Monthly Archives: September 2014

IronManSuitBBC History has an interesting piece on the viking colonization of Great Britain.

Reason’s Todd Krainin has a piece on a beautiful, illegal tiny house. There’s a ten minute video. I do wonder how much could be done for density rather than building up, we just let people build small.

As it becomes harder to find lethal injection drugs, a prison in Lake Charles (La) went and tricked a hospital.

I actually kind of like the idea of standing on flights. I’m just worried that I wouldn’t fit in the seats.

The New York Times reports that family leave policies can become too generous. We’re not particularly close to that point, of course, but it does point to a tension between trying to generate equality for women in the workplace and allowing them the scheduling flexibility they would often prefer.

With the release of Microsoft Office 365, Joanna Stern wonders if we really need Microsoft Office anymore. Microsoft is acting less cocky about it than they used to.

Breastfeeding in public is one thing, and to be defended, but changing a baby’s diaper at a restaurant table is another.

Avik Roy is taking on the herculean task of trying to convince conservatives to reform and build on PPACA, rather than insist on repealing it.

Drill, baby, drill, has become a bipartisan mantra.

While I’m not surprised that millenials are moving to the suburbs, I am a bit surprised at the apparent urban baby boom.

We’re tempted to scoff when we hear that there are people who still subscribe to AOL, but it turns out they have their reasons, and they’re not bad reasons.

Adam Chilton and Eric Posner set out to do a study on political bias in legal scholarship. They had an initial setback of there simply not being enough conservative lawprofs. They persevered and found some unsurprising results. Josh Blackman argues that this is bad for legal scholarship.

I’ve been on Rhapsody for quite some time and still have my MP3 collection. So for Bob Lefsetz first “Rule of Spotify” to come true, the services are going to have to become a lot better.

Wikipedia: Win Hu Uprising

Category: Newsroom

Traficant1Former Congressman James Traficant (D-OH) has apparently died. Traficant was, during his tenure, one of the most colorful members of the House known for his audacious toupee, odd dress, and ending his speeches with “Beam me up…”

Throughout most of his tenure, he was a thorn in the side of his party. Particularly as he became more conservative and his district became more liberal. A staunch critic of immigration and Israel, he is a hero in some anti-immigration and anti-Semitic circles.

When he faced congressional expulsion, the only “nay” vote was Gary Condit. Another prominent supporter was David Duke.

Here is a snippit from one of the more colorful speeches he gave before congress:

Here is a speech he gave during his expulsion trial:

He is the only person ever to win a RICO case without counsel, though a couple decades later it was another RICO case that took him down. After seven years in congress, he served seven in prison.

Category: Statehouse

psychicfairMichael Peck writes about the Soviet plan to demoralize the French. I suppose it could be a sign that I am somewhat removed from the Cold War (having come of age as it was winding down) that I find uncompelling the notion that this would have had much effect.

As we know, everything bad for you is good for you, including but not limited to video games.

Trams are a waste of money.

Alexandru Visineşcu is being tried for Crimes Against Humanity for his role in a Communist prison camp in Romania.

Meteors blazed across the Tennessee sky, and NASA got it on camera!

Theologians and scientists gather to talk about aliens.

Soleil Ho argues that foodie trends hurt low-income families.

After learning 20 things in North Korea, the Tim Urban fails to figure out Japan.

When nostalgia and Big Data collide, the Chinese end up reproducing the relics we’re looking for on eBay.

Enjoy it while you can, though, because China might not be a copycat forever. As I’ve said in the past, China simply doesn’t want to make our cheap junk forever, and this will change the dynamics of “outsourcing everything to China.”

io9 delivers up the story of some interesting micronations.

David Brent is coming back!

Climate change is allowing us to build an internet connection through the arctic.

I don’t know that there has ever been a time in my life when I haven’t had access to $400. It’s all quite depressing.

Housing costs are costing Britain its young people. Fortunately, the young Brits have places to go.

The atrocity that is the Designated Hitter rule was a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Corporate responsibility: An company that specializes in automation is looking to help those it is displacing.

