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Linky Friday #44( 114 )

JS1567177Ed note: Due to time constraints and declining interest, Linky Friday will be taking a hiatus after this week.


[N1] The US Army is trying to build Iron Man.

[N2] The AV Club has an interesting piece on the lasting impact of Homestar Runner, one of the first successful webseries.

[N3] Thirteen gateways to hell? Flagged for future fiction.


[C1] Seth Ackerman at Jacobin argues that the popular narrative – The Tea Party being the product of southern and Neo-Confederate animosities – is wrong. They are not the successors of Calhoun but of Hoover and even Madison.

[C2] Liberty University wants to become the Notre Dame of protestants, with the athletics program to match. Baylor is much further along, but Liberty’s strides are actually pretty impressive. I can’t believe that they actually have a billion dollar endowment, though, and I think a university that treats its chancellorship as a hereditary position faces more natural limitations.


[J1] One way to screen job applicants.

[J2] Miles Brundage looks at a study on automation putting people out of the job. He’s a bit skeptical.


[E1] In 1948, smog killed 70 people in Pennsylvania.

[E2] GE is working on a way to solve fracking’s water contamination. I wonder if environmentalists hope that this doesn’t work, if it results in more fracking.

[E3] Nuclear physicist Kelvin Kemm argues that there was no Fukushima disaster.


[M1] America’s retreat from marriage may have hit bottom.

[M2] I don’t know whether indefinite engagements are better or worse than shacking up. Probably better, but more frustrating in their own way.


[S1] Researchers may have found a gene for obesity.

[S2] If you want to get people to follow social norms, zap their brain.

[S3] Hunters and farmers lived side-by-side in ancient times, but didn’t procreate together.


[T1] It’s really quite aggravating that GoogleDocs/Drive doesn’t support ODF file-types. In fact, there is no editor available in Android. That’s a problem and why I will not be using their services any time soon.

[T2] A smartphone charger that sniffs for malware? Consider me intrigued!

[T3] Between my bluetooth earpiece and my interest in smartwatches and google glasses, I want to be a cyborg. So an MP3 player that lives in my ear appeals to me.

[T4] BusinessInsider lists the 20 most expensive URLs of all time. Notably, most of them get less traffic than Ordinary Times (though more than Hit Coffee!). (via Dustbury)

[T5] Andres Martinez laments the death of the Blackberry.

[T6] io9 wants to know what the worst technological innovations of all time were. Worst as in LaserDiscs and Smell-O-Vision, not worst as in the nuclear bomb. Here is a list from 2006 which contains my nomination: DIVX.

[T7] I like this idea: Using credit card companies to shut down those icky mug shot website operators. Of course, some people are trying to make that happen with gun companies, which I am less enthusiastic about.

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Linky Friday #43( 17 )


[A1] Jerry Kill missed his first full game due to another seizure and is taking leave.

[A2] Daniel H Bowen and Collin Hitt respond to the recent Amanda Ripley piece on school athletics, arguing that it is actually a good thing. Honestly, I think they might have the better argument, at least for some kids. I remember athletes who couldn’t be bothered to show respect for anybody but their coaches.

[A3] David Williams argues that companies should strive to fill their ranks with athletes.


[E1] The traditional model is that kids hear lectures in the classroom and do homework at home. Maybe we have it backwards.

[E2] Anti-bullying efforts may lead to more bullying. Why? Bullies know what teachers are looking out for. The identification of an increasing array of behavior as bullying may also be playing a role. “Jimmy’s being a bully. He won’t loan me his pencil and he has two.” (Yes, that happened.)

[E3] Childhood bullying has lasting effects. They’re more likely to grow up to be troubled adults. (Or alternately, people who are troubled are more likely to be bullied. Kids can certainly smell vulnerability.)

[E4] Theodore Johnson has a good look at Harvard Extension School, and what it means.


[P1] The new IPCC Climate report hat-tips geoengineering. A Texas plant is on it.

[P2] These jetpacks look a lot more cumbersome than what we were told to expect.

[P3] Kaiser tests new medical technology at a fake hospital.


[C1] Mermaids in Texas.

[C2] Increasing distance from Deseret has lead to a greater appreciation for the LDS Church. But then they start talking like this.

[C3] An interesting rundown on the progress of women in Utah. I tagged this for reference sake and maybe a future post, but thought I would share it.

[C4] Veterans are having problems with fake service dogs and people believing their service dogs are fake.

[C5] The Columbia Journalism Review asks if copyright law is working. Their answer is “not exactly.”


[T1] The only reason I care about Blackberry possibly selling out to Google or Samsung (though it looks like that’s not going to happen) is the foolish hope that one of them will release a good productivity smartphone.

[T2] From Vikram Bath: A journalist recounts the story of a letter she sent to Nokia in 2008 to make an easy-to-use phone. Lost opportunities ensue.

