Assorted Links 6/27/10


Brown Bailout

Drafting Effective Federal Legislation and Amendments, July 21, 2010

Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, July 22, 2010

Advanced Federal Budget Process, August 2-3, 2010

Advanced Legislative Strategies, August 4-6, 2010

Mark Twain on Copyright
“Remarks of Samuel Langhorne Clemens Before the Congressional Joint Committee on Patents, December, 1906 (Mark Twain on Copyright)”

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.”

Undercover Operation: Strippers Take Clothes Off!
“Here is a truly wonderful story: After a six-month (!!) undercover sting operation, the men of Charlottes’s finest have concluded that strippers take. their. clothes. off.

Thank goodness we have a police force, to protect us from dangerous naked women. I think Mr. Fall has it right, below:”

Rolling Stone
“This sort of thing is what happens when a senior officer and his aides, under pressure, blurt out the truth. Biden is indeed something of a stuffed shirt, and the president has been disappointing to many people who once hoped for more.

Update: Most of the general’s dissatisfaction appears to have been generated by friction with US ambassador Karl Eikenberry, who was himself a 3-star general and former commander of US forces in Afghanistan. The sometimes controversial COIN changes that McChrystal has instituted are changes to Eikenberry’s policies, while the ambassador has declined to release funds to sponsor the kind of local anti-Taliban militias and infrastructure upgrades in Kanduhar that made the Sons of Iraq game changers in the Sunni-dominated Iraqi province of Anbar. As for Holbrooke and Jones, well: Too many cooks spoil the broth.
. . .
Update 5: The Rolling Stone article itself. Read for content — and not for the reporter’s reflexively anti-military spin — it’s not so bad, really. The ‘Biden who?’ thing was about keeping his mouth shut if he had to answer a question about his previous disagreement with the vice president at a dinner party in Paris.”

Does McChrystal Rhyme with MacArthur?
“Look past McChrystal, a man who has given his life to the military, and has much to show for it. Look at the enlisted guys who are just beginning their careers, or the NCOs or junior officers who are in the third or fourth tours (in either Iraq or Afghanistan). They’re growing frustrated. They’re in an impossible situation. They are fighting a war that depends upon strong support here in the United States, and that aims to boost support for a government that no one believes in. And while they understand COIN as preached by McChrystal, they struggle with the rules of engagement that COIN requires.”

Greenberg: For-Profit Schools … Subprime Redux?
“But [Steve Eisman of FrontPoint Partners]’s comments were the most direct. Key claims include:

* ‘Until recently, I thought that there would never again be an opportunity to be involved with an industry as socially destructive as the subprime mortgage industry. I was wrong. The for-profit education industry has proven equal to the task.’

* With Title IV student loans, ‘the government, the students and the taxpayers bear all the risk and the for-profit industry reaps all of the rewards.’

* ‘We have every expectation the industry’s default rates are about to explode.’

* ‘How do such schools stay in business? The answer is to control the accreditation process. The scandal here is exactly akin to the rating agency role in subprime securitizations.'”

Steve Eisman & FrontPoint Partners Ira Sohn Presentation: Subprime Goes to College

Without Good Evidence, Bad Evidence Must Do
“Lawyers fight tooth and nail over the admissibility of evidence in a typical case. The reason they fight is simple: There’s evidence to be had and rules to apply in determining its admission. Thanks to Mr. Richardson, we can argue the nuanced points all day long.
. . .
Prosecutions alleging domestic violence are fraught with arguments, and decisions, that wreak havoc with the rules of evidence. Proponents argue that the nature of the relationship, private and personal, precludes the availability of reliable evidence, and thus gives rise to a different set of rules that should permit evidence that would otherwise be laughed out of court. The use of rampant hearsay evidence is indefensible, but proponents contend that a murderer shouldn’t get away with it just because they’ve killed the only competent witness.

The only thing truly required to feel comfortable with the concept of convicting in the absence of good evidence is the certainty of the defendant’s guilt, thereby justifying anything needed to obtain the verdict to validate that belief. When the defendant’s guilt is prejudged, the absence of good evidence gives way to the admission of bad. After all, we can’t let a man like Drew Peterson get away with it.”

