QuickReaction, Saturday-5

Remarkable achievement! Scientists have managed to directly image and obtain spectra from an exoplanet system – not just one planet but four! It requires incredible feats of modifying astronomical instruments and thus provides the first clues of the chemical composition of some exoplanets. Just Amazing! And perhaps a first that will be followed my addition attempts where someday we may sniff out molecules with an unmistakable signature of life. I’ll probably never live to hear about it and I bet young people alive today will.

We should have cheaper sugar! The logic behind a carbon tax (or various consumption taxes) is that higher prices, as the tax is passed through to consumers, will reduce demand. In the case of carbon a high tax there would penalize gas guzzlers. Of course this is supported by most lefties. OTOH, lefties also believe sugar is evil and should be entirely banned or at least curtailed (not a totally bad idea, certainly reasonable moves to get the public to consume more wisely make sense). So, of course, it’s strange then to be complaining about the collusion in sugar markets that keeps the price of sugar high, mostly by reducing domestic production and severely limiting imports. Yes, this means some growers get rich, but it means sugar is relatively more expensive than it would be without these market price supports. Of course, I’d rather see a tax since we’ve proven the taxes on cigarettes worked reasonably well and the taxes could go pay for things, like health care associated with (notice I say associated, not ‘caused’) by high sugar consumption. So the left hand doesn’t know what the other left hand is doing.

Let gas taxes go way up! This anti-tax mentality has to give way to reason. Roads and bridges are falling apart and obviously the federal government can’t fix all of it through stimulus packages when the Repugs are pounding the austerity drum. So states have to step up to the plate. Sure drivers hate it but the increase in gasoline taxes is minor compared to what Goldman Sachs has done to artificially inflate crude oil prices and thus gasoline prices. So why should Goldman make obscene profits and states economize on road maintenance just to shave a few pennies off each gallon. Maybe if states raise their taxes to index with inflation then the public will realize who the real villain is, the Wall Street speculators (even the oil companies are less evil than Wall Street). And it’s time to put pressure on fuel economy. The American public is in denial, believing we can drive gas guzzlers forever. It’s time to start the transition. Even with the fake prices caused by Goldman gasoline is still too cheap, cheaper than its real economic cost (those things called externalities don’t get included). Let’s end all the stupid subsidies to the oil companies and that will raise the prices a little and then get some regulation on the commodities market for fake oil contracts. Straighten out the market price and end all the distortions, then let the states collect enough money to do maintenance. Gasoline probably levels out around $5/gallon at that point and then drivers can start changing their ways. The U.S. just keeps going on like there is no tomorrow: too much driving, too low mileage. Just like the obesity thing we need to go on a fitness kick with our cars too.

Hurrah, nones increasing: Various articles have been written on the survey showing that people in the U.S. are now more likely than ever to report “none” as their religious affiliation. As the more detailed data indicates this is less a movement to one less god than it is merely being fed up with organized religion. And it is generally imputed that there are two reasons for that: a) religion is on the wrong side of equality, both for women and for LGBT; religion is now too interventionist in people’s bedrooms, and, 2) religion is now just an extension of the Repug party and thus forced to also go along with the anti-science agenda of the special interests, i.e. the AGW denialists, anti-health care, and for the rich, so anyone who fits under the mantel of other areas of reason and reasonability has to now see that religion is just a political lobbying group. Religion may regret tying itself to Repug politics, esp. as Repugs seem destined to not reform themselves and double-down on their people-hating agenda and thus gradually reduce their national influence. I think we can reasonably expect the nones to grow as Repugs + religion, a unified force, become more and more radical in their march back to patriarchy and regimentation.

JPMorgan are idiots, as well as assholes: It’s just amazing, yet another investigation, yet another chunk of evidence how stupid the idiots at the top of Wall Street are. Good old Jamie Damon, supposedly the smart one on Wall Street, shows what greed does. He enabled and covered up stupid losses and stupid trades, then tried to skip town when the music stopped. These guys are not only drug dealers, they’re druggies – they use their own product. They are beyond greed and into stupidity. When will someone have the guts to shut this absolutely insane waste of money, this distortion of the real economy, down. I doubt anyone will do it, not inside the system, and not outside. We’re doomed since we decide to let greed be the dominant influence in the economy, which is in turn the root of our existence. We’ve proven, over and over again, we’re an evolutionary mistake – how long until we’re finally pushed into extinction by our own stupidity.

