Life is a Mystery

31 March 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: Atlas

FFR: Atlas

Wow, the folks at 280 North are not sitting still. They have not only developed a new dialect of JavaScript and a framework to go with it (Objective-J and Cappuccino), but they are now at work on an integrated development environment for web apps called Atlas. The inspiration for this work is clearly Objective-C, Xcode, and Interface Builder, but in my book that only adds to the attraction.

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27 March 2009 . Comments Off on Clueless

Clueless

A friend just pointed out this NYT article about the 5 November 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall to me.

Who was clueless? Try Larry Summers:

“Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century,” Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. “This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy.”

Phil Gramm:

“The world changes, and we have to change with it,” said Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who wrote the law that will bear his name along with the two other main Republican sponsors, Representative Jim Leach of Iowa and Representative Thomas J. Bliley Jr. of Virginia. “We have a new century coming, and we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century. Glass-Steagall, in the midst of the Great Depression, came at a time when the thinking was that the government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer.”

or Chuck Schumer:

“If we don’t pass this bill, we could find London or Frankfurt or years down the road Shanghai becoming the financial capital of the world,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. “There are many reasons for this bill, but first and foremost is to ensure that U.S. financial firms remain competitive.”

Who realized we were playing with fire? Try Paul Wellstone:

“Scores of banks failed in the Great Depression as a result of unsound banking practices, and their failure only deepened the crisis,” Mr. Wellstone said. “Glass-Steagall was intended to protect our financial system by insulating commercial banking from other forms of risk. It was one of several stabilizers designed to keep a similar tragedy from recurring. Now Congress is about to repeal that economic stabilizer without putting any comparable safeguard in its place.”

and Byron Dorgan:

“I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930’s is true in 2010,” said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. “I wasn’t around during the 1930’s or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980’s when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.”

The repeal of Glass-Steagall passed by overwhelming margins toward the end of the Clinton administration.

The measure, considered by many the most important banking legislation in 66 years, was approved in the Senate by a vote of 90 to 8 and in the House tonight by 362 to 57. The bill will now be sent to the president, who is expected to sign it, aides said. It would become one of the most significant achievements this year by the White House and the Republicans leading the 106th Congress.

As it turned out, it didn’t even take ten years for the house of cards to fall. And who’s advising Obama now? Larry Summers and Goldman Sachs. Not a very good sign.

20 March 2009 . 1 Comment

It’s the infrastructure, stupid!

Maybe we’ve been thinking about electric cars backwards. Shai Agassi of Better Place sure thinks so. He tells David Pogue:

Most of the car efforts were done from within the car, and assuming that there is no infrastructure change at all. It’s as if people were trying to build cars, but skipping over the gas station.

We started from the infrastructure. We came up with an electric car that would have two features that nobody had before. 1) The battery is removable. So if you wanted to go a long distance, you could switch your battery instead of waiting for it to charge for a very long time.
And 2) It was cheaper than gasoline car, not more expensive. Because you didn’t buy the battery. You paid just for the miles and for the car.

His interview with Pogue is fascinating. Israel, Denmark, and Hawaii will be giving this a go within three years. The San Francisco Bay Area is getting very serious about building this infrastructure. I wonder if the Twin Cities or state of Minnesota could make a run for it? Talk about stimulus!

15 March 2009 . Comments Off on PD: Celeste Family Edition

PD: Celeste Family Edition

Today’s front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer feels like a Celeste family edition to this far-removed Clevelander. The Sunday PD’s painful article about the closing of parishes in Cleveland includes an image of St. Colman’s and another of St. Malachi’s. St. Colman’s is the church I went to as a boy, it is where I had my first communion. I remember waiting on the street after Sunday School there, thinking heretical thoughts about our lessons. St. Malachi’s is where we worshiped as a family when I was a bit older, though high school. I learned to love the music now in the Gather hymnal there. My sister was married there. It looks like St. Colman’s will be closing as the Cleveland Catholic Diocese adjusts to new demographic realities. St. Malachi’s will stay open, though the picture in the paper is a far cry from the standing-room-only crowds I remember there in my youth. Sad news, though I must say the church is bringing this on itself.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the front page a glimmer of happier news from the Cleveland International Film Festival. My sister has worked with the film festival for years and next week I may have my first chance to attend since she has been involved. Happy news!

