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Assorted Links 3/26/10 Archives

Assorted Links 3/26/10

Richard Feynman on Ways of Thinking (2), from the BBC TV series 'Fun to Imagine' (1983)

  • 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."
  • The Monetary Base During the Great Depression and Today - "What prolonged the Depression in the US was the Federal Reserve's preoccupation with inflation that caused it to prematurely contract the money supply. In addition, the Supreme Court overturned most of the New Deal Employment programs before the economy had fully recovered from the shock of the Crash of 1929 and the severe damage inflicted by liquidationism on the financial system and the economy. One can hardly appreciate today the impact of repeated banking failures, with no recourse or insurance, on the public confidence.
    . . .
    The US needs to relinquish the greater part of its 720 military bases overseas, which are a tremendous cash drain. It needs to turn its vision inward, to its own people, who have been sorely neglected. This is not a call to isolationism, but rather the need to rethink and reorder ones priorities after a serious setback. Continuing on as before, which is what the US has been trying to so since the tech bubble crash, obviously is not working.

    The oligarchies and corporate trusts must be broken down to restore competition in a number of areas from production to finance to the media, and some more even measure of wealth distribution to provide a sustainable equilibrium. A nation cannot endure, half slave and half free. And it surely cannot endure with two percent of the people monopolizing fifty percent of the capital. I am not saying it is good or bad. What I am saying is that historically it leads to abuse, repression, stagnation, reaction, revolution, renewal or collapse. All very painful and disruptive to progress. Societies are complex and interdependent, seeking their own balance in an ebb and flow of centralization and decentralization of power, the rise and fall of the individual. Some societies rise to great heights, and suffer great falls, never to return. Where is the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome?"
  • White House not worried about AG lawsuits - "At the White House today, press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration is confident the bill will withstand legal challenge."
  • Postmaster Indicates Need for Privatization - "The USPS is already in a death spiral due to changes in technology, high labor costs, and costly congressional mandates that have left it facing a projected $238 billion in losses over the next ten years. The USPS says dropping Saturday service would save the USPS $3 billion a year. However, the Postal Regulatory Commission believes the savings would be significantly smaller. Regardless, if the USPS stops Saturday service then private firms should be allowed to provide Saturday mail service.

    Better yet, the USPS monopoly should be completely repealed and private firms allowed to deliver mail every day of the week. Interestingly, Postmaster General John Potter’s testimony inadvertently makes a case for privatizing the USPS.

    Potter notes that when private businesses are losing money, they sell off assets, close locations, and reduce employment. He cites Sears, L.L. Bean, and Starbucks as recent examples of companies making cost cutting moves in the face of declining revenues. The Government Accountability Office’s testimony noted that the USPS has more retail outlets (36,500) than McDonalds, Starbucks, and Walgreens combined. Yet, its post offices average 600 visits per week, which is only 10 percent of Walgreen’s average weekly traffic."
  • Health Bill May Exempt Leadership Aides - "While most staffers will soon be required to purchase insurance plans created in the health care reform bill, their colleagues who work in leadership and committee offices may be off the hook.
    . . .
    Lawmakers and their staff may face narrower choices under the reform bill, which requires the federal government to offer them only health plans that are either created under the act or offered through an exchange established under the act. That means staffers may have to buy their insurance in exchanges that are run by the states and include insurance companies that have met certain federal standards."
  • Constitutional awakening - "A far better explanation for the billions going to the campaign coffers of Washington politicians and lobbyist lies in the awesome government power and control over business, property, employment and other areas of our lives. Having such power, Washington politicians are in the position to grant favors and commit acts that if committed by a private person would land him in jail.

    Here's one among thousands of examples: Incandescent light bulbs are far more convenient and less expensive than compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) that General Electric now produces. So how can General Electric sell its costly CFLs? They know that Congress has the power to outlaw incandescent light bulbs. General Electric was the prominent lobbyist for outlawing incandescent light bulbs and in 2008 had a $20 million lobbying budget. Also, it should come as no surprise that General Electric is a contributor to global warmers who help convince Congress that incandescent bulbs were destroying the planet.
    . . .
    The greater Congress' ability to grant favors and take one American's earnings to give to another American, the greater the value of influencing congressional decision-making. There's no better influence than money. The generic favor sought is to get Congress, under one ruse or another, to grant a privilege or right to one group of Americans that will be denied another group of Americans.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi covering up for a corrupt Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Charles Rangel, said that while his behavior 'was a violation of the rules of the House. It was not something that jeopardized our country in any way.' Pelosi is right in minimizing Rangel's corruption. It pales in comparison, in terms of harm to our nation, to the legalized corruption that's a part of Washington's daily dealing. "
  • How Check Scams Work and How to Avoid a Loss - "To recap, the standard check collection process contains no positive feedback that a check is 'good.'

