Time Machine: The Wright brothers (1908)

Looking back in time, I’m just astounded how fast we got from this:

To this:

Really, this is just 106 years. I think I’m more confounded by the fact that we didn’t have flying machines a hundred years earlier.

By the way, the Wright brothers footage says 1903 on the frame, but it’s from 1908. If you paid attention in history class, you know the first flight was solo and went about the length of a football field. This is a two-man flight and it traveled a great deal farther.

Where is Ukraine?

That’s what 2,066 Americans were asked in a survey.

This is where they put it:

Ukraine_Full-1024x535

In case you can’t figure it out, the red dots are closer to Ukraine than the blue dots are. What’s really unbelievable is that some people put Ukraine in the middle of the U.S. I really hope they were joking.

But how could this get any worse? Political scientists from Dartmouth and Princeton tell us (from the Washington Post):

On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force.

So people who were the most unlikely to know where Ukraine is were more likely to say we should intervene militarily in Russia’s takeover of Crimea. Yeah, let’s send American troops to battle the Russians on the Russian border. I wonder how that would end?

Welcome to the Anthropocene

Scientists are now examining the current epoch in geologic science as the Anthropocene. According to the site Welcome to the Anthropocene:

Our species’ whole recorded history has taken place in the geological period called the Holocene – the brief interval stretching back 10,000 years. But our collective actions have brought us into uncharted territory. A growing number of scientists think we’ve entered a new geological epoch that needs a new name – the Anthropocene.

The Anthropocene period appears to encompass the past 250 years, prompted by the Industrial Revolution. The impact on the planet is noted in urbanization, global warming and diminishing water resources (the video above). Click here to learn more about how human activity has transformed the Earth’s geology.

Black History Month: A congressional lesson

Since today is the last day of Black History Month, let’s have a black history quiz:

What do the following people have in common? (Chart from the Washington Post)

Senate

Yes, they are black. (Why else would they be in this quiz?) But they also represent a significant minority.

Of the 1,950 people who have served in the U.S. Senate, these nine are the only African Americans to hold a seat in the upper chamber of Congress.

Hyram Revels and Blanche Bruce were both senators from Mississippi who served during the post Civil War Reconstruction of the South from 1870-71 and 1875-1881, respectively. Both were appointed by the Mississippi State Legislature, but Bruce was the first black person for serve a full Senate term.

Edward Brooke (1967-1979) of Massachusetts was the first African American to win a Senate seat in a popular vote. The Bay State also was represented by Mo Cowan, who was appointed to the seat in 2013 to fill out the vacancy created by the appointment of John F. Kerry to the post of Secretary of State. Ed Markey now holds that seat.

Illinois has had three black senators, Carol Moseley Braun (1993-1999)), Barack Obama (2005-2008) and Roland Burris (2009-2010). Moseley Braun is the only African American to serve a full term as an Illinois senator. Obama … well, you know what happened to him. Burris was appointed to finish Obama’s term.

Tim Scott of South Carolina was appointed to the Senate in 2013 when Jim DeMint decided he was going to go to the Heritage Foundation to make a lot of money. It will be interesting to see what happens this year, when Scott faces a special election to complete the term. He’s only the third black person to represent a Southern state.

And Cory Booker of New Jersey was elected last year in a special election, but he runs again this year for a full term.

So, by the numbers, There have been five black Democrats and four black Republicans in the Senate. Three have been appointed. Two are up for re-election this year. And one became president.

An interesting countdown for such a tiny group.

The Democrats’ war on capitalism

The next time your crazy, Tea Bagging Uncle Muggs bloviates on how that Kenyan, socialist usurper in the White House and every pinko commie Democrat president (and he will say “Democrat” instead of “Democratic” because that’s the way Tea Baggers speak) are giving away the hard-earned cash of America’s job creators to the moocher class, pull out this chart (via Bloomberg):

2_bloomberg_stocksA couple of things to point out.

1) The “job creators” put their money in the stock market because they have so much of it. There’s no where else to put it. The “moocher class” doesn’t put money in the stock market, because, hey, ya gotta eat. So, really, who do you think is suffering when a president actually talks about raising a minimum wage? That guy with the top hat and the monocle on the Monopoly board?

