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Assorted Links 2/3/10 Archives

Assorted Links 2/3/10

Avatar Review: Part 1

Part 2

  • 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
  • TARP Inspector General: Government Programs "risk re-inflating bubble" - "We've been discussing this for some time, and there is a good chance that house prices will fall further as the government support is withdrawn since house prices appear too high based on price-to-income and price-to-rent ratios."
  • The First Year of Obama's Failed Economic Policies: The Worst May Yet Be Avoided - "In response to the next leg down, Bernanke will monetize debt at an even more furious and clever pace, perhaps in alliance with the Bank of England and Bank of Japan. The ECB resists, and all who balk will be chastised by the monied powers and their demimonde, the ratings agencies and global banks. This is modern warfare of a sort.

    We do not expect the corruption of the world's reserves to be so blatant that the inflation will immediately appear, except in more subtle manner. At some point it may explode, especially if Ben is particularly good at concealing its subtle growth."
  • Roubini Sees ‘Dismal’ Growth as Summers Rues ‘Human Recession’ - "'The headline number will look large and big, but actually when you dissect it, it’s very dismal and poor,' Roubini said in a Jan. 30 Bloomberg Television interview following a U.S. Commerce Department report that showed economic expansion of 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter. 'I think we are in trouble.'

    Roubini said more than half of the growth was related to a replenishing of depleted inventories and that consumption was reliant on monetary and fiscal stimulus. As these forces ebb, the rate will slow to 1.5 percent in the second half of 2010."
  • At work, part II - "Although the global economic downturn no longer appears to be heading off a cliff, signs of stability or recovery are still sporadic and tenuous. As news stories look for signs of of the direction of economic indicators, photographs fill the wires of people working from all over. Once more, I've collected some of these disparate photos over the past couple of months, composing another global portrait we humans at work around the world. (45 photos total)"
  • Name that Blip Redux - "Even though I'm more skeptical of Tiebout competition than almost any economist I know, I still think that without federal subsidies, tax competition between states and localities would have kept their governments a lot smaller than the ones we see today. And I still can't figure out whether the current spending spike is a blip, or just a return to long-run trend."
  • Ethics Expert on Global Warming... - "Mike Treder, Managing Director at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology, notes that ALL those who disagree with him that Global Warming is going to kill billions unless we invest more in wind farms are either stupid or evil. One would think such a manichean understanding of a complex system would only be found in rural bars were everyone has a chain attached to their wallet."
  • Real Homes of Genius -- Culver City Home selling for $744,500 but Neighbor Home is Renting for $2,250. The Rent versus Buy Analysis and 40 Years of Mortgage Data. - "How do you know if a home is priced at a right level? We have various metrics that we can use including common sense which seems to run in short supply. That is how we spotted the epic California housing bubble years ago while the real estate denial cheerleading crew thought that prices would simply continue to go up. In these mid-tier markets underlying incomes do not support current prices. It really is that simple. What is happening in these markets is this; homes are building up in the shadow inventory since fewer homes are actually selling but defaults are still rising as many Californians are unable to make their payments.
    . . .
    You can see the home we’ve been talking about highlighted above in red with the $744,500 listing price. I’ve circled the other home on the same street that is currently a rental in this market. The rental listing has the place at 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. Only a few houses away and 1 bedroom less. What is the monthly rental price? $2,250. You can rent two of these places for the price of the mortgage on the other place!

    This is the kind of metrics that scream housing bubble. And keep in mind rental prices are more sensitive to monthly data because you are paying this amount out of your net income. No tax breaks, toxic mortgages, or any other gimmick. One simple rule when evaluating real estate is trying to figure out a home price based on rental income. One I use is the following:"
  • Complaint: should charge tax for sales in Va. - "When sells a book for $10 or a television set for $1,200 to Virginia consumers, the retailer charges no sales tax. Inc., based in Seattle, operates a fulfillment center and a data center in Virginia. According to federal and Virginia law, a company with a physical presence or 'nexus' in the state must collect sales tax on purchases there, even if the business has headquarters outside the state."
  • The Other Side of the Coin - "Marriage is a monopoly in that my wife and I have both forsworn allowing others to compete with us to supply the other with love services. (That is 'love' services, not just sexual services.) I don't have to come home to see a line of men vying to provide my wife attention and gentleness and offer to take her to dinner and the ballet. Neither does she have to deal with a line of women vying to do the same for me (except the ballet part). Like any good monopoly then, you can expect to receive a lower quality product at a higher price."
  • *The Cleanest Race* - "This is a very interesting book about the ideologies behind North Korea. The author is B.R. Myers and the subtitle is How North Koreans See Themselves -- and Why it Matters. Excerpt:
    . . .
    I also recommend the new book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick. Excerpt:"
  • A Nation of Racist Dwarfs - "Here are the two most shattering facts about North Korea. First, when viewed by satellite photography at night, it is an area of unrelieved darkness. Barely a scintilla of light is visible even in the capital city. (See this famous photograph.) Second, a North Korean is on average six inches shorter than a South Korean. You may care to imagine how much surplus value has been wrung out of such a slave, and for how long, in order to feed and sustain the militarized crime family that completely owns both the country and its people.

