Ten years have passed since 9/11. The New York Times put the passage of time into days, and hours, and minutes, and seconds in today’s paper. [A Day That Stands Alone]

Three-thousand six-hundred fifty-two days have now passed. At 8:46 a.m. — the time when the first plane slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center — 87,648 hours had gone by. Another [*]  5,258,880 minutes. Another [†] 315,532,800 seconds.

For the record, 315,532,802 seconds passed between 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, and 8:46 a.m. today, September 11, 2011. The missing seconds were inserted into our collective timeline by the authority of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service. One of them passed (largely unnoticed, no doubt) at 6:59:60 p.m. on December 31, 2005 (in New York City), and the other occurred at the end of 2008.

As decades go, this one was as short as they come for us, even with its two leap seconds. Many decades include not two, but three occurrences of February 29th, and all decades beginning between 1972 and 1997 have contained more than two leap seconds in addition to the minimum‡ number of two leap year days per decade.

Nothing is simple.

Steve on the Hoboken waterfront, September 1, 2011.

* Do not be distracted in search of the anaphor. It’s missing, and the issue is not addressed here.

† Another Another is missing its anaphor. Press on, dear reader.

‡ The minimum during our lifetime. The last decade to contain only a single leap year (which was the leap year 1896) ended early in 1904, because 1900 was not a leap year, despite its divisibility by four. The next single-leap-year decade will not begin until the year 2096.

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The authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States.

Published annually by the United States Census Bureau’s Statistical Compendia branch. Since 1878.

Slated for termination.

The 2012 budget does not include funding for the Statistical Compendia Branch which would mean the elimination of not only the Statistical Abstract, but all titles produced by that branch (State and Metropolitan Area Data Book, County and City Data Book, USA Counties, Quick Facts). No new editions would be produced in print or online. [source]

Cutting the branch will save $2.9 million, or just under $0.01 per American. The branch’s 24 employees will go.


“Killing the publication for the sake of a tiny saving would be a truly gratuitous step toward a dumbed-down country.” —Paul Krugman

“Without the Stat Abstract, statistics will become more hidden, and our collective knowledge will suffer.” —Robert J. Samuelson

“It democratizes knowledge by making enormous amounts of information comprehensible and easily accessible.” —E. J. Dionne

“Never heard of the Statistical Abstract? Go here. You’re in for a treat. ” —Ezra Klein

Video. Article. Write your representatives.

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Sorry, you’ll have to go elsewhere for more of this.For your entertainment, a handful of the many hundreds of uncaught — one might say hairy — misspellings of public as pubic in the news over the last few weeks.


“Twenty-five environmental and pubic health groups asked Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday to abandon the state’s new plan for eradicating agricultural pests and explore a less toxic approach, such as crop rotation or planting neighboring crops that deter insects.”
California’s new pesticide plan sparks protest, Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2011.

“While he intellectualizes with the unbending intensity of an adolescent, his political sense is remarkably subtle. And he is not afraid to advocate positions most adults, even those sharing the same views, would be afraid to support in pubic.”
13-Year-Old Serb Activist Contends With Bullies and Death Threats, New York Times,
June 6, 2011.

China introduces pubic tenders to promote shale gas exploration (headline),
Xinhua English News, June 30, 2011.

“Jackson schools superintendent leaving: Jackson Pubic Schools Superintendent Lonnie Edwards talks to the media about his contract ending.” (photo caption) Contract expired, Edwards exits JPS, Clarion-Ledger, June 29, 2011.

“Beijing’s police do a remarkable job of silencing pubic displays of dissent, but occasionally the desperate find dramatic new ways of airing their grievances.” Aggrieved Chinese Face Swift Police Repression, Voice of America, July 2, 2011.

“A full 7,000 pages of The Pentagon Papers are now declassified and available for pubic viewing online.”
Evening News Online, 06.13.11, CBS News, June 13, 2011.

