Linky Friday #155: Fear

Money:

corporate greed photo

Image by msdonnalee Linky Friday #155: Fear

[M1] Vaio, Toshiba, and Fujitsu may Voltron themselves into a goliath PC manufacturer.

[M2] The $3,000,000,000,000 wealth transfer of the Oil Crash, while Tim Harford is worried about the cost of cheap oil.

[M3] I’ve long wondered what it would be like to have the sort of career that makes you fear the question “So where do you work?” even more than being unemployed.

[M4] Who should fear the government when corporations are doing the heavy lifting privacy-invasion? By, for instance, taking pictures of your license plates and selling your comings and goings?

[M5] Amazon Prime is a winner in two ways: People pay for it, then they buy more products from Amazon. Anecdotally… yep, that’s exactly what happens.

Crime:

Image by AK Rockefeller

Image by AK Rockefeller Linky Friday #155: Fear

[C1] Here’s an interesting profile of a serial killer hunter.

[C2] Of course treadmills got their start as a torture device. Of course they did.

[C3] Here’s what cities need to do when there’s a mass-killer on the loose. For schools, you can buy your kids bulletproof blankets.

[C4] Headline of the year: Meerkat expert cleared of glassing monkey handler in fight over llama-keeper

[C5] I ran across an article on a weird way to hijack cars the other day, and so of course I had to Snopes it, and turns out it’s a myth. This is not as bad as fearmongering Halloween candy, but the drip-drip-drip is really deleterious to the public health.

Government:

Surveillance photo

Image by Skley Linky Friday #155: Fear

[G1] Edwin Lyngar is worried that we have become addicted to fear. I agree, and might cite this as an example.

[G2] Paul Mason ponders the cashless society, while Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber fears that it’ll be a mechanism for government control.

[G3] The federal government is having a hard time going after for-profit colleges in fear of the economic repercussions.

[G4] Andrea Moore grew up in a crack-addled house, but feared being taken away from it.

Nature:

spider photo

Image by Counse Linky Friday #155: Fear

[N1] Well, this is the stuff of childhood nightmares (and eco-friendly children’s movies).

[N2] Ed Yong looks at the landscape of fear in the animal kingdom.

[N3] So, should we eradicate mosquitoes or not?

[N4] Thank heavens Sea Scorpions didn’t have opposable thumbs, is what I’m sayin’.

[N5] Oh, man, I knew this day was coming. Thanks to Clickhole for the heads up that it’s finally happening.

Health:

death photo

Image by Aaron Escobar Linky Friday #155: Fear

[H1] If you want to live to 112, the solution apparently involves chain smoking. Maybe this is why advocates are trying to convince me that my smoking cessation wasn’t good for my health.

[H2] Maggie Koerth-Baker says that choosing not to vaccinate is rational, and that’s a problem.

[H3] In England and Wales, more babies are being born to women 35 and over than women younger than 25.

[H4] As my wife likes to say, life is a terminal, sexually-transmitted disease. Apparently, drinking will kill you.

[H5] Youth pill! Youth pill!

Brains:

[B1] The story of how a neuroscientist discovered that he had the brain of a psychopath.

[B2] Long winters can be tough, but Norway gets by and it turns out our brains do better in the winter than the summer. I’d always thought that was the case for me, but I figured it had to do with being raised in the southern heat when winter is the only tolerable season and summer is exhausting in its very existence.

[B3] The walking dead (in their own mind).

[B4] Among Adam Grant’s advice for overcoming fears of public speaking: Don’t calm down! I personally slip into a bit of an accent.

[B5] Doing psychological research with babies is difficult, and there are accusations that corners are being cut. These scientists are, however, undeterred.


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74 thoughts on “Linky Friday #155: Fear

  1. [B5] I know many baby researchers, including one of my very good friends, with whom I’ve collaborated on research even. I have no doubt that there is corner-cutting going on in many labs, but I don’t think it’s unique to infant labs, and I don’t think it’s as ubiquitous as the sociologist makes it seem. Psychological research is difficult, period. Psychologists know this, they know that the difficulty combined with the incentives involved will result in short-cut taking, and they account for that in the way they approach findings.

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  2. B1,
    Still better than a friend of mine, who after his first MRI got “you realize you have a hole in your skull?”
    “Oh, right, the neighbor’s cat did that…”

    Seriously, most psychologists with a psychiatric bent (so not the MDs, but the people working on psychological dysfunction) tend to be people with mental illness themselves. (Depression’s probably one of the most common).

    This guy seems like he did some small stuff that was a bit riskier than most people.
    WAY better than the guy I know who seems to resemble a bit more controlled instance of mania (he does get “low spells” that resemble depression as well, of course — but the “mania” is the problem, because he really can convince people)

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    • And talking about plasticity in people who are adults is misreading the situation.
      The real issue is ossification and the loss of sentience — people fall into patterns, and eventually they become the patterns.

      Psychopathy interacts pretty badly with people who don’t understand long term relationships. If you can get a psychopath to understand “don’t shit in your own nest” you’re most of the way towards civilizing the dude.

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      • So you dispute that the LA Times reporting that Apple acts differently for the Chinese? The issue isn’t that Apple has done some of the same things for both gov’ts, the issue is that Apple has done more for the Chinese.

