Today's WSJ editorial correctly identiifes the major problem we, as a democratic society have with limited, or no ballot choices. I believe one of the reasons for this problem is the increasingly cozy ties between a concentrated media (which growing numbers of citizens are turning off) and politicians.
Interesting summary by Tom Schultz on the link between Watertown's Davies Award, the UW and controversial VP Dick Cheney.
Barry Ritholtz nicely summarizes the monopolist's modus operandi:
Microsoft has a monopoly on the desktop -- and because of that, there are certain behaviors they are legally restricted from engaging in (at least, in legal theory). Microsoft should not be able to disadvantage competitors by leveraging that monopoly in a way that restricts competition.Clearly, in the case of newspapers, protected by the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970, it's rather simple to create additional print publications, that for others would be expensive. Similarily, they can use this monopoly postion to give away advertising products & content, if necessary, to kill competition (just like Microsoft gave away Internet Explorer, to "cut off Netscape's air supply").
Search is a perfect example: By setting the default to MSN search, and making it extremely awkward to change it, they automatically become one of the top 3 players in that space. What would take any other company billions of dollars to do, they get for, oh, about nothing.
Stanley Miller's article on SBC's Oconomowoc fiber to the home project (Paved over Pabst Farms new developments only) provides a useful look at what's possible, if the monopolistic telco's ever are motivated to provide reasonable internet speeds (Japan and Korea already have very large scale, inexpensive deployments at these speeds). We in the tech industry refer to these type of projects as demoware.
David Isenberg reviews an interesting recent study (May, 2004) by Telcordia and Sanfor Bernstein (investment houses) called Fiber: Revolutionizing the Bell's Telecom Networks. The study claims that fiber to the premises (FTTP) would reduce (by 30 to 90%!! the telco's operating expenses (in other words, pay for itself over time, vs. the high costs of maintaining their aging copper networks. Interesting reading.
This is a critical economic development issue. Unfortunately, our politicians seem to have their head in the sand on this (SBC status quo lobbying helps, no doubt). I mentioned this issue to then candidate Jim Doyle at a pre election debate: "SBC's telco stranglehold on Wisconsin is a major economic development problem" He replied (paraphrased); "you're right, but we have other economic problems to address first". I think he has this wrong. True high speed bi directional connectivity opens up enourmous new business opportunies.
If the government had access to the communications between a client and his lawyer, the lawyer would be nothing but a government agent, like Soviet defense attorneys, whose official role was to serve as adjuncts to the prosecution.
Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton, "The Tyranny of Good Intentions"
Once upon a time, the U.S. Justice Department respected the legal rights that make law a shield of the innocent rather than a weapon of government. No more. What the great English jurist William Blackstone called "the Rights of Englishmen" have been eroded beyond recognition.I've written about tax issues before, including this article on our very odd SUV subsidies.
The last remaining right — the attorney-client privilege — is under full-scale assault by Justice Department prosecutors in the tax shelter case involving the accounting firm KPMG. The Justice Department has demanded, and the accounting firm has agreed to, a waiver of the attorney-client privilege for communications between lawyers and KPMG employees involved in marketing tax shelters the Internal Revenue Service has challenged.
The attorney-client privilege was long championed by jurists because they realized the privilege promoted equality under the law. Convictions can result from lack of access to legal knowledge as well as from actual wrongdoing. To ensure defendants would avail themselves of legal counsel, their communications with attorneys were made confidential, outside the reach of prosecutors.
In recent years, the Justice Department has taken the position that winning its cases is more important than historic rights centuries in the making. Arguing that the innocent have nothing to fear from their attorneys' disclosures of their confidences, department has employed various means of subverting the attorney-client privilege.
Sentencing guidelines from the White House-appointed U.S. Sentencing Commission have greatly strengthened prosecutors' ability to attack the attorney-client privilege. Indictment of a company and the severity of punishment depends on its "cooperation" with the investigation.
A January 2003 memo by Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, defines "cooperation" in a way that drives a wedge between a company and its employees. A company that pays its employees' legal fees is defined as uncooperative.
Faced with the threat of being declared uncooperative, KPMG announced it would pay its employees legal fees only if they waived the attorney-client privilege and "cooperated" with the investigation. Invariably, "cooperation" requires self-incrimination and negotiation of a guilty plea. By making it impossible for a defendant to defend himself, the government need never have a real case.
Americans must think seriously about the quality of "justice" coming from the Justice Department. Prosecutors have defined "cooperation" as aid in convicting oneself or a fellow employee, as waiving all constitutional rights and privileges, as betrayal of fellow employees and as helping prosecutors create the appearance of guilt even when no crime has been committed.
Among the pending victims in the KPMG case, Jeffrey Eischeid faces 20 years in prison for marketing KPMG tax shelters that experts said were legal.
The IRS has the right to challenge the tax shelters, and the accounting firm has stopped marketing them. But for the Justice Department to retroactively declare them illegal illustrates the precarious position of a defendant today. Whatever he has done can be declared illegal after the fact.
The Justice Department also has disposed of the legal principle there can be no crime without intent. Neither Jeffrey Eischeid nor other KPMG employees knowingly or intentionally sold illegal tax shelters. The products were approved by KPMG's professional responsibility committee, and the IRS' challenge does not mean a crime was committed.
However, Justice prosecutors have become experts at creating the impression crimes have been committed. By stripping away a defendant's rights, prosecutors can coerce a guilty plea, crime or no crime.
Conservatives who prattle about Americans living under a rule of law are speaking of a bygone era. The rule of law ended during the New Deal, when President Franklin Roosevelt turned congressional statutes into authorization bills for federal bureaucrats to legislate via regulations.
Today, there is even less accountability. Appointed officials make criminal law without even a congressional authorization bill. The Sentencing Commission's "proposals" become law unless Congress vetoes them. What we are witnessing is the emergence of a fascist legal order in which law and legal procedure are whatever unelected officials decide serves the interest of government.
How else can we explain how the four foundations of our legal system — no retroactive law, no crime without intent, no self-incrimination, and the attorney-client privilege — have been swept aside in the federal case against KPMG?
