Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

May the Sphere Bunny bring you many, many Spring Spheres

Why is it that schools, the supposed bastions of education and purported citadels of tolerance and intelligence are so blasted uneducated, stupid and intolerant?

Latest example?  A teenager in Seattle, doing community service work, does a project to hand out to younger children in class.  The results?  Just fascinating in a bizarre and idiotic sort of way:

"At the end of the week I had an idea to fill little plastic eggs with treats and jelly beans and other candy, but I was kind of unsure how the teacher would feel about that," Jessica said.

She was concerned how the teacher might react to the eggs after of a meeting earlier in the week where she learned about "their abstract behavior rules."

"I went to the teacher to get her approval and she wanted to ask the administration to see if it was okay," Jessica explained. "She said that I could do it as long as I called this treat ‘spring spheres.’ I couldn’t call them Easter eggs."

Rather than question the decision, Jessica opted to "roll with it." But the third graders had other ideas.

"When I took them out of the bag, the teacher said, ‘Oh look, spring spheres’ and all the kids were like ‘Wow, Easter eggs.’ So they knew," Jessica said.

Never mind that a “sphere” is perfectly round, not an ovoid shape.  It has to do with the unbelievable nonsense that allowing something that has been a traditional American practice and celebration since the founding of the country has to be made secular because A) it will somehow be construed as the school establishing religion or B) it will offend someone or C) all of the above.

It doesn’t establish anything in terms of religion and if it offends someone, tough.  The argument could be made that celebrations of Spring favor Wiccans or Druids or something.  And how about those who are offended when teachers make up  stupid and obviously incorrect descriptions for Easter eggs like “spring spheres”?

This is the same school district that declared Thanksgiving to be racist and a time for mourning instead.  The district  has also defined racism in unique and toxic ways.  For instance:

The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). The subordination is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.

Notice the only group listed who can possibly be racist according to their definition.

And it gets even better.  

Cultural Racism:
Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.

Got that?  “Future time orientation”, i.e. planning ahead, is racist.  Apparently only whites do it.  And individualism?  Racist.  And the school district also made it clear they had no desire "to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as [a] . . . colorblind mentality."

Calling MLK Jr., because as I remember him, a colorblind society was his fondest hope.

The Supreme Court of the United States literally mocked the district’s racial nonsense in a ruling it issued.

Interestingly, the justices highlighted the bizarre claims about race made by the Seattle schools, which cast doubt on whether allowing schools to use race will promote racial harmony rather than racial balkanization.

For example, the Chief Justice’s opinion points out that “Seattle’s web site formerly described ‘emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology’ as a form of ‘cultural racism,’ and currently states that the district has no intention ‘to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as [a] . . . colorblind mentality.”

Justice Thomas pointed to those claims, and other bizarre claims on Seattle’s web site, in rejecting the dissent’s argument that “local school boards should be entrusted to make decisions on the basis of race.”

Now they’re into “Spring Spheres”.

Wouldn’t you just love for your child to have to grow up attending school in a district that makes race (and now religion) as toxic as that? 

So enlightened.  /sarc



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Prediction FAIL–what happened to all the “climate refugees”?

You perhaps recall that the AGW doomsayers, via the UN, announced in 2005 that by 2010 there would be 50 million “climate refugees” driven from their homes by the adverse effect of global warming. 

It’s always nice to check up on the accuracy of such predictions to gauge how well they jibe with reality.

In this case, it’s a complete miss.  As most of us know, the measured “global temperature” has been steadily going down (as the natural cycles of the earth again do what they’ve done for billions of years).  So what’s the status of all of those refugees?

Well, Gavin Atkinson gives us a nice little update based on the recent census data from various “at risk” places.  Remember, we were supposed to see the first effects of warming on the “very sensitive low lying islands of the Pacific and Caribbean”.



Nassau, The Bahamas – The 2010 national statistics recorded that the population growth increased to 353,658 persons in The Bahamas.  The population change figure increased by 50,047 persons during the last 10 years.

St Lucia:

The island-nation of Saint Lucia recorded an overall household population increase of 5 percent from May 2001 to May 2010 based on estimates derived from a complete enumeration of the population of Saint Lucia during the conduct of the recently completed 2010 Population and Housing Census.


Population 2002, 81755

Population 2010, 88311

Solomon Islands:

The latest Solomon Islands population has surpassed half a million – that’s according to the latest census results.