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        • Apple follows the laws in both countries. Is the lesson that we should be more like China and grant fewer rights to people and corporations? It would certainly be easier if we had an amendment that grants Congress the power to make a law compelling anybody to do anything law enforcement says at any time. But that’s not where we are (yet).

          I’d personally love it if tech companies got together and pushed back against China’s excesses, but in the real world where huge amounts of money are at stake, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. There’s just too much profit in being the one company that buckles and gives the government what it wants in exchange for access to that huge market.

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      • Not exactly, as I understand it – the phone was owned by the employer, who were able to independently change the password, no court order and no action by Apple needed.

        Which is what subsequently messed up the FBI, because once the password was changed at the Apple server side, the password stored on the phone was wrong, so no further backups could succeed, and the FBI weren’t able to get any data since the last successful backup.

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  3. H1: skeptical that we have an accurate birth year from someone born in rural South Asia in the early 20th century. (my own grandmother born in rural Canada at around of the same time had a variance in upwards of 10 years in her official documents, between immigration&naturalization, driver’s license and social security). Still, even if she’s in her 80s or 90s, that’s impressive.

    G2: It’s interesting how this issue warps the space between traditional left and right, basically putting Crooked Timber on the same side as Alex Jones (and people far less out there than he his), but on the opposite side from Hillary and even Bernie.

    C3:

    Police in Boston did not face much resistance from civilians in the aftermath of the marathon bombing because of their proactive approach, Marcus said.

    “Because of the way that the leaders communicated through the media, the confidence that they established with the public, that people in the area where the manhunt was going on were very, very cooperative,” he said.

    I seem to remember several locations in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon shooting, where the curfews and stay off the street orders were *not* voluntary. “Not much resistance from civilians” was because of the threat, maybe explicit, maybe just implied, that you would be shot on sight.

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    • I can confirm Kolohe’s memory on C3. My friend lived very nearby to where the shootout happened — close enough to hear the shots. People were told they couldn’t leave their homes. Now, would that have been enforced? Hard to know. Most people were too scared to challenge it.

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    • “Not much resistance from civilians” was because of the threat, maybe explicit, maybe just implied, that you would be shot on sight.

      Yes, folks could have been shot by the muslim terrorists if they didn’t heed the warning.

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    • On the Boston thing, yes pretty much the whole metro area was on lockdown. We weren’t supposed to go out at all. I never heard about a “shoot on sight” order — and come on. I mean, I wouldn’t want to have taken a stroll in the actual neighborhood where they shooters were holed up, cuz chaos. But let’s not spin up myths here. I have a friend who runs the kitchen at a local university, and the students have to eat, so she walked to work. No big. Emergency personal were out. No one was shooting random civilians.

      Good grief people!

      The “no resistance” certainly refers to no political resistance. Like, I literally don’t know anyone in Boston who had a problem with this. We, as a population, accepted that this was an unprecedented event, and that the governor was acting responsibly. In other words, this is a civil society, and we have leaders for a reason.

      Which look, I’m sure if I kick over enough rocks and talk to a sufficient number of hardcore libertarian types, I could fine someone who objects, just as I can find a flat-earther if I look hard enough. But really, no one was complaining. And this means no one on the trains the next day, no one in the bars the next day, no one in the little breakfast spot I eat at, nothing. I’m not just talking about my fellow tech workers. This was “person on the street” stuff. And I assure you, we were talking about it. It was the big conversation topic for weeks. If there was any groundswell of resistance, it would have been loud. (It is not as if we Bostonians are shy about expressing our feelings.)

      My point, the people complaining were those who don’t live in Boston.

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    • Possibly I’m cynical… But from my reading of it, that quote is not necessarily incompatible with your observation, but actually directly supportive, i.e. “Because of the way that the leaders communicated through the media [that people would be shot on sight], the confidence that they established with the public [that they would be shot on sight], that people in the area where the manhunt was going on were very, very cooperative [because they knew that they would be shot on sight]”

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      • Oh my fucking god!

        Show me one shred of evidence that people in Boston were worried about being shot on sight? Seriously you people have no idea what you are talking about. A small number of people went work cuz they needed to be at work. The rest of us stayed home because the governor asked us to and he had a good reason.

        STOP MAKING SHIT UP I WAS HERE THAT DAY.

        We’re citizens who understand the needs of community, not an unruly mob of jackasses. (Except on Saint Patty’s day when this city turns into a drunken cesspool of terrible. But never mind that.)

        I stayed inside, cuz THESE GUYS WERE LITERALLY TERRORISTS WHO BLEW PEOPLE UP AND WE WANTED TO STAY SAFE.

        The governor said the cops were chasing them and having the streets full would be confusing and dangerous. So we fucking stayed home, cuz we’re not stupid.

        No one threatened to shoot civilians. Good fucking god.

        STOP FUCKING LYING.

        (Sorry, this is a sore point to me. I was here. One of the kids killed lived in my neighborhood. The place where that cop got killed is visible from my office window. My ex-wife’s poly partner was working at the finish line and saw the bodies. My ex-wife was just down the street when the bombs went off. She heard them. This was a big deal to us that brought the city together. STOP FUCKING LYING.)

        sigh

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        • I apologize if my snark crossed a line – I wasn’t attempting to comment on the actual events. I realize that offense given unintentionally is still real, so I shan’t claim any kind of excuse.

