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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A skeptic's primer for global warming

Coyote Blog has a detailed post collecting skeptics' thoughts on the global warming debate. It concludes with a crucial thought: we can't do something "just in case" global warming is as bad as the models predict, becausing that "doing something" has terrible costs:

This would be a perfectly reasonable approach if cutting back on CO2 production was nearly cost-free. But it is not. The burning of hydrocarbons that create CO2 is an entrenched part of our lives and our economies. Forty years ago we might have had an easier time of it, as we were on a path to dramatically cut back on CO2 production via what is still the only viable technology to massively replace fossil fuel consumption -- nuclear power. Ironically, it was environmentalists that shut down this effort, and power industries around the world replaced capacity that would have gone nuclear mostly with coal, the worst fossil fuel in terms of CO2 production (per btu of power, Nuclear and hydrogen produce no CO2, natural gas produces some, gasoline produces more, and coal produces the most).

Just halting CO2 production at current levels (not even rolling it back) would knock several points off of world economic growth. Every point of economic growth you knock off guarantees you that you will get more poverty, more disease, more early death. If you could, politically, even make such a freeze stick, you would lock China and India, nearly 2 billion people, into continued poverty just when they were about to escape it. You would in the process make the world less secure, because growing wealth is always the best way to maintain peace. Right now, China can become wealthier from peaceful internal growth than it can from trying to loot its neighbors. But in a zero sum world created by a CO2 freeze, countries like China would have much more incentive to create trouble outside its borders.

The whole post is highly recommended reading.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pe_fo_mance A_t

GREENCASTLE, Ind. -- A consonant-loving thief has police and business owners baffled after dozens of Rs were stolen from signs throughout the community.

"We've lost our Rs. And we want them back," said Randall Jones, president of Headley Hardware. The weekend caper targeted gas stations, restaurants, repair shops and medical offices in the city of 10,000 people about 40 miles west of Indianapolis.

The thief also nabbed half a dozen letters from a lighted marquee in front of a National Guard post. "I don't know if they think it's a joke, but to me it's just theft," said National Guard Sgt. Robert Lamb. "I just think it's disturbing."

Putnam Inn manager Jane Hansen isn't sure how the thief climbed more than 6 feet off the ground to take Rs from a sign in front of her motel.

"Whoever's doing it needs to put their talents to something more constructive," she said. Greencastle police said they've been notified about the stolen letters, but many business owners are choosing not to file reports.

A rather stupid and bizarre crime. If the perpetrator is caught, he or she would be wise to deflect attention by terming it "performance art."

Why not? The term can be applied to anything, thus rendering it meaningless.

I'm neither a student of art nor an artist, but I have a useful layman's method of identifying real art. If I look at something called art and think "I could never do that," it's probably art.

Report suspicious overpass activities

An unusual sight greeted me on the way home this past weekend. The electronic freeway signs flashed this message:

"Report suspicious overpass activities -- call police"

Now, we've all heard of kids tossing things off overpasses, rude vandalism that occasionally causes a death, but why the message?

It wasn't something so innocuous; Indiana was visited by a sniper. Fortunately, one of many phoned-in police tips identified the culprit, a disaffected teenager.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the suspect has a Myspace page. In about ten years, will every criminal have an incriminating profile on Myspace?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Funny Math

Click the link....

(Via the Actuarial Outpost)

A legal conflict of interest

A fascinating post by Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy, criticizing the ABA certification of law schools.

To my mind, the problem goes beyond the shortcomings of specific ABA standards. The real mistake is allowing an organization with a blatant conflict of interest to take over the accreditation role in the first place. As an interest group representing lawyers, the ABA has an obvious stake in limiting entry into the profession so as to decrease the competition faced by its members. One way of doing so is by restricting the number of accredited law schools, at least in the vast majority of states that require all or most aspiring lawyers to attend an ABA-accredited school in order to take the bar exam. We would not allow an organization run by Chrysler, GM, and Ford to set regulatory standards determining who has the right to sell cars in the United States. Requiring ABA accreditation for law schools is the exact equivalent in our industry.

Nor is the point purely theoretical. As soon-to-be guest blogger Andrew
Morriss explains in this paper (pp. 4-9), ABA accreditation of law schools emerged in the early twentieth century as a way of eliminating competition from independent law schools and apprenticeship systems. Many if not most ABA accreditation requirements since that time have similar causes.

If viewed as mechanisms for maintaining a cartel system rather than as efforts to advance the public interest, the ABA's most controversial accreditation policies suddenly start to make sense. For example, the ABA's support for methods of affirmative action that admit students most of whom are likely to either drop out of law school or fail the bar obviously serves the economic interests of already practicing lawyers. After all, had those same admissions slots gone to people who are likely to graduate and pass the bar, there would be more competition in the profession. Like David Bernstein, I am not categorically opposed to all forms of affirmative action. But it is striking that the ABA has chosen the form most likely to
advance the interests of its members and least likely to actually help
minority students (not to mention minority consumers of legal services).

