Assorted Links 3/3/10


Richard Feynman on “Social Sciences”


Clueless Woman Calls Tech Show When Her Stolen Wi-Fi Disappears

  • Speechwriting: Preparing Speeches and Oral Presentations, March 12, 2010
  • Word Workshop: Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing, April 15, 2010
  • Word Workshop: Writing to Persuade: Hone Your Persuasive Writing Skills, April 16, 2010
  • Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals, May 4, 2010
  • Advanced Media Relations, May 5, 2010
  • Public Affairs and the Internet: Advanced Techniques and Strategies, May 6, 2010
  • Crisis Communications Training, May 7, 2010
  • Many borrowers in default stay put as lenders delay evictions – “Despite being months behind, many strapped residents are hanging on to their homes, essentially living rent-free. Pressure on banks to modify loans and a glut of inventory are driving the trend.
    . . .
    In the Inland Empire, an estimated 100,000 homeowners are living rent-free, according to economist John Husing, who based that number on the difference between loan delinquencies and foreclosures. Industry experts say it’s difficult to say how many families are in that situation nationally because only banks know for sure how many customers have stopped paying entirely.

    But Rick Sharga of Irvine data tracker RealtyTrac notes that the number of loans in which the borrower hasn’t made a payment in 90 days or more but is not in foreclosure is at 5.1% nationally, a record high. And yet the number of foreclosures last year was 2.9 million, below the 3.2 million that RealtyTrac economists predicted.

    More evidence is provided by another firm, ForeclosureRadar, which says it now takes an average of 229 days for a bank to foreclose on a home in California after sending a notice of default, up from 146 days in August 2008.”

  • Regulation Now, Regulation Tomorrow, Regulation Forever – “What accounts for the particular rottenness of the Republican party? The GOP is in the opposition catbird seat; the economy is in a coma; President Obama’s popularity is in free-fall, and the smaller-government message is the only one that is resonating with voters. Yet GOP hegemony from 2001-2007 resulted in massive government growth and the largest increase in regulation in three decades. When put to the iron test of governance, the Republicans keep going easy on Obama’s criminally incompetent economic team. Overnight sensation Sen. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) voted for the new jobs bill. How can this be?”
  • Tracking Your Taxes: Earmarks to Nowhere – “If a project doesn’t make economic sense, how does it survive year after year? The answer often lies in the power of the sponsor, and over the last 50 years there has been no more powerful appropriator than West Virginia Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd. By some accounts, Byrd himself has spent $3 billion dollars in taxpayer money. More than 40 projects in West Virginia that have been paid for with tax dollars are named after him.

    From the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam to the Robert C. Byrd Telescope to the Robert C. Byrd Hilltop Office Complex, the list goes on and on. But one of his most ambitious projects is ‘Corridor H,’ a four-lane highway in his home state that goes, literally, nowhere.

    ‘Corridor H … has certainly helped (Byrd) retain the title of the ‘King of Pork.” said Schatz, the taxpayer watchdog. ‘Corridor H has been a boondoggle since the beginning. It’s something that is one of these roads to nowhere that ends short of the adjoining state line.’

    So far, taxpayers have invested almost $2 billion in the massive highway, which ends in a field. Virginia has no plans to ever actually connect a companion highway to West Virginia’s 25-mile stretch of concrete, leaving the monster as yet another monument to waste, or one of the more expensive examples of how Congress works.”

  • The Future of America Housing – 5 Charts Showing Continued Pressure on Home Prices for the next Few Years. Household formation, Trend to Urban Centers, Lower Prices, Over Construction. – “Housing prices in most urban areas will face pressure in the upcoming years because of a variety of factors. Last month as prices fell in many areas including Southern California, some were surprised because a belief that a trough had been hit had already set in. This is not the case. For the most part the bulk of home sales are still coming from the distress side. These homes do not yield the bank the full balance of the mortgage and consequently push overall prices lower. In many troubled states like California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona many of these homes are secured by questionable mortgages so the gap between the current mortgage and the market price is rather large.

    We also have issues on the supply side. During the peak days of the bubble housing starts were running at a stunningly high rate of 2 million per year. This at a time when household formation was closer to 1.2 million. So this enormous imbalance occurred. The current stall in housing starts is simply allowing the overall market to catch up. That is one of the big questions regarding when housing will recover. When will housing starts pick up? Today we are going to look at 5 major trends that will keep housing prices low for the next few years.”

  • Nancy Pelosi’s brutal reality check – “And even as Obama, Emanuel and Reid have struggled to execute the Democratic agenda, she has delivered on her end of the bargain, winning House approval of a health care bill, a climate change bill and a jobs bill.