“The 28-year old actress surprised fans by coming out during a pubic service announcement for the Give a Damn gay rights campaign in April 2010 – four-months before she married ‘True Blood’ co-star Stephen Moyer in Malibu.”
Anna Paquin: No-one [sic] questions my sexuality, Starlounge, June 29, 2011.

“Today’s installment in people being booted off pubic transportation, this one involving saggy pants and the classic line, ‘My pants are up, sir.’”
Jet Passenger Booted Over Baggy Pants, Newser, June 18, 2011.

“The measure — which appears to be one vote away from passage if it gets to the floor — is not on the immediate agenda but could be discussed after talks on tax cap, New York City rent control and pubic college tuition increases.”
Key GOP Senators in Same-Sex Marriage Debate Meet Privately, WNYC, June 22, 2011.

“We have got to continue to elevate pubic expectation for public education in Madison County. We’re about to turn things over to the community."
Business execs seek community involvement in schools, Jackson Sun, June 18, 2011.

“The burly, silver-haired author and historian, wearing a snug suit-coat, called the prosecution’s original case against him ‘massive’ and ‘over-reaching,’ and a direct result of what he called a libelous 2004 report by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that ‘tainted the wells of pubic opinion.’”
Ex-media mogul Conrad Black ordered back to prison; wife faints, Chicago Sun-Times, June 24, 2011.

“An off-duty police officer who was working out at the facility observed the activity, said Paul McCurtain, pubic information officer for the St. Charles Police Department. Three male victims told police they were approached and inappropriately touched by Lawrence E. Adamcyzk of Rockford inside of the facility while they were either working out or playing basketball.”
Suspects caught while fleeing from Elgin home charged in burglary, The Courier-News, June 28, 2011.

Feldis, the chief criminal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage, declined to say what involvement the Pubic Integrity Section might still have.
Kott, Kohring get new trials, Anchorage Daily News, July 2, 2011.

Mitchel Ghiggia, 22, of 30 West Glen Ave., Port Chester, NY, was arrested Friday for two counts of third-degree assault, two counts of conspiracy to commit third-degree assault and creating a pubic disturbance.
Arrests: First-Degree Threatening, Second-Degree Burglary, Stamford,
July 1, 2011.

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Via Alan Boyle of Cosmic Log: this has to be embarrassing.

You create the first synthetic life form. You thoughtfully encode in its DNA wise words from three giants of literature and science: Joyce, Oppenheimer (quoting Felix Adler), and Feynman.

And you get one of the quotes wrong.

At least you can fix it. Imagine if there had been a typo on the Golden Record. Or if you’d flubbed the first words ever spoken from someone standing on the surface of the moon.

(I remember very well being befuddled when I heard Neil’s flub live – well, give or take a second or so, though this calculation is wrong – and I remained befuddled when I read it the next day, and I was unconvinced by the initial explanation a couple of weeks later.)

[To decode this post’s title, use the DNA decoding table here.]

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Janet Napolitano isn’t making the official announcement until tomorrow, but this is 2011, folks. There are no secrets any more.


DHS to end color-coded terror alert system.

It will be called the National Terror Advisory System. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano will officially make the announcement tomorrow at a “State of America’s Homeland Security” speech at George Washington University.

Brilliant, Janet. Brilliant!

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A theretofore charming day, spoiled in the blink of an eye, because I caught sight of the link “David Brooks: Obama’s Very Good Week” in the Times. Brooks isn’t known for sarcastic titles, and it’s been nobody’s good week in Washington. A $25,000,000,000 tax windfall (yes, 25 billion) for the richest 0.3% (yes, less than one third of one percent), and DADT, in particular.

I clicked, but I didn’t read the article. I’m trying hard not to read everything from start to finish that I know in advance will be crazymaking. I wasn’t about to backslide with the likes of Brooks, so I applied the How To Read a Ross Douthat Article approach.

