Sunday, July 19, 2009

Now that's how you run a caucus...

This story about Sam Rayburn, the powerful chairman House Interstate Commerce Committee and later Speaker during the FDR administration is too good not to share:

He would never ask a man to do anything against his own interests. "A Congressman's first duty is to get re-elected," he would say, and he would advise young Congressmen: "Always vote your district." If a Congressman said that a vote Rayburn was asking for would hurt him in his district, Rayburn would always accept that excuse. But Rayburn knew the districts. And if the excuse wasn't true, Rayburn's rage would rise. Once, for example, it erupted against a Congressman from a liberal district who took orders from the district's reactionary business interests only because he didn't want to offend them. The Congressman had often used the excuse of public opinion in his district, and, because Rayburn had never challenged him on it, and had stopped asking for his support, was under the misapprehension that that Rayburn believed that excuse. One evening, however, after the Congressman had voted against a bill Rayburn supported, he approached Rayburn, who was standing with a group of friends, and with a winning smile said he sure wished he could have voted with him, but that such a vote would have hurt him in his district. Rayburn did not reply for a long moment, while the deep red flush stated to creep up his head. Then, says one of the men who were standing with Rayburn, in a recollection confirmed by another, Rayburn said:

"Now, I never asked for your vote on this bill. I never said a word to you about this bill. I knew you wouldn't vote for this bill, and I never said a word to you about it. But you come across the room just now and told me you wish you could have voted with me."

"So I'm going to tell you something now. You could have voted with me. I've known that district since before you were born, and that vote wouldn't have hurt you one bit. Not one bit. You didn't vote with me because you didn't have the guts to."

The flush on the huge head was so dark now that it looked almost black. The men standing with Rayburn backed away. "So don't you come crawling across this room telling me you wish you could have voted for the bill. 'Cause it's a damn lie. It's a damn lie. And you're a damn liar. You didn't vote for the bill 'cause you didn't have the guts to. You've got no guts. So let me tell you something. The time is coming when the people are going to find out that all you represent is the Chamber of Commerce, and when they find that out, they're going to beat your ass."

A young state legislator who had considered challenging the Congressman for his seat had dropped the idea because he didn't have enough political clout. Not a week after his confrontation with Rayburn, the Congressman walked into the House Dining Room for lunch and saw the legislator sitting there - at Rayburn's table. When the legislator returned home, he had all the clout he needed, and the Congressman's political career was over. Rayburn drove him not only out of Congress, but out of Washington. He tried to stay on in the capital, looking for a government job or a lobbying job, but no job was open to him. And none would ever be - not as long as Sam Rayburn was alive.
"The Path To Power", Robert A. Caro, pp. 329-330

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Final post on the "NO GODS" license plate

As promised, just wanted to post the text of the letter I got from teh BMV now approving my "NO GODS" plate for those that are interested.

Dear Mr. B_______:
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles ("BMV") received your request for the personalized license plate NO GODS. The BMV initially denied your application and sent a letter to you informing you of that determination. Subsequently, the BMV did an additional review of all applications that were denied and determined that your application shoudl have been approved. As such, your request for NO GODS is approved for the 2010 registration year.
It's signed by the General Counsel of the BMV, so I'm certainly with the idea that this was more a "oh shit we might get sued" sort of thing. I hope that this helps the BMV implement it's policies regarding Personalized License Plates more fairly in the future, and maybe even helped others who had decided not to fight get the non-theist plates they requested.

So that's it. I'll be getting the plate early next year in February. I'll make sure to post a picture when I have it.

Oh, The Friendly Atheist posted a quick bit that I was approved as well. Thanks to Hemant for posting my story and helping to get the visibility for it that lead to the successful conclusion.

Monday, July 13, 2009

(Almost) Final Update on the "NO GODS" license plate

There's been a resolution to the "NO GODS" license plate. I don't have the letter I got from the BMV on me so I'll do another post tonight with the text from the letter, but the short version is that they 'suddenly' decided to do a review of all rejected plates, and it turns out the rejection of my plate was all just a big mistake.

I talked with the ACLU-IN last Friday, and their legal director said he had a message from the BMV stating pretty much the same thing, that it was all a big mistake with handling their new PLP rules that now allow religion (obviously, since i have photographic proof of one that reads "BE GODS." He's not sure how the BMV knew the ACLU-IN was involved, but it worked either way. My guess is as the story got circulated, the BMV got wind of it. The general consensus on Twitter seems to be that "it was a mistake" is code for "shit, we don't want to get sued."

