Mandala system
Maṇḍala is a Sanskrit word meaning 'circle'. The mandala is a model for describing the patterns of diffuse political power distributed among Mueang or Kedatuan (principalities) in medieval Southeast Asian history, when local power was more important than the central leadership ... the overlord-tributary relationship was not necessarily exclusive. A state in border areas might pay tribute to two or three stronger powers. The tributary ruler could then play the stronger powers against one another to minimize interference by either one, while for the major powers the tributaries served as a buffer zone to prevent direct conflict between them.
Mandala (political model)

The housing theory of everything
Try listing every problem the Western world has at the moment. Along with Covid, you might include slow growth, climate change, poor health, financial instability, economic inequality, and falling fertility. These longer-term trends contribute to a sense of malaise that many of us feel about our societies. They may seem loosely related, but there is one big thing that makes them all worse. That thing is a shortage of housing: too few homes being built where people want to live. And if we fix those shortages, we will help to solve many of the other, seemingly unrelated problems that we face as well.
The housing theory of everything

Are shrinking populations really a problem?

"Have you heard about 'the polycrisis,' yet?"
Is it even a concept?

"It’s not clear if the polycrisis is an objective description of the material state of the world or a subjective description of psychological states, a kind of vibe."

Statistics about sexual assault
  • Less than 1% of rapes and attempted rapes end in a felony conviction
  • Less than a third of rapes are reported to the police
  • Between 2 and 8% of reported sexual assaults are false (does not include rapes that were not reported)

Washington Post article from 2018

Saving this because literally every victim going public leads to "we have the courts for a reason" and "but what about false rape claims".

The wildfires didn't have to be this bad
  • Cities founded in the fire-prone frontier by anti-government types that didn't want to be told how to build (proper infrastructure, firebreaks etc.)
  • Real estate has been the main wealth generator for a while, "Selling out to a developer was the only retirement plan most farmers knew."
  • "What was once sparse is now densely packed with pine, fir, cedar, and manzanita. A forest that supported 64 trees an acre in pre-settlement times now boasted 160 trees an acre ... 'I don't think we could have managed the forests any worse.'"
  • "as Wilson and his staff studied the fires more closely, he could see that their oddly linear pattern of ignition clusters corresponded to major electrical power lines."
  • “These weren’t outlier events,” Wilson said. “These same spots had a history of fire. They had burned before and were destined to burn again. If you charted it out, we weren’t having far more wildfires than in the past. But the wildfires we were experiencing were far more deadly and destructive, and that had to do with mismanaging the forest and building communities in the wildland-urban interface. The state’s population was exploding in the very areas most susceptible to wildfires.”
  • Forestry management and fire prevention - prescribed burns, reducing fuel load - curtailed in favor of military-style firefighting.
  • "To justify its high costs, [Cal Fire] had to figure out a way to make itself essential throughout the year. This was how it evolved into a 24/7 provider of emergency services to the sprawling mountain communities ... instead of trying to slow down the suburbanization of forestlands, Wilson said, the department served the growth — to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in funding."
  • "In their filings, each attorney traced the historic blazes to a culture of mismanagement, corruption, and cover-up that had taken hold inside PG&E decades before. A pattern of venality, they argued, began in the company’s early years and became more recalcitrant in the 1980s and 1990s, when PG&E, with the connivance of the California Public Utilities Commission, its watchdog, made a decision to place profits and bonuses to top executives — and dividends to shareholders — over safety."
  • "It was fiction that the California Public Utilities Commission exercised any watchdog role over PG&E, he said. “They don’t have the resources, they don’t have the trained personnel or mindset, to monitor and audit PG&E’s compliance with safety regulations. PG&E can literally get away with murder.”"

Labor and value
tfw the best explanation of the labor theory of value in Marx you've seen is in a ten-year-old blog comment.

Cracks in the urbanist policy framework
Well, maybe not cracks but at least evidence of limitations. Lisa Schweitzer
I am not suggesting that zoning is not a binding constraint in some locations. But there are parts of that map where there are big deficits in affordable units in locales where land is basically free. Zoning cannot be a constraint in those locales.
And ...
I’m not convinced by that all the arguments that came my way last night via Twitter that zoning is hamstringing the productivity in urban areas so that people in the countryside are suffering. Cities may boost national productivity numbers, but that is a function of aggregation, not necessarily of strong economic spillovers. It might be that lack of growth in cities ultimately dampens demand for whatever Iowa supplies to cities, but the regional distribution of economic growth over the past four decades suggests that whatever economic spillovers there might be are weak.

