All right." And that's it. On to the next possession.

A good analog in 'American' sports comes in baseball. Not runs, of course; those are much more common than goals. Think instead of home runs, which occur at something resembling equivalent frequency: not every day, and when they do, only one or a couple usually. Home runs pass the tell-your-grandkids test- "I saw Albert Pujols hit a home run."

And if you're at the ballpark, if Pujols gets that home run, you're going nuts if you're a Cardinals fan. But not quite as nuts as you would if Messi scored a goal. Why is that?

Simple: baseball has other ways to score, and more points at stake. Take a baseball game, and keeping everything else the same, make two simple rule changes:

*Home runs are the only way to put runs on the board. Hits are well and good, baserunners are well and good, but you only want to drive them home so they don't get thrown out on the basepaths.
*All home runs score one run, regardless of how many men are on base.

Now the scoring frequency, and scoreline, is brought in line with soccer. Without those additional runs, without those additional ways to score, attention focuses onto the home runs. You're going to be a lot more excited, fanatical even, when one happens. And in addition, if you've ever been to a ballgame, you know how the crowd gets excited over any long fly ball that they don't know yet will end up dying somewhere in the outfield. Imagine how much more they're going to react when they know that ball getting over the wall is the only way to score. Imagine how much more they're going to react when the outfielder goes up the wall and robs a home run. Note how excited you'll get when any powerful batter merely steps up to the plate.

Conversely, note how much you will cease to care about line drives and pitching duels and most of what goes on in the infield.

Welcome to soccer.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dear Everybody Who's Sick Of The Vuvuzelas

A vuvuzela, for those unaware, is a horn that is ubiquitous in the World Cup this year, with thousands of fans blowing them in a way that entire sames are besieged with a droning wall of sound. Pretty much the only people having a good time with them are the fans at the games. The TV viewers think they're annoying, the players complain that it makes it hard to communicate on the pitch.

I have just one response to all this.

I agree with Sepp Blatter's assessment that "we should not try to Europeanize an African World Cup." This is what South Africa does. This isn't the Super Bowl; we don't play the games in a sterile environment with predictable weather and fans neutral sometimes to the point of disinterest. We have to allow local flavor.

And this is South Africa's local flavor, though admittedly, they're using vuvuzelas here more than they usually do. Usually, when we're not watching, they're used more sparingly, with local power Kaizer Chiefs saving them for the last 15 minutes. As far as the noise... yeah. That's the whole point. There's a local saying, "The baboon is killed by a lot of noise." The idea is to drown out the sound, to hinder the opposition, to give the home side a wake-up call.

And if you're not African, you're the opposition.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Fun Fact About England

They were a belligerent in the Boer War. The conflict saw 9,093 fighters from the Orange Free State and South African Republic dead, and 27,927 civilians died in concentration camps, the original use of the term.

This tidbit's timing has absolutely nothing to do with any soccer matches that may occur in the next few hours.

In conclusion, if you hit Wayne Rooney's kneecap juuuust right, he makes funny noises. Try it out!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Campaign Donation Refunds: Perhaps There Are Also Unicorns

You've decided on who you want to support in the upcoming election. Bob seems like he would be exactly what the country needs. So you decide to donate to his campaign.

Then Bob goes off the reservation on you. He starts saying things you don't like. He starts supporting positions you don't like. You don't want to vote for Bob anymore-- oh my God, but you gave Bob money! You want a refund! Bob, give me my money back!

Ha ha, yeah, don't count on that happening.

Only rarely does a candidate refund money to a donor. If they do, it will almost certainly be for reasons of their own, most likely because they don't want to be associated with whoever the donor is affiliated with. Once you donate, you should pretty much consider the money gone for good.

Why would a candidate not give money back? Well, obviously the possibility exists that the candidate is unscrupulous enough to not care what you think as long as he's got your money. But there are other reasons.

*The candidate really does think it's theirs.

Which it is; you did give it to them.

*The money's already been spent.