2) The premise of this chart is flawed, because anyone who knows anything about investing in the stock market will say you don’t pull all your money out of it when there’s a president of a different party in office. Surely, you can’t believe that the minute Bill Clinton and Barack Obama walked in the White House, the billionaires funding the Tea Party called their stock brokers and said “Sell everything. We’ve got to get out of this commie market!” They left their cash where it was, and the billions flowed in.

On the other hand, your crazy, Tea Bagging Uncle Muggs is the kind of guy who did sell all of his stocks and buried his cash in his backyard bomb shelter when the hated Democrats took power.

That might explain why he’s so pissed off that his retirement fund that “hasn’t done Jack” since he built his portfolio when Dick Nixon took office. (I would have said “began his 401(k),” but those didn’t exist until Jimmy Carter’s administration, and Uncle Muggs would never put his money in anything that was created when that peanut farmer was president.)

Yeah, that chart proves the Democrats hate capitalism. After all, it grows like weeds when they’re in office.

Math, as God intended it to be

1175ckCOMIC-bible-math

Given that Bill Nye the science guy went to the Creation Museum last week and had a “debate” on whether evolution was real, why not just give up and let the God folks determine science and math and history and geology and all that other good stuff that moved us into the 21st century?

Why did Nye not just say, “Are you out of your mind?” When your argument is, “Because God says so,” that immediately means that there is no scientific basis for anything the creationists say. When you pit the peer-reviewed findings of Nobel Prize winning scientists against first century illiteracy (the guys who the books of the Bible were named after were shepherds and fishermen, for God’s sake), why (oh, why?) was the thing they had at the Creation Museum (right here in Kentucky) even thought of as a “debate.” Debate means both sides have strong foundations for their arguments.

When one side’s “argument” over more than an hour has less of a scientific foundation than the theme song of “The Big Bang Theory,” which in its full version lasts about two minutes, calling that a debate is a travesty.

Let me emphasize this the best way I can. Here’s the debate:

The evolution side:

The creationist side:

The evolution side rests.

Feeding hungry children in America

This is an amazingly kind thing to do (from USA Today).

After hearing last week that dozens of Utah students had their school lunches taken because their accounts were delinquent, a Texas man decided to help students in similar situations near him.

Kenny Thompson, a 52-year-old mentor and tutor at Valley Oaks Elementary School in Houston, did some research and learned that children at the school where he works were receiving cold cheese sandwiches or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of full trays of food because they had negative balances on their lunch accounts.

These were children whose parents couldn’t afford the 40 cents per day fee, so Thompson took $465 and paid off the delinquent accounts of 60 children, KPRC television reports.

Because the following were amazingly evil things to do:

Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents.

“It was pretty traumatic and humiliating,” said Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her cafeteria lunch taken from her as she stood in line Tuesday at Uintah Elementary School, 1571 E. 1300 South.

And this:

A St. Louis County cafeteria worker is out of a job after giving away free meals to a child in need.

For two years, Dianne Brame worked as a cafeteria manager at Hudson Elementary in Webster Groves, keeping kids’ bellies full for their all-important task of learning.

The lunch lady loved her job: “I knew kids by their names, I knew their likes and dislikes, so it was just fun.”

But recently, she came across a fourth grader who consistently came without money. She says he used to be on the free lunch program, but language barriers got in the way of reapplying: “I sent them paperwork so that they could get back in contact with me, but it didn’t happen,” she says.

For days, Brame snuck the boy lunches. She explains, “I let his account get over $45 which I’m only supposed to let it get over $10, and I started letting him come through my lunch line without putting his number in, and they look at that as stealing. I thought it was just taking care of a kid.”

She was trying to protect him from the bullying: a cruel side dish to the default cheese sandwich given to kids without lunch money.

So, less than $500 will help ensure 60 American children have at least one decent meal a day. Otherwise, they go hungry, and people who attempt to feed them lose their jobs.

There are a lot of poor people in the U.S. and as the middle-class shrinks, it’s not because more middle-income workers are becoming rich. It’s because more of them are becoming poor. And those hardest hit by poverty are children.

So it’s always a good time to understand economic history. And since I haven’t referred to Paul Krugman in a while, maybe it’s time to look into the YouTube vault and hear him talk about income inequality and how we’ve gotten there:

Income inequality, poverty, hungry children. They’re all related. And as the generosity of one man in Texas shows, it really doesn’t take much to help children in need.