Archive for the general rant Category

Government Motors (GM)

Posted in general rant, Political with tags , , on June 3, 2009 by Justin

Larry Kudlow continues one of the points I’ve been trying to make over at the National Review online:

And with CAFE mileage standards ratcheting up — all while GM is going down — Team Obama’s green vision for the economy will soon be crystal clear. With President Obama in the driver’s seat, we’re going to get little green two-door cars that most folks won’t want to buy.

Even worse, UAW chief Ron Gettelfinger has made it plain that his powerful union won’t let these cars be manufactured in low-cost non-union plants overseas. The result? Obama’s little green cars are going to be unprofitable as well.

Now that the American taxpayers own 60% of GM, it would be nice if our elected officials would let them make cars that actually sell so we can get our stinking money back. (Which never should have gone to them in the first place.)

C.A.F.E.

Posted in general rant, Political with tags , on May 20, 2009 by Justin

This is part one of a multi-part series, not sure how many this will end up being, probably either two or three parts, we’ll see how it develops. Here’s a bit of history, and some of the unintended consequences that we’ve already experienced due to Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE Standards), which our current president just raised yesterday.

The CAFE Standard was first passed in 1975 by Congress as a response to the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, and took effect in 1978. The purpose was to raise the fuel economy of cars and light trucks sold in the US. There were different rules that applied to passenger cars versus light trucks (SUVs fall under the category of light trucks). Passenger cars were expected to meet an 18 mpg standard in 1978, and that number was raised to 27.5 mpg in 1990 where it has stayed since. The newest standards will require 30.2 mpg by 2011 and 35.5 mpg by 2016. Light trucks have only been required to reach around 20 mpg during most of this time.

At the time these CAFE standards were introduced most manufacturers produced large station wagons, which most families purchased and drove. These large station wagons were unable to meet the fuel efficiency requirements of those current day CAFE standards. However, those same standards did not apply to SUVs which qualified as light trucks according to CAFE standards. Most people will realize that many SUVs are basically tall station wagons. Auto manufacturers were forced to stop making station wagons in order to meet CAFE standards, but the public still had a demand to be met, and the SUV fulfilled that demand. As a result, SUVs have been top sellers in the US for the last fifteen years.

The resultant popularity of SUVs has caused several problems. First, SUVs get lower fuel economy than the station wagons they replaced, therefore the creation of the CAFE Standards resulted in an initial drop in average fuel economy. Second, SUVs are less safe than what a normal station wagon would be. The general designs are very similar, but an SUV has a higher center of gravity and therefore is more likely to roll over when performing evasive maneuvers. (See Isuzu Trooper, Ford Bronco II, and Ford Explorer). Also, the heavier SUVs, with higher bumpers pose threats to the other vehicles on the road that a normal station wagon would not. Over the years, SUVs have been demonized by those that would seek increase fuel economy, and other environmental standards, but in reality were popularized, in part, as a response to those very same fuel standards.

In recent years the gross vehicle weight restriction which determines where vehicles fall in the spectrum of CAFE Standards has been raised several times, therefore leading more SUVs to fall under tighter and tighter fuel efficiency requirements. This has had an impact on the overall car market, causing a further drop in safety, which will be covered in part two of this series.

Neuroenhancing

Posted in general rant with tags on April 27, 2009 by Justin

A friend on Facebook, who happens to still be in college posted a link to an article in The New Yorker about healthy people taking stimulant drugs (such as Adderall and Ritalin) intended for treatment of ADHD as “neuroenhancers”. The article goes into detail about some specific uses by people interviewed, as well as some of the studies done on the subject. It also outlined some of the potential ethical concerns with their use.

The consensus positive of the drugs is that they enable the user to focus more intently on a given task, for a longer period of time. Some of the negatives are unknown, but it seems that at least one is that some of the drug can have a damping effect on creative thinking. Another is that if the user takes one of the drugs with the intent to focus on a paper, but instead decides to start sorting their cd collection, they will expend that extended period of intense focus on that task, and not get to the originally intended task. Another negative is that the drugs can be potentially addictive. The article also stated that it seemed that the drugs worked better on below average people to bring them up to normal/above average productivity far more effectively than elevating the performance of already above average individuals.

In the area of ethics, the article compared the use of such drugs to plastic surgery, and one of the users interviewed said it would not be accurate to compare their use to that of steroids by athletes. I am inclined to disagree. I think that it is exactly the same as athletes using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. Both parties use said drugs to get ahead in their chosen field of endeavor, be it athletics, academics, or whatever their corporate field and I think that is wrong. I do however feel – in agreement with one of the people interviewed, Nicholas Seltzer (I believe) – that whether or not an adult person uses such drugs should not be a legal matter, in that said users are not infringing on anyone else’s rights by doing so.

I believe there are some negative effects of “neuroenhancing” not mentioned in the article. First of all, I would say that many people use the drugs in a manner that is harmful relationally. They allow the user, who is most likely already somewhat of a workaholic, to extend their working time, therefore further decreasing their time spent with family and friends and damaging those relationships. Secondly I suspect the drugs are harmful emotionally. The article stated that part of their effectiveness seems to come from artificially created dopamine. When artificially created dopamine enters the brain, if the brain becomes over whelmed with dopamine, it turns off dopamine receptors and/or produces less natural dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in your brain responsible for feelings of pleasure. If your dopamine receptors are turned off, or your naturally occurring dopamine levels are decreased you will experience pleasure in life less often and to a lesser degree. (This is what happens to cocaine/meth/other drug addicts.) Also, in the end I believe you will experience a net loss in cognitive ability. Finally, there may be physical detriments, since these “neuroenhancing” drugs are stimulants, they will have the same negative affect on the body that other stimulants have over time. To what level they have these affects has yet to be shown.

