American Elephants


New Materials With Surprising Properties That Will Change Our World by The Elephant's Child

We don’t hear much about materials science. I’m not sure that I was aware that there is such an occupation as a materials scientist. And in the history of materials something new and useful has been as likely to be the results of a botched experiment than created on purpose.

Scientists are now more apt to work out the properties of a possible material on a computer before they ever get near a laboratory or a workshop. We now have several materials that are so new that we don’t really know how they will be used. But here are five new materials that have the potential to be transformative.

Graphene

I have written about the chance invention of graphene by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novosetov at Manchester University when they were playing around with scotch tape and a lump of graphite in 2004. That resulted in a shared Nobel prize, knighthood, and a £61m National Graphene Institute.

Graphene is an extraordinary material, immensely strong, flexible, transparent and flexible. This makes it extremely interesting for a next generation of electronic devices —rolled up and stuck in our pockets, sewn into our clothing, or night-vision contact lenses as suggested by Zhaohui Zhong at the University of Michigan. It is a material that seems to have huge potential, with application in all sorts of different areas. The money has poured in. The problem is production.

With graphene, everything from your refrigerator to your toothbrush could be hooked up to the internet. How do you deal with an internet of things—cheap simple, flexible and eventually disposable devices? It’s hard to get your mind around that.

Spider silk

When researchers discovered the fantastic strength and flexibility of spider silk, they began taking about spider silk as the perfect material from which to manufacture bulletproof vests, when they teased out the silk’s molecular structure.

“You can’t sue spider silk to make a bulletproof vest. It’s too extensible. It would catch the bullet, but not before the bullet has passed through your body. Well bulletproof vests may be out, but the potential is amazing, when we can learn how to produce such a material as well as a spider.

Spider silk is made from a biopolymer called an aquamarine, which can be spun at room temperature 1,000 times more efficiently than plastics that need to be heated up and cooled down. By controlling the rate at which the silk is spun a spider can control the stiffness or flexibility of the fibers. The goal for researchers is to make other materials that mimic the spider silk’s amazing tricks.

Metamaterials

Remember Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak? Two research groups have published technical blueprints for making “metamaterials” which can change how light and other forms of radiation bend around an object, in a way similar to water flowing around a rock. An observer would see whatever was behind the object as if the object were not there, according to Professor Ulf Leonhardt of St Andrews University and published in the journal Science.

If you read a lot of science fiction or military thrillers, you can see the implications of such materials. And of course that leads to concerns about ethics, and in an era of privacy concerns, drones, and the NSA, such innovations might seem disruptive to society. You have to structure the material on a length scale that is short, so for visible light that means on a nano scale. Objects can be hidden on some wavelengths and not others, or only under specific conditions. Sounds like there’s a lot of work yet to be done here. But fascinating.

Shrilk

Well, what else would you call a material made from leftover shrimp shells and proteins derived from silk? Shrilk was inspired by research into the tough shells of insects. The coating is made from layers of a material called chitin and a protein called fibroin. In one arrangement the material is strong and rigid enough to form the insect’s protective exoskeleton. What intrigued the Harvard researchers  was that simple tweaks to the material—specifically the amount of water bound inside it —changed the behavior of the material dramatically. Without water the material is stiff, but with water the coating becomes very flexible.

Shrilk
(photo: Jon Chase/Harvard University)

Javier Fernandez and Don Ingber at the Wyss Institute used fibroin from silk worm and chitosan, a material similar to chitin, to make their first batch of shrilk. They played with the water bound inside the material to vary its properties. They can for strong, transparent sheets of shrilk that are biodegradable and enrich the soil like a fertilizer as it breaks down. You might not use the material to make a trash can that you will use for ten years, but a trash bag for yard waste would make sense.

The components are FDA approved for use in the body, where they could find a role as sutures, or as scaffolds for growing new tissues that dissolve when they are no longer needed. Strange new words makes it seem like science fiction. So you develop a material, and then invent the uses for it, and tweak the material for new uses. Complicated—if the trash bag seems too plebeian—I am using lots of little green bags made out of corn (too biodegradable) that allow me to throw kitchen scraps into the yard waste can for recycling, except anything wet makes the bag  create holes and all the kitchen scraps fall on the floor. We need some improvement here, but someone is currently making a fortune from the little green bags.

Stanene

Here’s a material that was designed on a computer, and its extraordinary behavior worked out from theory. Only now are researchers trying to make the stuff to see if it delivers on those promises in the real world.