It’s been a decade since the last census report, and in that time the population has leaped 100-thousand.

How about all those cities that were going to be underwater because of melting glaciers and ice packs?

Meanwhile, far from being places where people are fleeing, no fewer than the top six of the very fastest growing cities in China, Shenzzen, Dongguan, Foshan, Zhuhai, Puning and Jinjiang, are absolutely smack bang within the shaded areas identified as being likely sources of climate refugees.

Similarly, many of the fastest growing cities in the United States also appear within or close to the areas identified by the UNEP as at risk of having climate refugees.

When it all comes down to it, AGW increasingly appears to fall in the category of the usual lefty doomsaying that never lives up to the fear factor with which its proponents attempt to radically change the way we live in order to supposedly save us from ourselves.    Think the population bomb with fossil fuel as the target instead of government mandated population control.

Of course the unfortunate thing is many of our politicians on the left and a whole raft of politicians throughout the world (and particularly in the UN) continue to push this farce.  The reason is simple.  There’s a whole lot of money to be extracted from this scare.  World governments can cash in on a “problem” they’ve literally invented out of thin air.

So don’t look for it to go quietly into the night.  All that crap about putting science first is just that.  They’ve picked their side for obvious reasons and intend to push it all the way to the bank. 

That’s one of the reasons stories like this need to be highlighted – so when they inevitably try to get in you wallet again, you have something to fight back with.  This is the reality of their predictions – and it is completely the opposite of what their “science” told them would happen.



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Fiscal deficit increases 15.7% in first half of 2011

Something to keep in mind when President Fiscal Responsibility lectures us all tonight on how important fiscal discipline is and how it is a priority of his to reduce the deficit and debt.

The US budget deficit shot up 15.7 percent in the first six months of fiscal 2011, the Treasury Department said Wednesday as political knives were being sharpened for a new budget battle.

The Treasury reported a deficit of $829 billion for the October-March period, compared with $717 billion a year earlier, as revenue rose a sluggish 6.9 percent as the economic recovery slowly gained pace.

2011 spending isn’t something he “inherited”.   It’s his.  And the budgets he previously laid out for the next 10 years are not deficit or debt reducing budgets by any stretch.

original deficit


As we know, last year’s deficit was in the $1.4 trillion range, much closer to the CBO estimate than the White House fantasy.  Same with ‘09.  Sod disregard the White House spin and go with the CBO’s 2 year track record of being pretty much on the money – no pun intended.

Also note that the deficit is supposed to be under a trillion dollars this year and supposedly hits its lowest point when?  Why election year of course.  Then it again steadily builds as ObamaCare relentlessly kicks in, approaching a trillion dollars again in ‘19.

This is the White House projected budgets, folks.  This is what they see us spending, or plan on anyway.  But tonight we’re going to be treated to a “major speech” by the architect of this mess telling us how concerned he is with the deficit and how important it is to him to address it.

Print this chart and keep it handy when he presents his  spin.

Oh, by the way, remember the campaign promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term?  You didn’t know at the time that $800 billion in the hole would do the trick did you?  You didn’t know he planned on a deficit of $1.8 trillion did you?




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Budget battles–the same old stuff from Obama

Tomorrow night President Obama will address the nation in an “important” speech – or is it “major” speech – about how he thinks we ought to cut both the deficit and the debt.

Clue:  It involves raising taxes.  

Yeah, the backhanded way of saying, “our problem is one of not enough revenue instead of too much spending”.  And how does the President plan on selling this?  Well if his spokesman, Jay Carney is to be believed, an old bromide is the answer:

“You can’t — you can’t simply slash entitlements, lower taxes and call that a fair deal.”

Everyone,” he said, must “share in the burden of bringing our fiscal house into order.”

You could spend all day on those two sentences alone.  Yes, Mr. Carney and Mr. Obama, you can “simply slash entitlement, lower taxes and call that a fair deal”.  Despite rhetoric to the contrary, our problem is growing government and out of control spending.  Slash both the size of government and severely limit its ability to spend more than it takes in and you’ve taken a major step in “bringing our fiscal house into order”.  That’s what’s fair.

But of course, that assumes you don’t by the implication that this problem we suffer under is one of all our making.  Because if you do, then you buy into the assumption that we must all “share in the burden” of fixing it.  No sale here.

