Friday, June 11, 2010

Oil, Cars, and Looking Forward

To those of you who would rather keep going how things have been, just check out this post from the Big Picture. I have been in so many arguments, typically with other conservatives, who say we cannot change, and that being "Green" is bullshit. There is no stopping progress, humanity is doomed, we will run this carriage off the cliff.

Perhaps they are right.

Then again, maybe with enough will, we can do something different than how things have been so far. There are other ways of gathering energy besides using the petrochemicals that we have been mining from the earth thus far. They are highly energy dense and cheap, true, but they always come at a cost. A cost which we are now seeing in full. Yes it will take very expensive infrastructure changes to adopt an electricity only transit system. Yes it will take governement investment for this to happen, and I know that is anti-competitive, and oh gosh not the socialism no no word!

Here's the deal. We have the technology to do this, Tesla recently released its new Model S. It is a luxury level car (think BMW and Mercedes). It can go faster (yes faster) than these similar luxury model cars, it is all electric, and has a range of 300 miles - approximately the same range a tank of gas has. It can charge up in about 30 minutes, and in 5-10 minutes you can swap out the battery pack at a changing station. We just need the stations and people willing to buy these cars. Tesla just recently invested in a new production facility right next to my work. They have plans to produce a car with similar specs, sans luxury in the mid-high $20k range.

I ask you old foggies who are, in the words of Sarah Palin- Pro-Growth, how much is that oil worth to you?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Off Shore Oil Drilling

Approximately one month and eleven years ago the Exonn-Valdez oil spill was being cleaned up in Alaska. Today on the news I heard that ~5,000 barrels of oil are being released by an underwater leak due to a drilling station exploding about a week ago. All of this amidst a renewed debate about offshore drilling. Yes we need to get some of our own sources of oil, and yes we need to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern and Russian oil. Agreed. The problem I have is what costs are we willing to pay? Are we willing to wipe out entire ecosystems whenever one of these "incidents" occurs? President Obama just approved more offshore drilling, keeping in line with his campaign promises. OK- I get the idea, I understand the plan, but how about we reduce our dependence on oil, period. Leave out the Foreign part. Really we are in a long term struggle against fossil fuels in general. The longer we put off the inevitable, the more it's going to bite us in the ass later. The less our economy is tied to the inevitably disappearing carbon producing fuels of yore, the more we can grow in a forward direction without the inevitable tether that will be around our feet in the future.

Finally, a rough calculation based on the 5,000 barrels of oil per hour, or ~225,000 gallons/day - this spill will reach the level of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in approximately 50 days. They expect this to take months to fix and clean up.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Recently, I have been thinking about how incentivisation effects systems. Most recently in the news is the Goldman Sachs inquiry going on in Washington. Fabrice Tourre, a prominent GS trader stands up for himself saying that he has done no wrong doing. I happen to think that Fabrice is correct. These guys set themselves up so that they would make more money if the market fails than if the market succeeds. This is legal. Why is everyone so pissed off? Well then they started doing things to ensure that the market would fail. Shiesty? Yes. Illegal, no. It's really just a matter of incentivisation. The system is setup in such a way as to provide benefits for the people who produce the greatest gains in a given period of time. If that period of time is short (typical for any manager/director/CEO) then no one should be surprised when record profits come during on year, and record losses come during the following year, or in this case for everyone else. Why should they care of they put the entire economy at risk? That wasn't part of the contract. The contract said, you make us money, we pay you money. It didn't say, as long as we make money over the 5 years after we pay you this bonus, you can get the bonus. That doesn't make any sense. What does make sense is to make a huge chunk of the bonus pay off over 5 years based on the long term performance of the company. This is good incentivisation.

The exact same thing can be said for doctors. They have been getting paid based upon the amount of work they do. Sounds good right? The issue arises from what we should value from our doctors. Isn't the big end goal for better health? Better health rather than more health, because really how can you have more of health? Not to mention that many procedures (what they are incentivised to perform) often cause more problems than they solve. Imagine someone who needs to have a biopsy. You have to go in cut them open and remove the stuff. If there was nothing wrong to begin with say the cells are abnormal, but just sitting there, now the person has to heal from the surgery, deal with the mental stress of waiting for the death sentence, take of work, lose money, spend money. It really creates some adverse effect. YET, the Dr still makes money from performing the procedure even though his/her patient may be in worse health because of the procedure. This is all because of the incentivisation of the Dr.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Snake Oil Chart

Check out this chart of "natural" remedies. Worth the gander.

Weird Goober

Found this very odd goober at work today. I really don't know what it is and didn't have time to investigate. So odd...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Holding Hands

When did you stop holding your parents hand? I don't mean the every-once-in-a-while-I-love-you kind of hand-holding. I mean the I-need-reassurance-because-I'm-a-kid-crossing-the-street kind of hand-holding. I seem to remember it being before I was ten, but not as far back as six. What happened in those years that makes a kid think, I'm not afraid to walk alone? Do we stop holding our parents hands because it becomes something else? Something you do with a lover more than with your parents. Do you remember the first time you held someone's hand in that way, as something more than security? A hand kiss before the real kiss.