JPMorgan and Jamie Dimon are scum: Back when the London whale losses were occurring and Jamie Dimon was claiming nothing was wrong I was writing that JPMorgan was lying and covering up. Now an investigation has proven that. But so what? Congress won’t don anything. Geithner won’t do anything. Obama won’t do anything. The Repugs will spin this and try to justify it. So everyone will collect their bonuses and be laughing all the way to the bank that us rubes let them get away with this. This is robbery, but we do nothing. And Eric Holder can’t find anything to prosecute. The crooks are running the world because they think no one is looking, no one cares, and/or that 47% will cover up for them. And this, it gets even worse, it goes to the top, it is totally corrupt. Where are the regulators? Where is Congress? Jamie Dimon is a crook? And this, as more detail of how crooked they are, but I still can’t find the Senate Report which is bound to be even more scathing. Wow, I way under-estimated how crooked they were and I was pretty negative, but Wall Street continues to amaze how bad they can be with that stupid bonus system, designed to make rotten human trash cheat even more.

As usual Matt Taibbi can explain it: Matt does an amazing job of both following all the details of financial scandals and then explaining them (if you want to take the time to read his explanation). Bottomline JPMorgan lied, at the scale of Enron, or AIG, or even Madoff and got away with it. They used taxpayer money to make huge bets, meanwhile deceiving government regulators who were asleep at the switch when they did know something. IOW, the 2008 crash all over again. Nothing changed except this time it was just JPMorgan and they only lost enough the Fed and Treasury can easily bail them out. When, oh when, are we going to wake up and realize the compensation model, these insane bonuses on the upside, no penalties on the downside are the source of all this trouble. And how have investors reacted to the stupidity at JPMorgan – well, the stock recovered from the shock and is at record levels. So as long as the government stands behind Too Big To Fail the rest of the market pigs are going to line up at the public trough as well. Meanwhile at CPAC they talk about the meager amounts “poor” people are dependent on the government, the shame!

Something this trivial is worth $100 million! Yikes, Dropbox must have rocks in their head to blow $100M buying such a trivial App. It used to be that a standard for any new startup was that it had to have defensible advantage, either some IP protection or a product so complicated it would take more than two days to reverse engineer. So Mailbox has a few minor enhancements to standard mail clients and they believe that is a company, that would actually be worth something and last more than a few years. In my last job, my company bought a startup that found a weakness in Microsoft’s email and invented, a fairly complex product, to fill the hole. It was a big hit, for a few years. Of course people complained to Microsoft why do I have to buy another product to plug up a hole in Exchange. So, of course, in the next version, Microsoft copied all the features and with their army of programmers and vast resources now turned an addon product into a standard and free Microsoft feature. Poof, like that business dried up. And of course the company, now a division of larger company, is a one-trick pony so it had no follow-on hits. So after paying a premium to buy these guys a couple of years later they’re being laid off. Dropbox is paying about $10M a piece to hire so novice programmers who have built a trivial product that will easily be copied. Smart move there, Dropbox. Of course Dropbox itself can easily be copied, and in fact, has by Microsoft. Microsoft is looking pretty feeble these days, but OTOH, they need a hit somewhere so maybe they’ll push SkyDrive hard enough that Dropbox (and its existing clones) will fall by the wayside. This is “high” tech?

This guy takes down Bittman too and he has some chops to do so. Bittman just irritated me, so sure of something with no proof, so simplistic and binary in his view instead of, as this article says: “the connection between both obesity and sugar and diabetes is complex, idiosyncratic, fraught with genetic and epigenetic connections”. But Bittman doesn’t need pesky facts, he’s a foodie with NYT and has written cookbooks and appeared on TV so he can just thunder on, right or wrong. He does no good by his false claims that just get torn down and then whatever validity there is is shot. People like Sarah Palin can make scientists look fools because they make these bone-headed mistakes, just feeding the rightwingnuts the ammunition they need to shoot us all.


About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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