Assorted Links 4/22/10

Seat Selection
Seat Selection


The Hollywood Stars of the Hollywood Politicians–Reagan, Arnold, Murphy, Temple (videos)

  • 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
  • Understanding Congressional Budgeting and Appropriations, May 13, 2010
  • Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill, May 21, 2010
  • Congress in a Nutshell: Understanding Congress, June 3, 2010
  • Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, June 4, 2010
  • Capitol Hill Workshop, June 9-11, 2010
  • Wi-Fi Classroom – How to Find, Track, and Monitor Congressional Documents: Going Beyond Thomas, June 24, 2010
  • Wi-Fi Classroom – How to Research and Compile Legislative Histories: Searching for Legislative Intent, June 25, 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 public choice economics of spending cuts – “The column also offers up some general reasons for considering spending cuts and not just tax increases. Maybe Arnold Kling won’t like this column, but when I look around the globe for episodes of successful spending restraint I see Canada, Finland, Sweden, and now possibly (probably) Ireland, which is in the midst of fiscal restructuring. I see change coming from elites and I see relatively left-wing governments (Ireland, admittedly, is harder to classify) which are trusted by their citizens. The Greek government, in contrast, doesn’t operate with the same level of social cohesion and thus it is likely to fail.

    I believe the ‘social trust’ scenario for spending cuts is overlooked because it raises the relative status of groups which people who favor spending cuts do not wish to raise.
    . . .
    The Timothy Lewis book [‘In the Long Run We’re All Dead: The Canadian Turn to Fiscal Restraint‘], by the way, deserves far more attention than it has received.”

  • A Rape Accusation At Brown – “Brown University is being sued by a former student, William McCormick III, over its handling of a charge of rape on campus. Because of McCormick’s allegations, the case is bound to attract major publicity. In court papers, he argues that the female student was reluctant to name him, and that Brown officials yelled at her, pressing her to escalate her initial complaint (that he was following her) into a rape complaint, written by her with the help of her resident coordinator. The court papers also argue that the father of the alleged victim, a Brown alumnus and donor, made phone calls to top university officials, which led to a private settlement: if he withdrew from Brown, she would not file criminal charges.

    Neither the accuser nor the university reported the alleged crime to Providence police or campus police. McCormick, who later rejected the deal with the university, says Brown failed to follow its own disciplinary policies. The lawsuit claims that Brown interfered with his access to potential witnesses and refused to provide documents that might exonerate him.”

  • Now charlatans will know to beware the geeks – “A year ago, I went to a London pub to speak at a meeting for the apparently doomed cause of libel reform. Simon Singh had written an article which was true and important about the dangers of the quack therapy of chiropractic healing. Then, like so many authors and publishers before him, he learned English law persecuted rather than protected honest argument and that he was in trouble.

    The British Chiropractic Association was suing him for saying that there was ‘not a jot of evidence’ that its members could help sick children by manipulating babies’ spines in accordance with the teachings of a more-than-usually nutty American faith healer.

    Well-run societies do not defend men who make money from worried parents and, more seriously, fob off their children with bogus ‘cures’. In his wisdom, however, Mr Justice Eady decided that the law would intervene to silence a debate on public health and ruled that it would not be enough for Singh to show that there was no reliable evidence that alleged treatments worked, which Singh would have difficulty in doing because there wasn’t. Because he had written that the chiropractic association ‘happily promotes bogus treatments’, the judge said he had to jump the insuperable barrier of proving that the therapists were lying rather than merely deluded and face costs of £500,000 or more if he failed.
    . . .
    One year on, the Singh case has led to the Court of Appeal issuing the most ringing defence of freedom of speech in living memory. Senior judges, who previously had not appeared to have known the difference between John Milton and Milton Keynes, quoted from ‘Areopagitica’ as they severely limited the ability of libel lawyers to censor scientific debate. The BCA realised that it could not hope to win and dropped its case. The Lib Dems, Labour and the Tories responded to an outcry which was turning into a popular movement and included commitments to libel reform in their manifestos. We’re not there yet, but a hopeless cause has become a national issue.”

