Assorted Links 7/27/09

ht Gongol

  • Advanced Legislative Strategies, August 5-7, 2009
  • United By Hate: The uses of anti-Semitism in Chávez’s Venezuela – “Instead of political parties, representative institutions, and, above all, ideologies, Chavismo manifests as a physical relationship between the people and Chávez, with, as Chávez himself describes, love as the potent glue connecting them.Thus during the recent campaign for the referendum to abolish presidential term limits, the widespread slogan, ‘Amor con amor se paga‘ (‘love must with love be repaid’), which captures the notion that Chávez’s love for the people comes with a corresponding obligation.
    . . .
    As hard as Chávez tries to reduce all opposition to an internal oligarchy backed by imperialism, his ‘enemies’ proliferate: workers’ unions, the student movement, the church, civil society organizations.
    . . .
    Chavista anti-Semitism is a symptom of the weakness of the regime itself. From its inception, Chávez’s government has been unable either to bend the inherited state apparatus fully to its will, or to abolish it and replace it with its own revolutionary design. The “Bolivarian Revolution” has thus developed within the constraints of certain democratic practices, where the entitlements of consumers, labor unions, government bureaucracies, community organizations, and property owners must be taken into account, if not necessarily respected.

    In classic Leninist theory, old regime structures and emerging revolutionary institutions were to coexist for a brief transitional period. In Chávez’s Venezuela, on the contrary, the duality has become endemic, compromising state accountability. Paramilitary groups, drug mafias, high crime rates, death squads, and corruption thrive.

    This dual structure is the context that frames and explains Chávez’s politics of distraction–his verbal antics and his reliance on unpredictable and spectacular policy innovations. The direct connection that Chávez has tried to forge with (some of) the people further undermines structures of administrative mediation. Opposition and dissatisfaction are therefore constant threats to the presidency itself. In such a scenario, a rhetoric that reduces all political friction to a single cause, to a single common enemy, is useful indeed. However, if history is any guide, ideologies of this sort have an elective affinity with dictatorship rather than democracy. When a regime relies on populism, military uniforms, homophobia, and anti-Semitism, it is time to worry.”

  • Why Did No One Inform Us Of The Imminent Death Of The American Newspaper Industry? – “It appears that in America the very business of published news is in the midst of widespread atrophy, and now carries forward as does a sickly and aging man, coughing up blood and gasping for breath and bearing the pronounced stench of inevitable failure.

    Why did no one inform us of this? Great shame must now consume those who kept silent about the 87 percent decline in newspaper readership nationwide. Great shame must now consume those who did not open their lips before our dealings were done, and allowed the industrious and cherished Yu Wan Mei Group to sink itself like a granite stone. ”

  • California Budget Resolution puts Band-Aid on Failing Dike – “For starters, the much ballyhooed budged is not even balanced. Borrowing money from local governments is fiscally unsound and possibly illegal.
    . . .
    Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the end result of months of political wrangling is a California budget bill that fails to address or even consider numerous structural defects. This is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a failing dike, hoping the problems go away on their own accord, something that will never happen.”
  • Phony Checks At Top of Scam List – “Nearly 45% of people reporting being scammed were ripped off using a phony check scheme — by far the largest type of fraud reported in the first six months of this year, according to the National Consumers League. The average dollar loss in that type of scam: $3,178.”
  • Real Homes of Genius: Rancho Park and the zero down $775,000 2 Bedroom Home – Deconstructing the Westside of Los Angeles. The 310. Foreclosures moving up to Prime Markets. Notice of Defaults Second Highest Quarter on Record. – “There is something surreal in the air in California. With the warm summer weather and gorgeous sunsets it is hard to come to terms that the state has a $26 billion budget deficit that will be solved with massive cuts and borrowing. The state is issuing IOUs which should be a warning sign to most that the state isn’t flush with excess revenues. Yet for some reason, there is this belief that we will once be back to the bubble heyday. I was talking with a person trying to sell their home. They had pulled the home off the market and told me, ‘I’m going to wait for one or two years when the market bounces back.’ Bounce back to what? The manic easy credit induced bubble days? Those days are long gone. In fact, in this particular area the homes are littered with Alt-A and option ARM loans. How can you tell? You see massive additions to the home and remodeling projects that have costs upwards of $100,000 courtesy of a HELOC. This is not Beverly Hills but your mid-tier market.

    Today we’ll look at another Westside area in Rancho Park.
    . . .
    In each of these areas we are seeing the early signs of a foundation cracking at the edges like poorly applied makeup. Yet many in these areas believe in the housing bubble like some kind of underground cult. They know something you don’t. In their world, math doesn’t apply and supply and demand are words left to boring analysis. Who needs analysis when you have the almighty power of the granite counter-top? Who cares if the state has an 11.6 percent unemployment rate, the highest in modern BLS record keeping history? That is a minor footnote. Who cares that nearly 50 percent of option ARM loans sit in California anxiously waiting like ticking time bombs to level equity in mid to upper priced areas?
    . . .
    Today’s home is an example of someone who sold at the peak (and conversely someone who bought at the peak). Now who can really tell if they timed it perfectly or if the cosmos merely smiled upon the seller. This above 2 bedroom and 2 bath home sold for $775,000 in 2005, near the peak of the bubble. The last sale on this home was in 1978 for $90,000. Does anyone doubt the diluting power of the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury? The home as you can see does not look like a home that is worth three-quarters of a million dollars. It is 1,134 square feet. Yet these are the homes that are still sitting on the market.
    . . .
    The above is a quick analysis. We didn’t contribute any funds to a 401k or anything of that sort. No healthcare is in there either. So even with that, the PITI will eat up 64 percent of the net income of this household that pulls in $120,000 a year. Do you see why home prices still have a long way to go down?”

