Assorted Links 2/7/10


Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health


Has Carly Fiorina jumped the shark — or the sheep?


Mike Gravel 2008

  • 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
  • Natural Gas – We Got it Half Right – “Our energy situation broadly cleaves into two main functions – natural gas, and electricity. Natural gas is used for industry, heating homes and powering stoves, and is taking a greater portion of the electrical generation load. Electricity also overlaps with gas when it comes to home heating and cooling, and is obviously a large component for industrial uses. However, the natural gas and electricity energy industries in the United States have moved in profoundly different directions over the last few decades. The purpose of this post is to describe where we are, as a country, with regards to natural gas. In short — we got it half right.

    Natural gas has three main components, broadly speaking – 1) exploration / extraction 2) transportation 3) distribution. In general, natural gas is lightly regulated for exploration / extraction, has general principles for transportation (open access) and is pretty heavily regulated for distribution (local monopolies). ”

  • LPS: Mortgage Delinquencies Reach 10% – “More foreclosures and short sales coming!”
  • Moody’s: Deficits Jeopardize U.S. Government’s Aaa Bond Rating – “In other words, the Federal government is moving in the wrong direction on fiscal, tax and economic policy, which is beginning to erode what was once a rock-solid trust in its creditworthiness on the part of the capital markets. And these guys have been pretty tolerant of the patterns of Federal fiscal irresponsibility we’ve seen in recent decades—so you know it’s getting really bad when the markets quietly start sounding the alarm.

    To that point, Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb is right in pointing out today that the latest Obama budget effectively sets a new–and much higher–baseline for federal spending, with no draw-down in sight even after the economy recovers.”

  • War on AIDS Hangs in Balance as U.S. Curbs Help for Africa – “Seven years after the U.S. launched its widely hailed program to fight AIDS in the developing world, the battle is reaching a critical turning point. The growth in U.S. funding, which underwrites nearly half the world’s AIDS relief, has slowed dramatically. At the same time, the number of people requiring treatment has skyrocketed.
    . . .
    The most immediate concern is getting enough lifesaving drugs to all those who need them. Under the Bush administration, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, set aggressive goals for getting people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, into drug therapy, eventually enrolling some 2.4 million by the end of last year. The Obama administration, which plans to expand international AIDS treatment to at least 4 million by 2013, nevertheless has signaled nearly flat budgets through fiscal 2011. Critics are questioning whether the reduced spending pace means the administration doesn’t plan to use the full $48 billion authorized by Congress by 2013.”
  • Are law schools pulling a “Plato’s Cave?” – “From kindergarten’s opening minutes forward, it’s beyond axiomatic that ‘college is a must’ and ‘education is the answer.’ One’s own VIP ticket, a backstage pass to a concert called success. Early indeed it begins. Before Junior is through soiling his diapers, he’s likely endured a flickering barrage of phonics-building DVDs, cognitive-theory coaches, and other fashionable accessories of the preschool-pimp parasites to whom his parents earnestly fell victim. It’s beyond endemic.
    . . .
    On the subject of cost, let’s further break down the tuition digits for a laughing-stock ‘school’ like Seton Hall. You’re looking at $44,000 a year; $22,000 a semester. There are roughly 14 weeks in a semester with about 15 hours of class a week. Do the math. You’re paying roughly $104 an hour, or $1.73 a minute at sticker price. A long-distance call to your uncle in Madagascar is probably cheaper.
    . . .
    The JD carnival’s opening act is invariably the ‘successful alumni’ spiel. These masters of illusion make David Copperfield seem a mere piker. Like Plato’s parable, the lemmings march lock-step into an auditorium’s dimmed cave and intently watch these ‘shadows’ grab the podium and commence their smoke n’ mirrors act. Without fail, these shadow grad shills are valedictorian and/or Top 1% types, the hand-picked winners of the TTT lottery. Maybe the ABA brochures should adopt a new sweepstakes-esque catchphrase, such as ‘all it takes is Access Group and a dream’ or ‘hey, you never know?’ Why not? As Big Debt readers know, one’s chances of success in today’s glutted legal industry is as likely as a winning Powerball ticket.
    . . .
    Kids, seriously, if you are currently enrolled at Seton Hall, Brooklyn, ‘Bozo, NYLS or any other also-ran private school, take a good, hard look at first semester grades. Realize that you can bail out now and save yourself a lifetime of crushing, impoverished misery. You’re on board the Titanic and the iceberg has been hit, but lifeboats remain. Board them now. Don’t go down with the ship and hope you’ll find some flotsam or jetsam to grab hold of in the drying cesspool of the legal job market. There is no ‘market’ to speak of, just hordes of heavily indebted losers cold-sending resumes into craigslist’s barren ghetto. Your leverage via a vis salary is pathetic, like trying to budge a boulder with a chopstick. Jobs paying south of 40 (and even 30) K a year are getting bombarded with hundreds of resumes in the infamous ‘white-out’ phenomenon described in our Shingle Hanger post last month.
    . . .
    Today’s kids have- we posit- no excuse. They’ve heard the blogosphere’s bad news and thus proceed at their peril. Most make the law-school decision mindlessly as moths flying into a porchlight (and encountering a similar result). Yet onward the lemmings flutter, munching popcorn in Plato’s cave as the charade proceeds. At pre-law websites like Top Law Schools, the children find their prospects forever bullish, naïve as toddlers awaiting Santa’s chimney-slide. They’re in for an empty stocking and a face-full of soot. Better burn that lump of coal Santa leaves you for heat, since that’s the only ‘gift’ you’re getting from today’s legal industry, kids.”
  • School Crisis In Nevada; Governor Seeks To Cancel Collective Bargaining With Schools Because The State Is Broke – “Nevada has an $881 million budget deficit and drastic cuts are on the horizon for education. Governor Gibbons is investigating options of canceling collective bargaining agreements with school districts. Unfortunately that maneuver is likely illegal.
    . . .
    Budget crises in nearly every state are the defining problem right now, yet none of the other bloggers are talking about it. I am swamped with material and struggling to keep up.”
  • State Pensions, from Scott Brooks – “The pension problem in this country is a time bomb that is set to go and will likely either cripple the nation or be one of the final straws that breaks our back. Remember, pensions are backed up by the PBGC..”
  • It’s a Scam! – “Contrary to what our cowardly commenter claims, however, a physician group cannot ‘comply’ with the messenger model. The whole thing is a scam. Since the messenger model is basically the FTC’s imaginary friend, only the FTC knows what it looks like. So even if a physician group spends thousands of dollars on antitrust counsel — in many cases, an ex-FTC lawyer — who tells them exactly how to ‘comply’ with the messenger model, the FTC will just turn around and say, ‘No, that’s not what we meant!’

