19 March 2010

Tab Clearing: Come for the jibber-jabber about small press comics, stay for the ranting about government!

Via Jeffrey Ellis, C. Coville's Cracked.com article on "6 Subtle Ways The News Media Disguises Bullshit As Fact." Understanding this should be required to get a high school diploma.

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Via Jeff Holland comes the news that the sixth and final volume of Scott Pilgrim will be released on 20 July 2010. Booyah. (Yeah, this news deserves a late-90's era Stuart Scott catch-phrase used un-ironically.  That's how good it is.)  Unfortunately this sucker isn't on Amazon or Heavy Ink for pre-order yet.  Forget the "-yah," that part only gets a "boo."

Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim movie will be released on 13 August, so you have less than a month to get your hands on a copy and read up.  BTW the first poster for the movie was released a couple of days ago.  I love the tag line:  "An epic of epic epicness."

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Spike Jonze's latest short I'm Here is now available online in its entirety. I'm a big Jonze fan, and the trailer looks interesting. I haven't gotten a chance to watch the whole thing though, because Absolut, who's sponsoring it, is capping the number of viewings per day.

That's beyond weird. In fact it's the opposite of what you want to do with internet video. Am I missing something, or is Absolut being foolish? They've got a terrible, Flash-ified, brochure-wear website for the film, so I'm guessing they're not entirely on the ball on this one.

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The Globe has some cool pictures from the construction of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. The British pavilion is called "The Seed Cathedral." Tell me that isn't straight out of The Diamond Age.

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Jacob Grier | Yes, tobacco taxes really do kill business

A sad story out of Utah where new tobacco taxes are causing at least one tobacco shop, which has been in business since the 1940s, to close its doors. The increased taxes would be bad enough, but the kicker is that they don’t apply just to new stock. Retailers will have to apply the higher rate to all of the inventory they own, even though they purchased it at the old tax rate. In the case of Jeanie’s Smoke Shop that will add up to about $125,000 due in July. Unable to sell their inventory or raise that much cash by then, they’ll be closing their doors instead. Read the full story here.
The entire point of the Rule of Law is to let the governed know what the rules of the game are, allowing them to make decisions and know in advance what the legal consequences will be. No more guessing games about how whether the chieftain likes you, or the judge is having a bad day, or if the sheep entrails will point in the right direction.

When laws are too long,* when they are too vague,** and especially when they apply retroactively, they defeat the entire purpose of having codified laws in the first place.

* In 2006 Congress passed 7,332 pages of legislation, and the Federal register was 78,724 pages long.
** I'm looking at you, honest services fraud.

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Ken gives a good example of private corporations != free market advocatesin this case, the IIPA industry group making noises about restrictions on open-source software

What worries me about groups like the IIPA, the RIAA, the MPAA, etc. is that they give their members a great way to offload the bad rap they would get if they were out there fighting for technical and legislative restrictions on consumers' freedoms themselves.  The MPAA gets to go about advocating ridiculous programs and people rightly despise them for it, but that leaves Sony, WB, Disney, Fox, et al. unsullied.

As a big supporter of the free-market, and a believer that reputation is critical to it's efficiency, this is less than good.  I'm not sure what the work around it is.  I don't think "raising awareness" is going to do much.  Things like the Bad Guy Sticker greasemonkey script are a nice step, but hardly an answer.

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Also at Popehat, Ezra points to findings about a species of functionally immortal jellyfish. Just one more reason that invertebrates, especially the squishy ones, give me the willies.

Dora and I feel the same way about jellyfish.

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Wired takes a look at some new, web-based sitcoms produced on lean budgets.  I think tv production is going to bifurcate in the future in the same way that movie production has in the last decade or so.  There will be a handful of big-budget productions (including more mini- and limited-series) and there will be plenty of on-the-cheap indies.  In my mind that's a neutral to very good development.  (Why?  Short answer: more total shows made, leading to more quirky, niche products and a lower proportion of median consumer, LCD stuff.  That's the hope, anyway.)

Coincidentally (?), Rob Long's latest Martini Shot episode was about the move to more low-budget tv production in Hollywood.

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Victor Matheson at The Sports Economist on the hand-waving-bordering-on-fraudulence that constitutes accounting practices at collegiate athletic departments:
In an article today on CNN.com, the normally quite sharp Chris Isidore, a senior writer for CNNMoney, perpetuates one of the most enduring myths in sports economics: that college sports teams generate significant profits for their host institutions.

The article shows the individual revenues, expenses, profits, and margins for essentially all NCAA Division I men's basketball teams and finds that across the 340+ D1 institutions in the country, basketball made a profit of nearly $280 million last year. As noted by Isidore, "it's clear that men's basketball is a major source of funding for many colleges, and that profits are still far more common than losses for the major teams in March Madness." It's a nice story. It's also 100% wrong.
Click through for an examination of how schools juke the stats.

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Some high lights from the most recent Economist:

Electric sports cars.  (Read here or listen below.)

Personal animosity among tech CEOs.  (Read here or listen below.)

Quantum-dots for lighting.  (Is there anything q-dots can't do?  If it was possible to have a crush on a class of molecular structures, they'd be right up there on my list between Jeff Bridges and Chuck Klosterman.)

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Jim Harper gives mixed reviews for the Obama administration for transparency on the Cato Daily podcast .  I really like the idea of each agency providing data streams at consistent locations (e.g. "agency.gov/opendata").  I'm more confused by Obama's utter failure to keep his sunlight-before-signing  promise.  By Harper's count, Obama is 7 for 143, or under 5%.  Are there really that many bills that are so urgent, either in actuality or from a political standpoint, that he can't wait five days before signing it?  Sure, you get a big, controversial bill plunked down on your desk, and you sign it forthwith.  I don't respect that, but I understand it.  But signing >95% of bills quickly tells me he just doesn't give a damn about that promise.

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Megan McArdle | Democrats Want to Buy Now, Pay Later With Health Care?

But this I am confident of: they're not going to "pass this bill and then fix it," [...]

If we pass this thing, no American politician, left or right, is going to cut any of these programs, or raise the broad-based taxes necessary to pay for them, without any compensating goodies to offer the public . . . until the crisis is almost upon us. I can think of no situation, other than impending crisis, in which such a thing has been done--and usually, as with Social Security, they have done just little enough to kick the problem down the road. The idea that you pass a program of dubious sustainability because you can always make it sustainable later, seems borderline insane. I can't think of a single major entitlement that has become more sustainable over time. Why is this one supposed to be different?
[My emph.] See also her previous post on Arizona cutting back on Medicaid and ending its SCHIP program, and what happens when Washington ends up holding the States' portions of the bills for these programs.  And also Arnold Kling on the dangerous precedent of treating medicare-cuts-to-be-realized-later as if they were actual revenue sources.

As mentioned here previously, I find failing to get the fiscal house in order with regards to medicare, social security, state budgets, etc before making a massive expansion to be utterly irresponsible.  I once knew a girl who had a devil of a time being responsible enough to take care of her puppy but was pretty sure she was responsible enough to have a baby. That's who Congress reminds me of.

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