Scientists at Stanford University call it a topological insulator. It is an insulator on the inside, and a conductor on the outside. Thin layers of stanene—or one-atom-thick sheets of tin—are essentially all surface and should conduct electricity with 100% efficiency.

Materials conduct electricity when electrons flow through them. However, in most materials, the electrons are held up by impurities and other features that give rise to resistance. This resistance generates heat, and so electronics must be cooled to stop them melting. Stanene promises to change all that. The structure of the material allows electrons to shoot along channels with no resistance whatsoever. Add a little fluorine and, according to Zhang, the material will have zero resistance at more than 100C (212F).

Shoucheng Zhang at Stanford created stanene virtually, and sees stanene as the natural successor to copper interconnects in computers. Atomically thin connections that don’t heat up would enable designers to miniaturize electronics even more. Ultimately stanene could replace silicon as a cheap and abundant material from which to make computer chips.

Our world is always changing around us. Sometimes we get real explanations of what is going on in the labs, sometimes we get threats of what will be—that turn out to be nothing much. These new materials seem truly promising.



Why is the Left So Suddenly Rapturous About Income Inequality? by The Elephant's Child

Inequality is currently a big deal because 1). Barack Obama wants to use it in his campaign for keeping the Senate in the fall elections 2). the lapdog media is obediently cooperating in emphasizing Obama’s theme of the moment and 3). A new book by French economist Thomas Piketty which is focused on inequality, wealth redistribution, capitalist wealth, and the horrors of capitalism. Karl Marx is revisited for the 21st century.

From Cato’s Michael Tanner:

Capital in the Twenty-First Century provides a serious critique of inequality in modern capitalist economies and warns that market economies “are potentially threatening to democratic societies and to the values of social justice on which they are based.” To remedy this, he argues for a globally imposed wealth tax and a U.S. tax rate of 80 percent on incomes over $500,000 per year.

The Left has been rapturous. In the last two months, Piketty’s book has been cited more than a half-dozen times by the New York Times, something that has happened with no other book in recent memory. Paul Krugman hails it as “the most important economics book of the year.

From Daniel Suchman in the Wall Street Journal:

Thomas Piketty likes capitalism because it efficiently allocates resources. But he does not like how it allocates income. There is, he thinks, a moral illegitimacy to virtually any accumulation of wealth, and it is a matter of justice that such inequality be eradicated in our economy. The way to do this is to eliminate high incomes and to reduce existing wealth through taxation. …

Soaring pay for corporate “supermanagers” has been the largest source of increased inequality, according to Mr. Piketty, and these executives can only have attained their rewards through luck or flaws in corporate governance. It requires only an occasional glance at this newspaper to confirm that this can be the case. But the author believes that no CEO could ever justify his or her pay based on performance. He doesn’t say whether any occupation—athletes? physicians? economics professors who sell zero-marginal-cost e-books for $21.99 a copy?—is entitled to higher earnings because he does not wish to “indulge in constructing a moral hierarchy of wealth.”…

He assumes that the economy is static and zero-sum; if the income of one population group increases, another one must necessarily have been impoverished. He views equality of outcome as the ultimate end and solely for its own sake. Alternative objectives—such as maximizing the overall wealth of society or increasing economic liberty or seeking the greatest possible equality of opportunity or even, as in the philosophy of John Rawls, ensuring that the welfare of the least well-off is maximized—are scarcely mentioned.

Michael Tanner had the most obvious answer to the problem of the inequality of the lower classes, or the less fortunate: “Instead of attacking capital and capitalism, why not expand the number of people who participate in the benefits of having capital? In other words, let’s make more capitalists.”

It should not be surprising then that “the Left is unremittingly hostile to exactly those policies that would give workers more access to capital.” They want to abolish 401(k) plans, replace them with social insurance, limit tax breaks for wealthier participants, and expand (the broke) Social Security instead.



Dueling Climate Reports: Here’s the Important One. by The Elephant's Child

There is a vigorous scientific debate over humanity’s influence on climate. The leftist media prefers to attempt to prevent that simple fact from being heard. This is a strange time in history when disagreement is not to be allowed. Those who disagree are to be prevented from speaking. Some want dissenters jailed. It’s getting really weird out there.

Here’s a little dissent from the scientists at the independent Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).

