Assorted Links 1/1/10

Some Holiday Music

  • Word Workshop: Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing , January 28, 2010
  • Update on The 111th Congress, 2010, January 29, 2010
  • Congress in a Nutshell: Understanding Congress, February 10, 2010
  • Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, February 11, 2010
  • Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill, February 18, 2010
  • The President’s Budget, February 23, 2010
  • The Defense Budget, February 26, 2010
  • Capitol Hill Workshop, March 3-5, 2010
  • NY Times: Recession Cases Flooding Courts – “And this is apparently happening all across the country.”
  • Top Ten Pro-Liberty Books of the Decade – “As 2009 draws to a close we (gladly) wave goodbye to a decade of government decadence where respect for the principles of liberty, free exchange, and limited government was scarce. For those who hold Adam Smith’s maxim of “peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice” dear to their hearts, the 2000s could not have ended soon enough.

    To the chagrin of the statists, their crafty work in the Aughts gave writers more than enough material to produce fresh intellectual firepower that will help promote the free society for decades to come. Diogo Costa, editor of Ordem Livre (Atlas’s Portuguese platform) asked 22 classical liberal thinkers which were the most important books published this past decade that advance the cause of liberty. Each participant ranked their top 5 and the results are in.

    #10 The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (2001) by William Easterly
    #7 From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State (2000) by David T. Beito
    #6 In Defense of Global Capitalism (2003) by Johan Norberg
    #3 The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies (2008) by Bryan Caplan
    #2 Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement by (2008) by Brian Doherty
    #1 Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (2001) by Hernando de Soto”

  • The Filibuster, Now More Than Ever? – “I’m of several minds on this issue. On the one hand, Cost is right that the major consequence of increased filibustering to date has been legislation tailored to the concerns of centrist Senators, rather than no legislation at all. The Bush tax cuts, No Child Left Behind, and Medicare Part D all passed with Senate supermajorities, and the Bush-era legislative pushes that failed — Social Security reform and immigration reform chief among them — did so because lots of Senators decided they weren’t interested in voting for them, not because the bills got 58 votes but couldn’t get 60. In the Obama era, meanwhile, the Senate has already voted to pass the most expensive stimulus package in history, a sweeping reorganization of the American health care system, and a host of more modest legislative initiatives. In this environment, there’s something a little strange about the stridency of liberal complaints about the filibuster, given what they’ve accomplished — and are on the cusp of accomplishing — even with it as an impediment.”
  • H1B spat unites activists, xenophobes against common enemy – “To venture into the world of online anti-H1B activism is to enter a world of legitimate grievance mixed with outright xenophobia and racism. On the one hand, these sites do great work in bringing to light the ongoing abuses of the H1B program by American tech companies, but on the other hand, it takes a pretty twisted individual to openly gloat that the mass-fatality-causing collapse of an New Delhi bridge is evidence that Indian engineers are inferior to American engineers. Nonetheless, in the midst of all the rancor–rancor that’s made worse by high unemployment–south Asian IT contractors and their American opponents have joined forces against an alleged IT sweatshop’s attempt to silence its anonymous online critics. The unlikely allies are also united in opposing a New Jersey court’s ruling that the critics’ sites be taken offline and their identities disclosed.”
  • Is the Financial Crisis Really a Crisis of Capitalism? – “
      And, as Sorkin relates, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the rhetoric regarding our supposedly free markets without government intervention just masks the reality — that there is a revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, and powerful people bend the rules to help each other out. In an illustration of Wall Street clubbiness, Sorkin documents a meeting in Moscow between Hank Paulson, secretary of the treasury (and former head of Goldman Sachs), and the board of Goldman Sachs. As the storm clouds gathered at the end of June 2008, Paulson spent an evening talking substance with the board — while agreeing not to record this “social” meeting in his official calendar. We do not know the content of the conversation, but the appearance of this kind of exclusive interaction shows how little our top officials care about public perceptions of favoritism. In saner times, this would constitute a major scandal.

