Assorted Links 6/20/10


Here Come Da Judge! Andrew Napolitano on Lies The Gov’t Told You & His New Fox Business Show

  • 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
  • Drafting Effective Federal Legislation and Amendments, July 21, 2010
  • Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, July 22, 2010
  • Advanced Federal Budget Process, August 2-3, 2010
  • Advanced Legislative Strategies, August 4-6, 2010
  • Mark Twain on Copyright – “Remarks of Samuel Langhorne Clemens Before the Congressional Joint Committee on Patents, December, 1906 (Mark Twain on Copyright)”
  • 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.”

  • DWI Convictions Due to Faulty Breathalyzer Calibration – “There is good reason to question the foundation of DWI laws and enforcement. Radley Balko makes the case that the federal push for reducing the national DWI BAC standard from .10 to .08 achieved little for public safety in Back Door to Prohibition: The New War on Social Drinking. Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) founder Candy Lightner regrets the no-tolerance direction her organization has taken: ‘[MADD has] become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned… I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.'”
  • Now they finally have something to fight about – “
      The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

    People, this could make the Dutch disease and blood diamonds look like kid’s stuff, no? We have already seen all the years of violence, all the corruption and now there is actually something valuable in play. Kudos to the NYT reporter for recognizing this:

      Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

    Not to mention how it will affect the US and our willingness to keep soldiers fighting and dying there.”

  • Congress to Big Biz: Lobby more, or else – “Congressmen, especially Democrats, like to attack lobbyists and lobbying. They also supposedly hate corporate influence through campaign spending. Why, then, are they always criticizing businesses that don’t lobby or give enough in the form of campaign contributions?

    Apple is the latest corporation in the crossfires for insufficient influence peddling/brown-nosing. Check out these nuggets from today’s Politico story:

      While Apple’s success has earned rock-star status in Silicon Valley, its low-wattage approach in Washington is becoming more glaring to policymakers….

      It is one of the few major technology companies not to have a political action committee….

      Compared with other tech giants, Apple’s lobbying expenditures are small. In 2009, Apple spent only $1.5 million to lobby the federal government, less than Amazon, Yahoo and IBM. In 2009, Google, for example, spent $4 million, Microsoft $7 million and AT&T $15 million….

    More lobbying benefits lawmakers. More lobbying means more people begging you for favors. It means more people hiring your staffers as lobbyists — staffers who then become your fundraisers. It also means more job prospects for you when you call it quits.”

  • No Keynesianism in the Berliner Morgenpost – “Germany, of course, is one of the most successful countries in the world since its postwar reconstruction. (You could make a good case for giving Germany the ‘best country award’ for the last fifty or sixty years.) Yet German policymakers adhere reasonably consistently to the following views:

    1. It is the long run which matters and we should be obsessed with the long run consequences of our choices.

    2. Economic growth comes from high productivity, most of all in quality manufacturing.

    3. Borrowing to finance consumption is a nicht-nicht. Savings is all-important.

    4. If we need to make a big change, we’ll all grit our teeth and do it. For instance Germany has done a good deal, on the real side, to restore its export competitiveness in the last ten years, not to mention unification and postwar recovery.

    5. These strictures should be enforced by rigorous rules, to limit temptation, because indeed you will find cases where it appears to make sense to break the rules.

    6. Values matter, as do norms of cooperation.

    7. Don’t obsess over the creation of too many low-wage jobs, because in the longer run it will be bad for your cultural capital. If need be, pay people to be unemployed, but hold high human capital. In the longer run, try to educate them up to higher productivity and thus employment.

    8. Be obsessed with self-improvement, most of all at the personal level.
    . . .
    I’m a fan of the northern European social democracies, but in part they succeed because those countries don’t follow all of the prescriptions you might hear coming from their boosters in the United States. For instance American liberals often admire the activist government in such countries, but it’s built upon a very different set of cultural foundations. I hear or read liberals calling for the comparable interventions but usually remaining quite silent about the accompanying cultural foundations or in some cases actively opposing them.

    The cultural elements of the current Keynesian debates remain underexplored in the United States, but they are fairly well understood in Germany.”