But then the Iowans could move to the city if the housing were not so expensive. And that’s true….and yet they have had fewer constraints on migration than people internationally have, and yet there they are, still in Iowa, while I have crazy people telling me we need a wall (even though we already got one) because California and New York are too full of immigrants. People should be able to move to where the jobs are, sure, but I also think David Imbroscio has a point: people should be able to stay home and live a decent life, too.
Although aggregation might be a big deal if you think return on investment in some industries is nonlinear. Say, winner-take-all industries like tech.

Don't let them wear you out
What the fuck just happened today?

Trump news that actually matters (love/hate Twitter but the signal/noise ratio ...)


"Now we can begin"
One fine day

This is the kind of stuff that's embarrassing to read years later, but right now I just want to give other people the chance to read it.

What makes me the enemy, you may ask? In their mind it’s very simple: if you’re not among the victims, you’re among the culprits. In your case, you’re that modern bogeyman called the liberal urbanite hipster ...
I resemble that remark.
But it took our leaders ten years to figure out they needed to actually go to the slums and to the countryside.
So, twenty years for the Democratic Party, then?

Ironically, one of the architects of the Democratic party's drift away from its base is folksy charmer Bill Clinton. The situations are not completely parallel. There were some engaged Democratic incumbents who lost. And some who faced a strong Republican challenge and held fast. But overall I think he's right that the Democratic party needs to have a stronger connection to voters. The link between the DNC and voters seems to be broken. I would argue that part of the problem is a professional class operating at an excessive level of abstraction but maybe I'd just be projecting.
We, the undersigned, are employees of tech organizations and companies based in the United States. We are engineers, designers, business executives, and others whose jobs include managing or processing data about people. We are choosing to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans, immigrants, and all people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the incoming administration’s proposed data collection policies. We refuse to build a database of people based on their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs. We refuse to facilitate mass deportations of people the government believes to be undesirable.

Progressive political organizations in SF (and other ways to get involved)
Googled "social democrats san francisco" but was disappointed, although apparently there used to be such a group.

Gonna start this as a list sans commentary but will come back and add notes.

I know nothing about some of these so if some of them are fronts for AppGooAmFace or NIMBYs don't get mad.

Inequality and democracy
Piketty fears that given rising levels of wealth inequality, democracy is doomed. People will not tolerate high levels of inequality forever, and repressing their resistance to an unequal social order will eventually require dispensing with democratic forms. I’m not so sure ... procedural democracy limping on against a background of inequality, disdain and humiliation is not an attractive prospect, but it is already a big part of our present and may be the whole of our future unless egalitarian politics can be revived.
-Piketty, Rousseau and the desire for inequality

Yet the US political system has been under the influence of wealthy elites ever since the American Revolution. In some historical periods it worked primarily for the benefit of the wealthy. In others, it pursued policies that benefited the society as a whole ... unequal societies generally turn a corner once they have passed through a long spell of political instability. Governing elites tire of incessant violence and disorder. They realise that they need to suppress their internal rivalries, and switch to a more co-operative way of governing, if they are to have any hope of preserving the social order.
-History tells us where the wealth gap leads

You may pick two, but no more than two, of the following:


... if severe inequality is going to continue, then there must remain some sizable contingent of people who are socioeconomic losers, who will as a matter of economic necessity become segregated into less-desirable neighborhoods, who will come to form new communities with social identities, which must be pathological for their poverty to be stable.
-Tangles of pathology

Oh and the second link makes the point that when the pendulum swings back to more equality overall, it can still increase inequality between groups. The last link is the one that makes the picture really dark, because it suggests that the only way to end systematic oppression of black people is to either make the US more equal than it's ever been, or find a new group to oppress.

Cryptography as a means to restore the balance of power
Cryptography rearranges power: it configures who can do what, from what.

I'd argue that the reverse is really the issue that needs more attention. Online systems that do not provide strong cryptography rearrange power, as compared to their offline equivalents.

It was not feasible to scan all phone calls for keywords in 1970, since that required effort from humans to do the patching and listening. The power dynamic changed when our industry brought those calls into a centralized, trivially-storable clear-text format. Encrypting the conversations is simply a partial return to the status quo of a few decades ago.
- via

Ten degrees!
Somehow I missed that. Ten. ("Could", so maybe that's the upper end of their estimates.)

Two teams of American climatologists published research confirming that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun to collapse, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program released its third National Climate Assessment, which noted that average temperatures in the United States had increased by between 1.3 and 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, predicted that in the absence of human intervention those temperatures could rise by another 10 degrees during the coming century, and attributed recent adverse weather events such as floods and droughts to climate change caused by humans.

Harper's Weekly Review, May 13, 2014

"If I'm right about the future, cities are going to see a tsunami of people, money, information, weapons and drugs." - David Kilcullen, who says he's mostly talking about cities in the developing world, where a million people move from rural areas to cities every week.