    If a depositor wants to know that a check has paid, the check should be sent by the bank “for collection.” Then the collection is outside the normal system and a positive response “up or down,” as they say in government, is received. There are lots of ways for the bad guys to trick the regular check collection system so that a check may bounce around for days or weeks before it finds its way back. If the money is gone, the depositor is liable. See UCC §3-415 and the bank’s deposit account agreement."
  • Crime And Thought Punishment - "Shikha Dalmia of Forbes and Reason contemplates a vast campaign of civil disobedience in defiance of the health care mandate:
    . . .
    Now, I am not smart enough to be a Democrat and I am surely not smart enough to be a Democratic Congressperson, but I am having a hard time reading Section 2, where criminal penalties and liens are waived, as a commitment to tough enforcement.

    Which is fair enough - we know lots of Democrats, such as Tim Geithner, Tom Daschle and Charles Rangel, who are confused by the concept of taxes and won't be troubling themselves with this latest wrinkle in the tax code. And no one really expects Eric Holder to be arresting a bunch of confused Dems who have more important things to do than comply with a new boatload of Federal paperwork requirements. So it was nice of Congress to make a nod toward equal treatment and admit that they won't be coming hard after anyone else who ignores this law, either."
  • Meet the High-Ranking SEC Official Who Surfed Porn While Your 401K Vanished - "David Ito is an assistant regional director in the SEC's Los Angeles office. He makes around $200,000 a year supervising the commission's L.A. regulators. According to a source, he was looking at porn at work during the economic collapse.
    . . .
    A final note: Much has been made, by us and by others, about the rather humorous nature of some of the sites being visited in these cases, particularly Ito's, which included and We don't care what kind of porn Ito spent time looking at while getting paid $200,000 in taxpayer dollars to help ensure the smooth and transparent functioning of the financial system that was in freefall around him."
  • Coward Russ Carnahan Pushes Bogus Tea Party Lie to Media -- Claims Prayer Service With Coffin Was a Violent Threat (Updated) - "UPDATE: The Carnahans told reporters that the coffin was left on their lawn. This is an absolute lie. We had a prayer service and then left. The state-run media didn’t bother to follow up on this outrageous lie before they published their hit piece… Oh, and the protest was on SUNDAY not Wednesday.

    UPDATE: The coffin is currently in a garage."
  • 2010: A Race Odyssey -- Disproving a Negative for Cash Prizes or, How the Civil Rights Movement Jumped the Shark - "On Saturday, during the peaceful and patriotic tea party protest at the Capitol, the Democrats staged a series of symbolic acts meant to manipulate the media to do its bidding. The Congressional Black Caucus pulled the Selma card and chose to walk through the crowd in the hopes of creating a YouTube incident. This is what it looked like:
    . . .
    There is no reason in 21st century America on an issue that is not a black or white or a civil rights issue to have a bloc of black people walk slowly through a mostly white crowd to make a racial point. The walk in and of itself -- with two of the participants holding their handheld cameras above their heads hoping to document 'proof' -- was an act of racism meant to create a contrast between the tea party crowd and themselves.

    This is the same failed symbolism that Janeane Garofalo and MSNBC have been trying to implant for the last year. The only supposed evidence of white-on-black racism at a tea party that MSNBC was able to find was a man carrying a gun at an Arizona Obama rally. But, wait, MSNBC cut off the man’s head with a photo editing software. That Second Amendment fan was actually black. Never mind.
    . . .
    It’s time for the allegedly pristine character of Rep. John Lewis to put up or shut up. Therefore, I am offering $10,000 of my own money to provide hard evidence that the N- word was hurled at him not 15 times, as his colleague reported, but just once. Surely one of those two cameras wielded by members of his entourage will prove his point.

