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Archive for October, 2010

Call Me Senator, Sir

October 25th, 2010

Normally I hate political ads, but this one was pretty funny.

Author: Derek Clark Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Ripxx Ski and Snowboard iPhone App

October 16th, 2010

So this one is completely off topic, but I just thought I’d share what I’ve been up to lately. Just released what I think is a pretty cool app for the iPhone. It is a skiing app that shows trail maps for around 200 different resorts and records your data as you ski. It saves your speed, distance, time, and vertical drop in addition to saving the run and showing it color coded by speed on the map. I think it is pretty cool, but I could be biased from all the time I spent working on it. Anyways, if you happen to like skiing watch the video and check it out in the iTunes Store.

Author: Derek Clark Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

What the Chilean Miners Can Teach Us about Obamacare

October 15th, 2010

The following is a guest post from Robert Goldberg. He is Vice President of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. If you are interested in guest posting at Geek Politics, check out the guidelines here.

Nearly a billion people watched as the 33 Chilean miners were rescued from their accidental prison below the earth. And millions more made their safe escape possible through innovations in medicine, telecommunications and engineering.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger observed, “If those miners had been trapped a half-mile down like this 25 years ago anywhere on earth, they would be dead. What happened over the past 25 years that meant the difference between life and death for those men?”

His answer: market-driven innovation.

Henninger continued: “The Center Rock drill, heretofore not featured on websites like Engadget or Gizmodo, is in fact a piece of tough technology developed by a small company in it for the money, for profit. That’s why they innovated down-the-hole hammer drilling. If they make money, they can do more innovation.

“This profit = innovation dynamic was everywhere at that Chilean mine. The high-strength cable winding around the big wheel atop that simple rig is from Germany. Japan supplied the super-flexible, fiber-optic communications cable that linked the miners to the world above.

“Samsung of South Korea supplied a cellphone that has its own projector. Jeffrey Gabbay, the founder of Cupron Inc. in Richmond, Va., supplied socks made with copper fiber that consumed foot bacteria, and minimized odor and infection.

“Chile’s health minister, Jaime Manalich, said, ‘I never realized that kind of thing actually existed.’”

As Henninger notes: “[W]ithout the year-over-year progress embedded in these capitalist innovations, those trapped miners would be dead.”

But there is another lesson to be learned that is woven in the fabric of this fundamental insight: Both the technologies used to save the miners and the rapid development of a rescue plan were made possible because millions of people around the world exchanged time, money, ideas and inventions to create a solution.

As Matt Ridley writes in his wonderful book The Rational Optimist, the exchange of ideas and things is essential to generating the prosperity and technology that made the rescue possible along with the tax revenues that allow governments to function. Because finding more efficient ways to improve the creation of products and delivery of services in response to human wants and needs has always been the path to improving well-being.

Ultimately, societies thrive when innovation occurs without much interference and where governments are not seeking to centralize and manage the exchange of ideas and resources according to some master plan. The $20 million spent to rescue the miners will generate greater wealth and longer life for thousands and millions of people in the years ahead. The rescue is a model of how people around the planet can solve problems and improve life if left to their own devices.

Absent government interference, the rescue was not only flawless — it took less time than expected. Compare the speed and efficiency of the Chilean operation to, say, the government’s response to the BP oil spill. The administration, abiding regulations and chain of command inured to one way of doing things, requiring a test before introducing a new technology, made matters worse before they got better. Ultimately the Gulf response was organized around the belief that resources are finite and that government must regulate human activities to protect the commons.

The belief that government must control the pace and use of innovation to avoid financial Armageddon explains why Obamacare is organized to redistribute health care spending and limit it according to government-produced rules. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine observed: “The antagonism toward cost-per-QALY comparisons also suggests a bit of magical thinking — the notion that the country can avoid the difficult trade-offs that cost-utility analysis helps to illuminate…. It represents another example of our country’s avoidance of unpleasant truths about our resource constraints.”

In fact, advances in surgical procedure, the introduction of medicines that reduce the need for hospitalization, including drugs for a host of diseases that were once fatal, have made medicine more efficient and valuable. Greater gains in efficiency and value are on the way. We will be able to predict which of us could eventually have disease, preventing them or treating them before they cascade. But such innovations are the disease, according to those in charge of Obamacare: They will drain limited resources and must be regulated.

Isaiah Berlin wrote: “Disregard for the preferences and interests of individuals today in order to pursue some distant social goal that their rules have claimed is their duty to promote has been a common cause of misery for people throughout the ages.”

The rescue of the Chilean miners was the product of leadership encouraging collective intelligence and innovation on a global scale. In America, an elite is using government to consolidate its ability to impose its grand vision about healthcare on the nation. Who will rescue us from this fate?

Author: Derek Clark Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

International Bigotry in The Cove

October 2nd, 2010

The following is a guest post from Maria Rainier. If you are interested in guest posting at Geek Politics, check out the guidelines here.

