March 2009


I think Congress should pass a law abolishing complexity, because then politicians, economists and climate scientists will never have to worry that they really have no idea what the Hell they are talking about.

From Aschwin de Wolf at Depressed Metabolism*:

Even when (macro) economists employ sound methodology and research design, the complexity of the phenomena they study seriously frustrates attempts to use their models to predict the future.  This issue  is not confined to economics. Climate science seems to suffer from this problem as well, which has not prevented scientists and non-scientists from making very strong claims for one position or another

So why are such scientists employable, even excessively rewarded? One reason may be because we would rather perceive ourselves as “doing something” than admitting that we don’t know. Increased government intervention in the lives of  people has increased the demand for social scientists and economists to confer credibility to what otherwise would be considered as arbitrary coercion. Another reason may be because most people are not aware that the emperor wears no clothes. People such as Alan Greenspan or Ben Bernanke are rarely challenged on general methodological grounds.

  • (A blog with a weird combination of philosophy and cryonics evangelism.)
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I think I have a basic understanding of public choice theory, and how special interests can use political power to extort money from the rest of us.  However, I cannot understand the tremendous political power of the agricultural lobby, especially the corn growers.  Only 2-3% of the American workforce is directly employed in agriculture, and I’m sure the corn growers are only a fraction of that small percentage.  And yet, the industry continues to receive massive subsidies in the face of opposition by groups as diverse as the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Motorcycle Industry Council and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, the American Lung Association, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club.

Everyone Hates Ethanol, The Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal (Mar. 16, 2009).

Americans are unlikely to use enough gas next year to absorb the 13 billion gallons of ethanol that Congress mandated, because current regulations limit the ethanol content in each gallon of gas at 10%. The industry is asking that this cap be lifted to 15% or even 20%. That way, more ethanol can be mixed with less gas, and producers won’t end up with a glut that the government does not require anyone to buy.

The ethanol boosters aren’t troubled that only a fraction of the 240 million cars and trucks on the road today can run with ethanol blends higher than 10%. It can damage engines and corrode automotive pipes, as well as impair some safety features, especially in older vehicles. It can also overwhelm pollution control systems like catalytic converters. The malfunctions multiply in other products that use gas, such as boats, snowmobiles, lawnmowers, chainsaws, etc.

That possible policy train wreck is uniting almost every other Washington lobby — and talk about strange bedfellows. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Motorcycle Industry Council and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, among others, are opposed, since raising the blend limit will ruin their products. The left-leaning American Lung Association and the Union of Concerned Scientists are opposed too, since it will increase auto emissions. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club agree, on top of growing scientific evidence that corn ethanol provides little or no net reduction in CO2 over the gasoline it displaces.

(HT Carpe Diem)

Adapting one’s product and advertising to the local culture is a key strategies for entering new global markets.

The Israeli arms firm Rafael takes the show to Bollywood with this marketing video shown at Aero India 2009 held recently in Bangalore.

Attractive women and flower festooned Spike-ER anti-tank missiles, an effective combination, I’d say.

Hilarious Daily Legal Cartoons by David Mills.

A few of my favorites:

Loquiturtle

Discovery Requests

Go read the rest. They’re brilliant.  (Some are probably even funny to non-lawyers, though we have such a hard time relating to normal people that we really can’t tell.)

I don’t know the statistics, but I’m willing to bet that this doesn’t happen often in Virginia.

Mansfield, England:

A BUSINESSMAN and his wife were robbed by four men who burst into their home with hammers, a screwdriver and a large bladed weapon.

The men escaped in a black car with an undisclosed sum of cash after the incident in Hermitage Avenue, Mansfield, at around 9.25pm yesterday.

Even stupid criminals aren’t willing to risk a robbery using this,

when the man’s castle might be guarded with this,

pistol

or this,

Unfortunately, as I have noted here and here, the English aren’t even allowed to protect themselves with “large bladed weapons” anymore.

Brilliant stuff from Louis CK.  (Click through and watch it.  It’s worth 5 minutes of your time.)