Assorted Links 8/23/09

Quote of the Day: Overstimulation Edition
“It’s just a mess, an absolute mess. There is a billion dollars of dealerships’ money on the road.”

  • Understanding Congressional Budgeting and Appropriations, September 9, 2009
  • Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill, September 11, 2009
  • How to Find, Track, and Monitor Congressional Documents: Going Beyond Thomas, September 15, 2009
  • Congress in a Nutshell: Understanding Congress, September 16, 2009
  • Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process, September 17, 2009
  • Capitol Hill Workshop, September 23-25, 2009
  • What happened to the antiwar movement? Cindy Sheehan hits ‘hypocrisy’ of Left, Democratic allies. – “I asked Sheehan about the fact that the press seems to have lost interest in her and her cause. ‘It’s strange to me that you mention it,’ she said. ‘I haven’t stopped working. I’ve been protesting every time I can, and it’s not covered. But the one time I did get a lot of coverage was when I protested in front of George Bush’s house in Dallas in June. I don’t know what to make of it. Is the press having a honeymoon with Obama? I know the Left is.'”
  • Rahm’s Grand Coalition – “Having rushed through an enormously expensive stimulus package that, so far at least, has failed to stimulate anything but the appetite for even more pork, the Blue Dogs have gazed into the trillion dollar abyss on health care reform and seen it staring right back into them in the form of future electoral defeat.”
  • The Nuclear Option For Pensions? – “A massive reduction in pension benefits will likely cause massive protests by union members, which means more social unrest.

    When I wrote that the pension crisis will define President Obama’s legacy, I meant it. Those pension bombs that started exploding in 2008 have exposed the vulnerability of the nation’s retirement systems.

    Politicians all around the world better pay close attention to global pension tension because a financial nuclear bomb was detonated in 2008 and its full effects have yet to be felt.”

  • It Started with Plato – “Plato’s ideal republic was founded upon two primary assumptions: (1) that the community must be comprised of only two classes, those who govern and those who are governed (the latter owing implicit obedience to the former), and (2) that human qualities are mainly hereditary and therefore that rulers must beget future rulers.”
  • Bastiat’s Nightmare – “A friend wants the government to start a ‘Dollars for Dumps’ program through which they will subsidize the destruction of his current house and the purchase of a new one.”
  • The autistic macroeconomist – “The cause of the Great Depression was too few pennies being made at the Philadelphia mint.

    If you think this speculation is far-fetched, go read the piece Krugman wrote in the NYR of Books right after Milton Friedman died. Krugman argues that Friedman and Schwartz’s whole argument relies on the assumption that the Fed had the ability to prevent a fall in M2, simply by printing more base money. . . . You find an aggregate that is correlated with NGDP, and then you argue that the Fed just needs to expand the base enough to keep that aggregate growing at a steady, non-inflationary rate. It doesn’t have to be money at all; it could be postage stamps.
    . . .
    So let me finally get to the point. I believe that the financial crisis of 2008 was the mother of all frame jobs. The commercial bankers were framed, when it was really the central bankers that created the severe recession.”

