December 11, 2011
I MENTION IT BELOW, BUT I DIDN’T REALIZE THAT Andy Rosen’s Change.edu: Rebooting For The New Talent Economy is currently free in the Kindle edition. Download it while it lasts!
I MENTION IT BELOW, BUT I DIDN’T REALIZE THAT Andy Rosen’s Change.edu: Rebooting For The New Talent Economy is currently free in the Kindle edition. Download it while it lasts!
STEVE HAYWARD: Eurocrash Update #1. “I recall Margaret Thatcher saying, around 1999, something like ‘All of the crises of the 20th century began in Europe, and all of the solutions have come from the English-speaking nations.’ Might well come true again.”
BATTLE LINES are being drawn.
TEN YEARS AGO ON INSTAPUNDIT: Poll: Europeans Don’t Like The Euro. They were smarter than their rulers, it seems.
A LOW-CARB SUCCESS STORY.
ANOTHER LATVIAN BANK RUN?
LIGHT BULB BAN creates public health risks.
Hey, there’s still time to stock up! For a little while longer.
UPDATE: Reader Maynard Schmale emails: “I just changed two burnt out GE CFL light bulbs. They each lasted less than two months. Crony capitalism at its finest.” Yeah, I’ve been disappointed that mine haven’t lasted as long as advertised.
MORE: Another reader writes:
At Walmart today just outside Washington, DC. Noticed that the 100W incandescent light bulb shelves were bare, as was the section for 50W/100W/150W 3-way bulbs. Guess that even some in the GE/EPA/Congress triangle still want their cheap, safe, convenient, warm lights to stay on after 12/31. Too bad they’re not going to give everyone else that chance!
P.S. I’ve been stocking up for months, but if today’s inventory is any indication, readers who haven’t heeded your warnings better get to the store soon. Who knows whether there will be any left for sale when there’s only a week to go…
You snooze, you lose.
Plus, from the comments: “The destruction of the general belief in fair play and honest leadership will have astonishing consequences.”
Other commenters think this is much ado about nothing. We’ll see.
HELEN AND I WERE JUST COMMENTING ON THIS THE OTHER NIGHT: “Vocal Fry” creeping into U.S. speech. “A curious vocal pattern has crept into the speech of young adult women who speak American English: low, creaky vibrations, also called vocal fry. Pop singers, such as Britney Spears, slip vocal fry into their music as a way to reach low notes and add style. Now, a new study of young women in New York state shows that the same guttural vibration—once considered a speech disorder—has become a language fad.”
It seems to me that “language fads” mostly propagate among young women. I wonder why that is?
EUROPE: “Mr. Cameron may or may not be ‘isolated’ from the rest of the EU’s leadership, but the EU’s leadership is undoubtedly isolated from reality. Under the circumstances, Cameron is in a better place.”
Related: “So all the UK is isolated from is an impending disaster: the eurozone will fragment with countries leaving and debt defaults. It is like being as isolated as a man who failed to get onto the Titanic before it sailed.”
20 SIGNS YOUR RELATIONSHIP is past tense. Ya think?
ED DRISCOLL: The Documentary As Time Capsule.
STEPHEN L. CARTER: Congress Isn’t Supposed To Be Above The Law. “It has become all too easy for members of Congress to grant themselves special privileges, among them exemption from many complex laws and regulations that apply to everyone else.”
It seems to me that a “living Constitution” approach to the Titles Of Nobility clause would solve this. Where are our creative judges when you need them?
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Khan Academy: The Videos Are The Public Face, But The Real Action Is On The Backend:
Using math and computer science concepts decidedly more advanced than most of those in Khan’s video library, the Khan engineers have trained the website’s exercise platform how to predict, with startling accuracy, how likely it is that a student will correctly answer the next practice problem — and whether that student will be able to solve the same type of problem a week, two weeks, and a month later.
They do this by accounting for hundreds of data points that describe, in numbers, the entire history of the relationship between a learner and a concept.
“If [a user is] logged in, then we have the entire history of every problem they’ve done, and how long it took them, and how they did,” says Ben Kamens, the lead developer at Khan Academy. “So whenever anybody does a problem, we see whether they got it right or wrong, how many tries it took them, what their guess was, what the problem was, how many hints they used, and how long they took between each hint.”