Other notes:

High-crime areas have distinct visual signatures - the size and density of the buildings, the bends in the streets, the amount of street lighting ...

It took us years before we ask Iraqis how they thought we should secure Iraq.

On unearned cynicism
Paul Mison arches his eyebrows at this post from Instagram:
Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand’s king and the world’s longest-serving head of state, turns 85 years old today. King Bhumibol, also known as Rama IX, has ruled Thailand for more than 66 years, and is a popular figure throughout the country.
his reply:
Well, yes, I suppose it does look that way, given if you get caught sending text messages that don’t approve of the king, you can get twenty years in prison. Still, good to see Instagram covering corrupt regimes. I’m looking forward to their highlights of photos from North Korea and Bahrain.
I'm not a fan of monarchy, but the king is extraordinarily well-loved in Thailand, and implying otherwise is silly. I can't even imagine where the North Korea comparison came from.

Cognitive Democracy
Unpublished paper

"In this essay, we outline a cognitive approach to democracy. Specifically, we argue that democracy has unique benefits as a form of collective problem solving in that it potentially allows people with highly diverse perspectives to come together in order collectively to solve problems. Democracy can do this better than either markets and hierarchies, because it brings these diverse perceptions into direct contact with each other, allowing forms of learning that are unlikely either through the price mechanism of markets or the hierarchical arrangements of bureaucracy. Furthermore, democracy can, by experimenting, take advantage of novel forms of collective cognition that are facilitated by new media."

A justification for income redistribution
Let's say the Los Angeles city government has an empty lot they want to get rid of. They want something that will maximize economic return, in order to provide jobs and tax revenue (it might be worthwhile to dive into what measure of economic return they should use, but we'll ignore that for now.) Additionally, they're risk-averse and need to be able to generate public support for the plan in order to make it happen.

Now, which one of these plans will they choose?

  • Engaging a large, well-known real estate developer who provides a nice 3D rendering of the shiny, multi-million dollar mixed retail/residential development he'll build
  • Selling off subdivided lots piecemeal to smaller developers or individual owners

They'll always choose the first. The additional administrative complexity and risk involved in the second make it a non-starter. And, in this understandable way, they make the rich richer.

The government makes a ton of decisions beyond selling land that similarly impact the concentration of wealth, and an analogous process usually holds - if we need to regulate banks, for example, who should we turn to for advice? A million small players, or a few big bankers?

So, on average, government decisions will tend to be made in concert with large existing interests, and will tend to increase the concentration of wealth. I think this problem is structurally unfixable, and provides some of the justification for redistributing wealth.

The chimera of Financial Stability
"I have never understood why Financial Stability should be an objective of public policy. Desirable, measurable outcomes of benefit to the public should be the objectives of public policy. Stability is a silly and impractical goal in a capitalist economy ... One strength of the US banking system from the 1930s to the 1980s was that failures were dealt with quickly and certainly. Foreclosed properties had to be sold by banks within two years of repossession, leading to a quick and certain reallocation of assets from failed borrowers to new owners. The FDIC swiftly and mercilessly shut down failed banks ... with forbearance now institutionalised at all levels of the US economy, we are seeing Japanification instead of recovery. And it is even worse just about everywhere else where dominant banks are much more influential."

Why I Oppose Financial Stability

Markets are built of regulations
I've been simmering on this point for ages, waiting for someone to speak my mind for me. Regulations are not just an imposition on markets - the choice is not between free markets and regulated markets. Markets are constructed by multiple sets of regulations, beginning with property rights. The regulations we choose have consequences for who can enter markets, how those businesses can operate, and on what market outcomes are.

Whenever someone argues for de-regulation, they argue for removing a small piece of this whole edifice. They aren't arguing for truly free markets, they're arguing for a specific rule change that will have (usually clearly identifiable) winners and losers. These same people will often later be found to be advocating for greater regulation in some other area, in the name of punishing wrongdoers.

My first economics class made the simple point that rent control artificially limits the supply of housing, creating shortages. What was never mentioned in that class was that that in many cities regulations make building houses, especially low-income housing, nearly impossible. Ending rent control without making it possible to build more housing means that we are choosing to make housing more expensive, period.

That's why it's so laughable when banks kindly request the government to stay out of their business. Financial markets above all grow out of the regulations that define them.

read what sparked this rant at rortybomb

System D follow-up
Alan Furst described it as a kind of romantic improvisation in impossible circumstances. Foreign Policy says it's another phrase for the black market, and that it may be the future. The article cites sources claiming:

"... half the workers of the world -- close to 1.8 billion people -- [are] working in System D: off the books, in jobs that were neither registered nor regulated, getting paid in cash, and, most often, avoiding income taxes."

