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September 30, 2011

Battling Bad Science

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (1) |

September 29, 2011

Markets in Self-Publishing

BainbridgeDespite our legislators' efforts, it's hard to keep vibrant markets down.

One of the most interesting emerging markets that I've been following recently has been in self-publishing. UCLA business law professor and longtime blogger Stephen Bainbridge - who, along with Larry Ribstein, is a blogosphere leader in advancing the understanding of corporate and business law principles - self-published his most recent corporate law book as a Kindle e-book. Professor Bainbridge passes along his reasoning for doing so here.

In short, Professor Bainbridge reasons that he will make money with his e-book than for law review articles, he controls the marketing and price of the book, and he keeps all the proceeds instead of just royalties. Moreover, the self-publishing route allows him to update his work in a timely manner so that he can provide analysis of recent court decisions that wouldn't be possible under the conventional book model.

Meanwhile, similar self-publishing ventures are emerging in the music industry.

For example, popular Houston-based musician Robbie Seay - the worship leader at Houston's fascinating inner-city church, Ecclesia - recently went the Kickstarter route to raise the funds necessary to self-produce his new CD. Seay - who melds spiritually-based contemporary music with a rocker's edge - raised enough money to self-produce his CD in two weeks and is now shooting to reach 1,000 backers in the next two weeks.

These are wonderful developments. Talented individuals taking risks that provide consumers at low cost with scholarship and music that might not otherwise get published.

In other words, the power of markets at work.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

September 28, 2011

Martha's comeback

You know, for someone who has had to endure the dark side of the federal government's criminalization-of-business lottery, Martha Stewart sure seems to be having fun with her post-prison life. Bravo!

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

September 27, 2011

It's football season, but . . .

Bill Haas' incredible shot from a water hazard on the final sudden death playoff hole in the Tour Championship on Sunday was worth a cool $11.44 million.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

September 26, 2011

The Generosity Experiment

Sasha Dichter: The Generosity Experiment from NextGen:Charity on Vimeo.

Posted by Tom at 12:00 AM | Comments (0) |

September 25, 2011

Tsunami in a car

H/T Paul Kedrosky.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

September 24, 2011

The Quiet Beatle

Check out the trailer for Martin Scorsese's HBO documentary on George Harrison, whose widow Olivia is interviewed here.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

September 23, 2011

J. Edgar

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (1) |

September 22, 2011

The Rescue Reel

Inventing a new way to escape tall buildings from TED Blog on Vimeo.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

September 21, 2011

50 Greatest Plays in College Football History

College football season is a special time in Texas, so it's easy to take some time and get lost in this entertaining compilation of the 50 greatest plays in college football history.

Of course, as with any such list, there are going to be oversights, not the least of which is the late-in-the-game 4th down pass from Texas' James Street to Randy Peschel to set up the go ahead touchdown in the 1969 Game of the Century.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (2) |

September 20, 2011

Niall Ferguson on The Great Divergence

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September 19, 2011

Obama’s hypocrisy on drug prohibition

drug-warThere are many reasons to be disappointed about Barack Obama's presidency, but arguably no reason is more galling than Obama's failure to back up his campaign promise to re-evaluate the federal government's dubious drug prohibition policy.

Jacob Sullum sums up Obama's hypocrisy on drug prohibition in this masterful Reason.com op-ed:

It is not hard to see how critics of the war on drugs got the impression that Barack Obama was sympathetic to their cause. Throughout his public life as an author, law professor, and politician, Obama has said and done things that suggested he was not a run-of-the-mill drug warrior....

[But] Obama's drug policies ... by and large have been remarkably similar to his predecessor's. With the major exception of crack sentences, which were substantially reduced by a law the administration supported, Obama has not delivered what reformers hoped he would. His most conspicuous failure has been his policy on medical marijuana, which is in some ways even more aggressively intolerant than George W. Bush's, featuring more-frequent raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), ruinous IRS audits, and threats of prosecution against not only dispensaries but anyone who deals with them.  "I initially had high hopes," says Marsha Rosenbaum, "but now believe Obama has abdicated drug policy to the DEA."

It would be going too far to say that Obama has been faking it all these years, that he does not really care about the injustices perpetrated in the name of protecting Americans from the drugs they want.  But he clearly does not care enough to change the course of the life-wrecking, havoc-wreaking war on drugs....

We know how Obama responds when the question of marijuana legalization comes up in public: He laughs. The highest-rated questions submitted for his "virtual town meeting" in March 2009 dealt with pot prohibition. "I don't know what this says about the online audience," Obama said with a smirk, eliciting laughter from the live audience, "but...this was a fairly popular question."

Obama's dismissive attitude was especially galling in light of his own youthful pot smoking, which he presents in Dreams From My Father as a cautionary tale of near-disaster followed by redemption.  "Junkie. Pothead," he writes.  "That's where I'd been headed: the final, fatal role of the would-be black man."  Judging from the reports of friends interviewed by The New York Times in 2008, Obama exaggerated his brush with addiction for dramatic effect.  More important, he has never publicly acknowledged the plain truth that people who smoke pot rarely become junkies or suffer any other serious harm as a result -- unless they get caught.