The Khan engineers are also working to tweak the exercise platform so it does not confuse genuine mastery with “pattern matching” — a method of problem-solving wherein a student mechanically rehashes the steps necessary to solve that type of problem without necessarily grasping, conceptually, what those steps represent.
Pattern-matching is one of the human brain’s most basic learning tools, Kamens says. It is the sort of useful imitation that allows toddlers to learn how to use language without first learning how grammar works. But there is a difference between imitating problem-solving procedures and mastering the logic undergirding those procedures, Kamens says. Getting to that level of understanding, he says, is probably what determines whether students will remember how to solve a problem after the test is over, after a course is over, and — most importantly, in Khan’s view — once their formal schooling is over.
Khan has half-joked that his ideal assessment model is having professors ambush their students in the hallways with random questions, months after the student has passed the exam, and revise their score based on whether they’ve kept their chops. At Khan Academy, that half-joke is half-real. At a time when students are always within arm’s reach of a computer and a wireless signal, “mechanic practice schedulers” can spring questions on students at intervals to gauge how well they remember how to do certain types of problems.
One of the most interesting parts of Andy Rosen’s new book, Change.edu, is the discussion of how for-profit online schools are using similar techniques. This may turn out to be a killer app as against traditional education.
College students do not graduate with a firm enough grasp of the skills — particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields — that they really need to land good jobs, he said. As a result, the credential colleges use to signal the competence of their graduates, the college degree, says very little about what its holder actually knows.
In a conversation with Inside Higher Ed last week, Khan expressed some ideas on how to improve the signaling quality of academic credentials. Under the current regime, a degree from a college amounts to something similar to an acceptance letter from that college, he says. And that is not ideal for employers.
“We find a lot of college grads with high GPAs that have been exposed to many things … but even in their purported majors, they have a pretty weak grasp of” essential concepts, Khan said. “It’s almost like you view them as a blank slate, and the most impressive thing about them is that they got in to University X.”
In other words, the current price of a college degree is not just the balance of four years’ tuition; one must also consider the cost, to students and employers, of the ambiguity hanging over what the degree actually means. One root of the problem is the fact that the college degree is issued by the same institution that is in charge of setting, and enforcing, the standards of that credential, says Khan, who holds four degrees himself. This is tantamount to investment banks rating their own securities, he says. Meanwhile, the accrediting agencies that are in charge of making sure those “ratings” are legitimate do not currently focus on what students coming out of those institutions measurably know.
If you read the whole thing — and you should — it sounds like Khan is moving toward the sort of third-party credentialing solution that I have advocated myself in the past. That’s a real killer app.
DON SURBER: Christiane Amanpour Out the Door? “Is ABC punting ‘This Week’ hostess Christiane Amanpour back to CNN, the witness protection program for TV newsers?”
AT AMAZON, Holiday Flurry Deals in Movies & TV.
DAVID WARREN: Europe Digs Still Deeper: “When you’ve dug yourself into a hole, so far down you can’t see the sky any more, the answer is to dig faster. You never know, you might come out in China. This is the primaeval advice upon which Europe’s politicians are now working.”
Plus this: “Place not your confidence in politicians. Economic arrangements which depend upon the goodwill and continuing good behaviour of the political class, must fail.”
THE GIFT OF POVERTY: A Parental Strategy For Teaching Life Lessons.
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: College Subsidies Fuel Salaries. “In particular, whether demanders or suppliers pay a tax is determined by the elasticities of demand and supply. The more elastic side of the market can better escape a tax, leaving more of it to be paid by the inelastic side. The same thing is true for a subsidy but in reverse, the inelastic side of the market gets the benefit of the subsidy.”
RUSSIA: Dmitry Medvedev Facebook message against Russian protesters backfires. “Dmitry Medvedev has been humiliated online after his Facebook page, in which he posted a message denouncing Saturday’s 50,000-strong rally in Moscow, was flooded by protesters criticising the Russian president.”
#OCCUPYFAIL: Our movement became fascist, says an Occupier. Rand Simberg comments: “You don’t say. Actually, if you understood fascism, you’d realize it started that way.”