This is by far the most likely reason you won't get your money back. You've heard how much it costs to run a campaign these days. You also have likely heard about how candidates end up in debt for some time after a campaign. It's not hard to connect the dots. Campaigns under competition are under immense pressure to use the entire warchest- and beyond- lest they get outspent and, subsequently, lose. The speed at which you spend over a given period of time is called your burn rate, and a burn rate only covers in-house expenses: salaries, taxes, fundraising talks. Any money left over after you're done burning goes towards advertising and voter outreach.

Many campaigns have such a burn rate that they have to take on debt, or inject money out of pocket, in order to conduct any actual campaigning. Since the whole point of a campaign is to, well, campaign, candidates often end up paying it off years after the campaign has ended. Hillary Clinton, for example, is still trying to settle her debt from her 2008 Presidential run. This can take a while, as who wants to donate to a campaign that has already lost? And in Hillary's case, it's doubly difficult, as high-salaried campaign advisor Mark Penn is viewed by Hillary supporters as a key factor in why she lost in the first place. The remaining debt would end up in the hands of Penn's legal firm, Penn Schoen Berland, and that's an extremely unattractive sell.

Not even safe campaigns are entirely safe; these politicians stockpile money in their off years, like a squirrel storing acorns for winter, and anyone willing to hand over some of their warchest to help out a partymate in need will usually end up in an improved position within the party during the next legislative session. Take this link, which shows a series of posts from the 2008 season pretty explicitly linking donations from personal warchests to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to the prospect of getting to vice-chair said committee.

*The candidate thinks that it pretty much serves you right.

This is the camp I fall into. While you really should be voting regardless of the field- even if it's a lesser-of-two-evils choice- the decision to donate money is yours and yours alone. Who to donate to, how much to give, and when to give it. You've essentially bet money that that particular candidate will be the best for you and the country. If that bet goes sour, that's just too bad. If you came to like the opposition, why did you not choose better when you donated? If they changed their positions since your donation, why did you not wait until later in the campaign? If new information was introduced about them, why did you assume this information, or something like it, would not be introduced?

Which leads to a curious phenomenon. On the rare occasion that you do get the money back, considering all that... perhaps that's a signal that the candidate you just took your money back from is worth your vote after all.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup 2010: Final Warmup

The Cup starts
It's only a day awaaaaayyyyyyy

...sorry. All we're going to do today is warm up for the World Cup with highlight reels from all 32 countries, past and present, club and national. Pick your favorite and follow the link. We won't host them here, because of huge.

South Africa

South Korea

United States



New Zealand

North Korea
Cote d'Ivoire


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Quest Me

CNN International is a highly-recommended news channel for those sick to death of the low-quality news peddled stateside.

Why are they better? First and foremost, there's an almost total lack of punditry. Total. There are no Glenn Becks, no Keith Olbermanns, no Rush Limbaughs. Nobody seeking to make a name for themselves by screaming louder than the next guy. After all, you're broadcasting to a global audience. Whatever it is you're yelling about may play in your home country, but your home country isn't the only one watching.

Imagine Glenn Beck in this environment, doing what he normally does, which these days seems to be making flow charts on chalkboards half-crying about how Barack Obama is under the employ of George Soros or SEIU or whatever. (Interestingly enough, I have no idea what George Soros even does for a living. He could be a Japanese game show host for all I know.) This kind of thing clearly plays to someone in Alabama that can follow the flowchart. But people in Turkey and the Philippines and Nigeria and Peru and Indonesia are watching as well, and they don't know what in blazes Beck is even talking about. For all they know, BECK could be a Japanese game show host.

The CNN US entities that get on the International channel, by the way, are Anderson Cooper 360, the Situation Room, Larry King Line, and Fareed Zakaria GPS.

The other thing about them is that they have to be- and are- ready at any hour to drop whatever it is they're doing and go to breaking news. There is no mentality of clocking out at 5 PM and letting the world burn until morning. There might be on an individul basis, but 5 PM in one place is 9 AM somewhere else. And with four studios in New York, London, Dubai and Hong Kong, someone's awake to cover whatever it is.

That said, it's not without its faults. Along with regularly-scheduled programming, there is a variety of rotating 'special' programs airing once every couple weeks. Which means until they broke in to cover the latest UN sanctions against Iran, a CNN International viewer was being treated to the journalistic stylings of Richard Quest.

