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Caught Our Eye Archives

Assorted Links 6/27/10

Brown Bailout

  • 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."
  • Undercover Operation: Strippers Take Clothes Off! - "Here is a truly wonderful story: After a six-month (!!) undercover sting operation, the men of Charlottes's finest have concluded that strippers take. their. clothes. off.

    Thank goodness we have a police force, to protect us from dangerous naked women. I think Mr. Fall has it right, below:"
  • Rolling Stone - "This sort of thing is what happens when a senior officer and his aides, under pressure, blurt out the truth. Biden is indeed something of a stuffed shirt, and the president has been disappointing to many people who once hoped for more.

    Update: Most of the general’s dissatisfaction appears to have been generated by friction with US ambassador Karl Eikenberry, who was himself a 3-star general and former commander of US forces in Afghanistan. The sometimes controversial COIN changes that McChrystal has instituted are changes to Eikenberry’s policies, while the ambassador has declined to release funds to sponsor the kind of local anti-Taliban militias and infrastructure upgrades in Kanduhar that made the Sons of Iraq game changers in the Sunni-dominated Iraqi province of Anbar. As for Holbrooke and Jones, well: Too many cooks spoil the broth.
    . . .
    Update 5: The Rolling Stone article itself. Read for content -- and not for the reporter’s reflexively anti-military spin -- it’s not so bad, really. The 'Biden who?' thing was about keeping his mouth shut if he had to answer a question about his previous disagreement with the vice president at a dinner party in Paris."
  • Does McChrystal Rhyme with MacArthur? - "Look past McChrystal, a man who has given his life to the military, and has much to show for it. Look at the enlisted guys who are just beginning their careers, or the NCOs or junior officers who are in the third or fourth tours (in either Iraq or Afghanistan). They’re growing frustrated. They’re in an impossible situation. They are fighting a war that depends upon strong support here in the United States, and that aims to boost support for a government that no one believes in. And while they understand COIN as preached by McChrystal, they struggle with the rules of engagement that COIN requires."
  • Greenberg: For-Profit Schools ... Subprime Redux? - "But [Steve Eisman of FrontPoint Partners]’s comments were the most direct. Key claims include:

    * 'Until recently, I thought that there would never again be an opportunity to be involved with an industry as socially destructive as the subprime mortgage industry. I was wrong. The for-profit education industry has proven equal to the task.'

    * With Title IV student loans, 'the government, the students and the taxpayers bear all the risk and the for-profit industry reaps all of the rewards.'

    * 'We have every expectation the industry’s default rates are about to explode.'

    * 'How do such schools stay in business? The answer is to control the accreditation process. The scandal here is exactly akin to the rating agency role in subprime securitizations.'"

    Steve Eisman & FrontPoint Partners Ira Sohn Presentation: Subprime Goes to College

  • Without Good Evidence, Bad Evidence Must Do - "Lawyers fight tooth and nail over the admissibility of evidence in a typical case. The reason they fight is simple: There's evidence to be had and rules to apply in determining its admission. Thanks to Mr. Richardson, we can argue the nuanced points all day long.
    . . .
    Prosecutions alleging domestic violence are fraught with arguments, and decisions, that wreak havoc with the rules of evidence. Proponents argue that the nature of the relationship, private and personal, precludes the availability of reliable evidence, and thus gives rise to a different set of rules that should permit evidence that would otherwise be laughed out of court. The use of rampant hearsay evidence is indefensible, but proponents contend that a murderer shouldn't get away with it just because they've killed the only competent witness.

    The only thing truly required to feel comfortable with the concept of convicting in the absence of good evidence is the certainty of the defendant's guilt, thereby justifying anything needed to obtain the verdict to validate that belief. When the defendant's guilt is prejudged, the absence of good evidence gives way to the admission of bad. After all, we can't let a man like Drew Peterson get away with it."
  • Grassroots Lobbying, Campaign Finance Laws and the Integrity of Democracy - "It’s been my pleasure to guest blog this week on the topic of grassroots lobbying regulations. In the four previous posts, I’ve summarized the lessons from Mowing Down the Grassroots: existing lobbying regulations in 36 states are so broad as to cover situations in which individuals or groups communicate to other citizens about public issues (i.e., grassroots lobbying) and such regulations have costs that have gone largely unrecognized.

    The traditional rationales for regulating lobbyists -- corrupting or buttonholing public officials -- do not apply to grassroots lobbying; instead, states have asserted a right to know 'who is speaking' for the furtherance of the 'integrity of democracy.' I leave for others to debate whether such a purpose is a legitimate reason to burden political speech, association and the right to petition."
  • Learning the rules of an unengaged president - "What do Gen. McChrystal and British Petroleum have in common? Aside from the fact that they're both Democratic Party supporters.

    Or they were. Stanley McChrystal is a liberal who voted for Obama and banned Fox News from his HQ TV. Which may at least partly explain how he became the first U.S. general to be lost in combat while giving an interview to Rolling Stone: They'll be studying that one in war colleges around the world for decades. The management of BP were unable to vote for Obama, being, as we now know, the most sinister duplicitous bunch of shifty Brits to pitch up offshore since the War of 1812. But, in their 'Beyond Petroleum' marketing and beyond, they signed on to every modish nostrum of the eco-Left. Their recently retired chairman, Lord Browne, was one of the most prominent promoters of cap-and-trade. BP was the Democrats' favorite oil company. They were to Obama what Total Fina Elf was to Saddam.
    . . .
    Only the other day, Florida Sen. George Lemieux attempted to rouse the president to jump-start America's overpaid, overmanned and oversleeping federal bureaucracy and get it to do something on the oil debacle. There are 2,000 oil skimmers in the United States: Weeks after the spill, only 20 of them are off the coast of Florida. Seventeen friendly nations with great expertise in the field have offered their own skimmers; the Dutch volunteered their 'super-skimmers': Obama turned them all down. Raising the problem, Sen. Lemieux found the president unengaged, and uninformed. 'He doesn't seem to know the situation about foreign skimmers and domestic skimmers,' reported the senator.
    . . .
    'The ugly truth,' wrote Thomas Friedman in The New York Times, 'is that no one in the Obama White House wanted this Afghan surge. The only reason they proceeded was because no one knew how to get out of it.'

    Well, that's certainly ugly, but is it the truth? Afghanistan, you'll recall, was supposed to be the Democrats' war, the one they allegedly supported, the one the neocons' Iraq adventure was an unnecessary distraction from. Granted the Dems' usual shell game -- to avoid looking soft on national security, it helps to be in favor of some war other than the one you're opposing -- Candidate Obama was an especially ripe promoter. In one of the livelier moments of his campaign, he chugged down half a bottle of Geopolitical Viagra and claimed he was hot for invading Pakistan.

    Then he found himself in the Oval Office, and the dime-store opportunism was no longer helpful. But, as Friedman puts it, 'no one knew how to get out of it.' The 'pragmatist' settled for 'nuance': He announced a semisurge plus a date for withdrawal of troops to begin. It's not 'victory,' it's not 'defeat,' but rather a more sophisticated mélange of these two outmoded absolutes: If you need a word, 'quagmire' would seem to cover it.

    Hamid Karzai, the Taliban and the Pakistanis, on the one hand, and Britain and the other American allies heading for the check-out, on the other, all seem to have grasped the essentials of the message, even if Friedman and the other media Obammyboppers never quite did. Karzai is now talking to Islamabad about an accommodation that would see the most viscerally anti-American elements of the Taliban back in Kabul as part of a power-sharing regime. At the height of the shrillest shrieking about the Iraqi 'quagmire,' was there ever any talk of hard-core Saddamite Baathists returning to government in Baghdad?
    . . .
    Likewise, on Afghanistan, his attitude seems to be 'I don't want to hear about it.' Unmanned drones take care of a lot of that, for a while. So do his courtiers in the media: Did all those hopeychangers realize that Obama's war would be run by Bush's defense secretary and Bush's general?

    Hey, never mind: the folks have quietly removed their celebrated 'General Betray-us' ad from their website. Cindy Sheehan, the supposed conscience of the nation when she was railing against Bush from the front pages, is an irrelevant kook unworthy of coverage when she protests Obama. Why, a cynic might almost think the 'anti-war' movement was really an anti-Bush movement, and that they really don't care about dead foreigners after all. Plus ça change you can believe in, plus c'est la même chose.

    Except in one respect. There is a big hole where our strategy should be."

How to make a liberal case for Israel

  • New Or Used?: The Third Car Edition (teen driver) - " My soon to be 16 year old daughter will be driving soon. She is heavily involved in sports and marching band, so a car for her to get to such things would be a great relief for mom and dad. That’s 1000’s of miles to and from school, and whatnot! We will have NO car payments around the same time (wife’s 2005 Exploder will be paid-off in July).

    So what to get??? A 3rd car to use as a city car? A newer used car for wife, I jump into the Explorer and share it with daughter?

    A car for daughter solely??? We will not be getting rid of my truck or wife’s explorer. It has to be used, domestic brand prefered, but V-Dubs are OK. And no more than 8 grand."

    Lots of good advice in the comments.
  • The Search World Is Flat - "How does Google’s unchallenged domination of Search shape the way we retrieve information? Does Google flatten global knowledge?
    I look around, I see my kids relying on Wikipedia, I watch my journalist students work. I can’t help but wonder: Does Google impose a framework on our cognitive processes, on the way we search for and use information?
    . . .
    -- Students who bring academic experience to an online research task are more likely to succeed than those with technical expertise alone:
    . . .
    --The highest performing students use copy/paste to organize their thoughts.
    . . .
    --Younger students tend to be more opinionated than their elders; they begin to write their essay after only seeing 5 URLs, and they extract sources mostly to support their beliefs
    . . .
    --Google is the source.
    . . .
    --Search processes showed a definite lack of imagination on the students part. For instance, they made little or no effort to restructure search terms.
    . . .
    --Most of the students performed rather a small number of actions, going though 18 different web sites to find 2 or 3 quotable sources, this without much difference between graduates and undergraduates.
    . . .
    There is little doubt that the overwhelming use of technology such as search engines -- and the preeminence of Google in that field -- tends to flatten global knowledge. Let’s not forget that Google’s algorithm is based on popularity rather than relevance; the PageRank system acts as some kind of popular voting in which links are the ballots. The consequence is a self-sustaining phenomenon in which superficial research will value the most popular results which, in turn, are linked and gain in popularity, and so on.

    And, unfortunately, most of the searches are superficial. ‘It is certain that an overwhelming amount of information reduces serendipity’, says Monica Bulger. ‘Over a thousand of results, we tend to select the top five’."
  • The Age of the Infovore - "Tyler Cowen’s 'Create Your Own Economy' is now out in paperback entitled 'The Age of the Infovore', perhaps an acknowledgement that the initial title wasn’t working out.

    I liked the book at lot. As suits the infovoracious it is wide-ranging, somewhat scattershot but extremely creative, original and thought-provoking. If the book has a theme it is that different people think very differently - not just that they have different tastes or different beliefs but that the entire way they organise the world is different - and that the internet offers some people a much better way to order their encounters with the world than they have previously been offered. It changed the way I think."
  • 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."
  • Mickey Foley: The Doomer's Curse - "Mickey Foley takes a look at the underlying motivations of people who predict collapse of society as a result of Peak Oil, Anthropogenic Global Warming, or other causes. Foley sees Doomers motivated by an underlying desire to lower the status of others in order to boost their own relative status.

    'The Doomer is motivated by much more than a perverse sense of altruism. He mainly desires to see everyone brought down to his level. His fondest wish is for everyone to be as emotionally crippled as he is, and, if they could also be paralyzed fiscally, that would be great too. The argument for the necessity of disaster is merely an excuse for his vindictive fantasies. This is the Doomer's Curse: to wallow in despair, to sneer at the happiness of others, to revel in schadenfreude and to believe that he has humanity's best interests at heart. The Doomer honestly thinks that a universal depression (in the emotional sense) would lay the foundation for a better world, but this belief is rooted in his own selfishness, not in a rational socioeconomic analysis.'"
  • Why Engineers Hop Jobs - "People in my generation have a very low tolerance for bullshit, and software engineering, in general, is a very high bullshit career. If you couple that with the standard load of bullshit you would get from a non-technical Harvard MBA type boss -- like many CEOs that you find trying to get rich in Silicon Valley by hiring some engineers to 'code up this idea real quick' -- it's no wonder that a good engineer will walk off the job after his one year cliff vesting.
    . . .
    I recognize the value of business people and management. Somebody has to sell the code that I write, which in turn puts food on my table. Since I am an engineer, I like iterative optimization. Every time I have left a job, I have further refined the requirements that a person must fill before I agree to work for him. After every job, I add one or two requirements to the list, and I have found that my happiness at work improves dramatically with every step."
  • Toyota To Produce Small Subarus. And A FT-86baru? - "Toyota will supply small Subarus to Fuji Heavy, so that Fuji Heavy and Subaru can focus on midsize cars. According to information developed by The Nikkei [sub], 'Toyota and Fuji Heavy intend to release a jointly developed sports car under their respective brands as early as the end of 2011.' If the Nikkei has its stuff together, then we might finally see the often delayed FT-86 next year. As a Toyota and a Subaru."
  • Anti-virus is a Poor Substitute for Common Sense - "A new study about the (in)efficacy of anti-virus software in detecting the latest malware threats is a much-needed reminder that staying safe online is more about using your head than finding the right mix or brand of security software.
    . . .
    'People have to understand that anti-virus is more like a seatbelt than an armored car: It might help you in an accident, but it might not,' Huger said. 'There are some things you can do to make sure you don’t get into an accident in the first place, and those are the places to focus, because things get dicey real quick when today’s malware gets past the outside defenses and onto the desktop.'"
  • 800 Watt Portable Generator - "I've owned this generator for two years and it's great for light field work. Turn all your electric tools (weed trimmer, hedge trimmer, leaf blower, even electric chain saws) into gas tools. This generator is OEM'ed to a lot of distributors, who then put their own facade on it. The cheapest version appears to be available at Harbor Freight for $99.

    It's very robust and endures overload gracefully (it just peters out without any damage.) It's the antithesis of the previously reviewed Honda EU Series. You could wear out and throw away a lot of these generators for the price of one of the Honda inverter generators."
  • Bringrr Ensures That You Never Leave Your Phone At Home - "Bringrr is a small Bluetooth accessory that detects when your phone is nearby. If you start your car and the phone isn’t present, it will emit a sound to let you know. It’s small, rather cheap ($35) and helps to ensure that you never leave home (or anywhere else, for that matter) without your phone."
  • How To Recycle An Airplane - "A recycled jetliner produces tons of metal and millions of dollars in parts, but a mistake could cost hundreds of lives. Here's how the company that salvaged the plane from Lost does its destructive business.

    A car's typically just parted out once and then scrapped at the end of its life, but a jumbo jet is full of thousands of valuable parts that will be salvaged or recycled numerous times. One passenger plane may transition into service transporting packages, or off to commercial service in Africa, and then the fuselage used for training purposes.

    Approximately 450 large aircraft are completely scrapped and disassembled each year, according to the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association, with another 5,900 passenger jets to be recycled by 2028 according to Boeing. Given the high prices for parts, dangerous materials, and the risk involved in recycling airplane parts it's not a job for any dismantling yard.

    'In short, it's not like the auto [recycling] business,' says aviation archeologist and plane recycling expert Doug Scroggins, who was responsible for recycling the airliner that's the centerpiece for ABC's Lost and serves as managing director for ARC Aeropsace Industries. 'If you sell an engine off an aircraft and it crashes, you're going to be spending a great deal of time in jail.'"
  • 'I Hate My Room,' The Traveler Tweeted. Ka-Boom! An Upgrade! - "You might think that the only ones following your online musings are your mom and college pals. But if they include a gripe about a hotel, the front-desk clerk at the offending property may be listening, too.

    Hotels and resorts are amassing a growing army of sleuths whose job it is to monitor what is said about them online--and protect the hotels' reputations. These employees search social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter for unhappy guests and address complaints. They write groveling apologies in response to negative reviews on TripAdvisor. And they keep tabs on future guests who post about upcoming stays--and sometimes offer them extra perks or personalized attention at check in.

    For travelers, the upshot is that if you use social media, your complaints could have more power. In years past, guests unhappy about a lumpy bed, grimy bathroom or an awful view had to take their frustrations to the front desk or hotel manager and hope for some restitution. Now, with some guests having hundreds--and even thousands--of followers on Twitter and Facebook, complaints can have a big audience. It's like every guest has a virtual megaphone."
  • One Droid X killer feature the iPhone 4 lacks - "Though the 4.3-inch display (in the case of already-small smartphone displays, bigger is better), the Flash 10.1 support, DLNA streaming, and the Texas Instruments 1GHz ARM processor are nice, the icing on the cake is the built-in Wi-Fi hotspot--or what Verizon calls the 3G Mobile Hotspot."
  • World Cup 2010: Kenya's field of dreams – if you inflate it, they will come - "The screen is inflated – it blows up like a bouncy castle – the PA system is cranked up and suddenly the sights and sounds of the World Cup are beamed into an African community that might otherwise have missed out.

    Within a few minutes the screen, the brightest thing for miles around, draws a crowd and the spectacle of the world's best players strutting their stuff is greeted with whoops and cheers.

    England fans may feel hard done by following the team's poor performance on Friday but they could learn patience and optimism from the people watching this temporary screen in the town of Kilifi and surrounding areas just north of Mombasa thanks to a project called Kenya Field of Dreams."
  • Verizon Motorola Droid X Hands-On Review - "Still, the Droid X's closest kin is the Sprint Evo. Both devices run on Android, both offer mobile hotspot functionality, and both have very similar screens, physical dimensions and feels. As for which one is better for you, it really comes down to a few simple questions: Do you demand 4G network access, and how much are you willing to pay each month?

    The Sprint Evo is a tricky device. Yes, it offers Wimax and mobile tethering, but these things do not come cheap--the mobile hotspot feature costs users an extra $30 per month, and users must pay $10 extra per month to use the Evo over any other Sprint phone, whether or not they live in a Wimax-covered city. (Sprint attributes this surcharge to a 'premium multimedia experience,' vague language that has many tech critics screaming shenanigans.) Verizon doesn't charge users a premium to use the Droid X over their other phones (although their network isn't the cheapest to use either), and the mobile hotspot fee is just $20 on top of your bill.

    So which phone is for you? The answer is actually quite simple: If you're already locked to Verizon on contract, go with the Droid X. If you've signed to Sprint, go with the Evo. And if you're on AT&T, there's always a little device called the iPhone 4."
  • Top 10 Clever Google Voice Tricks - "Earlier this week, Google Voice opened to everyone in the U.S.. The phone management app is great, but even cooler hacks exist just under the hood. Here are our favorite tricks every Google Voice user should know about.

    If you're just signing up for Google Voice, and wondering, in general, what it's good for, we've previously offered our take on whether Google Voice makes sense for you, and how to ease your transition to your new number and system. Google Voice also offers the option to just use it for voicemail and keep your number, but you won't get use of much of the SMS features touted here. Now, onto Voice's lesser-known perks and features:"
  • Set Google Voice as Your Skype Caller ID - "A Google Voice number, one that rings all your phones, makes good sense as the caller ID number for outgoing Skype calls. Google Voice blocked the verification SMS that Skype needed until recently, but Google's flipped the switch and made it convenient."

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 6/27/10"

June 27, 2010 07:37 PM   Link    Comments (0)

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"
  • 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 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."

    . . .

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 6/20/10"

June 20, 2010 04:27 PM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 6/11/10

Battleship Island & Other Ruined Urban High-Density Sites

  • 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."
  • Impact of Decennial Census on Unemployment Rate - "My estimate was that the 2010 Census would add 417,000 payroll jobs in May; the actual was 411,000 payroll jobs.

    My preliminary estimate is the Census will subtract 200,000 payroll jobs in June - and most of the remaining temporary Census jobs (564,000 total in May) will be unwound by September."
  • Baltimore Police Officer Fires 13 Shots, Kills Unarmed Man - "An off-duty Baltimore police officer and a former Marine had a disagreement about the Marine’s advances toward the officer’s girlfriend. The officer ended it with thirteen rounds fired from his service pistol, six hitting the Marine and killing him. Baltimore police have confirmed that the Marine was unarmed. The officer refused a breathalyzer at the scene. (HT Instapundit)

    It gets better. The officer was involved in another shooting five years ago, which was determined to have been justified, but the officer was disciplined… for being intoxicated.
    . . .
    Of course, anyone recording the exchange that led to the shooting could be prosecuted for a felony under Maryland’s wiretapping law. Just ask Anthony Graber."
  • The education of Peter Beinart - "Perhaps you haven't paid attention that in the last 25 years, since this older generation has faded, you've seen the growth of Islamic extremism on a global scale, much of it aimed at Israel. And they are not so much interested in the territories, as such. They are interested in the very existence of Israel, as they openly state. So I don't see how you can dismiss the sea of hostility. It’s in front of your face every day. It’s not the professors at the Sorbonne and it’s not The New York Review of Books that we're talking about. It’s Hamas and Hezbollah and Iran and Syria and Islamic extremists from one end of the globe to the other.

    So you’re talking about a very deeply threatened country. It’s not threatened because of one policy or another or the personality of Bibi Netanyahu or any other single thing. The pro-Israel organizations -- I worked for one, AIPAC, for 23 years, I ought to know -- see themselves as part of an activist effort to fight against that tidal wave."
  • U.S. Intelligence Analyst Arrested in Wikileaks Video Probe - "Federal officials have arrested an Army intelligence analyst who boasted of giving classified U.S. combat video and hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records to whistleblower site Wikileaks, has learned.

    SPC Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Maryland, was stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad, where he was arrested nearly two weeks ago by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. A family member says he’s being held in custody in Kuwait, and has not been formally charged.

    Manning was turned in late last month by a former computer hacker with whom he spoke online. In the course of their chats, Manning took credit for leaking a headline-making video of a helicopter attack that Wikileaks posted online in April. The video showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians.

    He said he also leaked three other items to Wikileaks: a separate video showing the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat, which the site posted in March; and a previously unreported breach consisting of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables that Manning described as exposing 'almost criminal political back dealings.'

    'Hillary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public,' Manning wrote."
  • Ninja Bureaucrats on the Loose - "Quinn Hillyer has an excellent piece at the Washington Times highlighting the simultaneously farcical and frightening use of armed agents in enforcing suspected regulatory violations.

      ”The government,” wrote 50-year-old Denise Simon, “is too big to fight.” With those words, in a note to her 17-year-old son, Adam, she explained why she was committing suicide (via carbon monoxide) three days after 10 visibly armed IRS agents in bulletproof vests had stormed her home on Nov. 6, 2007, in search of evidence of tax evasion. Her 10-year-old daughter, Rachel, was there with Simon when the agents stormed in.

      “I cannot live in terror of being accused of things I did not do,” she wrote to Adam. To the rest of the world, in a separate suicide note, she wrote: “I am currently a danger to my children. I am bringing armed officers into their home. I am compelled to distance myself from them for their safety.”

    The IRS is not the lone culprit. The EPA, National Park Service, Small Business Administration and even the Railroad Retirement Board have acquired a taste for tactical enforcement of administrative sanctions."
  • ObamaCare's Defenders to the Public: Trust Us, You Really Like This Law! - "Before the Affordable Care Act passed, many of its supporters argued that, despite the law's not-so-great poll numbers, passing it would give the president a popularity boost, and the law would become more popular over time. It was a public policy version of the "try it, you'll like it" argument that parents use to get finnicky kids to eat weird casseroles. But it didn't seem likely at the time, and, sure enough, it turns out there was no bounce for Obama. Similarly, most polls since passage show that the law's popularity has not improved, and slightly more people still dislike it than like it. In fact, Rassmussen (which is an outlier amongst pollsters), says the law has become less popular since passage, though its numbers also show opposition receding slightly in recent weeks.
    . . .
    And at this point, I suspect it will be more difficult to defend the law than before it was passed. Since its passage, bad news has continued to pile up, and many the claims made about it have become increasingly difficult to maintain. We've already seen reports that the total cost will be more than expected, that the administration isn't hitting its deadlines, that it won't bring overall health care spending down, that some health insurance premiums will probably rise, that Medicare benefits for many seniors are scheduled to go on the chopping block, that it will strain emergency rooms, and that employers expect medical costs to rise and are looking at dropping millions from their health care plans--all of which is to say that what the law's advocates sold to the public isn't quite what they delivered. If protecting the public from distortions and misrepresentations is really what these folks hope to do, maybe they ought to start with their own side."
  • Report: More than 1,400 former lawmakers, Hill staffers are financial lobbyists - "Even for Washington, the revolving door between government and Wall Street spins at a dizzying pace. More than 1,400 former members of Congress, Capitol Hill staffers or federal employees registered as lobbyists on behalf of the financial services sector since the start of 2009, according to an exhaustive new study issued Thursday.

    The analysis by two nonpartisan groups, Public Citizen and the Center for Responsive Politics, found that the "small army" of financial lobbyists included at least 73 former lawmakers and 148 ex-staffers connected to the House or Senate banking committees. More than 40 former Treasury Department employees also ply their trade as lobbyists for Wall Street firms, the study found."
  • Verizon Strives to Close iPhone Gap - "'The carrier model is an established model,' Google Android chief Andy Rubin said in an interview. 'Consumers can walk in off the street and put their hands on a device and feel it. When you're choosing among three devices, it's best to use them side by side, and that's something you can't do on the Web.'"


  • California: Appellate Decision Strikes Down Red Light Camera Evidence - "Appellate courts in California are becoming increasingly upset at the conduct of cities and photo enforcement vendors. On May 21, a three-judge panel of the California Superior Court, Appellate Division, in Orange County tossed out a red light camera citation in the city of Santa Ana in a way that calls into question the legitimacy of the way red light camera trials are conducted statewide. Previously, a string of brief, unpublished decisions struck at illegal contracts, insufficient notice and other deficiencies. This time, however, the appellate division produced a ten-page ruling and certified it for publication, setting a precedent that applies to the county’s three million residents.
    . . .
    'The photographs contain hearsay evidence concerning the matters depicted in the photograph including the date, time and other information,' the ruling summarized. 'The person who entered that relevant information into the camera-computer system did not testify. The person who entered that information was not subject to being cross-examined on the underlying source of that information. The person or persons who maintain the system did not testify. No one with personal knowledge testified about how often the system is maintained. No one with personal knowledge testified about how often the date and time are verified or corrected. The custodian of records for the company that contracts with the city to maintain, monitor, store and disperse these photographs did not testify. The person with direct knowledge of the workings of the camera-computer system did not testify.'"

  • Repeal the 17th Amendment? - "Quick, what's the 17th Amendment? Good on you if you didn't need a lifeline: It's the one that mandated direct election of senators, instead of having them appointed by state legislatures."

    17th Amendment

  • Taliban hang 7-year-old boy accused of being a spy, suicide bomber kills 40 at Afghanistan wedding - "A 7-year-old boy accused of being a spy was hanged by Taliban militants, according to published reports Thursday.

    The child was allegedly put on trial by the militant group and later found guilty of working for Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's government, reports the Daily Mail.

    Karzai called the act a 'crime against humanity.'

    'I don't think there's a crime bigger than that that even the most inhuman forces on earth can commit,' Karzai said.

    The child was publicly hanged in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province, a local official told The Associated Press.

    'A 7-year-old boy cannot be a spy,' Karzai added. 'A 7-year-old boy cannot be anything but a seven-year-old boy, and therefore hanging or shooting to kill a seven-year-old boy... is a crime against humanity.'"
  • Democrats not only party in trough with Blago - "Those foreign correspondents covering the corruption trial of our former Gov. Dead Meat are sending dispatches back East, warning of a big problem for the Democrats.

    According to common wisdom, Republicans are ready to hop on Dead Meat's back, whomp him with a stick and ride to power just as fast as you can say Rod Blagojevich.

    Except for one thing.

    It was that photograph shown to the jury on Wednesday, during the first day of testimony by Lon Monk, the admittedly corrupt former chief of staff to Blagojevich.

    The photograph was of a large-headed, middle-aged man half smiling through an open mouth. He's no Democrat.

    'That's Bob Kjellander (pronounced $hell-an-der),' said Monk from the witness stand. 'He's a lobbyist and head of the Illinois Republican Party.'

    Kjellander was a de facto Illinois Republican boss who'd gone national as treasurer of the Republican National Committee. He's also a buddy of former Bush White House adviser Karl Rove."

Misconceptions about Israel on the college campus

Jihad on US campuses

16-yr old "Daniel" confronts lion's den of haters to stand for the honor of Israel

  • Genetic Evidence Shows Common Origins of Jews - "I don’t think that Zionism, etc., depends on whether Jews really have common genetic origins or not, anymore than Palestinian identity is any more or less real depending on whether, as some claim, a large percentage of “Palestinian Arabs” had immigrated rather recently from other countries in the Middle East. But I do think that manipulating history for ideological purposes is bad..."
  • Rabbi Receives Death Threats Over Helen Thomas Video - "The New York rabbi who videotaped veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas telling Jews to 'get the hell out of Palestine' says he has received numerous death threats and thousands of pieces of hate mail in the days since Thomas' abrupt retirement.

    Rabbi David Nesenoff said he is facing an 'overload' of threatening e-mails calling for a renewed Holocaust and targeting his family -- a barrage of hate he said he planned to report to the police on Wednesday.

    'This ticker tape keeps coming in,' Nesenoff told 'We got one specific one saying, 'We're going to kill the Jews; watch your back.''

    Nesenoff said he was shocked not only by Thomas' original remarks -- which he called anti-Semitic -- but by the wave of insults and threats he has received since his videotape brought about her public shaming and the end of her 50-year career at the White House.

    'This is something that I thought was a couple of people here or there, [but] it's mainstream and it's frightening," the Long Island rabbi said. '[Thomas] is just a little cherry on top of this huge, huge sundae of hate in America.'"

    To see a few samples of the email being sent to Rabbi Nesenoff, see his web site at Wonder how many of the death-threat haters are in violation of the terms of service (ToS) of their ISPs and email providers....

  • Hebrew origin of Palestinians theory - "According to [Tsvi] Misinai, unlike the ancestors of the modern day Jews who were city dwellers to a large extent, the Hebrew ancestors of the Palestinians were rural dwellers, and were allowed to remain in the land of Israel to work the land and supply Rome with grain and olive oil. As a result of remaining in the Land of Israel, the Palestinians partially converted to Christianity during the Byzantine era. Later, with the coming of Islam, they were Islamized through a combination of conversions, mostly forced conversions, mainly to avoid dhimmi status and less frequently out of genuine conviction.

    Conversion to Islam occurred both in large numbers and progressively throughout the successive periods of foreign elite minority rule over Palestine, starting with the various dynasties of Arabian Muslim rulers from the initial Muslim conquest of Palestine"
  • Kaifeng Jews - "According to historical records, a Jewish community lived in Kaifeng from at least the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127) until the late nineteenth century and Kaifeng was Northern Song's capital. It is surmised that the ancestors of the Kaifeng Jews came from Central Asia. It is also reported that in 1163 Ustad Leiwei was given charge of the religion (Ustad means teacher in Persian), and that they built a synagogue surrounded by a study hall, a ritual bath, a communal kitchen, a kosher butchering facility, and a sukkah.

    During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), a Ming emperor conferred seven surnames upon the Jews, by which they are identifiable today: Ai, Shi, Gao, Jin, Li, Zhang, and Zhao. Interestingly, two of these: Jin and Shi are the equivalent of common Jewish names in the west: Gold and Stone.

    The existence of Jews in China was unknown to Europeans until 1605, when Matteo Ricci, then established in Beijing, was visited by a Jew from Kaifeng, who had come to Beijing to take examinations for his jinshi degree."
  • My favorite things *Modern Principles* (Cowen and Tabarrok) - "Here are a few of my favorite things Modern Principles:

    1. It has the most thorough treatment of the interconnectedness of markets and the importance of the price system; most texts only pay lip service to this.

    2. It is the most Hayekian of the texts on micro theory without in any way ignoring the importance of externalities, public goods and other challenges to markets.
    . . .
    10. The financial crisis was written into the core of the book, rather than being absent or treated as an add-on. This means for instance plenty of coverage of financial intermediation and asset price bubbles.

    11. The book's blog, a teaching tool with lots of videos, powerpoints and other ideas for keeping teaching exciting, is lots of fun and updated regularly (FYI, this is a great resource for any instructor of economics.)"
  • Peter Suderman on Helen Thomas and the FTC's Push to Reinvent Journalism - "Helen Thomas wasn't celebrated as a journalist so much as a monument to journalism's historical legacy. She kept her front-row seat, her column, and her steady stream of awards for no reason other than she always had. And the reverence she inspired had little to do with her work and far more to do with the political media's sense of institutional self-importance. Thomas wasn't a very good writer, but she was a living symbol of a media age past--and the press corps couldn't let her go.

    These days, journalists have successfully inculcated a similar sense of sentimental reverence for the media in the federal government. As the media transitions into the digital age and old business models look increasingly shaky, both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission are investigating how the government can prop up journalistic institutions edging past their prime. And, writes Associate Editor Peter Suderman, the spirit that drove Washington's press corps to endlessly celebrate Helen Thomas despite her thoroughly mediocre output is the same one driving these agencies' efforts."
  • 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."
  • An 800-Pound Gorilla? Google Gets Into Case Law Search - "Even so, I am lulled into complacency by the simple fact that Google does what it does so well. So it is with Google’s entry into case law research with its recent announcement that Google Scholar,, now allows users to search full-text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state appellate and trial courts.

    Even before the cases were added, Google Scholar was a useful research tool for lawyers. It allows researchers to search a broad selection of scholarly books and articles, including law journals, drawn from the web and from academic and library collections.

    But case law takes Scholar to a whole new level of usefulness. As you would expect from Google, the search interface is simple and familiar. Enter any name, word or phrase and hit 'search.' The default search covers all of Scholar’s collection of federal and state cases and law review articles.

    An advanced search page lets you tailor your search more precisely. You can specify words and phrases to include and exclude and set a date range. You can choose to search just federal cases, just a single state’s cases or across multiple states. Searching multiple states requires you to check a box for each state, so if you want to search a significant number of states, you’ll have a lot of checking to do."

Crazy underwater base jump
In Dean's Blue Hole

  • Phone 4 vs. the smartphone elite: EVO 4G, N8, Pre Plus, and HD2 - "You might be surprised by some of the results -- and sorry, RIM, you don't get to play until you bring some fresh, media-heavy hardware to the table."
  • Should I Buy an iPhone 4? - "The one question Apple never answers at keynotes—their opinion is implicit—is always the most pertinent: Should I buy this new thing? Here's a simple guide:

    Steve Jobs lobbed a few surprises today, but the majority of iPhone 4's new features were established back when we published it in April, and when Apple showed the world OS 4 (now known as iOS). Now as it was then, it's an impressive piece of hardware—but is it worth your money?
    . . .
    So, Who Should Buy an iPhone 4?
    The answer is actually pretty simple: If you're eligible for the advertised prices of $199 and $299, don't mind signing up for another two years with AT&T, and don't have any anxiety about Android's rate of progress leaving your iPhone 4 feeling behind the curve, it's a recommended buy, especially if you're currently using a 3G.

    But it's hard to swallow at higher prices, and compared the the 3GS, the upgrades feel kind of marginal. For the 3GS user trapped in limbo, waiting for his contract to come to an end, take comfort at just how fast the world (read: Android) is moving and that you're not losing out on too much by waiting."
  • Five Best Web-Based Conferencing Tools - "Increasingly sophisticated but inexpensive webcams, microphones, and speedier broadband make web-based conferencing more economical and attractive than ever. Here's a look at five excellent solutions for web-based conferencing."
  • The Step-by-Step Guide to Digitizing Your Life - "Your increasingly digital lifestyle has left your analog media collecting dust. Save it from obsolescence and digitize your life.

    This guide covers many different kinds of media, so feel free to skip to the section(s) that interest you the most:

      1. Paper

      2. Images

      3. Audio

      4. Video

      5. Storage and Organization

  • Microsoft, Apple Ship Big Security Updates - "In its largest patch push so far this year, Microsoft today released 10 security updates to fix at least 34 security vulnerabilities in its Windows operating system and software designed to run on top of it. Separately, Apple has shipped another version of Safari for both Mac and Windows PCs that plugs some four dozen security holes in the Web browser.

    Microsoft assigned three of the updates covering seven vulnerabilities a 'critical' rating, meaning they can be exploited to help attackers break into vulnerable systems with no help from users. At least 14 of the flaws fixed in this month’s patch batch are in Microsoft Excel, and another eight relate to Windows and Internet Explorer."
  • How Does Office Web Apps Compare to Google Docs? - "Microsoft rolled out its free Office Web Apps earlier this week, introducing a free, basic Office suite for the web. How does it compare to Google's own Docs offering? Here's a rundown of each webapp's strengths and weaknesses."

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 6/11/10"

June 11, 2010 08:07 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 6/7/10

Richard Feynman on Bigger is Electricity!, from the BBC TV series 'Fun to Imagine' (1983)

  • 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
  • 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."
  • The Hard Truth About Residential Real Estate - "Anyone who believes that housing is on the rebound, and that now is the time to buy, should take a very hard look at the numbers I dredged up for my spring lecture and luncheon tour.

    There are 140 million personal residences in the US. Today, there are 19 million homes either directly or indirectly for sale. According to a survey by, a real estate appraisal website, 5 million homeowners plan to sell on any improvement in prices. Add to that 4 million existing homes now on the market, 1 million new homes flogged by companies like Lennar (LEN) and Pulte Homes (PHM), and 1 million bank owned properties. Another 8 million mortgage owners are late on their payments and are on the verge of foreclosure, bringing the total overhang to 19 million homes.

    Now, let’s look at the buy side. There are 35 million who are underwater on their mortgages and aren’t buying homes anytime soon, nor are the 35 million unemployed and underemployed. That knocks out 50% of the potential buyers.

    Here is where it gets really interesting. There are 80 million baby boomers retiring at the rate of 10,000 a day. Assuming that they downsize over time from an average 2,500 sq ft. home to a 1,000 sq. ft. condo, and eventually to a 100 sq. ft. assisted living facility, the total shrinkage in demand is 4.3 billion sq.ft. per year, or 1.7 million average sized homes. That amounts to a shrinkage of aggregate demand for a city the size of San Francisco, every year. You can argue that the following Gen-Xer’s are going to take up the slack, but there are only 65 million of them with a much lower standard of living than their parents."
  • Buy Vs. Rent - "Rent in Manhattan: Home prices there are way too high, says Trulia. (Ditto San Francisco.)

    Buy in Miami. And Phoenix. And Las Vegas. And most of the other places that have been flattened by the crash. Homes there are cheap compared to rents.

    The cross-over point is about 15 times annual rent, the company believes. In other words, as a rough rule of thumb, homes are probably fairly valued in a city when they cost about 15 times a year’s rent. So, for example, if you’re paying $10,000 a year to rent a place, think twice about buying a home that costs more than $150,000. Dean Baker, economist at the Washington, D.C. think-tank The Center for Economic and Policy Research, came to a similar conclusion in research on the subject in recent years. Fifteen times is the historic average, he said."
  • DOD’s Guns Versus Butter Debate - "The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment’s Todd Harrison has a new paper out warning that DOD is fast approaching a difficult choice: either fund the people or the weapons they operate, it will soon reach the point where it can’t do both.

    Harrison has been warning anybody who will listen about the labor cost challenges at DOD for some time now. Last fall, he wrote a piece warning that DOD potentially faces a GM sized fixed labor cost problem, necessitating a massive increase in federal dollars, a 'bailout' in essence.

    His latest paper lays out what he calls DOD’s internal 'guns versus butter' debate. The butter includes pay and benefit increases that have what economists call 'stickiness': they are almost impossible to rollback. The increase in pay and benefits that congress allots DOD each year will crowd out investment in research and new weapons.

    First a sense of the scale of the problem: with some 2,250,000 people on the payroll, DOD is the single biggest employer in the U.S., public or private sector. In fact, DOD has more people on its payroll than Wal-Mart (1.1 million) and the Post Office (600,000) combined. The size of the payroll means any changes, even seemingly minor year-to-year increases in pay or benefits, have an outsized effect on the defense budget because of the compounding and cumulative effects of pay hikes.

    Since 2000, the cost to pay and care for one active-duty serviceman has increased 73 percent in real terms: from $73,300 to $126,800 today."
  • Law entrepreneurs - "My presentation will continue my speculation, begun in Death of Big Law, on the 'legal information industry' that could develop in the aftermath of the demise of current models of delivering legal services. Consistent with the theme of the mini-conference, I focus on opportunities for entrepreneurship in this new industry. So the project might be especially intriguing for those, including the law school class of 2010, who might appreciate alternative employment opportunities.

    The paper begins by discussing the forces that are giving birth to the new industry: globalization, new information technologies, clients’ demand for cheaper law, and deregulation of legal services.

    I then examine some possible ways to tweak the existing industry model based on customized advice to clients. We can expect to see new ways to connect lawyers and clients, and ways such as outsourcing to substitute contracts for firms. Also expect new kinds of firms that can be sold to the capital markets and that combine law with other disciplines.

    Then I look beyond legal advice to refashioning legal information into products. Entrepreneurs might develop new ways to sell legal ideas, uses for contract templates, ways to standardize contract drafting, private development of new business associations, mechanized contract review and investments in legal think tanks that engage in research and development.

    The r & d idea could be of particular interest to law professors. I consider the potential for a law version of “Bell Labs” that could privatize some of the research now happening in academia. Good thing, too, because I’m not sure how much room will be left in the brave new world of legal information for research subsidized by law school tuition based on big law jobs that no longer exist."
  • Our 1979: The Year That Was - "It has been sort of a topos to evoke the specter of 1979. I’ve done it repeatedly, as have other observers.

    Aside from the growing stagflation in the U.S. (I remember farming that year at the ending of an inflation-driven boom), that was the year that China invaded Vietnam. Muslims assassinated the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. Russia later invaded Afghanistan. The world seemed to have become unhinged. And there was more still.

    The shah was abandoned and soon fell, amid American proclamations of support for him on Monday, and then denunciation of his dynasty by Tuesday, and yet more leaked reports on Wednesday of reaching out to Khomeini in Paris. Soon in his death throes he would jet the globe looking for a home and a doctor, as the U.S. let the phone ring when he called.

    Soon Ayatollah Khomeini arrived in Teheran from Paris and proclaimed an Islamic revolution. Iranian students (Ahmadinejad probably among them) stormed our embassy and took hostages. In no time Ramsey Clark was denouncing America on Iran’s behalf, and rumors abounded of Carter’s backdoor deal-making to get them home at any cost before the 1980 election. (In 1980 a humiliating and disastrous rescue mission would see imams desecrating American dead on worldwide television. I recall an odious Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhal, the hanging judge who sent thousands to the gallows, zipping open the body-bags to poke and probe the charred American corpses.)

    The Sandinistas also took over Nicaragua. Radical Islamists torched the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. I could go on, but you get the picture. In all these cases, a baffled Mr. Carter sermonized a lot, blamed a lot -- and in the end retired to the Rose Garden or fought rabbits from a canoe. He seemed petulant that he had come into the world in divine fashion to save us, and we flawed mortals were unwilling to be saved by him. The so-called “malaise speech” summed up his disappointment in the rest of us.

    And after such a wonderful beginning…

    So 1979 followed two years of Carteresque utopian proclamations. Do we remember them all still? There was Cy Vance, in perfect aristocratic style, and in perpetual atonement for his earlier support of the Vietnam War, with his creased brow and sermonizing tone, bringing in the kinder, gentler order. He resigned over the failed hostage rescue, replaced by a stoic Ed Muskie. And there was Andrew Young at the UN trying to be a sort of proto-Barack Obama, reaching out to the radical Palestinians, and so on.

    Remember the commandments? No more inordinate fear of communism; human rights governing U.S. foreign policy; no more nuclear weapons housed in South Korea which was to be free of U.S. troops; outreach to the terrorist/rebel/reformer Mugabe, and so on.

    In other words, it took a flawed world about 24 months to size up the new idealistic administration, and to determine that it either could not or would not continue U.S. foreign policy of the previous three decades. Soon the more daring then decided to make 'regional adjustments.' Finally a panicked Carter was attempting everything from boycotting the Olympics and arming Islamists in Afghanistan to threatening to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East and restoring draft registration to reclaim lost U.S. deterrence."
  • How Free Explains Israel’s Flotilla FAIL - "The organizers of the “Free Gaza” flotilla spent almost nothing on their campaign. The government of Israel poured millions into its botched raid on the ships -- and now is in a worse position than when the flotilla launched. How did it happen? Part of the problem is that the Israeli government never bothered to read Wired.

    Israeli commandos may not have known that members of the Free Gaza flotilla were carrying knives, guns and metal bars. But they should have known that many in the incoming flotilla were armed with cameras, cellphones, blogs and Twitter accounts. For a country so technologically advanced, and with such acute public diplomacy challenges, to fail so miserably at preparing a communications offensive over new media is a failure of strategic proportions.

    And it was all so utterly predictable. In his book Free, Wired editor Chris Anderson lays out a new media model that foreshadowed the flotilla meltdown.
      It’s now clear that practically everything Web technology touches starts down the path to gratis, at least as far as we consumers are concerned. Storage (unlimited email storage) now joins bandwidth (YouTube: free) and processing power (Google: free) in the race to the bottom. There’s never been a more competitive market than the Internet, and every day the marginal cost of digital information comes closer to nothing.

    How much money did it cost the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla to get their message out across the world?

    Answer: Almost nothing. Turkish TV placed a camera on one of the flotilla ships and kept it on all the time to livestream events on the boat, while constantly placing activists in front of the camera to speak about their cause. The costs of a camera, some other technical equipment, and hosting of a website are negligible."
  • Are Cameras the New Guns? - "In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

    Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.

    The legal justification for arresting the 'shooter' rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where "no expectation of privacy exists" (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.
    . . .
    When the police act as though cameras were the equivalent of guns pointed at them, there is a sense in which they are correct. Cameras have become the most effective weapon that ordinary people have to protect against and to expose police abuse. And the police want it to stop.

    Happily, even as the practice of arresting 'shooters' expands, there are signs of effective backlash. At least one Pennsylvania jurisdiction has reaffirmed the right to video in public places. As part of a settlement with ACLU attorneys who represented an arrested 'shooter,' the police in Spring City and East Vincent Township adopted a written policy allowing the recording of on-duty policemen.

    As journalist Radley Balko declares, 'State legislatures should consider passing laws explicitly making it legal to record on-duty law enforcement officials.'"
  • The BP Oil Spill and at Least One Lesson Unlearned from Katrina - "Of course, we want this fixed now, stat. Nobody questions that. However, I don't think you need to be a libertarian zealot to think that BP is in a much better position to plug this more quickly than the government. Just what information or ideas does the White House or Congress have to fixing this problem that they are withholding from BP? Just what relevant resources are owned and operated by the federal government that BP does not have? Frankly, I find Bill Nelson's hubris disgusting at a time like this."
  • One of the most touching ‘ads’ you will ever see - "One doesn’t think of emotion when watching ads regardless of how much spin advertisers might like to to wrap their usual dreck in. Nor does one think of seeing a homeless man as the center piece of an ad unless of course it is for some goodie two shoes charity.

    While Momentos might not be considered an ad in the typical sense it is one of those new style of ads that we are seeing in a growing number on the web. The only indication that it might even be an ad is that the televisions used are all LG’s but even then it is really a muted appearance.

    In truth this is a beautiful human moment that regardless of the fact that it is an extended advertisement for LG is touching and lets you forget that you are being advertised to. Nicely done."
  • 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."

DVP Remote App Keyboard works with New Roku Netflix App

  • Forget Noisy Blimps, Say Hello To the Airfish - "The next time you're at a music festival and see a giant rainbow trout swishing around in the sky, there's just a chance you might not be intoxicated. It might be scientists testing an airship that moves like a fish.

    The materials scientists from Switzerland call it the Airfish.

    The 8-metre-long helium-filled prototype glides through air as a fish swims through water – by swishing its body and tail from side to side. As well as moving more gracefully than a conventional blimp, the Airfish is also much quieter and cleaner because it doesn't require the fume-belching engines and noisy propellers normally used for mid-air manoeuvres. As such, TV broadcasters might favour it for capturing aerial footage of music and sports events, the team suggests."

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Continue reading "Assorted Links 6/7/10"

June 7, 2010 08:07 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 6/3/10

89 Dead In The NHTSA Complaint Database? It’s A Sham

    Immigration Law -- Up Close
    The vehicle is not stopped on a warrant, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion. As far as I can tell, all the cars are being stopped. The police ask about his immigration status and the driver declines to answer. The man in the car knows the law well and quickly makes it crystal clear that he’s not interested in a “voluntary” encounter with the police -- he wants to be on his way. The police repeatedly evade his attempt to clarify the situation. That is, if the police are detaining him, the driver does not want to flee or resist the officers (that’s a crime) -- but if the police are not detaining him, the driver does not wish to hang out with them and talk -- he wants to be on his way. Watch the police lie and/or illegally threaten that he will be detained -- until he answers their questions. Watch the police threaten to arrest the man for causing a “safety” hazard, or for “impeding” or obstructing their "work." Given those police actions, most people will come to the conclusion that they have no choice in the matter -- answer the questions and produce the ID papers. These are the situations that the courts rarely see. The citizen who was understandably intimidated by the threats may get mad, but it is not worth it to sue. If an illegal is discovered, he would be deported in a matter of hours. This video is thus a real public service announcement -- whatever your view is on the immigration matter, do understand clearly how the police will be are interacting with people.

  • 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
  • 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."
  • Guest Post: Slouching Toward Despotism - "And the question we keep pondering is, 'Are we there yet?' Are we merely slouching toward despotism, or have we arrived? Are we already so corrupt so as to need despotic government, what with Vampire Squids and corporate/union-bought elections and Congressional bystanders and regulatory capture and Systemically Important Too Big To Fail and Gulf of Mexico oil well disasters?

    (Despotism, by the way, describes a form of government by which a single entity rules with absolute and unlimited power, and may be expressed by an individual as an autocracy or through a group as an oligarchy according to Wikipedia, the world's leading source of made-up information, which is good enough for us.)

    In previous posts we have observed the growing and discernible disconnect between several types of government-reported economic data such as Retail Sales and actual state sales tax collections, and the Employment Situation and withholding tax collections. Others also have made solid cases for these disconnects between statistical theory and economic reality and it occurs to me that, far from being isolated or random events, they are evidence of much more disconcerting forces at work.

    Fudging on unemployment numbers or 'rounding up' retail sales reports may seem like minor infractions, and many of these government data reports have been manipulated for years, maybe half a century, but they represent a pattern of conscious, calculated design of 'don't worry, be happy, the government's in charge, nothing to see here, so move along.'

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for example, estimates who is working and who is not, but conveniently excludes millions of people from its composition of the unemployment rate who are not working but neither deeming them 'unemployed' because they are 'marginally attached' to the workforce or are “discouraged” by a lack of job prospects and no longer are looking for employment (2.3 million as of March 2010 plus another 3.4 million 'persons who currently want a job,' who also aren’t counted as unemployed).

    Side note: You are well aware, of course, the Social Security Administration probably could tell us monthly almost exactly how many people really are working, not working, working part time, self-employed, and so on based on its receipts of tax withholdings from employers. It is beyond the pale to imagine SSA could not furnish a version of the monthly Employment Situation that would be far more reliable by orders of magnitude than the guesses of the BLS."
  • Sestak Case Casts Light On Murky Political Boundaries - "When the White House enlisted former President Bill Clinton to see if Representative Joe Sestak would accept a presidential appointment to drop out of a Senate race, there is no question it was committing politics. But was it committing a crime?

    The dispute surrounding the White House effort to nudge Mr. Sestak out of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary has once again cast a harsh light on the murky boundaries that govern American political life. When does ordinary horse-trading cross a line? When does behavior that may violate sensibilities actually violate federal law?

    The law does ban promising any position to influence an election and Republican lawmakers have called for a special prosecutor or the F.B.I. to investigate whether Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, or his colleagues made an illegal quid pro quo proposal. So far, the Justice Department has rebuffed such calls and, as of a few days ago, officials said neither the department nor the Office of Special Counsel, which looks at politicking by federal employees, was investigating.
    . . .
    At the same time, it can depend on just how subtle or explicit the offers are. Political deals offered in a particularly raw way have gotten officeholders in trouble before. In 2004, the House ethics committee admonished Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, then the Republican House majority leader, for offering to support the Congressional campaign of a fellow lawmaker’s son in exchange for a critical vote on a Medicare bill. And in 2008, the authorities arrested Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, a Democrat, accusing him of trying to sell the appointment to fill the vacated Senate seat of President Obama. Mr. Blagojevich is scheduled to go on trial on corruption charges this week."
  • “Woman sues strip club after her 16-year-old daughter is hired as dancer” - "The girl, described as a chronic runaway, got herself a job at the Emperors Gentleman’s Club in Tampa, and now mom wants damages."
  • Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe ignore it - "Forest and farmland were now covered in a sheen of greasy oil. Drinking wells were polluted and people were distraught. No one knew how much oil had leaked. "We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots," said Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe and our guide. "This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months."

    That was the Niger delta a few years ago, where, according to Nigerian academics, writers and environment groups, oil companies have acted with such impunity and recklessness that much of the region has been devastated by leaks.

    In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a major ecological catastrophe caused by oil that has poured from a leak triggered by the explosion that wrecked BP's Deepwater Horizon rig last month.

    That disaster, which claimed the lives of 11 rig workers, has made headlines round the world. By contrast, little information has emerged about the damage inflicted on the Niger delta. Yet the destruction there provides us with a far more accurate picture of the price we have to pay for drilling oil today."

    Which reminds us of this old joke:

      A drunk loses the keys to his house and is looking for them under a lamppost. A policeman comes over and asks what he’s doing.

      “I’m looking for my keys” he says. “I lost them over there”.

      The policeman looks puzzled. “Then why are you looking for them all the way over here?”

      “Because the light is so much better”.

      We all look for things where the light is better, rather than where we’re more likely to find them. In words of Anais Nin, “we don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are”.

    As well as Rudyard Kipling's poem, "White Man's Burden".

