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Published: Sun, 25 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0500

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N.Y. Times Tells More Tall Tales of Recovery

Thu, 23 Aug 2012 14:19:00 -0400

Yesterday we analyzed a reporter's economic hallucination published on page A1 of The New York Times. Today the Grey Lady again gives its front page over to some fiscal flimflammery, but reporters Shaila Dewan and Nelson D. Schwartz are largely blameless. The headline promises a story on the real estate recovery, but that turns out to be the journalistic equivalent of a Rickroll.  I presume Dewan and Schwartz were assigned to write about the "nascent" real estate recovery. (The same recovery that has been a-borning for a good four years now, yet somehow never seems to leave the womb). The two reporters duly note that there has been a recent month-to-month pickup in the number of completed real estate sales.  They also cite recovery news from a report by the scrupulously neutral and disinterested National Association of Realtors®. And they quote the S. & P. executive responsible for the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, who avers, “The broad opinion is that housing is definitely improving and on the upswing.” (This news should gladden the inventor of the Case-Shiller Index, who says house prices may not recovery for another generation.)  But nearly half the article actually describes how market forces are working to depress prices and slow sales.  The headline? "Signs of Revival, Slight but Sure, for Home Sales." Here are some of the sure signs:  Analysts are hailing the beginnings of a recovery in the nation’s housing market. But to beleaguered homeowners, it will not feel like much of one for many months to come… Yet the nascent recovery is still a convalescent one, with the pace of activity uneven and far below the levels reached before the bubble burst. Home prices remain under pressure in many markets... Wednesday’s report from the National Association of Realtors showed that average sales prices actually dipped slightly from June to July. This seeming contradiction — increasing demand but anemic growth in home values — could represent a new normal in the housing market, experts said... Real estate agents across the country cited the weak job market, stagnant wages and tight lending standards as continuing restraints on prices, despite pent-up demand and mortgage rates near record lows.... “Inventory is lower and construction is incredibly depressed,” [a Bank of America economist] said...  “I think people are really scared right now; they’re not spending the money,” [a retired farmer] said... While new buyers might take comfort in the fact that deep declines in home values seem to have passed, more than 11 million current homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth...  More typical is Chicago, which hit a low in March 2012... Concerns that a flood of distressed properties will soon hit the market were also receding... Short sales, the practice of allowing homeowners to sell their property for less than they owe before the home reaches the auction block, are on the rise. Some banks have recently introduced “deed for lease” initiatives to convert delinquent owners into renters instead of evicting them.... [I] nvestors who had been fueling the market with cash purchases were starting to get cold feet, fearing values would not appreciate further as long as incomes lag and jobs are scarce... In some areas, real estate brokers were skeptical that any improvement would be sustained... Case-Shiller is still showing a slight decline nationally in average prices over the past year, but analysts will be closely watching data due out next week for signs of a turnaround... “You’re going to have a catfish market,” [a Las Vegas real estate agent] said. “You know, catfish stay on the bottom and they occasionally jump up to the surface.” The reader comments are particularly choice. Here's a good one from Edmund Dantes of Stratford, Connecticut:  The headline does not match the article. The housing sector is doing poorly, and if interest rates begin to return to normal it will do even worse. When Bush was President, the NYTi[...]