    Keep this in mind. There’s been at least 40 or 50 FTC cases brought against physician groups for violating the messenger model policy. This encompasses something like 15,000 physicians. Is it really plausible that all of them didn’t know how to comply with the rule? Or is it more likely that the FTC adopted the messenger model as a way of ratcheting up the demand for antitrust lawyers? Call me a skeptic, but I’m going with option B.”

  • The Quiet Energy Revolution – “Two monumental shifts in the world of energy are underway right now: one technological, the other financial. They will change the way we power our lives (especially our cars), provide a real measure of energy security, and help curb greenhouse gas emissions. Neither shift has anything to do with the turn to a green renewable energy economy promised by President Obama. Physics ensures that will never happen, no matter how much wishful thinking (and government subsidy) is applied. Sorry, greens, carbon-based energy will continue to dominate our energy future, not windmills or solar panels.

    The first profound shift was made possible by a little-noticed technological breakthrough in the last three years that has changed the way we extract natural gas. Engineers now make use of two important innovations. One is horizontal, or directional, drilling, which permits wells to move laterally beneath the surface instead of going straight down. This technology minimizes the number of holes that have to be drilled, leaving a smaller surface footprint and accessing a larger area. The other technology is hydraulic fracturing, used to extract gas trapped in porous shale rock. In this process, also known as fracking, water and chemicals are pumped at tremendous pressure into shale rock formations to push gas into pockets for easier recovery.

    By marrying and perfecting the two processes into a technology called horizontal fracking, engineering has virtually created, from nothing, new natural gas resources, previously regarded as inaccessibly locked in useless shale deposits. Suddenly, the mammoth shale formations in Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, North Dakota, and elsewhere have the potential to produce abundant amounts of gas for decades to come.”

