Saturday, December 8

Guess which country this is

In the last four years alone, it has used drones to end people's lives in six predominantly Muslim country (probably more). Under its Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader, it has repeatedly wiped out entire families (including just this week), slaughtered dozens of children at a time, targeted and killed people rescuing and grieving its victims, and either deliberately or recklessly dropped bombs on teenagers (including its own citizens), then justified it with the most foul and morally deranged rationale.

It embraces and props up the world's most repressive tyrants. It isolates itself from the world and embraces blatant double standards in order to enable the worst behavior of its client states. It continues to maintain a global network of prisons where people are kept indefinitely in cages with no charges. It exempts itself and its leaders from the international institutions of justice while demanding that the leaders of other, less powerful states be punished there. And it is currently in the process of suffocating a nation of 75 million people with an increasingly sadistic sanctions regime, while proudly boasting about it and threatening more.

It spent years imprisoning even Muslim journalists with no charges. And then there's that little fact about how, less than a decade ago, it created a worldwide torture regime and then launched an aggressive war that destroyed a nation of 26 million people, one that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings.
From The PSY scandal: singing about killing people v. constantly doing it.

Monday, December 3

How can they be even "more respectful" of Obama?

In response to the contention that the media will now be even "more respectful" of Obama than they have been up to now, Glenn Greenwald writes,
Short of formally beatifying him, or perhaps transferring all their worldly possessions to him, is that even physically possible?

Monday, November 26

The hypocrisy of "pardoning" Thanksgiving turkeys

In his discussion of this absurd ritual, unemployed negativity cites The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon, The Death of Teddy's Bear, and the Sovereign Exception of Guantánomo by Magnus Fiskejö, who explains what actually happens to the turkeys:
The chosen birds are killed because they have been engineered and packed with hormones to the point that they are unfit for any other purpose than their own slaughter and consumption. They are fast-forward turkeys. Presidential turkey caretakers have explained that most succumb rather quickly to joint disease—their frail joints simply cannot bear the weight of their artificially enhanced bodies.
"Pardoning" Thanksgiving turkeys was ridiculous to being with, given that it makes a mockery of those unjustly imprisoned in general, and in Obama's case in particular, underlines how few human pardons he has actually granted, not to mention the fact that the president, like many other Americans, eats turkey anyway. But like so much in modern life, to me it seems to be no more than meaningless ritual (although Fiskejö would disagree).

Wednesday, November 21

The most influential book in Western economics?

From Yang Jisheng: The man who discovered 36 million dead (Paul Mason's article on Yang Jisheng, author of Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao's Great Famine):
He had stumbled on Friedrich von Hayek's The Road to Serfdom in a library and chuckles with mild scepticism when I tell him it is probably the most influential book in Western economics:

"Before I read Hayek, I had only read works the party wanted me to. Hayek says that to use the state to promote a utopia is very dangerous. In China that's exactly what they did. The utopia promoted by Marx, even though it is beautiful, it is very dangerous."
The most influential book in Western economics? Or what Kate Zernike saw as one of a number of once-obscure texts by dead writers?

Thursday, November 15

Getting harvested.

So I just watched the first episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (I've got to say I just don't see what the excitement was about). Anyway, recently I've seen a few bumper stickers for something called "Harvest Crusade". Any connection? but then Memrise has something called "Harvest", too.

Saturday, November 3

An astonishing resurgence
Today, the eastern third of the country has the largest forest in the contiguous U.S., as well as two-thirds of its people. Since the 19th century, forests have grown back to cover 60% of the land within this area. In New England, an astonishing 86.7% of the land that was forested in 1630 had been reforested by 2007, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Not since the collapse of Mayan civilization 1,200 years ago has reforestation on this scale happened in the Americas, says David Foster, director of the Harvard Forest, an ecology research unit of Harvard University. In 2007, forests covered 63.2% of Massachusetts and 58% of Connecticut, the third and fourth most densely populated states in the country, not counting forested suburban and exurban sprawl (though a lot of sprawl has enough trees to be called a real forest if people and their infrastructure weren't there).

Sunday, October 28

If there are aspects of life that God does not control, he is not omnipotent, but just one magical force among many.
Whether we construe Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s statement generously and limit it to his obvious intentions—that the life that results from a rape is a gift that God intends to happen—or construe it less favorably to what Mourdock meant to say but faithfully to Christian theology—that God intended the rape that impregnates the victim—either interpretation is required by the idea of an omniscient, omnipotent God. Given the nonstop stream of prayers that believers send God’s way every second, seeking favorable dispositions of, inter alia, their home foreclosure, their bypass operation, the election, the aftermath of an earthquake and every other natural disaster (belatedly), it’s clear that believers rightly reason that there is not a single aspect of life invisible to the all-powerful God and over which he fails to exercise utter control (even if he sometimes seems to get a little distracted). I mean, if he can perform such Iron Age miracles as ventriloquizing through a burning bush , he can sure as heck prevent a rape if he chose to do so. His will has no option but to be done.

Saturday, October 27

I was going to send this to professors I know, but I didn't want to depress them

The Magic of Education by Bryan Caplan
Think about all the time students spend studying history, art, music, foreign languages, poetry, and mathematical proofs. What you learn in most classes is, in all honesty, useless in the vast majority of occupations. This is hardly surprising when you remember how little professors like me know about the Real World. How can I possibly improve my students' ability to do a vast array of jobs that I don't know how to do myself? It would be nothing short of magic.

...

Many educators sooth their consciences by insisting that "I teach my students how to think, not what to think." But this platitude goes against a hundred years of educational psychology. Education is very narrow; students learn the material you specifically teach them... if you're lucky.

The only difference between Obama and Bush

The only difference between Obama and Bush is that Obama is killing more people. He’s about double the numbers now. Can you imagine if McCain had won and did precisely what Obama has done, with every speech and every political maneuver overseas? There’d be riots in the streets about the people we’re killing. And yet because it’s Obama, and he’s better looking and better at reading the teleprompter, we let him get away with it.
Penn Jillette

Thursday, October 25

More people have been starting college, but...

...the fraction that actually finishes college has remained flat. Or so Bryan Caplan argues:
...we already have an enormously high dropout rate, especially for marginal students. Most of, or at least a lot of the payoff from going to college comes from finishing. And yet, over the last decade or so we’ve had a large rise of the number of people who start going to college, but the fraction that actually finishes has been very flat. So it seems quite likely in a way that this is just going to encourage a lot of people to waste a couple of years of life and get very little show for it.

Tuesday, October 23

Spot the difference

Krugman didn't write this:
What continues to amaze me is this: our current strategy of massive, unsustainable deficit spending in the hopes that this will somehow generate a self-sustained recovery is currently regarded as the orthodox, sensible thing to do - even though it can be justified only by exotic stories about multiple equilibria, the sort of thing you would imagine only a professor could believe. Meanwhile further steps on monetary policy - the sort of thing you would advocate if you believed in a more conventional, boring model, one in which the problem is simply a question of the savings-investment balance - are rejected as dangerously radical and unbecoming of a dignified economy.

Will somebody please explain this to me?
He wrote this:
What continues to amaze me is this: Japan's current strategy of massive, unsustainable deficit spending in the hopes that this will somehow generate a self-sustained recovery is currently regarded as the orthodox, sensible thing to do - even though it can be justified only by exotic stories about multiple equilibria, the sort of thing you would imagine only a professor could believe. Meanwhile further steps on monetary policy - the sort of thing you would advocate if you believed in a more conventional, boring model, one in which the problem is simply a question of the savings-investment balance - are rejected as dangerously radical and unbecoming of a dignified economy.