Another Benefit of Deflation: Companies Going Private

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 16:49:00 -0400

Best Buy, The New York Times, and Chinese elevator-television maker Focus Media are all reported to be considering or in the process of going private – selling their shares to private investors who will then manage the companies without the trouble and scrutiny of the stock exchange. All three companies have been brought to the brink of privatization by the healthful shift toward value that is occurring in the American economy despite the best efforts of the Washington/Wall Street axis.  Best Buy, a subject of countless business obituaries, is now a target to be taken private by founder Richard Schulze. According to USA Today's Matt Krantz:  Schulze is offering $24 to $26 a share for the company, which before the bid, was trading for $17.64 a share. The deal is far from done, as the company must not only approve the offer, but Schulze must line up all the financing to pay for it. The move is [an] effort to save what was once a powerful force in consumer electronics, but has lost ground amid competition from Internet-based rivals, such as (AMZN). The company reported a net loss of $1.2 billion in the 12 months ended March, the latest data available from S&P Capital IQ. Meanwhile, as noted earlier at Reason 24/7, Bloomberg's Edmund Lee is speculating that the parent company of The New York Times may retire from the hurly-burly of Wall Street (the company has seen its valuation fall by $7 billion since the beginning of the 21st century) and return to family ownership:  “Now would be a good time for the company to go private,” said Reed Phillips, managing partner and co-founder of DeSilva & Phillips, a New York-based investment bank that focuses on the media industry. “The Times and other print newspapers are at an all-time low in valuations. They have been ‘cleaning up’ the business by selling off orphan assets for some time now.” And Shanghai-based Focus Media, which markets flat-panel advertising displays in elevators, movie theaters and other locations, is looking to leave NASDAQ with a pan-galactic investor group that includes Carlyle Group, China Everbright and Focus Media CEO Jason Nanchun Jiang. Focus Media has seen investors turn bearish after a negative report on its bookkeeping practices by Muddy Waters LLC.  Focus Media is one of 19 Chinese companies looking to leave the American stock market this year. Thirteen did so last year. T.H. Capital Research analyst Tian Hou tactfully tells The Deal Pipeline's Chris Nolter that U.S. investors need to get with the hyperinflation program: "If the negative sentiment against Chinese stocks in the U.S. markets doesn't change," she says, "we are going to see the trend continue." I say let it continue – if it actually is a trend. (Krantz notes that the number of privatizations is actually below where it was at the start of the credit unwind, pointing to "the reluctance of lenders to take chances.")  In the Keynesian universe, a trend toward taking companies private would be catastrophic. On planet Earth, not so much. It's true that a private company lacks access to the big capitalizations available in the public markets. But it also gets away from the stupidity of crowds and has a better chance of understanding what amount of value it's generating. Better that all these brands get a fighting chance under management by investors who have some stake in the outcome of the company.  To be clear: Other than Focus Media, I'm not sure these companies have much of a chance in any case. If Reed Phillips believes "print newspapers are at an all-time low in valuations," I'd advise him to wait six months. Best Buy's secular and cyclical problems are familiar enough that I don't need to recite them here (though as an occasional Best Buy customer I would rate my experience as fair to good).  But that's the point. Schulze and Jiang and the Sulzbergers deserve a chance to try and make money without having to lie to Wall Street about how much potential they have. If there has bee[...]

Greg Lukianoff: How Colleges Fight Free Speech

Fri, 27 Jul 2012 00:00:00 -0400

"You can get in trouble for saying almost anything these days on a college campus," says Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Lukianoff's latest book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, discusses 11 years of free speech restrictions and the how college bureaucrats have hampered open debate and encouraged a culture of uncritical thinking.

Reason correspondent Kennedy sat down with Lukianoff at FreedomFest to discuss the book, his work at FIRE, and what students can do to fight back. 

Held each July in Las Vegas, FreedomFest is attended by over 2,000 limited-government enthusiasts and libertarians a year. ReasonTV spoke with over two dozen speakers and attendees and will be releasing interviews over the coming weeks. For an ever-growing playlist, go here.

About 4 minutes.

Shot by Tracy Oppenhiemer and Alex Manning. Edited by Joshua Swain.

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Yaron Brook: Ayn Rand vs. Big Government

Thu, 26 Jul 2012 09:00:00 -0400

"People don't vote their pocketbooks, people vote what they think is right," says Yaron Brook, president of The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights and author of Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand's Ideas Can End Big Government.

"So we need a moral revolution in this country, and that's how we get a free market revolution."

At FreedomFest 2012, Reason's Matt Welch sat down with Brook to discuss what Obama has meant for sales of Atlas Shrugged, why big government hurts the poor, and how Ayn Rand inspired the Tea Party.

Held each July in Las Vegas, FreedomFest is attended by around 2,000 limited-government enthusiasts and libertarians a year. ReasonTV spoke with over two dozen speakers and attendees and will be releasing interviews over the coming weeks. For an ever-growing playlist, go here now.

About 7 minutes.

