Political Calculations
Unexpectedly Intriguing!
30 September 2005

One of the things that separates good movies from bad movies, or for that matter, good entertainment from bad entertainment is the quality of writing behind the endeavor. The best writers can not just bring you into the story, they can also make time compress itself in the unfolding of their stories, so much so that you can't believe that so much time has passed since you started watching, and that so much has happened on screen in such a short time.

Joss Whedon's Serenity does both - the writing is excellent, the acting is very well done, and it's a bang-up job overall. As movies go, it's well worth whatever they're charging at the multiplex these days just for the sake of seeing on the big screen - and maybe worth seeing more than once....

The "urban heat island" effect, in which the heat that builds up in a city's buildings and structures during the course of a day gets to a point where it affects the natural weather patterns around the city's metropolitan area, may soon be an odd footnote in the history of the twentieth century, ended by human innovation.

An experiment is currently underway on the highways and city streets of Arizona's largest urban center - one that has the potential to change how every road in every major city in the United States is paved. Road crews the Phoenix metropolitan area are resurfacing the region's major highways with a compound that combines traditional asphalt with particles of rubber recycled from old tires.

The resulting rubberized asphalt is proving to have some remarkable qualities. Initially intended as an experiment in reducing the noise of traffic on the area's major highways, the new material is demonstrating that it can improve traffic safety, and most surprisingly in one of the U.S.' hottest cities, it appears to be able to reduce the amount of heat that is absorbed by the road's underlying concrete during the day.

The Arizona Republic describes the unexpected benefits of the new road-paving material:

Life in the southeast Valley means life in an urban heat island. Every day, with every passing sun-drenched hour, our buildings, environment, roads and all things out of doors collect heat, sending surface temperatures well above the standard mercury reading and keeping things warmer than intended after the sun goes down.

Rubberized asphalt's porous top layer cools down quicker than concrete, cooling our roads and diminishing heat island effects. The cooling effect isn't on par with a full-blast air-conditioner, but when summer temperatures reach fatal highs, every little bit helps.

And with the soaring temperatures and unmerciful sun of the Arizona summer comes the inevitable - the monsoons. The porous surface of rubberized asphalt acts like the sponge from our opening analogy, soaking water in, dispersing it to roadsides from the crowned base level and diminishing retained street water. The tackier street surface provides good traction for treads against road, preventing some hydroplaning and keeping roads safer overall.

Of all its benefits, its the heat insulation properties of the rubberized asphalt that promises the most far-reaching change for the construction of roads in the U.S.' major cities. Given the role that the large masses of concrete that make up American roads has in creating the urban heat island effect, the ability of the material to more quickly shed the heat it builds up during the day could go a long way to cooling down urban centers in the U.S.

All-in-all, rubberized asphalt represents a neat example of how even a low-tech material can have serendipitous benefits (less heat buildup, safer roads) that were never considered by its original inventors.


29 September 2005

Political Calculations(TM) has offered Memos from Management before, but never so many at one time! The recurring topic is the company's new Casual Friday company dress policy.

Week 1 - Memo No. 1

Effective this week, the company is adopting Fridays as Casual Day. Employees are free to dress in the casual attire of their choice.

Week 3 - Memo No. 2

Spandex and leather micro-miniskirts are not appropriate attire for Casual Day. Neither are string ties, rodeo belt buckles or moccasins.

Week 6 - Memo No. 3

Casual Day refers to dress only, not attitude. When planning Friday's wardrobe, remember image is a key to our success.

Week 8 - Memo No. 4

A seminar on how to dress for Casual Day will be held at 4 p.m. Friday in the cafeteria. A fashion show will follow. Attendance is mandatory.

Week 9 - Memo No. 5

As an outgrowth of Friday's seminar, a 14-member Casual Day Task Force has been appointed to prepare guidelines for proper casual-day dress.

Week 14 - Memo No. 6

The Casual Day Task Force has now completed a 30-page manual entitled "Relaxing Dress Without Relaxing Company Standards." A copy has been distributed to every employee. Please review the chapter "You Are What You Wear" and consult the "home casual" versus "business casual" checklist before leaving for work each Friday. If you have doubts about the appropriateness of an item of clothing, contact your CDTF representative before 7 a.m. on Friday.

Week 18 - Memo No. 7

Our Employee Assistant Plan (EAP) has now been expanded to provide support for psychological counseling for employees who may be having difficulty adjusting to Casual Day.

Week 20 - Memo No. 8

Due to budget cuts in the HR Department we are no longer able to effectively support or manage Casual Day. Casual Day will be discontinued, effective immediately.

28 September 2005

Not long ago, The Entrepreneurial Mind's Jeff Cornwall posted a list of the top 10 reasons companies find themselves entering bankruptcy. The list carries a great deal of weight since it was provided by an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy law, and as a result, one who is very familiar with how businesses fail.

I thought it might be fun to take the list and apply it to the situation of Air America Radio (AAR) - applying what is publicly known about the troubles of the left-leaning talk radio network. So, without further adieu, here is the Top 10 Reasons that Businesses Fail, adapted for use for AAR and its current parent company, Piquant, LLC:

10. Over-expansion. The need to get there first or to demonstrate revenue growth to anxious investors leads businesses to grow too fast.

9. Poor Capital Structure. Companies take on too much debt....Enough said!

8. Failure to Control the Controllable Costs. Businesses spend down the initial cash before it is flowing in at a positive rate.

7. Failure to Prepare for Volatility of Uncontrollable Costs. For example, energy, materials, labor, or insurance.

6. Add New Products or Divisions that Drag Down the Profitable Ones.

5. Poor Internal Controls and Execution -- customer service, accounting controls, theft, and fraud.

4. Poorly Designed Business Model

3. Reliance on Critical Financing that Dries Up

2. Failure to Adapt to a Changing Market.

AND THE #1 REASON? Management in Complete Denial......

Update 28 September 2005: A better example of the #1 reason is available.

Well, what do you know? Other than inserting the links (and the word "and" for Number 5), I didn't have to modify it at all to apply to Air America Radio's history. Not quite perfect, but awfully close.

One other thought - has anyone opened a prediction market for when AAR will file for bankruptcy?

Previously on Political Calculations

Presented in reverse chronological order....

27 September 2005

First, from the right, we note that Patrick Ruffini has released 2008 GOP Straw Poll Version 2.0. He has added some new features that make this latest version of his online straw poll a political analyst's delight.

