Standard and Poor's

Here’s a quote from a Managing Director at Standard Poor’s, explaining how their years of data on mortgage borrowers could be used to predict the behavior of new types of mortgages (such as those which don’t require proof of a job): We were able through our analytical process to develop assumptions about what the future would be like for these borrowers. [TAL] Normally it would be hard to take data from one situation and apply it to another, so it’s a good thing they had an analytical process.

Externalities

I got The Age of Turbulence for Christmas. Very interesting so far, especially to read with hindsight given recent history. This passage is fascinating: ”…According to objectivist precepts, taxation was immoral because it allowed for government appropriation of private property by force. Yet if taxation was wrong, how could you reliably finance the essential functions of government, including the protection of individuals’ rights through police power? The Randian answer, that those who rationally saw the need for government would contribute voluntarily, was inadequate.

Public domain

I found a rather spectacular article on copyright while reading about the Copyright Term Extension Act: Scott M. Martin, “The Mythology of the Public Domain: Exploring the Myths Behind Attacks on the Duration of Copyright Protection”, Sep 24, 2002. There’s no shortage of absurdity, but here’s one of the highlights: Copyright Encourages, While the Public Domain Discourages, Progress in the Arts At the risk of speaking words of heresy, it is copyright protection that encourages innovation and creativity, while the public domain discourages both innovation and creativity.

Hydrogen to electricity?

Here’s a good candidate for the silliest energy idea I’ve heard in a while: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/reinventing_the_car.html Larry Burns, the vice president for R&D; at GM, notes that 4% of cars equal the power generation ability of the entire current electric grid, and dreams of a future where fuel cell vehicles are used to generate electricity while parked. This is great because hydrogen can come from a wide variety of sources, so as long as each community has their own tailor-made method for generating it, we can use the cars to cheaply generate electricity.