Posts tagged ‘TJIC’

Sorry to Send You To Harvard With Unhappy Thoughts

I was looking at the searches that brought visitors to Coyote Blog, and in August and early September I had a surge of folks searching Peabody Terrace.   This seemed odd.  Then I realized that this must be young grad students who have been assigned Peabody Terrace as their housing and want to learn about it.  I feel bad that I have to spoil some of their anticipation, but this is what they will find on my site:

And, in case you are one who supports government "redevelopment" and mandates on aesthetics but think that it would all work out fine if architectural experts and committees of academics made the decisions, here is the hideous Peabody Terrace at Harvard University, presumably vetted by the finest architectural academic minds in the country:

Peabody

These buildings, where Harvard stuck me for a full year, were transported right out of East Berlin, right down to the elevators that only stopped on every third floor for efficiency sake (efficiency of the builder, obviously, not the occupant).  The interior walls were bare cast concrete and no amount of heat could warm them in the winter.  It was the most depressing place, bar none, I have every lived.  But the "experts" loved them, and wished that this vision could have been forced by urban planners on all of America:

Leland Cott, an adjunct professor of urban design at the [Harvard] GSD, calls Peabody Terrace 'a model of design efficiency, economy, and attention to scale.'

Fortunately, someone gets it:

The magazine Architecture Boston has focused attention on the controversial aspects of Sert's work by devoting its July/August 2003 issue to an examination of Peabody Terrace, expressing the essential disagreement about the work in the form of a stark conundrum: "Architects love Peabody Terrace. The public hates it."

In fact, the public's hostility to the structures may be in proportion to its degree of proximity, with the most intense feelings confined to those households on the front lines of the town/gown divide....

Otile McManus, in a companion essay, discusses the reactions of many Cambridge residents, who have described the complex as "monstrous," "cold," "uninviting," "overwhelming," and "hostile," and have compared it to Soviet housing.

Actually, the most intense feeling were by those who lived there, who really, really hated it  (though I will admit there were several third world students who loved it -- must have been nostalgic for them).  The article goes on to accuse detractors of being anti-modernist.  Which is a laugh, since my house is one of the most starkly modern in the area, so modern I could not sell it several years ago.  I am not anti-modern.  I am anti-bad-design.

Wow!  I am kindof amazed at the hostility I still feel fifteen years after the fact.  I had started out just to link TJIC's post, and here I am in full-blown rant mode.  Sorry.

A blogger once described the Boston City Hall as "a poured concrete Vogon love poem."  I wish I had said that about Peabody Terrace.

The other thing excited, young Harvard grad students might find at my site is an excerpt from my novel.  This portion is entirely autobiographical (except for not being a girl) and describes my year at Peabody Terrace.

OMG, We Have Really Hit Bottom - Young People Forced to Work to Support Themselves

Back when he was blogging, TJIC had a nice little animated gif with people running around yelling "Oh Noz."

 [update:  sent to me by by the folks at finem respice]

I wish I had it for this chart and the accompanying text  (via Kevin Drum)

Many young adults have felt the impact of the recession and sluggish recovery in tangible ways. Fully half (49%) of those ages 18 to 34 say that because of economic conditions over the past few years, they have taken a job they didn’t really want just to pay the bills. More than a third (35%) say they have gone back to school because of the bad economy. And one-in-four (24%) say they have taken an unpaid job to gain work experience.

First, this study is great evidence of my "what is normal" fail.  There is no baseline.  OK, 24% moved back in with their parents.  How many did this in good times?  How much worse is this?

But the real eye-catcher to me is that somehow I am supposed to be shocked that people have to find a job to pay the bills.  Even a job that, gasp, they really didn't want.  I have a clue for you.  A lot of jobs 22-year-olds have to take are not that compelling.  Mine were not.  Despite what colleges seem to be telling them, the world does not offer up a lot of really cool jobs to inexperienced young adults.  Long before you are closing deals with CEO's, you are probably writing sales literature in some cubicle.

And by the way, I am struck by how wealthy our society is when I look at this chart.  Look at answers two and three.   In both cases, people are saying that in tough times, they chose to forego income and build their skills, even perhaps paying for the privilege.  What other time in history would people have this luxury?  How many countries today would have so many people with this luxury in hard times?  Even in the Great Depression in this country I don't think we saw the same phenomenon.  Obviously the economy sucks and it would be great for everyone for it to improve, but in most other times and even in many other countries in the world today, a significant bar in bad times would have been "I starved to death."