Grassroots Lobbying, Campaign Finance Laws and the Integrity of Democracy
“It’s been my pleasure to guest blog this week on the topic of grassroots lobbying regulations. In the four previous posts, I’ve summarized the lessons from Mowing Down the Grassroots: existing lobbying regulations in 36 states are so broad as to cover situations in which individuals or groups communicate to other citizens about public issues (i.e., grassroots lobbying) and such regulations have costs that have gone largely unrecognized.

The traditional rationales for regulating lobbyists — corrupting or buttonholing public officials — do not apply to grassroots lobbying; instead, states have asserted a right to know ‘who is speaking’ for the furtherance of the ‘integrity of democracy.’ I leave for others to debate whether such a purpose is a legitimate reason to burden political speech, association and the right to petition.”

Learning the rules of an unengaged president
“What do Gen. McChrystal and British Petroleum have in common? Aside from the fact that they’re both Democratic Party supporters.

Or they were. Stanley McChrystal is a liberal who voted for Obama and banned Fox News from his HQ TV. Which may at least partly explain how he became the first U.S. general to be lost in combat while giving an interview to Rolling Stone: They’ll be studying that one in war colleges around the world for decades. The management of BP were unable to vote for Obama, being, as we now know, the most sinister duplicitous bunch of shifty Brits to pitch up offshore since the War of 1812. But, in their ‘Beyond Petroleum’ marketing and beyond, they signed on to every modish nostrum of the eco-Left. Their recently retired chairman, Lord Browne, was one of the most prominent promoters of cap-and-trade. BP was the Democrats’ favorite oil company. They were to Obama what Total Fina Elf was to Saddam.
. . .
Only the other day, Florida Sen. George Lemieux attempted to rouse the president to jump-start America’s overpaid, overmanned and oversleeping federal bureaucracy and get it to do something on the oil debacle. There are 2,000 oil skimmers in the United States: Weeks after the spill, only 20 of them are off the coast of Florida. Seventeen friendly nations with great expertise in the field have offered their own skimmers; the Dutch volunteered their ‘super-skimmers': Obama turned them all down. Raising the problem, Sen. Lemieux found the president unengaged, and uninformed. ‘He doesn’t seem to know the situation about foreign skimmers and domestic skimmers,’ reported the senator.
. . .
‘The ugly truth,’ wrote Thomas Friedman in The New York Times, ‘is that no one in the Obama White House wanted this Afghan surge. The only reason they proceeded was because no one knew how to get out of it.’

Well, that’s certainly ugly, but is it the truth? Afghanistan, you’ll recall, was supposed to be the Democrats’ war, the one they allegedly supported, the one the neocons’ Iraq adventure was an unnecessary distraction from. Granted the Dems’ usual shell game — to avoid looking soft on national security, it helps to be in favor of some war other than the one you’re opposing — Candidate Obama was an especially ripe promoter. In one of the livelier moments of his campaign, he chugged down half a bottle of Geopolitical Viagra and claimed he was hot for invading Pakistan.

Then he found himself in the Oval Office, and the dime-store opportunism was no longer helpful. But, as Friedman puts it, ‘no one knew how to get out of it.’ The ‘pragmatist’ settled for ‘nuance': He announced a semisurge plus a date for withdrawal of troops to begin. It’s not ‘victory,’ it’s not ‘defeat,’ but rather a more sophisticated mélange of these two outmoded absolutes: If you need a word, ‘quagmire’ would seem to cover it.

Hamid Karzai, the Taliban and the Pakistanis, on the one hand, and Britain and the other American allies heading for the check-out, on the other, all seem to have grasped the essentials of the message, even if Friedman and the other media Obammyboppers never quite did. Karzai is now talking to Islamabad about an accommodation that would see the most viscerally anti-American elements of the Taliban back in Kabul as part of a power-sharing regime. At the height of the shrillest shrieking about the Iraqi ‘quagmire,’ was there ever any talk of hard-core Saddamite Baathists returning to government in Baghdad?
. . .
Likewise, on Afghanistan, his attitude seems to be ‘I don’t want to hear about it.’ Unmanned drones take care of a lot of that, for a while. So do his courtiers in the media: Did all those hopeychangers realize that Obama’s war would be run by Bush’s defense secretary and Bush’s general?

