October 31, 2006

Finally, Civil Marriage Source Docs

Posted by TMLutas

I've been looking for the basic facts on what are the laws regarding civil marriage forever. I finally got them over at Amy Wellborn's Open Book. The analysis that was linked there had prominent copyright notices so I just grabbed the GAO refs and got the two relevent source docs for the 1997 and 2003 GAO legal searches respectively (both links are pdf). Now, if I can find the time, it's time to go through them all and tease out the principles of what marriage is and tie them to what laws get changed if the principle is modified/eliminated. What's really needed is a wiki that I can seed the data to en masse which I don't know of right now.

Oh well, another thing to throw on the "to do" pile.

October 24, 2006

Dividing the Question

Posted by TMLutas

Reading through a RedState piece entitled Spending is the problem I was struck by the utter futility and stupidity of one of the proposed solutions.

The Line Item Veto: Senator Talent and I have taken the lead on legislation proposing a Constitutional amendment to give the President the authority that 43 State governors presently possess, and which I had as Governor of Virginia the line-item veto which would hold the President and Congress accountable for non-essential wasteful government spending.

Instead of putting the country through the lengthy, nervewracking process of amending the Constitution, why not just structure the bills differently so each line item is voted on seperately? Any majority can do this today, just amend the rules to allow votes on all line items and allow Senators/Representatives to vote for and against each line item or just down the line the whole bill.

No constitutional amendment that will take many years to get passed, no intervention by the Court, just take something like the DoD appropriation bill and turn one vote into potentially 40,000 separate votes for those who want to pay attention and vote no on specific portions that are unworthy.

Yes, this will undo all the incumbent excuses. Yes, this will make it much harder to sneak things through. Yes, this will give ammunition to challengers when people vote "straight ticket" on large bills. Yes, this will be much better for the country.

And the president can veto individual line items because they will be individual bills, meeting Constitutional muster as our Supreme Court has laid out the requirements.

I won't hold my breath for this piece of sensible application of IT resources to our national governance gets implemented. Maybe that's just me getting cynical. More likely it's just realism.

October 13, 2006

Global Warming Financial Illiteracy

Posted by TMLutas

Some cases for global warming are reasonably plausible. This case for global warming is embarrasingly stupid. Putting aside whether $1.6T in 2006 spending will actually save us $11T in foregone growth in 2100 there's the whole question of whether the expenditure is worth it. Spending $1.6T now to avoid $11T in expenses in 2100 means that the Present Value of $1.6T has to be less than $11T in 2100 and we have to assume that science will not produce any surprises that lower the future expenditure, the economic cost of not preventing warming incurred in 2100. If we gain sufficient economic growth in the meantime, it would not be worth spending the money even if (and this is disputed) the study is correct about the financial consequences.

One of the key factors is economic growth. If worldwide economic growth is high enough, $1.6T turns into $11T by 2100. The economic growth rate to achieve that turns out to be 2.07213%. Current economic growth is 4%. Economic growth from 1950-2003 is 2.1%.

If you assume that we're headed for more of the same, spending the money now means over the next century, you've lost $40.5B or $431.3M annualized. If you think that we're entering a new era where 4% worldwide economic growth is going to be the norm, the losses are $1.3T or an annual loss of $14B. In other words, the financial numbers don't make any sense even if you take the most pessimistic assumption that the lab boys aren't going to figure out how to make cleaner energy over the course of the 21st century. It also assumes that present trends towards freedom and higher economic growth won't continue upward so these damning numbers are really quite conservative.

Ah but what about biodiversity? We could be losing species! While this is true, we could also be gaining them. Historically biodiversity is much greater in warmer climes than in cold ones. Life is tough in the cold and few species (relative to warmer climes) can adapt to harsh conditions. Warming is going to be tough for cold weather specialists but it will be a boon for warm weather ones.
Update: (just a note, I calculated it all in Excel using the PV formula)

October 10, 2006

Traffic Light Remotes

Posted by TMLutas

Traffic light remotes already exist of course, for decades. The purpose of these little gizmos is to ensure that emergency vehicles get green lights speeding them to their urgent destinations. Early systems were rather primitive with zero measures taken to ensure that nobody else was using the system or that the system was not being abused by legitimate users for illegitimate purposes.

Enter the information age. What if the system was made more sophisticated? What if you were able to have a two tiered priority system. Emergency vehicles would override all, of course. Fires wait for no man and heart attacks are just as merciless. But what if you made a secondary access that allowed you to bid who got a longer light, within limits? Every light could become a billable opportunity, a little auction for the municipality. The infrastructure for payments could be piggy backed on to the highway tolling systems like E-ZPass or I-Pass with a super transponder/transmitter that would empower you to speed you on your way at the cost of a few pennies per stubborn traffic light.