  • Your Neighbor is being foreclosed on but you don’t know it. 3 Identical Homes on the Same Street Telling us a Very Different Story Each. Real Homes of Genius — A $630,000 Foreclosure in Cerritos has a Neighboring Home Renting for $2,150. Or You Can Buy a Similar Home Today for $549,000. – “The rental is identical in size to the other two homes. A 3 bedrooms and 1.75 bath home listed at 1,100 square feet. This is an excellent example of what is going on because we have virtually three identical homes all in the same block but telling us very different stories. You would have to be out of your mind to pay the current price. You would be buying at a peak low in mortgage rates in an area that can clearly only support a rental income of $2,150. Think about that. No investor in their right mind would pay this amount. And rates will go up. Just look what happened to the markets today once people realize a country can’t pay their debt (hello California!). If you bought this home as an investor, you would be negative cash flowing by over $1,000 per month depending on your down payment. That would be a dumb move right off the bat and keep in mind, for investment properties the interest rate is much higher and you have to go in with at least 20 percent down. This is why I believe we are far from a bottom in many markets that are filled with shadow inventory. And let us run those numbers.”
  • Sunlight memo to Congress: Here’s how to do earmark disclosure – “President Obama’s remarks during last State of the Union address included an admonition to Congress to change the way it discloses earmarks, by putting all of the information about every earmark on one web site that is easily accessible to the public.

    That was good advice and there is no practical or philosophical reason why Congress should delay doing that as soon as possible. But Congress being Congress, additional ‘encouragement’ will almost certainly be required.

    To that end, the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington non-profit devoted to increasing transparency and accountability in government, is circulating a useful How-to that should be required reading for every Member of Congress:”

  • Grading Agencies’ High-Value Data Sets – “I wrote here a few weeks ago about the ‘high-value data sets’ — three per agency — that the federal government would soon be releasing at Data.gov. They were released on January 22nd, and we’ve been poring over them ever since. More on that below.

    Tomorrow, agencies are supposed to have their ‘open government’ sites put up — sites where they make their data feeds available and easily findable for the public. There are a couple of different sites monitoring when those sites are going up.
    . . .
    With the help of Cato interns Solomon Stein and Sasha Davydenko, I assigned three points to each feed that had to do with management, deliberation, or results. The resulting numerical scores — 9, 6, 3, or 0 — translate into grades: A, B, C, or D respectively. F was reserved for agencies that didn’t produce feeds.”

  • Two Letters Re: Lessons Learned from the Oklahoma Ice Storm of 2010 – “The Oklahoma Ice Storm of 2010 is now melting away and as usual there were lessons learned. Many of these should have been ‘known’ before but we are never as prepared as we should be. In that vein I am going to rehash several things that went right, a few that went wrong, and others that we can improve on the next time that ‘life as usual’ is not.”
  • Weisberg: God Bless America? No, God Damn America! – “[Slate editor-in-chief Jacob] Weisberg is not just wrong in his parsing of American disenchantment. He’s wrong to think it’s a tragedy. Increasing numbers of Americans in the vast lands to be found outside the D.C. Beltway (join us, Jacob, the water’s fine!) understand that government delivers far too little at far too high a price. (Libertarians would take that realization much further, but we are banned from Weisberg’s empire of the mind.) Skepticism about authority, expectation of better performance, and a determination to get more for your dollar are not problems that need to be solved. They’re bedrock American ideals.”
  • Gerard Alexander On the Condescending Attitude of the Democratic Party – “A day in hell for me would be spent having to listen to a debate between Michael Moore (or Paul Krugman) and Ann Coulter (or Bill O’Reilly).”


Ray Hudson, GolTV: “like a Jedi knight”


Ray Hudson, GolTV: “Stop talking about tennis players and stupid Hollywood hackers!”

Hudson described the goal to me this way. “It was an overhead kick, at an angle, just into the corner of the box, and I called it, if I remember correctly, ‘A Bernini sculpture of a goal, that rivals the Ecstasy of St. Teresa.’ Now, there are probably two people around the United States tuning in who had even heard of Bernini. But for me, it was that good. And in my opinion, instances like that need to be compared to something monumental, to something of an exquisiteness completely unique. And that sculpture came immediately to mind.” He went on: “[During the replays] there was this one wonderful shot of the defender who had been the closest to Ronny, who had just seen this goal, and he was simply stupefied. I described him like Lot’s wife, turning to salt. And then the next second the camera cut away to this little blonde boy in the stands, this little cherub in a Barcelona shirt, and he started smiling. I remember saying, ‘His big bright eyes have just grown the size of saucer plates. He’s never seen anything like this in his life, and he never will again.’”