  • Robert McCartney’s Love Affair with Government – “Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney says he ‘differ[s] strenuously with the [Tea Party] protesters on about 95 percent of the issues.’ Considering that the closest thing to an official center of the Tea Party movement, the Tea Party Patriots network, says that it seeks ‘public policy consistent with our three core values of Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets,’ that’s disappointing to hear.
    . . .
    Unfortunately, it is a constant frustration to McCartney and his Post colleagues that, as economist Gregory Clark bemoaned that same day in a Post guest column, ‘The United States was founded, essentially, on resistance to taxes, and to this day, an aversion to the grasping hand of the state seems fundamental to the American psyche.>br>. . .
    McCartney also writes, ‘The tea party has been called an heir of Alabama’s segregationist governor George Wallace. It certainly shares his anti-government worldview, if not his aggressive racism.’ This is just a smear. McCartney acknowledges that he didn’t find any racism at the Tea Party he attended. I doubt that most of the Tea Partiers even know who George Wallace was. And I’m not sure McCartney does, either, as Wallace was certainly not “anti-government’ in any coherent way. He was a big-spending, ‘soak the rich’ populist, both as governor and as presidential candidate.”
  • The Party’s Over: China’s Endgame – “On October 1 last year, China’s Communist Party celebrated the country’s National Day, marking the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. As they did ten years before, senior leaders put on a military parade of immense proportions in their majestic capital of Beijing. Like the Olympic Games in 2008, the parade was a perfectly executed and magnificently staged spectacle, but instead of international fellowship, the theme was the power of China’s ruling organization and the rise of the Chinese nation.

    But did Beijing need two hundred thousand soldiers and school children to demonstrate its strength or ascendancy? The dominant narrative about China today is that it will, within a few short decades, become the preeminent power in the international system. Its economy, according to the conventional wisdom, was the first to recover from the global downturn and will eventually go on to become the world’s largest. Geopolitical dominance will inevitably follow.
    . . .
    So will ours be the Chinese century? Probably not. China has just about reached high tide, and will soon begin a long painful process of falling back. The most recent period of China’s fast growth began with Deng’s Southern Tour in early 1992, the event that signaled the restarting of reforms after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Fortunately for the Communist Party of China, this event coincided with the beginning of an era wherein political barriers to trade were falling and globalization was kicking into high gear, which set the table for a period of tremendous wealth generation.
    . . .
    China’s economic model, which allowed the Chinese to take maximum advantage of boom times, is particularly ill suited to current global conditions. About 38 percent of the country’s economy is attributable to exports–some say the figure is higher–but global demand at this moment is slumping. (Last March, the normally optimistic World Bank said the global economy would contract in 2009 for the first time since World War II and that global trade would decline the most it had in eighty years.) Globalization, which looked like an inevitable trend in early 2008, is now obviously going into reverse as economies are delinking from each other. So China is now held hostage to events far beyond the country’s borders.
    . . .
    So the Chinese economy, once in an upward super-cycle, is now headed on a downward trajectory. Beijing’s leaders had the opportunity to fix these problems in a benign period of growth, but they did not because they were unable or unwilling to challenge a rigid political system that inhibits adaptation to changing circumstances. Their failure to implement sensible policies highlights an inherent weakness in the system of Chinese governance, not just a single economic misstep at a particular moment in history.
    . . .
    In addition to its outdated economic model, China faces a number of other problems, including banks with unacknowledged bad loans on their books, trade friction arising from mercantilist policies, a pandemic of defective products and poisonous foods, a grossly underfunded and inadequate social security system, a society that is rapidly aging as a result of the brutally enforced one-child policy, a rising tide of violent crime, a monumental environmental crisis, ever-worsening corruption, and failing schools and other social services. These are just the most important difficulties.

    Worse yet, even if the Communist Party could solve each of these specific problems in short order, it would still face one insurmountable challenge. The economic growth and progress of the last three decades, which makes so many observers believe in the inevitability of China’s rise, is actually a dagger pointed at the heart of the country’s one-party state.”

