Tuesday, January 27, 2009

R.I.P John Updike

John Updike, has died. Here's a Chris Lydon interview with Updike on the art of taking a walk though a museum.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A little avant jazz in the morning

Keith & Julie Tippett.

Well this isn't exactly news is it?

Obamapalooza is not a loser for the media.

Meanwhile this cartoon sums it up perfectly. Hat tip to Pundit Review.

An unholy, holy alliance?

Philip Jenkins makes an authentic case for reaching out to Sufi Muslims who face the same enemy in Al-Q and the Taliban. Is this realistic? I'm not sure but his argument deserves a fair hearing.

The always sensible Debra Saunders

In the lion's den, Debra Saunders does nuance hyperliberals don't like to hear:
I couldn't vote against gay couples, but I also couldn't vote to create a new class of pariahs. The gay community's failure to show tolerance is costing it friends.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Economist Steven Landsburg has two big ones and he's right

People clearly have a bias against ubiquitous economic progress.
No doubt the new guy, just like the old guy, will require unprecedented new powers to deal with the unprecedented threat to our well being. Obama is already asking for an unprecedented increase in the size of the national debt. Before we go back down that road, maybe we should stop and ask: "What crisis?''

Start with this: You are better off than you were four years ago. After adjusting for inflation, the average American earns about $2500 a year more today than on the day of W's second inaugural. That same average American now spends a little less time at the office or on the assembly line, and a little more time on vacation or on the couch. He or she shops online for products that were unimaginable just four years ago. (How many of you read this morning's paper on your Kindle or iPhone?) The air is cleaner than it was a decade ago and life expectancy is up.

Not that the last president had much to do with any of this. He didn't. It's the way the modern world works. Things improve. Incomes rise, work hours fall, the quality of goods improves. Few things in economics are as consistent as the growth of real GDP per capita over the past 200 years:
To really put things in perspectives read this comment to Professor Landsburg's blog post.

If only the UAW would let them!

Ford's future rests in Brazil. Some people ought to start paying attention to the supply chain.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bombs Away Obama!

The difference no doubt is that President Obama does it with style, panache and a lot of help from the media.

ABC News: Obama to CIA: Bombs Away! No Let Up in US Drone Attacks

The ball's in your court, President Obama

Why is the New York Times reporting this now?

BEIRUT: The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order that President Barack Obama signed that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen's capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was confirmed by a U.S. counterterrorism official. "They're one and the same guy," said the official, who insisted on anonymity because he was discussing an intelligence analysis. "He returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear."

The development came as Republican legislators criticized the plan to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in the absence of any measures for dealing with current detainees. But it also helps explain why the new administration wants to move cautiously, taking time to work out a plan to cope with the complications.

Almost half the camp's remaining detainees are Yemenis, and efforts to repatriate them depend in part on the creation of a Yemeni rehabilitation program - financed in part by the United States - similar to the Saudi one. The Saudi government has claimed that no graduate of its program has returned to terrorism.

An audacious and wise Blue Dog pick

NY Govenor Paterson shows his independence. And he knows how to count votes upstate.
ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. David Paterson has picked Democratic U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill New York’s vacant U.S. Senate seat, an aide to the governor said early today, a day after Caroline Kennedy abruptly withdrew from consideration.

Gillibrand, a second-term lawmaker from upstate New York, will be named to fill the seat vacated when Hillary Rodham Clinton resigned to become secretary of state in the Obama administration, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because an announcement hadn’t been made. Paterson was expected to announce his pick at noon on Friday.

Gillibrand’s office didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

She was considered one of the top contenders in Paterson’s selection process, along with Kennedy and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Paterson’s appointment lasts until 2010, when a special election will be held to fill the final two years of Clinton’s term.

Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, called the governor around midday Wednesday and told him she was having second thoughts about the job, according to a person close to Paterson, who said she later decided to remain in contention, only to announce her withdrawal early Thursday in an e-mail.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who wasn’t among the 10 to 20 people Paterson said applied for the Senate appointment, immediately criticized the expected pick. McCarthy, whose husband was killed by a gunman on the Long Island Railroad, said Gillibrand’s support of more conservative issues such as gun ownership rights was out of step with most New York Democrats.

"I just think it’s a very, very poor choice," McCarthy told News12 TV on Long Island on Friday. "It sends out a very very bad message. I can see the NRA sending out their campaign literature saying, ’Hey raise money, we have to get an NRA member into the Senate from New York.’"

It was still beautiful music

Obama's classical quartet was faking it...sort of. But that did little to take away from the beauty of the music, in my humble opinion.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bravo Barack Obama!

One of my favorite lines from President Obama's inaugural speech: "We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Barney Frank doing what he does best: running his mouth

Caught in a lie, the very glib and very over-rated Barney Frank
Warren did not, however, compare "same sex relationships to incest" or say they are similar. He only said they all fall outside his definition of marriage. That's an important distinction.

The dead-enders wallowing in Bush Derangement Syndrome

It never ends: "It's like a cancer on the brain."

Somebody in a cave has learned a lesson

Saunders, brilliantly observing: "Osama bin Laden may live, most likely quivering in a cave. But no one thinks America is a paper tiger anymore."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

On Skank Patrol: Courtney Love is a self-hating Jew

Courtney Hole runs here mouth and removes all doubt that she's unfit for many things.
COURTNEY Love claims she's not taking drugs anymore, but you wouldn't know it from comments she made in the Jewish magazine Heeb. Love, whose mother is Jewish but who describes herself as Buddhist, says of ex-husband Kurt Cobain's legacy: "Every time you buy a Nirvana record, part of that money is not going to Kurt's child, or to me, it's going to a handful of Jew loan officers, Jew private banks, it's going to lawyers who are also bankers . . ." The former Hole singer also mused on why she's given up playing in an all-girl band: "Like, there are [bleep]ing riot grrls sitting there banging on pots and pans and talking about their vaginas, and that's all really lovely, but the music blows." On why she won't date actors: "They're [bleep]. They're women." And on being a parent: "I'm more like, 'You're not going to do that, so [bleep] off, or I'm taking your computer, and your [bleep]ing, you know, BlackBerry.' "
Nominally Jewish, CL says she's a Buddhist! Oh really? I don't think smearing stereotypes is very Buddhist. It's been some time since small-minded Courtney Love has coursened the culture. Apparently quite a few people pay attention.

Thought for a day

Football great Jim Brown in the January Esquire:
"A liberal is arrogant enough to think he can do you a half-assed favor. He is superior enough to think he can give you something that you don't deserve. A liberal will cut off your leg so he can hand you a crutch."

An American Hero, welcome to the world of Sully

Uplifting our spirits in a time of despair. A miracle on the Hudson finessed by Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot.
"You look at his training, you look at his experience. It was just the right pilot at the right time in charge of that plane that saved so many lives," Anderson said. "He is a man who is calm, cool, collected, just as he was today."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Beige not bright: No light at the end of the tunnel says Fed report

The Federal Reserve Bank's Beige Book reporting on New England and Boston economy:
Business activity in the First District continued to slow at the end of 2008. Retailers report sluggish holiday sales, and manufacturers cite smaller increases or actual declines in revenues or orders in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier. Selected business services firms are somewhat more upbeat, with demand in the fourth quarter stable versus year-ago levels. Residential and commercial real estate markets remain very weak. Respondents expect more of the same or further softening, at least through the first quarter. Many contacts point to declining costs as a silver lining.
Boston report here.

Entire national outlook here.

A real find at four in the morning

Impressive performance.

The new friendly fascism, express and local

College town mentality; economic nonsense.
Call this a case of liberalism via central planning gone wild.

In one of the most politically left-of-center cities east of Berkeley, Calif., ideas put forth at city hall in Madison, Wis. would dramatically limit free enterprise and personal liberty, all in the name of environmental sustainability.

