The chambered nautilus isn’t protected?

Silly me. I would have thought that the unique biological status of the chambered nautilus as the irreplaceable last example of the shelled cephalopods that cruised the Devonian seas would have given it protection. I was wrong. Our penchant for making beautiful ornaments out of its murdered shells is soooo much more important! Loving the chambered nautilus to death. I mean, hell! There are all of six known populations.

Who controls the economy?

vengeful god

This just in: Many Americans think that God controls their economy for them. And in other news, Thor personally forges every thunderbolt that strikes the U.S., Neptune hand-carves the waves that lap their shores, and Quetzalcoatl cares who wins a football game.

Sunday sermon: inequality begets religion

Here you go: when life is bad, people pray. When society is unequal and life is bad all the time for some people, they turn to a fantasy of heaven. Inequality begets religion.

Economy prescription from the doctor

The doctor’s log is recommending some new policies.

I want [President Obama]  to institute a 90% inheritance tax on everything over $500k. I want him to redefine capital gains as earned income (35% tax) AND double the tax rate on it.

Social Security is “failing”? Well then, let’s boost it. No more cap on earned income. In fact, let’s double corporate contributions from 6.2% to 12.4%.

I want him to boldly grab his sack and say, “No more bailouts.” I want him to strap-on a titanium-steel spine and, when a bank fails, announce the Feds will nationalize it, stabilize the situation (i.e., prevent foreclosures), and wind it down to a nice cushiony landing. The rank and file will get nice fat bonuses for sticking around to the end. Also, EVERY SINGLE OFFICER of said bank (going back 3 years)—including every member of the board—will need to find a new career, ’cause they’re barred forever from holding any officer or board position at any other publicly-traded bank or financial institution. Also, they’ll get 1/2 pay and no bonuses, regardless of their “contracts.” You wanna play with other people’s money and wreck lives? Feel some pain.

U.S. Budget vs. science–Robert L. Park

Robert Park notes:


Passed by Congress and signed into law by the President on 2 Aug 2011, the Budget Control Act brought conclusion to the 2011 debt ceiling crisis that threatened to lead the U.S. into sovereign default on 3 Aug 2011.  Like amputating a limb to stop an infection, it may have been necessary but it didn’t end our suffering.  In a Science editorial last week that every scientist should read, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) predicts that science will bear more than its share of the $2.4 trillion in federal spending cuts required by the bill.  I have no doubt he’s right.  The only remaining PhD physicist in Congress, Rush has served the 12th district of New Jersey since 1998.  Before that he was the Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.  “With the budget control act,” he writes, “Congress appears to have said in effect, that federally sponsored science has no role to play in advancing the economy, that unemployment is a problem that only time will cure, and that the nation’s best days are behind us.  How contrary to American tradition that would be!  It must not prevail.”

Is the bluefin tuna doomed?

Probably. It’s one of the top ocean predators, but it spawns into the water and depends on numbers so that some of its eggs survive mass scavenging by smaller fish. The numbers are dropping while government-subsidizedm, overpopulated fishing industries continue to overfish. And there’s no agreement in sight: “Bad start as European Union rejects fishing quota.”

Europe’s Mediterranean fishing nations have rejected measures to protect the endangered bluefin tuna proposed last month by the European Union fishing chief Maria Damanaki, EU officials said on Thursday…

The total bluefin quota for 2010 was set at 13,500 tonnes and Damanaki said last month that to give the giant fish a real chance of recovery, the 2011 quota should be set at around 6,000 tonnes at the Paris meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).

The 10-day ICCAT talks started on Wednesday.

Ms. Damanaki accepted that the need to protect the livelihoods of fishermen would probably dictate a higher quota than 6,000 tonnes. But in a meeting late on Wednesday, EU ambassadors in Brussels, led by France, rebuffed Ms. Damanaki’s proposal and wrote their own, which barely mentions quota reductions.

There’s an appeal and a petition here: “Save the bluefin tuna.” We really can’t afford to destroy the ocean’s ecology. The Japan Sea is seeing ‘blooms’ of giant jellyfish where there aren’t enough fish left to keep their numbers in balance. The jellyfish, in turn, polish off smaller fish and keep the fish stocks from recovering. It’s not a pretty picture!

We need to set a quota and enforce it to stop illegal fishing. The real problem is that no one owns the fish, so everyone can go after them.

African progress

Jonathan Dimbleby, a British journalist who has known Africa for forty years, takes us to see signs of hope and progress throughout the continent. Discovery World: “Jonathan Dimbleby in Africa.”

Better roads, irrigation, mobile phones, and microbanking are changing life for the better.

Slate: “Politicians lie, numbers don’t


Economic indicators for the past fifty years show that U.S. presidencies who are Democrats are better for the economy.

The figures below are all from the annual Economic Report of the President, and the analysis is primitive. Nevertheless, what these numbers show almost beyond doubt is that Democrats are better at virtually every economic task that is important to Republicans.

…there are no figures here about income inequality, or percentage of the population with health insurance, or anything like that. This exercise implicitly assumes that lower taxes are always good and higher government spending is always bad. There is nothing here about how clean the air is or how many children are growing up in poverty. The only point is that if you find the Republican mantra of lower taxes and smaller government appealing, and if you care only about how fast the economy is growing, not how that growth is shared, you should vote Democratic. Of course, if you do care about things like economic inequality and children’s health, you should vote Democratic as well.

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