And, from the left, and really, for anyone on the left who is truly outraged or just faux-outraged about anything, a one-stop site for slapping your signature on the petition(s) of your choice. (HT: Division of Labour).

Yesterday, Political Calculations recommended that one way to increase your credit score is to continuously maintain your oldest line of credit. To underscore that point, Political Calculations presents the following chart containing data from the Experian credit bureau, which shows Experian's average credit score by age group:

Average Credit Score by Age Group

Credit scores on Experian's scale range from a low of 330 to a high of 830. Interestingly, the percentage difference between the average scores for the oldest age group of Americans versus those for the youngest age group is just 15%, which coincidentally is the weighting factor given an individual's credit history in determining their overall credit score.

In reality, an individual's credit history doesn't need to extend back into their late teenage years to enjoy higher credit scores. Generally, people in the older age groups make their payments on time, having learned at younger ages not to fall behind. Also, they are able to draw from a variety of credit options, which tends to increase credit scores compared to those who may only draw from limited options. Finally, people in older age groups tend to maintain a low debt to available credit ratio, a factor which, after an individual's payment history, is the most important aspect in the determination of their credit scores.


26 September 2005

As of September 1, 2005, all Americans, everywhere are able to access their credit reports for free once every 12 months. The quickest, easiest way to obtain your report from the big three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) is to request it from the AnnualCreditReport.com web site, which allows you to access your report online.

Checking your credit report is also the first step toward building a higher credit score, which in this day and age, is a key factor in determining such things as whether or not you can borrow money, how much money you can borrow, and at what interest rate you may do so. Even the amount of your car insurance payments are affected by your credit score.

According to the My Fico web site, the median credit score in the U.S. is 723. Credit scores range from a low of 330 to 850 at the upper end. Generally speaking, the higher your score, the less you'll be charged in interest for mortgages, car loans, credit cards, etc. High credit scores can also lower car insurance payments.

The difference in the size of your payments can be substantial. Here's a recent example from My Fico showing what the amount of monthly mortgage payments would be for people with various credit scores (assuming a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage of $150,000 USD):

How Credit Scores Can Affect Your Mortgage Payment
Your Credit Score Your Interest Rate (%) Your Monthly Payment ($USD)
760 - 850 5.41 843
700 - 759 5.63 864
680 - 699 5.81 881
660 - 679 6.03 902
640 - 659 6.46 944
620 - 639 7.00 998

So, with so much of your own money at stake, what can you do to build a better credit score? Here's Political Calculations' short list of recommendations:

  1. Start by reviewing your credit report at least once a year, and begin fixing any mistakes on it that you find by contacting the appropriate creditor(s) and credit bureaus and requesting that they correct their error(s). Since it can take months before the errors are fully corrected, you definitely want these mistakes fixed before you borrow any large amount of money.
  2. If you find accounts on your credit report that you don't use anymore, close them. The only exception to this recommendation is that if its your oldest line of credit, you may want to keep it open, particularly if it's substantially older than your next oldest line of credit. The reason for this is not sentimental - at least 15% of your credit score is based upon your credit history, which considers the length of time that you've maintained a credit relationship. Longer is better.
  3. Rightsize your lines of credit. Most often, this will mean asking your lenders to reduce the level of credit available to you from them, if not closing the account altogether. The reason you want to do this is because the credit bureaus will determine an "ideal" amount of money that you may borrow, and the lines of credit that you don't use (or don't use much) will count against it. This is particularly important if you plan on borrowing a large amount of money that might push you over the "ideal" amount for your desired credit score.
  4. The most important thing you can do to increase your credit score is to pay your bills on time. 35% of your credit score is based on your history of making payments, so avoiding making late payments is key to getting the maximum score. Also, avoid filing bankruptcy since this will very much negatively affect your credit score.

The last bit of advice to help you maximize your credit score is to avoid co-signing loans with kids or others. If the people you co-sign with for credit cards or other loan agreements with don't demonstrate good discipline in making payments, it's not just their credit score that will take a hit, it will be your credit score that gets hit too.


24 September 2005

U.S. blood centers appear to be sustaining the supply levels they achieved following the increased level of donations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The following charts from America's Blood Supply, which covers roughly 50% of U.S. blood supply, show the nationwide trend:

The first chart shows the 90-Day Inventory, as of September 20, 2005. In the chart, Green indicates the reporting centers have a supply sufficient to last 3-days or longer. Yellow indicates the reporting centers have a supply that may last for up to 2-days. Red indicates the reporting centers are in danger of running out of blood in 1-day or less. Black indicates the number of centers that haven't reported their supply level:

U.S. Blood Supply: 09-20-2005

The next chart shows the year-over-year comparison for the number of blood centers reporting that they have a 3-day or greater supply:

Year-over-Year Blood Centers with 3-Day or Greater Supply: 09-20-2005

The next chart shows the year-over-year comparison for the number of reporting blood centers that have a blood supply capable of lasting 1-day or less:

Previously on Political Calculations

To Donate Blood

Visit the American Red Cross' Give Life web site to find a blood drive or to make an appointment to give blood at a site near you!

23 September 2005

Maxim Group Chief Market Strategist and admitted "graphic groupie and chart whore" Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture excerpted the following chart (modified to provide dynamic sorting capability) from Zacks summary of the S&P 500's 2005 second quarter year-over-year earnings:

2Q 2005 Sector Scorecard - S&P 500
Sector EPS Growth (%) Sales Growth (%)
Energy 51 27
Industrials 28 13
Materials 24 7
Telecom Services 23 2
Utilities 20 7
Health Care 14 12
Technology 11 7
Financials 8 12
Consumer Staples 6 7
Consumer Discretionary 5 6
Total 14 10

From which, he opines:

My key takeaway is Energy, Utilities and Materials showed alot of strength, while Financials and Consumer were particularly weak. Note that Telecom and Industrials were surprisingly strong. In terms of Revenue and Earnings gains, however, Energy was the best game in town.

What does this mean? Energy being up is hardly a good thing -- it has a tendency to suck all the air out of the room; Two other points: Consumer staples and discretionary were at the bottom of the heap (we've addressed this previously).

But is Energy really such a economic Hoover (or Dyson)? Let's look at a bigger picture of 2Q 2005 stock market data (from BusinessWeek), but measured slightly differently, with profits (earnings) presented as cents per dollar of sales. I've also broken out the Energy sectors two major subcomponents for closer inspection.