So my 2010 Indiana license plate will read "NO GODS." I'm happy with the resolution to this. Hopefully this means that the BMV will be more diligent about applying their rules to PLPs in the future and someone else won't have to go through this. It means I probably won't be going on CNN, as doing that now would just be kind of dickish. But that's fine too. If it was still an issue to be fought I'd definitely still fight it. Now.. now I'm just happy that the Indiana BMV decided to appy their rules fairly.

Thanks to everyone on Twitter, Reddit and The Friendly Atheist for their support, ideas and most importantly spreading the story. I don't think it would have ended so easily without the story making the rounds like it did.

I'll post the text of the final letter from the BMV tonight, and once I get my plate of course I'll be posting a picture, but that won't be until next February.

Thanks everyone!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Update on the "NO GODS" license plate

Alright I promised a followup to my original post, but nothing has really happened with the BMV itself yet. The official written appeal for an administrative hearing is going out today. But there's plenty of other things to update related to this (some of which were updates to the original post, but not all of you may have seen those)
  • The original post made Reddit, where it got some really good discussion. The biggest finds via that thread were another Hoosier who had his "GODLESS" plate rejected and has already been in contact with the ACLU of Indiana, and an example of a personalized plate for a Christian that was accepted ("BE GODS"). I'm in email contact with him and am hoping that we can basically combine our appeals to the BMV in some way via the ACLU.

    Some other good points were made there and when I was following that thread the first day it was a pretty lively and almost exclusively supportive discussion. Thanks to mileszs for posting it there.

  • I also submitted the story to The Friendly Atheist, where it appeared. That site is a great resource for atheists, agnostics and even people who just plain respect the separation of church and state. Many thanks to Hemant Mehta for posting my story there. Some great and (obviously) supportive comments there as well.

  • I did get contacted by the ACLU-IN today, and was told my complaint is on the appropriate desk and I should be hearing from them soon. Good to hear, and hopefully they can combine the issue of both my plate and the "GODLESS" plate. I'll post more when I hear more from them (and find out what I should and shouldn't be sharing on public forums I suppose, in case this does get legal)

  • The biggest news is that I was contacted by a producer for CNN. Still very early stages, and not even guaranteed that they will pick up the story, but it's a possibility. I was apprehensive at first, but also think that standing up and doing what I think is right is very important. So when I talked to my wife and asked her what she though and her first words were "Doing what you think is right is the most important thing.", well I knew two things. I knew I had married an awesome woman, and I knew I had to at least try for the possibility of media coverage. So we'll see.
Also some people I want to thank for their help so far.
  • First my wife. She is an atheist as well, and not shy about it either. She's been very supportive of my desire to do what I think is right and fight this and it's just one of the many reasons I love her.

  • My friend E___. Going to leave out her actual name, but a few years ago she went through a fight against an institution on some pretty strong discrimination grounds, which ended up blowing up into a pretty big media thing for a bit. Her advice on dealing with media and how to keep my jittery ass calm when talking to them has been great.

  • Fellow Orphanarium blogger CRS has made some great early points to me on where the argument really lies that make a ton of sense. The "In God We Trust" plates really are beside the point as "IGWT" has become a non-religious statement all over our government (as much as I dislike that) and the real issue is they have approved pro god PLPs, but that rejecting my pro-atheism plate is giving preferential treatment to one viewpoint over another (and has shown that having religion on a PLP is obviously not the problem).

  • All the people on Facebook and Twitter who have given encouraging comments, support and have spread the link around about the story. It's cool knowing I have friends and strangers in my little corner of the Internets who both have my back and see the importance of an issue like this.
SO finally, here I'll include the letter that is serving as my official appeal for an administrative hearing with the Indiana BMV.

Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Personalized License Plate Requests
100 North Senate Avenue, Rom 404
Indianapolis, IN 46204

To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Jason B_______, and I am writing to officially request an administrative hearing to appeal the rejection of my personalized license plate (PLP) "NO GODS" dated 06/22/2009 After reading the BMV website relevant to PLP standards, I conclude that this should not have been rejected.

The BMV will deny a personalized license plate request if an objective, reasonable person would find that the customer’s proposed expression on the personalized license plate application is determined to carry a connotation offensive to good taste and decency, is misleading, or is otherwise prohibited.

