14 January 2016

On not winning the lottery

I regret to announce that I did not win the lottery. I am firmly convinced that I would make an awesome eccentric millionaire. To give an example, one idea I had was that I would set up a foundation called (say) Our Alien Overlords, and sponsor PBS shows and museum exhibits. Imagine how awesome it would be to hear “This episode of NOVA was sponsored by Our Alien Overlords”, or to be at a museum and read “This Exhibit Was Funded by A Donation From Our Alien Overlords”. ... Read more

1 January 2016

Catastrophic catastrophic flood insurance

I’ve often written about situations where free markets don’t work. This time, for a change, I’m writing about a situation where government caused disasters by interfering with a free market. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy struck the Gulf Coast, causing massive damage. At the time, no companies offered flood insurance. So in 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is managed by FEMA. Although flood data allowed some commercial insurers to start offering flood insurance over the following decades, there was a problem: NFIP insurance was really affordable. ... Read more

24 December 2015

A warm and sunny Christmas to all

It’s Christmas Eve, and it’s a balmy 21°C in New York City. People are out strolling around in T-shirts. In the UK, spring daffodils are in bloom. It’s 11°C in Toronto. 2015 is the warmest year in recorded history, even hotter than the second hottest year in recorded history — which was 2014. Of course, that’s just weather, not climate. When you average over the entire globe, for the entire year, things don’t seem so crazy. ... Read more

23 December 2015

Book review: “Galápagos”, Kurt Vonnegut

I hate to give a Kurt Vonnegut novel two stars, but I seriously considered giving up on this one. Douglas Adams was a big fan of Vonnegut, and here the favor is returned as Vonnegut attempts to write an entire novel in the style of Douglas Adams — or at least, a mutant crossbreed of Vonnegut and Adams. The Hitchhiker’s Guide is replaced by the Mandarax pocket computer; the omniscient narrator point of view is provided by a ghost; and characters’ deaths are signaled in advance in the manner of the Magrathea attacks. ... Read more

23 December 2015

Gitmo is over (if you want it)

For years, people have been buying the excuse that Obama can’t close Gitmo because “Congress won’t let him”. I’ve been arguing that no, Obama could close Gitmo any time he liked if he really wanted to. Sure, Congress can refuse to allow funds to be allocated for special shutdown procedures and ferrying people by aircraft. They can pass laws prohibiting relocation of detainees to the US. But the President of the USA is the head of the nation’s armed forces. ... Read more

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