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Assorted Links 4/2/10 Archives

Assorted Links 4/2/10

Bill Black: Not Dead Yet - Part 1 (ht Global Guerillas)

  • 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."
  • For top pay, major in engineering - "Why aren’t more students pursuing engineering degrees, wonders Mark Bauerlein on Brainstorm. He links to a survey on the bachelor’s degrees that earn the top 10 starting salaries: Petroleum engineering starts at $86,220, followed by six other engineering specialties, computer science and information systems."
  • ObamaCare: More Ambiguity Than a David Lynch Movie? - "No matter how much time you spend staring at it, you can never be quite sure just what it all means. I've already asked whether the individual mandate might be unenforceable. Here are some other questions about the law and its possible outcomes:"
  • Why Envy Dominates Greed - "Economists generally think of self interest as maximizing the present value of one’s consumption, or wealth, independent of others. Wealth can be generalized to include not just their financial assets, but the present value of their labor income and even public goods. Adam Smith emphasized a self-interest that also recognized social position and regard for society as a whole, but this was well before anyone thought of writing down a utility function, which is a mathematically precise formulation of how people define their self interest.

    But what if economists have it all wrong, that self interest is primarily about status, and only incidentally correlated with wealth? A lot, it turns out.

    In a book titled Human Universals, professor of anthropology Donald Brown listed hundreds of human universals in an effort to emphasize the fundamental cognitive commonality between members of the human species. Some of these human universals include incest avoidance, child care, pretend play, and many more. A concern for relative status was a human universal, and relative status is a nice way of saying people have envy and desire power [status seeking, benchmarking, all fall under this more sensational description, envy]."
  • “Related Blog Posts” PlugIn is the Latest Spammer Trick - "Earlier this month, I asked 'What Is With All The TrackBack Spam?' We suddenly began getting an inordinate amount of spammy trackbacks, and I had no idea why.

    It didn’t take long to figure out the source: A WordPress plug in called “Related Blog Posts.” This is a dishonest way to try to grab some Google juice by auto-linking to other unrelated sites. It is auto-generated noise -- uncurated, unfiltered, unedited, and worst of all not actually related -- that tries to look like human generated linkfests and/or related content.

    It is not. It is nothing more than trackback spam.

    Andrew Wee describes them as a 'new generation of made-for-Adsense blogs.' I just call them splogs. There are now 1000s of spam blogs that have started to use this plug in, and they pollute the comment stream of other blogs. If we allowed these unrelated 'Related Blog Posts,' half of the comment discussion section would be splog trackbacks."
  • Paywall/Open Debate Applied To University Education As Well - "DV's summary above is great, but I wanted to highlight one more specific point from the article, which is a quote from James D. Yager, a dean at Johns Hopkins University, who basically presents the other side of the story from Professor Argenti, by actually articulating the difference between the content (infinite) and all of the scarcities that the content makes more valuable:

    'We don't offer the course for free, we offer the content for free,' Mr. Yager said by telephone in February. 'Students take courses because they want interaction with faculty, they want interaction with one another. Those things are not available on O.C.W.'

    Exactly. That's the point, and it's too bad that a professor at Dartmouth (which is generally a pretty good business school) would so confuse the basic economics of information, and not realize that even if all of the course info is free, there are always aspects that are scarce."
  • All hail God-King Roosevelt! - "Roosevelt seemed to be setting up the equivalent of the most ancient forms of tyranny, the god-king--combining magic and religion, as anthropologist Gordon Childe put it"
  • Pretending that no law professors question Obamacare - "Back in 1989, National Public Radio reporter Nina Totenberg attempted to portray the individual rights view of the Second Amendment as a fringe position with no academic support. She claimed that the National Rifle Association had been unable to provide her with names of any professors who thought the Second Amendment was an individual right.

    According to the NRA, Ms. Totenberg was lying, and the NRA had given her three names: Robert Cottrol of George Washington, Joseph Olson of Hamline, and Sanford Levinson of Texas. The latter, of course, was (and is) well-known as the co-author of a major constitutional law textbook, and had just published an article in the Yale Law Journal, titled 'The Embarrassing Second Amendment,' which stated that the arguments in favor of an individual right were very strong.

