Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Carbon Cap Guns

Alright, seriously, people. Comments like these drive me up the wall.

The theory goes like this: if we tax Canadian "bads" then the investment that otherwise would have gone into the Canadian production of "bads" will now be directed to the Canadian production of "goods". NONE (and I mean NONE) of the economic models on which our academic advisors rely anticipate the real life phenomon of capital flight. The models assume that the same amount of capital that would have been invested in Canada before the tax is still available to Canadians after the tax.

Yes. Carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, punitive taxation against producers and consumers alike - they're all going to cost money. We will, initially, see economic reductions. Companies who care more about the bottom line than their reputation and impact on the world will leave. Prices will go up as corporations transfer the cost to their consumers.


By reducing the Corporate Tax rate, it remains beneficial to companies to reside in the country - if they can find a way to get by with fewer emissions. And therein lies the goal of these taxes and fees in the firs place. Companies that can reduce their impact will thrive, because they'll be able to pass those savings along to the consumer and outcompete the corporations that cannot.

Now, the other popular argument on the site:

So it is now true that a company can largely avoid BC's carbon tax by transporting raw resources to Washington state--in trucks that fuel up in Washingtion--where they can burn tax exempt BC natural gas to make final products in Washington mills.

Again, true. However, someone has to do it first. It will mean we'll likely have to suffer a bit. I, for one, am willing to weather the financial woes that will result in an effort to make Canada cleaner and greener for the future. And, forward-thinking (which so few people seem to do these days), when oil smashes through the roof on the beginning of its ascent to the stratosphere, those companies who have already reduced their consumption of fossil fuels won't be feeling the pain as much as their competitors - and then who'll be laughing?

To sum up the two arguments:

  1. "I'm fine with going green, but I don't want to spend any money to do so." As Heinlein was so fond of pointing out, TANSTAAFL. If you want the city, the country, and the world to change, it has to start somewhere - and you're going to have to do without, just a bit, to make it happen.

  2. "Even if we do it, other people can just get around it." There are countries where murder is, if not legal, not terribly well-policed. Does that mean that other countries should relax their laws as well? You don't drink and drive, but your neighbour does, so even if you don't, it's still dangerous out there, so you might as well, right? Or, to choose an example that confers an advantage - kids at school cheat on a test, but you didn't. Was it just because you were scared of getting caught, or did you do it honestly because it was the right thing to do, even if you might have gotten a better grade by cheating?

Seriously, people. Get your heads on straight, get back to work, and pay the damn tax.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Asshat of the Day - September 26th, 2008

For Friday's Asshat of the Day, I bring you: The Discovery Institute, and, to a lesser extent, the Louisiana Legislature for making it all possible.

Now, what's got me pissed off at DI? It's not their championing of alternative fuels - if that were all they got up to, I'd be delighted. It's not their claim that Spore is a good tool for teaching Intelligent Design (they're right, it is - shame on you, Will Wright).

It's the textbook they've produced and are now trying to wiggle into high school curricula:

Explore Evolution

The book very carefully never uses the words "Intelligent Design", and stays a long way away from "Creation", but it's quite simply a tool of "Intelligent Design", née "Creation Science". It introduces controversy where there is none, uses "neo-Darwinism" to make evolution seem like some sort of cult, and uses as one of its sources a man who believes that all life evolves as proto-life stem cells beneath the surface of the earth, and then emerges and self-assembles when the time is right.

Ars Technica does a better job of critiquing the book than I could.

My beef, however, is not only with the book itself, but with the mindset behind both the people who wrote it and those who seek to introduce it into schools. For pity's sake, folks - "God did it!" isn't science. In fact, it's the kind of crappy, baseless argument that engendered the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Assume the presence of an all-powerful, omniscient being, be it a father figure in the sky, a big bowl of flying pasta, or an invisible pink unicorn (Blessed Be Her Holy Hooves). Life evolves on a planet, with the descent of species through mutation and selection pressure. Can you prove that the being, capable of literally anything, did not in fact place everything where it is, fully formed? Can you prove that the world existed even a second ago, and that the being did not place you, the world, and everything else, including your memories of a past, where they are? Of course not. We have no means of testing for that, because if such a being were to do such a thing, they could also be able to ensure that we would be unable to distinguish it from a world that developed over time.

So if you say "God/Allah/TFSM did it, and you can't prove otherwise!", you're right, at least about the last part. But if someone examines creatures and fossils, and finds the properties of both, and says "Well, according to all the evidence that is visible to mere mortals, this whole thing could easily have happened without any intercession from any intelligent force", "Yeah, but it COULD have." is not a valid counter-argument. More to the point, it's not science. Science involves things that it is possible to disprove. Theology, by definition, involves things that must be taken on faith.

So, unless you plan to start teaching evolution, chemistry, physics, and math in Sunday school, don't expect "God created us!" to show up in a class designed to teach that which we can see and test, and therefore do not have to take on faith.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Asshat of the Day - September 25th, 2008


Don't get me wrong - China has done many things that have impressed me of late. Their human rights record is still pretty black, but their progress in alternative energy research, the production of the Olympics, new housing techniques and the ability to recognize a sinking ship when they see it (the US economy) are all laudable.

But this? That was unimpressive.

Seriously, guys. You've got the technology. You've got the money to buy all the scientists you might need, and a population from which you can recruit a whole bunch of really smart people, who in turn will probably work for far less than their Western equivalents. This whole launch and first spacewalk thing is practically a done deal.

Presenting a photoshopped launch picture and the associated article? It damages your credibility, hurts your reputation, and makes everyone in the world take everything else you say with a grain of salt. If it had been something terse, like "Shenzhou 7 launch a success.", you could probably be forgiven. There are no end of criminal trials/world events for which most of the story was probably already written before the event occurred, so the paper/radio/tv announcement could be made as quickly as possible. But including nonexistent dialogue?

Sorry, CNSA. You fumbled the ball big time here. And so you receive the title of Asshat of the Day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Asshat of the Day - September 24th, 2008

This one was easy - even posted a day late.

George W. Bush

I mean, come on. A seven hundred BILLION dollar bailout?

If you want to spend more than the Iraq war has cost (on paper, at least) to date, earmark it for infrastructure development. The US hasn't seen major infrastructure spending since the 1950s, and never has it needed it more than today. But come on! You're nearly twelve trillion dollars in debt, and your solution to the credit crisis is to spend more? Where are you going to get it? I can't think of any country who would extend you that much in additional credit. Which leaves you one option: print money.

So, you put an additional seven hundred (what was that? Oh yes) billion dollars into circulation. What, pray, would this do to your dollar's value? Oh, right. Ask the Germans, right before World War II, say. They might be able to tell you.

Now, on top of all this, there are a couple trillion dollars of imaginary money that's sitting and souring in the financial markets. Seven hundred billion dollars, as mind-boggling a sum as it is, won't actually solve the problem unless the government takes a hand in legislating the economy, rather than the hands-off laissez-faire technique which has been the hallmark of the "free market" politicians since the Nixon era. If they don't, all it'll do is keep the eggs in the air for a few more months.

Which may be the point.

If he can keep it going a few more months, Bush can dump the economy on the next person to take office... in legal terms, the "chump."

Therefore, I give you the Asshat of the Day. George W. Bush.