Did you know that if you type "holding hands" into Google, the first link to a Wiki about "How to hold hands." Seriously? We need instruction on this most basic forms of affection? I understand there's some finesse involving in making the move to hold someone's hand, but it is a rather natural motion. Nick told me that if your hand is on top of the hand holding sandwich, you are taking a dominant position, and vise versa on the bottom. Apparently men in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East don't need any instruction as they hold hands with each other. Really goes to show how homophobic our western culture can be sometimes. What else can explain the utter lack of affection and physical contact between us males? It's just unmanly? I doubt it, everyone feels comfort from physical contact. Period.

Here's the reason's people hold hands according to Wikipedia, my favorites are arm wrestling and sky diving.

  • in various rituals:
  • to express friendship or love
  • to enjoy physical intimacy (not necessarily of erotic character)
  • for emotional support
  • to guide (a child, a blind person, in darkness, etc.)
  • to urge to follow
  • to keep together (in a crowd or in darkness)
  • to help the other walk, stand or climb up
  • to dance
  • to arm wrestle
  • when crossing the street
  • while sky diving
  • to rescue in a dangerous situation:
    • pulling someone to safety
  • Thursday, February 04, 2010

    Toyota, The Supreme Court, and the Recession

    There is one tenuous string connecting the recent gas pedal recall, the Supreme Court decision regarding campaign finance, and the entire Recession- it's name is George W. Bush. I know, I know, haven't we blamed him enough? Well until I see his and Cheney's asses dragged before a Grand Jury- No we haven't blamed them enough.

    First I'd like to start with a small discussion on what I consider to be the three major pillars of power in the United States; 1. The Government, 2. The Media, 3. Corporations. These three powers keep each other in check as a sort of unwritten checks and balance system that is on a social level (rather than the checks and balances that the Gov't has between the judicial, executive, and legislative branches). Hence the First Amendment stating keep your grubbing fucking hands off the media.

    Corporations don't really need that protection because they have their own protective power- MONEY! Hello, Supreme Court, I'm talking to you. What The Fuck (I thought an abbreviation would just dilute) were you thinking? Did you think that that Corporate America was not influencing politics enough? Did you think that somehow we had left them out of the power pie in the last decade? Corporate America almost single handedly erased 20 years of gains by the middle class in a matter of 5-8 years depending on how you want to slice it. Now they can spend any amount of money they want influencing the other two pillars. The Media has already been bought by Corporate America, luckily it is really difficult to run a for profit newspaper these days because of things like blogs and the internet. That all has yet to be flushed out, but I can guarentee that if there is money to be made there, Corporate America will be on the coattails. So anyway, "Screw You little guy, your opinion doesn't count," is what I heard from these five robed ones.

    Whew, I feel better. What does this have to do with GW? Well he got the chance to appoint two of those five justices to the court. What a wonderful legacy he is leaving us to deal with for the next 10-20 years. I can only hope that Obama gets to swap out at least one of the conservative judges during his (fingers crossed) eight years in office. It really is going to be the only way we have a chance to balance the court back out to something more reasonable (if this recent act of lunacy is any indicator).

    Next, Toyota- lately in the news is this huge recall over gas pedals. Did you know that the agency that oversees transportation saftey The National Traffic Highway Safety Association (NTHSA) didn't have a head for the last eight months while GW was in office. Also, since Obama has been in office we haven't had a head either. The wonderful Republicans have been blocking most of Obama's nominees for other more important offices and so the committees are way behind in approving other less important offices like NTHSA. Basically the NTHSA has gotten behind the ball on looking into reports. They actually did look into the Toyota gas pedal issue a few years ago, but took Toyota's word that it was "operator error" meaning people were pressing the gas instead of the break. Yeah, that was their argument, and the NTHSA accepted it.

    The bigger issue here is why they would side with Toyota? Well it is because of the politics of GW Bush. He systematically put people into the various watchdog agencies (EPA, FDA, CPA, etc) who were friendly to business. He made sure that the so called revolving door was in full effect by allowing lobbyists, industry insiders, and former employees of the very businesses they were supposed to be watching run the show. This is all very well documented and explains the various issues that we have seen cropping up regarding lead paint in toys, insane credit card companies raping people, and now cars going on acceleration rampages.

    Finally, I'd like to wrap this all up by pointing to the complete and epic failure of government regulators to notice the ridiculous practices going on Wall Street. Many people have been asking why the failure? I have always thought that the answer is relatively simple. The people who were watching were specifically hired to look the other way. They knew shit was going down, but why would they rat out the very people that they were working for in the first place? When you put stupid people in charge, stupid things happen. The bigger issue is when you put a stupid person in charge of the entire country- REALLY stupid things happen.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    To Save the Planet

    I don't know why environmentalist and climate scientists even think they can "Save the Planet".

    There really isn't anything to save.

    It really isn't about "Saving the Planet". It isn't about "Healing Mother Earth" either. Stopping global warming is really about saving our own asses. The whole environmental moment is just as self-serving as dumping loads of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere unchecked. Really it is.

