Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Birds

The real-life incident that inspired Hitchcock's "The Birds" has been identified.  That's one of the spookiest movies I ever saw as a kid.

BP Oil Spill Prosecutions

Criminal charges are being prepared for the BP Oil Spill.  About time, I say.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Time for a new calendar

How would it be to use a permanently stable calendar in which holidays always fall on the same day of the week year after year?  Months would be uniform in length making financial periods truly equal in length.  (In order for our computer programs to run the same each month, my company closes it's periods on the 27th.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

AREVA PAC

I participate in the AREVA political action committee to encourage better energy resources in the US.  As a part of their policy the PAC offers to make a charitable contribution on a member’s behalf to a charity of his or her choice.  That is, unless the charity is to Planned Parenthood.  Women’s reproductive health is just too controversial for AREVA to write a check to them.  Sad.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hungary Slides Towards the Dark Side

Democracy and a constitutional government is no guarantee that things can't turn very, very bad.  Hungary is being taken over from the inside.

ACA is working

In case you haven't heard about it lately, it should be noted that the the Affordable Care Act is working.  Jobs are being created.  More people are insured.  Small businesses are benefiting from tax breaks.  And much of the law is not even in effect yet. 

One should also note that if Republicans repeal the law, all that good progress will simply disappear.

Occupy the Next Step

If OWS is going to be anything other than a footnote in the news cycle, it needs to mature into well-organized movement.  It requires translating all that fire into the energy to do the grunt-work of building an organization that works the media, puts affiliated officials into office, and builds a reputation for putting words into actions.

Don't Tax the Rich

Here's an interesting idea.  Don't just increase taxes on the rich, tax inequality itself.  If the goal is to bring the bottom up, index the tax rate on how big the spread is.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The downside of unemployment benefits

While it is technically true that unemployment benefits increase unemployment, the effect is so small that it is essentially negligible.  Watch out for those disingenuous folks that use this as an argument for ending unemployment payouts.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cool Heads Save Lives

You are in a rowboat hundreds of miles from land when it is capsized by a freak wave.  Read how determination and calm thinking brought about the rescue.  [By a cruise ship which happened to have Dr. Ruth on board, no less.]

Archbishop issues "marriage prayer" for Catholics

With the marriage prayer, a Minnesota archbishop pronounces the church's stance on institutionalized inequality of homosexuals.  So when does the Catholic church lose its tax-exempt status?

OWS Has Wonks

Not everyone who support Occupy Wall Street are outsiders to the world of finance.  Here's a story about OWS financial insiders.

G.O.P. Monetary Madness

Krugman destroys Ron Paul's economic fantasy.

SC Gov. Haley's Corrupt Tactics

In order to keep the people of her state from enjoying the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, Haley spends $1 million to pretend to study setting up a state exchange.  But all along she made sure what the results of the study were going to be.  We don't need no stinkin' data.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bringing the Banks to Heel

The economic situation is really, really bad.  But students of the Great Depression say we can get out of it if we have the courage to do so.

...the economy will not bounce back on its own, at least not in a time frame that matters to ordinary people. Yes, all those foreclosed homes will eventually find someone to live in them, or be torn down. Prices will at some point stabilize and even start to rise. Americans will also adjust to a lower standard of living—not just living within their means but living beneath their means as they struggle to pay off a mountain of debt. But the damage will be enormous. America’s conception of itself as a land of opportunity is already badly eroded. Unemployed young people are alienated. It will be harder and harder to get some large proportion of them onto a productive track. They will be scarred for life by what is happening today. Drive through the industrial river valleys of the Midwest or the small towns of the Plains or the factory hubs of the South, and you will see a picture of irreversible decay.
...
What we need to do instead is embark on a massive investment program—as we did, virtually by accident, 80 years ago—that will increase our productivity for years to come, and will also increase employment now. This public investment, and the resultant restoration in G.D.P., increases the returns to private investment. Public investments could be directed at improving the quality of life and real productivity—unlike the private-sector investments in financial innovations, which turned out to be more akin to financial weapons of mass destruction.






Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stalinist Era?

When Lindsey Graham invokes Stalin, you can be sure that the thing he is criticizing is genuinely worthwhile.  You see, he really, really wants the financial folks to be able to rip off the American consumers with impunity.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Politics Has Doomed Us

This is why we will be in recession for a long time.
"Basically we're still stuck in the situation we were three years ago and we haven't made any progress at all except that our problems are much worse because of political reasons, because we now have a crazy party in charge of one of the Houses of our Congress and they won't allow anything to happen because it's in their vested interest to make things worse," Bruce Bartlett
By the same token, this may be what it takes to get a better Congress elected.

Welfare States and Deficits

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the fact is that the welfare states run smaller deficits than the more lassiez-faire U.S. 

Job Destroyers

The rich get richer by destroying jobs, not making them.  The more wealth that has to spread to employees, the less there is for the people at the top.  On the other hand, the more a company can automate and have high productivity per employee, the more wealth there is available for the few who are still working.  This is product of free-market capitalism.  Without an opposing force, it leads to the destruction of community and society so that the few at the top have all the goods.

Government Jobs Could Fix Unemployment

The critics of FDR say that the New Deal jobs program didn't do much to get us out of the Great Depression.  They say that it took World War II to get the economy back on its feet.  This is the actually a huge vindication of Keynesian economics.  WWII was a massive governmental job creation program that could not have been conceived unless it were forced upon us. The lesson we can take from that is that huge government stimulus can and does work.  Is it time for the economic equivalent of WWIII?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

EPA Implicates Fracking

In a recent finding, the EPA points the finger at fracking as the cause of groundwater contamination in Wyoming.  Not only is increased use of natural gas problemmatic from a CO2 and climate change standpoint, the recent "improvements" in the methods of extraction need appropriate regulation to protect public health.

Hedy Lamarr and Wi-Fi

Here are more details on how WiFi depends on an idea by Hedy Lamarr.