          I worked with state and local law officers, and former state and local law officers for a decade. My point, if I had a point, is that for all too many of them, civilians have gone in their minds from “the people we protect and serve” to “inconvenient obstacles”.

          I didn’t mean to suggest that they would literally shoot anyone, just as a much more talented snarker than I didn’t mean to suggest that English landlords would actually eat Irish babies. I do think the general public is metaphorically deader to law officers than they were even a decade or two ago.

          Not to all, but to all too many.

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          • Fair enough.

            It’s a sore point for me. A lot of people want to editorialize on this event, to turn it into some kind of political hobby horse, when in fact the city was kind of nuts at the time with the thing. Many of us were rather traumatized —

            — I mean, actually not me. I kinda just took it in stride. But my (now ex-) wife, who was near the bombing when it happened, and whose then-poly-partner had seen the carnage — well, let’s just say they were pretty messed up.

            Anyway, so they find out who the killers were — and NOT THE POOR INNOCENT SOD THE REDDIT TROLLS BLAMED. But anyway! They found them out. They published the pictures —

            — was that a good idea? Maybe not. I dunno. I have little patience with people who beat up other people based on 20/20 hindsight. Anyway, the bombers knew the jig was up.

            So they murdered a cop.

            I mean, I’m no fan of the police, but they don’t deserve to die. That was some random MIT cop, doing his normal job of (literally) nerd herding, and he has to fucking die!

            he has to fucking die cuz these shitstains!

            That literally happened in view of my office. Which, I mean, I wasn’t there at the time. But still.

            And now the fuckers are on the lose, and they’re crazy as fuck, and we don’t know quite where they are or how they can move around or what kind of bombs they have set up or if they’ll get cornered by the cops during rush our and charge into Park Street Station and kill another 100 of my lovely fellow Boston citizens.

            Which, we can be a disagreeable lot, but we don’t deserve to die for it.

            And like, today literally some chucklefuck was running from the police and decided to run down into the subway tunnel. So they stopped the whole Redline and I got home from work late. It sucked. But there were cops in the subway tunnel, along with some dumbass (alleged) criminal, and you can’t really run trains like that.

            But they didn’t shut down the city, cuz it was just some random (alleged) criminal and not LITERALLY TERRORISTS WITH BOMBS.

            How many people does the Boston PD arrest each day without closing down the city? I dunno. But these two were different.

            So the governor shut down the city. And sure, it turned out to be unnecessary, since I live in Dorchester, with is actually pretty far from Watertown (which is actually a suburb and not properly Boston at all). But still. We didn’t know. The cops weren’t sure. But they had enough to worry about besides a crowd of tourists tying to snap photos of some dead patriot’s grave while bombers are darting among them.

            Blah.

            I stayed home safe and watched it unfold on TV. So yeah.

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    • I don’t really see why there would be anything to hide. I always figured those speeches were just an easy way of covering up graft. They could have paid her millions of dollars to act as Court Jester or Food Taster for the CEO, but I guess “making speeches” implies that a political leader actually has some useful information to convey and looks more honorable.

      I just assumed that as a politician, if you get paid big bucks to “make a speech” somewhere you just showed up, read the phonebook in front of a roomful of interns, and then picked up a huge check.

      In Clinton’s case, my guess is this: She said vague nonsense that generally patted the financial industry on the back and confirmed for her listeners that she agreed that they’re the Masters of the Universe. It’s likely stuff that would be harmless if released during a general election but dangerous if you’re trying to keep Sanders supporters from getting excited during a primary.

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        • Note that it’s a conservative PAC releasing it during a primary, which pretty much confirms my suspicions. It’s more valuable to them now than during the general election. It’s hard for a conservative Republican to take the anti-Wall Street position in a general election, so it’s not super useful in the general election unless there’s some real dirt in it. It is, however, useful if you want to support the pro-Sanders narrative and end up with Sanders as your opponent in the general election.

          The crime here is that people are making an issue of the content of the speeches rather than the fact that they’re an obvious bribery laundering scheme that an alarming number of our government officials participate in.

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      • Did they pay her more than her going rate for speeches? If so, it’s hard to call that bribery. (I mean the amount she charges is ridiculously high, and she does do free speeches as well, but are we not angry because Clinton made good money giving talks? Clinton! Too fucking successful of an American!”)

        If they paid her what she always charges, bribery seems…a rather interesting word.

        And of course if “getting paid to give a speech” at any point in your career is bribery, then we really have to start calling a lot of people bribed.

        Don’t even get me started on the rampant bribery in the music industry. Those stars — do you know how much they charge to sing for people? (Actually, you can get surprisingly big stars to do a private showing for about a Clinton speech, not counting travel. I suspect the latter ads up more for most performers. I mean Sara Barellies or Regina Spektor could probably get by with a piano or guitar and a microphone….)

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        • Did they pay her more than her going rate for speeches?

          It depends on how you calculate the “going rate” for those speeches. If they’re all basically just an easy way for constituents to give her money for doing almost no work, then the going rate isn’t really a meaningful concept. I prefer to ask, if we take the value of her gratitude for the cash off the table, what is the value of a speech from Hillary Clinton? Depends on the audience, I suppose.