    Johnson has historically offered more government regulation as a solution to this problem, mostly in the form of breaking up banks. Allowing banks to fail and permitting markets to self-regulate is to me a better solution. But given the explicit relationships discussed in all three of these books, of which Sorkin’s is the only one I’ve read, I wouldn’t count on much changing either way to fix the problems. Unfortunately, and contrary to the work of the founders of this country, we’ve moved much too far in the direction of a centralized and powerful federal government for it to serve general interests rather than special interests.”

  • Terrorism and Security Systems – “underwear bomber” – “Terrorists are weak actors, unable to muster conventional forces that threaten a state directly. So they try to use the power of the states they attack to achieve their aims. Provocation is an example–getting a state to overreact and undercut its own legitimacy. Polarization is another: Most often in domestic contexts, terror attacks can drive wedges among different ethnic, religious, or cultural groups, destabilizing the state and society.

    Mobilization is the strategy of leverage most likely at play here–seeking to recruit and rally the masses to a cause. There’s no argument that this alienated loner is an articulate strategist, of course, but his attack could signal the importance of terrorism to a worldwide audience, making terrorism more attractive to opponents of U.S. power.
    . . .
    Next, I hope to see communications that subtly and appropriately portray the underwear bomb plotter as the loser that he is. I have declined to use his name, because this wretch should go namelessly to oblivion. And I am pleased to see that U.S. authorities have released an image of his underwear, half-suspecting that this was done to help make his legacy the indignity of being beaten by Americans and having his underwear displayed to the world.”

  • Paterson vows to fight school-aid suit – “Declaring ‘you can’t spend money that don’t have,’ Gov. Paterson this morning announced plans to fight a lawsuit seeking to restore nearly $600 million in education aid he withheld earlier this month.

    ‘We’re operating really under a fundamental precept that’s really beyond the law,’ Paterson said in a Manhattan news conference. ‘You can’t spend money that you don’t have. So, I look forward to our day in court.’

    Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who serves as the governor’s lawyer in such cases, will file court papers this afternoon in Albany to answer claims by a coalition of education groups that the aid freeze was illegal and unconstitutional.”

  • Tu Quoque – “The times have changed as much as the men that seek to change them. The toxic combination of ‘it’s Bush’s fault’ and ‘I’m just doing what Bush did’ may not last President Obama much longer.”
  • California Pushes for Federal Help – “Facing a $21 billion shortfall through June 2011, California leaders want billions of dollars in budget relief from Washington that could head off deep cuts expected to state programs.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will ask the White House to waive rules that require the state to spend its own money on certain programs to receive federal funds, according to California officials briefed on the Republican’s coming budget proposal.”

  • A Rodney Dangerfield America? – “Pew’s numbers touched the heart of the past decade’s sense of sadness. Asked to identify the decade’s singular event, 53% said the attacks of September 11, 2001. Nothing else was close.

    It is debated often whether 9/11’s sense of urgency about the threat of Islamic terror has faded. Apparently not for the American people. We’ll catch a break if the past week wakes up Washington.

    If at its end the decade was looking for a silver lining, this one got the shaft–another gray September. In September 2008, the U.S. financial system for all intents and purposes blew up. Years of imprudently low interest rates and Congress’s political protection of bargain-basement mortgages decked the world in moral hazard. Cheap money was (is) crack for bankers. When the subprime mortgage mania blew, it took down much of Wall Street and a decade’s worth of 401(k) gains.

    Let’s toss in the decade’s last straw just for the fun of it: The politicians running California, New York, New Jersey and arguably Congress were shown to be fiscally deranged. If America is in decline, its political class is leading it over the cliff.
    . . .
    America isn’t dead. It’s just dead in the water.
    . . .
    We are in the anti-1980s. But I don’t care how flat the earth is; with competitors like China, India and the others, the belief that our big fat national government can somehow subsidize, much less identify, the U.S.’s next creative edge is straight from the dusty book of the original flat-earth society.”

