What’s going on at Occupy Wall Street

Anyone who can work in two in-context Monty Python references deserves to be read.

By the way, while Wall Street may be responsible for bad things, it is Wall Street who financed putting a million miles of fiber optic cables crisscrossing continents and under oceans. It is Wall Street that financed the thousands of cell towers. It is Wall Street from which venture capital comes to finance startups like Twitter. Thus, tweeting “Down with capitalism” from your iPhone for those around the word to read seems to be the most ironic thing a person can do. The live stream from the protest site, shared with 12,000 (at this moment) people across the Internet is a testament to Wall Street’s allocation of capital that these protesters fight against. [Obligatory Monty Python reference]

That the protest is dominated by Internet savvy youths exploiting social media is frequently mentioned. But what is not mentioned is the fact that the protesters are overwhelmingly college students, or recent graduates who still haven’t found jobs. They aren’t just any college students, but the stereotypical sort that you might expect to be involved in campus activism, such as graduate students in “Gender Studies.” I found nobody with engineering or science degrees, but many from arts and acting colleges. After talking with one guy for a while about unemployment and his difficult in finding a job after college, I found out that he was a “poet.” I’m not sure he understood that employers aren’t looking to hire poets. The only person I met that had a political science degree was one of the police officers “keeping the peace.”

Errata Security: Independent reporting of #OccupyWallStreet

The vested interests in doom

Though, really you should go read the paragraph that follows.

Today, infected by Malthusian ecology, the Left relentlessly preaches millennial doom and technological risk: the climate is heading for catastrophe; resources are running out; population is growing too fast; farming cannot keep up; habitat is being destroyed; poverty, hunger, pollution, disease and greed are only going to get worse. A dramatic change in human stewardship of the planet is needed.

The vested interests in doom | The Rational Optimist…

China’s high speed rail waste

China’s high speed rail was supposed to be a model for the US to follow. I hope this gives pause to the billions of dollars that the federal government wants to pour down this black hole.

Liu’s legacy, in short, is a system that could drain China’s economic resources for years. So much for the grand project that Thomas Friedman of the New York Times likened to a “moon shot” and that President Obama held up as a model for the United States.

China’s train wreck – The Washington Post

Japan’s nuclear crisis: Will it end in meltdown

Slate provides a levelheaded assessment about nuclear reactor risk and safety lessons from the crisis in Japan. I hope, once the situation is resolved, we can still look at nuclear power objectively in the USA.

To head off the next nuclear accident, we need to rethink the parameters of plant design. Why do we build backup cooling pumps for reactors but not for spent-fuel pools? And we need layers of protection that are truly independent.

Man vs. Meltdown

Sinners that repent

Here’s a sign of hope that thinking rationally may end up helping us solve a number of problems.

Last night saw a TV programme in the UK called What the Green Movement Got Wrong, in which various greens admitted that they had done terrible harm by opposing nuclear power and GM food and indoor DDT. It was a pretty good programme, especially on Chernobyl.

Sinners that repent

Economic View – Leveling the Playing Field, in Soccer and Finance – NYTimes.com

Refereeing a soccer game is not much different than regulating the financial industry.  There are a lot of parallels in how you would want to set up both systems to be fair and efficient.

The first is that the regulator — in this case, the referee — is fallible. So the rules should make the regulator’s job as easy as possible.Second, regulators can’t detect every irregularity, so the emphasis has to be on getting the big stuff right. Finally, we want performance, not regulators, to determine the outcome. The best regulators are those we don’t notice.

Level Playing Fields, in Soccer and Finance

Regulatory Capture v. the Nirvana Fallacy

This is a good piece that uses the BP Oil Spill and the Net Neutrality debate to illustrate what "Regulatory Capture" means.  It's a term I've heard before but this served to clarify it quite a bit.

The [so-called] liberals’ fury at the President is almost as astounding as their outrage over the discovery that oil companies and their regulators might have grown too cozy. In economic literature, this behavior is known as “regulatory capture,” and the current political irony is that this is a long-time conservative critique of the regulatory state….

What the Oil Spill Really Says About Net Neutrality: Regulatory Capture v. the Nirvana Fallacy

Some good news about US Carbon Emissions.

Enery related CO2 emissions are trending downward, hopefully this trend can continue. Surprisingly, all this happened without a big government mandate. Now, if only we would start using more nuclear power.

The Department of Energy has run the numbers on US carbon emissions in 2009, and found they dropped by about seven percent compared to the previous year, the largest decline the agency has ever seen. Although the economic downturn had been expected to lower emissions, the slowdown in GDP only accounted for about a third of the change. Greater efficiencies, less-energy-intensive activities, and a shift away from coal use accounted for the rest. The numbers haven't been this low since the mid-1990s and, even adjusting for the economy, take us a substantial distance towards President Obama's goal of cutting emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

US carbon emissions plunge—not just because of lousy economy

Maine Finds a Health Care Fix Elusive – NYTimes.com

This is a pretty balanced look at how Maine’s attempts to reform health care have proved difficult and have had unintended side effects. Its a big gamble to try this on a national level hoping for a different outcome.

Maine is the Charlie Brown of health care. The state’s legislators have tried for decades to fix its system, but their efforts have always fallen short: health insurance premiums are still among the least affordable in the nation, health care spending per person is among the highest and hospital emergency rooms are among the most crowded. Indeed, many overhauls to the system have done little more than squeeze a balloon — solving one problem while worsening another.

Maine Finds a Health Care Fix Elusive – NYTimes.com

Why judges should not rewrite mortgage contracts

Do we really need to explain why this is a bad idea? Todd Zywicki Says a Mortgage Modification Law Could Create a Bankruptcy Crisis – WSJ.co

Mortgage modification would indeed provide a windfall for some troubled homeowners — but its costs will be borne by aspiring future homeowners, and by any American who uses credit of any kind, from car loans to credit cards. The ripple effects could further roil America’s consumer credit markets.