Will somebody please explain this to me?

Monday, October 22

Should I vote for someone because I identify with him?

Obama’s ‘not one of us’ attack on Romney echoes racial code by Karen Tumulty, who might say "to be sure" before adding:
The context of the ad is very different from the one in which the phrase “one of us” was used to divide the country along racial lines....
But anyway, why must people identify with a particular candidate? Don't appeals to identity (which certainly do suggest racism to me) mean that a candidate doesn't have much to say on the issues?

Saturday, October 20

Illegal immigrants don't take jobs away from American workers

Eduardo Porter in Immigration and American Jobs:
[Economists] confirm earlier findings that immigration on the whole has not led to fewer jobs for American workers. More significantly, they suggest that immigrants have had, at most, a small negative impact on the wages of Americans who compete with them most directly, those with a high school degree or less.

Meanwhile, the research has found that immigrants – including the poor, uneducated ones coming from south of the border — have a big positive impact on the economy over the long run, bolstering the profitability of American firms, reducing the prices of some products and services by providing employers with a new labor source and creating more opportunities for investment and jobs.

Friday, October 19

Should I vote for someone because of his ethnicity?

Jay Chen seems to think I should vote for him because of his ethnicity. Funny, though, how a couple of Latinas seemed to have snuck in. No blacks or whites, though. So if one is not East Asian or Latina one shouldn't vote for him?


Thursday, October 18

Is the Cato Institute right wing? (II)
Please, no bigotry toward those who are successful in pursuing the American Dream
According to the IRS, the top 1 percent of earners take home 17 percent of the nation’s total taxable income. Yet they pay 37 percent of the nation’s taxes. They are paying a disproportionate share of the burden of government and yet the Occupy protestors, public employee unions and even President Obama demonize them.

Think about who the 1 percent are. They are entrepreneurs who have pursued life, liberty and happiness. For many, pursuit of a dream is the root source of their wealth. They risked some of their own money and perhaps recruited investors to put in some of theirs. They hired workers to join them in making this dream a reality. Some of those workers became 1 percenters, too.

And how do these dreams come true? By operating businesses that succeed by serving others well. That is the essence of the free market and capitalism. Despite all its flaws, despite the risks, despite the many challenges, success is achieved by serving others well. This should be championed, not vilified. It’s surreal we must be reminded of this.

What a watery mess

From Parched in the West but Shipping Water to China, Bale by Bale by Peter Culp and Robert Glennon:
In 2012, the drought-stricken Western United States will ship more than 50 billion gallons of water to China. This water will leave the country embedded in alfalfa -- most of it grown in California -- and is destined to feed Chinese cows. The strange situation illustrates what is wrong about how we think, or rather don't think, about water policy in the U.S.

...the most curious consequence of this export market involves water. Alfalfa is a water-guzzling crop -- and the water embedded in the alfalfa that the U.S. will export to China in 2012 is enough to supply the annual needs of roughly 500,000 families.

Southern California's Imperial Irrigation District gets its water from the Colorado River, 82 miles to the east. Alfalfa farmers in the district use as much as 50% more water than growers in other areas of the state due to scorching heat, salty soil and, perhaps most important, their legal rights to an enormous quantity of cheap water. This single irrigation district controls more than 20% of the total annual flow of the Colorado River. Remarkably, the district's water rights are 10 times higher than that of the entire state of Nevada.

...

The perversity of a situation in which California taxpayers must spend tens of billions to protect the water supplies of vital farms and cities -- even as California farmers convert tens of thousands of irrigated acres to feed cows in China -- reflects the growing incoherence of domestic water and agricultural policy. Antiquated Western water laws often block intrastate or interstate water transfers that could satisfy changing domestic urban, agricultural and environmental needs.
Cutting the Bureau of Reclamation and Reforming Water Markets by Chris Edwards and Peter J. Hill notes the problems caused by the eponymous agency:
The large subsidies built into many Reclamation projects indicate that they have been a loss to taxpayers and the economy. But Reclamation projects have also harmed the environment, which has prompted Congress to burden taxpayers with further spending aimed at mitigating the damage.

...

President Jimmy Carter was an early anti-dam crusader and he famously tried to terminate 19 major projects of the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers. Carter examined the environmental and economic effects of these projects, and he concluded that they were boondoggles. However, Carter misplayed the politics of the issue, and his spending cuts to water infrastructure projects went nowhere in Congress.69 Carter's skepticism of dams is more widespread today, and a movement has developed to remove dams where the costs seem to outweigh the benefits.70.
If these Cato authors praise a Democratic president, does that mean he's wrong?
[California's Central Valley Project] is Reclamation's largest irrigation project, providing roughly 6,800 farmers irrigation water for about 3 million acres of land. The farmers receive the water at roughly 10 percent of its market value, which in 2002 worked out to an annual subsidy of about $416 million a year, according to EWG...83 

On top of the irrigation subsidy, about one-fifth of CVP farmers who receive federal irrigation water also receive crop subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.... This subsidized production of often water-intensive crops in the arid West competes with more efficient production of the same crops in other regions of the country. Federal farm subsidies encourage overproduction of crops in all parts of the nation, and so the government is exacerbating the overproduction with irrigation subsidies in the West.
(via Water: Excess of Subsidies, Lack of Markets by Chris Edwards)

Wednesday, October 17

Where Inflation Comes From

And where it's likely to go. From The Everyday Price Index ("Written by AIER Staff")
Given the monetary expansion policies pursued by the Federal Reserve in the last few years, inflation is unlikely to moderate and may even accelerate in the future. The Fed increased M1, the narrowly defined money supply that consists of currency and demand deposits only, by 14 percent in 2011 alone and by 48 percent since the start of the financial crisis in 2008.

Historically, such a large expansion of the money supply has always resulted in higher inflation. For now, most of the additional money created by the Fed is accumulating in the excess reserves held by banks. But recently banks have started lending again. Reserves have started flowing out of the banks and into the wider economy through a somewhat increased volume of consumer loans and a more dramatic increase in the volume of commercial and industrial loans. There are also some early signs of life in the housing market and therefore in mortgage-loan origination.

...

Chronic price inflation—even at moderate rates—leads to significant losses of buying power over time, a fact often obscured by the general focus on comparatively small monthly or annual price changes. During the past decade, the average rate of price inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index was 2.4 percent. Most people accept a 2.4 percent inflation rate as fairly tame. Yet it implies a loss of more than one-fifth of the purchasing power of the dollar over the decade.
What I'm afraid of is hyperinflation, because neither Democratic nor Republican politicians are seriously considering paying for the government spending on entitlements and defense. (via J.D. Tuccille)

Is the Cato Institute right wing?

GOP Groups’ Ads on Sequestration, Defense Jobs Are Misleading.

(Hint: the answer is no.)

“Professor” is hate speech

If your name is Elizabeth Warren.

Sunday, October 14

Blame Cuomo, Bush and Clinton for the Meltdown

As the title Clinton’s Legacy: The Financial and Housing Meltdown indicates, Sheldon Richman blames Clinton. First, he explains,
The meltdown was the consequence of a combination of the easy money and low interest rates engineered by the Federal Reserve and the easy housing engineered by a variety of government agencies and policies. Those agencies include the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and two nominally private “government-sponsored enterprises” (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The agencies — along with laws such as the Community Reinvestment Act (passed in the 1970s, then fortified in the Clinton years), which required banks to make loans to people with poor and nonexistent credit histories — made widespread homeownership a national goal. This all led to a home-buying frenzy and an explosion of subprime and other non-prime mortgages, which banks and GSEs bundled into dubious securities and peddled to investors worldwide. Hovering in the background was the knowledge that the federal government would bail out troubled “too-big-to-fail” financial corporations, including Fannie and Freddie.
Then he later adds,
Clinton’s contribution to the crisis lay in his appointment of Cuomo to HUD. Cuomo became HUD secretary in 1997 after becoming assistant secretary in 1993.
So, yes, it was Clinton's fault for the appointment, but even more Cuomo's. Then Richman quotes from "a heavily researched 2008 article in the Village Voice" by Wayne Barrett which also puts the onus primarily on Cuomo, but also on George Bush and Bill Clinton.