    But this is what proves Myers right. Unlike previous racist dictatorships, the North Korean one has actually succeeded in producing a sort of new species. Starving and stunted dwarves, living in the dark, kept in perpetual ignorance and fear, brainwashed into the hatred of others, regimented and coerced and inculcated with a death cult: This horror show is in our future, and is so ghastly that our own darling leaders dare not face it and can only peep through their fingers at what is coming."
  • U.S. Judge Grants Political Asylum to German Homeschoolers - "For one German family, it turns out that the U.S. - despite our own draconian education regulations - has served as a place for asylum. Last week, a judge granted this family this status as a means of protecting their essential human rights. 'Homeschoolers are a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress,' said Immigration Judge Lawrence O, Burman. 'This family has a well-founded fear of persecution...therefore, they are eligible for asylum...and the court will grant asylum.'"
  • “How Do You Fix a Bill that Hasn’t Been Passed Yet?” - "Some House Democrats seem prepared to pass the Senate health care bill if the Senate will use the reconciliation process to amend the health care legislation. Yet there’s a catch. Some House Democrats want the Senate to go first, and as the Plum Line reports, congressional parliamentarians are not quite sure how to do this."

    From the comments: "Imagine, one set of politicians refusing to trust another set, from their own party, no less. You’d think they know each other pretty well. I’d say that in this season the voters have come to know them that well, also."
  • Teaching remedial writing - "Jack Miller sees a 'wide' but not a 'rich' diversity in his remedial writing students at a Minnesota community college. Though they come from different backgrounds, most 'have little understanding of grammar . . . and see it as a set of arbitrary ‘rules’ concocted by sadistic pedants harboring grudges against the young.'
    . . .
    About 20 percent don’t know how to behave in a classroom, he writes."
  • Former lobbyists in senior Obama administration positions - "Although Barack Obama promised lobbyists would not serve in his White House, and issued executive orders restricting former lobbyists, more than 40 ex-lobbyists now populate top jobs in the Obama administration, including three Cabinet secretaries, the Director of Central Intelligence, and many senior White House officials."
  • Inside Obama's Hologram (Reason, March 2010) - "The fact is, Obama has presided over the biggest spending increase since World War II after promising a 'net spending cut,' enacted multiple taxes after multiply promising not to, kept deliberations secret after vowing 'unprecedented transparency,' and intruded into private industry to an extent not contemplated since the collapse of communism." (Review of "Inside Obama's Brain" by Sasha Abramsky.).
  • Presidential Promises and Pretenses - "The day before President Obama delivered his State of the Union address last week, The New York Times reported that 'aides said he would accept responsibility, though not necessarily blame' for failing to deliver on promises he made during his campaign. If you accept responsibility for something bad, aren’t you accepting blame by definition? Not if you’re Barack Obama, who has a talent for accepting responsibility while minimizing and deflecting it.
    . . .
    The president is even less forthright when it comes to the fiscal responsibility he keeps promising. On Monday he declared, 'We simply cannot continue to spend as if deficits don't have consequences, as if waste doesn’t matter, as if the hard-earned tax money of the American people can be treated like Monopoly money.'

    Yet somehow he manages to do so. Obama's much-ballyhooed spending 'freeze' would affect just one-eighth of the budget, would not begin until 2011, and would be accompanied by continued increases in outlays on the president's pet projects.
    . . .
    In his SOTU address, Obama bemoaned 'a deficit of trust--deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years.' He blamed the public's 'disappointment' and 'cynicism' on powerful lobbyists, reckless bankers, highly paid CEOs, superficial TV pundits, and mud-slinging politicians. Conspicuously missing from the list: a president who breaks promises while pretending he isn't."

Welcome to North Korea by Peter Tetteroo and Raymond Feddema / Documentary Educational Video

  • Clash of the titans - "But if publishers themselves are selling digital versions of their books, and all that's needed to liberate them is a little hacking, the calculus changes. Hacking is fun in a way that proofreading is not. Let us pause here and observe a moment of silence for the death of the idea that book pirates, more literary and therefore more moral than their peers, will somehow prove honorable, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. To the contrary, the pirate interviewed by the Millions said that he deliberately avoided stealing the works of the most successful authors, because they can afford lawyers. Instead he limits his purloining to the work of less commercial writers, such as John Barth, whom he calls 'someone who no longer sells very well, I imagine.' Such nobility! 'From those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.' If electronic reading devices catch on, the threat of piracy to book publishers--and to authors, at all income levels--is very real." ht Marginal Revolution
  • Bayonets Hit the Mark - "Well, a little Googleing and low and behold it turns out that bunch of maniac Scots from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders got ambushed by about 100 Mahdi militiamen near Basra, fought it out, and when they ran low on ammunition, fixed bayonets and went to town.

