One of the hazards of my occupation is the use of statistics. Statistics can be very useful for spotting trends and outliers in all kinds of things. Many researchers and all politicians are selective about which statistics to share. They generally want the outcome that proves their hypothesis or case. I came across a variety of stories this weekend that caught my eye because descriptive statistics played a role. I thought I’d share a few with you.
We are less than a year from the Iowa caucuses. These odd little political happenings in an odd little state generally kick off the hopes and fears of presidential wannabes. I lived in Iowa as a kid and my father owned a business there for 30 years so I know a little about the state and its quirks. This essay in the Denver Post makes some very good points to argue that the “Iowa caucuses are a poor proxy for America”. Iowa manages to put forth some of the whackiest Republican candidates possible. They usually fail miserably when New Hampshire holds its primaries and fall out by the time the bigger states come into play. Why does the press spend so much time in Iowa then?
Considering they are the first in the nation for presidential delegate selection, the Iowa caucuses present quite the contrast to the United States as a whole. Iowa is not remotely demographically representative of our nation.
It is significantly more white, rural and Christian than the national average. Only 12.4 percent of Iowans are minorities, while nationally minorities comprise 28 percent of the population. Thirty-six percent of Iowans live in rural areas or small towns, whereas in the United States overall, 19.3 percent do. About 54 percent of Iowans identify as religious, whereas 49 percent of Americans identify as religious nationally.
While the disparity in the level of religious involvement is not shocking, the percentage of those religious people who are Christian stands out. Of the 54 percent of religious Iowans, only .5 percent identify as Muslim, Jewish, or of Eastern religion. This is markedly lower than the 4.7 percent of Americans nationally who identify themselves as religious but practice a religion other than Christianity.
On a racial basis, the Iowa caucuses skew significantly from the national average. The attendees are really white. Indeed, at the Republican caucuses of 2012, a full 99 percent of attendees were white, while nationally about 89 percent of the Republican Party is white. There was virtually zero representation at the Republican caucuses from the near 12 percent of Republicans who are from minorities.
The makeup of the Democratic caucuses is somewhat more representative of America, but not much. In 2008, the last time there were contested caucuses in Iowa, 93 percet of Democratic caucus-goers were white, with 4 percent of attendees reporting as African-American and 3 percent reporting as another race. Nationally, in 2008, the Democratic Party was 66 percent white, 16 percent African-American, and 12 percent Hispanic.
Perhaps the lack of participation among minority voters has something to do with the caucus process itself.
JJ did an excellent job covering some of the events of International Women’s Day yesterday. One of the issues that has always been near and dear to me–and Patricia Arquette it seems–is pay equity. Here’s some depressing numbers on that. Basically, a report by the U.N. states that it will take 70 years for the gap to close at this rate. That’s completely disheartening.
Women will continue to be paid less than men for the next 70 years if the gender pay gap continues to reduce at the present rate, according to a report by a UN agency released ahead of International Women’s Day.
The document published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) comes 20 years after 189 countries adopted a blueprint to achieve equality for women in 12 critical areas, including health, education, employment, political participation and human rights.
The historic agreement marked the first time that the UN recognised a woman’s right to control her own sexuality without coercion, and reaffirmed her right to decide whether and when to have children.
However, despite the agreement women still lack access to education, training, recruitment; have limited bargaining and decision-making power; and still shoulder responsibility for most unpaid care work.
And while women have slowly taken up more places in the global workplace since the 1995 Beijing Platform, the percentage that women earn in comparison to men has only crawled up by one point to 77 per cent.
The report also revealed that women across the world are also faced by a “motherhood pay gap”, over and above the gender pay gap, with women in developing countries suffering the most.
The country of Germany has taken one step to increase the number of women in corporate boardrooms. They’ve legislated quotas.
Germany on Friday became the latest and most significant country so far to commit to improving the representation of women on corporate boards, passing a law that requires some of Europe’s biggest companies to give 30 percent of supervisory seats to women beginning next year.
Fewer than 20 percent of the seats on corporate boards in Germany are held by women, while some of the biggest multinational companies in the world are based here, including Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler — the maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles — as well as Siemens, Deutsche Bank, BASF, Bayer and Merck.
Supporters said the measure has the potential to substantially alter the landscape of corporate governance here and to have repercussions far beyond Germany’s borders.
