Friday, July 09, 2021

Explore Denver by Trail

Every city has its secrets and Denver is no exception. Among Denver’s secrets are its miles and miles of trails shared by cycling, walking, rollerblading, and riding urban adventurers. Of course, not every trail is suitable for every conveyance—horses aren’t permitted in some places and rollerblades will suffer on unpaved portions—but all in all, there’s plenty for everyone, especially those who travel on foot.

Suppose you’re attending a convention in the mile high city. Day’s business done, adventure calls. You leave the Colorado Convention Center, cross Speer Boulevard, descend a few stairs, and you’re there. You’re now on the Cherry Creek Trail. Should you head southeast, you’ll pass through some of Denver’s older and more affluent neighborhoods. If you go all the way to the end of the trail, you’ll have travelled about thirty-nine miles. But by then you’ll be in Franktown, not Denver.

Heading northwest instead, you’ll soon arrive at Confluence Park where Cherry Creek meets up with the South Platt River. Heading north along the Platt you can go as far as 104th Avenue before the trail develops discontinuous portions. Heading south, the trail system will take you as far as Chatfield State Park. Trying to go this distance on foot isn’t quite practical. But, a bicycle can take you there if you’re fit and have the time.

The Bear Creek Greenbelt is a personal favorite. It runs from the South Platt River Trail through several parks, including Bear Creek Lake Park, and ends in Morrison. Bear Creek hosts a variety of water fowl. I once saw a night heron while cycling that path. I’d never seen one before and wondered what a penguin was doing that far north. (Since writing this in 2008, I've also seen a Malayan Night Heron, though in Taipei, not Denver.)

 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Towering Babble

 

Back in 1946, George Orwell expressed his doubts about, Politics and the English Language in an essay with that title. If he was correct then that politics was corrupting  language, it's even more true now. Only today, it's not just politics. Social media and a tribalized electorate isolate Americans into conflicting subcultures.

Those who spout unreasoned political nonsense abuse both language and factuality. But one only needs to look toward academia to find serious language corruptors. Academicians abuse language by making it inaccessible to the more than two out of three Americans without college degrees. I suppose academicians coin new terms as a substitute for new ideas. It's a dangerous practice.

Take the term, critical race theory. What does it mean? The term invites attack. If instead, one promoted teaching the history of what really happened, who could object?

Another term I can do without is systemic racism. The word "systemic" bothers me. Without knowing which system, political, social, financial, or educational, is under discussion, it's impossible to address the problem. If I said instead that racism was culturally embedded, I'd be providing a better description of the problem. The seeds of racism are found in children's rhymes, folk tales, ethnic jokes, and locker room talk. Racism is embedded in American culture and that is where it must be sought. Only by understanding its cultural manifestations can we understand how it's embedded in different systems within our culture and its subcultures.

Reminder: my book is free from Amazon beginning Thursday, July first.



 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Big Donor Man

 

Dave asked me to write something, but I haven't had time. The children's grandparents are visiting and that means no days off for me. Granddad was playing a song by some old band called the Doors. I was thinking about the song and came up with my own lyrics about lobbyists and wealthy donors. It's not much. Perhaps the excerpt from my book explains it better.

WTF, yo...oh

C'mon, duh, duh, c'mon, duh
I am a, duh, I'm a big donor man
I'm a big donor man
The plebes don't know, but the rich folk understand

Hey, all you serfs that are tryin' to survive
I'm taking away the money that keeps you alive, duh
'Cause I'm a big dough man
The plebes don't know, but the rich folk understand
All reet, duh

You chumps go eat your lunch, crap on week-old bread
What we say at fund raisers make you wish you were dead, duh,
I'm a big donor man, wtf
The plebes don't know, but the rich folk understand

Well, I'm a big donor man
I'm a big dough man
Duh, sucka, I'm a big dough man
The plebes don't know, but the rich folk understand

Excerpt from Fix It. Voters don’t usually notice charitable donations that are subsidized by government, but these aren’t the only invisible ways in which elites can leverage government for their own advantage. Rent-seeking occurs when scarcity adds to the amount that can be charged for a product or service. Scarcity, however, can be artificially created by groups seeking to create regulations which favor themselves. There are four ways in which special interests can gain unfair market advantages, Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles write in, The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality.

Their examples of special interest rent-seeking come from finance, intellectual property, occupational licensing, and land use. Lack of competition, they argue, is one of the reasons behind income inequality. Enforcing antitrust laws would create more competition “But an absence of competition also comes from the affirmative use of government power, such as when incumbents are able to fend off challenges by constructing barriers to entry like licenses or intellectual property protection.”

While no one wants to see a doctor lacking sufficient credentials, over-strenuous requirements can keep qualified physicians out of the game:

Although graduation from a U.S. medical school is not required to obtain a medical license, completion of a U.S. residency program is … The U.S. residency requirement, combined with highly restrictive policies on high-skill immigration, makes AMA power over medical school accreditation a powerful lever to constrict supply. Meanwhile, by historical accident the vast bulk of funding for residency slots is provided by Medicare, and for cost saving reasons the number of slots has been frozen since 1997. In 2016, for example, 8,640 graduates of accredited medical schools who applied for residencies—or roughly a quarter of all applicants—failed to be given a match.

If a quarter of new doctors can’t find residencies, then shortages of doctors are bound to lead to higher healthcare costs. Should the AMA choose to loosen requirements enough to increase the supply of physicians, they would also be reducing the potential salaries of their members. Groups like the AMA lack incentives to increase membership and are likely to become even more restrictive in influencing licensing requirements. Unfortunately lawmakers receive most of their information from those most likely to engage in rent seeking. Such groups have both money and organization on their side while ordinary citizens lack both and are often unaware of potential rent seekers.

Silicon Valley is another source of rent seeking. Just recently one of Amazon’s patents expired. This was for their one-click purchasing method. While there’s nothing inherently inventive in a method that saves a mouse click, Amazon none-the-less gained an advantage over Barnes and Nobel with this dubious patent.

It’s easier now than in earlier years to obtain patents. “In 1982, the newly established Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) was vested with exclusive appellate jurisdiction over patent cases. Since then, the CAFC has reshaped the law by lowering the standards for patentability and expanding the scope of patentable inventions to include software, business methods, and even parts of the human genome. As a result, the number of patents issued annually by the US Patent and Trademark Office has increased almost fivefold. …

For this reason an entire industry buys patents in order to sue those who infringe upon them. The potential liability that one might be sued for accidentally using another company’s patented method discourages innovators from developing new products. Loosely defined and over-enforced, patent laws are stifling start-ups, crushing competition, and preventing progress.