Saturday, March 31, 2012

Clueless in Arizona

I sometimes wonder if the Jan Brewer ever does anything right. In attempting to reduce jobless benefits to drug users, the state loses massive federal funding. When does her administration become a bad joke?

Class and Ethics

Higher class, lower behavior

The research revealed that relative to the lower class, upper-class individuals are more likely to break the law while driving, more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies, more likely to take valued goods from others, more likely to lie in a negotiation, more likely to cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize and more likely to endorse unethical behavior at work.
"The relative privilege and security enjoyed by upper-class individuals give rise to independence from others and a prioritization of the self and one's own welfare over the welfare of others--what we call 'greed,'".
But hasn't it always been so.

Free Markets and Fair Markets

How did we get here?
It is not capitalism that is necessarily at fault, claim the economists, but a particular brand of capitalism, inspired by US economist Milton Friedman, which has prevailed the past 30-odd years. The adherents of such “free-market” capitalism, listened to by politicians from Reagan and Thatcher onwards, have been able to change our very laws, removing one after another of the constraints on their risky behaviour. This culminated in the creation of suicidal financial instruments such as collateral debt obligations (CDOs). These financial tools allow banks to repackage borrowers’ loans (the bank’s debts) and re-sell them on to outside investors. The result was the housing bubble. It was this approach to debt that played such a major role in the global financial crisis of 2008.

Shell to drill in the Arctic

It seems that the new offshore regulations are not insurmountable.  But are they enough?  And are they enough for drilling in the Arctic?  Are we looking at the setup for another oil disaster in the not-too-distant future?

Nanotrees harvest the sun's energy

Another step towards a sustainable energy economy.  The high surface area and light absorption capacity of this structures greatly facilitate the catalytic process.

Reducing Health Care Spending

This article raises an important point about health care that is infrequently discussed.  Throughout history, health care has been naturally limited by our level of medical skill and knowledge.  Doctors had limits to what they could do and they usually reached those limits without generating enormous costs.  But every patient was eventually lost.  That last item is still true today, every patient is eventually lost.  Yet today, we have the capacity to consume enormous resources in the process.  The difficult philosophical point is, "When is enough, enough?"  I daresay that most of us can point to some event in our past in which we would have succumbed to injury or illness if we had been living 300 years ago.  Without modern medicine, we wouldn't be here today.  For that, we are thankful.  For many, the day will come when we have a choice between expensive, life-preserving medical intervention and death.  In a perfect world, there should be a point at which it is rational to choose death instead of burdening our successors with the cost of continued life.

Generally, health care is a parasitic drag on the economy.  While it's true that frequently non-productive lives can be improved to the point that they come productive, that is a temporary effect.  Eventually, every life loses its capacity to be productive.  Money that goes into health care is money that could otherwise be spent on the genuine engines of wealth like energy production, natural resource extraction, innovation, agriculture, or manufacturing.

There are some who argue that life is so sacred that it must my preserved at all costs if it is humanly possible to do so.  If this were to be the law of the land, we should be prepared to shoulder the full economic cost of that principle.  Health care costs under this regime could be expected to become virtually limitless.  As those costs divert more and more resources from productive economic activities, there will come a point at which the economic engine will falter and stall.  The days of this civilization will be over.

If we are to prevent this quiet apocalypse, we must have a rational limit on our health care spending.  We must know when enough is enough.  We must prepare for the time when our time is past.  Socrates held a principle that each man is obligated to do whatever the state asked of him.  He saw this principle as fundamental to civilization as he knew it.  When the state demanded his life, he gave it up.  How can we find a rational basis for giving up our own lives in order to prevent the dissolution of our own civilization?

Goose and Gander

Last I heard, it really takes two people to create an unwanted pregnancy.   And since unwanted pregnancies are the root cause of abortions, it makes sense to affect both sexes with government interference in sexual health.  Therefore, it make perfect sense to interfere with men's sexual health as much as women.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fracking pollution

A recent report shows that it isn't the chemicals in the ground that cause pollution with fracking.  It's how all those chemicals are handled on the surface.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Low-carbon technologies 'no quick-fix'

Recent studies have indicated that we are getting to the tipping point.  But by the time alternative energy is a significant contributor, it may be way too late.

Exercise instantly boosts fat-busting genes

Just one hour of exercise can turn on a process that begins to consume fat.  They think that the increase of calcium in the muscles bring it on.

Paul Krugman on the Oil Industry

Here are the key points:

U.S. energy policy has little effect on oil prices or overall employment.  Oil prices are a function of the global market.  The oil industry is already going like gang-busters but hasn't made a dent on unemployment.  The increase in oil jobs over the last 6 years is about .05 percent of the jobs in this country.

Excessive regulation isn't hurting the industry.  One can easily argue that the industry is currently enjoying the most favorable regulatory regime it has had in decades.

Because of high productivity and high prices in the global market, the U.S. oil industry is doing very well.  The only way to bring prices at the pump down is to somehow reduce global demand.  That isn't going to happen.  It would be better to make the adjustments we need to make to live with high gasoline prices.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fukushima wasn't Chernobyl

Not even close.  At Chernobyl, 51 workers died out of 237 who were sickened.  There are 4000 cases of radiation-induced cancer because of the accident.  At Fukushima on the other hand, two workers received non-life-threatening burns and two others inhaled enough radioactive iodine to give them a pretty good chance of developing thyroid cancer sometime in the future.  Others didn't get enough radiation to give them a statistically higher chance of getting cancer than the population as a whole.

The non-nuclear tsunami killed 15,854, injured 26,992, with 3,155 missing.  But I seriously doubt that people are going to stop living on coastlines.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Gay Marriage non-Threat

The pope says that gay marriage is a threat to the future of humanity.  Uh, so the future of humanity depends on forcing gay people into heterosexual marriages?  Or depriving them the opportunity to have families and raise children?

Friday, March 09, 2012

States of Depression

One thing holding back the recovery is the contraction of government spending at the state and local levels.  It would be possible for the federal government to really help here by borrowing at really low interest rates.  The reduced spending isn't only hurting the economy, it's hurting the education and infrastructure needed for future economic health.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

More environmental rules needed for shale gas

As the technology develops and as we discover more about what can go wrong, it makes sense that there will be more regulation.  We can also expect that what needs to be regulated may not be what we initially think needs to be regulated.

How to anger a Canadian

Let the planet heat up enough to mess up outdoor hockey.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Synergistic Energy

 By combining two different methods this nifty energy cell generates power AND purifies water.  It uses a special type of salt and the dissolved organic material in wastewater.