Solar power in the models

When the energy models run the numbers for solar power, they misstate the current level of the technology.  Today, solar power is much more efficient and productive than it was when the mathematical models were first established.  It may be reaching a "tipping point".

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Monday, December 05, 2011

Trickle-down myth is busted

A report from the OECD makes it clear that the trickle-down theory of economic growth is just a theory and a bad one at that. It just doesn't happen in reality. Even in places like Sweden and Denmark, the rich are tending to get richer while the middle class doesn't.

Mortgage Fraud 'Systemic'

A Countrywide Mortgage whistleblower talks about all the fraud that enabled the mortgage meltdown to occur. There are reasons a bank should take proper deliberation when supplying a loan.  Robo-signing without proper documentation is just another way of swindling.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Polite Bribe

Robert Orlando talks about a new view on the life of Paul, the Apostle. His vision of the Christian movement differed greatly from the leaders in Jerusalem. It's surprising the Church survived the winds of history. The central authority disappeared with the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattered congregations were fractious at best.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Jack Abramoff's Road To Redemption

Jack Abramoff's message is one the country needs to hear.  He knows from the inside how moneyed interests have corrupted the public trust.

We Can't Wait

In these depressed times it's a good thing when the government spends money to reduce future costs.  The economy needs the stimulus and the energy upgrades to the buildings will be money well spent.

Smaller government isn’t always cheaper

When you cut the staff that monitors the contracts, government spending goes up. I wouldn't be surprised that this is what the right wing really wants. Carp about big government while their buddies steal the taxpayers blind
.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Gary Locke, a Star in China

Washington state's own Gary Locke is already one of the most popular U.S. ambassadors yet.  The Chinese love him.

Torturer

Amnesty International calls for Bush's arrest in Africa for his sponsoring of torture.  If it's good enough for Ratko and Slobodan, it's good enough for George W.

A Banker Confesses

A banker actually says it out loud.  We were happy to take unreasonable risks because we knew the government would bail us out.

Raise Taxes and Reward True Job Creators

The tax-dodging rich are not job creators.
That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be.

Republicans and OWS

Frank Luntz advises the GOP on how to torture the language when talking about the Occupy movement.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Abstinence-only flops

Yet another study correlates abstinence-only sex education with increased rates of teen pregnancy.  I grant that correlation isn't causation, but if such education really worked, one would expect the effect would be seen in the statistics.  Sadly, the reverse appears to be true.  It's time to bust this myth.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Things to Tax

Taxing opportunities are plentiful.  As noted elsewhere, excessive income doesn't translate into increased happiness.  But it does channel resources into activities that benefit the few instead of society as a whole.  Appropriate taxation would bring the system back into balance.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupy the Constitution

The OCCUPIED amendment to get corporations out of direct political contributions probably has as much chance as Boehner's balanced budget amendment.  But it would do a great deal more good for the country.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Yam What I Yam

The orange-colored sweet potatoes are not really yams. We just call
them that.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Scientist have determined happiness doesn't increase with incomes higher than $75K.  What would our tax structure look like if  there were a $75K standard deduction and highly aggressive tax brackets above that?

Clarence Thomas and Ethics

Here is an example of how powerful people just don't have to follow the same rules as everyone else.  Without enforcement, rules don't mean much.

What Voter Fraud?

When Republicans generate rules for voting that effectively limit voter participation, we need to be sure to point out that they have nothing to do with voter fraud.  A study of New Mexico voting shows that it simply doesn't exist.  Everyone should call the Republicans on their BS.  Why would they want to put energy into solving a non-existent problem when the solutions for it have the by-product of helping them win elections?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Local Republicans Hold Human Needs Hostage

If you want any appearance of compassion from our local (Republican) state legislators you must accede to their agenda.  That's how they think.  If they can just make it bad enough for enough people, eventually the Democrats will have to play by their rules.  In other arenas of life, this is called extortion.

Scrat is for real

Turns out there really was a sabre-toothed squirrel.

Food chemical regulations rely heavily on industry self-policing and lack transparency, report finds

There may be reason to expect a food quality crisis in the future akin to our recent banking crisis because similar regulatory practices are at work.  Regulation has to be independent.  Otherwise, given financial pressures and human nature, it is prone to corruption.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Mount Rainier Casts a Shadow On The Clouds

How often do you see a mountain casting a shadow on the clouds above?  A spectacular photo.

One More Republican Canard Exposed

Bruce Bartlett confesses that the idea that regulation costs jobs was just made up back in the Reagan days.  It isn't regulations or lack of cash in the hands of millionaires that are the cause of our bad economy.  It's the lack of demand.  Prudent economic policy should channel money out of the hands of the rich folks and into the hands of the poor and middle-class so they can spend it on goods and services.

Here's to Hope

The Republican majority in the House is in danger.  We would be so much better off when sanity finally returns to our government.  Just think of it: responsible fiscal policy, real banking reform, healthcare that works, genuine infrastructure investment for future growth.  The possibilities boggle the mind.

The Internet isn't free

The internet and the its requisite server farmers account for two percent of the global energy use.

Geothermal Potential

A recent geothermal survey shows that potential sites for energy production are spread across the country.  Newer techniques require less intense heat sources and that broadens the potential even further.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Here Comes Solar Energy

The problems with Solyndra notwithstanding, solar power is on its way.
Solyndra’s failure was actually caused by technological success: the price of solar panels is dropping fast, and Solyndra couldn’t keep up with the competition. In fact, progress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, “there’s now frequent talk of a ‘Moore’s law’ in solar energy,” with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year.

Waking Up

A recent poll shows that moderates and independents are waking up to the idea that Obama is trying to do something constructive while Republicans just want to block everything.  They will do everything they can to stop his policies and then blame him for lack of accomplishments during the election.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Government Can Create Jobs

Peter Goodman makes the case that the to reduce joblessness in uncertain economic times is for the government to put people to work doing things that have value; education, infrastructure, etc.

