Monday yawns

| April 6, 2009
Time to get up and moving....

Time to get up and moving....

MORNING LINKS — get ’em while they’re fresh

ITEMShould war be a game? is the fatuous subhead of the day, from an article talking about a new videogame recreating the battle for Fallujah (Iraq). The reporter shows no awareness that wargames have been around for centuries and that most of them do indeed “use actual events as a backdrop” and “follow a historical timeline.” In fact, once you set aside abstract wargames such as go and chess (and specialty wargames, such as those with a contrafactual, science fiction or fantasy setting), that’s what the majority of wargames are intended to do.

ITEM: There are no mulligans on the Internet — once you publish something out there publicly, you’ve largely lost control of it. Between Google caches, screen captures, and the Wayback Machine, it’s hard to “recall” a public posting.

ITEM: Will Collier quotes Michael Kinsley with approval on the decline and fall of print newspapers. Key quote from Kinsley: “You may love the morning ritual of the paper and coffee, as I do, but do you seriously think that this deserves a subsidy?”

ITEM: TOTUS comments on David Axelrod’s rants on the Sunday morning talk circuit: “Axelrod decided that instead of explaining Big O’s performance, he’d just spend time ripping into former Vice President Dick Cheney.”

ITEMS: Courtesy of Rachael Lucas, here are two stories that reaffirm why I love dogs: Jasmine the rescue dog (who acts as surrogate mother for wildlife); and Sophie Tucker, the Robinson Crusoe of dogs.

OVERNIGHT LINKS — it’s a brand new week, folks!

The near-daily what-if-Bush/McCain-had-done-this item comes courtesy of Ace of Spades:

“There’s a lot of — I don’t know what the term is in Austrian — wheeling and dealing, and people are pursuing their interests, and everybody has their own particular issues and their own particular politics,” [Obama] said in response to an Austrian reporter’s question.

Austrian? This from a Columbia/Yale Law grad? I’d argue jet lag, but he’s been over there for what, a week?

ITEM: Y’know, given how much Sun has been struggling for the past several years, and after the whole Microsoft-Yahoo debacle, it probably wasn’t a wise move for Sun’s board to get fussy about what IBM was offering, particularly when that offer was apparently quite well above Sun’s current stock price. Sun is now likely to find itself in Yahoo’s position: stock price continuing to decline and no more suitors.

ITEM: Obama is losing…some African-Americans. But not very many.

ITEM: Obama lost Reason pretty soon after his inauguration, but they keep firing away anyway.

ITEM: Obama is losing…Republicans! No, really!

ITEM: In a bold, critical move at a time of crisis, the Obama Administration wants to limit…tourism to Antarctica. Because, you know, those 5 million square miles of (mostly) ice are in serious danger of being damaged by the 30,000 or so visitors each year (most of whom are on cruise ships).

ITEM: Creeping socialism/fascism update: Geithner warns that executives in other industries receiving bailout money could be replaced as well. Even Robert Reich seems a bit ambivalent about this possibility.

ITEM: Creeping…something…update: An effort to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote total for the Presidency — without actually amending the Constitution — is gaining ground. I’m personally appalled.

ITEM: An interesting analysis of the current financial crunch vs. previous popped bubbles (e.g., the bust):

What we’ve offered in our discussion of this crisis is the back story to Mr. Bernanke’s analysis of the Depression. Why does one crash cause minimal damage to the financial system, so that the economy can pick itself up quickly, while another crash leaves a devastated financial sector in the wreckage? The hypothesis we propose is that a financial crisis that originates in consumer debt, especially consumer debt concentrated at the low end of the wealth and income distribution, can be transmitted quickly and forcefully into the financial system. It appears that we’re witnessing the second great consumer debt crash, the end of a massive consumption binge.

That’s the closing paragraph, but the whole article is worth a read to see how the authors reached that conclusion.

ITEM: Speaking of boom and bust — the IT sector is queuing up at the “stimulus” trough.

ITEM: And I thought the US was the one with the crumbling, inadequate infrastructure. Actually, I suspect the US has the best infrastructure in the world, especially given the vast expanse of the US (#3 or 4 in the world) and the relatively low population density (hint: the US is #177 on the list).

ITEM: As my old boss Tony Gibson likes to say, when times get tough, cash is king:

Andy Beal, a 56-year-old, poker-playing college dropout, is a one-man toxic-asset eater–without a shred of government assistance. Beal plays his cards patiently. For three long years, from 2004 to 2007, he virtually stopped making or buying loans. While the credit markets were roaring and lenders were raking in billions, Beal shrank his bank’s assets because he thought the loans were going to blow up. He cut his staff in half and killed time playing backgammon or racing cars. He took long lunches with friends, carping to them about “stupid loans.” His odd behavior puzzled regulators, credit agencies and even his own board. They wondered why he was seemingly shutting the bank down, resisting the huge profits the nation’s big banks were making. One director asked him: “Are we a dinosaur?”

Now, while many of those banks struggle to dig out from under a mountain of bad debt, Beal is acquiring assets. He is buying bonds backed by commercial planes, IOUs to power plants in the South, a mortgage on an office building in Ohio, debt backed by a Houston refinery and home loans from Alaska to Florida. In the last 15 months Beal has put $5 billion to work, tripling Beal Bank’s assets to $7 billion, while such banks as Citigroup and Morgan Stanley  shrink and gobble up billions in taxpayer bailouts.

ITEM: In terms of actual coverage and editorial criticism of the Obama Administration, the Washington Post is eating the New York Times‘ lunch. It makes me wish I were living back in DC just so I could subscribe to the WaPo’s print edition. In the meantime, the blogosphere’s own Ed Whelen takes AG Holder and the Obama Justice Department to the woodshed.

ITEM: Mark Liberman over at Language Log dissects another media (mis)reporting of a scientific study.

ITEM: Speaking of scientific insight — increased CO2 means more plants grow and produce more oxygen! Who could have foreseen that? Maybe, oh, most junior high students? And speaking of global warming….

ITEM: Finally, if there can be “cool spells in a warming world“, doesn’t that likewise mean there can be warm spells in a cooling world?

ITEM: I think that the Japanese plan for dealing with their declining population is just to replace themselves with robots.

ITEM: Scary product idea of the day. (I like Gerard’s name for it: the “Sigorney”.)

ITEM: Also courtesy of American Digest, a European equivalent of “Improv Everywhere”. I dare you to watch this and not just grin:

More links during the day, maybe.  ..bruce w..

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Category: Business, Credit Backlash, Creeping socialism, Economics, Environment, Games, Geopolitics, History, Information Technology, Journalism, Links roundup, Main, Media, Military, Obama Administration, Science, Stimulus, The Interwebs, US Politics

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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