Massachusetts Goes Over the Line

Just after the Giffords shooting, Travis Corcoran, who I link from time to time for his biting commentary, posted something along the lines of "one down, 534 to go."  I didn't like the comment, but it was not wildly different from his quasi-revolutionary rhetoric he often uses when describing the fraud and outright criminality of public officials.  In the context of his body of work, I did not find it either surprising or particularly troubling, and certainly did not take it as a call to action or overt threat.  I merely thought it in poor taste.

The comment went viral, and many others trashed him on blogs and in his comments -- these folks found the comment to be much worse than just poor taste.  Their response was exactly what one does in a free society in reaction to speech we don't like -- we use speech in response.  Travis strikes me as a big boy who was able to handle the consequences of his speech.  Unlike many more cowardly sites, Travis did not re-edit the post to whitewash it or secretly eliminate it.

However, some folks were apparently not happy with just responding with speech.  Typical of modern discourse, certain folks wanted to win their argument by bringing the coercive power of the state in on their side.  Apparently, Massachusetts gun laws allow for revocation of firearms permits under certain vague circumstances (which are conveniently flexible for the state).  Travis had agents of the state (or local?) government show up at his door and confiscate his firearms.  Now, presumably there is a legal ruckus going on (TJIC is not one to take such things passively) and his site is down (presumably under advice of attorneys).

This strikes me as way over the line.  The implied threat does not meet any of the well-worn court judicial tests for speech that can be actionable as a threat.  I don't know enough law, and have not really studied the statute in question, to know whether this particular gun licensing law is able to establish a broader definition of threat (I am not sure it even has been tested in court).

But I am certain about one thing, because the statement I am about to make applies to just about every government law with vague terminology that leaves enormous room for selective interpretation and enforcement:  There is probably no way the state of Massachusetts or the city of Arlington can argue that this effective restriction on speech is being enforced in a viewpoint neutral way.  I bet I could find a whole boatload of radical leftish academics with firearms who have made far more specific threats and never have, and would never have, such restrictions enforced against them.

Update: Apparently there are threats of other legal actions.  I have just no time to blog right now, but Radley Balko has what seems to be a fair take and a lot more information.

I'm OK

For those of you worried, the coyote that was shot by the Boston environmental police (!) was no relation.  Though I would not be surprised if RFK Jr. had them ordered after me, given his statements about global warming skeptics.  HT TJIC

Raising Better College Students

Two great takes on the Amy Chua article on the superiority of Chinese moms.  I will begin by saying that I went to an Ivy League school and would love to see my kids go there as well.  But the be-all end-all drive to get into such a school, combined with 6% admissions rates, seems to be a recipe for a lot of unhappiness.  Especially since the vast, vast  (did I say vast?) majority of the most successful people I have met in my life went to non-name-branded schools.

The first take is from the Last Psychiatrist:

I'll explain what's wrong with her thinking by asking you one simple question, and when I ask it you will know the answer immediately.  Then, if you are a parent, in the very next instant  your mind will rebel against this answer, it will defend itself against it-- "well, no, it's not so simple--" but I want to you to ignore this counterattack and focus on how readily, reflexively, instinctively you knew the answer to my question.  Are you ready to test your soul?  Here's the question: what is the point of all this? Making the kids play violin, of being an A student, all the discipline, all of this?  Why is she working her kids so hard?  You know the answer: college.

She is raising future college students.

Oh, I know that these things will make them better people in the long run, but silently agree that her singular purpose is to get the kids into college.  Afterwards she'll want other things for them, sure, but for 18 years she has exactly one goal for them: early decision.

The second take is from TJIC:

Professor Amy Chua is part of two broken credentialist mindsets: the Chinese Confucian admissions-to-the-imperial bureacracy memset, and the American academic admissions-to-the-Ivy-League memeset. (But perhaps I repeat myself).

Heck, she’s risen to a top spot in the American conformist system – she’s a PhD and a professor at a top university. Of course she buys into the implied social hierarchy.

I climbed much of the way up that particular hierarchy, and then decided towards the end of the process to bag on a PhD. Why? Because I looked around and realized that PhDs, even professors at Ivy League schools, weren’t really accomplishing much, and weren’t really happy.