Paul Craig Roberts is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.
Dean campaign architect Joe Trippi's new book discusses the power of the internet and how individuals and organizations can benefit.
Steve Fainaru continues his series on the monopoly that is baseball, including Bud Selig's all powerful role in the game and public financing of stadiums. Today's article includes quotes from Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis) regarding a potential baseball team in Washington, DC (nice to see the Senator spending time on important issues....)
I continue to be amazed that it took a newspaper 700 miles from Wisconsin, The Washington Post, to write this series on the fleecing of taxpayers. Perhaps former Governor Tommy Thompson helped out - he's quoted in the articles.
Fore (friends of responsible energy) Madison has quite a bit of information on this issue.
I've written about MGE's high rates and routing cash through the Kansas Democratic Party (!) before.
Fascinating article by Steve Fainaru on Bud Selig's Miller Park hardball tactics (with some interesting comments from former governor Tommy Thompson):
The soaring brick ballpark on the outskirts of this city took the lives of three ironworkers. It cost a Republican state senator his job and set back taxpayers a sum equal to the Milwaukee County parks budget projected over the next decade. It nearly exhausted the political capital of the former governor, Tommy G. Thompson, who championed the stadium to keep Wisconsin "major league." But Thompson won't set foot in the place. Last year, when the ballpark's tenants, the Milwaukee Brewers, invited Thompson to Opening Day, he declined. He did it to protest Brewers owner and Commissioner of Baseball Allan H. (Bud) Selig, who, Thompson said in an interview, provided misleading financial information to get the stadium built, then broke promises to use the increased revenue to make the Brewers competitive.I've not set foot in Miller Park, and don't plan to. Then, there's this quote from the deputy editor of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on their predicament (the newspaper's parent company's Chairman was a lobbyist for the stadium!):
"There were just so many misleadings and mischaracterizations," said Thompson, now Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Bush administration.
Inside the newspapers, reporters and editorial writers felt constrained. "We were totally compromised at that point," said Sue Ryon, deputy editor of the Milwaukee Journal's editorial page, then the lead editorial writer on the stadium issue. "We had no credibility. Anything we said, it was, 'Well, who can believe them? Look at the position they're in?' We felt as a newspaper, as an editorial board, handcuffed, and that was pretty much from the beginning."Two useful links: Field of Schemes | Doug Pappas site
I don't support recording movies in theatres, however, it seems absurd with the challenges our country faces today, including health care, education, terrorism and job growth, that our elected senators (Kohl | Feingold) would support - unanimously, this bill (S.1932). Once again, our elected senators are bowing to the cash machine from Hollywood and the RIAA. Nice work. Contact Senators Kohl and Feingold and let them know that there are much greater priorities than this....
What a waste of time and money.
Perk Hoggs on the cost of executive perks.
The problem is not the cost of the perks themselves; at a ten-billion-dollar corporation, they’re hardly even a rounding error. It’s what they are symptomatic of. Perks and rigid management hierarchies tend to go together; perks are designed in part to reinforce status divisions, and rigid hierarchies do not lend themselves to intelligent decision-making, since they isolate executives from the rest of the company. Also, C.E.O.s who indulge in perks are likely to be profligate in general with shareholder money.There are problems in both the private and public sector. Our senators have incredible health care AND average much better investment returns than us poor taxpayers. There are plenty of examples of corporate excess. Hoggs makes some useful points. Via John Robb.
But he reverted to form, pretty much insisting that Verizon would reserve the right to discriminate on what gets delivered, and at what speed, on the lines and networks it controls.Residential internet users should, like those in Japan and Korea have much faster broadband connections at attractive prices. Current US dsl and cable options are quite slow compared to what's readily available in other countries (speeds to 20mbps and beyond vs dsl at 768kbps).
Here's an economic development issue, if there ever was one. I mentioned this issue to then candidate Jim Doyle some time ago......
It seems odd to me that the defenders of the PATRIOT act urge us to look at the details of the Act and stop viewing it as Federal law enforcement's ticket to do essentially whatever law enforcement wants, without procedural safeguards.
When you get into the trenches and watch how they are actually using PATRIOT, however, it becomes pretty clear that law enfocement has interpreted it as their ticket to do whatever they want.
My personal pet peeve is the Treasury Department's abuse of PATRIOT, as part of investigations having absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.
For instance, I represent a small Internet service provider. Over a year ago, they received from the Customs Service (part of Treasury) a subpoena for a customer's personal information. The Subpoena purported to be about some buzz-word called "cybersmuggling" (how do you smuggle stuff over the Internet? -- perhaps we're closer to Star Trek transporters than I ever imagined!), and had no apparent connection to terrorism.
And, of course, Customs insisted that we must not tell anyone else about their Subpoena (don't want anyone to scrutinize and question what the Government is doing, I suppose). I've provided a redacted copy of my response letter to Customs (revealing no details of the investigation or the subject) to Chilling Efffects, and even they appear to be afraid to publicize this abuse.
Kelly Zito writes that:
The Santa Clara County assessor has slashed the values of about 1, 200 office and industrial buildings by about $8 billion, further underscoring Silicon Valley's protracted high-tech slump.Madison's property values have risen for years. Someday, there will be an adjustment, which will be painful for its tax base.
County officials boosted assessed values of about 9,500 homes and condos that had been cut last year, but more than 23,000 residential properties continued to receive reductions totaling about $1.7 billion, they said Thursday.
Dan Gillmor writes about Vermont Democrat Pat Leahy's shilling for the copyright cartel: Copyright Cartel Buying Another Federal Anti-Infringement Law ("Piracy Act"). Evidently, Democrat Leahy needs more cash from Hollywood. The worse part of this insanity: the law would require us (via the Department of Justice) to pay for tracking file sharers and filing lawsuits....
Their scenaric findings -- that the gradual global warming we're experiencing could plausibly trigger an abrupt climate snap, and that its effects would be massive, perhaps catastrophic, and of direct relevance to the national security of the United States -- we're picked up by media around the world, gathering a snowball of controversy and hype along the way. Their scenarios, freely available on the Web, were termed a "secret Pentagon report," and their descriptions of possible climate catastrophe taken as bald prediction.
