Saturday, December 18, 2010
Which is better for the environment, fake Christmas trees or real ones? The answer may surprise you...
NYTIMES: How Green Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree? You Might Be Surprised
""Kim Jones, who was shopping for a tree at a Target store in Brooklyn this week, was convinced that she was doing the planet a favor by buying a $200 fake balsam fir made in China instead of buying a carbon-sipping pine that had been cut down for one season’s revelry.
“I’m very environmentally conscious,” Ms. Jones said. “I’ll keep it for 10 years, and that’s 10 trees that won’t be cut down.”
But Ms. Jones and the millions of others buying fake trees might not be doing the environment any favors.
In the most definitive study of the perennial real vs. fake question, an environmental consulting firm in Montreal found that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually. The calculations included greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources and human health impacts.
“The natural tree is a better option,” said Jean-Sebastien Trudel, founder of the firm, Ellipsos, that released the independent study last year""
“You’re not doing any harm by cutting down a Christmas tree,” said Clint Springer, a botanist and professor of biology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “A lot of people think artificial is better because you’re preserving the life of a tree. But in this case, you’ve got a crop that’s being raised for that purpose.”
at 8:23 PM
WSJ: Not Really 'Made in China'
Trade statistics in both countries consider the iPhone a Chinese export to the U.S., even though it is entirely designed and owned by a U.S. company, and is made largely of parts produced in several Asian and European countries. China's contribution is the last step—assembling and shipping the phones.
So the entire $178.96 estimated wholesale cost of the shipped phone is credited to China, even though the value of the work performed by the Chinese workers at Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. accounts for just 3.6%, or $6.50, of the total, the researchers calculated in a report published this month.
at 10:25 AM
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Technology use by the masses has really taken off in 10 years...Quite incredible if you stop to think about it...The price of gas intrigued me. From 2000 until today (roughly $2.89) the price has increased 95%. Taking into account inflation, $1.48 in 2000 is the equivalent to $1.88 today (inflation calculator HERE). In other words, if gas prices had simply increased in price along with the prices of everything else, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), we should be able to buy gas for $1.88 a gallon (a 27% increase).
at 6:59 PM
Marine Corps promotional video for Marines who guard US Embassies---I served at US Embassies in Kingston, Jamaica and Bamako, Mali...
at 6:17 PM
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
at 7:27 PM
All I want for Christmas is for students to properly label their graphs...Really, that is all I want...
at 6:03 PM
Monday, December 13, 2010
News Headlines: "US imposes tariffs on Chinese tires"..."Traffic fatalities increase at an alarming rate"---How are these two stories related?
From WSJ: WTO Backs US in Tire Dispute with China
The World Trade Organization Monday sided with the U.S. over tariffs the Obama administration imposed last year on Chinese tires, in a high-profile case likely to stoke tensions in coming U.S.-China trade talks.
The WTO dispute-settlement panel ruled in favor of President Barack Obama's decision from September 2009 to levy tariffs of as much as 35% on Chinese tires under a rarely used safeguard provision to protect against import surges, provoking one of the biggest trade spats between the two countries in recent years. In addition to taking the case to the WTO, China retaliated by announcing a series of duties on U.S. chicken, nylon and other exports.
No "harm to workers and industries" in the protected industries, but what about the harm to consumers who have to pay more for not only Chinese tires, but American tires as well...Oh, wait, you did not think American tire producers would keep their prices the same now that they got the tariff imposed...did you?
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk called the decision a "major victory" that demonstrates the solid legal underpinnings of U.S. trade remedy laws.
"This outcome demonstrates that the Obama administration is strongly committed to using and defending our trade remedy laws to address harm to our workers and industries," Mr. Kirk said in his statement.""
The Chinese tires are of the lower end of the market type tires that, in general, lower income people purchase. So the effect WILL BE (I don't mince words here) delayed purchase/replacement of tires by this group, which in turn means more unsafe tires on the road, which in turn means more traffic accidents, which in turn means more injuries/fatalities "at the margin".