There's a minor glitch in the Year-over-Year Change columns - when clicking these column headings, they will correctly display the data from low-to-high value, but switching them to high-to-low value leads to an incorrect display for both columns. All the other columns appear to function correctly. The sorttable table function was developed by The Daily Kryogenix, which appears to have difficulty in processing negative numbers.

2Q 2005 Sector Performance
Industry 2005-2Q Profit 2004-2Q Profit YOY Change YOY Pct Change
All U.S. Industries 7.9 7.5 0.4 5.3
Automobiles & Components 1.1 4.3 -3.2 -74.4
Banks 19.6 22.0 -2.4 -10.9
Capital Goods 7.5 6.9 0.6 8.7
Commercial Services & Supplies 6.2 4.9 1.3 26.5
Consumer Durables & Apparel 6.6 6.1 0.5 8.2
Consumer Services 10.9 12.3 -1.4 -11.4
Diversified Financials 12.2 10.2 2.0 19.6
Energy 9.5 8.7 0.8 9.2
Energy: Equipment & Services 9.5 8.7 0.8 9.2
Energy: Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels 9.4 9.0 0.4 4.4
Food & Staples Retailing 2.5 2.5 0.0 0.0
Food, Beverage & Tobacco 9.4 9.0 0.4 4.4
Health Care Equipment & Services 4.4 4.2 0.2 4.8
Household & Personal Products 11.3 11.6 -0.3 -2.6
Insurance 10.7 9.4 1.3 13.8
Materials 8.3 5.6 2.7 48.2
Media 4.6 6.0 -1.4 -23.3
Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology 18.6 19.5 -0.9 -4.6
Real Estate 8.9 9.9 -1.0 -10.1
Retailing 4.2 4.0 0.2 5.0
Semiconductors & Semiconductor Equipment 14.6 14.9 -0.3 -2.0
Software & Services 17.0 13.5 3.5 25.9
Technology Hardware & Equipment 7.2 6.8 0.4 5.9
Telecommunication Services 9.6 8.5 1.1 12.9
Transportation 2.2 0.5 1.7 340.0
Utilities 5.7 5.9 -0.2 -3.4

A special note is needed for the Transportation sector - the data is significantly skewed given the major level of distress of its Airline component, which appears to have been omitted from the sector roll-up. It's really not doing anywhere near as well as it would appear....

Looking at the Energy sector and its subcomponents, there really hasn't been that great of a year-over-year change in profits, as measured in cents per dollar of sales.

So, what accounts for the major difference between the two year-over-year measures of stock market sector second quarter earnings performance?

Zack's listed its profit measure as Earnings Per Share (EPS), rather than earnings per dollar of sales. If the number of shares in the Energy sector decreased, this would tend to inflate the EPS measure. As it happens, many of the companies in the Energy sector have been engaging in share buybacks in recent years (ExxonMobil, Kerr-McGee, Royal Dutch, just to name a few) so this seems likely.

So, it really is all in how you look at it, especially if you're willing to look at the bigger picture and to dig out the details. My take: profits earned by the publicly-traded companies in the Energy sector really aren't all that out of line in the year over year comparison, at least as of the second quarter of 2005, and certainly not out of line enough to "suck all the air out of the room."

22 September 2005

Jeff Cornwall at The Entrepreneurial Mind has the Top 10 list from a local attorney who specializes in bankruptcy. The number one reason?

Management in Complete Denial

While we're on the topic of why businesses fail, and especially the Number 1 reason they do, one of the best books on the topic is Sydney Finkelstein's Why Smart Executives Fail - highly recommended!

Previously, Political Calculations(TM) cracked the code used by bosses in evaluating their employees. This time, we've gone back into the personnel files to find the following quotes that may, or may not, have been taken from actual employee performance evaluations:

"Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom and has started to dig."

"His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiosity."

"I would not allow this employee to breed."

"This associate is really not so much of a has-been, but more of a definitely won't be."

"Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap."

"When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change whichever foot was previously in there."

"He would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle."

"This young lady has delusions of adequacy."

"He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them."

"This employee should go far - and the sooner he starts, the better."

"This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot."

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21 September 2005

Tired of trigonometry? Having trouble keeping track of all those sines, cosines, tangents, cotangents, et cetera, so on and so forth?

Norman Wildberger of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia may have done away with all of those in rewriting the Euclidean geometry that we've all come to know and dread in high school math classes. Here's the scoop from the UNSW's news release announcing the publication of his book Divine Proportions: Rational Trigonometry to Universal Geometry, now available from Wild Egg Books:

This text introduces a new and simplified approach to trigonometry and a major restructuring of Euclidean geometry. It replaces cos, sin, tan and all those other transcendental trig functions with rational functions and elementary arithmetic. It develops a complete theory of planar Euclidean geometry over a general field without any reliance on 'axioms'. And it shows how to apply this new theory to a wide range of practical problems from engineering, physics, surveying and calculus.

The news release spells out the potential impact for math students:

Trigonometry has for centuries been difficult for students to learn. Part of the reason is that the foundations of the subject are problematic, relying on vague pictorial definitions of the key concepts of angles and trigonometric functions. That means students rarely come to grips with the logical structure of the theory. Rational trigonometry is much simpler, relying on the fundamental quadratic notions of quadrance and spread, and with basic laws that can be derived completely rigorously using only elementary algebra.

As it happens, quadrance is equal to the square of the distance between two points and spread is equal to the square of the sine of an angle. Here are some extracts from the text that provide more detail of the scope of Wildberger's rewriting of the rules of trigonometry:

Sigh. Where was this guy when I was in school....


20 September 2005

The World Bank Institute has developed a checklist (Ref: Daniel Kaufman of the International Monetary Fund Finance and Development organization) that allows various institutions and governments to better determine what steps they need to take to both promote good governance and to reduce corruption. Both these ingredients are vital to promoting beneficial development and to achieving stronger economic growth.

But why let governments have all the fun? Why not allow regular people to assess their own governments, at the local, state or national levels? Political Calculations(TM) offers the following do-it-yourself shortened version of the World Bank Institute's good governance checklist for you to evaluate the government of your choice!

  1. Public Disclosure of Assets and Income for:

  2. Candidates for Public Office
    Public Officials
    Politicians and Lobbyists
    Spouses and Dependents of the above.