The HTRaRDA approach is this: Type Control-End (preceded by SINGLE PAGE, if available) to reach the bottom of the article, and then read the last screenful. Do not pass Go! You will discover the offensive conclusion without wading through the invidious, lame, emetic screensful that invariably, insidiously, precede it.

Unfortunately, sometimes the insidious run-up extends into that last screenful, and it did today. It was impossible to ignore, because it included numbers.

Warning: The David Brooks quote below is a lie.

According to the most recent Gallup numbers, 67 percent of independents and 52 percent of Democrats support extending all the tax cuts.

Warning: The David Brooks quote above is a lie.

It was painful to follow up on this quote, but I’m still holding onto the belief that it would have been worse to have read Brooks in toto.

On December 1, Gallup reported that “Forty percent [of Americans] want Congress to maintain the tax cuts for everyone, while 44% support setting limits on how much of wealthy Americans’ income is eligible for the lower rates.” In particular, 18% of Democrats preferred keeping the tax cuts for everyone (when offered two alternatives: setting limits or letting the cuts expire entirely). Those can’t be the “most recent Gallup numbers” to which Brooks refers, because 18 doesn’t equal 52, even with rounding. (Maybe at the Times it does, but not on my blog.)

Here are the actual Gallup numbers to which Brooks refers. Over the past weekend, Gallup asked this question: “Suppose that on Election Day you could vote on key issues as well as candidates.  Please tell me whether you would vote for or against a law that would do each of the following.  Would you vote for or against a law that would extend the federal income tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 for all Americans for two years?” Fifty-two percent of the Democrats, 67% of independents, and 85% of Republicans surveyed said they would vote for such a law.¹

Quiz. Given three choices similar to those before Congress (A. extend cuts for all; B. extend cuts but only up to a dollar limit for the wealthy; C. let tax cuts expire), Democrat’s least preferred option is to extend all the tax cuts. (Breakdown: 18% answered A, 21% answered C, and 55% answered B). Is it fair to say that 52 percent of Democrats support extending all the tax cuts?

The correct answer is NO.

Kudos to Gallup for the careful and precise phrase to describe the option before Congress: “limits on how much of wealthy Americans’ income is eligible for the lower rates.”

Shame on Brooks for vulpigerating.

¹ I apologize for previously calling the Republican party the “Party of No.” I should have more precisely called them the “Party of No, except when it will make the rich richer.”

One Response to “And in Third Place, with 52% of the Vote…”

  1. Galen Workman Says:

    Our faculty resident in Wig schooled us in how to read newspapers, this during the height of the Vietnam press release wars and false new stories. Eric said he always skipped the two lead stories in the paper. Those were the ones with the built-in hype and spin. If you didn’t try to digest those lumps, then you could get a good sense of what was really going on in the world without raising your blood pressure.

    This isn’t quite the same as your method of reading suspect articles, but it may be a supplement to your guide to readers.

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The major news organizations still can’t describe the tax cut proposals correctly.

Fact: The Democratic proposals that Senate Republicans killed today would have extended Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers (often called everyone, though poor people aren’t included).

Under the now-dead proposals, the tax cut extension would have been capped at $250,000 or $1,000,000 of income, but all taxpaying households would see lower taxes. The Bush tax cuts, which are about to expire, have no cap.

High-income taxpayers (often called rich people) would have received the biggest tax cut under these Democratic proposals. Republicans rejected the proposals because it’s not enough for them that the richest people receive the biggest tax cuts. The Republicans want the richest people to receive even bigger biggest tax cuts.

The Republicans also opposed the proposals because they were Democratic proposals. Also because they were proposals, and the Party of No opposes everything.

All this despite public sentiment that the Bush tax cuts should continue only for households earning less than $250,000, an idea no one is proposing.

As far as I can tell, no one has sought public opinion on the actual current proposals. I can’t understand or explain why CBS and other polling organizations continue to ask people about proposals that aren’t and have never been under consideration.

Here’s a sampling of today’s descriptions of the tax cut proposals, all of which are wrong, or at best misleading. The news outlets might as well say that the Democrats proposed extending the Bush tax cuts for White families.