But underneath the hype was a reasoned attempt to judge the seriousness of the threat posed by climate instability. That's something all of us hoping to change the world have to take into account. So we asked Doug about the implications of that report (now that the dust has settled), the movie The Day After Tomorrow, and how to think about the future of climate change.
Gretchen Morgenson writes: A Great Fund (for them, not you):
It's easy to see why the Washington political class feels no need to right the wrongs in the fund industry. Those folks know how to take care of themselves. Low-cost, conflict-free money management is just one of the many special privileges lawmakers have arranged for themselves. Too bad the 91 million ordinary Americans who invest in funds can't get the same deal. As Mr. Fitzgerald said: "We've created one mutual fund world for ourselves that is great and fair and we've created another for the rest of America that stinks."via Dan Gillmor
Use the internet to be active and informed!
Thomas Content writes that "Wisconsin residents are paying more for electricity than consumers in seven other Midwestern states, a reversal from several years ago when power customers here paid the lowest rates, a study found."
Interesting example of money, technology & politics. Wisconsin voters have many other priorities, such as education, jobs, taxes and healthcare. How exactly, the Windows 2003 Server and Office 2003 product launches fit into those priorities is a mystery:
"If people really believe that something like this makes members of Congress bribable, obviously they have a very poor opinion of members of Congress." Ron Kind, Wisconsin congressman. Katherine M. Skiba and Jeff Nelson follow the money..... The airfare prices look like first class... Why exactly would Microsoft spend money on a Congressman from La Crosse, WI?
Additional trips were timed to include product launches such as Windows Server 2003 and Office 2003....
Microsoft's priorities include copyright, patent, purchasing and other issues.....
This chart is generated by the Public Service Commission's online rate comparison tool (December, 2003 data):
|Name & ID||Billing Charges||Total Bill|
MADISON GAS AND ELECTRIC COMPANY
WAUNAKEE WATER AND LIGHT COMMISSION
WISCONSIN ELECTRIC POWER COMPANY
WISCONSIN POWER AND LIGHT
WISCONSIN PUBLIC SERVICE CORPORATION
MGE should not get a dime more, until they agree to clean up their lobbying act (MGE was implicated in the caucus investigations for, in one case, routing money through the Kansas Democratic Party.... Wispolitics has the complaint.) I would also like to understand why their rates are so high?
OpenPark Launches free, public wireless (WiFi) internet access on the Washington Mall.
Peter Maller writes about P. Richard Schumann's efforts to purchase farmer's development rights while they continue farming:
Schumann is preparing an advisory referendum for the November ballot asking residents in the Town of Hartford if they are willing to pay higher property taxes to fund such purchases of development rights.
The goal is for the land to remain undeveloped.
"I think we have very strong support," said Schumann, founder and president of the community's newly organized Town Preservation Committee. "Keeping the style of life we have, preserving farmland and green space, is very near and dear to people's hearts."
Jason Van Beck continues to stir things up in South Dakota. Van Beck has more on long time political writer Dave Kranz's close ties to incumbent Senator Tom Daschle.
Osama, the first film to come out of Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, is about a 12-year-old girl who must shave her head and dress like a boy so she can work to support her widowed mother and grandmother. It is not about Osama bin Laden; "Osama" is the boy's name the girl adopts.via instapundit.
I am sent a newsletter from a women's rights group in Pakistan, which lists items from Pakistani newspapers. The following is a recent selection (I checked the items on the newspapers' websites):
Lahore: A girl, Kauser, 17, was strangled by her elder brother because she had married of her own will. She returned home and asked her family to forgive her but her brother strangled her with a piece of cloth. - The Daily Times.
Ghotki district: Two women were killed over Karo-Kari (honour killing). One Nihar Jatoi tied his wife to a bed and electrocuted her. One Bachal axed his wife Salma to death and fled. No arrests were reported. - The News.
Sargodha: A woman is in hospital after having both legs amputated because of severe injuries inflicted by her brother-in-law and mother-in-law, who clubbed her for her alleged illicit affairs. The woman, who was fighting for life, said the real reason was that her brother-in-law was trying to force her to arrange his marriage to her younger sister, but her sister had instead eloped with her paramour. - Dawn.
What chance of this woman becoming an international symbol, as has the boy who so tragically lost his arms during the invasion of Iraq?
Why is international public opinion not outraged at the treatment of women in Islamic fundamentalist societies? Why is it easier for millions of people around the world to see America as the great evil, rather than the countries in which governments ignore such horrific abuses of women?
Dan Morain [reg req'd] has an interesting article on California Indian gambling:
A strong majority of Californians believes Indian tribes that own casinos should pay more of their gambling revenue to the state, and does not want card rooms and horse tracks to gain slot machines, a Los Angeles Times poll shows.Dan Gillmor constructively comments on the LA Times proper use of "gambling" rather than the PR oriented term "gaming". Such marketing wordsmithing is more commonplace than ever.
The findings come four years after voters overwhelmingly approved gambling on Indian reservations. Now, gambling interests are preparing for an initiative war that could break the tribes' monopoly on Nevada-style casinos. In addition, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is negotiating with tribes to get heftier payments for the state in exchange for the right to obtain more slot machines.
Tight relationships between the establishment press and entrenched politicians are a real problem (how do we know what to believe? I think these issues discourage voters and are reflected in the ongoing decline of newspaper readers & tv viewers, while fueling the explosive growth of the internet).
Jon Lauck takes a fascinating look at how an insider relationship can influence reporting, in this case, between long time Argus Leader (South Dakota) political reporter Dave Kranz and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (they met in college).
Lauck has links to memos and additional background information.
Fortunately, weblogs are casting some light on these relationships.
Tom Friedman writes about a recent trip to Silicon Valley:
Still others pointed out that the percentage of Americans graduating with bachelor's degrees in science and engineering is less than half of the comparable percentage in China and Japan, and that U.S. government investments are flagging in basic research in physics, chemistry and engineering. Anyone who thinks that all the Indian and Chinese techies are doing is answering call-center phones or solving tech problems for Dell customers is sadly mistaken. U.S. firms are moving serious research and development to India and China.