"... people in the European countries with the largest portions of their economies that were unlicensed and unregulated -- in other words, citizens of the countries with the most robust System D -- fared better in the economic meltdown of 2008 than folks living in centrally planned and tightly regulated nations."

Just following orders

I wanted to share this in Google Reader, but that's gone now. Anyway:
PBA Official 1: Okay, we've sent text messages to at least 400 delegates, and they're all going to come to court tomorrow to protest the arraignment of our brother officers. We've called this meeting to decide what signs they should hold up for the myriad news cameras that we expect to be there. I'll open this up to the floor - any ideas?

PBA Official 2: How about 'Just Following Orders'?

Why we fight

Becky is blogging from Egypt

Vague, hand-wavey, inspiring thoughts about why politics sucks
Alasdair MacIntyre wrote the last philosophy book I found compelling enough to finish. He recently talked about the failures of our politics, making these provoking if sort of vague points:
There are two types of 'shared deliberation' in contemporary society, one that's focused on resolving conflicts between individuals over competing goods, and another (which he's championing) that's focused on building the common goods that we need qua being a member of groups.
Because we're so good at the former, and so bad at the latter, we have virtually no resources in our politics for asking what we owe each other, and so we mostly talk about what we're owed ourselves.
Check the link for a bit more. I'm searching desperately for a video or transcript.

"If you don't have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he's illegal, we can make him disappear."
America's secret immigrant detention centers

Ok that's sort of a downer. Let me find another Happy Holidays something or other.

Spot-on, unfortunately, e.g.:
The US public is rabidly opposed to paying higher taxes, yet the trend level of taxation (at around 18% of national income) is not sufficient to pay for the core functions of government.

"... this isn't a left preparing to take power, but one that, in its heart of hearts, expects protest to follow protest forever ..."
Politically, we agree on nothing, but k-punk is never boring, and never more incisive than when he is critiquing his allies on the left.

January 2017 update - my politics have come a lot closer to Mark's over the years. RIP.

I shit you not. It's like crazy Republican whack-a-mole right now.

Here's the thing though: in their minds, as long as what they say doesn't actually discredit them completely (this should, of course) then saying crazy things only helps them. It makes the right look more like the center, since it's now being compared to the far-crazy right.

Liberals are afraid to advocate anything that Republicans might use to tar them as "out of the mainstream", which completely cedes the debate. If you're negotiating to buy a car, it would be stupid to start by offering more than you want to pay, but this is essentially what Democrats often do.

This post is green
I know it's a little hard on the eyes, with all the @s and #s and RTs and URLs, but if you haven't spent five minutes watching Twitter's #iranelection ... coverage? then you're missing out.

Update: It doesn't have the same firehose-sipping vigor as the raw feed, but check out Andrew Sullivan's blog for a lightly-edited version of the best stuff.

The Iowa Supreme Court: not unacquainted with awesome
As a Minnesotan, of course I'm not surprised the Midwest is ahead of the curve on this. Just wish it had been my state.

Past and future in Iowa law
"In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.

"In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated “separate but equal” schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

"In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

"In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law."
And in 2009 ...

This is sort of like the part in the kung fu movie where the humble baker busts out and flattens some bad guys; then you find out he used to be in the imperial guard.

Reducing greenhouse gases: where to start
Chart of greenhouse gas abatement methods
McKinsey put together this cost-benefit chart of greenhouse gas abatement methods. The width of each box is the estimated impact in reducing greenhouse gases, the height is the estimated cost. So everything below the line saves money as well as reducing greenhouse gases. I assume this takes initial capital investment into account. Here's the text of the study.

There are usually hidden costs to technology changes, and political dimensions that make purely technocratic analysis like this less than a slam-dunk. Framing the discussion around relative cost-benefit data is a good place to start, though. There are a zillion initiatives that might make sense individually, but that shouldn't be near the top of the list of priorities. These initiatives will appear as congressional earmarks - the green economy will be a political economy. We need people in the discussion nudging us back to the highest carbon ROI investments.

Energy is the defining issue of our time.

Addressing the environment is the major reason Chu took on this job.

These problems provide a tremendous opportunity for the DOE, but it comes with a burden: we can not fail.


We can’t be completely overwhelmed by the short term economic woes; we need to still find a path to solve our long term problems. The DOE has to invent transformative technologies that will allow us to get to the next level of energy independence.

I've got your hope right @#$$ing here.

