Assorted Links 5/28/10


One Track Mind

  • 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.”

  • FHA Commissioner: Housing on “Life support”, “very sick system” – “‘This is a market purely on life support, sustained by the federal government. Having FHA do this much volume is a sign of a very sick system.’

    Federal Housing Commissioner David Stevens at Mortgage Bankers Association Government Housing Conference (see Bloomberg, the FHA was involved in more transactions in Q1 than Fannie and Freddie combined)”

  • Scene from an Airport – “TSA Officer: A beloved name from the blogosphere.

    Me: And I always thought that I slipped through these lines anonymously.

    TSA Officer: Don’t worry. No one will notice. This isn’t the sort of job that rewards competence, you know.”

  • Murphy’s Law – “[T]he Haitians who interacted with our base was that the locals viewed us with suspicion. In particular, when they would see a team of HODR volunteers engaging in literal hard labor, using sledgehammers and wheelbarrows to remove rubble from a collapsed residence, many of the Haitians apparently resented the fact that we were “stealing their jobs.” In other words, the Haitians — where unemployment is apparently 90 percent — thought they should be getting paid to remove the rubble from their collapsed homes.

    When those who were affiliated with HODR would explain to the people that we were all volunteers, some of them were still suspicious. They speculated that even if we weren’t being paid right then, we would probably be paid when we returned back home.

    Now here’s what struck me about all this: isn’t it incredible that after their neighborhoods got wiped out, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians died, that many Haitians were apparently devoting a lot of mental effort to speculating on how much we were getting paid to cart away their rubble?…”

  • Patrick says Obama critics are ‘almost at the level of sedition’ – “Governor Deval Patrick, even as he decried partisanship in Washington, said today that Republican opposition to President Obama’s agenda has become so obstinate that it ‘is almost at the level of sedition.'”
  • Mandatory Opinions on Public Campuses – “After serving as a trustee of The Ohio State University at Mansfield for the past nine years though, I have begun to wonder whether, in some very important ways, they are actually undermining and doing significant harm to these essential goals.

    Numerous surveys and studies show that the faculty and administrations of America’s major public campuses are politically well to the left of the typical American. But it’s not just one-sided campus opinion that’s the problem. Even more so, it’s the highly ideological programs, courses, centers and approaches to teaching and learning that these believers keep imposing on our students.
    . . .
    During its freshman orientation, Ohio State Mansfield has included Internet-based bias surveys that point out a student’s ‘bias’ if the student believes that the traditional societal perspectives on sexuality and marriage are better and healthier for individuals and for our society and culture. A news article about this also said that the students who believe this were asked to physically identify themselves in front of other students. These exercises were apparently designed to single these students out in front of their peers to try to make them feel as though they are being unfairly discriminatory and prejudicial. Campus ‘diversity’ tends to isolate and punish dissenters.
    . . .
    At another Ohio university, in May 2008, Crystal Dixon, a black woman who was the University of Toledo’s interim Associate Vice President for Human Resources, wrote a letter objecting to an op-ed in the Toledo Free Press that equated discriminating against someone because they have black skin with disapproving of a person’s gay sexual activity. University President Lloyd Jacobs published a letter in Toledo’s largest paper, The Blade, repudiating Ms. Dixon for this opinion. A short while later, he fired her.
    . . .
    What I have seen and learned during nine years as a trustee has convinced me, beyond doubt, that the politicization of the curriculum, programming and scholarship on our nation’s public campuses is indisputably real, systemic, and pervasive; and that it is gravely detrimental to the fundamental purposes for which our public colleges and universities were founded and to the well-being of our nation and its citizens. Thomas Jefferson said, ‘It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.’ Fair-minded people do not want to silence the gay activists or the leftist theorists, but we all should mount resistance to the imposed ideology and punishing of dissent that too often flies the flag of ‘diversity.'”

  • Militarizing the Border – “President Obama is sending 1,200 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico. This should not be viewed as an innovative solution; Bush sent 1,600 troops to the border under parallel circumstances in 2002. As Ilya Shapiro recently wrote, sending some Guardsmen is no substitute for substantive immigration policy reform.

    The National Guard, and the military generally, should not be seen as the go-to solution for domestic problems. Certainly the role they will play on the border will not be as offensive as policing the streets of an Alabama town after a mass shooting (which the Department of Defense found was a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, but declined to pursue charges) or using a city in Iowa as a rehearsal site for cordon-and-search operations looking for weapons, but politicians from both major parties have at one point or another suggested using the military for domestic operations that range from the absurd to the frightening.”


