Assorted Links 1/24/2010

If You Prick a Corporation, Does It Not Bleed?

  • 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
  • A Victory for Fiscal Sovereignty and Human Rights – “This battle is part of a broader effort by uncompetitive nations to persecute ‘tax havens.’ Creating a tax cartel for the benefit of greedy politicians in France, Germany, and the United States would be a mistake. An ‘OPEC for politicians’ would pave the way for higher taxes, as explained here, here, and here.

    But this also is a human rights issue. Look at what happened recently in the thugocracy known as Venezuela, where Chavez began a new wave of expropriation. The Venezuelans with money in Cayman, Miami, and Switzerland were safe, but the people with assets inside the country have been ripped off by a criminal government. Or what about people subjected to persecution, such as political dissidents in Russia? Or Jews in North Africa? Or ethnic Chinese in Indonesia? Or homosexuals in Iran? And how about people in places such as Mexico where kidnappings are common and successful people are targeted, often on the basis of information leaked from tax departments. This world needs safe havens, jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands that offer oppressed people the protection of honest courts, financial privacy, and the rule of law. Heck, even the bureaucrat in charge of the OECD’s anti-tax competition campaign admitted to a British paper that ‘tax havens are essential for individuals who live in unstable regimes.’ With politicians making America less stable with each passing day, let’s hope this essential freedom is available in the future.”

  • The Reality of Politics – “Lamenting that Democratic politicians up and down Pennsylvania Avenue have lost their enthusiasm for radical health-care ‘reform,’ Paul Krugman today maintains that ‘politics is supposed to be about achieving something more than your own re-election.'”
  • Open Source Democracy: Are bloggers the new legislative watchdogs? – “If Barack Obama wants to save the government a few million dollars and spare himself a headache or two, he’d be wise to hire Jerry Brito. With the help of web developers Peter Snyder and Kevin Dwyer, Brito created and now runs, an interactive website that allows users to track tens of thousands of stimulus projects across the nation.”
  • The relative advantage of prediction markets (over conventional means of forecasting, namely polls and statistical models) is remarkably… SMALL. – “In a new study, Daniel Reeves, Duncan Watts, Dave Pennock and I compare the performance of prediction markets to conventional means of forecasting, namely polls and statistical models. Examining thousands of sporting and movie events, we find that the relative advantage of prediction markets is remarkably small.”
  • The Next Crisis for Obama? – “Since taking office, Barack Obama has had to deal with an economy in free fall, a self-generated health care ‘crisis’ and his attempt at ‘reform,’ and a rising Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. So far, Iraq has been quiet enough that many in the media and public have redirected their attention to the wars du jour of Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The relative peace (punctuated by an occasional violent attack) in Iraq may be about to evaporate and cause yet another crisis for the president.

    The Iraqi Accountability and Justice Commission dispenses neither, operates in secret, and is headed by Ahmed Chalabi, a suspected Iranian agent who duped the overly receptive Bush administration into invading Iraq, and Ali Faisal al-Lami, who was detained for terrorism. The commission has disqualified more than 500 candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections in March. The candidates were mostly Sunni, and the disbarment could very well re-ignite a Sunni insurgency or Shi’ite-Sunni civil war.”

  • Unofficial Problem Bank Lists Increases to 584 – “This is an unofficial list of Problem Banks compiled only from public sources. CR NOTE: This was compiled before the 5 bank failures today. There was a ‘timely’ Prompt Corrective Action issued against Charter Bank, Santa Fe, NM and the bank was seized today!”
  • Words of wisdom – “But then I read that the FHA is about to set much tougher standards for FHA mortgages—they plan to require borrowers with a 590 credit score to put down at least 3.5% downpayments. As Tyler Cowen recently argued, you knew Congress wasn’t serious about global warming when they refused to make Americans pay more for gasoline. And I would add that you can be sure that the populists who want to ‘re-regulate the banking system’ aren’t serious when all they can do is talk about 3.5% downpayments for bad credit risks. It is so much more fun to bash big banks.”
  • Andy Kershaw: Stop treating these people like savages – “And they are there again this week, rightly outraged, in huge numbers and, no doubt, mostly well-intentioned. But many of these new arrivals — aid workers, journalists, diplomats, politicians and soldiers — are in Haiti for the first time. They cannot be blamed for not having been there before but their inexperience of the country and their unfamiliarity with Haitians seems to be contributing to the catastrophe, rather than easing it.

    The crisis, for more than a week now, has been not about the shortage of donated food, water, fuel and medicines but the distribution of those essentials that are piling up, obscenely, at Port-au-Prince airport. On Monday evening’s Channel 4 News, Jon Snow, at that same airport, interviewed the head of Oxfam in Haiti. Snow remarked that he and his team had been to areas around the capital that had not had any NGO visits, never mind material aid. The Oxfam woman spoke authoritatively, but emptily, about how her teams were all over the city conducting ‘assessments’.

