Monday, January 23, 2012

Buying Out Slavery

Here's an interesting, and serious, response to yet another one of Ron Paul's wacky beliefs, the idea that the Civil War could have been avoided if only the United States government had agreed to compensate the Southern slaveowners for their "property." It's the kind of idea that appeals to libertarians: a simple, prima facie solution that completely ignores the human realities of a problem and immediately falls apart if you start to really think about it. In this case, Paul's idea is predicated on the idea that the only thing that the planters cared about was money. As Coates points out, the whole fabric of Southern life and identity was built around the institution of slavery. Worse, emancipation would have left the white population of several Southern states as minorities surrounded by a sea of newly freed blacks.

Now we know that Southern whites can, in fact, survive surrounded by a sea of free blacks. We know that because we have it now. But there is no way that you could have persuaded the white Southerners of 1860 that they would be alright. You would have had to fight a war with them in order to get them to accept the slave buyout. And there you go.

Crowd-Sourcing American History - Ta-Nehisi Coates - National - The Atlantic

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Human-Powered Light Show

I've always been a sucker for muscle-generated electricity, ever since I read Songs from the Stars by Norman Spinrad as a teenager. A British artist, Bruce Munro, now gives us a clever use of electro-pedaling in a new participant-powered mobile.

I've often wondered what would be involved for a gym to use its various machines for generating some of the power to run the gym. To rework the old joke, how many people on treadmills does it take to run a light bulb?

Via Treehugger: Museum's Geodesic Dome Houses Human-Powered Light Show (Video) : TreeHugger

Friday, January 13, 2012

PG&E diverted safety money for profit, bonuses

Would it be okay now to talk about having the State of California just take over PG&E. Can we start talking about this in public?

PG&E diverted safety money for profit, bonuses

(Story courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Economics of SOPA and PIPA

Here is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's take on the economics of SOPA and PIPA. I don't see anything to disagree with.