    And surely if those cameras did not capture such abhorrence, then someone from the mainstream media -- those who printed and broadcast his assertions without any reasonable questioning or investigation -- must themselves surely have it on camera. Of course we already know they don’t. If they did, you’d have seen it by now."
  • Debunking Michael Lewis’ Subprime Short Hagiography - "Lewis’ tale is neat, plausible to a mass market audience fed a steady diet of subprime markets stupidity and greed, and incomplete in critical ways that render his account fundamentally misleading. It’s almost too bad the book’s so readable, because a lot of people will mistake readability for accuracy, and it’s a pity that Lewis, being a brand name author, has been given a free pass by big-name media like 60 Minutes (old people) and The Daily Show (young people) to sell to an audience of tens of millions a version of the financial crisis that just won’t stand up -- not if we’re really trying to get to the heart of the matter, rather than simply wishing to be entertained by breezy well-told stories that provide a bit of easy-to-digest instruction without challenging conventional wisdom.
    . . .
    Lewis’ need to anchor his tale in personalities results in a skewed misreading of the subprime crisis and why and how it got as bad as it did. The group of short sellers he celebrates were minor-leaguers compared to the likes of Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and John Paulson. But no one on the short side of these trades, large or small, should be seen as any kind of a stalwart hero and defender of capitalism. Circumstances converged to create a perfect storm of folly on the buy side, beginning with essentially fraudulent mortgage originations at ground level, which the short-sellers -- whether trading at the multimillion or multibillion dollars level -- took advantage of. That they walked away with large profits may be enviable, but there was nothing valiant about it. In the end, Main Street, having been desolated by a mortgage-driven housing bust, now found itself the buyer of last resort of Wall Street’s garbage.

    Lewis’ desire to satisfy his fan base’s craving for good guys led him to miss the most important story of our age: how a small number of operators used a nexus of astonishing leverage and camouflaged risk to bring the world financial system to its knees and miraculously walked away with their winnings. These players are not the ugly ducklings of Lewis’ fairy tale; they are merely ugly. Whether for his own profit or by accident, Lewis has denied the public the truth."
  • Some random items of interest: - "US social security went negative this year and not 2016. Due to the system's dynamics (a fraudulent trust fund), this shortfall will be immediately reflected by an increase in the federal budget deficit. One interesting aspect of the onset of D2 (the second great depression), is that the entire US government ponzi scheme is facing an accelerated demise. A hollow state in thrall to global financiers awaits in the near future."

The Party's Over-Ture

  • Drink too much? Smoke too much? Wanna clean up your act? Have a daughter, not a son. - "So why might people who have boys continue to drink and smoke? Because having young boys is more stressful and drinking/smoking/drugs help parents reduce stress:"
  • Motion to Compel Defense Counsel To Wear Appropriate Shoes, from Victor Niederhoffer - "My mother's father was a real Scotsman. He worked for himself most of his life. Taught himself to play the piano and collected coins. He never threw anything away and wore his clothes till threadbare. Upon his death ( I was 16) we found on the stairway ledge to the basement a tall stack of cardboard cut outs that he made to fit his shoes.

    The lawyer/shoe story brought an old memory I had long forgotten. Grandpa Mac was not out to ever impress anyone. Unlike the lawyer who was out to create a false impression of being somewhat destitute."
  • RoboCop’s Cruiser Gets a BMW Engine - "Carbon Motors is gunning for a unique niche in the auto biz -- cop cars. That kind of narrowcasting is unconventional among automakers, and in keeping with that theme Carbon Motors has selected a most unusual engine for the cruiser it says we’ll see in 2012.

    A BMW. More specifically, a BMW diesel."
  • 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"
  • 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."
  • Free Speech in Canada - "Free speech isn’t exactly free in Canada, and even Glenn Greenwald and Mark Steyn agree on this point.
    . . .
    So much for inalienable rights.

    Steyn highlights the view of the lead investigator of Canada’s 'Human Rights' Commission: 'Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.'

    I would offer a rebuke, but Ezra Levant has done it better than I ever could. Crank your volume up, sit back, and enjoy:"

An oldie but a goodie...
OOOOOO! You're not good enough for me!