Camera by Tracy Oppenheimer and Alex Manning; edited by Jim Epstein.

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Library of Congress Picks 88 Unobjectionable Books that "Shaped America"

Sun, 01 Jul 2012 23:41:00 -0400

The Library of Congress, established by President John Adams, has announced its list of "88 Books that Shaped America," determining that two-thirds of America's cultural history took place in only the last 112 years.  That at least is the evidence from the publication dates, just 27 of which are from before the twentieth century. Only 20 predate the Civil War. Suck on that, Francis Hopkinson, Susanna Rowson and Charles Brockden Brown! Phyllis Wheatley, you did your people great honor, but you just didn't shape America.  All those people were big sellers. Hopkinson signed the Declaration of Independence. But even once-popular writers who are still known didn't make the list. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gets shunned. (You know, he's only the guy who came up with "I shot an arrow in the air" and "Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere" and "By the shores of Gitche Gumee..." It's not like he wrote anything hummable.) James Fennimore Cooper is nowhere to be found. Ralph Waldo Emerson doesn't show up. Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allen Poe.  These lists are more or less designed to rub you the wrong way, so I have two big beefs. One is the lack of early literature noted above. The other is the hesitant approach to popular literature — by which I mean popular-in-its-day literature like Maria Susanna Cummins' The Lamplighter — which teach you more about the people and manners of ye olde tymes than do canonical works. There are some interesting choices. Uncle Sam's bibliophiles held their noses and included Atlas Shrugged, though I think the idea that Ayn Rand's novel shaped America falls under the "if only" rubric. Peter Parley's Universal History sounds like one for the night table.  There's a pronounced split between "shaping" and literary value. I can grok (cf. Number 73) including Unsafe at Any Speed if you're talking about influence on American law and culture, but Ralph Nader doesn't exactly set the bookstore on fire with his prose stylings. And Moby Dick seems like a reasonable choice for literary attainment, but how can it have shaped America when it was barely read for almost a half-century after its debut?  If we are talking about shaping America, where's Leon Uris' Exodus, which ignited popular support for Israel while spending years on the bestseller list? Or if we're talking about reflecting America, I'd like to see some mortal favorites like Rona Jaffe's The Best of Everything or Jerome Weidman's I Can Get It for You Wholesale, interesting, revelatory books that have sunk into obscurity but could use the help of a big institution to alert readers to their existence.  It's not like there's a shortage of evangelists. The Library of Congress has a brief video in which officials talk about Important Books, but the real eye-opener is how many high-level employees the national library has. Next time you're wondering why we have no choice but to raise the debt ceiling, keep in mind that we're employing a Librarian of Congress; an associate Librarian, Library Services; a Law Librarian of Congress; a National Ambassador, Young Peoples Literature; a Project Manager, National Books Festival; a Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division; a Reference Librarian; and a Teacher-In-Residence. And the Poet Laureate hasn't even weighed in yet.  Anyway, here's the full list:  Experiments and Observations on Electricity Benjamin Franklin 1751 Poor Richard Improved and The Way to Wealth Benjamin Franklin 1758 Common Sense Thomas Paine 1776 A Grammatical Institute of the English Language Noah Webster 1783 The Federalist anonymous 1787 A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible anonymous 1788 A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America Christopher Colles 1789 The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. Benjamin Franklin 1793 American Cookery Amelia Simmons 1796 New England Primer anonymous 1803 Histor[...]

Poor Time Picked the Wrong SCOTUS Obamacare Decider

Thu, 28 Jun 2012 12:57:00 -0400


Anthony Kennedy is not the decider, the first draft of history yet again wrong.

It was the "red-eyed" Chief Justice John Roberts (per the prolific Jeffrey Toobin's description) who read the Supreme Court's decision in the states' and peoples' suits against the Patient Protection and Affordable Act (ACA). 

So pour out a 40 for Massimo Calabresi & David von Drehle, who got this week's cover of Time magazine to declare that Justice Anthony Kennedy (who joined Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in a dissent from the court's majority ruling) would be The Decider. 

I once read through a box of Times from the 1940s, and Calabresi & von Drehle are not the first Time cover reporters to get details wrong during great events.