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

  • Zappos Admits Pricing Mistake Cost It $1.6 Million; But Is Upfront About Taking The Hit Itself – “For many years we’ve seen stories of companies making pricing mistakes at e-commerce stores. The news of those mistakes tends to spread very quickly, with lots of people piling on to order something for way less than it cost. Inevitably, the company realizes the mistake, and usually contacts everyone who ordered to let them know the order won’t be fulfilled because it was a mistake. I actually have no problem with this, though some people think it’s horribly evil. Either way, what seems to almost always happen is that the negative publicity that follows leads the company to change its mind and honor the original price. Sometimes, it actually takes a lawsuit to make that happen.

    However, this weekend, it looks like Zappos had a pretty massive pricing glitch on its sister site 6pm.com. It lasted a few hours. But what’s different this time is that once Zappos fixed things, it immediately decided that it would still honor the wrong prices, even though the mistakes would end up costing the company (now owned by Amazon) $1.6 million.”

  • “Little-Noticed” is the New “Unexpected” – “”Unexpected” has become the term of choice for the mainstream media to excuse the Obama administration’s economic failures.

    Yesterday I read an article in The NY Times about something unexpected in Obamacare, and one term jumped out at me (emphasis mine):

    About one-third of employers subject to major requirements of the new health care law may face tax penalties because they offer health insurance that could be considered unaffordable to some employees, a new study says…. It suggests that a little-noticed provision of the law could affect far more employers than Congress had assumed.

    That term, ‘little-noticed,’ sure sounded familiar. It seems that we hear that term a lot.

    I didn’t intend on this post being so long, but the examples are so numerous:”

  • 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.”
  • Progressive Christianity’s habit of ‘Embracing the Tormenters’ – “Conducting “truth commissions” to denounce American armed forces and organizing divestment campaigns to cripple Israel are vital issues to some American church officials. Raising the banner of Intifada and expressing solidarity with Palestinians are also very important to this collection of liberal leaders. They ‘spiritualize’ the Democratic immigration and health care reform agendas with pompous prayer, but their social justice-focused prophetic vision has strange blind spots. Leftist church leaders hardly ever see, let alone condemn, the imprisonment, enslavement, torture, and murder of Christians in the Islamic world, North Korea, and China.

    Church officials and partner organizations such as the National Council of Churches (NCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) issue strident policy statements on such topics as ‘eco-justice,’ broadband access for ‘economically depressed rural areas,’ the Israeli ‘occupation,’ and ‘unnecessary Department of Defense spending.’ But one is hard-pressed to find these church leaders denouncing the recent appointment of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. One searches in vain for an expression of solidarity with the Christian community in Jos, Plateau State, in central Nigeria, where hundreds of Christians were slaughtered by Fulani jihadists during March and April of 2010. If there are any such statements, they address vaguely ‘ethnic conflict’ and are masterpieces of moral equivalency.

    Such reticence to speak about persecution is not new for liberal church leaders. Downplaying or denying the egregious human rights violations of the Soviet system was symptomatic of Leftist hatred of America and Western values. It was also considered essential to the type of appeasement of tyrants necessary to achieve the liberal Utopian dream of a peaceful, nuclear weapon-free world.”

  • Treat Your Own Neck – “‘Treat Your Own Neck‘ saved my neck! The book is very thin but packed with the info you need to treat your neck pain. The author clearly explains the physiology of the neck, and describes specific exercises to treat specific types of neck pain/injury. The exercises are simple, but not intuitive.”


New Definition of Crazy: 120,000-Foot Supersonic Free Fall

  • Two more Census workers blow the whistle – ” Last week, one of the millions of workers hired by Census 2010 to parade around the country counting Americans blew the whistle on some statistical tricks.

    The worker, Naomi Cohn, told The Post that she was hired and fired a number of times by Census. Each time she was hired back, it seems, Census was able to report the creation of a new job to the Labor Department.

    Below, I have a couple more readers who worked for Census 2010 and have tales to tell.

    But first, this much we know.

    Each month Census gives Labor a figure on the number of workers it has hired. That figure goes into the closely followed monthly employment report Labor provides. For the past two months the hiring by Census has made up a good portion of the new jobs.

    Labor doesn’t check the Census hiring figure or whether the jobs are actually new or recycled. It considers a new job to have been created if someone is hired to work at least one hour a month.

    One hour! A month! So, if a worker is terminated after only one hour and another is hired in her place, then a second new job can apparently be reported to Labor . (I’ve been unable to get Census to explain this to me.)”

  • How Universities Breed Dependency: Modern universities are providing a failure-free existence that eliminates an important component of a free society: self-reliance. – “Critics of today’s university education typically direct their displeasure at universities’ ideologically infused curriculum or the triumph of identity politics. But the role of a college education in fashioning an independently minded citizenry is central, and our schools are failing in this role.