          Let’s take a $325K speech at Cisco. Unless they were charging for tickets, it seems pretty unlikely that Cisco has $325K of use for any information any secretary of state or senator may have to share with them in 20 minutes of talking. I doubt they’ll sell any additional hardware or motivate their employees all that much. I wouldn’t characterize her as an expert in anything that’s particularly relevant to Cisco. But it is a great relationship building exercise to get your CEO into close proximity with a political heavy hitter while handing her a large pile of cash.

          Basically, if you’re somebody who could engage in a quid pro quo with a political constituent and that constituent hires you for a large amount of money to do very little work without necessarily being able to quantify the value of it, that’s a suspicious transaction. Same goes for vague “consulting” services and sitting on boards of directors. It’s along the lines of buying coffee from somebody for $75 a pound. Maybe some money laundering is going on, or maybe it’s just really good coffee, and who are you to judge how important coffee is in my life?

          And of course if “getting paid to give a speech” at any point in your career is bribery, then we really have to start calling a lot of people bribed.

          Why would you think I was saying that? Oh, right. It’s because it’s an obviously uncharitable way to mischaracterize somebody’s position to make it look dumb.

          Don’t even get me started on the rampant bribery in the music industry.

          Sure. Whatever.

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          • Yes, I’m sure you prefer to ask that because it helps you assume your case that it’s legal bribery. (And, of course, you’re indulging in dictating what her market worth is for a speech in the process.).

            Unfortunately for you, there’s actually IS an easy way to determine this: Look at what she charged everyone else. She did make a living doing this, it’s not like her speeches to financial institutions were on-offs. (And they are, admittedly, the last groups she’d do it pro bono for).

            AFAIK, she charged them what she charged everyone for a speech.

            Which means for it to be ‘legal bribery’ then Clinton was bribed by every organization she got paid to give a speech to, which was an awful lot. And by your logic, anyone making a paid speech that gets paid MORE than what you (or I or anyone I suppose) thinks it’s worth is getting bribed.

            Bribery’s a pretty big word to toss around based entirely on such flimsy logic, don’t you think?

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              • No, I’m just pointing out a logical flaw. He’s calling giving paid speeches legalized bribery.

                I’ve only got two basic ways of making that sensical — either the speeches were overpaid (which could be proved by comparing to the usual rate for that speaker) or the mere act of giving a paid speech is a form of bribery.

                Frog seems to lean towards the former, if I understand him (please correct me if I’m wrong), but instead of comparing it to her ongoing market rate (her compensation for other speeches from similar groups) he seems to be defaulting to some personal ‘value’ assigned that he thinks her compensation exceeds.

                Which seems…arbitrary, does it not? This seems exactly the sort of thing one would default to basic market concepts on — to determine the value of Clinton’s speeches, look at what people are willing to pay. And given she’s gotten paid for a whole lot of them, to a whole lot of different people, that should be easy enough to do.

                And doesn’t require making up a value, declaring her compensation above it, and thus legal bribery.

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            • If the market rate for hanging out and having a nice chat over a cup of coffee with your senator is $25K per meeting, who are we to argue? As long as everybody pays $25K and nobody is paying above market rate, surely it’s all on the up and up.

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              • For what it’s worth, I’d probably take the speaking fees too. I’m pretty sure I could convince myself that they love me for me and that I wouldn’t be swayed by the fact that most of my income depends on the goodwill of companies that pay me to be a very expensive birthday clown. I could probably convince myself that they *probably* really just needed my unique wisdom. We contain multitudes.

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              • So you think paid speeches are bribery? Is this for everyone? I mean if she was in office at the time, I could see your point.

                Or do you think paid speeches shouldn’t be a thing?

                Or that former politicians or people who might run for office should be barred from giving paid speeches? Or is it only to certain groups? Can she make a paid speech to, oh, the Rotary club but not Citigroup?

                I’m trying to parse this here.

                (I like how you’ve gone from “speech” to “conversation” — which are entirely different things. If Clinton was charging 250k for a 30 minute meeting, that would be one thing. Of course, layers charge 150 for a 30 minute meeting….is that okay as long as they promise never to run for office?)

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                • So you think paid speeches are bribery? Is this for everyone?

                  Yes. I think all speeches, always, everywhere are bribery. Public appearances, even. Musical performances, too, just as you managed to nail me on in your first post.

                  I mean if she was in office at the time, I could see your point.

                  Ah! There is more to it than the possibility that all speeches are good or all speeches are bad, then?

                  If you could find your way to seeing my point if she was in office at the time, might it not be a giant leap to seeing a glimmer of a point if everybody knew that she was almost certainly going to run for president and almost certainly going to win her party’s nomination? The fact is, Clinton was and is a political heavy hitter. Nobody paying her for speeches 3 years ago is surprised at where she is now, unless they’re surprised that Sanders is doing as well as he is.

                  Or that former politicians or people who might run for office should be barred from giving paid speeches?

                  I don’t think that there’s a working solution to the problem. There will always be some form of “consulting” or other respectable, highly paid, low effort service that will be a great way to build a political network by spending money. But can we acknowledge that “might run for office” is understating Clinton’s position a bit?