  • The Magisterial Goal – “[Soccer announcer Ray] Hudson made his career first as a soccer player–for Newcastle United in England, and later for various teams in the defunct North American Soccer League. But he is best known for announcing the modern game for GolTV. Commentary for a soccer match, more so than in any other sport, is like the musical accompaniment to ballet. Therefore as a broadcaster, Hudson is comparable to the conductor of an orchestra playing in the pit beneath a stage of dancers; he adds context and emotion to the drama. No wonder, then, that he often likens footballers to beautiful women. ‘I’m telling you man,’ Hudson once said of FC Barcelona’s seventeen-year-old striker, Bojan Krkic, ‘this kid could be the best thing on two legs since Sophia Loren.’

    Unlike most American sports, soccer is a fluid game, with frequent changes of possession and few clear, numeric statistics to evaluate. Soccer is improvisational, whereas American football is regimented. In football, plays are designed then executed, to greater or lesser success. In soccer, players practice formations and then improvise within a spontaneous framework. Therefore soccer, whose action is as constant as light, requires a reactive, jazz-like call.”

  • Student Protest Forces Yuba College Board To Rescind Chancellor’s Raise; Tuition Soars Everywhere – “Inquiring minds are asking ‘Why is tuition soaring?’

    One of the answers is can be found in the first article: School boards are stacked with greedy pigs voting to give administrators $30,000 raises in spite of everything going on in the economy.

    However, the big reason is student loan guarantees.

    When government guarantees student loans, there is every incentive for the greedy school boards to give themselves and all the administrators big fat raises on top of their already bloated pensions.

    It should be no surprise to find that is what they have done year in and year out. To pay for it, they have to jack up tuition every year.”

  • Save Cash, Buy a Clunker – “Just when you thought that America’s supply of cheap cars fell victim to Cash for Clunkers, a new website specializing in heaps costing less than $1,000 showcases prime examples of automotive detritus — some of which are still capable of highway travel.

    Cars for a Grand is the brainchild of online entrepreneurs Chris Hedgecock and Jorge Gonzalez, the same guys behind Zero Paid. The site allows for individual users to post cars for sale, and scours eBay and classified ads for the best buckets of bolts. To promote the site, the founders bought a 1974 Pontiac LeMans for $900 and drove it across the country last summer.”

  • 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.”
  • Tough Guy Challenge 2010 – “The 24th annual Tough Guy Challenge took place last weekend, on Sunday, January 31st, on South Perton Farm, near Wolverhampton, England. Despite being billed as ‘the safest most dangerous taste of physical and mental endurance pain in the world’, this year’s race still attracted over 5,000 men and women – all of them signing a disclaimer saying ‘It’s my own bloody fault for being here’. About 600 racers did not complete the course this year – the winner being Paul Jones of Oswestry, England, completing the course in one hour 18 minutes. The Challenge is annual event to raise cash for charity with funds going to the Mr. Mouse Farm for Unfortunates. Special thanks today to photographer Mike King, who was kind enough to share 16 of his great photographs of the 2010 Tough Guy Challenge below. (31 photos total)”
  • Flight 1549 – time lapse of recovery of crippled Airbus A320 aircraft – impressive salvage job
  • Comcast CEO Argues Rules Will Protect Customers In Merger, While Comcast Lawyers Argue Rules Are Unconstitutional – “I have to say that I’m not particularly concerned about Comcast and NBC merging. I’m all for it. If two companies that poorly run are getting together, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a disaster. We’ve seen this game before, and it was called AOL-Time Warner. While it’s difficult to think that anyone could screw up that badly again, if anyone can, it’s the folks at NBC Universal.”


In The Loop

  • It’s the phenome and not the genome: put your money on mortal flesh – “But the fact remains that for most of us, the genotype is much less relevant than the phenotype. What is phenotype? It is the things we can see, the outward or observable physical or biochemical characteristics and they are determined by both your genetic makeup and environmental influences. Your blond hair, your weight, your strange nose, green eyes and that funky shaped little toe of yours –all examples of phenotype.

    So what do I mean when I say phenotype is more relevant than genotype? Well, let’s say a new patient, a male, walks into my office and he is in his fifties. Let’s say he happens to have the outline of a pack of cigarettes showing in his front pocket. As a male he already has one risk factor for coronary artery disease–just being male, alas. The cigarettes tell me that he is four times more likely to have a heart attack than his peers who don’t smoke. His risk of sudden death is at least doubled. Let’s say I notice he happens to be carrying more than 30 pounds of extra poundage above the belt line: that allows me to predict he has a higher chance of being at risk for diabetes, if he is not already frankly diabetic. Let’s say that I notice too the pale outline of a recently-removed wedding ring (I can’t help it, my eyes are always looking at the body as text–even when I am out of the hospital), then I know that his risk of death as a recently divorced man can be double that of his married peers.”

