Thu 7 Jul 2011
Tim is now writing at Forbes.com. You should go read it!
Thu 7 Jul 2011
Tim is now writing at Forbes.com. You should go read it!
Fri 22 Oct 2010
Sun 19 Sep 2010
This article analyzes the chances of Lisa Murkowski’s write-in candidacy in Alaska. Though I don’t really care about that election, other than harboring a vast well of distrust for hereditary power-holders from noble families, the interesting part is the analysis of how valuable actually being listed on the ballot really is:
Suppose you accept the argument that, were Ms. Murkowski running as a conventional independent candidate, with her name listed on the ballot, she would stand a decent chance of winning a three-way race. How much of a penalty might she suffer from the fact that she is not in fact named on the ballot, and that she must instead count on voters to write her name in?
This is particularly interesting, since he indicates (well, not that we all didn’t know this anyway) that not being listed on the ballot is a major penalty beyond that of not being associated with a major party. If this is the case, and it obviously is, why do we have printed ballots at all? If it was a serious enough issue to convince 4 of 9 Supreme Court justices that having too much money in an election could unfairly damage our democracy even in the face of what seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle in the first amendment, why do we let this easily solved problem persist? It seems like it would save some money too, since every ballot would always look the same: one line to put your candidate’s name.
If just having your name printed on a ballot provides such a massive advantage, why don’t we ban the practice? Have everyone be a write in. If our voting preferences are swayed by money, it seems they are also swayed by which names we see before us, denying voters from expressing their true preferences, unbiased by printed paper. Plus, people are always complaining that the electorate isn’t educated enough — now we would have surefire way of reducing the influence of those ignorant chumps who couldn’t even be bothered to learn the names of the candidates, because as Mr. Silver points out, write-ins that can’t be deciphered get dismissed:
And regardless of the tenor of her campaign, any win by Ms. Murkowski is liable to be ugly in a procedural sense. If the result between Ms. Murkowski and her two opponents is at all close, litigation is likely to result. Although minor misspellings will count for Ms. Murkowski, how about a ballot cast for “Liza Murklusky”? Or one where the voter spells her name properly, but does not fill out the oval to indicate they have made a write-in choice?
Banned pre-printed candidate names seems like a win-win — well, except for people with hard-to-spell last names. While we’re at it, why not ban listing party affiliation as well? If you can’t even identify your party’s candidate is, then how can we trust you to know if they would be good at doing the job you’re electing them for?
Sun 5 Sep 2010
Ran into Dennis Kucinich at the Cleveland Oktoberfest today. Managed to successfully restrain myself from thanking him for being such a tireless advocate of UFO research.
Thu 2 Sep 2010
You’re doing it right: (via Boing Boing)
Make sure to click on “shoot” or “don’t shoot.”
Wed 25 Aug 2010
Specialization of labor! The Daily Mail (via Instapundit) is not impressed:
More than half of young people lack the skills they need to maintain their homes, with many relying on their parents to carry out basic tasks, a survey suggested today.
Around 50 per cent of people aged under 35 admitted they did not know how to rewire a plug, while 54 per cent did not know how to bleed a radiator and 63 per cent said they would not attempt to put up wallpaper, according to Halifax Home Insurance.
Oh no! The knife twists:
Nearly two-thirds of young people admitted that their father was far better at DIY than they were.
Guess what? This describes me perfectly. I am pretty incompetent at house maintenance, (but even I can manage shelves and basic gardening, unlike some of the people described in the article), but that’s not the point. The point is, I do things I am good at and enjoy so that I don’t have to do the things I’m bad at and dislike.
I’m a computer programmer, and like all computer oriented people, I ‘enjoy’ the attention lavished upon me whenever someone in the family needs computer help. Why is it wrong for me to call upon the more expert members of my family (some of whom have extensive professional homebuilding experience!) when I need something done in the home maintenance field?
We could similarly write an article about how old people are incompetent with computers and constantly need to call their kids to come help with their interwebs, but again, it wouldn’t matter. So long as the average person knows someone who can do X, there’s no reason to learn it — unless you really want to, or enjoy doing it, or for whatever reason require doing it so often that it’s worth it. This is community and familial cooperation to maximize utility! This is good news, not bad news.
Edit: Let me specifically focus on the wallpaper example. Have you ever taken down/put up wallpaper? It is boring, stupid, messy and immensely not fun. Even if I were a wallpapering expert, I would never admit it around any who might possibly one day ask me to help do it.