The Adolescent Need

Referring to Jonathan Turley's Op-Ed on the gradual death of free speech in the west, Glenn Greenwald notes
...he places the blame squarely where it belongs: on the veneration of "sensitivities" over the free flow of ideas, and relatedly, the adolescent need on the part of many adults to plead with authority figures to shield them from views they find offensive.
It's not just views that many adults find offensive. It's behavior of all kinds that they dislike and seek to have the authorities eliminate.

Thursday, October 11

What 喝西北風 means

Howard Goldblatt's overly literal translation of the idiom 喝西北風 hēxīběifēng in Mo Yan's The Garlic Ballads has always annoyed me.
The phrase is an old metaphor used at least as early as the eighteenth century (in the novel 儒林外史 Ru lin wai shi) and actually means "to go hungry" or even "to starve". It's a dead metaphor, and doesn't really have anything to do with drinking or eating the northwest wind. A similar error appears in From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China by Ellen Widmer & Te-wei Wang.

But, he does concede "some" and "many"

In Why Gasoline Prices Are Volatile, Jonathan H. Adler wrote:
While most of the fuel standards were adopted in the name of the environmental protection, many are actually the result of special interest pleading. Producers of various products, ethanol in particular, sought fuel content mandates or performance requirements that would benefit their particular product. (I detailed part of this history in “Clean Fuels, Dirty Air,” in Environmental Politics: Public Costs, Private Rewards (Greve & Smith eds. 1992).) Worse, some of the content requirements are irrelevant for new cars due to modern pollution control equipment. Federally imposed boutique fuel requirements have outlived whatever usefulness they ever had.

Wednesday, October 10

What cause the mortgage meltdown and the ensuing Wall Street crisis

Jonah Goldberg on the subprime mortgage crisis:
The question of what caused the crisis is obviously still controversial, but a consensus seems to be forming around the following narrative: The federal government, out of an abundance of concern for the plight of the poor and middle class, made it too easy to buy a home. Congress, on a bipartisan basis, set unrealistic affordable-housing goals for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

President Clinton used those goals to expand access to mortgages to low-income borrowers. Then President George W. Bush, with the approval of Congress, expanded the practice, until way too many low-income or otherwise underqualified Americans owned mortgages they couldn’t afford.

A mixture of greed, idealism, cynicism and stupidity led to the practice of bundling those iffy mortgages into financial instruments that Wall Street didn’t know how to handle and regulators didn’t know how to regulate. As Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) put it in 2003, he wanted to “roll the dice a bit” on regulating subprime mortgages.

When the Washington-abetted housing boom went bust, regulators demanded immediate markdowns of mortgage-backed securities, which required financial institutions to sell them, creating a fire-sale atmosphere that fueled the panic even more.

Some Obama defenders will say that Bush’s deficits made it harder to deal with the crisis. That seems reasonable, even if it’s a red herring in the debate about what caused the crisis. And Obama’s record on deficits hardly gives him much standing.
Both Democrats and Republicans are responsible, and so naturally they each blame the other.

Sunday, October 7

The two technologies that most reliably cut carbon emissions

Matt Ridley, writing on The benefits of GM crops notes,
the two technologies most reliably and stridently opposed by the environmental movement-genetic modification and fracking-have been the two technologies that most reliably cut carbon emissions.

Wednesday, October 3

That sounds right.

From the Abstract to Why Most Published Research Findings Are False by John P. A. Ioannidis:
Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.
"Claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias." That sounds right to me.

Wait a minute....

Commercial speech is less protected

For some ungodly reason, commercial speech is less protected than other kinds.

Tuesday, October 2

Fuck Sam Houston State University

A professor at Sam Houston State University was so incensed by seeing "Fuck Obama" on a student-sponsored "free speech wall", he excised the word "Fuck". Not surprisingly, the other instances of the word on the wall apparently didn't offend him, but when the campus police were informed, they demanded removal of every instance of the word.

The real villain here isn't Professor Joe E. Kirk (although the kids at ratemyprofessor don't seem to like his teaching much) and his pathetic vandalism. The real villain is the administrator that's standing behind the campus police. Would that be President Dana L. Gibson?

Sunday, September 30

One way Obama is better than Romney

Conor Friedersdorf wants someone to ask Romney, "Would your administration take prisoners, strap them to a board, obstruct their nasal cavity, and force water down their throats till it fills their lungs and terrifies them with the sensation of drowning?"

Guess what he'd say.

Is a driver's license a "privilege"?

From California voters support path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, say no to driver's licenses By Kevin Yamamura; according to a poll of registered voters:
56 percent of registered voters believe that illegal immigrants in California should not be able to get a driver's license, compared with 40 percent who said they should.
The article also cites Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, who says
roadways would be safer if undocumented workers obtain licenses because they would have to demonstrate driving skills and buy insurance.
That seems obvious to me. I just can't understand the opposition. But one opponent is cited as saying
If you're an illegal immigrant and can't go through the process of becoming legal, paying taxes and doing everything you're supposed to be doing, why should you get these privileges?
I guess the assumption is that if they don't get a license, illegal immigrants won't drive. Just making something illegal isn't going to stop it. Of course if that's the case, there's not much point in the idea of suspending someone's license as a punishment, either.

Reporters who don't know what they're talking about

In a response to the new york times article on data center efficiency diego's weblog takes apart this New York Times article on data centers and power use. It looks as if the reporter James Glanz doesn't know what he's talking about. Even if he didn't start out wanting to make an "exposé" (however misleading or outright false), he ended up doing so.

What I find disturbing is that the tenor of Glanz's article is that the experts don't know what's best, and strongly suggests that someone knows better. It's an implicit, ignorant call for government regulation.

Friday, September 28

The US engaging in terrorism

New Stanford/NYU study documents the civilian terror from Obama's drones by Glenn Greenwald:
In the hierarchy of war crimes, deliberately targeting rescuers and funerals - so that aid workers are petrified to treat the wounded and family members are intimidated out of mourning their loved ones - ranks rather high, to put that mildly. Indeed, the US itself has long maintained that such "secondary strikes" are a prime hallmark of some of the world's most despised terrorist groups.
And as he notes, even though Gore decried Bush's "mere eavesdropping on Americans and his detention of them without judicial review",
...here Obama is claiming the power to decide who should be killed without a shred of transparency, oversight, or due process - a power that is being continuously used to kill civilians, including children - and many of these same progressives now actually cheer for that.

Democrats spent several days at their convention two weeks ago wildly cheering and chanting whenever President Obama's use of violence and force was heralded. They're celebrating a leader who is terrorizing several parts of the Muslim world, repeatedly killing children, targeting rescuers and mourners, and entrenching the authority to exert the most extreme powers in full secrecy and without any accountability -- all while he increases, not decreases, the likelihood of future attacks.

Thursday, September 27

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin: "The world is a funny place."
Hobbes: "Yes."
Calvin: "But it's not a hilarious place."
Hobbes: "Unless you got a sick sense of humor."
Calvin: "It's probably funnier to people who don't live here."

