Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Non-Profit of the Month: November 2010 - Union Rescue Mission

Do you give money to the guy at the entrance to the store or at the corner of a busy intersection?

I've been told in many cases the money winds up on alcohol and drugs. As such, I generally don't give. But, sometimes I do.

I don't know what to do.

I think what gnaws at us is that it doesn't take too much to wind up as that guy on the street.

There are many worthy organizations in the LA area that tries to offer services to the down and out. I've tried to profile some in these "non-profit of the month" posts.

Today, I'll mention a group I've supported occasionally over the years: Union Rescue Mission.

Right now, in LA, there is some unseasonably cold weather and I'm sure the shelters are filling up with people trying to get out from the near freezing nights. Please consider supporting an organization in your area that is doing the work of compassion for those who have hit hard times for whatever reason.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Travel: Alaska Flag Song



Music:
Alaska Flag Song performed by Adele Morgan

Travel: Denali Shuttle and Wildlife Viewing Bus



Music:
Everlasting God performed by Lincoln Brewster

Travel: Alaska 2002 - Kenai Fjords



Music:
Classical Gas by Mason Williams and Mannheim Steamroller
Title music to Northern Exposure by David Schwartz

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Politics: States (like Alaska) with lots of per capita Federal Aid ... stats can be deceiving ...

Alaska has come under fire for receiving lots of Federal Aid.

Upon closer examination, the numbers are somewhat skewed by (1) the small population of Alaska and (2) some unique geographic and ethnic features of the state.

To see the amounts various agencies receive go to the Federal Aid to States page at the US Census.

No doubt, Senator Ted Stevens who died in a plane crash recently was effective at bringing Federal dollars to the state. Thus, that part of the story can't be denied.

But per capita statistics are tricky things.

A "pork project" going to a small state skews the numbers dramatically. Imagine a $70 million project's impact on per capita stats. For California, with over 35 million people, that project brings in a mere $2 per capita. But for Alaska with 700,000 people, that same project would bring in a whopping $100 per capita! California Senator Boxer would have to bring in 50 such projects to match the impact of just 1 such project brought to Alaska.

Thus, not surprisingly, at the top of the list of Federal Aid to the States are mostly small states. The 10 smallest states by population are all above the US average in per capita Federal aid.

However, are there other elements besides a low population that drives Alaska's per capita numbers?

There are three unique features to Alaska that appear to skew their stats: the high percentage of Native Alaskans in their population, the large area of wilderness and natural resources under Federal jurisdiction and the large land mass that impact transportation spending.

Native Alaskans

Alaska's native population (about 1 in 6 Alaskans) are assisted by three Federal programs: the Indian Health Service (IHS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and educational programs for native populations (Education).
IHS $867 million
BIA $101 million
Education $32.9 million

Thus, about $1 billion in assistance is in programs for the native peoples of Alaska or $1430 per capita.

Many states have little or no funding in these categories because they have little to no native Americans.

Wilderness and natural resources

Alaska is well known for its natural wonders and resources which are administered by the Forest Service (FS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Dept of Interior's Fish and Wildlife service (FWS), Bureau of Land Managment (BLM), Minerals Management Service (MMS) and National Park Service (NPS).
FS $24.6 million
NRCS $4.5 million
FWS $41 million
BLM $26.7 million
MMS $42.6 million
NPS $1.5 million

Total: $140.9 million
Per capita: $201

How does that compare to California?

California received $282 million through these six agencies. Thus, $7.62 per capita.

Transportation

With a large land mass and corresponding airspace, Alaska received considerably funding through Dept of Transportation and in particular Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding.

Alaska received $720 million in DOT funds. $251 million of it through the FAA.

That comes out to $1029 per capita.

How does that compare with another small state?

Delaware, small in population (900,000) and land area, received $235 million in total DOT aid and $14.7 million in FAA funds. That comes out to $261 per capita.

How does Alaska's numbers compare to a big state in both land area and population like Texas (25 million)?

Texas received $3.6 billion in DOT funds with $281 million of it in FAA funds. Per capita: $144.

Thus, the greater than $5000 per capita in Federal Aid Alaska received which initially seems shockingly high becomes more understandable when one recognizes that Federal spending in the three areas described above ($2660 per capita) account for about one-half of the $5000 per capita figure.

