Archive for November, 2010

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The end of a boondoggle?

November 24, 2010

Early this week, I came across a Reuters report in which Al Gore called ethanol policy ‘not a good idea’. The thing that struck me was that he pretty much admitted pandering to farmers by voting for ethanol subsidies. (Thanks for ‘fessing up, Al. Better late than never, I suppose.)

Today I found this interesting post by Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy on the topic. Maybe there’s hope we’ll be rid of this boondoggle.

The End of Ethanol?

Maybe it’s the new mood in Congress. Maybe the stars are aligned. Whatever the cause, opposition to ethanol subsidies is cropping up in some unusual places — and just in time, as ethanol tax credits are set to expire in a few weeks. […]

Meanwhile, on the other end of the political spectrum, Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) are taking aim at ethanol subsidies as yet another special-interest energy policy boondoggle that should be opposed by free-marketeers and environmental activists alike. […]

As Jonathan Zasloff notes, the ethanol issue also presents Republicans with an opportunity to show how less government intervention can be better for the environment.

Ethanol is a lose-lose proposition any way you slice it: it costs a big chunk of money, it’s horrible for the environment, and it does nothing but enrich special interests. It’s particularly bad on the climate, because the amount of emissions requiring to produce a liter of ethanol is actually more than just using gasoline. Kudos to Senators Coburn and DeMint for pushing this.

Go get ’em, Senators!

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Down to the metal

November 21, 2010

I’ve come across a couple of clips recently about hand-made computers, a topic that’s always interesting to me. I’ve done only a little hardware work myself so I’m always a little in awe of people who can design and build working machines.

Paul sent a link to this page about Zusie, a machine built with relays instead of transistors (or vacuum tubes). Fredrik Andersson bought a bunch of obsolete telephone switching boards and de-soldered 1500 relays from them to build this beast.

Zusie is still a work-in-progress; this isn’t the finished computer. (See the notes at the site.) But here’s a clip of it running a program Frederik wrote in the assembly language he designed for it. He did his own microcode too, of course.


And here’s another one I really enjoyed. Mike Davey built this working Turing machine. I was really impressed by his design, or I should say by his implementation of Turing’s design.

Here it is in action.

Now if only he could find an infinite tape.

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A liberal calls for less government

November 21, 2010

Here’s an interesting opinion piece from The Washington Post that’s worth your time to read.

Strangling innovation with red tape
By Morris Panner
Friday, November 19, 2010

As a Democrat whose politics are undeniably liberal on social issues, I lamented the outcome of the midterm elections. But as an entrepreneur with two software start-ups under my belt, I couldn’t help but celebrate – and more than a little. As the fall campaigns wore on, I had found myself listening closely to the Tea Party, nursing the hope that its message would push both major parties to change the way they do business.

To understand my motivation, pick up the November issue of Washingtonian magazine. The annual Salary Survey notes on Page 81 that top trade association leaders (industry lobbyists) make multimillion-dollar salaries to “keep tabs on what the federal government was doing or might do.”

These outsize earnings are symptomatic of a disease that is slowly killing the American economy. We are creating so much regulation – over tax policy, health care, financial activity – that smart people have figured out that they can get rich faster and more easily by manipulating rules on behalf of existing corporations than by creating net new activity and wealth. Gamesmanship pays better than entrepreneurship.

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Put up or shut up

November 8, 2010

The more I hear from New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the more I like him.

Governor Awesome,” as TigerHawk calls him.

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About last Tuesday

November 7, 2010

No you can't

Via Hit & Run

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A warning

November 2, 2010

It’s too early to tell what the results of today’s elections will be. If Scott Rasmussen is correct, the Democrats will lose quite a few seats. He wrote a good column about why in the Wall Street Journal recently:

A Vote Against Dems, Not for the GOP
Voters don’t want to be governed from the left, right or center. They want Washington to recognize that Americans want to govern themselves.

In the first week of January 2010, Rasmussen Reports showed Republicans with a nine-point lead on the generic congressional ballot. Scott Brown delivered a stunning upset in the Massachusetts special U.S. Senate election a couple of weeks later.

In the last week of October 2010, Rasmussen Reports again showed Republicans with a nine-point lead on the generic ballot. And tomorrow Republicans will send more Republicans to Congress than at any time in the past 80 years.

Assuming Mr. Rasmussen’s prognosis is accurate, Simon Jester has a timely warning for Republicans who may be tempted to take their victories as endorsements of the party rather than as a reaction to too much government in our lives. Simon’s post is brief and worth your time.

Dear Republicans, new and old:

Should you believe, once this heady time of “we the people” is past, that you may continue your ruinous and rapacious ways, we here at Simon Jester – and indeed, all across the country – would advise you to think again.

As P.J. O’Rourke said, “This is not an election on November 2. This is a restraining order.


Update:
Marco Rubio, who won his bid for the Senate in Florida, said it well in his acceptance speech:

CNN – On a night of jubilation among Republicans and Tea Party activists, Florida Senator-elect Marco Rubio sounded a note of caution during his victory speech: “We make a grave mistake if we believe that tonight these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican party. What they are is a second chance: A second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago.”

Rubio, a Republican who won a three-way race against Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek and an independent bid by Governor Charlie Crist, told his supporters in Coral Gables, “Our nation is headed in the wrong direction and both parties are to blame.”

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