Saturday, September 22

I'd like my behavior subsidized, too

Writing on Sandra Fluke, Jacob Sullum wondered,
If the right to arms does not entail a right to gun subsidies, why would a right to abortion entail a right to abortion subsidies?

Friday, September 21

Do we get the policitians we deserve?

How Obama Came to Be the Biggest Defender of Indefinite Detention by J.D. Tuccille |
From pretending horror over the power to detain people without charges or trials, Obama has moved on to embracing that power, defending that power, and arguing that the executive branch had that power long before the current law was passed. ...[Obama] came to this supposedly newfound disdain for due process with bipartisan connivance in Congress, and with his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, me-too-ing his support for the NDAA....

Likely voters not egalitarian

From a Reason-Rupe poll of likely voters (details here):
  • 67 percent of likely voters say it is not the government’s responsibility to reduce income differences between Americans, while 29 percent say it is the government’s responsibility.
  • 61 percent of likely voters say that today’s levels of income inequality are an acceptable part of America’s economic system, while 35 percent say income inequalities need to be fixed.
  • 59 percent of voters believe all Americans have equal opportunities to succeed, while 39 percent do not believe everyone has equal opportunities.
I wonder how likely non-voters feel.

Is the Camaro a vehicle redolent of crustaceans? Of cockroaches?

Does the Camaro automobile remind those who speak Spanish of shrimp or perhaps lobsters?
Or does the stress (á) make Camaro look so different from camarón that no one but me sees the similarity?

According to the Diccionario de la lengua española, camarón (shrimp) is the augmentative of cámaro, from the Latin cammărus (a sea-crab, lobster). Note that shrimp swim backward (not the best connotation for a car), but mantis shrimp are credited with "the swiftest kick, and perhaps most brutal attack, of any predator." As for the speed of lobsters:
Generally, lobsters move slowly by walking on the bottom. However, when they are in danger and have to flee, they can swim backwards quickly by curling and uncurling their abdomen. A speed of 5 metres/second has already been recorded.
Five metres/second is about eleven miles per hour. Not very impressive.

I'm guessing the name of the car has no connection to those scuttling ragged claws of T.S. Eliot's objective correlative. Anyway, Eliot was already dead when the Camaro came out, so he didn't get to drive one.

And as for cockroaches, as Professor Joseph G. Kunkel explains, lobsters are called "roaches of the sea" for good reason. The next question would be "How fast are cockroaches?"

Does Jeff Wheelwright dislike hearing Japanese people speak English?

In The Gray Tsunami, speaking of Haruna Fukui (a Japanese graduate student working on her Ph.D. in sociology at Arizona State University), Wheelwright says
Fukui speaks near-perfect American English, even incorporating a questioning inflection at the end of her sentences.
Oooh, a Japanese who can actually speak English! As if her English fluency has anything to do with his article.

Sunday, September 16

We've got to pay for what Jerry Brown wants

Jerry Brown claims, "We've got to pay for what we want." No, we've got to pay for what Jerry Brown wants. For instance, he keeps insisting on the high-speed rail, even though polls are against it.

Then "the former Jesuit seminarian" goes on to say, "I'm ready for austerity, OK?.... I took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. I am ready, OK?" He loves talking about those vows, even though he went on to date Linda Ronstadt, Natalie Wood, and Liv Ullmann, and perhaps others. So much for chastity.

It looks like he thinks poverty, chastity and obedience are good for other people.

Sequestration cuts are 3%, but it's the end of the world

According to Federal Budget Cuts Detailed, the White House claims a "roughly 10% reduction in spending on military and other programs would impact government operations". Given that the total budget is $3.8 trillion, and the proposed cuts of $109 billion are only about 3%, I wonder which programs are not being cut.

Wednesday, September 12

It's as though there are two types of crimes

It's as though there are two types of crimes: killing, and then the killing of Americans.

Of course, it's not just Americans who respond that way, but it's still pretty awful.

Tuesday, September 11

The heteronomous ethic demands that someone else control us

Like other medical scapegoats, and especially like involuntary mental patients who do not want to be patients at all, the "obese" also often reject--if not in word then in deed--the patient role. Their actions communicate a desire to be or remain fat or, perhaps more accurately, to weigh more than others think they should.
...
We must, after all, never be alone and never be self-controlled (however peculiarly so). The heteronomous ethic demands that someone else control us: a sexual partner our orgasms; a surgeon our obesity.
Ceremonial Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts, and Pushers, by Thomas Stephen Szasz

Saturday, September 8

Who wants to bomb more

One of Five Parting Shots From Charlotte by Garrett Quinn
For decades Democrats have trailed Republicans in the “who wants to bomb other countries into the Stone Age more” category. No more. The Democrats have caught up and they’re proud of it too.
If this were Bush, there would no doubt be great outcry. But the US media certainly seem to love Obama. Hence:

Organic Food Superstition

In Organic Food Superstition Receives Yet Another Blow From Science Ronald Bailey points out that "organic" food is no more nutritious than its conventional counterparts and just as likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli. The pesticide residue levels found in conventionally grown food were well below regulatory standards.

And yet, many of the people so fond of organic food sneer at religious believers.

Friday, September 7

A clear choice?

In A Choice Between Two Different Futures? Or a Choice Between Two Different Parties? Peter Suderman writes,
A major part of the Democrats’ message this week is the argument that a Romney presidency would return us to the era of President George W. Bush. But what happened during the Bush years? Record spending, record debt, a slew of civil liberties abuses, a failed and expensive war on drugs, an impossibly complex immigration system and shameful treatment of immigrants, and a new health care entitlement in the form of Medicare Part D. And what did a change in White House power bring? Record spending, record debt, a slew of civil liberties abuses, a failed and expensive war on drugs, an impossibly complex immigration system and shameful treatment of immigrants, and a new health care entitlement in the form of ObamaCare.

Wednesday, September 5

“Market failure” = “choices made by other people that we don’t like

From A. Barton Hinkle's The Worst Welfare Benefits the Best-Off: Corporations

People in government do not possess special wisdom that allows them to see better and farther than people in private business. Yet they often act as though they do.

Monday, September 3

Perhaps Enron's collapse was not a case of unregulated markets gone wild

In Enron: The Perils of Interventionism, Robert L. Bradley Jr. writes:
As it turns out, Enron was a political colossus with a unique range of rent-seeking and subsidy-receiving operations. Ken Lay's announced visions for the company—to become the world's first natural-gas major, then the world's leading energy company, and, finally, the world's leading company—relied on more than free-market entrepreneurship. They were premised on employing political means to catch up with, and outdistance, far larger and more-established corporations.

Not even remotely realistic

In An Open Letter to Conservatives Who Care About the Deficit: Wake Up!, Conor Friedersdorf points out the Republican Romney-Ryan budget is not even remotely realistic.

Thursday, August 30

What has Illinois earned?

S&P lowers Illinois credit rating over pensions
Continuing pension problems have earned Illinois another reduction in its credit rating.
Standard & Poor's Ratings Services announced Wednesday that it is lowering Illinois' general obligation rating to A from A-plus. The decision is based on weak funding for government pensions and a "lack of action on reform measures."
As Speaker of the Illinois House almost continuously since 1982, Michael Madigan has been a major force in Illinois politics for decades. Yet over those same decades, the state government has failed to fund Illinois public pensions (and at least compared to those of state government employees nationally, they aren't particularly generous). (See The Illinois Pension Funding Problem: Why It Matters or March 2012 Financial Condition of the Illinois State Retirement Systems) This failure is Michael Madigan's poisonous legacy.