The dangers of helicopter parenting? Teens who talk on cell phones while they drive are as often as not talking to their parents. Or so they say…

Walmart continues its efforts into entering the business of primary care.

On 3/3, there are 303 days left in the year.

Category: Newsroom

The Ninth Circuit has ruled that Fourth Amendment protections don’t apply when it comes to sharing child porn. Dr Phi notes:

I will note in passing that, while the decision of the 9th Circuit appears to be sound as a matter of law, the opinions seem to misstate the technical facts of the case. All the judges write several times that the NCIS conducted “surveillance of all computers in the entire state of Washington.” If this were true, it would raise obvious 4th Amendment problems, but in actuality Agent Logan searched only those files being shared by a peer-to-peer file sharing program, by which its users presumably forfeit any “reasonable expectation of privacy”. But that should cause its users enough worry, seeing as how most of those files are likely in technical violation of copyright laws, which the government has prosecuted before.

As a legal matter, I’m pretty sure this is right. as a political and business matter, though, going after file sharers has proven to be something of a dead end. Lately, the content-owners have been more interested in teaming up with the ISP’s in order to kick sharers off their accounts. Which is pretty brilliant, because it’s minor enough to not create the sorts of sob stories we’ve seen with people going to prison over this. But it’s severe enough to the culpable parties that it does provide some disincentive.

Not much, though, which is the bind that the content-producers are in. And why they are most likely going to break if they do not bend. (To their credit, they have been bending.)

Category: Server Room

In a discussion over at Ordinary Times about banned books, Zic made the following comment:

There is another form of banning: limiting availability. I’ve spent a lot of time searching out out-of-print books; I own several collections; the White Mountains and mountaineering/hiking in general, field guides, gardening, knitting, cooking, science fiction.

When books go out of print, they become rare and elusive, they’re banned from general public access (with the exceptions of inter-library loans, Thanks Maribou!)

While this is obviously not a “ban” in the same sense as banned books, it is a significant hindrance of access that has a larger and deeper effect on availability than actual attempts to ban books in the more traditional sense.

bigballofstringOne of Lain’s favorite books is A Big Ball of String. It was written in 1958 and incorporated into Dr Seuss’s “Beginners Series.” The plot involves a young boy who wants to gather a big ball of string, and having gathered it, has an adventure trying to figure out how to do. It’s snappy in the Seussian manner, and I really like it because it prizes childhood imagination and ingenuity.

The book looks like it is long out of print. As you can see if you followed the previous link, it sells from $23 for a heavily used copy, to over $650 for a “new” copy (by which I assume they mean in its original packaging.

Why is this book no longer available? Well, there are two potential reasons. The first is that it simply didn’t sell very well. The second is that one of the subplots involves a toy gun, which may not be kosher with some parents and may garner bad publicity (which starts sounding just a bit like corporate censorship).

On the first count, that used to hold more sway than it currently does. This day in age, between ebooks and print-on-demand, low sales shouldn’t be the barrier that it once was. It’s also noteworthy that this was a book written fifty years ago. The fact that it’s still held in copyright, by a publisher that (assuming it’s not the toy gun) that has no interest in it, represents something aggravating about copyright law. Even if we grant a right to near-perpetuity when it comes to profiting off creative works, in cases like this they seem to actually have no interest in it. But since it’s still under copyright, nobody else can, either.

Category: Market

RabbitheadsDomestic violence rates among NFL players is astoundingly high. Even so, overall arrest rates of athletes remain remarkably low.

Eric Siu makes the case that employee happiness matters.

God’s Not Dead was filed for two million dollars and has thus far pulled in over sixty. It’s almost as though there is a market for such movies. Surely, with Hollywood being the capitalist beast that it is, scores of them are on the way. Right?

Unsurprisingly, it’s a better idea to give students work machines instead of toys.

According to John Henry Thompson and Andrew Quinn, providing housing to poor families doesn’t actually change outcomes much. They argue this has implications for the “just give them money” debate.

Allison P Davis is frustrated at her inability to mooch a charge for her phone. I would just point out that with a Samsung and a spare battery, this isn’t an issue.

