Friday, December 28

Abstinence and gun safety: "We don't want them to actually KNOW how to use them. Someone might get hurt!"

Thursday, December 27

Friday, December 21

It's the end of the year, what happens next year prediction time... or is it recap time?
Who pays for the government, and who benefits? Two posts from the exceptional economics blog Marginal Revolution tackle this.

Thursday, December 20

Mathematicians have developed a model that explains traffic jams which occur with no apparent cause:

"The team developed a mathematical model to show the impact of unexpected events such as a lorry pulling out of its lane on a dual carriageway. Their model revealed that slowing down below a critical speed when reacting to such an event, a driver would force the car behind to slow down further and the next car back to reduce its speed further still.

The result of this is that several miles back, cars would finally grind to a halt, with drivers oblivious to the reason for their delay. The model predicts that this is a very typical scenario on a busy highway (above 15 vehicles per km). The jam moves backwards through the traffic creating a so-called ‘backward travelling wave’, which drivers may encounter many miles upstream, several minutes after it was triggered."

Tuesday, December 18

Bali Shag, Lumbee, Pinson, Arango Sportsman, Auld Kendal, Cockstrong, Penhooker, Ramback, Rimboche, TwoTimer, Kentucky's Best, Matinee, Checkers, Hi-Val, Double Happiness, Golden Deer, Peony, Dreams, Canadian Style Player's, Collector's Choice, English Ovals, Marshall McGrearty, Outdoor Freedom, Charles Fairmorn.

Cigarette brand names: Almost as funny as Engrish.

Friday, December 14

Yes/great/oh man.
Are you familiar with microcredit? Dr. Muhammad Yunus is the person who first made it a reality. In 2006, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. (Thanks, Tom.)

Thursday, December 13

Scary contender quote of the day...
Clinton calls herself a "government junkie." She says, "There is no such thing as other people's children" and promises to work on "redefining who we are as human beings in the post-modern age."
Eee. That's the kind of quote we used to hear a lot from scary people.
Has anyone seen these? Truly amazing, detailed, surreal prints. They both are labeled 'Art Factory'. The top one contains the text: 'We and the earth, live together', and is attributed to graphic designer Takahisa Nakashima in a 2005 book on Japanese design.



Wednesday, December 12

UPS claims to have reduced its CO2 emissions by 31,000 metric tons last year...by helping its drivers avoid left-hand turns.
A frustrated group of Americans? Probably not.

Earlier this year, a secularist group offered $1,000 to the highest-ranking politician in the land who would publicly proclaim no belief in God. This turned out to be Peter Stark, a Democratic congressman from the San Francisco area. He is the only congressman, of 535, who professes no belief in the Almighty. ... Mr Stark suspects that many of his colleagues secretly agree with him. But they dare not do so publicly, even Democrats.

This article speaks to the notion that atheists have little to no representation in U.S. political culture. But the thing is, people with no religion often feel no need for special representation. First, they've no dogma or intrusive cultural practices to defend. Second, as long as they're left to believe (or not believe) what they want, they're happy.

Saturday, December 8

The Story of Stuff is a well-made online video highlighting the dubious nature of our consumer-driven economy. I particularly like the third part (distribution), which among other things discusses the externalization of costs & impacts of consumer products.

As much as I agree with the content of this video, however, I wish that it was less filled with rhetoric and instead contained more fact-based discussion. The website contains links to organizations that research many of the claims made in the video, but when a presentation is as one-sided as this it inevitably ends up being a sermon to the choir and failing the more ambitious goal of swaying the opinions of a larger audience.

Thursday, December 6

Germany appears to be planning to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 36% (below 1990 levels) by 2020, at a cost of approximately $45.5 billion. As noted in the article, this is about what the U.S. spends on the Iraq war every 7 months.

Wednesday, December 5

You're home, you're doing nothing illegal, then the cops burst into your home and shoot your dog. It's actually a common occurrence. Now take a look at how common paramilitary raids by cops on the wrong houses are. Still more here... and a policy analysis here.

Monday, December 3

Some want to reclaim Christmas for Jesus. Some want to decommercialize Christmas. Some want to end it altogether. And some just want us to buy a lot of stuff.
Smackdown to the wanna be president for life - voters reject a referendum designed to"abolish term limits, allow Mr. Chávez to declare states of emergency for unlimited periods and increase the state’s role in the economy, among other measures."

Friday, November 30

"Millions of people with respiratory diseases have relied on oxygen equipment, delivered to their homes, to help them breathe. A basic setup, including three years of deliveries of small oxygen tanks, can be bought from pharmacies and other retailers for as little as $3,500, or about $100 a month.

Unless, that is, the buyer is Medicare, the government health care program for older Americans.