    I’m certain every thirsty Haitian (water is a far more urgent priority than food) is much-comforted and reassured that armies of clerical teams from a leading NGO are all across town filling in forms.”

  • Student: ‘Beating So Bad Thought I Was Going To Die’ – “Police charged Jordan Miles, 18, with assault and resisting arrest Jan. 11 because, they said, he fought with the officers who thought a ‘heavy object’ in his coat was a gun. It turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew.

    Miles said he resisted because he thought the men were trying to abduct him and didn’t identify themselves as police.

    Miles’ family and attorney said he was hit with a stun gun and hospitalized after the violent Homewood struggle during which a chunk of his hair was yanked out and a tree branch went through his gums.”

    Hmm, where was the SWAT Team?

Making the DMV Experience Even Worse

  • The Government Should Have Less Power to Tax and Spend, Not More Power to Regulate Speech – “Money is no more an evil in politics than it is in life generally. Some people may not like mud-slinging attack ads, but some people also don’t like SUVs, the Super Bowl, the Jay Leno Show, and many other things that people spend money on–including donations to Cato, the ACLU, the NRA, etc. The problem with money in politics isn’t the money, but rather the politics. So long as the government is powerful enough to dole out tax breaks, subsidies, stimulus funds, regulations, earmarks, and a whole host of other goodies (and baddies), those that stand to benefit (and lose) will spend money on the political process. The way to get rid of this behavior and spending–which is constitutionally protected in a whole host of ways: freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, etc.–is to reduce the government’s power to affect so many people’s lives and transform economic incentives for businesses big and small. Reduce the size of government and K Street will melt away.”
  • What Do “Kojak” And “NCIS” Have In Common? – “But regardless of the reason, and even though I started watching only recently, whenever I have watched ‘NCIS’ there has always been something almost eerily familiar and deja vu-like about the show.

    It finally hit me last night: ‘NCIS’ is the same show as ‘Kojak,’ the police drama that aired on CBS in the 1970s with Telly Savalas as the lead character.”

  • The Self-Help Psychologist Is In – “Many of us who try to live an examined life find something lacking, though usually nothing so serious that it requires professional help. This has given rise to an entire genre of books aimed at indulging our urge to open up our own psyches and tinker with the wiring. But the genre’s lack of scientific rigor drives University of Hertfordshire psychologist Richard Wiseman to distraction.

    ‘If you apply [the standards of self-help publishing] to the drug store,’ Wiseman says, ‘you go in and say ‘Oh, I’ve got a headache, and ah well, none of this stuff is tested, but what the hell, I’ll just try the green one and see if that works,’ people would think that’s utterly absurd and unacceptable.’

    So Wiseman has written a self-help book of his own, a collection of techniques built on findings from academic research in psychology.”

  • 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.”
  • Rich Men Swindled on Millionaire Site – “Millionaire match-making sites seem custom-made for scamsters. Just ask the site owners themselves.

    Mr. Smith was speaking in response to the latest online millionaire swindle, where a man posing as model Bree Condon is alleged to have swindled tens of thousands of dollars (and maybe much more) from members of SeekingMillionaire.Com.”

  • Nikkei: Toyota Recall Ruins Reputation – “Note: Audi’s ‘unintended acceleration’ set the brand back by nearly a decade in the USA, never mind that the NHTSA concluded that the majority of unintended acceleration cases were caused by driver error. A truly sticky accelerator can have more serious consequences, especially in the current environment, in which everybody fights for his own survival.”

Join in the great shirt debate!

  • Top Baseball Prospect Retires to Enter Priesthood – ” As a top prospect for the Oakland Athletics, outfielder Grant Desme might’ve gotten the call every minor leaguer wants this spring.
    . . .
    A lifelong Catholic, Desme thought about becoming a priest for about a year and a half. He kept his path quiet within the sports world, and his plan to enter a seminary this summer startled the A’s when he told them Thursday night.”
  • White House nightmare persists – “By leaving the scripting of the details of the healthcare bill to Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, the White House openly courted the risk of chaos. Tellingly, in his victory speech in Boston on Tuesday, Scott Brown, the new Republican senator, cited voter disdain for the sight of lots of ‘old men’ on Capitol Hill bickering over healthcare reform at a time when their priority was jobs.”
  • Farewell Jeeves, Hello Alice – “Even though the wealthy are cutting back, there are some things they simply can’t live without: like household staff.

    Yet rather than employing the high-price armies of the boom times–the chef, maids, chauffeurs, gardeners, security guard. household managers, estate managers–the wealthy are combining the jobs. Jeeves and Mr. Belvedere are out. ‘Alice,’ from the Brady Bunch is in.”

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