Thursday, February 25, 2010

Modern Mechanix blog

With the promise of "Yesterday's Tomorrows Today", the blog reprints futuristic technology stories that perhaps didn't quite come to pass.

London to Build Mid-City Air Port (Sep, 1931)
Outboard Motor Powers Bicycle (Jun, 1931)
Condon’s New Early Coreless Carrot (Feb, 1937)

Most of these stories were from Modern Mechanix itself, but some were from other publications. The latter piece is actually an advertisement from the pictured magazine.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

School Payrolls Grew in 2008-09

Professional payrolls continued expanding in New York State school districts outside New York City last year, according to data posted today on, the government transparency website sponsored by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

Total spending on teaching and administrative salaries by districts outside New York City increased 5 percent statewide to $14 billion--a $670 million annual increase--in the 2008-09 school year...

The full text of this press release is available here.

Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen -518.434.3100

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Is your Cellphone Trying To Kill You?

Some studies link cell phone use to health risks
* By Greg Crowe, Government Computer News, Feb 19, 2010

Over the last decade, pretty much everyone got a cell phone. And in that time, every couple of years or so, the debate is raised over whether the little buggers are trying to kill us.

Sure, anyone who dodges swerving SUVs during the morning commute knows how dangerous cell-yakking drivers can be. But what we are talking about here is the electromagnetic radiation that our cell phones emit, and whether it has potential to increase certain health risks. A widely-cited 2008 study links cancers of the parotid gland (one of the salivary glands, located right behind the ear somewhere) to cell-phone use.

Education statistic sources

NYS Education Department's information & reporting system is a source of education data , but I've also learned of these older resources:

Data, back to the late-1970s, in ascii and SAS transport formats. The State Archives distributes 1967-1982.

CISER also has Statistical Profiles of Public School Districts for 1990-2006 (Lotus, Excel, comma-delimited formats). Recent years can be downloaded from here as "volume 2" of the 655 report.

Needless to say, there are many, many caveats to consider when dealing with these files.

Monday, February 22, 2010

New York State Constitution

Most of us are familiar with the provisions of the United States Constitution. But who knows what's in the New York State document? Well, HERE IT IS.

Underground Railroad History Conference

The 9th Annual UGR History Conference: Gender, Class, Race and Ethnicity in Abolitionism, on the Underground Railroad, and in the Struggle Since will take place February 26, 27, 28, 2010
Organized by Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, Inc.
Hosted by Russell Sage College, Troy, New York
In Collaboration with Rensselaer County Historical Society

February 26
“The Not So Underground Underground Railroad” Teacher Workshop
Rhonda Y. Williams, Ph.D. – evening guest speaker
“Railroads, Streets and Bridges – Black Women and Freedom Journeys”
February 27
Rosemary Sadlier–Mary Ann Shadd: Publisher, Editor, Teacher, Lawyer,
Workshops, cultural performance, vendors, poster displays

Join with scholars, artists, historians, preservationists, educators,
students, community members and others to explore how the forces of gender,
class, race and ethnicity have influenced the UGR and movements for freedom
that have arisen in its wake.

February 28
2-hour tour of Troy’s UGR and African American heritage sites

A complete listing of pre-conference activities, workshops, speakers,
accommodations, sponsors and directions is available

REGISTER at or 518-432-4432

Previous conferences:
2009 The Underground Railroad, Its Legacies, and Our Communities
2008 The Underground Railroad - How It Worked: Two Centuries of Escape,
Resistance, and the UGR Across the Continent".
2007 Underground Railroad: Uncovering the Voices of Women
2006 The Underground Railroad: Connecting Pathways to Liberty
2005 The Underground Railroad: Discoveries and Emerging stories
2004 The Underground Railroad: Quests for Freedom
2003 The Underground Railroad: Movement And Context
2002 Telling the Untold Story: The Underground Railroad In Albany and the
Surrounding Region

I mention this every year for only three reasons:

1. I've gone to these events in the past and they are always very worthwhile attending.
2. The subject matter, I believe, is important.
3. Mary Liz and Paul Stewart, the organizers of the event, and indeed the co-founders of the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, are good friends of mine.

I have a fourth reason this year: I'm doing one of the workshops on Saturday afternoon. So sign up already!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Over three years ago, I blogged about the efficacy of ClickZ for website user seesion information. But there's so much more to the site: statistics, white papers, news articles, expert columnists. It is, as it claims, "news and expert advice for the digital marketer."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Penalty and Interest Discount tax program

As a reminder, the Penalty and Interest Discount (PAID) program gives taxpayers with older unpaid bills the chance to save up to 80% of the penalty and interest they owe.

