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Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

First, let me apologize for the posting lull.  I’ve been busy with work and also struggling with a sinus issue that has sapped my discretionary intellectual energy.  But enough about me.

In honor of California’s special election on budget measures, I thought I’d shed a little light on the fundamental problem.  Contrary to what polticians are saying, the cause of the budget problem is not falling revenues in a recession. Rather, the cause is a dramatic increase in spending over the last 10 years.

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As part of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, NIH is awarding $200 million in “Challenge Grants.” But, according to Science Magazine, these grants are far more competitive than initially intended:

A frantic grant-writing effort that has consumed biomedical research scientists this spring came to an end last week, resulting in a huge pile of new applications—more than 10 times larger than expected—to be reviewed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). After this enthusiastic response, there will be many disappointed applicants: The rejection rate could run as high as 97%.

Increased time cost spent not just applying for money but also reviewing applications to allocate the funds. Additionally, many qualified researchers chose not to apply for funding after hearing how competitive the grants were. Is this a good thing? Does this competition result in better science? Could there be a better way to allocate scientific funding?

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Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 (yes that includes cocaine and heroin). And “ none of the nightmare scenarios touted by preenactment decriminalization opponents—from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for “drug tourists”—has occurred.”

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A friend pointed me to a doubly prescient talk given by George Soros in 1994 about his theory of reflexivity in the markets.  Essentially Soros notes that there’s feedback in terms of what agents believe about the market and how the market behaves.  Not groundbreaking, but he takes this thinking to some logical conclusions which are in contrast to standard economic theory:

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One problem facing financial institutions is not knowing what the Mortgage Backed Securities they hold are worth. One problem facing homeowners is that the abandoned and unmaintained house beside them is dragging down the value of their property. An anecdotal story from Modesto, Ca has two neighbors getting together, purchasing the abandoned house and renting it out. One less eyesore on their block, one less eyesore mortgage on some bank’s books.

What if all financial institutions accepting federal aid were forced to list on E-Bay, sorted by zip code, every house on their books that is abandoned or in foreclosure? (more…)

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Yesterday, from the Director of the National Cancer Institute, addressing one of the two largest cancer research conferences of the year:

NCI commenced a series of workshops that began to bring aspects of the physical sciences to the problem of cancer. We discussed how physical laws governing short-range and other forces, energy flows, gradients, mechanics, and thermodynamics affect cancer, and how the theories of Darwinian and somatic evolution can better help us understand and control cancer.

Read more on my Cancer Complexity Forum post.

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In part 1 I advocated photographing your completed ballot before submitting it and posting your photograph online.  Turns out that if you followed this piece of advice in Missouri, you might be in jail right now.  Oops!  Sorry :-)

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