Solyndra and General Motors

Paul Ryan complains Obama’s stimulus
went to companies like Solyndra, with their gold-plated connections, subsidized jobs, and make-believe markets. The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst.
Tad DeHaven points out Ryan voted for the GM bailout, and
If you replace “Solyndra” with “General Motors” the story is essentially the same

Wednesday, August 29

The GOP is an echo of the Democrats

Nick Gillespie's GOP Pushes to Become Seen as Medicare's Savior Despite Fiscal Destructiveness, Unfairness of Program
... the GOP is doubling down on being an echo of the Democrats rather than a full-throated Goldwaterian alternative to the status quo. You can see that in their actual budget proposals (to the degree that they exist): In a decade's time, Obama hopes the government is spending about $2 trillion more than it is now; the GOP Congress wants to spend $1 trillion more. In a country that is borrowing almost 40 cents of every dollar it spends, this is splitting hairs.


What is not seen

James L. Payne's The Unnoticed Deficit That Makes Us $6 Trillion Poorer
Though there is an element of redistribution in many spending programs, basically government is taxing people and then trying to return the money to them as some benefit they could have bought for themselves, such as education, housing, art, pensions, medical care, and so on.
He then goes on to detail how overhead costs of government tax-and-spend programs result in waste.

Chris Christie’s "hard truth"

Josh Barro on Romney and Christie’s Hard Truth Problem
...a hard truth Christie absolutely will not tell is that every one of his budgets has been unbalanced by more than $2.5 billion. When Christie said tonight he has signed “three balanced budgets,” he wasn’t telling a hard truth -- he was using bad accounting to hide a hard truth.

Each year, Christie has achieved “on paper” budget balance by making inadequate payments into the state’s pension fund, effectively borrowing from the fund.
That sounds like a Democratic governor.

Monday, August 27

Cheddar on whole wheat

In The Hidden Truths about Calories Rob Dunn writes,
A new study this year found that in a lab experiment individual humans who ate 600 or 800 calorie portions of whole wheat bread (with nuts and seeds on it) and cheddar cheese actually expended twice as much energy, yes twice, in digesting that food as did individuals who consumed the same quantity of white bread and “processed cheese product.”
...
Each of us gets a different number of calories out of identical foods because of who we are and who our ancestors were.

...your microbes are different than mine which likely matters to digestion....
One of my favorite sandwiches happens to be cheddar (mild or sharp) on whole wheat (oops. Safeway Select Nut And Grain Bread is primarily white flour, but it's got walnuts & sunflower seeds and a bunch of grains) with mayo, sliced tomato & onion, and lettuce. I can't stand processed cheese.

Sunday, August 26

That's not what "nonpartisan" means to me

Daniel Immerwahr, in his review of Inderjeet Parmar's Foundations of the American Century, writes,
Unlike the think tanks of today, the Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller foundations were, and continue to be, studiously nonpartisan. They sought above all technocratic order: a strong federal government, a class of experts ready to guide it, and a docile public eager to follow. Abroad, they combined their faith in the rule of experts with the belief that the ideas and institutions best suited to the poorer countries of the world were those of the United States.
But everyone has certain ideas that they promote, and often those ideas are controversial, and opposed by one party or another. For instance, there is one party that's much more fond of the federal government than the other. On the other hand, I can't imagine either American political party openly calling for "a docile public eager to follow" them. As Glenn Greenwald notes, there is a disturbing thirst for leader-worship amongst supporters of both parties.

At least they’re not out killing people

From Caroline Daniel's interview with Ian McEwan:
His work has spawned dozens of theses. I hand over a list, pointing to one exotic title, which he reads out loud, faintly embarrassed: “Mimesis and the Imaginable Other – Meta-fictional Narrative Ethics ... ” (He stops reading before it gets to: “In the Novels of Ian McEwan”.) As if to deflect attention, he mordantly adds: “Well, at least they’re not out killing people, I suppose.”

Friday, August 24

How drug legalization would improve on the status quo

Conor Friedersdorf writes,
...legalization would mean less likelihood of death by overdose due to standardization of supply and dosage; getting high based on the safest drug that gets the job done, rather than the one most easily available, even if much more dangerous and addictive; no need to transact business with drug dealers, who are sometimes dangerous and violent; an ability to seek medical attention for oneself or one's family members without fear of arrest; and more opportunities for subsidized treatment, if even a fraction of the money spent on policing and incarceration were spent on social services. There's also the fact that fewer would face long prison sentences.

Thursday, August 23

Romney: Dick Cheney without the charm

In Obama and Romney vs. the Bill of Rights Steve Chapman writes,
If you're looking for an opponent willing to call Obama out for his disappointing efforts in [the realm of civil liberties], Mitt Romney is not the candidate for you. When it comes to civil liberties, he gives every appearance of being Dick Cheney without the charm.

Tuesday, August 21

Monday, August 20

The Obama administration has adopted a terrorist tactic

Glenn Greenwald writes, "Attacking rescuers – a tactic long deemed by the US a hallmark of terrorism – is now routinely used by the Obama administration." Late last year, Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, was still defending the committee's decision to award Obama the Nobel Peace Prize.

On the 40th Anniversary of the "Limits to Growth"

On the 40th Anniversary of the "Limits to Growth" pretty much says it all. Also, Environmentalism as Religious Doctrine quotes Steven Landsburg's "The Armchair Economist" on his suspicion that environmentalists don't want to seriously inquire into the long-term effects of recycling "because their real concern is with the ritual of recycling itself, not with its consequences. The underlying need to sacrifice, and to compel others to sacrifice, is a fundamentally religious impulse." Of course, serious inquiry into the long-term consequences of anything is in pretty short supply on all sides.

I was just wondering if one could say that we don't truly exist if we're totally misinterpreting our lives. What if although what we perceive is real, it's only a tiny portion of reality, and so poorly interpreted that we actually understand everything in our peculiarly local context that is irrelevant in the larger picture. 

Sunday, August 19

Green managment


According to this, the four houses topping the Ninth Heaven International Mall 九天国际广场 in Zhuzhou, Hunan are legally sanctioned, and are not private residences (别墅), but used by the for "green management" (绿化管理) and "property management" (物业管理).

Different Pentagon Spending Plans

Christopher Preble writes,
Paul Ryan would spend more than President Obama on the military; Mitt Romney would spend much more.

Saturday, August 18

U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide emissions down

Ronald Bailey writes,
U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide emissions are back down to their 1992 levels.... Lots of environmental activists dislike cheap natural gas because it outcompetes their first loves, photovoltaic and wind power. It spooks the nuke folks too. I noted a Washington Post headline back in February that actually read: "Cheap Gas Jumbles Energy Markets, Stirs Fears that It Could Inhibit Renewables."

Our future of invisible threats

Gabriella Blum imagines the following:
You walk into your shower and find a spider. You are not an arachnologist. You do, however, know that any one of the four following options is possible:

a. The spider is real and harmless.

b. The spider is real and venomous.

c. Your next-door neighbor, who dislikes your noisy dog, has turned her personal surveillance spider (purchased from “Drones ‘R Us” for $49.95) loose and is monitoring it on her iPhone from her seat at a sports bar downtown. The pictures of you, undressed, are now being relayed on several screens during the break of an NFL game, to the mirth of the entire neighborhood.

d. Your business competitor has sent his drone assassin spider, which he purchased from a bankrupt military contractor, to take you out. Upon spotting you with its sensors, and before you have any time to weigh your options, the spider shoots an infinitesimal needle into a vein in your left leg and takes a blood sample. As you beat a retreat out of the shower, your blood sample is being run on your competitor’s smartphone for a DNA match. The match is made against a DNA sample of you that is already on file at EVER.com (Everything about Everybody), an international DNA database (with access available for $179.99). Once the match is confirmed (a matter of seconds), the assassin spider outruns you with incredible speed into your bedroom, pausing only long enough to dart another needle, this time containing a lethal dose of a synthetically produced, undetectable poison, into your bloodstream. Your assassin, who is on a summer vacation in Provence, then withdraws his spider under the crack of your bedroom door and out of the house and presses its self-destruct button. No trace of the spider or the poison it carried will ever be found by law enforcement authorities.