I do interviews for Princeton as part of the admissions process.  I am not sure that the admissions office would agree with my approach, but I spend time in the interviews trying to figure out if a high achieving student has succeeded by grimly jumping through hoops under his or her parents' lash, or if they have real passion and interest in the things they do.  I tend not to be impressed by the former.

Seriously, are we really celebrating the creation of a whole generation of our brightest kids who get all their motivation externally?  What happens when the motivation prosthetic they have been using goes away?

Postscript: From the first article

That's why it's in the WSJ.  The Journal has no place for, "How a Fender Strat Changed My Life."  It wants piano and violin, it wants Chua's college-resume worldview.

Oh how I wish my parents had forced me to play electric guitar rather than piano.

First Ever Inside Reference to My Novel

This is probably the first ever inside reference to my novel. The funny part is that when I read TJIC's post, I thought "hmm, Preston Marsh, where have I heard that name?"  LOL.  By the way, the business idea Travis has is actually intriguing

Restaurants get napkins and linens as a service "“ every day, they trade huge bags of dirty whites for clean whites. They are in the business of cooking food and hiring wait staff, not in the business of knowing how to bleach things (or in the business of picking out linens that can stand up to bleach).

So what does clothing as a service entail? It could include cleaning, sizing, rotating wardrobes as fashions change, etc.

It removes some hassles, and bundles responsibilities in the place where there are economies of scale "“ people in the fashion industry can and will know more about sizing, cleaning, coordinating, etc. than consumers.

I and others have thoughts on the model in the comments.

By the way, for those who have not read my book, Preston Marsh is an entrepreneur who has made money in a series of sortof odd business models.  Years ago I used to get bored at parties (actually, I still get bored at parties but I no longer use this entertainment technique) and make up occupations for myself.  I remember convincing one woman who had recent evidence that I could not ski well that I was on the Olympic Ski Jumping Team  ("You don't have to turn in ski jumping!")

Anyway, all the business models in the books are ones I made up for myself on the fly at parties.  One involves building fountains in malls and then recouping the investment by harvesting coins from them.  Another, which is central to the book, is a sort of guerrilla marketing startup which does some lifestyle consulting with teens but makes its money placing products in the hands of the coolest, trendsetting teens at high schools (a model that has since been emulated by a couple of real-life companies).

By the way, the book is still on sale at Amazon and available on the Kindle for download.  Just search "BMOC."

Ticket Scalping

I have never really understand all the hatred directed at ticket scalpers.  They only make money because the original sellers of a scarce resource  (e.g. tickets to a concert) under-price their product.  Scalpers live on the difference between the list price of the ticket and the true market clearing price.  So they buy the tickets when they first come out for $80 and resell them for, say, $200.

Scalpers will never go away.  Even if there were not a mispricing problem, there is always going to be a secondary market for date/time specific products that are non-refundable  (just think how great it would be if there were a secondary market for airline tickets you could no longer use, though alas TSA and airline rules pretty much make this impossible).

But scalping would be a lot, lot smaller if concerts just sold the tickets originally at the market clearing price, or held some sort of auction for them.  Then the original price would be $200, not $80, and the margin for flipping the tickets goes away.

Which then presents us this irony for those consumers who whine about scalped ticket prices.  The fact is the higher market clearing price never goes away, even if it is achieved in some sort of black market.  In fact, what eliminating scalping really means is that instead of some people paying $80 and some paying a higher price, everybody pays a higher price.  There is no mystical low price, larger supply solution to the problem.  In fact, the lower price with scalping model really is a gift from bands and concert promoters -- the scalping margin really could be theirs if they wanted it.

I am reminded of all this by this notice to fans posted by the White Stripes' Jack White and linked by TJIC.  The subject in question is limited edition vinyl but the discussion is exactly similar.  White took some small steps as publisher to capture some of the scalper's margin discussed above, and apparently some fans freaked.

Unchecked Power

Private companies can be jerks too, but they don't write the laws or control law enforcement.  That is why government is so dangerous, not because I necessarily trust it less, but because there is nothing acting to circumscribe its power.

Ian Cotterell got bad news Monday night when he learned that a city tow truck had plowed into a Roxbury apartment building he owns, blasting a hole in the brick facade and forcing his 17 tenants to vacate. Yesterday, he got more bad news: The city is ticketing him.

After building inspectors examined the building to assess damage from the crash, they cited Cotterell for "structural defects" including collapsed bricks, damaged windows, and other "unsafe and dangerous" conditions, according to an order issued by the city yesterday.

