Tag: politics

Isreali/Palestinian Conflicts on Second Life

The biggest news over the last week has been Israel’s bombing and subsequent invasion of Gaza to try to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel.

Israel’s response has led to outcry from countries sympathetic to the Palestinians’ plight and local protests in the Arab world, London and Florida, among other places.
Now, these same protests have made their way to Second Life.  For those who don’t know, Second Life “is a free 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using voice and text chat.”  Users create avatars and can live a complete “second life” online, complete with land ownership, jobs and virtual currency.
A blogger from New World News, a Second Life blog, recently interviewed the creator of Second Life Israel to see what all of the commotion was about.  He found that:

“Lots of people yelling,” Beth Odets, the creator of Second Life Israel, tells me. “They were going on and on with slurring obscenities about murderous Israeli forces, etc.” She gives me a screenshot taken during the incursion, festooned with anti-war or pro-Palestinian signs, some depicting dead Arab children.

She ended up closing SL Israel to all outsides for a few days so that things could calm down.  Later, she reopened it and while there has still been some protesting, many people are talking about their experiences on both sides of the conflict.  This positive dialogue may someday lead to more understanding between the two sides.
Hopefully, this virtual dialogue will be a tiny step toward creating understanding and empathy between both sides of the conflict so that a solution can happen.

Is 30 Minutes of your Time Worth $5.95?

In “Why You’ll Love Paying for Roads that Used to be Free,” Eric A. Morris delivers a compelling arguement for setting up variable toll rates for public highways that are currently free to reduce congesting.

It’s a really hard sell to politicians and citizens alike, but he argues:

Variable tolling is an excellent public policy. Here’s why: the basic economic theory is that when you give out something valuable — in this case, road space — for less than its true value, shortages result.

Ultimately, there’s no free lunch; instead of paying with money, you pay with the effort and time needed to acquire the good. Think of Soviet shoppers spending their lives in endless queues to purchase artificially low-priced but exceedingly scarce goods. Then think of Americans who can fulfill nearly any consumerist fantasy quickly but at a monetary cost. Free but congested roads have left us shivering on the streets of Moscow.

In a study done in Seattle, the highest anyone ever paid for a toll was $5.95.   The time saved by using the toll was 27 minutes.  Depending on where I had to go, I would make my decision on whether or not to pay the toll.

This article is similar to the book Traffic, by Tom Vanderbilt, which is next on my reading list after Gladwell’s new book, Outliers, which I am almost done with.

How Much Does it Cost?

Citizens for Responsible Government, a citizens’ action group based in Milwaukee, recently generated a searchable database for all of the expenses from the Milwaukee Public Schools.  It allows anyone with internet access to easily see how our tax dollars are being spent.

I would love to see a similar searchable database for all hospitals and doctors, listing what they charge for every procedure, office visit and drug.  Apparently there is a huge difference between one hospital and the next.  It would be great to allow people, especially those without insurance, to start to decide where they went for medical procedures at least somewhat based on price.

Creative Destruction and Congress

A company invents a lotion that absorbs and neutralizes chemical weapons “seven times better” than the current solution.  The military wants to buy it to help save lives, instead of continuing to buy the inferior product.  Makes sense, right?

Well, in the real world, what really happens after the military decides that it wants to buy the better product?
Companies who make the inferior solution make campaign contributions to Senators who represent the states that produce the inferior product and tell them to issue earmarks forcing the military to buy the inferior product, of course.
That’s what really happened over the last two years when Senators Clinton D(NY), Schumer D(NY)and Spector R(PA) sought out $7.6 million in earmarks, forcing the military to buy the inferior product.  They also received a total of just under 100k in campaign contributions.
This type of government intervention is not only sleazy because it risks American lives, but also prevents the creative destruction that is vital to US competitiveness and creating an entrepreneurial culture.