Archive for January, 2014

Cull The Beasts!

So, I’ve had a serious look at the shark cull issue, and want to add some analysis as a longer term lover of killing and eating beasts of all sizes. There is what appears to be an OK summary of the facts on The New Daily, and you can read them all for yourself and decide.

I wanted to read some more, as I was not convinced either way, and I want to avoid being biased, so I am going to need to see the estimates of the actual fall in $ from tourism directly attributable with Australia being seen as “dangerous” and then pull out of that body of danger that would surely include spiders, snakes, jellyfish, crocs and plants that are dangerous in this broad red land, and try to come up with something exceeding the $22 million anual cost estimate in the articles “for’ case.

And then I need to be able to answer the question, when exactly did tourists become fearful homebodies, and not see dangerous as a draw card?

I think it might be suss to spend $22 million for a reduction of 1 person killed per year so we can return to our normal rate of humans killed by sharks. Even if we could prove that what we proposed would do what we want it to. And the case for that is not good {cough, cough, by-catch, cough}

However, the facts on the side of which species are threatened and endangered are pretty solid. Here’s the “red list” details you might be familiar with from the IUCN, based on shitloads of peer reviewed evidence collection from scientists. Yeah, I know, those fucking scientists and the UN again. It’s like living with your mom, reading me regularly isn’t it?

So after examining the data, basically it’s easier to count the number of non-threatened species than threatened or endangered ones. For the common man, put it this way: you see a shark, I pretty much guarantee it’s either harmless and overfished to decimation by someone, or has lost or is losing habitat to the point that it is being killed out from fear and complacency and numbers are dwindling. Trust me, just about the last thing you want to be in this world is kinda slow, basically harmless, and look like a shark.

The sum of Colin Barnett’s current argument is that Australia is being seen as too dangerous and is losing more than $22 million a year due to fear of surfing at one south coast surf spot, and he has a constituency there that has raised it as a big deal to him. Well, I got news for you folks down south. There are a bazillion good surf beaches on this tropical island continent of ours. If yours just happens to be currently or permanently experiencing a high concentration of sharks where you like the curl, too fucking bad. Basically, you are saying that your right to surf right there trumps the right of another species to exist. And I am not being theatric. Lets say there were only 3700 humans left in the world. That’s the number of Great Whites estimated to be swimming around in the pool that covers 66% of the planet’s surface.

Now, I know humans are fucking scary, but if there were only that few, I’d be doing everything I could to save them. They are a peak predator and they are an indicator species for the health of the ecosystem. Honestly, this is just like the controversy I have run into everywhere I’ve lived. Doesn’t the grizzly bear, mountain lion, grey wolf, shark, tiger, black rhino and every other fucking scary peak predator, or even those just holding up their part of the food chain, deserve enough space just to survive? Do we demand, as humans, access to all the space in the world, anytime that it suits us to a point where we drive other species to extinction? We are one bleak fucking species if that’s the case.

But there is an alternative, you know, If government feels that the ‘do nothing’ case is not strong enough and is compelled to fuck with something.

If you want to go all ultra-protectionist and remove the dangerous killer from the water, outlaw swimming and surfing.

Pay People Not To Work

I have a radical idea that is, on the face of it, an absolute wowser to your common capitalist. But I think I actually heard that it was tried, or is being used, in some measure by the Germans, well-known capitalists who live in Europe. Doesn’t matter, I am going to derive from first principles.

Some facts:
“At over $446 billion per year, Walmart is the third highest revenue grossing corporation in the world. Walmart earns over $15 billion per year in pure profit and pays its executives handsomely.
Wal-Mart’s poverty wages force employees to rely on $2.66 billion in government help every year, or about $420,000 per store. In state after state, Wal-Mart employees are the top recipients of Medicaid. As many as 80 percent of workers in Wal-Mart stores use food stamps.”

Now, consider what happens for real if you pay people money with no work requirement at all, many of who are living at or below the poverty line in the USA (and apparently, a shitload from Wal-Mart). An epidemiologist in the Cherokee Nations did. Now honestly, knowing a fair few people in my life, my thesis before reviewing the data and analysis would likely include: “A whole bunch of people with no money skills would blow the cash on things which made their lives not significantly better, or on things that are actually harming them.”

More facts:
“Jane Costello, an epidemiologist at Duke University Medical School, saw an opportunity. The tribe elected to distribute a proportion of the profits equally among its 8,000 members. Professor Costello wondered whether the extra money would change psychiatric outcomes among poor Cherokee families.
When the casino opened, Professor Costello had already been following 1,420 rural children in the area, a quarter of whom were Cherokee, for four years. That gave her a solid baseline measure. Roughly one-fifth of the rural non-Indians in her study lived in poverty, compared with more than half of the Cherokee. By 2001, when casino profits amounted to $6,000 per person yearly, the number of Cherokee living below the poverty line had declined by half.”