Thursday, August 16

Obama vs. Romney--some choice!

In Romney and Ryan Would Return Us to the Bush Years, Andrew Napolitano writes,
Today in America, nearly half of all households receive either a salary or some financial benefit from the government; the other half pay for it. In Obama's vision for America, no one will be permitted to become too rich, no matter his skills and hard work. He somehow believes that government seizures and transfers of wealth generate prosperity. We know, of course, that the opposite occurs. Seizing wealth through taxation removes it from the private sector for investment. That produces job losses and government dependence on a massive scale.
...
Last week, Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, blasted Obama for borrowing more than one trillion dollars in just the past year. He must have forgotten to look at the voting record of his designated running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

Wednesday, August 15

Obama harms American consumers

To protect ethanol, Obama seeks to inflate meat prices
Campaigning in Missouri Valley, Iowa, yesterday, President Obama announced yet another government spending program -- this time designed to inflate meat prices in Midwest swing states. "Today the Department of Agriculture announced that it will buy up to $100 million worth of pork products, $50 million worth of chicken, and $20 million worth of lamb and farm-raised catfish," Obama explained to reporters in front of a drought-stricken cornfield.

... even environmentalists rejected ethanol long ago, when scientists established that it actually increases carbon and smog emissions.

To recap, government is driving up the cost of food, animal feed and gasoline, and Obama's solution is to drive up meat prices as well. Obama could eliminate the entire problem overnight and reduce carbon emissions were he to waive the ethanol mandate in a time of drought. Instead, he is creating a new spending program to mollify livestock producers, who, were it not for the ethanol mandate, would be able to make an honest living without his help.
Update
Which is not to say that Republicans are much better. From Obama Panders to Greedy Iowans:
...the farm bills currently stalled in Congress trade one set of ill-advised industry subsidies for another. They would continue to favor farming over other industries. And by handing out more insurance, they would actually create new incentives to farm land that is susceptible to drought.

Worse, these policies aren't even that controversial. The main point of contention between Republicans and Democrats in Congress is how deeply to cut the food stamp program, which is contained within the same law as farm subsidies; they are in broad agreement on giving handouts to farmers.

Sunday, August 12

I hope we're not #1

Michael Giberson wrote about how “clean energy” advocates only care about whether we’re #1 in green energy. The next day Scott Shackford wrote, China Is Winning the Race to Lose Billions on Solar Power.

Middle-class incomes are not stagnating

In The Mismeasure of Inequality Kip Hagopian and Lee Ohanian write,
We will show that much of what has been reported about income inequality is misleading, factually incorrect, or of little or no consequence to our economic well-being. We will also show that middle-class incomes are not stagnating; in fact, middle-class incomes have risen significantly over the 29 years covered by the cbo study. Lastly, we will address assertions that the rich are not paying their “fair share” of taxes.

Friday, August 10

Machine translation fail



From Tous les matins du monde: the narrator says, "J'avais froid aux fesses. Mon sexe etait tout petit et gelée." and the subtitles read as in the picture.

Thursday, August 9

The inappropriate font

Errol Morris writes,
The conscious awareness of Comic Sans promotes — at least among some people — contempt and summary dismissal. But is there a font that promotes, engenders a belief that a sentence is true? Or at least nudges us in that direction? And indeed there is.
It is Baskerville.
So perhaps Joann Lombardo is going to tear down banners in Comic Sans? And hound everyone to use Baskerville?

Tuesday, August 7

Religion is good?

And in the case of encouraging ‘prosocial’ behavior, we're not talking just any religion, but old-timey fire & brimstone religion. In Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates, Azim Shariff & Mijke Rhemtulla conclude:
Though religion has been shown to have generally positive effects on normative ‘prosocial’ behavior, recent laboratory research suggests that these effects may be driven primarily by supernatural punishment. Supernatural benevolence, on the other hand, may actually be associated with less prosocial behavior.
In Support for Redistribution in Western Europe: Assessing the role of religion, Daniel Stegmueller et al. conclude:
We find that both Catholics and Protestants strongly oppose income redistribution by the state. The cleavage between religious and secular individuals is far more important than the difference between denominations.
This would seem to explain something about the religious right.
Links via Mungowitz at Kids Prefer Cheese.

The costs to society dwarf the estimated benefits

But the government believes it knows better. In Overriding Consumer Preferences with Energy Regulations, Ted Gayer and W. Kip Viscusi write,
This article examines a major class of recent government initiatives by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) pertaining to energy efficiency (as distinct from economic efficiency). The regulations of interest all pertain to consumer products that are durable goods. There may be some kind of market failure with respect to the energy usage of these products, as energy use leads to environmental consequences. However, the existence of an imperfection alone cannot justify all regulations that take the form of government intrusion into the marketplace to override consumer choices. We examine the justification for these energy regulations and show that demonstrable market failures are largely incidental to an assessment of the merits of these regulations. Rather, the preponderance of the assessed benefits is derived from an assumption of irrational consumer choice. The impetus for the new wave of energy-efficiency regulations has little to do with externalities. Instead, the regulations are based on an assumption that government choices better reflect the preferences of consumers and firms than the choices consumers and firms would make themselves. In the absence of these claimed private benefits of the regulation, the costs to society dwarf the estimated benefits.
(via Michael Giberson at Knowledge Problem)

Monday, August 6

Some choice!

Guy Taylor in Obama, Romney spar over Pentagon spending:
...neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Romney has a real plan for reining in runaway defense spending.“Obama will spend a lot; Romney will spend more. That’s the difference,” said Winslow T. Wheeler, an analyst at the liberal Center for Defense Information....

The irony, said Mr. Korb, now a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, is that “apart from the first Reagan administration, the Pentagon has historically made out better under Democrats than Republicans in terms of money.”
“And the problem with Romney saying he’s going to increase defense spending,” said Mr. Korb, “is how is he going to do that while also dealing with the deficit?”
And then there's Romneycare vs. Obamacare.

Sunday, August 5

One good Mormon deserves another



The context for the slobber.

So many people are not paying attention

In what "Don Boudreaux calls "the greatest blog-post ever written", Deirdre McCloskey writes,
... anyone who after the 20th century still thinks that thoroughgoing socialism, nationalism, imperialism, mobilization, central planning, regulation, zoning, price controls, tax policy, labor unions, business cartels, government spending, intrusive policing, adventurism in foreign policy, faith in entangling religion and politics, or most of the other thoroughgoing 19th-century proposals for governmental action are still neat, harmless ideas for improving our lives is not paying attention.
Follow the link for further elucidation.

Obama worse than Bush?

Steve Coll writes in The New Yorker:
the Obama Administration leans toward killing terrorism suspects because it does not believe it has a politically attractive way to put them on trial. Federal criminal trials of terrorist suspects draw howls of protest from many Republicans, even though the George W. Bush Administration successfully prosecuted a number of high-profile terrorists in federal court.
via Glenn Greenwald, who cites Noam Chomsky:
If the Bush administration didn’t like somebody, they’d kidnap them and send them to torture chambers. If the Obama administration decides they don’t like somebody, they murder them.
Of course Romney won't raise any of this, and if elected, will presumably follow Obama's lead.