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13 March 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: TagExplorer

FFR: TagExplorer

I like using images when I put together presentations and posts. I usually find these on Flickr, where if I do an advanced search I can ask it to only return images with Creative Commons licenses. Now I’ve found an easier way, while it lasts, using Yahoo’s experimental TagExplorer. All the images returned by TagExplorer are CC licensed!

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13 March 2009 . Comments Off on Another weekend poll

Another weekend poll

Two people have announced their candidacy for the open 2010 US Senate seat in Ohio. My brother, Christopher, has not announced yet. But he has said he’s considering a run and so his is being included in various straw polls. This weekend we see another one at Ohio Daily. Please vote for Christopher. I’d like to keep the race in Ohio interesting!

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photo by theresathompson

11 March 2009 . Comments Off on Ruins

Ruins

A cry of dismay from a friend upon seeing pictures of his childhood haunts in Detroit brought this site to my attention. It is impossible for me not to look on these pictures and wonder just how much of our society will fall into this kind of ruin. I state glibly, from time to time, that our American way of life is unsustainable. Is this what unsustainable looks like after the fantasy fades?

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See Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre Photography for more.

9 March 2009 . Comments Off on Lost in a fog

Lost in a fog

Oh, if only we could forget more things like this. It’s not quite what I imagined when protesting the Trident program back in the 1980’s, but still…

Plans to refurbish Trident nuclear weapons had to be put on hold because US scientists forgot how to manufacture a component of the warhead, a US congressional investigation has revealed.

The US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) “lost knowledge” of how to make a mysterious but very hazardous material codenamed Fogbank. As a result, the warhead refurbishment programme was put back by at least a year, and racked up an extra $69 million.

According to some critics, the delay could cause major problems for the UK Trident programme, which is very closely tied to the US programme and uses much of the same technology.

Slashdot is having fun with this not-very-funny topic. The US is going on 40 years or so since we’ve actually launched a nuke on a missile, even in any kind of test. I am proud of that record and our fading expertise. Others, though, are quite concerned.

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8 March 2009 . Comments Off on Musical chairs

Musical chairs

I love this story from fivethiryeight. Their White House correspondent, Sean Quinn, describes the ins and outs of seating in the White House press briefing room.

How are these seats assigned? The White House Correspondents Association determines who sits, not the White House Press Office. “Everything out there,” a White House staff person told me when I first arrived, referring to the demarcation between White House Press Staff offices and the working press areas, “we have nothing to do with.”

Quinn provides a seating chart and an analysis of why the seating is so important. He describes the cramped quarters and intrigue of the place. And he points to a Daily Show clip that illuminates the topic. It is clear there is a new set of players in the room, they may not be sitting yet, but they are paying attention.

I can’t help thinking that it would be trivial for fivethirtyeight or a band of blogging journalists to raise what funds they need to become players in a small circle like the White House press corps. I think we are witnessing the emergence of a kind of individually sponsored niche journalism that will become a new model. If fivethirtyeight asks, I’m good for $50 to contribute toward getting them a seat at the correspondent’s dinner, and from there, who knows, a seat in the briefing room can’t be too far away.

6 March 2009 . Comments Off on Bad bank

Bad bank

A great episode of This American Life last week tried to explain the financial crisis. Take an hour and listen to Bad Bank.

I learned a lot listening to the story, but I was also left wondering. In a way the banks seem like only a symptom of the problem, to me. The problem is the celebration of consumption. The urge to own. Banks may have become the greediest expression of that ethic, but aren’t we all accomplices?

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 / efc@clst.org