First, we don’t all agree that it in order to fix what profligate and incompetent legislators have done over the years we must give them more money to waste.

No matter how many times they say it, it doesn’t make it right.  They have more than enough revenue to properly fund the Constitutionally mandated government.  What they don’t have enough revenue to continue carrying on is the extra-Constitutional nonsense called entitlements.  That means entitlements must be “slashed” to the point that they’re self-sufficient and don’t add to either the deficit or the debt.  Additionally, once those are addressed, government should be trimmed of all the bureaucratic fat it has built up over the decades.  If there’s a problem with morbid obesity in this country it is found in the size of government.

Oh, and don’t forget that the guy who is going to lecture us about fiscal responsibility on Wednesday night has doubled the debt and is running a deficit this year over a trillion dollars (drinking game – knock it back every time he pawns all of that off as an “inherited” problem), not to mention adding a huge new … entitlement program.

The budget deal just negotiated take a first tentative swipe at the size of government.  No, it’s not what I’d prefer, but then given what it could have ended up being, I’ll take it.  Here’s a rundown of some of the cuts.  Ed Morrissey has a few more:

The CR terminates funding for more than 55 programs, for a total savings of well over $1 billion.  In addition, the bill terminates two programs funded in ObamaCare (the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) and the Free Choice Voucher programs).

The CO-OP, according to some critics, is nothing more than a stealth public option.  But to the point – 55 programs is 55 programs.  We could probably easily eliminate 5,500, but that’s not the point at the moment – a journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step in that direction.  That’s what this should be considered and we need to encourage (and reward) this sort of thinking and action.

Another I like:

The legislation also eliminates four Administration “Czars,” including the “Health Care Czar,” the “Climate Change Czar,” the “Car Czar,” and the “Urban Affairs Czar.”

That’s why you have Department Secretaries, although I’d love to see some of the departments eliminated as well.  Speaking of those Departments:

  • Agriculture: $3 billion cut from FY10 level, $3.2 billion less than Obama budget request
  • Commerce/Justice/Science: $10.9 billion cut from FY10 level, $7.1 billion less than Obama request
  • Defense: $5 billion increase from FY10
  • Energy/Water: $3.6 billion cut from FY10, $1.7 billion less than Obama request
  • Financial Services: $2.4 billion cut from FY10, $3.4 billion less than Obama request
  • Homeland Security: $0.784 billion cut from FY10, $1.9 billion below Obama request
  • Interior: $2.62 billion cut from FY10, $2.8 billion below Obama request
  • Labor/HHS/Education: $5.5 billion cut from FY10, $13 billion below Obama request
  • Legislature: $0.103 billion cut from FY10
  • Military Construction/Veterans Affairs: $0.6 billion increase over FY10, $3.4 billion more than Obama request
  • State/Foreign Operations: $0.504 billion cut from FY10, $8.4 billion below Obama request
  • Transportation/HUD: $12.3 billion cut from FY10, $13.2 billion below Obama request

Like I said a first tentative step, but definitely a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, I just can’t wait to hear what Mr. Deficit Hawk has to say Wednesday night.  In a sad sort of way, it ought to be a howler.



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Nanny goes to the school cafeteria

I get so tired of these stories, but they have to be pointed out because they indicate a disturbing trend.  In this case, it’s just another in a long line of examples of bureaucrats unilaterally deciding to remove choice for everyone based on their arbitrary assessment of what is “good for you”.

The example this time is about some of the Chicago Public Schools, and in particular the Little Village Academy on Chicago’s West Side, have decided not to allow packed lunches from home.  This line in the story just drove me up the wall:

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

It is like parents don’t even exist in her world.  It is like they should have no say in what their children eat if it doesn’t jibe with Ms. Carmona’s idea of what that should be.  Mona Charen calls it “coercive humanitarianism”.  I think that’s way too kind.  I call it bureaucratic authoritarianism and typical of petty bureaucrats who have the power to impose their will on others with little or no accountability requirements.

Perhaps the biggest point to made about this is parents are again marginalized with these sorts of decisions.  They’re forced to do what the bureaucrat decides they should do.  And it costs those parents who do take their child’s nutrition seriously and who do pack nutritious lunches the option (the freedom) to do so.

Of course, one supposes that part of the reason for imposing this unilateral ban on lunches from home is so the kids will “eat well”, yes?

At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten. Though CPS has improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad.