  3. Public Disclosure of Political Campaign Contributions and Expenditures

  4. By Individuals
    By Organizations
    By Candidates

  5. Public Disclosure of All:

  6. Parliamentary Votes
    Parliamentary Debates
    Draft Legislation

  7. Effective Implementation of:

  8. Conflict of Interest Laws
    Lobbying Reporting Laws
    Freedom of Information Laws
    Public Disclosure Laws

  9. Freedom of the Media

  10. Print

  11. Fiscal and Public Financial Transparency

  12. Central and Local Budgets
    Meetings Held By Public Officials
    Competitive Procurement

Total Boxes Checked:

So, how did the governments that impact you score? Does it provide for full disclosure of the information listed? Does it do it fast enough? Does it let you access the information or does it create barriers to public discovery? Go back over the list, change the answers where appropriate, then judge how good the government you evaluated performed according to the following table:

Political Calculations' Good Governance Ranking
Score Ranking
22 - 23Good
19 - 21Fair
16 - 18Poor
10 - 18Very Poor
0 - 9Exceptionally Poor

If the government scores anything less than "Good," you've got a government that could use a serious kick in the you know what. How hard depends upon how low on the scale it is....

Nick Schulz notes the link between bad governance and poverty at Tech Central Station.... (HT: Instapundit).

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19 September 2005

Blood donations, like charitable contributions, has risen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The following charts from America's Blood Supply, which represent nearly 50% of U.S. blood supply, show the story.

The first chart shows the 90-Day Inventory:

Blood Centers 90-Day Inventory 09-13-2005

The next chart shows the year-over-year comparison for the number of blood centers reporting that they have a 3-day or greater supply:

Year-over-Year Blood Centers with 3-Day or Greater Supply

Previously on Political Calculations

To Donate Blood

Visit the American Red Cross' Give Life web site to find a blood drive or to make an appointment to give blood at a site near you!

Is voluntaryXchange's David Tufte more influential than he knows?

I have to give a major hat-tip to Craig Newmark of Newmark's Door for recently pointing to one of the best collections of practical applications I've yet seen on the web: Cornell University's Medical Calculators!

Cornell's Weill Medical College has made available tools for calculating an individual's body mass index, their basal energy expenditure (or, in other words, the minimum number of calories their body burns each day), the oxygen content of blood, the half life of a drug, and more, with links to other resources on the web. Heck, you can also figure out how much surface area your body takes up and exactly how many years, months or days old you are!

Truly cool!

16 September 2005

The last two weeks have seen the release of two real blockbuster reports related to the differences between the economies of the world's nations: the Fraser Institute's 2005 Annual Report on Economic Freedom in the World (available as a 1.96MB PDF document) which ranked the economic freedom of 127 nations and the World Bank's International Finance Corporation's database ranking the ease of Doing Business in 155 nations of the world.

Political Calculations has previously commented upon the strong link between economic freedom and the peaceful coexistence between economically-free nations established in the Fraser Institute's report, but hasn't yet commented upon the economic aspects of that report. Meanwhile, the publishing of the IFC's database offers a unique opportunity: why not put the findings of the two reports together?

Here's what I'd expect to see - the nations that ranked the most highly for economic freedom should also be the nations that provide the greatest ease of doing business. Likewise, the lowest ranked nations will likely be those that create the greatest barriers to doing business within their territory. Here are the top-ranked nations for economic freedom and their ease of doing business ranking, presented below in a dynamic table (click the column headings to sort the data according to the category):

Top Ranked Nations for Economic Freedom and Their Doing Business Ranking
Country Economic Freedom Index Score Ease of Doing Business Rank
Australia 7.8 6
Canada 8.0 4
Estonia 7.8 16
Hong Kong 8.7 7
Ireland 7.9 11
Luxembourg 7.8 Not Ranked
New Zealand 8.2 1
Singapore 8.5 2
Switzerland 8.2 17
United Arab Emirates 7.8 69
United Kingdom 8.1 9
United States 8.2 3

As expected, nearly all of the top-ranked nations for economic freedom also scored very highly for their ease of doing business. All except for one: the United Arab Emirates, which had an Economic Freedom Index score of 7.8 while being ranked 69 of 155 in the world for Doing Business. How could that happen?

The answer might be suggested by examining the scoring for the various categories that make up the Economic Freedom Index (EFI). Here is the breakdown for the top-ranked nations, again presented in a dynamic table (click the column headings to sort the data according to the category):

Top Ranked Nations for Economic Freedom and Their Subrankings
Country Government Size Legal Structure Sound Money International Trade Regulation
Australia 6.2 8.9 9.3 7.5 7.4
Canada 6.6 8.7 9.5 8.0 7.3
Estonia 6.5 7.0 9.7 8.6 7.0
Hong Kong 8.9 7.4 9.2 9.7 8.2
Ireland 5.9 8.3 9.6 8.8 6.7
Luxembourg 4.2 8.9 9.7 8.9 7.2
New Zealand 6.8 8.9 9.5 8.2 7.6
Singapore 8.0 8.2 9.7 9.5 7.0
Switzerland 7.3 8.7 9.6 8.1 7.1
United Arab Emirates 7.6 6.8 8.6 8.3 7.7
United Kingdom 6.5 9.2 9.4 8.3 7.4
United States 7.8 7.9 9.8 7.8 7.6

Of the major sub-categories for evaluating economic freedom, the United Arab Emirates scores the lowest among the top-ranked nations in the world only in Legal Structure, which examines the degree to which independent, impartial institutions exist for resolving disputes, particularly those between government entities and individuals or private businesses. The Economic Freedom Index's individual country analysis for the United Arab Emirates indicates that it scores low in this regard due to a lack of impartiality on the part of its judicial system.

Meanwhile, the Doing Business summary for the UAE confirms that the UAE ranks 133 out of 155 nations in enforcing contracts (the most directly comparable component to the Economic Freedom Index' Legal Structure category), requiring some 53 steps and 614 days to enforce contracts.

The UAE's Doing Business ranking is also lowered by the country's regulatory hurdles for starting and closing a business. In particular, the IFC found that launching a business in the UAE requires 12 steps and 54 days, at a cost roughly equal to 44.3% of the UAE's gross national income per capita - enough to earn a ranking of 134 out of 155 nations. Closing a business through bankruptcy in the UAE takes 5.1 years. The Economic Freedom Index Regulation subcategory confirms the UAE's low score in the regulation of businesses, but this is offset in the EFI's subcategory ranking for Regulation by the UAE's high scores in the regulation of credit and labor markets.

