Saturday, July 31, 2010

Doctors Fleeing

Though the recommended solutions are far too meek, this OC Register column highlights many of the economic problems that are, of necessity, beginning to beset our new system of socialized medicine.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Federal Agencies: Waning Integrity, Dwindling Trust

I'm encouraged that an article with this title can appear in Forbes, a relatively mainstream magazine. And it's definitely worth a read to see how the risks regulators face shape the decisions that affect all of us.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

AGW Primer

Roy Spencer has a primer on reasons to doubt the AGW consensus. I'm not well enough apprised of the science to judge it, but it's definitely interesting.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Coulson vs. Buffett

Andrew Coulson has an excellent column out criticizing Buffett's "let's just throw money at it" approach to solving the problems in education. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Doritaenopsis (pink)


Monday, July 26, 2010

Who Knows What Will Come Out of Washington Next?

Steve Wynn gives an interesting interview, highlighting the unpredictability of the business environment in America today thanks to Washington's erratic interventionist policies.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crossfit Games

Sorry for the paucity of posts lately. I've gotten behind on my daily routine and workload. One big contributor was our attending the crossfit games last weekend. It was an incredible and inspiring event. The calibre of the programming, organization and, of course, athletes was amazing. I'm very motivated to start training harder and perhaps participate in local events (which feature the same types of programming but at reduced or scaled weights and durations).

The weekend was full of amazing performances and I came away with a new favorite athlete to go along with Chris Spealler. Kristan Clever, at 5'2" and 130 lbs., finished in first or second of every event except the sandbag event where she had a mishap with her wheelbarrow. She's simply amazing at everything and, imo, the most well-rounded athlete that's participated in the games to date. In fact the single most impressive thing at the games from my standpoint was her putting 205 lbs overhead 90s after doing an 18 minute strenuous endurance event ("Hellen"). (The next best was Chris Spealler's performance in event 1). Here's Josh Everett's take on the two:
My jaw dropped when I witnessed Chris Spealler in the Snatch/Muscle-up event. For anyone other than a national level olympic weightlifter, a bodyweight snatch is considered an impressive feat and is very rare. Spealler did 21 bodyweight snatches and 21 muscle-ups in 3:29. That was one of the most impressive athletic performances I have ever witnessed

Kristen Clever's shoulder-to-overhead of 205 lb. immediately following “Hell-in” was stunning. That lift would be competitive for her weight class at the national level. The ability to put up a weight like that while in such a fatigued state is unheard of.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Phaelaenopsis (White Red)


Friday, July 16, 2010

More Paternalism

Paul Hsieh has a new editorial up at PJM. He deals with the question "should the government prevent you from knowing what's in your own DNA?" (And yes, things have gotten so bad that that's not only a real question, but currently the prevalent answer is "yes".)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Power and the Glory

Congrats to Burgess Laughlin for having a new book published. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Buycotts" Work

Interesting and encouraging observation from John Mackey of Whole Foods, speaking on a healthcare panel:
He said that he never realized how many people would respond negatively and positively to the piece he wrote but that he wrote the piece criticizing the reform because it was important to get the message out. The backlash of his outspokenness manifested into protests, threats of boycotts and promises of buycotts (purchasing in support of his message). The result, he says, was that because he spoke up buycotts ensued and sales for his company went way up. That says something about public sentiment about Obamacare.
I hope other business people learn from this and John Allison's stance on eminent domain: speaking out can actually help your company's short term bottom line, while simultaneously ensuring the firm's long term viability and existence.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Oncidioda Charlesworthii


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Passionate About Education Reform

The WSJ has an interesting story on "Teach for America". It seems there's a real passion for improving education out there in the culture -- perhaps it could be channeled in a slightly better direction? (That is, it could be grounded with better, more fundamental principles in both epistemology and ethics.)

A few excerpts:
What began as a senior thesis paper has since grown into a $180 million organization that this fall will send 4,500 of the best college graduates in the country to 100 of the lowest-performing urban and rural school districts. A few months ago, Teach for America (TFA) received an applicant pool that Morgan Stanley recruiters would drool over. Their 46,000 applicants included 12% of all Ivy League seniors, 7% of the graduating class of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and 6% from U.C. Berkeley. A quarter of all black seniors at Ivy League schools and a fifth of Latinos applied to be teachers in the 2010 corps. It is, I'm told by some recent grads, one of the coolest things you can do after college.


That setup is still in place for most school systems, but TFA works differently. Like the top consulting firms, TFA recruits talented people and is responsible for their performance in the classroom. The young men and women who join TFA go through an intensive summer institute of training before they step foot in their schools. During their two-year stints, TFA gives them support and more training. And they are free of the typical teacher certification rules. District superintendents contact the organization directly and individual principals hire TFA teachers.

The results are clear. A 2008 Urban Institute study found that "On average, high school students taught by TFA corps members performed significantly better on state-required end-of-course exams, especially in math and science, than peers taught by far more experienced instructors. The TFA teachers' effect on student achievement in core classroom subjects was nearly three times the effect of teachers with three or more years of experience." A new study from the University of North Carolina found that middle school math students taught by TFA teachers received the equivalent of an extra half-year of learning.


If TFA corps members can do a better job in two years than many longtime veterans, what do public-school systems need with job protections like tenure? And if they can do it without education school courses, why do we need those institutions?


"One Day," TFA's alumni magazine, is a collection of articles about education reform, stories about individual teachers, and advertisements from charter schools and think tanks looking to hire. The overwhelming sense it projects is that there is an entire movement of young people who are passionate about education reform.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning

This is totally off-topic, but since it's water/boating season, and since I was unaware of these facts regarding drowning, I thought I'd post this informative article. It really helped me understand why we hear of so many child drownings, even when there are adults in the vicinity.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Failure Due to Not Being Selfish Enough

Maradona's take on the World Cup:
The conventional wisdom on why: They were too selfish, unable to adapt to the team concept of a national squad.