But as with most things, if you really drill down and “follow the money”, some of the bureaucratic insistence becomes a little clearer:

Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money in the pockets of the district’s food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch.

And they really don’t care if the food goes in the child’s stomach or the trashcan.

Which brings us to this line in the story:

Such discussions over school lunches and healthy eating echo a larger national debate about the role government should play in individual food choices.

Frankly, I see no reason for debate – none of the government’s business.  I don’t need a super-nanny deciding what I can or can’t eat and I darn sure don’t want the government deciding what my children or grandchildren eat.

But … and you knew there was one … when government “pays” for health care, government will feel entitled and empowered to decide such things for individuals because bad decisions may affect your health and that would cost the government more than if you were forced to eat like it decides you should.

Yes there are national implications to this sort of bureaucratic nonsense, and somewhere out there in the bureaucratic/political incubator is a man or woman who will self-justify attempting to impose such a fundamental infringement on your freedom to choose for your own good.  And unfortunately many others will blithely go along.



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Egypt: So how’s that “revolution” going?

Not so hot if this story is any indication:

An Egyptian blogger was sentenced Monday to three years in prison for criticizing the military in what human rights advocates called one of the more alarming violations of freedom of expression since a popular uprising led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two months ago.

The blogger, Maikel Nabil, 25, had assailed the Egyptian armed forces for what he called its continuation of the corruption and anti-democratic practices of Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Nabil often quoted from reports by established human rights groups.


The charges against Mr. Nabil included insulting the military establishment and spreading false information about the armed forces. The tribunal charged him with spreading information previously published by human rights organizations like Amnesty International on the army’s use of violence against protesters, the torture of those detained inside the Egyptian Museum and the use of forced pelvic exams, known as “virginity tests,” against detained female protesters.

Can’t have anyone “insulting the military establishment” or protesting against torture and “virginity tests” can we?  Sure seem much like the regime they just “threw out” doesn’t it?  Next: Islam begins to push the secular to the side. 

Yup, I can feel freedom ringing out from here.



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Krugman finally notices Obama’s an empty suit

Funny stuff.  Paul Krugman, representing much of the left, has apparently finally noticed what an empty suit Obama is:

What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?

I realize that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there’s not much Mr. Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn’t even using that — or, rather, he’s using it to reinforce his enemies’ narrative.

Of course Krugman is pretty much focused on economic issues and so seemingly hasn’t been watching Obama through most of his presidency, as many of us have.  He’s finally noticed the “timid guy” who doesn’t seem to stand for anything but does enjoy a good round of golf.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it has taken this long – the blinkers had to be firmly in place to elect him in the first place.   You had, to quote Hillary Clinton as she addressed Gen. Petraeus about the situation in Iraq some years ago, “willingly suspend disbelief” in order to vote for the guy in the first place.  What you had to suspend was the belief that experience and leadership count for something, especially when you’re talking about the highest office in the land.

This timid guy Krugman is talking about has shown the rest of us over and over he’s really unsuited for the job.  And now, even the Krugman’s of the world are beginning to take some notice.

I have to admit to laughing out loud at Krugman’s example – apparently the one that finally clued him into the problem:

His remarks after last week’s budget deal were a case in point.

Maybe that terrible deal, in which Republicans ended up getting more than their opening bid, was the best he could achieve — although it looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions.

And bear in mind that this was just the first of several chances for Republicans to hold the budget hostage and threaten a government shutdown; by caving in so completely on the first round, Mr. Obama set a baseline for even bigger concessions over the next few months.

Of course Krugman, as typified by his one-trick pony policy of more and more government spending to cure all ills is bound to be upset by any spending concessions a Democrat might make.  However, I loved his characterization of Obama’s bargaining style.  It is true  and not only does it point to someone totally out of his depth, but someone with no real principles upon which to make a stand.

Krugman turns his attention, after wondering what happened to Obama, to trying to trash everything the GOP has put forward or will put forward.  But so captured is he by his discovery of what Obama isn’t that he has to return to that subject:

You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval.

What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise.

But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing.

Baloney.  Krugman has to have lived in a cave if he believes the rhetoric has even come close to matching the reality of the Obama presidency.  He is not a transcendent figure by any stretch.  He is, instead, a true exception to the Peter Principle and has indeed risen to a level above his incompetence. 

