Saturday, July 31, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The fundamental contrast between government by rules, whose main purpose is to inform the individual what is his sphere of responsibility within which he must shape his own life, and government by orders which impose specific duties has become so blurred in recent years that it is necessary to consider it a little further (p. 18)
… the fundamental attitude of true individualism is one of humility toward the processes by which mankind has achieved things which have not been designed or understood by any individual and are indeed greater than individual minds. The great question at this moment is whether man's mind will be allowed to continue to grow as part of this process or whether human reason is to place itself in chains of its own making (p. 32)
I have followed Joel's writing for more than a decade and been a fan of Jeff's insight for quite some time as well. They have done a great job with the Stackoverflow model and I believe the Stack Exchange model of creating new and useful Q&A sites will bring similar success.
Monday, July 26, 2010
That was almost four years ago.
Which makes the following clock, ticking away on Democrat Senator Harry Reid's web site, how should I put this, interesting:
See Senate CIA Leak.
Update: For those with short memory spans, you can find the timeline of the so-called
Plame affair on Wikipedia.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
I'll state up front: I have no problem creditors making loans available under any terms they choose to anyone they choose. I also have no problem people obtaining any loans they choose.
However, that type of freedom only works when third parties are not made responsible for the choices of creditors and borrowers where if a loan goes bad, the creditor eats the loss and the borrower's credit history suffers.
If John Doe decides to claim a $100,000 annual income out of thin air, and Jane Doe decides to take that claim at face value and lend that person $500,000 to buy a one bedroom apartment above Joe Schmoe's Pizzeria in an area where housing supply has doubled in the past two years, well so be it. If John cannot make the payments, he has to move out, and Jane has to try to sell the place for the best price she can get or abandon it.
The whole thing, however, breaks down, when John Doe expects people who did not participate in this deal to pay his mortgage and Jane Doe can offload this risky loan on their backs. That's when bubbles are created.
According to Wikipedia, the U.S. government owns 61% of General Motors and UAW owns 17%.
In my book, that makes you, Mr. President, the ultimate boss of GM.
Under your reign, they have already made dubious claims regarding their ability to repay the government loans that kept GM in business and prevented UAW members from losing their generous benefits.
Now, the other day, I ended up with a copy of USA Today in my hands. In the Money section was a story titled
GM deal helps bad-credit buyers. My interpretation:
The U.S. government is now in the business of making —and implicitly guaranteeing— subprime auto loans. They now own AmeriCredit via their majority stake in GM.
It is not enough that U.S. taxpayers were made to pay for their neighbors' new cars and help out dealers' and manufacturers' bottom lines via the Cash for Clunkers program. Now, they are going to implicitly subsidize loans to a bunch of other people. Of course, GM's car sales will increase. The government will tout this as a success of their decision to bail GM out.
It is unlikely that a company in GM's precarious position would have chosen to expand into financing subprime buyers if it were not owned by the government. Heck, GM would probably not be around if it were not owned by the government.
GM's increased sales of cars financed by subprime loans will cost other auto manufacturers who are not on the government dole and their workers.
The U.S. tax payer will continue to shoulder the burden of GM's decisions while the benefits go to its executives, shareholders, and workers.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
As much as I hate linking to the New York Times, there is something interesting in their report on the Muir Russell inquiry into ClimateGate:
Since around 1960, for mysterious reasons, trees have stopped responding to temperature increases in the same way they apparently did in previous centuries. If plotted on a chart, tree rings from 1960 forward appear to show declining temperatures, something that scientists know from thermometer readings is not accurate.
The question, of course, is
How did they know how tree rings responded to temperature changes in the previous centuries?
Take a look at the distribution of temperature stations in the GHCN:
and then, ask yourself again:
How did they know how tree rings responded to temperature changes in the previous centuries?, especially given the scarcity of locations for which we have temperature records pre 1900.
I am still having difficulty interpreting the chain of events set off by the capture of a secret Russian sleeper cell spy network in the U.S.
Apparently, these people had been cultivating their networks and connections for many years. Now, within little more than a week of their arrests, we find out that they are packing their bags for a trip back home. I cannot help but think that was scarcely enough time to question them and find out all there is to find out about Russian strategy. One question that pops into my mind: Were they really only interested stealing secret information (given the leaky buckets in the U.S. intelligence services, that seems hardly worth bothering with these days)? Or, were they in the U.S. to provide logistical support to others to arrive at a later date with more nefarious goals?
To an outsider such as myself, it seems the Obama administration is very keen on having a pleasant and nice relationship with the Russians — pretty much the same way a hapless member of the society might enjoy a pleasant dinner with Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
At first, the idea of a spy-swap reminded me of the cold war but then, I realized, there is one crucial difference. Whereas the globe was divided into areas under Soviet and American influence and others, today, the Obama administration is willing to stand by as Russian tentacles move farther and farther.
Swapping a Russian accused of spying for the West (who never admitted guilt) with a Russian spy network is hardly a stand one would be advised to take in a game of chicken. Wishing for the Cold War world order is hardly the way to look forward.
Mr. President, you owe it to U.S. taxpayers to explain what the Russian spy ring was doing and why it is OK to send them home.
Oh, and, your experts are wrong!
