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January 2010

". . . the most fun available on four wheels"

Dan Neil, the Los Angeles Times car columnist, can get very enthusiastic about cars. But he sets a new mark for enthusiasm in reviewing the 2010 Lotus Evora:

No, not fun. Joy. Inexpressible, diamond-showering, running-naked-through-a-field-of-virgins ecstasy. Handling perfection. This is transit gloria, and it is sick.

In my career as an automotive journalist, I've never written these words: I am going to buy one.


More on the mess in California

Mike Shedlock gives a concise but comprehensive answer to the question, "Why is California Broke?" (I look forward to reading the book someone will surely write explaining why Ahnuld, who seemed to be ideally suited for fixing some of the problems, accomplished so little.)

Steven Greenhut blames public sector unions and quotes Willie Brown, big liberal but nobody's fool: "The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life. But we politicians—pushed by our friends in labor—gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages. . . . [A]t some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact."

(On public sector unions more generally, see Daniel Henninger:

Feeding the public unions' wage demands starved other government responsibilities. It ruined our ability to have a useful debate about any other public functions.

Massachusetts' spending fell for mental health, the environment, housing and higher education. The physical infrastructure in blue states is literally falling apart. But look at those public wage and pension-related outlays. Ever upward.)

The California DMV provides an example for one of my late father's favorite lines, "To err is human. But to really screw up, you need a computer."

Finally, budget cuts are so severe at UC campuses and course offerings have been cut so much that some students might--might--have to sign up for eight o'clock classes. Say it with Kurtz: "The horror! The horror!"


Intellectual Property and Business

Looking for something to read? May I suggest a two-volume, forty-article collection of important academic research on IP and business, edited by Steve Margolis and me.

Michael Waldman of Cornell writes:

Research on intellectual property is a classic topic that, if anything, is even more relevant today because of improvements and diffusion of copying technologies. Margolis and Newmark have done an excellent job of covering the main papers and controversies in this literature, including classic papers by authors such as Barzel, Demsetz, and Posner and more recent important authors such as Lerner and Liebowitz. The volume is an essential resource for anyone interested in understanding the many insights found in the literature on this important and timely topic.

Flyer.

Yours, if ordered directly from Edward Elgar, the publisher, for a mere $472.50. (None of which goes to the editors, who will be paid a fixed fee.)


Two states, two different approaches to K-12 education

New York:

State lawmakers flunked by blowing yesterday's deadline to lift the cap on charter schools -- imperiling cash-starved New York's bid to win up to $700 million in federal education funds.

In doing so, Albany's Democratic leaders sold out students and sided with the powerful, anti-charter teachers unions, critics charged.

President Obama's "Race to the Top" funds offer states and school districts a total of $4.3 billion to implement sweeping reforms to boost student achievement.

The criteria include lifting caps that restrict the growth of charter schools, adopting more rigorous assessments and scrapping laws that bar the use of student test scores in evaluating teachers.

About 30 states have applied for the competitive grants. The application deadline was 4:30 p.m. yesterday.

Gov. Paterson and the Board of Regents handed in the state's grant application to the feds at 4:10 p.m. without a law lifting the charter cap.

The state is nearing its current cap of authorizing 200 charters.

Red-faced state officials admitted that Albany inaction imperils New York's chances of winning Race to the Top funds because the state's application will be seen as subpar.

Indiana:

Indiana education officials on Tuesday charted a bold and controversial path for the state's schools with a series of reforms that include forcing out weak teachers, shutting down teacher colleges whose graduates don't get results, and converting troubled schools to charters.


"Twenty Trends For The 2010s"

By Rich Karlgaard of Forbes. It would be great if he proves right about these two:

4. Almost All Cancer Becomes Manageable

The good news about health in the 2010s is that almost all cancers will become manageable events, assuming reasonably early detection.

9. Bandwidth Progress Continues

At the pace of 3x every two years. Look for somebody pushing a terabyte per second down a single wire by mid-decade.


David Brooks hits one out of the park

After humorously delineating the four strategies now available to Democrats--the Heedless and Arrogant Approach, the Weak and Feckless Approach, the Dangerous and Demagogic Approach, and Incoherent and Internecine Approach--Brooks advises the Democrats to take the Weak and Feckless Approach:

I support the Weak and Feckless Approach. Trust is based on mutual respect and reciprocity. If, at this moment of rage and cynicism, the ruling class goes even further and snubs popular opinion, then that will set off an ugly, destructive, and yet fully justified popular rebellion. Trust in government will be irrevocably broken. It will decimate policy-making for a generation.

These are the choices ahead. Have a nice day.

(But except for national security and Medicare/Social Security, would "decimate[d] policy-making" at the federal level be all that terrible? Just askin'.)