One can save:
- 80% of accrued penalty and interest on unpaid bills issued on or before December 31, 2003
- 50% of accrued penalty and interest on unpaid bills issued after December 31, 2003 and on or before December 31, 2006.

To take advantage of the program's savings, you must make all payments by March 15, 2010. If you don't pay in full by that date:
- your opportunity for these savings will be lost forever
- any unpaid tax debts will continue to accrue interest at the full statutory rate.

Invitations to taxpayers eligible for PAID were sent in January. Eligible taxpayers who didn't receive a notice because they couldn't be reached through the mail can still participate. See the Web site to learn how to get PAID up.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Western New York Legacy Web Site Gets a Facelift!

The Western New York Library Resources Council (WNYLRC) is pleased to announce a makeover of the Western New York Legacy (WNYLegacy) web site, WNYLegacy is freely available online, and contains thousands of digital images, documents, letters, maps, books, slides, and other items reflecting the rich cultural heritage of Western New York. The new site has been redesigned to include a new color scheme, a slideshow on the home page, improved searching capability, and an option to create a search box on your own web site.

Two collections are currently featured on the WNYLegacy home page: the Love Canal Collection from the University at Buffalo Libraries and the Bentley Snow Crystal Collection from the Buffalo Museum of Science. Visit today for access to these collections and much more from libraries and historical agencies in Western New York.

WNYLegacy is a project managed by WNYLRC in partnership with member libraries and institutions throughout the region. WNYLegacy also partners with and contributes to New York Heritage,, an online site with access to digital collections from all over New York State.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

CRS — Constitutionality of Excluding Aliens from the Census

In the 2010 decennial census, the Census Bureau will attempt to count the total population of the United States. This includes, as in previous censuses, all U.S. citizens, lawfully present aliens, and unauthorized aliens. Some have suggested excluding aliens, particularly those who are in the country unlawfully, from the census count, in part so that they would not be included in the data used to apportion House seats among the states and determine voting districts within them.

One question raised by this idea is whether the exclusion of aliens could be done by amending the federal census statutes, or whether such action would require an amendment to the Constitution. The Constitution requires a decennial census to determine the “actual enumeration” of the “whole number of persons” in the United States. The data must be used to apportion the House seats among the states, although there is no constitutional requirement it be used to determine intrastate districts. It appears the term “whole number of persons” is broad enough to include all individuals, regardless of citizenship status, and thus would appear to require the entire population be included in the apportionment calculation. As such, it appears a constitutional amendment would be necessary to exclude any individuals from the census count for the purpose of apportioning House seats.

From time to time, Congress has considered legislation that would exclude all aliens or only unauthorized aliens from being included in the census to apportion House seats among the states. Such legislation would have either amended the Census Clause of the Constitution or enacted or amended federal census statutes. In the 111th Congress, legislation has been introduced that uses both approaches. The Fairness in Representation Act would statutorily exclude aliens from the population count for apportionment purposes (H.R. 3797 and S. 1688). Under the above analysis, it would not appear to be constitutionally sufficient for Congress to amend the federal census statutes in such manner. Meanwhile, H.J.Res. 111 would take the other approach and amend the Constitution so that only U.S. citizens would be counted in the apportionment calculation.

Other legislation in the 111th Congress would not raise the same constitutional issues since they would not appear to require the exclusion of any individuals for apportionment purposes. An amendment introduced by Senator Vitter to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (S.Amdt. 2635 to H.R. 2847), would have cut off funding for the census unless the census form included questions regarding citizenship and immigration status. The amendment was subsequently ruled to be non-germane. On the other side of the issue, the Every Person Counts Act (H.R. 3855) would prohibit the Census Bureau from asking about U.S. citizenship or immigration status.

Constitutionality of Excluding Aliens from the Census for Apportionment and Redistricting Purposes (PDF)

Census Bureau Obscured Personal Data

Too Well, Some Say - Wall Street Journal

A study has found the agency went too far hiding individual identities, introducing errors that might lead economists and demographers astray. By relying on the microdata, researchers would have found, for example, evidence of a steep drop-off in marriage rates for women at age 65, or of a big rise in the proportion of women in their early 70s who are working—both false conclusions.

