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Journal Journal: Perpetual E-Motion

I'm going to use this post for a collection of Slashdotter posts that demonstrate that division in the ranks of energy alternatives advocates is a vote for environmental chaos. There is no one magical alternative energy source. Until advocates recognize that, we all will waste time rallying against the other alternatives rather finding how they fit into a comprehensive reform plan. I've also started using the friend modifier to flag people that care as much about the issue as I do, whether I agree with them or not.

Rei (128717) on hydrogen.
by SacredByte (1122105) on nuclear. by SacredByte (1122105) on wind.
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Journal Journal: UNReal - UN against biofuels AND farm subsidies

In a recent demonstration of the continued idiocy of the U.N., the AP is reporting that a U.N. sociologist is calling for a halt on biofuel production because it is cutting down on available food sources and driving up prices. The sociologist, Jean Ziegler, even went so far to call biofuel production "a crime against humanity." The idiocy comes in when we discover that the same sociologist has been calling for a moratorium on farm subsidies because they increase production and drive down prices. I'm confused. Which is more devastating to humanity, high production and low prices or low production and high prices? The UN needs to stop letting sociologists do economic research.

Economics works by the maxim, "the greatest way to solve a shortage is a shortage." This maxim holds true as long as there is untapped production. This world has tremendous untapped production. For example, one area is improved efficiency of crop production in third world countries. Increased prices will encourage producers to adopt improved methods of farming in order to capitalize on the new wealth equation. Improved prices will encourage a move from the hard life of subsistence farming in the third world.
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Journal Journal: The threat from China

I've been doing research on the Dormant Commerce Clause for a paper in Constitutional Economic Rights and have been reading a little Adam Smith to get a feel of what the Framers had in mind when they drafted the Constitution. Smith is still relevant today.

Something that irks me is that a lot of people I talk to about economics is the misconception about trade deficits. First, there is not limited money. We are no longer on the gold standard. When we need more money (deflation) or have too much (inflation) the Fed simply raises or lowers interest rates which essentially creates more money on paper. Money is no longer even physical, its just a entry in a collection of computers. Second, a dollar is a promise to provide goods or services in the future. Money has no intrinsic value of its own, its just paper. The only value a dollar has is its capacity to be traded for goods or services. A trade deficit emerges, by definition, when we are getting more goods from a foreign country than they are getting from us. Incorporating our newfound understanding of money, a trade deficit means that we gave a foreign country worthless paper for their goods. Remember, the only time that worthless paper called the U.S. Dollar has any value is when it is redeemed in the U.S. If the foreign country was not cashing in the dollars we gave them then that would mean we are getting free stuff and that a trade deficit is actually a good thing. Unfortunately, trade deficits are a neutral thing. A trade deficit arises when a foreign country does not trade for U.S. products. The foreign country is obviously not stupid enough to refrain from cashing in their dollars, they simply buy services or invest in U.S. assets (foreign ownership of U.S. assets like stock, debt, or property is a different concern). Or a country could trade the dollars to another country for something in return, the result is the same because the dollars eventually need to be redeemed in the U.S. to be worth anything. As Smith said

Money, therefore, necessarily runs after goods, but goods do not always or necessarily run after money. The man who buys, does not always mean to sell again, but frequently to use or to consume; whereas he who sells, always means to buy again.

Third, the reason that the Chinese are not buying U.S. products is that they can't afford them. Products are generally purchased by individuals while companies buy assets. Therefore, its easy to see why the money from trade flows the way it does. The Chinese workers cannot consume U.S. consumer goods because their wages do not allow it. Therefore, in the short run, U.S. manufacturing suffers. However, as Chinese workers specialize the available pool of workers will eventually (in the long run) be constrained. The result will be increased wages and an increased desire for consumer goods, some from the U.S. As Smith said

The desire for food is limited in every man by the narrow capacity for the human stomach; but the desire of the conveniences and ornaments of building, dress, equipage, and household furniture, seems to have no limit or certain boundary.

