Assorted Links 6/21/09

St. Louis Blues – 1958 – A Jazz Dream?

Watch Walpin for yourself: does this man seem confused?

  • How to Research and Compile Legislative Histories, June 26, 2009 – with WiFi Classroom
  • Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, July 30, 2009
  • Khamenei on the Ropes? – “Iran is not a theocracy. It is a military dictatorship headed by Khamenei and advised by a coterie of generals from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Army, as well as hard-liners in the secret police. Ahmadinejad is little more than the spokesman for this group”
  • Keep the $3.65 – I Don’t Need it Anymore – “I truly cannot believe what it took to get a $3.65 refund from the Metro system in D.C., also known as WMATA, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. It required a chat with station agent, filling out a paper form and mailing it, two phone calls and two emails. I purposely put myself through this to test the system. When my farecard didn’t work last month (I usually use a more technologically advanced ‘SmarTrip’ card that I just flash at the barrier and the gates open, but I’d left it at home) I showed it to the station manager. He gave me the option of sending the dead card in for a refund of the amount left. Yes, $3.65 is a trivial amount but this can be a bigger issue for people who load a card up with, say, $100.”
  • A Swat At PETA – “I realize the PETA folks like to blur the distinctions between various life-forms, but flies aren’t animals. They’re insects. They don’t plan for their futures, they don’t fall in love, and they don’t miss their cousin Boo-Boo if he has an unfortunate encounter with a presidential hand. A fly is probably about as intelligent as a medium-sized potato – and therefore only slightly more intelligent than a medium-sized PETA volunteer. … p.s. – some months ago I wrote a little poem in a comment on Mike Eade’s blog:
    PETA, PETA, Pumpkin eater,
    Had a wife but served no meat her.
    Fed her corn and pasta shells,
    And only killed her beta cells.”

  • The Newsweekly’s Last Stand – “The Economist prides itself on cleverly distilling the world into a reasonably compact survey. Another word for this is blogging, or at least what blogging might be after it matures–meaning, after it transcends its current status as a free-fire zone and settles into a more comprehensive system of gathering and presenting information. As a result, although its self-marketing subtly sells a kind of sleek, mid-last-century Concorde-flying sangfroid, The Economist has reached its current level of influence and importance because it is, in every sense of the word, a true global digest for an age when the amount of undigested, undigestible information online continues to metastasize. And that’s a very good place to be in 2009.”
  • Coldwell Banker CEO: “Move-up buyers absent”
  • More Layoffs at Cessna in Business-Aircraft Malaise – “Cessna Aircraft is cutting another 1,300 jobs, following the 6,900 job cuts it announced last month, citing lower demand for new aircraft. Last year, Cessna employed over 15,000 people.”
  • Down with capitalism! (sort of) – “Yet again we find evidence that the current global economic crisis hasn’t resulted in political swings against markets.”
  • More New Regulation! – “The problem with Washington oversight is they haven’t a clue what is important, only what is popular. The pitchfork and torches crowd is against ‘rich guys in suits’ and derivatives, and want to appear pro-active. … Warning labels? Has anyone seen a mortgage in the past 5 years? There are tens of pages, and you have to initial it in 17 places, so many none are read by your average borrower. So now we will have to initial in 34 places. If the warning light is always flashing, people ignore it. But to prioritize implies understanding the relative magnitudes of risk, and that is outside their scope. This doesn’t change anything. …The positive feedback loop of nonprofits getting Federal grants, giving money to poor people to buy homes they could not afford, supported by homebuilders and lenders who would then donate to legislators, could not be more corrupt.”
  • House Prices and the Unemployment Rate – “this graph suggests that house prices will not bottom (in real terms) until the unemployment rate peaks (or later, especially since the current bubble dwarfs those previous housing bubbles). And it is unlikely that the unemployment rate will peak for some time …”
  • Obama Lawyers Talk Gitmo and Judge-Picking at ACS Convention – “The final question of the night– ‘What does the Obama presidency mean to you?’– came from an audience member. It even gave [Jones Day partner Noel Francisco, the sole conservative on the panel], who represents oil and tobacco companies now grappling with tougher regulations, an opportunity to see the bright side of a Democratic administration. His answer: ‘Enormous amounts of business.'”
  • No, Obama can’t govern like FDR in 1933 – “But this is not 1932, and Obama is not FDR. FDR came into office with 20+% unemployment and a banking crisis that was wiping out peoples’ life savings every day. FDR also came into office with a trivial national debt, and a Federal government that consumed less than 4% of GDP. He had a lot of run room. Maybe more importantly, he came into office without the kinds of institutional arrangements that made it politically difficult to pass his policies. … No president will ever again face a Congress as ready to follow a president and as unprepared to set a different course as the Congress Franklin Roosevelt called into special session in March 1933.”
  • Is the revolution over? – “I’d just like to repeat a simple question I asked at the beginning of the Obama administration: which would you rather have, the fiscal stimulus or $775 billion in public health programs?”
  • Foreclosure Reality Check: 1.6 Million Foreclosure Filings with 5 Months of Data. California Notice of Defaults and Foreclosures Skyrocketing. – “Foreclosures are jumping not because of home prices falling but because home prices went too high! Can you imagine during the tech bubble bursting someone explaining that the bubble burst not because of over valuation but because was falling and we need to put a bottom on prices? How about giving tax breaks for those buying AOL stock? The same thing is occurring with housing. In fact, the easiest way to fix this problem is to give every American $20,000 more as ‘wages’ and you’ll see prices of everything go up. Not a smart idea but neither is giving trillions to Wall Street and banks who designed the eco-system of this bubble. We are giving those ‘wages’ to Wall Street and that is why they are now back up. Have you taken a look at Goldman Sachs recently? … How people can be calling a bottom while foreclosures reach historic levels is beyond me.”
  • P.J. O’Rourke on the American Car
  • Book Review: ‘The Birth of Plenty’ Is a True Economic History of the World – “The Birth of Plenty is meant to be an economic history of the world. A tall order, for sure. But it delivers. Bernstein’s basic premise is that healthy institutions promote prosperity. In particular, countries must possess the following basic institutional ingredients in order to prosper:
      1. Property Rights
      2. The Scientific Method
      3. Capital Markets
      4. Effective Means of Transportation and Communication