The bottom line: we are actually in the middle of two struggles right now. One is against the Islamist terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere, and the other is a competitiveness-and-innovation struggle against India, China, Japan and their neighbors. And while we are all fixated on the former (I've been no exception), we are completely ignoring the latter. We have got to get our focus back in balance, not to mention our budget. We can't wage war on income taxes and terrorism and a war for innovation at the same time.
Curriculum was and is a hot topic in the Madison School District.
Further, the tech industry has been playing footsie with Hollywood (ironic, given the size of the tech industry vs Hollywood) regarding our fair use rights. Dan Gillmor has recently published a draft version of his upcoming book: Making the News. Chapter 11 includes some very troubling quotes:
When Microsoft shipped its first search-engine (which makes a copy of every page it searches), it violated the letter of copyright law. When Microsoft made its first proxy server (which makes a copy of every page it caches), it broke copyright law. When Microsoft shipped its first CD-ripping technology, it broke copyright law.
It broke copyright law because copyright law was broken. Copyright law changes all the time to reflect the new tools that companies like Microsoft invent. If Microsoft wants to deliver a compelling service to its customers, let it make general-purpose tools that have the side-effect of breaking Sony and Apple's DRM, giving its customers more choice in the players they use. Microsoft has shown its willingness to go head-to-head with antitrust people to defend its bottom line: next to them, the copyright courts and lawmakers are pantywaists, Microsoft could eat those guys for lunch, exactly the way Sony kicked their asses in 1984 when they defended their right to build and sell VCRs, even though some people might do bad things with them. Just like the early MP3 player makers did when they ate Sony's lunch by shipping product when Sony wouldn't.
Unfortunately, Microsoft's answer has been to build Digital Rights Management -- the more appropriate term is "Digital Restrictions Management" -- into just about everything it makes.
But now consider the ways it could be used, beyond simple tracking by copyright holders of what they sell. Anderson writes:
[Trusted Computing] provides a computing platform on which you can't tamper with the application software, and where these applications can communicate securely with their authors and with each other. The original motivation was digital rights management (DRM): Disney will be able to sell you DVDs that will decrypt and run on a TC platform, but which you won't be able to copy. The music industry will be able to sell you music downloads that you won't be able to swap. They will be able to sell you CDs that you'll only be able to play three times, or only on your birthday. All sorts of new marketing possibilities will open up.
The potential for abuse extends far beyond commercial bullying and economic warfare into political censorship. I expect that it will proceed a step at a time. First, some well-intentioned police force will get an order against a pornographic picture of a child, or a manual on how to sabotage railroad signals. All TC-compliant PCs will delete, or perhaps report, these bad documents. Then a litigant in a libel or copyright case will get a civil court order against an offending document; perhaps the Scientologists will seek to blacklist the famous Fishman Affidavit. A dictator's secret police could punish the author of a dissident leaflet by deleting everything she ever created using that system - her new book, her tax return, even her kids' birthday cards - wherever it had ended up. In the West, a court might use a confiscation doctrine to `blackhole' a machine that had been used to make a pornographic picture of a child. Once lawyers, policemen and judges realise the potential, the trickle will become a flood.The Trusted Computing moves bring to mind a conversation in early 2000 with Andy Grove, longtime chief executive at Intel and one of the real pioneers in the tech industry. He was talking about how easy it would soon be to send videos back and forth with his grandchildren. If trends continued, I suggested, he'd someday need Hollywood's permission. The man who wrote the best-seller, "Only the Paranoid Survive," then called me paranoid. Several years later, amid the copyright industry's increasing clampdown and Intel's unfortunate leadership in helping the copyright holders lock everything down, I asked him if I'd really been all that paranoid. He avoided a direct reply.
It was done using the Net. It is no accident that the political coming-of-age of the Net came about in Korea where almost 70% of its households are broadband connected. Starting as a social movement organized through the Net, the new Uri party became a political phenomena.
In December 2002, the Uri party used the Net to go around Korea's traditional political structures and elect Roh Moo-hyun President. Korea's national politics have traditionally been regionally based. However, using the Net, the Uri put together a new political coalition based not on geography, but age, bringing together those under 30. Paradoxically, the Uri also used the Net to involve citizens at local face to face meetings.
The Net was used to begin to break the overwhelming political influence of Korea's giant corporate conglomerates, the chaebols, who funded (both legally and illegitimately) much of Korea's politics. The Uri use the Net to help fund their campaign with tens of thousands of small contributions.
Steve Greenhouse writes a useful article on the economic & cultural implications of the Wal-Mart system:
We already know that Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer. (If it were an independent nation, it would be China's eighth-largest trading partner.) We also know that it is maniacal about low prices. (Some economists say it has single-handedly cut inflation by 1 percent in recent years, saving consumers billions of dollars annually.) We know that its labor practices have come under attack. (It charges its workers so much for health insurance that about one-third of them do not have it.)
Tyler Cowen writes a very useful article on where the federal government's $21,671 spending per household (2004) goes - up $3,500 from 2001!
Security expert Bruce Schneier writes about the reality of National ID cards:
The potential privacy encroachments of an ID card system are far from minor. And the interruptions and delays caused by incessant ID checks could easily proliferate into a persistent traffic jam in office lobbies and airports and hospital waiting rooms and shopping malls.
But my primary objection isn't the totalitarian potential of national IDs, nor the likelihood that they'll create a whole immense new class of social and economic dislocations. Nor is it the opportunities they will create for colossal boondoggles by government contractors. My objection to the national ID card, at least for the purposes of this essay, is much simpler:
It won't work. It won't make us more secure.
The 2004 Jefferson Muzzle awards have just been announced.
Since 1992, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has celebrated the birth and ideals of its namesake by calling attention to those who in the past year forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson's admonition that freedom of speech "cannot be limited without being lost."
