Assorted Links 5/20/10


Richard Feynman on Seeing Things, from the BBC TV series ‘Fun to Imagine’ (1983)

  • 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
  • Mark Twain on Copyright – “Remarks of Samuel Langhorne Clemens Before the Congressional Joint Committee on Patents, December, 1906 (Mark Twain on Copyright)”
  • 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.”

  • Green: Obama is a victim of Bush’s failed promises – “It’s all George Bush’s fault.

    George Bush, who doesn’t have a vote in Congress and who no longer occupies the White House, is to blame for it all.

    He broke Obama’s promise to put all bills on the White House web site for five days before signing them.

    He broke Obama’s promise to have the congressional health care negotiations broadcast live on C-SPAN.

    He broke Obama’s promise to end earmarks.

    He broke Obama’s promise to keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent.

    He broke Obama’s promise to close the detention center at Guantanamo in the first year.

    He broke Obama’s promise to make peace with direct, no pre-condition talks with America’s most hate-filled enemies during his first year in office, ushering in a new era of global cooperation.

    He broke Obama’s promise to end the hiring of former lobbyists into high White House jobs.

    He broke Obama’s promise to end no-compete contracts with the government.

    He broke Obama’s promise to disclose the names of all attendees at closed White House meetings.

    He broke Obama’s promise for a new era of bipartisan cooperation in all matters.

    He broke Obama’s promise to have chosen a home church to attend Sunday services with his family by Easter of last year.

    Yes, it’s all George Bush’s fault. President Obama is nothing more than a puppet in the never-ending, failed Bush administration.

    If only George Bush wasn’t still in charge, all of President Obama’s problems would be solved. His promises would have been kept, the economy would be back on track, Iran would have stopped its work on developing a nuclear bomb and would be negotiating a peace treaty with Israel, North Korea would have ended its tyrannical regime, and integrity would have been restored to the federal government.

    Oh, and did I mention what it would be like if the Democrats, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, didn’t have the heavy yoke of George Bush around their necks. There would be no earmarks, no closed-door drafting of bills, no increase in deficit spending, no special-interest influence (unions), no vote buying (Nebraska, Louisiana).”

  • America 101 With Dean Obama: America is now a campus, and Obama is our Dean – “This is the strangest presidency I have seen in my lifetime. President Obama gives soaring lectures on civility, but still continues his old campaign invective (‘get in their face,’ ‘bring a gun to a knife fight,’ etc.) with new attacks on particular senators, Rush Limbaugh, and entire classes of people–surgeons, insurers, Wall Street, those at Fox News, tea-partiers, etc.

    And like the campaign, he still talks of bipartisanship (remember, he was the most partisan politician in the Senate), but has rammed through health care without a single Republican vote. His entire agenda–federal take-overs of businesses, near two-trillion-dollar deficits, health care, amnesty, and cap and trade–does not earn a majority in the polls. Indeed, the same surveys reveal him to be the most polarizing president in memory.

    His base was hyper-critical of deficit spending under Bush, the war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan, and government involvement with Wall Street. But suddenly even the most vocal of the left have gone silent as Obama’s felonies have trumped Bush’s misdemeanors on every count.

    All this reminds me of the LaLa land of academia. Let me explain.

    Last week, Obama was at it again. He blasted the oil companies and his own government for lax regulation in the Gulf, apparently convinced that no one in the media would consider his last 16 months of governance in any way responsible for, well, federal governance. (I don’t have strong views on the degree of culpability a president has for lax federal agencies amid disasters, only that I learned from the media between 2004-8 that a president must accept a great deal of blame after most catastrophes [at least Katrina was nature- rather than human- induced].)

