Random Thoughts: February 8 2012

1.   The Republican assault on science is really a confirmation that we have hit the limits to growth prophesied 40 years ago by the authors of “Limits to Growth.”  Why else would they abandon all interest in truth for the sake of continued greed, pollution, and destruction? It must be that they know it has to end or else….So rather than take the “else” they just dismiss science. It is denial at its most tangible.  Republicans have developed a willful ignorance and, where necessary, a flat out willingness to lie about scientific truth.  The world is getting hotter.  We are causing it.  We have reached peak oil.  Prices go nowhere but up from here. Even in a depression.  In the words of Richard Heinberg, “the party is over.”  And Republicans want to keep you from learning about that fact.

To wit.  The Wall Street Journal – the defacto newspaper of the Republicans – recently published an op-ed entitled No Need to Panic About Global Warming.  The article was signed by 16 “scientists”, who turned out to be fossil fuel-sponsored shills who didn’t disclose the fact in the article.  Here’s the thesis:  “there’s ‘no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy’. From the article: ‘The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. Faced with this embarrassment, those promoting alarm have shifted their drumbeat from warming to weather extremes, to enable anything unusual that happens in our chaotic climate to be ascribed to CO2. The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere’s life cycle.'”

Yep, they said that. So don’t worry.  We can pollute all we want in an effort to keep the greed machine cranking out money for the rich.

Now, this piece has been thoroughly debunked as an “amateurish collection of falsehoods and half truths”.  The issue is of course that these people are just making shit up in an effort to deny reality.  That says more to me about the real physical limits we are facing than anything else.

See #3 below for more fun from the WSJ.

2.  There are some funny numbers over at the Lexington Venture Club.  We get a breathless tout from Commerce Lexington about the “groovy success” of the start-up community!  But the numbers don’t really add up.

For example, in 2011, the club claims to have given out nearly $70 million dollars to local companies. For that, we have an employment of 605 full time workers, and 175 part time.  Now, it is not clear if they mean that these are new jobs or if they are simply the number of people employed at the firms.  If these are new jobs, then for every new full time hob created, the club spent $90,065 and for every part time job they spent $87,822.

If these are not new, but rather existing jobs, then we need to see how much spending nearly $70million will increase employment year over year.  In 2010, the Club reported 537 full time jobs in these firms and 211 part time.  That’s an increase of 68 full time jobs and a loss of 36 part time jobs.   So, if you spend $70million you get that?

Lets look at this over time.  In 2005, the Venture Club reports that 176 full time jobs and 109 part time jobs existed in companies that received venture funding.  In the intervening six years the club has invested a total of $343,209,452 and has added a total of 429 new full time jobs and 66 part time jobs.  I’m not real good at math, but something seems really out of whack.

This whole shtick that small business and entrepreneurs are going to “innovate” their way to job creation appears to be a myth.  The reality says that huge investments are not translating into a large number of jobs.  They may be great investments for investors and the workers, but they are not transforming our city.

Where does this investment come from?  Of the $69,858,852 invested, 25% comes from government sources.  So THIS is the kind of government spending the righteous can get behind?  Not much of a return if I say so myself.

Then you’ve got the whole “this is good for the city” angle – it adds tax revenues to the coffers through the payroll tax!  These jobs are touted as having an average wage of over $65,000.  Well, at the city’s current payroll tax rate of 2.25%, then the 605 full time jobs at the firms paid $889,812 in taxes to the city last year.  Sounds like a lot, but in a budget of approximately $274,000,000, it amounts to 0.32% of the budget.  A pittance.

Then we get nonsense such as UK Prez Caputo saying that entrepreneurs are “the future of our city and our country.”  Yeah, at the rate of 279 jobs (1/2 part time) and $70 million in investment per year,  how long will it take and how much will it cost to put the 19,318 unemployed people in Lexington back to work?

So, $343,000,000 has been invested – $85 million of that government money – creating a handful of jobs and adding nothing to the city.  Why would anyone but successful investors celebrate this number?

3.        Does anything exceed a Republican’s capacity for seeing themselves as victims? A recent article in the Wall Street Journal “What Pepsi can learn from McDonalds” describes how Pepsi has lost its way trying to offer more healthy alternatives.  Look the McDonald’s, the author says, where they pretend to offer healthier alternatives, but really they are selling the same old shit and making huge profits from it. Here’s the crux:  “Here’s what McDonald’s has come to understand that Pepsi hasn’t. McDonald’s spends $2 billion a year on advertising and brand-building. To build a brand is to create a hostage, and a full-time activist industry has evolved to expropriate a small sliver of this value to promote its own causes.”  So the promotion of the crap McDonalds does only enables the leeches who want people to eat better. McDonalds could be a hostage to them.   Ah but McDonalds doesn’t really care, because they ignore the critics and only changes what they do when consumers demand it.  “McDonald’s has learned not to panic about this. In May, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and two other groups ran full-page ads demanding the company retire its mascot clown, Ronald McDonald. The ads generated probably millions of dollars in free publicity for the activist groups in various media. Ronald is going nowhere.” 

And this:  People don’t get fat because of Pepsi and McDonalds, but rather “Let’s also admit that neither McDonalds nor Pepsi is responsible for our inbuilt Pleistocene craving for fat or the disappearance of exercise from American lifestyles, if these are in fact the reason for the rise in obesity. The science itself remains muddy: A problem with insulin regulation increasingly seems a more precise explanation of the obesity trend.” 

Seriously.  Read that again.  And then read point number one of this essay.

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