AUTISM: UNRAVELLING AN EPIDEMIC. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 1% of children across the country have some form of autism — 20 times the prevailing figure in the 1980s. The increase has stirred fears of an epidemic and mobilized researchers to figure out what causes the brain disorder and why it appears to be affecting so many more children. Two decades into the boom, however, the balance of evidence suggests that it is more a surge in diagnosis than in disease.”
XENI JARDIN: “I have breast cancer.”
TODAY ONLY: Cuisinart Grind & Brew Coffeemaker only $49.99.
UPDATE: A reader whose name I’m omitting so as not to spoil a Christmas surprise emails: “Thanks for posting today’s Amazon coffee maker deal! This is exactly what my parents want for Christmas and I was just about to spend more money for one at another site. You saved me more than $20 bucks!” Glad to be of assistance! (Bumped).
CLIMATEGATE FALLOUT: The Brits Tune Out The Greens.
The long retreat of the global green movement continues, with new news about the collapse in public concern about climate in Britain.
In 2007 19 percent of those asked told British pollsters that climate change was one of the most important problems in the world. These days, despite unremitting green efforts to publicize the view that global warming is driving the world to catastrophe, the Economist informs us that just 4 percent of Brits polled still put it high on the list.
This is not wholly surprising. “Climategate” was widely covered in the British press. There has been a lot of snow. The financial crisis has given many British families something much closer to home to worry about.
Nevertheless the broad collapse of concern about climate in a nature-mad country which agonizes over the fate of its badgers and hedgehogs is not a good sign for the green climate agenda. If the Brits are tuning them out, what chances do the greens have to build powerful public support in countries like India and China?
Trust once lost is hard to regain.
FISHERMEN VS. SCIENTISTS: Are cod getting scarce, or not?
Federal regulators are considering the unthinkable in New England: severely restricting — maybe even shutting down — cod fishing in the Gulf of Maine, from north of Cape Cod clear up to Canada. New data suggest that the status of the humble fish that has sustained the region for centuries is much worse than previously thought. Fishermen insist that there are plenty of cod and that the real problem is fuzzy science. They say the data are grossly inconsistent, pointing to a 2008 federal report that concluded that Gulf of Maine cod, though historically overfished, were well on the way to recovery.
The news is causing high anxiety in Massachusetts, where a wooden “Sacred Cod” has hung in the State House for more than 200 years and the fishing industry, though struggling, still figures prominently in the state’s identity.
So what do you trust — reports of catches, or mathematical models of the overall population?
UPDATE: Reader Fred Butzen writes:
Please don’t be so fast to dismiss the math models based on stable or increased catches. The techology of commercial fishing has improved enormously over the last couple decades. Catches may be stable or
increasing even as the stock decreases, because fishermen are better able to find the fish and catch them than they were twenty or thirty years ago. This is not necessarily an either/or situation.
Oh, I wasn’t dismissing the models. It was a genuine question. It’s hard to know how many fish are out there.
GORDON CROVITZ: Dropped Call? Blame The FCC.
OMG ASAP. Heh.
IN THE MAIL: The Sorceress of Karres.
IT’S NOT JUST LIGHTSQUARED: Regulators could sanction Falcone over trading.
Philip Falcone, a hedge fund manager who became an overnight billionaire by betting on the collapse on the U.S. housing market, is now fighting to keep his career afloat.
The investor, who has since bet much of his Harbinger Capital Partners money on a cash-strapped wireless telecom company, said on Thursday that U.S. securities regulators are considering filing civil fraud charges against him and what is left of his once $26 billion hedge fund empire. . . . Harbinger now manages less than $4 billion and roughly half of the money is tied up in its investment in LightSquared LP, the upstart wireless telecom on which Falcone has bet the ranch. LightSquared is running low on cash and its outstanding debt trades at a steep discount as its fortunes have floundered due to a number of technical issues.
Recently the company’s technology was said to interfere with the global positioning system, the widely used technology involved in everything from navigation to managing irrigation. Some lawmakers have accused the Federal Communications Commission of fast-tracking LightSquared’s project, although the agency says its process has been engineering-based.