Only ideological silliness (and, let's face it, Republican obstructionism), prevents the obvious fix: having the government put people back to work in the service of public goods such as infrastructure, education, public health and research. But we can at least begin to address the dire picture of joblessness by dispatching the notion that the government can't create jobs.


Anyone willing to write a check can create a job. Only two camps have access to a big enough checkbook to create enough of them to make a difference. The private sector must answer to corporate shareholders who have no appetite for hiring until they see profits attached to adding payroll. The government is supposed to answer to the rest of us. Where is the constituency against job creation?




Oligarchy, American Style

Anyone who has tracked this issue over time knows what I mean. Whenever growing income disparities threaten to come into focus, a reliable set of defenders tries to bring back the blur. Think tanks put out reports claiming that inequality isn’t really rising, or that it doesn’t matter. Pundits try to put a more benign face on the phenomenon, claiming that it’s not really the wealthy few versus the rest, it’s the educated versus the less educated.


So what you need to know is that all of these claims are basically attempts to obscure the stark reality: We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only
.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Biblical literalists take another hit.

A good candidate for a natural source of life is found in the mud volcanoes of Greenland.

The Alabama Experiment

So wrong, again.  They were told that sectors of our economy need immigrant labor.  But some people have to learn the hard way.  I look forward to the day when these fools stop wasting money building fences and constructively engage in crafting a solution to our foreign labor needs.

Skeptics no more

Even the skeptical scientists concede that global warming is real.  It only took 20 years.  Maybe in another 20 years they will agree that human activities are a major contributor.

Fusion in California

Break-even fusion has been just around the corner for decades.  But
that corner could be as close as next year.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Did Fannie Cause the Disaster?

In a word, no.  Those who are saying it did can be put in the collection of folks that have a casual relationship with the truth.
Along with many other experts, the nine members pointed to considerable
evidence that, despite large losses, these government-sponsored
enterprises (GSEs), as they are known, bought or guaranteed too few
highly risky loans, and did so too late in the 2000s, to cause the
crisis.

Rabbit-Hole Economics

All the ways the Republican economics narrative is dead wrong.
This recession was caused by too little effective regulation, not too much.
The bad loans were made by the private sector, not the government.
Ben Bernanke has done too little to end the recession, nothing to cause it.
Deliberate inflation could be a remedy for recessions like this, not continued deflation.
Tax cuts didn't work during the Bush era, they won't work now either.

It’s a terrible thing when an individual loses his or her grip on reality. But it’s much worse when the same thing happens to a whole political party, one that already has the power to block anything the president proposes — and which may soon control the whole government.

Richard Hastings Fails

The head of the Natural Resources Committee  has a complete failing grade with the Sierra Club.  I'm sure his constituents are proud, real proud.

Diabetes cured with stem cells

With stem cells extracted from their brains, diabetic rats have been cured.

Alabama Workers Leave State

And the immigrant experiment begins.  Alabama will be the first state to show how jobs and the economy are affected when draconian immigration laws are in effect.  Let's all watch.

Reality Check on Immigration

Janet Napolitano gives an update on the current illegal immigration figures and border security.


...we have seen dramatic declines in illegal immigration and dramatic increases in seizures of illegal weapons, cash, drugs and contraband. This year, we will yet again see a historic drop in illegal crossings, and more and more contraband seized.
So any claim that this border is overrun or out of control is inconsistent with the facts.

Warren shines in debate debut

In her first debate appearance, Elizabeth Warren has a good night.

Russ Feingold on Occupy Wall Street

Russ Feingold's take on Occupy Wall Street is that more and more people are recognizing that the big corporations are in the business of ripping-off the little guys.  When this reaches the tipping point, the TEA Party will look like a tea party.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Alzheimer's might be transmissible

Researchers have been able to induce Alzheimer's by injecting malformed proteins into the brains of mice.  This implies that some of it could be infectious like mad cow disease where prions are the vector.

Reducing Health Care Costs


A study at a figure of  $6.7 billion wasted every year on unnecessary tests and prescriptions.  Eighty-six percent of that was for expensive brand-name statins to do things like lower cholesterol when cheaper generics work just as good.

Universal Influenza Vaccine

By targeting a different part of the flu virus that doesn't change much over time and from strain to strain, they may be able to develop  a vaccine that lasts for many years.

Hispanic Flight

The experiment is on.  Can a state's economy thrive if it kicks out all illegal immigrants?

Phony Fear Factor

Krugman pleads for reason.  But alas, little is to be found on the right.
The bad news: Republicans, aided and abetted by many conservative policy
intellectuals, are fixated on a view about what's blocking job creation
that fits their prejudices and serves the interests of their wealthy
backers, but bears no relationship to reality

Credit Rating Agencies Not Perfect

Not only are they not perfec, they aren't even good.  Our securities world depends on honest assessment of creditworthiness.  Without it, we can expect more financial disruption in the future.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fighting Climate Change in the Fields

Graze your way to sustainability.
The centerpiece of Savory’s work is the 2,630-hectare Dimbangombe Ranch in northwestern Zimbabwe near Victoria Falls, home to his Africa Centre for Holistic Management. In the hot, dry, depleted landscape of this region, “the rains are not what they used to be” is a frequent refrain. But Dimbangombe looks as though it’s been uniquely favored by the rain gods. It has lush, varied grasses, flowing rivers and streams, and thriving livestock—some four times the number of neighboring ranches. Thanks to the renewed flow of the Dimbangombe River, elephant herds no longer have to travel to pools but can water on the river. Women who used to walk as much as five kilometers daily for water now have it available in their communities. Dimbangombe has become productive and vibrant while its neighbors, and similar environments around the globe, are turning to desert. How? “Two things: we brought in increased cattle numbers with holistic planned grazing, and [we] minimized the fires,” says Savory.
...