    After describing the historical development of each of these institutions, Bernstein then goes on to describe which countries were able to develop such institutions, which countries were not, and to what effect. ”

  • “Public debt could represent 80% of GDP before today’s third-graders graduate from high school.”
  • Dr. Frank Luntz: Evil Genius Preventing the Cure for Cancer – “Back when I was merely middle-aged and the Golden State was considering a mandated-insurance statewide health care reform proposal, I had fun trying to get Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to use the word ‘coercion’ in describing how he was going to get hundreds of thousands of Californians who didn’t want to buy insurance to buy insurance. His response — that he was seeking to change the ‘mentality of people’ in order to make Californians more closely resemble the Austrians he once bragged about fleeing — was instructive. Schwarzenegger’s health care overhaul failed specifically because its breezy assumptions couldn’t survive the light of day. And that was in the land of the nuts and the fruits. Imagine how much bogus language remains to be unpacked as the realities of multi-trillion-dollar state-run programs and death’s inescapable victory reveal themselves through the summer.”
  • Cooperating Against the Censors – “One of the consequences of governments attempting to crack down on dissent is increasing cooperation among groups in different countries pushing for greater liberty and human rights. For instance, some of the most important aid for Iranian protestors is coming from Chinese dissidents.”
  • Signaling and Solidarity – “So folks on Twitter have been turning their avatars (little profile photos) green to show solidarity with the protesters in Iran. There are websites to help you do this. But why do this? How does it help? I want the Iranian people to live in freedom, just as I want all people to live in freedom. But the point of the gesture eludes me, unless the point of the gesture is to be seen making the gesture by others who will credit you for it. Like so many political gestures, it is vanity dressed up as elevated moral consciousness.”
  • Hard to Understand – “A low-time GA pilot buys a hot new ride, gets trained and certified by the company to fly it exclusively in visual meteorological conditions, inadvertently enters IFR and crashes, killing himself and a passenger – pretty much the oldest story in the books.”
  • Another watershed moment in American indebtedness – “The people lending us the money know that we will eventually have to further weaken the value of the dollar to pay off the loans or we would start defaulting. The price we pay to lenders has risen 2 percent since January — billions more in interest. So the interest rates will keep rising as lenders try to stay ahead of the inflation they know will eventually follow, just as it does in other desperately indebted nations.”
  • How do recessions affect friendships?
  • Reports: State income levels plunge – “States racing to cobble together new budgets for their July 1 deadline could find themselves sinking back into red ink sooner than they think, as Americans’ income and the taxes they pay on it shrink, new data show.”
  • In tough times, consumers tend to trade down on college choices too – “Just as grocery shoppers trade down to private-label products in hard times, consumers of college services are making a similar value-for-the-dollar transition. … ‘The primary way a bubble bursts in higher education is a reallocation of students,’ said Andrew Gillen, research director at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. ‘The schools dependent on charging students $30,000 a year are really going to be in trouble.'”
  • Google Voice to Offer Phone and Messaging Services
  • Using Gmail Aliases for Better Organization
  • 21 of The Coolest VoIP and Skype Gadgets
  • Update on ‘Barrel Monster’
  • Beware of These Speeding Ticket Myths – “If you’re going to fight a ticket, don’t believe everything you read. I’ve listed some common myths….”
  • Consumer Reports Rates Digital Cameras
  • MySpace: That Great Club Everyone Used To Go To
  • Kindle DX vs. Kindle 2 – “If you like to read on the go and portability is important to you – go with Kindle 2. If you need to work with PDF files or graphically intensive content that K2 can’t display properly because of lack of support or small screen size – go with Kindle DX.”
  • Kindle’s DRM Rears Its Ugly Head… And It IS Ugly – There is a limit on how many times you can download a Kindle book. “This entire episode makes me question whether or not I will purchase any additional books from Amazon. I never wanted to get on the ‘DRM-Complaint Bandwagon’.”
  • Gnome Sweet Gnome – “You see them in gardens, peeking out from shrubbery; they even star in TV commercials for an online travel agency, for some odd reason. They’re garden gnomes, and love ’em or hate ’em they’re a fixture of the suburban landscape. The question is, WHY??”
  • Why Laptop Battery Claims Are So Useless, And Why That Won’t Soon Change

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