Monday, January 29, 2007

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

The New York Times Magazine reports that healthy food is good for you. That the food lobby would rather have you eat "nutrients" than eat wholesome food.


Friday, January 26, 2007

The amazing power of gubernatorial veto

Gov. Jim Doyle used his partial veto 139 times to shape the state budget to his liking. Among his moves was to increase a transfer from the transportation account to the general fund from $268 million to $427 million. To do so, he crossed out hundreds of words, stringing together individual words from unrelated sentences to write a new sentence. To get the $427 million figure, he took individual digits from five sets of numbers.

See pages 373-374 of 2005 Wisconsin Act 25.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Inequity in wealth distribution

Excerpt from article on the Gini coefficient:
In their study for the World Institute for Development Economics Research, Giovanni Andrea Cornia and Julius Court (2001) reach policy conclusions as to the optimal distribution of wealth. The authors recommend to pursue moderation also as to the distribution of wealth and particularly to avoid the extremes. Both very high egalitarianism and very high inequality cause slow growth. Extreme egalitarianism leads to incentive-traps, free-riding, high operation costs and corruption in the redistribution system, all reducing a country's growth potential.

However, extreme inequality also diminishes growth potential by eroding social cohesion, and increasing social unrest and social conflict, causing uncertainty of property rights. Therefore, public policy should target an 'efficient inequality range'. The authors claim that such efficiency range lies between the values of the Gini coefficients of 0.25 (the inequality value of a typical Northern European country) and 0.40 (slightly lower than that of countries such as China and the USA). The precise shape of the inequality-growth relationship depicted in the Chart obviously varies across countries depending upon their resource endowment, history, remaining levels of absolute poverty and available stock of social programs, as well as on the distribution of physical and human capital.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Internet and adult entertainment.

An interesting excerpt from a PBS Frontline interview:
Clearly one of the main reasons initially for getting on the Internet was sex. If you look at the words almost any one of the Internet suppliers has kept track of, you'll find that "sex" is probably the most frequent word used as they look for programming of any sort. So clearly, there is a desire to see it.
I think what Yahoo did was go one step beyond and say, "OK, my customers want to see sex. I'll make it easier for them, and I'll categorize it." And I think what they realized afterward was that they were taking a far more active role in supplying this programming than just making it available. "Here's bestiality, here's whips and chains, here's whatever." That was going into probably more active participation by Yahoo than they really wanted to do.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Prayers don't help heart surgery patients.

An excerpt from research on intercessory prayer by Harvard's Herbert Benson:
In a clear setback for those who believe in the power of prayer, their prayers were not answered. Prayers offered by strangers did not reduce the medical complications of major heart surgery. Not only that, but patients who knew that others were praying for them fared worse than those who did not receive such spiritual support, or who did but were not aware of receiving it.
Prayer is an illusion -- a video comparing the impact of praying to God versus praying to a jug of milk.