    Obama also trashed, inter alia, Halliburton for the spill, as he had done on other matters ritually in the campaign (“I will finally end the abuse of no-bid contracts once and for all,” “The days of sweetheart deals for Halliburton will be over when I’m in the White House”). Obama seemed to assume that few cared that his administration just gave Halliburton a $568 million no-bid contract.
    . . .
    The list of his blatant contradictions could be multiplied. I’ve written here about the past demagoguing on tribunals, Predators, Guantanamo, renditions, Afghanistan, Iraq, wiretaps, intercepts, and the Patriot Act, and the subsequent Obama embrace of all of them, in some cases even trumping Bush in his exuberance.
    . . .
    I think we, the American people, are seen by Obama as a sort of Ivy League campus, with him as an untouchable dean. So we get the multicultural bromides, the constant groupthink, and the reinvention of the self that we see so often among a professional class of administrator in universities (we used to get their memos daily and they read like an Obama teleprompted speech). Given his name, pedigree, charisma, and eloquence, Obama could say or do almost anything–in the way race/class/gender adjudicate reality on campus, or perhaps in the manner the old gentleman C, pedigreed rich students at prewar Princeton sleepwalked through their bachelor’s degrees, almost as a birthright. (I am willing to apologize for this crude analogy when the Obama Columbia undergraduate transcript is released and explains his next rung Harvard.) In other words, the public does not grasp to what degree supposedly elite universities simply waive their own rules when they find it convenient.
    . . .
    On an elite university campus what you have constructed yourself into always matters more than what you have done. An accent mark here, a hyphenated name there is always worth a book or two. There is no bipartisanship or indeed any political opposition on campuses; if the Academic Senate weighs in on national issues to ‘voice concern,’ the ensuing margin of vote is usually along the lines of Saddam’s old lopsided referenda.”

  • Anchors Aweigh and the Goatf*** in the Gulf – “Hey, no disrespect to the United States Coast Guard, which does a heckuva job patrolling for drunks in speedboats and rescuing those in peril on the … um, still waters.

    But somebody please tell me, as I am watching grandly uniformed Coast Guard officers testify about the Goatf*** in the Gulf: What are all those splendid ribbons on their chests for?

    I mean, the Coast Guard is a branch of the Homeland Security Department, not a military outfit per se. So are these combat ribbons? Are they merit badges for rope-tying and seamanship? I really want to know.

    It probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to be so rude as to pose the question — if these grandees didn’t have so many ribbons festooned across their chests. I mean, the last time I saw the genuine war hero General Petraeus on the TV I counted eight rows of ribbons on his chest, many of them representing medals for valor in mortal combat.”

  • A.P.: The Drug War Is a Disastrous Failure – “Today the Associated Press distributed a story that takes a remarkably skeptical view of the war on drugs.
    . . .
    ‘I have been the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance for ten years,’ says Tony Newman, ‘and this is one of the hardest hitting indictments against the drug war I’ve ever seen.’ I’ve been covering the war on drugs for more than 20 years, and I can’t recall seeing a more skeptical treatment of current policy in a news story from a mainstream media outlet.’

    Still, the story implicitly favors a timid and probably inconsequential solution: shifting anti-drug money from interdiction and enforcement to ‘prevention and treatment.’ The fact that Kerlikowske and the president who appointed him (an admitted drug user, as A.P. notes) officially favor such a shift speaks volumes about its limitations. As I’ve argued before, moving money around in the anti-drug budget does not necessarily produce a more effective, or even less repressive, policy. The only effective way to address the prohibition-related problems highlighted by the article–such as corruption, black-market violence, and diversion of law enforcement resources–is by repealing prohibition.”

