Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuesday morning roundup

Records of Afghanistan's past atrocities come to light.

Cambodia's free trade agreements have significant macroeconomic benefits, but also unintended consequences for some small farmers.

How long can Venezuela's government continue to run on paranoia?

Anti-vaxers are no longer just deluded assholes; they'v definitively earned 'public enemy' designation.

A lot of people are going to be very screwed by this shutdown. Meanwhile, the reaction in the rest of the world ranges from 'yawn' to 'WTF?'

I've long wondered about sustaining an economy largely on a bunch of crap that no one needs.

Beware of "nice," as "manipulative" and "boundary-challenged" often masquerade as nice
According to a Pew survey, there are apparently a lot of us "Jews of no religion," but
despite the declines in religious identity and participation, American Jews say they are proud to be Jewish and have a “strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people.”
Most of us apparently are quite intelligent, because "only 17 percent think that the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel’s security."

It's a nice idea but Esperanto doesn't stand a chance, says the Economist.

I've never been one for ideological purity or party lines, and not occasionally, liberal arguments make me crazy. One such argument is that science (or art, etc.) is an unethical investment because people are hungry. That argument may be the stupidest thing I've ever heard, but I hear it all the time. Janice D'Arcy thoroughly discredited herself with that argument (wait, does the Post still pay her to write?) by slamming David Rubenstein's donation to panda research, when he could have been paying people's K-Mart bills. (Oh, wait, Janice D'Arcy had already discredited herself with the column saying that pregnant women are hungry so they should be allowed to shoplift, and the Post continued to pay her to write after that. but I digress). Back to the issue of funding exploratory science in the face of poverty: Dr. Y briefly touches on it here but doesn't go far enough, if you ask me:
The economic argument is hard to refute on economic grounds – there’s no denying that close-up photos of Saturn’s rings or Titan’s hydrocarbon seas haven’t fed a single hungry person here at home. And for that matter, even finding life on Mars (or Europa) will not feed the hungry here on Earth. But there has got to be more to life than simple economics – if not then there would be no need for art, for music, for sports, or for any of the other things we do when we’re not working, eating, sleeping, or attending to personal hygiene.
The argument can be refuted on economic grounds: it's simply not true that "science" hasn't benefited poor people, even in terms of "simple economics." Poor people may not have the equal access to, say, medical advances and technology, but they are better off with what access they have, as well as the potential for better access. More importantly, though, poor people aren't animals; addressing poverty is not about keeping the kibble coming. Even hungry people have spiritual and intellectual needs, and who knows how a close-up photo of Saturn's rings might inspire a kid in a homeless shelter. 

With that, I'd better go shut down my office.

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