Specifically, these journalistic stylings.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Clearing Up A Misperception

I've seen this misread by people just looking at the headlines of articles and virtually nobody's actually gotten the specifics right.

You've probably seen reports that President Obama would like to know "whose ass to kick" regarding the BP spill. It's always headlined pretty much just how I just said it. Take this ABC article. The headline reads:

Obama Says He Would Fire BP CEO, Wants to Know 'Whose Ass to Kick'

Everybody seems to have fixated on the second half: he wants to know whose ass to kick. This presents a narrative that he in fact does not yet know whose ass he wants to kick. Look at the first half, though, and you'll see that he already knows full well: unsurprisingly, BP CEO Tony Hayward's.
In light of Hayward's comments that the environmental impact would be "modest" and he wanted his "life back ," the president told NBC News that Hayward "wouldn't be working for me after any of those statements."

In the interview that aired today, Obama defended his decision not to speak with Hayward.

"I have not spoken to him directly," Obama said. "Here's the reason. Because my experience is, when you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he's going to say all the right things to me. I'm not interested in words. I'm interested in actions."

Sounds pretty definitive. Sounds like he knows. So how did we get to an assumption that, somehow, Obama does not yet know whose ass to kick?

Probably a race to create a soundbite that removed the context of what Obama said. Let's take the full quote, immediately below the previous excerpt, and we'll bold the soundbite...
Obama also leveled his anger at those who criticized the way he has handled the crisis, saying he was there long before "most of these talking heads were even paying attention.

"I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar," he said. "We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."

In-context, it's a whole new message that a four-word soundbite can't convey.

Let's do a bit better out there, shall we? Or at least read the entire article first?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rapid-Fire Book Club, Moment Of Zen Edition

Oh, hey, Blogger will let me update again. Wonderful. (Wouldn't let me do anything yesterday.)

The newest book on my shelf: I Know I Am, But What Are You?, by Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee. It's more or less an autobiography, with the kicker that it is written by a Daily Show correspondent and you should very much take that into account.

Bee, as you'll quickly find out, grew up in an environment that was disturbingly fertile for sex education. Any kind of sex education. The most disgustingly complex stuff you can think of, Samantha in all likelihood has heard of something even worse. The difference between her and Sarah Silverman is that Bee doesn't really show it nearly as much.

She shows enough here. Not so much as to be uncomfortable (she makes a point of noting her lack of partaking in same), but... definitely not for the kiddies. Funny as hell, but not for kids.

Also, there is a serial-killer guinea pig, whom Bee describes with the phrase "murder with his penis".

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I'm The Doctor. Basically...


In politics, the word carries one core meaning- 'don't take this course of action'. The reasons behind the use of the word, though, are many, depending on when, how, and how often it is used. It can be a symbol of naked partisanship. It can be a symbol of obstrucionism. It can be a symbol of a relic of an older age raging against his way of life's dying light.

However, if one says 'no' to anything and everything, all the time, nearly regardless of circumstance, it becomes a symbol of fiscal responsibility, of a strange kind of affection.

Welcome to the world of Doctor No. By my research, there appear to have been three throughout Congressional history, all in the House.

THE FIRST DOCTOR: Nathaniel Macon, North Carolina (1791-1828)

Legislating out of Warrenton, North Carolina, Macon put in five years and change as the sixth Speaker of the House, from 1801-1807. He was an advocate of slavery, but this was before slavery had become an issue that would drive the nation to civil war. It was said that in his 37 years of service in the House, "no ten members gave as many negative votes." According to Historical Sketches of North Carolina, from 1584 to 1851, he stated a credo that "The world is governed too much; that society in every state is a blessing, but government in its best state but a necessary evil, for when we suffer from the miseries of a government our calamity is heightened by the reflection that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is a badge of fallen innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise."

Over the years, the "negative radical" would say no to just about any spending bill that came along. He opposed having a navy, he opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts, he opposed the Jay Treaty, he opposed war with France in 1798-99, he opposed chartering a national bank on two separate occasions, he opposed any tariff of anything, he opposed an increase of power to the Supreme Court, he opposed being paid extra for travel when he took a seat in the Senate, he opposed a bill that had his own name on it (Macon Bill No. 2, which would suspend trade with Britain or France if they meddled in American commerce). And, of course, he opposed taxes.