  • A Theory on Why the SEC Hit Goldman – “The theory goes that the SEC slammed Goldman hard in order to push the case of R. Allen Stanford — who ran a $7 billion Ponzi scheme — out of the headlines. The SEC delayed investigating Stanford for 13 years.”
  • A Modern Greek Tragedy May Soon Turn Into a Broader PIIGS Disaster – “Public debt sustainability has exploded as a serious issue in advanced economies, most notably in the eurozone’s ‘PIIGS’–Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain–but also in many larger OECD economies, including the United States. These issues within the eurozone stem primarily from a loss of competiveness, high wage growth and labor costs which outstripped productivity, undisciplined fiscal policies and, crucially, the appreciation of the euro between 2002 and 2008.”
  • Start-Up Rents Out Tokyo’s Tight Spaces – “Japan is famous for its ability to make the most of limited space. The cocoon-like capsule hotels were first developed here and many single city dwellers live in tiny studio apartments known as rabbit hutches.

    Now, a new online real-estate marketplace is taking that trait to new levels. Nokisaki.com, named after the Japanese word for the space that juts out from the edge of a building, seeks pockets of ‘dead space’ around cities and converts them into short-term rental property.
    . . .
    Those spaces can be reserved at Nokisaki for short periods of time–starting from three hours–and for as little as $15 total. The spots are granted on a first-come, first-served basis and the rental times and prices are set by landlords.”

  • And People Trust Government? – “I have total sympathy with those who distrust corporations. Distrust and skepticism are fine things, and are critical foundations to individual responsibility. History proves that market mechanisms tend to weed out bad behaviors, but sometimes these corrections can take time, and in the mean time its good to watch out for oneself.

    However, I can’t understand how these same people who distrust the power of large corporations tend to throw all their trust and faith into government. The government tends to have more power (it has police and jails after all, not to mention sovereign immunity), is way larger, and the control mechanisms and incentives that supposedly might check bad behavior in governments seldom work.”

  • Joe Klein: The Howling Beast on the Borderline Separating Speech From Sedition, Since at Least 2009 – “Since sedition is a legal term, I don’t know how Klein concludes that ‘seditious speech’ is ‘not illegal,’ but the important thing here is that there’s a lot of the stuff out there.
    . . .
    The ‘borderline’ formulation is a transparent dodge; I am confident Klein’s intellect is sufficiently razor-sharp to determine whether someone has crossed the legal threshold of sedition or not. And I would think that if you’re a journalist playing the S-card–that is, if you’re a free speech practitioner invoking one of the most notorious anti-free speech categories of law–you should at least have the basic stones to state definitively which of the people you disagree with should be locked up.”
  • Waco – “With President Clinton wagging his finger at the Tea Party movement and claiming that the movement is inciting violence, it is worthwhile to remember the role the Clinton administration in perpetrating and covering up numerous violent and other crimes at Waco. The subject is treated at length in my book, co-authored with Paul Blackman, No More Wacos: What’s Wrong with Federal Law Enforcement and How to Fix It.
    . . .
    Just to be clear to the trolls who comment without reading: The book describes the Branch Davidian false prophet Vernon Wayne Howell (a/k/a David Koresh) as a predatory sociopath and a criminal. And of course nothing in the book attempts to justify that other sociopath Timothy McVeigh. Nor does the book claim that federal agents deliberately started the fatal fire, although it does point out that before the fire began, at least some of the victims had already been killed by the CS chemical warfare bombardment and tank attack.”
  • Storytelling in Warren Buffet Shareholder Letter – “Sing a country song in reverse, and you will quickly recover your car, house and wife.”
  • Our socially concerned business leaders – “To summarize the modus operandi: Place huge bets that mortgage portfolios will suffer losses in value. Then plow millions into advocacy efforts whose effect is to worsen those losses. Maybe this is business as usual in some sense, but it’s curious to imagine lauding Paulson for his public-spiritedness.”
  • Kudos to Mike Munger – “Duke University political science professor and Libertarian candidate for NC governor Mike Munger responds to an op-ed by Chris Fitzsimon in the News & Observer that argued taxes are what we pay for civil society and we should therefore be grateful for what we get. Munger’s gem:

    Slave-owners in the old South were genuinely surprised, and hurt, when their ungrateful slaves ran off after the Civil War. After all, the slave-owners had fed, clothed, housed and in some cases educated the slave in blacksmithing or other trades.