  • New York State Has First Deficit in General Fund – “The deficit, analysts said, was a barometer not only of the New York’s fiscal peril, but of the political stalemate in Albany that has left the state spending more money than it can afford for months.”


  • The economics of dog food – “How does the environmental impact of a dog compare to that of an SUV? Via Robert Nagle in the MR comments section, here is one article defending the dog. It makes many good points but right now I am especially interested in this passage:”
  • How to Start Freelancing (Without Quitting Your Job) – “A common misconception about successful independent workers is that one day, in dramatic fashion, they quit their dayjob, hung a shingle, and lived happily ever after. The truth is, most freelancers start off moonlighting, volunteering, interning, and doing client work at night and on weekends in addition to a nine-to-five gig. If you fantasize about living the freelancer life, you can do the same–even in a recession, starting now. Let’s turn some of your free time into a new career without giving up the steady paycheck.”
  • Las Vegas High-Rising – “One feature of CityCenter is that a group of starchitects was hired to do design duties, presumably in the high hope that the result would be a triumphal jewel in the crown of American artistic civilization. Unfortunately, I found CenterCity (or what I could see of it from outside construction barriers) to be a resounding modernist/postmodern banality, hardly in keeping with the wild, showy Las Vegas spirit.”
  • 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”
  • Movie Studios Pissed Off At Netflix, Don’t Want To Allow More Streaming Movies – “We already knew that the big movie studios were annoyed with Netflix and trying to get Netflix to delay movie rentals until at least a month after the DVD comes out. Now we have an explanation why. As JJ was the first (of a few) to send in, the studios apparently are quite annoyed that, in order to jumpstart its movie streaming offering, Netflix routed around the movie studios, and signed a deal with Starz that allowed it to stream the same movies without a direct deal with the studios.”
  • Google: Never Mind the Nexus One, How About a Cheaper Cell Plan? – “The Nexus One is business as usual, if the reports are true. Where’s Google the Disruptive Force we’ve come to expect? The Nexus One comes across as a fairly conventional consumer product–not unlike the Apple iPhone, Motorola Droid, and other high-end handsets. It’s a me-too smart phone, not one that’s going to turn the cell industry on its ear.
    . . .
    Now, I’m not expecting an earth-shaking announcement of, say, free cell service when Google launches the Nexus One. But an innovation that brings together Google’s growing stable of telephony components would be welcome.”

White House Reveals Obama Is Bipolar, Has Entered Depressive Phase

  • The unlikely origin of fish and chips – “Like Morecambe and Wise or Wallace and Gromit, fish and chips are a classic double act – and yet they started life as solo performers. And their roots are not as British as you might think.

    The story of the humble chip goes back to the 17th Century to either Belgium or France, depending who you believe.

    Oddly enough, the chip may have been invented as a substitute for fish, rather than an accompaniment. When the rivers froze over and nothing could be caught, resourceful housewives began cutting potatoes into fishy shapes and frying them as an alternative.

    Around the same time, fried fish was introduced into Britain by Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain.”

  • Small Cars Are King at the New Delhi Auto Show – “Small car competition is heating up at the tenth annual Delhi Auto Expo, as three major automakers are premiering new subcompacts.

    Toyota and Honda are both planning to debut new small cars specifically for India and other emerging automotive markets, while Maruti Suzuki is going to unveil a homegrown sub-$8500 minivan. Called the Eeco, it comes with a 1.2L engine and seating for seven — and is proof of automakers’ hopes for the Indian market.”

  • New Year’s Resolutions for Washington – “As for me, I resolve to speak well of Mr. Obama more frequently, curry favor with liberals by being more critical of my fellow conservatives, and be guided by the words of Mark Twain, who said that the start of a New Year ‘is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.'”

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