“Now the FCC is faced with the real possibility that it made a multibillion-dollar grant of valuable spectrum to someone who could be charged with violating securities laws,” said Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. “The FCC chairman should lead the effort to provide documents and offer insight into how the agency decided to give Mr. Falcone, Harbinger Capital and LightSquared this multibillion-dollar grant.”
CHANGE: U.S. Shale Oil Seen Rising Fast. “The National Petroleum Council recently forecast that some 3 million barrels per day of shale oil could be produced in North America by 2035 if regulations were favorable to the industry. The shale oil surge in Bakken, North Dakota and other areas of the country are estimated to be about five years behind the natural gas shale boom. Rapid advancements in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and directional drilling have boosted output of both fuels. . . . The surge could threaten Saudi Arabia’s dominant role in world oil markets, and it also eases the urgency to develop the kingdom’s own reserves, its state energy company said last month. The US Energy Information Administration on Tuesday raised its forecast for 2012 liquid fuel output by 37% on faster growth from shale oil. . . . There are also 14 or 16 other shale oil fields in North America that are in the early stages of development.”
THOUGHTS ON LAST NIGHT’S DEBATE from Michael Barone.
WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Why Americans No Longer Trust Washington.
DEMOCRATS giving up on the “millionaire tax?”
SORRY, BUT I’M NOT BUYING THIS SECRET AFFAIR STORY. It’s not like it’s by somebody trustworthy, like the Star or the Enquirer. . . .
A STUDY IN CONTRASTS: “It is interesting to study the contrast between the handling of the Toyota accelerator problems, which turned out to be pretty much all driver error, and the Chevy Volt fire issues. . . . Demagoguing a non-problem in the first case, covering up a real problem in the second. Guess which one has a union that supported Obama’s election and which does not. Guess which one Obama bought equity in with taxpayer money?”
AL SHARPTON: Paying Taxes Is For The Little People.
FROM IRA STOLL, thoughts on last night’s debate. “From this vantage point, it seems like a highly fluid race.”
DUD IN DURBAN: Climate Conference Ends Without A Deal.
The developed nations typically make a lot of noise about cutting greenhouse gas emissions ahead of these United Nations climate conferences. It’s part of the script.
Even national leaders who harbor some doubt join the chorus. They’d rather play the game than be labeled as backward, anti-science deniers by the media, left-wing politicians and special interests.
President Bush refused to go along in 2001 and was summarily smeared by the London Guardian, which said he had performed a “Taliban-like act” in his “decision to trash the Kyoto global warming treaty.”
But reaching an actual agreement that will decrease carbon dioxide emissions? That’s where they draw the line.
Playing the game at its highest level is the European Union. It says it’s willing to sign onto a deal that requires five more years of greenhouse emissions cuts — but only if the U.S., China and India join the coalition.
The EU might be able to convince America to agree, but it will never get China, the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, and India on board. And it knows this.
Indeed. Especially with all that newfound Chinese shale gas.
WHO WILL FACT-CHECK the “Fact-Checkers?”
POPULAR NOW IN CHINA: Fake Pregnancy Bellies? “The products are made of skin-colored silica gel, which give the bellies realistic texture and appearance. Retailing for between 500 and 1600 yuan ($79 to $252), the bellies are available several sizes depicting different stages of pregnancy, People Daily reports.”
CHUCK SIMMINS: The Discouraging Unemployment Picture. “The graphs were built to show both the current record or near record ‘bad’ numbers as well as their opposites from the Clinton and Bush Administrations. Fewer people are working and more people have dropped out of the labor force. That is the tale of November 2011.”
SEXISM: Sen. Patty Murray says that if Congress had more women, there might be a plan in place to deal with the nation’s $15 trillion debt. Murray herself, of course, is the biggest argument against any claim that women are naturally less profligate than men.
THE CARNIVAL OF SPACE IS UP!
TEN YEARS AGO ON INSTAPUNDIT: James Lileks Demolishes Defenders of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh.
AT AMAZON, warehouse deals on kitchen gear.
OF COURSE, NOBODY WILL GO TO JAIL: Botched raid costs Minneapolis $1 million.
The Minneapolis City Council approved a $1 million settlement Friday after a botched drug raid in 2010 in which an officer threw a “flash-bang” grenade into a south Minneapolis apartment burning the flesh off a woman’s leg.
