Assorted Links 4/6/10


So, you think YOU can drive? Ha!


Bill Black: Not Dead Yet – Part 2

  • 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
  • Persuading Congress: Candid Advice for Executives – “Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson, is a very practical book, packed with wisdom and experience in a deceptively short and simple package.

    This book will help you understand Congress. Written from the perspective of one who has helped put a lot of bills on the president’s desk and helped stop a lot more, this book explains in everyday terms why Congress behaves as it does. Then it shows you how you can best deploy whatever resources you have to move Congress in your direction.”

  • Obama Wants More Preferences – “The Obama administration has weighed in on behalf of the University of Texas’s use of racial and ethnic preferences in its undergraduate admissions, filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, as reported here. This is unfortunate if not surprising, but the scope of the brief is noteworthy in three respects.

    First, it goes out of its way to endorse the use of preferences to achieve diversity not just in this particular case at this particular school, but in all “educational institutions”—K-12, undergraduate, and graduate. The Supreme Court has never found there to be a compelling interest in the former instance—nor, for example, in post-doctorates for chemistry—and it is aggressive and wrong to argue that, because the Court found there to be compelling educational benefits in diversity at the University of Michigan law school, therefore any educational institution can make that claim.

    Second, the University of Texas is arguing not just for campus-wide diversity but for classroom-by-classroom diversity. To achieve this, needless to say, the use of racial and ethnic preferences will be increased significantly.”

  • In defense of Hank Johnson – “By now you may have heard of a recent episode involving Congressman Hank Johnson, who represents the Fourth District of Georgia in the House, one of the most Democratic Congressional districts in the US.
    . . .
    However, I would like to offer a spirited defense of the unjustly-maligned Representative Johnson. First of all, although this is a little-known fact, he and Admiral Willard, the man he is questioning in the video, are old friends. They met in 1986 on the set of the film ‘Top Gun.’ Willard was a consultant and actor in the film (you can look it up), but the telegenic Johnson also played a bit role in the film as one of the other pilots.

    Willard and Johnson struck up an acquaintance on the set, finding that they shared a remarkable gift for deadpan humor. They developed a number of routines that had the other ‘Top Gun’ actors and extras in stitches, and were both known for keeping a straight face throughout the silliest exchanges, a skill that served them remarkably well during their recent encounter in Congress.”

  • Political Promiscuities: Naomi Wolf and the “Patriot Movement” – “In her monumentally stupid book The End of America, feminist author Naomi Wolf predicted that the Bush years would end in a full-blown fascist dictatorship. (I detailed the many errors of fact and logic in Wolf’s book here. My favorite claim in The End of America is this one: ‘The Communist revolutionaries of 1917 were opposed to torture, having suffered it themselves at the hands of czarist forces.’) But the interminable Bush years ended as planned–and to Wolf’s evident disappointment, without a putsch.

    But paranoia is a stubborn thing, and America’s most successful anti-fascist is keeping hope alive. In this interview with Alternet, Wolf has kind words for the libertarian participants in the Tea Party movement, accuses President Obama of being like Hitler, and explains how she and Glenn Beck are, in fact, very different. When she says that ‘Obama has done things like Hitler did,’ she does it with an academic degree:”

  • “Stealth Bailout” – “Obama’s mortgage modification extravaganza has touched-off a gold rush in toxic paper. Subprime securitizations, which had been worth next to nothing, are now the hottest trade on Wall Street. It’s a subprime bonanza! The investment sharpies are scarfing up all the crummy MBS they can get their hands on, because they know they can trade it in for Triple A FHA-backed loans when the program get’s going. It’s another swindle cooked up by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to keep the brokerage clan in the clover. Here’s how a Wall Street veteran explained it to me:
      It looks like the investors in securitizations will be swapping underwater real estate for govt-insured paper… I think the scam here is just to provide some cover so the hedge funds and other high net worth individuals can trade their low grade paper for Triple AAA mortgages insured by the FHA at the taxpayer expense.

