Harryhammer's Blog

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Archive for ‘March, 2010’

Capitalism School

Learn from “Lizzie”

Have you ever played Monopoly?

Chances are that you have, given that it’s the most successful board game in United States history with nearly a half a billion players worldwide.

The history of the game is quite interesting.

More than a century ago, a sharp-witted Quaker lady named Elizabeth “Lizzy” Magie came up with a clever way to teach people about concepts like taxation, and asset distribution in a society. The learning tool she came up with was a board game called “The Landlord’s Game,” which she actually wound up patenting in 1904. Years later, her creation would be redesigned into the Parker Brothers smash hit Monopoly.

First and foremost, Lizzie was a political activist. The purpose of her board game was not just for people to pass time, but, to educate them about what happens when an individual or an enterprise has sufficient control over a particular product or service. Lizzie wanted people to know about monopolies and how they ultimately end up bankrupting most while a few get rich.

I should clarify that I don’t mean to imply in any way that Lizzie’s insights were novel or new in her era. After all, competition laws go all the way back to the Roman Empire. However, in Lizzie’s day the competition laws were not very strict. Consequently, the gap between the rich and essentially everyone else was widening at a disturbing rate like now.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of such lax competition laws was John D. Rockefeller. He formed Standard Oil of Ohio which essentially gobbled up the competition in no time. In fact, in less than four months, in what later became known as the “Cleveland Massacre,” Standard Oil had gobbled up 22 of its 26 Cleveland competitors. That massacre occurred in 1872.

In a few words, Rockefeller’s unregulated feeding frenzy got so out of hand that he essentially killed the game. He owned it all.

Figuratively speaking, Rockefeller had all of the utilities, all of the railroads, all of the best properties, all of the hotels, and most of the houses. Everyone else was either broke or down to their last few rolls.

Incidentally, the little guy in the top hat is John D. Rockefeller.

(more to come on this)

Patrick Michaels is a Buffoon

I have an idea that might help solve the global warming crisis.

All of the top scientific organizations in the world should band together, take up a collection, and hire Bill Nye the Science Guy as their spokesperson.

Perhaps he can do for the NAS what Charlton Heston did for the NRA?

Honestly, who could possibly not trust the Science Guy?

Believe it or not, there actually is one such person and his name is Patrick Michaels, one of the more infamous global warming deniers. He’s a member of the Cato Institute, so chances are he’s representing their best interests, similar to the way an attorney represents a client.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Cato_Institute

In the global warming/climate change case, think of public opinion as the jury, the world’s worst polluters as the defendant, and Patrick Michaels as one of their many lawyers. His job is to cloud the issue, muddy the waters, and create doubt in the minds of the public.

Whatever the case, the man is a buffoon.

Are we honestly expected to believe that Patrick Michaels is right while 97% of the scientific experts who specialize in the field are wrong?

Judge for yourself:

Bill Nye and Patrick Michaels go head to head on CNN:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffgj6Deni_Y

The most significant revelation to come from all those hacked emails is that we now know that the most published and peer-reviewed climate change specialists in the world think that Michaels is an idiot.

Just about every scientific organization in the world other than a few oil and coal related geology groups are in agreement about the science.

There have been plenty of surveys conducted to evaluate the scientific opinion on global warming. Here are a few links to some of the more recent ones:

http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf

http://coast.gkss.de/staff/storch/pdf/CliSci2008.pdf

http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/national/2008/04/23/survey-tracks-scientists-growing-climate-concern.html

The most recent poll was done by Peter Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman at Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago.

A summary from the survey states that:

It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.

State of the Art Statistics

Hans Rosling is clearly a smart man, as anyone who has ever studied statistics must know. Aside from being an accomplished and well respected scientist and educator, he’s a genuine good guy doing good work to help poor people.

Conservative political analysts and commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck want you to believe that decent folk like Hans Rosling and thousands of others like him are either corrupt or stupid.

I think the odds that Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Beck are either corrupt or stupid is infinitely higher.

You tell me?

Check out these stats:

http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.html

Ann Coulter’s Safety

Despite having an entourage of security at her disposal for her many conservative PR lectures, Ann Coulter was worried enough about her safety to consider canceling her scheduled lecture in Calgary. Her topic of choice right now is media bias and free speech.

Personally, as far as her physical safety is concerned, I don’t think Coulter has a thing to worry about anywhere in Canada, with or without her body guards. She especially doesn’t need to worry much in a conservative oil town like Calgary Alberta where I’m sure many will welcome her with open arms.

Apparently, Coulter doesn’t realize that in Canada, just like in the United States, good people abhor her and crazy people adore her. Sure, she might face some heckling from intelligent, thoughtful, peace protesting types, but, about the biggest threat she faces in Canada is having a size 14 Sorel thrown at her head.