  • If you like the BP spill, you’ll love cyberwar - "Rather, the BP crisis is giving me a sense of what cyberwar will be like. If it happens, and I think that’s likely, it will be pretty ugly. As I say in Skating on Stilts,

    “It’s not just that you could lose your life savings. Your country could lose its next war. And not just the way we’re used to losing – where we get tired of being unpopular in some third-world country and go home. I mean losing losing: Attacked at home and forced to give up cherished principles or loyal allies to save ourselves.”

    Hostile nations are probably already seeding our privately owned infrastructure with logic bombs and malware designed to shut down critical services -- power, telecom, Internet, banks, water and sewage. Each private company has a private, and unique, network design. Each private company has a private, and unique, set of defenses and recovery plans.

    So when an attack occurs, if it’s successful, some of those defenses will fail. Some citizens will spend days, weeks, maybe months, without power or phones or water or access to their bank. We’ll be at war, under attack, hurting. We’ll look to the Commander in Chief.

    And he’ll look pretty much the way President Obama does today.


    He won’t be able to send troops to protect, say, Verizon’s network. His troops mostly don’t have the skills, and if they do have the skills, they don’t know the network. Even if a company has screwed up badly, failing to adopt basic backup and malware protections, he’ll have to defer to the idiots who got us into the mess until they find a way to get us out.

    Of course, by the time they do, the war may be more or less over.

    So, if we expect a replay of the BP experience in the event of cyberwar, can we learn something from the current experience? Maybe. Here are a few ideas that occur to me. First, it’s often the case that private companies can quite confidently get us into trouble that they then can’t fix; when that’s true, we ought to be very dubious about their confident assertions that regulation is excessive or unneeded."

    From the comments:

    As a cybersecurity expert, I’d have to disagree with this post.

    It is based on fear of the unknown. The less people understand hackers, the more they are afraid of them. The idea that hostile nations are seeding our private networks with viruses to cause a black out is a fictional scenario you see in movies, and far different from the reality.

    There are reasons why government regulation is unwelcome, and it’s not because it’s “excessive” or “unneeded”.

    The first is that government regulators don’t understand the problem. Regulators end up favoring the politically connected rather than addressing the problem. Government networks are far less secure than corporate networks -- there are few in government with any meaningful cybersecurity expertise.

    The second is that government places ideology above reason. Phrases like “you can never be too secure” make a fine speech, but it’s wrong. You can be too secure. When the marginal costs of additional security exceed the marginal benefits, then you are too secure. Moreover, ideologues exaggerate the benefits of security, and ignore the costs -- they will gladly take away human rights and crush innovation in the of the Almighty Security. Government ideologues are a greater danger to the Internet than Islamic ideologues.

  • I’m dumb and I’m proud! - "It’s not easy being dumb. It never has been. We’re made fun of in school. We’re the butt of jokes. Prejudice has barred us from many vocations.

    We in the Dumb Community have always desperately needed role models; people who, despite their unquestionably low intellectual wattage, have still managed to achieve great success. Of course, the Hollywood community has always been an inspiration to us, its members never failing to let their dumb flag fly. But you have to more than dumb to be a movie actor. You have to be good looking, too. So, for a long time now, we’ve hoped for someone who could blaze new trails; who could go where no dummy has gone before. Finally, that role model has mounted the national stage, front and center. I speak, of course, of Attorney General Eric Holder."
  • ‘Do Something, Superpresident!’ - "Amid the din of James Carville’s screeching, you may have missed a couple of reasonable voices taking issue with the 'do something, Superpresident!' approach that’s dominating the discussion of the Gulf Spill. (They both mention Cato work, which is a bonus).

    In the Daily Beast, Tunku Varadarajan writes that this isn’t

      “Obama’s oil spill,” if by saying so we mean to ascribe culpability to the president. He didn’t run the rigs, or oversee the plans, or grant the licenses to drill, or write the rules that govern the granting of those licenses. He was just president when the bloody thing happened."

    Neither Varadarajan nor Greenwald is particularly ready to feel sorry for a president who’s done everything he can to stoke irrational public expectations for presidential salvation in virtually every public policy area. Nor am I. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, as they say.
    . . .
    But it’s not entirely clear what Carville, Palin et al actually want done. A government takeover of the spill site? That’s a stupid idea. Better regulation (retroactively?)? There’s plenty of blame to go around, but color me unsurprised that incompetence and regulatory capture characterize the Minerals Management Service, and that a president who sits atop an 2-million-employee executive branch, pretending to run it, didn’t 'fix' those problems beforehand.
    . . .
    When the public views the president as the man responsible for curing everything that ails us--from bad weather, to private-sector negligence--presidents are going to seek powers to match those superheroic responsibilities. With Great Responsibility Comes Great Power (to torture one superhero slogan)."
  • BP oil spill: Who's your daddy? - "'Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?' 11-year-old Malia demanded Thursday morning while the president was shaving. Poor President Obama: even his kids won't give him a break about the Gulf oil spill.

    Tough. It's hard to feel sorry for the 'Yes We Can' candidate, who got the job by stoking the juvenile expectation that there's a presidential solution to everything from natural disasters to spiritual malaise.

    But the adults among us ought to worry about a political culture that reacts to every difficulty by screaming 'Save us, Superpresident!'
    . . .
    When Hurricane Katrina hit, liberals who had spent years calling President Bush a tyrant suddenly decided he wasn't authoritarian enough when he hesitated to declare himself generalissimo of New Orleans and muster the troops for a federal War on Hurricanes.

    Now the party of 'drill, baby, drill' -- the folks who warn that Obama's a socialist -- is screaming bloody murder because he's letting the private sector take the lead in the well-capping operation. It's almost enough to make a guy cynical about politics.
    . . .
    Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal may have a legitimate gripe about the feds delaying permission to build protective sand barriers. But most of the complaints dominating the airwaves aren't nearly that specific. They smack of a quasi-religious conception of the presidency. If only Obama would manifest himself at the afflicted area, shed his aura of cool reserve, and exercise the magical powers of presidential concern, perhaps the slick would recede.
    . . .
    BP will pay dearly for its apparent negligence, ending up poorer and smaller as a result of the spill. Not so with the federal government: disasters are the health of the state."
  • Wake Me Up When They Actually Put Any Income at Risk - "From the AZ Republic:

      Zack de la Rocha has issued a statement on behalf of an organization called the Sound Strike urging music fans and fellow artists to boycott Arizona “to stop SB 1070,” which he labels an “odious” law.

      Among those artists joining de la Rocha’s boycott are Conor Oberst, Kanye West, Rage Against the Machine, Rise Against, Cypress Hill, Serj Tankian, Joe Satriani, Sonic Youth, Tenacious D, Street Sweeper Social Club and Michael Moore.

    So it turns out that at the local Best Buy here in Phoenix, Arizona, I find many examples of these folks’ work still for sale. Moore’s videos, for example, still seem to be available for purchase. Possibly their requests to have their merchandise removed from store shelves in Arizona have not reached the sales floor yet, but my guess is that these guys have absolutely no intention of actually pulling their product from Arizona stores. My guess (and please tell me if I am being unfair) is that most of these folks, at best, are committing to cancel tour dates that for most of these bands are not even scheduled yet. This is about as much of a sacrifice as me promising to cancel my next date with Gisele Bündchen. This kind of statement is the moral equivalent of Hollywood stars who decry global warming from the steps for their private jet."
  • Power lunch, alive and well - "The 'steak, oysters on the half shell, asparagus with hollandaise and old men' meal, as former 'Top Chef' contestant and owner of Alchemy Caterers Carla Hall characterized a typical power lunch, has gone the way of the dodo. Indeed, 'the three-martini lunch has not been popular since the ‘90s,' said Adam Williamowsky, general manager of BLT Steak. 'People are eating sandwiches and salads now. You have a mix of guys and girls in golf shirts and khakis having Arnold Palmers and salads.'
    . . .
    Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) is the lead cosponsor on legislation that Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) introduced last summer that would offer a tax boost to business lunchers. H.R. 3333 would increase the business meal tax deduction from 50 percent to 80 percent -- a move that the National Restaurant Association’s Maureen Ryan says could boost business meal sales by $6 billion nationwide.

    For a city that thrives on doing business while noshing, it makes sense.

    Business 'definitely improves some when there’s legislation -- you’re going to get a lot more diners,' said Monocle owner John Valanos.

    Especially when that legislation is designed to encourage lunching."
  • Walk Aways, NYT Version - "I would like to read one person make the honest statement:

      'I’ve done the math, and it doesn’t make sense to pay the mortgage. I can rent the same house a block over for half of what I am paying. I am so far underwater that if I stay here, struggle, and make all the payments, in 10 years, I will merely be back to break even. Why bother?

      Like all the big banks have all done, I’ve made the calculation that it is financially beneficial to default on the loan -- so that is what I am doing. As Sonny was told in the Godfather, 'This is business, not personal…'”

    I suspect this will be an ongoing story for the next 5 years . . ."
  • Housing Bust and Labor Immobility - "Here is a theme we've been discussing for a few years - when a homeowner is underwater, it is difficult to make a career move ...
    . . .
    Negative equity is impacting one of the historic strengths of the U.S. labor market - the ability of households to easily move from one region to another for a better employment opportunity."
  • Visualizing the BP Oil Spill - "Centered on DC"
  • 89 Dead In The NHTSA Complaint Database? It’s A Sham - "This week, NHTSA came out and said that after a recount of their complaints database, they found 89 dead bodies in their computers, allegedly killed by evil runaway Toyotas. The MSM ate it up. If it bleeds, it leads. Even if it smells. In this article, we will show you the secrets of the incredible killing machine at NHTSA."
  • Buffett Expects ‘Terrible Problem’ for Municipal Debt - "Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has been trimming its investment in municipal debt, predicted a 'terrible problem' for the bonds in coming years.

    'There will be a terrible problem and then the question becomes will the federal government help,' Buffett, 79, said today at a hearing of the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in New York. 'I don’t know how I would rate them myself. It’s a bet on how the federal government will act over time.'
    . . .
    Buffett said last month that the U.S. may feel compelled to rescue a state facing default after the government committed $700 billion to bail out financial firms and automakers.

    'It would be hard in the end for the federal government to turn away a state having extreme financial difficulty when they’ve gone to General Motors and other entities and saved them,' Buffett told shareholders in Omaha, Nebraska, at Berkshire’s May 1 annual meeting. 'I don’t know how you would tell a state you’re going to stiff-arm them with all the bailouts of corporations.'

    A report by the Pew Center on the States in February estimated that by the end of the 2008 budget years, states had $1 trillion less than needed to pay for future pensions and medical benefits, a gap the center said was likely compounded by losses suffered in the second half of 2008."
  • Journey of Mankind: the Peopling of the World - "a virtual global journey of modern man over the last 160,000 years."

Witnessing the heart as it cracks

  • Another NYU Graduate with Six-Figure Debt. Quelle Suprise! - "Students and their parents invest $100k for a degree from an elite institution because they believe it will land them a job that pays enough to pay off those loans in a reasonable amount of time. No one plans to default or flee the country when they sign up for a student loan. You get a degree from an Ivy League or top tier college and you expect to get a decent paying white collar job. I can't speak for third tier graduates, but back in the good ol' days, the majority of graduates from my college and law school found jobs that paid more than factory line workers. That is why people, and especially working class people with academically gifted children, believe higher education is a good investment - perhaps the only investment - that will allow their children to enter a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle."
  • Cyber Thieves Rob Treasury Credit Union - "Organized cyber thieves stole more than $100,000 from a small credit union in Salt Lake City last week, in a brazen online robbery that involved dozens of co-conspirators, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.

    In most of the e-banking robberies I’ve written about to date, the victims have been small to mid-sized businesses that had their online bank accounts cleaned out after cyber thieves compromised the organization’s computers. This incident is notable because the entity that was both compromised and robbed was a bank."
  • Judge convicts mother in Facebook flap with son - "ARKADELPHIA, Ark. -- A woman who locked her son out of his Facebook account and posted vulgarities and other items on it was convicted Thursday of misdemeanor harassment and ordered not to have contact with the teenager.

    Judge Randy Hill ordered Denise New to pay a $435 fine and complete anger management and parenting classes. He said he would consider allowing her to see her 17-year-old son, Lane, who lives with his grandmother, if New takes the two courses."
  • 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."
  • Italian priests' secret mistresses ask pope to scrap celibacy rule: Forty women send unprecedented letter to pontiff saying priests need to 'experience feelings, love and be loved' - "Dozens of Italian women who have had relationships with Roman Catholic priests or lay monks have endorsed an open letter to the pope that calls for the abolition of the celibacy rule. The letter, thought by one signatory to be unprecedented, argues that a priest 'needs to live with his fellow human beings, experience feelings, love and be loved'.

    It also pleads for understanding of those who 'live out in secrecy those few moments the priest manages to grant [us] and experience on a daily basis the doubts, fears and insecurities of our men'.

    The issue was put back on the Vatican's agenda in March when one of Pope Benedict's senior advisers, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, said the abolition of the celibacy rule might curb sex abuse by priests, a suggestion he hastily withdrew after Benedict spoke up for 'the principle of holy celibacy'.

    The authors of the letter said they decided to come into the open after hearing his retort, which they said was an affirmation of 'the holiness of something that is not holy' but a man-made rule. There are many instances of married priests in the early centuries of Christianity. Today, priests who follow the eastern Catholic rites can be married, as can those who married before converting to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism."
  • College grads unprepared for workforce - "Many college graduates aren’t prepared for the workforce, concludes a York College study. So the Pennsylvania school is trying to teach professionalism as well as liberal arts, reports NPR.

    Business leaders and human resources managers told researchers what qualities they look for in new college graduates.
    . . .
    Half of college degrees are useless, writes Flypaper’s Mickey Muldoon, citing a New York Times’ story on a slight improvement in job prospects for new grads:"
  • D.C. drivers among least knowledgeable - "Drivers with District of Columbia licenses rank among the least knowledgeable about the rules of the road in the nation, according to a study by GMAC Insurance.

    The insurance company surveyed licensed American drivers from across the country by administering 20 questions taken from Department of Motor Vehicles written exams. DC drivers averaged 71.9 percent on the tests, the third-worst showing in the nation. New York and New Jersey drivers scored the lowest.

    Nationwide, GMAC says nearly 20 percent of drivers, or about 38 million Americans, would not pass a written exam."

Lane Bryant, Victoria’s Secret, and arbitrary moral lines

  • Mark Twain's Autobiography - "Mark Twain's will stipulated that his autobiography remain unpublished for 100 years after his death, the 100th anniversary of which was April 21st. In November, the University of California Press will release the first volume of what's anticipated to be a rip roaring good time."
  • Devious New Phishing Tactic Targets Tabs - "Most Internet users know to watch for the telltale signs of a traditional phishing attack: An e-mail that asks you to click on a link and enter your e-mail or banking credentials at the resulting Web site. But a new phishing concept that exploits user inattention and trust in browser tabs is likely to fool even the most security-conscious Web surfers.
    . . .
    Google Apps user Matt Jacob explains his frustrations with the Google (Apps) account dichotomy. I love how he refers to Google Apps accounts (lowercase a) versus Google Accounts (uppercase A). Clearly FREE vanilla Google Accounts get more preference than potentially-paid Google Apps accounts, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense."
  • Google, Gmail, and Google Apps Accounts Explained - "If you've taken the leap and hosted your domain email with Google Apps, no doubt you've noticed that you miss out on services that regular Gmail accounts get: like Google Reader, Voice, Wave, Analytics, and right now, Buzz.

    After complaining about the disparities on a recent episode of This Week in Google, a helpful Googler unofficially got in touch to clarify and confirm the problem. Let's call her/him 'Helpful McGoogler.' Here's what HM said.

    To the user, it may appear that there are three types of Google accounts: Gmail accounts, Google accounts, and Google Apps (for your domain) accounts. In truth, there's only one kind of account: a Google Account."
  • America's Most Wired Lunch Trucks: Thanks to Twitter, the culinary star system is hitting the streets. The result: some very unusual treats. - "A plethora of food trucks serving hip and exotic cuisines are rolling into cities and towns across the country, and they're using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to advertise their gastronomic offerings and provide up-to-the-minute location information."
  • The World Cup 2010 is coming - Watch in Washington, DC - "June 11 - July 11, 2010"
  • NerdWallet Picks Your Best Match from Hundreds of Credit Cards - "The best credit card isn't the one your bank offers--it's the one that pays back the most and costs the least. NerdWallet, a credit card search and filter app, pulls from over 600 cards to find the best candidate.

    NerdWallet's certainly not the first site in this space. BillShrink, a previously covered competitor, comes to mind. Where NerdWallet differs is in its larger database of card offerings--some seriously obscure cards and banks came up in our testing, for sure--and its claim to not limit its database to cards offering affiliate sign-up rewards. "
  • New Dyson bladeless fan set to make a cool fortune in summer as sales increase by 300% - "Instead of using rotors to chop the air, which causes an uneven airflow and buffeting, the DAM blows out cooling air as a constant smooth stream.

    And with the absence of blades, you can safely put your hand through it.

    Air is sucked in through the base by a 40 watt electric motor, and then pushed out at high speed through a lip which runs around the inside of its circular head.

    As this is forced out, other air is drawn into the airflow, resulting in the epulsion of 405 litres every second.

    The fan also has a dimmer-type switch, which means the powerful current can be easily controlled.

    Without blades, curious children will not catch their hands in it, and the simple design makes it easy to clean."

    $300 for a table fan. Uh huh.

  • Five Best Computer Diagnostic Tools - "Below, we've rounded up the top five answers, and now we're back to highlight the most popular computer diagnostic tools among Lifehacker readers.

    If things haven't gotten bad enough that you're forced to take refuge with a Live CD, SIW is a Windows-based diagnostic tool that can help you get to the bottom of things.
    . . .
    Hiren's BootCD is an impressive toolkit rolled into one packed DOS-based Live CD. Sporting over a hundred separate diagnostic and repair tools, Hiren's BootCD can help you do everything from diagnose a memory problem to clone a disk to speed test your video card. If you can't find out what is wrong with your computer after running through all the tools on Hiren's BootCD the diagnostic answer you may end up at is 'Time to buy a new computer.'
    . . .
    Your first reaction to the phrase "computer diagnostic tool" might not be 'Google!', but every computer diagnosis begins with the user wondering what the error code or chain of events leading up to the error means.
    . . .
    You'll find no shortage of Live CDs for Linux distributions, but Ubuntu has a particularly user-friendly Live CD and many people have experience with Ubuntu outside of diagnostic work, both make an Ubuntu Live CD extra appealing.
    . . .
    Ultimate Boot CD for Windows (UBCD4Win) (Live CD, Free)"

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 6/3/10"

June 3, 2010 08:17 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Visualizing the BP Oil Spill

Fascinating little Google Maps mash up allows you to place the BP Oil spill over any city. I tried a few, but San Francisco and NYC drove the size home the most impressively.

Visualizing the BP Oil Spill

Here it is centered on DC:

Also see

Energy: Natural Gas
Energy: Natural Gas

Energy: Natural Gas
The Production and Use of Natural Gas, Natural Gas Imports and Exports, EPAct Project, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Import Terminals and Infrastructure Security, Underground Working Gas Storage, Fischer-Tropsch Fuels from Coal, Natural Gas, and Biomass, Gas Hydrates, Gas Shales, Hydraulic Fracturing, Alaska Natural Gas Pipelines

Compiled by TheCapitol.Net
Authors: Gene Whitney, Carl E. Behrens, Carol Glover, William F. Hederman, Anthony Andrews, Peter Folger, Marc Humphries, Claudia Copeland, Mary Tiemann, Robert Meltz, Cynthia Brougher, Jeffrey Logan, Henry A. Waxman, Edward J. Markey, Stephen Cooney, Robert Pirog, Paul W. Parfomak, Adam Vann, Salvatore Lazzari, Brent D. Yacobucci, and Stan Mark Kaplan

The main ingredient in natural gas is methane, a gas (or compound) composed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Millions of years ago, the remains of plants and animals (diatoms) decayed and built up in thick layers. This decayed matter from plants and animals is called organic material — it was once alive. Over time, the sand and silt changed to rock, covered the organic material, and trapped it beneath the rock. Pressure and heat changed some of this organic material into coal, some into oil (petroleum), and some into natural gas — tiny bubbles of odorless gas.

Discussions of U.S. and global energy supply refer to oil, natural gas, and coal using several terms that may be unfamiliar to some. The terms used to describe different types of fossil fuels have technically precise definitions, and misunderstanding or misuse of these terms may lead to errors and confusion in estimating energy available or making comparisons among fuels, regions, or nations.

For oil and natural gas, a major distinction in measuring quantities of energy commodities is made between proved reserves and undiscovered resources.

Proved reserves are those amounts of oil, natural gas, or coal that have been discovered and defined, typically by drilling wells or other exploratory measures, and which can be economically recovered. In the United States, proved reserves are typically measured by private companies, who report their findings to the Securities and Exchange Commission because they are considered capital assets.

In addition to the volumes of proved reserves are deposits of oil and gas that have not yet been discovered, and those are called undiscovered resources. The term has a specific meaning: undiscovered resources are amounts of oil and gas estimated to exist in unexplored areas. If they are considered to be recoverable using existing production technologies, they are referred to as undiscovered technically recoverable resources (UTRR). In-place resources are intended to represent all of the oil, natural gas, or coal contained in a formation or basin without regard to technical or economic recoverability.

Natural gas provided about 22% of U.S. energy requirements in 2007. It will continue to be a major element of the overall U.S. energy market for the foreseeable future. Given its environmental advantages, it will likely maintain an important market share in the growing electricity generation applications, along with other clean power sources.

In 2008, the United States natural gas market experienced a tumultuous year, and market forces appeared to guide consumers, producers and investors through rapidly changing circumstances. Natural gas continues to be a major fuel supply for the United States, supplying about 24% of total energy in 2008.

In the past, the oil and gas industry considered gas locked in tight, impermeable shale uneconomical to produce. However, advances in directional well drilling and reservoir stimulation have dramatically increased gas production from unconventional shales. The United States Geological Survey estimates that 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas may be technically recoverable from these shales. Recent high natural gas prices have also stimulated interest in developing gas shales. Although natural gas prices fell dramatically in 2009, there is an expectation that the demand for natural gas will increase. Developing these shales comes with some controversy, though.

The hydraulic fracturing treatments used to stimulate gas production from shale have stirred environmental concerns over excessive water consumption, drinking water well contamination, and surface water contamination from both drilling activities and fracturing fluid disposal.

Solid gas hydrates are a potentially huge resource of natural gas for the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that there are about 85 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of technically recoverable gas hydrates in northern Alaska. The Minerals Management Service estimated a mean value of 21,000 TCF of in-place gas hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico. By comparison, total U.S. natural gas consumption is about 23 TCF annually.

As the price of crude oil sets a record high, liquid transportation fuels synthesized from coal, natural gas, and biomass are proposed as one solution to reducing dependency on imported petroleum and strained refinery capacity. The technology to do so developed from processes that directly and indirectly convert coal into liquid fuel.

As Congress seeks to address energy security issues, the increasing importation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) is also a matter deserving careful attention. In 2007, LNG imports reached a record high and plans are to increase this fuel source.

2010, 628 pages
ISBN: 1587331896 ISBN 13: 978-1-58733-189-3
Softcover book: $27.95

For more information, see

R40872, R40487, RL34508, R40894, RS22990, R41027, RS22971, RL34133, RS22567, RL33763, RL32205, RL32073, RL33716, RL33212, RL34671

Continue reading "Visualizing the BP Oil Spill"

June 1, 2010 07:07 AM   Link    Comments (0)

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 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"
  • 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."

. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 5/28/10"

May 28, 2010 07:17 AM   Link    Comments (0)

"Stimulus Surprise: Companies Retrench When Government Spends"

Recent research at Harvard Business School began with the premise that as a state's congressional delegation grew in stature and power in Washington, D.C., local businesses would benefit from the increased federal spending sure to come their way.

It turned out quite the opposite. In fact, professors Lauren Cohen, Joshua Coval, and Christopher Malloy discovered to their surprise that companies experienced lower sales and retrenched by cutting payroll, R&D, and other expenses. Indeed, in the years that followed a congressman's ascendancy to the chairmanship of a powerful committee, the average firm in his state cut back capital expenditures by roughly 15 percent, according to their working paper, "Do Powerful Politicians Cause Corporate Downsizing?" (47-page PDF)

"It was an enormous surprise, at least to us, to learn that the average firm in the chairman's state did not benefit at all from the unanticipated increase in spending," Coval reports.

Over a 40-year period, the study looked at increases in local earmarks and other federal spending that flowed to states after the senator or representative rose to the chairmanship of a powerful congressional committee.

We asked Coval about the relationship between the government and the private sector, and how policymakers should critically evaluate federal stimulus plans to help local companies.

"Stimulus Surprise: Companies Retrench When Government Spends," Q&A with Joshua Coval, HBS Working Knowledge, May 24, 2010

See also

Recession, Depression, Insolvency, Bankruptcy, and Federal Bailouts
Recession, Depression, Insolvency, Bankruptcy, and Federal Bailouts

Recession, Depression, Insolvency, Bankruptcy, and Federal Bailouts

Compiled by TheCapitol.Net
Authors: Marc Labonte, Mark Jickling, David H. Carpenter, Craig K. Elwell, Baird Webel, N. Eric Weiss, Edward V. Murphy, Bill Canis, James M. Bickley, Hinda Chaikind, Carol A. Pettit, Patrick Purcell, Carol Rapaport, Gary Shorter, and Orice M. Williams

There is no simple rule-of-thumb to determine when recessions begin or end. Recessions are officially declared by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a non-profit research organization. The NBER defines a recession as a "significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months" based on a number of economic indicators, with an emphasis on trends in employment and income.

According to the NBER, the U.S. economy entered a recession in December 2007, making it the longest recession of the post-World War II era. One unique characteristic of this recession was the severe disruption to financial markets. Financial conditions began to deteriorate in August 2007, but became more severe in September 2008. While financial downturns commonly accompany economic downturns, financial markets functioned smoothly in previous recessions.

2009, 316 pages
ISBN: 1587331594 ISBN 13: 978-1-58733-159-6
Softcover book: $19.95

For more information, see

R40198, RL34412, R40530, R40007, RS22966, RS22956, RS22963, RL34730, R40003

Continue reading ""Stimulus Surprise: Companies Retrench When Government Spends""

May 26, 2010 09:37 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Online Simulation - Stabilize the U.S. Debt: An Online Exercise in Hard Choices

It’s no secret that America’s finances are a mess. So, what can be done about it? The problem has been mounting for a long time and it cannot be fixed overnight, but we need to start addressing it now.

The debt of the United States is rising to unprecedented -- and unsustainable -- levels. According to the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform, under reasonable assumptions, the public debt of the U.S. is projected to grow to 85% of GDP by 2018, 100% by 2022, and 200% in 2038. No country can support debt at these levels without huge costs to its standard of living at a minimum and most likely a severe crisis.

Drastic action now would threaten the already fragile economic recovery. But failing to convince markets and creditors that the U.S. is serious about reducing its debt in the longer term would cause interest rates to rise dramatically and likely trigger a fiscal crisis.

We need to establish a fiscal goal and commit as a nation to achieving it. The Peterson-Pew Commission recommends a goal of stabilizing the debt at 60% of GDP by 2018 in the report, Red Ink Rising. We must set an ambitious, yet attainable, goal that Americans can support. See more about the reasoning behind this goal on the FAQ page.

This simulation was designed to illustrate the tough budget choices that will have to be made and to promote a public dialogue on how we can set a sustainable fiscal course. How do your choices stack up? Good luck.

Online Simulation: Stabilize the U.S. Debt at 60% of GDP by 2018

Also see

The Federal Budget Process
The Federal Budget Process

The Federal Budget Process:
A description of the federal and congressional budget processes, including timelines

Compiled by TheCapitol.Net
Authors: Sandy Streeter, James Saturno, Bill Heniff Jr., and Robert Keith

2009, 319 pages
ISBN: 1587331519 ISBN 13: 978-1-58733-151-0
Softcover book: $19.95

For more information, see

98-721, 98721, RS20175, RS20152, RS20095, 98-472, 98472, 98-815, 98815, RL30862, 97-684, 97684, RL34424, R41097

Continue reading "Online Simulation - Stabilize the U.S. Debt: An Online Exercise in Hard Choices"

May 25, 2010 09:17 PM   Link    Comments (0)

How to Survive a Congressional Hearing

In recent months, we've seen CEOs marched before Congress to explain their roles in the housing crisis, the auto crisis, the Wall Street crisis and - now - the oil spill crisis. Some have performed better than others, but most have made mistakes that tarnished their reputations or created political fallout for their companies.

Not that testifying before Congress is easy. In fact, it can be one of the most difficult public appearances a CEO will ever make. "Lawmakers walk into hearing rooms with a distinct home field advantage," notes Jim Abrams of the Associated Press. "Every committee member gets a shot at the witness, who often are given no time to answer questions or are cut off midway through their replies. Members sitting up on their dais are free to hurl charges and insults, but witnesses are supposed to be deferential."

"I think of these as passion plays and witnesses as supporting characters," says Matt Stearns of Ketchum. "What Congress does best is ‘harrumph' in the spotlight, and it's important to let them do that, and to accept it and survive it."

When executives are in the middle of a crisis - such as the three energy industry leaders who appeared on Capitol Hill last week - it's especially difficult to survive these encounters. Political leaders and the news media have been brutal in their assessment of the oil-spill hearing. President Obama, saying he "did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle," accused the executives of trying "to point the finger of blame at somebody else." Members of Congress, from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), piled on. Menendez called the performance a "liability chase."

How to Survive a Congressional Hearing

Coming this summer:

Testifying Before Congress: A Practical Guide to Preparing and Delivering Testimony before Congress and Congressional Hearings for Agencies, Associations, Corporations, Military, NGOs, and State and Local Officials

Testifying Before Congress
Testifying Before Congress

Testifying Before Congress
A Practical Guide to Preparing and Delivering Testimony before Congress and Congressional Hearings for Agencies, Associations, Corporations, Military, NGOs, and State and Local Officials

By William N. LaForge

2010, 475-plus pages

Hardbound, $77
ISBN 10: 158733-172-1
ISBN 13: 978-1-58733-172-5

Softcover, $67
ISBN 10: 158733-163-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-58733-163-3

For more information, see

Continue reading "How to Survive a Congressional Hearing"

May 24, 2010 10:37 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 5/24/10

Radley Balko Discusses SWAT Teams and Police Militarization on Russia Today

  • 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."
  • Report: Majority Of Government Doesn't Trust Citizens Either - "At a time when widespread polling data suggests that a majority of the U.S. populace no longer trusts the federal government, a Pew Research Center report has found that the vast majority of the federal government doesn't trust the U.S. populace all that much either.

    According to the poll--which surveyed members of the judicial, legislative, and executive branches--9 out of 10 government officials reported feeling 'disillusioned' by the populace and claimed to have 'completely lost confidence' in the citizenry's ability to act in the nation's best interests.
    . . .
    Out of 100 U.S. senators polled, 84 said they don't trust the U.S. populace to do what is right, and 79 said Americans are not qualified to do their jobs. Ninety-one percent of all government officials polled said they find citizens to be every bit as irresponsible, greedy, irrational, and selfishly motivated as government officials are."
  • Newspaper Edits Politicians Out Of Bill Signing Photograph; Doesn't Get Why People Think That's Bad - "This is a newspaper that won't run photos of candidates running for election? It makes you wonder how they report on those elections. With illustrations? And then to claim that it's okay to edit a photograph by then calling it a "photo illustration" rather than a photo that's been edited seems a bit questionable no matter where you stand on the question of journalistic ethics."
  • Any Excuse Will Do - "There is a law or regulation covering essentially every aspect of human existence. Over time, lawmakers with too little to do create the rules that keep us from bumping into one another by telling us to keep to the right. They protect us from ourselves by telling us to wear seat belts and helmets, and eat less salt. They appease grieving parents and outraged communities by crafting laws named after dead children that duplicate, triplicate, existing laws with minute additional requirements. In isolation, some people applaud these laws as serving a good function. Proponents are always well intentioned, but they become part of the vast mass of laws regulating us.

    For every regulation, there must be a consequence for its violation. When Harvey Silverglate wrote Three Felonies A Day , this could have been his inspiration, even though Scott's referring to petty offenses. The point remains that, as a society, we seek the elimination of crime and encourage and support the police in their efforts to enforce our laws. We do not, however, think much about the scope of our laws that render each of us a criminal, to some greater or lesser extent.

    If there was a machine that would detect every violation of law, we would all be found guilty of something. Granted, most of us would be prosecuted for petty, stupid offenses, but they are offenses nonetheless. If they are so petty and stupid, and if we wouldn't want to be prosecuted ourselves for them, why do we support their existence, enforcement and prosecution for others? Largely because we don't think it will ever happen to us. We don't mind unfairness to others anywhere near as much as we hate it when it happens to us."
  • Mocking Muhammad:a shallow Enlightenment - "Tomorrow is ‘Draw Muhammad Day’. Bloggers, cartoonists and artists around the world plan to publish sketches of the Prophet in all sorts of weird poses. And of course they should be absolutely free to do so, free to depict the bossman of Islam with a bomb in his turban, a bee in his bonnet, or a carrot up his arse. Or even to draw a picture of themselves taking a dump on Muhammad’s head if they want, inspired, perhaps, by the American writer who responded to the recent attempted bombing of Times Square in NYC by writing: ‘I shit on Muhammad.’

    But while they go crazy with their doodles, which is their right in free, secular societies where we should never have to bow down before religious sensitivities, I’m going to raise some questions: Why are you so keen to mock Muhammad? Why has it become the fashion to draw silly-funny-bizarre pics of the Prophet, to the extent that leading hacks such as Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan are backing Draw Muhammad Day? Why do some people want to shit on Muhammad?

    Muhammad-baiting is a shallow, theatrical performance of Enlightenment values. It is a simple (in both meanings of that word) and shortcut way of demonstrating that you are for Freedom and Truth at a time when those values actually lie in tatters in Western society and few seem to know what they really mean or even whether they’re worth defending. For those who find the thought of really standing up to cultural relativism and anti-Enlightenment backwardness too terrifying a prospect, drawing Muhammad has become a quick-and-easy way of demonstrating that you’re a secular, liberal kinda guy.
    . . .
    The censorship of any piece of art, humour or journalism on the basis that it might offend religious people is a disgrace. Muslims -- like Christians, Scientologists, environmentalists, dentists, sheep-farmers and any other section of society -- don’t have a right not to be offended. The deal in properly free societies is that you have the freedom to follow whichever religion you choose, and everyone else has the freedom to mock that religion. However, the main mistake made by the supporters of Draw Muhammad Day is to assume that Islam is the main barrier to free speech today, that gatherings of irate Muslims annoyed by pictures of their Prophet are singlehandedly demolishing hard fought-for liberal values.
    . . .
    However, presenting the undermining of freedom and Enlightenment as a result of a foreign ‘jihad against free speech’ is far easier than facing up to the reality -- which is that it is not barbarians at the gates but institutions inside the gates that have denigrated Enlightenment values. The ‘jihad against free speech’ idea is more thrilling, too, giving the secular, liberal lobby a feeling that they’re involved in a life-and-death, cross-continent struggle to defend the soul of Western liberalism from baying gangs of religious types. When in fact all they’re doing is drawing pictures of Muhammad with his knob out."
  • A Public Service for Press Secretaries - "We know you press secretaries out there have a lot to deal with. Angry reporters. Policy staffers who think they’re communicators. Aggressive colleagues. Passive aggressive committee staffers. Tickle fights. It’s a rough life. And if you stick around long enough, chances are your boss will be caught in a sex scandal. When that happens, the last thing you want to be doing is writing a statement (you’ll be more interested in making sure your resume doesn’t scream 'I work for a deviant'…trust us).

    So we thought we’d save you all some time, and draft a generic release for that special day. We made it pretty easy for you. Just fill in the holes…which, come to think of it…"
  • ‘Anti-Government’ Libertarians - "Michael Gerson writes in the Washington Post, '[Rand] Paul and other libertarians are not merely advocates of limited government; they are anti-government.'

    I can’t speak for Rand Paul, but for the libertarians I know, this is just wrong. Libertarians are not against all government. We are precisely 'advocates of limited government.' Perhaps to the man who wrote the speeches in which a Republican president advocated a trillion dollars of new spending, the largest expansion of entitlements in 40 years, federal takeovers of education and marriage, presidential power to arrest and incarcerate American citizens without access to a lawyer or a judge, and two endless 'nation-building' enterprises, the distinction between 'limited government' and 'anti-government' is hard to see. But it is real and important.
    . . .
    What does 'anti-government' mean? We’re hearing about 'anti-government' protests in Greece. But as George Will says, 'Athens’ ‘anti-government mobs’ have been composed mostly of government employees going berserk about threats to their entitlements.' The anti-government protesters in Bangkok appear to be opposed to the current prime minister, protesting to bring back the former prime minister. And then there are the 'anarchists' who protest government budget cuts. But none of those have anything to do with American libertarians."
  • A Bum Rap for Limited Government - "Every so often an editorial comes along that is so obtuse that you wonder if it came from human hand. I allude, not surprisingly, to the item in this morning’s New York Times, 'Limits of Libertarianism,' which arises from the kerfuffle over Rand Paul’s critique of the 1964 Civil Rights Act for its undermining the private right to freedom of association.

    The editorial’s main target, however, lies beyond the Paul senatorial campaign. It’s the tea party movement and its libertarian, limited government themes. But from the start the Times conflates limited government with anti government. They’re not the same. More broadly, the editorial shows beyond doubt that the Times, ever the friend of 'enlightened government,' finds danger lurking mostly in the private sector. (One wonders just how it is that those not-to-be-trusted private actors become so quickly enlightened once they get their hands on monopoly government power.)
    . . .
    Where to begin. Skip the Depression point; it’s been so often refuted that one does so again only with embarrassment for its authors. The first claim, however, warrants more than passing attention. Contending that only government power saved us from slavery and Jim Crow, it ignores the role of private power -- the abolitionists, and the civil rights movement -- that brought about that government power. More important, it invites us to believe that government had little or nothing to do with slavery and Jim Crow in the first place when in truth we would have had neither without government’s creation of those legal institutions, with legal sanctions that kept them in place. Indeed, it is limited government, government limited to securing our rights, that is the surest guarantee against those twin evils."
  • FTA chief to transit officials: Get real and get honest - "Federal Transit Administration Administrator Peter Rogoff was unflinchingly candid in a May 18 speech he delivered to the nation’s top public transit officials in Boston. Pointing out that the future of public transportation in the U.S. is in jeopardy, Rogoff bluntly told attendees that solutions are not only about engineering and economics: They are also about 'honesty' and 'moral choices.'

    Transit officials and local politicians need to be more honest with the public, Rogoff said bluntly, especially about the high costs of rail versus bus transportation.

    'Supporters of public transit must be willing to share some simple truths that folks don't want to hear. One is this: Paint is cheap, rails systems are extremely expensive.

    'Yes, transit riders often want to go by rail. But it turns out you can entice even diehard rail riders onto a bus, if you call it a ‘special’ bus and just paint it a different color than the rest of the fleet.

    'Once you've got special buses, it turns out that busways are cheap. Take that paint can and paint a designated bus lane on the street system. Throw in signal preemption, and you can move a lot of people at very little cost compared to rail.'

    Did I just hear the head of FTA telling local officials to stop misleading the public about the costs of bus rapid transit versus heavy rail like they did during the Dulles Rail debate? Especially since building and operating a BRT line costs about a tenth as much?"
  • Turn out the lights, the party's over - "People, we have seen a literal mountain of government spending around the globe. And what do we have to show for it? An avalanche of unsustainable deficits and sovereign debt levels.

    In the long run, it is true that we are all dead. But meanwhile, until that blessed day arrives, we are all broke!

    The smartest thing many countries could do right now is the old double D; Default and Devalue. However, the likely result will be a 'lost decade' of immiserizing policies undertaken at the behest of Keynes' most horrible creation, the IMF."

"Our government is the worst loan shark in history."

  • Discipline Outdoes IQ in the Long Run - "A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania concluded what most of us already suspected: Hard work has more to do with performance than being naturally gifted."
  • Father Maciel, John Paul II, and the Vatican Sex Crisis - "Of all the terrible sexual scandals the hierarchs in the Vatican find themselves tangled in, none is likely to do as much institutional damage as the astounding and still unfolding story of the Mexican priest Marcial Maciel. The crimes committed against children by other priests and bishops may provoke rage, but they also make one want to look away. With Father Maciel, on the other hand, one can hardly tear oneself from the ghastly drama as it unfolds, page by page, revelation by revelation, in the Mexican press.
    . . .
    In 1938 Maciel was expelled from his uncle Guízar’s seminary, and shortly afterward from a seminary in the United States. According to witnesses, Maciel and his uncle had a gigantic row behind closed doors, and one witness, a Legionary who had known Maciel since childhood, told the psychoanalyst González that the bishop’s rage had to do with the fact that Maciel was locking himself up in the boarding house where he was staying with some of the younger boys at his uncle’s seminary. Bishop Guízar died of a massive heart attack the following day.

    Later, it would become known that Maciel had his students and seminarians procure Dolantin (morphine) for him. This led to Maciel’s suspension as head of the order in 1956. Inexplicably, he was reinstated after two years. Much later still, someone realized that his book, The Psalter of My Days, which was more or less required reading in Legionary institutions, and was a sort of Book of Hours, or prayer guide, was lifted virtually in its entirety from The Psalter of My Hours, an account written by a Spaniard who was sentenced to life in prison after the Spanish Civil War.
    . . .
    Quite apart from the damage to Maciel’s victims, there is the pressing question of why the Catholic Church, as an institution, did not condemn him when he was ordained as a priest, or when he founded the Legionaries, or when the story of his pederasty made the cover of magazines, or when enough evidence was found to conclude that Maciel should live out the rest of his life in seclusion, or even when the rumors grew strong enough to warrant a Vatican investigation of the order as a whole. The answer surprises no one: at a time in which churches are emptying, the Legionaries have been a rich source of conscripts, money and influence; in Mexico everyone from Carlos Slim to Marta Sahagún, the wife of former president Vicente Fox, gave money to or asked favors from Maciel.

    It was not until last year that Karol Wojtyla’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI, at last authorized a visitation--churchspeak for investigation--of the entire order of the Legionaries of Christ. As usual, the press and some disaffected religious have been way ahead of the Vatican. Now we learn from the press that the order kept some 900 women under non-binding vows as consagradas, or quasi-nuns, in conditions of emotional privation and subjugation that violated even canonical law. "
  • Floyd Landis: An American Hero - "Landis made, as his website notes, a very public affair out of his fight against the doping allegations, and embarked on a substantial fund-raising campaign to raise the several million dollars that he needed to fight the charges. He toured across the country, asserting his innocence over and over again, and asking for contributions to his legal defense fund. Let’s see -- I think we have a name for that in the law. Intentionally and knowingly stating a falsehood, on which others might reasonably be expected to rely (and on which they do rely) to their direct financial detriment. 'Fraud.' If I had given Landis any money after hearing his sad tale of persecution and laboratory foulups, I sure would be angry right about now."
  • 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."
  • Payback Time: Europeans Fear Crisis Threatens Liberal Benefits - "Across Western Europe, the 'lifestyle superpower,' the assumptions and gains of a lifetime are suddenly in doubt. The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.

    Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.

    Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella. They have also translated higher taxes into a cradle-to-grave safety net. 'The Europe that protects' is a slogan of the European Union.

    But all over Europe governments with big budgets, falling tax revenues and aging populations are experiencing rising deficits, with more bad news ahead.

    With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle, at least not without a period of austerity and significant changes. The countries are trying to reassure investors by cutting salaries, raising legal retirement ages, increasing work hours and reducing health benefits and pensions." Emphasis added.
  • Asleep at the Seal: Just how bad does a college have to be to lose accreditation? - "There was an aura of gloom in the squat, deteriorating building on the fenced-in corner lot that comprised the beginning and the end of the Southeastern campus in Washington, D.C. And for good reason: the university was about to be shut down. Two months earlier, the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools had decided to revoke the school’s accreditation. Because only accredited schools can accept federal financial aid, upon which the large majority of Southeastern students depended, the decision amounted to a death sentence for the beleaguered college.

    But the fact that this had happened was less surprising than the fact that it hadn’t happened sooner. Southeastern had lived for many years on the most distant margins of higher education, mired in obscurity, mediocrity, cronyism, and intermittent corruption. Students routinely dropped out and defaulted on their student loans while the small, nonselective school lurched from one financial crisis to another. Yet during all that time Southeastern enjoyed the goldest of gold approval seals: 'regional' accreditation, the very same mark of quality granted to Ivy League universities including Princeton, Columbia, Penn, and Cornell, along with world-famous research institutions like Georgetown University, which sits in wealth and splendor above the Potomac River just a few miles away.

    The decades-long saga of Southeastern’s perpetual dysfunction and ultimate demise exposes a gaping hole in America’s system of consumer protection for higher education. The government exercises remarkably little oversight over the colleges and universities into which hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are poured every year, relying instead on a tissue-thin layer of regulation at the hands of accreditors that are funded and operated by the colleges themselves. The result is chronic failure at hundreds of colleges nationwide, obscure and nonselective institutions where low-income and minority students are more likely to end up with backbreaking student-loan debt than a college degree. The accreditation system is most egregiously failing the students who most need a watchdog looking out for their interests. The case of Southeastern shows how.
    . . .
    On August 31, 2009, Southeastern finally lost the accreditation it had clung to, barely, for thirty-two years. The students and faculty dispersed, and the tiny campus sits empty today. In December, the university’s few remaining assets--the building, the student records, and materials associated with the degree programs--were absorbed by the Graduate School, a thriving continuing education program that was associated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture until last year. Southeastern itself seems destined to fade into memory. The picture of President Obama has disappeared from the Web site, which now simply says, 'We are not accepting students at this time.'"

Name that Tune II

  • Facebook Privacy 101 - "If you’ve been watching the slow motion train wreck that is’s recent effort to revamp its privacy promises, you may be wondering where to start making sense of the dizzying array of privacy options offered by the world’s largest online social network. Fortunately, developers are starting to release free new tools so that you don’t need to read a statement longer than the U.S. Constitution or earn a masters degree in Facebook privacy in order to get started. hosts an easy-to-use, open source tool that can help Facebook users very quickly determine what types of information they are sharing with the rest of the world. To use it, visit and drag the 'bookmarklet' over into your bookmarks area. Then log in to, and browse to your privacy settings page. Then, click the bookmark and it will run a series of Javascript commands that produce a report showing your various privacy settings, and suggest ways to strengthen weaker settings."
  • Google TV: everything you ever wanted to know - "Google made some waves yesterday when it announced the new Google TV platform, backed by major players like Sony, Logitech, Intel, Dish Network, and Best Buy. Built on Android and featuring the Chrome browser with a full version of Flash Player 10.1, Google TV is supposed to bring 'the web to your TV and your TV to the web,' in Google's words. It's a lofty goal that many have failed to accomplish, but Google certainly has the money and muscle to pull it off. But hold up: what is Google TV, exactly, and why do all these companies think it's going to revolutionize the way we watch TV? Let's take a quick walk through the platform and see what's what.

    Google TV isn't a single product -- it's a platform that will eventually run on many products, from TVs to Blu-ray players to set-top boxes. The platform is based on Android, but instead of the Android browser it runs Google's Chrome browser as well as a full version of Flash Player 10.1. That means Google TV devices can browse to almost any site on the web and play video -- Hulu included, provided it doesn't get blocked. It also means that Google TV devices can run almost all Android apps that don't require phone hardware. You'll still need to keep your existing cable or satellite box, however -- most Google TV devices won't actually have any facility for tuning TV at launch, instead relying on your existing gear plugged in over HDMI to do the job. There's a lot of potential for clunkiness with that kind of setup, so we'll have to see how it works in person."
  • 'Steve Jobs' switches to Android: 'Apple now is chasing Google' - "Steve Jobs -- no, not the one in Cupertino, the one who blogs -- is ditching his iPhone, going Googly, and venting his spleen.

    "Goodbye, Apple. I'm ditching my iPhone. Seriously, I'm gone," writes Newsweek senior editor Dan Lyons on his Newsweek blog. In his alter ego of "Fake Steve," Lyons also comments on all things Apple on his parody website The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.

    Fake Steve/Dan Lyons hates AT&T's iPhone service -- so much so that last December, in his Fake Steve persona, he launched what he intended to be a parody protest movement entitled Operation Chokehold. However, it turned out that so many non-parody-minded AT&T haters thought that Fake Steve's idea of slamming Big Phone's service was a real-world good idea, that he was forced to recant the idea and request that his Chokeholders chill.

    But his distaste for AT&T's lousy service isn't the only reason for his defection from the iPhone. 'I was already fed up with my lousy AT&T service,' he writes for Newsweek, 'and was seriously considering switching to the HTC Incredible, an Android-powered phone that runs on the Verizon network. But then, after seeing Google's new mobile-phone software, I've made up my mind.'
    . . .
    And so Fake Steve is switching to Android. After congratulating the unashamedly 'mocking' Apple-bashing by Google execs at that company's just-completed developers conference, he notes: 'Now Google is saying, hey, nice garden, have fun sitting in it. By yourself.'

    Real Steve would do well to sit up and notice. There's something to be said for Malcolm Gladwell's concept of a 'tipping point,' and if Apple's carefully polished public image tips from that of sexy, future-defining innovator to selfish, defensive control-freak, it will be no easy feat to tip it back. "
  • Low Flow Showerheads - "Low flow showerheads (low-flo, low-flow) are an inexpensive way to save water."

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Continue reading "Assorted Links 5/24/10"

May 24, 2010 07:37 AM   Link    Comments (0)

The World Cup 2010 is coming - Watch in Washington, DC

The World Cup 2010 is coming
June 11 - July 11, 2010


May 23, 2010 08:07 PM   Link    Comments (0)

Low Flow Showerheads

Low flow showerheads (low-flo, low-flow) are an inexpensive way to save water.

It's not just low flow, it's the law. In 1995, the National Energy Policy Act mandated the use of toilets that use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. Since then, low-flow plumbing fixtures including toilets, faucet aerators and showerheads have been developed that save substantial amounts of water compared to conventional fixtures while providing the same utility.
. . .
Conventional faucet aerators don't compensate for changes in inlet pressure, so the greater the water pressure, the more water you use. New technology compensates for pressure and provides the same flow regardless of pressure. Aerators are also available that allow water to be turned off at the aerator itself. Showerheads use similar aerator technology and multiple flow settings to save water.

Low Flow Plumbing Fixtures, from ToolBase

Numerous models are available, but one that we use and like is the Ultra Saver Showerhead (manufactured by Whedon Products model USB3C), which can be purchased for less than $10 at most hardware stores.

This image is of the model with the shut off button, but model USB3C has no moving parts

Here's a video about a Bricor showerhead, which looks perfect for RVs.


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May 23, 2010 11:07 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Public Pension Fallout in Yonkers, New York

The New York Times reports there are 100 retired police officers and firefighters in Yonkers collecting more in their annual pension benefits than they earned at their maximum annual salary. The youngest retiree, now 47, says he did nothing wrong when he added overtime to his base salary in order to maximize his pension benefits, “I don’t understand how the working guy that held up their end of the bargain became the problem." New York’s ballooning pension costs are another data point in a crisis that encompasses most states and many local governments. What can be done?

Public Pension Fallout in Yonkers, New York

Underfunded Pensions, Pension Dumping, and Retirement Security
Underfunded Pensions, Pension Dumping, and Retirement Security

Underfunded Pensions, Pension Dumping, and Retirement Security:
Pension Funds, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), Bailout Risks, Impact on the Federal Budget, and the Pension Protection Act of 2006

Compiled by TheCapitol.Net
Authors: Patrick Purcell, Jennifer Staman, Kelly Kinneen, William J. Klunk, Peter Orszag, and Bradley D. Belt

2009, 319 pages
ISBN: 1587331535 ISBN 13: 978-1-58733-153-4
Softcover book: $19.95

For more information, see

RL34443, RS22650, R40171, RL34656, GAO-09-207, RL33937

Continue reading "Public Pension Fallout in Yonkers, New York"

May 22, 2010 10:37 AM   Link    Comments (0)

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."
  • TITLE - ""
  • TITLE - ""
  • 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."
  • 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 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,''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.'"

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 5/20/10"

May 20, 2010 05:27 PM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 5/16/10

Noted Bear Bob Janjuah Sighted on Bloomberg

  • 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."
  • The Dark Magic of Structured Finance - "In Too Big To Save Robert Pozen gives a clever example, based on an excellent paper by Coval, Jurek and Stafford, which explains both the lure of structured finance and why the model exploded so quickly.

    Suppose we have 100 mortgages that pay $1 or $0. The probability of default is 0.05. We pool the mortgages and then prioritize them into tranches such that tranche 1 pays out $1 if no mortgage defaults and $0 otherwise, tranche 2 pays out $1 if 1 or fewer mortgages defaults, $0 otherwise. Tranche 10 then pays out $1 if 9 or fewer mortgages default and $0 otherwise. Tranche 10 has a probability of defaulting of 2.82 percent. A fortiori tranches 11 and higher all have lower probabilities of defaulting. Thus, we have transformed 100 securities each with a default of 5% into 9 with probabilities of default greater than 5% and 91 with probabilities of default less than 5%.

    Now let's try this trick again. Suppose we take 100 of these type-10 tranches and suppose we now pool and prioritize these into tranches creating 100 new securities. Now tranche 10 of what is in effect a CDO will have a probability of default of just 0.05 percent, i.e. p=.000543895 to be exact. We have now created some 'super safe,' securities which can be very profitable if there are a lot of investors demanding triple AAA."

    From the comments: So is Congress like the Good Witch of the North?

  • Auditing the Fed: “The Single Greatest Act of Bipartisanship Since Obama Took Office” - "Yesterday, I noted that there weren't many opportunities for conservatives to find themselves in agreement with the Congress' only declared socialist Bernie Sanders. But that's exactly what happened when the audit the fed amendment was attached to the financial reform bill on a 96-0 vote. Are the left and the right finally coming to agree that crony capitalism and rent seeking by big business has had a corrupting influence on our government?"
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorses Trey Grayson over Rand Paul in Kentucky Senate - "If anything could push the GOP towards some free-market populism -- opposing bailouts, standing up to lobbyists, cutting spending -- it would be the election of Rand Paul, son of Rep. Ron Paul, in Kentucky. The younger Paul has railed against bailouts and lobbyists, while the establishment of the GOP has rallied behind Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the primary.

