Monthly Archives: March 2016

Immigrants are Awesome

They provide more than just cheap manual labor and wives for Donald Trump.  A Lot More.

From Mark Perry:

Immigrants have started more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion dollars or more and are key members of management or product development teams in over 70% (62 of 87) of these companies.

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Filed under Financial

Immigrants are Good

From Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism, Refugees and the Economy: Lessons from History.

Current refugee situations as well as more thoroughly studied historical migrations are detailed.  Summary:

Sheltering approximately 2 million Syrians, 25% of Lebanon’s population is now comprised of refugees. Adding insult to injury, the Syrian conflict has also resulted in a sharp decline in tourism, a leading Lebanese industry. Yet in the face of all this turmoil, the World Bank estimates that Lebanon will grow by 2.5% in 2016, the country’s highest growth rates since 2010.

Jordan, the host of almost a million Syrian refugees, is also on the path to growth.
According to the IMF, the Jordanian economy is also estimated to grow by 2.6%. The same is true for Turkey, the host of more than 2 million Syrian refugees. The Deputy Director at the Turkish Central Bank has reported that wages and employment are rising as more refugees enter the country.

Even the European Commission has predicted that the Syrian refugees will bring a net gain equal to a quarter of one percent to the European economy in 2016, as a consequence of government spending (Germany predicts to spend around $20 billion dollars in 2016 on refugees). A quarter of a one percent net economic benefit might not sound like a lot; but at least the Syrian refugees are boosting growth in Europe rather than hindering it as commonly believed. It is a potential indicator that Europe might benefit from accepting even more refugees.


The author is fully aware that objections to accepting more Syrian refugees include national security interests and integration concerns. The purpose of this blog is not to minimize those concerns, but rather to simply isolate and clarify some of the misconceptions about the impact of accepting refugees on economic growth.

This is also true for other types of immigrants, both here and elsewhere.


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Filed under Government

Whipping up fear

So an American mom, Lindy West, published an op-ed piece in the Guardian about gun control and the Florida mom shot by her toddler.  Two quotes caught my eye:

Growing up here myself didn’t prepare me for how distinctly, viscerally frightening it would be to raise children in a gun-obsessed nation. My step-daughters go to school in a borderline-rural suburb, whereas I was educated in central Seattle. They already know of at least one friend-of-a-friend who was killed in a school shooting. Many of their friends’ parents are gun owners. … When we send our kids to friends’ houses for sleepovers, it sometimes feels like a leap of faith.


And I’m supposed to believe that frightened Syrian refugees – or whomever becomes the next rightwing scapegoat du jour – are the real threat to my children? I’m supposed to be afraid of sharks? Heavy metal music? Violent video games? Horse meat in my hamburger patties? Teenagers pouring vodka up their butts?

I’m pretty sure she is letting media manufactured fear, rather than any kind of reason or research, dominate her list of real dangers.

First of all, “already know of at least one…killed in a school shooting”? Really?  Counting both colleges and high schools, there have been less than 20 people (not just students) killed each of the last 2 years, according to Wikipedia (I don’t think they are pro-gun, are they?).

On the other hand, the CDC reports around 110 kids 15-24 killed by alcohol poisoning every year.  So, yeah, vodka up the butt should be scarier.

And these are hardly the big threats.  What are the biggest threats to our teenagers?  Car accidents (2,200)Suicide (1,700).  Homicide is next, followed by cancer.  Surely the homicide number includes gun deaths, as does suicide.  And we should work to reduce all of these numbers.  But hysteria will not help.

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Filed under Politics

Charts and Graphs of the 2016 NCAA Qualifiers

Huge thanks to the estimable Earl Smith of for providing the data on this year’s NCAA qualifiers. Be sure to check out Earl’s podcast, Sudden History, it is a spl…

Source: Charts and Graphs of the 2016 NCAA Qualifiers

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Filed under Uncategorized

Defense Spending

From Ron Paul:

The best way to really “rebuild” the US military would be to stop abusing the military in the first place. The purpose of the US military is to defend the United States. It is not to make the world safe for oil pipelines, or corrupt Gulf monarchies, or NATO, or Israel. Unlike the neocons who are so eager to send our troops to war, I have actually served in the US military. I understand that to keep our military strong we must constrain our foreign policy. We must adopt a policy of non-intervention and a strong defense of this country. The neocons will weaken our country and our military by promoting more war. We need to “rebuild” the military by restoring as its mission the defense of the United States, not of Washington’s overseas empire.

And from David Stockman:

Donald Trump could be the only presidential candidate talking sense about for the American military’s budget. That should scare everyone.

“I’m gonna build a military that’s gonna be much stronger than it is right now,” the real- estate-mogul-turned-tautological-demagogue said on Meet the Press. “It’s gonna be so strong, nobody’s gonna mess with us. But you know what? We can do it for a lot less.”