Guest essay by Dr. Craig D. Idso

The release of a United Nations (UN) climate change report last week energized various politicians and environmental activists, who issued a new round of calls to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the most fiery language in this regard came from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who called upon Congress to “wake up and do everything in its power to reduce dangerous carbon pollution,” while Secretary of State John Kerry expressed similar sentiments in a State Department release, claiming that “unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy.” 

Really? Is Earth’s climate so fragile that both it and our way of life are in jeopardy because of rising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions?

In a word, no! The human impact on global climate is small; and any warming that may occur as a result of anthropogenic CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions is likely to have little effect on either Earth’s climate or biosphere, according to the recently-released contrasting report Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts, which was produced by the independent Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).

This alternative assessment reviews literally thousands of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles that do not support and often contradict the findings of the UN report. Whether the subject is the effects of warming and rising CO2 on plants, animals, or humans, the UN report invariably highlights the studies and models that paint global warming in the darkest possible hue, ignoring or downplaying those that don’t.

To borrow a telling phrase from their report, the UN sees nothing but “death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods” everywhere it looks—as do Senator Boxer, Secretary Kerry, and others. Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts demonstrates that life on Earth is not suffering from rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels. Citing reams of real-world data, it offers solid scientific evidence that most plants actually flourish when exposed to both higher temperatures and greater CO2 concentrations. In fact, it demonstrates that the planet’s terrestrial biosphere is undergoing a great greening, which is causing deserts to shrink and forests to expand, thereby enlarging and enhancing habitat for wildlife. And much the same story can be told of global warming and atmospheric CO2 enrichment’s impacts on terrestrial animals, aquatic life, and human health.

Why are these research findings and this positive perspective missing from the UN climate reports? Although the UN claims to be unbiased and to have based its assessments on the best available science, such is obviously not the case. And it is most fortunate, therefore, that the NIPCC report provides tangible evidence that the CO2-induced global warming and ocean acidification debate remains unsettled on multiple levels; for there are literally thousands of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles that do not support a catastrophic, or even problematic, view of atmospheric CO2 enrichment.

Unfortunately, climate alarmism has become the modus operandi of the UN assessment reports. This fact is sad, indeed, because in compiling these reports, the UN either was purposely blind to views that ran counter to the materials they utilized, or its authors did not invest the amount of time, energy, and resources needed to fully investigate an issue that has profound significance for all life on Earth. And as a result, the UN has seriously exaggerated many dire conclusions, distorted relevant facts, and omitted or ignored key scientific findings. Yet in spite of these failings, various politicians, governments, and institutions continue to rally around the UN climate reports and to utilize their contentions as justification to legislate reductions in CO2 emissions, such as epitomized by the remarks of Senator Boxer and Secretary Kerry.

Citing only studies that promote climate catastrophism as a basis for such regulation, while ignoring studies that suggest just the opposite, is simply wrong. Citizens of every nation deserve much better scientific scrutiny of this issue by their governments; and they should demand greater accountability from their elected officials as they attempt to provide it.

There it is, that’s my op-ed. It’s what some people apparently do not want you to read. While the over 3,000 peer-reviewed scientific references cited in Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts are likely more than sufficient to establish scientific fact in a court of law, they are not sufficient to engage the real climate deniers in any debate. The rise in atmospheric CO2 is not having, nor will it have, a dangerous influence on the climate and biosphere. But don’t take my word for it, download and read the report for yourself (available at http://www.nipccreport.org). Compare it with the UN report. You be the judge!

Dr. Craig D. Idso is the lead editor and scientist for the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).



Growing Inequality Isn’t What Matters. What Matters is Good Jobs for the Jobless. by The Elephant's Child

In an attempt to turn the American conversation away from the botched rollout of ObamaCare and the horror stories from new enrollees, President Obama has begun emphasizing income inequality. Envy is always a popular ploy among Democrats that plays well at the polls. Ron Bailey summed it up well at Reason:

Are the rich getting richer? Yes. Are the poor getting poorer? No. Over the past 35 years most Americans got richer. Has income inequality increased in the United States? Yes. Does it matter? President Barack Obama declared in a December speech at the Center for American Progress that “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility” is “the defining challenge of our time.” Is that true? No.

The financial arm of the federal government uses the census and statistics from the IRS to divide the American people into quintiles. In December 2013, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) examined the after-tax income trends for each quintile of American households since 1979, including not just wages but also benefits and transfer payments. The bottom fifth’s after-tax income in constant dollars rose by 49 percent. The incomes of the middle three quintiles increased by 37 percent, 36 percent and 45 percent respectively.

Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution examined CBO data from 1979 to 2010 (the last year for which data are available), and divided the top quintile into four groups: those in the 90th percentile and below, those in the 91st through 95th percentiles and the top 1 percent. During those years, incomes for those fortunate households increased by 54 percent, 67 percent, 79 percent and 202 percent. The rich got richer too, but they got richer faster. Is this when “the one percent” became an ‘important’  buzz word?

What is missing in these statistics is the fact that the people in these quintiles are not the same people over time. Forbes magazine’s annual listings of the richest Americans and world’s richest are manna for the Occupy crowd and the faculty lounge. University professors have always found it enraging that corporate CEOs make huge salaries with enormous benefit packages when they, with their PhDs, are clearly smarter. Envy. But where else do you find so many who disapprove of capitalism?

Economist Alan Reynolds points out that “those who obsess over income shares should welcome stock market crashes and deep recessions because  such calamities invariably reduce ‘inequality.’ Of course, the same recessions also increase poverty  and unemployment.” If you follow Forbes listings, you will notice that some drop off the list and new names appear. But these are not normal times we are living through, as we have an administration determined to fix inequality, but consistently doing the wrong thing about it.

In his December speech, the president suggested that rising inequality is limiting income mobility, leaving poor Americans increasingly stuck and struggling on the lower rungs. The data do not support this claim.

We have had an astounding period of growth that has produced enormous wealth because of internet technology. I don’t know that we have ever before had a technological innovation that meant that every household and every office had to have at least one computer and probably one for each and every  person. Not only that, but the industry is so busy creating and updating and innovating that everyone has to replace everything constantly, and they do so without much complaint, and there are no signs that it ever diminish.

The great defining economic challenge of our time is not putting an end to inequality. The challenge is the persistent joblessness and sluggish economic growth perpetuated by Obama administration policies. A growing economy  will produce more economic mobility. Trying to make the poor stop being poor by redistributing the wealth of the rich has never worked, though often tried.

Intellectuals fretting about income disparity are far too focused on the wealthy, while ignoring the elephant in the room. The strongest statistical correlate of inequality in the United States is the rise of single-parent families during the past 5o years. In 1960, more than 76% of African-Americans and nearly 97% of white were born to married couples. Today the percentage is 30% for blacks and 70% for whites.

This trend, accompanied by high divorce rates means that roughly 25% of all American children now live in single-parent homes, twice the percentage in Europe. Roughly a third of American children live apart from their fathers. It matters. Two parents work better than one.  Even rich kids don’t do as well in single parent families.



A Little Advice for New Graduates, Old Graduates, the Unemployed and the Rest of Us. by The Elephant's Child

From Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs guy, a little advice about work:

Stop looking for the “right career,” and start looking for a job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.



“Economics Is Organized Common Sense” by The Elephant's Child

Economists Craig Newmark and AEI’s Mark Perry dug up Nobel economist Thomas Sargent’s shortest U.S. graduation speech ever. A simple list of twelve valuable economic lessons. The speech was delivered at his undergraduate alma mater University of California at Berkeley, May 16, 2007.

“I remember how happy I felt when I graduated from Berkeley many years ago. But I thought the graduation speeches were long. I will economize on words.”

“Economics is organized common sense. Here is a short list of valuable lessons that our beautiful subject teaches.”

1. Many things that are desirable are not feasible.

2. Individuals and communities face trade-offs.

3. Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts, and their preferences than you do.

4. Everyone responds to incentives, including people you want to help. That is why social safety nets don’t always end up working as intended.

5. There are tradeoffs between equality and efficiency.

6. In an equilibrium of a game or an economy, people are satisfied with their choices. That is why it is difficult for well-meaning outsiders to change things for better or worse.

7. In the future, you too will respond to incentives. That is why there are some promises that you’d like to make but can’t. No one will believe those promises because they know that later it will not be in your interest to deliver. The lesson here is this: before you make a promise, think about whether you will want to keep it if and when your circumstances change. This is how you earn a reputation.

8. Governments and voters respond to incentives too. That is why governments sometimes default on loans and other promises that they have made.

9. It is feasible for one generation to shift costs to subsequent ones. That is what national government debts and the U.S. social security system do (but not the social security system of Singapore).

