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News: Cast your Ballot in the 2016 Mock Election

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1726  Forum Community / Off-topic Board / Re: Opinion of SuperCuts on: April 29, 2015, 02:14:00 pm
If I can't find someone whom I trust who will cut my hair for free, I do it myself.
1727  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Opinion of the FairTax on: April 29, 2015, 02:02:24 pm
And if you want to make it more progressive just charge a higher rate on luxury items like say televisions, computers, cellphones, etc. new automobiles, detached single-family housing, private school tuition, elective surgery, monthly membership fees for retirement communities, "certified organic" food and anything served in a sit-down restaurant, "personal trainers," plane tickets, and pet care services.

Fixed to reflect where the affluent actually spend their money in higher proportions than the poor.
1728  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / Congressional Elections / Re: Ron Johnson: Students Graduating Late because "College is Fun" on: April 29, 2015, 08:15:15 am
Wouldn't the easiest thing to do would be to cap fees? Here they are capped at £9,000 a year. (Still a ridiculous price that hopefully will be reduced next parliament, but still)

"Easy" from whose perspective? Tuition at public universities is set by their respective state legislatures, while the federal Department of Education administers student loan programs. Maybe you can see one part of our problem here...
1729  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion / 2016 U.S. Presidential Election / Re: Democrats only: What would you prefer? on: April 29, 2015, 08:03:43 am
My answer might depend on what you qualify as a "landslide defeat".

A sizable Republican majority in the House, a Republican advantage in the Senate, Democratic governors outnumbered by Republicans nearly 2:1, and full Republican control of state houses in 30+ states.
1730  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion / 2016 U.S. Presidential Election / Re: FiveThirtyEight: Jeb lags far behind past nominees/his brother in endorsements on: April 29, 2015, 07:57:21 am
It's interesting that Gephardt had the most endorsements before April 30th on two occasions and still lost the nomination.

The House of Reps has an awfully large number of members, and being in the House leadership will presumably guarantee you the loyalty of at least some of them.

If I'm remembering What It Takes correctly, his ties with organized labor also had a lot to do with it, at least in '88.
1731  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / Gubernatorial/Statewide Elections / Re: Homely's new maps thread on: April 29, 2015, 07:53:13 am
I'm afraid that my interest in cartography has completely evaporated. For the time being, I have nothing more to contribute to this thread.

I'm extremely sorry to hear that, homelycooking. Thank you, again, for all of the great work that you've shared with us over the past several years. While this forum has its share of cartographic talent, I doubt that anyone else here has the necessary combination of project management skills, cartographic talent, and raw patience that must be necessary to create maps like yours.
1732  General Politics / Individual Politics / Re: Andrew Cuomo vs. Lena Dunham on: April 28, 2015, 02:02:17 pm
I don't want to freak anyone out, but I think that Andrew Cuomo may be the voice of our generation.
1733  General Discussion / Religion & Philosophy / Re: World Religion Map by National Subdivision on: April 28, 2015, 10:07:00 am
realisticidealist, have you ever considered submitting this to The Atlantic or similar publication? This sounds like the type of thing they'd go for. Not sure what the legalities around getting something to let them use it, though.

I suppose I could look into something like that. I'm not really sure how to approach such things, though.

More likely it'll be posted without attribution (or any attempt at discussion, for that matter) in another "40 Maps That Explain X" series, unfortunately. Be vigilant.

Congratulations on nearly making the front page of Reddit with something as substantive and conscientious as this, by the way.
1734  General Politics / U.S. General Discussion / Re: Scientists agree: guns make society less safe on: April 28, 2015, 08:54:56 am
As far as suicide goes, it's much easier for suicidal ideation to be followed through on if there's a gun in close proximity. If you get the idea in your head that you're going to kill yourself and it only takes you 2 minutes to go to the closet and get your gun, it's going to be much more likely that you'll follow through than if you have to get your shoes on, get in your car, go to the ATM, get to a vendor, etc.

Moreover, the decision to commit suicide is frequently - some estimates even say usually - a matter of impulse. One report that I saw recently estimated that the median interval between the decision to kill oneself and following through is less than 20 minutes. Of course, you can use other items found in the typical American household to end your life, but the rate of completion for attempts involving firearms is much higher.

It frustrates me that weapons debates in the United States inevitably focus on violent crime and self-defense despite the fact that most deaths and injuries in which weapons are involved are either accidental or self-inflicted.
1735  General Politics / Individual Politics / Re: Rank Presidents since WWII on: April 26, 2015, 08:33:04 pm

To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, I am more offended by Clinton's treachery than by Reagan's pure evil.
1736  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: Municipal Level Maps on: April 26, 2015, 08:27:36 pm
Thanks. Smiley   Can you convert shapefile to SVG or PNG, and if so, how?