Hey, never mind: the Moveon.org folks have quietly removed their celebrated ‘General Betray-us’ ad from their website. Cindy Sheehan, the supposed conscience of the nation when she was railing against Bush from the front pages, is an irrelevant kook unworthy of coverage when she protests Obama. Why, a cynic might almost think the ‘anti-war’ movement was really an anti-Bush movement, and that they really don’t care about dead foreigners after all. Plus ça change you can believe in, plus c’est la même chose.

Except in one respect. There is a big hole where our strategy should be.”


How to make a liberal case for Israel

New Or Used?: The Third Car Edition (teen driver)
” My soon to be 16 year old daughter will be driving soon. She is heavily involved in sports and marching band, so a car for her to get to such things would be a great relief for mom and dad. That’s 1000’s of miles to and from school, and whatnot! We will have NO car payments around the same time (wife’s 2005 Exploder will be paid-off in July).

So what to get??? A 3rd car to use as a city car? A newer used car for wife, I jump into the Explorer and share it with daughter?

A car for daughter solely??? We will not be getting rid of my truck or wife’s explorer. It has to be used, domestic brand prefered, but V-Dubs are OK. And no more than 8 grand.”

Lots of good advice in the comments.

The Search World Is Flat
“How does Google’s unchallenged domination of Search shape the way we retrieve information? Does Google flatten global knowledge?
I look around, I see my kids relying on Wikipedia, I watch my journalist students work. I can’t help but wonder: Does Google impose a framework on our cognitive processes, on the way we search for and use information?
. . .
– Students who bring academic experience to an online research task are more likely to succeed than those with technical expertise alone:
. . .
–The highest performing students use copy/paste to organize their thoughts.
. . .
–Younger students tend to be more opinionated than their elders; they begin to write their essay after only seeing 5 URLs, and they extract sources mostly to support their beliefs
. . .
–Google is the source.
. . .
–Search processes showed a definite lack of imagination on the students part. For instance, they made little or no effort to restructure search terms.
. . .
–Most of the students performed rather a small number of actions, going though 18 different web sites to find 2 or 3 quotable sources, this without much difference between graduates and undergraduates.
. . .
There is little doubt that the overwhelming use of technology such as search engines — and the preeminence of Google in that field — tends to flatten global knowledge. Let’s not forget that Google’s algorithm is based on popularity rather than relevance; the PageRank system acts as some kind of popular voting in which links are the ballots. The consequence is a self-sustaining phenomenon in which superficial research will value the most popular results which, in turn, are linked and gain in popularity, and so on.

And, unfortunately, most of the searches are superficial. ‘It is certain that an overwhelming amount of information reduces serendipity’, says Monica Bulger. ‘Over a thousand of results, we tend to select the top five’.”

The Age of the Infovore
“Tyler Cowen’s ‘Create Your Own Economy’ is now out in paperback entitled ‘The Age of the Infovore‘, perhaps an acknowledgement that the initial title wasn’t working out.

I liked the book at lot. As suits the infovoracious it is wide-ranging, somewhat scattershot but extremely creative, original and thought-provoking. If the book has a theme it is that different people think very differently – not just that they have different tastes or different beliefs but that the entire way they organise the world is different – and that the internet offers some people a much better way to order their encounters with the world than they have previously been offered. It changed the way I think.”

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.”

Mickey Foley: The Doomer’s Curse
“Mickey Foley takes a look at the underlying motivations of people who predict collapse of society as a result of Peak Oil, Anthropogenic Global Warming, or other causes. Foley sees Doomers motivated by an underlying desire to lower the status of others in order to boost their own relative status.