Desertification—and associated problems such as flooding, wildfires, and water shortages—can be seen as a symptom of the carbon cycle gone awry, says Savory. In the same way that plants need animals, as seen in the relationship between ruminants and grasses, soil needs plants. “For soil to form, it needs to be living, and to be living, soil needs to be covered,” says Australian scientist Christine Jones. Without a cover of plants in various stages of growth and decomposition, much of the carbon oxidizes and enters the atmosphere as CO2.So soil carbon has huge implications for climate change. Rattan Lal, Distinguished Professor of soil science in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University, estimates that soil-carbon restoration can potentially store about one billion tons of atmospheric carbon per year. This means that the soil could effectively offset around one-third of human-generated emissions annually absorbed in the atmosphere. Building soil carbon would also enhance food production; and, because carbon-rich soil holds significantly more water than its dried-out counterpart, it would help to secure watersheds and protect against flooding and drought.

Why Are Finland's Schools Successful?

We should be learning from Finnish education practices.  They give free reign for teachers to do whatever it takes to get a child educated.  Their success points the way for the rest of us.

The Real Class Warfare

Professor Krugman points out that class warfare has been going on for some time now.  But most of the middle class don't seem to be aware that the ones doing the complaining about it are the ones who have been on the attack.  When middle-class incomes have risen by a modes 21 %, the income of the top 1 % of the distribution have risen by 480 %.  This concentration of wealth is not good for the country.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Effortless sailing

The cloaking craze comes to boating.  The idea is to move the vessel through the water with a minimum of disturbance.
"The goal is make it so the water passing through the porous material leaves the cloak at the same speed as the water surrounding by the vessel," Urzhumov said. "In this way, the water outside the hull would appear to be still relative to the vessel, thereby greatly reducing the amount of energy needed by the vessel to push vast quantities of water out of the way as it progresses."
Perhaps it will be coming to an America's Cup vessel near you.

Dental Revolution

A new method of filling cavities actually rebuilds the tooth without drilling or foreign material.

Bacterially produced wires

The same bacteria that immobilizes uranium mentioned in a previous post also creates a network of nanowires that conduct electricity.

Real Mystery Meat

For all the ethical vegetarians out there, advances continue to be made in growing meat in a culture
 instead of on an animal.   Probably tastes like chicken.

Breakthrough in wireless.

By going to full duplex on the current frequencies, we could double wireless capacity without building any new towers.  But even that probably wouldn't be enough.

Uranium bugs

There's a microbe that thrives on uranium in the soil.  It stabilizes the stuff by forming it into nanowires.

Mitt Romney and Medicare

Mitt Romney's plan simply fails to address the biggest budgetary problem in the coming years.  It completely ignores the budget-busting consequences of rising healthcare costs among Medicare recipients.  For Romney's plan to work, we would have to kill Medicare.  But he fails to say that out loud.

Petri dish testing

cell-based alternative to animal testing would let industry test new products without harming helpless animals.  It probably would be cheaper and quicker too.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Challenging a Chinese monopoly

Near a small town in Nebraska, a mine for rare earths and other essential minerals is being developed.  The Chinese are currently the dominant supplier for these things.  What has taken so long?

Adventures in tea-party cognitive dissonance

A Tea Partier's prescription for a slow economy is...wait for it....stimulus spending bythe government.  But, strangely enough, only defense spending is acceptable.  Let's spend $9 billion on an aircraft carrier we don't need but nothing for infrastructure investments we do need.  This is an example of why these folks should not be taken seriously.

The Wrong Worries

The time is past for half-measures designed to tweak the economy out of its doldrums.  If we have a hope to avoid a double-dip recession, it's now time to do something real and meaningful to generate jobs.

Niger delta spills

At long last, the oil industry admits its responsibility in the oil spills that have seriously polluted the Niger delta and poisoned the population there.

Heat Regulation in Building Materials

Chinese researchers are working on building materials that absorb or release heat at specific temperatures.  Interesting.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Making More, Contributing Less

Here's the story.  The rich are really getting richer while the burden of deficit reduction is falling on the middle class. The argument for keeping tax rates low is that low rates boost the economy.  But our actual experience is that the accumulation of wealth at the high simply doesn't do that.  The problem with the economy is the lack of demand.  When more people have money to spend, demand will go up.  When there is mild inflation instead of deflation, immediate spending is encouraged.  Before the tax cuts, both the economy and the rich were doing fine.  A properly fashioned tax code would encourage those with accumulating wealth to spend it where it can do some good instead of just sitting on it.

Texas Miracle? Not so much

Rick Perry claims that his Republican policies have produced job growth in Texas.  Actually unemployment is just as bad there as elsewhere.  The jobs being created are low-wage jobs without benefits.  Meanwhile the numbers of homeless continue to climb and schools crumble for lack of funding.

Turning the Tables

Ezra Klein argues that the Democrats have an opportunity to turn the tables on Republicans.  The pending expiration of the Bush tax cuts can be used as a hostage against them.  If they choose to not participate in genuine tax reform then we can just let the cuts expire.  In Ezra's words:
Just as Republicans planted a trigger for 2011 that ensures spending cuts, Democrats should use the Bush tax cuts as a trigger in 2012 to force revenues. Which is not to say they should campaign for raising taxes. They should campaign against an outdated, inefficient, unfair tax code as well as the Washington way of leaving hard problems for somebody else to handle.
The White House should announce that it won’t extend any of the Bush tax cuts and will instead insist on a Gang-of-Six-esque plan that cleans the code, lowers rates for everyone, and raises $2 trillion or more in revenue. If the GOP refuses, the tax cuts will expire, our revenue problems will be solved, and Republicans will suddenly find themselves much more interested in tax reform. Sometimes, to govern like a Democrat, you need to negotiate like a Republican.

Iron-rich dust and ice ages

Could we control global warming by salting the ocean with iron?  It seems that part of the ice age cycle involved dust storms that increased the iron content in sea water.  In turn that caused the plankton to bloom and increase oceanic uptake of carbon thereby cooling the planet.