I do not see how "NO GODS" is offensive to good taste and decency, unless the Indiana BMV considers atheists and non-believers to be offensive to good taste and decency themselves. I have seen at least one PLP with a message of "BE GODS". To allow the that but not a PLP making a different religious (or non-religious) statement would be giving preferential treatment to one viewpoint over another.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience to schedule an administrative hearing. I would prefer to be contacted by email or phone for the quickest scheduling. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to having this issue resolved soon.

Jason B_______
[contact information]

So the next step is waiting on the ACLU to get with me, wait on CNN to get back to me if they want to do the story, and obviously wait on the BMV to respond to my appeal. I'll keep you all updated. Be sure to check back here for updates. Not sure how frequent they will be. Lots of stuff still up in the air. But when I know enough for a substantial post, I'll let you know

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Free Speech, Religion & License Plates

Finally, a reason to post on this poor neglected blog!

About a year ago, I got it in my head to apply for a personalized license plate in the state of Indiana. The plate would read "NO GODS", my little response to the annoying and ever more present "In God We Trust" official Indiana license plates. I figured if it was okay for the state of Indiana to officially endorse religion (and specifically the Christian religion, no matter what they might say about "God" being ambiguous), then it would be okay for me to personally request my belief in no gods.

Having forgot about my application, I didn't even think about it until I received a letter from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles:
Dear Mr. B_______,

The personalized license plate ("PLP") referenced above has been denied as inappropriate due to form or content.
There's more, but it's basically telling me I can ask for a replacement PLP or request an appeal via an administrative hearing. Obviously, you know which option I am choosing. I decided to look up the relevant text related to allowable PLPs on the BMV website.

Personalized license plates allow creativity; however, under Indiana Statue IC 9-18-15-4 (b) the BMV may refuse to issue a combination of letters or numerals, or both, that carry a connotation offensive to good taste and decency.

The BMV will deny a personalized license plate request if an objective, reasonable person would find that the customer’s proposed expression on the personalized license plate application is determined to carry a connotation offensive to good taste and decency, is misleading, or is otherwise prohibited. [emphasis added]

The question becomes, is the phrase "NO GODS" offensive to an "objective, reasonable person"? The only other portion of the guidelines above that could be a sticking point is "or is otherwise prohibited." If by that they include to mean a statement of religion, it is my opinion that a prohibition of religion on license plates went out the window when Indiana approved the "In God We Trust" license plate. If it is okay for citizens of Indiana to proclaim their religion via an Indiana license plate, not allowing me to proclaim my lack of religion seems to be a pretty obvious case of the state government favoring or promoting one religion or belief system over another (or over a lack thereof).

I've contacted both the Indiana ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation for their opinion and possible assistance. The FFRF responded quite quickly, saying they believe I have the BMV "in a pickle" but to wait for the ACLU-IN since the "In God We Trust" license plate issue was their baby back when that plate first came around. I'm hoping to hear from them soon before sending in my official appeal to the BMV for an administrative hearing. Either way, even if the ACLU doesn't take my case I plan on fighting this as much as possible.

If you have any suggestions, recommendations or help you can offer please let me know in the comments.

Update: Thanks to a friend of a friend of a friend for posting this to reddit. Check this blog for future updates, or just watch

Update II: Thanks to the reddit post, I've found another Indiana resident fighting the same fight, in his case for a "GODLESS" plate and who has already been in contact with the ACLU-IN and American Humanist Association. Hoping we can pool resources.

Also, thanks to Hemant Mehta for sharing the story via the consistently good read The Friendly Atheist.

Once I know more and have sent out my official appeal for an administrative hearing, I'll put up a new post.

Update III: I'll have to do a new post catching everything up sooner than I thought, but until then this: The reddit thread is really becoming a good source. First the other Hoosier fighting for a GODLESS plate and now a picture of a plate in the streets bearing the slogal "BE GODS." That will come in handy.

Monday, May 18, 2009

First as tragedy, second as farce

"The media is simply giving a very loud minority far more attention than the quiet majority." -Matthew Degnan, University of Notre Dame, Class of 2009, May 15, 2009

"It is another voice, it is a quiet voice in the tumult of the shouting. It is the voice of the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans, the non-shouters, the non-demonstrators." -Richard Nixon, August 8, 1968

"And so tonight-to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans-I ask for your support." -Richard Nixon, November 3, 1969
And lo, the modern right wing did look upon the New Left of the 1960s and said "that worked out great for them, didn't it! Let's try it!" Keep it up, conservatives. Keep it up indeed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Free Parking

Last month I had to visit the Federal Building downtown. On my way back to my car, I noticed an odd parking space. Take a look at the car parked between the two red cars. Notice anything missing?