The lesson here is one of "rent-seeking"---the use of government to confer benefits on the few (the tire industry and their workers/Unions) at the expense of the many (everyone else who buys tires). The benefits are concentrated while the costs are diffuse. Mr Kirk's statement could be worded like this too and not lose its meaning:
"This outcome demonstrates that the Obama administration is strongly committed to using and defending our trade remedy laws toIs this too harsh? Tell me where I am going wrong...
addressimpose harm toon our workersconsumers and industriestheir families ," Mr. Kirk said in his statement.""
at 6:08 PM
John Boehner Couldn't Stop Crying On '60 Minutes'
""Last night 60 Minutes interviewed incoming Speaker John Boehner who got very emotional (we're talking tears and sniffling and a sob or two ) when Lesley Stahl pressed him to talk about...kids in school..."Perhaps he could use some therapy from my favorite psychiatrist...
at 9:55 AM
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Ok, rationality has left the building--to pass a tax bill that increases the deficit, Senate leadership offers incentives to reluctant Senators that will, well, increase the deficit...Will it ever end?
Why, oh, why does it have to be ethanol. It is the one subsidy that has widespread support from the left and right to get rid of. If they can't eliminate this one bad policy, I have little faith they can cut any spending on anything significant in the federal budget...Business as usual??
Reid Sweetens Tax Deal With Ethanol, Green Subsidies
Reid Sweetens Tax Deal With Ethanol, Green Subsidies
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., late Thursday unveiled a new version of the tax cut deal President Obama hammered out with Republicans. The package keeps the basic framework but adds several provisions clearly aimed at winning over wavering Democrats. Chief among them is an expansion of ethanol subsidies. The bill would extend existing tax credits on the additive as well as a tariff on imported ethanol.
What does ethanol have to do with expiring tax cuts? Well, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa., has slammed the deal but is also eager to preserve ethanol subsidies, a big deal in his corn-producing state.
The bill also extends tax credits for biodiesel and renewable fuels, energy-efficient homes, alternative fuels, manufacture of energy-efficient appliances, and investing in “alternative vehicle refueling property.” The provisions have been endorsed by the clean energy lobby and may help win over reluctant Democrats.Additional article: Add-ons turn tax cut bill into 'Christmas tree'
For urban lawmakers, there's a continuation of about-to-expire tax breaks that could save commuters who use mass transit about $1,000 a year. Other popular tax provisions aimed at increasing production of hybrid automobiles, biodiesel fuel, coal and energy-efficient household appliances would be extended through the end of 2011 under the new add-ons.
The package also includes an extension of two Gulf Coast tax incentive programs enacted after Hurricane Katrina to spur economic development in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
at 7:51 PM
Do you know who any of these people are? Maybe one or two (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc) but in general these millionaires are nameless, faceless people (to us) who got to where they are by producing goods or services most of us use on a daily basis and improve our lives in a relatively seamless way. Their profit is not at our expense but adds to our surplus! I have no idea who the owner of Jiffy Lube is, but I am glad he is rich and I am glad I don't have to change my oil. I consider that an even exchange!
I think this gets lost in the debate over taxes and tax rates. We are not doing a good enough job in discerning who is rich, but more importantly, how they got that way. Listening to politicians/media one would think only Wall Street bankers, insurance and oil executives are millionaires. If you really think about it, the only rich people vilified publicly are people who profit GREATLY because of bailouts, subsidies, and an other-wise cozy relationship with politicians and bureaucracies. In economics we call these "rent-seekers", private citizens/industries that use political access to profit and limit competition. Let me say this as clearly as possible: I ABHOR rent-seekers! They are worst kind of "millionaires" because they got that way at the expense of the public (that means YOU).
Go back to your personal results from the first paragraph. How many of these goods/services were the result of rent-seekers or businesses/entrepreneurs, who only got "rich" providing you something that enhanced your life without you thinking much about it? It probably did not even cost you that much either (relative to the benefit you received). The rent-seekers good/service probably cost you the most and gave you the least satisfaction. I am guessing a vast majority of the items came from the "silent majority" of millionaires who risked capital to bring that good or service to the market place.
In a purely non-partisan fashion, ask yourself: "How much more do these people owe society than what they have already given?". Is it not useful to consider this before you lump all rich people together? I am not saying the rich pay nothing in taxes, but should some consideration be taken to assess the benefits they endow on society before we decide how much "we" should take from them? Have they not already proven to be good stewards of societal resources, in general? Just askin'...What do you think?
Note: I am not a "rich guy" (well, not monetarily anyway). I only recognize the value of the PROPER millionaire/billionaire...We hover in the mid-range of the 28% tax bracket. Hey, I have a productive wife whose skills are valued more in society than mine as a teacher....but that is ANOTHER debate! :)
at 12:37 PM