The payout to Rickia Russell, who suffered permanent injuries, was the third largest payout for alleged Minneapolis police misconduct on record.
Flash grenades are intended to distract and intimidate, not to injure people, but during the raid the device rolled under the legs of Russell, who was seated on a sofa, and exploded. The police were looking that day for a drug dealer, narcotics and a firearm, but found nothing.
Russell, now 31, suffered third- and fourth-degree burns that caused a deep indentation on the back of one leg, requiring skin grafts from her scalp. She is still undergoing physical therapy.
“What happened in this case was an accident,” Minneapolis city attorney Susan Segal said in a statement. “It’s very unfortunate that Ms. Russell suffered serious injuries, however, accidents like this are rare.”
Yet incidents of fires, injuries and even deaths caused by the devices have led to costly settlements and policy changes in cities nationwide, including Minneapolis, where a 1989 fire started by a police grenade killed two people.
You throw a grenade, there had better be a credible threat to someone’s life, not just some bullshit drug raid. The supervisors on this raid should be in jail for reckless endangerment.
And note this: “In what Bennett called ‘a cascading series of errors,’ a Minneapolis police SWAT team smashed down the door with a battering ram without warning, when the search warrant police had obtained required officers to announce themselves before entering.”
Jail time and bankruptcy should be the result, not just a civil judgment against the city. And there should be no official immunity for no-knock raids.
ADVICE ON handgun slide manipulation.
STEPHEN GREEN IS Drunkblogging The Iowa Debate.
DIARY OF A USED CAR SALESMAN: How To Sell A Car That Smells Like A Corpse.
AT AMAZON, up to 50% off on DeWalt drills.
J. CHRISTIAN ADAMS: Impeach Holder and DOJ Officials for DOJ Lies.
#OCCUPYFAIL: Don’t Like What People Say About You? Shut ‘em down. Setting precedents here.
POLITICALLY CONNECTED TECHNOLOGY: LightSquared disrupts 75% of GPS receivers in gov’t testing. “The saga of LightSquared added a new chapter last night, as Bloomberg reported on the preliminary result of tests of the satellite Internet provider’s service in relation to GPS devices. The Obama administration has pushed LightSquared as a provider for its ambitious broadband expansion over the objections of the military, which warned that LightSquared’s operations would interfere with the satellite-based navigational system. The draft summary of the November testing shows that the military was right to be concerned.” That’s just a draft. It’ll be rewritten to show that there’s no reason to worry.
Plus this: “Why is this important? Philip Falcone is a big donor to the Democratic Party, and he has billions of dollars at stake in LightSquared’s approval. Also, Obama himself was an investor in LightSquared at one point, as were or are a number of his associates. The resounding failure in this test makes it look like the White House pressured witnesses to back off of exposing LightSquared’s product as exactly the kind of dangerous problem that critics had maintained all along — with the intent to mislead Congress into moving forward with LightSquared’s government contracts.”
EYE-TRACKING: What People Really Look At On Your Facebook Profile.
CHANGE: Evangelicals’ Collapsing Sexual Mores. This seems less horrible, and less novel, to me than it does to David French.
HYPE: Rick Santorum Will Score Upset Win in Tonight’s ‘Pivotal’ ABC Debate in Iowa. “It’s about the narrative arc, because TV news is show business, and show business requires a story that captures the public imagination. The people who run TV news are, to a greater extent than most viewers understand, deliberately controlling the story, deciding what is and is not ‘news.’”
UPDATE: Bill Quick: Whatever, Stacy. “The prospect of hanging focuses the mind wonderfully. And the national mind has felt the noose tightening around its collective neck for several years now. Angel-on-the-head-of-a-pin arguments about abortion, or sweeping hysteria about gays destroying the institution of marriage are minuscule distractions when you’re faced with possibly permanent unemployment, bankruptcy, negative home ownership, and a government that seems hell-bent on making your pain worse, not better. That’s what this election is about.”
J. CHRISTIAN ADAMS: Join the Austin Texas “Welcoming” Party for Eric Holder Tuesday.
STEPHANIE PLUM MEETS BIG BANG THEORY: Reader Rob Steiner asks me to plug his Aspect of Pale Night, a geek-chic mystery. Done!