  • U.S. population distribution by age, 1950-2050 – best comment: “I can’t really say anything knowledgeable about looming health care costs, but I will say this: Stay off the roads in 2050–something tells me we’ll be seeing a lot more full-sized sedans and a lot less turn signals.”
  • My Qualm about Universal Health Insurance – “Just going by personal interest, I should be wildly in favor of universal health insurance. But as to the country at large, I worry about the rationing issue. To be clear, I’m not worried that there will be too much rationing, I’m worried that there won’t be enough.”
  • Is ObamaCare Unconstitutional? – “Speaking of substantive due process, there may be other constitutional problems arising from national health care reform — but not of the enumerated powers variety. While the federal government may be able to require national health insurance coverage, could it require all individuals to purchase plans that cover certain procedures? What if the guidelines for acceptable plans include contraception, abortion, and certain types of end-of-life care? Could the federal government require devout Catholics to purchase such plans for themselves?”
  • Leviathan on the Move – “Something to keep in mind next time you see or hear a news report about state and local governments being strapped for cash:”
  • Uncle Sam’s Big Gamble on Derivatives – “In any case it’s exciting to see my ideas in action, even though the Fed isn’t really the government, just an old-fashioned bank run by simple folks.”
  • Initial Comparison of College Rankings – “The figure below plots the relationship between the USNWR rankings of Liberal Arts Colleges and the comparably modified Forbes/CCAP rankings of Liberal Arts Colleges. We can easily observe that there is a large degree of correlation between the two rankings (actual correlation value is p=.71), particularly at the top, although the two become increasingly disparate as you move farther down the rankings.”
  • US Blues & World Distort – “What brochures and websites can’t do is allow you to interact. There is nothing that can replace the opportunity to walk, on your own two feet, across the grass of a courtyard positioned between a residence hall and an academic building at an institution you’ve been reading about for months. The chance to watch the class that’s being held outdoors in that courtyard (cause it’s a gorgeous fall day) and to hear the conversations between classmates immediately following the conclusion of the formal discussion. There’s little that will replace the chance to hear from a student about what he loves and hates about the school (the second of those two things is often more telling)- and to watch his facial expressions as he talks to you. The chance to stop and glance at the bulletin boards in the student center getting a sense of what students might be doing this weekend, and what causes are most important to them. Eating a meal in a dining hall, observing a class, touring a recreation center… My list could go on, but I’m sure you get my point. Seeing what is current, engaging in real time, offering you personalities and character and heart. Synthesize it all with what you know about yourself and the type of environment you want to be a part of and you’ve got a much better sense of whether that school is a good fit. THAT is what a visit can do for you.
    . . .
    Colleges are not their rankings. They are people, traditions, buildings, spirit, culture, temperature, sounds, history, grass, bricks, mascots, energy… Don’t let rankings get in the way of getting to know those things about a place”

Is It ID Theft Or Was The Bank Robbed?
“The problem isn’t ‘identity theft.’ It’s bad security and verification processes by a financial institution.”

  • A Litmus Test For Source of Sweetness – “At this week’s American Chemical Society’s 238th National Meeting, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign presented a study about a sensor that can accurately detect the presence of any of the common sweeteners used in food products. The business card size sensor has color spots that activate when particular chemicals are detected, and the color pattern as a whole identifies the actual sweetener in drinks and even solid foods.”
  • Q and A on Flat Fee Pricing – “What are the advantages of flat fee billing?”
  • Libertarian Squishiness – “Libertarians have been more willing than traditional conservatives to oppose government-sponsored discrimination against gays and lesbians. Libertarians are also less likely to allow their religious views to dictate their public-policy preferences and are also less likely to presume that traditional practices should enjoy any presumption.”
  • A Last-Minute Dash for Tuition – “Weeks or even days before classes start, hundreds of thousands of college students nationwide still don’t know whether they’ll be able to cover their tuition bills this year.”
  • Apple loses students to netbooks and Windows – “When US students return to their classrooms this fall, few of them will be lugging along new Apple notebooks.
    . . .
    ‘Netbooks are affordable – some costing only $170.00. In contrast, Apple laptops start at $949.00. At a time when many people are experiencing economic hardship, having a new Apple laptop isn’t a necessity.'”
  • Forget The Segway, The EniCycle Is One-Wheeled Fun We Could All Get Behind – ” The EniCycle is an a prototype self-stabilizing unicycle from Slovenian inventor Aleksander Polutnik. Featuring a three-hour battery, gyroscope and a spring damper, Polutnik claims a 30 minute learning curve.” includes video
  • The rise of the $299 Wal-Mart laptop – “These computer have 2 Gigs of memory, 15 inch screens, full sized keyboards, 160 Gig hard drives, DVD-RW/CD-RW drives, wireless Internet, LAN ports, and Vista Basic. In other words, this is more computer than the average attorney or professional will ever need to get the job done.”
  • *The Inheritance of Rome* – “I have to count this tome as one of the best history books I have read, ever. The author is Chris Wickham and the subtitle is A History of Europe from 400 to 1000.”

