Assorted Links 12/18/09

So Sweet I can’t stand it….

Regulation Vacation Celebration – “I have cholera!”

  • 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
  • The Minnesota Case—An Institutional Diagnosis – “Why, then, would a high-ranking administrator in a high-profile university reveal to the public such a transparent whitewash of the whole enterprise? More than that, why would a committee of professors at ‘the premier public research institution in the state’ (Quam’s words) produce such a hot-headed, resentment-ridden, identity-politics report that would wither under the slightest public scrutiny?

    I think it has to do with the institutional conditions in which this report was produced, conditions that are largely opaque to people who have never served on an academic committee or attended a close academic meeting.

    The ‘Race, Class, Culture, Gender’ report is an in-your-face, up-front determination about U.S. history and society. Beneath its relentless framework of ‘privilege’ and ‘oppression’ lies a firm adversarial posture. ‘Lots of Americans out there don’t recognize these things,’ the authors declare, ‘but here you will.’

    But alongside the contentious, adversarial attitude is a remarkable circumstance: there are no adversaries and contenders in the room. Nobody on this committee stood up and said, ‘I don’t think we should emphasize racial identity so much in our review.’ The committee didn’t ask a believer in the old-fashioned American idea that you can become anything in the United States if you work hard and live wisely to come into the room and state the case. Everybody agreed on the priority of cultural, racial, sexual, and gender variables to all others (moral, psychological, etc.).

    We don’t know what went on behind closed doors, of course, but the report doesn’t contain a whisper of skepticism or caution. It proceeds with all the confidence of collective wisdom. This is the fatal ingredient of all-too-many academic enterprises. They emerge out of a habitat of the like-minded, a gathering of 100% right-thinking personnel. That outsiders would recoil from their assertions probably didn’t occur to the report’s authors. Or rather, they expected conservatives, reactionaries, and various unenlightened ones to take umbrage, but they believed that the patent goodness of their motives and aims would prevail.

    It can’t happen, not in an open society. The fact that the dean of the program has to defend the initiative with thin mendacities signals the corruption at its heart. One hopes, as KC says, that the legislature in Minnesota will take heed of how state employees are meeting their duties.”

  • I live in a van down by Duke University – “The idea of ‘thrift,’ once an American ideal, now seems almost quaint to many college students, particularly those at elite schools. The typical student today is not so frugal. Few know where the money they’re spending is coming from and even fewer know how deep they’re in debt. They’re detached from the source of their money. That’s because there is no source. They’re getting paid by their future selves.

    My ‘radical living’ experiment convinced me that the things plunging students further into debt — the iPhones, designer clothes, and even ‘needs’ like heat and air conditioning, for instance — were by no means ‘necessary.’ And I found it easier to ‘do without’ than I ever thought it would be. Easier by far than the jobs I’d been forced to take in order to pay off my loans.

    Most undergrads imagine they’ll effortlessly pay off their loans when they start getting paid the big bucks; they’re living in a state of denial, disregarding the implications of a tough job market and how many extra years of work their spending sprees have sentenced them to. But ‘facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,’ as Aldous Huxley famously said.

    I have sympathy for my fellow students. I did many of the same things when I was an undergrad. Plus, escaping student debt — no matter how frugal they try to be — is nearly impossible. Even if they do resort to purchasing a large creepy van, most will still have to go tens of thousands of dollars into debt to pay for tuition.

    While I found a way to afford graduate school, I by no means had the same financial responsibilities as the average student. I was so poor
    when I applied that my department took pity on me and significantly reduced the cost of my tuition. I even found a well-paying part-time job working for a government-sponsored program, tutoring inner-city kids.”

  • A bad day to be in Copenhagen – “Consummate statesmen Robert Mugabe and Hugo Chavez addressed the climate change conference.

    . . .
    Now that things have devolved to a circus, why not go all the way and have Ahmadinejad say a few words?

    What’s that? He’s on the schedule for tomorrow?”

  • Time’s Man of the Year: In Ben We Trust – “It was thoughtful of Time to give this award to Ben on the day before his confirmation hearings.”
  • New version of an old e-mail scam prompts Oklahoma Bar to schedule free webcast – “The latest version of the e-mail/forged bank check scam targeting lawyers involves scammers posing as potential clients seeking to collect back child support or alimony. Some of these say they have already worked out an agreement, but want the lawyer to process the check for a healthy share of the proceeds. Of course, any time someone wants to pay you five figures to serve as a check-cashing service, your internal “too good to be true” alarm should go off.

    Many lawyers are not aware of how long it takes the banking system to recognize and notify depositors of the forged checks. The scammer just hopes they can convince the lawyer-victim to wire out the money before getting the news that the check is worthless (or maybe now much worst than worthless.)”