  • Top 5 Superphones to Watch - "There are smartphones and there are superphones, and the latter category is heating up to a boil. While it sometimes seems that the release of cool new phones slows down to a trickle, this year it’s becoming more of a firehose. It can be trying to keep up with the Next Big Thing in the phone world, so it makes sense to pick out the 5 best superphones to watch.
    . . .
    Four of these superphones are made by phone giant HTC, a testament to the innovation the company is bringing to the space. It is almost scary how many great phones they produce, and all of them superphones. It is no wonder Apple is worried about them."
  • Honks and Consciousness - "Via Nudge, a fascinating article about trying to prevent railway crossing deaths (by pedestrians) using a variety of behavioral cues intended to counter perceptual biases and guide decision-making:"
  • More Foreclosures, Please . . . - "I have been dismayed about the latest actions out of Washington and Wall Street. The banks are now pushing all manner of mortgage mods and foreclosure abatements. These are little more than “extend & pretend” measures, designed to put off the day of reckoning. They are not only ineffective, they are counter-productive. They reward the reckless and punish the responsible, and create a moral hazard. Worse yet, they penalize middle America for the sake of giant Wall Street banks.

    It may sound counter-intuitive, but the best thing for the nation (but not necessarily the banks) is to allow the foreclosure process to proceed unimpeded. We need more, not less foreclosures.
    . . .
    Despite this, even down 30% or so, prices still remain elevated by historical metrics. The net result has been 5 million foreclosures and counting. One in four 'Home-owners' are underwater--— meaning, they owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. There are another 3-5 million likely foreclosures coming over the next 5+ years.
    . . .
    Now we get to the ugly Truth: The mortgage mods and foreclosure abatement programs are really all about propping up insolvent banking institutions on the taxpayer dollar and at the expense of the middle class. These programs are another losing round of helping Wall Street at the expense of Main Street. It is the worst kind of trickle down economics.

    Herbert Spencer wrote, 'The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.' We have done precisely that."
  • The Real Reason Wireless Carriers Love Android: Google Is Paying Them To - "PaidContent's Tricia Duryee reports reports that Google's deals with mobile carriers (and some phone makers) include an advertising revenue sharing agreement, provided they pre-install Google apps like Search, Maps, and GMail on phones. This should come as no surprise, given how long phone and PC companies have been paid to pre-install stuff. (Hello, free Prodigy trial?) MediaMemo's Peter Kafka adds that he hears it's a' substantial' revenue share.
    . . .
    Most interesting to us is how Google is now having it both ways with phone companies: It's feeding carriers out of one hand, while trying to disrupt them with the other, via its Web-only phone store for the Nexus One, its Google Voice service, etc. Very clever."
  • Innocent Abroad - "If you’re lazy by nature, then Hong Kong isn’t your city. It’s New York plus London plus Tokyo with a double-shot of caffeine, a kind of ­dealmakers’ ­paradise where the overriding goal of practically ­everyone you meet is to make money, and the ­principal subject of most conversations is how to wheel and deal and make some more. No one comes to Hong Kong to improve his 'work-life ­balance,' ­unless that means ­tilting the balance more toward work.

    For Stephen Greer, Hong Kong proved to be the right place for his restless spirit and untapped ­entrepreneurial energies. As he recounts in ­'Starting From Scrap,' he was a precocious kid from a ­comfortable Pennsylvania family who managed to get himself kicked out of boarding school before ­straightening up and graduating from Penn State in the early 1990s. He landed a job at a U.S. company in ­Germany and hated it. So in 1993 he hit up his dad for a business-class ticket to Hong Kong, where a friend lived. Asia was ­booming then, as it is now.
    . . .
    Asia might be hospitable to dealmaking, but the ­region can be merciless, too. Business is rarely as straightforward there as it is in largely transparent markets like those of Western Europe or the U.S. ­Contracts often aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, fraud is rife and personal connections are often the only reliable key to success. Gweilos, or 'white ghosts' (the Hong Kong word for foreigners), learn these ­lessons the hard way.
    . . .
    A friend once told Mr. Greer that 'the best thing about Hong Kong is that it’s eight times easier to ­become a millionaire,' a joke based on the fact that the local currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of about eight to one. Mr. Greer made his first ­(dollar-denominated) million at age 28 and sold his company in 2005, though he is uncharacteristically coy about the price he got. It’s probably safe to say that the amount would lend a new meaning to the phrase scrap heap."

. . . . . . . . .

March 26, 2010 08:37 AM    Caught Our Eye

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