The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Bars v. Grocers

Via reader AS, Floating Sheep analyzed the relationship between bars and grocery stores in the U.S. and Canada:

We had expected that grocery stores would outnumber bars and for most parts of North America that is the case. But we could also clearly see the "beer belly of America" peeking out through the "t-shirt of data".

Starting in Illinois, the beer belly expands up into Wisconsin and first spreads westward through Iowa/Minnesota and then engulfs Nebraska, and the Dakotas before petering out (like a pair of love handles) in Wyoming and Montana.

On average there are 1.52 bars for every 10,000 people in the U.S. but the states that make up the beer belly of America are highly skewed from this average.

I notice that Chicago has fewer bars than grocery stores, and I am confused. Chicago is the land of bars on every street corner identified only by Old Style signs and dirty windows. Maybe there are gypsy grocers no one sees lurking in the neighborhoods?

Still doesn't make sense to me

Can anyone figure out the Best Picture voting, and why they changed it? One economist tried:

To dig deeper into the radical change made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists we turned to Justin Wolfers, associate professor of economics in the Business and Public Policy Department at the Wharton School.

This year's Oscar voting is, Wolfers says, "a fairly common election system. We call it the 'exhaustive preferential' system, or 'instant runoff system,' and it’s the way we elect our parliament in Australia."

Backing up, Wolfers gives me a quick lesson in the relation between elections and voting systems. "Political scientists and mathematicians have forever been engaged in the search for a perfect voting system," he says. "[Economist] Kenneth Arrow won the Nobel Prize for his 'Arrow Impossibility Theorem,' in which he wrote down all the things that a good electoral system would do and then proved that there is no system that meets all of those criteria. So we are always choosing the least worst system."

But 10 nominees? My god, the show's going to take days...

Angels and ministers of grace defend us

A North Carolina congressman wants to put Reagan on the fifty:

It's a Republican -- Rep. Patrick McHenry -- who has introduced the bill to replace the general who led the Union to victory in the (War Between the States) and led the nation as well with another more modern president, the late Californian and great communicator, Reagan.

Reagan transformed the nation's political and economic thinking, the way McHenry sees it. He maintains that "every generation needs its own heroes."

Grant may have had his problems, and he was, after all, a Republican. But let's wait a little bit before replacing him. Maybe we can put Reagan on a new 99c coin (which would be at least somewhat useful).

March of Civil Rights

Citizens of the District of Columbia are now free to marry:

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to stop same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia, clearing the way for couples to register to wed beginning Wednesday. Equal-rights opponents in the capital had asked Chief Justice John Roberts to prevent the issuing of licenses until residents had voted on the issue. Lower courts had denied requests to place a moratorium on issuing of licenses.

"It has been the practice of the court to defer to the decisions of the courts of the District of Columbia on matters of exclusively local concern," wrote Roberts, who made the decision without bringing in the full court.

Roberts also cited the fact that although D.C. is autonomous, Congress could have passed a bill to disallow the city government from enacting the law, and it did not do so.

Marriages may be performed beginning March 9, as there is a waiting period of three business days after the issuance of licenses.

In response to the D.C. marriage equality law, Catholic Charities will no longer offer spousal benefits to any new or newly-married employees:

[On March 1st], Catholic Charities President and CEO Edward Orzechowski sent out a memo to staffers informing them of the change to the health care coverage, which will go into effect [March 2nd].

In short: If you and your spouse are already enrolled in Catholic Charities health coverage, your spouse will be grandfathered in. Starting tomorrow, however, new employees (or newly married employees, hint hint) will not be allowed to add spouses to the plan. So: Longtime employees will receive the spousal benefits they’ve always had; Catholic Charities will get to keep its pool of covered spouses gay-free; only fresh employees and gays will feel the sting on this one.

Orzechowski's memo to employees closes with, "Thank you for your understanding in this matter, and let me again express my appreciation for your support and patience over these past months as we have worked hard to arrive at a decision that allows us to continue to serve others in a manner that is consistent with our religious beliefs." Now, I'm not Christian, but I've read the instruction manual, and I'm not sure how exactly bigotry is consistent with it. But, you know, Orzechowski's a grown-up, he can make his own choices. Still, I'd pay real money to watch their financials over the next 24 months...

Don't even think about it

Columnist Jonah Lehrer thinks about insomnia:

[W]henever we try not to think about something that something gets trapped in the mind, stuck in the recursive loop of self-consciousness. Our attempt at repression turns into an odd fixation.

This human frailty has profound consequences. Dan Wegner, a psychologist at Harvard, refers to the failure as an "ironic" mental process. Whenever we establish a mental goal — such as trying not to think about white bears, or sex, or a stressful event — the goal is accompanied by an inevitable follow-up thought, as the brain checks to see if we're making progress. The end result, of course, is that we obsess over the one thing we're trying to avoid.

I will be thinking about that tonight, I'm sure.

Why historical context matters

"[I]f James Carville and Jim DeMint are correct to argue that failing to pass HCR will be 'Obama's Waterloo' then the converse must also be true and, therefore, passing the bill could also be 'Obama's Waterloo' because, you know, Waterloo was a significant victory for some of us." —British journalist Alex Massie.

She goes on to say: "And even if it's not a final, crushing victory on the scale of Waterloo, it might be considered 'Obama's Peninsular War.' That's not nothing, either. Right?"