It would be very interesting to see if it would be worthwhile to merge the two studies together, assuming that the people behind the EFI and the Doing Business research can work out their differences and agree on an appropriate methodology for doing so. And while I'm at it, why not toss in relative measures on the costs of running a business in the various nations as well? It seems to me that high land, labor and operating costs could be just as much a barrier to doing business and economic freedom as government interference.

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15 September 2005

When job hunting, it can be tough to get past the initial screening process that the Human Resource departments of many companies use to whittle down the number of applicant resumes they need to review. The following excerpts are believed to be from actual resumes, and frankly, these people never had a chance....

Quotes of Qualification

"Personal: I'm married with 9 children. I don't require prescription drugs.

"I am extremely loyal to my present firm, so please don't let them know of my immediate availability."

"Qualifications: I am a man filled with passion and integrity, and I can act on short notice. I'm a class act and do not come cheap."

"I intentionally omitted my salary history. I've made money and lost money. I've been rich and I've been poor. I prefer being rich."

"Note: Please don't misconstrue my 14 jobs as 'job-hopping'. I have never quit a job."

"Number of dependents: 40."

"Marital Status: Often. Children: Various."

Cover Letter Bloopers

"Here are my qualifications for you to overlook."

Reasons for Leaving the Last Job

"Responsibility makes me nervous."

"They insisted that all employees get to work by 8:45 every morning. Couldn't work under those conditions."

"Was met with a string of broken promises and lies, as well as cockroaches."

"I was working for my mom until she decided to move."

"The company made me a scapegoat - just like my three previous employers."

Job Responsibilities

"While I am open to the initial nature of an assignment, I am decidedly disposed that it be so oriented as to at least partially incorporate the experience enjoyed heretofore and that it be configured so as to ultimately lead to the application of more rarefied facets of financial management as the major sphere of responsibility."

"I was proud to win the Gregg Typting Award."

Special Requests and Job Objectives

"Please call me after 5:30 because I am self-employed and my employer does not know I am looking for another job."

"My goal is to be a meteorologist. But since I have no training in meteorology, I suppose I should try stock brokerage."

"I procrastinate - especially when the task is unpleasant."

Entirely Too Personal Interests

"Donating blood. 14 gallons so far."

Small Typos that Can Change the Intended Meaning

"Education: College, August 1880-May 1984."

"Work Experience: Dealing with customers' conflicts that arouse."

"Develop and recommend an annual operating expense fudget."

"I'm a rabid typist."

"Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain operation."

14 September 2005

Here's the situation: you have two gas stations to choose between for your fuel needs. One station is closer than the other, but the one that's further way is selling gas at a cheaper price than the station nearer you. Which station should you choose?

Yes, these are the kinds of questions we seek to answer here at Political Calculations(TM), or rather, the kinds of questions that we make tools for you to answer for your own needs! Enter the indicated data into the input fields of the tool below, click the "Calculate" button, and we'll do the math to figure out which station you should go to!

Vehicle Information
Input Data Values
City Mileage (miles per gallon)
Highway Mileage (miles per gallon)
Estimated Fuel Needed to Fill Tank (gallons)
Station 1 Information
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About the Tool

Perhaps the hardest thing in using this tool is estimating how many gallons are required to fill your tank. There's really no good way to do it, other than keeping track of how many gallons your vehicle needed in the past when your fuel gauge hit certain marks (1/2 full, 1/4 full, etc.) and using this figure to approximate how many gallons you will purchase.

Other than that, your vehicle's fuel consumption is the biggest question mark - again, it's best to go from your actual driving experience rather than using the figures published by the EPA, particularly if you drive a hybrid vehicle.

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13 September 2005

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland recently released its monthly report of economic trends in the U.S. (available as a 1.11MB PDF document) with a special focus on how a low probability event, in this case the extreme damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, moved to dominate the center stage of attention in forecasting the economic future of the U.S. The report's authors note what effects the damage done by the hurricane will have on the U.S. economy in the short and intermediate terms:

In the short term, there is little doubt that the storm will harm the nation’s economy through its effect on energy prices. Before Katrina hit, high energy prices already were thought to be taking a toll on consumer spending for other goods and services. But the truth is that it will take some weeks to assess the full extent of the damage to the energy infrastructure and months before it can all be repaired. Consider that the storm destroyed warehouses that contained essential supplies and that skilled labor will be scarce. Moving people and material through the area will be challenging.

Surprisingly, the U.S. stock market posted a small gain for the week of the storm, despite the challenges and the lack of information noted above. The authors of the Cleveland Fed's report speculate on the reasons why this would be the case:

The fact that they did not sell off could be interpreted as a sign of confidence in the nation’s ability to overcome the shock over the medium term. It might also signal a belief that interest rates could follow a lower track than had previously been priced into the market.

What changed were the expectations of the financial market participants of what the Fed's Open Market Committee (FOMC) would do with the federal funds rate. Before Hurricane Katrina, the traders were expecting the FOMC to continue its recent path of regularly increasing the funds rate by 25 basis points at each of the next two meetings of the committee. By September 1 however, following the hurricane, that expectation had changed with the traders now predicting that the probability of the Fed increasing the funds rate by 25 basis points at each of its next two meetings had dropped to 50%. A similar assessment appears to have been made regarding the future economic growth of the U.S.:

Before the storm struck, most market analysts were expecting the pace of economic activity to remain in the range of 3 to 4 percent for the next year or so, despite higher energy prices. They saw high energy prices as the result of strong global demand for energy resources rather than disruptions of supplies. Now that the nation has sustained a supply shock, rising energy prices have a different connotation. If the energy infrastructure proves to be highly resilient, the effects on GDP should be moderate and largely transitory.

In all of this, the role of the financial markets in assessing the impact of a catastrophic event is to serve as aggregator of information, collecting information from thousands upon thousands of people with discrete elements of highly specialized knowledge and representing it in the prices of the financial instruments traded in the marketplace. In that respect, financial markets are an older version of the blogosphere, which has also played a similar role in gathering and disseminating information following the catastrophe. However, where the blogosphere will need several weeks to sort the wheat from the chaff of information (recall the unfounded reports of cannibalism), financial markets have an edge in that they require its participants to put money down on the information being disseminated. This simple requirement works to filter out a great deal of noise.

So, what do the financial markets tell us of the impact of Hurricane Katrina so far?

While the impact of Hurricane Katrina has certainly been devastating to the people of the Gulf Coast of the U.S., the financial markets are so far signalling that economic damage to the U.S. stemming from the event will be limited in the intermediate and long term. And that will hold true unless and until new information changes the view of the market.