This is cute:
The prosecution and investigation of the Russiandeep-coveragentssends a message to every other intelligence gathering agency that if you come over here to spy, you will be exposed and arrested,said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. (Source: Business Week)
Mr. Bharara forgot to add that they will face no punishment and will be sent to their home countries to enjoy a well deserved break after 10 days in jail so that the best strategy for said foreign intelligence services is to try to set up as many such cells as possible:
John Rodriguez, a lawyer for Vicky Pelaez, told Wood that his client had been toldshe would be allowed upon her arrival to Russia to go to any country in the world, including Peru. She would be provided free housing by the Russian Federation and a monthly stipend of $2,000, which was for life, and offered visas to her children for the purposes of visiting her in the Russian Federation.
Another update (thanks @DVK)
Putin told The Moscow Times he sang the Soviet-era songs with the spies when he visited Ukraine.
Good times for the ex-KGB agent from the former Soviet Union.
Friday, July 2, 2010
17 years ago today, I was helplessly watching on Turkish TV a bunch of people burn a bunch of other people alive in the name of Islam.
On the TV, various center left members of the coalition were being inteviewed. I cannot remember what they were saying. All I remember was their impotent blabber in the face of a public massacre with TV cameras, police forces, soldiers, local government representatives present.
The demostrators chanting Allah-u Ekber and Long Live Sharia burned a hotel in which a number of participants in a local event had taken refuge. The participants were accused of insulting Islam and making provacative statements. And, surely, they had made provacative statements and some of their statements could have been interpreted as insulting Islam. But, that is irrelevant.
None of the people burned alive that day had used violence against anyone.
As citizens of the Republic of Turkey, their lives and property were supposed to have been under the protection of the state.
They were not kidnapped and then beheaded at secret locations like many others around the world have since been by others who also claim to be acting in the name of Islam.
No, they were killed in front of both the police and the military on site with the events being broadcast on live TV, minute-by-minute. With all of us sitting, watching helplessly, hoping, praying, that someone whose job it is to serve and protect the citizens was actually going to do something to protect these people who were trapped in this building.
They watched when the crowd gathered in front of the hotel.
They watched when the crowd began to stone the hotel.
They watched when the crowd started setting fire to the hotel.
They watched …
All of this happened in those supposed good old days when —people seem to think— Turkey was some secular haven, not under the pro-Islamic government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP.
No, people chanting Muslim Turkey burned people alive in the name of Islam under a center right-center left coalition led by Tansu Çiller and Erdal İnönü.
That is all I have got to say when people claim Turkey and the Turks have become more radical.
Say a prayer today for those massacred that day and their families and friends.
First, let me point out how much I hate it when highly paid government consultants and contractors create badly configured web sites. (Well, I have no proof that NYC OEM's web site was created by highly paid government consultants and contractors, but I am just going to go out on a limb and assume that.)
While preparing this article, I wanted to check something on the web site of NYC's OEM. So, typed http://www.nyc.gov/oem/ in my browser's location bar:
and I was rewarded by this:
Anyone familiar with setting up web sites will notice that entering http://www.nyc.gov/oem/ took me to http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/home/home.shtml/ whereas entering http://www.nyc.gov/oem takes me to http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/home/home.shtml. Oh, what a difference that trailing slash makes.
Anyway, the reason I was trying to go to that web site was to make sure I was looking at the correct Twitter feed for NYC OEM before criticizing them. When you reach the web site, the first thing you notice is that the information on the front page is static. Apparently, it never occurred to anyone that people might actually check the NYC OEM web site to check if what they are seeing is an emergency or if something they are seeing has already been reported etc.
There is a link where you can sign up for email alerts. Well, I do not live in NYC, and I do not want to get emails about blown man-hole covers etc every day, so, I should not be interested in that. Or, should I?
See, the reason I was at the web site and I am writing about this whole thing is kind of interesting. I am visiting a friend on the Jersey side of the Hudson river. This is what we saw when we looked out from her window yesterday:
It looks kind of ominous, doesn't it?
There was nothing on any of the news stations (was not even mentioned on the ticker tape). By this time, we had figured it was probably nothing more than a localized fire, but we were still curious. We checked the local pages of various New York City newspapers and radio stations. Nothing. Then, I had the brilliant idea of checking the web site of NYC OEM.
So, here I am, looking at the completely static front page of NYC OEM. The only link that might provide me with a means to find out if what I am seeing is an emergency is titled Email Alerts Sign Up. I really do not want email alerts. I just want to find out about something I am seeing.
Searching for the keywords NYC, OEM and Twitter leads me to Get short, timely messages from NYC OEM which apparently is a verified account.
Looking at @notifynyc's recent updates, I am disappointed:
Oh, yes, the most recent update is from 10:30 am on June 30, 2010. It is about a brush fire in Howard Beach. It seems like a timely update regarding fire personnel being on the scene.
So, why is a warehouse fire in Brooklyn on July 1st, 2010 not worthy of a mention?
@notifynyc does post something past midnight on July 2nd regarding suspended service on the L train:
Bklyn L train service suspended from Bway Junction to Myrtle Av due to local fire. AM rush will likely be affected. Visit www.mta.info
However, by 6:45 am, WCAX is reporting that subway service is restored. For the record, there is no follow up by @notifynyc. If you are just following @notifynyc, you do not know that the subway service has been restored.
Is the NYC OEM serious about keeping people informed of ongoing actual and potential emergencies in NYC?
Note: I do understand the Disclaimer that the NYCOEM assumes no responsibility to those receiving their tweets. I am not sure if that implies they also have no responsibility to people who want to receive updates about ongoing situations but do not get updates about genuine emergencies.