More nuclear power good for Tri-Cities

Michael Lawrence talks about how the new trend for small, modular reactors could benefit the Tri-Cities.

The Truth About Federal Spending

Once again Krugman points out how the high spending per GDP statistic is misused to criticize Obama.  Obama has not expanded spending.  It's the GDP that has dropped resulting in the scary statistic.  We should be asking why the GDP has dropped.  Those reasons include Ponzi games played by our big bankers and the concentration of wealth in the hands of those who can afford not to spend it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A "Christian" Suit

When someone in the media points out the stupid things you say, you can always compound the problem by filing a baseless lawsuit.

The Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas

The brainy folks at Rensselaer Polytechnic have done a study that shows if as few as 10 percent of a population doggedly holds on to a set of ideas regardless of how wrong they might be, they can eventually win over the people who make the mistake of being reasonable.

Republican Leaders Voted for U.S. Debt Drivers

It should be noted and repeated that the big drivers in our debt problem were put is place by Republicans.  We should ask our Republican representatives, "In light of the fact that you now see the debt as a major problem, do you have any remorse that you voted for the biggest causes of that debt?"  These causes include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, the Medicare prescription drug benefits, and TARP.

Sugar Doesn't Melt

The actual melting point of sugar has always been a bit slippery.  It seems to vary with the intensity of the heat that is applied.  Now we better understand why.  Sugar doesn't melt like a metal.  Under heat it decomposes in any number of different methods.

The Lesser Depression

For those who know their 1930s history, this is all too familiar. If either of the current debt negotiations fails, we could be about to replay 1931, the global banking collapse that made the Great Depression great. But, if the negotiations succeed, we will be set to replay the great mistake of 1937: the premature turn to fiscal contraction that derailed economic recovery and ensured that the Depression would last until World War II finally provided the boost the economy needed.
There’s an old quotation, attributed to various people, that always comes to mind when I look at public policy: “You do not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed.” Now that lack of wisdom is on full display, as policy elites on both sides of the Atlantic bungle the response to economic trauma, ignoring all the lessons of history. And the Lesser Depression goes on.

Eric Cantor's Hypocrisy

Reducing the deficit is just fine with him except when it means losses to a big contributor.  The pandering is just so transparent.

Question

A question that needs to be asked of our political extremists of both sides is "How far in your preferred direction is too far?"  Ask the Republicans what they see as the realistic limit of tax cuts.  Ask the Democrats what they see as the realistic limit of entitlements.

Early detection of tsunamis may be possible

It seems that the minuscule disturbances in gravity caused by a propagating tsunami have a detectable effect on a certain layer in the upper atmosphere.  A system that perform careful observation can give clear warning that one is on the way.

Darrell Issa's Investigation Backfires

If you're going to investigate the activities of a commission hoping to find ammunition that hurts the other party, you had better make sure your own party is playing by the rules.  But when it comes to Republicans that is really difficult to do.  Republicans fare better when they stymie the investigative process altogether.

Runaway Union Violence?

Not so much.  Only in the minds of the right-wing blogosphere.  But in reality?  Nope.  Not even close.

Wave-power ships for cheaper clean electricity

Instead of stationary installations that must be sufficiently robust to deal with all sorts of weather, what about cheaper mobile units that can come into port when the weather get ugly?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

'Elections' Haven't 'Worked'

Mitch McConnell hates democracy because it doesn't yield the results he likes.  Perhaps he would like someone to die so he could become king.

Outcome of Insuring the Uninsured

A formal study has confirmed what intuition would lead one to think.  When the uninsured have access to Medicaid, they seek out more healthcare and have better health outcomes.  Moreover, their overall financial situation improves.  Those who wish to deny insurance need to explain why they think it is better for the low income folks to suffer.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Portugese drug law show results

Ten years ago, Portugal shifted it's drug laws from punishment to treatment.  Now, addiction is declining.  It could be a model on how to really win a war on drugs.

What Really Happened at Fukushima?

An update and assessment of the aftermath.  Unfortunately, there seem to be a number of problems in how the risk was assessed over the years.

More reasons for nuclear renaissance

The recently noted problems of our aging fleet of nuclear powered generating stations serves to point out that rather than abandon nuclear power, we need to start aggressively replacing them.  Replacing old plants with newer, safer ones is much better than trying to keep the old ones up to snuff.  These bad economic times are perfect for investments that create American jobs and revive some major industrial production.  In the end, you have an improved power base that will be ready to support a revitalized economy.

Friday, July 01, 2011

About Big Busts

Now that I have your attention, our banking laws are in serious need of reform if we ever hope to have a stable economy.  Until that happens, all we should expect is one disaster after another while the guys creating the disasters run off with our nation's wealth.

Let's keep our illegal immigrants

Despite the stereotypes to the contrary, many illegal immigrants represent what is best about our country.  They work hard and enrich our society in a great many ways.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Medicare Saves Money

The easiest way to reduce health costs is to improve Medicare.  It has outstripped the cost performance of the private sector while delivering care much more broadly.  True, it has its problems, but the gap between it and private insurance is so large that those problems could easily be fixed and still not match the private insurance cost levels.

Looking for Jobs in All the Wrong Places

Dan Rather points out that job creation is tricky.  It takes more than just throwing money around.  You have to put the money in the right places with the right restrictions.  Otherwise you run the risk of encouraging the export of even more jobs offshore.

Life Expectancy

Life expectancy in most US counties is below that of other developed nations.  Best health care system in the world?  Not.

Bacteria and Biofuel

bacteria has been found that produces an enzyme that breaks down lignin, the hard stuff in cellulose.  This could be an economical source to more easily create biofuels from waste plant stocks.