  • The Devil’s In the Details – “Here is what you will discover if, unlike Congress, you actually read the Obamacare bill:
    . . .
    Pg 22 of the HC Bill mandates the Government will audit books of all employers that self insure. Can you imagine what that will do to small businesses?
    . . .
    Pg 126 Lines 22-25 Employers MUST pay for HC for part time employees AND their families.
    . . .
    Pg 167 Lines 18-23 ANY individual who doesn’t have acceptable HC according to Government will be taxed 2.5% of income.
    . . .
    Pg 195 HC Bill -officers & employees of HC Admin (the GOVERNMENT) will have access to ALL Americans’ finances and personal records.”
  • How Reuters Should Be Responding To The AP’s Suicide – “First of all, someone should sit [AP’s CEO Tom] Curley down and explain to him fair use — a concept of which he appears to be ignorant. This whole exercise seems to be an attempt to pretend that you can take away fair use rights via metadata. You can’t. But, more importantly (from a business perspective) this shows a near total cluelessness on how Google works. Yes, Google built a multi-billion dollar business out of “keywords” but they did so not by forcing people to pay, but by adding value to people who did pay. That’s the opposite of what Curley’s trying to do. If you can’t understand the difference between positive value and negative value, you should not be the CEO of a major organization. ”
  • Are Crackdowns on Tattooed Officers Really Worth It? – “One unnamed Dallas officer disagrees with the upcoming policy. ‘What are you going to do with that guy who is 300 pounds, and you put him in long sleeves in the heat of summer, and he drops out on you?’ the officer said.”
  • Four Questions About the Toyota Prius – “I have nothing against the Toyota Prius. It’s the car’s mystique that irks me. You know what I’m talking about: the whole ‘Toyota Pious’ thing. As someone who’s read rational reports from Prius-owning TTAC commentators, as a pistonhead who understands that there’s more to driving a Ferrari than beauty and performance, I swear I’m OK with the hybrid’s PC mantle. But the Prius’s high MPG numbers and green street cred tend to stifle the debate on some important points.”
  • Amazon, Zappos and Buying What You Can’t Compete Against – “Amazon bought Zappos. At first I was a bit surprised. Like an aging celebrity going to the ‘big theater in the sky’ it is unexpected when you first hear about it – but upon reflection not surprising at all. It smacks of inevitability.
    . . .
    I believe culture is exactly what Jeff Bezos and Amazon were buying (after all it likely wasn’t fulfillment centers, logistics, inventory or even customers). Culture is the one asset Amazon couldn’t compete against.”
  • “Filial responsibility” laws and nursing home bills – “A number of states have what are sometimes known as filial responsibility laws which obligate adult children to pay for their parents’ medical and nursing-home care.”
  • The Sony PRS-505 reader: My initial review – “I still think my ideal device would be a Sony Reader sized iPod Touch. That would do the job for me in all but a few rare circumstances. But for now, I am happy to be a two-device girl and reserve the Sony for my more leisurely, reverent reading at home or when I have the time to really curl up for awhile. On days I travel lightly, I’m happy to keep reading on my iPod Touch too.”

    100 Best Movie Lines in 200 Seconds

  • Living without money – “Daniel Suelo, who lives in a cave near Moab, Utah, has gone without using money since 2000.”
  • Need a Connection? Sorry, This Is MyFi – “Readers, I need your thoughts on an etiquette issue associated with technology. Yesterday morning I was at the San Francisco airport finishing up a story while waiting for a flight. Inspired by my colleague James over at jkOnTheRun, I had my laptop and my Verizon MiFi out on the table.
    . . .
    A fellow traveler spied the device, knew what it was (only in San Francisco), and asked if he could piggyback on my connection to do some work. I politely said no, then packed up my stuff to change locations so he would think I had to leave and not that I was a complete jerk (James over at jkOTR would also say no). But was I?” No.
  • Burdened children – “Consumer Reports weighed backpacks at three New York City schools, reports the New York Times’ Well blog. Elementary students carried only about five pounds, but the weight soared in sixth grade.”
  • Twitter’s popularity makes it a bigger security target than ever – “What will be especially interesting to watch is how long it takes for something else to eclipse Twitter as the premier ‘microblogging’ service — because Twitter won’t stay on top forever. The concept of microblogging — ultra-short updates of the user’s preference, posted on the Internet — is far too simple to be dominated exclusively by one service.”
  • You know, this is… excuse me… a DAMN fine cup of coffee! – “Then I found it. In a thrift store of all places. The Bialetti Stove Top Expresso maker for $25. My goal was to find a convenient, relatively inexpensive coffee maker that, here goes, makes a strong and tasty cup of coffee. Now, the Bialetti line is for espresso making — but, I find that it doesn’t pressurize to make true espresso. Oh, the debate can go on for hours…but here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter, because it makes a damn good cup of coffee
    . . .
    Now, the only ‘issue’ I ran into was how can I make this awesome coffee when away from home or at work?”
  • Living Your Best Life: It’s the One You Feed – “One evening, an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. 

He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The other is Good – It is peace, love, hope, humility, compassion, and faith.’ 

The grandson thought about this for a while and then asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf wins?’

 To which the old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.'”

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