  • Obama Oval: Nothing but nets – “President Obama has waited all this time to throw down the big Oval Office address to the nation. Tuesday night at 8 p.m. will be the debut Oval chat of his presidency — carried live on all four networks, says Yahoo.

    Because nothing says ‘I mean business’ like wooden, artificial remarks to the pool camera from behind the Resolute desk to an impatient, non-cable audience who thought they were tuning into ‘Losing it with Jillian.'”

  • How Illinois is that? Testimony at Blagojevich trial: Barack, Rod and Tony hanging with Big Bob – “Hopium smokers might consider it a buzzkill, but Wednesday’s testimony in the Blagojevich corruption trial sure gave me the munchies.

    What could be tastier than two Democrats — President Barack Obama and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich — hanging out with the treasurer of the Republican National Committee at a Wilmette fundraiser hosted by a political fixer who would soon be in federal prison?

    According to testimony by businessman Joseph Aramanda (who later wrote a $10,000 campaign check to Obama), it happened in 2003 as Obama was mounting a campaign for the U.S. Senate.

    Obama was there. So was Gov. Dead Meat. And their buddy, the political fixer they had in common, Tony Rezko, was there, too, because it was Tony’s house.

    It’s not unusual to see a bunch of suave Democrats at a Democratic fundraiser. But what about the chunky Illinois Republican boss, just chillin’, shaking Aramanda’s hand?
    . . .
    We’re so focused on the criminal aspects, but what about the fascinating political aspects?

    Big Bob Kjellander, Republican bigwig and buddy of Bush White House Rasputin Karl Rove, was hanging at Tony’s crib with Obama and Dead Meat. How cool is that?

    Was it the appetizers? Maybe fresh figs wrapped with prosciutto? Empanadas? A pitcher of Peach Bellini?

    Whatever the refreshments and sweet meats, Illinois political bosses are always hungry to cross party lines in order to score. Just the other day, in writing about the trial, I said party affiliation means nothing to them.”

  • I asked Helen Thomas about Israel. Her answer revealed more than you think. – “I merely asked a question with a video camera to a columnist. She answered me with an opinion that was unacceptable not just to me but to former and current press secretaries, politicians, the president, her agent and a great many other people. Her freedom of speech was not stifled; on the contrary, it was respected.

    She didn’t say that the blockade was unjust, or that aid was not getting to Gaza, or that there was a massacre on the high seas, or that East Jerusalem is occupied, or that the settlements are immoral . . . and get out and go back to West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eilat. No. This was not the two-state solution. This was get the hell out and go back to the places of the final solution, Poland and Germany. The Jew has no connection with the land of Israel.

    And why? Because, as Thomas went on to explain to me, ‘I’m from Arab descent.’ That’s it? That’s all you got? Do we all travel with only our parents’ stereotypes to guide us, never going beyond them to get to a peaceful destination?

    In the past weeks I have relived this moment over and over, on television and radio, in newspapers and blogs. I’ve listened to a constant stream of commentary. And my sharpest impression is this: Where before I saw a foggy anti-Israel, anti-Jewish link, it’s now clear. This feeling is not about statehood. It’s about an ingrown, organic hate. It’s a sentiment that bears no connection to history, dates, passages or verses. Erase the facts, the dates and the lore. Erase the Jew. Incredibly, even the Nazis said to the Jews, ‘Go home to Palestine.’ But Thomas and a babbling stream in our world and country dictate to Jewish people to ‘go home to Poland and Germany.’ Yeah, I said ‘oooh.'”


Radley Balko Discusses SWAT Teams and the Drug War on John Stossel’s Show

  • Try, Try Again – “The saga of Dr. Jayant Patel is that of a man who concealed his incompetence by never staying in one place long enough for consequences to catch up to him. But though he buried his true track record, Patel took care to bring with him enough social proof to persuade a new set of victims to trust him. As long as he could stay one step ahead, he was gold. It wasn’t as if nobody suspected Patel wasn’t all he claimed to be. One gets the sense that many of his patients had doubts even as they looked up to him from the operating table, but never enough to challenge him openly; to impel them to say the one thing that would have saved them: ‘I don’t want this doctor, get me another’. And yet the truth was that he was probably trying; trying hard to be a doctor. One of the charges against him was that he treated patients that’s weren’t even his. Maybe he figured he needed practice. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But that didn’t help him because the basic problem was that Patel was incompetent. He should have been something else. And getting an incompetent to try harder only gets you more incompetence.