More Stimulus Needed For Jobs Crisis

Larry Summers makes the case for stimulus spending.  But it must be careful stimulus spending.  Now is the time to make investments in infrastructure.  Labor costs and borrowing costs are low.   
the fiscal debate needs to take on board the reality that the greatest threat to the nation's creditworthiness is a sustained period of slow growth that, as in southern Europe, causes debt-GDP ratios to soar. This means that essential discussions about medium-term measures to restrain spending and raise revenues need to be coupled with a focus on near-term growth. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Damn Lies and Statistics

When analyzing the effects of the tax cuts, conservatives like to use dollar figures to say that revenues went up.  Liberals like to use %GDP to say that revenues declined.  Timing is everything.  It takes discipline to take in revenues during a growing GDP and pay down the debt, and increase debt and spending during times of shrinking GDP to reverse the trend.  The easy path (and destructive) path is to not worry about the debt during a rising economy and then only address in when the GDP shrinks.  The former dampens the oscillation and the latter exacerbates it.

A Worthy Investment

Whenever our finances rise above the treading-water phase, investing in early education has been shown to be an easy way to leverage better standards of living and reduced crime.

Something New in Steel

This interesting innovation could result in a form of steel that is lighter and stronger than anything now produced.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Lasting Effects of the Bush Tax Cuts

Here's the charts.
Millionaires saw their after-tax income increase by 6.2%.  The middle class saw an increase of 2.2%.
In dollars than $128,832 for the millionaires, 860 for the middle class.
The Bush tax cuts are the largest contributor to the deficit.  More than wars, more than stimulus, more than bailouts, and more than the effect of the recession.
The cost of the tax cuts is roughly equal to the Social Security shortfall.
If we only let the cuts expire, our rising debt stabilizes and begins to drop.  Otherwise the debt just keeps going up.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cowboys and Pit Crews

Atul Gawande, in this year's commencement address at Harvard Medical School, talks about the challenges of modern medicine. It has become a much more complex process than it used to be. There are too many skills needed and too much knowledge needed that no doctor can do it all himself. Medicine is now administered by teams of skilled practitioners. But we still train our doctors as if they were the focus of medical delivery.
The public’s experience is that we have amazing clinicians and technologies but little consistent sense that they come together to provide an actual system of care, from start to finish, for people. We train, hire, and pay doctors to be cowboys. But it’s pit crews people need.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The tao of doing nothing

Right now, doing nothing is a pretty darn good deficit reduction plan.

The Day the United States Defaulted

Even a temporary default was a bad idea. How much worse would it be if we had a systematic one!

GOP’s jobs agenda

Nothing useful here.
“if lower taxes and less regulation was such good policy, then George W. Bush’s economy would have been a lot better. But under Bush, Republicans cut taxes on business and on investors and high-income people and they didn’t add many regulations and that business cycle was the first one in the post-war period where the income for a typical working class family was lower at the end than at the beginning.”
This is the mantra every Democrat needs to use on the campaign trail. It encapsulates Republican intellectual bankruptcy.

Rob Woodall, Not the Brightest Bulb

When challenged repeatedly by uninsured constituents to walk a mile in their shoes, Rob Woodall ducks and covers.  He says he is happy to take government-provided health insurance instead of buying some on the open market because his insurance is "free".  Talk about your twisted logic.  Every man for himself 'cause I got mine.

IRS vs Karl Rove

If the IRS follows the law, Karl Rove and his secret-contributor PACS may be doing their bit to help with the deficit by paying serious fines, penalties, and taxes.  But the agency may blink because of the expense of the fight.  If the tax laws aren't enforced unless you are too small to fight in court, it pretty much says that the big boys can do pretty much whatever the hell they want. Different laws for different folks, I guess.

Alan Simpson Still Confused

If this doesn't nail the coffin on Alan Simpson's credibility with discussing Social Security, it should.  I think this horse might be ready for the pasture.

Single Payer Health Care begins in Vermont

Another test case for single payer goes into action.  It will be interesting to compare the results of this to other states who are circling the drain with Republican-style no-plans.

Obama's Unspoken Re-Election Edge?

Shelby Steele gets it soo wrong about Obama's electoral popularity.  Let's go through it point by point.
his sweeping domestic initiatives—especially his stimulus package and health-care reform—were so jerry-built and high-handed that they generated a virtual revolution in America's normally subdued middle class.
The revolution Shelby sees is the one that has been trumped-up by the corporate-backed TEA Party.  It has made so much noise that Republicans fear it to such a degree that they can brook no compromise.  The weaknesses in the stimulus package and health-care reform are there because of Republican antipathy and the limits of Obama's power, not because of any lack in him.
The president's success in having Osama bin Laden killed is an exception to a pattern of excruciatingly humble and hesitant leadership abroad. 
If you want allies instead of duped sycophants like Tony Blair, some humility is in order.  No alliance built on cowboy bullying can stand for long.
The problem Mr. Obama poses for Republicans is that there has always been a disconnect between his actual performance and his appeal. If Hurricane Katrina irretrievably stained George W. Bush, the BP oil spill left no lasting mark on this president. Mr. Obama's utter confusion in the face of the "Arab spring" has nudged his job-approval numbers down, but not his likability numbers, which Gallup has at a respectable 47.6%. In the mainstream media there has been a willingness to forgive this president his mistakes, to see him as an innocent in an impossible world. Why?
Shelby fails to note that the Katrina failure was a genuine failure of the Bush administration.  The BP oil spill was a result of policies established during the Bush years.  The financial crisis was also a result of Bush policies.  The problems with which Shelby would like to paint Obama were not his problems.  He simply has the task of cleaning up an enormous mess and it is taking a while.  The last thing the Arabs needed was American intervention.  Why does Obama look innocent?  Shelby can't recognize the fact that he actually is.

Rather than give credit to Obama, Shelby has to invent a fantasy of popularity based on reverse racism, not realizing that such reverse racism still has racism at its heart.  How ironic that a black conservative like Shelby hangs his hat on the idea that the only reason Obama is popular is because of his race.

It isn't Obama's fault that the field of potential opponents is so abysmal but Steele wants to blame that on Obama as well.