CNN “The votes sought to extend the Bush tax cuts for families making under $250,000 and $1 million, respectively.”

Wall Street Journal “The Senate voted 53-36 to reject an attempt to initiate debate in the chamber on a measure that would have extended lower tax rates for individuals who earn less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000.”

New York Times “The Senate on Saturday rejected President Obama’s proposal to extend the Bush-era tax breaks for all but the wealthiest taxpayers, sealing a triumph for Republicans who have long called for continuing the income tax cuts for everyone.”

Associated Press “Senate Republicans have blocked legislation allowing taxes to rise on Jan. 1 on people earning more than $1 million.”

Bloomberg “The U.S. Senate failed to advance a Democratic proposal to extend Bush-era income-tax cuts for families earning up to $250,000.”

2 Responses to “Senate GOP Rejects Democratic Proposal Extending Bush Tax Cuts for White Families”

  1. Galen Workman Says:

    Thanks for the reminder of the fact that EVERYONE was included in today’s proposals… which weren’t rich enough for the deficit conscious Republicans.

  2. Steve Kass » And in Third Place, with 52% of the Vote… Says:

    […] to Gallup for the careful and precise phrase to describe the option before Congress: “limits on how much of wealthy Americans’ income is eligible for the lower […]

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There is still no good answer to the question “Why can’t we walk straight?”, observed Robert Krulwich’s recorded voice at a recent live taping for Radiolab at The Greene Space. Robert’s observation ressounded¹ today on the “NPR sciencey blog” Krulwich Wonders.

For 80 years, scientists have been trying to explain this tendency to turn when you think you are going straight. … Try as they might, and they’re still trying these experiments, nobody has figured out why we can’t go straight.

When I was a kid, Someone thought they’d figured it out. One’s dominant leg took longer strides, They taught me. I also learned, or maybe inferred, that I should find a leftie to walk with me should I ever need to cross a desert in the fog, at night, or while blindfolded.

But hearing Robert talk about this twice in as many weeks, I realized that They’d been wrong, and that crossing a desert in the fog was not a challenge I’d be ready to meet. (Also, I only then realized that a leftie might not be handy when the challenge arose, anyway.)

Ignoring my sudden and deepening nonplus, I focused on the question. Analogy time.² Robert’s headlineworthy version of the question is an oversimplification of the quandary, but I’ll notwithstand that fact for now.

Why can’t we fly? (Some animals can.) Because we don’t have small bodies, hollow bones, and wings (like some flying-capable animals do); nor do we have really tiny invertebrate bodies and wings (like some other flying-capable animals do).

Why can’t we hear high-pitched sounds? (Some animals can.) Because human ears (unlike the ears of the animals that can) aren’t physically able to convert high-pitched sounds into nerve impulses.

Great_Barrier_Island_Pigeon-Gram_stamp_1899 So why can’t we maintain our direction over long distances without a visual point of reference? (Some animals, especially flying-capable ones, can.) Because (unlike those animals) humans never underwent any evolutionary pressure to develop a mechanism to do so?

Robert mentioned one of the trying scientists by name: Jan Sousman. Jan’s article, Walking Straight into Circles, recently appeared in the journal Current Biology (a cornucopia of articles at the titles of which biologists surely titter: Olfaction: When Nostrils Compete; Metastasis: Alone or Together?; Addiction: Flies Hit the Skids; Flagella and Cilia: The Long and the Short of It; and Melanocyte Production: Dark Side of the Schwann Cell).

Jan and his coauthors wrote a wonderful paper. Among many beautiful sentences and figures, they report that their subjects’ “walking trajectories show exactly the kind of behavior that would be expected if the subjective sense of straight ahead were to follow a correlated random walk.” They also mention J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers to point out that the belief “that people who get lost end up walking in circles is widespread.”

