Assorted Links 10/26/09


Hans Rosling: Does your mindset correspond to my dataset?
See gapminder.org

  • Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing, November 12, 2009
  • Writing to Persuade: Hone Your Persuasive Writing Skills, November 13, 2009
  • Capitol Hill Workshop, November 18-20, 2009
  • Understanding Congressional Budgeting and Appropriations, December 1, 2009
  • Congress in a Nutshell: Understanding Congress, December 2, 2009
  • Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, December 3, 2009
  • How to Find, Track, and Monitor Congressional Documents: Going Beyond Thomas, with WiFi Classroom, December 4, 2009
  • Advanced Federal Budget Process, December 7-8, 2009
  • Advanced Legislative Strategies, December 9-11, 2009
  • Research Tools and Techniques: Refining Your Online and Offline Searches, with WiFi Classroom, December 15, 2009
  • Wretchard’s Four Rules of Lying – “Most lying is small-scale, which might be what makes Wretchard’s thoughts interesting: we seldom think about huge lies and the liars that speak them.”
  • Recognizing Goldman Sachs – “In recognition of Goldman Sachs’ recent reporting of $3 billion in earnings for the third quarter of 2009, I give you this old tale.”
  • Three Tweets for the Web – “The relative decline of the book is part of a broader shift toward short and to the point. Small cultural bits–written words, music, video–have never been easier to record, store, organize, and search, and thus they are a growing part of our enjoyment and education. The classic 1960s rock album has given way to the iTunes single. On YouTube, the most popular videos are usually just a few minutes long, and even then viewers may not watch them through to the end. At the extreme, there are Web sites offering five-word movie and song reviews, six-word memoirs (‘Not Quite What I Was Planning’), seven-word wine reviews, and 50-word minisagas.”
  • Living on $500,000 a Year – “What F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tax returns reveal about his life and times”
  • From the people who brought us the swine flu vaccine shortage – Government-run health care! UPDATED – “President Obama’s late-night declaration of a nationwide public health emergency last night shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the most important lesson of the developing swine flu crisis – The same government that only weeks ago promised abundant supplies of swine flu vaccine by mid-October will be running your health care system under Obamacare.”
  • Tyranny and Obama: success or failure – “Tyrannies don’t always look exactly alike. In fact, they only resemble each other in very broad principles, such as the reduction of liberty and the spread of state power.”
  • Thanks for the ride – “I’d like to thank all my readers living outside of Portland for buying me a streetcar:” ht Neighborhood Effects
  • Thoughts on the Whitehouse.gov switch to Drupal – “Of course, it’s easy to imagine that the use of open source software will slash the government’s IT budget. After all, this software is freely downloadable. I have a feeling it’s quite a bit more complicated than that. First off, government has a huge number of special requirements (remember the flap over President Obama’s blackberry?) Second, don’t underestimate the difficulty of doing business in Washington. Procurement is done through a complex ballet understood by few open source companies.”
  • Open Source Intel Use Soars – “The IC has touted its new commitment over the last few years, with the Director of National Intelligence creating OpenSource.gov, a website open to federal and state government employees and cleared contractors, and the creation of open source offices in almost every intelligence agency including the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA). And the use of open source information is soaring, according to a panel here in San Antonio at the annual Geoint conference. Brian Magana, geospatial analysis branch chief at the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that his consumption of open source data for one area of analysis he was following rocketed upwards 600 percent.”
  • Peter Schiff Has the Best Rant You’ll Hear All Week – “For your listening pleasure, fiscal hawk and U.S. Senate candidate Peter Schiff tells a harrowing tale of the death of the dollar. Your hackles will be raised, your eyes will bug out, you’ll kill yourself just to get the gold out of your own fillings. I’m not sure where this speech is from, and I’d check it out, but I prefer to think this is a voicemail Schiff left on Larry Summers’ answering machine:”
  • Liberty in Context – “As I see it, Kerry’s claim is that many libertarians fail to adequately acknowledge the fact (and it is a fact) that people are embedded in and shaped by culture, and that, as a consequence, many libertarians fail to grasp the extent to which cultural norms and social structure can limit individual liberty or work to deny some individuals the opportunity to develop the capacities needed to meaningfully exercise their liberty rights.”
  • Is Levitt a Global Warming Denier? – “Freakonomics was a highly popular book that appealed to both liberals and conservatives. Therefore, it carefully avoided polarizing topics, and instead uncovered the shocking truth about sumo wrestlers and other issues that are worthy of a standard 20/20 television show. Fun stuff, not what I would call economics (see the more esteemed economist Ariel Rubinstein for support). So, this time they figured they would slay some fallacies in the Global Warming debate.”
  • ‘More than ever before’ now studying Sci/Tech in Blighty – “University admissions statistics reveal that more students than ever before in Blighty have enrolled on courses in science and engineering this year. Unfortunately this progress has been achieved at a grim cost, as far larger numbers of young people have as usual chosen to study law, business, management, psychology – and computer science.”
  • Weekly wrap: Frustration mounts – “In some of the states hit hardest by the recession, frustration among voters and in the media over the way state government works — or doesn’t work — seems to be boiling over. ”
  • 50 Years of Coasean Brilliance – “With respect to the FCC paper [by Ronald Coase, published in Vol. 2 of the Journal of Law and Economics in October 1959], it really is about how ownership rights work in practice to solve social dilemmas, and how when government control substitutes for exchange relations the decision process inevitably falls back on arbitrary rules which produce a misallocation of resources due to lack of knowledge, inflexibility and the influence of political pressure groups.”


