November 3, 2009

Biggest stimulus success – more government jobs

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, Education, Government, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 13:49

Veronique de Rugy looks at the most recent claims of the number of jobs created or saved by Obama’s stimulus, and finds that most of the new jobs are in the public sector. The cost to “create” these jobs is eye-watering, too:

The White House claims that 640,329 were created or saved. That, by the way, is way less than what Christina Romer claimed would be created. Last week, she mentioned 1.4 million during a Joint Committee hearing. Remember.

First, $159 billion has been spent so far. That’s $248,273 per job.

However, when you look at some specific contracts that were awarded you find that some jobs were created or saved at an insane cost to taxpayers. For instance, $1,359,633,501 were awarded to CH2M WG IDAHO LLC, in WA to create 2,183 jobs. That’s $622,827 per job. That’s not as bad though as the $258,646,800 awarded to the Brookhaven Science Associates, LLC in NY, to create 25 jobs. That’s over $10.3 million per job.

I would be happy with one of these jobs.

Second, while the administration is promising good and in time reporting, we can see that it’s far from being the case. Agencies report having spent $207.3 Billion and yet only $36,688,660,161 were reported by states. That’s a big gap, isn’t it?

Third, some 85 percent of the money went to 4 agencies: HHS, Labor, Education and Social Security. That money wasn’t spent on shovel ready projects. For instance, some of the HHS funds went to some rural high school and college students from Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee to conduct medical research this summer with a team of leading scientists at Vanderbilt University. The Department of Labor spent $11,058,877 in unemployment insurance (UI) modernization incentive funds to the state of West Virginia. And the Department of Education is mainly spending its money to keep union protected school teachers in their jobs. Not really shovel ready projects, are they?

When they say “Don’t touch anything”, they mean it

Filed under: Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:11

This man didn’t pay attention, and took a more exciting ride than he expected:

It probably is best not to fiddle with switches or controls when riding in the back seat of an air force plane.

A man who failed to obey that principle found himself hurtling out of the cockpit, smashing through the Perspex canopy and into space after grabbing the black- and yellow-striped handle between his legs. He had inadvertently pulled the eject lever and found himself blasted 100 metres into the sky on his rocket-powered seat.

The South African air force has confirmed the incident that took place last Wednesday, when the passenger took off for a flight with an experienced pilot from South Africa’s Silver Falcons air display team. Investigators are assuming that the passenger tried to steady himself while the pilot was putting the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II through its paces by grabbing the eject lever.

The passenger survived, with only minor injuries. That’s more than a little surprising:

“We train for this and if you don’t get it right, and are not in the correct ejection posture, you can sustain severe spinal cord injuries or even worse.”

H/T to Jeff Scarbrough for the link.

“Like Soylent Green, medicine is made of people”

Filed under: Health, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:04

Colby Cosh on the paradoxical nature of the public’s view of medicine:

We’re conditioned to think of “medicine” as a single, coherent planned enterprise, if not a conspiracy, and we often fear and despise it — until we decide we need it. At which point it cannot possibly move fast enough to please us. Like the state or the church, medicine is an impersonal abstraction, but one that seems to have common priorities and intentions, significant powers and one voice. Rationalists and believers in progress invoke it; nutcases and conspiracists resist it.

In a way, both are paying tribute to a fiction, much like Christians and Satanists. In real life, there is no pope or president of medicine, no temple where it can be consulted, no medical mandate of heaven. The emerging vaccine debacle, though mercifully likely to have fairly limited public-health consequences, reveals the terrible truth. Like Soylent Green, medicine is made of people. Not just doctors, but administrators, industrialists, economists and politicians — none of them angels, and none with an angel’s ability to predict mass behaviour, perceive and weigh risk, or foresee the judgment of future history.

[. . .]

People have always been prone to weird beliefs, but now there is a medium that compounds those beliefs, allows them to coalesce into a historical counter-narrative and unites their holders like never before. For the first time, there are people who seem not just weird, but positively, thoroughgoingly “weird-ist.” Try spelunking amidst the Internet detritus of the anti-vaccine movement. There is no philosophical reason that strange beliefs about vaccination should correlate with fringe beliefs about UFOs, reptilian elites, 9/11 “truth,” JFK, the world ending in 2012 you name it. Yet the correlation is real, and not hard to confirm.

