Monthly Archives: October 2010

Kyoto Japanese Restaurant: A Pleasant Surprise

If I had to sum up my experience at the Kyoto in seven words, those words would be: “Pleasantly surprised, and I’m going back, soon.”

Indeed. An associate recommended that our lunch group gather there for a change from the usual. I’ve not had Japanese before, but I like Thai and Chinese, so how different could it be?

I called a couple hours ahead, and the woman who answered the phone was pleasant, articulate, and friendly. In fact, when I gave her my name for  the table, she started asking me if I was related to so-and-so, who lives in Holladay…yeah, only in Utah.

They seated us right away and in a private booth in the very back. In true Japanese style, we removed our shoes to sit with our legs dangling under a table that was inset.  I admit–I was dubious about taking my shoes off, but by the time lunch was over I was more reluctant to put them back on again. It was a minor detail to the meal that I think added to the experience.

Without a clue of what to order, I took what sounded most familiar–a beef teriyaki. It was preceded by a small soup that was delicious. The steak was tender and soft, and one of the best pieces of meat I’ve eaten in a long time. One of our party had an order of sushi that he enjoyed, and that I’ll try next time.

The service was fast and pleasant, and they kept our drinks topped off through-out the meal.  Without a doubt, Kyoto was better than I had been told, and I look forward to returning again soon.

Kyoto Japanese on Urbanspoon

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Too late to read the “The Blueprint” this election cycle?

In May, a friend recommended I read “How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care).” I hadn’t heard about the book before then, but I had been aware of, and somewhat mystified by, how Colorado, neighbor to (politically) blood red Utah, had gone from a solid Republican state to a passable Democratic state in just an election or two. Finally, this week, I got around to picking up a copy of it, and I started reading it this week.

Here’s how a review from Amazon describes it:

The Blueprint tells how four wealthy progressive donors and a group of bright motivated Democratic operatives in Colorado developed a highly efficient system between 2004 and 2008 to navigate existing campaign finance laws and win elections.

They used their model to flip Colorado’s state legislature and governorship from solidly Republican to solidly Democrat in just four years. The Republicans did not know what hit them until they were out of their jobs.

Using their system as a “blueprint”, these left-wing individuals duplicated their success in other states, like Iowa, Wisconsin, Texas, and Wisconsin, to win elections at both the state and federal levels.

The model consists of taking over the operations of the political parties, which were hindered by campaign finance reform laws, and bringing these operations to a new level using cutting edge business practices and computer technologies.

The authors keep story moving fast, so it reads like a good political thriller. They obtained access to actors on both sides of the political aisle, and by letting them speak for themselves, we get a real sense of who these people are. A handy list of the players at the front of the book makes it easy to keep track of the numerous individuals and organizations involved in the drama.

Another reviewer called it “the bible for every progressive living in a “Red” state, and how with a little hard work, seed money, and good candidates people power can turn red states to blue.”

The book starts out with a “How this story ends” prologue. After firm control of the state by Republicans, Democrats had seized control through success at the ballot box, and in 2008, Barack Obama would solidify the state’s movet to the left by accepting the Democratic nomination for President from Mile High Stadium. Just starting out that way has me curious.

Has anyone else read this book? As I read it, are there thoughts you had about it that I should bear in mind? Problems with the conclusions? Insights it gave you?

Are you tired of getting “robocalls?”

You're Fired
Image by denmar via Flickr

I am.

There’s a rumor going around that you can get your number off of autodial lists by pressing pound or by pressing a combination of buttons during the call. Here’s this from Lifehacker:

The National Do Not Call Registry doesn’t cover political messages, and you’ve probably noticed that lately. One reader suggests that pressing pound (#) during robocalls can get you off at least thatcaller’s list, but an expanded button combo might work better.

PatrickRothschell dropped a note [Lifehackers] Tips box that pressing pound during a political robocall often triggers a prompt to remove you from that calling list, or might even drop your number automatically. We’re eagerly awaiting our next call from a candidate Working For Us to try it out, but a commenter at a New York Times blog post about those awful, terrible car warranty calls of old suggested a Star-Pound-Zero combination trips up nearly any auto-calling system, or at least covers most of the bases likely to get you into an opt-out dialog. It’s fairly similar to the one-star-pound method of skipping cellphone voicemail instructions, minus one number substitution (and they wonder why people are texting more than using voice service these days).

While I’m not “eagerly awaiting” the next political robocall from my elected officials, I know that as the election gets closer, I’ll start getting more of them.