Saturday, August 4

San Bernardino County Library Has Great Stuff

Patrons of the San Bernardino County Library have free access to online Mango Languages (under Electronic Resources):
Arabic (Levantine)
Chinese (Cantonese)
Chinese (Mandarin)
Croatian
Czech
Danish
Dari
Dutch
Farsi (Persian)
Finnish
French
French (Canadian)
German
Greek
Greek (Ancient)
Greek (Koine)
Haitian Creole
Hawaiian
Hebrew
Biblical Hebrew
Hindi
Icelandic
Indonesian
Irish
Italian
Japanese
Korean
Latin
Norwegian
Pashto
Pirate
Polish
Portuguese (Brazil)
Russian
Slovak
Spanish (Latin America)
Spanish (Spain)
Swedish
Tagalog
Tamil
Thai
Turkish
Ukrainian
Urdu
Vietnamese

Also several courses in English as a Second Language:
لإنجليزية للمتحدثين بالعربية
教粵語人士講英文
针对中国人(母语为普通话)的英语学习
Anglais pour Francophones
Englisch für Deutschsprachige
Αγγλικα Για Έλληνες
Inglese per Italiani
日本人のための英会話
한국인을 위한 영어
Angielski Dla Polaków
Inglês para Brasileiros
Английский Для Русскоговорящих
Inglés Para Hablantes De Español
Türkçe Konuşanlar için İngilizce
Tiếng Anh Cho Người Việt Nam

If you don't have access to a public library that offers Mango, Online Foreign Service Institute Language Courses are another alternative for free language learning (albeit a little old-fashioned).

And a list from Open Culture.

Friday, August 3

Campaign Spending Down in 2012

That's a headline you won't see lots of places.

John Samples gives Some Perspective on Campaign Spending in 2012
[C]ampaign spending in 2012 seems likely to shrink as a share of overall national wealth compared to 2008. That conclusion is compatible with spending rising to record in absolute dollars. Indeed, spending is likely to set such records in every presidential election unless the economy contracts over a four year period.

Amid all the complaints about “record spending” shouldn’t at least one person in the media point out that campaign spending is lower, maybe much lower, than history would have led us to expect?

Saturday, July 28

Egregious signs to be scrutinized

Update on Chino Hills banner insanity via Chino Hills News:
The banner design should be compatible with the surrounding architecture but only signs that are egregious would be scrutinized....
I forsee a cadre of no doubt highly paid sign inspectors scurrying around the city solemnly scrutinizing whatever signs they deem "egregious".

Breathtaking regulatory overreach

"Chino Hills News" has another item by Marianne Napoles, this one currently not available online. It begins,
Trees on privately developed property in high-fire areas of Chino Hills would be protected by an ordinance approved July 17 by the planning commission.
To me, the word "protect" here means that one's right to cut down trees on one's own property would be violated. Also, note that even though the Chino Hills area is susceptible to wildfires, the city nevertheless wants to "protect" trees in those areas. They claim that "protection" will be limited to the larger-sized specimens of the California Live Oak, California Sycamore, California Black Walnut, and Coastal Scrub Oak. This, because these are "fire resistant"--but will they actually stop fires from spreading?

So what's the rationale behind this "protection"? Apparently it's nothing other than aesthetic. Owners' rights would be violated in the case of trees "clearly visible from public rights of way, private streets, parks, or trails". Does the planning commission realize that sometimes the line of sight is pretty far?

At least Public Works Commissioner Michael Stover "had concerns about which trees meet the criteria for visibility, stating that the government's regulatory reach was breathtaking." Absolutely. Good for him.

Also,
The ordinance would also require property owners to hire a certified arborist or tree trimmer to prune trees according to the standards of the International Society of Arboriculture.
Shades of supposedly beneficial building codes.

Still no Valle Vista sidewalks

Project upgrades disabled access ramps in the "Chino Hills News" begins
Access ramps for the disabled were upgraded at 32 locations in Chino Hills over the past two weeks. The work will continue over the next decade until all ramps are in compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act, which requires a textured surface of flattened domes to be installed in the curb cuts.

The new design lets vision-impaired pedestrians know they are entering a street. Previously, blind persons were guided by grooves in the pavement.

The city also installed curb, gutter, and sidewalks for nine ramps along the Omnitrans bus route.
In the print version, there's a picture of an access ramp at the intersection of Los Serranos & Valle Vista, but no mention of the absence of sidewalks on Valle Vista between Los Serranos Boulevard and Ramona. Big surprise.

Andrew Jacobs picks up the Jackie O meme

Andrew Jacobs claims that "Admirers bragged that Ms. Gu, a pioneering lawyer who spoke fluent English, was China’s answer to Jacqueline Onassis."

I don't buy it.

Saturday, July 21

Velocitation

In connection with the Mature Driver Improvement Course, a note on the word "velocitation", usually used by driving instructors to mean "a condition of unconsciously driving too fast as a result of driving for long periods at high speeds", but also used by some people to refer to the contrary phenomenon of drivers taking a long time to speed up because they're not used to the fast speed. But what is the etymology? It can't be", which The Macquarie Dictionary defines as:
(in filming) a form of dolly incorporating a small crane for the camera and seats for the technical operators.
It's not in the OED. Merriam-Webster Unabridged apparently defines "velocitize", but I'm too cheap to pay to find out the definition. Intriguingly, Mr. Burns of The Simpsons refers to a car's accelerator pedal as the "velocitator" (and the brake as the "deceleratrix").

California "Mature Driver Improvement Course"

When I first heard about this, my first reaction was, "Is there an 'Immature Driver Improvement Course'"?

Anyway, according to the California DMV,

  • The Mature Driver Improvement Course provides instruction on defensive driving and California motor vehicle laws. During this course, information is provided on the effects that medication, fatigue, alcohol, visual or auditory limitations have on a person's driving ability.
  • Mature drivers, 55 or older, who successfully complete an approved Driver Improvement Course can qualify for reduced motor vehicle insurance premiums.
  • Actual classroom time is at least 400 minutes of instruction for the initial course and 240 minutes of instruction for the renewal course, not including registration time, breaks, lunch periods, and issuance of completion certificates.... The maximum fee for the classroom or non-classroom course is $30 plus a $1 charge for a DMV certificate to be presented to your insurer as proof you have completed the course.
Interestingly,
The Traffic Violator School Unit gives the approval to firms who desire to teach the Mature Driver Improvement Course.
Presumably, the lesson plan in court-mandated traffic violator school is different from the Mature Driver Improvement Course, but it's reasonable to suppose there's a lot of overlap. Both courses are supposed to consist of 400 minutes of instruction.

How does the Traffic Violator School Unit go about approving Mature Driver Improvement Courses? They apply to the Occupational Licensing Service and Support office of the Department of Motor Vehicles, and pay a "non-refundable application fee of $500.00."

While accidents caused by aging drivers are no doubt a problem, the Mature Driver Improvement Course is an interesting solution.
  • I suspect someone like the AARP lobbied for this as a way to get aging drivers a discount on their insurance.
  • The DMV makes money by licensing the individual courses, which are apparently based on extant traffic violator courses. 
  • Traffic Violator Schools make money off the deal. Although there are apparently more places serving as Traffic Violator Schools than places offering Mature Driver Improvement Courses, that doesn't mean that they didn't have a hand in crafting this rule ("400 minutes" makes me suspicious). 
Downsides:
  • Even though aging drivers get a discount, they are treated like "traffic violators" and have to spend 6½ hours on the course.
  • To make up for the discount, the insurance companies will make everyone else pay more.