    ‘[In] the House of Representatives, my mark is the mark of our members. We have passed every piece of legislation that is part of the Obama agenda. Whether it’s the creation of jobs, expanding access to health care, creating new green jobs for the future, regulatory reform, we have passed the full agenda,’ Pelosi said over the weekend on ABC’s ‘This Week.’

    Still, those victories have come at a cost — leaving Democrats in more conservative districts exposed and some others bristling over the ‘Pelosi style.’

    ‘She doesn’t delegate,’ said one House Democrat close to the speaker. ‘It’s her biggest flaw. She has to have her hand in every decision.’

    That means there’s no one else to blame for Democratic setbacks other than Pelosi, and she will have to answer if the party suffers at the polls.

    A corollary to that complaint is that Pelosi has dealt with House Republicans’ penchant for short-circuiting the legislative process by writing key bills in partisan fashion behind closed doors.”

  • Taking Back the Infantry Half-​​Kilometer – “Okay, time for a deep dive into the tactical. The point of departure is this paper by Army Maj. Thomas Ehrhart, Increasing Small Arms Lethality in Afghanistan: Taking Back the Infantry Half-​​Kilometer, written last year at the Command and General Staff College, that says fighting in Afghanistan has exposed the fact that American infantry are poorly equipped and trained for long range firefights.

    In Afghanistan, the infantryman’s ‘weapons, doctrine, and marksmanship training do not provide a precise, lethal fire capability to 500 meters and are therefore inappropriate,’ Ehrhart says. Unlike on the streets of Iraq, where firefights were few and were typically fought under 300 meters, insurgents in Afghanistan skillfully use the wide open rural and mountainous terrain to stretch the battlefield.
    . . .
    The American military, and particularly the Army, has been ‘platform focused,’ doctrine and weapons development has focused on crews fighting a mounted weapons system, be it a tank, Bradley or what have you (the Army plans to spend $7 billion over the next few years to develop a new armored fighting vehicle to add to its massive fleet of armored fighting vehicles). The future of irregular conflict will predominantly be small-​​unit infantry fights, a fact the acquisition community has not grasped. It’s about time they did and begin fielding lightweight, highly accurate and lethal weapons that are easily carried by the infantry.”

  • Has the last fighter pilot already been born? – “I am not sure it is true, but we are at a point where having a human in the cockpit for the vast majority of the combat missions flown in our current wars can be more of a hindrance than a help. Humans have physical needs and consequently can’t remain on station as long as drones. In most cases any ordnance fired is guided electronically and the pilot only ends up pushing a button. That can happen in a cockpit 20,000 ft. above the battlefield, or 10,000 miles away in Las Vegas.
    . . .
    I think that we do need human fighter pilots for now, but that we are not far from the time where fighter drones are a better answer. When was the last dogfight? Vietnam? And even if we must take on 4th and 5th generation Russian and Chinese fighters, aren’t we going to be doing so at sensor range? Won’t the determining factor be the ability to detect and launch on the other guy from the furthest away. If so wouldn’t we be better served by having many more drones that can carry the same weapons and can stay on station longer?”
  • Higher Tuition and Two Subway Sandwich Shops!? Berkeley Students Declare War – “The Vietnam War. Crushing racial segregation. A glut of hoagie shops! The student battle for justice clearly goes on! And Californians have much more to look forward to: Thursday will be a statewide ‘Day of Action,’ and in addition to deafening demands for continued taking from taxpayers, students will no doubt also give Fuddruckers, or maybe even Starbucks, it’s long-deserved comeuppance.

    The day of liberation — and really amped-up rent-seeking — is finally at hand!”

  • More Numbers Support Faux-Recovery Thesis – “More numbers came out last week that support the thesis that the GDP growth at the end of 2009 is really a faux-recovery that won’t be sustainable or a solid foundation to build on.

    Sales of existing homes fell 7.2% in January, according to the National Association of Realtors. Single-family home sales dropped 6.9%, while condo sales dropped 8.1%.
    . . .
    If my concerns wind up justified in 2010 (though seriously, take the word of every economic analyst with a grain of salt, has no one learned that lesson from the crash?), then perhaps consumer spending really should pick up in the next few months. If the Fed does lose its handle on inflation then we might as well use the purchasing power of our dollars while we’ve still got it.”


San Francisco 1905: Before the Regulators

  • Nat’l Enquirer Weighs Opening D.C. Bureau – “The National Enquirer may strut its stuff and open up a Washington office, FishbowlDC has learned. The supermarket tabloid is riding the wave of busting the affair and subsequent baby girl of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Rielle Hunter.