But it turns out that Kennedy not only didn't join the court's surging rightwing tide of Tea Party enfuried wrath against all human progress. He didn't join the majority at all. Here (courtesy of Washington Examiner) is what Kennedy had to say in the dissent:

“[T]o say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it,” Kennedy, who was long regarded as a key swing vote in the case, wrote, adding that when passing taxes, “legislators must weigh the need for the tax against the terrible price they might pay at their next election.” He then suggested that Congress intentionally avoided passing the mandate as a tax in an effort to avoid that election disaster. “We have no doubt that Congress knew precisely what it was doing when it rejected an earlier version of this legislation that imposed a tax instead of a requirement-with-penalty.”

Roberts will have his Beltway dance card full from now until the end of time. 

How did Reason's perfectly perplexed penful of perspicacious prognosticators do with its roundup of predictions? Not so hot

I'd like to note also that Robert Reich scored a bullseye

Located on the streets of L.A. this morning, Melrose Larry Green reacted by saying, "I hope all you young people enjoy paying higher taxes. The good news is President Romney will repeal Obamacare next year."

Take the Grammartarian Grammar Test at WSJ

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 14:51:00 -0400

(image) Employers say young people have fewer grammar skills than did their olde-tyme ancestors, according to the Wall Street Journal's Sue Shellenbarger. The hardest hit include Fort Lauderdale flack Don Silver

"I cringe every time I hear" people misuse "is" for "are," Mr. Silver says. The company's chief operations officer, Mr. Silver also hammers interns to stop peppering sentences with "like." For years, he imposed a 25-cent fine on new hires for each offense. "I am losing the battle," he says.

Managers are fighting an epidemic of grammar gaffes in the workplace. Many of them attribute slipping skills to the informality of email, texting and Twitter where slang and shortcuts are common. Such looseness with language can create bad impressions with clients, ruin marketing materials and cause communications errors, many managers say.

There's no easy fix.

You can also take a 22-question grammar quiz. (No guarantee on that link.) I got 20 right, barely an A. 

I'm not persuaded that Bryan A. Garner, a grammar entrepreneur quoted at length, knows about which he talks. Shellenbarger cites Garner's condemnation of "I could care less" without mentioning the controversy over that phrase's possible origin as a crop of "I could care less but it would take an effort." 

Washington's Parasitic Economy with The Weekly Standard's Andrew Ferguson

Fri, 22 Jun 2012 00:00:00 -0400

Washington, D.C. "is basically a parasitic economy," says author and Weekly Standard Senior Editor Andrew Ferguson. "It sucks up the money from the rest of the country and puts people to work here."

In a recent Time magazine article titled "Bubble on the Potomac," Ferguson argues that D.C.-area residents are growing ever richer at the expense of the rest of the country, which has created a cultural disconnect that results in bad laws.

Ferguson sat down with ReasonTV Correspondent Kennedy to discuss his article, and the various ways in which D.C.'s riches are hurting the nation.

Ferguson is also the author of Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College and Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America. For more on those books and the author, visit .

Approximately 4:50 minutes.

Camera by Jim Epstein, Meredith Bragg and Joshua Swain. Produced by Bragg.

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In 2011 Reason's Nick Gillespie interviewed Ferguson and his son, Gillam, about Crazy U.

Mark Frauenfelder on DIY Super-Humanism, Unschooling and the Future of Print Journalism

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 09:00:00 -0400

"You know, I studied mechanical engineering in school and I ended up becoming a journalist. I can name a dozen people right now that I think are amazing people who didn't go to college," says editor of Boing Boing Mark Frauenfelder.

He sat down with managing editor of Tim Cavanaugh to talk about alternatives to public school and education in the real world.

Frauenfelder is also the editor of Make magazine, whose newest issue takes a look at do-it-yourself superhumanism, a way of modifying human capabilities through gadgets. Some of the gadgets include a device to play Guitar Hero only using the muscles in your arm and an ankle strap that directs you to where you want to go using cell phone vibraters and GPS.

Cavanaugh and Frauenfelder finally discuss the future of print journalism and why putting a magazine out in 2012 is still a good idea.

