Fear of the Unknown Justified or Not?

I’ve  always been a science fiction fan and none too discriminating in my tastes, which range from the classic Star Trek to the edgy Babylon 5 and the preposterous StarGate series. Now a NASA study suggests humankind might not rush to boldly go where none have gone before.

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Food tax equals shotgun vegetables

Some people want to tax junk food just as California taxes cigarettes to discourage consumption. Without wishing to defend either trans fats or tobacco I oppose using taxes as a punishment. Taxes should be about raising revenue fairly. A junk food tax, like the cigarette levy, would hurt the poor.

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Help small biz by not favoring big biz

What is small business and what can government do to help? An analysis by small business trackers Carolyn Ockels and Steve King of Emergent Research  suggests that current policies are skewed toward Silicon Valley startups rather than Main Street bootstrappers.

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Lesson in job stats: get better, not bitter

Today’s  national unemployment report is grim: jobs flat, unemployment at 9.2 percent, millions job-hunting more than a year. Bay Area commentator Dick Lepre probes a bit deeper. Zeroing in on  journalism, a recent report says the number of  scribes working in the Bay Area declined 43 percent over the last decade. When and what turns things up?

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Is balance a smarter goal than growth?

Vigorous growth is today considered synonymous with economic health but ecological economist Richard Norgaard of UC Berkeley say a life-work balance may be a better goal. Crazy? Perhaps. But so is the fact that Communist China is the world’s most successful capitalist country.

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Can manufacturing return to U.S., California?

The rise of Chinese manufacturing has defined the past decade but are conditions now ripe for a revival of made-in-America? Possibly, for low-volume, high-ticket goods made in low-cost states,  says a Boston Consulting Group report.  But my beloved California will have to work harder to get in on the action.

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UC Berkeley imports students like coal

We live in a knowledge economy. Good jobs require college degrees. So why is UC Berkeley now enrolling nearly one-in-four students from out-of-state? As the SF Chronicle explains , non-residents pay higher tuition. Between budget cuts in Sacramento and institutional self-interest at UC, we are hurting our children and killing the California dream.

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Soap bubbles and the Zynga IPO

Zynga is a San Francisco firm that has prospered (says NYTimes) by selling digital items, like tractors, to players of its online  games like FarmVille. Less substantial than soap bubbles, its products are more in tune with the times than other ephemeral wares like movies. What Zynga teaches us is that interaction is the message of modern digital media.

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Small business suffers as global biz booms

One statistic in an Associated Press story helps explain why the U.S. economy lolls in the doldrums: wages and benefits have sunk to 57.5 percent of GDP, down from a longstanding 64 percent while “a big chunk of the economy’s gains has gone to investors in the form of higher corporate profits.”

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The Theology of the Minimum Wage

During my newspaper career I covered technology, biotechnology and other mind-expanding fields, but economics proved my most challenging beat. Behind a shroud of statistics, economists argued views that could not be proven but which nevertheless influenced lives and fortunes. One eddy in this theological swirl has been whether minimum wages stabilize pay or depress employment.

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