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Record Personal Income Increase? Just Early Bonuses and Dividends to Avoid Taxes January 31, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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Yahoo! News got themselves seriously pumped up over today’s personal income report:

American incomes rose in December by the most in eight years, a positive sign for consumer spending that could help the economy sustain momentum early this year.

Personal income for Americans rose 2.6 percent last month, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. That was the biggest increase since December 2004 and well above analysts’ expectations for a 0.8 percent gain.

The big rise in incomes suggests total consumer spending power entered the new year on stronger footing, even though much of the gains may not have been distributed evenly throughout the workforce.

While they do breezily mention the BEA’s caveat about the data, I don’t think they did it justice, so here’s the BEA’s caution in full:

Personal income in November and December was boosted by accelerated and special dividend payments to persons and by accelerated bonus payments and other irregular pay in private wages and salaries in anticipation of changes in individual income tax rates. Personal income in December was also boosted by lump-sum social security benefit payments. In October, personal income reflected work interruptions caused by Hurricane Sandy. Excluding these special factors, discussed more fully below, DPI increased $44.1 billion, or 0.4 percent, in December, following an increase of $66.5 billion, or 0.6 percent, in November. [emphasis mine]

Yeah, so that record-setting “2.6 percent” is more like 0.4 percent when you take out the tax scare. That suggests that total consumer spending power entered the new year on an unexceptional footing. Another year of the economic blahs.

It’s a shame that the increase in personal expenditures from the GDP report and the increase in personal income from this report are being used to stoke unfounded optimism. The pundits are probably trying to convince themselves that they didn’t vote for the wrong guy.

That’s going to be a whole lot harder when they see the numbers for January.

*Personal income and disposable personal income (DPI) changes track each other very closely.

Living in a Venereal World January 28, 2013

Posted by skinbad in History, Nature Shit.
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Fascinating story (and photo) of a giant, fossilized clam discovered in Utah.

I thought it was going to be a review of a Madonna concert.

Silly me.

The Shadow over Meriden January 28, 2013

Posted by wintersetruss in Literature, Pop Culture, WTF?.
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  I’m posting today because Moses threw up before dawn this morning, which means that I’m off work today on “Daddy Duty”.

  But he wasn’t the only one who had a weird night.  I don’t know if it was that last slice of pizza I ate right before going to bed, or the fact that I watched the entire Season 3 of “Archer” collection on DVD while reading a compilation of Lovecraftian short stories over the weekend, but SOMETHING caused me to have a weird frickin’ dream last night. (more…)

Kites January 28, 2013

Posted by Retired Geezer in Heroes, Science.
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Amazing kite flying. He controls one kite with each hand and one with cords attached to his waist.

Anybody Up for a 5 Million Views Party? January 26, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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Yeah, right now we’re at 4.9 million views. In three or four months we should be getting close to 5 million. Seems like an occasion for a celebration, doesn’t it?

No Correlation Between Gun Laws and Gun Crime January 25, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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Last week I pointed out that Richard Florida’s analysis of gun control laws vs. gun violence was all wet. He was the guy from the Atlantic who made a bogus map of the US purporting to show that the Southern states, with weaker gun laws, had correspondingly higher levels of violence. It was a terrible piece of work, but it was good enough to get Ezra Klein all hot and bothered.

Today the Washington Times does the analysis that Richard Florida should have done, and finds no correlation between strength of gun control laws and gun violence:

The Times analysis looked at the Brady Campaign’s rankings for strength of each state’s gun laws and at Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ rankings for how states perform in disclosing mental health data to the background check system. That information was then matched against the FBI’s 2011 gun-crime rankings for homicides, robberies and assaults.

The results showed no correlation among the strength of laws and disclosure and the crime rates.

About what we figured.

Smokers Officially Become Second-Class Citizens January 25, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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As we continue to find out what’s in the Affordable Care Act, it continues to deliver little surprises. But there aren’t any surprises concerning its overall effect – as we all had predicted before it was passed, it won’t “bend the cost curve” and it will increase insurance costs and/or degrade health care for the majority of those who are already insured.

With the President’s promise of “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” still ringing in our ears, today we discover that the 20% of adult Americans who smoke are going to take it in the shorts:

Millions of smokers could be priced out of health insurance because of tobacco penalties in President Barack Obama’s health care law, according to experts who are just now teasing out the potential impact of a little-noted provision in the massive legislation.

The Affordable Care Act allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1.

For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums.

But wait, maybe it’s not so bad:

Starting next Jan. 1, the federal health care law will make it possible for people who can’t get coverage now to buy private policies, providing tax credits to keep the premiums affordable.

All right, smokers may not be as screwed as I thought

…government tax credits that will be available to help pay premiums cannot be used to offset the cost of penalties for smokers.

Nope. They’re screwed.

How To Seduce A Beautiful Girl January 24, 2013

Posted by Michael in Ducks.
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Buy her a kebab.

Bet you didn’t know that, did you? This is guaranteed to work, or I will refund your Innocent Bystanders subscription fee.

Not just any  kebab, of course. Should be Greek, Lebanese, Thai or Syrian.

Also, practice this guy’s sexy dance move at 1:53, which he uses to lure her towards a kebab:

USAF’s Photos from 2012 January 23, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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The Daily Mail presents: “Flares, football flybys… and a nap during training: Spectacular images capture a glorious year for the U.S. Air Force

From the “Headlines Begging for Abuse” Department January 23, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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Women’s Hormonal Disorder May Get New Name“*


*Why are they changing the name of this disorder? Cuz: “The right name will … assist in expanding research support.” But of course.

Racist Exports Refuse to Obey President’s Command to Double January 22, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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The BEA released the import/export numbers a week and a half ago, presenting us with yet another opportunity to laugh at our newly inaugurated President. You may recall that the President famously promised to double exports in 5 years in his 2010 SoTU speech.

So how’s that doubling of exports coming?


You know, this was supposed to create 2 million jobs. Kind of like the $90 billion investment in green energy was supposed to create “millions of jobs.” Oh well.

At least everyone’s vaginas are safe.

Another of Klein’s 12 Facts About Guns. Fact? Not so Much. January 18, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.
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A month ago I wrote about Ezra Klein’s terribly misleading post: “Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States.” He presented these facts in an effort to shape the gun control debate:

What follows here isn’t a policy agenda. It’s simply a set of facts — many of which complicate a search for easy answers — that should inform the discussion that we desperately need to have.

Perusing his list, you eventually come to #9:

9. States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.

Last year, economist Richard Florida dove deep into the correlations between gun deaths and other kinds of social indicators. Some of what he found was, perhaps, unexpected: Higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness were not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. But one thing he found was, perhaps, perfectly predictable: States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths. The disclaimer here is that correlation is not causation. But correlations can be suggestive:

And here’s the graphic Klein & Florida use to support this point:


You can see from his map that the North and Northeast are more light orange and yellow, compared to the South, which is dark orange and red. Since the South has fewer gun restrictions than the other regions, QED, yes?

But Florida’s “deep dive” into gun deaths is embarrassingly shallow, and Klein’s naive acceptance of his dive is embarrassingly true to form.