I’m sure if she asked George W. Bush nicely, he would be more than happy to give her some pointers on what to do in the event of such an attack.

http://www.clipaday.com/videos/bush-vs-shoe-thrower

Incidentally, the shoe-thrower spent 9 months in jail for his actions.

Apparently, he was also tortured while he was locked up.

He should have received a medal.

“No Cooperation”

My father, who is now 95 years old, gave me some advice when I was just a young man. He told me not to start trouble, but, if you ever wind up in a street fight and manage to get your opponent down, make sure you don’t let him get back up. He said, if you let him up there’s a very real chance that he’ll come back at you hard and hurt you.

The Democrats should take my father’s advice.

The Republicans are angrier than usual right now on account of the health-care bill Obama just passed into law. In their latest act of defiance they are vowing “no cooperation” on any future issues.

Did anyone notice any previous cooperation?

What are they going to do, say “No” to everything twice instead of once?

Two times zero is still zero.  Speaking of zeros, check out this cluster:

http://www.dailykos.com/tv/w/002620/

Since the Republicans were ousted by a majority of voters they haven’t cooperated at all. They’ve unanimously said “No” to everything and used every possible dirty tactic in the book to disrupt and damage Obama’s presidency.

The Democrats should lay the boots to the Republicans right now because without a doubt, if the boot was on the other foot, the Republicans would do the same or worse.

Obama and the Democrats need to realize that they are in a nasty street fight with an opponent who fights so dirty that he would bite your nose off if given the chance.

There is no reasoning with these people.  They don’t change.

Don’t let the Republicans up!

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver BC Canada, or was it the Summer Olympics?

To all those sports fans out there who think climate science is hooey, or that the earth isn’t really warming the way science says it is, I suggest you consider the last Olympic Games as evidence of a significant warming trend.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/01/20/bc-cypress-mountain-no-snow.html

I live in Vancouver BC Canada, the city that just hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. I’ve lived there my entire life. In the 1980’s my friends and I would typically ski more than 100 times a year locally. Our favorite mountain at the time was Grouse Mountain because it had night skiing, a spectacular view, and it was only a 25 minute drive from where we lived.

Incidentally, Grouse Mountain is the location that NBC chose to do their Olympic broadcast from.

Today, that same drive to Grouse mountain takes double the time because like everywhere, especially in North America, the number of cars has been steadily increasing with population growth. In 1980, there were about 12 million cars on the road in Canada. By 2008 it was over 20 million. During that same time period America went from 140 million cars to almost 245 million.

Back in the 1980’s, 25 feet of snow on our local Vancouver mountains wasn’t uncommon. Most of us would buy a full season ski pass which would typically cover from late October through the end of April.

It was a terrific deal.

Today, it’s not such a terrific deal.

The ski season is now shorter despite the fact that our local mountains currently use state of the art snow making machines whenever possible. The same mountain that I used to ski 6 months out of the year in long underwear, I now climb all year round in a T-shirt and shorts.

http://www.grousemountain.com/Winter/

http://www.grousemountain.com/Winter/vancouver-bc-hiking-trails-trips/

I admit that I’m exaggerating a little to make a point. But, even so, from my perspective Vancouver BC Canada has become progressively warmer over the last 30 years. As a matter of fact, just last year we smashed an all time high temperature record that had stood since 1941. We smashed it by 0.5 of a degree.

The 2010 Winter Olympic Games were almost canceled due to lack of snow and unusually warm temperatures, in Canada, the Great White North, in the dead of winter. That said, I certainly wouldn’t be rushing out to buy shares in any of our local Vancouver ski hills right now. However, if I’m still alive when the oil and coal runs out, I may reconsider.

The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing was another clue that maybe burning a river of oil and a mountain of coal might not be so good for the people or the planet. A year to the day before the start of the 2008 Games, the president of the International Olympic Committee said, “It’s an option.” He was talking about how endurance sports like cycling might be delayed or even canceled because of air pollution and smog.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7061253.stm

So, back to back, we’ve witnessed a Summer Games in China almost canceled because of air pollution and smog, followed by a Winter Games in Canada almost canceled because of lack of snow and unusually warm winter temperatures.

I suppose, all we need now to complete the Trifecta is for deadly wildfires to burn the Olympic village to ash in the 2012 Games?

Perhaps it’s a good thing the next Olympics is being held in England and not Australia?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123407277285560581.html

By the way, climate scientists predicted that wildfires would increase:

http://scrippsnews.ucsd.edu/Releases/?releaseID=739

Anyone else notice an increase in wildfires around the world lately?

“Get a Life”

“Get a life.”

How many activists out there have heard this taunt directed towards them?

Make no mistake about it, when someone tells you to “get a life,” it’s an insult.