10. When a government spends, its citizens eventually pay, either today or tomorrow, either through explicit taxes or implicit ones like inflation.

11. Most people want other people to pay for public goods and government transfers (especially transfers to themselves).

12. Because market prices aggregate traders’ information, it is difficult to forecast stock prices and interest rates and exchange rates.

That is a remarkably valuable short list. Pin it up beside the mirror in your bathroom so you can read it every morning until you know it by heart.



A Thirteen-Year-Old Girl Hunting With Her Golden Eagle by The Elephant's Child

Here is a remarkable look at a thirteen-year-old Mongolian girl hunting with a golden eagle, from the BBC.  Beautiful photography, beautiful young Mongolian girl, and a glimpse of her school, and the beauty of Mongolia. Enjoy.



The Worst Lies Are The Ones You Tell Yourself by The Elephant's Child

Ross Douthat had an excellent column on Sunday about “the serious moral defect at the heart of elite culture in America.”

He began with a look back at a column by a Harvard undergraduate, Sandra Y.L Korn, which got some attention thanks to its daring view of just how universities should approach  academic freedom. She claimed such freedom was dated and destructive and that a doctrine of “academic justice” should prevail instead. Harvard should not permit its faculty to engage in work tainted by “racism, sexism, and heterosexism.”  She could come up with only one contemporary example of a Harvard voice that ought to be silenced, a “single conservative octogenarian” the renowned political philosophy professor Harvey Mansfield. Possibly because there are no conservatives to be found at Harvard.

Douthat says he tries to be a “partisan of pluralism, which requires respecting Mozilla’s right to have a C.E.O. whose politics fit the climate of Silicon Valley, and Brandeis’s right to rescind degrees as it sees fit”… but it’s hard to maintain respect “when these institutions will not admit that this is what is going on. Instead, we have the pretense of universalitythe insistence that the post-Eich Mozilla is open to all ideas, the invocations of the ‘spirit of free expression’ from a school that’s kicking a controversial speaker off the stage.”

It would be a far, far better thing if Harvard and Brandeis and Mozilla would simply say, explicitly, that they are as ideologically progressive as Notre Dame is Catholic or B. Y.U. is Mormon or Chick-fil-A is evangelical, and that they intend to run their institution according to those lights.

I can live with the progressivism. It’s the lying that gets toxic.

Do read the whole thing. We desperately need to clearly understand just what is going on around us. Propaganda fails if everybody knows that it is just propaganda. Lies, recognized, are just embarrassing.

Journalist Jack Kelly asks “Why Aren’t Public Officials Held to Account for Lying?” He contrasts the penalty imposed on a television con man with the whoppers told by government officials, and suggests that the penalties for lying should be equally applied.

It was chiefly the concept of equal protection of the laws — the idea that the rules should apply to the rulers as well as the ruled — that made our government different from most others in the history of the world.

It is the lying that gets toxic.



The Administration Will Not Surrender U.S. Protection of the Open Internet—for Now. by The Elephant's Child

The Obama administration has backed off from its plan to abandon U.S. protection of the open internet in 2015, only a month after announcing its plan to do so. Objections from Bill Clinton, a warning letter from 35 Republican senators, and critical congressional hearings and the administration now says the change won’t happen for years, if ever.

The proposed change is an agreement under which the U.S. retains ultimate control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as Icann. Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling told Congress last week they can extend the contract for up four years.

A House panel voted along party lines on Thursday to delay the administration’s plan to surrender oversight over certain internet management functions. Republicans worry that the proposal to transfer power to an international nonprofit group could open the door to an Internet takeover by authoritarian regimes.The bill would block the transfer of Internet powers for up to a year while the Government Accountability Office investigates the administration’s plan. The bill now goes to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.

Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) argued that the United States should carefully study the proposal before moving forward.”We know what China has done to silence dissent and Vladimir Putin wants to use the powers of the [International Telecommunications Union] to control the internet.”

Democrats accused Republicans of being paranoid. Ranking Democrat Anita Eshoo said “It is not a conspiracy or a digital black helicopter.”

The policy in question is the protection of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) and the vital Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (ANA)— functions that are the lifeblood of the free flow of information online—linking easy-to-remember domain names to numerical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Bill Clinton issued a directive to Commerce in 1997, to maintain “a market-driven policy architecture that will allow the new digital economy to flourish while at the same time protecting citizens’ rights and freedoms.” Icann has worked under the auspices of the federal government since 1998 to perform the oversight role.