Edit 2: Okay, still on wallpaper. Why would you even want to know how to PUT UP wallpaper? Wallpaper is terrible. You should not have it. Even the word itself, in a purely aesthetic context, is revolting. Sure I don’t know how to wallpaper, because I can never imagine wanting any surface to have wallpaper on it. I don’t know how to wallpaper just like I don’t know how to burn down my house — because I figure home prices have dropped enough, thank you very much. The only thing you should ever do with wallpaper is tear it out (and that’s no party either), while screaming obscenities at the past generations who thought it was acceptable. Get some goddamn paint. Painting is actually sort of fun!
Fri 20 Aug 2010
Mr. Friedersdorf’s take on the debate. (Starring Reihan again!)
Tue 17 Aug 2010
(CNN) — Airport police in Albuquerque, New Mexico are expected to release details Tuesday about an “incident” aboard a Southwest Airlines flight during which a mother may have slapped a young child.
The Albuquerque International Sunport’s police chief told CNN affiliate KRQE that a flight attendant took the child from its mother.
“I think it was a solid move from the part of the flight attendant to take custody of the child,” [Police Chief Marshall] Katz said. “It neutralized the situation. It calmed everybody down.”
Wait, what? You can calm down a mother by taking their child away? I realize it’s a logical fallacy to come to a conclusion purely from anecdotal evidence, but I’m pretty sure that based on my experience, I can confidently claim that kidnapping a baby is not a situation neutralizing tactic. But then, I haven’t had the same training that Chief Katz has.
Mon 26 Jul 2010
I’ll take back lots of the bad things I said about you if you vote for marijuana legalization this fall.
This piece by Mr. McNamara is a simple, smart and genuine argument for it:
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that Mexican cartels derive more than 60 percent of their profits from marijuana. How much did the cartels make last year dealing in Budweiser, Corona or Dos Equis?
I didn’t know that the percentage of cartel profits from pot were that high. I always assumed it was a much smaller percentage. If that’s true, the number one benefit of pot legalization in CA will be the castration of organized crime in Mexico — there’s no way they can compete.
Please make the right choice.
Fri 9 Jul 2010
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has [...]
… taken free agency to Miami.
Fri 2 Jul 2010
Update: I hope they score more touchdowns than the Uruguavans. Mmm, guavas.
Update 2: The Dutch win!
Tue 25 May 2010
The Ambrosini Critique has been doing a long series on papers showing that immigration has almost no downside. I highly recommend reading all the links contained in this (what I suppose to be) summary post. They’re all good. The conclusion:
In the last few years, researchers have shown that when all of these factors are taken into account, the surprising result is that immigrants don’t seem to have a negative effect on native wages or employment levels. In fact, its likely that immigrants have even been a net positive for natives, a result that this paper has replicated.
I’ve certainly assumed that immigration did depress wages for natives, but that the other benefits outweighed the costs. From reading this, I see that even that cost may be exaggerated.
Wed 19 May 2010
Does anyone else think it weird that the BBC constantly runs the movie “V for Vendetta”? I mean, this is a movie where a masked terrorist not only blows up major British landmarks, but explicitly murders the head of the authoritarian British government’s state media — and it is portrayed as a laudable act. I realize it’s BBC America, but still…
In other British news, this stuff is amazing:
“Taking people’s freedom away didn’t make our streets safer,” Clegg said. “Obsessive lawmaking simply makes criminals out of ordinary people.”
Uh, what? This guy is the deputy prime minister? I love it. And this is just earth-shattering:
London, England (CNN) — The new British government plans to replace the House of Lords with an elected second chamber of Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Wednesday.
I know “House of Lords” sounds pretty silly and archaic to Americans, but this is a big deal. I can’t believe he’s saying this stuff. If you kidnapped a libertarian and forced him to write a platform, it wouldn’t look a great deal different than that. Who wants to join my new club, Ex-Colonials For Clegg?
Mon 17 May 2010
I know everyone’s already jumped on it, but I think the funniest part about this short Krugman post is that in all the years he’s advocated liberal government policies of his own, he never once would’ve allowed some critic of them to say:
And don’t say that we just need better politicians. If [liberalism] requires incorruptible politicians to work, it’s not serious.
So why is it a legit critique of libertarianism, a philosophy which emphasizes less power for those corruptible politicians? He hilariously actually thinks this “but what about corruptible politicians, eh?” is a good argument (I guess, why else would you put on the NYT for everyone to see?) but he hasn’t found a need to deploy it over his entire career, until now — as an argument against… people who advocate granting less power to politicians. What someone needs to do is a Daily Show-esque Krugman v. Krugman debate, where every time he presents some idea, Krugman 2 responds with “but if it’s dependent on corruptible politicians, it’s just not serious!”