    Based on an after-​​action report found at this link, the intimidation factor of the bayonet and the surprise such a charge caused among the enemy used to engagements at a distance were pivotal."
  • On What Freaking Basis? - "Ooh, how can I overcome my embarrassment? Look, I don’t think I have ever argued that Phoenix Light Rail was run poorly or didn’t have pretty trains. And I don’t know if moving 18,000 round trip riders a day in a metropolitan area of 4.3 million people is a lot or a little (though 0.4% looks small to me, that is probably just my 'pre-web' thinking, whatever the hell that is).

    The problem is that it is freaking expensive, so it is a beautiful toy as long as one is not paying for it. Specifically, it’s capital costs are $75,000 per daily round trip rider, and every proposed addition is slated to be worse on this metric (meaning the law of diminishing returns dominates network effects, which is not surprising in this least dense of all American cities).

    Already, like in Portland and San Francisco, the inflexibility of servicing this capital cost (it never goes away, even in recessions) is causing the city to give up bus service, the exact effect that caused rail to reduce rather than increase transit’s total share of commuters in that wet dream of all rail planners, Portland. Soon, we will have figures for net operating loss and energy use, but expect them to be disappointing, as they have in every other city (and early returns were that fares were covering less than 25% of operating costs)."
  • 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"
  • 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."
  • Love Means Never Having to Say 404 Error - "A New Jersey inventor unveiled a $9,000 sex robot at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas earlier this month, and it’s hard to say who should be more concerned: hookers, man’s best friend, or Elvis impersonators. With her silicone boobs and silicon brain, Roxxxy could eventually put them all out of business."
  • Lentz: Don’t Like The Gas Pedal Fix? Insist On Replacement! - "In an interview with Toyota’s Jim Lentz yesterday evening, NPR asked why Toyota was using a redesigned pedal for new production, but only offering the shim fix to existing customers. Lentz insisted that the repaired pedals would be as good as the redesigned pedal, that the costs of repair and replacement were about the same, and that the main reason Toyota was repairing rather than replacing recalled pedals was the desire to 'get customers back on the road… as quickly as we possibly can.' That’s when NPR went for the jugular."

    Hmmm. Back on the road as quickly as we can may not have been the best choice of words....
  • An Electric Boost for Bicyclists - " One barrier to wider adoption of electric bicycles in the United States and Europe may be the culture of cycling. Bicycle riders have long valued cycling as a sport and a form of exercise, not simply as a utilitarian means of transportation, and many of them look down their noses at electric bikes.

    'To the core cyclist, it’s cheating,' said Loren Mooney, editor in chief of Bicycling Magazine. 'Marketers understand this, and it’s why some have put e-bikes in mass retailers like Best Buy, rather than engaging in the uphill battle of trying to sell them in bike shops.'" Sniff, sniff.

Unipartisan PAYGO Lite

New Orleans coroner’s race ad

  • Jobs calls Adobe lazy, calls Google on the their “bullshit” - "On the subject of Google, Steve said that their avowed policy of 'Do no Evil' is 'bullshit.' He called the release of the Nexus phone a direct attack on the iPhone, and stated that he won’t let them win.

    Google wasn’t the only target of Jobsian ire, Adobe took their lumps on the subject of Flash. Steve called Adobe lazy, and said that while they have the potential to do interesting things, they don’t. He said that the reason Apple doesn’t support Flash is because it’s so buggy, and whenever a Mac crashes it’s most likely because of Flash. Steve also predicted that it won’t be long before everyone leaves Flash behind as the standard moves forward to HTML5. "
  • Why not fix doctoral programs in length? - "And instead of a dissertation require one good published article."
  • ATM Skimmers, Part II - "According to Doten, the U.S. Secret Service estimates that annual losses from ATM fraud totaled about $1 billion in 2008, or about $350,000 each day. Card skimming, where the fraudster affixes a bogus card reader on top of the real reader, accounts for more than 80 percent of ATM fraud, Doten said."
  • My NASA budget - "People, it's exactly 0 dollars and 0 cents. If I was king, getting rid of NASA would be one of the first things I would do. Instead, President O has found room somewhere in his newly announced 3.8 trillion dollar austerity budget to bump NASA's funding up to 19 billion dollars."

. . . . . . . . .

February 3, 2010 09:07 AM    Caught Our Eye

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