Assorted Links 1/31/2010



President to Call for Big New Ed. Spending. Here’s a Look at How that’s Worked in the Past

You may be wondering: “What did we get for that huge increase in spending?” The answer is: a lot more public school employees. The next chart adds an extra trend line to the one above: the number of public school employees divided by the number of students enrolled. This ratio of staff to students has gone up by 70 percent since 1970, swelling the ranks of the public school employee unions to about 4.5 million people.

  • Congress in a Nutshell: Understanding Congress, February 10, 2010
  • Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, February 11, 2010
  • Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill, February 18, 2010
  • The President’s Budget, February 23, 2010
  • The Defense Budget, February 26, 2010
  • Capitol Hill Workshop, March 3-5, 2010
  • Speechwriting: Preparing Speeches and Oral Presentations, March 12, 2010
  • Obama’s Swipe at High Court Sparks Debate – “There were days when judges stayed out of politics,’ said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont. ‘It would be nice to go back to those days.'”
  • Why Is Senator Kirk Still Voting on Legislation? – “The main question here is: why is former Senator Kirk still voting on these legislative pieces? According to Senate rules and precedent, Kirk’s term expired last Tuesday upon the election of Scott Brown.”
  • Haiti: an all-singing, all-dancing, celebrity disaster – “There’s nothing like a disaster in a land populated by black people to bring out the rescue instinct in celebrities. In the two weeks since a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, celebs on both sides of the Atlantic have tweeted, sung, danced, signed cheques and even hand-delivered aid.
    . . .
    Because, just like with past causes célèbres, such as Ethiopia and Darfur, the earthquake in Haiti has quickly become as much about well-to-do Westerners as about catastrophe-struck Caribbeans. It is a news story that allows celebrities and politicians alike to keep a flattering spotlight on themselves (always making sure they wear casual clothes and little makeup, of course).”
  • How the Washington Post Covers Education – “Yesterday, the president proposed yet another big increase in federal education spending. The Washington Post quoted ‘senior White House officials’ as saying that the spending would boost ‘the nation’s long-term economic health.’

    I sent the story’s authors a blog post laying out the evidence that higher government spending hasn’t raised student achievement, and that if you don’t boost achievement, you don’t accelerate economic growth.

    Today, there is an updated version of the original WaPo story. It no longer mentions the stated goal of the spending increase. It doesn’t mention that boosting gov’t spending has failed to raise achievement, and so will fail to help the economy.”

  • GDP Mirage – The Last Hurrah – “Digging beneath the surface there is nothing to cheer about in the GDP numbers. Moreover, this weakness is in the face of the largest stimulus measures the world has ever seen, not just in the US, but globally. Money supply in China is growing at 30% and housing bubbles are likely to pop in Australia, Canada, and the UK. Problems in Greece, Spain, and Iceland continue to mount.

    GDP is a mirage of sand blowing in the wind. So is global growth. It is a mistake to believe government spending can possibly provide a solid foundation for a lasting recovery.”

  • Massive Homeopathic Overdose Leaves Hundreds of Scientists 0.0000000000000001% Dead – “Scientists in Mourning”
  • Paying More, Buying Less – “Excluding the cost of the wars, the ‘base’ Pentagon budget has also gone up dramatically: 25 percent, or over another Trillion dollars. What we have gotten for that huge increase illuminates the disturbing nature of our decay. The Navy and Air Force are both smaller and equipped with major hardware that is, on average, older than at any point since the end of World War II. The Army and Marine Corps have seen increases to a few combat formations but are only marginally above their post-​​World War II lows. A gargantuan increase in spending has brought forth major decay in two military services and insignificant up-​​ticks in two others.

    Where did the added money go? According to the Government Accountability Office almost $300 billion went into mismanagement in the form of cost overruns for hardware. (Expect a new GAO report this spring finding the cost overruns have grown.) Much of the rest of the money for acquisition went into ‘successful’ hardware programs that were so much more expensive to buy and maintain than what they were replacing that we literally shrunk the force with more money, while simultaneously spending more to support this new equipment at lower operating and training levels.”

  • Nevermind All Those Opposition Solutions; Obama’s Opposition Has No Solutions! – “The second point, though, is that it’s more than a little irritating to see Obama speak so well of Ryan’s plan and say that it’s the sort of thing that deserves ‘serious discussion.’ Problem is, throughout the health care debate, Obama didn’t want to have that discussion. He didn’t want to talk about any plans to significantly reduce entitlement spending, or severing the links between insurance and employment.

    Indeed, not only did he make almost no effort to incorporate opposition ideas into his legislation, he wasn’t willing to recognize the existence of legitimate opposing ideas at all. Instead, he chose to caricature his opponents as having “no solutions.” That’s not true now. It wasn’t true then. But Obama’s approach to most policy and political debates has been to reiterate the notion that his way was not simply the best way, but the only way–or at least the only legitimate, acceptable, reasonable way. His conversation today with Rep. Ryan, I think, is a tacit admission that that’s just not the case.”