Adam Ozimek looks at the sharing economy being most beneficial for developing countries.

The Japanese may or may not want to fire the nuclear plants back up, but according to Satsumasendai it really needs to happen.

A federal bill wants to restrict gun advertising “to children” on the same basis that cigarette advertising to children is banned. Eugene Volokh explains that there are differences.

Ruben Santamarta says passenger jets vulnerable to cyberattack.

Before physicians make a lot of money, they make less than a lot of money.

Jonathan McLeod is tired of Canadian cities trying to be cool for Europeans. The shorthand back home was “World Class”, as in “We have to pursue my favored policy because we want to be world class” as in “If we don’t do this, people who don’t live here will laugh at us.” (“This” usually being some variation of greenbelts, rail, and/or “smart growth”.)

Gabriel Rossman makes a good point about some of the recent botched executions, arguing that they are predicated in part on the actions of death penalty opponents and blame-assignment is unclear.

Even if no other measures are taken, transparent health care pricing may pay a crucial role in lowering health care costs.

Michael Brendan Dougherty argues that the victory of the culture wars could be… Apple, Google, and Facebook.

Category: Newsroom

I have a tendency to be ignorant on basic rules of etiquette. There are some things, though, that strike me as so obvious that even I understand them.

Let’s say that someone who moved away a long while back is coming in town. You’re talking about having dinner together. Where do you eat?

To me, the correct answer is “Within reason, anywhere they want to eat.” Especially if there is a strong preference involved.

Whenever I return to Dixie, I almost always have a hit list of places I want to eat. I don’t necessarily expect to hit all of them, mind you, but I like to fill as many open meals with these places as possible.

happyburger2I used to run into this with my father a lot. One of the hardest things about leaving my pocket of the South, at least in terms of food, was actually a regional fast food joint, which I will call Happy Burger. Their breakfasts are especially good. More than that, I have so many fond memories of the place from when I was growing up. Yet over and over again, when I would come home and Dad and I would do our breakfast, he would agitate going to Denny’s.

Back in the day, we almost never went to Denny’s. Happy Burger was cheaper. But he figured that since my being at home was a special treat, we should go eat at Denny’s because it’s nicer. It actually took a long time to be able to articulate why I wanted to go to Happy Burger.

I visited a friend in the southwest, who just absolutely insisted that I needed to go try out this pho place. Except having lived there for a while, I already knew exactly where I wanted to eat. My list of places to eat was already long, and I was more anxious to return to food that I knew that I loved and couldn’t get than to – best case scenario – find some new outstanding place I wouldn’t be able to eat at again except in competition with every other restaurant in the city I love during rare return visits. We ate pho. It was okay. I don’t really like pho.

It happened again this last trip. Where the decision was between McDonald’s or Happy Burger. My attempts to explain that we can eat at McDonald’s any time and I wouldn’t have a chance at eating at Happy Burger for another four months was outvoted because McDonald’s has a special deal on free coffee and was six minutes out of our way.

Once I resigned myself to the fact that I’d lost, I let my mother-in-law know that we could save about four minutes by going on a slightly different route. This information went ignored, because the longer route would get us there just as surely as the new route would.

Category: Kitchen

fakemarriageThe corrosive, traumatizing effects of high school.

A lot of fracking workers think that frack-work is a-okay.

Michael Lind wants to take the Six Californias nation-wide, breaking up all of the states. I’d argue that the reason it’s unlikely that California will choose to split up sheds light on the misdiagnosis: Large states lose in the senate, but they benefit it other and important ways (House delegations, producing presidents) that add significant value.

Private schools in India are an antidote to their caste system.

Gouging in New York prison phone call pricing causes people to lose parental rights.

Kath Scanlon writes about how to bring down housing prices in London.

The BMI is an inaccurate measurement, but the best doctors have got. My understanding is that the BMI is pretty accurate in the aggregate, just not in the individual.

Thank goodness, it turns out that tablets are not going to take over computing after all. As I’ve said previously, it would say something atrocious about our society if that revolution had occurred.