The order noted that a Boston Transportation Department truck "drove into building," but it also ordered Cotterell to fix the problems within 24 hours and appear in court."It's unfair; the code violations I have because the truck made them,"

TJIC has more at the link

Yep, That's Me

Jeff Wilser via TJIC:

Let's say a man needs to buy a new pair of shoes. Left to his own devices, he would simply buy shoes in bulk, stuffing his closet with fifty identical pairs of sneakers that will last until he dies.

Since I got plantar fasciitis a number of years ago, about the only shoes I can wear without pain are ASICs running shoes.  Since I work for myself, I can get away with wearing whatever the hell I want to work.  Anyway, every few years, I look up the model number of the shoes I like (it changes a bit each year) and order 2 of each color ASICs has, usually 6-8 pair in all.  This tends to last me about 3 years.

Similarly, when I start running low on shirts, every few years I go to a Lacoste or Polo outlet (whichever I find first) and buy about 10 shirts, one of each color I can find.  This usually keeps me out of the stores for years.  For going out, my wife buys me a new Robert Graham shirt for each birthday and Christmas (much more fun than getting a tie) and this satisfies my need for dressier stuff.  Not sure how I buy jeans -- I have a whole pile of identical pairs I bought some time in the distant past that still seem to do the job.

Liberty or Voting: I'll Take Liberty

Couldn't agree more with the thoughts in this post from TJIC:

I was discussing this with Dan Geer the other day "“ the fact that individual liberty (social, economic, etc.) is the goal, and democracy (political "liberty") is just a tool to get there "¦ and not even a particularly good tool.

I'd be all in favor of a limited constitutional monarchy, if the result was "“ integrated over time "“ more social and economic freedom....

Leftists don't understand this at all "“ they think that the freedom to vote for your choice of bully who will lord it over everyone else is the paramount right, and they don't recognize economic liberty at all.

I said something similar in this post on why I don't necessarily treasure the right to vote.

Now, don't get me wrong, the right to vote in a representative democracy is great and has proven a moderately effective (but not perfect) check on creeping statism.  A democracy, however, in and of itself can still be tyrannical.  After all, Hitler was voted into power in Germany, and without checks, majorities in a democracy would be free to vote away anything it wanted from the minority "“ their property, their liberty, even their life.   Even in the US, majorities vote to curtail the rights of minorities all the time, even when those minorities are not impinging on anyone else.  In the US today, 51% of the population have voted to take money and property of the other 49%.

I go on to discuss what things are more important to a good government than voting.

Getting the Feds to 20% of GDP

I thought this Federal budget proposal by TJIC was interesting for a couple of reasons.  Not the least of which is the sight of TJIC trying to be reasonable and compromising.  Libertarians (as with other political extremists, and make no mistake we are extremists) tend to skew between those who want anarcho-capitalism and will accept no less and those who seek for improvements at the margin, believing that the world is only going to change so much.  I would normally put TJIC in category 1 but it is interesting to seem him delve into category 2.  Even I, normally a category 2 guy, can't totally get behind this plan as there are just two many programs, in the words of David Stockman, that need to be zeroed out.

Perhaps No Longer the World's Geekiest Hobby

I make no appologies for how my geeky model railroading hobby.  But here is Rod Stewart, fellow model railroader, standing up for the hobby:

So now TJIC will have to go scrambling through his back issues of Anvil Weekly to see if maybe Katy Perry made the cover.

Congratulations Phoenix-Area Police

Via TJIC, Copblock releases links to police officers accused of committing crimes.  The list for just one week is ridiculously long, and surely would be longer if not for the law of Omerta among police that cause only a small percentage of their crimes to see the light of day.  Congratulations to Phoenix area police (including Mesa and Maricopa County) for making the list seven times.

- Phoenix AZ cop who was charged with murder, planted drugs on mentally challenged homeless lady

- Phoenix AZ cop given 2nd degree murder charge after shooting unarmed man to death

- Mesa AZ cop grabs 2 women by the neck and slams their heads together

- Maricopa County AZ sheriff sued for intentionally locking disabled woman in jail cell w/several men for 6 hours

- 6 Mesa AZ cops sued for tasing, kicking and beating man

- Maricopa County AZ sheriff ordered to fix unconstitutional conditions at jails in ACLU suit by 9th circuit court

- Phoenix AZ cop arrested on DV-related aggravated assault after witness called cops

Solid work for one week.

