There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Posts from — December 2008

The Antitrust Nazis Are After Whole Foods!

Wow. I just found out that the FTC tried to stop last year’s merger of Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Markets, two natural and organic foods retailers. The FTC alleged that the merger of the two leaders in the organic foods industry would lead to price increases. Are you kidding me? With every major supermarket chain (including Walmart) now moving to offer organic products, Whole Foods has quickly lost its “monopoly” on those products.

It’s impossible to have a monopoly anyway unless the government sets it up. Disagree? I challenge you to find an example of one.

December 31, 2008   No Comments

Liberal vs. Conservative on Government Spending

I recently read two opinion pieces regarding what to do about the economy, specifically, whether the government needs to spend more or less money.

In one of the pieces, Paul Krugman of the New York Times argues that this is not the time to be cutting public spending and investment. He says that state and local governments, since they are required by law to have balanced budgets, are trimming social programs and public spending in order to eliminate their deficits. This behavior, in turn, is exacerbating the crisis by downsizing the local safety net and increasing unemployment by eliminative public sector jobs.

In the other piece, Peter Schiff, writing for the Wall Street Journal, argues that the government is broke and really has no money to spend. It can only borrow money from the future, or in the absence of willing lenders, take it out of the current economy by printing money, and then put it back in somewhere else. He says that individuals, local, and state governments are responding to this crisis rationally by spending less, but the federal government wants to respond by spending more, in the form of a giant stimulus package.

Who do you agree with?

December 29, 2008   1 Comment

Convenient Propaganda

I just watched Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Gore tells a very heartwrenching story about how carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are causing global warming, and how that in turn is causing a slew of environmental problems – including the deaths of thousands from record heat waves, the disppearance of glaciers, mass flooding, severe droughts, and the strengthening of catastrophic weather events like hurricanes. He goes so far as to suggest that Hurricane Katrina would have been prevented if we had stopped global warming years ago.

It’s a very compelling tale (an Oscar-winning one at that), but an objective scientific presentation it is not. It really is just propaganda (see the part with the polar bear trying to climb up on the melting, cracking iceberg). I’m no environmental scientist but from enough reading I can conclude that climate change is an extremely complex issue that we are only just beginning to understand. The basis of Gore’s argument is that CO2 emissions causes more sunlight to be trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere which warms it up. Scientists, he says, have taken ice core samples which provide CO2 and temperature information for the last 650,000 years or so. He puts up a slide with the trends of CO2 and temperature which clearly track each other. This, apparently, demonstrates a clear cause-and-effect relationship – CO2 dictates temperature. However, what he fails to point out is that the rise in CO2 always lags the rise in global temperature, by about 800 years or so. Then isn’t the cause-and-effect the other way around? Even that’s hard to prove. Climate scientists claim that CO2 doesn’t cause the first 800 years of global warming, it just amplifies the effect for the next 4200 years or so. So if CO2 doesn’t cause the first 800 years of global warming, should we really be so worried about it? Then how could CO2 have caused Katrina, or anything that’s happened in the last century?

Is global warming occurring? Absolutely. Is it a problem? It could be – I don’t really want to see the glaciers receding or the snows disappearing from Kilamanjaro. Are humans the cause of global warming? It’s certainly possible, but I don’t think we know why, how, or what to do to stop it. The real questions are – how much money are we willing to spend, how many trillions of dollars, and how much economic progress in the developed and developing world are we willing to curtail, to take what amounts to a wild guess on reversing climate change? I think we have bigger environmental fish to fry, like pollution (the non-CO2 type), and deforestation from biofuel production.

December 27, 2008   14 Comments

Nanny State 2008

A look back at some of the ridiculous nanny state laws that were passed or proposed in 2008. Actually, some weren’t all that ridiculous, but I still disagree with them in principle (the smoking ban, for example). From our friends at Reason.tv:

December 27, 2008   No Comments

My Social Network (Or Lack Thereof)

Most of my friends are right around the age of 30, and with the exception of swash, they’re just poor social networkers in general. Most of them do use facebook, but that’s where it stops. Some of them actually still refuse to use facebook out of sheer stubbornness, and just look down upon the whole social networking concept.

It’s actually a little bit frustrating when I have to email my friends if I find an interesting article, send the URL of a good site that I bookmarked, or send out a link to my latest flickr photo album. If we all used friendfreed, for example, they would just know when I uploaded new pictures to flickr, bookmarked a new site in del.icio.us, dugg a new article, updated my Netflix queue, etc.

A common argument I get into is that by sharing all this information, it actually gives people less to talk about when they see eachother. That somehow, having knowledge of what I’m reading, watching, or photographing ahead of time will detract from normal face-to-face conversation. I think that’s just bulls**t, and an easy way for people to justify a resistance to change or having to try something new. Similarly, there’s a wide belief that by spending too much time on social networking sites and the Internet in general, kids are losing their social skills. This belief is also quickly being debunked.

So if you’re around the age of 30, and not sure what this social networking phenomenon is all about, I urge you to give it a try. It will also be a much more rich experience if all your friends could do the same. But good luck getting them to join you.

December 23, 2008   4 Comments