Assorted Links 7/24/09

Look Around Before Buying

  • Advanced Legislative Strategies, course in Washington, DC, August 5-7, 2009
  • Moody’s Commercial Real Estate Scorecard Accelerates To Downside – “Does anyone even remember the potty theories that the mortgage crisis would be limited to subprime and how commercial real estate was going to be the savior when residential real estate sank?
    . . .
    Flash forward to today. As long as businesses are not expanding there is no driver for jobs. And here’s a hint: Businesses are not expanding to any significant degree because overcapacity is rampant.”
  • Mortgage Fraud in Florida – “The Herald Tribune has a graphic on hot spots for flipping fraud in Florida, and some supporting documents.”
  • Master’s pay bump is waste of money – “Paying teachers more for a master’s degree wastes money, conclude researchers Marguerite Roza and Raegen Miller in Separation of Degrees by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and the Center for American Progress.”
  • They Don’t Call It TARP For Nothing – “You can’t see under it. While we might be a bit concerned about’s reporting practice for a bunch of ham, the problems with the TARP bailout program are so much worse.”
  • WashingtonWatch Needs Help Crowdsourcing Earmarks – “Earmarks — the pork barrel spending our elected officials dump into various bills to fund friendly projects for constituents — got plenty of attention during last year’s Presidential campaign, but since the campaign is over, it seems that many have forgotten about them. The House and Senate did recently update rules, requiring members to reveal earmark requests, but they’ve done so in different ways and different formats, and there’s no central repository. WashingtonWatch is trying to change that.”
  • Is the U.S. Senate Obsolete? – “Blessed by the Supreme Court and other judicial rulings, state governments have become administrative appendages of the federal government.

    In one area after another in the twentieth century — matters of transportation, public health, land use control, education, wildlife management, etc. — the federal government assumed powers that had traditionally been reserved to the states. States might still have an administrative role, but they are now working under a very tight federal leash.

    It is not the states but the U.S. Senate that is obsolete. When the United States was founded, the ratio of the largest state in population to the smallest (Virginia to Delaware) was 13 to 1. Now it is 71 to 1 (California to Wyoming). The U.S. Congress makes most of its decisions by forging compromises that bring together large enough coalitions of winners to pass a bill. Senators from Wyoming and other sparsely populated states sell their disproportionately large voting rights for disproportionately large federal moneys (relative to population). That is a main reason farm subsidies have been impossible to curb: states like North Dakota and South Dakota trade Senate votes for this abundant source of federal money.”

  • Do superstition and eclipses matter for the stock market? – “eclipses are bad days for buying stocks.”
  • How Will States Handle DIY Funerals? – “But this doesn’t mean you can just bury Aunt Myrtle out by the tool shed. … Even in the states that don’t require a funeral director to be involved, you’ll probably have to get a permit in order to bury someone in your back yard.”
  • Why C-SPAN Isn’t Showing the Health Care Talks – “President Obama is starting to reach that moment of truth, where the things that sounded good on the campaign trail don’t actually work out in reality. He seemed to promise that he wouldn’t use signing statements the way George W. Bush did — to ignore provisions of bills he had signed into law — but he hasn’t actually been able to avoid all signing statements, as House Democrats have noticed.

    And at Wednesday night’s press conference, Obama got called out for not televising the health care negotiations on C-SPAN, another campaign promise that probably sounded better to the communications
    strategists than to people who actually know how Congress works.
    . . .
    Well, yes, members of Congress could always open those meetings to C-SPAN. They could have done that before Obama took office. They don’t, though, and it appears that Obama won’t push them to do so. No one on Capitol Hill really expected him to, because when actual, sensitive discussions go on to cut deals on legislation, no one in Congress really wants to do that in front of the TV cameras.

    Still, what Obama talked about on the campaign trail — many times, not just once — was televising ‘the negotiations, not just a forum at the White House.”