Same Here

Tyler Cowen writes:

If aggregate demand is so low, why are profits so high?

TJIC responds

SmartFlix  [TJIC's company] has show paper losses every year it's been in existence "¦ but I expect that this year it will show it's first ever paper profit.

"¦which is not a sign of macroeconomic health, but is, in fact, a sign of my very poor expectations for the economy.

Ditto here. We will probably show our largest paper profit this year, but it is mainly because we have cut way back on investment in new projects.  And this has nothing to do with demand - we are experiencing a boom, as the recession pushes Americans towards lower cost recreation of the type we operate, at the same time it cuts state budgets and makes them more amenable to our business model of private operation of public parks.

So why are we cutting back investment?  I run a very low margin service business. Here is a simplified calculation: We make, say, 8% of revenues before taxes and accelerated depreciation. 50% of our costs are labor, and the new health care law may raise our labor costs by 8% or even more.  A four percentage point cut in margins is not a big deal to Microsoft, but it is to us.  Until we figure out how this all will play out, we are still investing but only in above-average opportunities.

When we invest in a new project, it hits that year's income in two ways.  First, we have accelerated depreciation on the new capital equipment.  And second, we typically have a startup loss in the first year.  In the last few years of rapid growth, we have had close to zero paper earnings because of these growth effects.  Once we take our foot off the pedal this year, though, we will show a large positive income.  For us, reduced growth and investment = higher short term reported profits.

Eating Animals to Save Them

Via Stossel

A restaurant in Mesa, Arizona is selling lion meat burgers. Enter the animal rights activists:

Dr. Grey Stafford with the World Wildlife Zoo says that serving a threatened species sends the wrong message. "Of all the plentiful things to eat in this country, for someone to request that or to offer that... I was rather stunned," says Stafford.

... Animal rights advocates are expected to protest outside[the restaurant].

But why?  Lions are listed as "threatened." The best way to save threatened and endangered species is to"¦eat them.

First, I just have to go there.  If they would serve lion meat burritos, I could probably get TJIC to come down and visit.

Second, here are the awesome Mitchell and Webb making the same point, towards the end of this sketch-- animals we think are tasty never seem to go extinct.

The Forgotten Dead

I was thinking today, what must the families of the 11 people killed on the Deepwater Horizon be thinking?  Their losses are never mentioned in any news reports I see.  Its all about getting oil on the ducks.

Sure, I am pissed off about the enormous damage to the Gulf Coast as well.  But I got to thinking, were I the engineer that made the wrong risk/safety decisions here, what would I feel most guilty about?  I was put in that position for years in a refinery, constantly asked, "is this safe" or "can we keep running" or "do we need to shut down" or "is that vibration a problem?"  These are difficult, because in the real-world of engineering, things are not ever perfectly safe.  But never-the-less, if I had made the wrong call here, I think I would be feeling a lot worse about the 11 dead people than a number of dead fish and birds.  Perhaps my priorities are out of whack with the times.

By the way, TJIC has a great post on risk and cost in the real world of engineering.  I agree with his thoughts 100% from my experience as a troubleshooter / engineer in the field making just these decisions.

Look, we all trade off safety in order to save time and expense.

Do you put on your seat belt when moving your car from one point in the driveway to another?

Do you buy the car that costs twice as much, because it's got a 1% increase in crash survivability?

Did you pay $40k to get industrial fire sprinklers installed in your house?

Do you have a home defibrillation machine?

There is nothing wrong, in the abstract, with trading off safety in order to save time and expense.

The question is whether BP did this to a level that constitutes "gross negligence".

Chinese Factories

TJIC writes:

Chinese factory conditions may not be the exact cup of tea for a San Francisco graphic designer or a Connecticut non-profit ecologist grant writer "¦ but they're, by definition, better than all the other alternatives available to the Chinese workers (or the factories would find it impossible to staff up).

I wrote previously:

One morning, a rice farmer in southeast Asia might faces a choice.  He can continue a life of brutal, back-breaking labor from dawn to dusk for what is essentially subsistence earnings.  He can continue to see a large number of his children die young from malnutrition and disease.  He can continue a lifestyle so static, so devoid of opportunity for advancement, that it is nearly identical to the life led by his ancestors in the same spot a thousand years ago.