    That’s it, in a nutshell. The faux-foreclosure prevention program has nothing to do with helping homeowners. That’s just diversionary gibberish to confuse the public. The real objective is to create a government landfill (aka-FHA) where the banks and other financial institutions can dump their toxic MBS-sludge and walk away with gov-backed loans.”

  • Reich Levels Broadside at Greenspan, Rubin, and Summers, and Phony Financial Reform – “There were plenty of enablers to this financial fraud. There always are many more people who do not act out of principle, or inside involvement and knowledge, but out of their own selfish bias and greed or craven fear that compels them to ‘go with the flow.’

    And there is little better example of this than the many people who are even now turning a willful eye away from the blatant government manipulation of the stock and commodity markets, in particular the silver market. They do not wish to believe it, so they ignore it, and even ridicule it depending on how deeply it affects their personal interests. But the overall body of evidence is compelling enough to provoke further investigation, and the refusal to allow audits and independent investigation starts to become an overwhelming sign of a coverup. I am not saying that it is correct, or that I know something, but I am saying to not investigate it thoroughly and to air all the details, is highly suspicious and not in the interests of the truth. I did not know, for example, that Madoff was conducting a Ponzi scheme, but the indications were all there and a simple investigation and disclosure would have revealed the truth, one way or the other.
    . . .
    The perpetrators of this latest fraud, this unleashing of darkness upon the world, will count on the fear and apathy of the many, and the cynical contempt of the fortunate for the disadvantaged, to make them all the unwitting accomplices in their own inevitable destruction. It has worked for them in the past.

    One cannot fight this sort of evil with hatred and violence, or hysteria and intemperate accusations, for these are its creatures, and it uses them always to further its ends. The only worthy adversary of the darkness is transparency, openness, justice, and truth based on facts, in the light of reason, with the guidance of the light of the world. We are not sufficient of ourselves to stand against it, and if we knock down the law, the Constitution, to chase it with expediency and private justice, what will protect us when it turns around to devour us? But we should never be a willing victim, and even worse, a silent bystander or mocking accomplice.”

  • Does incarceration make people black? – “In a paper in Social Problems, Saperstein and Penner find that there is a surprising amount of variability in racial identification in the NLSY. Some of this variation is due to error or other random factors but some of it also appears to be systematic. In particular, the authors find that if someone has been incarcerated they are more likely to self-identify as black as well as to be independently identified as black.”
  • New adversary in U.S. drug war: Contract killers for Mexican cartels – “A cross-border drug gang born in the prison cells of Texas has evolved into a sophisticated paramilitary killing machine that U.S. and Mexican officials suspect is responsible for thousands of assassinations here, including the recent ambush and slaying of three people linked to the U.S. consulate.

    The heavily tattooed Barrio Azteca gang members have long operated across the border in El Paso, dealing drugs and stealing cars. But in Ciudad Juarez, the organization now specializes in contract killing for the Juarez drug cartel. According to U.S. law enforcement officers, it may have been involved in as many as half of the 2,660 killings in the city in the past year.

    Officials on both sides of the border have watched as the Aztecas honed their ability to locate targets, stalk them and finally strike in brazen ambushes involving multiple chase cars, coded radio communications, coordinated blocking maneuvers and disciplined firepower by masked gunmen in body armor. Afterward, the assassins vanish, back to safe houses in the Juarez barrios or across the bridge to El Paso.”

    That Drug War thingy, how’s that workin’ out?

  • What We Know About North Korea, and Kim Jong Il, From His Defected Staff – “Another former employee of North Korea’s secretive dictatorship — a personal shopper — has escaped to tell his story. Here’s a roundup of the bizarre details he, and two chefs, told of their time working for the world’s weirdest dictator.

    The people of North Korea have, for decades, been starving to death while a madman spends the country’s dwindling fortune on weapons and himself. And, of course, on propping up his totalitarian regime. As Nicholas Kristof wrote ‘entire families [are] sometimes executed if one member gets drunk and slights the Dear Leader.’ The country’s nickname, the hermit kingdom, is hard-earned. Very few reports have emerged from the highest levels of government, and even fewer from the court of Kim himself. Here’s what we know from the few who have escaped — forced stripteases and all.”