Then there’s Diego Maradona’s take: Unlike the past, the stars weren’t selfish enough.


When having open-heart surgery, no patient would care if the lead surgeon is friends with or helps empower the nurse. In fact, the idea that the nurse would fear disappointing the lead surgeon and would clearly defer to him at all times might be considered a positive. You’d want the most brilliant talent to be the leader.

In Maradona’s day, he says, that carried over to a soccer team. He was Diego Maradona and they were not.
I'm not sure I agree with all of this, but it's food for thought nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Causes of the Industrial Revolution

Based on this review, Joel Mokyr's The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700-1850 might be of interest. From the review:
But while Mokyr does not claim to have discovered the one true cause of the Industrial Revolution, there is a grand central message that unifies his book. It is that the industrial revolution owes a great deal to the Enlightenment. “What is new here,” he writes, “is not an argument that the Enlightenment changed history, for better and/or worse, but that its economic effects on the wealth-creating capabilities of the affected societies have been overlooked.” Mokyr has long emphasized the economic value of new ideas and he thus emphasizes that “Britain’s intellectual sphere had turned into a competitive market for ideas, in which logic and evidence were becoming more important and ‘authority’ as such was on the defensive.”

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Epidendrum Prismatocarpum X Epidendrum Radiatum


Monday, July 05, 2010

The Proof is in the Pudding

I hope to have more to say about the issues raised in this article, but in the meantime, read it and reflect on how these types of politicians are the ones who habitually tell, nay force, businessmen to jump through all types of hoops when running their own businesses. Why? Because public officials, simply by virtue of having no self-interest to answer to, know better.

A few excerpts:
States cannot go bankrupt, technically, but signs of fiscal crackup are easy to see. Legislators left the capital this month without deciding how to pay 26 percent of the state budget. The governor proposes to borrow $3.5 billion to cover a year’s worth of pension payments, a step that would cost about $1 billion in interest. And every major rating agency has downgraded the state; Illinois now pays millions of dollars more to insure its debt than any other state in the nation.

“Their pension is the most underfunded in the nation,” said Karen S. Krop, a senior director at Fitch Ratings. “They have not made significant cuts or raised revenues. There’s no state out there like this. They can’t grow their way out of this.”


Few budget analysts are surprised to see Illinois, with a limping economy and broken political culture, edge close to the abyss. Two of the last six governors have served jail terms, and a third is on trial.


The state pension system is a money sinkhole and the most immediate threat. The governor and legislature have shortchanged the pensions since the mid-1990s, taking payment “holidays” with alarming regularity.

The state’s last elected governor, Rod R. Blagojevich, is on trial for racketeering and extortion. But in 2003, he persuaded the legislature to let him float $10 billion in 30-year bonds and use the proceeds for two years of pension payments.

That gamble backfired and wound up costing the state many billions of dollars. Illinois reports that it has $62.4 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, although many experts place that liability tens of billions of dollars higher.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Too Hard to Evaluate, Much Less Criticize

This is a dangerous, but typical development. A Federal Reserve economist goes on record saying that the electorate (you know the ones who pay his salary and are subject to all the horrors he and his colleagues contrive) are not qualified to evaluate or criticize the policies the Fed imposes on us. Seems like a trial balloon to eventually outlaw such "bashing" from the unwashed masses. Thankfully several people in the media have reacted to it, among them: Pritchard and Ritholtz.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Socialism's Second-Guessers

My latest Op-Ed, Socialism’s Second-Guessers, is now available at Pajamas Media. It looks at the meddling and second-guessing inherent in socialism (and then proposes an alternative). Here’s an excerpt of a point that perhaps is not made as often as it could be (though you’ll have to read the whole piece to get the full context):
Yet achieving justice isn’t capitalism’s only virtue. It also fosters social harmony. To see this, contrast it to socialism where, perforce, we’re each concerned with every decision anyone else makes. The result is a nation of intruding, whining, Monday-morning quarterbacks. Did GM overspend on advertising? Are doctors prescribing too many pain meds? Is Fannie Mae’s CEO paid too much? The list of potential affronts to redress (via government intervention) is endless.

Not so under capitalism. Here each person’s concern is exclusively with their own property. For instance, if I’m not a shareholder of a firm, I really don’t care what the CEO is paid. Indeed, if I think a particular company is overpaying its CEO, rather than it being a grievance — it’s an opportunity. Namely for me to start a business where I save money by offering reasonable compensation — thereby winning market share due to my lower costs. The beauty of capitalism is that it works by free competition; there’s no need to lobby the government to forcibly intervene in anyone else’s business.
Please feel free to stop by and leave comments, link to, or forward the piece, as all of these actions show the editors that there’s interest in this type of material.

Update: Thanks to Dr. Wolf (who's been featured here before) for linking to my article!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Unleashing Evil By Appeasement and Apathy

While drafting a potential new editorial, I came across this quote from Ayn Rand that I didn't recall, but that's very important (as is so much of what she wrote):
The truly and deliberately evil men are a very small minority; it is the appeaser who unleashes them on mankind; it is the appeaser’s intellectual abdication that invites them to take over. When a culture’s dominant trend is geared to irrationality, the thugs win over the appeasers. When intellectual leaders fail to foster the best in the mixed, unformed, vacillating character of people at large, the thugs are sure to bring out the worst. When the ablest men turn into cowards, the average men turn into brutes.

From: The Objectivist “Altruism as Appeasement,” The Objectivist, Jan. 1966, 6