Being “a bit boring” is part of his shtick

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:54

Colby Cosh looks at “Frygate”:

I realize I’m late to the party, but I didn’t find out until today that the remark which made Stephen Fry melt down was that his tweets were “a bit boring.” Really? Look, we all adore Stephen Fry, especially those of us who are ungainly, neurotic, and a little old-fashioned, so I hope someone will explain to him gently that he is a bit boring — not only his tweets, but just all-around. QI wouldn’t have a premise in the first place if it weren’t somewhat difficult to be interesting; Kingdom was served with rather overgenerous lashings of scenery and mopeyness; and Fry’s impeccable gadget reviews, considered strictly as entertainment, would try the patience of anyone who doesn’t add up the grocery bill in hexadecimal. Being just a little boring — presenting the perpetual risk that he might go on just a little too long about number theory or the battle of Stamford Bridge — is essential to the unostentatious delightfulness of Stephen Fry, just as a soupçon of boringness is essential to the charm of a warm woollen sweater or a newspaper comic strip. (OK, bad example. No newspaper comic strips now being printed possess any charm at all.) Nobody needs Stephen Fry to be a source of unpredictability or chaos. I would argue that any institution whose merits are obvious and whose utility is uncompromised is, by definition, a bit boring. Volvos? Boring! Vin Scully? A little boring at times! Oatmeal cookies? Lovely, if they’re the sort of thing you’re into, but they don’t exactly send anybody’s pulse racing, do they?

Desperately seeking . . . combat?

Filed under: Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:46

Strategy Page reports on a morale issue that will seem to come from another planet to many civilians — troops looking forward to combat:

Many young American infantry soldiers stationed in Iraq are disappointed at the lack of combat. These guys are in for four years, and they hoped to get a little action, as in some once-in-a-lifetime combat. The troops know the odds of getting killed or mutilated are low (at least compared to previous wars, the casualty rate in Iraq is about a third of what it was in Vietnam), so there’s not a great deal of fear about “not coming back.” The upside is appealing, with the prospect of exciting stories to last a lifetime, and maybe a few decorations to confirm it all.

Most eagerly sought is the CIB (Combat Infantry Badge), a large device worn above the ribbons on your uniform jacket, and a sign to everyone else that you’ve seen the elephant (been in combat with the infantry). But in another typical reaction, the NCOs who have been in combat, are not eager to get back. The risks are real, and all that violence is hard on the nerves.

That report will stick in the craw of peace campaigners who often try to portray soldiers as little better than armed boy scouts or economic victims of desperate upbringing with no real desire to fight.

Obscure band discovers controversy is cheapest advertising

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:37

The Guardian reports on the umpteen-thousandth demonstration that controversial material gets more column inches than good music:

San Francisco band Girls have made sure their music video won’t be played on MTV — by filling it with “gay porn”. That’s how they describe the “Hardcore XXX Edit” of their Lust for Life video, which features phallus-flaunting footage that is itself a toned-down version of the original idea they sent to their label.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the group’s new video is not safe for work, children or anybody with a delicate disposition. Over the song’s joyous shuffle, there are nude girls in bathtubs, men putting on lipstick and, er, singing into penises. Certainly it won’t be showing on MTV any time soon, but according to guitarist Chet “JR” White, the Hardcore XXX Edit is “not even the [real] hardcore XXX version”. “It got cut,” he told Pedestrian.tv. “I’m kind of upset [the original] didn’t get put out, actually.”

“There’s a gay porn version we were really pushing for that was incredible, like nothing else. But at the same time, it’s really beautiful — about two people who love each other. We’re from San Francisco, so it’s not a surprise to us.”

The only difference with this manufactured “controversy” is that they’re not even trying to pretend that it’s anything other than a publicity grab. In a way, that’s kind of refreshing.

Challenge to human gene patents allowed to proceed

Filed under: Law, Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:25

A judge has allowed an ACLU challenge to two human gene patents to go to court:

The first-of-its-kind lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law claims that the patents violate free speech by restricting research.

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet of New York, in ruling that the case may proceed to trial, noted that the litigation might open the door to challenges of a host of other patented genes. About one-fifth of the human genome is covered under patent applications and claims.

Sweet wrote:

The challenges to the patents-in-suit raise questions of difficult legal dimensions concerning constitutional protections over the information that serves as our genetic identities and the need to adopt policies that promote scientific innovation and biomedical research. The widespread use of gene sequence information as the foundation for biomedical research means that resolution of these issues will have far-reaching implications, not only for gene-based health care and the health of millions of women facing the specter of breast cancer, but also for the future course of biomedical research.

The case against the patent office and patent-holder Myriad Genetics of Salt Lake City is the first to challenge a patented gene under a civil rights allegation — in this case the First Amendment.

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