Development as self-discovery
I used to talk about how I wished I could get a fortune-teller to read my palm and tell me what career I should pursue, "rather than some long torturous journey of self-discovery." Never happened. The journey's been good, anyway. A couple of things I've read have, explicitly or implicitly, triggered the self-discovery theme again.

Dani Rodrik on "self-discovery in practice" in Ethiopia: "...entrepreneurship in a developing country consists of discovering the underlying cost structure--what can and cannot be produced profitably. Initial investors in a new line of economic activity face a great amount of uncertainty, since foreign technology always needs some local adaptation. Plus, their cost discovery soon becomes public knowledge--everyone can observe whether their projects are successful or not--so the social value they generate exceeds their private costs."

Random internet commentors on Kenya's new media bill: this bill has received a lot of negative media attention in Kenya, due to increased government censorship powers in the bill. The comments section of this post has attracted a lot of smart, well-informed Kenyans. Interestingly, they don't seem to trust the media much more than they trust the government (see comments about the media's "hate propagation" during the post-election violence.) Anyway, no specific key phrases here, it's just fascinating to watch democracy evolve through debate and power struggle. And the debate is as much about Kenyan identity as about any abstract principles of democracy, because if those principles had no purchase on people's values, they'd never take root.

Reaping the rewards
He's going to do battle with a tidal wave of manure, armed with a teaspoon and a bully pulpit. California broke my heart when it passed a gay marriage ban. But: I'm going to let myself enjoy this win for a few more days. Or possibly the rest of my life.

Picture of a crowd celebrating the election results

Saving this to read fully because I think it has a lot of relevance to my work. Organization-building is job number one here. The vast majority of One Acre's interactions with farmers are handled by Kenyan field officers. We live and die by the effectiveness of our field officers.

Somewhere in rural Michigan
A barn with OBAMA written on it

Obama on joining the US Senate
"You meet some of them, and you wonder, 'How did you ... get here?'"

New Hampshire prediction markets thinly traded, wrong.

Update: Robin Hanson responds.

Oh wow, they still exist: this guy is defending the war in Iraq

One of the reasons I'm supporting Obama
Roy: while i totally agree with why obama is and should be the choice, i personally feel bad for hillary; it is quite remarkable that a woman has (or had) a shot to win this thing, and i don't know why ppl dislike her so much. i mean, they are both great candidates.
lukas: yeah i agree
Roy: but anyway some in her camp are saying that she should drop out soon if the margin is too wide
lukas: hillary does have a certain unfortunate lack of charisma
Roy: ya, i've been trying to pinpoint it, but to no luck. i mean, she is a fairly concise and strong speaker, and she comes across very intelligent
Roy: somehow though she seems frigid
lukas: and she's just not inspiring you know?
Roy: i guess. it's too bad that in fact the elections are really driven by these media driven characterization of the candidates
lukas: well no i think that part is important actually - not the media-driven part, but the inspiration part
lukas: basically i think we need someone who can motivate popular support for their positions if we're going to escape the dem-rep bickering
lukas: and i think obama is that guy and hillary isn't
Roy: i suppose. i don't quite know that i trust the population to take more action just because they like the president; that said, so many ppl dislike hillary in washington that it would be polarizing

'I don’t think that the problem with the American people is that they are not being forced to get health care,' Mr. Obama has said. 'The problem is they can’t afford it.'
You don't say.

A collection of projects making the operation of government more transparent. For example, Where Are They Now tracks former Hill staffers who are now lobbyists. Nice find, Eric.

Looking at Obama's political record OR the confirmation bias in action
I got excited about Barack Obama before I knew a lot about him. Obama has only been in the Senate for three years, so his voting record doesn't have too much that's interesting yet (although his votes against his party have some interesting nuggets.) So I have to look for little kernels that shed light on what's unique about his record.

Update: this Times piece is the most comprehensive look at Obama's record I've seen, going back to his community organizing days and with actual insight about what he achieved as a legislator, rather than just a list of votes.

Update: get past the velociraptor jokes and there's some great discussion in this reddit thread.

In praise of separation
This discussion in praise of idleness prompted me to think about how the Greeks (according to Hannah Arendt) separated their activities into two parts, labor and work. Labor is those activities required to support life: getting food, shelter, etc. Work is basically political activity: arguing, voting, taking part in the life of the city.

I've struggled myself with how to achieve deep alignment between my values and my work, with the assumption that it's best to do one thing that is simultaneously my job, my passion and my push toward a better world. Having a corporate job that pays, and doing non-profits on the side, looks like a lesser alternative.

But the Greeks had an entirely different starting point. For them, taking money for political activity would cheapen and degrade the experience, and put your motives under suspicion. The basis of a political life is the freedom to reason and act apart from pure self-interest. So they serenely and proudly built on the very separation that I've been wondering how to eliminate.