He did, however, support the Louisiana Purchase, and was hoping to get Florida along with it.

He also opposed having his papers sitting around after his death. So he had them burned. Through all this, his constituents evidently loved him to death, so much so that in 1835, they hauled him out of retirement to help write a new state constitution.

THE SECOND DOCTOR: Harold Gross, Iowa (1949-1975)

Legislating out of Waterloo, Iowa, Gross primaried out seven-termer John W. Gwynne in the 1948 election season. He then served 12 terms of his own, at one point being the only member of Iowa's Republican delegation to withstand the 1964 Democratic wave (though only barely).

Gross in the 93rd Congress was the most conservative-and in fact furthest-leaning in any direction- federal legislator in American history, according to DW-NOMINATE. The 93rd convened in 1973, the last of Gross' 13 terms. Prior to his time in Congress, Gross spent time as a radio commentator and was known as "the fastest tongue in radio"; one of his staffmates at WHO in Des Moines was Ronald Reagan.

Gross, AKA "The Useful Pest", was even more scrutinizing of spending than Ron Paul. He was often in the House chamber even when votes were not being taken and almost nobody else was, listening to speeches, taking notes, and then almost habitually voting no due to the cost. He only admitted one regret: that he voted 'present' instead of 'no' on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Unsurprisingly, it was because the Vietnam War ended up being too expensive. He didn't care what it was if it was too expensive: the Peace Corps, the National Endowment for the Arts, pensions for military veterans, John F. Kennedy's funeral, the gas for the eternal flame lit at the funeral, the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, foreign aid in general, the Highway Beautification Act, the space program, White House security-- you name it, Gross refused to spend money for it. Gross even had a catchphrase: "How much will this boondoggle cost?"

The nos continued beyond the spending bills, going against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (though he voted for the 1960 Act), the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 26th Amendment, the Rehabilitiation Act,

Even so, he was well-respected, even though his social life consisted largely of heading home and watching professional wrestling. Every session, the House would set aside the designation 'H.R. 144' for Gross, as a gross is 144, and his name was, after all, "H.R. Gross". When he retired, the rest of Congress chipped in to send he and his wife on a round-the-world vacation (Gross refused to spend taxpayer money on trips.) Gross welled up in appreciation, but as he left, he made one last quip: "Wherever we go, I am sure I'll see you all on your taxpayers' junkets!" His vacancy was filled by Chuck Grassley.

A veteran of World War 1, Gross is buried at Arlington.

THE THIRD DOCTOR: Ron Paul, Texas (1976-1977, 1979-1985, 1997-current)

You probably know who Ron Paul is, but let's do a refresher anyway, shall we? Legislating out of Lake Jackson, Texas, Paul ran for the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination, coming in 4th place. This was Paul's second Presidential run. He entered Congress in 1976 in a special election, losing the ensuing general to Robert Gammage, and then won the rematch two years later in 1979. He ran a failed campaign for the Senate, and his seat was filled by Tom DeLay. He would run his first Presidential campaign in 1988, running as the Libertarian nominee. He would return to the Republican fold in time for his return to the House in 1996, beating Charles Morris.

Paul is notable for casting 'no' votes in the House on any piece of legislation not explicitly approved in the U.S. Constitution, including, as with Macon and Gross, most any spending bill. This has led to several instances where he will be the only member of Congress voting against particular bills, up to and including the awarding of a Congressional Gold Medal to Charles Schulz. He also routinely introduces bills abolishing the income tax or Federal Reserve, or instituting term limits. Paul has also opposed national ID numbers, International Criminal Court jurisdiction over the military, the Department of Education, the War on Drugs, the Iraq War, birthright citizenship, membership in NAFTA, the UN and NATO, farm subsidies and federal flood insurance. This is despite the fact that he represents a coastal, rural district.

A district that loves him. First off, he applies the same 'no' mentality to himself; he is one of two members of Congress (along with Howard Coble of North Carolina) that has pledged not to take a pension. Second, outstanding constituent service is a hallmark of his office. In more ways than usual. The Third Doctor is an actual doctor; according to his official website, he has delivered over 4,000 babies.