    But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Trey Grayson, TPM reveals. I generally like the Chamber, as it tends to oppose regulatory robbery. But when the Chamber shuns a candidate for being too free market, that’s quite an endorsement."
  • Who Is Fighting (Or Helping) Whom In Mexico’s Drug Wars? - "Are Mexican authorities fighting an all out war against drug cartels or simply helping one drug organization win the battle against other criminal gangs for the most lucrative trafficking route to the United States? Street banners alongside Mexico’s highways--put up by rival drug gangs--have long suggested that the administration of Felipe Calderon is in bed with the Sinaloa cartel, that country’s most powerful drug organization. As The Economist reported earlier this year, the Mexican government’s efforts against drug trafficking have been fairly one-sided:
    . . .
    Also, these allegations present a conundrum for president Obama, who happens to host Felipe Calderon on Monday for a state dinner at the White House. The administration has been pressed by the Mexican government to substantially increase the level of assistance in the fight against cartels. However, if it becomes clear that high-ranking Mexican law enforcement officials are in bed with one or more criminal organizations (not the first time that something like this has happened) and that U.S. intelligence has ended up in the hands of drug lords, there will be growing resistance within the U.S. government to further aid Mexico. This in turn, will only exacerbate the tension between both governments.

    'Plata o plomo' (which literally means 'silver or lead' and refers to how officials are either corrupted or killed by drug lords) has long been a common feature of the drug war in Latin America. It is not surprising that multi-billion dollar cartels corrupt the officials who are supposed to fight them. What is surprising is some people in Washington still believe that this is a winnable war."
  • 16 Reasons Why California Is The Next Greece - "THE BIG ONE: California has no central bank and can't print money to stave off debt.

    This is everything.

    The inability of Greece to give itself some monetary flexibility was devastating, and it's the reason the UK is not facing an acute crisis, despite a very high level of debt. Eventually, California will need a bailout from DC, but while European leaders came together for Greece and the PIIGS, could you imagine our fractious Congress saving Europe -- especially if the GOP takes over in November?"
  • Housing never really improved -- 10 charts showing the United States housing market is entering the second wave of problems. 1 out of 4 people with no mortgage payment in the last year are still not in the foreclosure process. - "To put it bluntly, the U.S. housing market today is in deep water. Nothing exemplifies the transfer of risk to the public from the private investment banks more than the deep losses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae announced a stunning first quarter loss of $13.1 billion while Freddie Mac lost $8 billion. At the same time, toxic mortgage superstar JP Morgan Chase announced a $3.3 billion profit for Q1. This reversal of fortunes has been orchestrated perfectly by Wall Street. Since the toxic assets were never marked to market, the big losses have been funneled to the big GSEs (and as we will show in this article, now makes up 96.5 percent of the entire mortgage market). In other words, banks are making profits gambling on Wall Street while pushing out mortgages that are completely backed by the government. We are letting the folks that clearly had no system of underwriting mortgages correctly or any financial prudence lend out government backed money and the losses are piling up but only in the nationalized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. What a sweet deal. Stick the junk in a taxpayer silo.
    . . .
    In total the housing market is in worse shape today than it was a few years ago. If the stock market was tied to housing we probably have a Dow 20,000 with 14 million foreclosures. The bailouts have been one large transfer of wealth to the banking sector. Remember that the bailouts were brought about under the guise of helping the housing market and keeping people in their homes. None of that has happened. Ironically the only thing that seems to keep people in their home is when they stop paying their mortgage! If that is the strategy we have arrived at after $13 trillion in bailouts and backstops to Wall Street we are in for a world of problems."
  • Black, Brown, and Beige: Duke Ellington’s music and race in America. - "Celebrating Ellington’s seventieth birthday, in 1969, Ralph Ellison recalled what it was like when, in his youth, in the thirties, the Ellington band came to Oklahoma City 'with their uniforms, their sophistication, their skills; their golden horns, their flights of controlled and disciplined fantasy,' all of it like 'news from the great wide world.' For black boys like Ellison all over the country, the band had been 'an example and goal,' he wrote. Who else--black or white--had ever been 'so worldly, who so elegant, who so mockingly creative? Who so skilled at their given trade and who treated the social limitations placed in their paths with greater disdain?'

    Two years before Ellington died, in 1972, Yale University held a gathering of leading black jazz musicians in order to raise money for a department of African-American music. Aside from Ellington, the musicians who came for three days of concerts, jam sessions, and workshops included Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Mary Lou Williams, and Willie (the Lion) Smith. During a performance by a Gillespie-led sextet, someone evidently unhappy with this presence on campus called in a bomb threat. The police attempted to clear the building, but Mingus refused to leave, urging the officers to get all the others out but adamantly remaining onstage with his bass. 'Racism planted that bomb, but racism ain’t strong enough to kill this music,' he was heard telling the police captain. (And very few people successfully argued with Mingus.) 'If I’m going to die, I’m ready. But I’m going out playing ‘Sophisticated Lady.’' Once outside, Gillespie and his group set up again. But coming from inside was the sound of Mingus intently playing Ellington’s dreamy thirties hit, which, that day, became a protest song, as the performance just kept going on and on and getting hotter. In the street, Ellington stood in the waiting crowd just beyond the theatre’s open doors, smiling."
  • California Wants to Attract Jobs -- But What About Retention? - "The debt and taxes in California are a deterrent to job creation. Can Schwarzenegger's new coordinating agency fix that? In his YouTube address announcing his new Office of Economic Development, Gov. Schwarzenegger said the office would make starting or growing a business 'as painless as possible, because we'll be cutting through all the red tape and streamlining state bureaucracy. And believe me, there's a lot of state bureaucracy.' While it's nice to streamline, maybe part of the problem is that the state is running 100 programs in 28 state agencies in the first place. All that job-creating bureaucracy costs money, and that means job-killing taxes.

    If your state isn't business friendly, billboards and 'one stop' permitting won't matter. Marketers know that it is many times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain existing ones. The same is true with jobs. Instead of working so hard to spur job growth, lowering taxes and easing regulatory burdens can enable existing businesses to thrive."
  • A 'High Risk' State: California Makes Top Ten List For Potential Government Default - "California bonds are now viewed as one of the riskiest places in the world for investors to put their money. At least that is according to the latest 'CMA Sovereign Risk Monitor,' which ranks the world’s most volatile sovereign debt issuers. The analysts, in a May 11 list, said California has the seventh highest risk of default.

    The six with rankings more worrisome than California are Venezuela (the worst), followed by Argentina, Pakistan, Greece, Ukraine and the Emirate of Dubai. California ranks ahead of the Republic of Latvia, the Region of Sicily and Iraq. See the list under 'Highest Default Probabilities.' (The report is issued by CMA Market, a 'credit information specialist' with offices in London, New York and Singapore.)"

Duke Ellington: Take The "A" Train

  • Tyler Cowen, a blogger, professor and organizer of rules on how the world works - "Cowen is 48. He grew up in Hillsdale, N.J., an hour's drive from New York. His mother stayed home and his father was president of the chamber of commerce. He has a younger brother (a cook) and an older sister (a grocery store manager). Holly Cowen recalls her brother acquiring vast quantities of information before he was 4. He read constantly, even at dinner, though not to the exclusion of playing sports. 'He wasn't a total nerd,' she says. 'He was balanced.'"
  • Vanity sizing: the consumer spending edition - "Yes, it’s another installment in my pet theory series, the myth of vanity sizing (links to previous entries appear at close); this one being a discussion of the influence of the evolution of consumer spending. Described most succinctly:

    Manufacturers don’t know who their customers are anymore.

    I concede this broad generalization is at least the size of the side of a barn. Humor me, let’s just say most large apparel firms have less an idea of who the end consumer is than at any other point in history. The reasons they don’t know anymore are influences that can be attributed to:

    1. The average clothes buying consumer is changing where and how they buy.

    2. How the windfall of low cost off-shore manufactured apparel has contributed to evolving expectations and subsequent disappointments.

    3. Why the unintended consequences of consumer credit to finance apparel purchases has created an apparel sizing problem for all concerned.
    . . .
    Do you recall the very first time you were in a store and noticed a great top name brand that was being sold for an uncustomary low price? Perhaps you noticed because it was a brand you coveted (confirmation bias). This would have been about 15 to 20 years ago, give or take five years. In the beginning, people were very excited about it. They were happy to buy big names they previously could only have aspired to own. These products were the first of the big push coming in from off shore. Product landed at the loading dock with the 40% hang tags already attached. People were so excited, they didn’t care that the fit was a little off. Between price and the anticipation of acquisition, they were willing to overlook a small defect (like fit or diminished product complexity) because they wanted The Brand so badly. I remember that. It was exciting. Nobody cared that the back neck was cut too deeply so the front rode up into the neckline, it had a horsie dammit! And everybody wanted one. Me too."
  • Pattern of Death - "The future of terrorism, according to John Robb, will be the story of individuals acting on their own initiative according to broadly shared narrative. That might include attacking artists in university lecture halls who’ve had the temerity to draw ‘Mohammed’ cartoons, encouraging piracy, sowing mines and IEDs at random, or using cell phone technology to stage flash events. Open Source Warfare is open season on everybody. According to this view the challenge comes from the grassroots. To some extent the challenge of distributed warfare has been accepted, and war in the grassroots it is. One example of a America’s counter is the so-called 'pattern of life' of life targeting, which tracks individuals, such that if a person looks persistently guilty, then he is ‘engaged’.
    . . .
    The program has been criticized as a violation of human rights. But one criticism which is rarely heard is whether the program is moving the target list in the wrong direction. It is moving it down the chain. Suppose instead of moving down from the Taliban and al-Qaeda top leadership, it moved up? Suppose Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden were not at the top of the terrorist food chain? Why not hit the guys above them? Hillary Clinton recently hinted that Pakistani officials were more deeply connected to terrorism than they were letting on, and that they may have been sheltering Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban leadership. On a CBS interview the Secretary of State said, 'We’ve made it very clear that if -- heaven-forbid -- an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.' This suggests that the Taliban and al-Qaeda, rather than being the Alpha and Omega of terrorism, are just proxies in a war with bigger fish.

    But what would Washington do with a bigger fish if it found it with stratospheric UAVs and super databases? Would the President impose 'very severe consequences'? Or on the contrary, would it find a reason to let the monster fish go in the name of maintaining 'world peace'. Suppose Hillary actually found a smoking gun linking the leadership of Pakistan to al-Qaeda? Which incentive would prevail? Is saving 500 or 1,000 American lives worth war with Pakistan? There would arguably be a huge incentive to do nothing because of the risks of taking action against Islamabad would be so great. One example of how catching a big fish can cause problems was recently illustrated by a New York Times report that the South Korea found torpedo explosive residue on the sunken hull of its corvette, the Cheonan. It is almost impossible to avoid concluding that North Korea torpedoed a South Korean Naval vessel. Does this mean 'very severe consequences'? God a-mighty, no.
    . . .
    The War on Terror isn’t being fought to win, it’s being fought to keep the lid on. The conflict will be managed, not resolved. The War will be kept within bounds, at all costs. An explosion in New York will be met by a flurry of missiles fired from robotic aircraft circling over certain countries. Tit for Tat. Corpse for corpse. Missile for car bomb."
  • 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."
  • Solitude and Leadership - "We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of exper­tise. What we don’t have are leaders.
    . . .
    How do you learn to think? Let’s start with how you don’t learn to think. A study by a team of researchers at Stanford came out a couple of months ago. The investigators wanted to figure out how today’s college students were able to multitask so much more effectively than adults. How do they manage to do it, the researchers asked? The answer, they discovered--and this is by no means what they expected--is that they don’t. The enhanced cognitive abilities the investigators expected to find, the mental faculties that enable people to multitask effectively, were simply not there. In other words, people do not multitask effectively. And here’s the really surprising finding: the more people multitask, the worse they are, not just at other mental abilities, but at multitasking itself.

    One thing that made the study different from others is that the researchers didn’t test people’s cognitive functions while they were multitasking. They separated the subject group into high multitaskers and low multitaskers and used a different set of tests to measure the kinds of cognitive abilities involved in multitasking. They found that in every case the high multitaskers scored worse. They were worse at distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant information and ignoring the latter. In other words, they were more distractible. They were worse at what you might call 'mental filing': keeping information in the right conceptual boxes and being able to retrieve it quickly. In other words, their minds were more disorganized. And they were even worse at the very thing that defines multitasking itself: switching between tasks."
  • A Hidden History of Evil: Why doesn’t anyone care about the unread Soviet archives? - "In the world’s collective consciousness, the word 'Nazi' is synonymous with evil. It is widely understood that the Nazis’ ideology--nationalism, anti-Semitism, the autarkic ethnic state, the Führer principle--led directly to the furnaces of Auschwitz. It is not nearly as well understood that Communism led just as inexorably, everywhere on the globe where it was applied, to starvation, torture, and slave-labor camps. Nor is it widely acknowledged that Communism was responsible for the deaths of some 150 million human beings during the twentieth century. The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history.

    For evidence of this indifference, consider the unread Soviet archives. Pavel Stroilov, a Russian exile in London, has on his computer 50,000 unpublished, untranslated, top-secret Kremlin documents, mostly dating from the close of the Cold War. He stole them in 2003 and fled Russia. Within living memory, they would have been worth millions to the CIA; they surely tell a story about Communism and its collapse that the world needs to know. Yet he can’t get anyone to house them in a reputable library, publish them, or fund their translation. In fact, he can’t get anyone to take much interest in them at all."
  • My Thoughts on Gold - "Here’s a good rule of thumb. Gold goes up anytime real rates on short-term U.S. debt are below 2% (or are perceived to stay below 2%). It will fall if real rates rise above 2%. When rates are at 2%, then gold holds steady. That’s not a perfect relationship but I want to put it in an easy why for new investors to grap. This also helps explain why we’re in the odd situation today of seeing gold rise even though inflation is low. It’s not the inflation, it’s the low real rates that gold likes.
    . . .
    My view is that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates earlier than expected. I don't know exactly when that will be but it will put gold on a dangerous path. For now, my advice is to stay away from gold, either long or short."
  • Black & Decker’s Alligator Lopper Is The Awesomest Pair Of Scissors I’ve Ever Seen - "Maybe it’s the fact that Black & Decker has gone to the trouble of printing a mean-looking alligator graphic on this lopper that has drawn me to it, but the super villain-esque combination of pruning shears and a miniature chainsaw doesn’t hurt either. A 4.5 amp electric motor and a wide set of jaws allows the Alligator Lopper to chew through a branch up to 4 inches thick like it was a wounded gazelle’s hind leg, and the clamping action ensures it won’t let go until it’s all the way through."

The 4 chord song....s

  • Honda To Exhibit Walking Legs at the Smithsonian in New York - "Rather goofy-looking at first glance, Honda's new legs (aka Bodyweight Support Assist Device) makes walking and stair-climbing easier for the elderly and folks on rehab. Leveraging walking technology from full-body ASIMO robot, the leggy device provides natural walking and crouching support with its combined saddle, motorized leg frame and force-sensing shoes. With a control computer and battery pack neatly tucked away under the femur of the frame, the legs sense and guide motion while walking, going up and down stairs and in a semi-crouching position. An assisting force is directed towards the user's center of gravity and in sync with movement to support one's bodyweight and reduce the load on the user's leg muscles and joints."
  • Household Debt Around the World - "From a new report, a look at household debt levels around the world. Interestingly, Canada leads the way -- in a bad sense -- in one measure."
  • Phished Brands Seize on Teachable Moments - "Not long ago, most companies whose brands were being abused in phishing scams focused their efforts mainly on shuttering the counterfeit sites as quickly as possible. These days, an increasing number of phished brands are not only disabling the sites, but also seizing on the opportunity to teach would-be victims how to spot future scams.

    Instead of simply dismantling a phishing site and leaving the potential phishing victims with a 'Site not found' error, some frequent targets of phishing sites are setting up redirects to phishing education pages.

    For the past 20 months, Jason Hong, assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Interaction Institute, has been measuring referrals from phishing sites to an education page set up by the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), an industry consortium. Hong said the site now receives close to 25,000 referrals per month from phishing sites that brand owners have modified."
  • Errol Morris on the postmodernity of the electric chair - "There is nothing post-modern about the electric chair. It takes a living human being and turns him into a piece of meat. Imagine you -- you the young journalists of tomorrow -- being strapped into an electric chair for a crime you didn't commit. Would you take comfort from a witness telling you that it really doesn't make any difference whether you are guilty or innocent? That there is no truth? 'I think you're guilty; you think you're innocent. Can't we work it all out?'"
  • People Start Noticing That The Web Competes With iPad Apps - "Back in February, when many in the media were insisting that iPad apps were going to save the media business, we wondered why all the stuff they were talking about sticking in their apps couldn't work on the web as well. It appears that others are noticing that as well. Jason Fry at the Nieman Journalism Lab is noting that publications' own websites may be the biggest competition to their iPad apps -- and he was apparently a big believer in the concept of iPad apps originally. But after using the iPad for a while, he's realizing that the web is pretty good again:"
  • Caribbean Corner, 4008A University Drive, Fairfax, VA, 703-246-9040 - "Mostly Jamaican, this is a real mom and pop restaurant in the middle of downtown Fairfax. It’s strangely silent. They only have two tables and a few chairs. The dining room is not really separated from the kitchen, or for that matter the cashier station, by any clear line. I’ve tried the jerk chicken and that was genuinely good. I’ll go back, at the very least this place is worth a try."
  • Facebook faces a consumer backlash over security concerns as bloggers urge users to 'kill' their accounts - "The backlash comes as Facebook yesterday announced the launch of new security features to combat malicious attacks, scams and spam.

    It remains to be seen whether this is a case of too little, too late.

    Peter Rojas, the co-founder of respected gadget site, announced this week that he had shut his Facebook account down.
    . . .
    Tech blogger Jason Calacanis blamed Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg's woes on overplaying its hand.

    He wrote: 'Over the past month, Mark Zuckerberg, the hottest new card player in town, has overplayed his hand.

    'Facebook is officially “out”, as in uncool, amongst partners, parents and pundits all coming to the realisation that Zuckerberg and his company are - simply put - not trustworthy.'"

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 5/16/10"

May 16, 2010 11:57 AM   Link    Comments (0)

"A Drug Raid Goes Viral"

Last week, a Columbia, Missouri, drug raid captured on video went viral. As of this morning, the video had garnered 950,000 views on YouTube. It has lit up message boards, blogs, and discussion groups around the Web, unleashing anger, resentment and even, regrettably, calls for violence against the police officers who conducted the raid. I've been writing about and researching these raids for about five years, including raids that claimed the lives of innocent children, grandmothers, college students, and bystanders. Innocent families have been terrorized by cops who raided on bad information, or who raided the wrong home due to some careless mistake. There's never been a reaction like this one.
. . .
The overwhelmingly negative reaction to the video is interesting. Clearly, a very large majority of the people who have seen it are disturbed by it. But this has been going on for 30 years. We've reached the point where police have no qualms about a using heavily armed police force trained in military tactics to serve a search warrant on a suspected nonviolent marijuana offender. And we didn't get here by accident. The war on drugs has been escalating and militarizing for a generation. What's most disturbing about that video isn't the violence depicted in it, but that such violence has become routine.

As horrifying as the video from Columbia, Missouri, is, no human beings were killed. The police got the correct address, and they found the man they were looking for. In many other cases, such raids transpire based on little more than a tip from an anonymous or confidential informant. Nor is it unusual for raids just as violent as the one depicted in the video to turn up little in the way of drugs or weapons. (Whitworth wasn't exactly an outstanding citizen--he had a prior drug and DWI conviction. But he had no history of violence, and there were no weapons in the home.) Surveys conducted by newspapers around the country after one of these raids goes bad have found that police only find weapons of any kind somewhere between 10-20 percent of the time. The percentage of raids that turn up a significant amount of drugs tends to vary, but a large percentage only result in misdemeanor charges at worst.

Shooting the family's dogs isn't unusual, either. To be fair, that's in part because some drug dealers do in fact obtain vicious dogs to guard their supply. But there are other, safer ways to deal with these dogs than shooting them. In the Columbia case, a bullet fired at one dog ricocheted and struck another dog. The bullet could just as easily have struck a person. In the case of Tarika Wilson, a Lima, Ohio, SWAT officer mistook the sounds of a colleague shooting a drug dealer's dogs for hostile gunfire. He then opened fire into a bedroom, killing a 23-year-old mother and shooting the hand off of the one-year-old child in her arms.
. . .
The militarization of America's police departments has taken place over a generation, due to a number of bad policy decisions from politicians and government officials, ranging from federal grants for drug fighting to a Pentagon giveaway program that makes military equipment available to local police departments for free or at steep discounts. Mostly, though, it's due to the ill-considered "war" imagery our politicians continue to invoke when they refer to drug prohibition. Repeat the mantra that we're at war with illicit drugs often enough, and the cops on the front lines of that war will naturally begin to think of themselves as soldiers. And that's particularly true when you outfit them in war equipment, weaponry, and armor. This is dangerous, because the objectives of cops and soldiers are very different. One is charged with annihilating a foreign enemy. The other is charged with keeping the peace.

A Drug Raid Goes Viral

May 12, 2010 07:47 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 5/12/10

Richard Feynman on Big Numbers and Stuff, from the BBC TV series 'Fun to Imagine' (1983)

  • 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
  • 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."
  • Reform Bites - "I am not a fan of taxpayer financing of elections. If you want to get money out of politics, get government's hands off our money. The reason that election outcomes are so crucial right now is that government has metastisized into nearly every aspect of our lives."
  • What Do The Economist’s Bloggers Think a Free Market Is, Anyway? - "I wonder what convinced M.S. that the new health care law is an entirely free-market-based reform. Was it the expansion of the government’s Medicaid program to another 16 million Americans? Was it the 19-million-plus other Americans who will receive government subsidies to purchase private health insurance? Was it the new price controls that the law imposes on health insurance? Or the price and exchange controls that it will extend to even more of the market? Was it the dynamics those regulations set in motion, which will reduce variety and innovation in health insurance? Was it the mandates that require private actors to spend their resources according to the wishes of the state? Or the new federal regulations that will shape every health insurance plan in the United States, whether purchased through the employer-based market, the individual market, or the new health insurance 'exchanges'? Was it the half-trillion dollars of (explicit) tax increases over the next 10 years?

    I wonder what it is about this law that M.S. thinks is consonant with the principles of a free market. Perhaps we have a different idea of what 'free' means."
  • Greatest Fossil Fuel Disasters In Human History - "The fallout from the Louisiana oil rig explosion is continuing to be horrendous, and efforts to stop the damage aren't looking promising. But this isn't the worst fossil fuel disaster we've ever had. Here are 10 of the worst.
    . . .
    Largest Oil Spill Of All Time: Really, this list could be mostly oil spills. There have been so many. You only have to look at the Wikipedia page to see that enough oil has been splashed in the water to keep all our cars running for decades. The largest, in terms of volume of oil, was the Gulf War Oil Spill, in which Iraq opened the valves at its oil terminal and dumped oil into the Gulf, in an attempt to keep U.S. forces from landing. The resulting slick was 4,242 square miles, and five inches thick. It's between five and 27 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill. The largest accidental oil spill, in gallons, was Ixtoc I in Mexico, which dumped half a million tons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and polluted 162 miles of U.S. beaches. A rare sea turtle's natural habitat was flooded, and the endangered turtles had to be airlifted to safety. Honorable mention also has to go to the Atlantic Empress, a Greek oil tanker that managed to be involved in two separate massive oil spills."
  • Are you ready for the United States of Germany? - "The strong euro and burgeoning liquidity it brought on meant that much of Germany’s trade surplus had to be absorbed within the eurozone, forcing especially southern Europe into high trade deficits. These deficits were dismissed, very foolishly it turns out, and against all historical precedents, as being easily managed as long as the sanctity of the euro was maintained. A very false analogy was made with the US, in which it was argued that because European countries all use the same currency, trade imbalances within Europe are sustainable in the same way they are sustainable between states in the US.

    But states in the US are not like states in Europe. Labor and capital mobility in Europe is very low compared to the US, and the Civil War in the US ensured that sovereignty, including most importantly fiscal sovereignty, resided in Washington DC, and not in the various state capitals. The US is clearly as much an optimal currency zone as any large economy can be.

    This isn’t the case in Europe. In fact I would argue that the existence of a common currency in Europe, the euro, is only a little more meaningful than the existence of various currencies under the gold standard, and it was pretty obvious under the gold standard that balance of payments crises could indeed exist.

    So why not also in Europe under the euro? As I see it, domestic German policies, perhaps aimed at absorbing East German unemployment, forced a structural trade surplus. The strong euro, along with the automatic recycling of Germany’s large trade surplus within Europe, ensured the corresponding trade deficits in the rest of Europe -- unless Europeans were willing to enact policies that raised unemployment in order to counter the deficits. As long as the ECB refused to raise interest rates, southern Europe had to accept asset bubbles and rapidly rising debt-fueled consumption.

    This couldn’t go on forever, or even for very long. Now southern Europe is paying the inevitable price, and of course the moralists are accusing the south of being shiftless and lazy, confusing the automatic balancing mechanisms in the balance of payments with moral weakness.

    This is not to say that it is all Germany’s fault (although I’m sure I will be accused of making this claim anyway), but rather that the existence of the euro seriously exacerbated the problem by making it very difficult for certain countries to adjust to Germany’s domestic policies, which generated employment growth at home at the expense of Germany’s trading partners. There is no question that a long history of fiscal irresponsibility in southern Europe made things much worse, but the imbalance could have never gotten so large without Germany’s role, and since in a crisis it is always easier to blame foreigners, bashing Germans will become a very popular sport in much of Europe."
  • Metra boss Phil Pagano's suicide a repeating pageant for Illinois - "When politicos play musical chairs in Illinois, what happens after the music stops and there's no safe place to sit?

    There have been four dead in recent years, unrelated cases of suicide, different except for the acts of the common pageant: The corruption investigators call. The music ends abruptly.

    Two were done in by guns, one on a beach, the other under a bridge. A third was by pills in a construction trailer.

    The fourth came Friday morning during rush hour, announced by that body under that white sheet on the Metra tracks in McHenry County.

    The flesh once belonged to Phil Pagano. For the past 20 years, Pagano was the respected boss of Metra, the commuter rail agency that, unlike the Chicago Transit Authority, actually keeps the trains running on time.

    Over the past week or so, Pagano was under siege, facing investigations both federal and local, suspected of finagling a bonus of more than $50,000 by finessing vacation time, among other things."
  • Real Homes of Genius – Culver City 900 square foot home with three mortgages up to $572,000. A few places down, a 800 square foot home is selling for $500,000. L.A. cities still in housing bubbles. - "From the Zillow description we get the following:

    'Gorgeous poinsettia hedge out front. BIG yard, dog-tight fencing. Huge tree shades the back. Charming retro gas kitchen. Hardwood floors throughout. New tile in kitchen and den/converted garage.'

    This is a lot of description for a 920 square foot home with 2 bedrooms and 1 bath built back in the 1950s. But leave it to Southern Californians to put a nice spin on it! Although we don’t have a picture of the home from whoever gave us the description outside of the Poinsettia, we can thank technology for this front view:
    . . .
    Let us walk through the above. The home was purchased for $235,000 back in 1989. It looks like the person even back in 1989 was required to come in with 10 percent down. It looks like $23,500 was put down on a home costing $235,000. This is really where we should be today. Instead, you can now buy a $670,000+ home with the same down payment. This has tripled the buying power of home owners today even though the economy is in much worse shape than it was back in 1989.

    After the 1989 purchase, a loan was secured on the property from the SBA for $13,300 in 1994. Nothing too big here. Things were calm for a few years after that. Then things in 2003 started picking up. A first mortgage of $239,500 was secured on the place. By 2006, getting $90,000 off a second was a piece of cake in Culver City. Now the home has $329,500 in mortgages. The bubble keeps getting bigger and a third mortgage is put on the place in 2007 for $243,000 (an amount larger than the first mortgage back when the place was purchased!). In total, this 920 square foot home in the end went up to having $572,500 in mortgages from a modest $211,500. This is the history of the housing bubble.

    But now, the home is in foreclosure. Back in November a notice of default was filed. A few months later, the auction date was set. The auction is scheduled for May 19 but hard to say what is going on beyond that. The Zillow Zestimate has this place valued at $538,500. If that were the case, this place wouldn’t be going to auction. Use caution when going by appraisals in high flying Southern California cities loaded with Alt-A loans."
  • Fannie Mae's MyCommunity Mortgage - "Fannie Mae's MyCommunity MortgageTM was at the forefront of the credit crisis, and had many sub-programs, all targeted at low income communities and borrowers. These programs highlighted the mission that made these GSEs essential: they were doing what the private sector would not, serve the historically underserved.

    Unfortunately, lending to people without the ability or willingness to payback homeloans is not sustainable, something that seems obvious now, but try telling that the Boston Fed or the American Economic Review in the 1990s. The key is that MyCommunity Mortgage got bundled into Fannie's ubiquitous DeskTop Underwriter, a mortgage origination program that made these abominations standard. Once they set this up (around 2000, with new twists every year), one can see how these bad ideas spread all over the industry.
    . . .
    The practical credit criteria was merely a signature with an affirmation ('yeah, sure I'll pay you back'), as long as the borrower is sufficiently poor with sufficiently bad credit. It wasn't adverse selection--taking on disproportionate bad credits inadvertently--it was active targeting the bad credits."
  • ‘Vacancy’ Signs Still Posted in Front of Many Colleges - "The disproportionate attention that journalists, including this one, devote to the high rates of rejection at several dozen colleges and universities sometimes masks a basic truth of admissions: hundreds of other institutions have more available slots than qualified applicants.

    Nowhere is that point made more clear than in the annual Space Availability Survey of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, released today.

    In it, students, parents and counselors can find the names and contact information of several hundred colleges and universities that are still accepting applications for the freshman class that will take its seats next fall, and for transfer applicants.

    Among those that still have room are Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut; Cedar Crest College in Pennsylvania; Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire; Texas Wesleyan University, and the University of Arizona."

Theatrical Bookstores

  • Racist Email Leak Was Revenge By "Friend" - "The reason Stephanie Grace's racist email made the tour of the Internet? Yalena Shagall, her 'friend' sent it out because she was angry that Stephanie had confronted her because Yalena f*cked a mutual friend's ex-boyfriend. They had a fight and Yalena told her she would 'ruin her life.' Gawker is reporting the gruesome tale of revenge and pettiness:"
  • Top Law School Grad Sells Movies and Music On-Line From Parent's Basement! - From the comments: "I attended a T14 school and grades DO matter, especially right now when everyone is competing for the few Biglaw first year associate openings left. The T14 schools perpetuate the myth that whoever goes through their halls is guaranteed a lucrative legal position with biglaw or government until they choose to leave or 'burn out'. This is utterly false. Even before the recession, there were people in the bottom half of the T14 graduating without job offers. I knew people who didn't even get a job their 2L summer. It was shocking because my grades were not good but I always got a summer internship. Some people ended up doing research for a professor or working at the law school library. One guy even had his 2L employment rescinded at the last minute after he gave them his first year grades which placed him in the bottom quartile of his class. Never underestimate the callousness of these biglaw partners or their ability to screw over people even after they guarantee you a job.

    Another myth that most T14 students believe is that they can keep their biglaw job for as long as they want until they eventually 'burn out', usually in about five years. That's not true, at least not anymore. I know plenty of people who were laid off in less than a year, a year, or two years. Some were fired after failing the bar exam. Others were unlucky enough to accept an offer with a firm that immediately went under several months after graduation. And then there are people who quit after 18 months or so after finding out that they hate practicing law. I couldn't even stand being at my summer job. The work and the Type-A personalities were awful. That's why I recommend to anyone thinking about attending law school to work as a paralegal or legal secretary after college to give you an idea of the type of work and people you will need to deal with to be successful as a lawyer. Being smart and attending a T14 school doesn't mean that you're cut out to be a lawyer and unfortunately a lot of people don't figure that out until after they spend $200k, three years in law school, and take the bar exam. "
  • Don't Assume That You Will Get a High Salary from an Established Employer within Nine Months of Graduation from Law School - "Many enter law school clueless about law practice and how the world works in general. Many of them had spent the past four years in academia having never paid a car payment, insurance premium, phone bill, rent or mortgage. Yet every graduating class (high school, college, grad school) is always sent off with some message of hope that they've made an excellent choice and that they have accomplished a major feat. They're rewarded with jobs at McDonald's, retail stores, and financial advisor service firms too eager to take them on for unpaid training. What pre-laws assume is that at least one firm will be able to pay them a decent salary within a reasonable time after graduation, and it's just a matter of networking and applying until a firm is just dying to hire you.

    Yes, there are firms dying to hire you, but only if you will work for little to nothing! Competition for these is growing by the day, and standards for these positions are increasing. It won't be long until a doc review (once reserved for the bottom of the class) will only be available to law review and top ten percent. Oh, wait, I think that has happened in New York already. "
  • 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."
  • Hardworking students without clout are left out - "According to a Tribune story this week, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Lisa's Daddy, applied his clout to help dozens of political allies and campaign donors trying to get their relatives into the University of Illinois.

    Many of the relatives who were accepted wouldn't have made it into the U. of I. on their own merits, the story said.

    Three of the students backed by Madigan are relatives of North Shore attorney Steven Yonover and Illinois Appellate Judge Margaret Frossard. Yonover dropped more than $70,000 into campaign funds controlled by Mike Madigan.

    Wouldn't the lawyer and the distinguished appellate judge make fine lecturers at a university-sponsored seminar titled 'Ethics in Illinois'?

    Boss Madigan is one of the most powerful politicians in the state, and the least accountable, hiding from reporters, working in the shadows.

    But U. of I. officials know who butters their bread.
    . . .
    Right now, I'm picturing that high school student, the one at the kitchen table past midnight, the one without clout. This student's parents can't afford to make big campaign donations, to put the student on Madigan's clout list, or on the clout lists of all the other legislators.

    I'm thinking of that Illinois student reading American history, about the Revolution, about all the Americans who suffered, yet refused to drop to their knees.

    What do you tell that student now? That it's OK to bend a knee and kiss the hand because this is Illinois?"

Sisters on the fly

  • Five Hidden Dangers of Facebook - " 1. Your information is being shared with third parties

    2. Privacy settings revert to a less safe default mode after each redesign

    3. Facebook ads may contain malware

    4. Your real friends unkowingly make you vulnerable

    5. Scammers are creating fake profiles"
  • Jaccard Supertendermatic - "The Jaccard SuperTendermatic 48 blade meat tenderizer is simply the best tool I have ever found for turning tough but flavorful cuts, like flank steak and skirt steak, from chewy and hard to eat into tender and easy to bite and chew. To use the tenderizer you simply place it over the piece of meat on a cutting board and push down like an ink stamp forcing the blades through the meat. I am a professional chef and serious foodie from Texas, and I simply cannot imagine making either a chicken fried steak or a good fajita steak without it. "
  • Shall We Laugh or Cry at Morgan Hill? - "What are we to make of the five students who were temporarily suspended by the administration at Live Oak high school in Morgan Hill for purportedly seeking to provoke--by the wearing of various American flag insignia, no less--Mexican-American students who were at the time celebrating, with some Mexican flags, Cinco de Mayo Day?

    Or, in the words of aggrieved student Annicia Nunez, as picked up by the news services, 'I think they should apologize ’cause it is a Mexican heritage day. We don’t deserve to get disrespected like that. We wouldn’t do that on Fourth of July.'

    Let us deconstruct this episode to discover, if we can, the proverbial ‘teachable moment ’ of this collective farce.
    . . .
    I learned from this episode only that Cinco de Mayo is the moral equivalent for many of our citizens to the Fourth of July, that no one in authority at an American high school understands the U.S. Constitution, that students wearing American flags were at one point to be suspended, and those ditching class in mass were not; that reconciliation is defined by each group putting their own respective flags next to each other and then blaming the press for this national embarrassment; and that in our parochial and isolated culture of central and coastal California, no one seems to imagine that elsewhere Americans are not all unhinged, but in fact see us as the deranged. The Live Oak people seem wounded fawns, hurt as if everywhere in the United States all Americans naturally assume that Cinco de Mayo is simply the alternate Fourth of July."
  • Reevu Helmets Feature A Rearview Mirror In The Visor - "What’s most intriguing about these Reevu helmets isn’t the fact they let a rider see what’s behind them without looking back, similar helmets using cameras and LCDs already exist, it’s that they do it all with optics and mirrors, so there’s no electronics to power, or malfunction. In fact, the multiple mirror system used by the Reevu to ‘bend’ the light around the rider’s head is made from a reflective polycarbonate material instead of glass, making it lighter and almost impossible to break. Kind of important for something designed to absorb impacts."
  • What Every Developer Should Know About URLs - "Being a developer this day and age, it would be almost impossible for you to avoid doing some kind of web-related work at some point in your career. That means you will inevitably have to deal with URLs at one time or another. We all know what URLs are about, but there is a difference between knowing URLs like a user and knowing them like a developer should know them.

    As a web developer you really have no excuse for not knowing everything there is to know about URLs, there is just not that much to them. But, I have found that even experienced developers often have some glaring holes in their knowledge of URLs. So, I thought I would do a quick tour of everything that every developer should know about URLs. Strap yourself in – this won't take long :)."

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 5/12/10"

May 12, 2010 07:27 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Is the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation the Next Bailout?

The [Pension Benefit Guaranty Corportion (PBGC)] cannot confirm investment revenue figures reported by the independent contractors hired to lend securities on its behalf. The result is the PBGC often gives erroneous information to Congress. Though the agency is self-financing through insurance premiums paid by the companies that operate defined benefit plans, the PBGC is in deficit for $21.9 billion. At the same time the PBGC’s potential obligations to cover pensions in faltering companies tripled last year to $168 billion. It’s an ongoing problem. In 2006 the agency had a deficit of $23 billion. As GMU finance professor Anthony Sanders notes, the PBGC is a model that cannot be sustained. Another reminder that the ultimate guarantor of government guarantees is the taxpayer.

Is the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation the Next Bailout?

Underfunded Pensions, Pension Dumping, and Retirement Security
Underfunded Pensions, Pension Dumping, and Retirement Security

Underfunded Pensions, Pension Dumping, and Retirement Security:
Pension Funds, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), Bailout Risks, Impact on the Federal Budget, and the Pension Protection Act of 2006

Compiled by TheCapitol.Net
Authors: Patrick Purcell, Jennifer Staman, Kelly Kinneen, William J. Klunk, Peter Orszag, and Bradley D. Belt

2009, 319 pages
ISBN: 1587331535 ISBN 13: 978-1-58733-153-4
Softcover book: $19.95

For more information, see

RL34443, RS22650, R40171, RL34656, GAO-09-207, RL33937

Continue reading "Is the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation the Next Bailout?"

May 10, 2010 09:37 PM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 5/8/10

"How Russians play the balalaika these days."

  • 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
  • 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."
  • Illegal Immigration: Not Like Getting Drunk or Stealing Television Sets - "The best way to get rid of the bad external effects of unlawful immigration is to bring what is lawful in line with what is right. A common North American labor market would bring cross-border labor migration within the rule of law, thereby establishing order and peace where there is now disorder and violence. All this while increasing liberty and encouraging rather than discouraging cooperation and the efficient production of wealth!

    I’m not sure if I buy Ross’s argument that (much more modest) liberalizing reform becomes more realistic if enforcement under current law is improved. To me this sounds like an argument that if the state is able to make its coercion more effective, and the side-effects of its injustice less visible, Americans will feel more comfortable about opening things up a bit. Maybe it works like that, but I’m skeptical. Would a better executed Jim Crow have sped the way toward racial equality?"
  • Tip-Toe to the Exits? - "I got Bank of America to sign off their rights to pursue a deficiency judgement on a short sale, when the mortgage was purchase money. You’d think it would make sense for the lenders to cooperate when the borrower can walk without recourse, but it’s not automatic.

    Maybe this example is a sign of BofA trying to clean out the drawer? This short sale has been in process since September, and we already lost the buyer.

    In addition, for the first time they’ve issued a prompt for me to hurry up with my BPOs. They are making their agents produce two opinions of value before listing, which is annoying, but getting some additional pressure from them might mean they’re trying to pick up steam?"
  • Expect Nothing - "If you want to call for a 'rescheduling' of Greece’s debts -- a position that is becoming increasingly popular among leading north European intellectuals -- that is fine. But you also need to recognize that the policy elite (central banks and ministries of finance) are completely unprepared to handle the consequences, which would be immediate and devastating for other weaker eurozone countries.

    You simply cannot do a low-cost or small unilateral restructuring of government debt in this kind of situation; the market will at once take that as a signal that Portugal, Spain, Italy and perhaps even Ireland will face difficulties (in fact, this is exactly what spreads in the 2-year European government bond market are saying today). The French may smile upon such outcomes with a feeling of superiority, but they might also consider not throwing bricks in glass houses.

    It is fine -- even appropriate -- to emphasize that big European banks have aided and abetted the irresponsible behavior of eurozone authorities. The profound stupidity of these banks-as-organizations is beyond belief, and it is deeply puzzling quite why leading figures in the US Senate would see them as a model for anything other than what we need to euthanize as soon as possible in the global financial system.

    But do not fall into the trap of thinking just because 'megabanks are bad' (undoubtedly true) that you can whack them with losses and not face the consequences -- these people are powerful for a reason; they hold a knife to our throats. For all his hubris, missteps, and over-reliance on Goldman group think, Hank Paulson had a point in September 2008: If the choice is chaotic global collapse or unsavory financial rescue, which are you going to choose?

    The Europeans will do nothing this week or for the foreseeable future. They have not planned for these events, they never gamed this scenario, and their decision-making structures are incapable of updating quickly enough. The incompetence at the level of top European institutions is profound and complete; do not let anyone fool you otherwise."
  • The Mother of All Bubbles: Huge National Debts Could Push Euro Zone into Bankruptcy - "For the moment, this is the last skirmish between the old ideas and ideals of prosperity paid for on credit and a generous state, against the new realization that the time has come to foot the bill. The only question is: Who's paying?
    . . .
    European governments agree that saving Greece is imperative. They are worried about the euro, and the Germans are concerned about their banks, which, lured by the prospect of high returns, have become saturated with government bonds from Greece and other southern European countries. They are also terrified that after a Greek bankruptcy, other weak euro countries could be attacked by speculators and forced to their knees.

    There are, in fact, striking similarities to the Lehman bankruptcy. This isn't exactly surprising. The financial crisis isn't over by a long shot, but has only entered a new phase. Today, the world is no longer threatened by the debts of banks but by the debts of governments, including debts which were run up rescuing banks just a year ago.

    The banking crisis has turned into a crisis of entire nations, and the subprime mortgage bubble into a government debt bubble. This is why precisely the same questions are being asked today, now that entire countries are at risk of collapse, as were being asked in the fall of 2008 when the banks were on the brink: How can the calamity be prevented without laying the ground for an even bigger disaster? Can a crisis based on debt be solved with even more debt? And who will actually rescue the rescuers in the end, the ones who overreached?
    . . .
    All of the major industrialized countries have lived beyond their means for decades. Even in good times, government budget deficits continued to expand. The United States, in particular, paid for its prosperity on credit. The poor example set by the state was contagious -- US citizens began buying cars and houses they couldn't really afford, and banks speculated with borrowed money.

    Things couldn't possibly go well forever and, indeed, the financial crisis put an end to the days of unfettered spending. To avert a collapse, governments came to the rescue with vast sums of money, guaranteed their citizens' savings and jump-started the economy with massive stimulus programs -- all with borrowed money, of course.
    . . .
    The current government debt bubble is the last of all possible bubbles. Either governments manage to slowly let out the air, or the bubble will burst. If that happens, the world will truly be on the brink of disaster.

    When Greece faces a possible bankruptcy, the euro-zone countries and the IMF come to its aid. But what happens if the entire euro group bites off more than it can chew? What if the United States can no longer service its debt because, say, China is no longer willing to buy American treasury bonds? And what if Japan, which is running into more and more problems, falters in its attempts to pay for its now-chronic deficits?

    The conditions that prevail in Greece exist in many countries, which is why governments around the world are paying such close attention to how -- and if -- the Europeans gain control over the crisis.
    . . .
    Washington is worried about being drawn into the vortex of national bankruptcies itself. The national debt has exploded in the United States in the last two years, more than in almost any other country, because the government has had to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to support the economy and banks.

    Geithner fears that investors could also at some point lose confidence in the soundness of American government finances. According to a strictly confidential IMF document, referred to internally as an early warning exercise, the US's finances are still considered sound -- with, however, some qualifications.

    The United States is still capable of fulfilling all of its obligations, the document states, but it also points out the worrisome rate at which the national debt is growing.
    . . .
    The rescue package is now a done deal, and the Greeks have a clearer idea of what is in store for them. A European nation has hardly ever been expected to make comparable sacrifices in peacetime. In return for the bailout deal announced Sunday, the Greek government will implement further cost-cutting measures, including drastic reductions in salaries and pensions, further tax hikes and a stricter austerity program for all of the country's public budgets.

    It won't be long before new unrest and protests erupt among the Greeks, with their penchant for strikes. Metalworkers and candidates for civil service positions took to the streets of Athens last week, and there were further protests over the weekend. 'Panic is slowly taking hold in the minds of people,' says economics professor Savvas Robolis.

    Because the Greeks, despite the massive capital injections from Brussels and Washington, face an extremely uncertain future and the country can expect to see 'explosive unemployment,' Robolis isn't certain that social protests will remain peaceful in the future.

    If not, speculators will quickly pounce on the euro again. They have made enormous profits in recent weeks and months, after betting on Greece's growing difficulties and a constantly weakening euro. Now they are just waiting for the next opportunity."
  • Don't Panic - "Some big stocks like Procter & Gamble and Citigroup had bid-ask spreads effectively at 10%. It wasn't clear if the Mayan doomsday had been accelerated, Israel was in a war, who knew? Later it was mentioned this was caused by some poor guy at Citi who sold $16 Billion worth of S&P futures, not the $16 Million he was supposed to trade (his performance review this year should be leaked to the internet as comedy gold) Some exchanges are going to cancel some silly trades, but they had to have moved more than 60%, meaning a lot slightly less ridiculous trades are going through.

    Just another reminder: if the market is going bananas, stand back. Retail traders get screwed in these environments, but only the impatient ones. Don't think you will get out first, the institutions are way ahead of you."

How to Resist the Federal Government?

  • The Case for Keeping a Clunker - "That less-than-attractive, somehow-still-working car in your driveway? It seems just ripe for a trade-in for a more efficient and green vehicle. Then again, it might be better for your wallet, and the planet, to let it ride out its remaining life.

    Kentin Waits at the Wise Bread blog sums up some of the fallacies of thinking you'll save money, and environmental impact, by trading in a working but weathered car for a brand-new hybrid. As Waits writes, there's a lot to be said for the advancements in safety, but depreciation, insurance rates, and manufacturing costs should weigh into the equation:"
  • Google jumps on the online bookstore bandwagon - "Following in the footsteps of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple, Google announced today that the search giant will be launching an online bookstore this summer. The bookstore will launch as Google Editions and will include a Google-managed online storefront as well as an affiliate program that will allow book retailers and independent shops to sell Google Editions’ books on their own website. Google will leverage its current book search service to provide customers with the ability to search and purchase books from the online bookstore."
  • Three-year bachelor's degree gains popularity - "Bortolazzo said she knows that finishing college in three years won't work for most students and that many are not rushing to graduate into a depressed economy. But she recommends a fast track 'to anybody who is really motivated, feels they have the time to commit to it and really wants to get out in the job market.'

    Students like Bortolazzo are drawing attention these days as families look to reduce tuition bills and colleges try to stretch limited budgets and classroom space. About a dozen, mostly small, U.S. colleges and universities now offer formal routes to earning a degree in three years instead of the usual four or five. And many others, including the University of California, are studying ways to start such an option.

    'It's really indefensible in the current environment for universities not to be exploring more efficient use of their facilities and how to save students time and money,' said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a former U.S. Education Department secretary who is a strong advocate of three-year degrees. Even if they make up a minority of college populations, he said, 'some well-prepared students can do their work in three years, and colleges should create a track for them.'

    Not everyone agrees. Some educators worry that academic quality could suffer in three-year programs, which usually waive some requirements or push students to take very heavy course loads. Others say that most college students just need the extra year to grow up -- and to explore."
  • 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."
  • Shahzad the Sleeper - "JJA: which gets us to the first question after all: was Mr. Shahzad supposed to blow himself up or what? He seems to have been trained by experts in suicide terrorism, after all, and the jihad doesn’t like to leave witnesses behind. As my old Israeli friends can tell you, once a terrorist decides he doesn’t want to go to paradise, he’s likely to be very cooperative with those who love life.

    ML: yes, he seems to be quite happy to talk to interrogators, doesn’t be? But that’s a good question. I remember that in Iraq, Al Qaeda recruited young men who were told that they were not going to die, that they only had to place the car bomb or truck bomb close to the target and then walk away. It was always a lie, however, and there was some very grisly evidence. One poor chap was blown out of his truck and ended up in the hospital. When he realized what had happened he went on Iraqi television to warn his fellow jihadis that they shouldn’t believe the recruiters. I wonder how Shahzad feels. He’s certainly got away from his truck in a big hurry didn’t he?

    JJA: Of course he did. His handlers may have made a mistake. On the one hand, he was almost certainly a sleeper. He came here legally, he had assimilated, and he became a citizen. Then they brought him over for training and sent him back to the battlefield. It’s standard operating procedure."

Things Economists Should Stay Away From, Fire Safety Edition…

  • How to Block Cellphone Spam - "As it turns out, Verizon Wireless offers these features, too. Sprint and T-Mobile don’t go quite as far, but they do offer some text-spam filtering options. Here’s how you find the controls for each company:

    * AT&T: Log in at Under Preferences, you’ll see the text-blocking and alias options. Here’s also where you can block messages from specific e-mail addresses or Web sites.

    * Verizon Wireless: Log in at Under Text Messaging, click Preferences. Click Text Blocking. You’re offered choices to block text messages from e-mail or from the Web. Here again, you can block specific addresses or Web sites. (Here’s where you set up your aliases, too.)

    * Sprint: No auto-blocking is available at all, but you can block specific phone numbers and addresses. To get started, log in at On the top navigation bar, click My Online Tools. Under Communication Tools, click Text Messaging. On the Compose a Text Message page, under Text Messaging Options, click Settings & Preferences. In the text box, you can enter a phone number, email address or domain (such as that you want to block.

    * T-Mobile: T-Mobile doesn’t yet offer a 'block text messages from the Internet' option. You can block all messages sent by e-mail, though, or permit only messages sent to your phone’s e-mail address or alias, or create filters that block text messages containing certain phrases. It’s all waiting when you log into and click Communication Tools."
  • Six reasons to hate Facebook's new anti-privacy system, "Connections" - "Wondering exactly why people are so pissed about Facebook's latest display of contempt for user privacy? The Electronic Frontier Frontier Foundation's Kurt Opsahl has a good, short article explaining just what's going on with the new 'Connections' anti-feature:"
  • Do Girls Speed More Than Boys? Survey Says Girls Drive More Aggressively; Insurers Up Rates - "Car accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. teenagers, according to government statistics. But accident rates have plummeted in recent years, even as the proliferation of digital devices has added a huge new source of distractions."
  • Woman painting nails before crash found guilty - "Though Lora Hunt insisted she wasn't painting her fingernails when she hit and killed motorcyclist Anita Zaffke, a Lake County jury Thursday convicted her of reckless homicide in the 2009 crash.
    . . .
    Hunt was charged after her Chevrolet Impala struck and killed Zaffke on May 2, 2009, as she stopped her motorcycle for a traffic signal at Route 12 and Old McHenry Road near Lake Zurich.

    Lake County prosecutor Michael Mermel argued during the trial that Hunt was so distracted as she painted her fingernails that she never saw Zaffke stopped ahead of her.
    . . .
    But her attorney said he thinks authorities filed the charge against Hunt in part because she told police after the crash she had been painting her nails as she drove."
  • Facebook's Anti-Privacy Backlash Gains Ground - "Facebook originally earned its core base of users by offering them simple and powerful controls over their personal information. As Facebook grew larger and became more important, it could have chosen to maintain or improve those controls. Instead, it's slowly but surely helped itself -- and its advertising and business partners -- to more and more of its users' information, while limiting the users' options to control their own information.

    You want to make your Facebook totally private to anyone but your actual friends? You can’t, though you can come close. And it will only take you 50 clicks inside Facebook’s Wonderland-like labyrinth of privacy controls. Have fun.

    This week brought news of two separate bugs that let Websites secretly install their apps on your Facebook profile and let your friends eavesdrop on your private chats. Facebook swatted both bugs relatively promptly, but not before they made their way into the press. I can understand how Facebook missed the chat security hole -- you have to follow a fairly arcane series of steps to reproduce it. But calling the secret app problem a 'bug' is a bit hard to swallow.

    Somehow, in the months of testing data integration with third parties, we’re expected to believe nobody at Facebook noticed a few extra apps on their profiles? Please."

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 5/8/10"

May 8, 2010 07:57 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 5/4/10

Advice to the Tea Party from John Samples, author of 'The Struggle to Limit Government'

Richard Feynman on Ways of Thinking (1), from the BBC TV series 'Fun to Imagine' (1983)

  • 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
  • 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."
  • Protesting For All the Wrong Reasons: Student Walkouts in New Jersey - "This week students in Newark, Montclair and South Orange, N.J. walked out of class. They were protesting Governor Christie’s proposed education cuts. The walkouts were organized in part via Facebook and a college student who attended high school in Bergen County.