    Indeed, the individual right arguments were so strong that when the Supreme Court finally got around to announcing a new Second Amendment decision, in District of Columbia v. Heller, all nine Justices readily agreed that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right. There was a 5-4 split on the scope of the right, but all Justices recognized that the right belonged to individuals, not to states or to some 'collective.'

    Earlier this week at the University of Washington Law School, a 'debate' was held on the constitutionality of Obamacare. All four of the debaters said that the new law is unquestionably constitutional. According to moderator Hugh Spitzer, the reason that the 'debate' featured only one side was that 'we tried very hard to get a professor who could come and who thinks this is flat-out unconstitutional...But there are relatively few of them, and they are in great demand.' The Center for American Progress touts this story as proof of the constitutionality of Obamacare, and the comments on the blog post are a self-congratulatory frenzy about the stupidity of anyone who doubts Obamacare.

    Well, all I can say is that if I had some legal problem that required modestly diligent research, I sure wouldn’t hire any of those Washington panel organizers."
  • Control Fraud - "Control fraud, with looting as the objective, occurs when the CEO manipulates accounting rules to make the company he runs wildly profitable. These manipulations usually involve the creation of intangible and very difficult to understand assets (think derivatives), that can be valued very highly but be in reality worthless. This complexity makes unwinding the fraud from the outside almost impossible."
  • Will 8,000 Sailors Sink Guam? - "It is very rare occasion that I am rendered utterly and absolutely speechless--and in this case I mean it quite literally--but this clip of Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), picked up on by Washington Examiner editorial writer Mark Hemingway, might contain the dumbest statement ever uttered on the floor of Congress. And believe me, I understand that this is a bold claim, considering the long and distinguished history of Congressional sophistry."
  • I'm not the messiah, says food activist -- but his many worshippers do not believe him - "'I don't think a messiah figure is going to be a terribly good launching point for the kinds of politics I'm talking about – for someone who has very strong anarchist sympathies, this has some fairly deep contradictions in it.'
    . . .
    While he struggles to cope with this unwanted anointment, his friends and family are more tickled by the situation.

    'They think it's hilarious,' he said. 'My parents came to visit recently, and they brought clothes that said 'he's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy'. To them, it's just amusing.'

    There have been similar cases in the past, including Steve Cooper, an unemployed man from Tooting, south London, who was identified by a Hindu sect as the reincarnation of a goddess and now lives in a temple in Gujurat with scores of followers."
  • The EYM Lays Down Some Smack - "Oh, where, WHERE did I go wrong? Clearly, I failed as a father. A kid who doesn't realize that "sustainable" is something we worship.... well, I blame the LMM. She's a lawyer, and tends to think that words have meanings, rather than emotions."

Channeling Bastiat

  • Theodore Dalrymple on Self-Esteem vs. Self-Respect - "With the coyness of someone revealing a bizarre sexual taste, my patients would often say to me, 'Doctor, I think I'm suffering from low self-esteem.' This, they believed, was at the root of their problem, whatever it was, for there is hardly any undesirable behavior or experience that has not been attributed, in the press and on the air, in books and in private conversations, to low self-esteem, from eating too much to mass murder.

    Self-esteem is, of course, a term in the modern lexicon of psychobabble, and psychobabble is itself the verbal expression of self-absorption without self-examination. The former is a pleasurable vice, the latter a painful discipline. An accomplished psychobabbler can talk for hours about himself without revealing anything.

    Insofar as self-esteem has a meaning, it is the appreciation of one's own worth and importance. That it is a concept of some cultural resonance is demonstrated by the fact that an Internet search I conducted brought up 14,500,000 sites, only slightly fewer than the U.S. Constitution and four times as many as 'fortitude.'