Announced on or near April 13 -- the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson -- the Jefferson Muzzles are awarded as a means to draw national attention to abridgments of free speech and press and, at the same time, foster an appreciation for those tenets of the First Amendment. Because the importance and value of free expression extend far beyond the First Amendment's limit on government censorship, acts of private censorship are not spared consideration for the dubious honor of receiving a Muzzle.
Unfortunately, each year the finalists for the Jefferson Muzzles have emerged from an alarmingly large group of candidates. For each recipient, a dozen could have been substituted. Further, an examination of previous Jefferson Muzzle recipients reveals that the disregard of First Amendment principles is not the byproduct of a particular political outlook but rather that threats to free expression come from all over the political spectrum.
....... This year's winners.
Bizzaro Wisco Column - [Humor]
March 30, 2004
A document released today by the Madison Metropolitan School District
outlines the administration’s proposal to close the district’s $10 million
budget shortfall by eliminating all “education” activities and focusing on
the district’s core “child storage” functions. According to Superintendent
Art Rainwater, the increasing cost of “education” has impaired the
district’s ability to balance its books.
Thanks to Lucy Mathiak for pointing me to this article.
Chris Ramirez shot a very nice Quicktime VR scene of Condoleeza Rice's testimony yesterday in Washington, DC. (VR scenes with lots of people are quite challenging). Very Nice
Former Wall Street bond trader and author of the quite useful book Fooled by Randomness pens an op-ed piece in today's New York Times where he describes black swans (an outlier, an event that lies beyond the realm of normal expectations) with respect to 9/11 and the current investigation:
Most people expect all swans to be white because that's what their experience tells them; a black swan is by definition a surprise. Nevertheless, people tend to concoct explanations for them after the fact, which makes them appear more predictable, and less random, than they are. Our minds are designed to retain, for efficient storage, past information that fits into a compressed narrative. This distortion, called the hindsight bias, prevents us from adequately learning from the past.
Black swans can have extreme effects: just a few explain almost everything, from the success of some ideas and religions to events in our personal lives. Moreover, their influence seems to have grown in the 20th century, while ordinary events — the ones we study and discuss and learn about in history or from the news — are becoming increasingly inconsequential.
Consider: How would an understanding of the world on June 27, 1914, have helped anyone guess what was to happen next? The rise of Hitler, the demise of the Soviet bloc, the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, the Internet bubble: not only were these events unpredictable, but anyone who correctly forecast any of them would have been deemed a lunatic (indeed, some were). This accusation of lunacy would have also applied to a correct prediction of the events of 9/11 — a black swan of the vicious variety.
Incumbent Senator Russ Feingold is supported by 51% of Wisconsin residents in an early poll, according to Graeme Zielinski
By 51% to 29%, residents polled in March said they would like to see Feingold re-elected for his third term, with the remainder not answering the question or saying they didn't know.
In a separate question, 47% said they had a favorable impression of Feingold, while 19% said their view was unfavorable, figures that have stayed relatively constant since fall. About a third said they didn't know enough to have formed an impression.
Meanwhile, Feingold's Republican rivals remained largely unknown, with neither state Sen. Bob Welch (R-Redgranite), construction executive Tim Michels or car dealer Russ Darrow registering with more than one in five residents.
Ever wonder how the politicians determine who to call, mail or why they might knock on your door?
These articles on data mining with voter information, local demographics & door to door politics tell the story:
Sara Lin & Monte Morin write about a familiar topic - local opposition to Wal-Mart Supercenters:
A bid by the world's largest corporation to bypass uncooperative elected officials and take its aggressive expansion plans to voters failed Tuesday, as Inglewood residents overwhelmingly rejected Wal-Mart's proposal to build a colossal retail and grocery center without an environmental review or public hearings.
With all votes counted Tuesday evening, 4,575 Inglewood residents had voted in favor of Wal-Mart's plan, while 7,049 had voted against it
- Most attendees at recent VC & Economic Conferences were from government agencies, community development organizations, schools and universities (why? most real entrepreneurs don't have time to sit around and talk, they'd rather make things happen)
- Byrnes further muses that perhaps our culture is to blame: "We may be dealing with the long-term effects of an overprotective social climate that discourages risk taking."
- Too much overhead: Byrnes cites a recent study by the California-based Milken Institute which shows that Wisconsin has more economic development offices and business incubators per capita that almost every other state, including California! Byrnes calcuates that the ratio of business support people to entrepreneurs is 100 to 1; if you add educators, the ratio is 1000 to 1!
Byrnes is right on. We don't need more state sponsored programs (that generally only benefit the largest firms). We in fact, need less paperwork (I can't imagine how a small business keeps up with it all....), more risk taking and a more entrepreneurial financial environment (California has this in droves).
Byrnes article appeared in the April, 2004 issue of Corporate Report Wisconsin.
David Brooks pens a too funny look at the proposed Liberal Air and it's counterpart Right Wing Express. The faculty seating arrangements are too funny....
On a more serious note, I recently received an email from County Executive Kathleen Falk regarding non stop air service to and from our local airport. She also attached a note from Brad Livingston, our airport director regarding their current initiatives (non-stop service to and from Atlanta along with potential incentives to increase service).
Dane County 04/06/2004 spring election results are available here.
Locally, congrats to Ruth Robarts, Shwaw Vang and Johnny Winston, Jr. for their School Board seat victories. None of the races were all that close (although from a spending perspective, Winston & Vang far outspent their opponents while Robarts was substantially outspent by Olson & MTI). Thanks also to Alix Olson, Sam Johnson and Melania Alvarez for taking the time to run.
We do indeed need more discussion about local issues, and this election, with debate on topics such as curriculum, budget, board leadership and PAC/Group spending was useful. Bummer that so few people showed up to vote!
1990 UW Grad & Washington Post foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid won a Pulitzer for international reporting for his coverage of the Iraq war and its uncertain aftermath.
Dane County's election results, including the municipal judge and school board races will be posted here.
This looks like a rather expensive election. Olson has raised nearly twice as much money as Robarts, according to recent campaign finance disclosure filings. MTI Voters had $47K on hand according to their March 25, 2004 campaign finance disclosure filing [116K PDF].