    We aren't really trying to be "green" in order to help the planet remain alive, we are trying to keep humanity alive. That's really all that this stuff is about- having a planet that is habitable by humans for generations to come. Besides, the Earth is going to survive anything we humans can do, including global warming, deforestation, and species extinction. You name it, the Earth can survive through it.

    I am tired of this misnomer "Save the Planet", and I think it is wrong. It should be "Save Your Ass," or perhaps "Save the Children,", or even better "Save Your Children's Asses". The fact of the matter is, Mother Nature will remove us from the planet, without thought, remorse, and with a swiftness that is frightening. This isn't about her, she can take care of herself.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    From Preacher

    I've been reading "The Greatest Graphic Novel Ever" called Preacher by Garth Ennis.

    Here is a gem I found today, seems fitting considering the times:

    "The Myth of America: That simple, honest men, born of her Great Plains and woods and skies have made a nation of her, and will prove worthy of her when the time is right...

    Under a harsh light it is false. But a good myth to live up to, all the same."

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    An Arguement for Taxing the Wealthy

    I was recently sent a mass email (I will paste the email into the comments) from a family member which outlined the plight of the small business owner. Basically, when you own a company and it makes a profit at the end of the year, this is what you have to put on your tax return. So, when one considers Obama's screw all the people who make over $250,000 shtick, one cannot help worry about the group that is responsible for something like 80% of all employment (I'm not sure about this number and didn't feel like looking it up, feel free to do so, it might be even higher). Personally, I think it would be dumb to do anything to hinder job growth right now. The email that I am referring to was told from the perspective of the president of a company who made $530,000 in profit from the company. He argued that with that $530,000 he has to re-invest in the company so it can grow, and that how can he do that when he is getting taxed so strongly. With these things in mind, I present An Argument for Taxing the Wealthy (including small business owners to make over $250,000).

    1. While it is true that the profit of a small business gets recorded as income for the business owner, I'd like to point out that the taxable income (net) is after business expenses which includes re-investing in the company. So using the above example, if this guy were to invest $284,000 back into his company then his net would be $250,000- and he'd be under the threshold. And by the way, if someone were to net out more than $250,000 from their company- well then I'd argue that they do deserve to pay that extra 5%, as you will see below.

    2. Furthermore, a small business is an asset, just like a home or a car is an asset. When you re-invest into an asset, you typically increase the value of the asset in the process. I mean what kind of a moron would invest money in their company without the hope of it increasing the revenue/profit/value of the company by doing so. So, the boo-hoo I have to re-invest into my own company line is bullshit, you are investing in an asset you posses just like you invest in your 401k, or your house- the hope is that you will be able to sell it later and cash out the money you put into it. Now granted, a small business is a LOT risker than a 401k, savings, or a home- but hey that's the perils of a small business owner.

    3. People should pay in proportion to the services they use, right? If I use more electricity, I should pay more. If I drive a truck on the government funded highways, and I profit from these taxpayer funded roads, then I should pay more to help keep them up and running. This is also true for the wealthy. By definition, if you are wealthy then society has benefited you. Granted, you may have worked hard for you money, but regardless, the social system that we live in and is how it is structured has lead to you being able to accrue wealth in one form or another. If we had a chaotic society, or an anarchical society, then odds are, you wouldn't be doing as well, or benefiting so much (freedom of economy is typically the first thing to go in a totalitarian or fascist regime).

    This disproportionate benefital relationship between the haves and the have nots rationally leads to the conclusion that the haves should pay a bit more to keep society functioning, so that their business will continue functioning, so that they will be able to continue with their way of life. It is actually a selfish view that I am taking here, even though the results are unselfish. Makes sense to me...

    4. This guy is basically a proponent of the trickle down economic theory adopted by Regan in the 80s. All that I have to say is that after 20 years of growth, this latest downturn has reduced us to pre-1982 levels and erased all of the supposed gains that trickle down economics (which reigned over those 20 years) produced. This may be surprising, but trickle down economics do not work. It has been proven to not work over these past 20 years, over the past 8 years, the average income of Americans has fallen by approximately 5%. Meanwhile, the top 1% wealthiest managed to accumulate 99% of the wealth in the country, a first in the history of the US. Never before in the history of our country has so much wealth been accumulated into such a small percentage of people.

    Really though, is it surprising that trickle down economics does not translate into wealth for the middle class? I mean basically what you are saying is, Once you are rich, you stop being greedy. That really is the fundamental tenet of trickle down economics. Being as skeptical as most conservative economist who believe this, you would think that they wouldn't believe so strongly in the philanthropic soul of the rich. They got rich by being cut throat and saving every dollar they can (which I have no problem with), but why would you expect that to change if you just give them more?

    5. $250,000 for your net income is over 500% of what the average American makes. That's five times (5x) more than the average American makes. I mean if you make that much more than the average person, shouldn't you foot a greater percentage of the bill? I make more than my girlfriend does (right now) so I pay proportionately more rent and bills and stuff. I consider this just and fair, why wouldn't this same principle apply to the wealthy?