About 9:48 minutes.

Camera by Tracy Oppenheimer, Paul Detrick, and Zach Weismueller. Edited by Detrick.

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Death of the Auteur: Is Highbrow Movie Criticism Democracy’s Lifeblood?

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 21:15:00 -0500

In the American Prospect, Tom Carson yokes together two recent developments – the National Film Registry's choice of Forrest Gump in its annual list of 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films" and the Village Voice’s firing of highly regarded critic J. Hoberman after 24 years at the paper – to conclude that the “Yahoos are winning” the Kulturkampf. Carson writes:  Watching the Voice lobotomize itself over the past decade or so—a process pretty much complete now that he's been canned—has been something I can't help feeling a personal stake in, even though business is business, and I should know better. Whether or not he'd care for the title, Hoberman, along with The Nation's Stuart Klawans, is the most honorably anti-yahoo movie critic in the country. The art of film is his beat, and that's all there is to it; when it comes to deciding what's consequential and what isn't, compromises with the non-cinephile public's proclivities aren't in the cards... With Hoberman's departure, the paper has gone from being a shell of its former self to a shell of its former shell—a process most people blame exclusively on finky New Times Media, the Voice's owner since 2005 and the single outfit most responsible for gutting the alternative press in general. I can sympathize with what Carson, to his credit, admits is a fogey’s lament. During my own salad days in the Big Apple, the Voice’s main attraction was Carson himself, and the weekly generally had more pages but less interesting content than the rival New York Press (speaking of shells of their former husks). And I will say Hoberman (who recently spoke with a fair amount of optimism about the current state of cineastery) has become one of the LA Weekly’s few remaining points of interest, excluding the American Apparel ads.  But is movie criticism really the frontal lobe of the culture? I am, ahem, an actual Hollywood professional in addition to being an occasional movie writer. (Dig my woolgathering about Night Nurse, The Thing, Mildred Pierce, The Road Warrior and other pictures in Chris Fujiwara’s Little Black Book of Movies, yours for a reasonable $0.93 at Amazon.) I’m tempted to say that film analysis by somebody who’s never made a movie is like a sex column written by a virgin. That isn’t fair of course.  But I question the idea that the highbrow movie critic is being undone by the ruthlessness of the competitive market or the triumph of conventional wisdom. I think the critic’s job has been obviated by surfeit. It’s just not that hard to find a variety of opinions on any movie. I don’t need to leave the site you’re reading right now to find strong arguments that some year’s Oscar-winner is in fact the worst movie ever made, that Men Behind the Sun is a lost masterpiece, or that you are no better than a blind cave fish if you haven’t seen every movie made in Korea (South Korea! South Korea!) in the last decade.  Carson is right that there’s a generational element and a political element at work here. I think both of those resolve themselves into the auteur theory, that durable French import which holds that the director is the author of the film. Hoberman was not precisely a prominent auteurist only because by the mid-seventies the theory was universally accepted. (Talk about conventional wisdom!)  Writers are supposed to hate the auteur theory, but my reason for thinking it is of little value has nothing to do with any confidence in scripts. The problem is that for once the Academy has it right in giving the Best Picture Oscar to the producer. In all but a vanishingly small number of movies, the producer(s) is/are responsible for the largest share of the outcome.  That doesn’t mean the producer could be called the author in any conven[...]

Blast Off Into Space with Reason Magazine's Matt Welch

Tue, 17 Jan 2012 00:00:00 -0500

"For decades now people interested in free markets have been talking about a glorious future of private space exploration and travel," says Reason Magazine Editor in Chief Matt Welch. As Reason Magazine's latest issue makes clear, "that glorious future... is now."

Welch previews the February special issue on the "Rocket Men" such as Virgin's Richard Branson and Amazon's Jeff Bezos who are underwriting a new generation of space exploration.

The stories from the February issue will be rolled out at over the coming weeks. Go here for a list of stories that are already on the web.

Subscribers to the print edition of Reason recieve their issues a month before the stories go live online. A year's subscription is just $14.97 for 11 issues. Go here to subscribe now.