* MTI Voters Campaign Finance Disclosure shows a $1,560 contribution to Johnny Winston, Jr's campaign on March 17, 2004, but Winston's March 29, 2004 disclosure does not show the receipt of this contribution.
Raised most $'s: Alix Olson $11,203.21 (Olson's opponent, incumbent Ruth Robarts has raised $5,839.44 and has accepted no PAC money) Received most Pac $'s: Alix Olson $2,185.00 Raised least amount: Sam Johnson $1,656.30 (Johnson's opponent, incumbent Shwaw Vang has raised $5,153,98 and has accepted $2,135 in PAC money) Raised least PAC $'s: Ruth Robarts $0.00 PAC with most cash: MTI Voters
(Madison Teachers, Inc. PAC)
$47,391.55 PAC with least cash: Get Real $289.81 Fund raising Summary Seat 3 Sam Johnson $1,656.30 Shwaw Vang $5,153.98 PAC Receipts $306.30 $2,135.00 Seat 4 Melania Alvarez $2,111.27 Johnny Winston, Jr.$9,683.93 PAC Receipts $266.27 $600 other + $1560MTI* Seat 5 Alix Olson $11,203.21 Ruth Robarts $5,839.44 PAC Receipts $2,185.00 $0.00 Learn more here... and vote April 6, 2004
I've update the links on my election page to the School Board Candidate's campaign Finance Disclosure Documents.
One week from today, Madison holds its spring election (school board, judges & county board). However and unfortunately, this race falls during spring break. If you are planning to be out of town, please obtain an absentee ballot from the City Clerk's office.
Some have asked why I spent the time (and money) to put together this web page, dedicated to the Madison School Board Race. I've summarized a few reasons here:
Dan Gillmor is right on the money with his criticism of Vermont's Patrick Leahy regarding his co-sponsorship of the "Pirate Act". One would think our politicians have more important things to do (education, health care, terrorism, the economy) than carrying water for the Hollywood cartel.
s stunning, and disheartening, to see U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who has been one of the champions of civil liberties on Capitol Hill, become a water-carrier for Hollywood and the music industry. But there's no other interpretation for his co-sponsorship of what's being called the PIRATE Act, a chillingly bad bill that would give the copyright cartel a gift for the ages.
The basics of this legislation are fairly simple: In a time when there are truly serious things on the minds of law enforcement, such as terrorism, Leahy and his colleague Orrin Hatch would send the FBI and Justice Department (Copyfight) after file-sharers. If this passes, look for a crackdown that makes today's music-industry lawsuit frenzy look tame. And look for the end of most experiments in new media, because file-sharing networks are the only financially feasible way to distribute content for people who aren't trying to corner a market.
If I still lived in Vermont, I would call Leahy's office and ask anyone who'd listen how someone I've respected for years could do something so awful.
The 9/11 Commission Hearings are available right now for free at http://www.audible.com/911hearings. [...] You'll hear Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, former National Counterterrorism Coordinator Richard Clarke, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and others as they answer tough questions on blind spots in foreign intelligence that may have enabled the worst terrorist attack in American history.
Download the Hearings now from our Web site, and feel free to share this e-mail with your friends. Let them know they can download the audio for free as well. From the Online Blog.
Read the report directly (and avoid the spinning on both sides) here:
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), an independent, bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W. Bush in late 2002, is chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The Commission is also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.Here's a few links from different points of view: Time Magazine | Wonkette's 9/11 Flow Chart | Talking Points | Instapundit
I've been reading Steve Coll's Ghost Wars, The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001.
Anyone interested in a deep look at how we arrived at the current situation in Central Asia should read this book. Coll follows our policies from supporting the Afghans & jihad fighters against the Soviets in the 1980's to our complete withdrawal (the source of our problems, I believe) after the Soviets left (leaving Afghanistan to the Pakistanis/Saudis and others) through the 1990's where a few tried to get those at the top engaged once again in the region as the Taliban rose to power (backed by Bin Laden and others) and finally, to 09/10/2001.
There's been no shortage of discussion recently on this topic, including the recent charges/counter charges around Richard Clarke. Clarke's White House role during the 1990's is discussed extensively in this book. I believe Coll's work provides a useful basis to get through the politics and discover that in reality, there was little leadership or will power to address these problems, until 9/11 (despite the Cole bombing, the African bombings and other telltale signs of what was to come).
The genesis of the problem is that we abandoned Afghanistan after the Soviets left (leaving it wide open for regional players), and did not re-engage in a serious way until post 9/11.
he Washington Post In Ghost Wars, The Washington Post's managing editor, Steve Coll, takes a long -- and long overdue -- look at the peaks and valleys of the CIA's presence in Afghanistan throughout the decades leading to Sept. 10, 2001. It is a well-written, authoritative, high-altitude drama with a cast of few heroes, many villains, bags of cash and a tragic ending -- one that may not have been inevitable. — James Bamford
The Cap Times spin's Wisconsin's recent decision to pull out of the MATRIX (Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange) data mining project (after the Doyle (a Democrat) Administration joined it February 11, 2004!) as an anti Bush Administration move:
Luckily, the records of Wisconsinites are going to be protected from the prying eyes of the Bush administration's security apparatus. States must agree to feed information into the Matrix database. This month, Wisconsin joined a growing number of other states in refusing to do so. According to a statement from Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager's office, "Because of the privacy concerns, we've suspended all involvement."The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Gina Barton provides a more balanced view of what actually ocurred: "Wisconsin law enforcement officials have changed their minds about becoming part of a computerized information-sharing network."
There are many reasons to be concerned about ongoing government programs that further intrude on our privacy. However, the Badger State joined the program, under Democratic Governor Doyle's watch, something not mentioned in the Cap Times editorial.
The best place to keep up to date on these issues (and send money) is the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
I sent an email to Dave Zweifel, Editor of the Cap Times today.
I must say that the Cap Times generally does a reasonably good job covering local news. However, the public's expectations are clearly changing. This free subscription offer is telling (96K PDF).
UPDATE: Tim Porter slices and dices newspaper's quality & circulation problems here.