12 September 2005

One of the great urban legends is the story of the man who is drugged into unconsciousness while on a business trip, who later wakes up in a strange bathtub filled with ice with a stitched-up incision in his abdomen. He later finds out that his kidneys have been extracted without his consent for sale on the black market.

A real-life variant of this story is currently playing out in Washington state, as claims have been filed against the King County Medical Examiner's Office (KCMEO) in the Pierce County Superior Court. The claims are the first step by the families of mentally-ill deceased people whose brains were "harvested" for medical research without the consent of either the deceased or their families to recover damages resulting from the KCMEO's practices. The extracted brain tissue was sold to a medical research facility in Maryland with the proceeds used to fund an additional pathologist on the KCMEO's payroll, as well as to cover other operating and equipment costs.

The Tacoma News Tribune has the details of the claims for the first of the claims to be filed (links added):

After Bradley Gierlich died in 1998, his brain traveled to Bethesda, Md., where it became the property of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, a nonprofit organization conducting research into mental illness, using brains retrieved from cadavers.

However, the King County man’s sister, Robinette Amaker of North Carolina, says the medical examiner’s office never obtained consent to remove her brother’s brain.

Her claim is the basis of a $500,000 lawsuit filed Friday in Pierce County Superior Court.

The suit names the King County medical examiner’s office and the medical institute.

Remarkably, in responding to the legal action, the King County Medical Examiner's Office is sticking to its previous claim that its brain "harvesting" operation involved no quotas and no profit, despite internal e-mails that contradict these assertions. KIRO-TV has some details:

A 2002 e-mail, written by the Medical Examiner office manager says: "As you know they county (h)as asked Public Health to take a reduction in CX (county funded dollars). One of the goals I would want in 2003 is to expand that outside funding to rely less on CX dollars."

That year the county collected a record amount of money for brains from Stanley $203,908.

It's difficult to see how the KCMEO's claim that it didn't profit from its brain brokerage arrangement with the Stanley Medical Research Institute (SMRI) will hold up as the government agency collected nearly $1.5 million (USD) over the 10 years between 1995 and 2004, for nearly 200 brains.

Negotiations to settle the legal claims between the families and King County have failed. The developing lawsuits may cost King County taxpayers "tens-of-millions-of-dollars," according to the KIRO report.

Perhaps that's just another cost of doing business for the privileged public officials of King County.

Previously on Political Calculations

10 September 2005

The supply of blood across the U.S. has increased dramatically as Americans have responded to the the need to build up the nation's blood stocks following Hurricane Katrina. The following image has been modified (to fit) from the America's Blood Centers' 90-Day Inventory Supply Graph, as of September 6, 2005:

Increase in Blood Supply Following Katrina

In the chart above, the GREEN line represents the number of centers with a 3-day or greater supply of blood, the YELLOW line represents centers with a 2-day supply of blood and the RED line represents centers with a 1-day supply of blood or less. The black line represents centers that have not provided a current report.

The member organizations of America's Blood Centers provide nearly half of all blood in the U.S., collecting blood at over 600 locations in 45 states.

Find Where to Donate Blood Near You

Information on blood drives already organized in your community where you may donate blood is available at the American Red Cross' Give Life web site.

09 September 2005

The Canadian-based Fraser Institute has released its Economic Freedom of the World 2005 Annual Report (available online as a 1.96MB PDF document). The report was primarily written by James Gwartney and Robert Lawson (of Division of Labour fame), but the most remarkable findings of the report were contributed by Columbia University political scientist Erik Gartzke, who found that economic freedom is an extremely important contributor to promoting peace between nations!

In his analysis, Gartzke compares the impact of both economic freedom and democracy in reducing the probability of violent conflict between nations. The following is an excerpt from the report's Executive Summary (extracted here as a 255KB PDF document) outlining Gartzke's key findings (emphasis mine):

Economic freedom creates a substantial peace dividend.

  • When measures of both economic freedom and democracy are included in a statistical study, economic freedom is about 50 times more effective than democracy in diminishing violent conflict.
  • The impact of economic freedom on whether states fight or have a military dispute is highly significant (at the 1% level) while democracy is not a statistically significant predictor of conflict.
  • Nations with a low score for economic freedom (below 2 out of 10) are 14 times more prone to conflict than states with a high score (over 8).
  • The overall pattern of results does not shift when additional variables, such as membership in the European Union, nuclear capability, and regional factors, are added.

Economic freedom and competitive markets promote peaceful co-existence by altering incentives.

  • Wealth and power are created by markets and the efficient production that arises from them, not by conquest of land or raw materials.
  • Changes in the nature of production in modern capitalist states make conquest unprofitable.
  • Wealth created by market economies through efficient production, unlike wealth derived from land or resources, is difficult for nations to "steal" by violent action since efficient production requires property rights and free decisions by market participants that are difficult or impossible to coordinate to the victor's advantage.
  • Markets provide political leaders with more accurate signals and make it more costly for them to use threats to mislead potential opponents. This improves the effectiveness of bargaining, expands the area of mutual gain, and thereby reduces the likelihood of military conflict.

Perhaps a good question to ask those who claim to be anti-war is whether they support the free-market capitalism that promotes the economic freedom of individuals as a means to achieve peace.

Previously on Political Calculations

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08 September 2005

Hey there, are you looking for statistics? We got your statistics right here, buddy! Just scroll on down for your own personal sample of statistics....

A new government 10 year survey cost $3,000,000,000 revealed that 3/4 of the people in America make up 75% of the population.

According to recent surveys, 51% of the people are in the majority.

Did you know that 87.166253% of all statistics claim a precision of results that is not justified by the method employed?

80% of all statistics quoted to prove a point are made up on the spot.

According to a recent survey, 33 of the people say they participate in surveys.

Q: What do you call a statistician on drugs?
A: A high flyer.

Q: How many statisticians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: 1-3, alpha = .05

There is no truth to the allegation that statisticians are mean. They are just your standard normal deviates.

Q: Did you hear about the statistician who invented a device to measure the weight of trees?
A: It's referred to as the log scale.

Q: Did you hear about the statistician who took the Dale Carnegie course?
A: He improved his confidence from .95 to .99.

Q: Why don't statisticians like to model new clothes?
A: Lack of fit.

Q: Did you hear about the statistician who was thrown in jail?
A: He now has zero degrees of freedom.

Statisticians must stay away from children's toys because they regress so easily.

The only time a pie chart is appropriate is at a baker's convention.

Never show a bar chart at an AA meeting.