Ministry of the Interior
The more antagonistic a person is toward the traditional order, the more inexorably he will subject his private life to the norms that he wishes to elevate as legislators of a future society. It is as if these laws, nowhere yet realized, placed him under obligation to enact them in advance at least in the confines of his own existence. The man, on the other hand, who knows himself to be in accord with the most ancient heritage of his class or nation will sometimes bring his private life into ostentatious contrast to the maxims that he unrelentingly asserts in public, secretly approving his own behavior, without the slightest qualms, as the most conclusive proof of the unshakable authority of the principles he puts on display. Thus are distinguished the types of the anarcho-socialist and the conservative politician.

- Walter Benjamin summarizes every "Conservative senator in sex club shocker" article until the end of time

Brad DeLong argues that Scott's Seeing Like A State (crudely summarized, a critique of high modernist social engineering) is really in the tradition of Hayek and should be honest about it, instead of casting aspersions on free markets. Henry from Crooked Timber draws out the differences:
[Scott] is much more interested than [the Austrians] are in the actual political processes through which markets come into being ... markets – even and perhaps especially Hayekian markets – don’t exist in an institutional vacuum – and the institutions on which they rely are going to shape the extent to which they succeed or fail in making use of local knowledge.
So: what goes on behind the curtain that keeps the show running? And what eggs were broken to make this omelet?

Meanwhile, in the real world

Hypothesis being that the bombings in Iraq, largely targeting Muslims, have decreased the attractiveness of suicide bombing.

The length of copyright for recorded music will stick at 50 years. I'm glad that those of us arguing for sanity in IP law can show that limiting copyright terms isn't some communist pipe dream - it's been done, and it was based on hard-headed cost-benefit analysis: "Economists calculated the net present value of the 95th year of copyright at less than the net present worth of a lottery ticket."

That NPV argument is the right one, too: the purpose of copyright is not to enrich the Walt Disney company 95 years after Walt's death, but to create an incentive at the point of creation.

People use government to escape Prisoner's Dilemma situations.

Come on, then!
Glasgow's not a good place to do terrorism. "Nobody gets between 10,000 Weegies and a £99 week in Ibiza booked on Thursday night through Barrhead Travel." The BBC notes a legend in the making.

Boring, land-locked Republican citadels like Phoenix growing at the expense of the cool cities. Although I'd like to have more detailed data - ok, the Interior Boomtowns are generally Republican, but within those, how is that broken out? How culturally conservative can Las Vegas be, for example?

Los Angeles notes I

I'm dreading Eli Broad's massive downtown ego extension. Give LA a center, are you kidding? "I was fearful we would have unplanned development there that would create a mess" - something's happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Broad?

I want a bullet train to the Bay as much as anybody, and arguing that you can't invest in rail because "the voters are crying for relief from congested freeways" is the very definition of myopic, but Governator's got one good point: if you can't attract private investment (for a state-sponsored monopoly ... with a glut of capital looking for an opportunity ...) maybe time for a reality check.

From Foreign Policy: "...John B. Bellinger III, Condi Rice's top legal advisor, has entered the ring with a series of lengthy posts defending the administration's conduct. In response to the routine criticisms lobbed at the administration for its seemingly indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, Bellinger argues that so long as we are engaged in distinct, parallel wars with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, detaining "enemy combatants" is appropriate. This raises the obvious question: When do these wars end? The responding bloggers, including the venerable David Sloss and Eric Posner, are grilling Bellinger on this question, judicial review of the detentions, his own role, and related legal issues in the war on terror. The entire debate, a rare instance of the Bush administration engaging its critics seriously and at length, is not to be missed."

Really amazing, actually.

Only normally, putting things in perspective doesn't make you shake with rage

Talks about killradio, "a Los Angeles collective of activists and DJs devoted to non-commercial radio and independent media", and cool stuff to do in LA, including a Joshua Tree sculpture environment.

Not the really good stuff, Baker didn't actually put Bush over his knee and spank him. Ok, who knows if the meeting ever took place at all. But it's a good story, and he and elder Bush had some role in Rumsfeld getting fired apparently.

Ha! it has a tag cloud.

elections coming up

o purple mountains' majesty

This never would have happened when Fred Rogers was still alive.

"'Political jokes weren't a form of active resistance but valves for pent-up public anger.'" And the understanding that inspired such humor makes the inaction that accompanied it all the more unforgiveable: "...the country wasn't possessed by 'evil spirits' nor was it hypnotised by the Nazis' brilliant propaganda, he says. Hypnotized people don't crack jokes."