  • The People’s Historian? Howard Zinn was a master of agitprop, not history – “Eggers is right about that. I’m sorry to sound a discordant note about this ‘great’ man (The Guardian), this historian and activist of ‘limitless depth’ (RT, who ceded hours of its coverage to the ‘American mahatma’). But while Zinn might have been an effective activist and a man of great modesty, he was an exceptionally bad historian.

    It’s a mystery how A People’s History of the United States, which has sold over a million copies and currently sits at number fourteen on the Amazon bestseller list, has become so popular with students, Hollywood types, and academics. It is a book of no original research and no original ideas; a tedious aggregation of American crimes (both real and imagined) and deliberate elisions of inconvenient facts and historical events.

    Much of the criticism of Zinn has come from dissenters on the left. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. once remarked that ‘I don’t take him very seriously. He’s a polemicist, not a historian.’ Last year, the liberal historian Sean Wilentz referred to the ‘balefully influential works of Howard Zinn.’ Reviewing A People’s History in The American Scholar, Harvard University professor Oscar Handlin denounced ‘the deranged quality of his fairy tale, in which the incidents are made to fit the legend, no matter how intractable the evidence of American history.’ Socialist historian Michael Kazin judged Zinn’s most famous work ‘bad history, albeit gilded with virtuous intentions.’

    Just how poor is Zinn’s history? After hearing of his death, I opened one of his books to a random page (Failure to Quit, p. 118) and was informed that there was ‘no evidence’ that Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya was behind the 1986 bombing of La Belle Discotheque in Berlin. Whatever one thinks of the Reagan administration’s response, it is flat wrong, bordering on dishonest, to argue that the plot wasn’t masterminded in Tripoli.
    . . .
    But it is clear that those who have praised his work do so because they appreciate his conclusions, while ignoring his shoddy methodology.”

  • Is the iPad the New Edsel? – “In the parlance of the wise Dr. McCracken, Apple sorely needs a Chief Culture Officer. The iPad is a technological marvel, and surely goes about delivering on user needs like nobody’s business, but just as we mortal men are not mere economic units, so must a device aspire to be a complete emotional experience. What pains me here is that Apple is the leader in this arena, the ace purveyor of seamless, compelling experiences. I can only assume they had no intention of becoming the New Edsel, so how did we get here?”
  • Free-Range Kids and the Economic Way of Thinking – “I just finished reading Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids (subtitle: ‘Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry’) and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Her basic argument is that many parents have totally misjudged the real dangers to their children and have chosen to focus on the most unlikely of danger scenarios, with the result that kids are more or less bubble-wrapped through childhood and adolescence, and do not learn self-reliance and how to navigate the world, and are not resilient in the face of failure.
    . . .
    I am not willing to argue causality about this next point, but I do think it says something about the zeitgeist that many parents are cushioning their kids from failure at the same time we’ve entered the world of the Permanent Bailouts.”
  • Jon Stewart Destroys, Disembowels, Mauls, Hammers, Rips, Slams & B***** Slaps Bloggers – “I didn’t know that I did that.”
  • Supply and Demand – “The sex ratio on many U.S. campuses is around 60/40 and rising. The NYTimes has an excellent piece on the predictable consequences for dating.”
  • kululua Airline’s Rebranding Is Like Aviation 101 – “[South Africa’s kulula airline’s] recent rebranding will leave every passenger with a basic knowledge of aviation and aircraft.” (4 photos)
  • Bus Saturday Finale: Scenicruiser Design Inspiration Discovered – “The Greyhound Scenicruiser was iconic, and set off a rash of imitators world-wide. Based on a design of Raymond Loewy supposedly inspired on an earlier patent by Roland E. Gegoux, it was hailed as a stylistic and practical breakthrough. But it was anything but new or original, as this 1937 Kenworth bus illustrates quite well. It was used in the north west for a number of years.”
  • My Austin WiMAX Experience Was Good, But Not Good Enough – “I spent the last few weeks roaming around Austin with a dual-mode WiMAX modem from Sprint in order to see how well it works here. The verdict: It’s not strong enough to be a wireline replacement, but if I didn’t have a contract to fulfill on Verizon I’d ditch my MiFi and pick up the Overdrive 4G/3G personal hotspot and use that as my primary data connection.”

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