    Patel killled 17 people and removed many more organs and limbs than can easily be counted, often for no medical reason whatsoever. Wikipedia has a summary of his career. At each stage, ‘Dr. E. Coli’ as he came to be known in Australia, was suspected of being a dud. Yet such was the system of deference built into the medical system that he went on long after he should have been stopped.”

  • Book review: History and the Enlightenment by Hugh Trevor-Roper – “It was military service that taught Trevor-Roper his attitude of quizzical amusement about everything (or almost everything). He spent most of the Second World War in Britain decrypting German intelligence, but in 1945 he went to Berlin to write a report — later a best-selling book — demonstrating that, contrary to widespread belief, Hitler had indeed died in his bunker. These out-of-the-academy experiences turned him against the narrow disciplines in which he had been trained. Professional historians were in danger of killing off history, he wrote, just as philosophers were killing off philosophy, through a misplaced zeal for ‘unimportant truth’. He therefore committed himself to promoting history as a public discourse aimed at helping ordinary readers to understand the world in which they live.

    During the war Trevor-Roper had fallen under the spell of Edward Gibbon, the 18th-century sceptic and author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. If there was such a thing as a perfect work of history, he thought, Decline and Fall was it, and if there was such a thing as a ‘science of history’, then its founder was not Marx but Gibbon, or rather Gibbon standing on the shoulders of the French social theorist Montesquieu. For the rest of his life, Trevor-Roper kept trying to persuade his fellow historians to recognise that their own discipline had a significant past, and the essays and lectures that he devoted to the task have at last been gathered together under the title History and the Enlightenment.

    He was not interested in the rather threadbare notion (doted on by some humanists) that the lights of truth were suddenly switched on in Europe at the beginning of the 18th century, revealing that the demons which people had spooked themselves with in the past were mere figments of their superstitious imaginations. The Enlightenment that Trevor-Roper celebrates is historical rather than philosophical: it is marked by Gibbon’s creation of a new kind of history, dedicated not to pointless facts or edifying examples but to ‘sociological content’ — in other words, to the revolutionary notion that ‘human societies have an internal dynamism, dependent on their social structure and articulation.’ By bringing history ‘down to earth’, Gibbon and the other Enlightenment historians had contributed more to the discombobulation of know-nothing theologians than any number of philosophers would ever be able to do.”

    . . . . . .

  • Message to Freshmen: Let’s Start with Kafka and Darwin – “For the past two years, Bard College has asked first-year students to read works by Kafka and Darwin over the summer. These texts then become subjects of analysis when the students arrive on campus in August for an intensive three-week program of reading and writing before the fall semester begins. Let me explain the thinking behind this approach.

    The idea of assigning summer readings to students entering college has three justifications. First, since American high school students usually take more of a vacation from serious thinking and study during the summer months than is warranted, readings remind them that college promises to be demanding and difficult and that it would therefore behoove them to stay in some sort of intellectual shape. This exercise is especially welcome because once high school seniors learn what college they will attend, they often cease to study seriously so that the final months of high school are wasted.

    The second reason for summer readings is that most colleges have a program of general education that complements the normal process of choosing a major.
    . . .
    In the case of Bard College, to some extent all three reasons inform our decision to assign summer readings to incoming first-year students. We have staked out a clear position against the conventional high school curriculum in the sense that we believe high school is not sufficiently rigorous and takes too long.”

    . . .

  • 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.”
  • Future of Real Estate, Part 1 – “Anyone who has ever had a beef with a real estate agent should take a look at the website ReallyRottenRealty.com. It’s all in fun, but the name suggests what some buyers and sellers believe to be true — that their agents failed to earn their pay for one reason or another.”