Before you make the understandable misinterpretation, I think the Daily Show et al provide a valuable service in exposing the vapidity of current political discourse. But if it's a narcotic (it is) let it be an amphetamine, not an anaesthetic.

Cato Institute paper arguing against terrorism alarmism
Many people have argued the "terrorism is more a political tool than a real threat" angle before, but this comes from a respected right-wing think tank (albeit libertarian, thus not totally in step with the current GOP.)

Well, we now know what would happen to Jesus Christ if he returned. He would be arrested for feeding the poor in Las Vegas.

It's good to be reminded that there are rational human beings on the other side of the aisle.

a brief correspondence between Mahatma Ghandi and Count Leo Tolstoy on non-violence

The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Just published, sounds v. good. Buy at Amazon or download CC-licensed PDFs. Also see the associated wiki maintained by the author.

Passport - A blog by the editors of Foreign Policy
Down off the mountaintop, mixing with the rabble. Not only that, it's not a "personal site, don't blame my employer" type thing either. A first for old-line media?

corporate checks and balances?
I think there's a central but seldom-stated disagreement in arguments about markets and corporate power: to what degree do the interests of corporations coincide? I think most - well, most liberals anyway, would argue that the areas in which the majority of corporations share a common interest should be carefully watched in a democracy. Liberals that are extremely suspicious of corporations often appear to believe that firms' disagreements are superficial, and that on important issues they operate monolithically. Market-friendly liberals like me disagree, and while I could come up with examples in both directions, it seems like something that could be systematically addressed.

The Global Baby Bust
Philip Longman argues that declining birthrates will be socially and economically ruinous.

Tons of statistics in a bunch of categories, with different visualization options. Very interesting feature that shows you which variables are correlated with the variable you're looking at. Shame you can't look at things over time.

danah: favorite non-profits/foundations?

what I posted there:
"Dammit, beaten to the microfinance punch! :) Anyway, Grameen Foundation, an offshoot of the original Grameen Bank that, unlike the original, operates outside of Bangladesh.

(Difference from Kiva above is that this is pure donation - Grameen will likely get the loan back to use again, but you won't.)"

Sign and Sight
English digest of German media.

Political Theory Daily Review
A lot like Arts & Letters Daily, but less annoying.

Freakonomics Authors' Blog
Most posts by Steven Levitt.

OpenCRS - CRS Reports for the people
free Congressional Research Service reports.
(or, try google)

High Time
All love to my brothers and sisters in Ukraine, but I had to bleach this page. Pora!

A U.S. Marine and sailor hug loved ones aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard during a deployment at Naval Station San Diego December 6, 2004
A U.S. Marine (L) and sailor (R) hug loved ones aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard during a deployment at Naval Station San Diego December 6, 2004 in San Diego, California. About 6,000 U.S. Marines and sailors are deploying to Iraq aboard 6 ships and a submarine as part of a massive troop rotation. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

ready for war
bush to see a gay marriage ban

The coasts will explode, that's a given. More importantly, though, we have to mobilize reasonable people in the middle of the country.

update: oh, right, he tried this before and failed, and he won't succeed this time, either. I need to take a break.

last election tidbit, promise
Basically: anywhere you go, at least a few people voted for Kerry, but there are a lot of places where no one voted for Bush. Still, he won the popular vote.

update: looks like the vote share historgram was inaccurate.

this is bad
"I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principals and empiricism," Suskind writes. "He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

It's considered unfashionably shrill to refer to the Bush administration as fascistic, but this is pretty clearly the language of totalitarianism. Indeed, in her seminal 1951 book "The Origins of Totalitarianism," Hannah Arendt wrote, "Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it."

We create our own reality... I bet Napoleon felt the same way before he invaded Russia. What word do you use to describe someone simultaneously arrogant, stupid, and very powerful? Evil?


The Note
Politics from way, way, way, way inside the Beltway.

Some thoughts about Hernando de Soto
Apparently the English translation of The Mystery of Capital isn't that great. Pity.

Bruce Schneier
Best existing writer on security and related policy and technology.

2004 voters information guide
Wait, come back, this one is useful. Registration deadlines approaching.

peace at a post-WWII high
Not only that, but these are absolute numbers, so deaths due to war are much lower per capita than before.

You've seen it. It's cool. Now my default front page for news. (Yes, I'd rather have my news be pretty than human-edited and meaningful.)

I feel like everybody debating politics on the Internet watched the same Saturday Night Live political debate sketch, the one where Dan Akroyd starts his rebuttal with "Jane, you ignorant slut." Only they thought it was real and used it as a template.

That said, Lileks, you pathetic chickenhawk piece of shit, don't ever adopt that high-handed tone again. We're destroying Iraq in order to save it, and you're pissed that Salam isn't showing the proper gratitude?