                  Should we ban congressional staffers from becoming lobbyists after they leave? Eh, maybe. They’re highly qualified to do the job, and it’s a real job with real market value. But it’s hard to say the career path doesn’t create a nasty conflict of interest.

                  Or is it only to certain groups? Can she make a paid speech to, oh, the Rotary club but not Citigroup?

                  We can probably make the distinction. Should a likely head of the EPA treat a paid speech for The American Petroleum Institute the same way he would a speech for the Girl Scouts?

                  I like how you’ve gone from “speech” to “conversation” — which are entirely different things.

                  How different, really? If we promise not to talk because I just enjoy basking in the Senator’s warm glow while he drinks his coffee, is it all that different from a speech that provides basically nothing of use to the paying institution?

                  I mean, did The United Fresh Produce Association or the Pharmaceutical Case Management Association *really* get a lot of value from hearing Hillary Clinton speak? Is it totally unreasonable that some of these things look like window dressing, or are we really to believe that representatives of the National Automobile Dealers Association were sitting, rapt, hearing relevant wisdom from a senator / top diplomat for $325,500?

                  A lot of the orgs on this list aren’t even *companies* per se. They’re just trade associations that exist to lobby the government. Are they really sitting at the feet of wise politicians and hanging on their every word, just grateful for the chance to learn?

                  Of course, layers charge 150 for a 30 minute meeting….is that okay as long as they promise never to run for office?

                  I don’t know. Is he almost certainly going to run for office and stand a good chance of being elected? Am I a constituent who would stand to gain from a relationship with him, and am I hiring him to do actual work or just paying his market rate to push some paper in my office and toss him some billable hours?

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                  • Okay, riddle me this: If she was charging, oh — top flight lawyer rates. Call it a grand an hour, and billing not just for the speech but for prep time, travel time, covering travel costs, etc — would that be as troublesome?

                    Would you be as agog over costs and talking darkly of bribery if she was billing her time, giving speeches, at the rate of a highly in-demand attorney?

                    In short: Are we arguing over rates — that it was so much as to be nothing more than legalized bribery? Or are you claiming that Clinton giving paid speeches at any point in the last decade or so, basically soliciting legal bribery?

                    Because those are two different arguments. The first, we’re arguing over something entirely subjective. The second, we’re arguing over what careers are even acceptable for any future politician.

                    We seem to be veering back and forth, so let’s nail it down: Is the amount or charging at all to speak that’s the problem? (Speaking of politicians between offices, so to speak).

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                    • Call it a grand an hour, and billing not just for the speech but for prep time, travel time, covering travel costs, etc — would that be as troublesome?

                      Are you trying to find the exact rate at which it becomes a problem? If I were to ask you if it would be a problem for them to pay her $100M for a single 5 minute speech, would your answer be different than if she was giving a speech for a free breakfast buffet?

                      My answer is that it would obviously be less troublesome. The severity of the graft scales with the price. A $25,000 speech would be less of an issue than a $250,000 one which is less problematic than a $2.5M one. A billion dollars would be very suspicious.

                      In short: Are we arguing over rates — that it was so much as to be nothing more than legalized bribery? Or are you claiming that Clinton giving paid speeches at any point in the last decade or so, basically soliciting legal bribery?

                      If the rate is low enough, it doesn’t matter what she’s doing. You can’t really bribe somebody by giving them $1. It’s hard to bribe a political heavy hitter with $1000. A few hundred thousand dollars? Yes, it’s starting to add up. That’s how graft works. The vehicle for the money only matters inasmuch as it affects how plausible the cover story is. Work for hire becomes suspicious when it’s hard to value the work, the pay is high, and the cost to provide the service is low.

                      That’s especially true when the “work” is something that provides little obvious value to the buyer. Getting paid handsomely to do seminars for something within your area of expertise to people in a relevant field is less suspicious than selling high-priced speeches to lobbying groups with little use for what you might tell them. It’s more suspicious still when you look at the list of market participants and find that the market price is set largely by these types of customers rather than by customers with an obvious natural affiliation (random industry lobbyists as opposed to professional women’s organizations, diplomatic / policy think tanks, etc.).

                      Again, I have to ask, do you really believe that the National Automobile Dealers Association or the United Fresh Produce Association have use for a speech by Hillary Clinton? Are they $300,000 better off for having reveled in her presence and soaked up her wisdom, or is there some other value lobbyists might find in hanging out with politicians and cutting them big checks?

                      You seem to be pushing the idea that the lack of a bright line between corruption and innocent work for hire means that there’s no continuum between corruption and innocent work for hire. Or at least that it’s impossible to make an educated guess as to which end of the continuum we’re on. I think we can, and it’s a matter of looking at all of the factors like a rational, skeptical person.

                      My position is that $325,000 from a lobbying group with no natural affinity for your expertise is almost certainly somebody attempting to buy access, whether or not Hillary Clinton recognizes it that way. Further, my position is that the smart and ethical thing for politicians to do is to avoid the appearance of impropriety by not engaging in those sketchy deals, and the ones who do have made their own bed when they get called out on it.