The establishment of a two tier system would create a serious incentive protecting the emergency vehicle codes because you could get what you really want (faster travel) legally while the money involved would increase the penalties for violating the system. I would imagine that taking a picture of all vehicles using the emergency vehicle codes would be an effective way to avoid that sort of cheating.

Working poor people would often be outbid on these auctions and would sometimes travel slower as a result. They would benefit, though, from the revenue coming into the city. Unlike red-light cameras, traffic light auctions would be progressive in nature while the benefits would randomly accrue to the ordinary joe who is driving next to the Lexus.

October 06, 2006

The Losing Momentum Fallacy

Posted by TMLutas

I've been writing about how the US and Al Queda are fighting on a meta-battlefield of serialization and parallelization since at least 2003. The US is fundamentally trying to slow things down, occasionally biting where it chooses, chewing, and swallowing chunks of Al Queda and company at its convenience. Al Queda tries to make it politically impossible to maintain a sustainable pace so that the US is forced by political realities into burnout, leading to an opportunity where Al Queda can actually claim a durable military victory.

Given that well established dynamic, Glenn Reynold's post on losing momentum is so badly framed that it's better to toss it out and start over again. The US Army is now taking 42 year olds. This is a sign of force stretching that is currently manageable but it's a warning sign that Al Queda's efforts are not without effect. Al Queda wants us to speed up, overextending ourselves. We're not there yet but we could get there. Additional force commitments will get us to Al Queda's preffered scenario. So count me as having a different opinion than both Glenn Reynolds and Mohammed of Iraq the Model who would like the US to move much faster. Unfortunately, Mohammed is engaged in magical thinking. We aren't going further and faster because we can't sustain that sort of effort.

Welcome Instapundit Readers There's quite a bit of variety here, tech, politics, religion and whatever strikes my fancy so feel free to look around.


Posted by TMLutas

There's an Original Reporting IV sitting in draft mode. I'm horribly blocked on it but it'll eventually come out. Until then...

October 03, 2006

Original Reporting III: Interviews

Posted by TMLutas

This interview series by Patterico probably shows the easiest, earliest road to original reporting. There is an intimacy, a certain level of trust that leads to good interviews and blogging is a very intimate medium. If your interview target is already reading you, there is a level of trust there that has generally ceased to exist between the public and most mainstream media reporters.

As someone (maybe me if I can get funding) creates the local news distribution infrastructure I posted about earlier to create virtual local newspapers or local news paper sections, a lot more interviews are going to be put out. After all, even if the readership is relatively small, it's flattering to be interviewed. It's intriguing to not be forced through the same local news filters that most newsmakers are tired of going through. The interview format is a real winner and a leading indicator of a reporting shift that's going to be profound.

October 02, 2006

Original Reporting II: Starting Small

Posted by TMLutas

Part of the difficulty of original blogosphere reporting is that it has a distribution problem. It is hard work, even for small stories, compared to just spouting off about events or philosophy. You have to actually get dressed, go out and do some research, for one thing. And such small items are usually a local story. In a 10,000 person community, there might be 3,000 blog readers there but only a dozen who regularly read a particular blog produced locally and those dozen may be only a small fraction of that particular blogs readership.

What is needed is a way for local blog stories to be linked/distributed so that one can make a virtual "local news" section carrying all the blogospheric content of your neighborhood/town/city/county/state without having to root through a lot of blogs who might only occasionally provide a local angle to their writing.

It's not that hard to conceive of such a system. Posts get tagged and pinged, a central database is updated and people who want to read about news affecting 10543 and surrounding zip codes goes to a news.google.com type aggregator page that contains just that information.

Once you have an outlet (and perhaps revenue sharing?) the incentive to provide local news increases. Blogging becomes, at least sometimes, geographically oriented with people looking to local voices about local issues. The newspaper loses another of its reasons for being because local news becomes something the locals can create.

October 01, 2006

Original Reporting

Posted by TMLutas

One of the great raps against the blogosphere is that it is very weak regarding orignial reporting. There's no inherent reason for this other than the tools needed for that sort of thing have not been developed to a usable level. But what is that toolset?

As an experiment, I'm going to try and figure that out.

A product of BruceR and Jantar Mantar Communications, and affiliated contributors. Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's half-informed viewpoint on the world.

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