  • Karl Rove’s Spending – “Mr. Rove’s columns are usually very interesting, but I’d like to see him accept at least some of the blame for the exploding size of government during his tenure at the White House.”
  • By the Way, Free Markets Are Free – “A free economy is one that is — how to say this? — free. It is free of cronyism, favoritism, handout-ism, protectionism, or anything else that amounts to using the state as a means of living at the expense of others. If paupers or billionaires need help, they’re required to get it without picking the pockets of others.”
  • Quicker “Non-Judicial” Foreclosures and Evictions Coming to Florida – “The only open question is whether or not this bill would encourage more to walk away. If so, would that necessarily be a bad thing? The quicker bad debts are written off, and the quicker home prices bottom, the better off everyone will be in the long run.”
  • NPR: To Stay Or Walk Away – “NPR’s Alex Blumberg and Chana Joffe-Walt interview Arizona attorney Mary Kinsley. She describes how a couple years ago homeowners would call her, in tears, trying desperately to save their homes from foreclosure.

    Now homeowners call, their voices calm, and ask her the best way to strategically default – and in some cases how to get the banks to take back the houses they’ve been delinquent on for over a year. Pretty amazing. She thinks this is just the beginning of ‘walking away’.”

  • HELOC Study – “One of the largest issues in the mortgage market is that modifications, as presently designed, are not working. It is clear that at some point, it will be necessary to write down principal to raise the modification success rate.

    However, one obstacle to writing down principal of a 1st mortgage is the presence of a 2nd mortgage or subordinate lien. Lien priority dictates that the 1st mortgage cannot be written down until the 2nd is extinguished.”

  • You’re an idiot of the 33rd degree – “In November of 1905, an enraged Mark Twain sent this superb letter to J. H. Todd, a patent medicine salesman who had just attempted to sell bogus medicine to the author by way of a letter and leaflet delivered to his home. According to the literature Twain received (p1,p2,p3,p4), the ‘medicine’ in question – The Elixir of Life – could cure such ailments as meningitis (which had previously killed Twain’s daughter in 1896) and diphtheria (which had also killed his 19-month-old son). Twain, himself of ill-health at the time and very recently widowed after his wife suffered heart failure, was understandably furious and dictated the following letter to his secretary, which he then signed.

    Transcript follows.”

  • Folks Who Know Stuff – “Whether it’s a general male trait or simply my normal sloth, it seems that most of the guys I meet and socialize with nowadays are husbands of friends of my wife. And of those husbands of my wife’s friends, the ones I tend to get along with best and for the longest visits are guys who Know Stuff.”
  • If Music Be the Food of Love, Maestro Obama, Play On – “40 years later, on the floor of the House, Mr. Obama proved himself heir apparent to the Wizard of Altamont. Coiling, menacing, prowling, our Jumpin’ Jack Flash-in-Chief worked the majority side of the hall into a frenzy, like some beautiful petulant electric cobra panther in a Brooks Brothers 3-button suit. And when he unleashed his climactic campaign finance j’accuse at his Republican foes and the assembled Supreme Court, I was fully expecting a House member to beat Justice Alito senseless with a tire iron. Sympathy For the Devil, indeed.”


Living Large

  • My predictions about the iPad – “The story here is one of new markets, not cannibalization or even competition.” See the comments.
  • iPad vs EtchASketch – “Which one will get Flash first? And who’s kidding who about ten hours of battery life? Are you going to wait for version 2, the MaxiPad?”
  • One paragraph plus a sentence – “The rest of the Salinger obituary, interesting throughout, is here.” See the comments.
  • What Salinger Read – “Speaking of reading preferences, what were Salinger’s?”
  • Wheat Ridge High School Class of 1970 – “The reonion committee is working away planning the 40th reunion the weekend of August 13-15, 2010. Wheat Ridge, Colorado WRHS1970.com”
  • Common Market Food Co-op – “Common Market Food Co-op was a ‘new wave food co-op’ located at 1329 California Street in Denver, Colorado, from 1975 – 1980. It started as a buying club at the University of Denver in the late 1960s, and for a few years prior to moving to the old Safeway at 13th and California Streets, Common Market operated out of a small storefront on Champa Street.”
  • Stephen Fry In America: Fifty States And The Man Who Set Out To See Them All – “In 1831, French politician and thinker Alexis de Tocqueville visited the still growing United States, traveled widely and took copious notes. He assembled those notes in two volumes, published five years apart, titled ‘Democracy in America,’ that are still studied and quoted today. The title ‘Stephen Fry in America‘ echoes de Tocqueville’s classic, but also puts the reader on notice that the ambition here is scaled back. This isn’t an attempt to understand America, Mr. Fry says, as much as to experience it. And it’s supposed to be as much a window into the author as subject.
    . . .
    This reviewer’s favorite bit comes from Mr. Fry’s visit to Ukiah, Calif., for the comic cultural contrasts. Mr. Fry is scheduled to fire handguns for the first time. At the police shooting range, Mr. Fry tells the patient sheriff that the town’s name is haiku spelled backwards, badly bungles a witticism (‘Just as well you aren’t called Traf.’ ‘How’s that?’ ‘Oh never mind.’), and lets the officer instruct him how to fire a Glock pistol. He takes aim, manages to hit the target on his first try, and is instantly though briefly ‘transformed from Stephen Tut-Tut, the wise and sensible anti-firearms abolitionist into Stephen Blam-Blam.’

