Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The view from 6 million miles away

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. More info here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Deadliest Warrior redux

Welcome, readers of STORMBRINGER. I was quite pleased this weekend to discuss "Deadliest Warrior" with Sean Linnane, an actual warrior, and am honored that he took interest in my FrumForum piece on the subject.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Alien reading list

When I have a chance, I intend to read more thoroughly this paper, which I've only skimmed so far: "Would contact with extraterrestrials benefit or harm humanity? A scenario analysis." (I wrote on a similar theme a few years ago.)

The paper has caused a bit of kerfuffle, involving sensationalism, misunderstanding and politicization. See:

"Some important points of clarification," by one of the paper's coauthors.

"Bad news from NASA: If we don’t reduce carbon emissions, the aliens might come and kill us; Update: Not a NASA report," Hot Air.

"Right Wing Blogs in Massive Anti-Science Fail Mode," Little Green Footballs.

UPDATE: "Space Aliens Are Probably Progressive Liberals," National Review.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

No thanks, Perry

One of my major differences with prevailing sentiment in the GOP is over climate change -- accepting the reality of it and the anthropogenic nature of it, and then developing policies (such as carbon taxes) aimed at limiting its extent and impact. Another major difference I have with today's Republicans overall is about the Fed -- partly over the particular policies it's implemented in recent years (which strike me as basically on the right track even if monetary policy alone cannot solve our economic problems) but more fundamentally that the Fed fulfills crucial functions and needs a degree of independence to do so, hence it should not be demonized (or for that matter abolished).

Rick Perry has come down powerfully on the wrong side of both issues, in substance and in tone, in his first week of campaigning. What will he do next week?

Economic Principals update

Long ago, I wrote a review for Reason of Economic Principals: Masters and Mavericks of Modern Economics, by David Warsh. This was so long ago in fact (1993) that Reason's online archives don't go back that far, though my review can be found here. In the interest of examining the diversity of ways for trying to generate income through writing for the Web, I note that Warsh now runs his former newspaper column as a website that's free but that gives an early edition and a quarterly newsletter to buyers of a $50 subscription.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Great Stagnation

At FrumForum, I review The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better, by Tyler Cowen. Excerpt:
For several hundred years, Cowen argues, the Western world in general and America in particular have benefitted from relatively abundant or accessible sources of economic growth — “low-hanging fruit” — such as newly opened land, expanded education, and technological breakthroughs ranging from electricity to pharmaceuticals.

The trouble is, he contends, the low-hanging fruit has been getting sparse in the past several decades. Yes, there is still much technological innovation but it’s largely focused on Internet-related sectors that don’t necessarily produce a lot of jobs or revenue. A great deal of financial innovation has been occurring but that only enriches small numbers of people without necessarily producing much social benefit.
The rest includes discussion of Ayn Rand, John Horgan and the social status of scientists. Whole thing here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hard money

David Frum has a valuable discussion of monetary history revolving around the 40-years-ago "Nixon shock." In light of Rick Perry's remarks yesterday about Bernanke's "near treason," I add a modest proposal about applying some hard-core free-market monetary policy in Texas first. I also note with amusement that the anonymous "businessman and investor" cited by Bill Kristol the other day on Fed policy has now made his way into a comment by John Podhoretz, who touts the unnamed guy's reputation as "unimpeachable."

UPDATE: Also recommended, Bruce Bartlett on "Nixon's Biggest Gamble..." And I wrote something on it here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bill Kristol's anti-Fed friend

Over at FrumForum, I ask: "Who Wants Higher Interest Rates?" Opening:
Over at the Weekly Standard’s blog, William Kristol reproduces an email he’s received from an unnamed “businessman and investor” for whose judgment Kristol says he has the “highest regard.” The email lambastes the policies of the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke in no uncertain terms.

Here it is with my comments appended...
Whole thing here.

UPDATE 8/11: I'll be participating in some live-blogging of the GOP debate at FrumForum at 9 ET tonight. UPDATE: Archived here.

UPDATE 8/12: Welcome to Marginal Revolution readers of "How Did Libertarians Lose Their Way?"

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monetary crankdom update

A few notes involving currencies. I mention these topics in passing for the moment, lacking the time just now to give them the more in-depth treatment I'd prefer.

George Will, lately a more libertarian-leaning figure than long thought to be, writes that "events seem to be validating [Ron Paul's] message, which is that the country's financial condition is awful." But isn't Ron Paul's message that the country's financial condition can be drastically improved by getting rid of the Fed and implementing a gold standard and/or competing currencies? And given that it is, what effect would such policies have in the current troubled financial situation? Would not a gold standard, insofar as it truly is binding, render the federal government actually incapable of paying its bills and thus cause vastly worse turmoil than we have now? Or is the whole question of a gold standard not worth discussing, because such a policy would be abandoned readily in times such as the present, thus raising a profound credibility issue that gold-standard proponents have never been able to resolve? And as for competing currencies...

... It wasn't that long ago, just a few months, that a wave of libertarian enthusiasm arose over the electronic currency Bitcoin and the liberation it offered from government oversight. How's Bitcoin doing now, you ask?