Monday, May 12, 2008

Hot, Hot Stimulus or Fiscal Inanity

The rational part of my brain knows that the economic stimulus isn't a terribly good idea. It probably won't jump-start the economy; and at a time of record deficits it isn't really fiscally prudent. As a younger American who isn't even paying that much in taxes now, this payment is just setting me up for trouble down the road. On the other hand, the other 97% of my brain knows, "Free Money!"

I haven't received my check yet, but as soon as I do, you can bet certain segments of the American economy are going to get a big boost. Namely, the anchovy pizza industry and beer brewers in the Northwest. Just for fun, I've included charts of federal spending and my proposed stimulus spending.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cyclone: Mission of Burma('s Destruction)

News that a cyclone had killed <50,000 people in Burma (or Myanmar, if you believe the junta) struck me as unbelievable. Being a Midwesterner by birth, I'd been raised to believe that a cyclone, while a powerful destructive force, is mostly limited to devastating small towns. Unless Yangon (or Rangoon) was composed of an extremely narrow band of trailer parks, I didn't see how one storm could kill so many people. Thanks to the magic of the internets*, I now know that cyclone is short for a tropical cyclone. Which is the same thing as a typhoon. Which is called a hurricane if you happen to live on the Atlantic seaboard. Cyclone is also a colloquial name for tornados, as well as the name of the Iowa State University athletic teams. Anyway, this makes it somewhat easier to grapple with the scale of the disaster in Burma.

Just for a hell of it, I also checked out where this tragedy ranks on the natural disaster scale. Here're some of the other contenders from the last 100 years or so:
-1931 Yellow River Flood (China) - 2.5-3.7 million
-1887 Yellow River Flood (China) - 0.9-2 million
-1970 Bhola Cyclone (Bangladesh) - 500,000
-2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami - 280,000+
-1976 Tangshan Earthquake (China) - 242,000

Damn, Planet Earth hates China. Also, who was the asshole in charge of the engineering corps on the Yellow River in 20th century China? Oh and here's a couple random, somewhat smaller natural disasters:
-1989 Saturia-Manikganj Sadar Tornado (Bangladesh) - 1,300 (woah, I guess they could have made Twister much more suspenseful.)
-2005 Hurricane Katrina - 1,800
-1966 Belmond, IA Twister - 6

And I'd be remiss if I didn't list my favorite disaster, natural or otherwise:
-1919 Boston Molasses Explosion - 21

*It's safe to assume that any "fact" I put up here comes from wikipedia. I'll probably try to cite references at some point in time, but currently no one reads this and I'm still rebelling from college.