Monthly Archives: March 2017

The NPR budget and federal spending – Opinion piece

I wrote this up in response to something someone shared on Facebook (silly, I know) but I was curious to have some facts on what the numbers are. I’m reproducing some of the content from the shared page for context, and because giving them clicks seems counter to my point:

Source: truthfeed.com

Anyway, below is what I wrote about it. Note that I didn’t actually post this on public Facebook, but I did send it to the sharer. Sources provided where relevant, but nothing was too rigorously vetted. BEWARE: opinions and not science below!!

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NPR received 14% of it’s 2015 operating budget from government grants at all levels (only 9% I can verify are from Federal grants) [Fig. 1, http://www.npr.org/about-npr/178660742/public-radio-finances]. The NPR operating budget in FY 2015 was ~198 million [p. 30, http://www.npr.org/about/annualreports/FY15_annualreport.pdf], and so let’s say that conservatively, that no more than 28 million came from the Federal budget. The Federal budget in 2015 was 3.7 trillion; over half (62%) of this is required spending (social security, healthcare, interest on debt), but the remaining budget (1.2 trillion) went to discretionary spending [https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/graphic/51112-discretionaryspending.pdf]. This is where NPR’s budget “lives”; note that NPR actually don’t get federally marked funds, but instead receive Federal funds through grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

28 million out of 1.2 trillion is about 0.0023% of the Federal discretionary budget that went to NPR in 2015. NPR estimates they reach 45 million unique and regular listeners [http://nationalpublicmedia.com/npr/audience/, of course this is hard to verify…] which means that of ~320 million Americans [https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk] about 1 out of every 7 listens to NPR each month. This is at a cost to the Federal government of $0.62 per listener per year, or a burden on the American tax payer (averaged) of ~$0.12 per year (243 million pay taxes [https://www.reference.com/government-politics/many-u-s-taxpayers-d77a9265390f4bdb]).

The Federal discretionary budget sent 582 billion to Defense spending in 2015. That’s just under half of the entire Federal discretionary budget. The number is even larger when you consider defense “related” expenses [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States]. Averaging the same way as above, this means a burden of ~$2,395 on the American tax payer. I obviously recognize that some pay more, many pay less, but I’m just trying to make an argument about disparity in the order of magnitude of these numbers. I won’t go on here, because it’s hard to make an argument about defense spending efficiency with facts because 1) they tend to be obfuscated by the reporting agencies, and 2) the facts are extremely complex and I’m far from an expert.

The Federal agencies that support arts and sciences (e.g., NPR, NEA, NSF, NASA, NIH) make Americans smarter and cost mere pennies on the dollar that is given to other portions of the government operating budget. You can do a similar exercise to what I did above for NPR to any of these organizations and the story is the same. NPR educates and entertains Americans on a wide range of subjects, the NEA provides culture and dignity to cities around the country, the NSF supports cutting edge research in engineering, physics, math, psychology, Earth science, and more at institutions across the country that ultimately leads to technology which improves the lives of every American, NASA does the same and arguably leads the world in space exploration and planetary science, and the NIH funds research on all living things that makes us healthier and happier people every day. I implore you, don’t look to non-profits supporting the arts and sciences in an effort to curb federal spending (which I support by the way), when these organizations are generally efficient by pure necessity, and they provide immense benefits to the millions of individuals that comprise our great Nation.

 

Building a simple delta numerical model: Part V

Now we need to add a routine to update the channel bed, based upon the calculated change in sediment transport over space from the previous step. We’ll use the calculation from the last Part of the tutorial (get_dqsdx) in order to update the channel bed (η) at the end of each timestep. Define the following parameters

phi = 0.6; % bed porosity
If = 0.2; % intermittency factor

where If is an intermittency factor representing the fraction of the year that the river is experiencing significant morphodynamic activity. We are basically assuming that the only major change to the river occurs when the river is in flood. One year is the temporal resolution for the model, which we’ll define in the next Part.

function [eta] = update_eta(eta, dqsdx, phi, If, dtsec)
eta0 = eta;
eta = eta0 - ((1/(1-phi)) .* dqsdx .* (If * dtsec));
end

This module works simply by multiplying our vector for change in sediment transport capacity over space to the Exner equation (reproduced below) to evaluate the change in bed elevation over time (i.e., at the next timestep).

There isn’t really anything exciting to show at this stage, as we’ve only calculated the change in the bed for a given dqsdx vector, which represents only a single timestep. In the next Part, we’ll add a time routine to the model, completing the setup required for the simple delta model.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No.145068 and NSF EAR-1427177. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Manuscript submitted — continental divides

I’ve been out of undergraduate for almost three years now. I’ve finally resubmitted the work I began as an undergraduate at Lehigh with co-author Frank Pazzaglia. We submitted the paper in 2015, but it was ultimately rejected by the editor. While it naturally stung for a while, I think that this was actually a good thing to happen to me, let me explain.

I have spent the past ~1.5 years working with my co-authors to overhaul the manuscript. I’ve largely spent evenings and weekends working on the research, because it isn’t technically my PhD research. It was something of a “hobby” for dorks like me. I had a retrospective moment today and I realized that the manuscript (in my humble opinion) is 100x better than it was when we submitted just over two years ago. The paper is more organized, more quantitative, and more robust in terms of novel results, discussion and implications. I really wish I could just publish it now, but I guess that isn’t really how peer review works…but that’s kind of the point I’m trying to make I think — that is, peer review works. I was frustrated in the moment when my hard work as an undergrad got shot down, but now I see how much better the paper (and by extension me) is because of the rejection.

Anyway, here is a figure from the manuscript that motivates a lot of the paper.

The analysis uses low-pass filtering of topography to isolate the long-wavelength gradients of the landscape. We define a “synthetic” divide along the crest of this long-wavelength topography and explore how offset in the actual (black line above) and synthetic (blue dashed line) correspond with geomorphic, sedimentological, and geodynamic data from two study settings. The above figure shows the North American Rockies region where, curiously, all the major rivers of the region are organized to the long-wavelength topography — said another way, the major rivers all drain radially away from the regional high areas defined by Yellowstone (Y above) and the Colorado Plateau (C above).

This is in fact one of the major results to come out of our research and it has implications for long-term landscape evolution, including continental divide migration, delivery of sediment to margins, and the length scales that control these processes.

Anyway, stay tuned and look for our paper in Basin Research later this year (fingers crossed!).

Andrew J., Moodie, Pazzaglia, Frank J., Berti, Claudio (submitted) Exogenic and autogenic checks on the location and migration of continental divides, Basin Research.