By a rough comparison with the number of news reports found by Google news search, Hans Rosling calculates a News/Death ratio and issue an alert for a media hype on Swine flu and a neglect of tuberculosis.

  • Dining tips for Manhattan – “5. Two of my reliable stand-bys are Ess-a-Bagel and Shun Lee Palace, both in East/Midtown. They’re both pretty tired in terms of concept but the quality still is excellent. I enjoy them every time I go. Shun Lee Palace would not count as dirt cheap, however.”
  • Property Taxes and Household Income – “People who live in New Jersey and New York already know that their property taxes are high. But they may not know just how high, that these two states have the highest property taxes in the United States, by various quantitative measures as described below.”
  • Brain Sex Differences In Gene Expression Start Early – “Do any ideologues still maintain that fundamental sexual differences in cognition are a product of social environment? The science doesn’t seem like it leaves any room for a serious argument along those lines.”
  • Sorry Professor, I promise to mind my own business from now on – “But doesn’t it seem like if you post a headline that another professor is a lunatic, there a sort of implied obligation to not delete any of that professor’s responses to the comment thread? Unless they’re obscene of libelous? Just asking.”
  • The joys of vicarious travel – “These days, travel blogs seem almost as common as traveling. My favorite travel blogs are about big trips, in which someone challenges him- or herself with travel, and sometimes challenges the whole concept of travel. Over the past few months, I’ve discovered quite a few big-trip blogs that provide some fun armchair (or desk chair, maybe) travel.”
  • Tesla Totaled In Colossal Collision – “Got an email from Doug at Tesla Motors Club who says that’s definitely a Toyota Prius, not an Avensis, in the pic. (Commenters made the same observation.) The latest word is the Prius allegedly hit the Roadster, pushing it under the Touareg, and Doug notes there a piece of the Roadster jammed under the rear bumper of the Touareg.”
  • Comcast to enter 3G/4G cellular data market – “Comcast doesn’t make note of what cell provider(s) they’ve sold their soul to, but the coverage map is pretty impressive and it’s most likely using Sprint’s network. Combine that with a $69.99 monthly price tag for high speed cable interwebs for your home (15Mbps) plus unlimited 3G/4G cellular data (3 – 6 Mbps) while on the road, and we think Comcast may have something cooking here.”
  • Lawyers Discussing Business Models – “it still strikes me as odd to bring together four lawyers to have them discuss business models, when their expertise is not in business at all, but in the law.”
  • Tips and Tricks: Making the Most of Google Calendar – “The difference is that with Google Calendar, even the smallest tweak can change it from a simple list of appointments to a comprehensive business tool. Here are some ideas you can start with.”
  • Editorial: The Carless Kids – “But enough of my excuses; none of my peers ever seem in the least bit surprised to find out that I don’t own a car. After all, most of them don’t. I live in a city that is easily navigable by bicycle and public transportation, and I work from home. I’m not kidding when I quip that the future of transportation is telecommuting.”
  • From The “You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me” Department, Golf Cart Edition… – “I wish you could see the steam coming out of my ears right now. Apparently there is a tax credit of $4200 to $5500 for the purchase of an electric vehicle. Is it really so hard to sit for a few minutes and think ‘Hm…what might we want to be careful to exclude so that we avoid paying for ridiculous items that make us look foolish?’ Perhaps the politicians just all wanted their free golf carts.

    Now, maybe you’re thinking ‘ok, that’s a little silly, but at least the demand for golf carts is putting people to work in that industry.’ This is a true statement, but the reality of the matter is that taxpayer dollars are being used to artificially divert resources to making golf carts rather than making things that are objectively more useful. I’m now picturing a highway filled with golf carts, golf carts used in place of tanks, etc…and, while visually humorous, I don’t think anyone believes that that is the best direction for society to head in.”

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Posted in: Caught Our Eye

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