    And now there is even worse news. Only ten percent of high school students taking the Alternative Graduation Exam passed language arts and 34 percent passed math. This exam is given only to those students who fail the traditional High School Proficiency Exam. For years, the 'alternative' has been a subject of controversy. Districts graded their own exams. And nearly everyone passed."
  • Planned Economy, Privacy Problems - "If someone asked you what’s wrong with a planned economy, your first answer might not be 'privacy.' But it should be. For proof, look no further than the financial regulation bill the Senate is debating. Its 1,400 pages contain strong prescriptions for a government-micromanaged economy--and the undoing of your financial privacy. Here’s a look at some of the personal data collection this revamp of financial services regulation will produce.
    . . .
    The Office of Financial Research is also a sop to industry. Morgan Stanley estimates that it will save the company 20 to 30 percent of its operating costs. The advocates for this bureaucracy want to replace the competitive environment for financial data with a uniform government data platform. Students of technology will instantly recognize what this data monoculture means: If the government’s data and assumptions are bad, everyone’s data and assumptions are bad, and all players in the financial services system fall together. The Office of Financial Research itself poses a threat to financial stability.
    . . .
    Nor was the Social Security number about creating a uniform national identifier that facilitates both lawful (excessive) data collection and identity fraud. The construction of surveillance infrastructure doesn’t turn on the intentions of its builders. They’re just giving another turn to the wheels that crush privacy."
  • Culture of Deceit: Why Dick Fuld So Needlessly and Recklessly Perjured Himself Before Congress - "Yet another whistle blower who has been completely ignored by the SEC just stepped forward to finally be acknowledged by the media.

    A Bloomberg analyst reported around noon NY time that they had verified Mr. Budde's story, and that indeed Dick Fuld easily had received cash in excess of $500 million in compensation for the period in question, higher than even Henry Waxman had asserted in his charts during Dick Fuld's testimony.

    Mr. Budde, a former counsel who was frustrated and plain fed up with the culture of personal greed and deceit among the Lehman executives stepped forward again to tell his story after being completely ignored by the SEC and the Lehman Board of Directors."
  • Ghost estates testify to Irish boom and bust - "David McWilliams is the man who coined the phrase 'ghost estate' when he wrote about the first signs of a disastrous over-build in Ireland back in 2006.

    Now, it is a concept the whole country is depressingly familiar with. Most Irish people have one on their doorstep - an ugly reminder, says the economist and broadcaster, of wounded national pride.

    'Emotionally, we have all taken a battering,' he says. 'Like every infectious virus, the housing boom got into our pores. You could feel it.

    'You'd go to the pub and people would be talking about what house they'd bought. And now a lot of people, myself included, think 'God, we were conned'.'
    . . .
    There are 621 ghost estates across Ireland now, a legacy of those hopeful years. One in five Irish homes is unoccupied."
  • Foreclosure Woes Loom As Housing Stimulus Ends - "Friday marks the last day that homebuyers can qualify for an $8,000 federal tax credit. The government has been trying to rescue the housing market from collapse. But now it's taking away most of that life support.

    The Federal Reserve a few weeks ago stopped another program that was helping to keep mortgage rates low through the purchase of mortgage securities. So the housing market is now going to have to try to stand on its own two feet.

    But some analysts say millions of people are still headed for foreclosure, and the added inventory of homes could glut the market and keep pushing prices down."
  • Will there be a doctor in the house? - "If anyone would take the trouble to talk to doctors, they would be able see through some of the myths being accepted without question by most of the players in this yearlong debate. Since the start of this round of ‘free health care for all’ free-for-all, Obama has stated “if you like you doctor, you can keep him or her”. Has it never occurred to anyone that your doctor might not want to keep you?
    . . .
    What is causing this mass exodus by doctors? The same AAPS survey yielded results that could only be surprising to anyone but practicing doctors. Of the respondents, 66 percent said the main reason was government interference in the practice of medicine, 63 percent cited hassles with Medicare, 80 percent expressed fear of unwarranted investigation or persecution and 56 percent listed the reason as the reduced fees from Medicare. Those who bandy back and forth how great government run health care is have never tried to deliver medical care under it. Unless you are in it, you have no idea of the immense burden, down-right hassle and fear-provoking ordeal it is to have to work with the government in providing medical services and getting reimbursement.
    . . .
    Now image what it is like to be called for an audit, where the rules are stacked against you and the same people who run your audit adjudicate the outcome. As awful as that sounds, multiply that several times over. A decade ago the tax code was 17,000 pages, it is now estimated to be 80,000. The Medicare law, however, is now over 100,000 pages. The paperwork is unbelievably oppressive and for so little result. Payments from the government are so low that they often don’t even cover the expense of collecting the money. A stroke of a pen in Congress and doctor’s salaries are reduced, notwithstanding that expenses rise continually, including the expense of trying to work with the government to get paid. Doctors who do accept Medicare patients relegate 22 percent of their staff time to Medicare compliance issues. It costs over 25 percent more to process a claim to Medicare than private insurance. Even so, it is nearly impossible to participate in the existing government health care system without making mistakes. Just try to keep your nose clean following all of those extensive, ambiguous and ever changing rules. You can’t. For all of these reasons, doctors have been leaving the Medicare program in droves, more with each passing month. Almost 25 percent of doctors refuse to treat new Medicare patients. This is the government’s idea of 'Medicare is working.' But it gets worse. Much worse.
    . . .
    A few examples of the draconian measures aimed at doctors include fines and jail time for trivial errors. There are now mandated $10,000 fines for each instance of putting the wrong billing codes on claims. That means a busy, minimum wage clerk putting one wrong digit on a claim form subjects the doctor to accusations of intentional fraud. ObamaCare would increase those fines to $50,000 per mistake. There are five-year prison sentences for refusing to release private medical records to the government (without the patient’s permission) or having the audacity to give medical care other than the market value. That means that doctors offering charity care are at risk for prison or fines. Even more shocking is that through the law doctors accused of fraud are subject to asset forfeiture and arrest, actions that until the bill’s enactment into law were originally used to stop organized crime. I did not say their assets were seized, bank accounts frozen and goods confiscated when convicted of a crime, these things happen on suspicion of wrongdoing.
    . . .
    Why would anyone in their right mind want to go into a profession, let alone stay in a profession, where one can be falsely accused for even the most minor of clerical transgressions, the result of which is that all one’s money and possessions are confiscated by the government even before you are found guilty by a proper court of law?"
  • My problem with congress in a nutshell - "'Balancing the budget and reducing the debt, in my mind, are not ends in and of themselves,' said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. 'We can't afford to skimp on our children's education, assuring access to quality, affordable health care, retirement security, achieving energy independence, investing in our infrastructure, supporting medical research, creating more jobs.'
    . . .
    While I do partly agree with the first phrase to the extent that I don't favor balancing the budget at current spending levels, the hideous combination of arrogance, profligacy and ignorance shown here typifies, to me, how our congress operates (and has operated for quite a while now)."
  • NSA on Computer Network Attack & Defense - "I spent the past few days in Mexico City participating in the annual meeting of the Honeynet Project, an international group dedicated to developing and deploying technologies that collect intelligence on the methods malicious hackers use in their attacks. The event brought in experts from around the globe, and our hosts -- the National Autonomous University of Mexico (in Spanish, UNAM) were gracious and helpful.

    As it happens, honeynets and other “deception technologies” are among the approaches discussed in the following document, written by the National Security Agency’s Information Assurance Directorate. A source of mine passed it along a while back, but I only rediscovered it recently. I could not find a public version of this document that was published online previously, so it has been uploaded here.

    The 605-page PDF document reads like a listing of the pros and cons for a huge array of defensive and counterintelligence approaches and technologies that an entity might adopt in defending its networks."
  • Homeopathic Bomb - "The world has been placed on a heightened security alert following reports that New Age terrorists have harnessed the power of homeopathy for evil. 'Homeopathic weapons represent a major threat to world peace,' said President Barack Obama, 'they might not cause any actual damage but the placebo effect could be quite devastating.'
    . . .
    Homeopathic bombs are comprised of 99.9% water but contain the merest trace element of explosive. The solution is then repeatedly diluted so as to leave only the memory of the explosive in the water molecules. According to the laws of homeopathy, the more that the water is diluted, the more powerful the bomb becomes."
  • Common Sense in the Hands of Dilettantes - "Under the Stanford Revolution, law schools will now broaden the legal education to include all the other aspects of life that will enable them to be metadisciplinaritists, engaging the 'interplay' between technical expertise and common sense." There's a dilettante in the room, and he's called 'Professor'.

    Here's the deal, plain and simple. That whole meta-inter-disciplarnialotomist thing you're promoting? We call that undergrad. If you didn't get enough of it there, then there's always the school of hard knocks. We call that life. Are you eggheads kidding us? You're going to charge kids who couldn't get into Med School $40 grand a year to take the electives they missed the first time around and call that law school? Are you nutz?"
  • The great American mortgage casino -- How the Goldman case is about the broken down system that allowed massive gambling in America’s housing market for the last decade. Average sales price down because distress sales still account for 30 percent of home sales nationwide. - "What is hard to understand from a psychological standpoint is how people can think things are good when we have over 7 million mortgages that are either 30+ days late or in some stage of foreclosure? We are, as of today even with all these new measures, near the peak of the foreclosure problem. Last month was the highest foreclosure filing month ever recorded! This is not good. How someone can interpret this as good news really baffles the senses. Until that distress percentage creeps down into the single digits, the market is highly volatile.
    . . .
    Just like people look back on Tulip Mania or the technology bubble, people will be asking how in the world did we allow so much gambling to take place with mortgages? But more importantly, they’ll be asking why we didn’t reform and fix such an obvious mistake even after so much economic pain was unleashed."
  • American Baby - "That is one big reason why the ongoing scandals rocking the financial sector are creating such outrage and upset among the American polity. Citizens are discovering that a very large percentage of people whom they used to admire and envy for mouth-watering financial success earned a large portion of that success by cheating, by gaming the system, and by rigging the rules in their favor. What seems to outrage many Americans even more is that these very financiers do not seem to recognize that they have violated the implicit social norms almost everybody else seems to accept. They hide behind a defense of arrogance, superciliousness, and moral obliviousness which makes most Americans' teeth grind in frustration.

    This is a dangerous situation for the plutocracy. For, when you get right down to it, most Americans are not really interested in supporting a system that is designed to preserve the wealth and privileges of those who have already made it to the top. Instead, they want one that will give as many people as possible a reasonably fair shot at reaching the top themselves. That is a distinction which seems to elude many of the wealthy and powerful. They misperceive the struggle as one of capitalism versus socialism, when what it really is is a struggle for the heart and soul of capitalism in this country. On one side is a new aristocracy of money, entrenched interests, and cronyism, and on the other is an ethos of equal opportunity for all."
  • Government Fraud - "'Current state pension accounting practices are inaccurate and outmoded. Private pension plans would not be allowed to use such methods.'

    Of course, no one will ever be sued by the SEC, prosecuted by the DOJ, or McCarthied by a Congressional committee for this. Or for the equivalent Federal fraud in making untenable promises for future Social Security and Medicare entitlements.

    Because this fraud is perpetrated by people who were Elected, it is sanctioned by Divine Right. Anyway, it cannot possibly be fraud, because government is 'us.'"
  • Horrible New Paperwork Requirement Slipped into Health Care Bill - "A little noticed provision in the recently passed health care reform bill will require every payment to corporations over $600 to be reported on a Form 1099 to the IRS, including payments for the purchase of merchandise and services. This provision takes effect in 2012.

    The current law requires a Form 1099 to be submitted to the IRS when your business pays more than $600 for rent, interest, dividends, and non-employee services if the payments are made to entities other than corporations. Currently, payments made to a corporation and payments for merchandise are not required to be reported.
    . . .
    My small business has over a thousand vendors. I would have to hire someone full time for a month to do this. And it would be to zero purpose. The IRS would be so flooded with forms that there would be no way they could pull any useful information from the blizzard. This is yet another example of legislators operating with absolutely no idea how commerce actually works. We have coined a name for it within our firm -- we call it arrogant ignorance."

The Thought Experiment

  • Taboo and Not Taboo at Elite Universities - "In short, what’s taboo on elite American campuses is ideas and actions that many people find offensive, but only if those ideas and actions happen to conflict with the felt commitments of left-wing ideology."
  • Muni Bonds: Time to Head for Higher Ground? - "J. P. Morgan and Charles Schwab have just announced a program to make municipal bonds more available to small investors.

    Let's see, record low interest rates and looming risk of default from undisclosed obligations, or perhaps a brisk uptake in inflation. Sounds like a plan (for the big dogs to unload)."
  • The perfect roast chicken - "The second recipe, from cookery writer Annie Bell, takes a completely different tack, slipping in a crafty 10 minute poach before the bird goes into the oven. It's a clever idea -- poached chicken is famously succulent -- but a risky one too, given the importance of dry skin for a crispy finish. In direct contravention of Keller's prohibition on steam, as well as drizzling oil on to the chicken once it's been patted dry, I'm also instructed to tip a couple of millimetres of water into the roasting tin before putting into the oven at 220˚C for 40 minutes. The ensuing steam sets off the fire alarm, but the cooked bird is browner than I'd anticipated, presumably because of the high cooking temperature. Although the rather elastic skin attracts considerably less excitement, it still tastes pretty good, and the meat beneath is wonderfully juicy. Annie's poaching trick is definitely a crowd-pleaser, with one of the panel claiming it's the best roast chicken she's ever had." ht Marginal Revolution
  • Are people remembered by how they lived their entire lives? - "I sincerely hope I have enough foreknowledge of when I'll die to stop being an utter bastard for those 5 minutes before I croak and donate everything to charity."
  • 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."
  • Big Growth In Geothermal Energy - "For states that do not have good geothermal or wind fulfillment of renewables mandates has got to be tough (meaning expensive). I am wondering what the costs for these geothermal plants turn out to be. One can't predict the costs just from initial construction costs because the drilled pipes to the deep hot areas can clog up and also the heat can not last. So redrilling can become necessary and so geothermal's cost can vary.

    Geothermal has one big advantage over solar and wind: 24x7 operation."
  • Lies of the Ethics Industry: How the champions of "good government" suppress speech and sow cynicism - "Our 21st century politics might be regarded as an ethical golden age--at least in contrast to the corruption of the 19th century, when senators were on railroad payrolls and urban machines pilfered public treasuries. Yet according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, only 22 percent of citizens now trust government 'almost always or most of the time.'

    Ironically, the trust deficit is partly a result of the very transparency rules adopted to encourage confidence in government. Enacted after some idiots in Richard Nixon's White House broke into the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee--apparently guided by the aphorism 'nothing's too cheap to steal'--transparency laws were supposed to shine light on the influence of cash. Which they did. But they also left an even bigger impression that money is the root of all public policy evil.

    Four groups now work to convince us we have the worst government money can buy: (1) an ethics industry spawned in Washington by Watergate, which features nonprofits lobbying for regulation of speech they don't like; (2) journalists who collude with ethics purveyors, writing cheap-and-easy stories fitting a corruption narrative they create; (3) politicians, especially Democratic Progressive Era throwbacks, who think evil-doing can be stopped with new and better rules and who pander to the ethics industry, the media, and (ironically) to citizens convinced that Democrats are just as sleazy as Republicans; and (4) citizens, frustrated by the budget-busting consequences of the free lunches we accept from politicians.
    . . .
    Lost in this televised Kabuki theater is any serious attempt to address the really big public policy problems facing the country, including massive entitlement payouts for the elderly, the bipartisan jobs program known as national defense, and gigantic interest payments on the national debt. Who actually believes that removing money from politics will help fix any of that?"
  • Acquisitions, from Victor Niederhoffer - "One has seen this happen often times when I was in the finder business with buyers trying to cover up their own lapses by buying to boost lapses in their own business. Often the two blades of the scissors come together with the buyer trying to pull the wool over the seller and the seller over the buyer. The net result to me has always been that companies that make it a principal part of the business to buy companies seem to me to have inordinately poor performance. I have seen innumberable conglomerates in my day go from great to dismal."
  • Secular Sex Abuse Gets a Look - "In New York, Queens Assemblywoman Margaret Markey routinely presents a bill which seeks to open a year-long 'window' into the statute of limitations on child sex-abuse cases, allowing victims whose cases may go back as far as 40 years to bring suit for damages.

    Because the bill has -until now- always been limited by Markey to impact the churches, exclusively, it always either failed or been shelved. It is difficult to pass a bill that essentially finds some sexual abuse victims to be more worthy of redress than others.

    Markey seems to have figured that out; her new bill includes suits against secular institutions, and the previously silent civil authorities, among others, are reeling:
    . . .
    Extending the “open window” to include secular sex abuse cases will impact the whole of society. We will be invited to look in and-seeing the width and breadth of the problem-will be forced to ponder the human animal and the human soul in ways we have not, and would rather not. It may bring home some uncomfortable truths: that 'safety' is relative; that human darkness is not limited to various 'theys' but seeps into the whole of 'us'; that the tendency to look at the guilt of others has, perhaps, a root in our wish not to look at ourselves; that human brokenness is a constant and human righteousness is always imperfect."
  • ‘Orangutan-Sized’ Raccoons Invade Chicago - "'He looked like an orangutan swinging-swinging around. It was scary, very scary,' said Chicago resident Wilma Ward about her recent run-in with a raccoon. Ward, who lives in Chicago several miles away from the nearest forest, found herself face to snout with a raccoon she described as being almost her height. She was forced to barricade herself in an upstairs bathroom until morning, and when she emerged she discovered the raccoon had bent steel window-bars to get into her kitchen. Others in the neighborhood have described these raccoons as being the size of German Shepherds."
  • Multi-Generation Movies - "I recall a few 1930s-vintage movies that dealt with families over a span of generations, perhaps tracing a main character from youth or even birth to old age and the grave. Some might even have encompassed greater intervals. Don't ask me to name these, because they didn't interest me much at the time and their titles were quickly forgotten. Looking back, I wonder if some of those films were adapted from or inspired by some popular novels of the 1920s and 30s that were epic from a generational standpoint.

    As many readers know, unlike Michael Blowhard, I'm not a movie guy. I see perhaps two a year these days, though did go a lot more often up into the 1980s. So I could be dead wrong when I suggest that the movie whose plot passes through 50 or 80 years of a family's experiences is almost completely passé.

    Let's assume that in my ignorance I stumbled on a truth: there were a lot more generational epics filmed in the 1930s than in recent years. If so, what to make of it?
    . . .
    From the comments: Slightly off-topic: I'm fascinated by how middle age was treated in '30s and '40s films. People were older then! I mean that (e.g.) a woman could be 40 and portrayed as a gray-haired spinster. Think of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.: shown as an elderly, batty, nearly forgotten has-been, Norma Desmond was supposed to be 50! And Swanson was 50 when she made the film. For comparison, that's younger than Madonna, Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer, Andie MacDowell, Bo Derek, Rene Russo, and Christie Brinkley are now. Catherine Deneuve is 66."

Mississippi Fred McDowell

  • Did Video Professor Spend Too Much On Lawyers And Not Enough On Its Product? - "Video Professor, a company well-known in these pages for its penchant for suing both its critics and message boards that hosted its critics, not to speak of trying to suppress competition by misusing trademark law, has apparently hit hard times, a TV station in Denver is reporting:"
  • Blankfein's Apha Deception - "Senator Claire McCaskill better characterized Goldman as a bookie whose main job is setting a line so they aren't taking a position on the outcome, their customers are, just in offsetting ways. Making markets is first and foremost about pricing (setting the line), secondarily about hedging, and finally about how the residual risk agregates up. If you price correctly, the other two are de minimus.

    But as I explain in my Finding Alpha book, one reason why 'risk' remains prominent in academic finance though it has never been identified precisely is that it has the ability to rationalize a lot of useful deception. Risk is presumably the most important thing in finance, its essence. But what is 'risk'? That depends: it could be beta, a regression coefficient with the aggregate market; it could be volatility, or the correlation with the wealth-to-income ratio. Bill Sharpe, one of the founders of the Capital Asset Pricing Model, now prefers a 12 factor model of risk that totally obviates his Nobel Prize winning insight, though no one seems to note the inconsistency.
    . . .
    So, when alpha deceptors hide behind the 'we are risk managers' defense, remember, a real risk manager has a prosaic job, doing things that one can understand: verifying income on loan applications, measuring CAPM betas, calculating VaRs even. They are straightforward, and you can argue about key assumptions. The whole 'risk manager' spiel is because if you are getting paid $1MM+ a year, you know that there's probably someone just as smart as you making half that who wants your job, so better make it sound like you are doing financial string theory.
    . . .
    Blankfein is a crony capitalist, begging for more 'regulation' because he knows that a 1300 page bill basically only helps those with connections and extant massive legal infrastructure, and hurts potential competitors who merely have good ideas."
  • Facebook's Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline - "Since its incorporation just over five years ago, Facebook has undergone a remarkable transformation. When it started, it was a private space for communication with a group of your choice. Soon, it transformed into a platform where much of your information is public by default. Today, it has become a platform where you have no choice but to make certain information public, and this public information may be shared by Facebook with its partner websites and used to target ads.

    To help illustrate Facebook's shift away from privacy, we have highlighted some excerpts from Facebook's privacy policies over the years. Watch closely as your privacy disappears, one small change at a time!"
  • Spirit Airlines Earns Dubious Honor With “Pre-Reclined” Seats - "The pre-reclined seats on the new Spirit Airlines aircraft are fixed in a slightly reclined position. Spirit isn’t the first airline to go with the pre-reclined seats, And if the fixed position wasn’t bad enough, the seats also feature a meager 28 inch pitch, a measure of leg room which is one of the shortest in the industry.

    For Spirit Airlines, the fixed seats means lighter seats. Without all the mechanisms needed to recline, the new seats are thinner, lighter and will require much less maintenance. All this means reduced costs for the airline and no more reminders to return your seat to the full upright position.

    The fixed seat isn’t necessarily a bad thing by itself. It means no more having the person in front of you seeing how much force is required to spill your drink or crush your knees when they slam their seat back. Of course with the 28 inch pitch, many travelers will already have 'pre-crushed' knees without any extra force needed."
  • Is Cocoa Puffs no longer heart healthy? - "Until recently, Cocoa Puffs enjoyed the endorsement of the American Heart Association (AHA) as a heart-healthy food.

    For a price, the AHA will allow food manufacturers to affix a heart 'check mark' signifying endorsement by the AHA as conforming to some basic 'heart healthy' requirements.
    . . .
    I suspect that agencies like the AHA, the USDA, the American Diabetes Association as starting to understand that they have blundered big time by pushing low-fat, having contributed to the nationwide epidemic of obesity and diabetes, and that it is time to quietly start backpedaling."
  • Carbs against Cardio: More Evidence that Refined Carbohydrates, not Fats, Threaten the Heart - "Eat less saturated fat: that has been the take-home message from the U.S. government for the past 30 years. But while Americans have dutifully reduced the percentage of daily calories from saturated fat since 1970, the obesity rate during that time has more than doubled, diabetes has tripled, and heart disease is still the country’s biggest killer. Now a spate of new research, including a meta-analysis of nearly two dozen studies, suggests a reason why: investigators may have picked the wrong culprit. Processed carbohydrates, which many Americans eat today in place of fat, may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease more than fat does--a finding that has serious implications for new dietary guidelines expected this year.

    In March the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a meta-analysis--which combines data from several studies--that compared the reported daily food intake of nearly 350,000 people against their risk of developing cardiovascular disease over a period of five to 23 years. The analysis, overseen by Ronald M. Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, found no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease."
  • Steve Chapman: How starving government gets fat - "Forced to pay for everything they get, right away, Americans would undoubtedly choose to make do with less. But given the opportunity to party now and pay later -- or never, if the tab can be billed to the next generation -- they find no compelling reason to do without.

    Think of it this way. If you want people to consume more of something, you reduce the price. If you want them to consume less, you raise the price. For most of the last 30 years, federal programs have been on sale, and they've found lots of buyers.

    That's how the low-tax strategy has worked in practice. So if we are going to reduce the size of the federal government, we can't rely on starving the beast. We will have to tackle it and wrestle it to the mat."

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 5/4/10"

May 4, 2010 08:47 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 4/30/10

Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture

  • 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 Forfeiture Racket: Police and prosecutors won't give up their license to steal. - " Over the past three decades, it has become routine in the United States for state, local, and federal governments to seize the property of people who were never even charged with, much less convicted of, a crime. Nearly every year, according to Justice Department statistics, the federal government sets new records for asset forfeiture. And under many state laws, the situation is even worse: State officials can seize property without a warrant and need only show 'probable cause' that the booty was connected to a drug crime in order to keep it, as opposed to the criminal standard of proof 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, owners of seized property all too often have a heavier burden of proof than the government officials who stole their stuff.

    Municipalities have come to rely on confiscated property for revenue. Police and prosecutors use forfeiture proceeds to fund not only general operations but junkets, parties, and swank office equipment. A cottage industry has sprung up to offer law enforcement agencies instruction on how to take and keep property more efficiently. And in Indiana, where Anthony Smelley is still fighting to get his money back, forfeiture proceeds are enriching attorneys who don’t even hold public office, a practice that violates the U.S. Constitution."
  • How Dependent Are Police On “Asset Forfeiture” To Pay Police Salaries? - "Americans should be alert to a problematic increase in “police property seizures” as the economy worsens: Police departments having a budget crisis, faced with having to layoff police officers, may increasingly look to civil asset forfeiture of Citizens’ property to pay their salaries and operating costs.

    Police corruption abounds [in] U.S. Cities: Citizens are illegally shot, falsely arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned. Every American is at risk of being falsely imprisoned despite the conviction standard 'evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.' Frequently reported, Police falsify evidence and or purchase testimony from paid informants to convict Citizens. Imagine how easy it would be for corrupt police to forge evidence to cause 'civil asset forfeiture' of a person’s property like their home. Civil Asset Forfeiture requires a lower standard of evidence than criminal evidence, 'only a Preponderance of Civil Evidence' to seize property: government can use as civil evidence to forfeit someone’s real property, the fact the owner reported to police that a tenant was dealing drugs to show that the owner--had prior knowledge of the activity. "
  • Myths About Capitalism: Confronting the biggest lies about American business - "Remember the last time you went into Starbucks, and then remember the last time you went into the DMV to get your license,' Medved said. 'Where did you get better treated? And it's not because the barista is some kind of idealist or humanitarian. She wants a tip. She wants you to come back to the Starbucks ... .'"

    Why do so many people apparently want their government to be as warm and cuddly as a barista at Starbux? Maybe some people prefer a state that shows contempt for and disinterest in its citizens.

  • The Financial Crisis: Are We All Responsible? - "The overwhelming majority of people are hard working, honest in their dealings, more concerned with raising families than ruling others, if anything distracted by their day to day problems. Long suffering, patient to a fault, too willing to the give the Wall Street bankers the benefit of the doubt for the very reason of their own good natures. They could not imagine themselves doing the things of which these men stand accused, so they cannot believe that others would so willingly lie and deceive, cheat and steal, attack the very heart of the nation, while wrapping themselves in a flag of hypocrisy, for a few more dollars that they can hardly need or even personally spend. And why? Because it feeds their sickened hearts, their pathological egos, and the need to make others suffer loss for their own gains. It makes them feel superior, as gods."
  • The anti-market narrative of the crisis - "Those poor impulsive bankers. They can’t seem to stop themselves and that’s how we know that markets aren’t self-correcting. Ignore the weird (and common) conflating of the efficient market hypothesis and market stability. Let’s just look at market stability and the idea of leaving bankers to their own devices. That’s supposed to mean 'unregulated.' Ignore the fact that financial markets are regulated in all kinds of ways.

    Just focus on that phrase 'can’t seem to stop themselves.' They just keep driving the financial vehicles off the cliff using all that borrowed money. Does the fact that the government often reimburses the lenders in the name of preserving financial stablity have something to do with bankers’ inability to stop themselves?

    Does the quest for complete stability have something to do with the failure to achieve stability?"

    See Crony Capitalism

  • Greece: Dead Man Walking? - "I’m mystified as to the cheerleading in some circles on Greece. It is not clear that its €45 billion EU-IMF band-aid will be deployed (among other things, it faces a legal challenge in Germany) and even if it is, it falls well short of Greece’s anticipated needs beyond one year. More important, a successful deal does not mean the rescue will prevent default. The austerity program for Greece (in terms of reduction of fiscal deficit) has no successful precedents, and street protests indicate that the populace is not on board. And Ed Harrison sees eerie parallels to the rescue of CreditAnstalt, which kicked off more bank runs, ultimately precipitating the second leg down of the Great Depression.

    While stock markets are perking up in Asia, credit default swap spread for the other Club Med countries rose on Friday, signaling that investors are worried about the risk of contagion. And in the UK, several savvy investors told me they expect a 20% pound depreciation once the election is over. Europe is clearly on a deflationary path."
  • This is What a Greek Debt Crisis Looks Like - "[This chart] shows how much additional yield the market is demanding to hold Greek versus German bonds, in other words, 'the collapse of Greece’s perceived creditworthiness.'"
  • Gangster Government becomes a long-running series - "Almost a year ago, in a Washington Examiner column on the Chrysler bailout, I reflected on the Obama administration's decision to force bondholders to accept 33 cents on the dollar on secured debts while giving United Auto Worker retirees 50 cents on the dollar on unsecured debts.

    This was a clear violation of the ordinary bankruptcy rule that secured creditors are fully paid off before unsecured creditors get anything. The politically connected UAW folks got preference over politically unconnected bondholders. 'We have just seen an episode of Gangster Government,' I wrote. 'It is likely to be a continuing series.'"
  • The money is gone - "Education funding isn’t going to rebound, writes Mike Petrilli, who’s taking flak for TV interviews in which he said, 'The money is gone and it’s not coming back anytime soon.'"
  • Ghana Think Talk: the world majority solves the first world's problems - "By applying a typical process of community development against the grain, traditional power-roles are inverted, places are exchanged, and stereotypes clash with reality as disconnected cultures work together in detached but physical ways.

    This project is an attempt to transpose parts of one culture into another, exploring the friction caused by solutions that are generated in one context and applied elsewhere, and revealing the hidden assumptions that govern cross-cultural interactions."
  • Obama for Entrepreneurs, but Not American Ones - "The Obama administration and today’s Democrats are driven by regulatory zeal, lust for higher revenues, and apparent ignorance of the workings of the market economy. I don’t think they planned it this way, but their anti-market actions are accumulating cut by cut, threatening major long-term damage to America’s standard of living."
  • Small business and big government don’t mix - "My job is basically to report the facts that undermine The Big Myth -- the fable that Big Business loves free markets, and that the effect of Big Government is to curb Big Business. In fact, Big Business often lobbies for and profits from Big Government.
    . . .
    As government gets bigger, more businesses are forced to turn to government as a customer -- which gives more of an advantage to big business.

    If you want to help small businesses, shrink the government."
  • Sentences to ponder - "'About a quarter of Indonesian boys aged 13 to 15 are already hooked on cigarettes that sell for about $1 a pack or as little as a few cents apiece, according to WHO. A video on YouTube last month prompted outrage when a 4-year-old Indonesian boy was shown blowing smoke rings and flicking a cigarette. His parents say he's been smoking up to a pack a day since he was 2.'
    . . .
    How many of you will bite this bullet?"
  • Health Care Cost Control? Don't Count On It. - "Remember all those cost controls that were supposed to be in the health care bill? The bill that just last month President Obama said was supposed to be about 'bringing down the cost of health care for families and businesses and for the federal government?'

    Yeah, well, not so much."
  • Mayor Daley and other Mayors: Seek “redress against the gun industry” in the World Court - "April 27 was the tenth annual 'Richard J. Daley Global Cities Forum,' held in Chicago. Over a hundred mayors and other local government leaders assembled to discuss global issues. As reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, 'Daley convinced more than a dozen of his counterparts from around the world to approve a resolution urging ‘redress against the gun industry through the courts of the world’ in The Hague.'
    . . .
    from the comments: "I will take Daley’s anti-gun stance seriously when he gives up his 24 hour-seven-days-per-week-taxpayer-funded-armed security. Also when he moves to change the law allowing Chicago’s alderman to carry."

No More Beer Summits: Tea Party ‘N-Word’ Incident Didn’t Happen, And the Congressional Black Caucus Owes America an Apology

  • "How Restaurants Get You Drunk" - "All that noise in restaurants I find increasingly annoying allegedly has a purpose: higher profits.

    'And a study completed in the summer of 2008 in France found that when music was played at 72 decibels, men consumed an average of 2.6 drinks at a rate of one drink per 14.51 minutes. When the sound level was cranked up to 88 decibels, the numbers spiked to an average of 3.4 drinks, with one consumed every 11.47 minutes.'"
  • Not Inherently Unsafe - Photo slide show of aircraft having done or doing interesting things
  • Ban Portable Electronics Before Bed for More Restful Sleep - "Three years ago we shared some research with you indicating that people who used electronic devices before bed reported feeling less rested the next morning.

    The subjects in the study weren't just imagining that working late on their laptop in bed or spending time text messaging was make them more tired--they slept the same number of hours as the non-electronics users--they were actually experiencing the effects of exposure to bright and intense light late in the evening. The Los Angeles Times reports on the science behind it:"
  • 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."
  • WMATA Rule Number 2: Go Before you Go - "On Tuesday evening, at around 8:30, I was at the Bethesda station and wanted to use the restroom before finishing my commute to Columbia Heights.

    I tapped on the booth window, and the attendant turned to me and grimaced, like WMATA employees always do upon realizing they will soon be asked to perform a task.

    I smiled and asked 'can I use the restroom?'

    She huffed, turned her back to me and started typing on the computer again.

    I stood at the window waiting for some indication that a plan was being set into motion that would lead to the restroom door being opened.

    She glanced at me once again, closed some windows on the monitor and stood up. I moved back so she could open the door.

    When she stepped out and growled 'why the hell you still standing there?'

    I was speechless."

  • Let There Be Light. Weight - "When I was a kid copywriter on the Volkswagen account, grumpy but thorough VW engineers drummed one tenet of green into me: You don’t save gas with secret carburetors which the oil companies hide. You save by shedding weight. The less weight to push around, the less energy is needed to do the pushing. From the First Law of Thermodynamics to Einstein, all will agree. Like we agree on the need for a balanced diet. Then we go to the next Wendy’s, and order a triple Whopper. Despite the wisdom, cars tend to gain heft over the years like an erstwhile skinny Italian bella ragazza after the age of 30.
    . . .
    But they overlooked another immutable law in the auto business: People love to save the planet when asked by a researcher. People love to get the best bang for the buck when it comes to buying."

Apollo 11 slow-motion launch

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 4/30/10 "

April 30, 2010 08:37 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 4/26/10

"It's gotten so bad the Mexicans are hiring Americans to do the jobs the Chinese don't want to do."
"[We, the Chinese] don't want the crappy jobs."

South Park death threats

  • 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."
  • School lunches called a national security threat - "Hey Kid: Every time you eat a tator tot, you're letting the terrorists win!"
  • Fire and Ice - "Der Spiegel examines the chain of events that led to the cancellation of 17,000 flights over Europe, including the diversion of medevacs from Afghanistan and rerouting of the German Chancellor’s flight home. Ash clouds from an Icelandic volcano disrupted flights all over Europe. The question is whether the policy makers over-reacted to the thread. As volcanoes go Eyjafjallajökull was accounted by Icelandic volcanologists as 'a weary old man'. It’s recent eruption was unremarkable.
    . . .
    The military historian Max Hastings wrote that 'the great volcanic shutdown was the price we pay for a society that overreacts to any risk'. Hastings argued that societies had forgotten the concept of accepting risk. An accident, no matter how statistically insignificant, could be magnified by press coverage into a Grecian tragedy. The result was that many systems, including those which were unprecedentedly safe, spent huge marginal costs to attain the last word in perfection.
    . . .
    Hastings cites fiascos which are less failures to assess risk than to recognize uncertainty:

    - In 1988, health minister Edwina Currie almost destroyed Britain’s egg industry when she said that salmonella in eggs might cause a human catastrophe -- only for it to be later discovered that salmonella could not get into eggs.

    - In 1996, Britain spent £7 billion killing millions of the nation’s cows in response to the alleged threat of CJD killing humans eating burgers made from cattle infected by BSE. We now know that the likelihood of this was almost infinitesimally slight.

    - In 2009, the government spent £1 billion on unneeded vaccines against swine flu, which we were told might kill half a million people. The SARS virus, said some ‘experts’, could prove more devastating to humanity than Aids. It was once suggested that bird flu might kill 150 million people worldwide."
  • Orszag! Don't go! - "Panic in the Beltway! Bloomberg is reporting that President Obama is pitching woo to Budget Director Peter Orszag, to prevent his early defection from the administration. Peter! No!
    . . .
    Inconceivable. What would we do as a nation without his smoldering gaze, inscrutable budget presentations and horrifically messy personal life? We doubt there is an aspiring budget director on the bench with nearly as much to give to public service as Orszag."
  • Daniel Okrent's *Last Call*, a history of prohibition - "The introduction of the income tax made Prohibition fiscally feasible. Women's suffrage made it politically feasible. World War I created a surfeit of patriotism, a willingness to sacrifice, and an embrace of the expansion of federal power. By 1920 everything was in place for a bold new government intrusion into everyday life."

    "Last Call," by Daniel Okrent

  • 10 Things You Don’t Know (or were misinformed) About the GS Case - "I have been watching with a mixture of awe and dismay some of the really bad analysis, sloppy reporting, and just unsupported commentary about the GS case.

    I put together this list based on what I know as a lawyer, a market observer, a quant and someone with contacts within the SEC. (Note: This represents my opinions, and no one elses).
    . . .
    2. Robert Khuzami is a bad ass, no-nonsense, thorough, award winning Prosecutor: This guy is the real deal -- he busted terrorist rings, broke up the mob, took down security frauds. He is now the director of SEC enforcement. He is fearless, and was awarded the Attorney General’s Exceptional Service Award (1996), for 'extraordinary courage and voluntary risk of life in performing an act resulting in direct benefits to the Department of Justice or the nation.'

    When you prosecute mass murderers who use guns and bombs and threaten your life, and you kick their asses anyway, you ain’t afraid of a group of billionaire bankers and their spreadsheets. He is the shit. My advice to anyone on Wall Street in his crosshairs: If you are indicted in a case by Khuzami, do yourself a big favor: Settle.
    . . .
    I have $1,000 against any and all comers that GS does not win -- they settle or lose in court. Any takers? My money is already in escrow -- waiting for yours to join it. Winnings go to the charity of the winners choice."
  • Philosophy for the All-Too-Common Man - a review by John Gray of "Ideas that Matter: The Concepts that Shape the 21st Century," by A. C. Grayling.

    "Seeing themselves as fiercely independent thinkers, bien-pensants are remarkable chiefly for the fervor with which they propagate the prevailing beliefs of their time. Bertrand Russell, John Stuart Mill’s godson and a scion of one of England’s great political dynasties, exemplified this contradiction throughout most of his life. British philosopher A. C. Grayling can now be counted amongst his number.
    . . .
    Industrial style authorship of this kind is a triumph of the will rather than a display of intelligence. The effect is one of wearisome repetition, and one wonders what Grayling imagines he has achieved by the exercise. All of these volumes preach the same sermon: history is a record of crime, oppression and superstition; but salvation is at hand through rational inquiry, the gift of the Greeks that was lost in the Dark Ages and rediscovered in the Enlightenment. Repeating this as Grayling does, over and over again, suggests that he believes the lesson has still not been understood, and throughout his extensive corpus of polemical writings he has the manner of a querulous teacher hammering rudimentary lessons into the heads of refractory schoolchildren. For Grayling, it seems, few if any of the difficulties of ethics and politics are insoluble. The remedies for human ills are obvious, or would be so if only humans were not blinded by superstition. Never doubting that he is free of this vice, Grayling writes as one conveying the simple truth.

    The result is a style of argument that, in passing over the human experience that some dilemmas are not fully soluble, is rarely persuasive and often amounts to not much more than high-minded silliness.
    . . .
    As Grayling sees things, it is only irrationality that makes human conflicts intractable. If only he had been around in the dark years of the Second World War, he seems to imply, and in a position to instruct Allied war planners on the finer points of ethical theory, the terrible struggle could have gone so much more smoothly. Certainty of this kind is comical, but it also raises a question about the origins of the principles that Grayling maintains so mechanically. He is insistent that liberal values apply universally. He is also insistent that these values have nothing to do with religion.
    . . .
    The history of the last century is testimony to the destructive power of rationalism, not fideism. Nazism and Communism were at one in their hatred of religion. Both claimed to be founded in science--'dialectical materialism' and 'scientific racism.' Of course these sciences were bogus, but they show what horrors can be justified by appeal to reason. The worst acts of the twentieth century were committed by atheist regimes that claimed a scientific basis for their policies.
    . . .
    This is why it is so silly to argue that hostility to religion had nothing to do with Nazi and Communist oppression; it was this hostility that animated a significant part of the repression. If Grayling cannot see this, the reason is that for him, atheism cannot be implicated in anything undesirable; an inevitable conclusion of rational inquiry, it is intrinsically virtuous. It is true that no type of action follows from atheism as a matter of logical necessity. The rejection of theism can go with a variety of moral and political attitudes, including a positive evaluation of the role of religion in human life. By any standards, Santayana was an atheist. He was also consistently friendly to religion--partly on the basis of its ethical and aesthetic qualities, and partly because he viewed religion as being closer to poetry than to science. Atheism of this kind is rare, however. Militantly evangelical unbelief of the kind practiced by Lenin and Stalin, Hitler and Mao has been far more influential."
  • From The Old Farmer's Almanac - "If Patrick Henry thought taxation without representation was bad, he should see how bad it is with representation."
  • Immigrants and Nazis, Communists and Cardinals - "I finally had a chance to read Arizona’s new law on illegal immigration. It’s rather different from the press portrayal. Maybe I’ll blog about that, but I want to start with the astonishingly vituperative attack by Cardinal Roger Mahony on what he calls 'Arizona’s Dreadful Anti-Immigrant Law.'
    . . .
    The problem with this stance is that it comes awfully close to declaring in advance that the church intends to “harbor or shield from detection” illegal immigrants. So Cardinal Mahony has to ask himself whether his priests are courting liability under the new law if they continue to give shelter and transport to parishioners whom they know or suspect are illegal immigrants. (He can take some comfort from the fact that federal law has long made harboring illegal aliens a federal offense without producing any serious liability, but federal law says that only ICE can bring such charges, and ICE has made clear, at least by its actions, that it has no intention of prosecuting church groups. There’s also a bit of ambiguity in the Arizona law about whether you have to be committing a separate offense at the time of harboring, and that could make prosecutions of legitimate groups problematic. But the risk of an investigation, and even a prosecution, at the hands of a fed-up local official, has surely gone up since the bill passed.)

    That’s a big deal. Suddenly Cardinal Mahony’s outburst about the evils of spying and turning in parents makes a little more sense. The law is going to put his church in a newly awkward position. Complying with Arizona’s tough new legal obligations will be hard to square with the bold moral stance taken by the church in a more forgiving era. The prospect of paying a much higher price for what had been a pretty comfortable form of civil disobedience is bound to engender a lot of emotion. And that, I suspect, is the source of the Cardinal’s otherwise inexplicable outburst."
  • Emanuel as the successor to Daley is a scary thought - "What is clear is that for the first time in more than two decades, Daley is visibly weakening. Otherwise, Emanuel wouldn't dare broach the subject. Daley's time is coming to an end, either this term or the next.

    He won his last election by a landslide. But only a small percentage of eligible voters actually voted. And that was before all the new problems.

    Shortshanks' parking meter rate-hike fiasco won't go away. His son and nephew had a hidden multimillion-dollar stake in a city sewer contract, and the mayor said nobody told him.

    He also didn't know about his nephew getting $68 million in city pension funds to invest. When he was at the height of his power, Chicago eagerly forgave him for not knowing basic details, and a few in the media made excuses. But those days are over. Nobody buys his Fedzheimer's act anymore.

    The economy is in the toilet. He's spent all the money on deals, and the city government is broke. His friends are rich, but the city workers hate him and the taxpayers are angry. He'll need to pick a fight, so look for him to provoke a strike by the Teamsters union as he moves toward re-election."
  • Soy Biodiesel Worse For Global Warming? - "This is funny. Maybe politicos should do more research before imposing half-baked energy mandates?
    . . .
    Okay, I know some of you might be angry at the thought that good intentions are resulting in a bad outcome. But it is kinda hard to see biomass energy as a matter of good intentions even before considering the report above. The problems with it have been evident for quite a while, so much so I've gotten bored of the topic.
    . . .
    My worry is that advances in biomass energy technology will so improve the EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) that biomass energy become far more cost effective. Then it'll take off, driving food prices much higher while also speeding soil depletion."
  • Baltimore vs. Wells Fargo, cont’d - "'One year, they file a suit saying that the lender didn’t make enough loans in minority communities: redlining. The next year, they file a suit saying that they made too many loans in minority communities: reverse red-lining,' Sandler said. 'This is just a commercial enterprise for these lawyers. … The same lawyers have been shopping the same complaint to various municipalities for two years.'"
  • Challenging the Education Monopoly - "Kudos to the New York Board of Regents, for a plan to break the monopoly held in the state by education schools in the licensing of public school teachers. Under current law, all New York schoolteachers have to obtain a masters' degree (or the equivalent in undergraduate education classes) from a state-certified Education program. The Regents propose giving alternative programs---like Teach for America---the opportunity to set up their own M.A. programs. The proposal, the New York Times notes, 'could make education schools extraneous.'"
  • The Intellectually Naked Economist: A late response to Charles Wheelan’s 2008 article Confessions of a Maturing Libertarian - "Wheelan gingerly babbles 303 words of…well, something about smarts kids in classrooms and New Hampshire and his twenty years of study before delivering the backbreaker to our camel of liberty, and I quote

    'What’s the libertarian point of view on stoplights?'

    So without further ado, there it is! Defeat in eight words!

    Now, I don’t have a PhD but let me give such an innovative question a cursory attempt. Charles, we libertarians support the stoplight! We believe it is within the markets ability to offer such a complicated device from the seclusion of a private road.

    Not only this, but Charles, we also support the stop sign!"
  • Epistemic Closure In Macroeconomics - "There’s been a huge outpouring of blogospheric discussion about 'epistemic closure' on the right: a complete refusal to look at evidence or arguments that don’t come from the like-minded. I don’t have much to say about all that aside from the fact that it’s obvious, and has been going on for years.

    But I think it’s worth pointing out that something similar has long been true in macroeconomics. And like the political version of epistemic closure, it’s not a 'both sides do it' issue. It’s a fresh-water phenomenon; salt-water macro isn’t subject to the same problem."

    Ah yes, close mindedness is a problem afflicting only a certain part of humanity, namely, the part that doesn't agree with me.

    aka "pot calling kettle black"
  • Is it a good idea to buy a car for your son or daughter? - "Our results show that some complementary actions before college, such as parental praise, foster academic achievement above what natural ability would predict. Conversely, we find that some substitutionary actions before college, e.g. providing cars as gifts, are associated with lower effort in college and underachievement."
  • The Forfeiture Racket: Police and prosecutors won't give up their license to steal - "Over the past three decades, it has become routine in the United States for state, local, and federal governments to seize the property of people who were never even charged with, much less convicted of, a crime. Nearly every year, according to Justice Department statistics, the federal government sets new records for asset forfeiture. And under many state laws, the situation is even worse: State officials can seize property without a warrant and need only show 'probable cause' that the booty was connected to a drug crime in order to keep it, as opposed to the criminal standard of proof 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, owners of seized property all too often have a heavier burden of proof than the government officials who stole their stuff."

Jim Lahey Reviews The New Domino's Pizza from Ozersky.TV

  • Curbside Classic: The Best European Car Ever Made In America: 1965 Corvair Monza - "But if a car ever inspired one to emote and wax poetically, it was the Corvair, especially the 1965. So I’ll try hard to restrain myself: the 1965 Corvair was the best European car ever ever made in America. And if that alone doesn’t explain the Corvair’s inevitable failure, lets just say that in 1965 Americans were eating a lot more Wonder Bread than baguettes.
    . . .
    But a rear-engined small car intrinsically offered great enthusiast potential, as Porsche had shown so convincingly. In fact a Porsche 356 was used as a test mule for the Corvair engine. The Corvair had great potential, but its intended mission in life was as confused as its buyers. The Falcon made a much better compact for most Americans’ needs in schlepping hte kids and the groceries, and GM realized it instantly. The highly pragmatic Chevy II was rushed into production, and the Corvair was quickly dressed up with bucket seats, a higher output engine, and an available four speed: the Monza. Out of desperation and necessity, GM invented a new genre: the small sporty car; for American cars, that is. The Europeans had been chasing that for quite some time.

    The fact that GM bean counters didn’t give the early Monzas that sway bar and other suspension upgrades that the Corvair’s father Ed Cole bitterly wanted every Corvair to have from day one is very telling, and perhaps the most significant aspect of the Corvair story and its failure to compete against the imports: GM perpetually elevated style and flash over substance. With just a few more bucks and a costless change to a faster steering ratio, the early Corvairs could have been as brilliant as they inevitably had to make the 1965."
  • Last Atlantic Yards Property Owner Agrees to Sell His Land Under Threat of Condemnation - "The last property owner in the condemned Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn, New York has agreed to sell his land in order to avoid the condemnation of his property by the city government."
  • Not Really Simple - "It was the $380 'bona fide horse-riding boots' that got me clued into the simple life. There they were, sleek, polished to the sheen of black pearls, and taking up an entire page of Real Simple magazine. 'You'll never want to take them off,' the accompanying copy promised. It was the first time I'd ever picked up Real Simple, the women's magazine that distinguishes itself from other women's magazines by its lack of tips for getting rid of belly fat, its Zen-lite self-help pages ('learn to live with uncertainty'), and its tastefully minimalist layouts characterized by snowdrift-sized expanses of white space. Here's a food article picturing six balloon-sized Brussels sprouts scattered over the page and not much else. There's a photo essay featuring elegant mothers and their poetically posed toddlers that actually seems to be about hand-tatted lace, which appears in the foreground or background of nearly every picture. And here's one about jewelry crafted out of the original brass door numbers at New York's Plaza Hotel - the pin goes for $260. I closed my issue of Real Simple, stuffed with equally tasteful and equally minimalist ads for wines, Toyota Priuses (the automobile of choice for simple people), and many, many wrinkle creams, and thought: gee, all this simple living can set you back.

    Welcome to the simplicity movement, the ethos whose mantras are 'cutting back,' 'focusing on the essentials,' 'reconnecting to the land' - and talking, talking, talking about how fulfilled it all makes you feel. Genuine simple-living people - such as, say, the Amish - are not part of the simplicity movement, because living like the Amish (no iPod apps or granite countertops, plus you have to read the Bible) would be taking the simple thing a bit far. Modern simplicity practitioners like Jesus (although not quite so much as they like Buddhist monks, who dress more colorfully) because he wore sandals and could be said to have practiced alternative medicine, but they mostly shun religious movements founded in his name. Thus, simplicity people are always eager to tell you how great the Amish are, growing their own food (a highly valued trait among simplicity people), espousing pacifism (simplicity people shy away from even just wars), and building those stylishly spare barns (aesthetics rank high in the simplicity movement), but really, who wants to have eight kids and wear those funny-looking hats?
    . . .
    But it has been only in the last decade or so that the simplicity movement has come into its own, aligning itself not only with aesthetic style but also with power. Thanks to the government-backed war against obesity (fat people, conveniently, tend to belong to the polyester-clad, Big Mac-guzzling lower orders) and the 'green' movement in its various save-the-planet manifestations, simplicity people can look down their noses at the not-so-simple with their low-rent tastes while also putting them on the moral defensive. Thus you have Michael Pollan, whose zero-impact ethic of food simplicity won't let him eat anything not grown within one hundred miles of his Bay Area home, and preferably grown (or killed, milked, churned, or picked) himself. He bristles with outrage not only at McDonald's burgers, Doritos, and grapes imported from Chile (foreign fruit destroys people's "sense of place," he writes in The Omnivore's Dilemma) but even at Walmart's announcement in 2006 that it would start stocking organic products at affordable prices. Walmart, like factory farms, SUVs, wide-screen TVs, and outlet malls, is usually anathema to the simplicity set, but here you would think the giga-chain would be doing poor people a favor by widening their access to healthy, less-fattening produce. Not as far as Pollan is concerned. Instead, as Reason magazine's Katherine Mangu-Ward reported, Pollan worried on his blog that 'Walmart's version of cheap, industrialized organic food' might drive the boutique farms that served him and his locavore neighbors out of business.
    . . .
    The problem with the simplicity movement is that its proponents mistake simplicity, which is an aesthetic lifestyle choice, for humility, which is a genuine virtue. Humility is an honest acknowledgment of one's limitations and lowliness in the great scheme of things and a realization that power over other human beings is a dangerous thing, always to be exercised with utmost caution. The Amish, as well as monks, Eastern and Western, cultivate humility because they know they have a duty toward what is larger than themselves. Leo Babauta of the foregone grooming products cultivates simplicity because it makes him feel 'happier,' as he writes on his website. For humble people, their own happiness or other personal feelings are secondary."
  • 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."
  • Controlled Chaos: A Day Working the Rikers Island Book Cart - "Another day of volunteering at Rikers Island with the NYPL has come to a close. Thursday I went to one of the male detention houses along with my mentor and two other staff members from NYPL. We were there for 'book cart service,' which is a little different than what I remember from Shawshank Redemption.

    We delivered books to both solitary confinement and two different 'houses,' which are the names of blocks within the building. The inmates in solitary confinement are allowed to request books off a list, so we filled these requests from the 'library' within this particular building, which was really just two tall shelves of paperback books in the back of the Chaplain's office." Their Amazon Wish List is here. ht The Browser
  • Puppy Linux Install - "Puppy can be easily installed to many different media. Having downloaded the live-CD 'ISO' file, you would normally burn that to a CD or DVD and then 'boot' the computer from it, and you have a running Puppy.
    . . .
    Finally, Puppy is so tiny and fast, he is most at home on the new breed of baby laptops hitting the market..."
  • Charting the Carnage from eBanking Fraud - "Aaron Jacobson of Authentify put together this map of all 43 of the U.S. commercial e-banking victims I’ve mentioned in stories at and at the Washington Post’s Security Fix blog.
    . . .
    What’s interesting that I hadn’t realized before seeing this map is that the victims appear to be heavily clustered in the East Coast and Midwest. I’m not sure if there is a connection, but the thieves perpetrating these attacks typically recruit their money mules almost exclusively from these regions. The thinking is that the criminals -- most of whom reside in the Eastern European Time Zone (EET), don’t want to spend all night managing these mules."

