31 March 2006

Consequences of blogging

Now that I'm getting a job, I've got to fill out a background check form. This got me thinking about my past and how much any one could reasonably find out about it. As far as my past ideas and musing, Google and this blog would make them pretty clear for anybody who cared to find out.

Now, while my goal is to discuss issues solely for entertainment and enlightenment, surely the viewer's motive is important. Consider a hypothetical future boss deciding whether I should get a raise ("Well, he said some bad stuff about Bush...").

This blog shouldn't cause me to many problems (I hope) for the following reasons
It rarely, if ever exceeds a PG-rating.

Entry titles will never start, "Ten reasons I hate my..." followed by the name of my boss or co-worker.

My ideas and views, while occasionally controversial, are not of the type that are embarressing to discuss in polite company.
That said, the prospect of being read by an unintended audience has got me taking a second glance at some of my past blog entries.

23 March 2006

Consistency on Gambling

I don't gamble, usually. Well not with money anyway. I may run across the street as a line of cars approaches to save time. And time is... well you know.

But I do think I should be able to gamble with money if I want to and have the funds to do so. Yet betting on sports is against the law. So is online gambling. As usual, the CATO Institute serves up a slew of reasons the government should spend less time legislating our morality. I'll give you some pertinent excerpts so you don't have to go to that link. I serve my lazy/busy readers as well:

Last month, police in Fairfax, Va., conducted a SWAT raid on Sal Culosi Jr., an optometrist suspected of running a sports gambling pool with some friends. As the SWAT team surrounded him, one officer's gun discharged, struck Culosi in the chest and killed him. In the fiscal year before the raid that killed Culosi, Virginia spent about $20 million marketing and promoting its state lottery.

Charity and barroom poker games are being shut down by police departments across the country. Meanwhile, state lotteries are cashing in on the poker craze with Texas Hold'em-style scratch-off games.

The new anti-gambling bill contains a loophole that lets state lotteries continue to sell their tickets online.

As noted, despite prohibitions against Internet gambling, it's still a billion-dollar industry. Third-party vendors such as Neteller, located offshore, have sprung up to facilitate transactions between gamers and gaming sites.

That means U.S. consumers will be more susceptible to fraud and will have no legal recourse when a shady offshore outfit bilks them out of their money.

Not to mention that offshore, black-market outfits present prime funding opportunities for organized crime and international terrorism.

I'm against gambling in general -- on moral grounds if you have responsibilities to others that the lost money could be going toward. But that, my friends, is not the governments business anymore than it is mine.

22 March 2006

Custom Framing

Having justed watched Loose Change, I've been thinking a bit about how framing of information influences our opinions.

Here is another framing issue -- this time on the trade deficit -- that I promise isn't incredibly boring.

18 March 2006

Competition Kills Cavities

We've probably all heard about an application of the principle agent problem. The problem arises when the interests of two parties involved in a transaction differ. Take, for example, you and your dentist. Your interest is to have a healthy mouth. Your dentist's interest is to have a healthy business. Unfortunately, your unhealthy mouth provides the dentist with a healthy demand for dentistry.

Now if she is the only dentist in town, this is a problem. She, however nice and compassionate, has an interest in keeping you coming back. This may not lead to out and out sabotage of you mouth but it could lead to less attention and commitment to stellar service.

If there are other dentists in town, the principle-agent problem is mitigated to a certain degree. Now your dentist must keep you happy enough to keep you from switching to another local dentist. However, she still cannot do perfect work because she needs you to come back. But you will get better service.

15 March 2006

Something fishy

Seems to be a lot of confusion about the whole, how much fish should/can I eat to be healthy, environmentally friendly, etc. In class yesterday, there was a brief argument concerning levels of mercury and other toxins in wild fish versus farmed fish. As well as I could figure, in the rather short time I've researched the issue, I've seen lots of accusations and some responses that seem valid to me. Perhaps a dialog mode would be most effective.

Ron: Farmed fish are better for the environment because with them we aren't depleting the wild stock.
Hermoine: Well, Ron, although we aren't eating the wild fish directly, the feed for the farmed fish comes from wild fish. So we end up with depleted stocks of those fish anyway. Some very progressive farms grow feed internally, but this is rare because it is expensive.
Ron: Hmm. Well, I've heard O-mega 3's are great for the heart, but I'm worried about mercury level in wild fish. In large quantities it can cause neurological disorders. Bloody 'ell I have enough trouble as it is. So maybe farmed fish can mitigate that risk...
Hermoine: Well, as I stated previously, the farmed fish are eating wild fish, so they'll have mercury in them too. But there is some debate over the levels of mercury that are dangerous. Some sources emphasize that "it has mercury, BEWARE." However, what really matters is whether there is enough in them to significantly adversely affect health. The FDA suggests limited intake for children and women of child-bearing age, but for others three is probably no reason to change eating habits due to concern over mercury. The EPA on the other hand has released an updated limit that is much much lower than the FDA's. According to the EPA's limit, some might consider reducing intake. In other words, there is no undisputed amount at the moment.
Ron: Okay, so I don't need to be too worried, right? Well, if it all comes down to cost, then I'm going for the farm raised fish. They're cheaper.
Hermoine: Well, Ron, do what you'd like, but let me mention two more caveats. First, other chemicals such as PCBs have been found in farm raised fish. Also wild fish caught closer to shore or in inland lakes have higher levels of potentially harmful chemicals. On top of that, some fisherman blame escaped farm fish for spreading disease among wild fish, which are not vaccinated, given antibiotics and so forth.
Ron: All this has gotten me rather afraid of fish. Am I killing myself and the environment?
Hermoine: I agree that there is a lot of spin out there, so it is hard to get a straight answer. Realize that many of these issues are similar to issues with other domestically produced meats. In my opinion, just limit fish to about 2 serving a week and perhaps less for high mercury fish like tuna, swordfish, and shark and you should be fine. Besides we have Madam Pomfrey if we do get ill.

11 March 2006

Cartoons do it pretty well

Perhaps the original does it best, but as an overview, often a cartoon can hold your interest better than a review. Here is Hayek's, Road to Serfdom, in cartoon form. Enjoy.

10 March 2006

Quixotic Article: Windmills for Nantucket

Hurting for an update, but will actually go back to 2004, pre-blog style... I was googling my name and came across a short response I wrote to an article suggesting windmills as an energy solution for Nantucket, published in the prestigous Cavalier Daily. Note, I typed this reponse while standing up at an Internet kiosk in Newcomb Hall.