As Richard Nixon's National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse pointed out when Obama was all of 10 years old, the biggest risk people face when they smoke pot is created by the government's attempts to stop them.  In 1977, when Obama was a pot-smoking high school student in Honolulu, President Jimmy Carter advocated decriminalizing marijuana possession, telling Congress that "penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself."

That is hardly a radical position.  Polls indicate that most Americans think pot smokers should not be treated like criminals...

In New York City, where marijuana arrests have increased dramatically since the late 1990s, blacks are five times as likely to be busted as whites.  The number of marijuana arrests by the New York Police Department (NYPD) from 1997 through 2006 was 11 times the number in the previous 10 years, despite the fact that possession of up to 25 grams (about nine-tenths of an ounce) has been decriminalized in New York....

Obama attended Columbia University in the early 1980s, well before the big increase in marijuana arrests that began a decade later.  There were about 858,000 pot arrests nationwide in 2009, more than twice the number in 1980, and the crackdown has been especially aggressive in New York City under Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg (another former pot smoker).  "The odds are not bad," observes Ethan Nadelmann, "that a young Barry Obama, using marijuana at Columbia, might have been arrested had the NYPD been conducting the number of marijuana arrests then that it is now."

A misdemeanor marijuana conviction could have been a life-changing event for Obama, interrupting his education, impairing his job prospects, and derailing his political career before it began.  It would not have been fair, but it would have spared us the sorry spectacle of a president who champions a policy he once called "an utter failure" and who literally laughs at supporters whose objections to that doomed, disastrous crusade he once claimed to share.

Inasmuch as I do pro bono work in the juvenile justice system, I experience first hand the absurdly destructive effects of the drug prohibition policy on young people and their families. We get the quality of political representatives that we deserve, but Obama's disingenuousness and insensitivity with regard to the government's drug prohibition is reprehensible even by the low standards by which we evaluate U.S. politicians. That no Republican Presidential candidate other than Ron Paul is willing to take Obama to task for his hypocrisy is a reflection of the sad state of political discourse in this country.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (2) |

September 18, 2011

Richard Pryor - the real first black president

Posted by Tom at 6:36 AM | Comments (1) |

September 17, 2011

A good way to start a football Saturday

Houston Texans Performance on Sept. 11, 2011 from Barker Productions on Vimeo.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

September 16, 2011

This is our time?

As avant garde comedy, this University of Texas 2011 football video narrated by Matthew McConaughey is pretty good.

On the other hand, if not avant garde comedy, this video is seriously delusional and reflects much of why the UT is not a particularly attractive member for conference affiliation purposes right now.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (2) |

September 15, 2011

A masterful piece on that entertaining form of corruption

USC Song Girls 2Regular readers of this blog know that I have regularly commented on the corrupt nature (see also here) of big-time college football and basketball.

Although corrupt, big-time college football and basketball resist comprehensive reform because - let's face it - they are a very entertaining form of corruption.

But as this masterful (and quite long) Taylor Branch/Atlantic article explains, that resistance to reform is being challenged:

A litany of scandals in recent years have made the corruption of college sports constant front-page news. We profess outrage each time we learn that yet another student-athlete has been taking money under the table. But the real scandal is the very structure of college sports, wherein student-athletes generate billions of dollars for universities and private companies while earning nothing for themselves.

Here, a leading civil-rights historian makes the case for paying college athletes--and reveals how a spate of lawsuits working their way through the courts could destroy the NCAA.

And one of those lawsuits is by a former Rice student-athlete!

For anyone interested in the future of big-time college football and basketball, this is a must read. A series of short interviews of Branch are associated with the article and provided below:

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (1) |

September 14, 2011

Skilling II at SCOTUS?

skilling_201The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has not exactly distinguished itself in regard to its handling of the various appeals that emanated from the various Enron-related criminal prosecutions.

In particular, the Fifth Circuit recently denied former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling's motion for a new trial even though Skilling's theory of the case for a new trial was upheld by Fifth Circuit panels in two other Enron-related appeals.

So, per the motion below, Skilling is once again preparing to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the Fifth Circuit yet again and order the Fifth Circuit to issue a mandate to the U.S. District Court to give Skilling a new trial.

Frankly, as implicitly reflected by the prosecution's agreement to a stay of the Fifth Circuit's current mandate pending Skilling's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Skilling has a good case for a new trial. Stay tuned.

