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Comment Re:Stop using cars at all. (Score 1) 168

Which precisely describes the opposite of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens.

Nobody is saying you ought to be forced to take the streetcar from Mayberry to Petticoat Junction. From Monmarte to the Bastile -- transit makes more sense than driving, especially if you factor in time for parking.

Comment For the Bank of Russia it's not even pocket change (Score 2) 68

It's just numbers on a spreadsheet. The Bank of Russia is Russia's central bank and there is literally no amount of money you can steal from a central bank that will harm it. That's because they're the people who issue the fiat in "fiat currency".

The harm is to the economy as a whole, in the form of inflation. In this case we're talking about the release of thirty one million spurious extra bucks into a two trillion dollar economy. Just a tiny bit of inflation, diluted to homeopathic concentrations and applied to everyone who uses rubles.

Of course the bank has to pursue this because it undermines confidence in the system, but this is as close to a victimless crime as any illegal way of obtaining thirty-one million dollars can be.

Comment I find this kind of depressing. (Score 1) 188

I'm all for things that go boom. I love weird, clever little gadgets. I admire a clever and subtle subversion of a system, even when I don't condone its use.

But geez; this thing is not exactly elegant. It uses a fairly basic circuit to exploit the completely unsurprising fact that the interface isn't designed to handle high voltages.

Comment Re:Not much. I do look at data which may upset you (Score 3, Interesting) 285

Attempting to simplify the crises in Syria by pointing at climate change seriously under states all other factors. Hell, one of your own links (the usda one) clearly shows that Syria has been able to meet its needs IF allowed via imports

The USDA link shows no such thing; it shows Syria eating up its reserves as it fails to import enough wheat to make up the shortfall. Yes, Assad underwrote the price of bread, but there wasn't enough subsidized bread to meet demand, forcing people to buy non-subsidized bread which increased in price six-fold. The net bread expenditure went up by 20% in a country where many people spend half their income on food.

I'm not a reductionist; situations like this have multiple important factors. The Assad/Islamist thing had been simmering for decades -- generations really. Had that situation been different, the climate shock might not have destabilized the country. In point of fact bread prices were an issue throughout the Middle East and a major factor in the Arab Spring. Syria was arguably better positioned than most other Arab countries, but the stress of having 5% of your population displaced on top of the deep and old fault lines broke the country apart.

This is precisely how climate shock is going to work. It won't be like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water; it'll be formerly rare occurrences happening more frequently and stressing vulnerable populations. Take sea level rise; cities won't drown slpowly, but what was once a hundred year flood will become twenty year flood. That will stress coastal cities, and the results depend on how stable and wealthy a particular city is.

For example were sea level to rise almost a meter by 2100 (as is now within the scope of mainstream positions), the very wealthy coastal city I live in would go the Venice route and build a tidal barrier, which would conservatively cost at least ten billion dollars. Chittagong Bengladesh, however, will be screwed. My city has twice the GDP of Bengladesh as a whole even though it has 3% of the population.

Comment Re:Nope (Score 1) 401

Economy does not work that way, sorry. Hawking should read from a real economist, like Milton Friedman.

Although I generally respect economists within their domain of expertise, they do have a habit of blithely extrapolating from their models to the unknowable, or even the impossible. For example once I was at a symposium on limits to the Earth's carrying capacity. A physicist pointed out that since life is eventually sustained by solar energy, there are at least thermodynamic limits to the number of people you can support on a single planet. The economist on the panel contradicted him, claiming that the carrying capacity of the Earth was infinite. His justification was that all past attempts to put a Malthusian limit on population growth had run afoul of human innovation.

Now he's correct about summarizing the situation *thus far*, but that's only from a few centuries of economic experience that covers an insignificant fraction between the status quo and infinite population.

Now the real problem with futurism, aside from simply getting things wrong (e.g., the counter-intuitive link between higher wealth and lower birth rate), is judging precisely when something that's bound to happen is going happen. If we *do* continue to increase population, eventually we will reach the point where we won't be able to grow it any farther. But we won't know the precise moment we're going to hit the wall until we actually do.

Likewise unless you take a mystical view of thought, eventually computers are going to get better at it than we are. And when that day comes, we'll be obsolete as thought-workers. However we're very far from that now. What I think will happen is that the nature of work will change so rapidly people will find employment to be unstable. I believe what we'll see increasing levels of intractable structural unemployment: square pegs trying to fit themselves into round holes because the square holes have been filled in.

Comment Re:Dumbass (Score 1) 285

If Wheat was the problem, the US would be dropping food bags on the populace instead of TONS OF WEAPONS.

You'd need a time machine capable of sending three million tons of wheat six years into the past.

As to why we didn't do it that the time, you may recall we had a financial crisis to deal with. Very few Americans were paying attention to what at the time was an internal crisis in Syria, and if they had they wouldn't be interested in spending a billion dollars addressing it ($350/ton * 3 million ton shortfall).

Comment Not much. I do look at data which may upset you. (Score 4, Interesting) 285

The refugee crisis you refer to is actually the second Syrian refugee crisis.

The first refugee was an internal displacement of 1.5 million people (out of a population of 20 million) over the period 2007-2011 during crops failed due to unprecedented drought. Over two hundred villages were completely depopulated, and 40% of Syria's agricultural workforce was lost. Domestic wheat production crashed, and prices skyrocketed as it was replaced by imports.

So you had over a million hungry, unemployed displaced people crowded into cities, when a bad harvest in Russia caused a spike in global wheat prices. Check out the graph in this link labelled "World Monthly Grains Price Index" and note the massive upswing in prices in 2010 - 2011. There was a similar price spike in 2007, but back then Syria produced essentially all the wheat it consumed. In 2010 Syria only produced 80% of what it needed, resulting in underconsumption -- aka "starvation". You can check out the figures here.

Finally note that the so-called "Day of Rage" which critically destabilized the regime took place on March 15, 2011. The timing was not coincidental.

Now you can talk to me about "political struggle" in Syria. The roots of that struggle are of course decades old. But the effects were exacerbated by the worst drought in 900 years.

Without the sarcasm, try to stay on topic lest you continue to be perceived as a shithead Troll.

I have stayed on topic. Shithead troll I guess is a matter of perspective. Syria is exactly the kind of scenario security planners are worried about. And one reason they are worried is that many in the public literally find the idea of climate-driven refugees unimaginable. People who've been paying attention find it all too easy to imagine.

Comment Re:Plenty of low-wage jobs to go around... (Score 1) 498

Well, if you want data, according the social security adminsitration the average wage has gone up by about $8000 since 2010; however the median wage has gone up by something more like $3000.

This pretty much tells you what you'd expect under trade liberalization: it helps higher wage workers with specialized skills more than it does commodity labor.

The key to understanding data like this, as a sociology professor once told me, is to disaggregate it. If you do you'll see that while the averages and even median that looks fairly rosy over the last thirty years, the picture for median and below has been almost flat for a generation.

That doesn't sound too bad. Sure the wealthy and the well-to-do are getting richer, but nobody (at least no economic slice -- geography tells a different story) is doing worse. But even that result has to be disaggregated. On one hand you have only a modest increase in the overall cost of consumer goods (thanks free trade!); this modest increase along with modest compensation increases produces no growth or loss of purchasing power below median income.

On the other hand if you break out just health incurance, medical care and college tuition, median purchasing power has collapsed in the last thirty years or so.

What this means is that median income people can buy a lot more TVs and home entertainment crap than they could in the 70s, but as that stuff has become cheaper paths to upward mobility have been closing and paths to downward mobility have been opening.

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