Stem Cells

Posted in general rant, Political with tags , on March 10, 2009 by Justin

First I want to clarify that Obama did *NOT* lift a ban on stem cell research. There never was any such ban of any kind. What he lifted was a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. This is important to recognize because *adult* stem cell research has been receiving federal funding all along, and *embryonic* stem cell research was still going on, but only funded by private money, instead of with taxpayer money.

I oppose this move, for two very distinct reasons. The first is that I don’t believe that funding this research fits within the constitutional role of government in the first place. In fact, I don’t believe that there is a constitutional basis for federal funding of any research other than towards the end of protecting this country from foreign invasion. Nearly everything else should be funded by the private sector. (I say nearly because their may be one or two other things that fit within the constitutional role of government that I haven’t thought of off the top of my head.)

The second is that I do not support the creation of human life for the purpose of destroying, especially when there have been more scientific breakthroughs concerning adult stem cells, (which do not require taking life to acquire) than their have been with embryonic stem cells. I also don’t agree with the concept that it is okay to create and destroy thousands of human lives to do research to potentially save hundreds.

Finally I want to point out that the man that started stem cell research said “If the thought of destroying human embryos for research purposes doesn’t give you pause, then you haven’t thought about it long enough.” This issue is not an issue of “science v. ideology” as Obama stated in his speech, but rather an issue of ethics in science.

I learned something new today

Posted in general rant, Political with tags , , on March 10, 2009 by Justin

Today on the Dave Ramsey show he talked about the fact that most of the philosophies behind FDR’s New Deal were based on the writings and teachings of a man by the name of John Maynard Keynes, the father of “Keynesian Economics”. Keynes was a self professed socialist (not surprising that the New Deal was influenced by a socialist). Today, most of what is taught in government schools regarding economics (as little as that is) and the New Deal are based on and favorable to Keynesian Economics. Today, we are again seeing Keynesian Economics put into place by the Obama administration.

All of this is significant because the founding fathers for this great nation based their economic polices on the writings of Adam Smith, and particularly the book “The Wealth of Nations”. Smith laid out the methodology and philosophy behind the capitalist and free trade systems of economics. The free trade system has worked very well for a very long time, however the policies of the Obama administration will likely destroy much of what the New Deal left intact 80 years ago.

Rather than teaching students the interventionist theories of Keynes, (which don’t work, the New Deal only made the depression longer, and Obama’s policies will do the same with the current situation) our schools should be teaching the free enterprise theories of Smith. Our country offers everyone a guaranteed opportunity to experience success in life, but too many people try to use Keynesian policies to guarantee result of success. The current Keynesian policies are lending to the prevention of failure for businesses that are not built to succeed. If you take away the pain of failure, you take away at least part of the desire to succeed. Imagine if the government had stepped in and tried to keep Edison from failing at creating the light bulb (one of the thousands of times that he did fail), we might all still be sitting in the dark.

Crunchy?

Posted in general rant, Political with tags , , , on January 12, 2009 by Justin

As I was taking a shower after working out today, my shampoo bottle inspired me to think about Jenn Tobler’s blog about “natural shampoo” and how being “green” and/or “natural” doesn’t always mean “better”. In regards to the specific instance of shampoo, I would like to point out that “conventional” shampoo (and other hygiene products) companies spend millions of dollars a year on research and development into what works best. Obviously they do this so that they can say “we have the best product” with the goal that by being “the best” they will sell more of their product. Using logic one would come to the conclusion that if in fact “natural recipe” shampoos, like the baking soda – vinegar method, are better than “conventional” shampoos, at least one company would have bottled it up and placed it on the shelf for you purchasing pleasure as “the best shampoo for your hair”. Since I don’t know of any company that has, my conclusion is that it is not. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re buying the cheapest shampoo you can buy at the store, this may be better, because companies like Suave don’t have the goal of being the best, their goal is to be the cheapest, but Redken, and other “salon” lines want to be the best.

Too many people get sucked in to doing something because they think it is the natural or green thing to do (which is the in thing now, remember when we called these people crunchy, or granola heads?), but in many case they are wrong. Case in point, Leonardo DeCaprio and other Hollywood stars (as well as many average citizens) that drive a Toyota Prius. These people buy this car not for fuel economy, but because they believe that by doing so, they are helping to protect the environment, and they are dead wrong. The carbon footprint of a Toyota Prius is huge. One has to drive the Prius over 46,000 miles to “pay off the carbon debt” created by the manufacture off the car. This “carbon debt” is created by the fact that the nickel used to make the batteries is mined in Canada (the process itself is energy heavy and creates a “dead zone”), the nickel is then sent off to a refinery in Europe and then off to China and finally it ends up in finished form in Japan. Then if you buy the car in the USA, it is shipped once again around to us. Not to mention when the batteries and/or the car itself reach then end of their usefulness they have to be disposed of, creating even more environmental problems.

Then you have to account for driving style, as it accounts to actual fuel economy. The British car show Top Gear did a test where they drove a Prius as fast as it could go on their test track, and had another driver following in the 420 hp V8 BMW M3 whose job was to simply keep up with the Prius. The results were that the Prius garnered a whopping 17.2 mpg, and the M3 19.4. Granted, if you drove the Prius gently it would smoke the M3 in mileage, but I personally haven’t seen a ton of Prius drivers that actually do that, many of them drive their cars harder than I drive mine (which is saying something). If you really want to be green in your car purchase there are many cars that fit that bill that do not include “Hybrid” in their names. Many get close to the same mileage, without the negative environmental effect of the batteries. You could purchase a Smart Car, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Toyota Corolla, VW Jetta TDI (diesel), Chevy Aveo, and many more. If you want to go really green, you should buy a used cars as suggested in this article in Wired.