According to the “Broad Strategies” section of a meeting agenda recently posted on the City of Madison Web site, an ordinance being considered would force city zoning to account for and mitigate climate change:

10. Zoning should adapt to meet the demands of climate change; use zoning to address or mitigate effects, or adapt to climate change; remove any barriers to mitigating the effects, adapting to climate change (trees, green space, mobility, renewable energy, land use).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bono on Old Blue Eyes

Bono's very rich and rewarding interpretation of the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra.

Destroying what is not seen

A little lesson in economics.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Let us all praise a great human being: Tony Dungy

Tony Dungy is calling it quits. He will remain one of the most decent men in and out of football:
"While the city of Tampa reveres Dungy for turning a moribund franchise into a perennial playoff team, Indy's bond with Dungy was just as strong.

The city applauded Dungy's achievement when he finally won the Super Bowl and rallied around Dungy's family when he endured his greatest tragedy - his son's suicide in 2005.

'His biggest legacy will be all the people around the country who he's inspired to be better and to deal with some of life's tragedies in a manner that gives people a lot of strength,' Edwards said. 'What he went through with his son and how he handled it, was something that says a lot about Tony, his faith and what he stands for.'

What's next for Dungy is unclear. He has been involved for years in prison ministries, with Family First and as part of All-Pro Dads.

'Where my heart is, is really with our young men right now,' Dungy said. 'We have so many guys that didn't grow up like me, didn't have their dad there and that's something I'm very, very interested in.'"

The grabbing hand of government goes virtual

The IRS enters another dimension -- all in the name of revenue enhancement.
The Internal Revenue Service should start taxing the fledgling virtual economy in Second Life, World of Warcraft, and other virtual worlds according to Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson. In her annual report published on the IRS website, Olsen said that there are still a number of issues that the IRS should "proactively address" before they get out of control. And now that it's on the IRS' radar, it's likely only a matter of time before Uncle Sam tries to figure out some way to get a cut of your gold.

As most of our readers know, a number of virtual worlds involve the trade of real money for various virtual products and services inside of the game(s). And wherever people are spending money, someone is making it. Entrepreneurs are making fat cash off the sale of virtual land, clothing, sex toys, and everything in between in Second Life and other games, and now Olson wants the IRS to go after them.
Next stop for the IRS is the afterlife.

It's about time! Rice enters Baseball's HOF

Better late than never. Jim Rice enters the Hall of Fame. He was one of the greatest hitters to put on a Red Sox uniform.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Distrust those who say "Do no evil"

How can this be?
Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.”

Google is secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint. It also refuses to divulge the locations of its data centres. However, with more than 200m internet searches estimated globally daily, the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions caused by computers and the internet is provoking concern. A recent report by Gartner, the industry analysts, said the global IT industry generated as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines - about 2% of global CO2 emissions. “Data centres are among the most energy-intensive facilities imaginable,” said Evan Mills, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Banks of servers storing billions of web pages require power.
Update here from ArsTechnica.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Song for a Day

The always wonderful Annie Haslem performs Michael Oldfield's "Moonlight Shadow."

Gil Santos to retire. He'll be missed.

A class act opts to retire at WBZ. With Gil Santos gone many are asking what's becoming of WBZ radio given the latest personnel changes? It's unclear whether Santos will remain as the voice of the New England Patriots. That would be an even greater loss.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The revolt against the quants

Joseph Nocera
Given the calamity that has since occurred, there has been a great deal of talk, even in quant circles, that this widespread institutional reliance on VaR was a terrible mistake. At the very least, the risks that VaR measured did not include the biggest risk of all: the possibility of a financial meltdown. “Risk modeling didn’t help as much as it should have,” says Aaron Brown, a former risk manager at Morgan Stanley who now works at AQR, a big quant-oriented hedge fund. A risk consultant named Marc Groz says, “VaR is a very limited tool.” David Einhorn, who founded Greenlight Capital, a prominent hedge fund, wrote not long ago that VaR was “relatively useless as a risk-management tool and potentially catastrophic when its use creates a false sense of security among senior managers and watchdogs. This is like an air bag that works all the time, except when you have a car accident.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the best-selling author of “The Black Swan,” has crusaded against VaR for more than a decade. He calls it, flatly, “a fraud.”
The financial meltdown is proof that the smarter the elites are the dumber they actually are.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The new media coordinated; rivals no more