In passing the law, Germany joined a trend in Europe to accomplish what has not happened organically, or through general pressure: to legislate a much greater role for women in boardrooms.
The law was passed after an unusually passionate debate, and much talk of milestones, cracking glass ceilings and making history. Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her 10th year in power, was on hand as deputies in her governing grand coalition of center right and center left stood to register their votes in favor of the law, which passed by a simple clear majority. The small opposition of Greens and leftist deputies abstained, believing the measure did not go far enough.
“You have to be sparing with the word ‘historic,’ ” said Justice Minister Heiko Maas, who with a Social Democrat colleague, Family Minister Manuela Schwesig, spent months steering the law over legal and political hurdles. “But I think today we can apply it.” For Germans, he called the law “the greatest contribution to gender equality since women got the vote” in Germany in 1918.
With women still lagging globally in corporate offices, on governing boards and in pay, and many still struggling with family-work policies, pressure has been growing for legislative solutions.
Norway was the first in Europe to legislate boardroom quotas, joined by Spain, France and Iceland, which all set their minimums at 40 percent. Italy has a quota of one-third, Belgium of 30 percent and the Netherlands a 30 percent nonbinding target.
Britain has not legislated boardroom quotas, but a voluntary effort, known as the 30% Club, has helped to substantially increase women’s representation. The group, founded by Helena Morrissey, a money manager, has used persuasion to help double the percentage of women on the boards of major British companies since 2010, to 23 percent.
The United States has also seen women’s representation grow slightly, up to 17 percent of board seats, without legislative mandates, though its growth has been extremely slow.
There seems to be a definite movement by corporations and religious types to make sure that schools don’t teach any form of critical thinking. That and other trends make for an interesting question of the direction of culture in the US. Here’s a few numbers and question on that from The American Scholar and Scott Timberg.
Traditionally, bookstores were where aspiring writers earned a living, and where readers went for sustenance and community. Yet in the two decades since the mid-1990s, during which the U.S. population has grown by 60 million—we’ve lost half of our independent bookstores, and record shops have virtually disappeared. The causes are mostly technological and involve online outlets like Amazon. Meanwhile, in parts of Europe, especially the German-speaking world and France, independent culture merchants are at least surviving rough times, and some are thriving. Are Americans hopelessly mired in neoliberal economics, technology worship, and the logic of winner-take-all, or is there something we can do to save these places and the people who work in them?
If you really want a deranged use of statistics. Take a look at what USA just let my Governor pen for them. There is a total disconnect between what Jindal has written and what’s in the news about the Jindal “economy” on every newspaper in Louisiana. Why on earth would a newspaper publish such obvious bull shit and propaganda? Who owns that damned newspaper?
Seven years ago, I ran for governor promising to make the economy bigger and the government smaller. We have lived up to that, accomplishing in Louisiana what the federal government has failed to do. We have balanced budgets, drastically reduced the size of government and empowered growth in our private sector.
Our state budget is nearly $9 billion smaller, with over 30,000 fewer state workers, than when we took office in 2008. And guess what? After reining in the size of government and lowering taxes, Louisiana’s economy is stronger than ever.
Since 2008, Louisiana’s economy has grown nearly twice as fast as the national economy, and private-sector employment has grown at a rate of two-and-a-half times the U.S. rate, while our budgeting practices have earned our state eight credit rating upgrades. We now have more people working and living in Louisiana, with higher incomes, than ever before.
For next year’s budget, a dramatic drop in oil prices has meant less money for state government. That’s OK. It should come as no surprise to anyone that we plan to address this challenge by continuing to cut the size of government without raising taxes.
This is what was on USA Editorial page however. “Growth has been sluggish in Louisiana and Kansas, and the plunge in revenue has devastated their budgets.”
Here’s one worth steering away from: Governors in Louisiana and Kansas have been experimenting with big tax cuts that advocates claim will unleash explosive economic growth. The results have been dismal. Growth has been sluggish in both states, and the plunge in revenue has devastated both states’ budgets:
- In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal pushed a big tax cut through the legislature after he took office seven years ago. Since then, the state budget has gone from a nearly $1 billion budget surplus in 2007-08 to a projected $1.6 billion shortfall for the budget year that begins July 1. Jindal, who long ago took a pledge never to raise taxes, has cut higher education and resorted to unsustainable one-time remedies such as draining reserve funds and selling state assets.