Despite enormous buying power, Medicare pays far more. Rather than buy oxygen equipment outright, Medicare rents it for 36 months before patients take ownership, and pays for a variety of services that critics say are often unnecessary.

The total cost to taxpayers and patients is as much as $8,280, or more than double what somebody might spend at a drugstore.

...

Medicare spends billions of dollars each year on products and services that are available at far lower prices from retail pharmacies and online stores, according to an analysis of federal data by The New York Times. The government agency has paid above-market costs for dozens of items, a comparison of Medicare figures with retail catalogs finds."

Thursday, November 29

Howdy. John here, making my first contribution to the OS blog in a few years. Glad to be back. Trying to get back into the blogging mindset.

I've found the Hugo Chávez saga in Venezuela to be at times pretty interesting, but often sad, and really, kind of predictable. Not that long ago it seems I was running into people who liked him, maybe just because he's a head of state who called Bush a "devil," maybe because I was in art school in SF where everyone's far left... but now it's good to see evidence of resistance gaining strength, just before he attempts to become president for life. NY Times had a long article in the magazine written by someone a lot more friendly to the idea of nationalized industries than me and you can see how it was basically impossible for the author to frame Chávez's petrocracy in positive light.
He's ruining that country.

Monday, November 26

No holiday shopping season would be complete without a visit from Reverend Billy.

Thursday, November 22

Celebrities really *are* funny. Aside from their wealth (well, that is if they can hold on to it), you really have to feel sorry for them. It's so sad what they become over time--I can't imagine most of them having their own persona any longer once a certain level of fame is achieved. They really make an enormous sacrifice--their soul--all for our viewing pleasure.

Ah, Oprah. She's such an easy target. I almost can't say anything any more because I feel so bad for her. You'll have to excuse me for a moment, I'm feeling nauseous.

Tuesday, November 20

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal..."

'This is the key document on climate change, and from now on you can forget any others you may have read or seen or heard about. This is the one that matters. It is the tightly distilled, peer-reviewed research of several thousand scientists, fully endorsed, without qualification, by all the world's major governments.'

Direct PDF download here.
"...for a decade and more, Fox has got away with an amazing thing: it can call itself a "straight" news channel even while everyone knows it's not. It's a great little racket. Every so often, a Toto comes along and tugs at the curtain - earlier this year, for instance, the Democratic presidential aspirants agreed that they would not participate in any debates hosted by Fox because there was no point in getting up there and being asked questions merely for the purpose of providing footage that the eventual Republican nominee could use against them. But these moments have been rare."

Friday, November 16

Army desertion rate highest since 1980.

I'm not surprised to hear of military desertion, but why the apparently arbitrary choice of comparison to 1980? What was going on in 1980 that makes it so worthy of scrutiny? Well, let's see...

Thursday, November 15

"Soon, though, the hour comes to corrode all your power, pleasure and faith with the damp dread that it daily assigns you. How you evade it defines you."

From "The Hour" by Michael Lind (via The Writer's Almanac).

Wednesday, November 14

"Though initially excited about making universal health care a reality and putting an end to the Iraq war, the American people appeared visibly worn down after only three months of campaigning. According to Beltway observers, idealism among Americans began to fade after the first series of major televised debates in August, during which every citizen in every state realized they would have to compromise their core values in order to remain in the race."

Americans announce they're dropping out of the presidential race.

Thursday, November 8

This morning at the train station I crossed paths with a member of Team Jesus:

Wednesday, November 7

In this article, Sinking Currency, Sinking Country, Pat Buchanan attempts to explain the current devaluation of the dollar by placing most of the blame on the trade deficit (i.e., our propensity for foreign goods and services). His argument is not completely without merit, but he does not present a full picture of what is going on. Perhaps he is trying to distract people from, say, the United States' massive military budget. Although there is debate about the direction of causality, economists generally agree that there is a positive relationship between the federal budget deficit (caused in part by military spending) and the trade deficit.

Sunday, November 4

Ok, so let me get this straight: Musharraf is curbing extremism by...
  • Imposing martial law, and
  • Suspending the constitution.
Sure, I get it. No ethical inconsistencies there...

Thursday, October 25

Everybody’s talking about the “The Mom With $135,000 In Credit Card Debt Who Spends $400 A Month On Starbucks,” and they’re saying what a horrible, selfish person she is, and how irresponsible and gullible her husband is.

Fine, whatever, maybe it’s all true.

But why doesn’t everyone realize that the real asshole in the room is Oprah, who serves us this trashy voyeuristic schadenfreude?

A public crucifixion wasn’t necessary to help these people, neither was involving the world’s second most annoying person, Suze Orman.
Grumble, grumble, grumble (10/25/07).