China is seeking a baby boom that may not be coming. It seems that governments have much more ability to suppress fertility than to increase it.

The Organ Detective, Nancy Scheper-Hughes has made a mission out of tracking down the organ trade market.

Democrats are declaring a ceasefire on “War on Women” rhetoric.

According to Matthew Hennessey, younger Millenials may lean to the right the way that older ones lean to the left. The evidence is weak, the rationale possible, and Romney did apparently win 19 and 20 year old voters.

Category: Newsroom


So today Scotland is expected to vote against independence, though polling is more uncertain on the sorts of elections irregularly held.

Prime Minister David Cameron and the government appears to be willing to promise the sun and the moon to get them to stay. They were, apparently, not expecting this vote to be as close as it looks like it might be.

Meanwhile, Spain is under increasing pressure to allow a vote in Catalonia. Catalons are tying themselves to the referendum. It’s no wonder that Spain, looking at what is happening to Cameron and the UK, is particularly keen not to let that happen.

As independent statehood becomes more popular, due ironically to increasing globalization, it touches on one thing that the global community hasn’t figured out: We have no generally recognized method for legitimate secession. Leaving it to constituent nations can be problematic.

Here in the United States, of course, we have particular reasons to be suspicious of it, though I think we would be hard-pressed to refuse a request on the part of Hawaii to secede. For example. And I think the international pressure on this sort of thing will increase with time, depending in big part on the reasons for the secession.

I tend to agree with Steven Taylor that the bar set for Scotland is awfully low. It’s hard to say what the appropriate bar is, though it seems to me that counting non-voters as “no” votes might be appropriate. That’s a very high bar, but secession is a very radical and complicated step.

Category: Newsroom


Robert O’Connell writes an ode to Just Shoot Me and mediocre sitcoms. Relatedly, Jason Lynch wonders why TV shows peak around Season 3.

The Google Glass is merely the latest entrance into wearable tech that began with… the pocket watch.

Old Urbanist Charlie Gardner writes about mobile homes and the role they can play in increasing density (because anti-density regulations tend to be looser for mobile homes than regular ones).

It takes a village to self-publish.

Laws against texting and driving still don’t work.

Two things I did not know: The Iroquois invented lacrosse… and are a current superpower in the sport.

It’s commonly said that Israel is going to have to play nicely with the Palestinians because of the demographic timebomb. What if that simply isn’t true?

Crime may or may not pay. Low-skill crime increasingly doesn’t.

Ray Fisman says that Sweden’s freefall in the international education testing ratings is proof that school choice is a bad idea. Andrew Coulson begs to differ. A report released by the University of Arkansas gave charter schools great points on cost-effectiveness.

Foreign countries are apparently really frustrated with the American government’s demands at access to bank accounts.

Adam Ozimek takes issue with Mark Bittman’s piece on the “true cost of hamburgers.” Negative externalities is quickly becoming one of the economic terms I am seeing used with increasing sloppiness.

Why do iPhones suddenly start feeling more slow when a new one comes out? (Curiously, it doesn’t happen with Samsung, so it’s not the most obvious answer.)

Annie Murphy Paul says that ed tech promoters are generalizing too much from how they learn. I think this is true, but is also true of the education establishment as well.

Allastair Bonnett has written a book about ghost cities and secret cities that sounds quite interesting.

Bigger cities taking on more aggressive housing expansion policies would be good for the national economy.

On the horizon… self-repairing plastic?

Maureen O’Connor writes about the ethical minefield of “ethnic plastic surgery.”

Meanwhile, in Calgary, the only local fertility clinic refused to allow multi-ethnic inseminations on the grounds of it constituted “designer babies.” Razib Khan response.

Norton A Schwartz and John K Hurley write of the juggernaut that is the American economy.

Most Americans now sufficiently ashamed of drinking soft drinks so as to claiming they try to avoid it.

How Teddy Roosevelt saved football.

Suburban homebuilders are encroaching on urban development.

Should baseball change the rules to account for defensive innovations stiffling offenses?

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry explains the appeal of Ayn Rand.

Category: Newsroom