  • The Productivity Challenge: Is Health Care as Bad as Education? – “So far at least, the evidence doesn’t seem to support the notion that the health care sector has suffered a productivity collapse quite like education. It still looks as though schooling, and only schooling, has gotten both worse and substantially more expensive since 1970.”
  • Obama’s Path Not Taken – “In 1968 a divided country elected Nixon ‘to bring us together’ in the mistaken notion that he was a Reaganesque conservative rather than a vindictive partisan. So too forty years later, mutatis mutandis, the country wanted to go a notch left, and ended up instead with a European socialist nursed in the politics of Chicago–and like Nixon, unless he changes, doomed to implode.”
  • Rep. Issa’s report claims criminal enterprises within ACORN – “The report’s authors believe ACORN is purposely organized like a criminal enterprise. They describe ACORN as a ‘shell game,’ noting that it has operations in 120 cities, 43 states and the District of Columbia.

    There is ‘systemic fraud’ in ACORN made possible by its organizational structure, the report said:

    ‘Both structurally and operationally, ACORN hides behind a paper wall of nonprofit corporate protections to conceal a criminal conspiracy on the part of its directors, to launder federal money in order to pursue a partisan political agenda and to manipulate the American electorate.'”

  • Overcriminalization – “when an innocent person sits down in a quiet room to assess his options following a federal arrest and indictment, you soon learn that you’ll be broken financially if you choose to fight and go to trial. The pressure to plead guilty — even if you are innocent — is enormous. If we had a small and sensible criminal code where the rules were clear and objective, the costs of defending yourself from bogus (or trumped up) charges would be sharply reduced.”
  • Blunt’s Soviet spying ‘a mistake’ – “The memoirs of former spy Anthony Blunt reveal how he regarded passing British secrets to Communist Russia as the ‘biggest mistake of my life’.
    . . .
    ‘What I did not realise at the time is that I was so naive politically that I was not justified in committing myself to any political action of this kind,’ says Blunt.

    ‘The atmosphere in Cambridge was so intense, the enthusiasm for any anti-fascist activity was so great, that I made the biggest mistake of my life.'”

  • Apple Hedging Cellular Bets with a Tablet Through Verizon? – “I can’t think of a better way to kick AT&T’s network upgrades into the next gear–Apple merely suggesting the idea of partnering with Verizon on another data-hungry money maker just might do it.”
  • The Neuroscience of McGriddles – “The ‘standard’ McGriddle consists of bacon, a brick of bright yellow egg and neon orange American cheese served between two small pancakes that have been injected with maple syrup (or some sort of maple simulacrum) so that they taste extremely sweet and yet aren’t sticky to hold. The top of the griddle pancake is embossed with the McDonald’s logo. Needless to say, the McGriddle is eerily delicious. If the human tongue has a secret password, then this sweet, salty and fatty breakfast sandwich is the code.
    . . .
    This is a troubling idea, since it reveals the very deep biological roots underlying the obesity epidemic. Let’s imagine, for instance, that some genius invented a reduced calorie bacon product that tasted exactly like bacon, except it had 50 percent fewer calories. It would obviously be a great day for civilization. But this research suggests that such a pseudo-bacon product, even though it tasted identical to real bacon, would actually give us much less pleasure. Why? Because it made us less fat. Because energy is inherently delicious. Because we are programmed to enjoy calories.” ht The Browser
  • Fast food mafia – “Fast food spokespersons as mob bosses.”
  • Stuff Journalists Like – #53 The Onion – “While journalists may respect, and even admire other news sources, when it comes to The Onion every journalist deep down inside aspires to reach a pinnacle in their career where they can cover such earth-shattering stories as Bush being elected the President of Iraq, Obama’s plans to run for McCain’s senate seat in 2010 or about how the nation is ready to be lied to about the economy again.”
  • The Anatomy Of The Twitter Attack – “It’s clear that Twitter was completely unaware of how deeply they were affected as a company – when Williams said that most of the information wasn’t company related he believed it. It wasn’t until later that he realized just how much and what kind of information was taken. It included things like financial projections and executive meeting notes that contained highly confidential information.”

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