Jeff Skilling's Motion to Stay Fifth Circuit Mandate Pending Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

September 13, 2011

How to win this particular war

War on TerrorIn the context of the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Spencer Ackerman reminds us of the point that James Fallows and others have been making for over five years - the most effective way to defeat terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized:

In case you haven't noticed, hysteria is what the terrorists want. In fact, it's the only win a decapitated, weakened al-Qaida can get these days. The only hope that these eschatological conspiracy theorists possess for success lies in compelling the U.S. to spend its way into oblivion and pursue ill-conceived wars. That's how Osama bin Laden transforms from a cave-dwelling psycho into a world-historical figure -- not because of what he was, but because of how we reacted to him.

And that points to the only way out of a trap that's lasted a decade. It has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with politics. The U.S. has to embrace the reality that terrorism is not anything remotely like the existential threat we make it out to be. We can honor those 2,996 without being permanently haunted by them.[.  .  .]

The risk, in other words, is a political risk. The culture of fear: It's a bipartisan race to the bottom. And it's why the National Security State constructed by the George W. Bush administration has found a diligent steward in President Obama. Asked recently if the post-9/11 security apparatus might diminish soon now that al-Qaida looks weak, Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, replied, "No." [.  .  .]

Only when citizens make it acceptable for politicians to recognize that the threat of terrorism isn't so significant can the country finally get what it really needs, 10 years later: closure.

Read the entire piece. That citizens still have to endure such outrages as security theater reinforces the truth of what Ackerman writes.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (2) |

September 12, 2011

The Forger

In Bloodlands (Basic 2010), Timothy Snyder provides an extraordinary analysis of the human cost of the tyrannical regimes of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Sarah Kaminsky's father lived during those times and understood that cost. Ms. Kaminsky in the video below explains how her father figured out a way to reduce it.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

September 11, 2011

Opening Night, Apogee Stadium, University of North Texas

Apogee Stadium

Posted by Tom at 1:41 AM | Comments (0) |

September 10, 2011

From the top

Ben Hogan's swing from the top of the backswing.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

September 9, 2011

Technological overload in the cockpit

airfrance447This Chris Sorensen/Macleans.CA article provides an excellent overview of an issue that is of interest to all air travelers - that is, the increasing number of loss-of-control airline accidents over the past five years:

Statistically speaking, modern avionics have made flying safer than ever. But the crash of [Turkish] Flight 1951 is just one of several recent, high-profile reminders that minor problems can quickly snowball into horrific disasters when pilots don't understand the increasingly complex systems in the cockpit, or don't use them properly. The point was hammered home later that year when Air France Flight 447 stalled at nearly 38,000 feet and ended up crashing into the Atlantic, killing all 228 on board.  .  .  [. . .]

Why is it happening? Some argue that the sheer complexity of modern flight systems, though designed to improve safety and reliability, can overwhelm even the most experienced pilots when something actually goes wrong. Others say an increasing reliance on automated flight may be dulling pilots' sense of flying a plane, leaving them ill-equipped to take over in an emergency. Still others question whether pilot-training programs have lagged behind the industry's rapid technological advances.

It's a vexing problem for airlines, and a worrisome one for their customers. Unlike mechanical failures that can be traced to flawed design or poor maintenance, there is no easy fix when experienced and highly trained pilots make seemingly inexplicable decisions that end with a US$250-million airplane literally falling out of the sky. "The best you can do is teach pilots to understand automation and not to fight it," [flight simulation expert Sunjoo] Advani says, noting that the focus in recent years has, perhaps myopically, been on simplifying and speeding up training regimes, secure in the knowledge that planes have never been smarter or safer. "We've worked ourselves into a little bit of a corner here. Now we have to work ourselves back out."

Read the entire article. And then have a stiff drink before you get on your next commercial flight.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (2) |

September 8, 2011

How a virus works

H/T Guy Kawasaki.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

September 7, 2011

On unintended consequences

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September 6, 2011

Stopping polio for good

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September 5, 2011

"A cunning tax on everyone else"

government_bailout1-260x223If you don't read anything else this Labor Day weekend, check out this Nassim Taleb/Mark Spitznagel op-ed on the impact of dubious government bailout of Wall Street and big banks over the past several years:

For the American economy - and for many other developed economies - the elephant in the room is the amount of money paid to bankers over the last five years. In the United States, the sum stands at an astounding $2.2 trillion. Extrapolating over the coming decade, the numbers would approach $5 trillion, .  .  . That $5 trillion dollars is not money invested in building roads, schools and other long-term projects, but is directly transferred from the American economy to the personal accounts of bank executives and employees.

Such transfers represent as cunning a tax on everyone else as one can imagine. It feels quite iniquitous that bankers, having helped cause today's financial and economic troubles, are the only class that is not suffering from them - and in many cases are actually benefiting.

As I've been saying for years, it's not rocket science.

Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM | Comments (1) |

September 4, 2011

Me & Bobby McGee, Aussie-style

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September 3, 2011

Are you ready for some college football?!

Posted by Tom at 7:59 AM | Comments (0) |

Hayes Carll "Stomp and Holler"

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September 2, 2011

Passacaglia

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September 1, 2011

Ben Hogan 1953

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