5 Fabulous New Features Google Unveiled Today

  • Pirates Amok. Yo Ho Ho And A Sultanate Of Rum – “Of all the scourges of history we never thought we’d see again, who would’ve guessed pirates would be making a comeback? I’m not talking about the stereotyped, Disneyfied, Caribbean ones who get their swag from SAG — nope, the Somali pirates are the real deal and business, as they say, is booming.
    . . .
    It also seems these so-called pirates really aren’t that piratical at all… they sure don’t conform to Stephen Colbert’s description: eyepatch-wearing, rum-guzzling, shipmate-buggering peg-leggers with parrot poop layered thick on their shoulders. No plank-walking, no tying scurvy dogs to the yardarm… neither scurvy nor yardarms, if truth be told. No sinister yet romantic Black Pearl brigantines flying the Jolly Roger. Not even the occasional “ARRRR!” growled in anger. What gives? We were brought up to despise pirates and these dudes aren’t following the script. No wonder the combined navies of a half-dozen nations have got their spinnakers in a collective knot over how to handle them… and they’ve been doing a splendid job so far, haven’t they?

    Methinks there be — sorry, couldn’t help it — I think there may be an opportunity here to exploit the pirate mystique for mutual benefit. They’ve already got colorful characters: head of the Suleiman pirate clan Mohamed Abdi Hassan’s nickname is “Big Mouth”, for instance. Hey Hollywood, how about this: Pay one of the pirate gangs a few doubloons to embed a reporter and a cameraman as they go about their merry ship-seizing ways. It’ll be the ultimate reality show! Call it Surviv-ARRR!, or Pirates of the Somali-ish Main, or even Biggest Loser Shipping Magnates.”

  • Picks for the Best Gadgets of the Past Decade – “Here are my picks for the best gadgets of the last decade:”
  • China fact of the day – “A Chinese policeman who died after drinking too much at a banquet he was made to attend has been deemed a martyr who died in the line of duty, in an apparent attempt to meet his family’s demands for compensation, a state-run newspaper said.”
  • 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”
  • Vice President Biden wants you to know . . . – “. . . that he’s really, really smart. A laugh-out-loud takedown of Mr. Biden’s tacit claim. It should be noted, though, that his is a reasonably common condition. Many of our elected officials think they are really, really smart.

    A big problem for our country is that they are often wrong.”

  • The Answer Factory: Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model – “Online content is not worth very much. This may be a truism, but Rosenblatt has the hard, mathematical proof. It’s right there in black and white, in the Demand Media database — the lifetime value of every story, algorithmically derived, and very, very small. Most media companies are trying hard to increase those numbers, to boost the value of their online content until it matches the amount of money it costs to produce. But Rosenblatt thinks they have it exactly backward. Instead of trying to raise the market value of online content to match the cost of producing it — perhaps an impossible proposition — the secret is to cut costs until they match the market value.” ht Radar

Between the Folds

  • Is Facebook a Brand that You Can Trust? – “Isn’t it about time that we started holding our online brands to the same standards that we hold our offline ones?

    Case in point, consider Facebook. In Facebook’s relatively short life, there has been the Beacon Debacle (a ‘social’ advertising model that only Big Brother could love), the Scamville Furor (lead gen scams around social gaming) and now, the Privacy Putsch.

    By Privacy Putsch, I am referring to Facebook’s new ‘Privacy’ Settings, which unilaterally invoked upon all Facebook users a radically different set of privacy setting defaults than had been in place during the company’s build-up to its current 350 million strong user base.

    To put a bow around this one, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), not exactly a bastion of radicalism, concluded after comparing Facebook’s new privacy settings with the privacy settings that they replaced:

      “Our conclusion? These new ‘privacy’ changes are clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share even more information than before.”

    Ruminate on what that means for a moment. You are a parent, and you regularly upload photos of your kids to Facebook, blithely assuming that they are free from the roaming eyes of some sexual predator. While previously, these photos were only viewable to the Friends and Networks that you explicitly connected with, now, without consulting you, Facebook has made your son or daughter’s pictures readily accessible to friend or felon.”

  • Merge Duplicate Gmail Contacts With a Single Button Press – “One of the main reasons I’ve dealt with Gmail’s Contacts, even without it having advanced features is the cross-platform support. Since Gmail is a web service, I can access my contacts from any browser on any device. And because those contacts can be synchronized on nearly every major smartphone platform through Google Sync, those contacts never have to be manually entered on a handheld. Plus, any contact updates made on any of the devices are automatically sent back to the cloud and other devices. It’s simple, and it works.”

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