About 1:20 minutes. Shot and edited by Meredith Bragg.

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Old Europe Downgraded; Van der Sloot Gets 28 Years; Moore’s Law Broken, and More: PM Links

Fri, 13 Jan 2012 15:33:00 -0500

Standard & Poor’s downgrades France from AAA to AA+. Germany and the Low Countries avoid downgrade. Responses from French politicians range from responsible calls to reduce public borrowing to less helpful declarations of “financial war” against France. U.S., which weathered a downgrade in 2011, can only say “Bienvenue.” 

(image) Joran Van der Sloot, apparently irresistible charmer of the jet set, has been sentenced to 28 years for the murder of the daughter of a prominent Peruvian businessman. Van der Sloot, whose game seems to have remained strong even after he gained notoriety as the presumptive murderer of Natalee Holloway, was convicted of killing Stephany Tatiana Flores Ramírez after meeting her in Lima casino. 

Dildo dilemma: Pennsylvania woman sues over being fired from a J&J Snack Foods plant, she claims, for wearing a prosthetic penis. Pauline Davis says she wore what the Philly Daily News calls a “device” while contemplating gender reassignment. Noting that a male co-worker who wore women’s clothing and prostheses was not dismissed, Davis claims a discriminatory termination.

Did liberals kill comic books? Critic claims Aquaman’s recent oil-rig-disaster storyline proves the DC universe has been poisoned by enviro-orthodoxy. When Falls the Coliseum says even a political agenda is beyond the capacity of the drones at Time-Warner. Neither comment mentions the Timely/Marvel universe, where Prince Namor has been avenging the Surface Dwellers’ crimes against the sea since 1939 – and unlike Aquaman and J&J Snack Foods, Namor isn’t afraid to show what’s going on downstairs. 

Redevelopment unmourned by the same tired, poor, huddled masses it was supposed to help. Local “community development” activists explains why residents of distressed areas of Los Angeles have always gotten the worst deal from the city’s redevelopment agency. 

Singularity arrives as IBM researches create smallest known information bit, consisting of only 12 atoms. 

Burma thaw: United States and Myanmar exchange ambassadors after dubious human rights progress in the closed nation.

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Ron Paul Fires Most of DC Press Gaggle; Strong Job Numbers; Chevy Volt Recall, SAG Scandal and More: PM Links

Thu, 05 Jan 2012 15:18:00 -0500

Another reason to vote for Ron Paul: "See this room – two thirds of us laid off when Ron Paul’s president, " says establishment media humanoid

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Employment Green Shoots! ADP National Employment Report has 325,000 private-sector jobs created in December, double some estimates, and up from 204,000 jobs added in November.

(image) Meanwhile, Department of Labor says new unemployment claims dropped 15,000 to 372,000 in the final month of 2011. Both figures are subject to year-end accounting and holiday distortions and are expected to be revised. 

Chevy Volt recall: Government-run General Motors is asking 8,000 owners to return their Volt electric cars to Chevy dealerships for structural work around the vehicles’ batteries. The move is "considered a step below a recall, which would be issued by a car company and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration."

Another group of winners in redevelopment ban: California counties benefit as moribund redevelopment agencies stop siphoning property taxes. (Now how about giving back some of the wealth to property owners who pay the taxes in the first place?) 

Union man takes sick time: Bruce Dow, chief executive of Screen Actors Guild pension fund, takes a health-related leave of absence as embezzlement scandal (which involved a former fund executive) heats up. 

Another superstore on the ropes: Barnes & Noble considers selling off its Nook e-reader. The once-feared brick-and-mortar bookselling giant cops to having "over-anticipated the growth in consumer demand for single purpose black-and-white reading devices this holiday." That’s because they weren’t reading Reason

NFL Wild Card Weekend coming up. Prophecies from ESPN, Times of New York, USA Today, Montreal Gazette

Washington Post Fears Ron Paul; Hollywood Arson Suspect Arrested, and More: P.M. Links

Mon, 02 Jan 2012 17:13:00 -0500

(image) "I fear that Ron Paul may win Iowa," writes Washington Post’s Marc A. Thiessen, who lets fear to get the best of his vocabulary with this sentence: "Paul supporters are nothing short of rapid."