About the nicest thing that “get a life” can mean is that they think you are devoting an inordinate amount of time to trivial or hopeless matters. But, typically the taunt is directed at someone who is perceived as boring or narrow-minded; suggesting they acquire some other, more practical interests or hobbies like dating, finding a new job, or moving.

Well, the next time someone responds to your activism by telling you to “get a life,” tell them to “get more politically active,” because new research demonstrates a link between being politically active and well-being:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/mar/02/brain-food-activism-makes-you-happy

The Greek philosopher Plato said:

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

We’ve seen a lot of that lately because too many people are simply too busy to become accurately informed.

“Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed because it’s difficult to deceive or confuse a well-informed person.”

http://www.desmogblog.com/

Wal-Mart pays $11.26 an hour

If corporate capitalism were an Olympic event, this is what the current podium would look like:

Under the current rules of American style capitalism ExxonMobil would win the Gold, PetroChina would win  Silver, and Wal-Mart, Microsoft, and the Commercial Bank of China would be in a battle for Bronze.

(Note: scoring based on market capitalization)

That said, it is undeniable that Wal-Mart is a true champion of American style capitalism. The company presently employs about 1.4 million people in the United States alone.

Question:  If having a champion like Wal-Mart in the retail sector is a good thing, wouldn’t it also be a good thing to have more Wal-Mart-like champions in other sectors of the economy?

The primary sector of the economy extracts or harvests products from the earth and includes the production of raw material and basic foods.

Would society benefit from having a Wal-Mart- like champion in agriculture, mining, forestry, farming, grazing, hunting, gathering, fishing, quarrying, packaging, and the processing?

The secondary sector of the economy manufactures finished goods.

Would it be a good thing to have a Wal-Mart-like champion in manufacturing, processing, construction, metal working, smelting, automobile production, textile production, chemical industries, engineering industries, and aerospace?

The tertiary sector of the economy is the service industry.

Would we all be better off with a Wal-Mart-like success story in, transportation and distribution, entertainment (movies, television, radio, music, theater, etc.), restaurants, clerical services, media, tourism, insurance, banking, health-care, and law?

America has a population of about 307 million people and the current labour force is about 67.5% of the population, or 207 million people. It would take only 149 Wal-Mart-like corporations to employ the entire labour force of America and essentially Walmartize the whole country.

http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet?data_tool=latest_numbers&series_id=LNS11300000&years_option=specific_years&include_graphs=true&to_month=1&from_month=2

Incidentally, the average full-time hourly wage at Wal-Mart is $11.24.

I guess that answers the question?

Barry C. Lynn knows what he’s talking about:

http://www.barryclynn.com/

The Most Popular Class at Harvard

If you’ve ever wondered about what it would be like to attend class at Harvard University, FORA.tv, Inc. has the site for you. They run a website that gathers the web’s largest collection of unmediated video drawn from live events, lectures, and debates at universities, think tanks and conferences.

One of the recent lectures was by Michael Sandel.  Sandel has been teaching political philosophy at Harvard University since 1980. Rumor has it that his course is the most popular one on campus. His classroom holds about a thousand students.

This is a condensed version of his popular university class Justice: A Journey in Moral Reasoning.

In it, he analyzes the meaning of justice in the modern world.

http://fora.tv/2008/07/04/Michael_Sandel_Justice-Journey_in_Moral_Reasoninga

Opinions that Matter

There are plenty of groups opposing action by the U.S. government to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The problem is that most of them have little or nothing to do with science. The core of the denial movement are conservative think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute. If not for their herculean effort to derail science, we could very well be on our way to solving a major crisis in which time is a critical factor.

What’s happening now is nothing new.

In the 1980’s, scientists were concerned about the ozone layer when most of the world didn’t have the slightest clue about what ozone was. Scientists were saying that a compound best known by the DuPont brand name “Freon” was harming the planet. They said that certain chemicals were destroying part of the atmosphere that is essential for human life because it blocks out harmful ultraviolet radiation that causes cancer.

The first step was The Vienna Conference; the first international conference on ozone layer depletion. Next came The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer; a multilateral environmental agreement. Soon after, came The Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer; an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of a number of substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion.

The Montreal Protocol is said to be the single most successful international agreement to date. All countries in the United Nations have now ratified the original agreement and three of the many noteworthy scientists who worked hard to solve the problem were awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for both brainpower and effort. Their names are Mario Molina, Paul Crutzen, and Frank Rowland.

Are we honestly expected to believe that the opinions of these Nobel Prize Winners don’t  matter?

Here’s what they think:

Mario J. Molina:

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1973070/pt_3_nobel_winner_mario_j_molina_climate_change/

Paul Crutzen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyTZbJqRQkQ&feature=related

Frank Rowland:

http://vega.org.uk/video/programme/273