    While independence is difficult to define, it certainly entails self-reliance, a preference for autonomy, a capacity to choose wisely, and the ability to conquer the passions through reason and shoulder responsibility for one’s actions. Such independence links higher education to republican governance: Self-rule is possible only if citizens have acquired the self-determining habits of mind and body; a republic of subjects is unimaginable. Indeed, the term ‘liberal’ in ‘liberal arts’ comes from the Latin liberus, which means befitting a free man, as opposed to a slave or craftsman beholden to a master.

    I submit that the university’s penchant for breeding dependency is far more pernicious than its tendency to slight Shakespeare. In fact, I prefer the word ‘infantilizing’ to dependency: it is here, in college, that generations of Americans are ‘taught’ to surrender liberty to the omnipotent state. It is no accident that college kids so warmly embraced Obama’s socialist vision–they already live in something resembling Sweden.

    Today’s academy has become a ‘total institution,’ a single-ticket admission theme park paid for by parents. When I tell my students that medieval universities only offered lectures, they are dumbfounded. They cannot imagine attending college bereft of school-supervised housing, pre-paid meal plans, multiple school-supplied recreational programs, spectator sports, armies of academic counselors to help write papers, and ample health professionals to cure depression or prescribe birth control devices. The university even provides self-worth, cost-free–by joining a university-funded identity group one can reaffirm one’s homosexuality or blackness.
    . . .
    There may be good news today, however. The current economic downturn is squeezing many colleges and parents financially. Drastically reducing the university’s bloated paternalism and the hoards of rescue-minded administrators could probably cut tuition in half. But more important than lowering tuition, such educational minimalism might reinvigorate independence among college students. Juvenile-style higher education could be transformed into education to inculcate adulthood. The way to do this is to remove the academic props and crutches. Private gyms, even playgrounds, could replace university bureaucracies while tuition savings could be applied to personal health insurance.
    . . .
    All and all, colleges should just treat students as responsible, independent adults, people who must choose wisely, whether it is their living arrangements or their academic majors. If they screw up, they screw up, and there will be no interventions from above. Treat them like adults and they will become adults. College graduates will have learned powerful lessons–one, that they have free will and two, perhaps even that it is unnecessary to rely on state rescues.”

  • Surefoot Foot Rubz: Foot massager – “Best $5 I’ve ever spent for relief of tired and achy feet.” Surefoot Foot Rubz
  • Super-carbohydrate – “Wheat starches are composed of polymers (repeating chains) of the sugar, glucose. 75% of wheat carbohydrate is the chain of branching glucose units, amylopectin, and 25% is the linear chain of glucose units, amylose.

    Both amylopectin and amylose are digested by the salivary and stomach enzyme, amylase, in the human gastrointestinal tract. Amylopectin is more efficiently digested to glucose, while amylose is less efficiently digested, some of it making its way to the colon undigested.

    Amylopectin is therefore the ‘complex carbohydrate’ in wheat that is most closely linked to its blood sugar-increasing effect. But not all amylopectin is created equal. The structure of amylopectin varies depending on its source, differing in its branching structure and thereby efficiency of amylase accessibility.

    Legumes like kidney beans contain amylopectin C, the least digestible–hence the gas characteristic of beans, since undigested amylopectin fragments make their way to the colon, whereupon colonic bacteria feast on the undigested starches and generate gas, making the sugars unavailable for you to absorb.
    . . .
    The amylopectin A of wheat products, ‘complex’ or no, might be regarded as a super-carbohydrate, a form of highly digestible carbohydrate that is more efficiently converted to blood sugar than nearly all other carbohydrate foods.”

  • Computing smart-scope gunsight for US snipers – “US military boffins are about to produce a field-ready computer gunsight which will let snipers kill people on their first shot from a mile away – even with troublesome winds blowing.
    . . .
    Modern-day sniper rifles can easily throw their bullets across tremendously long distances, but beyond a certain point it becomes impossibly difficult to adjust the aim to allow for atmospheric effects – in particular for the wind. It can also be a time-consuming business allowing for all the changing factors which can affect the path of a bullet’s flight – range, temperature, atmospheric pressure, the spin of the projectile itself, the relative heights of the target and shooter.

    Thus it is that very long-range hits beyond 2km do get made, but they are rarities. The current combat sniping record is nowadays generally credited to Corporal of Horse* Craig Harrison of the British Army, who hit and killed two Taliban machine-gunners at a distance of 2,474 metres in November last year in as many shots – and then destroyed their weapon with a third round.”

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