Occupy 101: Columbia University will give students credit for an Occupy Wall Street class taught by an OWS organizer and including protest participation as course work. 

LAPD arrests [possible Chechen named "Harry Burkhart"] in string of Los Angeles arson attacks. Cops say person of interest detained at Fairfax and Sunset matches security camera image (white hair in ponytail) and was driving a Canadian-licensed minivan containing "materials...that could have been used to set fires." The subject may be in a dispute with Federal migra over a relative’s immigration status.

[I initially reported that the suspect was a native of Germany. He was traveling on Chechen travel papers and had spent time in Germany. As you can see at the 42-second mark here, Harry Bukrhart's eyes literally glow with the fires of hell, and the 26-year-old does seem to match with the description taken from the Hollywood and Highland parking deck of a man at the end of youth with a receding hairline and ponytail. Burkhart's arrest by a $1-a-year reserve sheriff's deputy came in response to a tip by an "official" who had observed Burkhart criticizing the United States in immigration court.]  

Arab League observers are doing a mediocre job of holding back Syria’s government, dissidents say. 

Rose Bowl live blog

Raiders of the Lost Ark cross-referenced with 30 other adventure movies made between 1919 and 1973. 

Voting district high jinx: In honor of Steven Greenhut’s dismal new report on California redistricting, a video from more hopeful days: 

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Occupy L.A. Gets a Reprieve, Poet Laureate Gets Clubbed

Mon, 28 Nov 2011 18:56:00 -0500

This morning’s 12:01 deadline for the Los Angeles Police Department to clear Occupy L.A. out of the City Hall area came and went, and the Occupiers are still camped out.  Reason’s Paul Detrick was with the campers throughout the non-ordeal and will have a video up soon. In recent weeks, relations have been fraying between Occupy L.A. and a police force that seems to be rapidly losing its reputation as America’s most brutal and corrupt. This video shows some of the tensions during a recent march around Downtown L.A.:  width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0"> As part of the group on that shoot, I have to say that the cops pretty effectively managed the challenge of maintaining civil peace while allowing a group of protestors to march in public streets. There were some arrests, and a few instances where I didn’t appreciate the high-handed manner of the police, but at least on that day, the Occupiers had their march with a minimum of negative impact on local businesses or visitors (who in any event tend to be sparse in one of the least interesting downtowns in America). This continues the generally positive feeling between the government and the government-loving Occupiers which I noted in a previous post, and which was the subject of another video:   width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0"> In fact, I think the city of L.A. should be required to put up with the Occupiers indefinitely. Nobody forced the City Council to rush through a resolution in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement in October, and it’s not clear the Council was responding to any outcry from constituents. I don’t see any way the Council members and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa can square their apparent eagerness to end the Occupation now with their enthusiasm for the Occupation a month ago. They welcomed the unwashed, uninvited guests. Now let them live with that decision until City Hall’s last toilet overflows.  Up in Berkeley, it’s a different story. Former Poet Laureate Robert Hass details how he got manhandled by Berkeley’s finest (now there’s a phrase I never expected to type) a while back:  My wife bounced nimbly to her feet. I tripped and almost fell over her trying to help her up, and at that moment the deputies in the cordon surged forward and, using their clubs as battering rams, began to hammer at the bodies of the line of students. It was stunning to see. They swung hard into their chests and bellies. Particularly shocking to me — it must be a generational reaction — was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force. If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines. NONE of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning. We couldn’t have dispersed if we’d wanted to because the crowd behind us was pushing forward to see what was going on. The descriptor for what I tried to do is “remonstrate.” I screamed at the deputy who had knocked down my wife, “You just knocked down my wife, for Christ’s sake!” A couple of students had pushed forward in the excitement and the deputies grabbed them, pulled them to the ground and cudgeled them, raising the clubs above their heads and swinging. The line surged. I got whacked hard in the ribs twice and once across the forearm. Some of the deputies used their truncheons as bars and seemed to be trying to use minimum force to get people to move. And then, suddenly, they stopped, on some signal, and reformed their line.[...]