Why would you want to? It is much easier to auto-color a shapefile than to individually color in shapes by hand, if you know what you're doing. But if you really wanted to convert a shapefile to png, I suppose you could always use a screen printing tool to save what is on the screen as a png file.  I'd have to check MapWindows GIS to see if there is a direct shapefile to png converter built in.  I'm sure there are some stand alone programs that do it, too.  Just Google "shp to png".
I know next to nothing about GIS.  I've thought about taking classes, though.

I guess the question I'm really trying to ask is how you were able to convert that map to PNG.

I just added the shapefile to my workspace in QGIS and exported the result as an image after a couple of tweaks to the display settings, a process that probably took ~5-10 minutes.

Like Cinyc, I encourage anyone who has an interest in election mapping to learn at least one suite of GIS software. ESRI offers a one-year home use license for $100. QGIS is free and open source, although the learning curve is a bit steeper IMO. In either case, there are ample learning resources and active user communities online.

In the meantime, I know that there are stand-alone conversion tools out there (e.g. this) that allow you to convert a shapefile to an image without using GIS software, although I haven't tried any of them myself.
1737  General Politics / Individual Politics / Re: Rank Presidents since WWII on: April 26, 2015, 03:46:24 pm
1. Truman
2. Obama
3. Ike
4. Johnson
5. Ford
6. Bush Sr.
7. Kennedy
8. Carter
9. Bush Jr.
10. Reagan
11. Clinton
12. Nixon
1738  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: What are some geographic locations that you have an unusual desire to visit? on: April 25, 2015, 09:40:38 am
Socotra, Yemen:








1739  General Politics / Individual Politics / Re: Would you be happy if Andrew Cuomo was indicted? on: April 25, 2015, 12:11:54 am
It would be a good start.
1740  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Would you have voted for the Iraq War? on: April 25, 2015, 12:09:44 am
Well, what does the range of plausible counterfactuals look like? Not much better, unless American deaths are the only ones that count.

From a US policy planning perspective, I'd say that they are the only ones that count.

Not when I'm voting.

Quote
But even if you disregard that, we know Saddam was not a nice man, but do you seriously think that if he had stayed in power he would have killed more people since 2003 than were killed due to the war and instability his removal caused?

Yes, I think that's likely. Morden's reply anticipates my reasoning. Beet mentions Libya, but (unfortunately) that is an increasingly unhelpful piece of evidence to he contrary.
1741  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Would you have voted for the Iraq War? on: April 24, 2015, 08:52:07 pm
Well, what does the range of plausible counterfactuals look like? Not much better, unless American deaths are the only ones that count.

If you're the American government, American lives ought to count much more than Iraqi lives.  I think the counterpoint to what you're saying is this, you don't use American lives and trillions of dollars to test your theories about how it might impact the future.

If we actually followed the decision rule that you suggest - i.e. "don't use American lives and trillions of dollars to test your theories about how it might impact the future" - the result would be total paralysis. Your counterpoint is a valid critique of any major policy decision. It leads us to the absurd conclusion that we should always avoid making major decisions, so it's not a compelling objection.

You're missing a big distinction.  You use the military to accomplish military objectives.  If you don't have a military objective and you just want to see how it shakes out in the future, it's too risky.  And, it's incredibly unfair to the military to put them in a situation where they're just waiting for political progress to eventually happen, while they're occupying a country.  "In the long-run, this might be good," just doesn't cut it.

I don't entirely disagree with this, but it's not relevant to a "with hindsight" hypothetical. As I said earlier, I doubt that I would have voted for the war in 2002.
1742  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Would you have voted for the Iraq War? on: April 24, 2015, 07:47:40 pm
Well, what does the range of plausible counterfactuals look like? Not much better, unless American deaths are the only ones that count.

If you're the American government, American lives ought to count much more than Iraqi lives.  I think the counterpoint to what you're saying is this, you don't use American lives and trillions of dollars to test your theories about how it might impact the future.

If we actually followed the decision rule that you suggest - i.e. "don't use American lives and trillions of dollars to test your theories about how it might impact the future" - the result would be total paralysis. Your counterpoint is a valid critique of any major policy decision. It leads us to the absurd conclusion that we should always avoid making major decisions, so it's not a compelling objection.