  • The Roots of the Tea Parties – “The sight of middle-class Americans rallying to protest overtaxing, overspending, Wall Street bailouts, and government-directed health care scares the bejeezus out of a lot of people. The elite media are full of stories declaring the Tea Partiers to be racists, John Birchers, Glenn Beck zombies, and God knows what. So it’s a relief to read a sensible discussion (subscription required) by John Judis, the decidedly leftist but serious journalist-historian at the New Republic. Once the managing editor the journal Socialist Revolution, Judis went on to write a biography of William F. Buckley Jr. and other books, so he knows something about ideological movements in the United States. Judis isn’t happy about the Tea Party movement, but he warns liberals not to dismiss it as fringe, AstroTurf, or a front group for the GOP:
    . . .
    There’s plenty for libertarians to argue with in Judis’s essay. But it’s an encouraging report for those who think it’s a good thing that millions of Americans are rallying to the cause of smaller government and lower spending. And certainly it’s the smartest, most historically grounded analysis of the Tea Party movement I’ve seen in the mainstream liberal media.”
  • Are Democratic lobbyists invisible to the media? – “Did you know Harry Reid’s former banking staffer is a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs? Did you know former Democratic Senator John Breaux is also a Goldman Sachs lobbyist and a Citigroup lobbyist?

    Not if you rely on the New York Times, which glaringly omitted these facts.”

  • “The Strategic Imperative Not to Hire Anybody” – “I’ve been telling my students, particularly my undergraduates, two things:

    1. Almost every employee today has to consider him- or herself to be, at least partially, an entrepreneur. You should be looking frequently over your shoulder for competitive threats and opportunities. You should continually be updating your portfolio of skills and assets.

    2. If you don’t like this–the insecurity and the risk–do what I do: work for the government. (Well, that may change soon, too.)”

  • Update on Libertarian Videographer Arrested for Filming FIJA Action: Facing Possible Eight Years – “I blogged about George Donnelly’s arrest and release last week outside a Allentown, PA, courthouse for videotaping FIJA activists handing out information, but he was released merely into house arrest, and faces a possible eight years in jail for allegedly assaulting one of the federal agents who accosted him. This report from the ‘Photography Is Not A Crime’ blog has some details, though Donnelly himself is not talking to the press about it right now:”
  • Neocons Finish Out of the Money in Kentucky Race – “Rand Paul’s landslide victory in the Kentucky Republican primary is being hailed as a big win for the Tea Party movement, a slap in the face to the Republican establishment, and maybe even as a harbinger of the rise of libertarian Republicanism. (Only 19 percent of Kentucky Republicans say they’re libertarians, but that’s got to be more than before the Rand Paul campaign.) It’s also a big loss for Washington neoconservatives, who warned in dire terms about the horrors of a Paul victory.
    . . .
    The big-government Republican establishment rallied to Grayson’s side against the previously unknown opthalmologist from Bowling Green. Late in the campaign, Grayson ran ads featuring endorsements from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Cheney, Rick Santorum, and Rudy Giuliani. That’s more raw tonnage of Republican heavyweights than you’d see on a national convention stage.

    And after all that Kentucky Republicans gave a 25-point victory to a first-time candidate who opposed bailouts, deficits, Obamacare, and the war in Iraq. That’s a sharp poke in the eye to the neocons who tried so hard to block him. They don’t want a prominent Republican who opposes this war and the next one, who will appeal to American weariness with war and big government. They don’t want other elected Republicans — many of whom, according to some members of Congress, now regret the Iraq war — to start publicly backing away from perpetual interventionism.

    There were plenty of winners tonight. But the big losers were the neoconservatives, who failed to persuade the Republican voters of Kentucky that wars and bailouts are essential for national progress.”

  • Why Dershowitz? – “Slate has started a new sub-blog by Kathryn Schulz on what it means to make mistakes, called The Wrong Stuff. Naturally, the first place she looked was criminal defense lawyers, who (as opposed to any other discrete group on the planet) are universally wrong more than any other. So why is her first interview with Alan Dershowitz?
    . . .
    There is possibly no individual who dabbles in the field of criminal defense who less reflects the mainstream of criminal defense than Dershowitz, Harvard lawprof and perpetually available guest whenever there’s an open microphone. This opening Q&A smacks of his disconnect from reality. I bet you didn’t know that your problem is that you’re making too much money. I bet other people didn’t know that they think well of you. I bet.