I couldn't get a good picture with my mobile, so here's the Street View of the same space. The blue car above is parked between the trees in the center of the picture. Zoom in once for the best view.

View Larger Map

There is no meter for this space. It is not marked with any signage or curb paint to indicate that it is a no parking zone.

I doubt this space was designed as a space for large vehicles such as limousines or box trucks. I assume that the meters were installed from the cross street intersections inward, and this is just the gap left over from choosing to install the double meters.

So the question is, is this free parking? Anyone have any experience with this space? I believe you can see co-blogger CJ's old place in the photo above. Care to weigh in?

EDIT: Whoops, forgot to title this post.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bailing Out The CIB

Jen Wagner wants to know what Greg Ballard thinks of the CIB bailout options:

Food and beverage taxes: Bumping up Marion County's 2 percent food and beverage tax by 1 percentage point would bring in $18 million a year. This is one of the best options because it raises the most money. But opposition from taxpayer groups would be high. Odds: Still alive.

Hotel taxes: An increase of 1 percent in Marion County's 9 percent hotel/motel tax would drum up $4 million a year. The hotel industry is opposed to any increase, saying it would make it more difficult for Indianapolis to compete against other cities for convention business. Odds: On the table.

Raising admission taxes: Increasing Marion County's 6 percent admissions tax by 1 percentage point would bring in $1.5 million a year. Mayor Greg Ballard likes this idea, though the Indiana Pacers are especially loath to do this because it would make it harder for the team, already struggling with thin turnout, to draw crowds. Odds: Possible.

Concessions from the teams: The Indianapolis Colts now get a share of revenues generated during non-Colts events at Lucas Oil Stadium. Giving that up would mean $3.5 million for the Capital Improvement Board a year. The Pacers hope the CIB will assume $15 million a year in operating costs at Conseco Fieldhouse. As a compromise, the CIB might assume a portion of that amount. Odds: Uncertain.

Expanding taxing districts: Adding new hotels and other stadium-related businesses to a sales tax increment financing district in Downtown would generate $10 million a year. Odds: Possible.

Alcohol tax: Indiana's spirits, wine and beer taxes are on the low end, but lawmakers are more interested in solutions that affect Marion County alone, not the whole state. The taxes raise about $42 million a year, which is split between the state and local governments. Odds: Unlikely.

That's a good question, and certainly one I can't answer. But I can certainly offer an opinion as to how the bailing out should be done. The CIB deficit is at $43M, and they've already agreed to $6M in cuts, leaving $37M to make up.

First things first. I'm sorry, but the Colts and Pacers have to make concessions here. The public's sympathy for bailouts is small enough, and I see no good argument why the economic bad times should only be shouldered by the government. So let's take the $3.5M the Colts get from non-Colts events (which is ridiculous anyway, but that's another story). Now the Pacers actually want the CIB to take on additional costs, which strikes me as unrealistic on their part. We'll come back to that, but for now the $3.5M seems like a no-brainer. Deficit down to $33.5M.

Marion County Taxes: From a purely selfish standpoint, this is the one I'd like the least because I eat out, whereas I don't stay in hotels. But that's a lot of revenue to pass up, and eating out is a luxury, so lets do that and pick up another $18M for a deficit of $15.5M. But hey, let's do all the others too. The special tax district for $10M, the hotel tax for $4M, and the ticket tax for $1.5M. That comes to... $15.5M.

So if we adopt all the local tax increases and take none of the costs the Pacers are trying to push off on us (but also not ask them for concessions like with the more successful Colts) we can close the gap. Seems a bit overly burdensome to Marion County in my opinion. The final option of using state alcohol tax money is rejected almost out of hand because provincial representative in the rest of the state don't want to spend the money on Marion County. But wait! Marion County is this state's tax base. It's almost certain that the rural counties that would be most opposed to this plan are net tax recipients, taking money from Marion and the doughnut counties. The fact is the state's economic success is intertwined, and hurting Marion County hurts everyone. Now I do believe that Marion and the doughnut counties most certainly benefit more than the rest of the state on this issue, but not exclusively. So I think what I'd like to see is for the deficit to be paid out by some combination of concessions from the sports teams, local taxes applied to Marion and the surrounding counties, and some state funding. Food, beverage, and hotel taxes are probably the best source for the local tax revenue, and the burden on any one county is less when we're extracting revenue from all of them. I think the alcohol taxes are also probably a good source of the state contribution as well. As Wagner says, our alcohol taxes are already low, so there's room to increase them without creating a black market. Alcohol is also a luxury good with negative public health externalities, also making it a decent candidate for some additional taxation.