A scene from Mr. Hulot’s Holiday

  • To Err Is Human. And How! And Why. – “Despite their titles, the two books in front of us today — ‘Being Wrong,’ by Kathryn Schulz, and ‘Wrong,’ by David H. Freedman — are not biographies of Alan Greenspan. They’re not accounts of the search for Saddam Hussein’s W.M.D. They’re not psychological profiles of Nickelback fans or the imbibers of chocolate martinis, either.

    Here’s what they are instead: investigations into why, as Ms. Schulz writes, with a Cole Porterish lilt in her voice, ‘As bats are batty and slugs are sluggish, our own species is synonymous with screwing up.’

    Bookstores will shelve these two volumes side by side, and critics like me will think, bingo!, and set them up for a blind date too. But they could not be more unalike. Ms. Schulz’s book is a funny and philosophical meditation on why error is mostly a humane, courageous and extremely desirable human trait. She flies high in the intellectual skies, leaving beautiful sunlit contrails. God isn’t her co-pilot; Iris Murdoch seems to be.

    Mr. Freedman’s book is a somewhat cruder vehicle. It’s a John Stossel-like exposé of the multiple ways that society’s so-called experts (scientists, economists, doctors) let us down, if not outright betray us. It’s a chunk of spicy populist outrage, and it can be a hoot to watch Mr. Freedman’s reading glasses steam up as he, like Big Daddy in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,’ sniffs mendacity around the plantation. But Ms. Schulz’s book is the real find here; forgive me if I spend more time with it.”

    . . .

  • The bright side of wrong – “There are certain things in life that pretty much everyone can be counted on to despise. Bedbugs, say. Back pain. The RMV. Then there’s an experience we find so embarrassing, agonizing, and infuriating that it puts all of those to shame. This is, of course, the experience of being wrong.

    Is there anything at once so routine and so loathed as the revelation that we were mistaken? Like the exam that’s returned to us covered in red ink, being wrong makes us cringe and slouch down in our seats. It makes our hearts sink and our dander rise.
    . . .
    If we hope to avoid those outcomes, we need to stop treating errors like the bedbugs of the intellect — an appalling and embarrassing nuisance we try to pretend out of existence. What’s called for is a new way of thinking about wrongness, one that recognizes that our fallibility is part and parcel of our brilliance. If we can achieve that, we will be better able to avoid our costliest mistakes, own up to those we make, and reduce the conflict in our lives by dealing more openly and generously with both other people’s errors and our own.

    To change how we think about wrongness, we must start by understanding how we get things right.
    . . .
    You use inductive reasoning when you hear a strange noise in your house at 3 a.m. and call the cops; when your left arm throbs and you go to the emergency room; when you spot your spouse’s migraine medicine on the table and immediately turn on the coffee, turn off the TV, and hustle your tantrumming toddler out of the house. In situations like these, we don’t hang around trying to compile bulletproof evidence for our beliefs — because we don’t need to. Thanks to inductive reasoning, we are able to form nearly instantaneous beliefs and take action accordingly.”

  • The Mother of All Invention: How the Xerox 914 gave rise to the Information age – “The struggles, obstacles, and ultimate triumph of its principal inventor, Chester Carlson– beginning with his frustrations as a patent analyst in the late 1930s–seem ripped from a Frank Capra film. Few people thought a market existed for the machines, which went on to become ubiquitous. In fact, the 914’s 17-year production run, which ended in 1976, was Methuselahian compared with today’s technology product cycles. No wonder Fortune later called the 914 ‘the most successful product ever marketed in America measured by return on investment.’ Yet David Owen, the author of the well-received 2004 book Copies in Seconds: Chester Carlson and the Birth of the Xerox Machine, was not asked for any interviews to commemorate the anniversary–and both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal ignored the milestone.

    Why no champagne? Although Xerox celebrated the 914 in fall 2009, it wants to move on from hardware-manufacturing alone to being what its Web site calls ‘a true partner in helping companies better manage information’–that is, a provider of business services, software, and new forms of paperless imaging. The 914 is a classic brand, but not a living one like the Swingline stapler or Bic pen. And although millions still make photocopies, the practice has been in decline.”

    . . .

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