Journalism =/= Mathematics

As a math major, law school grad, and economic policy wonk, I’m not sure which aspect of this stupidity by the New York Times horrifies me most. Is it: that people think we do tax at those rates, that some people think we should, that no editor caught the logical flaws before publication, or that this kind of thing happens all the time in other circumstances and goes undetected more often than not?

The Greatest Threat Facing Our Country

The single greatest threat facing the United States is probably not what you think. In the Cold War, the greatest threat was that of an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Most people today would probably say the risk is a terrorist attack involving WMDs. In our worst nightmares, we tend to picture a CNN news flash, a mushroom cloud over a major city, and maybe a million dead Americans. In fact, as great as that threat is, it is nothing compared to what a single (yes, one) nuclear weapon in the upper atmosphere could do. A high-altitude nuclear detonation over the United States has the potential to create a continent-wide electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. This would knock out power, phone, and other utilities, take out a number of nearby satellites, and cripple nearly everything with an electric circuit… permanently. No phone, no internet, no television, no lights, no cars, no credit card readers, no gas pumps, no stock market, no banking: a pre-electronic world. Experts say this kind of attack would effectively return most or all of a technology-driven country like the United States to the nineteenth century in an instant. While relatively few people would die in the moments after such an attack, the death toll from starvation, dehydration, lack of medical services, and fire over the following months would make disasters like Katrina, the 2004 tsunami, and the recent Chinese earthquake look mild.

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New Car

Sarah and I spent the last three days looking for and buying her a car (we only had the MINI, and she clearly needed something either now or soon after we start work). She was amazing: she had already done a simply incredible amount of market research to figure out which vehicles offered the features she wanted, what their safety and reliability ratings were, and at what prices. While we have slightly different priorities in vehicles, she really had looked at all the angles.

So, after three intense days of comparison-shopping vehicles and rates, a bunch of test drives, and significant wheeling and dealing with dealers all over the Houston/Galveston area, we made our decision. Last night, we drove home with a brand-new 2008 Toyota Highlander configured just the way we wanted it, for $138 under invoice. It’s Sarah’s car, but wow… I’m a little jealous. I think I’ll park the MINI in the back and go for a spin.