Who knows... one of them might someday become the Fourth Doctor.

Friday, June 4, 2010


The 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee is currently on ESPN. Here's where things stand so far.

Love the sports-for-smart-people. This and the Geography Bee (which I used to compete in, though I never made it out of school level; I'd always go out in the final two. The guy who kept beating me would go onto get a 4.0 GPA in high school and attend Duke.)

Observe how they progress from words like 'refuse' and 'amateur' and 'obstacle' in the Round One Test, to a recent speller getting 'effleurage' in Round 4.

EDIT: Now with protestors! Yes! People are protesting a spelling bee!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Random News Generator- Malaysia But Really Israel

After a false start with Gibraltar, the RNG stops in Malaysia today.

Although even in Malaysia, we're really talking about Israel, as the flotilla raided by Israeli troops contained 12 volunteers from Malaysia, who are all being deported and are scheduled to arrive back in Malaysia on Sunday.

Israel and Palestine have just really vexed me for a while. If you ask either side, they're both going to tell you that they don't want a war, they just wish to provide the best possible situation for their people. And, obviously, each side wants valuable religious ground for their given purpose. Each side will tell you that the other side forces them to fight.

And the hell of it is, both sides are right. Both sides routinely initiate actions that force the other side to reciprocate. (Israel has the same basic relationship with Lebanon.) This particular instance, looking at the tape that has so far been released, I pin on Israel. One can argue that the occupants of the ship fought back, but when you see soldiers boarding your ship commando-style, from helicopters, in international waters, there are almost never peaceful intentions.

And that's just from the portion of tape Israel has chosen to release. It's almost a given that they will release the portion of tape most beneficial to their side of the story.

And that's not even counting the testimony from at least six journalists also on the flotilla reporting that their equipment was confiscated and destroyed by Israeli troops.

More generally, one need only look at the situation in Gaza and the West Bank- largely created due to Israeli denial of basic supplies, as well as periodic wholesale annexation of Palestinian land to create settlements- to recognize why the flotilla was even there to begin with.

At the same time, though, Palestine is far from blameless. I'm thinking of suicide bombers here as the example. Anyone that goes to the trouble of strapping themselves with explosives and detonating oneself is initiating/renewing hostilities the moment the explosives go off.

It makes it very difficult for me personally to take a side- any side- in the conflict. Wars do not necessarily require good guys. It is entirely possible that all sides in a war can be wrong, that there is nobody in the conflict worth supporting. All one can hope for is that the vicious cycle be, at some point, stopped.

But given the history of the region, it's not a likely proposition.

In closing, Malaysia is by all accounts lovely this time of year.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Behind The Times

Let's talk Constitutional amendments today. As you may know, once an amendment reaches the point where it's placed in front of the states, three-quarters of the states must ratify in order for the amendment to pass.

What you might not know, though, is that the other states don't automatically ratify at that point. Any state that is subsequently admitted to the Union must do so as a condition of statehood, but pre-existing states can ratify at their own pace after the amendment is passed.

There isn't a hard-and-fast deadline to ratify once placed before the states. Congress can set one, but they don't necessarily have to. Four amendments are still pending before the state legislators.

Let's tackle the pending ones first. Shown is the proposed amendment, followed by what states have ratified it so far...

*Congressional Apportionment Amendment, came out of the same place the Bill of Rights did. It would essentially create one Congressional seat for every 50,000 people in America. As of the 2000 census, that would give us 5,628 members of the House. It's been rendered moot by Public Law 62-5 of 1911 limiting the total to 435, and that would actually overrule the amendment... if you're getting a headache, don't worry. It only has 11 states, most recently Kentucky in 1792, and it's not going to get any further than that. (The others: New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire, New york, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Vermont.)

*Titles of Nobility Amendment, proposed in 1810. This would keep you from claiming a title of nobility without Congress' consent. 12 states approved it: Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Vermont, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the last in 1812. It's doubtful anyone cares what in blazes you call yourself anymore.