    The point is that the slave-owners came up with elaborate lists that said, ‘Look at all the things Master does for you. Why aren’t you grateful?’ And those lists looked, well, pretty much exactly like the Fitzsimon article.

    I say you keep your services, I’ll keep my taxes, and we’ll just call it even.

  • NY Times: Up to 300,000 public school jobs could be cut – “These cuts will make the employment situation worse. This is also a reminder that the Federal stimulus spending peaks in Q2, and then starts to decline in Q3.”
  • The Timing of Political Points – “We hear …

    A NY based news source is preparing a FOIA request of the entire SEC related to potential SEC — White House — DNC collusion.

    Stay tuned.
    . . .
    Wow, things really escalated quickly.”

  • Would the U.S. Shoot Down an Israeli Jet? Top Officer Won’t Say – “I’m not going to make a big deal of this, although some dug deep in the trenches of the Middle East debate might. But America’s top military officer wouldn’t rule the possibility today of U.S. forces firing on Israeli jets, if Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on Iran.

    In a town hall on the campus of the University of West Virginia, a young Air Force ROTC cadet asked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen to respond to a ‘rumor.’ If Israel decided to attack Iran, the speculation went, those jet would need to fly through Iraqi airspace to reach their targets. That airspace is considered a ‘no-fly’ zone by the American military. So might U.S. troops shoot down the Israeli jets, the airmen asked the chairman, if they breached that airspace?

    Mullen tried to sidestep the question. ‘We have an exceptionally strong relationship with Israel. I’ve spent a lot of time with my counterpart in Israel. So we also have a very clear understanding of where we are. And beyond that, I just wouldn’t get into the speculation of what might happen and who might do what. I don’t think it serves a purpose, frankly,’ he said. ‘I am hopeful that this will be resolved in a way where we never have to answer a question like that.'”


Further Adventures in Lawyer Advertising: ‘That Hellhole You Call a Marriage’


Harvard Sailing Team – Boys Will Be Girls

  • I Provide A Helpful Disclaimer – “On the topic of Tea Parties, anger and Bill Clinton Michael Moynihan of Reason offers this:
    . . .
    The fertilizer I spread around here will not explode. Just so you know.”
  • A Religious, Cultural, and Personal Right To Eat Bacon — Even When Your Foster Parents Don’t Allow It in Their Home – “The CFS decision described in the letter strikes me as quite unjustifiable. True, some parents’ religious practices might indeed make them unsuitable as foster parents, especially given that the foster care system probably can’t carefully tailor each placement to the child’s and parents’ preferences. But an insistence that the child not bring pork into the home — the only item that the letter mentioned — strikes me as a modest imposition on the child, one that doesn’t require the child (for instance) to actually say prayers or engage in rituals that belong to a religion that he doesn’t share, or require the child to forego things that are genuinely deeply valuable to the child’s happiness. Such house rules appear to me to be well within the discretion that foster parents should normally be allowed to run their home as they like, even while they share their home with a foster child that’s placed with them by the government. That CFS is balking at this particular rule thus seems likely to me to stem from hostility to the religious nature of the parents’ beliefs, and not from a sense that a child’s ‘religious, cultural and personal rights’ indeed include the right to have pork in his home when his foster parents insist otherwise.”
  • Euroschirm Trek: Budget trekking umbrella – “At 10 ½ inches long closed and 8 ½ ounces, the [Euroschirm – Eberhard] Trek’s bigger and heftier than the previously reviewed Knirps umbrella, but also less expensive. It also costs less than the previously reviewed Go-Lite umbrella. Forget about parkas and pants, umbrellas are the way.”
  • 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.”
  • The Cost of Counterfeits? GAO Doesn’t Know – “Among those who concern themselves with all things counterfeit, it’s been an open secret for some time: Despite the massive numbers thrown around, nobody really knows how large the counterfeit trade is in monetary terms, or the extent to which it affects the targeted industries or the national economy as a whole. The number most frequently thrown around is $200 billion, the amount of money that U.S. businesses allegedly lose to counterfeiting each year. But when the the U.S. Government Accountability Office tried to trace this number back to its source, it turns out that there is no source.”
  • Trend Toward Working More Years – “The impetus to work longer is going to grow because governments have overpromised on old age benefits and are going to be too poor to deliver. The tax increases needed to make good on all those promises would be too large and would elicit too much opposition among those still working. So I expect retirement ages to be raised and benefits cut. My advice: plan your career so that you have a path that’ll allow you to keep working at a bearable job until you are 70 or older.