The anomalies highlight how vulnerable research is to potential problems with underlying numbers supplied by other sources, even when the source is the government. And they illustrate how tricky it can be to balance privacy with accuracy.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Redistricting process

Speakers at a Feb. 9 forum at the Rockefeller Institute addressed how a shift in New York toward more Democrats and more Downstate residents is likely to play out in the redistricting process that will follow this year's census. Critics charge the process has been unfairly driven by incumbent politicians' interests in holding on to power. The forum — Redistricting Reform: Visions for the Future in New York State — was co-sponsored by the Institute and the League of Women Voters of New York State in honor of the League's 90th anniversary.
A summary, audio and videos of the event are now available on the Institute's Web site.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Census Bureau’s Balancing Act

By Carl Bialik
Wall Street Journal (February 5, 2010)

My print column this week examines a quirk in U.S. Census Bureau data that may have led to research errors. A National Bureau of Economic Research working paper this week demonstrated that so-called microdata - a subset of all Census responses, released to researchers who want to dig deeper into demographic trends - for several surveys contained flaws.

"This whole issue arose from our attempts to preserve privacy," said Robert M. Groves, director of the Census Bureau. The agency takes several steps to scrub microdata of any information that might reveal the identity of a census respondent. These steps include changing responses slightly. "People who have a really rare combination of attributes have a higher likelihood of being disclosed," Groves said. "Part of disclosure-risk analysis looks at those rare combinations. Our pledge to that person is that no matter what we do, ever, there is no way that person can be reidentified."

The trick is making these changes without creating faulty or misleading data, and statisticians are still working out how to accomplish this.

More HERE.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Decline and Fall of the Nation's Peak Earners

In the American Consumers Newsletter for February 11, 2010, Elizabeth Warren notes that the decline of the American middle class predated the recent recession:

Household income is down. Household income follows a trajectory, starting low among young adults, rising as people gain experience in their career, peaking in the 45-to-54 age group, then falling as people begin to retire. Householders aged 45 to 54 are still the nation's peak earners, but they stand atop a much smaller hill than they once did. Here is the thirty-year trend in the median income of householders aged 45 to 54 (in 2008 dollars):

Median Income, Householders Aged 45 to 54
2008 $64,349
1998 $71,429
1988 $66,830
1978 $64,152

That's right. The median household income of today's peak earners is only $197 more than the median income of the same age group in 1978. Their median income is $2,481 less than the income of the same age group in 1988. It is $7,080 less than the median income of the same age group in 1998. The stagnation and decline of the household incomes of peak earners has occurred despite growing numbers of working women. In 1978, only 57 percent of women aged 45 to 54 were in the labor force. Today, 76 percent are working.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Conducting the 2010 Census

On Jan. 21, 2010, the Pew Research Center hosted a conversation about the 2010 Decennial Census with Director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census Robert Groves and a panel of experts. Groves discussed the operational flow of the 2010 Census, design features intended to increase participation, the department's communications campaign, real-time monitoring/management, and evaluation of the quality of the census. The session was jointly sponsored by the center, the Washington chapter of the American Association of Public Opinion Research and the Washington Statistical Society.

Moderator: Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research, Pew Research Center

ROBERT GRAVES: On our staff throughout the country now, we have people who speak 124 different languages. In the L.A. school system the kids speak 127 languages. And what is New York City, Joe?

JOSEPH SALVO: We've maxed out the list. We use 175 now.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Census 2010 Super Bowl Ad

In case anyone missed it. It is the second in a series of Census ads directed by Christopher Guest, who has directed several movies I have enjoyed, including Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind.

Yet, I'm inclined to agree with one of my colleagues who said that the SB ad was "confusing, and when they ask in the end something to the effect of 'When are we counting everyone?' and they answer is left sort of out there unanswered. I know it is a spoof, but it sort of confuses the average person about what IS going on with the Census..." Maybe it beccomes clearer in the next bits.

I went to the Wall Street Journal's online poll re Super Bowl ads . It's unofficial, but telling. There were 53 ads on the program. As of yesterday at noon, the Census ad ranked 40th in the Best Ad category, and 3rd in the Worst Ad category. (Oddly, the Audi 'Green' ad was #1 in both lists.)

Other thoughts?

Monday, February 8, 2010

National Survey of Adults on Love, Relationships, Romance

Despite the stereotype that being in love is for the young, a majority of Americans across all ages say that they are currently at least somewhat in love, according to this study, which was conducted to help inform an article in the January/February 2010 issue of AARP The Magazine.