I'm sure he's grateful that American troops are risking their lives to ensure Iraqi security, but the absurd gap between Bush's rhetoric and the way the invasion and occupation have actually been executed calls for bucketloads of snark.

See, the reason I don't have a readership is because whereas a good blogger, reading an article like this one, would post a point-by-point rebuttal, I just post something like "George Lakoff sucks." And he does, he really does.

Crooked Timber
Am I a Bright? Or just a pretentious fuck?

america briefly had price controls
"On August 15, 1971, more or less out of the blue, President Nixon declared a freeze on wages and prices."


more: 1

After having lunch with Judge Learned Hand, Holmes entered his carriage to be driven away. As he left, Judge Hand’s parting salute was:

“Do justice, sir, do justice.”

Holmes ordered the carriage stopped.

“That is not my job,” Holmes said to Judge Hand. “It is my job to apply the law.”
Robert H. Bork, The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law (New York: The Free Press, 1990), p. 6

"We were not lying, it was a matter of emphasis."
"To build its case for war with Iraq, the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but some officials now privately acknowledge the White House had another reason for war — a global show of American power and democracy."
track this story with blogdex
track with technorati

Why Vaclav Havel is our era's George Orwell
"... at that moment, I was overwhelmed by an intense feeling that this dear man belonged to a world that I no longer wish to have anything to do with ... the world of cunning shits."

Christopher Hitchens
Read this, then this, then this. (Thanks, Daniel.)

Media Log by Dan Kennedy
News blog by an actual journalist.

Back to Iraq
Weblog of a journalist making his way to Iraq.

Kim Jong Il (the illmatic)'s LiveJournal
"Dear diary. Bush still doesn’t ‘get it.’ I tried making my feelings clear but he’s too busy ignoring me, he is such a jerk. Everything in his life is just Saddam, Saddam, Saddam and I am sick of it.

On the plus side, I think my hair looked pretty good today. Also I went frolicking at Paektu Mountain and the rainbow came out again. After dinner some of my subjects sang me a song because I invented Outer Space."

One of the guys at work claims that Morocco offered to send 2,000 mine-clearing monkeys to aid in the war effort. Update.

protest pics go here
+people, flags
+rode the six hundred
+what are they looking at?
+it's not over here either
+"the people, united"
+"will never be defeated..."
+actually, this is as far as they got
+corraled in times square
+nothing to see here
+spam in times square
+after, on the train

what the cops did and why

  • ----

On Thu, 27 Feb 2003, harry wrote:


I heard three crowd comments when I was in New York. Two of them were predictable: "Go back to Iraq!" and "Get out of New York! You're not wanted here! I wish you had a loved one that died in 9/11, then you'd know what time it is."

The third was a hotel doorman to another hotel doorman, watching the stream of protestors: (in strong accent) "These are the real Americans right here...all the rest is just bullshit."

"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him,--'I see no probability of the British invading us'; but he will say to you, 'Be silent: I see it, if you don't.'

The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood."
  • Abraham Lincoln(*)

Leaving Iraq aside, Bush has arrogated power to himself that no one should have. If terrorism will always be a threat, the power to make war on a state you believe aids terrorists is the power to make war on anyone at any time.

*Text originally at - that site now taken over by a not safe for work photo site...

a mathematical model of "self-segregation"
"In the simulation I've just described, each agent seeks only two neighbors of its own color. That is, these "people" would all be perfectly happy in an integrated neighborhood, half red, half blue. If they were real, they might well swear that they valued diversity. The realization that their individual preferences lead to a collective outcome indistinguishable from thoroughgoing racism might surprise them no less than it surprised me..."

Depressing as a prediction, encouraging as an explanation.

political weblogs by Muslims
Interesting digressions on history and culture, except that they're not really digressions, they're integral to an explanation of the politics. Which is weird to us Americans.
(er, except, Latif isn't Muslim apparently.)
Latif's Cavern
the Kolkata Libertarian
list at alt.muslim

Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm
"In this paper I explain that while free software is highly visible, it is in fact only one example of a much broader social-economic phenomenon. I suggest that we are seeing is the broad and deep emergence of a new, third mode of production in the digitally networked environment. I call this mode "commons-based peer-production," to distinguish it from the property- and contract-based models of firms and markets. Its central characteristic is that groups of individuals successfully collaborate on large-scale projects following a diverse cluster of motivational drives and social signals, rather than either market prices or managerial commands."

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal
Economics prof holds forth.

Brink Lindsey won Hernando de Soto's praise.

This is Lukas Bergstrom's weblog. You can also find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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