Friday, December 9, 2011

A Cold Day; Some Frosty Tabs

When I was in college, my drink of choice was Tab (I actually liked the aftertaste of saccharin). Now I realize that the habit does not go away, but is transformed into electronic tabs that linger in my browser.

Vowel habits -- NPR's Robert Krulwich discusses why the shapes we make with our mouths affect how we think about what the words we're saying signify. Plus fun illustrations by Krulwich.

Charming line art sketches of a woman saying Cheese and Boo, showing the different positions of her lips for each
Getting to know you're relative -- Dane Smith of Growth & Justice writes in the Twin Cities Daily Planet with a round-up of articles assessing where we all fall in terms of relative income. He recommends the Wall Street Journal's quick calculator to see where your family's income falls within the 99 percent (or the 1 percent, maybe). Americans, it seems, are very bad at realizing how they stand in comparison to others (usually thinking -- like Joe the Plummer -- they're better off than they are, or are more likely to be upwardly mobile than usually happens). Smith writes, "Maybe if more wealthy folks knew exactly how many Americans ranked below them, they wouldn't be so hostile to paying more for the social contract. And if more voters knew how far behind the top tier they are, the less they would empathize with that advantage."

Mr. President, I Apologize -- A mom with recently diagnosed breast cancer writes about what it's like to be without insurance, how it happened, and what effect "ObamaCare" has had.

New uses for old plants -- The New York Times on how former auto plants are being repurposed around the country. We've got one closing this month here in St. Paul, sitting on what should be prime real estate if it's not too contaminated. Hopefully it won't take as many years to figure out as the former breweries.

Giving and taking states -- The Same Rowdy Crowd's Joe Loveland gives a nice capsule of a Minnesota 2020 piece, which visualized data from the Tax Foundation. The upshot: two graphs that show "blue states" are much more likely to pay more in taxes to the federal government than they get back, while "red states" get back more; in some cases, way more. North Dakota, for instance, which is held out so often as an example of rural, self-sufficient hardihood, is one of the biggest takers. (Orange bars represent swing states that voted divergently in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections; the Giver Score is in dollars, so that, for instance, -0.4 means 40 cents came back to the state, while 0.2 means 20 cents left.)

Graph of blue and red bars showing most blue states pay more while red states receive more
I've combined the two graphs here, which makes the giver states' IDs impossible to read even if you view the larger image. But it allows for a better sense of the relative scale of disparity than the separate versions of the graphs (which you can see in all their detail on the Same Rowdy Crowd). As Loveland writes, "In other words, giver states, like Minnesota, usually vote to give more government support, to their financial detriment. At the same time, receiver states, such as Mississippi, usually vote to give less government support, to their financial detriment. It’s the opposite of what you would expect, if self-interest were driving voting decisions."

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