I'm not sure I agree with the argument that affirmative action standards help limit the number of lawyers; they may stop a white person from attending a Tier 1 law school, but they could attend a Tier 2 school instead. If affirmative action extends all the way down to Tier 3 (or whatever the lowest tier of law schools is), then you may be bumping slightly better law students, but at the level where legal success is far from secure for anyone.

The Society of Actuaries and Casualty Actuarial Society sponsor a series of examinations for professional accreditation of actuaries, which are widely perceived as ways to limit the number of actuaries and protect existing members. But in this case, they don't dictate college requirements. It is possible to pass these examinations without any educational background at all, though getting a job without a bachelor's degree would be extremely difficult. And what tier of college you did graduate from is of little import; number of examinations passed before employment is much more valuable.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Another record deal...

...but will it be the road to stardom? Probably not.

About a month ago, Chris Daughtry was offered the lead singer position of Fuel, an established band, no doubt pissing off the dozens of singers who had auditioned to replace outgoing singer Brett Scallions. It's a combination that made sense for all parties: an established band trying to live up to past success gets a shot of attention via hordes of American Idol fans, and a singer gets instant credibility by being part of a band that succeeded musically without cheesy television exposure. However, he turned down the offer.

Now, he has signed a record deal with 19 Records.

The 26-year-old North Carolina native will form a band "and has already begun to work with A-list collaborators" to write and record material for an album, expected to be released later this year.

Well, if you are going to succeed long-term in the music business, it can't hurt to start with the connections provided by American Idol and Clive Davis. What other starting singer, even a good one, would get access to A-list collaborators before even releasing an album?

Any bets on whether his album will have a Diane Warren tune?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth of July!

Unlike last year, I'm actually in the country.

For your amusement, the Actuarial Outpost asks an important question:

How can you be patriotic and drink foreign beer on the 4th of July?

Out of the running

On the subject of automotive plants, the Detroit Free Press wonders why Michigan, with its vast automotive history, wasn't on the short list for the Honda plant.

Image? Message? Union presence? Business climate? Political climate? Climate, period?

I'm going to guess union presence, though someone from Michigan probably knows if the tax or regulatory environment is a problem.

What a difference a state makes!

For several weeks, we've known that a site in Indiana and a site in Ohio were finalists for a new Honda factory. On June 28th, it was revealed that Indiana's location (about halfway between Indianapolis and Cincinnati) was chosen.

Coincidentally, I was traveling from Indiana to Ohio that day, and got to see two different takes on the story.

Indianapolis Star

Japanese automaker Honda today will announce it has chosen a Greensburg site for a car assembly plant that would employ 1,500 workers and could launch an economic boom in the state's hard-pressed southeastern corner.

Honda will reveal the plant's location this morning at a news conference in Greensburg, according to a source familiar with the deal who asked not be identified. The source wasn't authorized to discuss the matter.

Gov. Mitch Daniels cut short his South Korean trade mission and flew out of Seoul on
Tuesday to attend today's announcement.

Honda's plant might double in size soon after its 2008 opening, analysts say, as the automaker pours on capacity to meet high consumer demand at a time when the Detroit automakers are cutting more than 75,000 U.S. jobs in total.

Rather than pick up autoworkers stranded by Detroit, analysts say Honda apparently chose Indiana over the Honda stronghold of Ohio in part to tap into the tens of thousands of fresh industrial recruits eager for a shot at factory work.

Dayton Daily News

Honda's planned investment in a new auto assembly plant is even bigger than Indiana officials had hoped: $550 million in a factory that will employ 2,000, the automaker said Wednesday.

Public officials in Greensburg and surrounding Decatur County, halfway between Cincinnati and Indianapolis, had said Tuesday that Honda told them to expect a $400 million investment and 1,500 to 1,700 jobs.

Indiana officials were beaming as American Honda Motor Co. officials made the announcement during a news conference transmitted worldwide from the southeastern Indiana town of 10,260. The plant is likely to attract hundreds of other jobs from suppliers that choose to locate nearby, officials said.

Ohio, a loser in an intense Midwest competition to attract the plant, said suppliers in the Buckeye State will benefit from serving the new plant. Honda's engine plant in Anna will make engines for the new factory.

What's not captured in these articles is the front page headlines. The Star's was "Hello, Honda!" The Daily News's headline was equally morose.


BizzyBlog highlights an Ohio tax that may have factored into the decision.