Key findings revealed:

* Overall, 73% of respondents 18 and older say that they are at least somewhat in love and 31% say that they are passionately in love. Over two-thirds of respondents age 50-64 (68%) say they are in love.
* Three-quarters of respondents say they have encountered the love of their life, and men are more likely than women to say that they have encountered the love of their life several times. Only 3% say that they do not believe in true love.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

U.S. is less free than 45 other countries

According to the 2010 Quality of Living Index published by the U.S. is less free than Lithuania, Hungary, Malta and 42 other countries.

Out of a possible 100 points, the U.S. gets a score of 92.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hunger in America 2010

Hunger in America 2010 is the largest study of domestic hunger, providing comprehensive and statistically-valid data on our emergency food distribution system and the people Feeding America serves. Hunger in America 2010 is extremely detailed, drawing on data from more than 61,000 interviews with clients and surveys of 37,000 feeding agencies.

The report shows that hunger is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Unfair credit card industry practices continue

Credit card companies are busy crafting new tricks and traps to bypass both Federal Reserve Board rules and new federal law set to take full effect in late February 2010, a new research report from the Center for Responsible Lending finds. Entitled “Dodging Reform: As Some Credit Card Abuses Are Outlawed, New Ones Proliferate,” the report explains why the nation’s 80 million families with one or more credit cards continue to be hit with arbitrary, unfair interest rate hikes and fees.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Legislative Spending Posted on Internet

Office expenditures of individual state Senators and Assembly members for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009 have been posted in a searchable format on the Empire Center's government transparency web site,
The full text of this press release is available here.

Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

America’s 75 Worst Commutes: Highways to Hell.

They are the highways to hell in the country’s most gridlocked cities. The Daily Beast crunches the numbers to determine your ultimate morning nightmares. How did your commute rank?

Our first step was ranking the metropolitan areas with the worst rush-hour congestion. The order is based on the peak hour Travel Time Index (TTI) for the metropolitan area each highway is in. TTI is a measure of how much longer it takes to complete a road journey during peak congestion hours compared to free-flow hours. (Peak hours are defined as 6 a.m. to 10a.m., and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) Speeds during non-peak hours are used by INRIX to establish this free-flow baseline.

After determining the 75 worst metro areas, we then found the worst highway in each, defined as the most hours of bottleneck congestion, as reported by INRIX. The rankings then provide a still deeper look—at the most congested bottleneck segment for the worst highway in each area.

Three "winners" are from New York State.

FY2011 Statistical Agency Budget Proposals

Today, the Obama Administration releases its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2011. Overall, statistical agencies fared well in this time of budget tightening. A summary by agency is available in the budget’s Strengthening Federal Statistics chapter.

Below are proposed budget figures for statistical agencies.

Census Bureau – The proposed Census Bureau budget is $1.3 billion, down from $7.4 billion appropriated for FY2010. Highlights are the production of 2010 Census data products and preparation for the 2012 Economic Census. In addition, funds are requested to increase the ACS sample size to 2.5 percent of households annually, create supplementary measures of poverty, and expand capability to analyze administrative records.
Bureau of Labor Statistics – the proposed BLS budget is $646 million, up from $611 million appropriated in FY2010.
Bureau of Economic Analysis – the proposed BEA budget is $109 million, up from $94 million.
National Center for Health Statistics – the proposed NCHS budget is $162 million, up from $139 million.
Energy Information Administration – the proposed EIA budget is $129 million, up from $111 million.
Economic Research Service – the proposed ERS budget is $87 million, up from $82 million.
Policy Development and Research, HUD -- HUD’s request for basic data infrastructure is $55 million, $7 million more than the fiscal year 2010 appropriated level of $48 million. (Technically, HUD is not a principal federal statistical agency.)
Bureau of Transportation Statistics – the proposed BTS budget is $30 million, up from $28 million.
Science Resources Statistics Division, NSF – the proposed SRS budget is $37 million, up from $35 million.
Statistics of Income, IRS – the proposed SOI budget is $44 million, up from $43 million.
National Agricultural Statistics Service – the proposed NASS budget is $165 million, up from $162 million.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Race, Hispanic Origin of Foreign-Born Population in US: 2007

This report from American Community Survey data describes the race and Hispanic-origin composition of the foreign-born population in 2007 and compares it with that of the total and native-born populations. It shows the foreign-born have a pattern of race and Hispanic-origin reporting that is markedly different from the native population.