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

  • How to Migrate Email from One Gmail Account to Another - "I'm sure you're not alone--some people simply don't like the username they chose out of the blocks and want to move all of their email to a more professional-sounding email address. Unfortunately, this is one of Gmail's biggest drawbacks--it doesn't let you migrate from one Google account to another with any amount of ease. There are likely a few ways to do it yourself, but if you really want to preserve everything, you're probably best off using a mail client, like Outlook or Thunderbird, to drag and drop the messages between accounts. Here's how it works:"
  • What do you think will make more people *want* to repair things? - "Repairing things yourself is almost always cheaper than replacement, so convincing people that repair is a good thing actually isn't that hard. The tricky thing is convincing them that they can do it. So I think the biggest thing we can do is to make repair as easy as possible, and accessible to as many people as we can. We've found that providing people with step-by-step photo instructions ahead of time makes all the difference in the world. Rather than saying 'I don't know if I could ever fix my iPod,' they look at the photos and say 'Oh, is that all it takes? I can do that!'

    We need to get back to the days when repair was something we took for granted. When my dad was growing up, it was commonplace for people to maintain their own cars. People don't tinker with cars as much anymore, and that's a shame. This is partly because our culture doesn't value things as much, and partly because cars are much more complicated now.

    Fortunately, technology can make it easier for us to fix things. Tinkerers worldwide are connected now better than ever before, and we are planning to collaborate with them to write a free, open repair manual. Our hope is that comprehensive, easy to follow service documentation will make repair accessible so that people will be excited about making their things last longer."
  • Bow down before this mighty volcano! - "Like an ancient cult of nature-worshippers, some are celebrating the way the volcano has thwarted modern life.
    . . .
    What we effectively have is a new, modern version of ancient man’s fear and humility before volcanoes. As one study of volcanology argues, in ancient times people thought ‘volcanic eruptions were the work of angry gods, determined to punish us for deeds that displeased them’. The birth of the science of volcanology, from the nineteenth century onwards, helped us to understand that volcanic eruptions were in fact natural phenomena with no moral meaning or sentience. Only now they are being given meaning once more, with some suggesting that maybe ‘Mother Earth is having her revenge on mankind for disrupting the balance of the world’. In short? The gods are displeased and they are punishing us."
  • GMail Notifier - Email In The Cloud - "In my recent zest to avoid proprietary software, and use open source (free) tools in my law practice, I have abandoned Microsoft Word and Office for OpenOffice and Google Calendar. They are accessible from any web browser, and work great. I have also abandoned proprietary email clients for the ubiquitous GMail, which also works great. One problem I had, however, was the fact that clicking an outgoing email link in other software brought up whatever email client set as a Windows default. What to do? Gmail Notifier is the answer, and it is also free. In addition to allowing me to set GMail as my default email program, it contains a handy little taskbar icon that notifies me when new email arrives. I have a Google Chrome extension that does the same thing, but Notifier gives a little window with a blurb of the actual email text, allowing me to separate the wheat from the chaff. I paid a fortune for Microsoft Office 2007, just to get Outlook and Word. But, when I swapped hard drives in a new computer, it asserted that I needed to activate, and I went through telephone hell trying to do so. After an hours of phone calls, I gave up, and have uninstalled Microsoft Office 2007 completely."
  • Google Street View logs WiFi networks, Mac addresses - "Google's roving Street View spycam may blur your face, but it's got your number. The Street View service is under fire in Germany for scanning private WLAN networks, and recording users' unique Mac (Media Access Control) addresses, as the car trundles along.

    Germany's Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Peter Schaar says he's 'horrified' by the discovery."
  • Bryan Caplan on adoption - "I think Bryan understands the selfish reasons for having children differently than I do, though I will defer to his own statement of his view. I put a big stress on how children help you see that a lot of your immediate concerns aren't nearly as important as you might think, and how spending time with children brings you closer to -- apologies, super-corny phrases on the way -- The Great Circle of Being and The Elemental Life Force. In some (not all) ways, adopted children may be teaching you those lessons more effectively than do biological children. It's an oversimplification to say that "children make you a better person," but they do, or should, improve your ability to psychologically and emotionally integrate that a) you want lots of stuff, b) what you end up getting remains, no matter what, ridiculously small and inconsequential, and c) you can't control your life nearly as much as you think.

    I would sooner say that these realizations are gifts which children give to us rather than calling them 'selfish reasons' to have children. The concept of selfish requires an understanding of our interest and children, very fundamentally, change our understanding of our interests rather than fulfilling our previous goals."

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 4/26/10 "

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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., 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"
  • 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 - " 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,'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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. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 4/22/10"

April 22, 2010 09:47 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 4/18/10

Bill Black: Not Dead Yet - Part 5

Governor Christie on Death Threats, the Teachers Union, and New Jersey's Budget Crisis

  • 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."
  • Guest Post: Prospectus For The United States - Would You Invest? - "The tables summarizing our accounts are, of course, terrifying but nothing compared to our Risk Factors, which include:

    * Improper payments by the Federal government continue to increase despite the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002.

    * Material weakness from ineffective internal controls over financial reporting that resulted in a disclaimer of opinion by the Government Accountability Office.

    * The dollar may not continue to enjoy reserve currency status and may decline in the future.

    * The Federal Reserve, as part of its response to the financial crisis, may be exposed to signifcant credit risk.

    * Foreign official institutions hold a significant amount of U.S. Government debt.

    * The United States is the dominant geopolitical power and has significant overseas commitments.

    * The Government is exposed to large contingent liabilities from its intervention on behalf of various financial institutions during the 2008-2009 crisis.

    * Mandatory outlays for retirement insurance and health care are expected to increase substantially in future years.

    * Ratings agencies may withdraw or downgrade the U.S. Government’s current AAA/Aaa rating without notice.

    * The U.S. economy is heavily indebted at all levels, despite recent de-leveraging.

    * U.S. states and municipalities are experiencing severe economic distress and may require intervention from the Federal government.

    * Elected officials may not take necessary steps to ensure long-term debt sustainability and may take actions counter to the interests of bondholders."
  • Small Business Optimism "Very Low and Headed in the Wrong Direction” - "If the US economy was about to reach 'escape velocity' as Larry Summers says, small business optimism would not be in the gutter and sinking.

    Thus, proof that Larry Summers is in Fantasyland can be found in a NFIB report that shows Small Business Optimism Declines in March."
  • Georgia Insurance Commissioner Balks at Request on New Health Law - "The insurance commissioner of Georgia has chosen not to comply with a federal request to create a state pool for high-risk insurance plans, opening a new front in the resistance by state Republican officials to the new federal health care law."
  • The California Tax Break Window – Combining California Tax Credit with Federal Credit for $18,000 in Tax Credits. Southern California Housing Update. Giving $200 Million in Home Buyer Tax Credits While the State has a $20 Billion Budget Gap. - "California in its infinite wisdom is allocating $200 million in tax credits for home buyers. This is a very generous credit since existing home owners can use the $10,000 credit on a new home and new buyers can use it on either an existing home purchase or a new property. And for a limited time, you will be able to combine the California tax credit with the expiring $8,000 federal credit (if you close escrow between May 1st and June 30th) for a stunning $18,000 reduction in taxes. But of course, most typical families will not use every penny of this credit and it is really a boost to a segment of our population that is doing better in this economic crisis (maybe we want to look at the 15 million unemployed first?). Do we also need to point out that California will now have $200 million less to plug the $20 billion budget gap?
    . . .
    So last month, roughly 40 percent of all home purchases in SoCal were FHA insured meaning absolutely rock bottom down payments. Another 27 percent were all cash buyers and I would imagine many are buying out in areas like the Inland Empire as investors. Most are looking to flip and this game is getting thin because the rental market is flooded in these areas. Investors are not looking to hold and are aiming to find a diamond in the rough, shine it up, and make some money on it quickly. This is the bulk from what I have seen. We do have cash flow investors in California but not many."
  • Is making public data more accessible a threatening act? - "InfoUSA. Imagine a thought experiment where I downloaded the income, charitable donations, pets and military service information for all 89,000 Boulder residents listed in InfoUSA's marketing database, and put that information up in a public web page. That's obviously pretty freaky, but absolutely anyone with $7,000 to spare can grab exactly the same information! That intuitive reaction is very hard to model. Is it because at the moment someone has to make more of an effort to get that information? Do we actually prefer that our information is for sale, rather than free? Or are we just comfortable with a 'privacy through obscurity' regime?" ht O'Reilly Radar
  • "Contempt of cop" - "People are regularly charged with public disorderly conduct, breach of peace, or interference with a police officer and arrested and imprisoned by police officers for questioning their authority, asking questions, using profanity, or doing anything in general that pisses off the cop. Many people may not realize that all of the above is protected conduct under the First Amendment, unless the person's conduct arises to the level of 'fighting words,' which is defined by the U.S. and S.C. Supreme Courts as conduct or words that would tend to immediately incite violence.

    This has been the law according to the United States and South Carolina Supreme Courts for over 30 years, and it is well established. The police know that this is the law - they are specifically trained on First Amendment law at the academy and they are told that they cannot arrest a person for speech unless the person speaking is causing violence.

    Despite this, they also know that most people can not afford to retain an attorney - that they will plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge in the morning and most likely pay a fine. They know that they have made their point - piss me off and you will spend the night in jail. Attorneys call it 'contempt of cop' - analogizing to 'contempt of court,' where a judge can put you in jail if you disrupt the courtroom. Police are not judges, and they have no such power.

    This widespread practice of police is an abuse of power. The problem is a lack of training, a lack of supervision, a lack of discipline in the police departments that allow it to happen."
  • One more bad apple - "Given the recent slew of blog posts around the country on police abuse, this latest story is timely. Just another bad apple, the batch is fine:

    A Streamwood police officer has been charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct after a camera mounted on his squad car dashboard caught him repeatedly beating a motorist with his baton, prosecutors said.

    James Mandarino, 41, beat the motorist 15 times as the man knelt on the ground March 28, according to Assistant Cook County State's Atty. Alexander Vroustouris. The man received seven stitches to his ear and was treated for a concussion and multiple contusions, abrasions and bruises, Vroustouris said.

    'At no time during the time period when the defendant is beating the victim with his baton does the video reflect that the victim had anything in his hands, nor does the video reflect the victim making any threatening motions toward the defendant,' said Vroustouris. 'The victim is completely compliant.'"


  • University of Maryland Beating Editorial - "McKenna was fortunate that his family had the resources to hire a private investigator to find the video. Not everyone is so lucky, and it makes the case for changing Maryland’s unanimous consent law for recording conversations, as this case highlights. Laws that prevent the recording of interactions with police prevent transparency in what is supposed to be an open and free society."
  • Filing For Bankruptcy, Setting It To Music - "If banks are 'too big to fail' does that mean the rest of us are just the right size?"
  • Washington Post "Shopping Guide" is a very wasteful - "If you live in the Washington, DC, area, you probably receive 'The Washington Post 'Shopping Guide'' in your mailbox.

    Or in the case of some of us, it is shoved through a mail slot, where it scatters all over the floor, and is a royal pain to pick up. Especially if you have a physical handicap.

    We have several acquaintances who have attempted to stop delivery of this hugely wasteful mailing, to no avail. And so have others: see 'If You Don’t Get It, Good!' in the Washington City Paper, by Erik Wemple, September 25, 2008.

    They have been unable to find a 'remove me from this list' option anywhere on the Washington Post site or the Washington Post Ads site, and thus this hugely wasteful mass of paper continues."
  • Obama's nuke summit dangerously delusional - "In years to come -- assuming, for the purposes of argument, there are any years to come -- scholars will look back at President Barack Obama's Nuclear Security Summit and marvel. For once, the cheap comparisons with 1930s appeasement barely suffice: To be sure, in 1933, the great powers were meeting in Geneva and holding utopian arms-control talks even as Hitler was taking office in Berlin. But it's difficult to imagine Neville Chamberlain in 1938 hosting a conference on the dangers of rearmament, and inviting America, France, Brazil, Liberia and Thailand ...but not even mentioning Germany.

    Yet that's what Obama just did: He held a nuclear gabfest in 2010, the biggest meeting of world leaders on American soil since the founding of the United Nations 65 years ago -- and Iran wasn't on the agenda.
    . . .
    Iran has already offered to share its nuclear technology with Sudan. Sudan? Ring a vague bell? Remember that 'Save Darfur' interpretative-dance fundraiser you went to, where someone read out a press release from George Clooney, and you all had a simply marvelous time? Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed -- with machetes. That's pretty labor-intensive. In the Congo, five and a half million have been slaughtered -- and, again, in impressively primitive ways.

    But a nuclear Sudan would be a model of self-restraint?

    By the way, that's another example of the self-indulgent irrelevance of Obama. The mound of corpses being piled up around the world today is not from high-tech nuclear states but from low-tech psycho states. It's not that Britain has nukes, and poor old Sudan has to make do with machetes. It's that the machete crowd are willing to kill on an industrial scale, and the high-tech guys can't figure out a way to stop them. Perhaps for his next pointless yakfest the president might consider a machete nonproliferation initiative.
    . . .
    As we learned the hard way in Iraq and Afghanistan, stupid, ill-trained illiterates with primitive explosives who don't care who they kill can inflict quite a lot of damage on the technologically advanced highly trained warriors of civilized states. That's the 'asymmetric warfare' that matters. So virtuously proclaiming oneself opposed to nuclear modernization ensures a planet divided into civilized states with unusable weapons and barbarous regimes happy to kill with whatever's to hand."
  • High-achieving students sailing through life without a degree - "Ponting is one of a new breed of high-achieving students who have looked hard at what higher education has to offer and decided that the innovative new courses available at their local further education college are plenty good enough.
    . . .
    so if high-achieving non-graduates are now able to get the same type of job as those who have a degree, why is higher education still seen as the be-all and end-all?

    Parental aspirations and pressure from teachers could be part of the reason, if a survey by student advice website is to be believed.

    Nearly three-quarters of 1,180 A-level pupils surveyed by the site said they felt going to university was viewed as a necessity rather than a choice. Over half said that parents contributed to this feeling, while a fifth said pressure from school was to blame."
  • Switch College Admissions to a Single Lottery - "Now consider for a second that you are a high school junior and you see these rates. It’s becoming easier than ever to apply for multiple schools, so what is your rational course of action?

    You’re going to apply for tons of schools, thinking that at least one will let you in. And the next year, when the acceptance rates go even lower (they’ve been falling for years), students will apply to even more schools. The chances of any one student getting into any one school will become smaller and smaller, even as the number of spaces at those schools keeps pace with demographic changes. The spaces themselves are not becoming more scarce; it’s the admissions craze that’s making them look that way.
    . . .
    The medical residency program was solved by a coordinated matching system. All students and schools submitted their preferences to a national non-profit designed specifically for this purpose. Schools got their seats filled, and students were placed in one and only one university. There were no more waiting lists, no more lottery-like admissions processes held at individual schools. The system has been in place with few changes ever since.

    To work for colleges and universities, they would have to see a problem. They would have to begin to understand that their admissions department cannot continue to grow apace with applications. It’s simply too arbitrary of a process when Harvard gets more valedictorians and more students with perfect SAT scores than they have available seats.

    Next, they would have to accept that the admissions process is no longer about crafting the perfect freshman class as if each student was a Lego piece in a giant, fragile sculpture that would collapse without the perfect amount of Florida students, or oboists, or whatever else. We’re way beyond that now.

    Then, they would have to form some common admissions unit. Each school could submit their cutoff SAT scores and high school GPA. Students would apply to this third-party unit and list their preferences in order, and then a calculation would be run that would place students and fill school slots. Similar matching systems are run for 90,000 students applying for New York City public high schools, for the medical residency program, for fraternities and sororities, for kidney exchanges, and for college football bowl match-ups. It’ would not be impossible to create one for colleges and universities, and it would put an end to the madness we know as the college admissions process."

The voices behind the Simpsons

  • Beyond parody: Lerach plans to teach law at Irvine - "Released from prison, the felonious class-actioneer plans to join Dean Erwin Chemerinsky’s left-leaning new University of California law school to lecture students on the topic of 'Regulation of Free Market Capitalism -- Why Have We Failed?'. He also apparently intends to claim the time spent in this propagandistic effort toward his community service obligation."
  • Research Finds STEM Classes Have Lower Grades, Higher Dropouts - "Research recently presented at the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute conference shows that low grades in introductory STEM -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- classes “push” students away from their STEM majors. Ben Ost grad conducted the study, which demonstrates how grading gaps between science and non-science courses encourage higher STEM dropout rates.
    . . .
    While some students in his sophomore-level engineering courses changed majors after receiving low grades, Prof. Nicholas Zabaras, mechanical and aerospace engineering, said dropout rates in higher-level classes were near zero because juniors and seniors know what to expect.

    When asked about the necessity of difficult grading in STEM courses, Zabaras said, 'Do you want to fly on a plane that was designed by someone who is lazy? Do you want a doctor who is clueless? The problem should not be addressed at the university level; it should be addressed in high school.'"

    Uh oh. We need grade inflation in STEM courses!

  • Turning the Other Cheek: North Face v. South Butt - "St. Louis-area native Jimmy Winkelmann, now a freshman at the University of Missouri Columbia, started The South Butt to help pay for college. When The North Face's trademark action against Jimmy and retailer Williams Pharmacy followed, Jimmy's attorneys offered a highly original and colorful answer, including at least 7 non-salacious synonyms for 'butt' and reproducing the company's 'disclaimer':

    We are not in any fashion related to nor do we wish to be confused with The North Face Apparel Corp. or its products sold under 'The North Face' brand. If you are unable to discern the difference between a face and a butt, we encourage you to buy North Face products."
  • 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."
  • The Blind Side - " I came away from these experiences more convinced than before that major, rewrite-the-rules change is imminent in this marketplace, and that some current institutions simply won’t survive in recognizable form. You should read the media accounts of the Georgetown Law Firm Evolution event, from observers like Aric Press, Rachel Zahorsky, Ron Friedmann, Greg Bufithis , and various Twitter correspondents (as well as a response from Robert Sawhney), to get a sense of the scope of change that was discussed.

    But for me, the penny dropped during the dinnertime address by Richard Susskind, whose remarks included a heartfelt plea for conference delegates to lead a change for the better that the profession and justice system desperately need. One of Richard’s topics was the Legal Services Act in England & Wales, and its soon-to-be-active provisions allowing alternative business structures (ABSs), including non-lawyer equity investment in law firms and legal enterprises (here’s a sampling of articles, from last September to last week, describing scenarios under which law firms might invite such investment).
    . . .
    For many other firms, though, the challenges are extremely serious. The prospect that emerges from all this is a legal services marketplace in which many law firms are simply irrelevant -- they’re not structured in ways that deliver maximum value to clients and they can’t compete with rivals that are. There was a lot of talk at the Georgetown event about whether 'BigLaw is dead,' and I have to agree with those managing partners who dismissed the notion: these firms are obviously up and about and making a great deal of money, and it’s absurd to pretend they’re dead men walking.

    The worry, for me, is that many firms, of all sizes, aren’t ready for the radical ways in which the playing field is about to change. Their focus is either straight ahead, on their clients, or internal, on their own condition and competitiveness. They’re like a quarterback whose gaze is either locked downfield on his receivers or focused dead ahead on the defenders in his path. As a result, he never sees the hit coming, from his blind side, that flattens him and turns the ball over to the other team. It’s not just lawyers and clients who matter anymore. New players, with an unprecedented combination of size and speed, are charging onto the playing field like a storm and rewriting the rules of the game as they come."
  • Dog Gone Sinners - "Ever watch that dog whisperer fellow? Sister Mary Fiacre loves watching that man. I think she likes all the dogs. The dog whisperer is a dog trainer who has a TV show where he goes to some one's house who has an incorrigible dog and the second he gets there, the dog behaves for him. Then he has to teach the owners to treat the dog like a dog and not a furry person who eats off the floor.

    His motto is that the dog is a dog first, then a specific breed of dog, then your pet. Or something like that. Dogs are pack animals and once the owner understands that he is the pack leader and not the daddy of the dog, things fall into place. Just because a dog is a dog doesn't mean we allow the dog to eat our shoes."

Felony Charges for Recording a Plainclothes Officer

  • Verizon and Sprint handled 16 billion more MB of data than AT&T in 2009 - "AT&T might be the first carrier you think of when you picture the largest mover of wireless data in the US, but according to a new study published by ABI Research, the honor actually belongs to Verizon. In fact, not only does Verizon beat out AT&T, but so does Sprint with the two networks having handled a grand total of 63% of wireless data in 2009. To give you a idea of how much data that equates to, last year Verizon and Sprint moved a whopping 16 billion MB (or 15,625,000 TB) more data than AT&T."
  • The Number of People Giving Up TV for the Web Is Slowly Gaining Pace - "A new report estimates that some 800,000 American households now watch TV only via the Web, as the move to abandon cable, satellite or OTA broadcasts starts to gather pace. This represents a small percentage of the pay TV industry's 101 million subscribers, but the number is expected to double by the end of next year. These are the earliest adopters, though, and they account for just 3 percent of all full-episode online television viewing -- meaning that plenty of people are already supplanting their standard TV viewing with online episodes. It's clear already (and has been for some time) that TV viewers are undertaking a fundamental change in how they want to access and view content. The combination of the Web and DVRs allowing on-demand viewing has made the linear TV channel something of an outdated concept, and at some point, TV providers will need to realize that on-demand shows are now how a growing number of people want to receive their programming."
  • Prexiso X2 Laser Distance Measurer - "The X2 measures with an accuracy ≤ ± 1/8″ over a range of 4″ to 100′. It can display the results in feet & inches, inches, or meters. It also -- as you might expect from this company -- calculates: areas, volumes, and, via Pythagoras, indirect measurements of height (measure to top; measure to bottom; it solves for height) or width (measure near point; measure far point; it solves for width) -- you measure two sides of a right triangle, and it calculates the third side."
  • Consumers Like Medical Toys Too - "A new segment of medical technology has been born and its infantile life is being coddled and shaped -- not by incumbents in the world of healthcare technology -- but largely by entrepreneurs. They're creating products to fill a void not possible with yesterday's technology, a space previously untapped, and the early results are in: consumers are ripping open their wallets to take advantage of the benefits these products provide. The big players in the medical technology world would be smart to take notice, both for their own benefit and the benefit of consumer health.
    . . .
    Another player that has their product flying off the shelves is Fitbit, a pedometer on steroids that allows you to monitor how active your daily habits are, how many calories you're burning, and if you toss and turn in your sleep, all on a simple and attractive web interface. The data collected from the Fitbit is automatically and wirelessly synced with your computer, allowing you to never think about the device besides when it needs to be charged, a fantastically infrequent once every ten or so days. In one swoop, the Fitbit rethought the pedometer, taking the device from a simple step-counter with one readout, to a detailed accelerometer collecting a flood of data allowing a more precise glimpse into your daily activity. You'd think that a $99 pedometer might not sell well, but the current one month wait to get your hands on one says otherwise.

    Then there's the Withings wifi scale that automatically uploads your weight and fat composition so you can access it either through an online web application or via the device's very own iPhone application. This sort of precise tracking allows the consumers to monitor their progress and set goals over time. Again, at $159, this is a high-end scale, yet the demand is there and it's gotten significant attention, once again showing that personal data tracking is useful and consumers want an easy way to monitor their health and habits."
  • More No-Depression Alt-History - "A couple of years ago I posted some speculations dealing with the alternative-history topic of what if the Great Depression had only been a normal recession. I mostly focused on possible political consequences; now, I want to ponder art, architecture, industrial design and such.

    Many people might assume that the Depression stifled innovation, but that might not be so. Histories of the Industrial Design field suggest that the dramatic slowdown in sales pushed many manufacturers to try almost anything to entice buyers -- including hiring those artistes such as Raymond Loewy, Norman Bel Geddes, Henry Dreyfuss and Walter Dorwin Teague for product design modernization. If this speculation is true, then the non-Depression alternative would have been, say, a much longer timeline from boxy to quasi-streamlined automobiles. ('If our stuff's selling well, what's the point in making radical changes?')

    On the other hand, prosperity could not have prevented consolidation in the automobile industry: that process is unavoidable, if history is any guide. But the consolidation process would surely have slowed. Also, the surviving companies might have been different. For example, Hudson was a strong seller at the end of the 1920s and, with a few judicious mergers, might have been a strong fourth after General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Or perhaps Studebaker might have filled that role."
  • Kushi Izakaya (DC) - "I am very enthusiastic about this place, which serves up surprisingly genuine Japanese menus. The omikase is only $60 and every one of the courses was excellent. Very good sashimi. Most of the restaurant is devoted to a’la carte and small courses. They cook with wood, charcoal, and sous vide, no gas. Overall the seafood is more special than the meats. Excellent décor. Right now this is one of the best places to go in [DC]."
  • Gallery: 8 Tablets That Aren’t Made by Apple - "Few product categories get a second chance to make it big. Wristwatch calculators, 8-track tapes, mopeds, unicycles and Polaroid film are never going to be wildly popular again. But tablets are poised to make the kind of comeback that would make Robert Downey Jr. proud.

    PC makers have offered slates and convertible notebooks for nearly a decade, and they’ve never caught on. But now, a new generation of attractively designed and low-priced screens are looking to lure in consumers. Most of these sleek slabs of glass rely on simplified touch interfaces and will probably work best as content consumption devices: Something you’d use for reading, web browsing and watching movies.

    The new generation of tablets might just pull it off. So far, Apple has sold more than 500,000 iPads and it says it can’t keep up with the demand, suggesting that computer makers are right to jump on this trend now.

    As they do, they’re exploiting the iPad’s weaknesses. Typing on the iPad isn’t easy and it is an underpowered device for its price tag -- the same money could buy you a nice laptop. Its browser doesn’t support Adobe Flash, and you can’t run software on it unless that software comes from Apple’s App Store.

    So if you don’t want to buy into the Apple hype machine, there are plenty of alternatives. From Dell to HP, almost every major PC manufacturer is working on a tablet. And there’s no dearth of upstarts. Asian brands and European startups are vying to get their tablets out, too.

    Wired looks at some of the most interesting screens that will get into consumers’ hands this year."
  • Be careful swallowing that tablet - "Unlike the other two tablets, the iPad is unable to surf sites built around Flash technology -- used widely for video clips and interactive content. This is not necessarily as inconvenient as it sounds. Many of the most popular Flash websites, including YouTube, offer dedicated apps for the iPad, so you can still enjoy what they have to offer.

    To type messages or write documents, tablets use virtual keypads that pop up onscreen when you need them. Forget about touch-typing on any of them, though, as hitting small keys on a flat screen is no substitute for a physical keyboard. The iPad does at least offer a clever auto-correct feature that learns to recognise and rectify your most common typing mistakes, making it the fastest virtual keyboard here.

    Tablets have been touted as replacements for ebook readers such as the Amazon Kindle but even the iPad -- which is the lightest of the three at 680g (1½lb) -- is too heavy for one-handed reading. The iPad does show promise, however, when handling specially created interactive books, as opposed to staid text-on-a-page. Colourful children’s ebooks, in particular, were beautifully rendered within Apple’s free iBooks app.
    . . .
    Verdict: Gorgeous for sofa-surfing, but less portable than a smartphone and less practical than a laptop."
  • Researcher warns of impending PDF attack wave - "A design flaw in Adobe's popular PDF format will quickly be exploited by hackers to install financial malware on users' computers, a security company argued today.

    The bug, which is not strictly a security vulnerability but actually part of the PDF specification, was first disclosed by Belgium researcher Didier Stevens last week. Stevens demonstrated how a multistage attack using the PDF specification's "/Launch" function could successfully exploit a fully-patched copy of Adobe Reader.
    . . .
    In a blog post Tuesday, Adobe Reader group product manager Steve Gottwals recommended that consumers block attacks by unchecking a box marked 'Allow opening of non-PDF file attachments with external applications' in the programs' preferences panes. By default, Reader and Acrobat have the box checked, meaning that the behavior Stevens exploited is allowed.

    Gottwals also showed how enterprise IT administrators can force users' copies of Reader and Acrobat into the unchecked state by pushing a change to Windows' registry."

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 4/18/10"

April 18, 2010 10:17 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 4/14/10

Bill Black: Not Dead Yet - Part 4

John Cleese on Extremism

  • 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."
  • Ohio Judge Tells Residents to 'Arm Themselves' - "When asked what advice he would give to residents of Ashtabula County Ohio because of cutbacks in official law enforcement budgets, Judge Alfred Mackey said they should:

    arm themselves. Be very careful, be vigilant, get in touch with your neighbors, because we're going to have to look after each other."
  • Get a job or your tuition money back - "In a county with 11.7 percent unemployment, Lansing (Michigan) Community College is offering a money-back guarantee, reports Time Magazine. If you pass a six-week training course for a high-demand job and don’t get hired within a year, you’ll get your tuition back.

    This offer applies to training for jobs as call-center specialists, pharmacy technicians, quality inspectors and computer machinists; pay rates range from $12.10 to $15.72 an hour. Training costs about $2,400."
  • Supply, Demand and Consequences - "Before the big 1960s ramp-up in college and university numbers and enrollments in the USA due to pressure from the postwar Baby Boom and the encouragement of Lyndon Johnson's happy band of Great Society government spenders, college graduates were distinctly a minority of adults. Ability to fund a college education aside, the assumption was that college graduates fell into the upper part of the IQ bell curve -- perhaps an IQ of 110 being the threshold.

    Aside from the bleak Depression years, the American economy was modern enough and strong enough to absorb college graduates in occupations requiring ability and drive; such occupations were often financially rewarding.

    Elitist? You bet. But the system makes a lot of sense from the practical standpoint of running an economy.

    Nowadays a majority of high school graduates go on to one kind of "higher education" or another. That throws away the notion that college is for above-average people: 60 percent (or whatever) of the population can't have IQs greater than 110. (I'll avoid that sad topic of what kind of "education" many colleges provide these days.)
    . . .
    Looking at post-1945 history, country after country that was once a cheap labor market has graduated to comparative affluence or is well on the way. Assume this trend continues. Eventually, all countries will become nearly equally affluent and there will be no pockets of inexpensive labor to be found. That suggests low-priced good will become a thing of the past where the supply of cheap labor has been destroyed by the demand for it."
  • Older America Made Recession Look Better - "As the chart shows, the 'composition-adjusted' unemployment rate -- the light blue line -- was at a record high of 11.3 percent in the last quarter of 2009, surpassing the peak of 1982.

    In other words, yes, in terms of unemployment milestones, this was the worst recession since the Great Depression."
  • Ron Paul has Barack Obama’s number - "Don’t be bamboozled by Republican propagandists telling you Obama is running left or that he is a ‘socialist.’ This is nonsense – kabuki theater, if you will. They are merely using Obama’s weakness to gain control of the historical political narrative. In reality, Leftists are absolutely outraged at his legislative agenda.

    Obama is a corporatist like other New Democrats of the neo-liberal mold. The schtick -- as also used by Schroeder in Germany, Koizumi in Japan and Tony Blair in the UK -- is to say the things that progressives want to hear, but do the things that big business wants to be done. You have to give a sop to the base here and there like exempting unions from the healthcare bill’s Cadillac policy tax. But, the goal is to curry favor with big business, which is the paymaster of both established parties in the U.S."

    See "Crony capitalism"

  • Further to Andrew Ferguson on Behavioral Economics - "Long before reading Cass Sunstein as a risk-expert, I read him as a jurisprudential philosophe. I mean, going back to his writing on 'deliberative democracy,' going way back. It seems to me that the move from traditional economics here to behavioral economics is precisely the same move in moral philosophy that he, and others of the same tendency, made in the deliberative democracy literature. What was it, after all, that characterized 'deliberative democracy' as an intellectual move, in the hands of Amy Gutmann, Sunstein, and others? A theory of meta-deliberation, a theory of how people would ideally discuss all the deeply divisive issues of the day -- abortion, affirmative action, on and on.

    And yet somehow, some way, the conclusion was always that the right process of thinking must ineluctably lead one to think they way Gutmann, Sunstein, all good and honorable liberal thinkers thought about these hot button issues. Not just good people -- but rational people -- would all think affirmative action a good thing, abortion okay, etc., etc. The most stunning intellectual move was not merely the claim that these were the right moral conclusions, but that to reach some other conclusion meant that you hadn’t deliberated enough, or deliberated in the right way."
  • Carbon Dioxide Causes Near Death Experiences? - "If CO2 opens the gates to the afterlife then will rising atmospheric CO2 cause some people pass over to the other side? I'm just asking."
  • Liberty, “Group Status Issues,” and the Tea Party - "What I really, really care about is liberty. If the culture and the law denies liberty to some groups, then I think we ought to fight culturally and politically to win equal freedom for the members of those groups. If people have been denied liberty on the basis of group membership, caring about liberty then entails caring about the 'group status issues' standing behind historical oppression.

    I am not scared of the fact that older Americans are more racist, sexist, and homophobic that younger Americans. I regard this as a hopeful sign that historic inequalities in status and freedom are on their way out. And I’m not frightened of the Tea Party movement (which is not especially old.) In fact, I hope it helps deliver divided government by helping Republicans win a bunch of seats. I just don’t think it’s very substantively libertarian. It is a populist movement centered on a certain conservative conception of traditional American identity. Libertarian rhetoric is definitely part of that, but rhetoric is rhetoric."
  • Aljazeera TV promotes the lie that prediction markets are “eerily accurate”, sucking up to InTrade’s PR and Hanson’s spinning. - "Here for the debunking."
  • Stop Fishing and Start Feasting: How Citable Public Documents Will Change Your Life - "Making it possible to create timestamped permalinks at a paragraph level of granularity would be a huge leap forward in increasing government transparency through its online documents. The same principles apply when producing citable government data. When decided to display visual representations of the data coming in about recovery money around the nation, it quickly became clear that some amount of data was erroneous. When the errors were reported and the data was later modified, there wasn't any way to go back and compare the two versions to see what changes had taken place. A blogger, reporter, statistician or scientist should be able to run a query against any specific collection of government data, as it was published, for a given version or moment in time."
  • 'Young invincibles' imperil health reform - "One of the biggest risks to the success of health reform, comes not from the sick but from the young and healthy, a former top official in charge of Medicare and Medicaid administration said Friday."
  • Mish Mailbag: IBM Abandons U.S. Workers - "Outsourcing jobs has been going on quite some time. Let's address why.

    For starters, global wage arbitrage is one huge factor in play.

    Unfortunately, wage equalization and standard of living adjustments between industrialized countries and emerging markets will be a long painful process for Western society.

    On that score, there is little that can be done except reduce wages and benefits in the public sector and stop wasting money being the world's policeman. We simply can no longer afford it. Besides, neither of those things ever made any sense anyway.

    US Tax policy is another reason for outsourcing, and that can easily be addressed, at least in theory.

    US corporate tax policy allows deferment of profits overseas, but profits in the US have a tax rate of 35%. This policy literally begs corporations to move profits and jobs, overseas."
  • Health insurance mandate as a privacy right violation - "Among the lawsuits filed against Obamacare is a class action in the Southern District of Mississippi. Class representatives, for residents of Mississippi who do not wish to be subject to the health insurance purchase mandate, include State Senator Chris McDaniel and Lt. Governor Phil Bryant.
    . . .
    Para. 35: The Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes. The tripartite enumeratation shows that the 'substantially affects' test for regulation of interstate commerce does not imply an infinite power. Since everything affects everything else, at least in some degree, a regulation of Indian or foreign commerce might be justified on the ground that it 'affects' interstate commerce. However, the text separates interstate, foreign, and Indian commerce. 'Had the Founders intended the commerce power to be unlimited, enumerating three categories of commerce for Congress to regulate would have been wholly unnecessary.' (And as Justice Thomas pointed out in Lopez, the theory of an unbounded interstate commerce power is also contradicted by Article I’s enumeration of a separate bankruptcy power.)
    . . .
    Indeed, the insurance purchase mandate is considerably more intrusive than other purchase mandates which would become constitutional if the insurance mandate is upheld. For example, if Congress required that every family purchase a General Motors ACDelco automobile battery at least once every 5 years, the mandate would be financially burdensome, but would not necessarily require the disclosure of any private information. In contrast, the insurance mandate is a mandate for the involuntary disclosure of many of the most intimate details about one’s life--and making that disclosure to a corporation that in effect functions as a highly-regulated public utility, and which will turn the information over to the government under certain conditions."

Interview with Robert Lawrence and Kevin Odom from FairWarning on Vimeo.

Your GM Pickup Could Explode And Kill You

  • The Ten Fastest States In America - "Some states dole out more tickets per capita than others, and DriverSide has worked up a list of the top 10 speediest states according to traffic citations. Of course, a lot goes into these statistics besides how fast residents are driving, including the number of law enforcement officers on the road and the population of each individual state. Do drivers up north really cruise at higher speeds than their southern counterparts? Take a look at our list of speediest states to find out for yourself.
    . . .
    It's not really a state per se, but the District of Columbia takes the crown as the location with the most citations per capita. The capital of our nation boasts an astounding 553,523 residents with 434,301 tickets. That means a full 78.5 percent of the population has at least one traffic violation to their name! So much for law-abiding citizens in the land of law and order."
  • Why do colleges care about extracurricular activities? - "Colleges want to expand the heterogeneity of the selection criteria so they can pick who they want. If it's a top college or university, mostly this means limiting the number of Asians and maximizing the number of future donors and by the way those two goals tend to move in tandem. Other than legacy admissions, I wonder what other features of applications predict future donations? Might extra-curricular activities be one candidate here?"
  • Top colleges squeeze parents dry - "The richest institutions could pay all operating expenses from endowments, Manshel writes. But 'there are qualified paying customers lined up at the door,' so why not make ‘em pay? Leaders of the elite private colleges could control costs and end inflation-busting increases, raise endowment payouts and 'rededicate themselves to providing opportunity to the talented regardless of means.'

    Wealthy grandparents can’t pass much on to their grandchildren directly, but they can pay unlimited tuition, notes George Leef. And colleges know that."
  • 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."
  • How "elite" dating websites scam people - "My ex-girlfriend called me a few weeks ago, her voice shaking. She asked if it was possible to get money back from a website. I asked her what the website was, and she did not want to tell me. So I told her to call the credit card company and ask them to refund the money. She did, called me a few days later to thank me and I did did not hear about it again.

    Till last week, when she called me, crying on the phone. She was being sued by the dating website for not paying the fee of a bit more than $800.

    (I'm not going to mention any of the websites by name, because they are extremely litigous, and I don't want it to be said I directly accused any particular company of scamming. You can use the quotes I include here to discover the websites or use the search term 'elite' to find the sites)

    I'm going to describe the techniques that these websites are using to squeeze a lot of money out of people with a service that gives them nothing in return."
  • "Crony Capitalism" - "Crony capitalism is a pejorative term describing an allegedly capitalist economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between businesspeople and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, and so forth.

    Crony capitalism is believed to arise when political cronyism spills over into the business world; self-serving friendships and family ties between businessmen and the government influence the economy and society to the extent that it corrupts public-serving economic and political ideals."

Is it Time to Lower The Drinking Age?

  • Octopus vs. Sea Lion--First Ever Video - "New National Geographic Crittercam footage shows never before seen eating habits of the Australian sea lion--including video of a sea lion hunting a large octopus. The footage is from a project intended to help save the endangered sea lions, in part by uncovering where and how the animals eat."
  • Spray Bandages Closer to Human Testing - "Researchers at Wake Forest University reported that they have mounted an "ink-jet" type device, capable of spraying skin-cells directly on burns, onto a frame that will allow human testing. At the Translational Regenerative Medicine Forum the researchers reported on results from testing the device on mouse models, where the rate of wound healing was sped up significantly. They hope to begin human testing soon."
  • Feel Free To Get Lost With The Lost Balloon - "There are already a bunch of options for getting yourself rescued from the wilderness (where there are bears that want to eat you). Most of these options are fairly situational… A cell phone is great, but you need reception and batteries. A flare gun is great (and fun!), but it only works once. A signal mirror is great, but you need to have sun. What you really want is something simple, reliable, portable, and effective, which (it turns out) means big inflatable rescue balloon."

. . . . . . . . .

Continue reading "Assorted Links 4/14/10"

April 14, 2010 08:27 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 4/10/10

Bill Black: Not Dead Yet - Part 3

  • 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."
  • The strange but true tale of a phony currency, shame, and a grass-roots movement that could go global - "What good is a currency that is not even worth the paper it’s printed on?

    That’s the intriguing question raised by the new 'zero rupee note' now circulating in southern India. It looks just like the country’s 50 rupee bill but with some crucial differences: It is printed on just one side on plain paper, it bears a big fat '0' denomination, and it isn’t legal tender.

    The notes do, however, have value to the people who carry them. They’re designed as a radical new response to the pervasive problem of petty corruption. Citizens are encouraged to hand the notes to public officials in response to the bribery demands that are almost inescapable when dealing with the government here. Bribes for access to services are so common they even have an accepted euphemism -- asking for money 'for tea.'

    The notes, printed and distributed by a good-government organization called 5th Pillar, include the phrase that the bearer 'promises to neither accept nor give a bribe.' The idea is that by handing one of these zero rupee bills to an official, a citizen can register a silent protest -- and maybe even shame or scare a corrupt bureaucrat into doing his duty without demanding a bribe for it."

    Hat tip to and from the comments at MR:
    Now if we can only get the "Zero Attitude" note that we can hand to police and surly bureaucrats at the DMV and IRS, we'd be set!

    Or the "Zero Confidence" note we can hand to any incompetent public servant, like a lousy teacher, rude city bus driver, all politicians, etc.

  • Facts vs. the Narrative - "The narrative is that small business credit markets are frozen. John Stossel argues the facts say otherwise?
    . . .
    So does our science-based President address the narrative or the facts? Here is a hint: narratives can affect elections, while facts are often ignored. Therefore, Obama is proposing to use $30 billion of TARP money to so something about the $8 billion drop in small business lending."
  • Reis: Strip Mall Vacancy Rate Hits 10.8%, Highest since 1991 - "The 8.9% is the highest since Reis began tracking regional malls in 2000. Lease rates fell for the seventh consecutive quarter."
  • Unions and State Government Management - "State and local governments that have high levels of unionization have a harder time efficiently managing their finances and other aspects of their operations. At least, that’s my argument. The other day, I showed that states with higher levels of debt had higher levels of unionization. The statistical correlation was very strong.

    Today, let’s look at the quality of state management, as measured by a major report by the Pew Center on the States. The Pew report gave letter grades to the 50 state governments for management of finances, employees, infrastructure, and information. Pew also provided an overall state score.
    . . .
    The bottom line: public-sector unionization is not a good idea, as it apparently leads to lower-quality government management and to higher debt levels. As such, I’ve argued that collective bargaining in state and local government workforces should be banned."
  • Even With a Recovery, Job Perks May Not Return - "Workers have seen everything from 401(k) contributions to educational reimbursements cut by their employers during the recession. While some companies are slowly restoring some benefits, experts say workers shouldn't expect a return to pre-2007 levels any time soon.

    'Those days are gone,' says Tim Prichard, head of BridgeStreet Consulting, a benefits administration consulting firm. 'Benefits across the board are no longer sacred cows.'

    A survey of 522 human resources professionals conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management in February 2009 found that fringe benefit offerings--which include stock options, paid family leave and business class airfare--have decreased significantly since 2005."
  • UPS Thinks Out of the Box on Driver Training - "Driver training is crucial for Atlanta-based UPS, which employs 99,000 U.S. drivers and says it will need to hire 25,000 over the next five years to replace retiring Baby Boomers.

    Candidates vying for a driver's job, which pays an average of $74,000 annually, now spend one week at Integrad, an 11,500-square-foot, low-slung brick UPS training center 10 miles outside of Washington, D.C. There they move from one station to another practicing the company's '340 Methods,' prescribed by UPS industrial engineers to save seconds and improve safety in every task from lifting and loading boxes to selecting a package from a shelf in the truck."

    Let's read that again: "a [UPS] driver's job, which pays an average of $74,000 annually,"

  • Embarassing Graduation Rate Data? - "I was struck by the title of an article that appears in the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning, 'Education Dept. Data Show Rise in Enrollment and Student Aid but Flat Graduation Rates.' Unless the purpose of student aid is simply to boost enrollments, it sounds like some people -- taxpayers come immediately to mind -- aren't getting their money's worth, not to mention the students lured to college who don't get out.

    Moved by curiosity actually to read the article, I was then struck even harder by something that turned out not to be mentioned in it: any reference to graduation rates by race. That omission seems seriously odd, I thought, since race is always on the Dept. of Education's mind (or whatever), and surely a Dept. of Education report on graduation rates could not ignore racial data, could it?"
  • We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident - "Human nature being understood, and moral language being understood, one can make some observations.

    Human beings are more likely to thrive under conditions of liberty. The chances of fulfilling a person's preferences by coercing him are much lower than his own chances of fulfilling his preferences by his own discovery of those preferences, decision as to how to fulfill them, and freely undertaking to act on his decisions. If his betters have wisdom on the matter he can seek it out by inquiring of them. If someone decides to control and coerce him, it will unlikely be his better and even if it is, it will unlikely be a man who could fulfill the preferences of his subjects as well as they could fulfill their preferences."
  • Injustice System: Fox News' Judge Andrew Napolitano on repealing the 17th Amendment, "constitutional activism," and his bestselling new book Lies the Government Told You. - "Reason: You end the book [Lies the Government Told You] with a call for a 'major political transformation.' What is the single most important reform?

    Napolitano: I would repeal the 17th Amendment [which provides for the popular election of U.S. senators]. Can an amendment to the Constitution itself be unconstitutional? Yes, that one. If you read Madison’s notes from the constitutional convention, they spent more time arguing over the make-up of the federal government and they came up with the federal table. There would be three entities at the federal table. There would be the nation as a nation, there would be the people, and there would be the states. The nation as a nation is the president, the people is the House of Representatives, and the states is the Senate, because states sent senators. Not the people in the states, but the state government. When the progressives, in the Theodore Roosevelt/Woodrow Wilson era, abolished this it abolished bicameralism, the notion of two houses. It effectively just gave us another house like the House of Representatives where they didn’t have to run as frequently, and the states lost their place at the federal table.

    That was an assault, an invasion on the infrastructure of constitutional government. Even kings in Europe had to satisfy the princes and barons around them. And that’s how they lost their power, or that’s how their power was tempered. Congress believes it doesn’t have to satisfy anybody. Its only recognized restraint is whatever it can get away with.

    Reason: What do you make of the recent attacks on the idea of states’ rights, linking it directly to evil things like the defense of slavery?

    Napolitano: Probably the best act of nullification of which I’m aware, whereby a state government nullified an act of the federal government, was the state of Massachusetts nullifying the Fugitive Slave Act. The state of Massachusetts said don’t even try it here. We’ll prosecute anybody that kidnaps anybody else in this state. So nullification has a beneficial and salutary history as well as the sordid one.

    Reason: You wrote that the notion of being innocent until proven guilty is 'probably the least questioned and most believed government lie.'

    Napolitano: It’s drawn from my professional experience. The defendant is dragged into the courtroom and the jurors assume he’s guilty. Why would the government be wasting our time? When I would charge jurors--explain the law to them--I would insist on saying, 'in order for him to be convicted you must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty of his guilt.' The state always objected to that phrase (“and to a moral certainty”) until I pulled out the case law by appellate courts saying that it was perfectly appropriate.

    There are some horror stories in my book of people who were punished without trial. In the Herrera case, [defendant Leonel Torres Herrera] was executed, with the state knowing that somebody else had committed the crime. They just didn’t care because he filed his petitions too late. Chief Justice John Roberts, when he was Judge Roberts, was asked at his confirmation hearing, does the Constitution prohibit the execution of the innocent by the state? He paused and said yes. Who could possibly pause? If it prohibits anything it prohibits that."

James Randi Speaks: My Fortune

  • Growth of Unpaid Internships May Be Illegal, Officials Say - "With job openings scarce for young people, the number of unpaid internships has climbed in recent years, leading federal and state regulators to worry that more employers are illegally using such internships for free labor.

    Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York’s labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms’ internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.

    Many regulators say that violations are widespread, but that it is unusually hard to mount a major enforcement effort because interns are often afraid to file complaints. Many fear they will become known as troublemakers in their chosen field, endangering their chances with a potential future employer.

    The Labor Department says it is cracking down on firms that fail to pay interns properly and expanding efforts to educate companies, colleges and students on the law regarding internships."
  • Student Internships and Minimum Wage Laws - "Are any VC readers of the view that enforcement of these minimum wage laws will lead to increased employment of the interns? I’m not being cute; I’d be curious to know if anyone wanted to make that argument in a serious way, as it is hard for me to fathom, but perhaps I am wrong."
  • Q&A: Discovering the World on the Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains and Planes - "Author Carl Hoffman has written extensively about some of the most technological and advanced forms of transportation on the planet. Whether it be Burt Rutan’s quest for space, or Larry Ellison’s quest for the America’s Cup, Hoffman enjoys how people express their creativity with machines.

    So, it comes as a bit of a surprise that his new book, The Lunatic Express, features no carbon fiber, no breakthrough designs or alternative fuels. Instead, Hoffman sets off on a trip around the world using only the most dangerous and decrepit forms of transportation he finds along the way.

    He travels the Andes in buses more famous for cliff dives than on-time arrivals. In India, he packs himself onto trains so overcrowded there are as many people sitting on the roof as there are in the seats. For a trip across the islands of Indonesia, he skips the ease of a short flight, opting instead for a questionable ferry like the ones that sank several years earlier killing more than a thousand people. In his defense, Indonesian air-safety records aren’t exactly inspiring, either.

    But as Hoffman details so eloquently in his book, this is how most of the world’s population travels. The complaints we hear at the airline ticket counter are petty compared to what most people must contend with when they need to get to work or visit family. The Lunatic Express isn’t about the interesting ways tourists traipse across foreign countries and the frustrations they experience. It’s about the people who must contend with danger and discomfort every day to simply get from place to place, and the incredible kindness they so often display despite what they have to endure."
  • 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."
  • Some Papers Are Uploaded to Bangalore to Be Graded - "Lori Whisenant knows that one way to improve the writing skills of undergraduates is to make them write more. But as each student in her course in business law and ethics at the University of Houston began to crank out--often awkwardly--nearly 5,000 words a semester, it became clear to her that what would really help them was consistent, detailed feedback.

    Her seven teaching assistants, some of whom did not have much experience, couldn't deliver. Their workload was staggering: About 1,000 juniors and seniors enroll in the course each year. 'Our graders were great,' she says, 'but they were not experts in providing feedback.'

    That shortcoming led Ms. Whisenant, director of business law and ethics studies at Houston, to a novel solution last fall. She outsourced assignment grading to a company whose employees are mostly in Asia.

    Virtual-TA, a service of a company called EduMetry Inc., took over. The goal of the service is to relieve professors and teaching assistants of a traditional and sometimes tiresome task--and even, the company says, to do it better than TA's can."
  • What Is Barack Obama? - "I don’t doubt that our president has his issues--just look at his nutty mother, consider the impact of being abandoned by dad--but I don’t think that just putting Obama on the couch is the best way to understand him.

    Put him in the classroom instead. Because he’s the stereotypical American undergrad at a stereotypical Ivy League college in the age of political correctness."

Congressman’s War Hero Son Would Have Wanted Highway Bill Passed

  • Michelin’s Smart Jumper Cables - "As if having a dead battery in your vehicle wasn’t bad enough, there’s also the risk of doing some serious damage if you incorrectly hook up a set of jumper cables while trying to bring it back to life. Not so with Michelin’s Smart Jumper Cables. An electronic box in-between the sets of clamps lets you know when everything’s hooked up, properly completing the circuit, and once both batteries are connected any issues with polarity are automatically taken care of to keep sparking and ’splosions to a minimum."
  • People Want Mobile Broadband, But Not Personal Hotspots - "User confusion about personal hotspots may be one reason for decreasing sales. Whenever I take the MiFi out at coffee shops or around other people, I’m invariably asked what it is and what it does. Although these small routers debuted just prior to the January 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, people simply don’t know about them -- a point driven home by Novatel in an earnings call.

    Is this lack of knowledge encouraged by carriers? With the same monthly fee as a single-use 3G solution, I have to wonder how actively carriers promoting the MiFi devices. Why sell one mobile broadband enabler that shares the connection when you can sell multiple solutions and multiply revenues?"
  • The Best Fire Starter Ever Invented - "The ability to start a fire is the number one survival skill you can have, without which you will likely be in serious trouble during an emergency survival or disaster situation.

    But there is a problem; those butane lighters and supposedly 'waterproof' matches you use in civilization may very well fail you in an emergency when you need them most.

    There is a solution to this problem, one that I stake my life on for always being able to start a fire any time I need. This incredible product has never failed me, even under the most adverse outdoor conditions.

    The best fire starter ever invented is the Survival Topics firesteel."

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April 10, 2010 08:47 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 4/6/10

So, you think YOU can drive? Ha!

Bill Black: Not Dead Yet - Part 2

  • 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."
  • Obama Wants More Preferences - "The Obama administration has weighed in on behalf of the University of Texas's use of racial and ethnic preferences in its undergraduate admissions, filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, as reported here. This is unfortunate if not surprising, but the scope of the brief is noteworthy in three respects.

    First, it goes out of its way to endorse the use of preferences to achieve diversity not just in this particular case at this particular school, but in all "educational institutions"---K-12, undergraduate, and graduate. The Supreme Court has never found there to be a compelling interest in the former instance---nor, for example, in post-doctorates for chemistry---and it is aggressive and wrong to argue that, because the Court found there to be compelling educational benefits in diversity at the University of Michigan law school, therefore any educational institution can make that claim.

    Second, the University of Texas is arguing not just for campus-wide diversity but for classroom-by-classroom diversity. To achieve this, needless to say, the use of racial and ethnic preferences will be increased significantly."
  • In defense of Hank Johnson - "By now you may have heard of a recent episode involving Congressman Hank Johnson, who represents the Fourth District of Georgia in the House, one of the most Democratic Congressional districts in the US.
    . . .
    However, I would like to offer a spirited defense of the unjustly-maligned Representative Johnson. First of all, although this is a little-known fact, he and Admiral Willard, the man he is questioning in the video, are old friends. They met in 1986 on the set of the film 'Top Gun.' Willard was a consultant and actor in the film (you can look it up), but the telegenic Johnson also played a bit role in the film as one of the other pilots.