    In fact, said National Enquirer Executive Editor Barry Levine, credibility would be at an all-time high in the nation’s capitol, since the publication just received the nod from Pulitzer to be nominated for prizes in two categories.”

  • Ask The Best And Brightest: Is SUA An American Pandemic? – “One thing is clear so far: Germany doesn’t get UA incidents worthy of mention. Japan, a country with a population approximately half of the U.S.A., receives 134 reports in 3 years. The U.S.A. received nearly 6000 complaints for all brands for the 2008 model years alone, writes Consumer Report. It’s an UA pandemic!”
  • Take That, Tojo! – “The Axis automotive powers have declared war on American motorists and our cherished union-made way of life. They’ve established secret assembly beach heads in so-called ‘right-to-work’ occupied Vichy states like Alabama and Tennessee, manufacturing six sigma deathtrap jalopies with hillbilly slave dupes paid less than prevailing wages!

    And now Hitler and Hirohito have opened up a second front in their crazed plan for world market share domination right here in America’s auto malls. Don’t let those whimsical inflatable gorillas and wind-whipped plastic pennants fool you: lurking behind every Toyota showroom lies a rat’s nest of fifth columnist and Jap saboteurs scheming to get you behind the wheel of a Tokyo timebomb!

    Don’t let Tojo turn you into a unwitting freeway kamikaze for the “Divine Emperor”! At the U.S. Department of General Motors, our G-Men are working ’round the clock to stop Jap sneak attacks on America’s publicly owned automotive industrial arsenal. But here on the home front, America’s vehicular victory requires the vigilance of regular Joes and Janes like you. Together we can Shun the Huns and Nip the Nips, and send ’em packing their non-union Priuses back to Yokohama!”

  • When Did My Life Become an Endless Saturday Night Live Skit? – “For all the seriousness the practice of law entails, you will surely encounter a few humorous experiences throughout your career. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know I have enough stories to fill a lifetime of cocktail parties. At times, I feel as if I am trapped in an endless Saturday Night Live skit. Some highlights include a client who was arrested for stealing a fresh water salmon (he stuck it down his pants), a man who insisted I legally change his last name to Budweiser so that he could sue the beer company for millions, and a gentleman who wanted the instructions in his will to include placing his body on a raft and having it set on fire on the Connecticut River.”
  • 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.”
  • From Bully to Felon – “John Grisham would have to struggle to invent a character as brilliant and unethical as Bill Lerach. It is a credit to the reporting talents of Patrick Dillon and Carl M. Cannon that, in ‘Circle of Greed,’ they capture the felon- lawyer in all his charm and ruthlessness. Along the way they show how the plaintiffs’ bar has transformed the process of class actions into big business.
    . . .
    Much of the riveting detail in ‘Circle of Greed‘ comes from Mr. Lerach, who cooperated fully with the authors. They seem to buy his line that his actions were motivated by his desire to protect innocent shareholders from greedy corporations. The book’s overall argument–as the title suggests–is that it was corporate greed that created Mr. Lerach and provided a model for his ethical failings. That claim is unfair to the many honest companies who were Lerach victims and implausible in any case, thanks to the authors’ own vivid evidence of Mr. Lerach’s outsize criminal behavior.”
  • The War in Heaven on Earth – “It’s always a delicate matter how to go about telling people who need to be told, ‘Shut up and go sit down’ to shut up and go sit down in a loving manner. A careful reading of your question, however, indicates that we are really not talking about ‘people’ here. We are talking about one person.
    . . .
    I spoke with both the organist and the organ company and unfortunately they have both shown me that the organ is set as softly as it will go. It’s very loud in this echoey old church. Maybe you’d be happier if we switched to a guitar Mass or liturgical dance.”
  • Bogus Copyright Claim Silences Yet Another Larry Lessig YouTube Presentation – “Nearly a year ago, we wrote about how a YouTube presentation done by well known law professor (and strong believer in fair use and fixing copyright law) Larry Lessig had been taken down, because his video, in explaining copyright and fair use and other such things, used a snippet of a Warner Music song to demonstrate a point. There could be no clearer example of fair use — but the video was still taken down. There was some dispute at the time as to whether or not this was an actual DMCA takedown, or merely YouTube’s audio/video fingerprinting technology (which the entertainment industry insists can understand fair use and not block it). But, in the end, does it really make a difference? A takedown over copyright is a takedown over copyright.