Now this plan is probably completely unfeasible politically. Instead I'm afraid what's going to happen here is that Marion County will get hammered. I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Credit Default Swaps vs Poor People Getting Houses : FIGHT!

A friend on the Facebooks recently got into a political internet slap fight (I always think of this XKCD) that ended up with a bit that essentially blamed the economic crisis on "Bill Clinton and his subprime mortgages". Never mind that a) what they are probably referring to is the government push to get more of those less well off able to buy houses b) that was actually done under Jimmy Carter, I believe and c) the whole "Democrats helped poor people get houses and that caused the crisis!" is very un-classy and a drop in the bucket compared to the Credit Default Swap Mess.

So I decided to but in a little on her comment about that thread.
Two great videos that help explain what credit default swaps are and how they nuked the economy.

CDSs are important because they were completely unregulated, meaning banks bought very heavily into them. Essentially many "too big to fail" financial institutions made a bet that the housing market would just keep going up forever. An unrealistic expectation. When housing prices finally started to fall, the whole house of cards came crashing down.

The Credit Default Swap market was worth $62 trillion recently (down from it's peak certainly given the way things have crashed). It was worth $900 billion in 2000 with Phil Gramm (R-SC) deregulated the CDS market.

The median home price in the united states in 2005 was $213,900. If you want to compare that to the size of the CDS market, that would mean the current CDS market would avearge out over 289,855,072 2005-median-value homes. According to the 2003 census bureau housing survey there were 105,842,000 households (which includes apartments)

Given there are some date differences in my data and some very rough math, still the CDS market outweighs even the value and number of homes in the united states. The government helping a few more poor people get houses is a drop in the bucket compared to the failure of CDSs and the "too big to fail" banks' involvement in that mess.

There's possibly a math mistake in there, or an oversimplification. It was done in a rush on a Facebook comment thread. The main point stands though that "poor people getting houses they can't afford" is a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the Credit Default Swap mess. It was bad deregulation in 2000 and a failure to patch that hole for this long that led us to the mess we are in. And for that, yes, you can blame greedy corporations and our representatives in Congress that did nothing to undo the mistake of not regulating those CDSs.

Neglected Blog Is Neglected

So this idea has failed, but I'm going to try to rescue it with a shot post with quick and dirty math about Credit Default Swaps that was fun to put together but potentially has some horrific math error I haven't seen that will render the entire post bad. So.. stay tuned!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"As Tall As Cliffs" - Margot & the Nuclear So and So's

I'm sure all of the Readers are familiar with this band, but you might not be familiar with this series of videos from La Blogotheque.  Basically, they take an artist or artists and have them walk around in a public place performing some songs.  Andrew Bird's performance of "Weather Systems" is particularly good, in my opinion.  But here's Margot doing one of the songs from their newest album.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Analyzing Another Potential Bailout

First our banks failed, then our porn industry calls for a bailout as well. Now our auto industry teeters on the brink of collapse. But another big failure is on the horizon with consequences we cannot possibly imagine.
JDB: Quick! We need a bailout of the chicken wing industry!

CWK: Also, I demand a chicken wing industry bailout. The cascade effect as this spills over into our chili and potato skins industry is too much for the economy to bear.

JDB: Chicken Wings is an industry TOO BIG TO FAIL! Oh sure, BW3 can weather the initial storm, probably buy up the smaller failing players but if this is allowed to go on our entire sports bar industry could be taken down.

CWK: It's the small local firms like Scotty's Brewpub that will really feel the effects. Think of the small businessman!

CWK: And of course all the firms the sports bars buy supplies from. I don't think people realize how embedded into the economy the bar food industry is.