And if you look deeper into the details, it makes me glad to say I was oh so wrong in my original thesis. It turns out, the psychiatric health affects long term on the children alone pretty much pays for the program by itself. And beyond that, the change in economic environment for al the children really relieves the stress they and their parents face everyday that improves the social outcome for all members of the household greatly.

[Just a scary science guy side note. Don’t you just fucking love that some of the best economic studies are done by epidemiologists?]

Now, consider another fact. The poor (and even the lower middle classes) basically have little or no access to leveraged capital on reasonable terms. Now I could have just said fucking loans, but I wanted to make a point. The poor have no capability to do as the rich often advise them and “…pull themselves up by their bootstraps, borrow money from mom and start a business”. But if they pool a small amount of their stipends, they possibly could fund a startup and make a life for themselves. And then, hopefully knock off a couple of sprogs and keep the whole machine a rolling along. But probably not turn into the Wolf of Wall Street, I’m guessing.

Bottom-line, economically there is a lower limit, beyond which if you sink, that direct redistribution of wealth to you, with no specific cause*, is good for society on an individual and collective basis. If we expand the amount of cash in hand of the poor, and do it for no specific reason, we will get an increase of GDP in an area where we want it spent right now, in consumption by the middle class of goods and services, then when things get better for the bulk of the economy and unemployment naturally falls, and the program costs less.

Or, at least it will until the next bubble created by rich bankers and CEOs bursts, and puts a lot of people out of work again. Remember that. It is not the workers who get rich off the bubble schemes, fraud and cronyism that the rich play with other rich that bankrupts a country. So let’s not blame the workers first when they are out of work. Let’s just pay them a stipend until they get another job of their own free will. Because they will. Most people want to work on something, and like to feel natural achievement of productivity and mastery of skills or tasks. Others want to learn a trade for the first time, or switch from one career to another, because that’s what we want them to do macro-economically to address I thing the conservatives like to call “structural unemployment” caused by technology or a shift in culture of a large population (or nation state if you want to go that far). Once again, not caused by workers’ somehow borg-like evil, when they collectively bargain.

Now, when things get better and unemployment is low, conservatives will then (with some justification) look at the remaining 3 or 4 % of the population and say, “How come I still have a large amount (in actual numbers of human beings) of people who cannot, or will not, play along with the system as designed.” It’s a fair question, and has a fair answer, that I believe can be satisfied through the assistance of additional empirical data from health, welfare and education institutions. I don’t have it at present, but am interested in examining any you have.

I suggest that the premise that any significant portion of the 3-4% that remains is indolent or criminal by nature will not be bourne out by the data. The truth is, I suspect, that a large majority of the remaining persons have a genuine problem that keeps them from working, and they just need help. And guess what? That’s OK and you are in for a full stipend of a subsistence wage as well, my friend, if that’s you.

Let’s make the stipend for the unemployed and those who cannot work high enough that they can survive, and suggest that the minimum wage set by any company be above a (non-mandatory figure). Any company that wants to pay less than the suggested minimum anywhere is free to do so, but unemployment insurance for workers will not be time limited and will be at a value that is between the subsistence rate and the suggested minimum wage (or what I call a living wage) based on their demonstrated commitment to find work, or re-skill themselves. The federal government will set the subsistence rate, and the state governments can set the suggested minimum.

Then, let’s see predatory and parasitic companies like Walmart thrive, and the population does worse, or not.

Add another crazy idea. If you earn over $200,000 in gross income a year, you have to spend at least one day (or eight hours cumulative a year) in a hotel casino with $10,000 of your money in chips. I’m not saying you have to play. Have a meal, get a massage, whatever. But spend the one day. It will be easy for most of the rich to do. I bet Warren Buffet would do it. That would probably drive tax revenues up and draw on those that can best afford to lose money gambling directly. Isn’t that what regulated casinos are for in society?

* – note that no specific cause means none stated to the applicant applying for the stipend. It would be listed as cause “not otherwise specified” in the statistics. We want no stigma attached to the application for benefits. People can self-report for disability or other categories if they so choose, but there will be an option for not specifying and getting the basis benefit.

Views On The Shape Of The World Differ

That’s the headline in the mainstream media when some complete nutbag wants to claim the earth is flat and they are heavily committed to providing “balance” to every conflict. In that environment, we get the current slide toward anti-science positions around the world, and the fact that the number of people questioning climate change is actually going up in stupider countries {cough, cough, USA, cough}.

So, we now are at the point where there is no way we are going to stave off the inevitable, and those on the side of empirical evidence and scientific theory probably ought to just focus on zombie plans, according to the latest UN Report on Climate Change.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect that effort to go much better. Sorensen has is spot on, I reckon . . .

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