Assorted Links 7/20/09


Penn Jillette on Health Care Reform

  • Drafting Effective Federal Legislation and Amendments, July 29, 2009
  • Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, July 30, 2009
  • Advanced Federal Budget Process, August 3-4, 2998
  • Advanced Legislative Strategies, August 5-7, 2009
  • A County’s Contracts Go Missing – “Jefferson County, Alabama, is likely the nation’s most financially troubled large local government. Alabama’s most populous county (home to Birmingham) could go bankrupt because it can’t pay the debt from its sewer system. Jefferson County also could go bankrupt for a completely unrelated reason: A judge threw out a tax that provided more than a quarter of its general fund. To get where it is today, Jefferson County has suffered from a lot of bad luck. But, you’d also struggle to find a worse-managed county.”
  • My favorite things Alabama
  • Mish Should Ditch His Deflation Fears – “We who are advocates of sound, free-market money need to get our story straight. Are we predicting hyperinflation or massive deflation? Personally, I am much more worried about the former problem. Using a recent article by Mish, I hope to show that no one has made a convincing case for falling prices.”
  • Liberty and Safety – “For a professor of law at one of the country’s best law schools who was once the go-to guy in the Justice Department whenever the Bush White House needed legal cover for its truly lawless ventures outside the Constitution, John Yoo has revealed a breathtaking ignorance of American values, history, and jurisprudence.”
  • Downtown Condo Tour – “If the builder offers these condos priced in the low-$300s per sf, and throws an all-out party for realtors, it’ll be a good sign that they get it about how tough the market is, and might have a chance to move some units. If they want $400/sf or higher, and are offering cheeze and crackers, it’ll be a long road home.”
  • Dr. Krugman and Mr. Keynes – “Franklin Roosevelt (one of Mr. Keynes’s favorite presidents) tried a high wage policy 5 times. Each time the policy was adopted during periods of near zero interest rates and very rapid economic growth. And as I showed in this post, each time the policy brought promising recoveries from the Great Depression to a screeching halt. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to abandon good old supply and demand for a bizarre theory featuring upward slopping AD curves that was tried 5 times, and failed spectacularly each time.”
  • Jim Cramer Generates 134.79% Return – “Jim Cramer is now an internet hack shill. His encyclopedic knowledge of company details is impressive, and he did run a successful hedge fund for a decade, though as a hedge fund his performance claims are unaudited and implausible (24% annual returns with 1 down quarter over 10 years). Yet for some strange reason, like many famous investors, he quickly realizes it is more profitable to sell advice than invest on it. If he had anything like the edge he claims (5% out performance?), it simply makes no sense to sell this advice as opposed to invest on it, especially when you have capital to start.

    So now the same company (CNBC) he used for his pump-and-dumps in the 1990s he uses to broadcast his highly popular show ‘Mad Money’, illustrating that the best salesman create willing dupes impervious to experience.”

  • Guess who? – “His birth was marked by a double rainbow and a new star, he hit 11 holes-in-one in his first game of golf, finishing 38 under par, and throughout his life he has performed heroic feats impossible for mere mortals. When he shouts, ‘huge storms happen’.”
  • Why (Some) Docs Support the House Bill (So Far) – “The American College of Surgeons boasts that its executive committee voted unanimously to support the House Democrats’ bill because it would increase Medicare’s price controls so that over the next 10 years, Medicare would pay physicians $284 billion more than under current law. Reminds me of something New Democrat David Kendall wrote in 1994:
      Not surprisingly, some specialists welcome price controls — which would lock in their high income — and fear competition, which might depress it. For example, the American College of Surgeons has endorsed the single-payer approach, which would control prices at the current level and preserve surgeons’ relative value among physicians.

    Of course, to pay off the docs, the Democrats will have to rob even more people than they otherwise would.”

  • Candidate Obama, President Obama: – “Candidate Obama, June 2008, in front of AIPAC: ‘And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.’ President Obama, July 2009: ‘The United States views East Jerusalem as no different than an illegal West Bank outpost with regard to its demand for a freeze on settlement construction.'”

  • What’s Next, Mr. President — Cardigans? – “Barely six months into his presidency, Barack Obama seems to be driving south into that political speed trap known as Carter Country: a sad-sack landscape in which every major initiative meets not just with failure but with scorn from political allies and foes alike.
    . . .
    The key to understanding Obama’s predicament is to realize that while he ran convincingly as a repudiation of Bush, he is in fact doubling down on his predecessor’s big-government policies and perpetual crisis-mongering. From the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists to gays in the military to bailing out industries large and small, Obama has been little more than the keeper of the Bush flame. Indeed, it took the two of them to create the disaster that is the 2009 budget, racking up a deficit that has already crossed the historic $1 trillion mark with almost three months left in the fiscal year.
    . . .
    In the same way that Bush claimed to be cutting government even while increasing real spending by more than 70 percent, Obama seems to believe that saying one thing, while doing another, somehow makes it so. His first budget was titled ‘A New Era of Fiscal Responsibility,’ even as his own projections showed a decade’s worth of historically high deficits. He vowed no new taxes on 95 percent of Americans, then jacked up cigarette taxes and indicated a willingness to consider new health-care taxes as part of his reform package. He said he didn’t want to take over General Motors on the day that he took over General Motors.