The news business evolves. The death of competition among daily newspapers. Can you ever imagine the Boston Herald joined at the spine with the Boston Globe?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The wisdom of Instapundit:

"It’s interesting to me that we see far more anger from Old Media folks aimed at bloggers, etc., than at Craigslist, even though Craigslist has done far more economic harm to the newspaper industry than bloggers, who probably add eyeballs rather than (as Craigslist does) subtracting them. My suspicion is that the Old Media folks care more about prestige and position than money, and bloggers have hurt them in the prestige and position department. Of course, caring more about prestige and position than money isn’t a formula for a flourishing business . . ."
Electricity ruined the livelihood of thousands of candlemakers. Craigslist ruined the big city newspaper's business model. Call it creative destruction.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Blago, poster child for rent-seeking politicians

Donald J. Boudreaux of George Mason University and Cafe Hayek:
Fairfax, Va. - Gordon Tullock is not a household name. It's a shame that he's not. In contrast, disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is a household name. It's a shame that he is.

These two men have little in common except that Mr. Tullock, an eminent economist, is the first scholar who systematically grasped and explained why the actions of politicians such as Mr. Blagojevich are so harmful to the rest of us.

It takes no genius to understand why Blagojevich sought to enrich his purse and enlarge his power by allegedly trying to sell a US Senate seat. Four-year-old children understand self-interest and aren't shocked by it. And all sensible adults understand that politicians are no less self-interested than are bankers or beauty queens. As H.L. Mencken observed long ago about homo politicus: "...it is to his interest to augment his powers at all hazards, and to make his compensation all the traffic will bear."

Understanding just how actions such as Blagojevich's create widespread harm, however, is more involved than it appears.

Obviously, a governor who uses his appointment powers to feather his own nest is a scoundrel. And such ill-begotten appointees are likely to be inferior, so the public suffers.

But this is only the tip of the antisocial iceberg. As Tullock first recognized (in a paper published in 1967), enormous amounts of resources – including human talent – are wasted in the pursuit of government privileges.
Yes, more people should be reading Gordon Tullock and the Public Choice school of economics.

Competition wittles away at Internet Explorer

Slashdot: IE Market Share Drops Below 70%
"...Microsoft's Internet Explorer will end 2008 with a historic market share loss in a software segment Microsoft believes is key to its business
More from tgdaily:
If you look closely, Firefox and Safari have steadily gained market share over time, while all IE versions lost share – IE6 faster than IE7, which suggests that more businesses are upgrading their browsers and not all stay with Microsoft.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Always look on the bright side of Life! 2008 wasn't all that bad!

Radley Balko:
Be prepared to see a lot of doom and gloom this week. Those year-end video and photo montages, year-in-review summaries, and "a look back" reflections are inevitably gloomy even in boom times. That's likely to be especially true in 2008, a year that, admittedly, wasn't particularly filled with hope (Barack Obama's campaign promises aside).

I recently heard a conservative talk show host bemoan the "lack of God in our society" as reason for, among other things, the recent "Santa shooting massacre" in Covina, California. The left, meanwhile, is pointing to the financial meltdown as indicative of a different kind of moral failing—the unbridled greed they associate with free enterprise.

Truth is, they're both wrong. The last 12 months may prove not to be the most fondly recalled in recent American history, but things aren't all that bad. Most social indicators are still moving in the right direction. In general, our standard of living continues to improve. Advances in technology are helping us beat the diseases most likely to kill us; giving us more leisure time; making us more comfortable; giving us more convenience; and with the Internet, putting much of the world—quite literally—at our fingertips.