The really sad part is, Krugman is supposed to be the vanguard of liberal policy thought. And this is the kind of debating acumen he’s displaying? There actually are thorny government capture problems (well, certainly moreso than the one he presents) with which you can challenge libertarians — like say the corruptibility of the government in spheres everyone admits are necessary, like the military or the courts. But to say the libertarianism doesn’t work because the government passed a law that regulation-averse libertarians don’t think they should have the power to pass — is just pathetic.
This is getting kind of embarrassing — I feel like I’m making a strawman argument, because I couldn’t actually imagine that a liberal would be so dense as to really say “the fatal flaw in libertarianism is dependence on incorruptible politicians” — yet there’s Krugman saying it on the NYT. I guess sometimes you get a freebie.
Wed 12 May 2010
My only thought on this, other than “who cares?” is that like Tina Fey for Sarah Palin, Saturday Night Live has a ready made impersonator for Elena Kagan: Rachel Dratch. Yup, “which SNL cast member will portray them?” is about as interested as I can get about SC nominees.
Sun 9 May 2010
The only thing less seemly than Florida courts making calls about elections would be if you had a queen do it instead. Let me just say that if, in some horrifying stupid decision (which I feel is unlikely, but CNN felt it shouldn’t file this under “strange news”), the British government actually lets the Queen make a substantive election decision, the nation as a whole should be required to turn in their membership as a member of the “first world nation.”
Sorry England, but the only reason we all looked the other way about your little “royalty” indiscretion was that you did a good job keeping them as tabloid bait and out of the actual governing process. If you actually let a sitting, hereditary monarch (who is officially head of your theocracy I might add!) make an election decision, we won’t be able to sweep it under the rug any more.
Fri 7 May 2010
When the White House changes party, do economists change their tune on budget deficits?:
[...] Six economists are found to change their tune – Paul Krugman in a significant way, Alan Blinder in a moderate way, and Martin Feldstein, Murray Weidenbaum, Paul Samuelson, and Robert Solow in a minor way – while eleven are found to be fairly consistent.
The Daily Show used to do a funny segment where they simulated debates between George Bush and Past George Bush — you could probably get a few hours of a similar Krugman v. Krugman material.
Fri 30 Apr 2010
I had been seeing references to this “bigot gaffe” by the Prime Minister:
I figured it was just politicians being idiots, a claim I wholeheartedly support. But finally I read the damn article and I have to admit I’m fully on Mr. Brown’s side:
Gillian Duffy, a 66-year-old widow, told the Prime Minister that she was concerned about immigration from Eastern Europe. [...]
During their earlier conversation, she had told the Prime Minister that she was concerned that vulnerable people were missing out on support while those who did not deserve them where able to claim benefits.
She went on: “All these Eastern Europeans, where are they coming from?”
Mr Brown said that a million Europeans had come to the United Kingdom, but that a similar number of Britons were now living on the continent.
Mrs Duffy told him that she felt that the issue of immigration was not being discussed properly for reasons of political correctness. “You can’t say anything about immigrants,” she said.
No, I can’t get angry at someone who, after having this conversation, walked into his car and muttered “what a bigot!” Because that is precisely what I would have done, and more importantly, precisely the correct response. Well, not entirely. I would’ve preferred this response to: “All these Eastern Europeans, where are they coming from?”
Well, madam, I would expect the answer to that would be: “Eastern Europe.”
Look, if it’s considered to be a problem that a politician called a silly bigoted old woman a “bigot,” then I would gladly like to have their problems. Ironically, Mrs. Duffy is concerned that “no one can say anything about immigrants” due to political correctness, yet the political scandal surrounding her is apparently a case of politicians being slammed for saying things about anti-immigration individuals.
Fri 16 Apr 2010
I was going to say something about this article:
(CNN) — Nathanael Paul likes the convenience of the insulin pump that regulates his diabetes. It communicates with other gadgets wirelessly and adjusts his blood sugar levels automatically.
But, a few years ago, the computer scientist started to worry about the security of this setup.
What if someone hacked into that system and sent his blood sugar levels plummeting? Or skyrocketing? Those scenarios could be fatal.
But xkcd beat me to my reply, albeit in a different context:
To be fair, though, quite a bit of sci fi deals with the concept of unwanted intrusions into personal implants (take Ghost in the Shell). One example being, if we one day have retinal implants that give us extraordinary visual acuity, will they be able to be compromised? What if you could actually create images on the optical nerves? My feelings on this are that unless security can be airtight (and I truly mean 100%) people are going to be very unlikely to want these things.