Assorted Links 1/9/10

Sylvia Browne: One Cool Cucumber

  • 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
  • Obama as Greek Tragedy–Part One – “The blueprint of a Sophoclean or even Euripidean tragedy is pretty straightforward. A confident, cocky tragic hero for about the first 600 lines of the play exhibits unconstrained exuberance as he takes on the world.
    . . .
    The early Oedipus basks in his great wisdom and reason that had solved the riddle of the murderous Sphinx and saved the city. Creon in the Antigone assumes he is the personification of law, order, and stability, a savior regent after the prior mess.

    Even in Euripides’ Bacchae, young King Pentheus boasts about his kingly powers and youthful determination to corral the Bacchants–as he sets himself up for a gruesome fall. Early Hippolytus is a sanctimonious puritan, a sort of insufferable prude (who of course will be falsely accused of fornication). Jason in the Medea prances around as if his dumped wife will agree that it was a wise idea for him to have married a younger, wealthier, and Greek princess. With all these personalities, the first person pronoun ‘ego’ is commonly employed. They know at first no self-doubt. They have no clue that what brought them to such heights are the same characteristics, at the right occasion, and with a tad more hubris, that will ensure their fall.

    During these displays of hubris, the flawed characters are warned by various seers, by close associates, and by the sometimes fawning/sometimes anxious chorus that something is not quite right. They are supposed to check their excesses in time. They are advised to seek the golden mean, calm down, and avoid nemesis. But how can they really, when it is all such fun, this being full of oneself that heretofore has brought them so easily so far?”

  • Further Limitations on Civil Liberties… – “Many of us said during the days of the Bush administration that restrictions on civil liberties motivated by the conflict with Al Qaeda would be maintained during any subsequent administration, whether Democratic or Republican, as long as the terrorist threat remained. This prediction has been amply confirmed. The most recent example is the implementation of an explicit profiling program for airline passengers. The ACLU aside, there has not been much criticism of this initiative. (Maybe because some of the most prominent critics of the Bush administration’s counter terror policies are now members of the Obama administration.)”
  • The Meaning of al Qaeda’s Double Agent: The jihadists are showing impressive counterintelligence ability that the CIA seems to have underestimated. – “But the president is likely to compensate for systemic weakness in American intelligence in substantial, effective ways. Mr. Obama has been much more aggressive than President George W. Bush was in the use of drone attacks and risky paramilitary operations. One can easily envision him expanding such attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Visa issuances, airport security, and perhaps even FBI surveillance of American Muslim militants are likely to become much tougher under Mr. Obama than under Mr. Bush. President Obama will, no doubt, continue to say empirically bizarre things about Guantanamo’s imprisonment system creating jihadists, but his administration will now likely find another location to jail militants indefinitely. Too many of President Bush’s released detainees have returned to terrorism.”
  • California’s Economic Decline – “This article, prompted by Northrop Grumman’s moving its headquarters out of California to the Washington, D.C. area, says that California is on its way toward becoming a third-world economy. Once the center of the aerospace industry, Southern California now has no major aerospace firms headquartered there. Once a financial center, California has also lost Bank of America, Security Pacific Bank, Countrywide, and First Interstate, and is now home to no major financial institutions. Once a major center of automobile manufacturing, California recently lost its last auto plant. Meanwhile, there is no inflow of economic activity to offset this exodus.

    The corporate exodus brings with it shrinking tax bases, reductions in philanthropy, and of course fewer economic opportunities for Californians.”

  • Child support, through age 23? – “A bill introduced into the Virginia legislature would put payers of child support on the hook for older kids and indeed young adults so long as they are attending college.”
  • Reis: U.S. Office Vacancy Rate Hits 15 Year High at 17 Percent – “The vacancy rate isn’t a record, but there was a record decline in effective rents. Add that to the records announced earlier this week…”
  • Faux Disclosure At The Times – “Jonathon Gruber, a prominent and well-respected health care economist, is so well respected that he was hired by Health and Human Services to crunch numbers for the same health plans he is routinely lauding in the press. Is that a conflict of interest? Well, let’s think of it as a an overlap of interest – he was hired because he was already symparico to the Administration and has remained so throughout. The money may bot have changed his views or analysis bit it certainly ought to have been disclosed.

    And now that this has become public we know the NY Times will leap to correct its own reporting! No peeking – do you think the Times will (a) stonewall this; (b) run a cryptic correction correcting nothing; (c) regale us with another Public Editor apologia; or (d) note the many times they have quoted Gruber and assure us that They Will Do Beter Next Time (if the Administration is Republican).”