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                      • Actually no, what I’m trying to suss out is if YOU think there are clearly unobjectionable amounts, and clearly objectionable amounts. (Seriously, where the heck does this bright line come from?)

                        Because if you do – -and it sounds like you do — then this is an entirely subjective argument. You feel that “X dollars” is clearly corruptive or objectionable. Okay, but that’s just a flat statement of feeling. With no support.

                        You just flat out assert it can’t possibly be worth that much and thus has to be about something else. Okay, that’s an opinion. Great. I have one too. It’s not the same as yours on whether it’s “overpaid”.

                        That’s okay, that happens. People disagree, especially about things like “What’s X worth”. That’s a pretty core question, right? There’s an entire field of study that tries to answer that, and no where in that field is “Just go with your own personal gut”.

                        Like I said WAY in the beginning, the quickest way to make a check on that assertion (“It’s too much money for just the speech!”) is to check her rates and see who is willing to pay that. If people who could be using that money to try to sway her are willing to pay that, but also people who aren’t (because their organization has no need to lobby, or has no particular axes to grind, or isn’t even particularly political or business oriented) then it’s hard to say that it’s “too much”.

                        Of course, we could also compare to other politicians fees — Dubya makes about 175k per speech. Ben Bernacke charges more than Clinton. Geitner about the same. Sarah Palin, who will never actually hold elective office or really sway anything and whose accomplishments were…considerably more minor — charges 100k.

                        Condaleeza Rice charges 150k — an interesting comparison. She was just Secretary of State, and isn’t as popular a figure, and she charges about 80% of Clinton’s rate.

                        Look, in the end — you have an opinion that she’s “overpaid” and that is the core of your conclusion “it’s corrupt/legal bribery/whatever”. But that core is your belief she’s overpaid.

                        What’s this based on? Your belief that her speeches can’t be worth that much money. I don’t think that Wu-Tang album was worth that much, but someone clearly thought so. People disagree on pricing.

                        So if you want to claim it’s bad, you can’t just assert it based on your own, individual, gut-level feeling of what her speech is and isn’t worth.

                        There ARE ways to try to make that argument — heck, I spelled them out — see if she charged more to groups she could do more for if she became President. Compare her prices to speeches given by other people of similar visibility. See if they’re even in the same ballpark (there are no apples to apples, but you can see if they’re at least roughly fruit).

                        But repeating “It can’t be worth that much” is just an opinion. Using that to jump to legalized bribery is….well, it’s not a very convincing argument. (And it wasn’t to me because I was well aware that LOTS of people charge 6 figures for a speech, including lots of people who will never hold elective office again. What’s the point of bribing a retired guy?)

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                        • I think I know what field you might be talking about because I majored in it in college. I’m totally onboard with the concept of subjective value. But that doesn’t mean the factors that go into a particular buyer’s willingness to pay are entirely mysterious. That’s why I listed a whole bunch of other details beyond “price” that make certain transactions suspicious. Let’s take a hypothetical Ben Bernanke engagement with Goldman Sachs. While it’s a little bit icky, it makes some sense for a couple of very good reasons:

                          1) Ben Bernanke is a world class expert in something highly relevant and extremely valuable to Goldman Sachs.
                          2) Goldman Sachs is a company which, as points out, might value his presence for the marketing / corporate image value.

                          It’s still not all that great for the same reasons congressional staffers going to work for lobbyists isn’t all that great. But like the congressional staffers, there’s no arguing that he’s not bringing something relevant with real value to the table.

                          So, along those lines, I went down the list of her speaking engagements. They seem to be broken down into a few broad categories: Private companies, trade groups/lobbyists, fund raisers, other. The first two are by far the largest categories. Fund raisers / event companies make sense because they’re getting a clear ROI. Private companies are a little sketchier, but let’s pretend that they’re all just polishing their images as important organizations by hiring big names to come to their corporate events. Nobody’s trying to build a relationship and it’s all totally innocent. I must ask again, though, what’s the deal with those industry lobbyists?

                          Your take on it is that it’s unknowable, and maybe I’m really dim, but I’m not seeing how the National Automobile Dealers Association gets the same benefits. Could you please tell me what non-access related benefits you think a car dealership lobbyist got for their quarter million? I just want you to say that you believe that transaction sounds innocent.

                          The comparison numbers are interesting and, as expected, fuzzy, but aside from the finance industry experts, it looks like your market value as a speaker generally declines with your prospects in politics. Two important details those numbers leave out is how often they actually speak (as opposed to the asking price) and who is hiring them. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that while eBay may still want you at their parties once you’re really retired, you may not get as many calls from United Fresh Produce Association.

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                  • Genuine question: Do companies (not trade associations, which I agree are different) ever bring in big name speakers not for their current employees, but for the outward perception? Is there value in being able to say, “We’ve brought in three former secretaries of state and two former vice presidents over the past 3 years. Trust us… we’re good!”

                    That may be an alternate source of value.

                    Overall, I agree with what I understand your general point to be on the problematic nature of paid speeches. I’d probably stop short of calling them bribery (without more evidence of a quid-pro-quo agreement) and instead call them an end run around campaign finance rules (assuming those still exist). Of course, maybe people consider campaign donations to be bribery. I’m not one of them. I don’t think you are either. But it is a very messy situation with lots of ugly gray areas.