Quote
You pull the trigger if you know what the mission is and are confident that the US military can accomplish it.  The problem with Iraq was that US troops could never accomplish the mission because completion of the mission was dependent on the Iraqi political situation.

You say that as if the US had nothing to do with the political situation in Iraq prior to the Iraq War. But our government was already deeply implicated in Iraqi politics, and had been since at least the time of the Gulf War. If I had to identify our government's single greatest failure with regard to Iraq, it would be in 1991, when George Bush Sr. did nothing to support the uprisings against Saddam Hussein.

By the time we invaded Iraq, we had (1) dropped bombs within its borders multiple times over the previous decade; (2) subjected it to sanctions that crippled its economy and reversed the state of human development by at least twenty or thirty years; and (3) openly encouraged opposition groups to overthrow its government, only to let that government crush that rebellion and kill tens of thousands of our supposed allies. You don't have to be a liberal internationalist to conclude that the United States had incurred an obligation toward Iraqis by the time of the Iraq War.
1743  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Would you have voted for the Iraq War? on: April 24, 2015, 05:10:43 pm
Well, what does the range of plausible counterfactuals look like? Not much better, unless American deaths are the only ones that count.
1744  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Would you have voted for the Iraq War? on: April 24, 2015, 04:48:20 pm
Without hindsight, probably not.

With hindsight, maybe.

you would be more likely to vote for it with hindsight than without?

Yes. The 'weapons of mass destruction' rationale was always flimsy, and nothing that I've read has done much to convince me that anyone voted for the war on the basis of "secret evidence" or whatever rather than for the sake of political convenience.

Despite this, in purely humanitarian terms, the long-term outcome of the Iraq War looks better at this point than either the continuing disintegration of the Baathist state (or, worse, its revival) would have been.
1745  Other Elections - Analysis and Discussion / Congressional Elections / Re: Ron Johnson: Students Graduating Late because "College is Fun" on: April 24, 2015, 04:40:16 pm
It's also worth remembering that a large share - somewhere between 30% and 50%, IIRC - of students in the United States are either part-time or only nominally full-time. (It's certainly true that if I could have contrived some way to continue taking classes indefinitely instead of moving on, I would have, but I have no idea how generalizable that sentiment is.)

Regardless, Johnson's point about student loans is a compelling one that deserves more attention. The current lending regime is one in which lenders never have an incentive to discourage a borrower from taking out additional loans. In most cases, lenders are not even permitted to do so. The (utterly predictable) outcome is that inexperienced borrowers take out loans that they and their cosigners will struggle to repay for decades.
1746  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion / 2016 U.S. Presidential Election / Re: Martin O'Malley lays down the law - uses profanity-laced attacks on Republicans on: April 24, 2015, 04:20:18 pm
I won't be surprised if O'Malley goes full Schweitzer before this is over.
1747  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Would you have voted for the Iraq War? on: April 24, 2015, 04:16:39 pm
Without hindsight, probably not.

With hindsight, maybe.
1748  General Politics / Economics / Re: People: Market liberalism's achilles heel? on: April 24, 2015, 09:23:05 am
Foucaulf has already pointed you toward Sunstein and Thaler's "libertarian paternalism." (Don't get thrown off by the silly name.) I agree with his prescription. My introduction to this body of work was Thaler's paper on the Save More Tomorrow plan, which might be of particular interest to you given your concern about pensions.

The distinction that Foucaulf draws between (systemic) cognitive biases and (random) stupidity is another highly relevant point. The former is a much more serious problem for any process that relies on the wisdom of crowds. (For further discussion on this point, I recommend another of Sunstein's books, Infotopia.)
1749  Forum Community / Forum Community / Re: Brooklyn's population growth question on: April 23, 2015, 08:40:32 pm
The numbers are bizarre because I've made a mistake. You have the correct number.

I had queried the numbers for COUNTY LIKE 'New York' without realizing that the ACS counties table includes states and, bizarrely, lists the name of the state in both the STATE and COUNTY fields. So, uh, watch out for that, I guess.
1750  General Politics / Political Geography & Demographics / Re: Municipal Level Maps on: April 23, 2015, 05:11:33 pm
You can download county subdivision shapefiles for all states from the US Census.

Here is the portal for accessing the files. Here is the page for downloading county subdivision shapefiles. They are listed by FIPS code, which you can look up here (e.g. Michigan is listed as tl_2014_26_cousub). If you have municipality-level results, these are probably the geographic units that those results apply to, or at least that's the case in any state that I've considered.

Here is a PNG that I just exported from Michigan's county subdivisions shapefile. Ideally, you'd want to work with a SVG, but this is probably good enough for some purposes:

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