ROOTING OUT BOGUS SCHOLARSHIP: “Some years ago, I noticed several authors making the assertion that indentured servants, and in one instance even women and the propertyless, were routinely barred from owning guns in the Colonies and in the early Republic. All those assertions turned out to rely on Michael Bellesiles’ pre–Arming America work that made such an assertion, especially Gun Laws in Early America: The Regulation of Firearms Ownership, 1607–1794, 16 Law & Hist. Rev. 567, 574, 576 (1998).” Reliance on Bellesiles is scholarly malpractice.
CHANGE: Protesters chant ‘Russia without Putin’ as Kremlin’s opponents stage unprecedented rally by Moscow river. “Only last year beaten to within an inch of his life for writing something the authorities did not like, Oleg Kashin appeared to be without fear as he addressed his audience, at the biggest anti-government rally to be held in Russia for two decades.”
CBS POLL: 54% say Obama doesn’t deserve re-election. So maybe the answer to my poll question below is “any of the above.”
The Utopian dreamers of Occupy Boston are leaving behind a disgusting field of filth on the formerly scenic Rose Kennedy Greenway, where trees will have to be replanted, grass resodded, sprinklers repaired or replaced and the entire area power-hosed in a massive cleanup that could take weeks.
“We’re close to the end of it, which is very good news. Soon, the park can be repaired and open to the general public,” Nancy Brennan, executive director of the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, said late yesterday. “We hope everyone makes a voluntary decision, and this can be a good, dignified end.”
The conservancy has been pushing the city to take action to remove the protesters, sending a letter to Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s office last month expressing frustration at rampant deterioration of the site, plus health and safety issues, including “disturbing” instances of drug use and interference of a farmers market. A judge this week lifted a restraining order on the city, giving it the green light to boot them out. . . .
Brennan said the grass, which has turned into a mud pit, will need to be completely resodded, and she fears several trees that have been damaged will have to be replanted.
“Three or four trees might be lost. There’s browning of the foliage, and there are some broken and bent limbs,” she said. “Part of what we need to do is check on the root systems, and that is just going to take a little bit of time.”
Brennan also expects that the sprinkler system was damaged so much it will have to be repaired or replaced. Also in need of replacement are about 20 percent of the shrubbery and the pebbles from a pedestrian walkway that runs along Purchase Street.
By contrast, I’ll note once more that the Tea Party protesters left things cleaner when they departed. Any comment from Elizabeth Warren?
FRANK J. FLEMING: Anti-Intellectualism:
The main problem may be confusing “simple” with “dumb.”
If something is simple, then dumb people will believe it. And if dumb people believe something, then soon some conclude that smart people should believe something else. There’s a flaw in that philosophy.
Why shouldn’t you touch a hot stove? There’s no complex, smart answer to that. You’ll get roughly the same answer from Stephen Hawking that you’d get from Forrest Gump: It’s hot, and it will hurt.
But say you were going to argue that you should touch a hot stove. That would have to be a very complex answer, since it defies basic logic. And some people could run with that, talking in detail about pain receptors and the brain’s reaction to stimulus, and come up with a very smart-sounding argument on why touching a hot stove is a great idea.
Others will go further and mock all those ignorant people in the flyover states for their irrational fear of hot stoves and announce, “The most enlightened thing to do is to press one’s face against a hot stove.” Those people are what we call intellectuals.
Similarly, when someone comes up with a well-reasoned argument backed by top economists that two plus two equals five, there’s no brilliant way to refute it. The only response is: “No, you’re an idiot; it’s four.” But if you say that, you’ll be called anti-smart people.
Well, when the wave of anti-intellectualism sweeps America, Frank’s probably safe.
MEGAN MCARDLE: Growth Is Not An Easy Solution For Europe’s Woes. “For one thing, the euro itself is a major contributor to the lack of growth. Italy and Greece, especially, used to rely on serial devaluation to keep their relatively low-productivity tradeable sectors competitive. Do we have a way to dramatically increase productivity in their small, family-owned farms and firms? Keep in mind that a preponderance of such firms is not simply a historical accident; it’s generally thought to be a symptom of fairly low trust levels which make it problematic to hire strangers or invest your money in them. Greece, Italy, and Spain also have terrible demographics.”