JDB: America's over-extension of the chicken wings will also hurt other solid areas within the Sports Bar Market. Sure, the potato skins sector is on solid footing but the weakness of chicken wings will drag it all down.
Not to mention the international effects. China, for one, will feel an impact of an American Chicken Wing Crash

CWK: Why this statistic I have here from the totally unbiased and not at all funded by the bar food industry Center for Bar Food Research (Located in Buffalo, NY) says that unless the "Big Three" sportsbar chains (BW3, Hooters, Damons) get a bailout it could cost the US economy eleventy billion dollars and 3 million jobs.

CWK: If you disagree, then clearly you hate bartenders and food service professionals and want their families to starve.

JDB: Of course, calls to let the Sports Bar Market crash and reorganize on its own into smaller regional or local chains less apt to bring down ancillary markets are roundly dismissed by the CBFR.

JDB: The best compromise I believe would be a nationalization of the Sports Bar Industry, with the government eating the bad Chicken Wing Assets while selling the still strong Potato Skin and Mozzarella Stick sectors. If/when chicken wings rebound, America will then be better off and able to profit from them
I don't think America has faced a crisis like this since the New York Bagel Crash of 1934.

The GOP Version Of The Bill Is Stuffed With Eagle Down

So it looks like the Democrats in Congress and the Obama Administration are already caving to the Big Scary Republicans.

House Democrats appear likely to jettison family planning funds for the low-income from an $825 billion economic stimulus bill, officials said late Monday, following an appeal from President Barack Obama at a time the administration is courting Republican critics of the legislation.

Dear Democrats Who Happen To Actually, You Know, Be In Power By A Decent Margin,
When negotiating from a position of power, you throw out a high number that you know you can't get and back down from there. You don't start off at your desired result and then let the opposition lowball you down.

I swear, it's like the Democrats are Amy from Futurama and the Republicans are the car salesman Victor (the 1:10 mark is where you can see the resemblance):

So who does that make Malfunctioning Eddie?

Via Think Progress.

Update: Brad at Sadly, No! knows how to negotiate with Victor.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

99 Problems, but a Bush ain't one

I'll try not to let this become a video blog, but this is too good not to share. Jay-Z at the Obama for America Staff Ball:

ANd one more bit of funny. The common joke was that Dick Cheney looked like Dr. Strangelove, but I like The Foggy Monocle's take of Cheney as The Big Lebowski alot.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King

Matt Yglesias's post reminds me that today is a great day to post this clip:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

TARP Round 2

Should congress release the second half of the TARP funds? I'm torn.

On the one hand, it's no secret that the TARP has been horribly mismanaged. You've got banks taking money that admit they don't need it. You've got banks using the money to pick up other banks cheaply. Perhaps my personal favorite is the insurance company that bought a bank just so they could qualify for a bailout. My understanding is that all this money is supposed to be used to ease the "credit crunch"; to open up the credit markets allowing businesses and consumers to finance capital needs again. Of course, that's not happening either.

On the other hand, it's not like the bailout has done nothing. The stock market has stopped its free-fall and the much-feared utter catastrophe has been avoided. Jim Manzi more thoroughly lays out what the bailout has done for us, but he also ends with a warning about round 2:

Congress has the right to approve or deny any request that Treasury might make for the second tranche of the additional $350 billion. This should be treated as a separate request. We have the luxury of time, as compared to a few months ago, to vet this request with far greater rigor, and in light of what we have learned. Specifically, before authorizing this money, Congress should perform its oversight function, and demand to know: (1) what underlying risks, not to shareholders or employees, but of systemic financial collapse now exist or are latent that would justify this much money, and (2) how we will avoid the zombie bank problem, including potential application of lending requirements in return for capital, as has been done in the UK.

I supported the original bank bailout, and continue to believe that it was a painful, but correct, decision. However, supporting the next tranche will require a lot of convincing.

It seems to me that we're stuck in a battle between those oft-opposing two methods of decision-making, Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Precautionary Principle.

PP seems to speak clearly in favor the the second round of bailout money. Yes, no doubt much of the money will be used in inefficient and morally troubling ways. But the danger of a global economic collapse far too serious to worry about that. Staving off economic disaster is Job One, and some rich people game the system along the way, that's the price you pay.

CBA is more difficult. Are we getting a good bang-for-the-buck? What is the real risk of collapse, and are we spending too much to mitigate it because the odds are small? What are the real costs of the negative aspects of the bailout and do they outweigh the gains under some time horizons? I'm not going to dare claim I can figure that out; it will require the brains of actual economists and finance experts.