Dan Shafer comments on the general substance free nature of TV News
Yep. "Real" news on TV died an agonizing death years ago when networks decided that next-day interviews with stars of network shows were news when they clearly weren't. I read two newspapers and several newsy Web sites a day and never watch TV news any more. I'm a tiny minority, but it works for me.
Being an informed participant in the democratic process should be worth spending some time and brain cycles, not just sitting dumb and dumfounded in front of a boob toob passively absorbing the crap the networks hand out.
From Doc Searls....
Fundrace 2004 let's you search by address & zip code to view who in your nieghborhood has donated to national politicians.
via Dan Gillmor
Don Walker writes:
Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl said Tuesday that it did not make sense to spend $50 million to $100 million to remodel the Bradley Center and said the community would have to discuss in the future the need for a new arena.
The Democratic U.S. senator, noting that it had been a joy this season to own the team, said spending millions more to remodel the facility "would not extend its useful life."
Rather, he said, the Bradley Center board ought to consider more modest upgrades to the building that will generate new revenue for the Bucks.
The Minnesota Legislative References Library has a useful page on Minnesota Issues facing Financing Professional Sports Facilities.
While we in Madison argue over how to spend $300+m annually to educate our 25,000+ children, the Economist rightly points out that
"the world is becoming more unequal and justice demands a remedy. Right? Wrong on both counts" Poverty and inequality....
Glenn Reynolds has a nice summary of today's Washington DC Silent March at the Spanish Embassy.
Citing both financial and privacy concerns, Wisconsin law enforcement officials have changed their minds about becoming part of a computerized information-sharing network.
The network, funded by a $12 million federal grant, aims to create a clearinghouse of information authorities can use to track terrorists and criminal suspects. Advocates say it simply consolidates data already available to investigators, allowing them to access it more quickly. Detractors worry that it could be used to mine computer files for details about ordinary citizens.
Senators beat market by 12%
Corporate insiders beat the market by 5%
Typical US Household underperformed the market by 1.45%
"The results clearly support the notion that members of the Senate trade with a substantial informational advantage over ordinary investors," says the author of the report, Professor Alan Ziobrowski of the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.
From the Financial Times....
Wisconsin Senate Bill 477 otherwise known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, would cut the inflationary spending increase school districts are allowed under state-set revenue limits from $241 per pupil to $120 in the 2004-'05 school year and to $100 in subsequent years.
This article's premise that spending more money increases quality does not always hold. My brief interactions with candidates, the board and interested observers indicates that state & federal mandates (not always fully funded), services beyond the core educational programs, along with rising administrative costs are driving spending increases.
Wisconsin, like other states, needs to consider additional sources of education dollars. Residents are largely tired of ever growing property taxes. [Editor: how about auto license fees or sales tax changes]
I've added several items to my site for the April 6, 2004 Madison School Board Election:
There are more here (from my friend Steve).
I'm amazed that the candidates continue to spend so much of their money on TV.....
Dave Farber's IP List has an interesting post on controlled economies:
Einar Stefferud writes:
"Reminds me of efforts to [support] Wisconsin.
I well remember how we had to buy margarine by mail order and hand mix
in the yellow coloring because it was against to law there to sell it
any other way.
And, the law required that all apple pie served in any state institution,
like the University of Wisconsin had to be served with a slice of Wisconsin
Cheese. Most of that cheese went into the garbage because most people did
not want cheese with their apple pie.
This kind of foolishness does not help an economy to grow jobs. It just
causes stagnation and waste and loss of incentives.
And higher taxes to pay for the waste.
Economies do not thrive under central control.
Economies and Internets do better without central control of details.
And, in the international situation, this is the beginning of a trade war,
ala the beginning to the 1930's depression, which lasted for approximately
10 years until WW-II finally bailed us out.
BTW, the trade wars were a major aspect of the causes of WW-II."
From Dave Winer:
A milestone case study from the Shorenstein Center PDF [324K] was released today. It tells the story of Trent Lott, his talk at Strom Thurmond's birthday party, and how the news flowed through professional channels, to the blogosphere, and back, ultimately resulting in Lott's resignation as majority leader of the US Senate.
Fascinating, and it's great that this report is publicly available.
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial page:
"Beginning in September, the gun industry can resume making, importing and selling military-style semiautomatic weapons that were outlawed a decade ago. And in a hard-to-understand flip-flop, U.S. Sen, Russ Feingold, D-Wis., stood apart from President Bush and a majority of Feingold's Senate colleagues of both parties by voting to dump the ban on these weapons."
I dislike any sort of political posturing via votes that our representatives make knowing a bill will die. Politics.....
"Avi Rubin, a well regarded Johns Hopkins computer science professor and leading critic of e-voting, has written an account of his experience as an election judge on super tuesday.
Maryland was experimenting with e-Voting machines. Rubin puts it this way, 'this was one of the most incredible days in my life.' He wrote his experiences immediately after the day was over, capturing his perspective on the subject. A very interesting read."
From the Atlantic Monthly:
A new breed of American soldier—call him the soldier-diplomat—has come into being since the end of the Cold War. Meet the colonel who was our man in Mongolia, an officer who probably wielded more local influence than many Mongol rulers of yore.
Thanks to John Robb....
From Glenn Reynolds:
"STEPHEN BAINBRIDGE has an article up arguing that Martha Stewart never should have been prosecuted.
Personally, I think they should be devoting their resources to investigating insider trading within the United States Senate."
Charles Andres posts an interesting look at 1968 vis a vis 2004
Recent comments about how we live in dangerous and chilling times (after 9/11) should be seen in perspective to 1968, when
In May 2001, the professor of law at Georgetown University was tapped by the Justice Department to work for two years as an assistant attorney general, working primarily on judicial nominations for the department.
But three months later the World Trade Center towers collapsed, and Dinh was drafted to work on the USA Patriot Act, a bill that would give the government some of its most controversial surveillance powers. The bill, coupled with the government's subsequent treatment of immigrants and native-born citizens, prompted critics to charge the administration with overthrowing "800 years of democratic tradition." Wired.