The rot in the Republican party isn't Obama.  It's the lie at the heart of their ideology.  They talk about empowering individuals over government.  But what they really want to do is to empower a few rich and powerful individuals to co-opt the government to further enrich themselves at the expense of the population as a whole.

Ratko Mladic Arrested

Ratko Mladic was one of the worst in the days of Bosnian ethnic cleansing.

Climate change a threat to nuclear power

Natalie Kopytko points out how nuclear power may be vulnerable to the effects of the climate change it is supposed to alleviate.

It’ll be our fault

Ezra Klein points out that our problems were both predictable and predicted.  Yet nothing was done to stop them.  Now that many have actually happened, we aren't doing much to keep them from happening again.  Something about the definition of insanity comes to mind.
When a crisis comes, the people who were charged with preventing it like to say that it could not have been predicted. Who could’ve imagined that housing markets would crash all around the country or that terrorists would fly planes into buildings or a that a hurricane would breach the levees in New Orleans? Sometimes there’s truth to those claims. But not in these cases. These crises are predictable. These crises are preventable. These are the white swans, and they’re swooping and honking right in front of us.

Another Hydrogen Option

Producing hydrogen from natural gas just got cleaner and easier.  It uses better catalysts, one of which absorbs the CO2 by-product.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Made in America

Manufacturing is growing. A falling dollar helps put Americans back to work which is the real path to a better economy.
So while we still have a deeply troubled economy, one piece of good news is that Americans are, once again, starting to actually make things. And we’re doing that thanks, in large part, to the fact that the Fed and the Obama administration ignored very bad advice from right-wingers — ideologues who still, in the face of all the evidence, claim to know something about creating prosperity.

A Better Way to Teach?

A side-by-side study has shown that interactive teaching not only keeps students engaged but transfers the learning better, too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Deficit and Stimulus

There's a way Republicans could get the spending cuts they want. Couple spending cuts with tax increases and economic stimulus.  It's a win-win-win.
The jobs crisis is vastly more pressing than our debt problems, but it’s also, in two mostly unnoticed ways, interconnected. For one thing, a weak labor market means a high deficit. It means tax revenues come in low and social spending needs to be high. It’s very hard to begin deficit reduction in any serious way before unemployment comes down.Which means that the sooner we get unemployment under control, the sooner sustained deficit reduction can really begin.


But second, and perhaps more importantly for deficit hawks, the jobs crisis is leverage for deficit reduction. A little bit of stimulus could buy you a lot of deficit reduction. Imagine if Republicans offered Democrats a 4:1:1 deal: For every $4 of specific spending cuts over the next 12 years, they’d back $1 of tax increases and $1 of stimulus. A deficit-reduction deal that cut $3 trillion would carry $1 trillion in tax increases — so, $4 trillion in total deficit reduction — and $1 trillion in stimulus. Who’s the liberal who’d say no? And yet, that’s a big deficit reduction package. Among the biggest in our history, actually.

Stephen Colbert's Free Speech Problem

Some commentators in the WSJ gloat that Colbert has found it difficult to set up a PAC as a comedic stunt ridiculing the Citizens United ruling.  But his experience is illustrative, nonetheless.  One could take it to show that if the rules are hard enough, only the really rich can navigate them. That leaves us with only the rich having genuine free speech. Is that what we want in this country?  On the other hand, Colbert's main problem is that he has a media presence.  Perhaps others without that handicap can do a better job of riduculing the ridiculous ruling.

Another Conservative Myth Bites the Dust

Private prisons are more expensive and less useful than government-run prisons.  People need to understand that there are some things the private sector does well and some things it does not do well.


Make Your Own Toys and Tools

3-D printing has become affordable.  A company now makes a small, relatively-inexpensive, 3D printer.  This may make custom fabrication a bigger player in the economy.

Splitting water made simple

A cheap, manganese-based catalyst offers another method of generating hydrogen from water.

Technology Evoluton

Some new mathematical constructs can predict which technologies with improve quickly and which will not. 

Quake killed Fukushima, not the tsunami

The current understanding is that the emergency cooling system was damaged by the earthquake before the tsunami arrived.  Add that to the lessons-learned.

Health Care Fault Line

Wendell Potter notes that if the insurance company had known they were dealing with the mother of a future president, she would have received better health care.  Insurance companies seem truly reluctant to provide good benefits unless the person is someone special.  Is this the kind of system we want in this country?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Colbert at FEC

In order to demonstrate our ridiculous current campaign financing law is.  Here's another link.

Economic 'seizures'

Seizures in economics are similar to neurological disorders.  So much so that they might be curable by analogous remedies.

Metallic Glass

This strong, cheap, versatile material could be coming to products near you.  Being able to form metal objects as easily as plastics brings to mind the "plasteel" material from Frank Herbert's novels.

The Crimes of the Private Health Insurance Industry

Wendell Potter recalls his experiences in how only exceptional cases get good treatment from the existing system. There is no way that our system is anywhere close to the best in the world.

Any screen can be touchable

By placing a a small frame over any screen it can be made touchable.

News from the Seat of the Empire

Obiwan Kenobi is dead.

The Trouble With 'Enforcement-Only' Immigration

Enforcement alone doesn't solve the problem with those who are here unless you are really going to round all of them up and put them in deportation camps.  It just heaps greater and greater punishments upon vulnerable people far beyond the scale of their crimes.

Chromebook

Could this be my next toy?

Virtual Game Control

Similar to the way automatic doors sense your presence as you approach, a new method of remote sensing may not only change the way video games are controlled, but could possibly change the whole interface paradigm.  It works by establishing a baseline of the background electrical field in a room.  Then it detects and interprets perturbations in that field made by movement.

New Insect Repellant

 A chemical compound that repels by overloading the olfactory sensors of insects may be in the works.  Imagine something that is benign to most other animals but 1000 times stronger than DEET.