Fourth, [I will discuss the lessons of the luddites - 19th century workmen who destroyed labor saving technology out of fear of unemployment. The analogy between 19th century fear of technology and 21st century fear of free trade is unmistakable. Slashdotters would do well to recognize their contribution as supporters of technology (like the wheel) to unemployment].
Fifth, [I will discuss the relationship between competition and prosperity. Overall buying power of a worker is not increased by protectionist policies. Take the simple example of a TV assembly line worker. The worker who cannot afford what he produces will remain unable to afford the fruits of his labor under a protectionist regime because his wage will rise in proportion to the product. Now multiply that simple example across every product in the economy under a comprehensive protectionist plan. The advances from a protectionist plan come at the expense of a country's consumers. Workers are consumers and at best any increases in wages or employment can only offset the increase in consumer prices leaving a worker in no better position.]
Sixth, [I will discucss the experiences of Japan and Taiwan and the relation to the new round of 3rd world industrialization and the "catch-up affect"]

User Journal

Journal Journal: Free Speech vs. Trademarks

As a computer scientist who has crossed over to the legal field, I am greatly interested in that place where technology meets the law. In fact, interest in that subject is why I went to law school. Currently, my interest has focused on the relationship between intellectual property law and First Amendment free speech protections. Last semester, I wrote a paper for my First Amendment Rights class entitled Free Speech Post Rumsfeld v. FAIR. FAIR appears to have redefined what symbolic conduct is worthy of First Amendment protection. The relation to technology in the paper came in my discussion of whether DeCSS t-shirts could now be protected from copyright challenges under the First Amendment. I don't believe they would because FAIR imposes a "would an ordinary person understand what's being communicated" test.

Similarly, I was intrigued by the First Amendment issues presented by Google's Ban of an Ad. I'm astonished that a large number of Slashdotter's could not comprehend how the policies of Google could impact free speech. Generally, this community is viciously protective of "Your Rights Online". In fact, this community has greatly influenced my stance and interest on the issue. However, Google's ban on use of trademarks is inconsistent with this community's values and the law.

Political advertising is very powerful. These ads are a means of garnering attention to the information view-holders wish to emphasize. There is an incredible problem when one viewpoint is able overemphasize its point. In fact, this danger is at the heart of campaign finance reform. I don't necessarily advocate a equality-in-advertising standpoint but I do believe that ads should not be rejected because of the target of their discussion/debate/attack. The "market place of ideas" that the Framers of the Constitution envisioned is broken when one viewpoint is prevented from being heard by a legal loophole. In this case, a blind adherence to a simplistic policy is just such a loophole. Put in terms that Slashdotters will understand, this policy is analogous to one where videos are removed from YouTube automatically (i.e. based on a mechanical algorithm rather than the merits) simply because they might violate copyright law. I realize that in legal circles a "parade of horribles" argument is mocked, however, take Google's policy to the logical conclusion. Trademark and Copyright holders can use trademark and copyright law (DMCA) to stifle criticism because Google has a easy to implement policy. Keep in mind that Google is by far the largest source of information on the internet (at least the gateway to it). Further, for a certain demographic, it may be the only source. Google will only get bigger in the future and its targets are set on control of all information beginning with advertising. Again, I am astonished that any Slashdotter would not think that Google's policy is a problem.

Finally, Google's policy does not have any basis in the law. Trademarks can be used when that is the only way of identifying the organization. The purpose of trademark law is to prevent market place confusion when there are two organizations in closely related industries operating under a similar mark. That is not the case here. Any suit by the trademark holder against any advertiser using their mark would also fail on First Amendment grounds.

In conclusion, Google is a private business and can do what ever it wants. It can filter the ads it runs and it can even filter the search results it displays. Google's reasoning for censoring information can be political, economic, convenience or whatever. The major point that Slashdotters have missed is that Google's market position has given it unmitigated power over speech. There are no Constitutional limitations on Google's censorship of speech. It is up to the market place to provide the checks and balances in this situation. Slashdotters are ignorant of their duty to be skeptical in this situation. Whether this be blind devotion to a corporation or a blindness caused by the political actors under this situation's facts I dare not say.

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"It says he made us all to be just like him. So if we're dumb, then god is dumb, and maybe even a little ugly on the side." -- Frank Zappa