Louisiana’s jobless rate has gone from much better than the national rate in 2008 to much worse. Jindal claims his state’s economic growth has beaten the nation’s, but he cherry-picks the years and doesn’t mention that since 2010, the state has lagged behind the national recovery.
There’s like a total disconnect between what they’ve said on their editorial page and what they let Jindal blather on about. What a contrast in the Orwellian use of selected statistics by Jindal and the reality on the ground. Oh, if you want to see what exactly type of industry that Jindal’s bringing in check out this shady deal. This is a three part special from AJ called “China’s Louisiana Purchase: Who’s building a methanol plant on the bayou?” It’s by the numbers, textbook environmental racism.
ST. JAMES PARISH, La. — A prominent Chinese tycoon and politician — whose natural gas company’s environmental and labor rights record recently started coming under fire in the Chinese press — is parking assets in a multibillion dollar methanol plant in a Louisiana town. And he appears to be doing it with help from the administration of likely GOP 2016 presidential ticket contender Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Not many locals in a predominantly black neighborhood of St. James Parish — halfway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge — know that Wang Jinshu, the Communist Party Secretary for the northeastern Chinese village of Yuhuang and a delegate to the National People’s Congress, is the man at the helm of a $1.85 billion methanol plant to be built in their town over the next two years with a $9.5 million incentive package from the state. The details of the project are unclear, residents say, largely because they were not told about the project until local officials, amid discussions with state officials and Chinese diplomats, decided to move forward with the project in July 2014.
“We never had a town hall meeting pretending to get our opinion prior to them doing it,” said Lawrence “Palo” Ambrose, a 74-year-old black Vietnam War veteran who works at a nearby church. “They didn’t make us part of the discussion.”
The Chinese company has filed for expedited permits to construct and operate a plant on a sprawling 1,100 acres — situated between a high school, two churches and an assisted living facility for senior citizens — from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which is set to study the impact on the local environment and deliver its decision on March 6, 2015.
The plant is part of a recent push by New Orleans–area officials to reach out to Asia’s growing economic powerhouse to redevelop communities still devastated by the effects of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Some of those projects, it appears, have since gone sour. In one instance, which Al Jazeera will explore in the third installment of this series, a company contracted by the city government stands accused of stealing millions of dollars from Chinese investors seeking U.S. citizenship in exchange for building businesses in an underserved neighborhood.
Local economic development authorities told Al Jazeera that St. James Parish is an ideal location for the methanol plant because of readily accessible deep water and cheap fuel from the shale oil boom that will help cut production costs. But it remains unclear what the impetus is behind a methanol plant that plans to send the lion’s share of its product back to China, which is struggling to find a market for the methanol already being produced.
What is clear is that there are links between Wang’s U.S. subsidiary — Houston-headquartered Yuhuang Chemical Inc. — and the Chinese government and the Jindal administration.
It seems China’s tired of being a polluted pissing pot so they’re joining with Jindal to stick it the poorest of the poor in Louisiana. This story series is a freaking eye-opener. Be sure to read all three parts.
Here’s a very sad story. I used to love to go pick out sheet music at the local music stores and in music stores in big cities when I was young. It seems the very last New York Classical Sheet music store has closed.
Even the home to Carnegie Hall and the New York Philharmonic isn’t immune to the realities of the digital age of music.
Frank Music Company, New York City’s last remaining store dedicated to selling classical sheet music, closed on Friday. Frank’s customers, a community of artists dedicated to playing music written with quills centuries ago, must now buy them online or download PDFs.
The store’s owner, Heidi Rogers, said dwindling sales killed the shop.
“Musicians are underpaid,” she said. “How can they buy music if they’re not getting paid enough?”
Here’s a number that’s a good one. Baby giant tortoises were born on one of the Galapagos Islands for the first time in more than a century!!
For the first time in more than one hundred years, researchers have found newborn baby tortoises on the tiny Galapagos island of Pinzón. It’s a major win for a population that has struggled after being nearly decimated by human impact.
“We found ten tiny, newly hatched saddleback tortoises on the island early last month,” wrote a trio of researchers in the January 15th issue of the journal Nature. “There could be many more, because their size and camouflage makes them hard to spot. Our discovery indicates that the giant tortoise is once again able to reproduce on its own in the wild.”