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                    • To a greater or lesser degree, I think a big issue is what the person could be doing in the future. The chance of former SoS Rice having a lot of political influence in the future is pretty slim. The chance of former SoS Clinton having a lot of political influence in the future is pretty good. So, overall I agree with you in not calling them bribery, but they can definately be a big chunk of pay-to-play. I do think there is some value in motivational speakers for some people, and the idea of getting to listen to someone that you consider to be a hero or influential in your field, whatever, is valuable to many people, and that comes into play here, but there is another side to it. One that is expressing very well.

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                    • Speakers are extremely common in the corporate world.

                      I see at least 2 per year – one at our annual meeting and one at our Global customer event… they range from Athletes to “Futurists” to Corporate Executives (famous) to Artists to Authors to anything at all, really. For example, After “Moneyball,” we had in the span of a couple of years both Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta.

                      The market for speakers fees is pretty consistent between $20k – $50k (plus T&E). You can certainly spend more depending on wealth and fame of the speaker. Also, what’s the purpose of the speaker? Some events sell tickets (like our Global event) and spending money on the speaker could be a way to sell more tickets and/or attract important attendees. The budget for an external facing event can often justify a higher profile/higher fee speaker… the $50k – $100k+ type of speaker. In our case, a $1B Silicon Valley software company with approx 3,000 paying attendees will invest in the $20-$50k range.

                      This year we had the Artist, Erik Wahl – below is a sample video (not my company) of what these events look like.

                      https://youtu.be/do-F7Ge8N6w?t=15s

                      His fees are approx $35k – $50k (for US travel).

                      Charging $200k? That’s really a lot given the size and variety of the speaker market. Is she worth it? That’s a tricky question. Companies sometimes will invest in prestige speakers and HRC would qualify. Is it proper? Eh, its a lot like the revolving door between Lobbies and Govt and Regulators and Regulated. Personally, I’m certain that it is pay-for-play, not that there’s anything wrong with that…

                      My own take is that one can make a perfectly reasonable use of the fact and point out that Clinton is a Pro-Business Neo-Liberal politician… in the right hands and with a solid counter agenda, that’s all you would need. Trump could possibly make us of this, Bernie is trying to do something with it – but not at the expense of the party as a whole… but what on earth would Rubio or any of the other Republicans do with it? Lament that they are not getting their fair share? Hit GS up for higher fees next time round? That’s why they have to go over-the-top to suggest something almost illegal. Its not illegal; I’d call it typical money-grubbing revolving door politics that is unseemly for a former Senator/Secr. State that is planning to run for future office… but unseemly does not disqualify one from running.

                      Then again, I don’t really harbor any illusions that HRC is anything other than a Global Corporatist shill – so her claims to the contrary aren’t something of value that she could lose to this constituency of one. Releasing the speeches? Well, maybe other folks have different notions of how she thinks to world works, so I don’t blame Sanders for pushing that.

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  4. [M3] Writer seems torn between anonymizing the people he writes about, and wanting us all to know how awesome he is by association with them – to the point of totally de-anonymizing them. So he dated “a model” (unnamed) who went on to win a specific title in a specific year that is only ever given to one person a year. Sheesh.

    [B2] The SAD study was of US adults. Unless Alaskan respondents represent a statistically significant set on their own, I’m not going to revise my own views much.

    [G2] I am about as worried about the cashless society as I am about the paperless office.

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      • Bitcoin was designed to satisfy the ultimate goldbug fantasies, which is likely to make it pretty much useless as a currency in the long run. I could see a Bitcoin descendant being more successful, but they’d have to figure out a money supply growth rate that made sense under normal assumptions. You still wouldn’t really be able to run an economy on it, but it could be useful as an alternative currency.

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          • Illegal businesses still have the same basic currency needs as legal ones, though. reasonably stable pricing and exchange rates are at the top of that list.

            Unless by “illegal business” you mean “vaguely Ponzi-like scheme where the first owners of the digital currency mine it at a huge profit as new entries to the market drive the price up until an inevitable crash.” Then, sure.

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          • Bitcoin is hilarious. From the entirely cumbersome nature of the transaction block and verifications to the built-in deflation to the fact that the geniuses who latched onto it and declared it economic nirvana tended to get scammed out of their gourd by the trading sites they used…..

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          • The fundamental flaw is that the curve for the growth in the supply of Bitcoin doesn’t and never will match the curve for the growth of the Bitcoin economy. Early on, you have people adopting the currency and speculating. Later, the supply asymptotically approaches a constant while the economy keeps growing. At minimum, they’re building deflation into their economy, but I doubt they’ll ever get lucky enough to see steady deflation.

            It’s a tiny economy with a fixed money supply. It’s going to jump all over the place until people get tired of it and stop using it. My guess is it will be superseded by another cryptocurrency that doesn’t have that same flaw (or at least, not to the same degree). There will always be a following of people who think it’s the Right Thing To Do, but I don’t think it’s every going to function the way we expect a reasonably healthy currency to.

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  5. Can’t wait to hear how this further proves that no one could have known about or prevented the Flint water crisis, how its unfair to make it a partisan blame thing, and how Snyder is just one of many people who couldn’t possibly have known (or prevented) the crisis.