  • 100 things we didn’t know last year – “23. The average number of friends is 150.
    . . .
    41. Many mosques in Mecca point the wrong way for prayers.
    . . .
    84. Banana skins can take two years to biodegrade.
    . . .
    99. Travelling in a ‘road train’ can cut fuel consumption by 20%.”

Obama Has Declared Open Season on Golden Geese. Good Idea or Not?

  • Cell Phones Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease? – “After years of reports aimed at looking for a causal relationship between cell phone use and brain cancer a new report finds that in mice genetically engineered to get Alzheimer’s exposure to electromagnetic waves is protective.”
  • Stupidity Bowl – “You could go pick some dude out of any LA barbershop or Pilates studio to coach Texas and they wouldn’t send McCoy plunging into the line in a million years.”
  • Final edition – “Twilight of the American newspaper tells the story of San Francisco and its newspapers. And in that tale, a glimpse that we might be losing our sense of place along with the newspaper.”
  • 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”
  • Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus Exclusive to Verizon – “I attended the Palm press event at the CES today and as expected Palm is set to roll out the refreshed versions of the Pre and the Pixi. It wasn’t that much a surprise that Verizon will be getting the Palm phones, but Palm has granted Big Red the two new models under exclusive contract. I’ll bet the folks at Sprint aren’t too happy after this announcement.
    . . .
    The Pixi Plus remains largely the same, with the welcome addition of Wi-Fi bringing it more in line with the Pre Plus. Both new models will be available through Verizon on January 25th. Consumers who pick up one of the new Palm phones better pick up the monthly tethering option from Verizon, as Palm is including the new “Mobile Hotspot” feature on them. This option will let the phones tether to other devices to share the 3G connection, and like the MiFi with up to 5 devices at once.”
  • Six bullet points on why people go to graduate school in the humanities – “These reasons are ugly, but a lot of it rings true. Note the behavioral economics implicit in the explanations:
    . . .
    With the prospect of an unappealing, entry-level job on the horizon, life in college becomes increasingly idealized. They think graduate school will continue that romantic experience and enable them to stay in college forever as teacher-scholars.”
  • The costs and benefits of grad school – “I’m a great believer in the benefits of an undergraduate education when it’s done right (which is rarely). But grad school is a different matter entirely: the opportunity costs are much higher, the amount of debt involved rises substantially, and the range of jobs you can do at the end of it in many ways goes down rather than up.

    Thomas Benton has a great column about grad school in the humanities: no one should do it, he says, unless they’re independently wealthy or otherwise being paid for somehow.

    But what about more vocational graduate degrees, like law school? Anybody thinking about it should read not only Elie Mystal’s post at Above the Law but also the long comment stream attached, filled with people like Elie who graduated from law school with six-figure debts and found themselves either stuck in Biglaw jobs they hated, or else just simply overwhelmed by impossible finances.”

What’s behind the Cafferty tirade on CNN?

  • The $220,000 Nano – “The world’s supposedly cheapest car ($2,500 apiece) will cost $220,000 when Mumbai-based D.C. Design is through with it. They will keep the car’s snub-nosed shape, everything else has to go.

    The standard two-cylinder 624cc, 33-horsepower engine will be replaced by a 1600cc engine. To make room for the motor, the back seats will be removed. The car will get new brakes, new suspension, and bigger 20-inch wheels to allow for the top speed of 200 kilometers per hour (124 mph).”

  • Nexus One vs iPhone 3GS vs Droid vs Pre: The Definitive Comparison – “If you’re looking for the definitive comparison table between the Google Nexus One, Apple iPhone 3GS, Motorola Droid, and Palm Pre, here you have it. From storage capacity to price to plans. Guess who wins (you’ll probably be wrong).” Read the comments
  • And a Partridge in a Pear Tree – “As I’ve mentioned before, I have a bone to pick with the Wise Men. Let’s visit them for a moment.
    . . .
    The Wise Men also have no names in the New Testament. Of course, they do now. I chalk this up to actors. I imagine that the three actors balked at being called ‘Wise Man 1’ and ‘Wise Man 2’, and that some smart director appeased them by giving them each a name. Then the actors took it from there. ‘Hmmmm, if my name is Caspar, maybe I’m a black man from Egypt!’ They probably fought over who got to bring the myrrh. It’s so important and symbolic.
    . . .
    What we do know about them, however is very important. We know that they were wealthy, educated men who ‘bowed down’ to this child. That’s the really important part, that the first people to worship were the lowliest of the low, but that the wealthy and educated were also on board to see the Light.”
  • Digital Art Frame turns your photos into oil masterpieces – “Casio has launched a Digital Art Frame that transforms your super snaps into virtual oil paintings, pastels or water colours.”
  • A Few Thoughts on the Nexus One – “Gmail is so good on the phone that I can, for the first time, imagine being totally without my laptop.”

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