PBS's Frontline has an interview with Robert McIntyre, Director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy regarding Federal Tax Policy.
Our current tax system is a mess, with many special interests (ethanol, SUV's) feeding at the trough.
Business Week had an interesting article recently on the "fairness" of the current tax system (including the controversial Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) implications on middle income Americans).
A friend thinks we're better off taxing everything at the cash source....
Ms. Heinz Kerry compares her husband to a "good wine," adding, "You know, it takes time to mature, and then it gets really good and you can sip it." DAVID M. HALBFINGER NY Times
Edwards raised $450K online Thursday, with an average contribution of $79.82.
Aaron Myers, says that the current campaign is far from business as usual. “Things are totally different now from 2000,” he says. “The biggest difference between this year and four years ago is the number of people acting independently, out somebody’s garage, supporting the candidate. That’s exploded.”
Blogger Rex Hammock writes about his brief meeting with the President:
"My Warholian 15/45 minutes: I’m writing this in a cab on my way to BWI for a flight back home to Nashville. I just walked out of the Old Executive Office Building where four other “real people” and I sat down for a 25-minute chat with the President of the United States. Then the five of us stood behind him while he told a room full of people why the tax cuts he has championed should be made permanent....."
Meanwhile, from the Washington Post:
The White House press corps yesterday scrambled to figure out why a hastily-arranged "conversation" between President Bush and some regular Americans about the economy was suddenly closed to reporters -- and what went on behind those closed doors.
If you want to learn about politics at its hardest core, read this article in the Chicago Sun-Times How Democrat fund-raiser scored Dean knockout.
The author of the article, Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet, is currently in residence at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. I attended a seminar yesterday in which she introduced David W. Jones, the fund-raiser who produced the attack ads.
Using a "527 committee" which is allowed under the McCain-Feingold law, Jones raised $663,000 from only 26 donors, including $100,000 from a single donor. He used the money to fund a poll to assess Dean's vulnerabilities, and 3 attack ads that went after Dean: Top Grades, Facts, and the notorious Osama ad.
Thanks to Centerfield
David Cay Johnston writes today in the New York Times that a federal grand jury in Manhattan is investigating the sale of tax shelters by KPMG, the big accounting firm, to corporations and wealthy individuals who used them to escape at least $1.4 billion in federal taxes.
I sent this email to firstname.lastname@example.org today:
I am writing in response to your periodic coverage of "abusive" tax shelters.
I believe articles such as this would better serve your readers if they included references to the mess that is the US Tax Code (David Cay Johnston's book includes many useful references). The code is ripe for all sorts of strategies and tactics, many that I'm sure remain to be discovered and exploited.
One of the worst examples, I believe, is the deductibility of vehicles over 6000lbs - which has lead many independent and small business owners who formerly drove sedans to purchase very large, gas guzzling vehicles, simply for tax reasons. What has this policy cost the treasury?
This Edmunds article mentions $17billion over 10 years.
How about ethanol?
Yet another example:
Prior to a 1986 Tax Law change, real estate partnerships (among other examples) were created for the purpose of generating tax losses. Partnerships were created for the sole purpose of selling tax losses.
I find the political grandstanding on this issue absurd. Does Senator Levin disapprove of the massive SUV tax subsidies?
Why has this issue been attractive to some politicians, vs other tax matters? Is there another agenda? Who benefits if the accounting firms are largely taken out of the tax shelter game? Do law firms and investment banks continue to do their deals?
Best wishes -
An assistant state attorney general advised public officials Wednesday not to use e-mails to communicate back and forth with their fellow members on local government bodies because they could be violating Wisconsin's open meetings law.
The use of e-mail is "a thorny issue," Assistant Attorney General Bruce Olsen told an audience of about 100 local government and school board officials, law enforcement officers, attorneys and journalists at a seminar organized by the state Department of Justice.
"Sometimes it looks like a letter and sometimes it looks like a conversation," Olsen said of e-mail correspondence. AMY RINARD - Journal-Sentinel
Dane County & City of Madison 2/17/2004 Election Results are posted here.
The Dane County Casino vote is going down, big.
Speaking of elections, the Washington Post has an interesting article on a 29 year old American, Tobin Bradley who is organizing elections in rural Iraq.
Adam Curry, DJ/VJ and active blogger is in Iraq with the Dutch Marines (he lives in Amsterdam).
Jon Gertner has written a useful article on combining voter databases with other profiles:
So who are they? Where are they? Are they rich, with three kids and a jumbo mortgage? Do they own fly rods and drive minivans? Do they go to church or temple? And maybe most important, who among them has never voted, or rarely voted, or voted in ways that may deserve the special status of swing voter? To do the job right, of course, to really win this thing, you've got to find them, woo them and get them to the polls. Where to start?
These days, the first stop is a comprehensive database of U.S. voters. There are fewer than half a dozen of them. One, named Voter Vault, belongs to the Republican National Committee; another, named Datamart, belongs to the Democratic National Committee. Over the past few years, thanks to technological advances and an escalating arms race between the parties, Republicans and Democrats have gone to great lengths to make campaigning more like commercial marketing. Moreover, both parties have begun to sort through their troves of information in order to identify and then court individual voters.
The result: direct mail and phone calls during the election season...
Fascinating look at national fund raising data.
While it is no secret that New York and Los Angeles are money meccas for both Republicans and Democrats, what about Teton County, Wyo.? Or Greene County, Ga.? Or Blaine County, Idaho?
Candidates reached into all quarters of the country to raise money last year, including some places that are not part of the well-worn money trail that presidential candidates walk every four years. In many cases, candidates found money in unusual places thanks to fund-raisers who happen to live and work there. Glen Justice, New York Times.
The Cato Institute published some very helpful (and illuminating) charts & graphs on the current federal budget.
McNamara speaks at Berkeley.
Robert McNamara, the defense secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, fielded questions from center stage in a packed auditorium at his alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley, for the first time since graduating in 1937.
Since Errol Morris's (a UW Grad) The Fog of War" was released last year, Mr. McNamara has appeared before several audiences, including those at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston and one last month in Washington.