He’s right.

U.S. military spending is out of control. The Defense Department budget for 2016 is $573 billion. President Barack Obama’s 2017 proposal ups it to $582 billion. By comparison, China spent around $145 billion and Russia around $40 billion in 2015. Moscow would have spent more, but the falling price of oil, sanctions and the ensuing economic crisis stayed its hand.

The much-maligned F-35 will cost at least $1.5 trillion during the 55 years that its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, expects it to be flying. That number is up $500 billion from the original high estimate. But with a long list of problems plaguing the stealth fighter, that price will most likely grow.As Trump has pointed out many times, Washington can build and maintain an amazing military arsenal for a fraction of what it’s paying now. He’s also right about one of the causes of the bloated budget: expensive prestige weapons systems such as the Littoral Combat Ship and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“I hear stories,” Trump said in a speech before the New Hampshire primary, “like they’re ordering missiles they don’t want because of politics, because of special interests, because the company that makes the missiles is a contributor.”

I do not believe that Trump will change anything, or that he will even admit to having said these things if he becomes the nominee.  But it’s nice to hear a candidate say this stuff.


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Filed under Government, Politics

Blockchain for decentralized energy

From New Scientist:

Something odd is happening on President Street in Brooklyn. While solar panels on the roofs of terraced houses soak up sun, a pair of computers connected to the panels quietly crunch numbers. First, they count how many electrons are being generated. Then, they write that number to a blockchain. Welcome to the future of energy exchange.

This project, run by a startup called Transactive Grid, is the first version of a new kind of energy market, operated by consumers, which will change the way we generate and consume electricity.

Transactive Grid aims to enable people to buy and sell renewable energy to their neighbours. To deal in energy at the moment, you have to go through a central company like Duke Energy in the US or National Grid in the UK, or one of their resellers.

Transactive can skip this central authority because its energy market is built on a technology called blockchain. First used to underpin the bitcoin currency, a blockchain is a cryptographically secure list of transactions. The list is stored on every computer in the system, and is continuously updated as each transaction is completed. The list for President Street is built using blockchain software called Ethereum. It deals with buying and selling electrons generated by solar panels. No central authority is in control: the computers monitor each other to stop fraud.

Buy and sell

The first devices were installed on President Street a few weeks ago. On one side of the street are five homes that produce some of their own energy through solar power. On the other side are five consumers interested in buying excess energy from their neighbours.

Lawrence Orsini, co-founder of Transactive explains that the blockchain makes it easy for anyone to set up and enforce contracts, with the transaction following automatically.

“You don’t have the billing components around it, you don’t have the infrastructure losses or the accounting losses in the system,” he says. Down the line, the company plans to build an app which lets residents set personal preferences for the distribution of the energy they produce. One homeowner might decide to sell all their excess energy for maximum profit, for example, while another could choose to donate a portion to a low-income area.

This is the first example I have seen of use of blockchain that I would be willing to try out.   Call me old fashioned, but I am having a hard time buying Bitcoin.  I just can’t put my hands on it and I’m not sure I can really count on its security or availability.  Call me old fashioned.

But then they say this:

Community benefits

Either way, the energy and the money goes to benefit the community, says Orsini, not the large centralised power company. “When you buy energy from the community, the money goes back to the community.”

“Every kilowatt you buy, you pay for network. If you can cut out the middle man and do the trade directly, you don’t have to pay for the wires,” says Philipp Grunewald of the University of Oxford.

I don’t get it.  What wires are transmitting the electricity back and forth across President Street?  The article talks about a localized microgrid.  So did they put in new wires?  How does that get paid for?  I think the utilities will still need to be included in these transactions somehow, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  Do we really want to eliminate the entire electricity network?

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Filed under Miscellaneous

Gut bacteria vs. Anxiety

From Dr. Don Colbert:

Study: Eating Fermented Foods May Decrease Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety Disorder

Within the study, individuals with the greatest risk of developing social anxiety disorder seemed to benefit the most. Psychologists have always looked to the brain in trying to find the answers for improved mental health. Now, a new door opens in researching the gut as it relates to mental health.

Environment of the Gut

Psychiatry Research recently published details about this specific study. The researchers feel the environment of the gut is very important to the overall health of the individuals. Amazingly, as the gut health is improved positive benefits are gained in mental health, including lessened nervousness.

Approximately 700 students participated in this one study. Mass testing was administered to include recording the types of food eaten over the course of thirty days, exercise endured, consumption of fruits and veggies, and so forth. Trends were examined thoroughly.


The Strongest Relationship

Students with the highest degree of neuroticism held the strongest relationship (eating fermented foods provided the highest positive outcomes). Neuroticism is a long-term tendency for an individual to hold a negative mental state. Secondly, the students who exercised more also gained an increase in lessened nervousness.

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Filed under Health