    Willard and Johnson struck up an acquaintance on the set, finding that they shared a remarkable gift for deadpan humor. They developed a number of routines that had the other 'Top Gun' actors and extras in stitches, and were both known for keeping a straight face throughout the silliest exchanges, a skill that served them remarkably well during their recent encounter in Congress."
  • Political Promiscuities: Naomi Wolf and the "Patriot Movement" - "In her monumentally stupid book The End of America, feminist author Naomi Wolf predicted that the Bush years would end in a full-blown fascist dictatorship. (I detailed the many errors of fact and logic in Wolf's book here. My favorite claim in The End of America is this one: 'The Communist revolutionaries of 1917 were opposed to torture, having suffered it themselves at the hands of czarist forces.') But the interminable Bush years ended as planned--and to Wolf's evident disappointment, without a putsch.

    But paranoia is a stubborn thing, and America's most successful anti-fascist is keeping hope alive. In this interview with Alternet, Wolf has kind words for the libertarian participants in the Tea Party movement, accuses President Obama of being like Hitler, and explains how she and Glenn Beck are, in fact, very different. When she says that 'Obama has done things like Hitler did,' she does it with an academic degree:"
  • "Stealth Bailout" - "Obama’s mortgage modification extravaganza has touched-off a gold rush in toxic paper. Subprime securitizations, which had been worth next to nothing, are now the hottest trade on Wall Street. It’s a subprime bonanza! The investment sharpies are scarfing up all the crummy MBS they can get their hands on, because they know they can trade it in for Triple A FHA-backed loans when the program get’s going. It’s another swindle cooked up by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to keep the brokerage clan in the clover. Here’s how a Wall Street veteran explained it to me:
      It looks like the investors in securitizations will be swapping underwater real estate for govt-insured paper… I think the scam here is just to provide some cover so the hedge funds and other high net worth individuals can trade their low grade paper for Triple AAA mortgages insured by the FHA at the taxpayer expense.
    That’s it, in a nutshell. The faux-foreclosure prevention program has nothing to do with helping homeowners. That’s just diversionary gibberish to confuse the public. The real objective is to create a government landfill (aka-FHA) where the banks and other financial institutions can dump their toxic MBS-sludge and walk away with gov-backed loans."
  • Reich Levels Broadside at Greenspan, Rubin, and Summers, and Phony Financial Reform - "There were plenty of enablers to this financial fraud. There always are many more people who do not act out of principle, or inside involvement and knowledge, but out of their own selfish bias and greed or craven fear that compels them to 'go with the flow.'

    And there is little better example of this than the many people who are even now turning a willful eye away from the blatant government manipulation of the stock and commodity markets, in particular the silver market. They do not wish to believe it, so they ignore it, and even ridicule it depending on how deeply it affects their personal interests. But the overall body of evidence is compelling enough to provoke further investigation, and the refusal to allow audits and independent investigation starts to become an overwhelming sign of a coverup. I am not saying that it is correct, or that I know something, but I am saying to not investigate it thoroughly and to air all the details, is highly suspicious and not in the interests of the truth. I did not know, for example, that Madoff was conducting a Ponzi scheme, but the indications were all there and a simple investigation and disclosure would have revealed the truth, one way or the other.
    . . .
    The perpetrators of this latest fraud, this unleashing of darkness upon the world, will count on the fear and apathy of the many, and the cynical contempt of the fortunate for the disadvantaged, to make them all the unwitting accomplices in their own inevitable destruction. It has worked for them in the past.

    One cannot fight this sort of evil with hatred and violence, or hysteria and intemperate accusations, for these are its creatures, and it uses them always to further its ends. The only worthy adversary of the darkness is transparency, openness, justice, and truth based on facts, in the light of reason, with the guidance of the light of the world. We are not sufficient of ourselves to stand against it, and if we knock down the law, the Constitution, to chase it with expediency and private justice, what will protect us when it turns around to devour us? But we should never be a willing victim, and even worse, a silent bystander or mocking accomplice."
  • Does incarceration make people black? - "In a paper in Social Problems, Saperstein and Penner find that there is a surprising amount of variability in racial identification in the NLSY. Some of this variation is due to error or other random factors but some of it also appears to be systematic. In particular, the authors find that if someone has been incarcerated they are more likely to self-identify as black as well as to be independently identified as black."
  • New adversary in U.S. drug war: Contract killers for Mexican cartels - "A cross-border drug gang born in the prison cells of Texas has evolved into a sophisticated paramilitary killing machine that U.S. and Mexican officials suspect is responsible for thousands of assassinations here, including the recent ambush and slaying of three people linked to the U.S. consulate.

    The heavily tattooed Barrio Azteca gang members have long operated across the border in El Paso, dealing drugs and stealing cars. But in Ciudad Juarez, the organization now specializes in contract killing for the Juarez drug cartel. According to U.S. law enforcement officers, it may have been involved in as many as half of the 2,660 killings in the city in the past year.

    Officials on both sides of the border have watched as the Aztecas honed their ability to locate targets, stalk them and finally strike in brazen ambushes involving multiple chase cars, coded radio communications, coordinated blocking maneuvers and disciplined firepower by masked gunmen in body armor. Afterward, the assassins vanish, back to safe houses in the Juarez barrios or across the bridge to El Paso."

    That Drug War thingy, how's that workin' out?

  • What We Know About North Korea, and Kim Jong Il, From His Defected Staff - "Another former employee of North Korea's secretive dictatorship — a personal shopper — has escaped to tell his story. Here's a roundup of the bizarre details he, and two chefs, told of their time working for the world's weirdest dictator.

    The people of North Korea have, for decades, been starving to death while a madman spends the country's dwindling fortune on weapons and himself. And, of course, on propping up his totalitarian regime. As Nicholas Kristof wrote 'entire families [are] sometimes executed if one member gets drunk and slights the Dear Leader.' The country's nickname, the hermit kingdom, is hard-earned. Very few reports have emerged from the highest levels of government, and even fewer from the court of Kim himself. Here's what we know from the few who have escaped -- forced stripteases and all."
  • Is the Obama Mortgage Foreclosure Plan Legal? - "Many, including myself, have criticized the TARP as a massive delegation of spending power from Congress to the Treasury Department. Such delegation is, in my mind, clearly unconstitutional. However, even within such a broad delegation, there are parameters in which Treasury must act. Treating TARP as simply a large pot of money to spend however Treasury chooses is nothing short of illegal."
  • Bank of Mom and Dad Shuts Amid White-Collar Struggle - "When Maurice Johnson was laid off a year ago from his six-figure salary as a managing director at GE Capital, it wasn't his future he was worried about.

    It was his children's.

    The family income of the Johnsons is a fifth of what it used to be. And the children are about to feel the pain. Mr. Johnson's two oldest are attending his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, at an annual cost of $50,000 apiece. And his youngest daughter, 15 years old, recently began her own college search. Mr. Johnson isn't sure whether he'll be able to help her to go to college, or even to get the older kids to graduation.
    . . .
    'I know, I know--cry me a river and then build a bridge and get over it, right?' Mr. Johnson says. 'Still, there was a set of expectations we established, consciously or not, and they are not being met any more.'"
  • Straws in the wind (part two) - "'Losses in state retirement fund create $1 billion crisis for [Oregon] agencies, local governments'
    . . .
    'Cash-Poor Cities Take On Unions'
    . . .
    'What Politics Looks Like in a Union-Run World That Has Run Out of Money'.
    . . .
    'How the Coming Union Pension Plan Collapse is Affecting White House Decisions'."
  • Sniper Finder Rushed To Afghanistan - "If you want proof that Robert Gates and Ash Carter are serious about pushing the Pentagon to be the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan then look no further than the wonderfully named Gunslinger Package for Advanced Convoy Security (GunPACS).
    . . .
    Mounted on the ready-to-rumble MTVR, the system locates snipers using the acoustic Boomerang system and feeds that data to a map and cues a CROWS II remote weapons system (pictured above). The CROWS camera gives the crew a rapid look at the possible target and the picture can be shared in near real time with a tactical operations center. That gives everyone a chance to avoid killing civilians, a key capability in a counter-insurgency fight."

Here’s another of our fabulous Representatives

More on the (Un)Constitutionality of Obamacare

  • Bad Retro:The Federally-Planned City - "An under-discussed development in the Obama Administration is the re-animation of a policy better left in faded journals:federal urban planning.

    The idea behind 'federal blight removal' in the 1950s and 1960s was to pave over old neighborhoods, often derided as 'slums' by the planning elite, and replace them with the fad du jour, Le Courbousier inspired high-rises.The intent was social engineering by constructing 'cities of the future,' made of superhighways and towering apartments. As Martin Anderson documents in his 1964 book The Federal Bulldozer, the effect was the destruction of housing stock and neighborhoods, and the displacement of people."
  • The 2009 Pigasus Awards - "Tonight, we are pleased to present this year's Pigasus Awards to the following very-deserving people. It was a hard call -- there seem to be millions all over the world clambering to make it onto the following shortlist -- but these folks had that special something that commanded our attention and, in the end, impressed us like no others. No matter if it was blatant cynicism, shocking callousness, lazy ignorance, or merely old-fashioned pig-headedness -- these men and women took those qualities that most vex us to their wild, crazy extremes. We'd salute them, but we're too busy gaping."
  • The Growth Managed Death of Oregon's Pear Farms - "Oregon became a nationwide leader in statewide growth management when it passed its law in 1973 to protect farmland and open space. It turns out, an unintended side effect is the undermining of the financial viability of the state's agricultural industry, specifically fruit farms.

    Farms are unable to sell their land to underwrite their farm operations. As a result, they are going under.
    . . .
    Of course, this is the inherent problem with central planning of any kind. All human and government actions have unintended consequences. The question is which institutions are more effective and resilient in addressing these problems."
  • 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."
  • Kraft: Management Incompetence Visited On Cadbury Employees - "The Kraft acquisition of Cadbury provides a vivid illustration of why the US model of screwing workers to preserve executive bonuses does not go over well abroad.

    Brief synopsis: Kraft acquires the 200 year old British confection-maker Cadbury after a heated battle. The chairwoman and CEO Irene Rosenfeld (already not a good sign, best practice is to separate the two roles) was awarded a 41% pay increase, bringing the total to $26 million for 2009 for her 'exceptional role' in the Cadbury transaction, as well as her 'commitment to fiscal discipline.'

    Huh? Doing deals is part of a modern CEO’s job. Unless her role was SO exceptional that it saved Kraft several million in deal fees, this just looks like a trumped up excuse. It is far too early to tell if the Cadbury acquistion was a good deal or not, thus special bennies look mighty unwaranted."
  • Easter lamb a tradition that predates religion - "The men will drift outside to the fire, hypnotized by it, laughing, reaching out to pull pieces off the lamb, just for the taste, as an end to the long fast. We'll have fun being together, and I hope you enjoy the day with your friends and families, too.

    How long has this been going on, this turning of the lambs over fire? Since before religion, before words.

    Our pagan ancients made burnt offerings to the gods, holding up the choicest thigh pieces, pouring libations on the ground.

    And also Father Abraham made offerings to God, and Moses brought the law to the Jews, and the generations upon generations did the same, through the Passover Supper and to the present day."

Recently at 3 Reasons Why Public Sector Employees Are Killing The Economy

  • Cheaper RFID Printed on Paper - "We previously mentioned a study where it was shown that traditional RFID tags could be used safely as patient wristbands in a medical setting, but now a technology from Korea could help make it cheap enough to be widespread."
  • How to Teach a 3-Year-Old to Drive in the Snow - "Growing up in California I didn’t get much experience driving in the snow and I had a steep learning curve when I moved to Chicago. So it’s pretty important to me to make sure that my kids get an early start. My 3 year old made a lot of progress with his driving lessons last fall and so I wanted to strike while the iron was hot and get him out on the road in some snow this winter.

    There are certainly some new challenges involved. For safety reasons I wanted him to learn in a car with all-wheel-drive."
  • NYT Fooled Twice on April Fools' Day - "The paper of record fell for two blogs' April Fools' jokes—one required a retraction and one went so far over their heads, the Times sent a publicist to quell an "inaccurate" story. Update: Prankster tells all."
  • The Fool's Gold At The End Of The iPad Rainbow - "The media has been making a huge deal about how the iPad is supposed to 'save the business,' because suddenly everything will return to apps, and people pay for apps, and toss in a big dose of 'Steve Jobs!' and there's some sort of magic formula which includes some question marks and inevitably ends in profit! Now, the iPad does look like a nice device, and I have no doubt that it will do quite well for Apple, and many buyers will be quite happy with it. But it's not going to save the media business in any way, shape or form. It's just the media chasing a rainbow in search of gold that doesn't exist.

    A few months back, I tried to ask a simple question that we still haven't received a good answer to: all of these media companies, thinking that iPad apps are somehow revolutionary, don't explain why they never put that same functionality online. They could. But didn't. There's nothing special about the iPad that enables functionality you couldn't do elsewhere. But, it goes deeper than that. People are being taken down by app madness. Because the iPhone has sold a bunch of apps, suddenly old school media players are suddenly dreaming of the sorts of control they used to have, and pretending it can be replicated on the iPad. But that's a big myth."
  • Vinaigrettes-- Egged, Bunnied and Snotted-Upon - "And I know she is thanking me for fixing it, and for not getting mad at her.

    'You’re so welcome,' I say. Because I have to land on her when she won’t stay in bed, and I have to ignore her when she screams, and it is my sacred duty to put her ass in time out when she smacks her big sister.

    But I’ll never kick her when she’s down."

. . . . . . . . .

April 6, 2010 06:47 AM   Link    Comments (0)

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   Link    Comments (0)

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, with magic being "a way of making people believe they are going to get what they want" and religion "a system for persuading them that they ought to want what they get." The combination of alphabet agencies, Social Security, and relentless barrages of war whooping and propaganda, plus a reign that seemed to be growing as long as any pharonic family with term after unprecedented term--what did all this add up to? All hail God-King Roosevelt!

"Radicals for Capitalism," by Brian Doherty (Public Affairs 2007), page 65 (footnote omitted).

Conservatism vs Libertarianism - Brian Doherty

. . . . . . . . .

April 1, 2010 08:47 PM   Link    Comments (0)

Answering constituent mail, in the old days

“One of the countless drawbacks of being in Congress is that I am compelled to receive impertinent letters from a jackass like you in which you say I promised to have the Sierra Madre mountains reforested and I have been in Congress two months and haven’t done it. Will you please take two running jumps and go to hell.”

– Congressman John McGroarty, engaged in constituent service (1934).

Answering constituent mail, in the old days

April 1, 2010 09:47 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 3/30/10

Virtual Choir

  • 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."
  • This is not History with a capital H - "But both the Democrats and Republicans overstate the reform plan’s importance. The new law is not a major change, nor an historic achievement. It does not represent an enormous step forward, but neither is it a calamity. The reality that neither party will admit is that the reforms represent a modest change that does not address the structural problems of the healthcare system in the US.

    Key reforms in the bill include: reducing the number of uninsured by 32million by 2019; requiring people to buy insurance, while providing assistance to the lower paid; creating ‘exchanges’ where people can buy insurance from an array of private providers; requiring insurance companies to accept applicants with pre-existing conditions and not allowing them to drop people who develop conditions; and introducing certain cost-cutting measures. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the reforms will cost the federal government an additional $938 billion over 10 years. However, these costs are to be covered by tax increases and cuts in the growth in Medicare (government-provided healthcare to older people), and the CBO estimates that the health-spending deficit will actually decline by $143 billion in the next 10 years.

    Of course, the new law is significant, and it does contain enhancements. Changes such as having more people covered by insurance, and regulating insurance companies’ ability to deny coverage, are genuine improvements and will make a difference to many people’s lives. But in the context of the scale of the problems with healthcare in America, the reforms are conservative and minor. As Obama himself has said, this reform package is very similar to the one championed by the Republicans in 1993 in opposition to the Clinton proposals, which themselves were not all that radical.

    Once implemented (and many of the reforms will not be phased in for years to come), the reforms in the new plan will still leave the US with a system that is, in many respects, inferior to those operated in other countries. For a start, the law will not, as proponents claim, introduce universal coverage: 23million will remain without insurance. Furthermore, it will not address the inefficiencies that have meant that US healthcare is very high-cost for worse or no-better care than in other countries. Private health insurance premiums have risen about 4.5 times more than inflation over the past decade, and the new plan will not necessarily control these costs. The package will also not change the inherently flawed system of reimbursements that pays doctors for quantities of tests and other services, which is a key source of inefficiency, and thus the costs of care are likely to keep rising.
    . . .
    Only those with low expectations could conclude that these reforms constitute a major overhaul that solves most or all of the system’s flaws. Unfortunately, such low expectations are all-too commonly found today. We need to raise our horizons and expect more if we are to see what is really going on."
  • The Republican Health Care Failure - "Instead, we have allowed the left to define the problem as exclusively one of access -- of the nearly 50 million without insurance dying in the streets (of course, we don't talk about that number anymore because nearly a third of that number are illegal immigrants, an issue Obamacare studiously avoids).
    . . .
    Imagine if instead of the Medicare Part D entitlement, the Bush administration had moved a smart, substantive health care bill that addressed cost as the key to unlocking access, making health plans dramatically more affordable, addressing medical liability, and moving away from employer-based plans by giving any group -- whether an employer or not -- the ability to organize their own health insurance pools?
    . . .
    This may be oversimplified. There are certainly many very good conservative health care scholars whose work I should have been reading more closely these last few years. But politics is a battle of perceptions, and the perception -- that became reality -- was that Republicans brought a knife to a gun fight when it came a debate about the scope and reach of health care reform. We may have won the political battle over health care, in that a majority of Americans opposed Obamacare, but sometimes it is the policy battles that set the tone for the future political battleground, moving the entire spectrum on which they are fought further left."
  • Resisting ObamaCare, Gandhi Style - "It is hardly surprising then that Americans are feeling a growing panic as they watch their constitutional republic descend into a banana republic. President Obama is fond of quoting Mahatma Gandhi's line that 'we should be the change we want to see.' But Gandhi also said that 'civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless and corrupt.' Americans instinctively understand this which is why pockets of resistance to ObamaCare are already emerging. The question is only whether they can be constructively harnessed into a grassroots, Gandhi-style civil disobedience movement powerful enough to undo this monstrosity.
    . . .
    But the lawsuits that have a shot at sticking in court are the ones that various attorney generals around the country are preparing under the Constitution's commerce clause. This clause gives the federal government expansive powers to regulate interstate commercial activity. But it has never before been invoked to force Americans to purchase a product as a condition of lawful residence in this country. This crosses a line that might well make five Supreme Court justices balk.

    Any strategy of nonviolent civil resistance has to first make a good faith effort to achieve its end through the available political and legal means. But there comes a time when changing the law requires acts of conscience."
  • Poachers Turned Gamekeepers - "Like Felix, I agree with David that 'dumb regulation'--or, in less pejorative language, simple and relatively inflexible regulation--is far more likely to do the trick than the kind of complex, encyclopedic, tick-all-the-boxes regulation exemplified by the bloated pig currently wending its way through the legislative python in Congress. But I also agree with Felix (and, so it would seem, with David) that simple regulation will only work if it is overseen, enforced, and modified as necessary by extremely intelligent and motivated regulators.
    . . .
    Now Dick Fuld, at least in his prime, was a forceful and scary man. It takes a certain kind of personality to tell such a man to go fuck himself to his face. Fortunately, we just happen to have a substantial supply of brass-balled, take-no-prisoners, kill-'em-all-and-let-God-sort-'em-out people ready to hand. By happy coincidence, these individuals also happen to be intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the global financial system, the nature and construction of the myriad securities and engineered products polluting financial markets, and the numberless tricks and stratagems large financial institutions use to end-run rules and regulations designed to keep them in check.

    These people are called investment bankers.

    . . .
    While individually expensive, I don't believe you would need to hire many such people to make this kind of regulatory regime work. Given that you really only need high-powered regulators for the very biggest institutions, I am guessing you could get away with fewer than 100 to start. In fact, it might be less, because you really only need these people to direct and train their junior staff, and to interface directly with senior executives of the regulated entities. Fully loaded, I imagine you could fund a financial regulatory SWAT team like this for less than $150 million per year. That's a drop in the bucket compared to the financial losses these supposedly regulated institutions have already inflicted on the American taxpayer, not to mention in comparison with the normal run rate of your average stodgy, inefficient, and ineffective government bureaucracy."
  • Why Its Good to Own the Ratings Agencies (Or At Least to Have the Same Owner) - "Dean Baker speaks to the issue of the US and its AAA rating.

    I had considered that the Ratings Agencies might become instruments of national policy, implicated as they are in numerous scandals and misbehaviour. If you don't do the time, then you must have turned cooperative and informant in at least a soft and accommodating way.

    But I had never considered this particular angle. Now there is room for doubt that they might serve the will of the US government, but there should be no doubt, given their recent history, that they are all too often willing to say and do whatever pleases Wall Street."
  • MPs cash-for-influence: the inside story: The exclusive story behind the MPs cash-for-lobbying sting, revealed by the journalist who uncovered Westminster's double-dealing - "They say that after the expenses scandal, the reputation of MPs sunk lower than that of estate agents. It’s anybody’s guess, then, where their reputation stands after this week’s cash for influence affair. However, after falling so spectacularly for a simple undercover television sting, it is perhaps the intelligence of such politicians that is now more in question. Why did people who are supposed to possess the intelligence to run our country not have the intelligence to see through such a thin spoof?

    I produced and directed the Dispatches programme Politicians for Hire, which revealed senior politicians, including former cabinet ministers Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, offering their lobbying services in return for cash. Looking through the many hours of footage, the question that I asked myself continually was how people who helped run this country for many years could have even turned up for those interviews, let alone said what they did.

    Stephen Byers was the first person to be interviewed in our sting, in which we set up a fictitious company called Anderson Perry, backed by a website full of management consultant jargon and fairly crass one liners. (Our offices were theoretically in smart St James’s although the meeting rooms there were only hired by the hour.) When he first responded to the unsolicited call from Anderson Perry, Byers was in the middle east. He was one of nearly 20 politicians who were approached about a month ago. Not one of them put the phone down. That was startling enough; and a course of action that Alistair Darling said this week should have been de rigueur.
    . . .
    Why, I wondered, would any serving MP or peer, in light of the expenses scandal, want to respond to an unsolicited call from a lobbying company they had never heard of, representing anonymous clients? I once made an undercover film about Chelsea football hooligans and it was far more difficult to fool them than it was to open up the heart of Westminster. Anderson Perry’s so-called lobbyist didn’t even claim to be an expert in public affairs, but somebody who previously worked only in PR. Rather than question her credentials to be running the London branch of a big US public affairs firm, some of the MPs merely congratulated her on her big break.
    . .
    The more I watched and listened, the more it seemed reasonable to conclude that our candidates had fallen out of love with politics—and with party politics in particular. Stephen Byers was apparently no longer a “tribal animal”; Geoff Hoon insisted that defence matters in particular were party neutral; Conservative MP Sir John Butterfill claimed easy access to both main parties. In their attempts to show off their access to all areas, they painted an image of Westminster as one big club where the members just pretend to be different for the public’s sake." Duh
  • Housing's Big "Shadow": Up to 10M More Homes Could Be for Sale, Says - "Humphries doesn't expect anywhere near 10 million more homes to come on the market in the near term. But this 'pent-up supply' combined with foreclosures already in the pipeline and those yet to come because of negative equity and job losses means it will take three-to-five years 'before we see more normal appreciation rates return to the market,' the economist predicts." three-to-five years
  • Peter Schiff: 'Very good reason' to believe home prices will collapse - "By transferring more underwater mortgage balances onto the public books, the plan puts taxpayers on the hook for further losses if housing prices continue to fall. Given the massive support for real estate already afforded by record-low interest rates and massive federal tax and policy incentives, there are very good reasons to believe that home prices will indeed collapse when these crutches are removed. Recent spikes in long-term interest rates warn of this prospect.

    If the Administration had allowed losses to fall where they rightfully belong, namely on those who foolishly loaded up on toxic mortgage bonds, then the housing market would have already found its true clearing level. Instead, every measure is working to prolong and delay the ultimate reckoning, while setting up taxpayers as the patsy. Given the horrendous government deficit projections for the next several years, any losses incurred by the government mortgage portfolio may add a critical stress on America's fiscal viability."
  • Guest Post: Grading Alan Greenspan - "Alan Greenspan’s self-serving “The Crisis,” a 66-page white paper outlining exactly why no part of the extant global financial/liquidity/credit/solvency/deleveraging crisis was the fault of the Federal Reserve whose board he chaired for 18 year or anyone or any other entity for that matter, contains among the many exculpatory assertions, a fascinating, if not stupefying, revelation that, in setting capital adequacy levels, reserves and leverage limits, policymakers:
    br> …have chosen capital standards that by any stretch of the imagination cannot protect against all potential adverse loss outcomes.
    . . .
    OK, so it’s only the second draft of his term paper -- maybe he’ll revise the final publication to attribute at least some culpability, but don’t count on it. Right now, I give it a 'D+.'"
  • In Trust Funds We Trust - "While the trust fund has a positive balance, the Social Security Administration has the statutory authority to redeem their bonds and pay out the current level of benefits; it would take an affirmative act of Congress to reduce the level of benefits (and that won't happen).

    However, once the trust fund is depleted, Social Security can not, by law, pay out more than it takes in. If Congress declines to act at that later date then Social Security will limp along as a true 'pay as you go' transfer mechanism at some level of benefits lower than 'promised'."
  • Surprising Inability To Think Clearly About Privatization; Teachers Unions, The Child Molester’s Best Friend - "Eric has it correct. People should get paid what the free market is willing to pay. No more no less. This inevitably brings up ridiculous comments about bank bailouts and CEO pay. Well in a free market banks would not have been bailed out, and in a free market interest rates would be set by the market, not by a group of clowns acting on behalf of the already wealthy.

    A free market and corporate fascism are not the same thing. No one has railed against bailouts more than I.
    . . .
    Good grief indeed. Public unions are a problem everywhere. That is a simple statement of fact. Unions prevent dismissal of inept workers, base pay on seniority rather than skills, and in general public union pay and benefits far exceeds that of the private sector. It is virtually impossible to get rid of horrendous teachers if they have tenure.

    It is a statement of fact, not conjecture that public unions have bankrupt cities, counties, municipalities and states."
  • Egalitarianism Is Nice, But When It's Your Kid - "A cultural conservative is a liberal with a teenage daughter. Sometimes the education begins earlier."
  • The Lie of the Liberal Arts Education - "It is an Orwellian world in which we live when fucking novelists want to distance themselves from those who criticize the government.
    . . .
    And yet here we have an example of a novelist -- a person trafficking in the most personal of ideas and expressions -- demanding a form of political censorship that, when it is reversed, and the object of derision is, say, a black-faced Joe Lieberman or Michael Steele, doesn’t demand the same kind of cultural white washing.

    Perhaps his next book of writing exercises should include a chapter on 'banned topics.' Just to be on the safe side.

    Shame on Brian Kiteley. I mean, if a novelist is so bothered by pointed speech that he’d support political censorship, is it really any wonder that our institutions of higher learning have become cauldrons of conformity and anti-intellectual groupthink -- or that students leave them with a healthy fear of ever giving offense?
    . . .
    But at least I don’t pretend to champion creative expression and individuality of thought, then turn around and agitate for the silencing of speech I don’t like.

    I’d rather make my living, such as it as, as an indigent jerk than as a tenured hypocrite growing fat off platitudes about free speech that I don’t actually believe.
    . . .
    Kiteley’s pretense of 'alarm' leads me to believe that it isn’t ME he is worried about; rather, he seems alarmed by the possibility of some of his fellow travelers seeing his name on my site and not being able to make important intellectual distinctions. And he wouldn’t want them questioning his ideological bona fides and purity.

    The irony is rich, if you know where to dig."
  • Harsanyi: Masters of distraction - "For those grappling with history, here's what a 'mob' looks like: furious citizens raiding the Bastille, stabbing and decapitating its governor, Marquis Bernard de Launay, and placing his head on a pike to parade around Paris streets to cheering crowds.

    Or, to put it in more contemporary terms, think anti-capitalist, stone-throwing, Starbucks-hating, economic-justice thugs. Or perhaps radical environmentalists who burn down housing projects and research facilities for Mother Earth. For a domestic terrorist, you won't need to go farther than your local Chicago university to spot a Weatherman -- sorry, Weatherperson.

    And one would think that with all the threats politicians get every year, they would be more serious about whom they accuse."
  • “People bad at math demand chance to heckle people good at math” - "In letters sent late Saturday night, Representative Henry Waxman called on the chief executive officers of AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Co. to provide evidence to support costs they said will result from the recently passed health-care reform bill.

    Waxman has also requested access to the companies’ internal documents, which one committee Republican says is 'an attempt to intimidate and silence opponents of the Democrats’ flawed health-care reform legislation.'"
  • The Plight of the Unskilled College Grad - "I am just beginning to explore the issue of sorting out the economic value of college at the margin, rather than on average. One aspect of this is to distinguish between college graduates with skills and college graduates without skills, with the further distinction between private sector and public sector employment. I suspect that the average salaries of college graduates are boosted by those of skilled college graduates (engineers) and public-sector-employed college graduates (teachers). I wonder what the average salary looks like in the private sector for the unskilled college graduates (communications majors, majors with the word 'studies' in them, etc.)."
  • Not Hiring (In California) - "David DeWalt, who heads McAfee, is very intentionally not hiring new staff in the Golden State. Even worse for California, the company a while ago transferred entire departments elsewhere. Is McAfee based in California? Kind of. Only 14%, or roughly 900, of McAfee's 6,500 employees are left in Silicon Valley.

    This is a cost-saving measure. McAfee ranks Silicon Valley fourth with the dubious distinction of most expensive places to do business, behind Russia, Japan and London. That's kind of shocking. Mountain View, Calif. sure ain't Tokyo in any sense.

    DeWalt figures he can save 30 to 40% every time he hires outside of California. And that's roughly the premium he has to pay in the form of a moving bonus to get someone to relocate to California. Sunshine, pretty hills and nice beaches aren't enough? Apparently not."
  • A Response to the New York Times - "The New York Times on March 25 accused Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, of intervening to prevent a priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, from facing penalties for cases of sexual abuse of minors.

    The story is false. It is unsupported by its own documentation. Indeed, it gives every indication of being part of a coordinated campaign against Pope Benedict, rather than responsible journalism."

Extend the Life of Your Razor Blades with Your Forearm

  • Avoid the Audit: Six Red Flags That'll Put You in Tax Purgatory - "I don’t know why, but the idea of doing taxes terrifies me. All those forms requiring detailed numbers and asking questions I don’t quite understand--there’s so much room for error! The consequences of messing up are even more intimidating. I’ve never been audited by the IRS (knock on wood), but I can imagine it’s a nerve-wracking process. However, even crossing all my Ts and double-checking my math doesn’t guarantee an audit-free year. As a tax novice, I decided to read up on the matter, and now that I’ve done some homework, it’s clear that a few factors make the IRS more likely to pay extra attention to your tax papers."
  • How to get $30,000 Worth of Expert Advice for Less Than $20 - "Companies pay authors and experts $25,000+ to give an hour and a half keynote speech that only provides a surface-level overview of their topic. For less than $20, you get that expert in your living room for the weekend. You get that expert in your car during your commute for the next month."
  • Kids With Preexisting Conditions Still Not Covered Until 2014 - "I think Mr. [Timothy Jost of the Institute for America's Future] understood the Senate bill perfectly well, even if Barack Obama did not."
  • 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."
  • The Scent of Weakness - "Many people are persuaded by cult artifices into any sort of behavior, including ritual suicide and murder. It’s crucial to understand that many suicide-murders are part of a religious ceremony. The attack is the climax of the ceremony. This is neither complicated, nor subtle.

    Suicide murders are merely a small fraction of cult behaviors. Cults often do not revolve around religions. Communist cadres once fanned across the globe, teaching that capitalism must die on a global scale for communism to reach its imagined grandeur. Yet even as communist countries have failed across the world, true believers intoned the conviction that 'real communism' had never been tried, and if it were, it would fulfill its promises. This 'willing suspension of disbelief' demonstrates an important aspect often organic to cults: when cult prophecies are proven wrong, we might expect the cult to disintegrate in face of the evidence. Yet instead of disintegrating, powerful cults often refortify, strengthen, and redouble recruitment. Failure can cause them to grow.

    Some cult leaders are true believers while others are true deceivers. From the outside, cults often can be easy to spot, though the hardest cult to see is the one you are in.
    . . .
    Al Qaeda in Iraq was partially but significantly undone by overuse of suicide attackers. The Taliban is marching down the same path, but top-tier Taliban are smarter than al Qaeda and are trying to avert backlash.
    . . .
    The Taliban’s efforts at repackaging themselves as kinder, gentler mass-murderers is failing. Their suicide bombing campaign is backfiring. The Taliban are losing their cool. Something is in the air. The enemy remains very deadly, yet the scent of their weakness is growing stronger while our people close in."
  • Pot Farmers Against Pot Legalization or, Life Becomes a Video - "Legalizing any product will almost certainly reduce its price, even if you factor in a heavy vice or excise tax which will be attached to legal weed. And it will definitely encourage more people to start growing and selling pot, increasing supply and, ceteris paribus, driving down prices. So we can all understand why pot growers might be nervous at the prospect of legalization. And hopefully they can understand why their fears about competition are no more compelling than those of any producer in a free-market economy."
  • The 7-year-old special ed aide - "Miss Brave is trying to teach 28 second graders in a New York City school, including Julio, who belongs in a small special ed class. Easily frustrated, Julio responds by 'pounding on his desk and punching himself in the head.' Teaching without an aide, Miss Brave asked her most responsible student to be Julio’s 'buddy' and now thinks: I’ve turned a seven-year-old girl into a 'para' (teacher’s aide). How fair is that?"
  • Parents' Choice: Save For College Or Retirement? - "Often, new parents' first instinct is to start socking away college dollars. After all, they want the best for their children and, chronologically, college comes first. 'People say, 'My son was just born. I want to start a 529 (state college savings) plan.' It's so emotional. They want to do something for their kids,'' observes a 50-something dad who is about to send his oldest off to college and has advised new parents at the forum He adds: 'I ask them 'What are you doing now?' and they say, 'We're saving $2,000 in a 401(k) and $2,000 in one of those 529s.' If all they can save is $4,000 a year, they should put it all in retirement.''
    . . .
    That leads Russell, Pa.-based college funding consultant Troy Onink, president of, to suggest the following sequence: Parents should save heavily for retirement before the kids are college age, cut back on retirement contributions while they're paying tuition bills, and then, when the kids are through school, redirect all the income they were sinking annually into tuition back into retirement savings."

Video: Best used car classified ad ever?

  • TV Poltergeist Helps With Your April Fool’s Pranks - "We’ve all seen the TV-B-Gone, which can be funny for a minute or two. However, it requires user input, which will no doubt get you caught. This year might I suggest trying the TV Poltergeist. Hide this little guy anywhere in the living room (just make sure the LED can be pointed at the TV) and turn it on. Every 5 to 20 minutes the TV will be turned on or off. It will continue to do this until either the batteries die or it is manually turned off. If you can hide it well enough, this prank can last for days! Sounds like $13 well spent to me."
  • 5 ways the iPhone beats the Nexus One - "Despite my recent post about the Nexus One being a better phone than the iPhone, there are several things that the iPhone does better than Android. Here’s my short list:
    . . .
    So there you have, life isn’t perfect in Android-ville. The iPhone definitely has its pluses, but at the end of the day the Nexus One is still a better smartphone."
  • Lady Gaga Is Probably Not An Illuminati Shill - "Conspiracy theorists have seized on Lady Gaga’s latest music video, 'Telephone,' as evidence that she’s a mind-controlled agent of the CIA. If that sounds like a stretch, consider that has raked in over 1,300 comments on its conspiratorial analysis of 'Telephone.' Hundreds of thousands of people have likely read it, and perhaps many believed."

    Whew! I know I can sleep better tonight!
  • A University With No Students? - "A story in the March/April issue of the Washington Monthly about the demise last year, after its accreditation was pulled, of the financially and academically troubled Southeastern University in Washington, D.C., hit close to home. My home, actually, because I live just four blocks away from Southeastern's decrepit single-building campus in Washington's sleepy Southwest quadrant adjacent to the Potomac waterfront. A university calling itself 'Southeastern' that's really in Southwest Washington? That's part's of the mystery of Southeastern, founded in 1879 by the YMCA as a night school for working adults but somehow self-transformed into a 'university' worthy of membership in the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the same organization whose Commission on Higher Education accredits Princeton and Johns Hopkins. Middle States had granted accreditation to Southeastern in 1977, and the university hung on for 32 years, until Middle States pulled the plug in March 2009, effectively killing the school.
    . . .
    Then along came the 1960s and 1970s, during which the federal government got into the business of subsidizing post-secondary education on a massive scale via loan programs and Pell grants for students. In order to qualify for the government aid, students must attend a school accredited by a regional or national accrediting organization--and so Southeastern, like hundreds of other former vocational and trade schools around the country (some of them nonprofit like Southeastern, many others not), scrambled to turn itself into a 'real' university in order to win the coveted accreditation and tap into the spigot of aid dollars that accreditation promised. That was when Southeastern's troubles began. In the old days the discipline of the market would have forced a lousy school that cheated its students to close its doors in short order. Under the current system, in which taxpayers, not students, underwrite much of the cost of post-secondary education, such schools can limp along for decades on the government dole as long as they remain accredited, often wreaking financial havoc on the hapless young people who sign up for their useless courses and attendant debt loads.
    . . .
    The real problem isn't so much the accrediting bodies so much as the fact that we have allowed federal student aid to become the chief financial underwriter of higher education. This faucet of federal funding has led to all sorts of perverse results: jacked-up tuitions, bloated administrations, grandiose campus building projects--and gross failures such as Southeastern."
  • Texas: Small Town Speed Traps Rake In Millions - "The top forty speed traps in the state of Texas raked in a total of $178,367,093 in speeding ticket revenue between 2000 and 2008 despite having a combined population of less than 56,000 residents. Motorist Aren Cambre collected ticket issuance data from the state’s Office of Court Administration to identify which towns generated the most revenue per capita from speeding tickets.

    Cambre said 'intellectual curiosity' drove him to analyze the records. He found that the town of Westlake issued an average of 38 tickets worth $4696 each year for every resident. The small community contracted with the Keller Police Department to have traffic units stake out Highway 114 to issue a high volume of tickets to drivers passing through the small town. Keller Police Chief Mark Hafner defended the ticketing practices as essential to reducing fatalities on that freeway."
  • So Where is the Nexus One, Verizon? - "As a long time Verizon customer I was ecstatic to hear that the Nexus One would appear for the Verizon network this week. I have played with the Nexus One and it is one sweet smartphone. The BlackBerry Storm is getting long in the tooth and the Nexus One would be an awfully good replacement for it.

    I must have hit the Google site dozens of times this week and I still find the lousy message that it is 'coming soon.' Google and Verizon are still sending those who click the link to the Droid web page. Come one, where is the Nexus One, Verizon?"
  • Images, Analogies, and Cooties - "In a comment, Mishu linked to 'The Lie of a Liberal Arts Education.' Jeff Goldstein, on Protein Wisdom, tells us he’d posted a political cartoon and one of his old mentors had e-mailed him, asking that the blogger take his name from the list of old teachers. That we are responsible for those who have studied under us would make neither my raft of old teachers very happy nor me about many of my students."
  • 9 Reasons Why Google Apps is “Telework in a Box” - "I’ve recently been thinking about how Google Voice, Google Wave and Google Buzz joining the full Google Apps lineup would make it a budget-friendly teleworking platform. Organizations can now literally purchase themselves a 'telework in a box' solution -- a complete office productivity software, communications and collaboration package -- with little or no requirement for support from their own technical staff.

    Here are some reasons why Google Apps might be your organization’s ideal telework platform:"
  • Starting Your Career Right: Finding a Great Mentor in College - "At the same time, though, I interacted with a lot of professors, advisors, and others who didn’t seem to click with me at all. They provided very little help along the way. Often, it was clear that they were just telling me things to get me out of their way. Sadly, I found that most college students tend to wind up with a negative perspective of professors and advisors in general because of these experiences.

    How does one separate the wheat from the chaff? How can a college student find a good mentor that can help him or her on the path to a good career -- and avoid the ones that provide little or no help? Here’s the game plan for doing just that."
  • A Father-Daughter Bond, Page by Page - "When Jim Brozina’s older daughter, Kathy, was in fourth grade, he was reading Beverly Cleary’s 'Dear Mr. Henshaw' to her at bedtime, when she announced she’d had enough. 'She said, ‘Dad, that’s it, I’ll take over from here,’' Mr. Brozina recalled. 'I was, ‘Oh no.’ I didn’t want to stop. We really never got back to reading together after that.'

    Mr. Brozina, a single father and an elementary school librarian who reads aloud for a living, did not want the same thing to happen with his younger daughter, Kristen. So when she hit fourth grade, he proposed The Streak: to see if they could read together for 100 straight bedtimes without missing once. They were both big fans of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, and on Nov. 11, 1997, started The Streak with 'The Tin Woodman of Oz.'"

. . . . . . . . .

March 30, 2010 08:47 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 3/26/10

Richard Feynman on Ways of Thinking (2), from the BBC TV series 'Fun to Imagine' (1983)

  • 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."
  • The Monetary Base During the Great Depression and Today - "What prolonged the Depression in the US was the Federal Reserve's preoccupation with inflation that caused it to prematurely contract the money supply. In addition, the Supreme Court overturned most of the New Deal Employment programs before the economy had fully recovered from the shock of the Crash of 1929 and the severe damage inflicted by liquidationism on the financial system and the economy. One can hardly appreciate today the impact of repeated banking failures, with no recourse or insurance, on the public confidence.
    . . .
    The US needs to relinquish the greater part of its 720 military bases overseas, which are a tremendous cash drain. It needs to turn its vision inward, to its own people, who have been sorely neglected. This is not a call to isolationism, but rather the need to rethink and reorder ones priorities after a serious setback. Continuing on as before, which is what the US has been trying to so since the tech bubble crash, obviously is not working.

    The oligarchies and corporate trusts must be broken down to restore competition in a number of areas from production to finance to the media, and some more even measure of wealth distribution to provide a sustainable equilibrium. A nation cannot endure, half slave and half free. And it surely cannot endure with two percent of the people monopolizing fifty percent of the capital. I am not saying it is good or bad. What I am saying is that historically it leads to abuse, repression, stagnation, reaction, revolution, renewal or collapse. All very painful and disruptive to progress. Societies are complex and interdependent, seeking their own balance in an ebb and flow of centralization and decentralization of power, the rise and fall of the individual. Some societies rise to great heights, and suffer great falls, never to return. Where is the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome?"
  • White House not worried about AG lawsuits - "At the White House today, press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration is confident the bill will withstand legal challenge."
  • Postmaster Indicates Need for Privatization - "The USPS is already in a death spiral due to changes in technology, high labor costs, and costly congressional mandates that have left it facing a projected $238 billion in losses over the next ten years. The USPS says dropping Saturday service would save the USPS $3 billion a year. However, the Postal Regulatory Commission believes the savings would be significantly smaller. Regardless, if the USPS stops Saturday service then private firms should be allowed to provide Saturday mail service.

    Better yet, the USPS monopoly should be completely repealed and private firms allowed to deliver mail every day of the week. Interestingly, Postmaster General John Potter’s testimony inadvertently makes a case for privatizing the USPS.

    Potter notes that when private businesses are losing money, they sell off assets, close locations, and reduce employment. He cites Sears, L.L. Bean, and Starbucks as recent examples of companies making cost cutting moves in the face of declining revenues. The Government Accountability Office’s testimony noted that the USPS has more retail outlets (36,500) than McDonalds, Starbucks, and Walgreens combined. Yet, its post offices average 600 visits per week, which is only 10 percent of Walgreen’s average weekly traffic."
  • Health Bill May Exempt Leadership Aides - "While most staffers will soon be required to purchase insurance plans created in the health care reform bill, their colleagues who work in leadership and committee offices may be off the hook.
    . . .
    Lawmakers and their staff may face narrower choices under the reform bill, which requires the federal government to offer them only health plans that are either created under the act or offered through an exchange established under the act. That means staffers may have to buy their insurance in exchanges that are run by the states and include insurance companies that have met certain federal standards."
  • Constitutional awakening - "A far better explanation for the billions going to the campaign coffers of Washington politicians and lobbyist lies in the awesome government power and control over business, property, employment and other areas of our lives. Having such power, Washington politicians are in the position to grant favors and commit acts that if committed by a private person would land him in jail.

    Here's one among thousands of examples: Incandescent light bulbs are far more convenient and less expensive than compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) that General Electric now produces. So how can General Electric sell its costly CFLs? They know that Congress has the power to outlaw incandescent light bulbs. General Electric was the prominent lobbyist for outlawing incandescent light bulbs and in 2008 had a $20 million lobbying budget. Also, it should come as no surprise that General Electric is a contributor to global warmers who help convince Congress that incandescent bulbs were destroying the planet.
    . . .
    The greater Congress' ability to grant favors and take one American's earnings to give to another American, the greater the value of influencing congressional decision-making. There's no better influence than money. The generic favor sought is to get Congress, under one ruse or another, to grant a privilege or right to one group of Americans that will be denied another group of Americans.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi covering up for a corrupt Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Charles Rangel, said that while his behavior 'was a violation of the rules of the House. It was not something that jeopardized our country in any way.' Pelosi is right in minimizing Rangel's corruption. It pales in comparison, in terms of harm to our nation, to the legalized corruption that's a part of Washington's daily dealing. "
  • How Check Scams Work and How to Avoid a Loss - "To recap, the standard check collection process contains no positive feedback that a check is 'good.'

    If a depositor wants to know that a check has paid, the check should be sent by the bank “for collection.” Then the collection is outside the normal system and a positive response “up or down,” as they say in government, is received. There are lots of ways for the bad guys to trick the regular check collection system so that a check may bounce around for days or weeks before it finds its way back. If the money is gone, the depositor is liable. See UCC §3-415 and the bank’s deposit account agreement."
  • Crime And Thought Punishment - "Shikha Dalmia of Forbes and Reason contemplates a vast campaign of civil disobedience in defiance of the health care mandate:
    . . .
    Now, I am not smart enough to be a Democrat and I am surely not smart enough to be a Democratic Congressperson, but I am having a hard time reading Section 2, where criminal penalties and liens are waived, as a commitment to tough enforcement.

    Which is fair enough - we know lots of Democrats, such as Tim Geithner, Tom Daschle and Charles Rangel, who are confused by the concept of taxes and won't be troubling themselves with this latest wrinkle in the tax code. And no one really expects Eric Holder to be arresting a bunch of confused Dems who have more important things to do than comply with a new boatload of Federal paperwork requirements. So it was nice of Congress to make a nod toward equal treatment and admit that they won't be coming hard after anyone else who ignores this law, either."
  • Meet the High-Ranking SEC Official Who Surfed Porn While Your 401K Vanished - "David Ito is an assistant regional director in the SEC's Los Angeles office. He makes around $200,000 a year supervising the commission's L.A. regulators. According to a source, he was looking at porn at work during the economic collapse.
    . . .
    A final note: Much has been made, by us and by others, about the rather humorous nature of some of the sites being visited in these cases, particularly Ito's, which included and We don't care what kind of porn Ito spent time looking at while getting paid $200,000 in taxpayer dollars to help ensure the smooth and transparent functioning of the financial system that was in freefall around him."
  • Coward Russ Carnahan Pushes Bogus Tea Party Lie to Media -- Claims Prayer Service With Coffin Was a Violent Threat (Updated) - "UPDATE: The Carnahans told reporters that the coffin was left on their lawn. This is an absolute lie. We had a prayer service and then left. The state-run media didn’t bother to follow up on this outrageous lie before they published their hit piece… Oh, and the protest was on SUNDAY not Wednesday.

    UPDATE: The coffin is currently in a garage."
  • 2010: A Race Odyssey -- Disproving a Negative for Cash Prizes or, How the Civil Rights Movement Jumped the Shark - "On Saturday, during the peaceful and patriotic tea party protest at the Capitol, the Democrats staged a series of symbolic acts meant to manipulate the media to do its bidding. The Congressional Black Caucus pulled the Selma card and chose to walk through the crowd in the hopes of creating a YouTube incident. This is what it looked like:
    . . .
    There is no reason in 21st century America on an issue that is not a black or white or a civil rights issue to have a bloc of black people walk slowly through a mostly white crowd to make a racial point. The walk in and of itself -- with two of the participants holding their handheld cameras above their heads hoping to document 'proof' -- was an act of racism meant to create a contrast between the tea party crowd and themselves.

    This is the same failed symbolism that Janeane Garofalo and MSNBC have been trying to implant for the last year. The only supposed evidence of white-on-black racism at a tea party that MSNBC was able to find was a man carrying a gun at an Arizona Obama rally. But, wait, MSNBC cut off the man’s head with a photo editing software. That Second Amendment fan was actually black. Never mind.
    . . .
    It’s time for the allegedly pristine character of Rep. John Lewis to put up or shut up. Therefore, I am offering $10,000 of my own money to provide hard evidence that the N- word was hurled at him not 15 times, as his colleague reported, but just once. Surely one of those two cameras wielded by members of his entourage will prove his point.

    And surely if those cameras did not capture such abhorrence, then someone from the mainstream media -- those who printed and broadcast his assertions without any reasonable questioning or investigation -- must themselves surely have it on camera. Of course we already know they don’t. If they did, you’d have seen it by now."
  • Debunking Michael Lewis’ Subprime Short Hagiography - "Lewis’ tale is neat, plausible to a mass market audience fed a steady diet of subprime markets stupidity and greed, and incomplete in critical ways that render his account fundamentally misleading. It’s almost too bad the book’s so readable, because a lot of people will mistake readability for accuracy, and it’s a pity that Lewis, being a brand name author, has been given a free pass by big-name media like 60 Minutes (old people) and The Daily Show (young people) to sell to an audience of tens of millions a version of the financial crisis that just won’t stand up -- not if we’re really trying to get to the heart of the matter, rather than simply wishing to be entertained by breezy well-told stories that provide a bit of easy-to-digest instruction without challenging conventional wisdom.
    . . .
    Lewis’ need to anchor his tale in personalities results in a skewed misreading of the subprime crisis and why and how it got as bad as it did. The group of short sellers he celebrates were minor-leaguers compared to the likes of Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and John Paulson. But no one on the short side of these trades, large or small, should be seen as any kind of a stalwart hero and defender of capitalism. Circumstances converged to create a perfect storm of folly on the buy side, beginning with essentially fraudulent mortgage originations at ground level, which the short-sellers -- whether trading at the multimillion or multibillion dollars level -- took advantage of. That they walked away with large profits may be enviable, but there was nothing valiant about it. In the end, Main Street, having been desolated by a mortgage-driven housing bust, now found itself the buyer of last resort of Wall Street’s garbage.

    Lewis’ desire to satisfy his fan base’s craving for good guys led him to miss the most important story of our age: how a small number of operators used a nexus of astonishing leverage and camouflaged risk to bring the world financial system to its knees and miraculously walked away with their winnings. These players are not the ugly ducklings of Lewis’ fairy tale; they are merely ugly. Whether for his own profit or by accident, Lewis has denied the public the truth."
  • Some random items of interest: - "US social security went negative this year and not 2016. Due to the system's dynamics (a fraudulent trust fund), this shortfall will be immediately reflected by an increase in the federal budget deficit. One interesting aspect of the onset of D2 (the second great depression), is that the entire US government ponzi scheme is facing an accelerated demise. A hollow state in thrall to global financiers awaits in the near future."

The Party's Over-Ture

  • Drink too much? Smoke too much? Wanna clean up your act? Have a daughter, not a son. - "So why might people who have boys continue to drink and smoke? Because having young boys is more stressful and drinking/smoking/drugs help parents reduce stress:"
  • Motion to Compel Defense Counsel To Wear Appropriate Shoes, from Victor Niederhoffer - "My mother's father was a real Scotsman. He worked for himself most of his life. Taught himself to play the piano and collected coins. He never threw anything away and wore his clothes till threadbare. Upon his death ( I was 16) we found on the stairway ledge to the basement a tall stack of cardboard cut outs that he made to fit his shoes.

    The lawyer/shoe story brought an old memory I had long forgotten. Grandpa Mac was not out to ever impress anyone. Unlike the lawyer who was out to create a false impression of being somewhat destitute."
  • RoboCop’s Cruiser Gets a BMW Engine - "Carbon Motors is gunning for a unique niche in the auto biz -- cop cars. That kind of narrowcasting is unconventional among automakers, and in keeping with that theme Carbon Motors has selected a most unusual engine for the cruiser it says we’ll see in 2012.

    A BMW. More specifically, a BMW diesel."
  • 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."
  • Free Speech in Canada - "Free speech isn’t exactly free in Canada, and even Glenn Greenwald and Mark Steyn agree on this point.
    . . .
    So much for inalienable rights.

    Steyn highlights the view of the lead investigator of Canada’s 'Human Rights' Commission: 'Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.'

    I would offer a rebuke, but Ezra Levant has done it better than I ever could. Crank your volume up, sit back, and enjoy:"

An oldie but a goodie...
OOOOOO! You're not good enough for me!

  • Top 5 Superphones to Watch - "There are smartphones and there are superphones, and the latter category is heating up to a boil. While it sometimes seems that the release of cool new phones slows down to a trickle, this year it’s becoming more of a firehose. It can be trying to keep up with the Next Big Thing in the phone world, so it makes sense to pick out the 5 best superphones to watch.
    . . .
    Four of these superphones are made by phone giant HTC, a testament to the innovation the company is bringing to the space. It is almost scary how many great phones they produce, and all of them superphones. It is no wonder Apple is worried about them."
  • Honks and Consciousness - "Via Nudge, a fascinating article about trying to prevent railway crossing deaths (by pedestrians) using a variety of behavioral cues intended to counter perceptual biases and guide decision-making:"
  • More Foreclosures, Please . . . - "I have been dismayed about the latest actions out of Washington and Wall Street. The banks are now pushing all manner of mortgage mods and foreclosure abatements. These are little more than “extend & pretend” measures, designed to put off the day of reckoning. They are not only ineffective, they are counter-productive. They reward the reckless and punish the responsible, and create a moral hazard. Worse yet, they penalize middle America for the sake of giant Wall Street banks.