    Dershowitz is one of the few in criminal law to attain the status of household name. Whether it’s Larry King or the Jewish Daily Forward, Dershowitz is the go-to guy to espouse the criminal defense lawyer’s point of view. The only problem is that he doesn’t have the slightest clue what it means to be a criminal defense lawyer in the trenches.
    . . .
    It must be wonderful to be Dershowitz, always self-aggrandizing and never suffering the ‘discomfort’ that permeates the work done by the rest of us. Rarely has anyone been held out as an example of the criminal defense lawyer who less reflects what we do. There is absolutely nothing in his answers to Shulz’s questions that suggests the he has the slightest appreciation of what real lawyers do every day in the trenches. But then, we’re often wrong and fabulously wealthy, so why should Dershowitz care?

    And this is the understanding that the public has of our efforts. It must be great to be a superstar criminal defense lawyer. For the rest of us, who haven’t managed to meet Dershowitz’s norm, it’s just hard work in the trenches.”


Narcoleptic Cat

  • Fat Duck and Noma – “Increasingly, I think meals like this are B.S. Two years ago I ate at Noma, now labeled ‘the best restaurant in the world’ and I barely enjoyed it.”
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  • 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.”
  • Mexico: Updated U.S. State Department Warning Adds Three New Areas – “The U.S. State Department issued an updated travel warning that added three states to areas it recommends travelers avoid because of drug violence: Tamaulipas, parts of Sinaloa, and Michoacan. Michoacan is the wintering ground of North America’s Monarch butterflies.”
  • 10 most profitable college majors and highest paying college degrees – “Here’s Money College’s list of the highest and lowest-paying college degrees, based on data gathered by Payscale.com. If you love numbers and science, you’re in luck: ‘The kinds of majors where you learn to integrate mathematics and science with the everyday world have a tremendous benefit in terms of earnings potential,’ PayScale.com’s Al Lee said.
    ,br>Making money may not always be the biggest priority, in which case, go with your gut. You can always make billions of dollars, and give it all to charity.
    ,br>Ten most profitable majors that turn into the highest paying college degrees:”
  • Harvard, Plan B – “There’s something about a Wheeler and dealer who outsmarted Harvard. Adam Wheeler, that is.
    . . .
    What he’s seriously undermined is the belief that this can’t be done, that some kid who got tossed from Bowdoin College beat Harvard at its own game. Absolutely wrong. But some feat. If he gets time, anybody want to bet he won’t find a way to become the warden before he’s done?

    Sorry for this post, but in an internet with more marketing scammers than anything else, this kid stands out. I’m so ashamed of myself.”

  • Invisible Assholes: Elena Kagan and America’s Rude Legacy of anti-Harvard Bigotry – “Professor Kagan’s story is not so different than those of countless other Harvard Assholes; born precocious, a budding intellect nurtured by a crib full of Swedish monochrome creativity blocks and gender-neutral Balinese finger puppets, at age 3 she earned admission to Hundred Acre Wood Academy, one of the Upper West Side’s most selective Ivy League feeder preschools. From there it was off to Leon Trotsky Prep where she distinguished herself as captain of the state champion Feminist Theory team. She displayed a promising raw talent for academic Asshole bullshit, but it was not quite yet up to Harvard’s exacting standards. Still, she would not be dissuaded in her quest for the coveted brown brass ring of Harvard Assholicity. She persevered, honing her bullshit at Princeton and Oxford, two less selective junior colleges that sometimes offer a backdoor path into Harvard. And then, the long awaited call to ‘The Show’ — the famed Asshole Big Leagues of Harvard Law School, where in three years of intensive study America’s most promising young Assholes are taught everything there is to know, about everything worth knowing.