‘The Doomer is motivated by much more than a perverse sense of altruism. He mainly desires to see everyone brought down to his level. His fondest wish is for everyone to be as emotionally crippled as he is, and, if they could also be paralyzed fiscally, that would be great too. The argument for the necessity of disaster is merely an excuse for his vindictive fantasies. This is the Doomer’s Curse: to wallow in despair, to sneer at the happiness of others, to revel in schadenfreude and to believe that he has humanity’s best interests at heart. The Doomer honestly thinks that a universal depression (in the emotional sense) would lay the foundation for a better world, but this belief is rooted in his own selfishness, not in a rational socioeconomic analysis.'”

Why Engineers Hop Jobs
“People in my generation have a very low tolerance for bullshit, and software engineering, in general, is a very high bullshit career. If you couple that with the standard load of bullshit you would get from a non-technical Harvard MBA type boss — like many CEOs that you find trying to get rich in Silicon Valley by hiring some engineers to ‘code up this idea real quick’ — it’s no wonder that a good engineer will walk off the job after his one year cliff vesting.
. . .
I recognize the value of business people and management. Somebody has to sell the code that I write, which in turn puts food on my table. Since I am an engineer, I like iterative optimization. Every time I have left a job, I have further refined the requirements that a person must fill before I agree to work for him. After every job, I add one or two requirements to the list, and I have found that my happiness at work improves dramatically with every step.”

Toyota To Produce Small Subarus. And A FT-86baru?
“Toyota will supply small Subarus to Fuji Heavy, so that Fuji Heavy and Subaru can focus on midsize cars. According to information developed by The Nikkei [sub], ‘Toyota and Fuji Heavy intend to release a jointly developed sports car under their respective brands as early as the end of 2011.’ If the Nikkei has its stuff together, then we might finally see the often delayed FT-86 next year. As a Toyota and a Subaru.”

Anti-virus is a Poor Substitute for Common Sense
“A new study about the (in)efficacy of anti-virus software in detecting the latest malware threats is a much-needed reminder that staying safe online is more about using your head than finding the right mix or brand of security software.
. . .
‘People have to understand that anti-virus is more like a seatbelt than an armored car: It might help you in an accident, but it might not,’ Huger said. ‘There are some things you can do to make sure you don’t get into an accident in the first place, and those are the places to focus, because things get dicey real quick when today’s malware gets past the outside defenses and onto the desktop.'”

800 Watt Portable Generator
“I’ve owned this generator for two years and it’s great for light field work. Turn all your electric tools (weed trimmer, hedge trimmer, leaf blower, even electric chain saws) into gas tools. This generator is OEM’ed to a lot of distributors, who then put their own facade on it. The cheapest version appears to be available at Harbor Freight for $99.

It’s very robust and endures overload gracefully (it just peters out without any damage.) It’s the antithesis of the previously reviewed Honda EU Series. You could wear out and throw away a lot of these generators for the price of one of the Honda inverter generators.”

Bringrr Ensures That You Never Leave Your Phone At Home
“Bringrr is a small Bluetooth accessory that detects when your phone is nearby. If you start your car and the phone isn’t present, it will emit a sound to let you know. It’s small, rather cheap ($35) and helps to ensure that you never leave home (or anywhere else, for that matter) without your phone.”

How To Recycle An Airplane
“A recycled jetliner produces tons of metal and millions of dollars in parts, but a mistake could cost hundreds of lives. Here’s how the company that salvaged the plane from Lost does its destructive business.

A car’s typically just parted out once and then scrapped at the end of its life, but a jumbo jet is full of thousands of valuable parts that will be salvaged or recycled numerous times. One passenger plane may transition into service transporting packages, or off to commercial service in Africa, and then the fuselage used for training purposes.

Approximately 450 large aircraft are completely scrapped and disassembled each year, according to the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association, with another 5,900 passenger jets to be recycled by 2028 according to Boeing. Given the high prices for parts, dangerous materials, and the risk involved in recycling airplane parts it’s not a job for any dismantling yard.

‘In short, it’s not like the auto [recycling] business,’ says aviation archeologist and plane recycling expert Doug Scroggins, who was responsible for recycling the airliner that’s the centerpiece for ABC’s Lost and serves as managing director for ARC Aeropsace Industries. ‘If you sell an engine off an aircraft and it crashes, you’re going to be spending a great deal of time in jail.'”