    Such is the extent of Obama’s magical realism that he can promise to post all bills on the Internet five days before signing them, serially break that promise and then, when announcing that he wouldn’t even try anymore, have a spokesman present the move as yet another example of ‘providing the American people more transparency in government.’
    . . .
    Bush learned the hard way that running government as a perpetual crisis machine leads to bad policy and public fatigue. Obama’s insistence on taking advantage of a crisis to push through every item on the progressive checklist right now is threatening to complete that cycle within his first year.
    . . .
    That the administration is now spending millions of dollars to revamp its useless stimulus-tracking site Recovery.gov is one more indication that, post-Bush, the White House still thinks of citizens as marks to be rolled.”

  • Fed Independence: Too Important to Verify – “One reason to want an audit of the Fed is to establish whether or not it has actually been acting with sufficient independence. The question is already in the air. To attempt to impede an inquiry into the question by stressing the high value of independence is obviously to beg the question. Those who prize independence, if they really do, ought to be all the more keen on an inquiry. The importance of Congress asserting the authority to inquire is that, otherwise, the Fed can use the ideal of independence as cover for what may be in fact extremely political decisions.”
  • America’s Best Schools – “DoDEA schools have an extremely impressive record. You can find public school districts that outperform DoDEA on the National Assessment of Educational Progress but they’re invariably districts with very favorable demographics.” ht Marginal Revolution
  • Let’s Try a Small Thought Experiment – “The stock market is up again and I’m outraged!! … I can’t wait [for] Matt Taibbi take these frauds down!”
  • Why is Amazon insisting that its retail sellers break the law? – “It is simply unbelievable that an allegedly sophisticated technology company like Amazon can not find a way to allow its retailers to comply with the law.”
  • Is a Saint the ‘patron saint’ of something because it is assumed from aspects of their life that they hold a special interest in it? – “Should you become a saint (and you will be a saint once you find yourself in Heaven) you can be the patron saint of people who have to deal with lawyers on a daily basis. You will be sympathetic to their plight with deep understanding.”
  • Is Your Job Costing You A Fortune? Ten Great Ways to Save Money At Work – “Here are ten ways to cut back on your job-related spending. I’ve listed these in roughly the order that they apply to your working day:”
  • The Return of the Puppet Masters – “No word yet on whether [being infected with Toxoplasma gondii] increases the probability of being eaten by cats although I suppose it would have to.”
  • The Power of Opaque Selling – “Priceline, Hotwire and vacation packages from offline and online travel agencies can offer prices that are dramatically lower than published rates without cannibalizing revenue because they are opaque selling channels. Opaque selling makes some part of a purchase non-transparent to the consumer (such as which hotel, what time the flight will leave, what products you are buying) so that the probability of revenue cannibalization is dramatically reduced.”
  • Dear Dr. Boli: Can you discuss the differences between a hobo, tramp, and vagabond? A rather shabby, unshaven, and, shall we say, fragrant, gentleman has been sleeping in the backseat of my vehicle for the last fortnight. I should think that one should ascertain the proper nomenclature before notifying the authorities. Thank you in advance for your knowledge. –Sincerely, Dixon Herbstreit, Paw Paw, Mich.
  • Recharge Your Car’s Air Conditioner – “If you have a car that isn’t showroom fresh anymore, there’s also a good chance it’s lost a little of its air conditioning mojo. Get things icy cool again with this simple fix.”
  • Ultrasound Used for Taxonomy of “Clicking” Languages – “Africa is home to a few languages that utilize clicking sounds, and linguists have had a problem finding a way to classify and identify them. Amanda Miller from Cornell University decided to try an innovative approach that uses a portable ultrasound to actually record the movement of the tongue.”
  • Rediscovering the long walk – “Since I’ve been anchored to my home for a few months now, I had to find another way to express my need for travel. Here’s the solution I found: take several long walks within the week. By doing this, homebound vagabonds don’t have to feel trapped or confined when they are between trips. You just step outside your front door and keep walking – no plans necessary.”
  • Autoblog Explains 90-Day Buick LaCrosse Inventory Over-Supply Promise

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