    It may sound counter-intuitive, but the best thing for the nation (but not necessarily the banks) is to allow the foreclosure process to proceed unimpeded. We need more, not less foreclosures.
    . . .
    Despite this, even down 30% or so, prices still remain elevated by historical metrics. The net result has been 5 million foreclosures and counting. One in four 'Home-owners' are underwater--— meaning, they owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. There are another 3-5 million likely foreclosures coming over the next 5+ years.
    . . .
    Now we get to the ugly Truth: The mortgage mods and foreclosure abatement programs are really all about propping up insolvent banking institutions on the taxpayer dollar and at the expense of the middle class. These programs are another losing round of helping Wall Street at the expense of Main Street. It is the worst kind of trickle down economics.

    Herbert Spencer wrote, 'The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.' We have done precisely that."
  • The Real Reason Wireless Carriers Love Android: Google Is Paying Them To - "PaidContent's Tricia Duryee reports reports that Google's deals with mobile carriers (and some phone makers) include an advertising revenue sharing agreement, provided they pre-install Google apps like Search, Maps, and GMail on phones. This should come as no surprise, given how long phone and PC companies have been paid to pre-install stuff. (Hello, free Prodigy trial?) MediaMemo's Peter Kafka adds that he hears it's a' substantial' revenue share.
    . . .
    Most interesting to us is how Google is now having it both ways with phone companies: It's feeding carriers out of one hand, while trying to disrupt them with the other, via its Web-only phone store for the Nexus One, its Google Voice service, etc. Very clever."
  • Innocent Abroad - "If you’re lazy by nature, then Hong Kong isn’t your city. It’s New York plus London plus Tokyo with a double-shot of caffeine, a kind of ­dealmakers’ ­paradise where the overriding goal of practically ­everyone you meet is to make money, and the ­principal subject of most conversations is how to wheel and deal and make some more. No one comes to Hong Kong to improve his 'work-life ­balance,' ­unless that means ­tilting the balance more toward work.

    For Stephen Greer, Hong Kong proved to be the right place for his restless spirit and untapped ­entrepreneurial energies. As he recounts in ­'Starting From Scrap,' he was a precocious kid from a ­comfortable Pennsylvania family who managed to get himself kicked out of boarding school before ­straightening up and graduating from Penn State in the early 1990s. He landed a job at a U.S. company in ­Germany and hated it. So in 1993 he hit up his dad for a business-class ticket to Hong Kong, where a friend lived. Asia was ­booming then, as it is now.
    . . .
    Asia might be hospitable to dealmaking, but the ­region can be merciless, too. Business is rarely as straightforward there as it is in largely transparent markets like those of Western Europe or the U.S. ­Contracts often aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, fraud is rife and personal connections are often the only reliable key to success. Gweilos, or 'white ghosts' (the Hong Kong word for foreigners), learn these ­lessons the hard way.
    . . .
    A friend once told Mr. Greer that 'the best thing about Hong Kong is that it’s eight times easier to ­become a millionaire,' a joke based on the fact that the local currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar at a rate of about eight to one. Mr. Greer made his first ­(dollar-denominated) million at age 28 and sold his company in 2005, though he is uncharacteristically coy about the price he got. It’s probably safe to say that the amount would lend a new meaning to the phrase scrap heap."

. . . . . . . . .

March 26, 2010 08:37 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 3/23/10

Richard Feynman on Fire

  • 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."
  • Churchillania - "Lady Nancy Astor: If I were your wife I would put poison in your coffee!

    Churchill: And if I were your husband I would drink it! "
  • It’s NOT a Health Bill, NOT a Medicare Tax and It Can’t Possibly Cost Only $940 Billion - "In fact, new spending is negligible for four years. At that point the government would start luring sixteen million more people into Medicaid’s leaky gravy train, and start handing out subsidies to families earning up to $88,000. Spending then jumps from $54 billion in 2014 to $216 billion in 2019. That’s just the beginning.

    To be unduly optimistic (more so than the CBO), assume that the new entitlement schemes only increased by 7% a year. At that rate spending would double every ten years -- to $432 billion a year in 2029, $864 billion a year in 2039, and more than $1.72 trillion by 2049. That $1.72 trillion is a conservative projection of extra spending in one year, not ten. How could that possibly not add to future deficits?"
  • ObamaCare: To Pass Or Not to Pass - "I have told my Democrat friends--yes, I have many--that they are missing the simple fact that people are really scared today. The economy is nowhere close to recovering and, in some places, may be getting worse. Millions of people have been unemployed for a very long time and untold millions more live in fear of it. Spending, deficits and debt have grown beyond the hypothetical world of economists and into a realm that the average person understands. Against this, the Democrats are now steaming towards the greatest expansion in government ever and, more importantly, into the part of our lives that commands our deepest fears, our health and mortality. That they have done so in an openly corrupt manner, with side deals, special exemptions, special interest favors and patronage (a judgeship, really?), betrays a contempt for the legislative and political process that is almost unfathomable. Worse, they raise the specter that the government is an interest, separate, distinct and opposed to the people.
    . . .
    And off a cliff is exactly where the Democrat party is going. In 1994, the party lost 54 seats in the House, losing control for the first time in 40 years. 54 seats is my opening bid for November 2010. They will lose that amount if ObamaCare somehow fails tonight. If it passes, their losses will be much worse in the House (hell, I’d take odds on a 100 seat loss) and they likely will lose the Senate as well. Worse for the parties future, they will be decimated in state house races, which is critical to the future of they party. The winners of these races will draw new legislative districts next year. A GOP rout in statehouses could doom the Democrats for a decade.
    . . .
    That said, the political animal in me is hoping they find 216 votes. A victory for ObamaCare tonight, It will spark a public revolt that will wipe clean the progressive agenda for at least a generation. In battle, it is critically important to have clarity; to understand the fight you are in. If the Democrats pass ObamaCare tonight no one will have any doubts about the battle ahead."
  • Now we know we're off Barack Obama's radar - "George W. Bush ignored the region, say his detractors. What about Obama?

    The President's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, stumbled through a prepared script yesterday. But he put the situation aptly: 'The passage of health reform is of paramount importance and the President is determined to see this battle through.'

    In other words, Obama's domestic push to pass a watered-down version of health reform in the US congress so he can chalk up a legislative victory after a year of bumbling comes first. The message to Indonesia and Australia could not be clearer.

    Gibbs even omitted Australia as he read from his script that Obama expected to visit Indonesia in June.

    He later issued a 'clarification' that added Australia."
  • Risky Business: Stuyvesant Town and Public Sector Pensions - "NPR reports the financial collapse of the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village renovation and the massive unfunded debt in state pensions are intertwined. When the backers of the $5.4 billion high-profile Manhattan real estate venture declared bankruptcy in January part of the reason was the collapse of California’s pension system, CalPERS, which had invested $500 million in the deal. When CalPERS assets were slashed after the financial markets tanked, California suddenly found itself with a $59 billion unfunded pension liability. Florida’s pension system also put money into what became the biggest real estate debt collapse in U.S. history."
  • Public Pension Deficits Are Worse Than You Think - "Pension plans for state government employees today report they are underfunded by $450 billion, according to a recent report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. But this vastly underestimates the true shortfall, because public pension accounting wrongly assumes that plans can earn high investment returns without risk. My research indicates that overall underfunding tops $3 trillion."

Underfunded Pensions, Pension Dumping, and Retirement Security
Underfunded Pensions, Pension Dumping, and Retirement Security

Compiled by TheCapitol.Net
Authors: Patrick Purcell, Jennifer Staman, Kelly Kinneen, William J. Klunk, Peter Orszag, and Bradley D. Belt

2009, 319 pages
ISBN: 1587331535 ISBN 13: 978-1-58733-153-4
Softcover book: $19.95

For more information, see

  • If Past is Prologue When it Comes to Guesstimating Actual Health Care Costs, Well, it Was Nice Knowing You All... - "Not sure it's relevant but there's a fun fact: In 2007 dollars, households headed by people between the ages of 65-74 clocked in with a median net worth of $239,400 dollars and those headed by someone 75 or older boasted $213,500. The median net worth for all American households? $120,300. (See table 4.) Maybe old folks are only so rich (relatively and on average) because they don't have to shell out for health care they way they used to in the pre-Medicare world. Or maybe they'd still be rich even if they're retired and paying full price for health insurance (and cups of coffee! and movie tickets!) like they used to. And the way that younger and poorer folks are going to have to once that individual mandate kicks in.

    All of which is a way of saying: The future just ain't turning out the way it was supposed to."
  • Make spending discretionary for taxpayers, not politicians - "According to a 2003 survey by the Federation of Tax Administrators, 41 states and the District of Columbia fund some government programs through voluntary contributions made on the state income tax return. The FTA survey indicates that in most cases, taxpayers make these contributions in addition to their tax liability. For example, Virginia’s law allows up to 25 choices (some of which are government programs and some of which are private organizations) on its income tax return. Under the Virginia program, if a program does not receive at least $10,000 for three consecutive years, it is dropped from the program.

    Imagine what would happen if the federal taxpayer had that discretion. The tide might start to recede just a little bit. To make it recede even more, let’s add one more element. It is probably too much to ask to allow taxpayers to have this power over all discretionary spending, but we could at least apply it to new spending. No annual increase, no new programs, and no earmarks unless taxpayers voluntarily contribute the money right after they have learned how much they must pay in non-discretionary taxes."
  • The Meaning of Statistical Significance - "In economics and most of the social sciences what a p-value of .001 really means is that assuming everything else in the model is correctly specified the probability that such a result could have happened by chance is only 0.1%. It is very easy to find a result that is statistically significant at the .001 level in one regression but not at all statistical significant in another regression that simply includes one additional variable. Indeed, not only can statistical significance disappear, the variable can easily change size and even sign!

    A highly statistically significant result does not tell you that a result is robust. It is not even the case that more statistically significant results are more likely to be robust."
  • Hot News Is Back: Court Blocks Website From Reporting The News - "In the last few years, there's been a push by some companies to bring back the immensely troubling "hot news doctrine," that appears to violate everything we know about the First Amendment and copyright law. Basically, the "hot news doctrine" says that if someone reports on a story, others are not allowed to report on their reporting for some period of time -- on the theory that it somehow undermines the incentive to do that original reporting. Last year, we wrote about the very troubling implications of allowing the hot news concept to stand. Beyond the free speech implications, it also has the troubling quality of effectively creating a copyright on facts -- which are quite clearly not covered by copyright. On top of that, it's not necessary in the slightest. As anyone who is actually in the online news business knows, getting a scoop gets you traffic -- even if others report the same thing minutes later. Being first gets you the attention. You don't need to artificially block others from reporting the news."

Solar Furnace
A High-Tech Entrepreneur
On the Front Lines of Solar

  • Online Checking: Are the Lower Fees Worth the Hassle? - "The majority of Americans have checking accounts at traditional banks with branches. But as concerns over new fees rise and brand loyalty sours, many are finding that the best deals for checking accounts can be found at other places, such as online banks or brokerages.

    Making a switch could trim hundreds of dollars a year in fees on everything from ATM withdrawals and monthly maintenance charges to penalties for hitting a low balance and ordering checks. Such costs have been on the rise for more than a decade and show no sign of letting up, according to a recent study by

    Most checking accounts offered through online banks and brokerages such as Charles Schwab Corp., ING Direct, Fidelity Investments and Ally Bank have no monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements. They offer Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. protection, most waive fees on ordering checks and most charge little or nothing for withdrawing money abroad.

    Most online banks also impose low or no overdraft fees--a major source of revenue for traditional banks, though new laws will restrict how they can charge such fees. They also allow consumers to dip into savings accounts to meet the difference when an account runs low, rather than pay a fee to a bank if an account is overdrawn."
  • Guess Who’s Turning 100? Tracking a Century of American Eating - "From meat and potatoes in the early 1900s to deli-prepared rotisserie chicken and Asian pasta salad today, the answer to the age-old question, 'What’s for dinner?' has shifted in response to a variety of events--rising wages, nutritional discoveries, wartime rationing, and more women working outside the home, to name a few.

    Now in its centennial year, ERS’s food availability data set provides a unique window into how the U.S. food supply responds to political, social, and economic forces, along with ever-evolving technoloical advancements. By measuring the flow of raw and semi-processed commodities through the U.S. marketing system, ERS’s food availability data reveal the types and amounts of food commodities available for consumption.
    . . .
    During the first half of the 1900s, the most significant changes among food crops were the substantial declines in availability of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and flour and cereal products. Availability of potatoes and sweet potatoes fell from 213.2 pounds per person in 1909 to 114.4 pounds in 1959, while availability of flour and cereal products dropped from 300 to 147 pounds per person. An improved ratio of wages to food prices allowed many to diversify their food spending beyond flour, potatoes, and meats. Greater purchasing power, coupled with increased availability of fresh fruit and vegetables over the winter and growing vitamin consciousness, led Americans to spend a larger portion of their food budgets on milk, cheese, fruit, and vegetables.

    In the second half of the century, Americans enjoyed ever-more varied, year-round, fresh produce options, thanks to a growing global food market. Kiwi fruit from New Zealand, grapes from Chile, brie cheese from France, and shrimp from Thailand are now grocery store staples.

    Flour and cereal product availability grew as well. Between 1972 and 2008, per capita availability of flour and cereal products increased from a record low 133 pounds per person to 196.5 pounds. The expansion reflects ample cereal stocks, strong consumer demand for a variety of breads, growing popularity of grain-based snack foods and other bakery items, and increased eating out that includes products served with buns, dough, and tortillas.
    . . .
    Chicken availability over the past 100 years illustrates the effects of new technologies and product development. Increased chicken availability from 10.4 pounds per person in 1909 to 58.8 pounds in 2008 reflects the industry’s development of lower cost, meaty broilers in the 1940s and later, ready-to cook products, such as boneless breasts and chicken nuggets, as well as ready-to-eat products, such as pre-cooked chicken strips to toss in salads or pasta dishes.

    Broilers were first marketed in the 1920s as a specialty item for restaurants. By the mid-1950s, innovations in breeding, mass production, and processing had made chicken more plentiful, affordable, and convenient for the dining-out market and for cooking at home. Media coverage of health concerns associated with total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol in the last quarter of the 1900s may have contributed to a rise in chicken tacos and turkey burgers.
    . . .
    Over the past 100 years, agricultural policies have contributed to changes in the availability of different commodities. For example, Americans have always had a sweet tooth, but how that craving is satisfied has changed. The sweeteners category in the availability data include use of sugar and syrups at home, as well as in processed foods and beverages. Sweetener availability stood at 83.4 pounds per person of sugar, molasses, honey, corn syrup, and other syrups in 1909. In the first half of the 20th century, molasses was one of the “three M’s” in Southern sharecroppers’ core diet--meat (salt pork), molasses, and meal (cornmeal).

    Between 1924 and 1974, availability of sweeteners averaged 113.2 pounds per capita, not including the sugar-rationing World War II years. A variety of Government policies--investments in public research that raised yields for corn, sugar production allotments and trade restrictions, and subsidies for corn production--helped make corn sweeteners relatively less expensive than sugar. Food manufacturers responded by using the cheaper corn sweeteners, especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), in place of sugar in an ever-expanding array of processed products ranging from soft drinks and breakfast cereals to soups and spaghetti sauce. In 2008, HFCS accounted for 39 percent of the 136.3 pounds per person of sweeteners available for consumption."
  • Fast Food That Won the West - "In 1946, when Judy Garland starred in a movie called 'The Harvey Girls,' no one had to explain the title to the film-going public. The Harvey Girls were the young women who waited tables at the Fred Harvey restaurant chain, and they were as familiar in their day as Starbucks baristas are today.

    In many of the dusty railroad towns out West in the late 1880s and early decades of the 1900s, there was only one place to get a decent meal, one place to take the family for a celebration, one place to eat when the train stopped to load and unload: a Fred Harvey restaurant. And the owner's decision to import an all-female waitstaff meant that his restaurants offered up one more important and hard-to-find commodity in cowboy country: wives.

    It was a brilliant formula, and for a long time Fred Harvey's name was synonymous in America with good food, efficient service and young women. Today, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone aware of the prominent role Harvey played in civilizing the West and raising America's dining standards. His is one of those household names now stashed somewhere up in the attic.

    In 'Appetite for America,' Stephen Fried aims to give Fred Harvey his due, making an impressive case for this Horatio Alger tale written in mashed potatoes and gravy. Fred Harvey restaurants grew up with the railroads in the American West beginning in the 1870s, with opulent dining rooms in major train stations and relatively luxurious eating spots at more remote railroad outposts."
  • 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."

Constant Sorrow
from O Brother, Where Art Thou?

  • Naming and Shaming ‘Bad’ ISPs - "Roughly two years ago, I began an investigation that sought to chart the baddest places on the Internet, the red light districts of the Web, if you will. What I found in the process was that many security experts, companies and private researchers also were gathering this intelligence, but that few were publishing it. Working with several other researchers, I collected and correlated mounds of data, and published what I could verify in The Washington Post. The subsequent unplugging of malware and spammer-friendly ISPs Atrivo and then McColo in late 2008 showed what can happen when the Internet community collectively highlights centers of badness online.

    Fast-forward to today, and we can see that there are a large number of organizations publishing data on the Internet’s top trouble spots. I polled some of the most vigilant sources of this information for their recent data, and put together a rough chart indicating the Top Ten most prevalent ISPs from each of their vantage points. "
  • Palm’s woes mount as its stock is devalued to $0 and unsold inventory estimates balloon - "Palm is at the edge of a precipice and needs either a miracle or a very wealthy suitor to save it from what appears to be inevitable self destruction. Anyone with a Pre or Pixi in good condition may want to box that puppy up and put it in a drawer as it may be a collector’s item someday. We’re half kidding. Kind of."
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap S300m - ultracompact scanner - "Along with the previously reviewed Evernote, this ultracompact scanner is the best computer-related tool I've found in a long time. I’ve owned several flatbed scanners and an all-in-one printer-scanner-fax-copier. The S300 is so far out of their league it doesn't seem right to call it a scanner. It's more like a paperless life enabler.
    . . .
    It's been a month. Stacks of disorganized and dusty papers have disappeared from my life, ready to be called up with a few keystrokes in Evernote or on my hard drive.
    . . .
    The ScanSnap is powered via AC or dual USB ports (one for data, one for power) for true portability."

. . . . . . . . .

March 23, 2010 08:47 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 3/20/10

More on Big Pharma's Bill

  • 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."
  • Glengarry Glen (Cong)Ress - "Bart, let me ask you something, man to man. Are you going to spend the rest of your term getting bossed around by the old ball and chain? Or are you going to man up, and for the first time in your life let your constituency know who wears the pants in your district? Believe me Bart, once they see this beautiful new surprise entitlement, you are going to get treated to the re-election of your life."
  • Lehman: where were the watchdogs? - "Well, it was worse than that, as Andrew Ross Sorkin writes:

    Almost two years ago to the day, a team of officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York quietly moved into the headquarters of Lehman Brothers. They were provided desks, phones, computers -- and access to all of Lehman's books and records. At any given moment, there were as many as a dozen government officials buzzing around Lehman's offices.

    These officials, whose work was kept under wraps at the time, were assigned by Timothy Geithner, then president of the New York Fed, and Christopher Cox, then the S.E.C. chairman, to monitor Lehman in light of the near collapse of Bear Stearns. Similar teams from the S.E.C. and the Fed moved into the offices of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and others.
  • Scott and Scurvy - "Now, I had been taught in school that scurvy had been conquered in 1747, when the Scottish physician James Lind proved in one of the first controlled medical experiments that citrus fruits were an effective cure for the disease. From that point on, we were told, the Royal Navy had required a daily dose of lime juice to be mixed in with sailors’ grog, and scurvy ceased to be a problem on long ocean voyages.

    But here was a Royal Navy surgeon in 1911 apparently ignorant of what caused the disease, or how to cure it. Somehow a highly-trained group of scientists at the start of the 20th century knew less about scurvy than the average sea captain in Napoleonic times. Scott left a base abundantly stocked with fresh meat, fruits, apples, and lime juice, and headed out on the ice for five months with no protection against scurvy, all the while confident he was not at risk. What happened?
    . . .
    But the villain here is just good old human ignorance, that master of disguise. We tend to think that knowledge, once acquired, is something permanent. Instead, even holding on to it requires constant, careful effort."
  • 27% of Americans haven't saved anything for retirement - "And more than half have less than $25,000 saved up. Only a third have $50,000 or more in savings -- retirement or otherwise. Considering that a nest egg of almost a million dollars is what's really required to retire comfortably and with confidence that it won't run out, we have a nation in serious savings trouble."
  • 4 Child Vloggers Who Make Us Fear For Their Future
  • After 13 years, police still hunting for the East Coast Rapist - "He lurks at gas stations and pay phones and bus stops, blending in so well that people don't notice him at first. He has a smooth, deep voice. He is black, he smokes and he is right-handed. He is in his early to mid-30s, is fit, stands about 6 feet tall, likes wearing camouflage clothes and black hats, and once had a badly chipped tooth."
  • eBanking Victim? Take a Number. - "I am now hearing from multiple companies each week that have suffered tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollar losses from a single virus infection (last week I spoke with people from four different companies that had been victimized over the past two months alone). In each of these dramas, the plot line is roughly the same: Attackers planted malicious software on the victim’s PC to steal the company’s online banking credentials, and then used those credentials to siphon massive amounts of money from the targeted accounts. The twists to the stories come in how the crooks evade security technologies, how the banks react, and whether the customers are left holding the (empty) bag.

    In most cases I’ve followed, the banks will do what they can to reverse the fraudulent transactions. But beyond that, the bank’s liability generally ends, because -- unlike consumers -- businesses do not have the same protection against fraud that consumers enjoy. Indeed, most companies that get hit with this type of fraud quickly figure out that their banks are under no legal obligation to reimburse them."
  • Health care reform in Washington meets the Chicago Way - "Not even three or four pipes full of Hopium could have convinced me that the Congress of the United States would ever start looking like the Chicago City Council.

    But now, with the Chicago Way White House twisting arms for its federal health care legislation, Democrats in Congress and Chicago aldermen are beginning to share a remarkable resemblance.

    They're starting to look like fall guys.
    . . .
    Things are looking more Chicago in Washington all the time.

    In Chicago, the mayor gets what he wants, and the mayor's friends get what they want. And the aldermen? They get the ridicule and the blame.

    If the president gets what he desires -- a health care victory -- then Congress will pay for it in the midterm elections in November, and they know it.

    The proof is in that latest congressional trick announced on Tuesday, a ploy so weaselly that it could have been hatched by Chicago politicians.

    House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland is now talking about allowing his members to pass the president's health care package -- whatever's in it exactly, no one really knows -- without a direct up-or-down vote on the current bill.

    'It's consistent with the rules,' Hoyer was quoted as saying on Tuesday. 'It's consistent with former practice.'

    Consistent with the rules? Perhaps, but it sure isn't what President Barack Obama promised when he was talking like a reformer.
    . . .
    So get those Hopium pipes ready. It might look like Washington. But after a few puffs, it'll start looking more Chicago every day."
  • Would “Deem & Pass” Survive Judicial Review? - "Politico reports that quite a few constitutional experts, in addition to Stanford’s Michael McConnell and Yale’s Jack Balkin, believe the so-called 'Slaughter Solution' (aka 'Deem and Pass') could present a thorny constitutional question. McConnell thinks it’s clearly unconstitutional; Balkin believes its constitutionality depends on its final form. To McConnell and Balkin, Politico adds GW’s Alan Morrison and Public Citizen’s Alison Zieve:"
  • States’ Rights Is Rallying Cry for Lawmakers - "Alabama, Tennessee and Washington are considering bills or constitutional amendments that would assert local police powers to be supreme over the federal authority, according to the Tenth Amendment Center, a research and advocacy group based in Los Angeles. And Utah, again not to be outdone, passed a bill last week that says federal law enforcement authority, even on federal lands, can be limited by the state.

    'There’s a tsunami of interest in states’ rights and resistance to an overbearing federal government; that’s what all these measures indicate,' said Gary Marbut, the president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, which led the drive last year for one of the first 'firearms freedoms,' laws like the ones signed last week in South Dakota and Wyoming.
    . . .
    'Everything we’ve tried to keep the federal government confined to rational limits has been a failure, an utter, unrelenting failure -- so why not try something else?' said Thomas E. Woods Jr., a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a nonprofit group in Auburn, Ala., that researches what it calls 'the scholarship of liberty.'

    Mr. Woods, who has a Ph.D. in history, and has written widely on states’ rights and nullification -- the argument that says states can sometimes trump or disregard federal law -- said he was not sure where the dots between states’ rights and politics connected. But he and others say that whatever it is, something politically powerful is brewing under the statehouse domes. "
  • Capitol Hill cops decry bullying staff members - "U.S. Capitol Police officers say they need more backing from their leaders to stop congressional staffers who insist on bypassing metal detectors when entering the Capitol with lawmakers.

    Several officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Hill that without a written directive of the policy, they’re left to face bullying staffers and intimidating lawmakers who have been known to file complaints against the officers. The staffers have accused them of discourteous treatment after being stopped and directed to the magnetometers."
  • See the Tragedy of the Commons - "In 2000 Zimbabwe began to redistribute land from private but predominantly white-owned commercial farms to much poorer black farmers who toiled on communal lands. Stunning pictures from Google Earth collected by Craig Richardson show the result.

    Take a look at the Before picture. The communal land on the left is dry, dusty and unproductive compared to the private farmland on the right which is green and dotted with blue ponds and lakes. Why? There were two theories to explain this difference."
  • Why Coffee Trashed Harry - "Light this man a cigar! Bravo to Harry for correctly pointing out the major problem with most attorneys: they simply aren’t very bright.

    Law, after all, is a degree of last resort: a dumping ground for obnoxious, insecure also-rans who lacked the creativity for art and the brainpower for higher mathematics and science. Long an academic 'lifeboat' for drowning liberal-arts losers, it’s one today peppered with holes and sinking by the head. Harry’s spot-on about the bar’s total lack of math ability: most lawyers remove their underpants when required to count higher than twenty. Law was always a 'short bus' industry, but now the Cooleys of the world are quickly reducing it to straitjacket status.

    Any mouth-breather can drool on the LSAT, sleep through 3 years of Socratic time-wasting bullshit, and scribble some passable gibberish on the ole’ barzam. It’s essentially a standardless 'profession.' As the old saw goes, the MCAT determines if one goes to med school, while the LSAT merely determines where one goes to law school."
  • Walkaway Explosion? - "Stuck with properties whose negative equity won’t recover for years, and feeling betrayed by financial institutions that bankrolled the frenzy, some homeowners are concluding it’s smarter to walk away than to stick it out.

    'There is a growing sense of anger, a growing recognition that there is a double standard if it’s OK for financial institutions to look after themselves but not OK for homeowners,' said Brent T. White, a law professor at the University of Arizona who wrote a paper on the subject.

    Just how many are walking away isn’t clear. But some researchers are convinced that the numbers are growing. So-called strategic defaults accounted for about 35% of defaults by U.S. homeowners in December 2009, up from 23% in March of 2009, according to Luigi Zingales, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

    He and colleagues at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management reached that conclusion by surveying homeowners about their attitudes and experiences with loan defaults.

    They found that borrowers were more willing to walk away if someone they knew had done it, and that the greater a homeowner’s negative equity the more likely he or she was to default, even if the monthly payment was affordable."
  • ‘Jihad Jane’ and the politics of fear - "Far from ‘keeping America safe’, the elite’s depiction of the US as fragile and at-risk makes even lonely weirdos seem like a deadly threat.
    . . .
    From maintaining the Guantanamo facility to continuing the use of military commissions to try terror suspects, Obama has conceded national security positions associated with Bush and Cheney. When questioned about reading so-called ‘Miranda rights’ to the Christmas Day ‘underpants bomber’, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Obama argued that this was Bush’s approach to would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reid – thus endorsing the prior administration as the prime authority on the subject. As Glenn Greenwald rightly notes, Obama ‘can’t stand on his own two feet and forcefully justify civilian trials or Mirandising terrorist suspects; he has to take refuge in the fact that Bush also did it -- as though that proves it’s the right thing to do, because Bush/Cheney is the standard-bearer of Toughness on Terrorism.'
    . . .
    But this ‘Republicans strong, Democrats weak’ discussion obscures a more fundamental consensus between the two parties. Both establish anti-terror polices on the premise that the country is vulnerable and at risk. And both therefore overplay the threat posed by possible terror attacks.

    The common assumption is that the American people are afraid, worried about the next explosion, and therefore in need of heavy state protection. And since, therefore, all it takes to traumatise the masses is an isolated bomb, it is taken as a given that any party in office at the time of an attack would be severely damaged in political terms. In this, both parties have agreed to allow the terrorists to define success, and have collaborated in reorganising US life around tiny groups.

    When American politicians talk about getting ‘tough’ on terrorism, about pursuing a ‘war’ on it, they are actually using code-words for saying ‘we are scared shitless’. And in that respect, both parties are wimps; in fact, if anything, the noisier Republicans are the biggest wimps of all."
  • The Second Correction -- 6 SoCal Homes from 6 SoCal Counties Showing the Continued California Housing Correction. - "Today we are going to look at 6 homes from 6 Southern California counties. We’ll pick a mix of homes from an area that cover over 50% of California in terms of population. What we find is a breath taking array of toxic mortgages and major price discrepancies.
    . . .
    Repeat the above 6 cases thousands of times over and tell me if we have a healthy housing market?"
  • The Dead Hand - "The oxygen most special interests needs to survive is money; and the health care 'reform' bill is above all about delivering it to keep the vital signs ticking over. Take the Congressional Hispanics. Paul Kane’s Washington Post blog says that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus announced its unanimous support for his bill, which is remarkable because they were against it. 'Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and several other CHC members had been threatening to withhold their support because of provisions the Senate added restricting illegal immigrants from using their own money to access the insurance exchanges that would be established by the proposed legislation.' Something appears to have changed their minds; but then again the therapeutic effect of money is nothing short of miraculous.

    Diana Furchtgott-Roth of Real Clear Markets notes the pivotal role that health care 'reform' will play in keeping SEIU pensions alive. Without the bill’s passage -- by the 'deeming' process or otherwise -- the union can’t keep expanding membership, which is the key to keep their faltering pension plans going. With health care 'reform' it will cling to life a little longer.
    . . . care reform itself is a gigantic sugar fix. It provides one more trillion dollar jolt to keep unsustainable political zombies going for just a little longer. How long dying agencies or unimpeded immigration or bad pension management can keep going is anybody’s guess. How much money do you have?"

Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Fails to Save D.C. Schoolkids from D.C. Schools

  • Queyras and Tharaud at the LoC - "When you hear and evaluate many concerts, the excellent ones stand out from the fair, good, and even very good ones in an almost self-evident way. Not much more needs to be said about Friday night's recital by cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and pianist Alexandre Tharaud at the Library of Congress, other than that it rises to the top of concerts heard by these ears so far this year."
  • JOURNAL: Resilient Communities and Darknets Featured in Time Magazine - "Imagine a future in which millions of families live off the grid, powering their homes and vehicles with dirt-cheap portable fuel cells. As industrial agriculture sputters under the strain of the spiraling costs of water, gasoline and fertilizer, networks of farmers using sophisticated techniques that combine cutting-edge green technologies with ancient Mayan know-how build an alternative food-distribution system. Faced with the burden of financing the decades-long retirement of aging boomers, many of the young embrace a new underground economy, a largely untaxed archipelago of communes, co-ops, and kibbutzim that passively resist the power of the granny state while building their own little utopias.

    Rather than warehouse their children in factory schools invented to instill obedience in the future mill workers of America, bourgeois rebels will educate their kids in virtual schools tailored to different learning styles. Whereas only 1.5 million children were homeschooled in 2007, we can expect the number to explode in future years as distance education blows past the traditional variety in cost and quality. The cultural battle lines of our time, with red America pitted against blue, will be scrambled as Buddhist vegan militia members and evangelical anarchist squatters trade tips on how to build self-sufficient vertical farms from scrap-heap materials. To avoid the tax man, dozens if not hundreds of strongly encrypted digital currencies and barter schemes will crop up, leaving an underresourced IRS to play whack-a-mole with savvy libertarian 'hacktivists.'"
  • C-Span Puts Full Archives on the Web - "Researchers, political satirists and partisan mudslingers, take note: C-Span has uploaded virtually every minute of its video archives to the Internet.
    . . .
    One of the Web site’s features, the Congressional Chronicle, shows which members of Congress have spoken on the House and Senate floors the most, and the least. Each senator and representative has a profile page. Using the data already available, some newspapers have written about particularly loquacious local lawmakers.

    C-Span was established in 1979, but there are few recordings of its earliest years. Those 'sort of went down the drain,' Mr. Browning said. But he does have about 10,000 hours of tapes from before 1987, and he will begin reformatting them for the Web soon. Those tapes include Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign speeches and the Iran-Contra hearings.

    In a tour of the site last week, Mr. Browning said the various uses of the archives were hard to predict. He found that a newly uploaded 1990 United Nations address by the Romanian president Ion Iliescu was quickly discovered and published by several Romanian bloggers."
  • 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."
  • Relax, Legal Scholars: Bobbleheads Are Safe at Yale - "The bobblehead of Justice David H. Souter, for instance, wears heavy gold jewelry and sits on a lifeguard stand, reminders of his opinions in a copyright case involving the rap group 2 Live Crew and a sexual harassment case brought by a female lifeguard. In a second copyright case, Justice Souter referred to 'the latest release by Modest Mouse'; his bobblehead plays a snippet of a song by the band.

    These new acquisitions present challenges. 'I don’t know if anyone has cataloged bobbleheads before,' Mr. Shapiro said. 'This might be breaking new ground.'"
  • Harrison Police Chief: Pilot Error Possible In Prius Case - "Last week, Harrison Police Capt. Anthony Marraccini said he had no indication of driver error, after a 56 year old house keeper had driven her employer’s Prius into a wall. Wall and car were totaled. Airbags deployed, housekeeper was unharmed. Now, Marracini isn’t so sure anymore."
  • Toxic Togs? - "In a reversal of reports regarding the toxicity of Chinese products from toys to toothpaste, which in recent years caused consumer concern but drew protests from the Chinese government, the province of Zhejiang has impounded European-made clothing that reportedly failed quality and safety tests."
  • Stress Relieving Vending Machine - "The 'Passive Aggressive Anger Release Machine' is a machine that allows you break a dish or two until you feel better. All you have to do is insert a dollar, and a piece of china will slowly move towards you until it falls to the bottom and breaks into a million pieces."

How to Survive a Zombie Attack
stay away from zombies....

  • Best of the Past: Trainer Tells All -- What I Have Learned About Health and Fitness - "Pushups are the best upper body workout designed….no machine can replace that…you don’t need any equipment and you can do them anywhere.

    Diet is 85% of where results come from…..for muscle and fat loss. Many don’t focus here enough.

    Working out too much doesn’t lead to good results….hence most people are still struggling after years of hard effort and little return.

    If you eat whole foods that have been around for 1000s of years, you probably don’t have to worry about counting calories

    Sugar is not our friend

    High Fructose Corn Syrup is making people fat and sick

    The biggest 2 threats to our health are inflammation (silent and chronic) and insulin resistance

    Our dependence on gyms to workout may be keeping people fat….as walking down a street and pushups in your home are free everyday…but people are not seeing it that way.

    If I had to pick one sport for a child to start with it would be gymnastics, the strength/speed/balance/body control they will learn can be applied to any sport down the road.

    Meat and Fat are my friends

    Apple Cider Vinegar is the only medicine I take if I feel sick

    All diets fail over the long run….but lifestyle changes last

    Fads are created to sell more specialized equipment/gear, lifting/throwing something heavy and running fast has been around for 100s of years and still works"
  • Crocodile Embossed Rainboots - "We have to admit that we have a bit of a crush on Jimmy Choo’s crocodile embossed rainboots from renowned British bootmaker Hunter. So decadent, and yet so wearable. But the $395 price tag has always felt a bit steep."

. . . . . . . . .

March 20, 2010 10:47 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 3/16/10

Liar Truthteller Brain Teaser

  • 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
  • The Empire Continues to Strike Back: Team Obama Propaganda Campaign Reaches Fever Pitch - "This juncture was a crucial window of opportunity. The financial services industry had become systematically predatory. Its victims now extended well beyond precarious, clueless, and sometimes undisciplined consumers who took on too much debt via credit cards with gotcha features that successfully enticed into a treadmill of chronic debt, or now infamous subprime and option-ARM mortgages.

    Over twenty years of malfeasance, from the savings and loan crisis (where fraud was a leading cause of bank failures) to a catastrophic set of blow-ups in over the counter derivatives in 1994, which produced total losses of $1.5 trillion, the biggest wipeout since the 1929 crash, through a 1990s subprime meltdown, dot com chicanery, Enron and other accounting scandals, and now the global financial crisis, the industry each time had been able to beat neuter meaningful reform. But this time, the scale of the damage was so great that it extended beyond investors to hapless bystanders, ordinary citizens who were also paying via their taxes and job losses. And unlike the past, where news of financial blow-ups was largely confined to the business section, the public could not miss the scale of the damage and how it came about, and was outraged.

    The widespread, vocal opposition to the TARP was evidence that a once complacent populace had been roused. Reform, if proposed with energy and confidence, wasn’t a risk; not only was it badly needed, it was just what voters wanted.

    But incoming president Obama failed to act. Whether he failed to see the opportunity, didn’t understand it, or was simply not interested is moot. Rather than bring vested banking interests to heel, the Obama administration instead chose to reconstitute, as much as possible, the very same industry whose reckless pursuit of profit had thrown the world economy off the cliff. There would be no Nixon goes to China moment from the architects of the policies that created the crisis, namely Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers.

    Defenders of the administration no doubt will content that the public was not ready for measures like the putting large banks like Citigroup into receivership. Even if that were true (and the current widespread outrage against banks says otherwise), that view assumes that the executive branch is a mere spectator, when it has the most powerful bully pulpit in the nation. Other leaders have taken unpopular moves and still maintained public support.
    . . .
    So with Obama’s popularity falling sharply, it should be no surprise that the Administration is resorting to more concerted propaganda efforts. It may have no choice. Having ceded so much ground to the financiers, it has lost control of the battlefield. The banking lobbyists have perfected their tactics for blocking reform over the last two decades. Team Obama naively cast its lot with an industry that is vastly more skilled in the the dark art of the manufacture of consent than it is."
  • Great Idea from Geniuses - "Pension systems already run significantly higher risk than would be acceptable, essentially gambling taxpayer money that should be designated for public employees’ retirement. This mocks any notion of fiscal accountability. If the gambles fail, and according to this New York Times article they likely will, taxpayers will be left holding the bag.
    . . .
    Buying out failed banks with state pension funds is nothing more than a shell game, moving failure from private banks to public employees to taxpayers. It’s a terrible plan, and Oregon and New Jersey should soundly reject it."
  • The Mystery of Sudden Acceleration - "In the 24 cases where driver age was reported or readily inferred, the drivers included those of the ages 60, 61, 63, 66, 68, 71, 72, 72, 77, 79, 83, 85, 89--and I’m leaving out the son whose age wasn’t identified, but whose 94-year-old father died as a passenger."
  • New Compressed Air Energy Storage Projects - "Alexis Madrigal of Wired reports on compressed air energy storage (CAES) systems which will store compressed air deep underground. Electric power generated from wind blowing during times of low electric power demand gets used to compress air. Then the compressed air gets used to generate electric power when the demand is highest."
  • Do You Want to Govern Yourself? Instapundit Talks With Pollster Scott Rasmussen - "Americans, writes famous pollster Scott Rasmussen, don’t want to be governed from the left, right, or center -- they want to govern themselves. That’s why he’s written In Search of Self Governance."
  • Stopping Afghanistan’s Fertilizer Bomb Factories - "In Iraq, insurgent networks had a motherlode of military-grade explosives for making roadside bombs. In Afghanistan, fertilizer bombs are the weapon of choice, making detection and interception a much greater challenge, according to the head of the Pentagon’s bomb-fighting organization."
  • Nancy Grace Remembered - "No, NG is not dead.

    But I do have to remember her on this anniversary of the party on Buchanan Street in Durham."
  • Great Time to Buy (Famous Last Words) - "Although the National Association of Realtors said for many years that home prices historically don’t fall, actually they do, and sometimes quite sharply. The housing market is complicated, and the future unknowable. Still, for clues to the overall direction of prices, Mr. Ritholtz advises buyers to look at three metrics: the ratio of median income to median home prices, which suggests whether people can afford a house; the cost of ownership versus renting; and the value of the national housing stock as a percentage of gross domestic product.

    All those measures were aberrationally inflated during the housing bubble. And they still aren’t back to historical norms. We can get back to the norm in either of two ways, Mr. Ritholtz says: home prices can either drop an additional 15 percent or go sideways for seven years or so, while G.D.P. and income presumably grow.
    . . .Mr. [Frank LLosa, a real estate agent working in northern Virginia] thinks that many people -- including him -- would be better off renting. People ought to buy a house for what he calls 'warm and fuzzy feelings,' but they shouldn’t try to predict home prices. Nor should real estate agents, who aren’t much wiser.

    'I don’t think real estate professionals should be in the business of telling people when it is a great time to buy,' he said."
  • What will economists 40 years from now think of us? - "As you may recall, back around 2005 a number of Congressman were insisting that the Chinese revalue the yuan by 27%. In fact, they did revalue their currency by 22% over the next 3 years. But now we are told they need to do another 20% to 40%. And people wonder why the Chinese are so frustrated with the West. Does this game ring any bells? I seem to recall that back around 1970 the US government kept insisting that the Japanese trade surplus was caused by an undervalued yen. Then the yen was revalued 20%, but the “problem” continued. Then another 20%, then another 20%, then another 20%, then another 20%. The yen has now gone from 350 to 90 to the dollar. My math isn’t very good, but that sure seems like a lot of 20% revaluations. And the Japanese still run a current account surplus that is more than half the size of China’s surplus, despite having less than 1/10th China’s population. I think it’s fair to say that international economists have become increasingly skeptical of the notion that simply by manipulating nominal exchange rates you can eliminate current account imbalances that represent deep-seated disparities of saving and investing. But I guess hope springs eternal. Maybe this time it will finally work.
    . . .
    How many economists today honestly think that if the Chinese give us another 25% revaluation that this will significantly improve America’s economy?"
  • Vegan Nut-Jobs Attack Lierre Keith - "Lierre Keith, author of the fabulous book The Vegetarian Myth, was attacked by three vegan nut-jobs on Saturday while giving a speech. They threw a pie laced with cayenne pepper in her face. If that doesn’t sound like much of an attack, keep in mind that it’s nearly the equivalent of being attacked with pepper spray. And frankly, I’d be outraged even if the pie was made of whipped cream. (No wait … that would be a dairy product; the vegans would never stoop to such cruelty just to assault a human being.)

    Fortunately, Keith is recovering. Jimmy Moore wrote to inquire about her condition, and she replied:

    My eyes are still puffy and blurry, but the pain is definitely better. I think the worst part was hearing people cheer my assailants while I was being assaulted. I don’t want to live in a world where people cheer while someone has cayenne rubbed into their eyes.

    Yes, people were cheering -- while three men in masks attacked a 45-year-old woman who already has a damaged spine. My, what courage.

    I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not. The animal-rights wackos have a long and proud history of attacking soft targets. As my comedian friend Tim Slagle once pointed out, they’ll happily throw blood on women wearing fur -- but strangely, they never feel inspired to attempt a similar protest on men wearing leather."

Fat Head, Wheat belly, and the Adventures of Ancel Keys

The first rule of Tautology Club

  • Spring Break in Mexico? Not a Good Idea - "Avoid all of the Mexican border towns, and I'd also think twice before planning any trips to Acapulco or other popular Spring Break spots.

    The tourism smiley-faces like to assure Americans that reports of the the drug-war mayhem are overblown. Baloney. Bloody shootouts and murders are routine occurrences. Like this report today. And, oh,this one.

    The State Department issued a travel warning today on Mexico. It issued advice to depart Mexico to families of U.S. consulate employees in the northern Mexican border cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros, through April 12."
  • Operator Error Usually The Cause of Unintended Acceleration In Past Investigations - "Unintended acceleration is nothing new, and just about every automaker has been the subject of such complaints at some point. The National Transportation Safety Board has received 12,700 such complaints in the past decade, according to Der Spiegel. The problem hounded Audi mercilessly during the 1980s when drivers of the Audi 5000 made claims eerily similar to those voiced by many Toyota owners.
    . . .
    Engineers investigating the Audi incidents couldn’t find any evidence within the cars to support drivers’ stories of unintended acceleration, Schmidt said. The same is true today: Investigators are unable to find evidence supporting drivers’ claims their Toyotas suddenly raced out of control. One key difference today is the Toyotas in question use electronically controlled throttles whereas the Audis used mechanical linkages. Investigators continue to look into electronics and software related to the Toyota complaints.

    Another interesting question is why fatalities stemming from these incidents appear limited to North America, even though Toyotas are sold worldwide. Der Spiegel notes there have been cases of unintended acceleration in Germany, but the drivers simply applied the brakes and brought their cars safely to a stop."
  • More Evidence 'BestAttorneys' is Clueless about Attorneys - "I wrote here last week about, the dubious new lawyer-rating site that can't seem to get lawyers' practice areas or even their locations straight, listing lawyers as among the top 10 in practices they have nothing to do with and in states in which they have no ties. I followed that with a second post about legal reporter Caryn Tamber's adventures with the site. Now, I have even more to report that only underscores the conclusion that the people behind this site are the gang that couldn't shoot straight of lawyer ratings.
    . . .
    Is this questionable company actually able to convince lawyers to advertise on this joke of a site? As I said in my original post, when I look at this site, I don't know whether to laugh or cry."
  • 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."

Low-key java drinkers in Washington kick off Coffee Parties

  • Completely Erase Storage Drives for Security - "No matter how you're getting rid of a computer or external drive, you want all your data removed from it, because identity thieves love laziness."
  • Verizon Wireless touts the benefits of a MiFi-connected Apple iPad - "A leaked internal memo reveals that the nation’s largest carrier is trying to jump on the Apple bandwagon by encouraging its employees to push its MiFi device as an accessory to the upcoming iPad. The idea itself is worthy of consideration -- save $130 by purchasing the Wi-Fi version of the Apple iPad and pair it with a MiFi to get 3G wireless connectivity on the go. What Verizon fails to mention is that the MiFi requires a two year contract and will cost $60 per month for the unlimited data plan, meanwhile the 3G iPad can rock on an AT&T unlimited data plan for a mere $30 per month." Uh, yeah, but you can also connect up to 5 WiFi devices to the mifi....
  • T.C. Williams stings from low-achievement label; school officials pledge refor - "Federal education officials have singled out Alexandria's only public high school as among the nation's poorest-performing schools, putting it on track for a dramatic turnaround effort, including major instructional reforms and possibly widespread teacher firings.

    T.C. Williams High School was one of 17 schools in Virginia to be labeled a 'persistently lowest achieving school' by state and federal education officials this month, based on average reading and math test scores over the past two years.
    . . .
    It qualifies for the federal turnaround funding because its standardized test scores in 2008 and 2009 fell in the lowest 5 percent of 128 Virginia high schools that have similar poverty demographics but do not receive funding under Title I, a federal program that provides extra resources to schools with large numbers of poor and at-risk students.
    . . .
    'We have a good foundation,' [Alexandria City Schools Superintendent Morton] Sherman said. 'We are not a great high school, but we are going to be.'"
  • 3M Self-Sealing Pouches - "These are very sturdy, inexpensive self-laminating folders to make luggage tags, or actually any gear. I wanted to make my own tags from my business cards and these were far and away the best option I found."
  • The US Postal Service's Business Model Is Outdated. Is It Time To Wind It Down Or Privatize It? - "Just recently, we discussed whether or not ceasing Saturday delivery was a good idea or not for the USPS. John Potter, the US Postmaster General, recently said that the postal service's business model is as outdated as the newspaper industry's."

. . . . . . . . .

March 16, 2010 08:17 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 3/11/10

Judge Jim Gray on The Six Groups That Benefit From Drug Prohibition

  • Speechwriting: Preparing Speeches and Oral Presentations, March 12, 2010
  • 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
  • SnowJob: Revising the Non-Farm Payrolls Report - "It appears as though the concerns expressed by the Administration about the snow storms and their impact on lost employment was overdone, if not misplaced. The market is pleasantly surprised with this -36,000 jobs number, since the expectations had been calibrated lower so effectively.

    In fairness to the Obama Administration, they are only doing what Bush II, Clinton, and Bush I* had been doing right along with almost every statistic that they have issued. It's called 'perception management.' Greece used one method of accounting management in shaping the numbers, and the US uses its own approach to what is essentially a similar problem.
    . . .
    Or perhaps the US economy and its monetary system are an increasingly untenable Ponzi scheme, the mother of frauds."
  • You Think Joe Stiglitz is Funny? NYT is funny, too! - "I accept, as Angus did before, that debt might be okay if we were investing it. But we are not. We are using debt to fund pet projects that have no purpose other than re-electing Senators, or paying to put more people on the public employment roles so they will reliably vote Democrat.

    Third, the dude actually says, 'According to this school of thought, as our debt grows, lenders will be willing to take the risk of giving more money only if they can get more in return. And yet with the rise of China, India and Brazil, the world is awash in money looking for safe places.' That's not a school of thought, that's accounting physics. Further, if either the Eurozone or Chinese get their act together, our complacency ('sure we suck, but they suck worse! Eat that pie!') will be hammered."
  • Gendercide - "Most people know China and northern India have unnaturally large numbers of boys. But few appreciate how bad the problem is, or that it is rising. In China the imbalance between the sexes was 108 boys to 100 girls for the generation born in the late 1980s; for the generation of the early 2000s, it was 124 to 100. In some Chinese provinces the ratio is an unprecedented 130 to 100. The destruction is worst in China but has spread far beyond. Other East Asian countries, including Taiwan and Singapore, former communist states in the western Balkans and the Caucasus, and even sections of America’s population (Chinese- and Japanese-Americans, for example): all these have distorted sex ratios. Gendercide exists on almost every continent. It affects rich and poor; educated and illiterate; Hindu, Muslim, Confucian and Christian alike.

    Wealth does not stop it. Taiwan and Singapore have open, rich economies. Within China and India the areas with the worst sex ratios are the richest, best-educated ones. And China’s one-child policy can only be part of the problem, given that so many other countries are affected.
    . . .
    And all countries need to raise the value of girls. They should encourage female education; abolish laws and customs that prevent daughters inheriting property; make examples of hospitals and clinics with impossible sex ratios; get women engaged in public life--using everything from television newsreaders to women traffic police. Mao Zedong said 'women hold up half the sky.' The world needs to do more to prevent a gendercide that will have the sky crashing down."
  • Return of the natives: Beneath the idealism and political correctness of Avatar, in the spotlight at the Oscars on Sunday, lie brutal racist undertones. - "The film teaches us that the only choice the aborigines have is to be saved by the human beings or to be destroyed by them. In other words, they can choose either to be the victim of imperialist reality, or to play their allotted role in the white man's fantasy."
  • Alice In Wonderland - "Johnny Depp did not work well in this role and the character he played came off as your creepy Uncle Harold rather than the whimsical character that defines the role of the Mad Hatter and would have worked and been better suited here."
  • California Doing a Rendition of the Housing Industry on the Budget – $20 Billion Budget Deficit and Massive Amount of Distress Inventory. How Banks Raided the U.S. Treasury with the aid of the Federal Reserve and have Damaged Housing Further. - "The banking system has captured our government and frustration is boiling over. Yet those in the housing and banking industry seem complacent and even self congratulatory that we 'have avoided Great Depression 2.0.' Really? Now we’re taking advice from the same group of cronies that led the economy off the financial cliff. And the most troubling thing is we are at the height of unemployment even though the headline rate seems to have steadied out. California’s unemployment rate still continues to move upward hitting 12.5 percent. Yet all is well in delusional banking world since their idea of a solution is simply not foreclosing. What is even worse, these banking crooks are now offering fire sale deals to other banks and hedge fund investors! I’ve contacted a few banks about short sales and in many cases, preference is being given to “all cash” investors. Glad those bailouts are supporting the crony banking system.
    . . .
    I’ve talked with colleagues who are Republicans and Democrats and both are absolutely appalled by what is going on with Wall Street and the housing industry. They have transformed our economy into one giant casino and houses are now life sized Monopoly tokens that are traded on the New York Stock Exchange with no regard to local economies. Moral hazard applies to the masses yet those rules don’t apply to the plutocracy that sits on Wall Street."
  • Housing: A Tale of Boom and Bust and a Puzzle - "That is happening in many areas - I've heard a number of stories of homeowners staying in their homes and not paying their mortgage, and the banks not foreclosing - and, at the same time, there is intense competition for any home that comes on the market.

    This is a real mystery right now.
    . . .To be clear, I have my own views why the lenders are not foreclosing. Part of it is policy - it is government policy to restrict supply and boost demand to support asset prices and limit the losses for the banks. Part of it is inadequate staffing. Another reason is the lenders are making an effort to find alternatives to foreclosure (modifications, short sales, deed-in-lieu). Of course a majority of modifications will eventually redefault, but that still restricts supply for now. It isn't one reason - and the real puzzle is when (and how many) distressed sales will hit the market."
  • Human Terrain Mapping - "It’s about time the Afghans get to enjoy the sight of foreign women.

    With rifles."
  • The fable of Emanuel the Great - "From too many years of covering politics, I have come to believe as Axiom One that the absolute worst advice politicians ever receive comes from journalists who fancy themselves great campaign strategists."
  • Peggy, Clytie, Ethel: 1926 - "June 21, 1926. Washington, D.C. 'Peggy Walsh, Clytie Collier and Ethel Barrymore Colt.' National Photo Company glass negative." (photo)
  • Building a Better Teacher - "Lemov, for his part, finds hope in what he has already accomplished. The day that I watched Bellucci’s math class, Lemov sat next to me, beaming. He was still smiling an hour later, when we walked out of the school together to his car. ''You could change the world with a first-year teacher like that, he said."
  • Secret millionaire donates fortune to Lake Forest College - "Like many people who lived through the Great Depression, Grace Groner was exceptionally restrained with her money.

    She got her clothes from rummage sales. She walked everywhere rather than buy a car. And her one-bedroom house in Lake Forest held little more than a few plain pieces of furniture, some mismatched dishes and a hulking TV set that appeared left over from the Johnson administration.