‘I Hate My Room,’ The Traveler Tweeted. Ka-Boom! An Upgrade!
“You might think that the only ones following your online musings are your mom and college pals. But if they include a gripe about a hotel, the front-desk clerk at the offending property may be listening, too.

Hotels and resorts are amassing a growing army of sleuths whose job it is to monitor what is said about them online–and protect the hotels’ reputations. These employees search social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter for unhappy guests and address complaints. They write groveling apologies in response to negative reviews on TripAdvisor. And they keep tabs on future guests who post about upcoming stays–and sometimes offer them extra perks or personalized attention at check in.

For travelers, the upshot is that if you use social media, your complaints could have more power. In years past, guests unhappy about a lumpy bed, grimy bathroom or an awful view had to take their frustrations to the front desk or hotel manager and hope for some restitution. Now, with some guests having hundreds–and even thousands–of followers on Twitter and Facebook, complaints can have a big audience. It’s like every guest has a virtual megaphone.”

One Droid X killer feature the iPhone 4 lacks
“Though the 4.3-inch display (in the case of already-small smartphone displays, bigger is better), the Flash 10.1 support, DLNA streaming, and the Texas Instruments 1GHz ARM processor are nice, the icing on the cake is the built-in Wi-Fi hotspot–or what Verizon calls the 3G Mobile Hotspot.”

World Cup 2010: Kenya’s field of dreams – if you inflate it, they will come
“The screen is inflated – it blows up like a bouncy castle – the PA system is cranked up and suddenly the sights and sounds of the World Cup are beamed into an African community that might otherwise have missed out.

Within a few minutes the screen, the brightest thing for miles around, draws a crowd and the spectacle of the world’s best players strutting their stuff is greeted with whoops and cheers.

England fans may feel hard done by following the team’s poor performance on Friday but they could learn patience and optimism from the people watching this temporary screen in the town of Kilifi and surrounding areas just north of Mombasa thanks to a project called Kenya Field of Dreams.”

Verizon Motorola Droid X Hands-On Review
“Still, the Droid X’s closest kin is the Sprint Evo. Both devices run on Android, both offer mobile hotspot functionality, and both have very similar screens, physical dimensions and feels. As for which one is better for you, it really comes down to a few simple questions: Do you demand 4G network access, and how much are you willing to pay each month?

The Sprint Evo is a tricky device. Yes, it offers Wimax and mobile tethering, but these things do not come cheap–the mobile hotspot feature costs users an extra $30 per month, and users must pay $10 extra per month to use the Evo over any other Sprint phone, whether or not they live in a Wimax-covered city. (Sprint attributes this surcharge to a ‘premium multimedia experience,’ vague language that has many tech critics screaming shenanigans.) Verizon doesn’t charge users a premium to use the Droid X over their other phones (although their network isn’t the cheapest to use either), and the mobile hotspot fee is just $20 on top of your bill.

So which phone is for you? The answer is actually quite simple: If you’re already locked to Verizon on contract, go with the Droid X. If you’ve signed to Sprint, go with the Evo. And if you’re on AT&T, there’s always a little device called the iPhone 4.”

Top 10 Clever Google Voice Tricks
“Earlier this week, Google Voice opened to everyone in the U.S.. The phone management app is great, but even cooler hacks exist just under the hood. Here are our favorite tricks every Google Voice user should know about.

If you’re just signing up for Google Voice, and wondering, in general, what it’s good for, we’ve previously offered our take on whether Google Voice makes sense for you, and how to ease your transition to your new number and system. Google Voice also offers the option to just use it for voicemail and keep your number, but you won’t get use of much of the SMS features touted here. Now, onto Voice’s lesser-known perks and features:”

Set Google Voice as Your Skype Caller ID

“A Google Voice number, one that rings all your phones, makes good sense as the caller ID number for outgoing Skype calls. Google Voice blocked the verification SMS that Skype needed until recently, but Google’s flipped the switch and made it convenient.”

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