    Office jobs are easier for aging bodies and since more people are doing office jobs more can keep working. Working in one’s 60s is a lot harder to do in construction. I know guys having a hard time with construction in their 50s due to work injuries.
    . . .
    Time to start planning for a longer life.”

  • Publish or Perish – “Jane Friedman, who served as president and C.E.O. of HarperCollins, left in 2008 and established Open Road Integrated Media, an e-book venture. She plans to acquire electronic rights to backlists, sign up new authors (with fifty-per-cent profit-sharing), and form a self-publishing division. ‘The publishers are afraid of a retailer that can replace them,’ Friedman said. ‘An author needs a publisher for nurturing, editing, distributing, and marketing. If the publishers are cutting back on marketing, which is the biggest complaint authors have, and Amazon stays at eighty per cent of the e-book market, why do you need the publisher?’

    Publishers maintain that digital companies don’t understand the creative process of books. A major publisher said of Amazon, ‘They don’t know how authors think. It’s not in their DNA.’ Neither Amazon, Apple, nor Google has experience in recruiting, nurturing, editing, and marketing writers. The acknowledgments pages of books are an efficiency expert’s nightmare; authors routinely thank editors and publishers for granting an extra year to complete a manuscript, for taking late-night phone calls, for the loan of a summer house. These kinds of gestures are unlikely to be welcomed in cultures built around engineering efficiencies.

    Good publishers find and cultivate writers, some of whom do not initially have much commercial promise. They also give advances on royalties, without which most writers of nonfiction could not afford to research new books. The industry produces more than a hundred thousand books a year, seventy per cent of which will not earn back the money that their authors have been advanced; aside from returns, royalty advances are by far publishers’ biggest expense. Although critics argue that traditional book publishing takes too much money from authors, in reality the profits earned by the relatively small percentage of authors whose books make money essentially go to subsidizing less commercially successful writers. The system is inefficient, but it supports a class of professional writers, which might not otherwise exist.
    . . .
    Publishers have another recently converted ally: Google, which not long ago they saw as a mortal threat. In October, 2004, without the permission of publishers and authors, Google announced that, through its Google Books program, it would scan every book ever published, and make portions of the scans available through its search engine. The publishing community was outraged, claiming that Google was stealing authors’ work. A consortium of publishers, along with the Authors’ Guild, filed a lawsuit, which was resolved only in the fall of 2008, when Google agreed to pay a hundred and twenty-five million dollars to authors and publishers for the use of their copyrighted material. John Sargent, who was part of the publishers’ negotiating team, said the agreement is a huge accomplishment. ‘The largest player in the Internet game agreed that in order to have content you have to have a license for it and pay for it, and that the rights holder shall control the content,’ he said. If the settlement is ultimately approved by the U.S. courts, Google will open an online e-books store, called Google Editions, by the middle of the year, Dan Clancy, the engineer who directs Google Books, and who will also be in charge of Google Editions, said.

    Clancy said that the store’s e-books, unlike those from Amazon or Apple, will be accessible to users on any device. Google Editions will let publishers set the price of their books, he said, and will accept the agency model. Having already digitized twelve million books, including out-of-print titles, Google will have a far greater selection than Amazon or Apple.”

  • A Bloody Grin and a Downpour — Eden’s Indoor Garden Party – “I looked down at my baby — my little chubby-sweet Eden, shaking her rattly egg and giggling a full-belly giggle, in a room packed with people who cared enough to spend a rainy afternoon helping her celebrate her first year. In the Tilty-Floored Farmhouse with its skylights and wood beams, and all the familiar echoes of home.

    And then we were all of us stuffed into the living room gathered around one small high chair, belting out Happy Birthday, Schmoopy wide-eyed and happy. She brought fist fulls of cake to her mouth to wild applause and cheers and I thought how very lovely is the world and how no one should ever plan anything too much.