Obama wants to forsake these essential protections in the name of global accommodation, potentially allowing countries or even bodies like the United Nations to impose their own definition of internet “freedom.” Obama’s decision would be consistent with his views on net neutrality, recent efforts of the FCC to place monitors in U.S. newsrooms and the Justice Department’s surveillance of professional journalists.

There is significant evidence that international groups are big on the “international” or “we are the world” idea, and not so much concerned about freedom and equal access. Many authoritarian countries already try to control and censor the internet. Not everyone believes in freedom of information—and we have considerable evidence in our own country of the current struggle to control speech that is unpopular or provocative or simply disagrees. The recent flap about NSA surveillance has made many international activists concerned, although Internet freedom would seem to offer Internet surveillance free to all comers.

When Icann’s contract with the federal government expires in 2015, it simply means that one government contractor is no longer responsible for the administration task. It does not mean the federal government has agreed to cede the oversight role. Only a vote of the U.S. Congress could do that.



The Standoff At the Bundy Ranch Ends— For Now. by The Elephant's Child

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The Standoff at the O.K. Corral Bundy Ranch is standing off. The overarmed and overaggressive Bureau of Land Management has announced that because of the risk of violence, it is withdrawing its forces, some 200 armed agents, including snipers and guard dogs. The county sheriff negotiated the settlement.

It’s not at all clear what this was all about. The family settled in the area in the late 1800s and has ranched in the area ever since. The federal government has allowed Nevada ranchers to graze their cattle on tracts of adjacent public lands for generations. The federal government later created the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to administer and “protect” the vast “federal lands”* including the land the Bundy family’s livelihood is and was dependent upon.

*These lands are frequently called “federal land.” This is inaccurate. They are public lands, owned by the people, and the government supposedly “manages” them for the American people. I don’t think anyone has challenged this frequently used terminology in court, but they should.

I don’t know about you, but I have a real objection to all these armed forces, SWAT teams, and snipers attached to agencies of the government. The Coast Guard, Border Patrol (we read that they were reduced to firing beanbags), and ICE,need to be armed, but this is really going too far. The federal agency did quite a few dumb things. It tasered Cliven Bundy’s son Ammon, rounded up a bunch of the Bundy cattle, and then fenced off a “First Amendment Area” in the middle of nowhere to demonstrate the protection of an “endangered” desert tortoise.

The federal government told the Bundy family that a tortoise existed on the land and therefore the land’s usage for cattle would have to decrease — attacking the Bundy family livelihood, which has led to a 20-year legal battle.The legal battle would seem to have gone against the Bundy family, but the Bundy family can in fact claim to have enjoyed generations of grazing rights on public land — with an arrangement originating in the 1870s when ranchers were offered those rights an enticement for settling the West.

I have no knowledge of the legal aspects of the case, and I suspect that you can’t fight city hall or the federal government. I am deeply suspicious of any claim of “endangered species,” because those so designated usually aren’t actually endangered, and are only used as a tool to accomplish some other purpose. I don’t believe that the Endangered Species Act has ever “saved” a species. The problem is often a simple increase in the number of predators.

Breitbart has done a fine job of outlining the case, the rumors, the law, and the problems involved. I would suggest that the American people are troubled by our imperialistic government and the increased militarization of so many federal agencies who have no business with SWAT teams and armed attacks on ordinary citizens. The Bureau of Land Management brought the angry resistance on themselves, with overreaction.



The Social-Engineering Approach to Health Care by The Elephant's Child

John Goodman offers two fundamental ways of thinking about complex social systems: the economic approach and the engineering approach.

The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice.

Goodman, the father of the health savings account, calls this “cookbook medicine” which gives doctors rules and protocols for treating patients with various symptoms, and they must record each step along the way. Cookbook medicine does not bother with the differences among people, and is the opposite of personalized medicine which aims to tailor the therapy to the characteristics of the patient.

While it is useful to consider the standard protocols, people are not all the same. Medicine adapted to the genetic makeup of a person is in its infancy, but shows promise. When the cookbook becomes a rulebook to be followed slavishly, we’re in trouble. When complying with endless checklists takes valuable time away from patient care — that’s what’s happening in American medicine. A recent study of emergency room physicians found that they spend more time interacting with screens than patients, clicking the mouse 4,000 times in a 10-hour shift.

