Monthly Archives: December 2011

Those Were The Days

Internet Code Ring! (Interview with Phil Zimmermann, circa 1993).

Posted in Cryptography | Leave a comment

A Modest Proposal (Drug Tests Edition)

Perhaps it is time to subject investment bankers and derivatives traders to routine random drug tests. It’s widely believed that many of them use cocaine (although meth use may be rising), and I read that drug use on Wall Street is a real problem, although of course it has also beem rampant for a long time. The health of the economy is too important to be left in the hands of potentially drug-addled brains.

After all if it’s necessary to drug test welfare applicants and unemployed people seeking job training (who have the same 2% positive rate as found on Wall St) and high school football players, it is all the more important to drug test the masters of finance given the enormous effect that their work has on others.

Or, perhaps, we should agree to only drug test people armed with weapons or holding security clearances?

Posted in 99%, Econ & Money: Mortgage Mess, Science/Medicine | 5 Comments

It’s So Miami

I pick on the Miami Herald a fair bit, although not as much as it deserves given how far it has fallen from its glory days. But I guess that means I should also toss the occasional laurel.

Today’s paper has as its major above-the-fold story an item about how Miami leads the nation in ‘vanity’ — a trait measured in a not-very-serious-manner as follows:

Miami recently ranked as the most vain city in America, based on residents’ responses to a poll conducted by Mandala Research and released by LivingSocial.

The survey found that half of Miami respondents consider themselves an 8, 9 or 10 in looks.

Miami also topped the nation in such procedures as laser hair removal, tummy tucks, liposuction and collagen injections, according to the poll, based on the perhaps-unscientific percentage of respondents who know someone who had the work done.

You might think I would object to such pseudo-science dominating my front page. But in fact, the headline was perfect: “We’re so vain: We probably think this story is about us”. Not what I want to see every day in my paper, but it made me smile. And I imagine it will be talked about. Which actually makes it better than a lot of the dull stuff in that paper.

That said, I might mention two other somewhat bright spots: The Local section has degraded much less than front. There’s still real news there, just not enough of it. And as the news staff of the Herald shrinks, it is running more content from Bloomberg and from the political reporters at its partner newspapers in the state, some of whom are quite good.

As to the looks, I will say that it is often a shock to go back to the North East, especially in winter. Everyone is so pale and unhealthy-looking…

Posted in Miami, The Media | 2 Comments

Iraq: An Alternate History

A conservative estimate of the cost in dollars alone to the US of the Iraq war (ie not counting lives, pain, political or strategic or opportunity costs) is $800 billion to date. That’s the amount appropriated by Congress. It doesn’t count the so-called ‘black budget’ and it doesn’t attempt to count the foreseeable future costs– taking care of our wounded, for example.

The population of Iraq is about 32,000,000. So that means the war cost us about $25,000 per Iraqi.

I think my suggestion back in 2003 that instead of staying in Iraq we just give every Iraqi $3000 per year for the next year or two is looking awfully good in retrospect.

Note that Iraq GDP per capita in 2010 was $3,800 under a purchasing-power-parity measure, but valued at the official exchange rate was only $2,567. So basically for what we spent on Iraq since 2003, we could have given every Iraqi the equivalent of their share of GDP every year until now, and it would have cost about the same as what we spent. And there wouldn’t be the killed and wounded.

Perhaps buying countries is actually cheaper then invading them. Note, however, that the money would have to actually go to the people, not to the government or the military or the exercise would be fairly pointless (see, e.g., Egypt, Pakistan).

Posted in Iraq | 14 Comments

Good Reading

The Poor Get One Strike; Banks Get Thousands – Frank Pasquale compares the fate of rich people engaging in massive organized fraud to that of poor people who have the misfortune to be present when someone else commits a crime.

Japan’s Secret Plan to Dominate the World – Kevin Drum wants to know if there is anything to this amazing conspiracy theory, based on a claim that bureaucrats intentionally understated the health of their economy.

SEC Announced Latest Chump Change Settlement With GE Funding The Friday Before Christmas. Hmmm… Crooks & Liars’ SEC Whitewash Watch.

Posted in Linkorama | Leave a comment

“The Elements of Style” Rap

Dog-on-its-hind-legs rap on writing guide:

The Elements of Style from Jake Heller.

Apologies for the misogyny in the original Johnson quote.

Posted in Kultcha | 3 Comments

Pentagon Whitewash Watch

In a report released today, the Pentagon claims its self-investigation shows that its Bush-era attempt to manipulate news coverage by military analysts on TV was all legal and proper. Yeah, right.

Friday after 5pm is when you release stuff you want to get minimal media. The runup to Christmas is when you release the stuff you really really want to bury.

The poor Pentagon investigators were stymied by the absence of a smoking gun in the official records. (Surprise! The people running the media manipulation campaign didn’t write down their strategic objective. Maybe because they knew it was illegal?) They got nothing useful from interviews of the participants. (Amazingly not one Bush neocon, not to mention not a single retired General or Admiral, including combat veterans, broke down under gentle and long-delayed questioning from the Inspector General’s office.) It was all such a long time ago, can’t we just be friends.

This deadpan NYT report, Pentagon Finds no Fault In Its Ties to TV Analysts, just gives you such a good feeling about it all:

The report found that at least 43 of the military analysts were affiliated with defense contractors. The inspector general’s office said it asked 35 of these analysts whether their participation in the program benefited their business interests. Almost all said no. Based on these answers, the report said, investigators were unable to identify any analysts who “profited financially” from their participation in the program.

The report, however, said that these analysts may have gained “many other tangible and intangible benefits” from their special access. (Eight analysts said they believed their participation gave them better access to top Defense Department officials, for example.) The report said that a lack of clear “internal operating procedures” may have contributed to “the perception” that participation by military analysts with ties to defense contractors “provided a financial benefit.”

Not even a wrist slap.

Posted in National Security, The Media | 10 Comments