Circle Drawing Man

  • URL shortener speed and reliability shootout – “So, by these two simple criteria, and tied for ‘first place.'”
  • Black Elk (1863-1950) – “Born to a medicine man who followed Crazy Horse, Black Elk witnessed the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 and the upheaval that followed the tribe’s flight to Canada to join Sitting Bull. In 1886 he joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. … In 1904 he was converted by a priest to the Catholic faith and took the name Nicholas Black Elk.”
  • I’m forever blowing Zubbles! Inventor spent 15 years creating world’s first colour bubbles that don’t stain – “Tim Kehoe spent 15 years and an astonishing $3m (£1.8m) creating the world’s first ever coloured blowing bubbles, which have now gone on sale.”
  • 13 Things a Burglar Won’t Tell You – “1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.”
  • You Deleted Your Cookies? Think Again – “More than half of the internet’s top websites use a little known capability of Adobe’s Flash plug-in to track users and store information about them, but only four of them mention the so-called Flash Cookies in their privacy policies, UC Berkeley researchers reported Monday.

    Unlike traditional browser cookies, Flash cookies are relatively unknown to web users, and they are not controlled through the cookie privacy controls in a browser. That means even if a user thinks they have cleared their computer of tracking objects, they most likely have not.”

  • But What Keeps McDonalds From Charging $100 for a Big Mac? – “t’s amazing, given this logic, that McDonald’s doesn’t charge $100 for a Big Mac, given that there is no government competitor in that market. The reality of course is that the relationship works the other way around – Fedex and UPS keep the Post Office in check. Many of the Post Office’s most recent service offerings were copied from UPS and Fedex.”
  • Credit Card Issuers Reimposing Annual Fees in Response to New Card Regs – “More regulations go into effect next year, so look for more offsetting changes to your credit cards: more annual fees, higher interest rates, less-generous rewards, higher penalty fees, lower credit lines, and less access to credit.”
  • Iodine deficiency is REAL – “Make no mistake: Iodine deficiency is real. While most of my colleagues have dismissed iodine deficiency as a relic of the early 20th century and third world countries, you can also find it in your neighborhood.”
  • US Life Expectancy Up To 77.9 Years – “If you want to cut your own risks read my archives Aging Diet Cancer Studies and Aging Diet Heart Studies. A lot of the dietary factors heart disease risk reduction also slow brain aging. But you can also read Aging Diet Brain Studies for more ideas.”
  • Irwin Stelzer on Executive Compensation: – “The appeal is irresistible to a certain professional New Class but not exactly populist. The reason these ‘populists’ are stretched is from trying to make tuition payments to Sidwell Friends, National Cathedral School, or St. Alban’s – all of whose annual tuitions, so far as I can gather, are slated to hit around $50,000 a year in current dollars by ten years from now. But what appeals to these technocrats is not devising a structure of incentives – it is the naked exercise of moralizing power over paychecks, one group of professionals, exercising political power in the political sphere, over another, the previously untouchable and in every way advancing, winner take all, professional class of financiers.”
  • Arlington Sues Virginia Over HOT Lanes – “The I-395 HOT Lane project, however, does not involve any new construction. An Australian tolling company, Transurban, will restripe and narrow the existing HOV lanes to include three lanes within the current space built with federal and state taxpayer dollars for two lanes. These lanes reverse depending on the time of day.”

    From the comments: “Arlington is upset that the state found a way to avoid new construction in an attempt to prevent Arlington from using its normal ‘don’t build anything anywhere’ tactics of using the environmental process.”

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