    Her one splurge was a small scholarship program she had created for Lake Forest College, her alma mater. She planned to contribute more upon her death, and when she passed away in January, at the age of 100, her attorney informed the college president what that gift added up to."
  • More on Wind - "Any traditional capacity (fossil fuel, nuclear) except perhaps gas turbines takes on the order of a day or more to start up -- if you don’t take that long, the thermal stresses alone will blow the whole place up. During the whole startup and shutdown, and through any 'standby' time, the plant is burning fuel. Since we don’t have a good wind energy storage system, some percentage of wind capacity must be backed up with hot standby, because it can disappear in an instant. We are learning now, contrary to earlier assumptions, that wind speeds can be correlated pretty highly over wide geographies, meaning that spreading the wind turbines out does not necessarily do a lot to reduce the standby needs. And since plant startups take time, even gas turbines take some time to get running, the percentage of wind power that required hot backup is pretty high...."
  • Why I Ban Laptops From the Classroom - "Too many students with laptops were distracting others around them, including one group viewing a soccer tournament during a lecture. The complaints about this ban never cease....
    . . .
    The next obstacle to overcome is text messaging during class."
  • US Government Working With Pharma Companies To Raise Drug Prices In Other Countries - "A series of stories from Jamie Love at KEI highlight the troubling cozy relationship between pharmaceutical companies and the US government in trying to raise drug prices in other countries -- which very likely will come at the expense of the health of citizens in those countries."
  • Roberts: Scene at State of Union 'very troubling' - " U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday the scene at President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address was "very troubling" and that the annual speech to Congress has 'degenerated into a political pep rally.'

    Responding to a University of Alabama law student's question about the Senate's method of confirming justices, Roberts said senators improperly try to make political points by asking questions they know nominees can't answer because of judicial ethics rules.
    . . .
    Justice Antonin Scalia once said he no longer goes to the annual speech because the justices "sit there like bumps on a log" in an otherwise highly partisan atmosphere."

Taxonomy of Effective Teaching Practices

  • Cop’s book defies stereotypes - "Martin Preib is a Chicago cop. And he's a Chicago writer.

    You hear that a cop has written a book, and there's a temptation, grounded in stereotype, to think of stock characters: a tough guy, sultry women, Outfit bagmen with plenty of attitude and, of course, gunplay.

    But his book, 'The Wagon and Other Stories From the City' (University of Chicago Press, $20) isn't pulp fiction."
  • Detroit school board leader can’t write - "A product of Detroit Public Schools now leads the school board that’s trying to raise worst-in-the-nation literacy scores. Otis Mathis can’t write, reveals Detroit News columnist Laura Berman. The board president’s e-mails are notoriously garbled:"
  • Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions - "1) Question: I'm an adult male, and recently I've been thinking about getting circumcised. I saw an ad on Craigslist by some dude who says he can do it for me out of a mini-operating room in his home. He tells me he's a doctor. Should I go for it?"
  • 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."
  • Succinylcholine, A Perfect Poison, Makes Appearance in the Dubai Killing - "According to Dubai authorities, and as reported by ABC News, Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was given a shot of succinylcholine prior to other grossly things done to his body on the fateful (for him) day of January 19, 2010. And since your humble correspondent is an anesthesiologist by day, and by call at night, let me tell you why succinylcholine is such a perfect murder weapon.

    The best poisons usually have three things in common: small effective dose, also called Median Lethal Dose (or LD50), ease of administration, and rapid and definitive action. The fourth characteristic, the difficulty in detection by a forensics team is a big premium that most poisons don't posses. Most poisons, that is, except succinylcholine and maybe a few others."
  • The Great Burger Battle - "Sports bore me but I can’t get enough of the great burger battle. McDonald’s reported sales increases of 4.8 last month. Most of the increases are overseas but it is no surprise that its domestic sales are solid as can be.

    Their new coffees, which now include frozen drinks, are a close competitor to Starbucks, and in buying them you don’t have to endure a lecture about how you are doing your part to save the planet.

    For breakfast, you can get a traditional biscuit or croissant with sausage or move into the new line that includes a fruit parfait for a buck (how is this possible?) or an apple-walnut salad. This stuff is amazing.

    And I would compare their Angus burger next to any hamburger in a fancy restaurant that costs twice as much.

    This is a company that knows how to market, how to adapt, how to change. And in my town, the McDonald’s is the happiest place around. They offer wi-fi and smiling employees who are quick with a quip and a smile. The place is full of energy and life and is teeming with the sense of progress.
    . . .
    It always amazes me how demanding Americans can be toward private enterprise. Everything must be 100% correct or the customer flips out. But put these same people in line at the post office or the customs line at the airport and they become complacent slaves doing everything they are told. They don’t even complain about it.

    It’s as if our expectations are different and we are okay with that. We expect the government to be slow, rude, abusive, unreasonable, and unresponsive and we adapt ourselves to that and figure that this is what is necessary for security or the general welfare or whatever. We let them have our money and our lives and call it a day."

Assasination [sic] and hotel door security

  • Why Google Android Favoritism Isn’t Punishing Consumers and Partners - "Mark rightly points out that the coolest new Android apps are appearing on handsets with newer builds of Android first -- and sometimes exclusively. Google Maps Navigation debuted on the Motorola Droid with Android 2.0 and Google Buzz is supported on 2.x as well. But I ask myself: if I were Google and I wanted to rock out a new app and build the biggest buzz, I’d get it on the heartiest hardware first so it really shines from a performance perspective. I’d also pair it with hardware designed to show it off -- the Droid car dock morphs what’s essentially a software product into a look-alike, standalone GPS device. That simple dock, designed specifically for the Droid, takes the Google software solution and transforms the experience. Don’t think so? Imagine if Google debuted the software on the original G1. The impact would be muted without a dock and on less capable hardware. Instead, Google chose the right hardware combination to show it off and the stock value of some GPS makers dropped 20%.
    . . .
    If you have to 'blame' someone, choose either Motorola who made the phone or Verizon who decided to sell the phone. All Google does for this phone is provide versions of it’s mobile platform to the phone maker. If I had to pick on someone in this specific case, it would be Motorola -- the Devour runs Motorola’s custom interface called MotoBlur and Motorola doesn’t offer that UI on anything higher than Android 1.6. There’s your likely culprit in this case, which has nothing to do with Google’s perceived favoritism for current Android versions."
  • Dreaded Words for One in Love - "It happened to me back when I was in the marriage market. And perhaps it happened to you."
  • Two expats master the Cantonese language - "The Chinese language is notoriously complex. There are the tones, the accents, and not to mention the writing! China and Singapore use simplified Chinese characters, while Hong Kong and Taiwan still use traditional Chinese characters.

    Then there are the different dialects. Mandarin is spoken in China, Taiwan, and Singapore. Hong Kong and China’s southern Guangdong Province mainly speak Cantonese.

    That being said, there’s few sadder sights than an expat who’s lived in Asia for years and still doesn’t speak the language of his adopted home. CNNgo profiled two Westerners who defy that stereotype in this article: How two gwailos learned to speak perfect Cantonese."
  • BS Alert 2! Steve Wozniak (And The Media) Still Spreading Prius UA Obfuscation - "One of my pet gripes about the media and celebrities is the lack of follow-up and accountability. Remember all the hoopla about Steve Wozniak’s Prius with the mysterious electronics glitch that he could manipulate to create UA? My take was that obviously his cruise control had a minor bug that only showed up at over eighty mph. Woz readily admitted that he could disengage it with a tap on the brakes. Well, thanks to his celebrity status and the coverage, the story ended with Toyota agreeing to take his Prius for a week to test it thoroughly. So what happened?
    . . .
    Sounds like he’s got it all figured out. Toyota just needs to add a Reboot button on the dash. Meanwhile, Wozniak said he’ll continue to drive his Prius, and trusts its safety, and won’t buy another car.

    My guess is that he never handed it over to Toyota, or he did and they told him something he didn’t want to hear or repeat."
  • Energizer Battery Charger Hides Trojan For 3 Years - "Apparently the Energizer DUO USB Battery Charger has been carrying around a nasty little trojan that can wreak havoc on your system. CERT has issued a warning...
    . . .
    That’s right, something as simple as plugging in your USB battery charger could give someone complete control over your system."

. . . . . . . . .

March 11, 2010 08:17 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 3/7/10

What Makes a Hero? – Rough Cut

  • Speechwriting: Preparing Speeches and Oral Presentations, March 12, 2010
  • 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
  • The Philosophical Cow - "Should a cow behind a haystack of ignorance choose the world with the highest expectation of utility? In which case, a world of many cows each destined for slaughter could well be preferable to one with many fewer but happier cows.

    Or is it wrong to compare the zero of non-existence with existence? Should a cow philosopher focus on making cows happy or on making happy cows? If the former, would one (or two) supremely happy cows not be best?

    I think these questions are important both for thinking about cows and animal rights and for human beings. Tyler has thought a lot about these issues (e.g. here, here and elsewhere). Some people, however, think that cow philosophy is just a bunch of bull."
  • Little-used ‘Staple-and-bind’ parliamentary procedure will allow Democrats to pass health bill with just nine votes in House, three in Senate - "Democrat insiders say that an obscure parliamentary procedure known as 'Staple-and-Bind' will be used as an alternative to pass a health care overhaul should reconciliation efforts fail. 'Staple-and-bind' refers to the final act of preparing legislation, using an industrial-grade stapler and a three-ring binder, for shipment.
    . . .
    Congressional Democrats have also purchased a Staple Jihad 5000 Nail Gun, the only street-legal stapler capable of binding the massive legislation. The propane-powered stapler can penetrate up to 3,000 8.5″ x 11″ pages, which leaves room for Democrats to nationalize other aspects of medical delivery including dentistry, veterinary medicine and crystal healing stones."
  • King Rudy and the gun ban - "In its wisdom, the U.S. Supreme Court finally took up Chicago's ridiculous 27-year-old handgun ban on Tuesday.

    Why is it ridiculous? Because only three classes of people are comfortable with handguns in the anti-handgun city:

    Cops, criminals and the politically connected.

    Mayor Richard Daley sure is upset that the ban might be overturned. But he probably has more armed guards protecting him than the president of Venezuela.

    Chicago aldermen are allowed to carry handguns. I wanted to ask the chairman of the City Council's police committee about those gun-toting aldermen. But there was no chairman. The last one just resigned after pleading guilty to federal bribery charges, so he wasn't around.

    If the Supreme Court really wanted to know why some folks in Chicago have guns and others don't, they should have called an expert witness:

    Rudy Acosta, the former 'gangsta' rap impresario, or King Rudy, as he likes to be known."
  • What Journalists Like: #40 the grumpy old reporter - "He shuns technology. When he talks about lead, he’s not talking about a journalist’s first graph. He still remembers typesetting. Hell, he still uses a rolodex. While journalists born after the Carter administration click away on their Blackberries and iPhones, the entire newsroom can hear the screeching noise coming from the grumpy old reporter’s cassette tape recorder as he plays back an interview. Most journalists have never even owned a cassette tape before. The grumpy old reporter still refers blackberries as a fruit and couldn’t use an iPhone if his life depended on it."
  • I’ve Been Given a Reason to Vote Republican - "Michael Moore Says He’s Not Coming Back to Arizona Until State 'Elects a Democrat as Senator'"
  • Cyberwar Or Moral Panic? Beware Of Ex-Politicians Screaming About Cyberthreats - "For years and years we've been hearing about the supposed threats of 'cyberwar' and 'cyberterrosism.' For nearly a decade we've questioned whether this was all hype, and the story hasn't changed. Sure, there are hackers and those who look to break into systems, but the real risks and overall threats still seem fairly minimal. But that's not enough for some people. Wired's Ryan Singel has a long, but excellent look at how former director of national intelligence (now consultant) Michael McConnell appears to be trying to build up a giant moral panic about this ill-defined threat, with the goal of basically ripping out the guts of today's internet to recreate it with almost no privacy at all."
  • Good Grief! - "Unless you’re an idiot -- like me -- if you own a home, you probably should have grieved your property taxes over the last couple of years, maybe even more than once. It’s almost a sure thing that your municipality has been assessing your home at more than what it’s worth -- and that you’ve been paying your taxes on that inflated value. (Many tax bills, like mine, include the value at which the municipality is carrying your property.)"
  • The Housing Metrics of Southern California – Seasonal Home Sales, Inflation Adjusted Home Prices, Tens of Thousands Living Rent Free, and the Japanese Experience. - "People are realizing the problems in the housing market are simply a bigger reflection of the lingering issues in the overall economy. There have now been a few stories comparing California with the issues being experienced in troubled Greece. JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon echoed his concerns regarding California. The markets seem to underestimate how profound the issues are in the California economy. What is more troubling is California is merely a reflection of other states. The Legislative Analyst Office projects deficits deep into 2014 and each year we experience a deficit will require higher taxes or deeper cuts. That is why focusing on jobs is such an important barometer for the improvement of the overall economy. Without one net added job in California people are already counting the next housing boom. The numbers simply do not reflect this assumption.
    . . .
    The above tells you a lot. While the median home price in Southern California is down by 46 percent from the peak the typical monthly mortgage payment is down 52 percent from the peak. People are committing to half the monthly payment amount and this has more to do with the health of the economy. I know many would love to have a $1,170 monthly mortgage for a place in Southern California."
  • State polls show gathering storm - "Congress, it turns out, isn’t the only institution held in low esteem by voters this year.

    According to a POLITICO review of publicly available polling data, numerous state legislatures are also bottoming out, showing off-the-charts disapproval ratings accompanied by stunning levels of voter cynicism.

    It all adds up to a toxic election-year brew for legislators inside and outside Washington."
  • One young American still wants to serve in the Marines - "Jordan Blashek, Princeton '09, turned down a chance to go to med school and he joined the Marines, beginning at OCS at Quantico, for at least four years. He explains why."
  • Renters Priced Out of Homes In Heavily Planned Montgomery County (MD) - "The Washington Post reports on a new study by a tenant advocacy group in Montgomery County, Maryland arguing that renters are being priced out of homes. The problem is likely to get worse as the economy picks up, demand for housing increases, and the supply can't keep up with demand."
  • Another Journalist-Stenographer Makes a Lame Attempt to Tell the Truth About Legal Hiring - "The law schools lie about how much their students make so they themselves can make more money. And then they feed those false, inflated salary and employment numbers to the NALP to hide the true source of the numbers--the law schools themselves.

    This is a whitewash of false stats. Why do you so called journalists never question this aspect of these stats?"
  • FORTHCOMING WORKS BY DR. BOLI. - "In 2002, a revolutionary piece of legislation completely changed the face of accounting in the United States. Yet, incredibly, until now there has been no comprehensive examination of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act aimed specifically at children under the age of twelve. Now, at last, Dr. Boli rectifies this glaring omission in the publishing world. A Child’s Picture Book of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is aimed at children who have exhausted the resources of the more general accounting picture-books and wish to have specific information about Sarbanes-Oxley in a visual form. Enchanting illustrations bring auditor independence, corporate responsibility, and enhanced financial disclosures to vivid life."
  • A History of the California Housing Gold Rush – The Financial Expansion of California Real Estate from 1850 to 2010. - "I decided to dig up some old Census data to show how dramatically housing has shifted over the years. Many in the housing industry assume that real estate has always been the way it currently is but forgetting about history can lead many into challenging situations. In 1910 and 1920 the majority of Americans rented their home. Of the 20 million dwellings in 1920 only 4 million were mortgaged. Today, the majority of American households own a home. The homeownership rate has fallen since the crisis started."
  • Get up earlier, Germans tell Greeks - "Here, people work until they are 67 and there is no 14th-month salary for civil servants. Here, nobody needs to pay a €1,000 bribe to get a hospital bed in time.

    Our petrol stations have cash registers, taxi drivers give receipts and farmers don't swindle EU subsidies with millions of non-existent olive trees.

    Germany also has high debts but we can settle them. That's because we get up early and work all day."
  • Thank You For Not Expressing Yourself - "Not every devotee of reason is himself reasonable: that is a lesson that the convinced, indeed militant, atheist, Richard Dawkins, has recently learned. It would, perhaps, be an exaggeration to say that he has learned it the hard way, for what he has suffered hardly compares with, say, what foreign communists suffered when, exiling themselves to Moscow in the 1920s and 30s, they learnt the hard way that barbarism did not spring mainly, let alone only, from the profit motive; but he has nevertheless learned it by unpleasant experience.

    He ran a website for people of like mind, but noticed that many of the comments that appeared on it were beside the point, either mere gossip or insult. So he announced that he was going to exercise a little control over what appeared on it - as was his right since it was, after all, his site. Censorship is not failing to publish something, it is forbidding something to be published, which is not at all the same thing, though the difference is sometimes ill-appreciated.

    The torrent of vile abuse that he received after his announcement took him aback. Its vehemence was shocking; someone called him ‘a suppurating rat’s rectum.’
    . . .
    The insults and abuse did not come from uneducated people. This is not surprising, really, because uneducated people are unlikely to care very much what George Bernard Shaw thought of the germ theory of disease; most of them have other, more practical things to think about. You have to have read Bernard Shaw to care, and these days at least, I think only university types are likely to do that.

    Indeed, much of the abuse, even the vilest, came from university professors. Almost to a man (or woman), they said that what I had written was so outrageous, so ill-considered and ill-motivated, that it was not worth the trouble of refutation. On the other hand, they thought its author was worth insulting, if their practice was anything to go by. I didn’t know whether I -- a mere scribbler -- should feel flattered that I was deemed worthy of the scatological venom of professors (not all of them from minor institutions, and some of them quite eminent).

    What struck me most about these missives is the sheer amount of hatred that they contained. It was not disdain or even contempt, but hatred.
    . . .
    With the coming of the internet, the tone of the criticism changed. It became shriller, more personal, more hate-filled. It wasn’t just that I had made a mistake, I must be an evil person, probably in the pay of some disreputable organisation or other. (There are very few of us who are not in the pay of someone, and no one is entirely reputable.)
    . . .
    The question now arises as to whether it is a good thing that people should be able now so easily to express their rage, irritation, frustration and hatred. Here, I think, we come to a disagreement between those of classical, and those of romantic, disposition.

    According to the latter, self-expression is a good in itself, irrespective of what is expressed. Indeed, such people are likely to believe that any sentiment that does not find its outward expression will turn inward and poison the person who has not been able to express it. Better to strangle a new-born babe and all that.

    The person of more classical disposition does not believe this. On the contrary, he believes that there are some things that are much better not expressed at all. He counterbalances his belief in the value of freedom of opinion with that in the value of freedom from opinion. He believes that rage will not decrease with its habitual expression, but rather increase with it."
  • Missouri Budget Overstates Revenues By Up To $1 billion; Indiana Revenue Falls Short; Budget Battles In Washington; Budget Gaps In Kansas - "Budget news from state after state is grim. When will this matter? No one knows but service cutbacks are coming, as are huge layoffs.
    . . .
    In case you missed it, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie laid it on the line in a speech to about 200 mayors at the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

    Chris Christie Actions

    * He froze aid to schools
    * Challenged school boards.
    * Wants to change arbitration rules for public workers
    * Requests public-private salary and benefits parity
    * Demands pension reform
    * Property tax hikes not an option
    * Wants to get rid of programs like COAH
    * Is not thinking about the next election
    . . .
    Reckless government spending, not a recession is what caused this mess. The recession just made the problem noticeable sooner. Since spending is the problem, higher taxes cannot be the solution. Higher taxes just encourage more reckless spending."

Cows With Guns


  • Saint Cesar of Delano - "When Cesar Chavez died in his sleep in 1993, not yet a very old man at 66, he died--as he had so often portrayed himself in life--as a loser. The United Farm Workers (UFW) union he had co­founded was in decline; the union had 5,000 members, equivalent to the population of one very small Central Valley town. The labor in California’s agricultural fields was largely taken up by Mexican migrant workers--the very workers Chavez had been unable to reconcile to his American union, whom he had branded “scabs” and wanted reported to immigration authorities.
    . . .
    I remember sitting in bad traffic on the San Diego Freeway and looking up to see a photograph of Cesar Chavez on a billboard. His eyes were downcast. He balanced a rake and a shovel over his right shoulder. In the upper-­left-­hand corner was the corporate logo of a bitten ­apple."
  • The Philosophical Cow - "Suppose that you are a cow philosopher contemplating the welfare of cows. In the world today there are about 1.3 billion of your compatriots. It would be a fine thing for cows if all cows were well treated and if none were slaughtered for food. Nevertheless, being a clever cow, you understand that it's the demand for beef that brings cows to life. How do you regard such a trade off?

    If each cow brought to life adds even some small bit of cow utility to the grand total of cow welfare must not beef eaters be lauded, at least if they are hungry enough? Or is the pro beef-eater argument simply repugnant?"
  • What if High School Ended After 11th (or Even 10th) Grade? - "Efforts to eliminate at least one year of high school for some students have been gaining momentum in recent weeks.

    As The Times’s Sam Dillon reported last month, public schools in eight states recently adopted a pilot program, effective next year, that will allow 10th graders in certain schools to test out of high school classes, earn diplomas and advance to community college. (Those states are Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.)"
  • 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."
  • Your high IQ will kill your startup - "Intelligence is like a knife. If you are intelligent, you are at a clear advantage against people who are not intelligent. But if you are intelligent, and another person is not as intelligent, but the other person is willing to train harder than you, the other person will very quickly overtake you in ability.

    People who are born intelligent start off life with everything easy for them. They don't have to work hard to get good grades, they never really have to do much to get ahead. The major challenge of early life is school - and school is designed for average people. So intelligent people just breeze through.

    But there is a point where every intelligent person faces something that requires more than intelligence. It requires hard work, it requires the ability to fail, it requires being able to do tough tasks, boring tasks. For the first time in their life, in spite of their intelligence, these intelligent people are challenged, and they start failing. Like when they first attempt to create a startup.

    And that's where most of them retreat. They focus on things they can't fail on, and ignore the other important things. They start to blame other things (like the school system). They procrastinate. They refuse to face new problems because they know they will not be able to handle them, and this does not fit into their worldview that they are invincible."
  • How to Get People to Respond to Your Ad NOW - "Want customers to take immediate action? Offer something free."
  • My Favorite Negative Book Review - "For those who haven't heard, Professor Joseph Weiler is facing criminal charges for publishing a negative book review, and has asked others dig up far more negative reviews so that he may prove this one is nothing out of the ordinary. Steven Landsburg published his nominee here. Here is mine, written by Edward Snyder (University of Chicago) and published in the prestigious Journal of Economic Literature on 'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.' Here is the opening paragraph:"
  • The Pentagon Shooter - "Naturally, this means the gunman is a Tea Bagger. Why? Well, an utter absence of evidence can't be a bar to leaping to the target conclusion, now can it?

    The syllogism on offer is that the gunman was heavily into his illegal weed. Marijuana is a gateway drug to libertarianism, lots of Tea Partiers are libertarian, QED.

    Oh, well - in the MSM this guy will either be crazy or a righty. *If* the intrepid researcher has found the same guy than the gunman had a number of Bush-bashing books on his Amazon wish list. That's just more proof he is a disgruntled righty, since so many true believers think Bush was too moderate."
  • New Yorkers 'Share a Cab' - "It may be commonplace in Washington, D.C., but in New York City, sharing a cab ride is still a rarity. That's changing with a new one-year pilot program that will allow up to four passengers to share a taxi along three routes in Manhattan for a discounted per-person flat fare of $3 to $4. The shared rides, which will pick up passengers at designated taxi stands and allow them to hop-off anywhere along the route, will only be active during morning rush hours."
  • The Great Grocery Smackdown - "Buy my food at Walmart? No thanks. Until recently, I had been to exactly one Walmart in my life, at the insistence of a friend I was visiting in Natchez, Mississippi, about 10 years ago. It was one of the sights, she said. Up and down the aisles we went, properly impressed by the endless rows and endless abundance. Not the produce section. I saw rows of prepackaged, plastic-trapped fruits and vegetables. I would never think of shopping there.

    Not even if I could get environmentally correct food. Walmart’s move into organics was then getting under way, but it just seemed cynical—a way to grab market share while driving small stores and farmers out of business. Then, last year, the market for organic milk started to go down along with the economy, and dairy farmers in Vermont and other states, who had made big investments in organic certification, began losing contracts and selling their farms. A guaranteed large buyer of organic milk began to look more attractive. And friends started telling me I needed to look seriously at Walmart’s efforts to sell sustainably raised food."

How Will The End Of Print Journalism Affect Old Loons Who Hoard Newspapers?

  • The implications of a money-making Android app - "There's been plenty written about the App Store gold rush, but this is the first rags-to-semi-riches piece I've seen about the Android Market. Edward Kim, creator of the Car Locator app, saw his daily revenue jump from around $100 per day to more than $400 per day when the $3.99 app claimed a featured spot in the Market."
  • How cybercriminals invade social networks, companies - "The attacks run the gamut. In just four weeks earlier this year, one band of low-level cyberthieves, known in security circles as the Kneber gang, pilfered 68,000 account logons from 2,411 companies, including user names and passwords for 3,644 Facebook accounts. Active since late 2008, the Kneber gang has probably cracked into "a much higher number" of companies, says Tim Belcher, CTO of security firm NetWitness, which rooted out one of the gang's storage computers.
    . . .
    On the high end, the Koobface worm, initially set loose 19 months ago, continues to increase in sophistication as it spreads through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networks. At its peak last August, more than 1 million Koobface-infected PCs inside North American companies were taking instructions from criminal controllers to carry out typical botnet criminal activities, says Gunter Ollmann, vice president of research at security firm Damballa.
    . . .
    Each infected PC in a corporate network represents a potential path to valuable intellectual property, such as customer lists, patents or strategic documents. That's what the attackers who breached Google and 30 other tech, media, defense and financial companies in January were after. Those attacks -- referred to in security circles as Operation Aurora -- very likely were initiated by faked friendly messages sent to specific senior employees at the targeted companies, says George Kurtz, McAfee's chief technology officer.

    The attack on the picnicking co-workers at the financial firm illustrates how targeted attacks work. Last fall, attackers somehow got access to Bob's Facebook account, logged into it, grabbed his contact list of 50 to 60 friends and began manually reviewing messages and postings on his profile page. Noting discussions about a recent picnic, the attackers next sent individual messages, purporting to carry a link to picnic photos, to about a dozen of Bob's closest Facebook friends, including Alice. The link in each message led to a malicious executable file, a small computer program.

    Upon clicking on the bad file, Alice unknowingly downloaded a rudimentary keystroke logger, a program designed to save everything she typed at her keyboard and, once an hour, send a text file of her keystrokes to a free Gmail account controlled by the attacker. The keystroke logger was of a type that is widely available for free on the Internet.

    The attackers reviewed the hourly keystroke reports from Alice's laptop and took note when she logged into a virtual private network account to access her company's network. With her username and password, the attackers logged on to the financial firm's network and roamed around it for two weeks."
  • Anatomy of Toyota's Problem Pedal: Mechanic's Diary - "Toyota has recalled millions of cars and trucks--4.2 million to replace floor mats that might impede throttle-pedal travel, and 2.4 million to install a shim behind the electronic pedal assembly. All of the affected pedal assemblies were made by Canadian supplier CTS. Toyota's boffins have documented a problem that can make a few of these pedals slow to return, and maybe even stick down. Problem solved.

    But the media, Congress--and personal-injury lawyers--smell the blood in the water. Not to diminish the injuries and a few deaths attributable to these very real mechanical problems, but they're statistically only a very small blip, which may explain why Toyota took so long to identify the issue, especially when it has symptoms similar to the similarly documented floor mat recall.
    . . .
    Bottom line: The system is not only redundant, it's double-redundant. The signal lines from the pedal to the ECM are isolated. The voltages used in the system are DC voltages--any RF voltages introduced into the system, by, say, that microwave oven you have in the passenger seat, would be AC voltages, which the ECM's conditioned inputs would simply ignore. Neither your cellphone nor Johnny's PlayStation have the power to induce much confusion into the system.

    These throttle-by-wire systems are very difficult to confuse--they're designed to be robust, and any conceivable failure is engineered to command not an open throttle but an error message.

    So what to make of the unintended acceleration cases popping up by the dozens? Not the ones explainable by problem sticky pedals, but the ones documented by people who claim their vehicle ran away on its own, with no input, and resisted all attempts to stop it? Some can probably be explained as an attempt to get rid of a car consumers no longer desire. Some are probably the result of Audi 5000 Syndrome, where drivers simply lost track of their feet and depressed the gas instead of the brake. It's happened to me: Luckily I recognized the phenomenon and corrected before it went bang. Others may not have the presence of mind.

    But the possibility that a vehicle could go from idling at a traffic light to terrific, uncalled-for and uncontrollable acceleration because the guy next to you at a traffic light answered his cellphone? Or some ghost in the machine or a hacker caused a software glitch that made your car run away and the brakes suddenly simultaneously fail? Not in the least bit likely. Toyota deserves a better deal than the media and Congress are giving it."
  • Taking Memes Seriously - "The hilarious scorn poured on Dawkins and his memes by the Australian philosopher David Stove is entirely deserved:
      I try to think of what I, or anyone, could say to him, to help restrain him from going over the edge into absolute madness. But if a man believes that, when he was first taught Pythagoras' Theorem at school, his brain was parasitized by a certain micro-maggot which, 2600 years earlier had parasitized the brain of Pythagoras...what can one say to him, with any hope of effect...One might try saying to Dr. Dawkins: "Look, you are in the phone book, and they print millions of copies of the phone book - right? But now you don't believe, do you, that you are there millions of times over 'in the form of' printed letters, or 'realized in' the chemistry of ink and newsprint?" But I would be so afraid of being told by Dr. Dawkins that he does believe this that I do not think I would have the courage to put the question to him.

    No person of even mediocre intellect and disinterested mind can read Dawkins' chapter on memes without feeling these same sensations of contempt. Yet so far was this inauspicious inception of the meme meme from discouraging Dawkins' dutiful Yankee minion, Daniel Dennett (a man of very mediocre intellect, though a mind anything but disinterested), that he mildly reproaches his master for failing to defend the notion of memes in subsequent publications with the full strenuousness that Dennet himself is willing to exert for its vindication.

    Several chapters in Darwin's Dangerous Idea are devoted to the defense of memes, marked from beginning to end by that hectoring and digressive style which has become Dennett's calling card, and by which he has earned his status as the clown prince of contemporary academic philosophy. So, in a purported disquisition into a 'science of memetics,' Dennett takes a tangential journey which passes through tales about his grandson, West Side Story, the camouflaged wings of moths, the propensity of scientists to employ acronyms, fictional scenarios of spy-hunting, and a long quote from the physicist Richard Feynman, singing a hymn to the virtues of philosophical materialism. None of this, of course, has the least bearing on Dennett's central issue- or at least what ought to be Dennett's central issue - of whether or not memes actually exist, though, in fairness, these passages do prompt in the reader an admiration for the perseverance of a man who, so evidently stricken with an acute form of Attention Deficit Disorder, still managed to carve out for himself a lucrative career in academe.
    . . .
    Actually, by this point in the book, the image of Dennett's brain as a pile of worm-infested shit will strike the reader as remarkably apropos; it would certainly provide an explanation of sorts for the quality of his writing. Nonetheless, one would like to point out - again, quite wearily - that larvae and parasites are things which can be observed and measured, and that if the author wants us to believe that memes are such kinds of entities, possessing the same kinds of properties, then, for God's sake, show them to us!"

. . . . . . . . .

March 7, 2010 09:57 AM   Link    Comments (0)

"The Myth Of Originality..." Copyright and Copywrong

All Creative Work is Deriviative

Nina Paley alerts us to a neat writeup (with illustrations) that she did, discussing the concept of originality, and why it's so often misconstrued. First, things that many people think are "original" usually aren't very original at all. They tend to be derivative in some way or another -- a point that we've made here many times. And yet, many people seem to think that there's some sort of objective standard for originality, and that something that involves a direct copy of something else as part of the process can't count as original (though, they conveniently ignore it when "the greats" like Mozart or Shakespeare did a direct cut-and-paste type of copying in their own works).

The Myth Of Originality..., techdirt

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March 6, 2010 12:37 PM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 3/3/10

Richard Feynman on "Social Sciences"

Clueless Woman Calls Tech Show When Her Stolen Wi-Fi Disappears

  • Speechwriting: Preparing Speeches and Oral Presentations, March 12, 2010
  • 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
  • Many borrowers in default stay put as lenders delay evictions - "Despite being months behind, many strapped residents are hanging on to their homes, essentially living rent-free. Pressure on banks to modify loans and a glut of inventory are driving the trend.
    . . .
    In the Inland Empire, an estimated 100,000 homeowners are living rent-free, according to economist John Husing, who based that number on the difference between loan delinquencies and foreclosures. Industry experts say it's difficult to say how many families are in that situation nationally because only banks know for sure how many customers have stopped paying entirely.

    But Rick Sharga of Irvine data tracker RealtyTrac notes that the number of loans in which the borrower hasn't made a payment in 90 days or more but is not in foreclosure is at 5.1% nationally, a record high. And yet the number of foreclosures last year was 2.9 million, below the 3.2 million that RealtyTrac economists predicted.

    More evidence is provided by another firm, ForeclosureRadar, which says it now takes an average of 229 days for a bank to foreclose on a home in California after sending a notice of default, up from 146 days in August 2008."
  • Regulation Now, Regulation Tomorrow, Regulation Forever - "What accounts for the particular rottenness of the Republican party? The GOP is in the opposition catbird seat; the economy is in a coma; President Obama's popularity is in free-fall, and the smaller-government message is the only one that is resonating with voters. Yet GOP hegemony from 2001-2007 resulted in massive government growth and the largest increase in regulation in three decades. When put to the iron test of governance, the Republicans keep going easy on Obama's criminally incompetent economic team. Overnight sensation Sen. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) voted for the new jobs bill. How can this be?"
  • Tracking Your Taxes: Earmarks to Nowhere - "If a project doesn't make economic sense, how does it survive year after year? The answer often lies in the power of the sponsor, and over the last 50 years there has been no more powerful appropriator than West Virginia Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd. By some accounts, Byrd himself has spent $3 billion dollars in taxpayer money. More than 40 projects in West Virginia that have been paid for with tax dollars are named after him.

    From the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam to the Robert C. Byrd Telescope to the Robert C. Byrd Hilltop Office Complex, the list goes on and on. But one of his most ambitious projects is 'Corridor H,' a four-lane highway in his home state that goes, literally, nowhere.

    'Corridor H ... has certainly helped (Byrd) retain the title of the 'King of Pork.'' said Schatz, the taxpayer watchdog. 'Corridor H has been a boondoggle since the beginning. It's something that is one of these roads to nowhere that ends short of the adjoining state line.'

    So far, taxpayers have invested almost $2 billion in the massive highway, which ends in a field. Virginia has no plans to ever actually connect a companion highway to West Virginia's 25-mile stretch of concrete, leaving the monster as yet another monument to waste, or one of the more expensive examples of how Congress works."
  • The Future of America Housing – 5 Charts Showing Continued Pressure on Home Prices for the next Few Years. Household formation, Trend to Urban Centers, Lower Prices, Over Construction. - "Housing prices in most urban areas will face pressure in the upcoming years because of a variety of factors. Last month as prices fell in many areas including Southern California, some were surprised because a belief that a trough had been hit had already set in. This is not the case. For the most part the bulk of home sales are still coming from the distress side. These homes do not yield the bank the full balance of the mortgage and consequently push overall prices lower. In many troubled states like California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona many of these homes are secured by questionable mortgages so the gap between the current mortgage and the market price is rather large.

    We also have issues on the supply side. During the peak days of the bubble housing starts were running at a stunningly high rate of 2 million per year. This at a time when household formation was closer to 1.2 million. So this enormous imbalance occurred. The current stall in housing starts is simply allowing the overall market to catch up. That is one of the big questions regarding when housing will recover. When will housing starts pick up? Today we are going to look at 5 major trends that will keep housing prices low for the next few years."
  • Nancy Pelosi's brutal reality check - "And even as Obama, Emanuel and Reid have struggled to execute the Democratic agenda, she has delivered on her end of the bargain, winning House approval of a health care bill, a climate change bill and a jobs bill.

    '[In] the House of Representatives, my mark is the mark of our members. We have passed every piece of legislation that is part of the Obama agenda. Whether it’s the creation of jobs, expanding access to health care, creating new green jobs for the future, regulatory reform, we have passed the full agenda,' Pelosi said over the weekend on ABC’s 'This Week.'

    Still, those victories have come at a cost -- leaving Democrats in more conservative districts exposed and some others bristling over the 'Pelosi style.'

    'She doesn’t delegate,' said one House Democrat close to the speaker. 'It’s her biggest flaw. She has to have her hand in every decision.'

    That means there’s no one else to blame for Democratic setbacks other than Pelosi, and she will have to answer if the party suffers at the polls.

    A corollary to that complaint is that Pelosi has dealt with House Republicans’ penchant for short-circuiting the legislative process by writing key bills in partisan fashion behind closed doors."
  • Taking Back the Infantry Half-​​Kilometer - "Okay, time for a deep dive into the tactical. The point of departure is this paper by Army Maj. Thomas Ehrhart, Increasing Small Arms Lethality in Afghanistan: Taking Back the Infantry Half-​​Kilometer, written last year at the Command and General Staff College, that says fighting in Afghanistan has exposed the fact that American infantry are poorly equipped and trained for long range firefights.

    In Afghanistan, the infantryman’s 'weapons, doctrine, and marksmanship training do not provide a precise, lethal fire capability to 500 meters and are therefore inappropriate,' Ehrhart says. Unlike on the streets of Iraq, where firefights were few and were typically fought under 300 meters, insurgents in Afghanistan skillfully use the wide open rural and mountainous terrain to stretch the battlefield.
    . . .
    The American military, and particularly the Army, has been 'platform focused,' doctrine and weapons development has focused on crews fighting a mounted weapons system, be it a tank, Bradley or what have you (the Army plans to spend $7 billion over the next few years to develop a new armored fighting vehicle to add to its massive fleet of armored fighting vehicles). The future of irregular conflict will predominantly be small-​​unit infantry fights, a fact the acquisition community has not grasped. It’s about time they did and begin fielding lightweight, highly accurate and lethal weapons that are easily carried by the infantry."
  • Has the last fighter pilot already been born? - "I am not sure it is true, but we are at a point where having a human in the cockpit for the vast majority of the combat missions flown in our current wars can be more of a hindrance than a help. Humans have physical needs and consequently can't remain on station as long as drones. In most cases any ordnance fired is guided electronically and the pilot only ends up pushing a button. That can happen in a cockpit 20,000 ft. above the battlefield, or 10,000 miles away in Las Vegas.
    . . .
    I think that we do need human fighter pilots for now, but that we are not far from the time where fighter drones are a better answer. When was the last dogfight? Vietnam? And even if we must take on 4th and 5th generation Russian and Chinese fighters, aren't we going to be doing so at sensor range? Won't the determining factor be the ability to detect and launch on the other guy from the furthest away. If so wouldn't we be better served by having many more drones that can carry the same weapons and can stay on station longer?"
  • Higher Tuition and Two Subway Sandwich Shops!? Berkeley Students Declare War - "The Vietnam War. Crushing racial segregation. A glut of hoagie shops! The student battle for justice clearly goes on! And Californians have much more to look forward to: Thursday will be a statewide 'Day of Action,' and in addition to deafening demands for continued taking from taxpayers, students will no doubt also give Fuddruckers, or maybe even Starbucks, it’s long-deserved comeuppance.

    The day of liberation -- and really amped-up rent-seeking -- is finally at hand!"
  • More Numbers Support Faux-Recovery Thesis - "More numbers came out last week that support the thesis that the GDP growth at the end of 2009 is really a faux-recovery that won't be sustainable or a solid foundation to build on.

    Sales of existing homes fell 7.2% in January, according to the National Association of Realtors. Single-family home sales dropped 6.9%, while condo sales dropped 8.1%.
    . . .
    If my concerns wind up justified in 2010 (though seriously, take the word of every economic analyst with a grain of salt, has no one learned that lesson from the crash?), then perhaps consumer spending really should pick up in the next few months. If the Fed does lose its handle on inflation then we might as well use the purchasing power of our dollars while we've still got it."

San Francisco 1905: Before the Regulators

  • Nat'l Enquirer Weighs Opening D.C. Bureau - "The National Enquirer may strut its stuff and open up a Washington office, FishbowlDC has learned. The supermarket tabloid is riding the wave of busting the affair and subsequent baby girl of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Rielle Hunter.

    In fact, said National Enquirer Executive Editor Barry Levine, credibility would be at an all-time high in the nation's capitol, since the publication just received the nod from Pulitzer to be nominated for prizes in two categories."
  • Ask The Best And Brightest: Is SUA An American Pandemic? - "One thing is clear so far: Germany doesn’t get UA incidents worthy of mention. Japan, a country with a population approximately half of the U.S.A., receives 134 reports in 3 years. The U.S.A. received nearly 6000 complaints for all brands for the 2008 model years alone, writes Consumer Report. It’s an UA pandemic!"
  • Take That, Tojo! - "The Axis automotive powers have declared war on American motorists and our cherished union-made way of life. They've established secret assembly beach heads in so-called 'right-to-work' occupied Vichy states like Alabama and Tennessee, manufacturing six sigma deathtrap jalopies with hillbilly slave dupes paid less than prevailing wages!

    And now Hitler and Hirohito have opened up a second front in their crazed plan for world market share domination right here in America's auto malls. Don't let those whimsical inflatable gorillas and wind-whipped plastic pennants fool you: lurking behind every Toyota showroom lies a rat's nest of fifth columnist and Jap saboteurs scheming to get you behind the wheel of a Tokyo timebomb!

    Don't let Tojo turn you into a unwitting freeway kamikaze for the "Divine Emperor"! At the U.S. Department of General Motors, our G-Men are working 'round the clock to stop Jap sneak attacks on America's publicly owned automotive industrial arsenal. But here on the home front, America's vehicular victory requires the vigilance of regular Joes and Janes like you. Together we can Shun the Huns and Nip the Nips, and send 'em packing their non-union Priuses back to Yokohama!"
  • When Did My Life Become an Endless Saturday Night Live Skit? - "For all the seriousness the practice of law entails, you will surely encounter a few humorous experiences throughout your career. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know I have enough stories to fill a lifetime of cocktail parties. At times, I feel as if I am trapped in an endless Saturday Night Live skit. Some highlights include a client who was arrested for stealing a fresh water salmon (he stuck it down his pants), a man who insisted I legally change his last name to Budweiser so that he could sue the beer company for millions, and a gentleman who wanted the instructions in his will to include placing his body on a raft and having it set on fire on the Connecticut River."
  • 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 late 1960s, 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."
  • From Bully to Felon - "John Grisham would have to struggle to invent a character as brilliant and unethical as Bill Lerach. It is a credit to the reporting talents of Patrick Dillon and Carl M. Cannon that, in 'Circle of Greed,' they capture the felon- lawyer in all his charm and ruthlessness. Along the way they show how the plaintiffs' bar has transformed the process of class actions into big business.
    . . .
    Much of the riveting detail in 'Circle of Greed' comes from Mr. Lerach, who cooperated fully with the authors. They seem to buy his line that his actions were motivated by his desire to protect innocent shareholders from greedy corporations. The book's overall argument--as the title suggests--is that it was corporate greed that created Mr. Lerach and provided a model for his ethical failings. That claim is unfair to the many honest companies who were Lerach victims and implausible in any case, thanks to the authors' own vivid evidence of Mr. Lerach's outsize criminal behavior."
  • The War in Heaven on Earth - "It's always a delicate matter how to go about telling people who need to be told, 'Shut up and go sit down' to shut up and go sit down in a loving manner. A careful reading of your question, however, indicates that we are really not talking about 'people' here. We are talking about one person.
    . . .
    I spoke with both the organist and the organ company and unfortunately they have both shown me that the organ is set as softly as it will go. It's very loud in this echoey old church. Maybe you'd be happier if we switched to a guitar Mass or liturgical dance."
  • Bogus Copyright Claim Silences Yet Another Larry Lessig YouTube Presentation - "Nearly a year ago, we wrote about how a YouTube presentation done by well known law professor (and strong believer in fair use and fixing copyright law) Larry Lessig had been taken down, because his video, in explaining copyright and fair use and other such things, used a snippet of a Warner Music song to demonstrate a point. There could be no clearer example of fair use -- but the video was still taken down. There was some dispute at the time as to whether or not this was an actual DMCA takedown, or merely YouTube's audio/video fingerprinting technology (which the entertainment industry insists can understand fair use and not block it). But, in the end, does it really make a difference? A takedown over copyright is a takedown over copyright.

    Amazingly enough, it appears that almost the exact same thing has happened again. A video of one of Lessig's presentations, that he just posted -- a 'cha'" he had done for the OpenVideoAlliance a week or so ago, about open culture and fair use, has received notice that it has been silenced. It hasn't been taken down entirely -- but the entire audio track from the 42 minute video is completely gone. All of it. In the comments, some say there's a notification somewhere that the audio has been disabled because of 'an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG' (Warner Music Group) -- which would be the same company whose copyright caused the issue a year ago -- but I haven't seen or heard that particular message anywhere."
  • Psssst . . . There's sugar in there - "By now, everybody should know that foods like breakfast cereals, breads, bagels, pretzels, and crackers cause blood sugar to skyrocket after you eat them. But sometimes you eat something you thought was safe only to find you're showing blood sugars of 120, 130, 150+ mg/dl.

    Where can you find such 'stealth' sources of sugars that can screw up your postprandial blood sugars, small LDL, inflammation, blood pressure, and cause you to grow visceral fat? Here's a few:"

Lawrence Lessig website chat

  • The High Cost of Free TV - "Despite the fact that 91 percent of American households get their television via cable or satellite huge chunks of radio-spectrum are locked up in the dead technology of over-the-air television. In his Economic View column today Richard Thaler features the work of our GMU colleague Tom Hazlett who argues that auctioning off the spectrum to the high value users would generate at least $100 billion for the government and generate a trillion dollars of value to consumers."
  • A Prism for Jolicloud: Web-Centric Desktop Apps - "I recently bought a netbook and installed Jolicloud, a Linux/Ubuntu distro designed as a replacement for, or companion to, Windows. Jolicloud was a revelation, something fresh and new in the seemingly snail-paced world of desktop computing. The bold idea of Jolicloud is that the browser is the operating system. It's all you need and you don't need to even think about it. The browser is a core service that supports all applications but it can recede into the background and let applications take the foreground."
  • RoSS Simulator Preps Surgeons to Use da Vinci Robot - "Researchers from Roswell Park Cancer Institute and State University of New York at Buffalo, developed a surgical simulator to help train physicians to operate the da Vinci robot. The RoSS Robotic Surgical Simulator has been turned into a product and commercialized by a spinoff called Simulated Surgical Systems of Williamsville, NY. Practicing physicians and students can train on common tasks like suturing and knot tying, and even perform complete procedures like radical prostatectomies and hysterectomies."
  • Tattoo-removing lasers used to lift dirt from great works of art - "The technique removes material from a solid surface by vaporising it with a laser beam. Called laser ablation, it can lift dirt without damaging the underlying surface.
    . . .
    The team also reported encouraging results of laser cleaning underwater for materials that could deteriorate if exposed to air."
  • Chilean Quake Likely Shifted Earth’s Axis, NASA Scientist Says - "The earthquake that killed more than 700 people in Chile on Feb. 27 probably shifted the Earth’s axis and shortened the day, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist said.

    Earthquakes can involve shifting hundreds of kilometers of rock by several meters, changing the distribution of mass on the planet. This affects the Earth’s rotation, said Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who uses a computer model to calculate the effects.

    'The length of the day should have gotten shorter by 1.26 microseconds (millionths of a second),' Gross, said today in an e-mailed reply to questions. 'The axis about which the Earth’s mass is balanced should have moved by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters or 3 inches).'"
  • Gmail Security Enhancements Expected Tuesday - "Google will roll out a number of security enhancements to Gmail this week, and perhaps as early as Tuesday, says a source with knowledge of the new features. The changes are specifically designed to cut down on phishing and hacking attacks on Gmail accounts."
  • Compare Product Prices from eBay and Amazon - "Q-Compare is a useful tool that will let you compare prices of products from both eBay and Amazon marketplaces on the same page. You may use the service to compare the current prices and shipping charges of books, DVDs, electronics and all the other product categories."
  • Earthquake in Chile - "At 3:34 am local time, today, February 27th, a devastating magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile, one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded. According to Chilean authorities, over 400 people are now known to have been killed. The earthquake also triggered a Tsunami which is right now propagating across the Pacific Ocean, due to arrive in Hawaii in hours (around 11:00 am local time). The severity of the Tsunami is still not known, but alerts are being issued across the Pacific. (Entry updated four times, now 45 photos total)"
  • iStubz: Extra-short iPhone/iPod cable - "The iStubz is a miniature USB cable for iPhones/iPods. It comes in either 7cm or 22cm lengths, and is probably the best eight dollar purchase I've made in the past year. The reason I'm so in love with this little tool is that it can live permanently in my bag without taking up any space or tangling up on anything. This is great since I regularly forget to charge my iPhone at night and often have to charge it on the go."

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March 3, 2010 08:17 AM   Link    Comments (0)

Assorted Links 2/28/10

Treat Me Like a Dog!

Art Blakey's Wisdom

  • Capitol Hill Workshop, March 3-5, 2010
  • Speechwriting: Preparing Speeches and Oral Presentations, March 12, 2010
  • Is Inflation Coming? - "Mr. Market doesnt seem to think so. The WSJ reports on the first auction of 30 year TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Securities) in nearly 10 years. The Journal thinks the auction was weak; I read it as Mr. Market doesn't see much prospect for a period of the kind of inflation some are warning about.
    . . .
    So based on the 30 year conventional bond yield of 4.731% and the TIP yield of 2.229% one gets an inflation forecast by Treasury bond market participants of 2.44%. Interestingly, that is very close to the Fed's long term inflation target of 2.5%.

    I generally pay great respect to the message that Mr. Market is sending. Certainly a lot more than to those 'buy gold inflation is coming' ads on TV and radio."
  • Small Planes and Lone Terrorist Nutcases - "On the face of it, Joseph Stack flying a private plane into the Austin, TX IRS office is no different than Nidal Hasan shooting up Ft. Hood: a lone extremist nutcase. If one is a terrorist and the other is a criminal, the difference is more political or religious than anything else.

    Personally, I wouldn't call either a terrorist. Nor would I call Amy Bishop, who opened fire on her department after she was denied tenure, a terrorist.

    I consider both Theodore Kaczynski (the Unibomber) and Bruce Ivans (the anthrax mailer) to be terrorists, but John Muhammad and Lee Malvo (the DC snipers) to be criminals. Clearly there is grey area.

    I note that the primary counterterrorist measures I advocate -- investigation and intelligence -- can't possibly make a difference against any of these people. Lone nuts are pretty much impossible to detect in advance, and thus pretty much impossible to defend against: a point Cato's Jim Harper made in a smart series of posts. And once they attack, conventional police work is how we capture those that simply don't care if they're caught or killed."
  • Obama to deliver health care The Chicago Way - "President Barack Obama will star in his very own televised entertainment spectacular on Thursday -- let's call it Federal Health Care Kabuki Theater.

    The Republicans wanted to dance. Now they'll have to step lightly. They were foolish to get trapped in his so-called summit on national health care. Or did they actually think they could outperform the skinny fellow from Chicago?

    The president is taking this one last chance to push his health care agenda, which by his own estimate will cost about $1 trillion over 10 years. That's money America doesn't have, but he could probably just print some more.

    Obama will be in his element, talking and lecturing, the law professor framing the debate. He'll spend hours being seen as reasonable. The Republicans will balk and the president will shrug. He'll sigh and say he tried to reason with them but they refused.

    Then once the cameras are turned off, he'll take out the baseball bat and explain how things get done The Chicago Way.
    . . .
    Americans won't know exactly what's in that federal health care bill that will change our lives. We won't know how much it will cost us, or which insiders get rich, until after it's all done.

    Naturally, the insiders will know. And after it becomes law, they might let the rest of us in on it.

    That doesn't sound much like a man transcending the politics of the past, does it?

    It sounds as if The Washington Way is just like The Chicago Way."
  • China Said to Purchase Remainder of IMF Gold Sale - "The bullion banks can use paper gold to manipulate pricing around key events like this week's options expiration in the short term. They are powerful, and have many friends, their demimonde, who will help them to spin the facts, place opinion pieces, and resurrect old studies, to convince a gullible public once again that their promises are good, that their paper riches are wealth. This is the essence of the shaping of public opinion, the hidden persuaders, the not always subtle propaganda campaigns that so often pass for news these days.

    But the international currency regime is changing, and the developing countries are choosing to protect their reserves in traditional ways. For the first time in over twenty years the central banks have become net buyers of gold.

    The wealthy are buying physical silver and gold in anticipation of a dislocation in the structure of the existing international currency regime, no matter what they might say publicly to reassure the markets. This we know. Whether this is the most prudent thing to have done only time will tell, since there are a range of possible outcomes, and probabilities. But change is in the wind; the time of reckoning approaches and the accounts will be tallied and settled."
  • The Future of Money: It’s Flexible, Frictionless and (Almost) Free - "The banks and credit card companies have spent 50 years building a proprietary, locked-down system that handles roughly $2 trillion in credit card transactions and another $1.3 trillion in debit card transactions every year. Until recently, vendors had little choice but to participate in this system, even though -- like a medieval toll road -- it is long and bumpy and full of intermediaries eager to take their cut. Take the common swipe. When a retailer initiates a transaction, the store’s point-of-sale system provider -- the company that leases out the industrial-gray card reader to the merchant for a monthly fee -- registers the sale price and passes the information on to the store’s bank. The bank records its fee and passes on the purchase information to the credit card company. The credit card company then takes its share, authorizes all the previous fees, and sends the information to the buyer’s bank, which routes the remaining balance back to the store. All in all, it takes between 24 and 72 hours for the vendor to get any money, and along the way up to 3.5 percent of the sale has been siphoned away.

    In the earliest days of credit cards, those fees paid for an important service. Until the late 1950s, each card was usually tied to a single bank or merchant, limiting its usefulness and resulting in a walletload of unique cards. But when BankAmericard -- later renamed Visa -- offered to split its fees with other banks, those banks began to offer Visa cards to their customers, and merchants began accepting Visa as a way to drive sales. Meanwhile, Visa and rival MasterCard -- as well as distant competitors American Express and Discover -- used their share of the fees to build their own global technological infrastructures, pipes that connected all the various banks and businesses to ensure speedy data transmission. For its time, it was a technologically impressive system that, for a price, bro