    Amazingly enough, it appears that almost the exact same thing has happened again. A video of one of Lessig’s presentations, that he just posted — a ‘cha'” he had done for the OpenVideoAlliance a week or so ago, about open culture and fair use, has received notice that it has been silenced. It hasn’t been taken down entirely — but the entire audio track from the 42 minute video is completely gone. All of it. In the comments, some say there’s a notification somewhere that the audio has been disabled because of ‘an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG’ (Warner Music Group) — which would be the same company whose copyright caused the issue a year ago — but I haven’t seen or heard that particular message anywhere.”

  • Psssst . . . There’s sugar in there – “By now, everybody should know that foods like breakfast cereals, breads, bagels, pretzels, and crackers cause blood sugar to skyrocket after you eat them. But sometimes you eat something you thought was safe only to find you’re showing blood sugars of 120, 130, 150+ mg/dl.

    Where can you find such ‘stealth’ sources of sugars that can screw up your postprandial blood sugars, small LDL, inflammation, blood pressure, and cause you to grow visceral fat? Here’s a few:”


Lawrence Lessig website chat

  • The High Cost of Free TV – “Despite the fact that 91 percent of American households get their television via cable or satellite huge chunks of radio-spectrum are locked up in the dead technology of over-the-air television. In his Economic View column today Richard Thaler features the work of our GMU colleague Tom Hazlett who argues that auctioning off the spectrum to the high value users would generate at least $100 billion for the government and generate a trillion dollars of value to consumers.”
  • A Prism for Jolicloud: Web-Centric Desktop Apps – “I recently bought a netbook and installed Jolicloud, a Linux/Ubuntu distro designed as a replacement for, or companion to, Windows. Jolicloud was a revelation, something fresh and new in the seemingly snail-paced world of desktop computing. The bold idea of Jolicloud is that the browser is the operating system. It’s all you need and you don’t need to even think about it. The browser is a core service that supports all applications but it can recede into the background and let applications take the foreground.”
  • RoSS Simulator Preps Surgeons to Use da Vinci Robot – “Researchers from Roswell Park Cancer Institute and State University of New York at Buffalo, developed a surgical simulator to help train physicians to operate the da Vinci robot. The RoSS Robotic Surgical Simulator has been turned into a product and commercialized by a spinoff called Simulated Surgical Systems of Williamsville, NY. Practicing physicians and students can train on common tasks like suturing and knot tying, and even perform complete procedures like radical prostatectomies and hysterectomies.”
  • Tattoo-removing lasers used to lift dirt from great works of art – “The technique removes material from a solid surface by vaporising it with a laser beam. Called laser ablation, it can lift dirt without damaging the underlying surface.
    . . .
    The team also reported encouraging results of laser cleaning underwater for materials that could deteriorate if exposed to air.”
  • Chilean Quake Likely Shifted Earth’s Axis, NASA Scientist Says – “The earthquake that killed more than 700 people in Chile on Feb. 27 probably shifted the Earth’s axis and shortened the day, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist said.

    Earthquakes can involve shifting hundreds of kilometers of rock by several meters, changing the distribution of mass on the planet. This affects the Earth’s rotation, said Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who uses a computer model to calculate the effects.

    ‘The length of the day should have gotten shorter by 1.26 microseconds (millionths of a second),’ Gross, said today in an e-mailed reply to questions. ‘The axis about which the Earth’s mass is balanced should have moved by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters or 3 inches).'”

  • Gmail Security Enhancements Expected Tuesday – “Google will roll out a number of security enhancements to Gmail this week, and perhaps as early as Tuesday, says a source with knowledge of the new features. The changes are specifically designed to cut down on phishing and hacking attacks on Gmail accounts.”
  • Compare Product Prices from eBay and Amazon – “Q-Compare is a useful tool that will let you compare prices of products from both eBay and Amazon marketplaces on the same page. You may use the service to compare the current prices and shipping charges of books, DVDs, electronics and all the other product categories.”
  • Earthquake in Chile – “At 3:34 am local time, today, February 27th, a devastating magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile, one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded. According to Chilean authorities, over 400 people are now known to have been killed. The earthquake also triggered a Tsunami which is right now propagating across the Pacific Ocean, due to arrive in Hawaii in hours (around 11:00 am local time). The severity of the Tsunami is still not known, but alerts are being issued across the Pacific. (Entry updated four times, now 45 photos total)”
  • iStubz: Extra-short iPhone/iPod cable – “The iStubz is a miniature USB cable for iPhones/iPods. It comes in either 7cm or 22cm lengths, and is probably the best eight dollar purchase I’ve made in the past year. The reason I’m so in love with this little tool is that it can live permanently in my bag without taking up any space or tangling up on anything. This is great since I regularly forget to charge my iPhone at night and often have to charge it on the go.”

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Posted in: Caught Our Eye

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