So “because we can’t” isn’t really such a good answer. Our proprioception (that sixth sense that allows us to touch our noses in the dark when we haven’t had too much to drink) does provide a subjective sense of straight ahead. However, it isn’t very reliable for very far or for very long.`

¹ I initially wrote reappeared, which on rereading, sounded (or more sensibly, looked) wrong, because Robert’s voice never appeared (as in became visible to the eye) in the first place. Unable to solve the Miller Analogy SEE : REAPPEAR :: HEAR: with an existing word, I had to invent the perfect answer: res̈ound (which should appear as the word resound with an umlaut/trema/diaeresis over the s). This answer is in fact all the more perfect (not to mention very unique) for having been invented by a “greater New Yorker.” Unfortunately, as much as I like the idea of using ¨ to estop a preceding prefix from losing its strict meaning, it fails in practical terms. Very few consonants appear in Unicode preëquipped with the dots, and Unicode’s zero-width combining diaeresis, the solution in theory, is unworkably fussy.

² Yay!

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Edvard Munch’s Skrik (The Scream). Public domain image from“Screaming performance” is a label journalists seem to apply judiciously. The vast Google News Archives records only 28 outbursts having met the high bar. However, a trend is clear. Did Howard Dean kill screaming? Is technological singularity just around the corner?




Year Screaming Performer(s)
1964 Girls who mobbed the Beatles in 1964 (described in 2009)
1972 McGovern supporters
1986 Brian De Palma
1993 Dell’s computers designed specifically for “techno-wizards”
1994 Nine Inch Nails
1994 The latest 32-bit and 64-bit printer and switch controllers
1997 The 1997 Plymouth Prowler’s V6 engine
1998 Jerry Stiller
2001 Early 1990s Japanese sports cars
2001 Edward Petherbridge (actor, playing a homosexual matchmaker)
2002 Dell’s Latitude C610 laptop
2003 Dell’s Inspiron 8500 series laptop
2003 A refurbished HP Pavilion ze5185 notebook PC
2004 Howard Dean
2004 NVIDIA’s GeForce 6800
2004 Sun Microsystems’ Linux computers
2005 The Altix 1330 server cluster
2005 IBM’s eServer p5 Unix machines
2006 NIVIDA’s GeForce 7950 GT
2006 MSI’s PCX5750-TD128 graphics adapter
2007 Dell’s Workstation configurations with 1600 MHz front-side bus
2007 Kingmax’s 4GB microSDHC card
2008 Alienware’s Area-51 ALX (with Radeon’s HD 4870 X2 CrossFireX)
2008 Gateway’s Core i7 Gaming PC
2008 The “Next Generation Intel Core Microarchitecture Family of Processors”
2009 NVIDIA’s GeForce 9600M GT
2009 Intel’s X25-E solid state drive
2009 LaCie’s SATA II ExpressCard 34 storage controller

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For your entertainment, some choice quotes from Carl Paladino’s campaign web site, most with pithy commentary. Would that it were all a joke.

  • “Carl will work for charter schools for the poorest of our urban students as an alterative to dysfunctional schools of today.” Unfortunately, this is our universe, not an alterative one.
  • “Carl will consolidate schools to countywide districts to eliminate redundancy of administration and allow for more funds to be devoted to lowering class sizes and excellence.” If anyone knows how to lower excellence, CP does.
  • “This is – and more – long, long overdue.” [No pithy commentary.]
  • “I am particularly incensed Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s no-show job at a high-priced personal injury law firm.” We should all be incensed CP’s illiteracy. I am.
  • “(See more HERE.)” (where HERE is not a link). Thank you no. I don’t care to see more.
  • “Carl strongly support the State University at Buffalo 2020 plan and similar programs for other higher education institutions in the State to be able to grow in both size and student population with out State intrusion.” I can has cheezburger, with out State intrusion, please.
  • “[Candidate for lieutenant governor Greg Edwards] graduated Panama High School in 1978 and then went to Allegany College in Pennsylvania.” Where correctly spelling the name of the college is apparently not a requirement for graduation.

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