Max Keiser’s “On the Edge” Takes On Goldman Sachs (24 July 2009)

Via Zero Hedge, an entertaining series of Max Keiser videos regarding Goldman Sachs.
Mr. Keiser’s comments are over the top (for example, calling for financial leaders to be tried by The Hague), but he does raise legitimate questions regarding Goldman Sachs’ government ties and high frequency trading practices.

Part 2 of 3
Part 3 of 3
Perhaps the most revealing part of the videos is the comment by Rep. Kanjorski at 0:30 of Part 3. The congressman implies that behind the scenes last fall, Treasury Secretary Paulson all but threatened that there would be hunger, riots, and martial law in the U.S. if Congress didn’t pass TARP and other emergency bailout provisions.
Such episodes are important to highlight because there’s a concerted effort underway to flush last fall’s extraordinary events down the memory hole and pretend that Obama is to blame for our current economic woes. Obviously, the economic tsunami hit shore last summer.

I Don’t Mourn The Death of Cursive

Claire Suddath has an article at entitled “Mourning the Death of Handwriting.” At issue is not the act of writing by hand (though that is in decline too) but rather writing in so-called script or cursive.
Suddath identifies 1980 as a line of demarcation–people born after that have rougher handwriting and almost never write in cursive. She attributes the decline to a shift in educational emphasis and the rise of the computer.
I started school just before 1980. Early Radio Shack computers were just starting to rear their ugly heads at the school, and we still had to use cursive in handwriting class. I hated it. I never understood why people would prefer to use cursive instead of the print that was universally used in books.
The only rationale that made sense to me was the explanation that cursive is faster to use, since you don’t keep having to lift your pen off the paper. But in my case, it wasn’t any faster, just uglier. My cursive is so bad that I even have a hard time reading it. That may be one of the reasons I never liked the format–my writing is scary to look at.
So I shed no tears for the disappearance of funky Zs and curly Qs. Good riddance.

Knoxville Ranks 5th In “Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report™”

A couple weeks ago Allstate released its fifth annual “Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report™.” The report compares the frequency of vehicle collisions in America’s 200 largest cities.
According to the report, Knoxville drivers average a collision once every 12.3 years, which means a collision is 19.0% less likely than the national average. Here’s the top ten “safest” driving cities:

1. Sioux Falls, S.D.
2. Fort Collins, Colo.
3. Chattanooga, Tenn.
4. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
5. Knoxville, Tenn.
6. Fort Wayne, Ind.
7. Lexington-Fayette, Ky.
8. Eugene, Ore.
9. Boise, Idaho
10. Colorado Springs, Colo.

Note that none of these cities are very large. The press release indicates that cities with over 1 million residence are more likely to have accidents than the national average. One more reason to avoid big city traffic.
It’s good to see Knoxville so high on the list. But there are plenty of bad drivers here, too. It makes me wonder how scary it is to drive (or worse, bicycle) in a city at that ranks near the bottom of the list.

“We’re All Predictably Irrational”

Here’s a presentation by Dan Ariely a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University (website). He’s author of the book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (2008). His speech here is a little difficult to understand, but it’s worth the effort.

The most interesting aspect I took from the presentation was the part about Asymmetric dominance (starting at 12:20). Briefly put, if you have two primary choices (“A” and “B” below), but add a similar, yet inferior alternative to one of them (“C”), it makes people more likely to pick the choice that is superior to the inferior alternative (B), even though it’s no better than the other primary choice (A). In other words, the existence of a bad (C) tilts peoples’ perception in favor of (B).
So, Ariely concludes, if you go out bar hopping, you want to take along a slightly uglier friend.