Category Archives: American population

Income Inequality in NYC Extremely Depressing

New York Times reports the gap between rich and poor in NYC is widening further. Median income for the bottom fifth was $8,844. Median income for the top fifth was at a staggering $223,285.

What can be done? Sam Roberts of the New York Times interviewed Jilly Stephens, executive director of City Harvest, which helps get emergency food to hungry New Yorkers. jilly Stephens is in a unique position, because she runs a charity for the poorest in NYC, while she takes a salary for herself that places her in the richest fifth, earning $294,528 in total compensation in 2010. Her take on the problem? “The statistics demonstrate quite clearly that our most vulnerable neighbors are far from a recovery.”

Yes, she should know.

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Are we ALL the 1 percent?

Despite confusion of the Occupy Wall Street protests, they have a point. For those who would like some facts, here they are:

According to the CIA World Fact Book rank of income inequality, the U.S. is slightly better than in Bulgaria, but we’re worse than Iran, China, and Russia.  As a democracy, that should be embarrassing.

Here’s how income is actually distributed nowadays:

If you’re one of the peons in light blue, don’t feel bad, because you’re STILL at the tops from a global perspective. According to the Global Rich List, a salary of just $35,000 will place you squarely in the Top 5%. Starting to feel like a greedy ne’er-do-well? You can give a donation to help someone truly in need.

$35,000 Income Puts you in the TOP 4.62%

Rushing Spies, or just middle-class Americans? The News Media Falls Short on Analysis (Again)

The New York Times, and essentially all the other media, have assumed the 11 middle-class people arrested are spies. This, even though there is insufficient evidence to even charge them for espionage.

Experts, on the other hand, wonder why such an elaborate spy ring would be so unfocused, ineffective, and unprofessional. Unfocused, because these 11 people lived middle-class lives, working in regular jobs, with no efforts made to obtain government positions or decision-making ability, or any type of access to anything. Ineffective because the most accurate source of news for a real estate agent in suburban New England was probably the New York Times (haha!). And unprofessional because some of the 11 admitted to having Russian ties, whereas true sleeper spies would have blended in completely.

So if these people are doing none of the stuff that we think of as actually espionage, why has the media labeled them as spies? It’s time for their friends, classmates, coworkers, employers, and universities to stand up for them and at least ensure they’re not tarred and feathered by the unthinking media.

They might, indeed, be spies after all. But let’s not assume so just because the government arrests them on trumped up money laundering charges.

Earth Cancer and Global Warming

Weather is complicated. Many scientists (plus Al Gore) strongly believe that Global Warming is already wreaking havoc on weather patterns.

The havoc, they say, may take many forms: warm winters, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, cold summers, cold winters, and the list goes on….

Sadly, these scientists made a critical error. A marketing error. They called this havoc “Global Warming.” For the average Joe, a cold winter does not feel like global warming. A rainy summer doesn’t feel like global warming. A severe hurricane does not feel like global warming. As the theory became more intricate, the story got confusing – and the message got lost.

If only the scientists had called it Earth Cancer, or Extreme Weather Mutation, the news every night would focus on the issue. “This is the third coldest April 17th since 1991,” a weatherman would report with grave concern. “This is the second rainiest April 18th since 1989,” might be the following day’s breaking news. From a statistical standpoint, anomalies can be found everywhere – yet they would all be attributed to Earth Cancer – since the name would seem consistent with any weather anomaly.

Rock, Paper, Scissors: Strategy or Luck?

Rock Paper ScissorsRock Paper Scissors is a simple game that, theoretically, should depend entirely on chance. (As a three-element group, each option wins against one option but loses against the other.)

However, the game is growing ever more popular, in large part because people believe there is strategy in winning.

There are two main approaches to increasing the odds:

(1) Cheating, such as by delaying one’s throw for a split second – just long enough to see what the opponent has thrown

(2) Anticipating the opponent’s decision, based on their personality, past history, as well as a psychological interpretation of the meaning of each choice – and how it corresponds to the psychographic state of the opponent. For example, Rock is considered an aggressive option; paper may be either considered “weak” or “intellectual,” depending upon the RPS expert you consult. Additionally, some people may have “tells” that give away what they are planning to do.

For further reading, see the the Rock Paper Scissors Society, motto: “Serving the needs of decision makers since 1918.”

Purchase the official Rock Paper Scissors strategy book here:

Friendship Causes Obesity

In a groundbreaking study, researchers at Harvard Medical School used social networking techniques to track the spread of obesity. They found that even though obesity is a non-communicable disease, risks for becoming obese could nearly triple in some instances, solely based on relationships one has with obese people. Having an obese brother or spouse makes you 37% more likely to become obese in the next 2-4 years; having an obese friend can make you up to 171% more likely for you to become obese yourself.

The Harvard researchers believe this is a causal relationship:  that the obese friend causes you to become obese as well. If this is true, then those politicians in favor of “family values” or “friendship” may soon be in a conundrum – since such tendencies are likely to increase the spread of obesity.

Of course, other scientists note that correlation is not causation: it may be more likely that there are other environmental factors at play that merely correlated with social networks. If friends like McDonalds – then should we blame the friends for eating with us there or should we blame McDonalds for serving fattening food?

Military Strategy and the War in Iraq

President Bush“I call upon the United States Congress to give General David Petraeus a chance to come back and tell us whether his strategy is working,” said President Bush on 10 July 2007.

Imagine being in General Petraeus’s position. Could you do better?

The answer is that strategy depends on objectives. What are we trying to do?

  • Minimize deaths of US troops?
  • Minimize deaths of Iraqi civilians?
  • Maximize oil exports from Iraq?
  • Establish democracy in Iraq?
  • Battle Islamic radicals?
  • Disengage ASAP?

The problem here is not that the General’s strategy is unsuccessful, but that we have too many objectives – too many ways of measuring success. Given the resources available ($5B/month) it is possible to achieve some but not all objectives.