    Because the stories that just happen are so much better than the ones we think should happen.”

    Serendipity in life is grossly under appreciated.

  • Amazon fights demand for customer records – “Amazon.com filed a lawsuit on Monday to fend off a sweeping demand from North Carolina’s tax collectors: detailed records including names and addresses of customers and information about exactly what they purchased.

    The lawsuit says the demand violates the privacy and First Amendment rights of Amazon’s customers. North Carolina’s Department of Revenue had ordered the online retailer to provide full details on nearly 50 million purchases made by state residents between 2003 and 2010.

    Amazon is asking a federal judge in Seattle to rule that the demand is illegal, and left open the possibility of requesting a preliminary injunction against North Carolina’s tax collectors.
    . . .
    Because Amazon has no offices or warehouses in North Carolina, it’s not required to collect the customary 5.75 percent sales tax on shipments, although tax collectors have reminded residents that what’s known as a use tax applies on anything ‘purchased or received’ through the mail. The dispute arose out of what had otherwise been a routine sales and use tax audit of Amazon by North Carolina’s tax agency.
    . . .
    Amazon did provide the state tax collectors with anonymized information about which items were shipped to which zip codes. But North Carolina threatened to sue if the retailer did not also divulge the names and addresses linked to each order–in other words, personally identifiable information that could be used to collect additional use taxes that might be owed by state residents.
    . . .
    North Carolina’s aggressive push for customer records comes as other states are experimenting with new ways to collect taxes from online retailers. California may require retailers to report the total dollar value of purchases made by each state resident, as CNET reported last month, and Colorado already has enacted such a law. A decision is expected at any time in a related case that Amazon filed against New York state.

    Last year, Amazon discontinued its affiliate program in North Carolina, which provides referrers with a small slice of the transaction, after the state legislature enacted a new law that would have used that program to force the company to collect sales taxes.

    A North Carolina legislator said at the time that the state would be able to force online retailers to collect even retroactive taxes; tax officials have reportedly sent letters to online retailers in the last few months saying they’re required to pay retroactive sales taxes. Stevenson, the spokeswoman for the state tax agency, said that her office would provide a more detailed response by Friday. ”

  • Blogs about the professions and what they are like – “I’d like to get a non-glamorized, relatively even-handed inside view of other professions. I certainly would have loved to have had a few dozen of these to follow when I was trying to make career choices…”


From “Great Silence” to “Greater Love”

  • New Flip camcorder jumps on touchscreen bandwagon – “Cisco has unveiled another new Flip camcorder design, a big departure from what we’ve become accustomed to. The Flip SlideHD has a touchscreen that lets users navigate through recorded videos and watch them in full widescreen mode, eliminating the need for traditional buttons. The screen also slides up (hence the name) to expose a ‘slide strip,’ though this feature is more a gimmick than anything else.

    The Flip SlideHD can record for up to four hours and store up to 12 hours of video in its built-in 16GB of memory. The touchscreen is 3 inches on the diagonal (the iPhone’s screen is 3.5 inches, by comparison, so the Flip’s is decently large) and the camera can record 720p video (1280 x 720) at 30 frames per second. The battery is a rechargeable li-ion battery that charges over USB, is not removable, and lasts for up to two hours on a charge.”

  • The iPad isn’t a computer, it’s a distribution channel – “‘You don’t want your phone to be an open platform…’ and with that brief statement, Apple justified the closed iPhone and then quickly followed it with the monitored and controlled app store. But Steve, the iPad isn’t a phone at all so why not open it up again? If people are concerned about the safety of their apps or need you to protect them from porn, you can do an ‘app store approved’ program or something can’t you? And really, do we even need an app store to tell us which apps are good in an era of ubiquitous user feedback and preferential attachment?

    The thing is, Jobs’ argument was always a bit disingenuous. Closed follows from his brain architecture, not from an argument on behalf of his customers or their network providers. Those are post facto justifications supporting an already-held point of view. And the reason the iPad is going to stay closed isn’t because it is good for users, it’s because it is good for Apple.