It’s very costly to be a low-trust society. That’s something some of our political leaders should keep in mind, as they pursue policies likely to lower social trust and cohesion.
UPDATE: A reader emails: “Who benefits from a low trust society? And why would they care if such an outcome imposed costs on others?”
Personally, I have these things scattered around the house, especially at the bottom of the stairs and in the basement hallway, bathroom, etc. They’re nightlights, but they turn on as flashlights if the power goes out. I also keep one of these keychain LED flashlights on my keychain. It’s amazingly handy.
UPDATE: Changed the link on the keychain flashlight. Reader Ben Samuel emailed that some reviewers on the other link were complaining that it was a counterfeit. Everybody seems happy on the one I changed it to. I think I bought through that link, though.
LET’S HOPE: TSA Facing Death By A Thousand Cuts.
IN THE MAIL: From Larry Correia, Monster Hunter Alpha.
UPDATE: Why no Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, or Buddy Roemer? I like Johnson, but he’s never gotten traction. The others have even less chance. On the other hand, John Galvin writes:
You left out Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and anybody else.
When Reagan ran against Carter, I, like a lot of others, would have voted for Anybody, including Donald Duck, over that clown. Same goes this time.
I left out the syphilitic camel, too. That disappointed reader Shane Boyd. Hey, you can’t please everybody.
THE HILL: House GOP releases payroll-tax package under Obama veto threat. “The legislation will add $25.3 billion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The congressional scorekeeper also noted that the bill includes lower caps on discretionary-spending ceilings agreed to in the summer’s debt-ceiling deal that could reduce the deficit by $1 billion. But CBO cannot include those assumptions in its official score, it said, because they are subject to the enactment of future legislation.”
If revenue is an issue, just add some of my tax proposals to the bill.
#OCCUPYHOLLYWOOD:: Filmmaker Busted For Tax Scam.
AND NOW, IN “HUMAN RIGHTS” NEWS: Red Cross To Investigate If Gamers Are War Criminals.
UPDATE: Charlie Martin says there’s less to this story than meets the eye, and sends the ICRC response.
WAS RUSSIA behind Stuxnet? “So what better way to maintain Russian interests, and innocence, than to plant a worm with digital U.S.-Israeli fingerprints? After all, Russian scientists and engineers are familiar with the cascading centrifuges whose numbers and configuration – and Siemen’s SCADA PLC controller schematics – they have full access to by virtue of designing the plants.”
FRANCE HAS second thoughts on the Euro. “The French have growing reservations about the euro: 36% want to withdraw from the eurozone and go back to the franc, the old national currency; 4% have no opinion, which means that they don’t warmly support the single European currency; 44% say it is a handicap in the present context of a world economic crisis; 45% say it doesn’t serve the national interests of France; and a staggering 62% say it is damaging the average French family’s standards of living and purchasing power.”
#GREENFAIL: Durban Climate Change Talks Suspended.
IN RUSSIA, THOUSANDS PROTEST PUTIN, VOTE FRAUD. “Tens of thousands of Muscovites thronged to a city square to protest against alleged electoral fraud and against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his party on Saturday, and demonstrators gathered in other rallies across the vast country, the largest public show of discontent in post-Soviet Russia. CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports there have been clashes in St. Petersburg, with riot police dragging away protesters. Demonstrations in Moscow have so far been peaceful but they are growing in number and anger.”
MICKEY KAUS: Obama Suddenly Not So Hot On Unions? “It’s almost as if Obama thinks private sector Wagner act unions are 1) doomed 2) politically toxic or 3) unnecessary in the coming age of benevolent paternalistic charity capitalists! … P.S.: Abandoning unions would of course fit in all too well with Tom Edsall’s ‘abandoning white working class’ thesis.”
JOEL KOTKIN: Wanted: Blue-Collar Workers. “That may sound odd, given that the region has suffered from unemployment for a generation and is just emerging from the worst recession in decades. Yet across the heartland, even in high-unemployment areas, one hears the same concern: a shortage of skilled workers capable of running increasingly sophisticated, globally competitive factories. That shortage is surely a problem for manufacturers like Wright. But it also represents an opportunity, should Americans be wise enough to embrace it, to reduce the nation’s stubbornly high unemployment rate.”