Old statisticians never die, they just undergo a transformation.

Q: How do you tell one bathroom full of statisticians from another?
A: Check the p-value.

Q: Did you hear about the statistician who made a career change and became an surgeon specializing in ob/gyn?
A: His specialty was histerectograms.

The most important statistic for car manufacturers is autocorrelation.

Some statisticians don't drink because they are t-test totalers. Others drink the hard stuff as evidenced by the proliferation of box-and-whiskey plots.

Underwater ship builders are concerned with sub-optimization.

The Lipton Company is big on statistics--especially t-tests.

07 September 2005

This week's Carnival of the Capitalists is hosted at RethinkIP, and it's pretty rough reading as it was written by intellectual property (IP) lawyers. My guess is that the lawyers specialize in electronics or computing-related IP, since the noise-to-signal ratio is pretty high. For the sake of cutting through that noise, here are the best posts of the week:

Hurricane Katrina

First and foremost, support the Katrina relief efforts. N.Z. Bear's list of charitable organizations supported by the blogging community provides more than ample opportunities to direct relief to those who need it. After you've made financial contributions, be sure to follow up by giving blood too! Political Calculations is spearheading the blogosphere's blood drive. Find a blood drive in your area or organize a drive yourself, make an appointment to donate your blood, and make plans to do it again in 2 months!

Dawn of Frugal for Life wants charitable donations to get to the people who need them, and has hoisted the warning flags for how to avoid con artists pushing phony charities.

David Tufte of voluntaryXchange goes out on a limb in his thought-provoking proposal for how to rebuild New Orleans.


Financial Methods finds that the probability of a recession occuring is now 20% - largely a result of the flattening the yield curve and increaseing energy costs.


Conference Calls Unlimited provides a list of the 10 Things Smart Startups Know.

Best Post of the Week

David St. Lawrence of Ripples... looks at the Winners, losers, and victims in the third part of his series on Playing a better game of life. His key observation is that "success takes a LOT of work and a very small amount of luck."

Not long ago, EU Rota's Gea3 posed an interesting question that specifically applies to economist Paul Krugman, who writes a regular column for the New York Times:

Why does a person who writes excellent books on the subject of economics feel so compelled to distort reality in his columns for the NYT?

Without focusing on the nature of the distortions of reality that frequently populate his columns in the New York Times, the answer to the question may lie in Krugman's so-far successful practical application of economic theory - in this case, Krugman's apparent pursuit of Profit Maximization. Under this theory, Krugman is exploiting weaknesses in the New York Times' editorial practices that allow the newspaper's columnists to have their work published without any real fact-checking on the part of the newspaper's editors and management of any kind. As a result, Krugman is able to minimize the amount of labor he must expend in producing his column while collecting a regular paycheck.

That the New York Times does not monitor the factual accuracy of its columnists is confirmed by New York Times Vice President of Corporate Communications Catherine Mathis, who notes that the New York Times' columnists themselves are responsible for their own fact-checking. (HT: Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid.) Given that checking the facts that appear in his columns would increase the amount of labor he would have to expend in writing them, Krugman instead appears to maximize his income from the New York Times by omitting this basic form of quality control from his writing process for the newspaper.

Since the New York Times does not seem to require a high standard for quality in its op-ed pages, at least as measured by factual accuracy, Krugman appears to have simply tailored his workload to meet the minimum requirement - a rare example of an economist who actually economizes! Then again, it might simply be a form of rent-seeking, an alternative theory that is supported by reports of Krugman's previous episodes in dealing with substantive criticism (free, registration required) related to the factual accuracy of his columns.

By contrast, when Krugman publishes a book, the editors of the publishing company must thoroughly review the text to ensure that the facts presented within the book are correct or risk failure in the marketplace. As a result, Krugman must expend a greater amount of labor to produce his work, as a higher standard of quality is required. This higher level of required labor also partially explains why Krugman doesn't write more books, as he is able to produce comparatively more columns for the New York Times with substantially less labor.

Not to beat up the New York Times any more, but recurring problems in product quality are ALWAYS the result of how a production system is organized and operated. At a minimum, a true quality control system must provide for preventing problems from occurring in the first place as well as for detecting and correcting problems when they do occur. That the newspaper's content quality continues to be an ongoing issue is itself more of a question of the commitment on the part of the organization's management to produce a high-quality, factually-accurate product in the first place.

Then again, maybe we should just take a poll to get to the bottom of the matter! Pick what you believe to be the best explanation for Paul Krugman's frequent mistatements of fact below. The answers have been selected from those most frequently offered by others, and range from the unlikely (incompetence) to those reasons suggested above. If you don't believe any one of these options truly fit the bill, there's even a choice for you (other, not listed):

Free polls from Pollhost.com
What explains Paul Krugman's frequent mistatements of fact?
Profit Maximization
Rent Seeking
Insufficient Quality Control
Political Hackery
Other, Not Listed

The poll will be open over through the weekend, with results posted here early next week!

06 September 2005

Economically speaking, of all the ways to transport people between cities, rail is perhaps the stupidest. Nowhere else do we see the confluence of extraordinarily high infrastructure costs (land, construction, equipment, facilities, etc.) and extraordinarily high operating costs (labor, maintenance, fuel, utilities, overhead, etc.) combine with extraordinarily low demand by commuters to produce such little tangible benefit.

That's why the recent report by the Associated Press' Catherine Tsai of plans by a Denver group seeking to build a high-speed commuter rail line from Wyoming to New Mexico should light up big, bright, neon, flashing "WARNING" signs to responsible public officials who would be asked to contribute tax money to support the boondoggle.

Route from Cheyenne, WY to Albuquerque, NM The group, Front Range Commuter Rail, led by former Colorado state representative Bob Briggs is advocating connecting the cities of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Denver, Colorado and Albuquerque, New Mexico with high-speed passenger rail service. Trains would travel over a 602 mile long route at speeds of 110 miles per hour in the group's plan.

The plan is being pushed forward to exploit the perceived good graces of Denver-area voters who voted last November to expand rail service in Denver's metropolitan area. The plan also has the support of Cheyenne LEADS, a private corporation that supports economic development in that city.

Tsai's report notes that the group has gained support from several members of Colorado's delegation to the U.S. Congress (links added):

Briggs said Sen. Ken Salazar and Rep. Mark Udall, both D-Colo., and Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., all have voiced support for the line.