(h/t to Lifehacker)

why socialism? why communism?

Whittaker Chambers posits, even argues, that the only two reasons that people, especially intellectuals, turn to communism is to solve either the problem of war and the problem of economic crisis. (Witness p. 191) There are, of course, natural tendencies of each individual that might make them more susceptable to choose communism as a solution, but generally, he sees these two quandries as why they go looking for the answers in communism for why they exist and how to end them.

Is this a plausible argument for what the draw is for central planning by the state?

As I read and reflect on Chambers’ experience and conclusions, some 50 years ago written, I cannot help but hear in my memory of more recent events arguments by certain persons that ‘the market has failed,’ that the ‘government should do something to help the economy,’ that it is ‘business’s fault’ for the recession. I don’t claim to know, but I would not be honest if I did not admit that they are claims remeniscent of those often made in the 1930s when Roosevelt’s left leaning braintrust was lexperimenting” with centralization, the economy, and collectivization, attacking business, in both the press and the courts.

Amazon wins one for the 1st Amendment

For those out there who trust government too much, I present to you a case of government bureaucracy gone too far, as well as the lawsuit that said “no.”

A few months back, I took note of a case wherein North Carolina was trying to force Amazon to give up records in order to collect sales tax:

North Carolina is demanding that the online retailer provide records on what was purchased by consumers in the state since 2003.  That amounts to over 50 million purchases, no small number. While North Carolina law requires consumers to pay taxes for online purchases  if buying the same item in a store would result in a sales tax, out-of-state retailers–like Amazon–can’t be forced to collect North Carolina’s tax if it has no physical presence in the state. Hence, the demand for all information on purchases since 2003.

The case was in federal court, and yesterday the United States District Court, Western District of Washington at Seattle ruled against North Carolina.

Amazon pursues summary judgment as to its First Amendment claim that the DOR’s request for all information related to Amazon’s sales to North Carolina residents violates the First Amendment. The Court agrees and GRANTS the motion.

The First Amendment protects a buyer from having the expressive content of her purchase of books, music, and audiovisual materials disclosed to the government. Citizens are entitled to receive information and ideas through books, films, and other expressive materials anonymously. In the context of distribution of handbills, the Supreme Court held that anonymity “exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995); Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60, 64 (1960) (protecting anonymity in handing out campaign literature). The fear of government tracking and censoring one’s reading, listening, and viewing choices chills the exercise of First Amendment rights. In a concurring opinion, Justice Douglas highlighted the deleterious effect of governmental meddling in the reading habits of its citizens: “Some will fear to read what is unpopular what the powers-that-be dislike. When the light of publicity may reach any student, any teacher, inquiry will be discouraged.” United States v. Rumely, 345 U.S. 41, 57–58 (1953) (Douglas, J., concurring).

In other words, the First Amendment protects a buyer’s right to express herself in what they purchase, and that right includes the right to anonymity. Later in the opinion, the justice notes that disclosure of purchasing habits could result in a chilling effect on the willingness of individuals to make purchases online. Ironically, the North Carolina Department of Revenue, the actual party seeking the records, admitted that they “no legitimate need or use for having details as to North Carolina Amazon customers’ literary, music, and film purchases[,]” yet still would not give up the request for that information. Therefore,

With no compelling need for both sets of information, the DOR’s request runs afoul of the First Amendment. It bears noting, too, that the DOR’s requests for information were made solely in the context of calculating Amazon’s potential tax liability. Amazon has provided all of the data necessary to determine its tax liability, except any potential tax exemptions. The DOR has failed to articulate the compelling need to calculate these possible exemptions, particularly where it has admitted that it can and will assess Amazon at the highest rate and it would permit Amazon to “challenge the assessment and … establish that exemptions or lower tax rates applied to some products.” Even assuming there is a compelling need to calculate Amazon’s tax liability inclusive of exemptions, the DOR’s requests are not the least restrictive means to obtain the information. The request is overbroad. The Court GRANTS the motion for summary judgment.

With no real need for the information, why the broad request? Why require information that is clearly personal and expressive and has no bearing on the ability to collect taxes? If there were ever a case that demonstrates the insensitivity of government bureaucrats, this is it. Ironically, it took a large corporation–Amazon–to stand up to them and tell North Carolina “no, we won’t divulge that information.” What if it had been a smaller company, one that could not afford the costs of litigation? Would North Carolina have succeeded? Or have they already before in the past?

Amazon takes on Big Brother and wins one for the First Amendment.

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