Or, he can go to the local Nike factory, work long hours (but certainly no longer than he worked in the field) for low pay (but certainly more than he was making subsistence farming) and take a shot at changing his life.  And you know what, many men (and women) in his position choose the Nike factory.

Update: In an interesting question of incentives, Foxconn, the manufacturer much in the news for a rash of suicides at its plant in China, apparently pays about 10-years salary to the families of workers who kill themselves.  They have ended the practice, worried that they are incentivizing some of the suicides.

This Sort of Explains a Lot

Via TJIC:

By the way, where does the government get the money to fund all these immensely useful programs? According to a Fox News poll earlier this year, 65 per cent of Americans understand that the government gets its money from taxpayers, but 24 per cent think the government has "plenty of its own money without using taxpayer dollars." You can hardly blame them for getting that impression in an age in which there is almost nothing the state won't pay for.

Common Cause

I will tell you, those who agree with me on the immigration issue in the Democratic Party are trying as hard as they can to turn me against immigration.  This same thing happened in the Iraq war.  I was against the war, as I thought it a poor use of resources (there are just too many bad governments in the world to take them all down that way).  But when my fellow anti-war travelers agreed with me for stupid reasons (we must defer to Europe, Sadam is not a bad guy, etc.) it almost made me change my mind.  If the people who agree with me are idiots, is that a bad sign?

TJIC has similar thoughts here, and I watched in amazement as the Mexican President yesterday criticized US immigration policy for being to harsh, despite the fact it is far more open than Mexico's own immigration policy.

Shoe on the Other Foot

From TJIC:

I can't condemn illegal aliens in the US, because, if the zappos were on el otro pie, I'd break the law in the second.

Eventually, we achnowleged that the "need to drink booze" was too powerful to prohibit.  My hope is that we will come to the same conclusion for the "desire to seek a better life."

Infographic of the Day

It's either this one, via Flowing Data

Can't you picture some Federal bureaucrat with purview somehow over wood pallet fires trying to fan the flames of public opinion in the interests of his or her job security and budget?

The other candidate is this from an outstanding XKCD post on a color naming survey he did (via TJIC).

The whole post is hilarious and worth you time.

Like Me Choreographing a Ballet

I often respond to various articles that a group of politicians are going to create a strategic plan** for the local economy that this is similar to my trying to choreograph a ballet .  TJIC has similar words for this effort:

Governor Deval Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray plan to propose this week several ways to improve the Bay State's business climate, saying they need to be more aggressive in steering the region out of its economic malaise.

Both have lifelong careers in non-business sectors (government, academia, journalism, legal, non-profit).  TJIC responds:

Asking them to design programs to better the business climate is about like asking me to design menstrual pads "“ I don't understand the sector, I don't understand the features, I don't understand the problems, and there's no way that the effects of my work will ever come back to make an impact on me.

This is reminiscent of this great comment from Kevin Williamson  via Instapundit

The good news is that, when it comes to reshaping the U.S. mortgage market [any market for that matter "” ed.], the Obama administration's top guns are bringing to bear all of the brisk, rough-'n'-ready entrepreneurial know-how they picked up in their previous careers as university professors, nonprofit activists, and holders of political sinecures.

But we are spending more and more to get this "expertise", as documented in a depressing post at Carpe Diem on the growth of government employment and salaries.  One chart out of many:

fedemp

** Footnote:  About once a month we get some group lamenting that Phoenix has no master plan to create some kind of economic focus for itself.  One of the hilarious things about this is that if you go back and look, about half of the past proposals have Phoenix focusing on some super-hot industry (e.g. semiconductor manufacturing, e-commerce) that is just about to crash.  Lately, everyone has decided that Phoenix should be the center of the solar industry, because, uh, we have a lot of sun, without any particular explanation of why having a lot of sun should be an advantage in precision manufacturing and assembly of solar components.  But we are shelling out all kinds of tax breaks and subsidies for these companies to come here.  My prediction - solar will be the next ethanol.  In ethanol, increases in government subsidies caused a lot of manufacturing capacity to be built.  But subsidies could not grow as fast as capacity, and a glut resulted in a huge shakeout.  The solar boom will occur when a technology is perfected that makes solar economic without subsidies.  When that occurs, I will be the first in line to cover my roof in the new tech.

Will They Never Learn?