The Affordable Care Act was heavily influenced by the engineering model. After all, our bureaucrats are certified experts, and what are experts for if not to tell everybody else what to do and how to do it. Only social engineers would think of running “pilot programs” to control health care costs. What is the purpose of a pilot program if not to find something that appears to work, so you can order everyone else to copy it. Therefore you have the mess of digitizing all medical records and the result that hospitals have different systems that cannot talk to each other?

Dr. Virginia McIvor, a pediatric physician at Harvard Medical School explains the problem:

When a healthy child visits, I must complete these tasks while reviewing more than 300 other preventative care measures such as safe storage of a gun, domestic violence, child-proofing the home, nutrition, exercise, school performance, safe sex, bullying, smoking, drinking, drugs, behavior problems, family health issues, sleep, development and whatever else is on a patient’s or parent’s mind. While primary-care providers are good at prioritizing and staying on time — patient satisfaction scores are another quality metric — the endless box checking and scoring takes precious time away from doctor-patient communication.

If you have been to a doctor recently, you have probably noticed the multiplication of forms you must fill out, questions you must answer. I have noticed that the form now contains a line for “refuses to answer,” which may indicate progress of a sort.

John Goodman is the father of the “health savings account” which works precisely as promised and has been a great favorite. He is president of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) and he blogs regularly on health care matters (you can sign up to receive his columns), and his book Priceless takes on the health care problem.

There are great things happening in medicine that are promising for the future. The engineering rulebook is not interested in other people’s expertise or innovation.

The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice. – See more at: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/cookbook-medicine-2/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HA#more-36412
The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice. – See more at: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/cookbook-medicine-2/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HA#more-36412
The social engineer sees society as disorganized, unplanned and inefficient. Wherever he looks, he sees underperforming people in flawed organizations producing imperfect goods and services. The solution? Let experts study the problem, discover what should be produced and how to produce it, and then follow their advice. – See more at: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/cookbook-medicine-2/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HA#more-36412


Shining a Light on the Dark Corners of Big Bloated Government by The Elephant's Child

Coburn

How many bureaucrats does it take to screw in a lightbulb? According to USA today, It takes 10 different offices at the HHS to tun programs addressing AIDS in minority communities. Autism research is spread out over 11 separate agencies. Eight agencies at the DOD are looking for prisoners of war and those missing in action. Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado has 8 different satellite control centers to control 10 satellite programs.

These are simply 26 new areas pointed out by the Government Accountability Office, where federal government programs are overlapping, duplicative, fragmented or just inefficient. There are 162 areas so identified in part reports. This gives Congress a clear map for saving tens of billion of dollars a year.

We owe this list to Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who wrote the legislation requiring this annual report, which is now in its fourth year.  “Turning this ready-made list of cuts into savings is one of the best ways Congress can regain the trust and confidence of the American people”, he said. “At the end of the day there are no short cuts around the hard work of oversight and identifying and eliminating waste.” The prepared testimony said:

It is impossible to account for how much money is wasted through duplication, in part because the government doesn’t keep track of which programs each agency is responsible for.

“One of the most troubling things in GAO’s report is the number of agencies that have no idea just how much taxpayer money they are spending on their programs,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). He has sponsored legislation , the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, that would require the government to better track spending data from Congress to an agency to its ultimate recipient. The bill has passed the House 388-1 last year and waiting for a vote from the Senate.

The agencies in question will object. Every agency in question will feel their slice of the pie is more important, and losing budget and personnel diminishes the agency. Bureaucracies always have empire-builders in their ranks. They just are not often recognized, because they have been good at telling their superiors how necessary that budget and that staff are to the good of the nation.

Many of GAO’s recommendations deal with some of the most complex and challenging areas across the federal government,” said Beth Cobert, the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, in a statement. “Fully addressing them is a long-term process that in many cases will take years to implement.”

Uh huh. Shine a spotlight on them and see what happens to the dark corners. Last year, the GAO reported that the two main groups responsible for POW/MIA issues were “unable to resolve disputes”  about who was responsible for what. When last month, National Public Radio detailed how bureaucratic and slow the search for remains was, DOD Sec. Chuck Hagel ordered that POW/MIA efforts be streamlined into a single office.

This is what transparency and sunlight are all about. A media that is too lazy,  uninterested, or partisan to do their traditional job as governmental watchdog, actually costs taxpayers money. A bloated, expansive government that is more interested in being important and powerful than in freedom and thrift harms everyone.




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