    Despite her underprivileged background Professor Kagan rose to the challenge and graduated magna cum laude, an honor reserved for the top 89% of Harvard Law alumni. Although her diploma fully qualified her for any conceivable position in the known Asshole universe, she took her first paying job in the charitable sector — teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, a lonely academic legal bullshit outpost in the harsh intellectual wilderness of the American Midwest. Her Asshole missionary work and softball skills quickly drew the attention of then-President Bill Clinton who, despite his Yale degree, was wise enough to see that she had ‘the right stuff’ to serve as his Assistant Deputy White House Under-Under Subsecretary for Minority Elderly Women’s Domestic Pet Policy. Her leadership in that critical office was nothing short of revolutionary, increasing its bullshit report output by 15% while introducing colorful pie charts. From there she made a triumphant return to Harvard Law as a fully tenured faculty Asshole, eventually rising to Dean of Assholes where she introduced important reforms such as free student lounge coffee and banning the U.S. military war machine from campus. It thus came as little surprise that she was tapped by fellow Harvard Asshole Barack Obama to serve as his Solicitor General and Supreme Court nominee.
    . . .
    But no matter how padded our resumes, no matter how brown our noses, no matter how many faculty parking permits on our Subaru Foresters, it never seems enough in the eyes of America’s non-Harvard power elites who laughingly deign themselves worthy to sit in judgment of us. I was shocked as you when I learned that — even in this late date in our history — some have openly suggested there are ‘too many’ Harvard-trained Assholes on the court, even as that number barely exceeds 60%. No thanks to its unwritten Affirmative Action program for Yalies. And now it appears that Professor Kagan will be compelled to face a public inquisition by a panel of her inferiors, some of whom I am told are actually are products of Cornell. For God’s sake, what next? Brown?

    But Supreme Court vacancies are only one area in public life where Harvard Assholes face a daunting glass ceiling. As hard as it is to imagine, anti-Harvard Asshole discrimination is even worse in America’s non-lifetime appointment job sector. Harvard graduates regularly find themselves all but blackballed from participation in some of our society’s most prestigious and highest-paying professions. One need only look at the curriculum vitae of America’s country music singers, NBA all-stars, and lingerie supermodels to realize that entire swaths of society have hung out a de facto ‘Harvard Assholes Need Not Apply’ sign. The message from the Old Boys network may be transmitted in silence, but it comes through loud and clear: ‘You’re good enough to run our FCC, Harvard boy, but not good enough for a hiphopper recording contract. We’ll let you design our GM bailout plans, but don’t even think about driving our Nascarmobiles.'”

  • Super Terrific Japanese Thing: Ramen Fork – “Behold, the Ramen Fork. A fork with both tine for noodles and a small bowl for soup base. It’s basically a spork, just a little more professional. As a frequent ramen eater — mostly thanks to Ramenbox — I am constantly irked by the difficulty of eating noodles and slurping soup simultaneously. Their supposed to be eaten together, and yet, no utensil has been able to accomplish this. Until now. Because of the Ramen Fork.”
  • Augmented Reality Systems May be Beneficial in Treating Real Phobias – “Exposure therapy is one well known technique used to treat people’s phobias, but the knowledge that one will have to face the actual source of the fear may be too much for someone to even consider starting. A team of Spanish scientists has now shown that using special glasses to overlay virtual cockroaches onto one’s field of view resulted in real anxiety in six women who truly hate the pesky buggers.”
  • It’s Just Cool: Lasers Zap Mosquitoes – “Besides guiding your saw or projecting level and plumb lines, lasers can now zap mosquitoes. A team at Intellectual Ventures Lab created a working prototype of their Photonic Fence to detect mosquitoes flying at a distance and shoot them down using lasers. The basic components came from inexpensive consumer electronics (e.g., laser printers, Blu-Ray disc writers, camcorders, and video game consoles).

    The Photonic Fence would comprise posts up to 100′ apart with infrared LEDs, retroreflectors, and cameras mounted on each one. Software — lots and lots of software — would monitor the cameras’ outputs for shadows caused by insects flying through the infrared vertical planes between the posts. A nonlethal laser then illuminates the intruding bug, and determines its size and how fast its wings are beating to distinguish a variety of bugs (e.g., mosquitoes, butterflies, bumblebees…). The sex of a mosquito can also be ascertained because females are larger than males and have slower wingbeats. ‘This is useful because only female mosquitoes bite humans.'”

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