*Corwin Amendment, proposed 1861 by Thomas Corwin of Ohio. It was meant to essentially force Congress to back off of states that had legalized slavery. This was a last-ditch attempt to prevent the Civil War. As you know, it totally worked and everybody calmed down about the whole slavery issue.

I am of course kidding.

Ohio approved it in 1861, Maryland in 1862, Illinois maybe perhaps approved it in 1862, and that's all it has. Who's next? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

*Child Labor Amendment, proposed 1924. This would give Congress the power to "limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age." It has 28 states on board; 10 more would put it in the Constitution: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Wisconsin, Montana, Colorado, Illiois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, Idaho, Indiana, Utah, Wyoming, Kentucky, Kansas, Nevada and New Mexico.

Okay, that all established, we now move on to the amendments already codified and the states still not on board:

1-10th (Bill of Rights): Everyone has ratified (Connecticut was last, ratifying in 1939)
11th (state sovreign immunity): New Jersey, Pennsylvania
12th (electing a President/VP on a single ticket): Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts
13th (banning slavery): Everyone has ratified (Mississippi was last, ratifying in 1995, though even this is unofficial as they didn't do it properly)
14th (guarantees the rights of citizens and other persons): Everyone has ratified (Kentucky was last, ratifying in 1976)
15th (gives the vote to blacks): Everyone has ratified (Tennessee was last, ratifying in 1997)
16th (establishing the income tax): Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia
17th (direct election of Senators): Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia
18th (Prohibition): Connecticut, Rhode Island
19th (gives the vote to women): Everyone has ratified (Mississippi was last, ratifying in 1984)
20th (setting dates for starting and ending Presidential terms): Everyone has ratified, and pretty much all alongside each other at that (Florida was last, ratifying in 1933, about three months after the amendment was made official)
21st (ending Prohibition): Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota
22nd (Presidential term limits): Arizona, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Washington, West Virginia
23rd (giving electoral votes to DC): Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia
24th (banning the poll tax): Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming
25th (establishing a Presidential line of succession): Georgia, North Dakota, South Carolina
26th (lowering the voting age to 18): Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah
27th (regulating Congressional salaries): Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania

Adding it all up, here's the count by state as to how many amendments each state has yet to ratify:

Mississippi- 6 (17th, 21st, 23rd, 24th, 26th, 27th; was also last to ratify 13th and 19th)
Georgia- 5 (17th, 21st, 23rd, 24th, 25th)
South Carolina- 5 (17th, 21st, 23rd, 24th, 25th)
Florida- 4 (16th, 17th, 23rd, 26th; was also last to ratify 20th)
Kentucky- 4 (17th, 22nd, 23rd, 26th; was also last to ratify 14th)
Rhode Island- 4 (16th, 17th, 18th, 22nd)
Connecticut- 3 (12th, 16th, 18th; was also last to ratify 1st-10th)
Louisiana- 3 (21st, 23rd, 24th)
Massachusetts- 3 (12th, 22nd, 27th)
North Dakota- 3 (21st, 25th, 26th)
Oklahoma- 3 (21st, 22nd, 24th)
Pennsylvania- 3 (11th, 16th, 27th)
Utah- 3 (16th, 17th, 26th)
Virginia- 3 (16th, 17th, 23rd)
Arizona- 2 (22nd, 24th)
Arkansas- 2 (23rd, 24th)
Delaware- 2 (12th, 17th)
Nebraska- 2 (21st, 27th)
North Carolina- 2 (21st, 23rd)
South Dakota- 2 (21st, 26th)
Alabama- 1 (17th)
Kansas- 1 (21st)
Maryland- 1 (17th)
Nevada- 1 (26th)
New Jersey- 1 (11th)
New Mexico- 1 (26th)
New York- 1 (27th)
Texas- 1 (23rd)
Washington- 1 (22nd)
West Virginia- 1 (22nd)
Wyoming- 1 (24th)
Tennessee- 0 (was last to ratify 15th)

Make of this what you will.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

BP Now Stands For 'Big Problem'

There are people that say boycotting BP gas stations won't actually hurt BP; that doing so just hurts the individual gas stations. Maybe they're even right.

When the stock plunges, though, that will smack around any company in a hurry.