- Los Angeles Times: Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles belies its name
Two member of the famed chorus have come out as straight. To the credit of the chorus, they have been very accepting.
- asymco: If Cash is King, Apple’s is an Emperor
If Apple didn't take in another dime, their current cash on hand is enough to keep them in business until 2018.
- L.A. Times: Teen succeeds where Army fails in recording Arlington graves
17-year-old Ricky Gilleland has accomplished what the military has been incapable of doing—creating a digital record of all Afghanistan and Iraq veterans buried at Arlington National Cemetery. That's because this sort of thing isn't really very hard. The trick is just shutting up and doing what needs doing.
- The Washington Post: Shining some sunlight on $200 million in Virginia tax breaks
Delegates David Toscano and Lee Ware propose some more stringent criteria for providing new tax credits. The annual tax credits that Virginia provides to the coal industry alone come to $100M/year, or $15/year/citizen.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: So, How Do We Put Elizabeth Warren’s Calendar Online?
I like this description of the work that goes into putting Elizabeth Warren's personal calendar online. Warren is Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and an all-around bad ass, as far as I'm concerned.
- New York Times: G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether
General Electric is the largest company in the United States. It paid $0 in taxes last year. How? By hiding its money in offshore banks and getting Congress to give them special, enormous tax breaks. They have the right to do that, and Congress has the right to strip them of their federal contracts. But they won't, because they don't have the balls. The only person to do anything about this was Ronald Reagan, who overhauled the tax system after he learned about G.E.'s behavior. By the late nineties, G.E. got their loopholes back. This is straight-up corporate welfare, and it's costing all of us billions of dollars.
Woot! It's not just open government—it's open government about open government. Virginia needs one of these.
- Virginian Pilot: Va. House members back redistricting plan
The state's House of Representatives delegation have agreed on a redistricting plan that would protect all incumbents. Let's all pause and put on our best surprised faces. Griffith's district grows to take some of Goodlatte's, absorbing Martinsville from Hurt's district. Rigell's district grows to take some of Wittman's, while Wittman's district expands up towards D.C. Connolly gets Reston and Herdon, losing conservative parts of Prince William for more liberal parts of the county. Everybody wins. Except voters.
- Tumblr: Virginia Coalition for Open Government
If you're not already following VCOG on Twitter or the VCOG blog, you might follow it on its new Tumblog. I'd be surprised if there is a more open, active state-level open government organization group in the nation. (Disclaimer: I'm on the board, though I've had nothing to do with any of this outreach.)
- New York Times: 30 Steps To Better Government
Amidst all of the flowery rhetoric about making government more efficient, this op-ed by Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro seems wonderfully concrete. He describes some of the GAO's successes thus far, and where they see improvement is necessary. Auditing oil and gas leases seems promising. Right now, we expect corporations to self-report how much of our oil and gas they've extracted from our land, on which they pay royalties. And—shocker—the numbers seem awfully low.
- New York Times: Secrets of a Mind-Gamer
Joshua Foer volunteers for an experiment—he, an average guy, will try to improve his memory sufficiently to compete in memory competitions, performing such tasks as memorizing the order of a deck of cards in just a few minutes, recalling pages of random words, or lists of binary digits. The conclusion is astounding.
- The Atlantic: Maybe This Nir Rosen Person Should Reconsider Tweeting
This journalist made a series of jokes about the attack and molestation of CBS News reporter Lara Logan, and is rightly being lambasted by Salon, The Atlantic, and even People magazine. (He lost his position at NYU today as a result.) He's trying to play this off as just a one-time mistake in judgement but, having encountered him professionally last year, I can confirm that he is, in fact, a horrible, thoughtless human being, and that this behavior is just Nir Rosen being Nir Rosen. It's wickedly satisfying to see him get his comeuppance.
Here’s a thought that hit me recently: In the long run, the cost of building infrastructure approaches free, while the cost of maintaining it is infinite.
Roads are a prime example. Since the advent of paved roads maintained by the state and federal governments, roads haven’t gone away. Virginia never says “Hey, listen, this four lane road? We really only needed two lanes now. So we’re going to just tear up this extra asphalt and return this land to the folks we seized it from me.” Those four lanes are forever. Now, it’s a fact that state government won’t exist infinitely. But it will exist indefinitely. We have to plan for it to continue on for the remainder of time, rather than assuming that we’ll all die in a nuclear holocaust within 150 years. The cost of maintaining infrastructure is enormously expensive. As the length of its existence continues, its proportion in relation to the cost of constructing it approaches infinite, with the construction cost approaching zero.
This isn’t to argue that we should ignore construction cost. Clearly, if we don’t have the money for something, we can’t build it. No, I’m suggesting just the opposite: that we can’t keep building new roads and assuming that we’ve gotten the expensive stuff done once that new cloverleaf is finished. That’s just the beginning of a long, very expensive commitment. Perhaps it’s time we modified our accounting to factor in the cost of maintenance, rather than continuing to pretend that it’s free.