Schooling the Elites

Paul Krugman actually suggests that there is something to be learned from the Gambling Banker's Recession.  But, alas, few want to learn it.
by making up stories about our current predicament that absolve the people who put us here there, we cut off any chance to learn from the crisis. We need to place the blame where it belongs, to chasten our policy elites. Otherwise, they’ll do even more damage in the years ahead.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Friday, May 06, 2011

Da Vinci's Dream Comes True

A German engineering firm has build a bird-like model that actually flies like a bird, wing-flapping propulsion and soaring capability.

Torture May Have Slowed Hunt

Some witnesses say the best information came before the torture. Once the pain started the subjects would just make stuff up.

U.S. tax burden at lowest level since '58

Both USA Today and McClatchy point out that our taxes are historically low. Low taxes don't encourage investment. They just all power and money to become concentrated in fewer hands. Higher taxes will push that money into productive economic activity rather than raw accumulation of power.

Kucinich looking to a different state

In http://The Hill there is more speculation about Dennis coming to the new Washington 10th Congressional District. State Party chair, Dwight Pelz, poo-poo's it. From where I sit, that practically confirms it. Dwight is, shall we say, experienced in dissembling.

More U.S. Oil Drilling Won't Lower Gas Prices

Never waste a crisis. Especially, if you can use it to make more money for your campaign donors. When the price at the pump goes up it's used as an excuse for more pointless drilling. This is what addiction looks like, a death spiral to destruction. More drilling without a plan to achieve sustainable energy production just makes the inevitable adjustment worse later. But then, those making the decisions today won't be around to reap the consequences. Our grandchildren will curse us.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda

Here's a bit of hope. With Bin Laden dead, portions of the Taliban may feel more inclined to renounce violence and join the Afghan civil process.

Obama at Ground Zero

I much prefer Obama's method to a flight suit on a carrier deck.

Humans enter Fukushima unit for first time

In one of the stricken reactors, radiation levels have been reduced enough for humans to enter. The plan is to send shifts of workers in to construct better ventilation so levels go down even further. Eventually it should be low enough for workers to build a permanent solution to keeping the reactor cool.

Portable drinking water and power

An unusual alloy could provide a method of producing both power and potable water from contaminated fresh or salt water. It's made of aluminum, tin, gallium, and indium. Indium is extracted from zinc ores and gallium is extracted from bauxite, an aluminum ore. No specific new mining is needed for them. Indium is 3 times more prevalent in the Earth's crust than silver. Basically, when the alloy is immersed in water, spontaneous hydrolysis occurs. A power unit would include a reactor and a fuel cell. Poor water in one end and hydrogen gets channeled to the fuel cell which produces power and potable water. Over time the alloy converts to aluminum hydroxide which is non-toxic and can be recycled.

A Paper Computer

Looking beyond tablets and smartphones, a computer with paper-like displays has been demonstrated. Notebook computers will really begin to look like notebooks.

Transistors reinvented

This is huge. A totally new generation of semiconductors is coming. Chips can now go 3-D with more power and more efficiency.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Goldman Sachs Fights the Volcker Rule

If Goldman-Sachs is fighting it, the Volcker rule must be a good thing.

Small Business Owners Renounce Bush Tax Cuts

So often ignored by the Republican fat cats who take their name in vain, small businesses really don't benefit from the Bush cuts. The tax cuts don't help small businesses, more money in the middle class helps small businesses.

Hastings hearts Big Oil

When the vote was taken on who loves Big Oil, Hastings raised his hand. Actually it was more like raising his hand and jumping up and down saying, "Oo, oo, I do!!!"

The real reasons for the dollar's decline

Take note. It's due to long-term global changes, not the deficit. The world has more options for good currencies and American workers are just paid too much relative to their global competition. This isn't good news for workers in the short term but eventually there should be better global demand for American products as the devaluation continues.

The Ryan individual mandate

This may not be talked about much but the Ryan health care proposal contains an individual mandate just like the PPACA. It has too for the thing to work at all. Oh, Hello? Tea Party? Is anyone listening?

JSF Alternate Engine Undead

Rising from the legislative tomb, the unneeded and unwanted alternate fighter jet engine makes an appearance in the House Armed Services Committee budget. In the House you have to kill the pork again and again before it finally dies.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Analyzing the debt

Lory Montgomery has a good piece on how we went from surplus to the current deficit. In her words:
The biggest culprit, by far, has been an erosion of tax revenue triggered largely by two recessions and multiple rounds of tax cuts. Together, the economy and the tax bills enacted under former president George W. Bush, and to a lesser extent by President Obama, wiped out $6.3 trillion in anticipated revenue. That’s nearly half of the $12.7 trillion swing from projected surpluses to real debt. Federal tax collections now stand at their lowest level as a percentage of the economy in 60 years.
Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus, a favorite target of Republicans who blame Democrats for the mounting debt, has added $719 billion — 6 percent of the total shift, according to the new analysis of CBO data by the nonprofit Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative. All told, Obama-era choices account for about $1.7 trillion in new debt, according to a separate Washington Post analysis of CBO data over the past decade. Bush-era policies, meanwhile, account for more than $7 trillion and are a major contributor to the trillion-dollar annual budget deficits that are dominating the political debate.

Obama Succeeded Where Bush Failed

Here is a good litany of all the ways the Bush administration fumbled the ball.
Ironically, Obama’s announcement came eight years to the day after Bush famously and prematurely declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq after landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Solar Power Without Solar Cells

A recent discovery that light can have significant magnetic effects in a proper material points the way to a new way to turn solar energy into electricity.

The Place to Start for New Revenue

Cracking down on tax evasion would be great start.
The U.S. government loses around $300 billion in revenue each year
because of tax cheats, some of whom hide their earnings in offshore
accounts or disguise them using complicated business structures,
according to the Internal Revenue Service. Since 2001, tax evasion has
cost as much as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts and
the 2009 stimulus combined...