One can debate whether those are Federal responsibilities or state ones. However, as it is, they are under Federal control. Thus, the news/opinion pieces highlighting the aggregate numbers which put Alaska in a bad light which upon further examination is not entirely justified.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Science: Contrarian views on Global Warming

Saw this item about Bjorn Lomborg who believes global warming is occurring and that humans cause at least part of it. However, he is doubtful of the worst case scenarios proposed by some climate change advocates and thinks the money used fighting global warming could be better spent on other things.

Excerpt:

Lomborg believes that the world climate summits held in Rio, Kyoto, and Copenhagen over the last 18 years have been futile, because no country—especially such rising powerhouses as China and India, just now emerging into prosperity—will agree to cold-cock its economy in order to join the wispy Western global-warming crusade. And he claims that since the $250 billion the European Union spends every year to combat warming will ultimately reduce temperatures by only one-tenth of one percent, that money would be better channeled into worldwide battles against malaria and AIDS—diseases that are killing people right now—and into funding new climate technology.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Sports: Go LA Galaxy!

The Galaxy defeated the Sounders!

They now advance to the next round against Dallas.

Last year, the Galaxy got to the championship but lost in penalty kicks.

They started off the season strong had a stretch where they were dismal but finished up strong.

Some experts were picking against them because they do have some older players.

But their surprisingly easy win against Seattle might get them some renewed attention.

Go Galaxy!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Politics: California is Republican on the issues of the day?

If you use the ballot measures as an indicator of the perspective of California voters, they said ...

Yes: 20, 22, 25, 26
No: 19, 21, 23, 24, 27


Bold marks indicate matches between the party endorsement and how Californians voted.
The Libertarians
Yes: 19, 22, 23, 26
No: 21, 25
Undeclared: 20, 24, 27

The Greens
Yes: 19, 21, 24, 25
No: 23, 26
Undeclared: 20, 22, 27

The Democrats
Yes: 21, 24, 25, 27
No: 20, 22, 23, 26
Undeclared: 19

The Republicans
Yes: 20, 23, 26
No: 19, 21, 24, 25, 27
Undeclared: 22

Stunning isn't it?

Californians voted with the Republican recommended position in 5 of 9 races. Yet, no Republican won a statewide race in California last Tuesday.

Thus, it appears when you take away the "R" and "D" next to the item and vote purely on the issue like a ballot measure, California voters hold Republican views.

A ballot measure is about choosing yes or no about a given idea. In that situation, Californians were practical and voted very much in line with the Republican recommended positions.

But when one votes for a candidate, there are some feelings a voter has for "R" or "D" and for the specific candidate. In this situation, the California voter appears to be driven by something other than practicality.

What is the "meta-narrative" about voting "R" or "D."

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Politics: Viral videos of the political mood and moment

Top viral political videos according to CBSnews.com.

Regarding the House ... there was a large swing to the GOP ...





Regarding the Senate ...

The Democrats lost ground but retain control.

Over the past few years, academics have criticized the Senate’s "un-democratic" character, attacking the filibuster and even bemoaning the body’s very existence. So here’s the safest prediction of all: As the academics realize that the Senate provides opportunities for fighting the Republican agenda, the institution will suddenly regain their favor.

- John J. Pitney Jr. is Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College

Monday, November 01, 2010

Politics: Nov 2, 2010 Predictions - 51-49 Dems hold Senate, 60 seat gain for GOP in House

No more political blog posts until after the election results come in!

So looking forward to being able to watch television or listen to the radio WITHOUT seeing or hearing political ADS!

Real Clear Politics probably has the best round-up around for all the races.

Senate races: I predict the Democrats hold on 51-49.
Sadly, it appears that California voters will be sending Boxer back to the Senate.

Call Me Senator from RightChange on Vimeo.

Hopefully, Nevada voters will indeed be wiser and send Reid into retirement.

As for the House, according to RCP, of the 435 House races only 44 are toss-ups. Thus, if RCP is correct, the Republicans will gain 45 House seats even if they lost every toss-up race. My guess is that in the end the Republicans will gain 60.

UPDATE: As of Wednesday afternoon: Senate 52-46 with 2 undecided. The Democrat leads in Washington and a Republican leads in Alaska. So the final will probably be 53-47. Meanwhile, in the House, the GOP gained 60 with 11 undecided.

UPDATE: Its a final, GOP gained 63 seats.