EUROPE: Jim Bennett wasn’t crazy about the Felix Salmon post I linked yesterday, and instead recommends this by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Europe’s blithering idiots and their flim-flam treaty.
Given that Merkozy cannot bring themselves to accept that Europe’s debacle stems from the euro itself, from a 30pc currency misalignment between from North and South, and from an over-leveraged €23 trillion banking bubble that German, French, Dutch, Belgian regulators allowed to happen… given that, yes, I suppose they have to find a scapegoat.
They have to whip up a witchhunt against somebody, so why not Anglo-Saxon bankers? Nasty reflexes are at work. German and French politicians in particular should be very careful about inciting populist hatred against a group that makes such easy prey. We have been there before. . . . No doubt these dramatic events will be uncomfortable for Britain, but this will all be swept away by bigger events before long. The Europols have not begun to work out a viable solution to their deformed and unworkable currency union, and perhaps no such solution exists. The system will lurch from crisis to crisis until it blows up in acrimony.
By then, a separate cluster will have emerged (not the 10 “outs” against the 17 “ins”, always a ludicrous concept), but rather a loose Anglo-Nordic-Swiss grouping that may not do so badly on the fringes and may begin to solidify into a seductively comfortable outer tier.
The mere existence of such a constellation might change the calculus of isolation for Spain should it finally tire of Franco-German dictates and depression, or should the Portuguese at last conclude that enough is enough.
Does France, for that matter, really want to be locked into a clammy embrace with an ever stronger Germany? The whole purpose of monetary union for Paris was to tie down a reunited Germany with silken cords. France now finds its own hands tied because of EMU, reduced to a humiliating side-kick.
Jim comments: “Of course, Ambrose is full of English understatement and reticence; I wish he would let go and tell us what he really thinks.”
SPACE NEWS: NASA clears SpaceX for trial run to space station. “A private company will make a trial cargo run to the International Space Station in February, a key step in a new U.S. program to buy spaceflight services on a commercial basis, NASA said on Friday. California-based Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on February 7.”
Obama’s space policy is one of his few initiatives that looks like it’s working.
JAMES TARANTO: Newt Year In Jerusalem: The Associated Press literally doesn’t know the meaning of the word “fact.” “It would not have been hard to recast this story to make it journalistically sound, though it would have entailed a bit more work. . . . Instead, the AP published what is essentially an opinion piece, and a rather lazy one at that. If we may borrow Gingrich’s favorite word, to label that a ‘fact check’–as if it had some greater authority than actual reporting–is fundamentally dishonest.”
#OCCUPYFAIL: The Coming Rift between OWS and the Unions: Longshoremen Reject Port Blockade. “Well over a month ago, when the whole OWS thing was full of piss and vinegar, Occupy Oakland convinced all the other Occupations from San Diego up to Vancouver to stage a total blockade of all West Coast ports on December 12, bringing (it was hoped) the capitalist system to a sudden crashing halt. While the plan is still afoot, the intervening weeks changed the political landscape so much that now I’m pretty sure many of the Occupiers wish they hadn’t made such grandiose pronouncements. On the day the plans were made for the overly ambitious port blockage, OWS felt (in its delusional little bubble, at least) that it was on the upswing, that America was joining them, that the revolution had arrived. Now? Not so much.”
EUROPE’S GREAT DIVORCE. “What is clear is that after a long, hard and rancorous negotiation, at about 5am this morning the European Union split in a fundamental way. . . . So two decades to the day after the Maastricht Treaty was concluded, launching the process towards the single European currency, the EU’s tectonic plates have slipped momentously along same the fault line that has always divided it—the English Channel.”
TEN YEARS AGO ON INSTAPUNDIT: Quoting Ken Layne: “It’s 2001, and we can Fact Check your ass. And you, like many in the Hate America movement, are no longer able to dress your wretched ‘reporting’ in fiction. We have computers. It is not difficult to Find You Out, dig?” Ah, those were the days.