  • Is the Obama Mortgage Foreclosure Plan Legal? – “Many, including myself, have criticized the TARP as a massive delegation of spending power from Congress to the Treasury Department. Such delegation is, in my mind, clearly unconstitutional. However, even within such a broad delegation, there are parameters in which Treasury must act. Treating TARP as simply a large pot of money to spend however Treasury chooses is nothing short of illegal.”
  • Bank of Mom and Dad Shuts Amid White-Collar Struggle – “When Maurice Johnson was laid off a year ago from his six-figure salary as a managing director at GE Capital, it wasn’t his future he was worried about.

    It was his children’s.

    The family income of the Johnsons is a fifth of what it used to be. And the children are about to feel the pain. Mr. Johnson’s two oldest are attending his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, at an annual cost of $50,000 apiece. And his youngest daughter, 15 years old, recently began her own college search. Mr. Johnson isn’t sure whether he’ll be able to help her to go to college, or even to get the older kids to graduation.
    . . .
    ‘I know, I know–cry me a river and then build a bridge and get over it, right?’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘Still, there was a set of expectations we established, consciously or not, and they are not being met any more.'”

  • Straws in the wind (part two) – “‘Losses in state retirement fund create $1 billion crisis for [Oregon] agencies, local governments’
    . . .
    ‘Cash-Poor Cities Take On Unions’
    . . .
    ‘What Politics Looks Like in a Union-Run World That Has Run Out of Money’.
    . . .
    ‘How the Coming Union Pension Plan Collapse is Affecting White House Decisions’.”
  • Sniper Finder Rushed To Afghanistan – “If you want proof that Robert Gates and Ash Carter are serious about pushing the Pentagon to be the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan then look no further than the wonderfully named Gunslinger Package for Advanced Convoy Security (GunPACS).
    . . .
    Mounted on the ready-to-rumble MTVR, the system locates snipers using the acoustic Boomerang system and feeds that data to a map and cues a CROWS II remote weapons system (pictured above). The CROWS camera gives the crew a rapid look at the possible target and the picture can be shared in near real time with a tactical operations center. That gives everyone a chance to avoid killing civilians, a key capability in a counter-insurgency fight.”


Here’s another of our fabulous Representatives


More on the (Un)Constitutionality of Obamacare

  • Bad Retro:The Federally-Planned City – “An under-discussed development in the Obama Administration is the re-animation of a policy better left in faded journals:federal urban planning.

    The idea behind ‘federal blight removal’ in the 1950s and 1960s was to pave over old neighborhoods, often derided as ‘slums’ by the planning elite, and replace them with the fad du jour, Le Courbousier inspired high-rises.The intent was social engineering by constructing ‘cities of the future,’ made of superhighways and towering apartments. As Martin Anderson documents in his 1964 book The Federal Bulldozer, the effect was the destruction of housing stock and neighborhoods, and the displacement of people.”

  • The 2009 Pigasus Awards – “Tonight, we are pleased to present this year’s Pigasus Awards to the following very-deserving people. It was a hard call — there seem to be millions all over the world clambering to make it onto the following shortlist — but these folks had that special something that commanded our attention and, in the end, impressed us like no others. No matter if it was blatant cynicism, shocking callousness, lazy ignorance, or merely old-fashioned pig-headedness — these men and women took those qualities that most vex us to their wild, crazy extremes. We’d salute them, but we’re too busy gaping.”
  • The Growth Managed Death of Oregon’s Pear Farms – “Oregon became a nationwide leader in statewide growth management when it passed its law in 1973 to protect farmland and open space. It turns out, an unintended side effect is the undermining of the financial viability of the state’s agricultural industry, specifically fruit farms.

    Farms are unable to sell their land to underwrite their farm operations. As a result, they are going under.
    . . .
    Of course, this is the inherent problem with central planning of any kind. All human and government actions have unintended consequences. The question is which institutions are more effective and resilient in addressing these problems.”