    Two of Gov. Rick Snyder’s top lawyers privately advocated moving the city of Flint back to the Detroit water system because of quality problems only months after Flint began to draw its drinking water from the Flint River and treat it at its own plant in mid-2014, according to a review of e-mails made public Friday by the governor’s office.

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  6. M3: Damn, I’d like that type of job. Screw what everyone else thinks, just lie.

    M4: Hell, LexisNexis has been collecting other types of data on people and selling it for year. I saw a prototype of it once. That was over ten years ago. They pretty much had everything but your activity on the roads.

    M5: More and more frequently.

    N4: Word!

    C3: I think we talked about this before. This thing will not protect you from any of the semi auto rifles out there. Any .223 round or higher, funny that the blanket site refers to it as “high powered” when it’s not, WILL penetrate. Would have made no difference at Sandy Hook.

    G2: Of course it will. When there is no cash neg interest rates baby. And everything is tracked.

    N1: Day of the Triffids! The Day of the Triffids!

    H2: “their children above the public good” Public be damned. “Public Good” got us 1 child policy.

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  7. [C5] – Does anyone remember when the internet was supposed to be full of *facts*, and we’d all go there and read those *facts*?

    Anyway, it amazes me how people like to invent complicated and often nonsensical plans for criminals to follow. I love how inadvertently convoluted that is, though, but only after you actually think about it. It requires carjackers either plastering a bunch of cars (Which then means they have to steal whatever car is first), or, more likely, either only doing a few and settling in for a long wait.

    During that wait, they have to shadow *everyone* to their car, in order to be close enough if it is the right car.

    I could hypothetically see this as a targeted attack, where they pick a store that people are generally not in long, and when they see a car they like, they do it to that car, and they know what the driver looks like…except for the obvious fact that they have absolutely no reason to screw around with piece of paper!

    What they *actually* would do is intercept the driver right as they reach their car, and, you know, threat harm in exchange for the keys. Which is, indeed, how car jacking usually works! Although usually not cars parked in parking lots, which require maneuvering to get to the street. Better to just car-jack someone at an intersection, or when they get out to use an ATM or gas pump. (Which, yes, are in parking lots, but you can usually pull right out of.) It’s not *impossible* to be car-jacked in a parking lot, so whatever, but they surely are not going to messing around with hoping you get in your car and then out of your car.

    Additionally, there seems to be a slight physical problem here. The idea seems to be that you open the door, and walk to the back of your car, and they slip in…which they obviously have to do from the front…around your open door? How much time are we talking about to step to the back of your car, and you’re, what, three steps away from your door? That’s some really fast maneuvering.

    And the other story has something on the *windshield*?! I guess it was supposed to be on the *passenger* side, because obviously people barely get out of their car to remove something on the driver’s side. That, at least, would actually require a long walk, and leave it where someone could sprint in the back. OTOH…would you actually care enough to remove something on that side…oh, wait, it was supposed to be a $100, except I’m not sure how you’d even *notice* a $100 over there, at least not in any plausible place. (I mean, they could have just taped it to the middle, but that seems a bit suspicious.)

    (Incidentally, while that story is probably made up, that fake $100 is almost certainly a religious tract.)

    At least this urban legend is slightly more plausible than the ‘men will lie under women’s cars so look under there from a distance as you walk up’ urban legend, which is literally the most absurd way of laying in wait possible…attacking someone while *you’re under a car* is completely insane and liable to get you kicked repeated in the head.

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    • Oh, heh, wait, I didn’t even notice the ‘tape something to the windshield’ doesn’t even work under the logic of the thing. The entire premise is supposed to be ‘You get in, start your car, look in the rearview to back, see it, and get out with your car running. So they hop in.’. (I wonder how backup cameras play into this, or the fact that people happily drive with obstructed rear windows all the time.)

      Putting something on the *windshield*, according to this logic, would result in, ‘You get in the car, see the thing on the windshield, get out *before starting the car*, and return to a thief sitting in the driver’s seat whose been trying to desperately to hotwire the car for the past 10 seconds.’

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    • Not anything to do with your main point, but it brought up something that amused me. A couple of nights ago on a side street, I passed a car going the other way that had received a parking ticket or brochure or some such. I know this because the driver left it under the windshield wiper, and was blithely driving on his way with it still there.

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  8. Positive Aspects to Scalia going to the gates of St. Peter already

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-26/dow-cites-scalia-s-death-in-settling-urethanes-case-for-835m

    “Dow Chemical Co. said it agreed to pay $835 million to settle an antitrust case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death reduced its chances of overturning a jury award.

    Dow, the largest U.S. chemical maker by sales, said Friday the accord will resolve its challenges to a $1.06 billion award to purchasers of compounds for urethanes, chemicals used to make foam upholstery for furniture and plastic walls in refrigerators.

    The Midland, Michigan-based company disputed a jury’s finding it had conspired with four other chemical makers to fix urethane prices and asked the Supreme Court to take the class-action case on appeal. Scalia, one of the court’s most conservative members, had voted to scale back the reach of such group suits.

    “Growing political uncertainties due to recent events with the Supreme Court and increased likelihood for unfavorable outcomes for business involved in class-action suits have changed Dow’s risk assessment of the situation,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.”

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