    The bottom line is that the iPhone was a relatively open phone and we accepted it, but the iPad is a relatively closed computer, and that’s a bummer. Jobs probably believes that he is doing it for the users, finally giving them a post-crank-the-handle-to-start-it experience, but it doesn’t take a genius to see how it benefits Apple.
    . . .
    the iPad isn’t a computing device at all. Jobs is using his knack for design and user experience to build, not a better computer, but a better distribution channel. One that is controlled, constrained, and can re-take distribution as the point of monetization. You aren’t buying a computer when you buy an iPad, you are buying a 16GB Walmart store shelf that fits on your lap – complete with all the supplier beat downs, slotting fees, and exclusive deals that go with it – and Apple got you to pay for the building.”

  • How to Skip to the Trailers & Commercials on DVDs and Blu-ray Discs – “Just press Stop, Stop, then Play on many DVDs to skip right to the movie. This method won’t always work, so if it doesn’t, don’t give up hope! If twice doesn’t work, Salon.com’s Richard Rider says pressing Stop three times, followed by Play, will do the trick.”
  • Antimatter Triggers Largest Explosion Ever Recorded in Universe – “Late in 2009 year we witnessed the largest explosion ever recorded: a super giant star two hundred times bigger than the sun utterly obliterated by runaway thermonuclear reactions triggered by gamma ray-driven antimatter production. The resulting blast was visible for months because it unleashed a cloud of radioactive material over fifty times the size of our own star, giving off a nuclear fission glow visible from galaxies away.
    . . .
    Most astronomers today believe that one of the plausible reasons we have yet to detect intelligent life in the universe is due to the deadly effects of local supernova explosions that wipe out all life in a given region of a galaxy.

    While there is, on average, only one supernova per galaxy per century, there is something on the order of 100 billion galaxies in the observable Universe. Taking 10 billion years for the age of the Universe (it’s actually 13.7 billion, but stars didn’t form for the first few hundred million), Dr. Richard Mushotzky of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, derived a figure of 1 billion supernovae per year, or 30 supernovae per second in the observable Universe!”

    Now what we need is a Supernova Containment project….

  • Scrawled in the Margins, Signs of Twain as a Critic – “By the end of his life, Samuel Langhorne Clemens had achieved fame as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi, a globe-trotting lecturer and, of course, the literary genius who wrote ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn‘ and other works under the name Mark Twain.

    He was less well-known, but no less talented, as a literary critic. Proof of it has resided, mostly unnoticed, in a small library in Redding, Conn., where hundreds of his personal books have sat in obscurity for 100 years. They are filled with notes in his own cramped, scratchy handwriting. Irrepressible when he spotted something he did not like, but also impatient with good books that he thought could be better, he was often savage in his commentary.
    . . .
    For decades, Twain’s books were allowed to circulate. Some may have worn out, and in the early 1950s, when space got tight, a librarian, whose name Ms. Morgan said she did not know, weeded the shelves of books that had not been borrowed in a while. A book dealer carted off a truckload for what is believed to be $20. Only belatedly, when the books began popping up at auctions, did the library realize that it had tossed treasures and sought to safeguard what was left.”

  • OhGizmo! Review — Apple iPad – “Since it was officially announced, I have openly ridiculed the iPad for its shortcomings. I’ve mocked the name (who hasn’t?), the fact that it’s just a big iPod Touch, and numerous other things. Most of all I stood resolved that I would not waste my money on one. So naturally I’m doing a review on the iPad, which I purchased for myself a little over a week ago.

    How did I find myself in this situation? It started when I was reading a book a couple of weeks back. The particular one was part of a trilogy, the entirety of which was compiled into one giant 1,191 page tome. It’s not the first time I’ve read the books, and once again I despised its great size. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an epic tale, it’s the physical book I could do without. It’s tiring to hold for any real length of time (I’ll read for hours on end some days) and terrible to lug around. Thus, for perhaps the hundredth time I pondered purchasing an eReader.
    . . .
    I’ve read about a number of hacks that have been done to the Nook to give it a little more functionality, such as a web browser. Unfortunately these don’t get the best results and are novel at best. Thus I began to wish there were an eReader that could also browse the web and perhaps do a few other things. It was at this point that I realized that I wanted something more like an iPad.