    When people speak of their low self-esteem, they imply two things: first, that it is a physiological fact, rather like low hemoglobin, and second, that they have a right to more of it. What they seek, if you like, is a transfusion of self-esteem, given (curiously enough) by others; and once they have it, the quality of their lives will improve as the night succeeds the day. For the record, I never had a patient who complained of having too much self-esteem, and who therefore asked for a reduction. Self-esteem, it appears, is like money or health: you can't have too much of it.
    . . .
    Self-respect requires fortitude, one of the cardinal virtues; self-esteem encourages emotional incontinence that, while not actually itself a cardinal sin, is certainly a vice, and a very unattractive one. Self-respect and self-esteem are as different as depth and shallowness."
  • L. Ron Hubbard's Dystopia On Earth: An Ex-Scientologist Speaks Out - "If, as is claimed to prospective members, Scientology is the 'only major religion to have emerged in the 20th century,' then it is currently experiencing a growing pain common to all religions entering adolescence: The schism. David Miscavige, the slick little salesman who took over the Church of Scientology after the death of noted junkie and fugitive L. Ron Hubbard, has lately been accused of abusing his underlings and lying to his flock to obfuscate his own failures as a spiritual leader. Scientologists around the world are breaking off from the official Church, claiming that it has 'strayed from the original philosophy and purpose of the group which Hubbard first researched and developed.'

    But some ex-Scientologists have less regard for the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard. One of them is Aaron Saxton, a New Zealander who spent eight years -- from his mid-teens through his early 20s -- as part of Scientology’s elite paramilitary corps, Sea Org. Read on to learn his thoughts on Independent Scientologists, Sea Org, violence, coerced abortion, rape, false imprisonment, and the many other delights allegedly awaiting those who take seriously L. Ron Hubbard’s declaration that 'your search is over, but the adventure has just begun.'

    Aaron Saxton was born into The Church of Scientology in 1974 and left it in 2006. In the intervening years, he says, he tried coercing female Sea Org members into undergoing abortions, falsely imprisoned his fellows in the Church, both witnessed and engaged in the psychological abuse of children, and was denied even routine medical treatment. (He has alleged that he was once forced to remove his own teeth without anesthesia.)"
  • A Census ad on a Metro bus, socialist calculation debate edition - "If we don't know how many people there are
    How will we know how many buses we need?"
  • 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."
  • We get customers - "From her business card I learned that she is on the corporate staff of a large national chain of casual dining restaurants. I should have reframed her surprise at our price in the following manner: You believe the price on the menu for your cheeseburger is too high, so you decide to travel on down to The Mansion on Turtle Creek and tell the chef you want a cheeseburger, an item not on the menu, and you are surprised at the price?

    Geez." ht Kids Prefer Cheese

Policing for Profit

  • On Holy Week and why I am attending Easter Mass - "not even God can force a man to belong to a Church whose moral teachings he rejects.

    But to the first objection, we are now seven centuries past Dante putting dozens of popes and bishops in Hell in his Inferno. We are eight centuries past Saint Dominic’s warning to the Pope that his greed had crippled the Church’s mission. And we are twenty centuries past the apostle Judas betraying Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver.

    Perhaps millennia of experience can confirm that it is too much to expect men of the cloth to be either holy or competent. This is no excuse for what any of them did or allowed to happen -- especially to children: remember what Christ said about the millstone. But the clergy’s shortcomings present the feeblest, lamest excuse for skipping Mass. It would at least be understandable if Fernholz pleaded out on account of unbelief or a desire to smoke weed instead behind the bell tower.

    Catholics don’t attend mass because they approve of the pope, the bishop, or the priest. We attend because we want to share in the Body and Blood of Christ. If Fernholz believes it is the holiness of its members or leaders that makes the Church holy, then he is unfamiliar enough with the Gospel from Holy Week that he should do himself the favor of attending the Good Friday service (which is not a Mass). It serves as a good reminder of what we did to Jesus the last time we had a crack at him in the flesh."
  • 10 Simple Google Search Tricks - "I’m always amazed that more people don’t know the little tricks you can use to get more out of a simple Google search. Here are 10 of my favorites."
  • Java Patch Plugs 27 Security Holes - "A new version of Java is available that fixes at least 27 security vulnerabilities in the ubiquitous software.
    . . .
    If you don’t have Java, then you probably don’t need it. My personal philosophy is that if I don’t need it, I don’t install it or keep it. Java vulnerabilities increasingly are being targeted in automated exploit kits that are sewn into hacked and malicious sites, so by all means if you don’t have a use for it, I say get rid of it. Eliminating unnecessary programs helps reduce what security wonks call the 'attack surface' of a system: You’re basically bricking up potential windows and doors into your computer. At any rate, if it turns out you do in fact need Java for some reason, you can always reinstall it."

. . . . . . . . .

April 2, 2010 08:07 AM    Caught Our Eye

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