Friday, July 20

Altruistic concern for customers?

From Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman:
Licensure is widely used to restrict entry, particularly for occupations like medicine that have many individual practitioners dealing with a large number of individual customers. As in medicine, the boards that administer the licensure provisions are composed primarily of members of the occupation licensed – whether they be dentists, lawyers, cosmetologists, airline pilots, plumbers, or morticians. There is no occupation so remote that an attempt has not been made to restrict its practice by licensure. According to the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission: “At a recent session of one state legislature, occupational groups advanced bills to license themselves as auctioneers, well-diggers, home improvement contractors, pet groomers, electrologists, sex therapists, data processors, appraisers, and TV repairers. Hawaii licenses tattoo artists. New Hampshire licenses lightning-rod salesman.” The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who may be a plumber.
Speaking of licensure, don't forget the insistence on hiring Ph.D.'s to teach!

Friday, July 13

Spend money on me--it's for your own good.

Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton write, Don’t Indulge. Be Happy.:
Imagine walking down the street to work and being approached by our student Lara Aknin, who hands you an envelope. You open the envelope and find $20 and a slip of paper, which tells you to spend the cash on something for yourself by the end of the day. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Now imagine instead that the slip of paper told you to spend the cash on someone else. Being generous is nice, sure, but would using the money to benefit someone else actually make you happier than buying yourself the belt, DVD or apps you’ve been dying to get?

Yes, and it’s not even close. When we follow up with people who receive cash from us, those whom we told to spend on others report greater happiness than those told to spend on themselves. And in countries from Canada to India to South Africa, we find that people are happier when they spend money on others rather than on themselves.
If people are happier when they spend money on others rather than on themselves, then should I ask them to spend money on me?

Greendex Calculator nonsense

I just came across National Geographic's Greendex Calculator, and was about to take the survey, but when I saw the first question, I didn't bother:
1. How often, if at all, do you consume each of the following types of food and beverages?
a) Imported foods
b) Locally grown foods (e.g. from your province/state or region)

How can they be so ignorant?

As The Economist wrote in 2006:
...it turns out that the apparently straightforward approach of minimising the “food miles” associated with your weekly groceries does not, in fact, always result in the smallest possible environmental impact.
The article also notes, "There is a strand of protectionism and anti-globalisation in much local-food advocacy...." Maybe the National Geographic has an anti-globalisation agenda?

And in 2011, Steve Sexton wrote at Freakonomics that in a locavore system, farmed acreage, fertilizer use, fuel use, and chemical demand would all actually increase:
The land-use changes and increases in demand for carbon-intensive inputs would have profound impacts on the carbon footprint of our food, destroy habitat and worsen environmental pollution.

It’s not even clear local production reduces carbon emissions from transportation. The Harvard economist Ed Glaeser estimates that carbon emissions from transportation don’t decline in a locavore future because local farms reduce population density as potential homes are displaced by community gardens. Less-dense cities mean more driving and more carbon emissions. Transportation only accounts for 11 percent of the carbon embodied in food anyway, according to a 2008 study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon; 83 percent comes from production.

It's not just the economists who argue this. Sarah DeWeerdt of the Worldwatch Institute wrote in 2009:
[A] broader, more comprehensive picture of all the tradeoffs in the food system requires tracking greenhouse gas emissions through all phases of a food's production, transport, and consumption. And life-cycle analysis (LCA), a research method that provides precisely this "cradle-to-grave" perspective, reveals that food miles represent a relatively small slice of the greenhouse-gas pie.

In a paper published last year, Christopher Weber and H. Scott Matthews, of Carnegie Mellon University, wove together data from a variety of U.S. government sources into a comprehensive life-cycle analysis of the average American diet. According to their calculations, final delivery from producer or processor to the point of retail sale accounts for only 4 percent of the U.S. food system's greenhouse gas emissions. Final delivery accounts for only about a quarter of the total miles, and 40 percent of the transport-related emissions, in the food supply chain as a whole. That's because there are also "upstream" miles and emissions associated with things like transport of fertilizer, pesticides, and animal feed. Overall, transport accounts for about 11 percent of the food system's emissions.

By contrast, Weber and Matthews found, agricultural production accounts for the bulk of the food system's greenhouse gas emissions: 83 percent of emissions occur before food even leaves the farm gate. A recent life-cycle analysis of the U.K. food system, by Tara Garnett, yielded similar results. In her study, transport accounted for about a tenth of the food system's greenhouse gas emissions, and agricultural production accounted for half. Garnett says the same general patterns likely also hold for Europe as a whole.

Tuesday, July 10

"Coprographic"

"Coprographic" is not a word one often sees. Here the coinage is similar to "coprolalia", although I'm guessing that coprographic could refer to using dung to write with. Now that's something that I could find "egregious" not to mention "out of character" (that's the kind of banner Community Development Director Joann Lombardo says she takes exception to.)

Friday, July 6

A humility for intervening in the lives of strangers

Russ Roberts writes from the perspective of fan of liberty, opposed to extensive government intervention.
Those on the other side of the spectrum of government intervention often lack this humility. They claim to know what is best for others–what they should eat, how they should behave in the bedroom, whether they purchase health insurance, and what is the best use of other people’s money. When these plans go awry, when they cause harm to those they would help, they fall back on their motives–after all, they meant well...

So my opposition to a minimum wage or government schools or agricultural price supports or bank bailouts or mandatory health insurance or mandatory retirement contributions or mandatory eating habits doesn’t come from my selfishness or greed. Rather it comes from respect for my fellow human beings and a belief (not a faith) that leaving people free to choose what is best for themselves usually works out better than strangers making decisions for them.
Contrast this with the attitude expressed in an old news item about a brothel case: "....regardless of whether these women were actively trafficked, they are still being exploited and these operations degrade the quality of life in our neighborhoods." Although the women were entirely willing to work as prostitutes and it's unlikely anyone polled the neighbors, government interventionists knew better.

The worst state to conduct business



Gary Shapiro notes in Forbes:
For the eighth straight year, Chief Executive has ranked California as the worst state to conduct business, pointing to excessive government regulation of businesses as one of the key reasons the state fared so miserably.

The Jevons Paradox

In a nutshell: new modes of economy will lead to an increase of consumption.

From Michael Giberson, quoting Joseph Tainter:
...as technological improvements increase the efficiency with which a resource is used, total consumption of that resource may increase rather than decrease. This paradox has implications of the highest importance for the energy future of industrialized nations. It suggests that efficiency, conservation and technological improvement, the very things urged by those concerned for future energy supplies, may actually worsen our energy prospects.

Thursday, July 5

Building codes are not always beneficial

Chino Hills Councilman Ed Graham wrote that building permits are very beneficial.
By working with your local building department, you benefit from their knowledge of building codes to improve your odds that your construction project is built right, will be safe and will last.
No doubt. But I imagine plenty of people make modifications and repairs to their houses that they find perfectly satisfactory without bothering to pay the extra fees. In writing those codes, have the authorities considered the unintended consequences? What Bastiat called "what is seen and what is not seen" (Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas)? Have they considered that they're raising the costs of construction and modification? Or do they in fact just like the fees? And what about the codes? Have the authorities considered "regulatory capture"? Who wrote the codes? It would make sense to call on experts, who are themselves builders, who pad the codes with regulations that increased the costs for residents?

Update

I might also have mentioned that contractors may take advantage of building code regulations to snitch on fellow contractors who fail to get permits. This keeps prices high, of course.

Snitching isn't necessarily for profit. Sometimes neighbors bearing grudges will snitch on neighbors whose property isn't up to code.