Why I don’t eat at Chick-fil-A

This would be one good reason.

Chicken sandwich giant Chick-fil-A has come under fire over the past week for sponsoring anti-gay marriage seminars. The New York Times reports a local restaurant in Pennsylvania donated some lunch baskets to a program called “The Art of Marriage” in Harrisburg, Pa. The seminar is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a conservative Christian group which sponsors programs and promotes policies regarding Christian values such as right to life and anti-gay marriage.

Yeah, one good reason is the blatant promotion of irrational hatred. Or just the fact that I generally avoid fast food because it’s unhealthy. Or it could simply be that the chain isn’t common to my area. But I think there’s one reason that stands heads and shoulders above all this – above the endorsement of bigotry, above the unhealthy nature of fast food, above the sheer distance:

Chick-fil-A just tastes like shit.

The cost of tough-on-crime horseshit

It’s steep.

When Harry Coates campaigned for the Oklahoma state Senate in 2002, he had one approach to crime: “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key.”

Now, Coates is looking for that key. He and other tough-on-crime lawmakers across the country, faced with steep budget shortfalls, are searching anxiously for ways to let inmates out of prison faster and keep more offenders on the street.

Oklahoma’s preferred answer for crime has collided head-on with a budget deficit estimated at $600 million, and prison costs that have increased more than 30 percent in the last decade.

And this is common all across the country. As a result, prisoners are being released early, others are only being put on probation, and still others are receiving treatment for drug addiction. This is helping the problem somewhat. No, no. Not the money. I mean, yes, that is being helped, but the real problem – the one where non-violent offenders go to prison to lose years of their lives, where they lose any real chance at becoming better, where they go to learn how to be better criminals – that is being helped.

It’s just for all the wrong reasons.

Thought of the day

Thank you, President Obama, for nearly tripling my federal tax return with education credits and the like.

P.S. TurboTax gave me nearly double what TaxSlayer would have given me for my federal return. However, for my state return, TaxSlayer improved my refund by 50% over TurboTax (plus it costs less).

Is Maine the dumbest state in the Union?

It would seem so based upon this map (via Jerry Coyne).

The dubious honor is based upon 2010 SAT scores by state (including Washington D.C.). Maine ranks dead last with a combined mean score of 1389. In contrast, the top performing state, Iowa, has a combined mean score of 1798. In fact, the traditionally dumbest state, Mississippi, comes in at number 18 with a score of 1666. It would seem Maine has really gone down the tubes over the past few years.

Or not.

Maine, as far as I know, is the only state which requires students to take the SATs. Other states may require ACT tests, though I’m not sure. However, many other states do trend towards those tests as an alternative to the SATs. As a result, Iowa’s participation rate is a paltry 3% (the same as Mississippi). In fact, 19 of the top 20 states are 10% or under in participation (Colorado, ranked number 13, is at 18%). Maine, by contrast, has a 92% participation rate. (For the remaining 8% I suspect the ACT tests are allowed as an alternative, some students just don’t bother, exceptions are made for certain circumstances, etc, etc; in 2007, the participation rate in the state was 100%.) The result is that over 15,000 Maine students took the test whether they cared or not; Only 1,100 students took it in Iowa – and I bet most of them cared. In fact, take a look at the reports by state. Of the students in Maine taking the test (who responded), 32% were in the highest tenth of their class. In Iowa, it was 64%. In Maine, 24% of the students taking the test made up the bottom three fifths of their class. In Iowa? 4%.

So in short, no, Maine is not the dumbest state. All students in Maine are considered college-bound by these SAT statistics, so that makes state-by-state comparison pointless. Iowa and most of the other states suffer from sample bias. In fact, Massachusetts is the closest state to Maine in participation and still only reaches 86%. Besides, in other various rankings, Maine students consistently rank well above average. By these rankings, the state is 5th overall.

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