  • 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 early 1970s, 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.”
  • Kraft: Management Incompetence Visited On Cadbury Employees – “The Kraft acquisition of Cadbury provides a vivid illustration of why the US model of screwing workers to preserve executive bonuses does not go over well abroad.

    Brief synopsis: Kraft acquires the 200 year old British confection-maker Cadbury after a heated battle. The chairwoman and CEO Irene Rosenfeld (already not a good sign, best practice is to separate the two roles) was awarded a 41% pay increase, bringing the total to $26 million for 2009 for her ‘exceptional role’ in the Cadbury transaction, as well as her ‘commitment to fiscal discipline.’

    Huh? Doing deals is part of a modern CEO’s job. Unless her role was SO exceptional that it saved Kraft several million in deal fees, this just looks like a trumped up excuse. It is far too early to tell if the Cadbury acquistion was a good deal or not, thus special bennies look mighty unwaranted.”

  • Easter lamb a tradition that predates religion – “The men will drift outside to the fire, hypnotized by it, laughing, reaching out to pull pieces off the lamb, just for the taste, as an end to the long fast. We’ll have fun being together, and I hope you enjoy the day with your friends and families, too.

    How long has this been going on, this turning of the lambs over fire? Since before religion, before words.

    Our pagan ancients made burnt offerings to the gods, holding up the choicest thigh pieces, pouring libations on the ground.

    And also Father Abraham made offerings to God, and Moses brought the law to the Jews, and the generations upon generations did the same, through the Passover Supper and to the present day.”


Recently at Reason.tv: 3 Reasons Why Public Sector Employees Are Killing The Economy

  • Cheaper RFID Printed on Paper – “We previously mentioned a study where it was shown that traditional RFID tags could be used safely as patient wristbands in a medical setting, but now a technology from Korea could help make it cheap enough to be widespread.”
  • How to Teach a 3-Year-Old to Drive in the Snow – “Growing up in California I didn’t get much experience driving in the snow and I had a steep learning curve when I moved to Chicago. So it’s pretty important to me to make sure that my kids get an early start. My 3 year old made a lot of progress with his driving lessons last fall and so I wanted to strike while the iron was hot and get him out on the road in some snow this winter.

    There are certainly some new challenges involved. For safety reasons I wanted him to learn in a car with all-wheel-drive.”

  • NYT Fooled Twice on April Fools’ Day – “The paper of record fell for two blogs’ April Fools’ jokes—one required a retraction and one went so far over their heads, the Times sent a publicist to quell an “inaccurate” story. Update: Prankster tells all.”
  • The Fool’s Gold At The End Of The iPad Rainbow – “The media has been making a huge deal about how the iPad is supposed to ‘save the business,’ because suddenly everything will return to apps, and people pay for apps, and toss in a big dose of ‘Steve Jobs!’ and there’s some sort of magic formula which includes some question marks and inevitably ends in profit! Now, the iPad does look like a nice device, and I have no doubt that it will do quite well for Apple, and many buyers will be quite happy with it. But it’s not going to save the media business in any way, shape or form. It’s just the media chasing a rainbow in search of gold that doesn’t exist.

    A few months back, I tried to ask a simple question that we still haven’t received a good answer to: all of these media companies, thinking that iPad apps are somehow revolutionary, don’t explain why they never put that same functionality online. They could. But didn’t. There’s nothing special about the iPad that enables functionality you couldn’t do elsewhere. But, it goes deeper than that. People are being taken down by app madness. Because the iPhone has sold a bunch of apps, suddenly old school media players are suddenly dreaming of the sorts of control they used to have, and pretending it can be replicated on the iPad. But that’s a big myth.”

  • Vinaigrettes– Egged, Bunnied and Snotted-Upon – “And I know she is thanking me for fixing it, and for not getting mad at her.

    ‘You’re so welcome,’ I say. Because I have to land on her when she won’t stay in bed, and I have to ignore her when she screams, and it is my sacred duty to put her ass in time out when she smacks her big sister.

    But I’ll never kick her when she’s down.”

. . . . . . . . .

Posted in: Caught Our Eye

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