When will attorneys every get a clue?  Trying to strongarm people in the Internet age often backfires, as it did in this case, where lawyers demand comic book retailer Heavy Ink remove copies of a comic book parodying their client.   Thirty seconds spent perusing Heavy Ink founder Travis Corcoran's blog should have convinced them this would not end well.  TJIC's letter is a great example of not being intimidated by lawyers or the law.

I Thought I Was The Only Curmudgeon Who Obsessed Over This

Via TJIC, I meet this guy on every long distance trip.

Apparently, there are some people who: A) Cannot judge their own speed except in relation to the vehicle directly in front of them, and B) Cannot hold a steady pedal for love nor money. So there we'll be, in the agrarian hinterlands of Indiana or Kentucky; me rolling along in the left lane and passing the occasional car on the right when I notice Mr. Wobbly Throttle a'creepin' up in my mirrors. When he gets close enough I'll signal right and let him pass, which he does, after a fashion, but sort of bogs down once he's just off the port bow. We'll roll in formation like that, me starting to fume, until we come upon a car in the right lane that forces me to turn off the cruise and tuck in behind Wobbly.

As we pass the slower traffic, Mr. Wobbly Throttle, now bereft of vehicles to overtake, starts to slow down. He notices me in his mirror and sometimes darts right, sometimes slows down further and gets passed on the right (traffic gods, forgive me!) I'll hit "Resume" on the cruise control in the left lane, but a mile down the road, sure as God made little green apples, here comes Wobbly again, as though drawn to a magnet in my back bumper. This dance can go on for over a hundred miles, and is pretty well guaranteed to have me chewing the steering wheel in frustration in only a fraction of that distance. For Vishnu's sake, man, pick a speed and hold it!

More Steps Towards a European Style Corporate State

In Europe, economies are run by a troika of politicians, leaders of large corporations, and major unions.  These groups run the economy to their benefit and against entrepeneurs, nwe competitors, foreign competition, low-skilled workers, upstart competitors, and (most of all) consumers.   Q&O discovered someone on the HuffPo of all places starting to see what is going on:

When I heard the word "corporatist" a couple of years ago, I laughed. I thought what a funny, made up, liberal word. I fancy myself a die-hard capitalist, so it seemed vaguely anti-business, so I was put off by it.

Well, as it turns out, it's a great word. It perfectly describes a great majority of our politicians and the infrastructure set up to support the current corporations in the country. It is not just inaccurate to call these people and these corporations capitalists; it is in fact the exact opposite of what they are.

Capitalists believe in choice, free markets and competition. Corporatists believe in the opposite. They don't want any competition at all. They want to eliminate the competition using their power, their entrenched position and usually the politicians they've purchased. They want to capture the system and use it only for their benefit.

This applies to workers as well as employers -- just replace capitalists with "free workers" and corporatists with "unions" in the above paragraph.  This helps to explain why Obama is not actually pro-labor, but pro-union.  Via TJIC:

Workers in Barack Obama's new economic order fall into two categories "” those who are worthy of the president's energies, and those who aren't. You may be surprised to learn where you rank.

Obama doesn't weigh the value of workers based on their paychecks, what they do or whether they slip their feet into wingtips or steel-toed boots in the morning. His sole interest is in whether they have a union card in their wallet.

If they do, the president is in their corner, working hard to make sure they don't get the short end of any stick. But if they are among the 88 percent of American workers who don't belong to a union? Ask Delphi's salaried employees what Obama thinks of them.

As part of Delphi's restructuring in bankruptcy court, the Troy-based auto parts maker dumped its pension plan onto the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.

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That usually means a continued pension check, but one that is much smaller. And for Delphi's salaried workers, that's what they can expect.

Delphi's union-represented workers, however, will dodge that bullet. The Obama administration swooped in and, in an extraordinary deal, is forcing General Motors to make the 46,000 union workers and retirees whole. GM used to own Delphi, and relies on the supplier for much of its parts.

"The U.S. government is taking care of a select group of people and tossing the rest of us under the bus," Peter Beiter, a retired financial manager for a Delphi plant in Rochester, N.Y., told the New York Times.

And it's doing so with the tax dollars of those like Beiter who aren't in the favored class of workers. GM is operating with more than $50 billion in government bailout money.

That gives Obama the freedom to force GM to subsidize the pensions of union workers it has no legal obligation to, and who are employed by an entirely different company.

If you want to see where we are going, read this (and this) about the National Industrial Recovery Act, which FDR modelled after Mussolin-style fascism, whose economic system he greatly admired.