Recently, I made a deal with a friend of mine that if he read the highlighted sections of my copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, I would watch The Cove. For those of you who haven’t heard the cheerleader-esque rah-rahs from across the globe, The Cove is a multi-award-winning 2009 documentary by former National Geographic photographer Louis Psihoyos and Flipper’s trainer, the now deified Ric O’Barry. Michelle Orange of Movie Line said it best:

How much of this (The Cove) should we believe? As a piece of propaganda, The Cove is brilliant; as a story of ingenuity and triumph over what seems like senseless brutality, it is exceptionally well-told; but as a conscientious overview of a complex and deeply fraught, layered issue, it invokes the same phrase as even the most well-intentioned, impassioned activist docs: Buyer beware.

Mercury vs. Everything Else We Eat

In The Cove, O’Barry demonizes the Japanese government for feeding mercury-ridden dolphin meat to schoolchildren. Let’s clarify: the government does this because the Japanese have been eating whale and dolphin meat for centuries. Why? Because Japan is an island that doesn’t have enough land to domesticate enough cows to feed a nation. So, they get food from the much more bountiful ocean: fish, mussels, shrimp, and yes, cetaceans. That’s up until very recently, however, when whales have been banned and it’s become very unfashionable to do anything with dolphins but stick them in aquariums where they get to float in their own feces. Even America was a huge fan of whaling until it became faux pas. It would be naïve to think that just because WWII is over that the Japanese government still isn’t a little butt-hurt. Being told by a bunch of white guys that something they’ve been doing for years is immoral would probably grind their nerves enough to feed their own people that forbidden meat they believe to be harmless—despite many scientific findings they choose to willfully be ignorant of. Still, willful ignorance is hardly something of which America and the rest of the world is innocent.

Dolphins vs. Cows

Dolphins and whales are animals, like cows and pigs. The only difference is that the latter two have been domesticated for slaughter, which has somehow made it okay to kill them in incalculable rapidity after a whopping two years of being force-fed corn, which as ruminants is like humans eating feathers, and chicken feces, among other waste. Michael Pollan writes at great length about the misery the animals in urban farms, otherwise known as CAFOs, for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Cows are regularly fed a diet that would kill them if they lived a day longer than their slaughter date, which is when they’re two-years old, significantly younger than most whales and dolphins are by their untimely deaths. At least cows are slaughtered somewhat humanely, but their lives can hardly be called humane. Americans lamenting the Japanese inhumanely slaughtering dolphins, therefore, are just pots calling the kettle black.

The things we find in American packaged meat are atrocious—I won’t bother naming them all here because it would take me a novel, but e. coli and cow feces (remember Mad Cow Disease?) are the more memorable items in our McDonalds burgers that we so voraciously consume on a daily basis.

Dolphins vs. Wolves

While we’re talking about immoral slaughter, let’s talk about government-sanctioned gunning down of wolves that were just taken off the endangered species in 2009. Why does this happen? Because farmers in the area are concerned about their livelihoods being at risk because the wolves eat their farm animals. Hmm, this sounds familiar. Oh, yeah, Ric O’Barry says himself that a staple Japanese argument for dolphin slaughter is that they’re considered pests that eat their crop: tuna. So, if the worldwide demand for tuna died down, then there would be no need to slaughter dolphins, right? Funny, O’Barry is too busy dehumanizing the common fishermen of Taiji who depend on fish for their livelihood to even consider the bigger picture of telling audiences to eat less non-sustainable fish species like tuna and Atlantic salmon.

Japan vs. Earth

As O’Barry says, Japan is harming the ecology by taking more than its fair share of what the ocean has to offer, but does O’Barry even once mention that cow farts amount up to more greenhouse gases harming the planet than do cars? Does he ever once tell people to stop eating as much beef so demand goes down and thus supply? Nope. Does he ever once mention the cesspools outside of CAFOs across America from which emerge two-headed toads and other accidents of nature? Does he mention that farmers won’t even use fertilizer from CAFOs because the things they feed cows make them poop toxic waste? Nope.

East vs. West

The biggest problem with The Cove is that it treats the average Japanese citizen—who is unaware of what goes on in Taiji just like most Americans were unaware of the wolf-slaughter until Sarah Palin waltzed into the media in 2008—like suppressed victims of a tyrannical society. The reality is that Ric O’Barry is not a lone force of good versus the evil, dark government of Japan. This infantile, fictional contrast hurts efforts toward the ending of whale and dolphin slaughter by reinforcing Western-supremacist values and feelings. Whaling and dolphin slaughter is an activity that’s responded to global censure and is today a diminishing endeavor conducted by a minority population—it won’t stand up to a well-reasoned and heavily backed movement unfettered by racism, but such a movement cannot be led by sensationalistic propaganda of bleeding hearts and blind-folded patriots.

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online degree programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Author: Derek Clark Categories: Uncategorized Tags: