Saturday, September 27, 2008

Brilliant Tactical Move?

In the national review, Byron York writes:
...when it was finally clear that there was going to be a debate at all, the Obama campaign sent an e-mail to reporters attempting to lower expectations for their man’s performance. Nobody paid much attention; it was, after all, an entirely unremarkable bit of pre-spin. But in this case, it turned out to be right.
Is it possible that the McCain campaign purposefully engineered the pre-debate conversation about whether there would be a debate to prevent the Obama campaign from being able to lower expectations? If so, the tactical and strategic brilliance of the McCain campaign is amazing.

Chicken Little

Arizona’s John Shadegg talked to National Review Online about the state of negotiations Friday night:

...Because Secretary Paulson chose to raise the matter in the way he did — that is, to go public in a very high-profile way, not just with his concern, but with a kind of Chicken-Little, the-sky-is-falling kind of demand — it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That is to say, once the secretary of the Treasury announces to the world that there is a pending financial collapse, perhaps as great as the Great Depression, and Congress must act — he has sent a signal that essentially tells world markets that Congress must act. I will tell you that has been one of the most frustrating things about this since the very beginning...

Congressman Shadegg is right about the effect that signals can have. And, it is fair to question whether Secretary Paulson was premature in signaling the pending financial crisis. However, the financial news from that day tends to justify Secretary Paulson's action in asking for a "Chicken-Little, the-sky-is-falling kind of demand".

Arrest Obama

Will the truth squad arrest Obama for falsely speaking of his "muslim faith"?

via Glenn Reynolds and Gateway Pundit

Graft for ACORN

You know, it would be easier for me to believe this was a crisis, if the people in charge were acting like it was a crisis, instead of just an opportunity for graft.
The people who are in charge (Bush, Paulson and Bernanke) are acting like it is a crisis. Unfortunately, since it is a crisis, they have limited bargaining power. Chris Dodd and the Democratic party is exploiting this to line the pockets of their allies.

$18 billion is chump change?!?!
McCain... slammed Obama for requesting $932 million for Illinois since arriving in the Senate (a stat he repeated three or four times). Of course, earmarks only represent $18 billion in spending--a tiny sum, as Obama pointed out.

Regardless of what it is compared to, $18 billion is not a tiny sum. Only someone who has no value for other people's money would consider $18 billion to be a tiny sum. Someone who has that little respect for the value of the taxpayer's money does not deserve to be a Senator, much less the President.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Movies for Liberals
8. The Life of David Gale
What's the worst thing about this anti-death-penalty movie? It's not even Kevin Spacey parsing Lacan! How about the movie's twist ending, in which committed critics of capital punishment are revealed to have engineered a plot to take an innocent person's life just for the publicity? Unless you're one of those liberals who's also a murderous nut, you're more likely to be annoyed than inspired.
I know that Hollywood has a bad reputation with Conservatives (rightfully so), but Hollywood at times is actually a more conservative propaganda vehicle than people realize.
5. The Last Supper
Even if you agree with the liberal beliefs espoused by this supposed black comedy, isn't it a little sad to watch the smug yuppies of The Last Supper murdering the gun nuts, anti-abortion crusaders, and gay bashers with whom they disagree? Doesn't it seem a little bit ... you know ... desperate?

Whoever wrote this list must not have seen the ending. All the liberals inadvertently drink their own poisoned wine, while the conservative talk show host gets the last laugh. I would hardly call that a liberal movie.

via Ann Althouse

The cart before the horse

Cautionary Lessons from the Great Depression; Joe Biden may have gotten a few factual details wrong when he urged President Bush to act like Franklin D. Roosevelt did when he sought to counter the Great Depression. But the basic sentiment that we should now follow FDR's example and take swift, decisive action in the current crisis is one that is widely shared.

In considering this view, it's worth recognizing that many of the massive, decisive government interventions that FDR and the New Deal Congress enacted actually made the situation worse. As I discuss in in this article, the administration and various interest groups used the crisis of the Great Depression to enact sweeping legislation that benefited themselves at the expense of the general public, sometimes in ways that made the crisis worse than before. In these efforts, they were abetted by voters' sense of desperation and widespread ignorance of economics and public policy. This made it easy to portray measures that benefited narrow interest groups at the expense of the general public as "emergency measures" needed to address the crisis.

Ilya Somin makes some very valid points, but is putting the cart before the horse. All of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's mistakes occurred well after the money supply had contracted and the Great Depression had already started. To prevent a depression Congress needs to act before the money supply contracts. Imperfectly preventing a contraction of the money supply is preferable to allowing the money supply to contract because the means to doing so is imperfect.

What caused the Financial Crisis?

via Glenn Reynolds

The lyrics [for (Nothing) But Flowers] describe a post-apocalyptic world in which modern technology has been largely eliminated, and there is "nothing but flowers." The song's protagonist yearns for the disappeared items of his youth such as lawnmowers and fast food. The song is a satire of humanity's alienation from and disregard of nature. The lines "Once there were parking lots / Now it's a peaceful oasis" are a reference to the recurring lines "They Paved paradise and put up a parking lot" from Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi."

I always enjoyed (Nothing) But Flowers by the Talking Heads, but I never knew what to make of the lyrics until I heard Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi. After hearing Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi, it seemed to me that contrary to what the wiki entry says (Nothing) But Flowers is actually a satire of Joni Mitchell's alienation and disregard for material improvement.

I could be wrong, but the complete context of all the lyrics seem to be more an indictment of Joni Mitchell's views than that of humanities'. The song stars out making Joni Mitchell's vision of paradise sound wonderful, but by the end of the song, the listener in most cases will be empathizing with all the things that will be missed by the loss of material progress.

Beer makes you smarter

Deep thoughts on beer and cognition, by Cliff Clavin of "Cheers":


A day late and a dollar short
...senior House Republican... proposed that the government (presumably through the entity envisioned by the Paulson plan) offer to sell insurance to financial institutions that hold mortgage-backed securities (hereinafter MBS). Premiums would be determined by the rates of foreclosure on each class of securities so far. Under this plan, the government would be taking in money, not paying it out. Of course, if the premiums are not enough to cover losses, the government might eventually take losses, as it did when the savings and loan industry collapsed. But losses don't seem inevitable and in any case will mostly occur in out-years, not now.

I believe these mortgage backed securites are already insured. They were insured by AIG. The reason that the federal government had to take over AIG was because the fear that AIG would not be able to meet its obligation to cover those insurance payouts related to mortgage backed securities. So, in essence, the federal government is already doing what is being proposed.
AIG got involved in a new aspect of the financial system: It joined in the selling of so-called credit default swaps. A credit default swap, or CDS, is essentially insurance on debt.

Are you going to get paid on Tuesday?

A LOT of payrolls get paid at the end of the month. The next for many companies is September 30. Three different people with hugely relevant knowledge said to me today words to the effect of: "Why don't your economist buddies want[insert fortune 100 company/companies here] to be able to pay their employees on Tuesday. If Washington doesn't do something now, they won't be able to". That just scared the hell out of me. I can go into more details if you like, but all of them involve the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

As I say, I don't know what your view is. And if it is that the problems with the "bailout" exceed the benefits then I obviously respect that.

A reader of Greg Mankiw succinctly summarizes why everyone should care about the financial crisis. Many companies rely on short term financing to meet their payrolls. Without short term financing, these companies can not pay their employees and will be forced in to bankruptcy. The fear in this crisis is that the credit crunch has made it impossible for companies to acquire short term financing.

Magnetic Fields

Magnetic Movie from Semiconductor on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Milton Friedman on the Great Depression is striking how free-market economics have no place in the current debate. They are not seen as a credible response to a Wall Street crisis, even by the presidential nominee of the Republican Party, who is angrily attacking the "greed of Wall Street." Contra Naomi Klein, an economic shock has sent Republicans skittering away from free-market theories; the last thing the party of small government seems interested in letting markets work.

Unfortunately, some libertarians and conservatives need to brush up on the teachings of Milton Friedman.

In case anyone misunderstands my point, Milton Friedman endorses the view that it is necessary for Federal Reserve to prevent contractions in the money supply. That is what financial crisis and negotiations over the bailout are all about.

Palin's church versus Obama
On the first night of services, Muthee implored his audience to wage “spiritual warfare” against “the enemy.” As I filmed, a nervous church staffer approached from behind and told me to put my camera away. I acceded to his demand, but as Muthee urged the church to crush “the python spirit” of the unbeliever enemies by stomping on their necks, I pulled out a smaller camera and filmed from a more discreet position. Now, church members were in deep prayer, speaking in tongues and raising their hands. Muthee exclaimed, “We come against the spirit of witchcraft! We come against the python spirits!” Then, a local pastor took the mic from Muthee and added, “We stomp on the heads of the enemy!”

I think given a choice between going to Sarah Palin's church or Obama's most Americans would choose Palin's church.

Sexual ethics

A helpful chart in case you are unsure of what your religion's position is on different sexual ethical issues.

I am guessing Ernest Borgnine is a Buddhist.

March of Democracy


Moral Dilemmas
In the judicial system of Imperial China, torture was technically illegal but tolerated because no one could be convicted without a confession. Torture could then be used with these provisions: (1) Questioning could only be done in open court. Since torture would then be administered in public, the public should agree, from the evidence, that the suspect is probably guilty. If it appeared that an innocent person was being tortured, a riot might result. The Judge, who was also the Magistrate of his administrative District, would be held responsible for the civil disturbance. (2) Punishment would be mitigated in proportion to any suffering inflicted by torture. And, most importantly, (3) if it turned out that an innocent person was convicted, the punishment he suffered could be imposed on the Judge. This was called , "reversed judgment."

Financial crisis negotiations
Congressional leaders of both parties and the two presidential nominees met
with President Bush at the White House Thursday to discuss an emerging plan to
rescue the faltering U.S. financial system, but no deal was reached.
A good article on where the financial crisis negotiations currently stand.

A different view on the bailout
My analysis suggests that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (a former investment banker, no less, not a trader) may pull off the mother of all trades, which could net a trillion dollars and maybe as much as $2.2 trillion -- yes, with a "t" -- for the United States Treasury.

Wouldn't that be wonderful. However, his analysis has a very big problem.

My models suggest that Fannie and Freddie, on the other hand, are a gold mine. For $2 billion in cash up front and some $200 billion in loan guarantees so far, the U.S. government now controls $5.4 trillion in mortgages and mortgage guarantees.

Fannie and Freddie each own around $800 million in mortgage loans, some of them already at discounted values. They also guarantee the credit-worthiness of another $2.2 trillion and $1.6 trillion in mortgage-backed securities. Held to maturity, they may be worth a lot more than Mr. Paulson paid for them. They're called distressed securities for a reason.

They are distressed because people are not making their mortgage payments. Consequently, the only way the government can recoup its investment is to foreclose on these people. What are the odds that the government is actually going to go around foreclosing on delinquent payers?

As an interesting aside, the government is buying something it already legally owns through the right of eminent domain.


If you are bored at work, and want to marvel at the night sky.

Human Mating Rituals
Everyone knows that when it comes to relationships, men want hot women and women want money. Well, it's not quite that straightforward. While men tend to prefer physical attractiveness when choosing a mate and women look for resources and commitment, age and social skills are looked at as well when choosing a mate. It's also been shown that a woman who is looking for a short-term relationship, rather than a long-term relationship, will place more of an emphasis on physical attractiveness.
So women can be just as shallow as guys? Who knew?

Your lying co-workers
A pair of recent studies suggest that e-mail is the most deceptive form of communications in the workplace–even more so than more traditional kinds of written communications, like pen-and-paper.

McCain and the Debate

As for the question of Friday night's debate, which some in the media seem to think more important than saving the financial system--if the negotiations are still going on in D.C., McCain should offer to send Palin to debate Obama! Or he can take a break from the meetings, fly down at the last minute himself, and turn a boring foreign policy debate, in which he and Obama would repeat well-rehearsed arguments, into a discussion about leadership and decisiveness. And if the negotiations are clearly on a path to success, then McCain can say he can now afford to leave D.C., fly down, and the debate would become a victory lap for McCain.

It sounds good in theory, but humans only have a finite amount of energy. The risk is McCain might become exhausted from trying to forge a consensus, and consequently might appear tired and cranky in the debate.

48 Laws of Power
Law 45
Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too much at Once Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract, but on the day-to-day level people are creatures of habit. Too much innovation is traumatic, and will lead to revolt. If you are new to a position of power, or an outsider trying to build a power base, make a show of respecting the old way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement on the past.

Obama and McCain must have read these 48 laws of power.


An interesting chess game.

A somewhat interesting chess article.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Interesting work of Art

The Gate Keepers of information

...a reporter asking: "Are you saying Gordon that greed is not good?"

"I'm not saying that," [Michael] Douglas replied. "And my name is not Gordon. He's a character I played 20 years ago."

These are the people we are suppossed to respect and trust to deliver us the news we need to know?

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

A strong leader who punishes cheats and freeloaders can increase the cooperation and riches enjoyed by the rest of the group, according to psychology and economics research at the University of British Columbia, Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Kent.

In a study that looks at the evolutionary role of leaders in society, the researchers explored how having a leader in charge – with the power to punish – works better than spreading responsibility through the entire group.

Interesting, but not an unsurprising result. The problems arises out of the fact that in the real world, a leader with that kind of power has a greater incentive to enrich himself as opposed to the group.

Economic Interests

via Richard Miniter and Glenn Reynolds

Liberals who are constantly claiming that some voters are voting against their "economic interests" need to watch this video and understand the logic behind Bill Clinton's point.

Personally, I would argue that many of the people that liberals claim are voting against the economic interest really are not, but even if they are, Bill Clinton make exactly the right point about why their voting choices should be respected.

Another One Bites the Dust by Queen

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Prodigal Son's Prayer by Dierks Bentley

Palin Hatred

Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics?
Generally, when someone asks that question, it is because they presume that they are "elite". The reason that Americans respond negatively to someone who thinks they are elite, is because the facts are generally otherwise.
In speaking before her church about her son going to war in Iraq, Palin urged the congregation to pray "that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God; that's what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God's plan." When asked about these remarks in her interview with Gibson, Palin successfully dodged the issue of her religious beliefs by claiming that she had been merely echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln. The New York Times later dubbed her response "absurd."

If this member of the "intellectual elite" had done a little research, he would have learned that Sarah Palin was right, and the New York Times called her response "absurd" because apparently they were unaware that Charlie Gibson misquoted her.

Her answers about why she had told her church that President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq was “God’s plan” did nothing to dispel our concerns about her confusion between faith and policy. Her claim that she was quoting a completely unrelated comment by Lincoln was absurd.

Gibson's truncation of her comments — omitting the crucial words "pray for" — change the meaning of her comments from a wish to a certainty. Palin's and Lincoln's words are similar in that they both express a hope that a plan meets with God's favor. Granted, some people find any mention of God's will and warfare to be disturbing. But we find similarities between the two sets of comments. We find Palin's statement Mostly True.

Finally, the author of the Newsweek Article says:

You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps. In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades...

Considering as much venom that he has for Sarah Palin, I think it is safe to assume he is going to vote for Obama. Hence, I find it ironic that he failed to note that people could use his logic to say the following about Obama: Obama worshipped for decades under the tutelage of a minister (Jeremiah Wright) who thinks America should be damned, and was friends for numerous years with a man (William Ayers) who regretted not committing more terrorism against America.

Wealth Creation for Poor Countries
via Adam Smith
..."Top Unsolved [Economic] Question": why are poor countries poor and what can we do about it?

Why is this one of the top unsolved mysteries of economics? Many economist believe the answers to these questions are already known. Those economist would argue poor countries are poor because they violate basic tenets of free markets, and the way to make them wealthy is to get them to embrace free markets (i.e, low taxes, strong property rights, and marginal to no government interference in the market place via either regulations or bribes).

These economist would argue it is not necessary to understand why poor countries are poor to understand how to make them wealthy. Nations only become wealthy when its citizens become wealthy. So obviously, to make poor countries wealthy, nations should strive to make its citizens wealthy.

So, the real question is what can be done to alter the incentives that influence citizens to become wealthier. Before economist can answer this, they need to understand what motivates citizens to accumulate wealth. Every citizens' motivation to accumulate wealth is a function of the following:
  • Expected Value of Working
  • Expected Value of Leveraging and Acquiring Assets
  • Expected Value of Settling and Accruing Liabilities

A citizen's expected value of working is a function of their labor rate minus the opportunity cost of lost free time. A citizen's labor rate is a function of their innate ability, the labor market and the tax rate. The opportunity cost of lost free time is a function of a citizen's wealth (i.e., the citizen is subsidizing his own time), and the value the citizen places on his free time.

This function gives poor nations 5 options to increase a citizen's expected value of working and hence increase their incentive to become wealthy. Those options are:

  • Invest in the citizen's innate ability. This option only works if the return on the investment to society is greater than the investment.
  • Subsidize the labor rate. This option only works if the return on the investment to society is greater than the investment. It is almost impossible to recoup the investment
  • Tax idle time. It is probably pretty hard to tax idle time, but if it can be done, it should increase the return on working.
  • Regulate the labor market. Generally, regulating the labor market has adverse affects on the labor rate for society, but maybe there are some regulations that will increase the labor rate.
  • Keep taxes low.
Of all the options, keeping taxes low is the easiest cheapest means of encouraging citizens to accumulate wealth.

A citizen's expected value of leveraging and acquiring assets is a function of the following:
  • Value of the assets
  • Taxes
  • Safety of the investment
  • Expected inflation rate
  • Expected rate of return.
Consequently, poor nations can help citizens increase the expected value of leveraging and acquiring assets by:
  • Having a sound monetary policy that keeps inflation low which maintains the value of assets.
  • Keeping taxes low on both the value of the assets and the expected rate of return.
  • Enforcing property rights making investing safer.
  • Keeping market regulations minimal making investing safer.
  • Enforcing contracts making investing safer.
  • Preventing theft and bribery making investing safer.
  • Keeping the expected rate of inflation low. In the short run, an increase in the expected rate of inflation increases a citizen's incentive to acquire assets, but over the long run, they erode the value and overwhelm any benefits that are derived from it.
A citizen's expected value of settling and accruing liabilities is a function of the following:
  • The interest rate
  • The penalty of default
  • The inflation rate
  • The expected inflation rate
There are 3 things that poor nations can do to increase a citizen's expected value of settling and accruing liabilities. They can increase the inflation rate, increase the expected inflation rate and they can lower the penalty of default. These options are effective in the short run, but carry large penalties to society over the long run.

The free market economic argument provides the best explanation of how poor nations can lift themselves out of poverty. Also, it can be used to examine each poor country on a case by case basis to understand why poverty affects those nations.

Questioning the Surge

By tracking the amount of light emitted by Baghdad neighborhoods at night, a team of UCLA geographers has uncovered fresh evidence that last year's U.S. troop surge in Iraq may not have been as effective at improving security as some U.S. officials have maintained.

Night light in neighborhoods populated primarily by embattled Sunni residents declined dramatically just before the February 2007 surge and never returned, suggesting that ethnic cleansing by rival Shiites may have been largely responsible for the decrease in violence for which the U.S. military has claimed credit, the team reports in a new study based on publicly available satellite imagery.


The researchers ... looked at the sectarian makeup in the 10 security districts for which the DMSP satellite took readings on four exceptionally clear nights between March 20, 2006, when the surge had not yet begun, and Dec. 16, 2007, when the surge had ended.

Despite what the press release says, if you look at the study, you see that they only looked at 3 nights (March 20, 2006, March 21, 2007 and December 17, 2007) over the mentioned time frame (the fourth day they looked at was in 2003). What if there were power outages on December 17, 2007? If so, all of the studies conclusions would seem to be very flawed. If scholars are going to attempt to answer questions like this, shouldn't they be as thorough as possible? Does this study actually meet the criteria of being a credible study?

Here is a study and an Iraqi public opinion poll which shows evidence that the Surge has had some success:
Pre-surge, 24% of Iraqis felt good about their ability to go where they wanted safely. Post surge, that number had improved to 44%. Pre-surge, 23% of Iraqis felt good about their ability to live where they wanted without persecution. Post surge, that number had improved to 40%.

Those number's cannot be reconciled logically with the conclusions of the above study.

Ivory on eBay

I kind of find that surprising. I have tried to list things on eBay that were not made of Ivory, but had Ivory in the pattern name, and eBay would not let me sell the item unless I took Ivory out of the title and description. Although, it might have been because I was an international seller.

Music Industry
Just as vinyl once gave way to compact discs as the main physical medium for music, could CDs be replaced now by a fingernail-sized memory card? Perhaps not entirely, but SanDisk Corp., four major record labels and retailers Best Buy Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are hoping that albums sold on microSD memory cards will at least provide an additional stream of sales. The companies were expected to unveil plans Monday to sell memory cards loaded with music in the MP3 format, free of copy protections.
The problem with the music industry is that they are losing control over their products (technology has made it to easy for consumers to get songs without having to pay for them). Switching from CDs to memory cards is not going to reverse the problem.

To combat this problem, the music industry should stop selling albums and downloads. Instead, the music industry should switch to exclusively selling the rights to play songs to subscription services such as Rhapsody. If they were to change their business model in this way, they would be able to regain total control over their product.

Gwen Ifill to moderate the VP Debates;_ylt=Akkl8_crskU25Y8.TGkT5X1X24cA

"The biggest pressure you have as a journalist ever is to make sure you get an answer to your question," said Ifill, whose crowded resume includes The New York Times, The Washington Post and NBC News. "That's what I'm focusing on — how to ask questions that elicit answers instead of spin, or in this case to elicit engagement between the two."
I hope someone tells Gwen she is acting as a moderator and not a journalist. It is not her position to determine whether a response is spin or an actual answer to the question. The American people can determine that for themselves.
Conservatives and Republicans ought to be watching these moderator performances and questioning why they have allowed the Commission on Presidential Debates to choose only liberal journalists who put Republicans on the defensive and ask Democrats if they feel "personally attacked."
I hope our readers won't mind if I start with Ifill. Because we attack the MSM so often, it seems only fair to praise one of its members when praise is due, and it is certainly due tonight. I saw not the slightest hint of bias on Ifill's part. She asked mostly tough, mostly intelligent questions of both candidates, and somehow managed to be stern, friendly, and entertaining all at the same time. If she can keep it up, the presidential debates could be blessed for decades with that rarest of "brokers" -- one that is both fair and intelligent.

The above links provide 2 contrasting conservative perspectives on Gwen Ifill's performance 4 years ago in the VP debate. I was worried about her bias possibly affecting the debate when I first saw that she was going to be the moderator, but maybe I should give her the benefit of the doubt.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Well that's good!
It turns out that older men chasing younger women contributes to human longevity and the survival of the species, according to new findings by researchers at Stanford and the University of California-Santa Barbara.
I no longer feel like a perverted old man.

Indoctrinating College Students

Pick up the mission statement of almost any college or university, and you will find claims and ambitions that will lead you to think that it is the job of an institution of higher learning to cure every ill the world has ever known: not only illiteracy and cultural ignorance, which are at least in the ball-park, but poverty, war, racism, gender bias, bad character, discrimination, intolerance, environmental pollution, rampant capitalism, American imperialism, and the hegemony of Wal-Mart; and of course the list could be much longer.

College and university teachers can (legitimately) do two things: 1) introduce students to bodies of knowledge and traditions of inquiry that had not previously been part of their experience; and 2) equip those same students with the analytical skills — of argument, statistical modeling, laboratory procedure — that will enable them to move confidently within those traditions and to engage in independent research after a course is over.

Ideally the free market would take of this. However, unfortunately, universities have become highly subsidized entities where upper middle class welfare kings and queens milk the public trough for every penny they can get and attempt to indoctrinate the young into the political ideology that is dedicated to keeping the money flowing. Not all professors have fallen into this trap, but unfortunately, far too many have.

Republicans need to wake up to this and drastically alter the way colleges and universities are funded. It is not like the system works very well for the tax payer as currently designed. The only real winners in the current system are the schools and the lenders.

Students really are not served to well by the system. Those who get financial aid from the government generally fall into a trap of a lifetime of debt which can only be broken by defaulting on the loan. Those who are not fortunate enough to get financial aid are punished by the system, because more students means higher tuition rates.

The big losers in this system are the American tax payers who have to bail out those students who default on their loans.

Cracked Mocking Movies (contains spoilers)

Full of Spoilers (via Viking Pundit)

People hate plot holes in movies. At least, that's what they'll tell you. But sometimes, if a movie is awesome enough, people will overlook even the most retarded gaps in reason and logic. At least, until some asshole on the Internet points them out and makes a big list of them. Enjoy:

So how does [Superman] respond when he returns and learns about his son? By breaking into Lois's house, telling him "good luck with the whole outcast thing kiddo", and leaving him alone. Again. So we're left with a kid who has:
1. Superpowers;
2. Gross genetic defects;
3. Good reason to hate Superman.
We're betting that he's going to end up a supervillain, and you know what? If he takes on Superman we think we're rooting for the kid.

"We'll just fix that in post!" has always been the rallying cry for filmmakers in the middle of a troubled production. Unfortunately, sometimes things have a nasty habit of actually getting broken in post-production, usually thanks to studio interference.

To the gaping plot holes list I would add the movie The Usual Suspects:

When Kujan drops the coffee mug, Kobayashi is revealed suggesting that Verbal/Keyser Soze made up the name of the lawyer. However, here is part of the script from an earlier scene in the movie, where the FBI Agent Baer confirms that Kobayashi is actually the name of the lawyer:

Rabin and Jack Baer are in the hall. Rabin hands Kujan a thick manila folder. Kujan thumbs through it.
A boy came across a body on the beach this morning. Thrown clear when the boat burned. Shot once in the head. Two guys from the F.B.I. just identified him.
And ?
His name was Arturo Marquez. A pettysmuggler out of Argentina. He was arrested in New York last year for trafficking. He escaped to California and got picked up in Long Beach. They were setting up his extradition when he escaped again. Get this - Edie Finneran was called in to advise the proceedings.

Bear nods.

Financial crisis

A longtime student of the Great Depression, Mr. Bernanke was acutely aware of what could happen without a decisive move. Finally, the moment that called for action arrived late Wednesday.

“There are no atheists in foxholes and no ideologues in financial crises,” Mr. Bernanke told colleagues last week, according to one meeting participant.

In the end, what left so many lawmakers and economists frustrated was the sense that no one had a better idea. So they waited for Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke to give them more details about what they wanted to do.

Paulson and Bernanke may very well go down in history as the 2 men who prevented another great depression. Hopefully, once stability is returned to the financial system, America can return to a more Free Market system, but right now, the most important thing is to return stability to the financial system.

If lawmakers and economists wanted better ideas, they should have turned to Sebastian Mallaby.

Envy is never a pretty thing

The rise of Sarah Palin inevitably prompts me to ponder the demise of meritocracy in America....

In America these days, we award everyone for merit, from the brilliant to the mediocre. Just as in Little League, everyone gets a trophy. It's the ultimate in populist democratization.... Palin... is merely the latest beneficiary in the national celebration of mediocrity, much like one of those early-round American Idol entrants who wins insta-fame for being Just Like Us.

Apparently Dick Pulman does not understand what meritocracy is. Meritocracy is a system where individuals are rewarded based upon merit. He cries that meritocracy is coming to an end. Then, a few paragraphs later he bemoans that everyone is rewarded based upon merit.

I think Dick Pulman suffers from penis envy. I think that it drives him crazy that someone he considers beneath him (i.e., Sarah Palin) very well may achieve more in life than he will ever be able to accomplish.

...[Ohio] would seem ripe for a Democratic candidate this year. Its unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, well ahead of the national rate of 5.5 percent after years of losses of manufacturing jobs. The faltering economy has forced the new Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, to cut nearly $1.3 billion from the state's budget this year. Mr. Strickland led a political resurgence for his party in 2006, as Democrats captured the governor's mansion, a Senate seat and a U.S. House seat.
Maybe Obama had a good reason, but I do not understand why he didn't pick Ted Strickland to be his running mate.

Blame Whitey

Previous research suggests that narrow identification with one’s own racial group impedes coalition building among minorities. Consistent with this research, the 2008 Democratic primary was marked by racial differences in voting preferences: Black voters overwhelmingly preferred Barack Obama, a Black candidate, and Latinos and Asians largely favored Hillary Clinton, a White candidate. We investigated one approach to overcoming this divide – highlighting one’s negational identity.

...we propose a different approach for dealing with narrow racial identification in a sociopolitical context. Recent research suggests that affirmational identity – who or what we are – may not be the only source of identification. Groups to which we do not belong to may be equally informative to our sense of self, with individuals being able to identify negationally by focusing on what they are not. Thus, an individual could focus on being Black, an affirmational identity, or on not being White, a negational identity.

Clearly, the authors think it is permissible to encourage people to think of themselves as not white as a means to an end of getting them to vote for the non white candidate. I wonder what these authors would think about encouraging people to think of themselves as not black as a means to an end of getting them to vote for the non black candidate.

Kind of sounds like they are encouraging politicians to embrace racism.

via Jonah Lehrer

Somewhat interesting article on the brain really is blind; romantic love turns down or shuts off activity in the reasoning part of the brain and the amygdala. In the context of passion, the brain's judgment and fear centers are on leave. Love also shuts down the centers necessary to mentalize or sustain a theory of mind. Lovers stop differentiating you from me.
via Andrew Sullivan

Catch Me Up by Gomez