So, that’s it for me today. Just thought I’d let you know that I’ve gone back to gigging to try to make ends meet. Yesterday, I played the most unique church service I’ve ever done. Well, the service wasn’t unique if you understood Norwegian. It was at the Norwegian Seaman’s church. It’s a Lutheran church funded by the Norwegian government for expats and visiting Norwegians. It was truly an experience! Oh, and Norwegian waffles are the best!!! So, that’s the first adventure. My second adventure will be on Bourbon Street where I will be playing three shows a night (4 times a week) as the straight woman and accompanist to Ms. Jessica Duplantier who is and up and comer and sure to head straight to RuPaul’s reality show Drag Race!!! So, how’s that for a stuffy old Finance professor? Yes, there will be pictures, I promise!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today? Any good news out there?
I don’t know if it’s simply the election cycle or what, but more and more frequently the world seems to be spinning out of control. Problems and/or issues everywhere. Which one to prioritize? How to “fix” what is going wrong? Is it leaving you with an overwhelming sense of helplessness? It does me, all too often.
Here is a list of the serious issues that are bombarding my senses:
- The economy
- Wall Street’s continuing abuses
- Wealth inequality
- Offshore oil drilling
- Renewable energy
- The condition of our oceans
- Climate change
- Endangered species
- Pesticides, herbicides
- Food safety
- Pollution of our air and water
- Violence against women throughout the world
- Pay equity
- Abortion rights
- Access to contraception
- ALEC’s legislative initiatives
- ALEC’s co-opting of our political process
- The need for campaign finance reform
- Voting rights
- Union busting
- Health and health care
- The dismantling of our educational system
- The privatization of the prison system
- Hate speech & hate crimes
- Gun rights & gun control
- The billions of non-human animals killed each year worldwide, not only for food, but on our streets, in our homes and in our shelters
- Wars, seemingly everywhere
- The aftermath and attempted recovery following both natural and man-made disasters
There is little doubt in my mind that most people have shut down and they have chosen to ignore many, if not all of these critical issues. For so many others they don’t have a choice. They don’t even have the time or energy to think about them because they are struggling to survive, to put food on their tables, to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads. Their focus is on their personal problems, not the bigger issues that are taking a heavy toll on their day to day lives, their future and the future of their families.
What can we do? How can the majority of the people on the planet, especially those whose personal resources are sorely limited make a difference, not only in their own lives, but for the future of all life on our planet? Here are a few simple each of us could try:
- Educate ourselves so we make conscious decisions that will benefit our finances, our health and the impact we have on our environment, whether it’s our home, our community or the planet.
- Reduce the amount of plastic, especially disposable plastic, that we buy. For example, opt for fresh foods over processed, prepackaged foods when possible. Use refillable containers instead of individual bottles of water. Avoid individually packaged food items – opt for a full size bag or container. Separate into individual servings at home. Don’t buy disposable plates and cups. Recycle and/or reuse plastic – and don’t forget to cut up those plastic rings that hold bottles and cans together – and return plastic bags to the stores for recycling. Take reusable bags when we shop, instead of the store’s plastic bags.
- Donate unused items to community groups or thrift stores.
- Pick up trash when we see it: in our yards, in the parking lots, on the beach, or participate in an annual beach or waterway cleanup in our area.
- Volunteer our time in schools, nursing homes, soup kitchens, for non-profits or wherever our time and expertise can be used.
- Eat lower on the food chain. It’s good for our health. It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for the animals.
- Write letters or send emails to our local media, to our elected officials, and to policy makers. Sign up for the action alerts of groups who address issues of concern to us.
- Adopt a homeless animal from a shelter or local rescue group. It will save a life and the animal will enrich ours. And if you can’t adopt, consider volunteering for a local rescue group or even fostering an animal until he/she is ready to be adopted.
Many of you are probably already doing some or all of these, or you may be doing others that I haven’t mentioned. By all means, if you have additional personal solutions or tips, please add them in the comments. Most of these ideas will only cost a bit of your time. Many of them will actually save money. I know that even doing what seems like something small, I feel better. I feel like I am doing my part, however little it might be. We rarely know the full impact of the choices we make on a daily basis, or how our actions might influence others. Even if we can’t always make waves, we can, at least, generate some ripples.