This political support is necessary for the advancement of the project, since the rail lines that the group would seek to convert from freight to high-speed rail service would need to be designated as a high-speed rail corridor in order to obtain federal funding for the project. Initially, the funding would be used to conduct a study of the feasibility of the project, and later the conversion of the line from freight to high-speed passenger rail service.

The conversion of the existing freight rail lines to high-speed rail lines would be expensive, costing roughly $3 to $4 million dollars per mile. Assuming that all 602 miles of rail line would need to be converted puts the minimum cost of just installing the high-speed rail tracks at $1.8 to $2.4 billion dollars.

Tsai summarizes the group's goals for ridership:

The grand plan is to have a line offering one trip per hour, 18 hours a day, carrying 3.5 million to 4 million people a year, Briggs said.

Using these numbers, assuming 260 working days per year and 18 trips per day, Briggs is counting on moving an average 13,462 and 15,385 people per day, or between 748 to 855 people per trip.

By contrast, Amtrak presently carries roughly 64,000 passengers a day over its entire nationwide system. Chris Suellentrop of Slate provides additional numbers for comparison:

Amtrak carries about 64,000 passengers a day. That compares to 1.8 million passengers daily for domestic airlines and 984,000 passengers daily for intercity buses. That's right, more than 15 times as many Americans use intercity buses than use Amtrak. And those are just the mass-transit options for intercity travel. More people drive between cities than take a plane.

Unless the group is prepared to remove Interstate 25 from the western landscape, it's highly unlikely it would ever see anything close to these figures. Anyone with any opportunity to vote against this boondoggle should do so, especially in light of greater, real needs following Hurricane Katrina.

Previous Rail-Related Posts at Political Calculations

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04 September 2005

This post is being bumped up to provide current information related to the need to ensure an adequate blood supply following the Hurricane Katrina disaster in the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida throughout the Labor Day weekend. Please scroll down for the latest updates and non-relief related posts.

Update 09-04-2005: The Union Recorder of Milledgeville, Georgia carries an Associated Press article from Atlanta that underscores the urgency for donating blood as part of the relief effort for Hurricane Katrina:

  • The blood supply in the Southern region is at critically low levels for most blood types, especially types O and B. All O and B donors are urged to give blood immediately so that patients can receive life-saving transfusions.
  • Because of the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina and the suspension of blood drives in many areas, the blood and platelet supply has suffered an increasingly negative impact by the storm and is in need of replenishment.

How You Can Give Blood or Organize a Blood Drive

You can find information online for blood drives already organized in your community at the American Red Cross' Give Life web site.

Information on organizing a blood drive in your community or at your workplace may be found in Political Calculations' original post below the updates.

Update 2 09-04-2005: President Bush has called for Americans to donate blood to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, in addition to contributing money and time in volunteering to help the relief efforts.

Update 3 09-04-2005: The people of Huntsville, Alabama have significantly stepped up blood donations at regular blood donation centers following the hurricane.

Update 4 09-04-2005: Governor Matt Blunt of Missouri is leading by example in organizing a blood drive on Wednesday, Septemeber 7 at that state's governor's mansion.

Update 09-02-2005: The Opelousas Daily World has confirmed an immediate need for blood donations (emphasis mine) as part of the ongoing hurricane relief efforts (Opelousas is west of Baton Rouge, and is taking in people displaced by the disaster):

One of the most immediate and critical needs is for blood.

LifeShare Blood Centers is asking all eligible blood donors to, literally, roll up your sleeves and help out. Louisiana's blood supply was already dangerously low at the beginning of the weekend, and the hurricane has enormously multiplied the already critical situation.

The upcoming Labor Day weekend means also that donations outside of the area will be limited and demand will go up.

Patients in south Louisiana hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities are being moved from one place to another and the limited blood supply has had a hard time keeping up with them. The New Orleans Blood Center and South Mississippi Blood Services have lost supplies, donations, and donors. It will be weeks, if not months, before they are back in full operation.

New patients hurt by the storm are adding to the burden.

The American Red Cross has asked for blood donors to donate their blood now to ensure an adequate blood supply. All types are needed, especially type O and all Rh negative blood types.

Find Where You Can Donate Blood

You can find information online for blood drives already organized in your community at the American Red Cross' Give Life web site.

Information on organizing a blood drive in your community or at your workplace may be found in Political Calculations' original post below.

The impact of low blood supplies will be felt nationally. Even if your community is located far outside the area directly impacted by Hurricane Katrina, its supply of blood may be affected as supplies are shifted to where its demand is greatest. Donate blood today!

Update 2 (09-02-05): The San Francisco Chronicle has confirmed that the Bay Area may face shortages in its blood supply since 10% of its supply is provided by nine blood banks in the Gulf Coast region. People in the San Francisco Bay area may schedule an appointment by calling (888) 393-4483, or can get more information for set up a blood drive, by visiting www.bloodcenters.org.

Original Post (08-31-05 6:00 PM)

U.S. Blood Supply In any recovery effort following a major catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina, one of the immediate impulses of the public in responding to the crisis is to focus on meeting the immediate needs of providing food, shelter and clothing to the people who have been displaced by the devastation left behind.

Less obvious, but just as essential are long term needs like ensuring an adequate supply of blood, which I suspect will come to be in short supply across the U.S. over the next several weeks as stockpiles are drawn down to replace those lost in the devastated regions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. This shortage will impact communities across the U.S. who will have to restock their supplies.

The best way to deal with an expected blood supply shortage several weeks from now is to take steps to resupply the nation's blood banks now. The American Red Cross has information on how you can help organize a blood drive in your community:

The first step, of course, is to contact your local American Red Cross Blood Services region by calling 1-800-GIVELIFE (1-800-448-3543). When you call, you will be put in touch with a blood drive representative, who will contact you without delay to discuss your blood drive opportunity.

Your Red Cross representative will want to learn more about your group or organization, its size, and where, when and how often you are together, and how you communicate with each other. You may be asked to answer some additional questions to ensure your group meets certain minimum requirements.

Then you'll begin planning your actual blood drive. Together with your representative, you'll establish a mutual goal for your drive, based on the size of your group, and how many people you think will participate. You'll secure a date and time for the drive, and you'll select an appropriate site.

Successful blood drives are a true partnership between the host or sponsoring organization, the donors, and the American Red Cross.

Source: American Red Cross

Find a Blood Drive Near You

Information on blood drives already organized in your community where you may donate blood is available at the American Red Cross' Give Life web site.

Other Blog Links for Relief Support Efforts


About Political Calculations

Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

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