I wish I had some great conclusion to be drawn from all this, but I still don't. I don't know enough about the risks involved to even attempt to resolve this, but I thought I could lay out a little of what's gone through my head this week thinking about it. I'd love to hear others' thoughts in the comments or in followup posts.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Am A Free Series!

As a part of their promotional experience for the mini-series remake of the 60s TV classic The Prisoner, AMC has made the original series available online for your viewing pleasure. FYI.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Old Views of Indianapolis

The MAKE Blog dug up a link to a very cool collection of penny postcards, sorted by state and county. Decided to check out the page for Marion County and take a look at what Indianapolis used to be.

It's a damn shame they tore down the old Marion County Courthouse when they built that boring 60's era design City/County Building.

Man, how cool would it be if the Pythian Building was still around? Actually found a little history of that building, and Mass Ave was removed there so One Indiana Square could be built.

The Circle is a very different place these days, with the monument now dwarfed by the AFNBBank One Chase Tower. The biggest loss on the circle is the gorgeous English Hotel and Opera House. Here's another great old postcard of the circle.

The Athenaeum has always looked cool and thankfully has survived the years. A little history from the National Park Service here.

Tomlinson Hall. Used to be a part of the City Market complex, it burnt down in 1958. You can see the current old City Market building in this postcard as well. Tomlinson Hall actually hosted two presidential nominating conventions of the Prohibition Party.

Yet another Mass Ave landmark, the Murat. The Wikipedia page has some history.

Butler University used to be in the Irvington area of Indianapolis (then its own town), but later moved to its current location. A couple postcards of the old campus reminds me alot of old small colleges and universities scattered around the state. Of course, their current campus houses the historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

St. Francis Hospital
in Beech Grove is that city's (Beech Grove did notjoin Indy's UNIGOV in the 70's) largest structure, and will be closing in a few years in favor of St. Francis' monstrosity of a hospital near Greenwood. Here's how it looks now.

Anyone know when this postcard might be from? That's some pretty serious flooding.

New Airport vs REALLY Old Airport

What is apparently a view from across the White River in Broadripple of the now gone White City Amusement Park, which once housed a Carosel that is now at the Children's Museum. (about 1/3 of the way down this page has an abbreviated history of the amusement park)

One of my favorite spots in Indianapolis, the Garfield Park Sunken Gardens.

Great collection, with many more postcards on the site than just these. Any postcards you like from where you grew up? Leave some links in the comments.

Full Collection
Indiana Collection

Friday, January 2, 2009

How can Drinking Liberally: Indianapolis give back?

So already I slack, but the holidays and a deadline at work barreling down on my like an out of control [popular culture reference] at a [something related that makes it funny] has left little time. But something that I'll certainly be sharing as the process goes on is how to make Drinking Liberally: Indy do a little more than just get together for beer every week (Thursdays, 7pm-whenever, Spencer's Stadium Tavern, 802 S. West Street ).

2008 was a good year for DL:Indy. Not only our very well attended Election Night Party but our event with the Planned Parenthood in Indy where we had the game Rock Band on the big screen and lots of new faces show up for what was essentially a visibility event for PPYL were very successful. I got to thinking that while I want to keep DL:Indy low key, casual and pretty much an opportunity for like minded people to hang out we could do more.

So the general idea is this: Once a quarter, Drinking Liberally: Indianapolis will co-host an event with/for a deserving non-profit to either raise money or just raise awareness and networking. First up I'm thinking is just a reprise of the Rock Band Night with PPYL, get our event legs under us again. But after that, Q2 comes calling with.... what?

This is where we start to get into undecided/no clue what we are doing territory. One idea has been to do a concert. Get a local band or two and a venue to donate proceeds for the night to [non-profit X], with DL:Indy serving as the "co-host" and bugging everyone we know to show up and be a part of it. Maybe do a raffle of donated items as well.

Luckily, 4 years of DL:Indy has built up a network of people that might just be able to help pull this off. Already have cwk here at The Orphanarium roped into it, and looking to get crs and rfd into it as well. Also have one or two other people in mind that might have ideas or know-how on this sort of thing.

The comments are open for ideas of non-profits that woudl be good to give a helping hand. Already on the list:
  • Keep Indianapolis Beautiful
  • A domestic violence shelter in Crawfordsville, Indiana where an old friend from the Howard Dean campaign days now works
Maybe by posting these ideas here, it will force me to actually follow up and do them.