    Now the leap from $260 to $500 (for the base iPad) isn’t exactly a small one. However, I have been considering purchasing a netbook for a little while, as I don’t always want to be lugging around my MacBook, but would still like to do some web surfing and light writing. If the iPad could replace both the e-reader and netbook, that $500 price didn’t seem so bad.

    Since I finally convinced myself that the iPad might actually be a worthwhile purchase, I then had to consider my options. When it came to size, I wasn’t too worried. I had no intention of putting my music collection on it, as my iPhone took care of that. The 16GB would be sufficient for a few videos and whatever else I wanted to store on it. That left the option of a 3G card. I pay for my home internet service, a 3G connection for my iPhone and a separate 3G wireless card from Sprint. I have absolutely no intention of giving anyone else money to connect to the internet. I’ll find another way to keep connected.

    So there you have it, my fall from grace. My purchase has made me the butt of numerous jokes from my friends, and not undeservedly so.
    . . .
    Since reading books was the primary motivation for purchasing the iPad, this was a make-or-break thing for me. I’m pleased to say that I absolutely love reading on my iPad. There are a number of apps built for reading, including the Kindle from Amazon, but I’ve pretty much stuck to Apple’s iBooks app. The bookshelf look is classy, but definitely not why I prefer it over Kindle. Honestly, graphical differences aside (the iBooks app does have a really nice looking page transition) the main draw is the built-in dictionary. You can tap-and-hold on any word to bring up a menu, and one of the selections is a dictionary. It will then bring up a definition in a separate box without leaving the page. A quick tap elsewhere on the page will take you back to your reading.

    I do have to say that I am a little disappointed that I cannot take notes in iBooks like you can in Kindle. If I’m not just reading for pleasure and want to take notes, then I would probably switch to Kindle for that book. I’m hoping that this is something Apple will consider adding in a future update.
    . . .
    Aside from my rant about 3G pricing, I’m pleased with the WiFi functionality in the iPad. I never have an issue connecting to my wireless network, and the speeds are perfectly acceptable. It’s the times when I’m away from a hotspot that frustrate me.
    . . .
    Am I satisfied with my purchase? Definitely. Should everyone rush out and buy one for themselves? Probably not. Whether or not this device is for you depends greatly on what you’re hoping to get out of it. If you’re looking for something to replace your laptop or even your primary PC, then this isn’t for you. It’s great for reading books, watching videos and surfing the net. So if you’re looking for a hybrid netbook/eReader, then you’ll most likely enjoy the iPad just as much as I have.”

  • Sprint Wants To Give Your iPad 4G Speeds – “Sprint has announced a new case for the iPad, which has a rather unique front pocket. Okay, so the pocket isn’t that unique, but rather it’s what lies inside that pocket that matters. In that pocket you can place one of their Overdrive 3G routers, which will provide an internet connection to your iPad (or any other devices) via WiFi. You’ll be able to connect up to 5 devices at once (you’ll have to authorize them so that no one leeches off of your internets) to Sprint’s 3G or 4G network, depending on your area.”
  • Are you still faxing? – “Well, if your office is like most law offices, you still have the trusty fax machine and a business phone line dedicated to your fax number. You may not be motivated to change that at the moment, but I hope to make you reconsider that with a few links and a few observations. Failing that, I want you to at least think about the issue and revisit this blog post when the old fax machine dies.

    Internet faxing (aka virtual faxing) has been around for quite a while now. Those who converted to these services years ago still maintain it was a great business decision. But the current generation of these services provides even more compelling reasons to consider a switch. First of all, you can save money. In many cases, the monthly charge for an Internet faxing service may be less than the monthly charge for the business phone line that supports the machine. Even if you have avoided having an additional business phone line for the fax with custom ring tones or some other method, it is still probably cheaper when you consider paper, toner and the cost of purchasing new fax machines– and you will avoid a phone line being busy when sending/receiving faxes.”

  • This is Your Brain on Training – “A new study in Nature is calling into question whether cognitive training games/software such as CogniFit and Brain Age are actually beneficial. The study found that there was no significant difference in cognitive test performance before or after cognitive training for either the experimental or control groups.
    . . .
    As the debate rages on, people continue to spend time and money on cognitive training and talking into their Nintendo DS’s in public.”

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