    The sheriff then asks him, ‘Now that you can handle firearms, how’d you like to take part in a drug bust?’ and isn’t joking. We see a picture of Mr. Fry with a Kevlar vest strapped to him and scenes from the drug bust as proof of this.”

  • Weight Watchers – “I’ve known a handful of people who joined Weight Watchers at least once — all women, by the way. They all lost some weight. And they all gained it back, usually with a few extra pounds as a going-away present.

    Given what Weight Watchers believes constitutes a good diet, I’m not surprised. Their entire program is based on the belief that the federal government’s nutrition guidelines are actually based on something resembling science. So Weight Watchers preaches the same guidelines: fat is bad, a bit of protein is okay, and carbohydrates are wonderful.

    I never joined Weight Watchers, but before I knew better, I did try living on their low-fat Smart Ones meals (along with Lean Cuisines and other diet meals I could nuke.) By the end of the day, I’d be famished. Eventually I’d give up and then, like most dieters, blame myself for not having any discipline. Now I understand the problem wasn’t a lack of discipline; it was a lack of good nutrition.”

  • Anti-Vaccine Scientist Acted “Dishonestly and Irresponsibly” – “Claims that childhood MMR vaccines cause autism are unfounded and irresponsible. As Ron Bailey notes, ‘study after study has debunked’ the claim that MMR vaccines are linked to autism, and there are credible allegations that the study that prompted the initial scare was faked. As the BBC reports, British medical authorities have also concluded that the primary researcher promoting such claims, Andrew Wakefield, acted ‘dishonestly and irresponsibly’ in conducting and promoting his research.”
  • For Businesses That Accept Cards, Tips for Cutting Fees – “When it comes to credit-card fees, bigger companies have more clout with issuers than small ones. (See related story, How Merchants Deal with Rising Credit-Card Costs.) But there are ways to minimize costly processing fees, from negotiating to shopping around. Here are eight tips.”
  • Small-Business Cards Now Carry Sizeable Risk – “Banks can list your company’s debt alongside your personal debt–lowering your credit score and loan worthiness.”


Obama Decries Divisive Rhetoric, Says Healing Can Happen if Opponents Stop Being Such Effing D-bags

  • Guest post: Top Trivia! – “The winning entry came from Andrew J Speirs, with his great Ten Facts About Playing Cards. I have taken the liberty of editing them a bit, but here we go with ten things you probably didn’t know about playing cards……”
  • Electronic Flight Bag – “Garmin’s top-of-the-line handheld/bolt-on is the GPSMAP 696 model, with weather, moving maps, approach procedures and terrain avoidance – but it retails for nearly $3000, while the iPad starts at $500.

    Which is, oh – wait: A whole lot less.

    There’s no technical reason why the iPad – I really hate that name – can’t do all the tasks of an EFB while providing GPS tracking, live weather updates and terrain avoidance. Once you’ve landed on your cross country, you can email home, browse the web, read a book or work on your presentation. Which, just try that with your MX20.”

  • Apple iPad vs. Amazon Kindle – “I’ll save readers the suspense: I don’t believe that iPad will be a a Kindle-killer. It will capture a noticeable portion of the eReader market but I find it highly unlikely for it to even become #2. Here’s why:”
  • Life Without Feminism a sack – ” As a matter of fact, in between killing fascists, being an iron worker 40 stories above the streets of Manhattan, and raising a family of four kids, he probably didn’t take two milliseconds to give a rat’s ass about what anyone thought of him.

    …And now, in the year 2010, the poor little darlings in the Men’s Movement are all atwitter and feeling faint because a woman might say something mean about them.
    . . .
    For the undescended-testicles-set, though: please, keep worrying about what other people think and telling us about how you’re so opressed by social conventions.”

  • Antigua: American Woman Murdered in 4th Major Incident in Two Years – “All of these incidents are a reminder that safety cannot be assumed, and precautions should always be taken, especially if in unfamiliar territory.”
  • The iPad is the iPrius: Your Computer Consumerized – “The iPad is Steve’s Minitel terminal.

    Just for the heck of it, imagine for a minute that the MacBookPro was locked up like the iPad. The apps that run on the iPhone have been mostly trivial. One person for a few weeks is probably the average effort. Eugene Lin may be willing to build apps on spec and hope for the best after they are submitted, but will Adobe? Imagine when Adobe invests $X millions building Lightroom for a year only to have it rejected because Apple launches Aperture the same week.”

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Posted in: Caught Our Eye

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