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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Built-in Tourniquets
Posted by: Jason Sterlace
 
Presented for your ooh-ing and aah-ing: The Integrated Tourniquet System. The tourniquets are built right into the clothing - four in the pants and four in the shirt sleeves. They are being marketed to the US military, of course, but also to police forces, military contractors, and even hunters and industrial workers, according to NPR.

(Listening to the NPR story earlier this week, I had a real "duh" moment. As in, "Duh, why didn't I think of that?")

The manufacturer's medical consultant says that 60% of preventable combat deaths are from extremity bleeding. I don't know enough about ground forces to vouch for the accuracy of that figure, but it sounds reasonable. The continuing advances in military medical attention are staggering. Assuming the ITS works properly, we can't get these to our troops fast enough.
 

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Baltimore Schools: Motivations and Assessments
Posted by: Jason Sterlace
 
The City of Baltimore has a plan for raising student scores on the statewide High School Assessment tests, which are a requirement for graduation beginning with the class of 2009:
Baltimore students who have failed at least one exam will earn $25 for improving test performance by 5 percent. If they improve by an additional 15 percent, they will get $35 more.

A growth of 20 percent more earns an added $50, for a maximum of $110.
The pros and cons are being hotly debated. Among them:
- "We are providing incentives to students that [sic] earn them based on the academic growth while participating in this program,"
- "It reflects poorly on this city and this country that we have to pay this next generation to better themselves."
- "It teaches students who already do well that they are suckers."

Says the Washington Post:
it strikes us as a bit hypocritical for people who see nothing wrong with rewarding their children's school performance with dinners out, trips abroad and even new cars to pick apart a program that attempts to deal with the real word of urban education.
(Note to WaPo editorial staff: It wouldn't be controversial if it didn't use taxpayer money.)

Fourteen-year-old Cortez Colclough says that getting paid for performance "would be like having a job."

It would be a lot like having a job. except that it isn't. If this is income exchanged for work done, will the City be withholding taxes? Of course if the money is considered a gift for some students but not for others, it is just a matter of time before one of the "suckers" who was passing tests already sues the city. Other considerations aside, is this program even legal?
 

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Save it up for a Rainy Forest
Posted by: Jason Sterlace
 
From The Economist:
FOR rent: 830,000 hectares of pristine tropical rainforest. Rich in wildlife, including forest elephants and gorillas. Provides a regionally important African green corridor. Price: $1.6m a year. Conservationist tenant preferred, but extractive forestry also considered. Please apply to the Cameroonian minister of forestry.

Ngoyla-Mintom is thus turning into an interesting test of what the conservation market will bear. There is a willing seller, but not yet a willing buyer. The fine words of the rich-world's armchair conservationists butter few parsnips in the poor world. Here is a good opportunity to spread some butter.
$1.6m a year isn't that much money. It's $2.00 per member of the Sierra Club. The Nature Conservancy alone has annual revenues of over a billion dollars. And how many nature-loving individuals have that kind of money? Maybe it's time for one of them to step up.

I'm not posting this to make fun of environmentalists, but to encourage them. If you are going to ask developing nations not to develop, you will have to offer some incentive. Otherwise, it smacks of "Got Mine". The offer is there - take it.
 

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Grave Question
Posted by: Jason Sterlace
 
Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution writes:
Dead people don't count in the social welfare function.
A little background on what specifically Cowen is talking about:
Vladimir Nabokov requested in his will that his unfinished novel, The Original of Laura, should be destroyed on his death, saying that he abhorred the idea of his readers seeing a work he had completed "in my mind" but not on paper. But more than 30 years since his death, nobody has dared to incinerate the manuscript.
Last month, Ron Rosenbaum wrote in Slate:
[The] predicament goes beyond Laura. It's one that raises the difficult issue of who "owns" a work of art, particularly an unfinished work of art by a dead author who did not want anything but his finished work to become public. Who controls its fate? The dead hand from the grave?
For those who believe in Natural Rights, this is an easy question. Cowen's position makes it sound easy in the opposite direction. My question (for utilitarian libertarians in particular) is, What is your rationale for what should be done? If dead people don't count in the social welfare function, is there any argument to be made against a 100% estate tax and compulsory organ "donation"? Rosenbaum's last paragraph confesses "a superstitious dread of violating V.N.'s wishes." Is it just superstition? Or is there a rational principle you can point to that will make the issue as straightforward for you as it is for the Natural Rights libertarian? (Beyond "dead people don't count", that is.)
 

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Will you have your cake, or eat it?
Posted by: Jason Sterlace
 
According to the New York Times, black women in the Carolinas may refuse to support Barak Obama in the primaries. Why? So he won't be assassinated.
"They want to protect him from the bad people, and in order to protect him, they won't support him. They want to see him around, making a difference."
Is that possible? That some Obama supporters actually feel they'll have to burn Obama to save Obama? And is there any chance that - in this day and age - they are right?
 

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