But to Krugman’s last point – Obama believes in one thing – Obama.  And any objective appraisal of his performance in office these past 2+ years cannot give him very high marks on “principle” or a willingness to take a stand.   There’s a reason for that.  Obama traded principle for the achievement of his ambition years ago.  He’s intelligent enough to talk the talk, but he seems absolutely incapable of walking the walk or even attempting to do so.

As Dale said on the podcast last night, you sometimes get the feeling that when he says something he truly believes it becomes reality.  In this world you actually have to take action and lead to have things happen.  Obama has no idea how to do that.



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You knew it was coming–Arab League wants UN enforced No Fly Zone over Gaza

It was only a matter of time for the real reason behind the “right to protect” (R2P) principle the UN has adopted to become apparent.

The Arab League provides it in its appeal to the UN:

The Arab League (AL) said on Sunday it would ask the United Nations to consider imposing a no-fly zone over the Gaza Strip to protect the civilians against Israeli air strikes.

In a statement issued after an emergency meeting of the pan- Arab organization at the permanent delegates’ level in its Cairo headquarter, the AL said it would ask the United Nation Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the Israeli aggression over Gaza to lift the siege and impose a no-fly zone against the Israeli military to protect civilians.

The statement rejected the double standard policies towards the Palestinian case, urging the UN Security Council and the Quartet committee to bear all responsibilities for halting the subsequent massacres and provide an international protection for the unarmed citizens.

Now, this shouldn’t have a chance since it takes a vote of the Security Council to pass something like this and the US, with a permanent seat, has the right to veto any resolution calling for such a measure.

And a few years ago I’d have had no worries about there even being a ghost of a chance of such a measure being agreed too by the US.  I have no such assurance now with this administration.  And don’t forget, they got the cooperation of the Security Council recently for the imposition of the Libyan NFZ, so they’ll be asked for cooperation on this – it’s the trap that may have been set from the outset.

Of course, unaddressed by the AL is the provocation for the latest round of air attacks from Israel by the terrorist group Hamas:

Violence in Gaza started when Hamas, which holds sway there, fired a rocket at an Israeli school bus, critically wounding a 16- year-old student. Hamas later said it did not know the bus was carrying students.

Hamas more than “holds sway there” – Hamas “governs” there.   What it continues to do is execute acts of war against Israel and then whines when Israel reacts.  What the AL is doing is attempting to get the US to level the playing field and create better opportunities for Hamas to continue firing rockets into Israel.  And, of course, brave Hamas always ensures it does its provocations from areas with high densities of civilians.  And Hamas could give a rip whether there were students on the bus.  Read the description again – it was a freakin’ school bus.  What else did they expect to be on it?

Note too that the AL uses precisely the argument that I and others who wrote about the application of R2P said would happen.  The citing of a “double-standard” (you’ll do Libya but not Gaza?).  It’s nonsense on a stick, of course, because supposedly R2P is there to protect civilians from their own government, not another government retaliating against deadly attacks by their own government.

This again illustrates the danger of such “principles” as the UN’s R2P.  It is now being considered a tool by the weak but tyrannical in an effort to downgrade the defensive abilities of Israel to protect itself. 

I say give them the go-ahead and let the AL enforce the NFZ.  It will be good for fighter jet sales as the IAF will scatter pieces and parts of the various AL air forces over the Gaza strip as a result.



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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 10 Apr 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss this week’s government shutdown battle and the Wisconsin Supreme Court election.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


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Radio Free Internet

If you ever share anything on the web, you know that when you hear an interesting clip of someone speaking — part of an interview, speech, or podcast — you pretty much automatically resign yourself to the fact that it’s hard to share, so it’s unlikely to spread far even among people who you think might like what they hear.

But even that’s getting ahead of ourselves.  How often do you happen upon a piece of audio that says something interesting about the topic you’re researching?  And even when you do find a promising piece of media, is there anything you’d rather do less than sift through it for the useful parts, which you can’t easily break out and share anyway?

These problems can be solved with current technology, and open up new avenues for profit while we’re at it.  That’s what I discuss in a series at the blog of CRAFT | Media / Digital, where I work with QandO founder Jon Henke and one of the earliest bloggers, Sean Hackbarth.

Enjoy, and please share with anyone who might find this a cool idea:

Radio Free Internet

Part I: How Much of the Web Hears You?

Part II: Grasping and Spreading the Word

Part III: Integrating the Spoken Word into the Web

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