28 Feb 2012

Anything but water

  1. Years ago, I heard that most of California's redwoods were cut down after WWII. Here's the picture (from this booklet [PDF])

  2. One of my all-time favorite papers: "can race be erased?" Yes. The key is to concentrate on humans' propensity to divide people into "in-group" and "out-group" teams.

  3. Read this essay on the Knowledge Problem, i.e., "the complexity knowledge problem (coordination in the face of diffuse private knowledge) and the contextual knowledge problem (some knowledge relevant to such coordination does not exist outside of the market context)"

  4. Serious WTF: "REASONABLE PROFIT.—The term ‘reasonable profit’ means the amount determined by the Reasonable Profits Board to be a reasonable profit on the sale..." and the US government plans to take it from oil companies. Stupid.

  5. Lulz from the Economist: "the lawyers also learn from the computers (presumably such things as empathy and the difference between right and wrong)." The article discusses the software used to detect fraud.
H/Ts to SF and DJ


wintercow20 said...

Hi David, I think the first link is broken, I'd love to check it out.


Mr. Kurtz said...

The "reasonable profit" act should be amended to make cancer illegal, and to help little Timmy's lost puppy find its way home. God, what imbeciles.
What consumers see are retail gas and fuel oil prices. Refining and distributing are low margin business, akin to grocery stores. All of the majors are divesting themselves of these as quickly as they can. Their big (windfall!?) profits come from exploration and development. Something tells me that if the oil companies were bad at that, oil prices would be much much higher. But then, I'm not an expert.

David Zetland said...

@wintercow -- fixed. Sorry for blogger's incompetence! :)

DW said...

There is a precedent for this proposed new reasonable profits board. Back in 1980, Congress passed the Petroleum (price) Violations Escrow Act, when it caught big oil companies mispricing oil, back when they thought the world was about to run out of oil and natural gas. Google PVEA and see what you get. I helped write a section of the bill that created the federal Low income Home Energy Assistance Program, which took a tiny bit of that money and used it to help low income families weatherize their houses and pay their energy bills. This was back in a period when the price of oil had gone up over $400 a barrel.

DW said...

I suspect no 1 is true because before the war California's growth was better managed. After the war, all the ex-service men and women who has transited out into the Pacific via California cities decided to stay here and the additional demand created a home construction building boom that ate up much of the redwoods
and any other lumber available.

Arne said...

RE Redwood:
The volume harvested after 1940 is not completely explainable as 'post war housing'. Redwood is a minor part of the conifer timber produced in California. It's also a small part of a typical house, since it is not a structural product, is used for decks and siding. By 1980, all parks were staked out (w insig exceptions), thus all redwood produced since then has been on a sustainable basis. Sure, markets come and go, but you truly can't cut more than you can grow. Whether small landowner or corporation this is not your "Father's Oldsmobile". The forests are fine, the fish are fine, The streams are cool and clean.

Mr. Kurtz said...

DW, from what little I could see, that sounds like some sort of antitrust action, based on market manipulation of refined product prices. Doubtless there may be places right now where sellers are violating antitrust laws, and they should be fined and/or jailed if they are. But overall, the refining, selling and distributing of refined petroleum products in the US is a low margin, shrinking business. The "windfall" profits that have our solons in such a lather are from finding oil and bringing it to a world market over which the majors have no control. I don't see why they should be punished for that. The profit margin for an artist with a big hip-hop song is much, much greater, and I don't see anybody grousing about that.

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