[T3] From Burt Likko: You see those mind-blowing videos on the internet. How do you know they are real? Here’s how they get checked out, because, no one is allowed to post things on the internet that aren’t true.

[T4] The NSA has tried and failed to de-anonymize Tor. Linux godfather Linus Torvalds confirms/denies that the US government approached him about a backdoor to Linux.


[W1] Here is what we thought Earth looked like from space, before we actually saw what Earth looked like from space.

[W2] Millions of years ago, the west coast was further east. Sort of. Interesting maps.

[W3] Germany’s latest export? Grandmothers.

[W4] The French are an unhappy people.

[W5] In case you wanted to know what a $300,000 house in China, there ya go. And here is a look at China’s vertical city.

[W6] The situation with China’s ghost cities may not be as bad as they appear.

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Linky Friday #42( 52 )



[S1] It reminds me of the Grunions invasion from Beverly Hillbillies, but Jellyfish are invading and it looks like it could be something serious. It seems weird to me that this could be such an intractable menace.

[S2] The Earth isn’t flat. Maybe the universe isn’t flat, either.

[S3] According to Alex Knapp, we’re good here on Earth for a while. The article goes beyond that, though, talking about life-supporting potential elsewhere which has been a subject on which I am (a) fascinated and (b) hopelessly ignorant.

[S4] Like horses? Thank merchants. Okay, that’s not quite right, but as with so many other things, people had a great deal to do with them becoming what they are.


[C1] I used to think that in the past, roommates were more common than they are today. Not so? It would be helpful if the article differentiated more between premarital cohabitation and having roommates, though.

[C2] According to this, money is more important than intact families when it comes to sending your kids to college, but poverty matters less than family structure in keeping your kids out of prison.

[C3] Nobody worries about missing when it comes to public toilets, of course. We can always just flush with our feet.

[C4] My third novel, written in 2002, is alas already dated. In part because it is steeped in music from a previous era. I may track down an excerpt for future posting. Anyway, I was thinking of that when I read this article by Steven Hyden arguing that Counting Crows’ August and Everything After is actually as relevant or more as is Nirvana’s In Utero. As someone who was into Counting Crows but not Nirvana, I approve.

[C5] An organization offered inmates in solitary confinement a chance to request images from the outside world. Here are the results. #10 is just awesome.

[C6] Pseudonymity is under seige. Which is good, in many ways that they talk about (says the guy who isn’t really named Will Truman). The proposed New York law not-so-much.


[A1] The Republicans may be re-evaluating their view on taxes. Good, says Conn Carroll.

[A2] Matthew O’Brien looks at which states have recovered from the Great Recession and which ones won’t until 2018. Also, cities.

[A3] USA! USA! USA! We’re the best place in the world to be an entrepreneur, according to some metrics.

Work & Economics:

[W1] One of the reservations I have about unlimited H1-B visas is that they will be used in lieu of training domestic personnel. According to Heather Rolfe, that isn’t the case in the UK.

[W2] Some countries like to relax. Some either don’t or don’t have a choice. Here’s a map and a graph. Check out Mexico and Greece, both often associated with laziness. Greece in particular is interesting. They retire young, but work like heck.

[W3] Are we going to smartphone optricians out of the job? I suspect they will be helpful tools for deciding when we need to go to the eye doc, but I also think that we still won’t get by without our annual visits.

[W4] The Cranky Flier defends the unbundled airline structure one week, then proposes how we should rebundle the next.


[E1] The notion of learning styles is getting some pushback.

[E2] One of the advantages of having assigned schools is supposed to be that your kids are sent to a local high school. That may not be the case much longer in NYC.

[E3] One of the knocks against charter schools is that they push out poor-performing students. Not so, says a recent study.

[E4] Chad Alderman explains the results of a recent study suggesting that green TFA teachers are outperforming veteran College of Education products.

[E5] Amanda Ripley makes the case against high school sports. This is one of the many beauties of school choice, of course. Charter schools very often lack such distractions.

[E6] Some community colleges are apparently unclear on the concept of community college. Hint: It doesn’t include posh dorms.

[E7] One university has had some success by paying smart students to help struggling ones.


[T1] The story of “Taiwan’s Holocaust.”

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Linky Friday #41( 56 )

Jack Klugman as QuincyFootball:

[F1] Minnesota Gopher head coach Jerry kid had another seizure on the sideline, and at this point the only weird thing is how normal it has become for the players. Greg Couch argues that people need to just deal. Here’s more.

[F2] A Southern Miss football player’s facemask had to be removed from his opponent’s jersey with a screwdriver. Article has a video.


[Sa1] Mollie Hemingway on the forces against kids mowing the lawn. This sort of thing is evidence of a culture and class divide that transcends – though does not avoid – politics.

[Sa2] People are having dinner parties… UNREGULATED! Okay, that’s not quite a fair characterization. But many of the reasons we regulate restaurants don’t really apply here.

[Sa3] From Vikram Bath: I wonder how many things advertised now will look as ridiculous as these sugar “health” ads from the 60s and 70s.


[R1] Shocker: The kid who is starting a White Student Union at Georgia State University has a history of hateful remarks.

[R2] Meanwhile, in Alabama, qualified black applicants are being blocked from premier sororities. The sisters are blaming alumni. If you hear about this story and it sounds simple to you, you’re not thinking it through. (The only simple part is that this is, of course, wrong on multiple levels.)

[R3] A dying North Dakota town may be saved by white supremacists. Grandmothers from regional tribes are playing capture the flag (and burn it).


[O1] Texas is not producing more oil than Iran.

[O2] California is getting more of its oil by rail.

[O2] In Iraq, the Kurds are moving towards independence.


[He1] The debate continues as to whether or not insurance will be cheaper or more expensive in the PPACA regime. The government says cheaper! National Journal says not. As does Avik Roy, of course.

[He2] To add to the list of potential concerns for the future of our health care system we’re having physician burnout. The article is a year old, but the situation hasn’t exactly gotten better and PPACA is not poised to help or send in enough reinforcements.

[He3] As always, Dave Schuler is concerned.


[G1] We talk about infrastructure as an investment, but sometimes it’s a sinkhole.

[G2] In Shenzhen, China, it is now illegal to miss the toilet.

[G3] Privacy advocates (which I have been increasingly sympathetic to, as of late) have pointed to Brazil’s decision to try to bypass the US for its internet as an example of what happens when we don’t respect privacy. It turns out, Brazil has privacy issues of its own.

[G4] From Vikram Bath: “[E]verything you’ve read about “Recovery Winter” the past few winters has just been a statistical artifact of naïve seasonal adjustments. Oops.”


[C1] Captain America and Batman save the day!

[C2] The horrifying, horrifying, horrifying story of the Internet exchanges of second-hand adoption.

[C3] The TSA caught an agent for smuggling illegal immigrants. It gets worse: They were carrying liquid containers exceeding 3oz in volume.

[C4] Peru is the world capital of counterfeit US dollars.


[Sc1] First, they came for the left-brained, but because I was not left-brained, I said nothing. Then, they came for the left-handed

[Sc2] The voters are correct: The Blobfish is one ugly animal.

[Sc3] The whole going-to-Mars-as-reality-TV concept is creepy as hell. And that’s not even considering the potential psychological effects.

[Sc4] Some vegetarians are hostile even to fake meat.

[Sc5] The science of introversion.

[Sc6] Human? Robot? Dogs don’t discriminate.


[Hi1] Men who endured the Holocaust – and survived – lived longer than those who escaped Europe.

[Hi2] A long time ago in a land far away (1961, North Carolina) we almost detonated a nuclear bomb 260x the power of the one that took out Hiroshima.

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One Further Thought on Internet Commenting( 1 )

A Twitter “conversation” with our own Tim Kowal yesterday reminded me of something that I neglected to mention in my previous post. Part of why comments sections struggle especially hard to move beyond style to substance is because of the way they manage visibility. After all, if comments sections were just about providing feedback to the author, I’d get a lot more email. If comments sections were just about having a spontaneous discussion with the author, I’d get a lot more tweets sent my way.  (more…)

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Linky Friday #40( 45 )

Michael ChiklisSociety:

[S1] Seems obvious to say that anti-fat bias correlates with a pro-thin preference, but the always-great Pacific Standard nonetheless made an interesting story out of it.

[S2] I don’t even know how to begin to describe this article on Occupy and anarchism. But if the subjects of Occupy and anarchism interest you, I think you’ll really like it.

Science & Progress:

[P1] I get giddy at the thought of what the future might hold in traffic management innovation. Waze has proven to be a pretty cool app.

[P2] As I have previously mentioned, I think solutions like carbon farms may be our only hope, as far as global warming is concerned. Otherwise, if projections and predictions are right, it could get expensive and messy.

[P3] Tuberculosis really, really hates us. Or maybe it just thinks we’re awesome.

[P4] In 2005, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt argue that kid-carseat-mania is misguided.


[B1] I love these motivational posters from the 20’s. My funny-favorite is “Criticism is necessary” and my straight-favorite is “Step up!”

[B2] Hanna Rosin points out what most people should already know: the “Women make 77 cents on the dollar for the same job as men” isn’t true. A couple caveats, of course: Even if it’s not 23%, 9% is significant. And second, not all of the reasons for the other 14% are benign.


[E1] Are online/MOOC courses transforming Duke University?

[E2] For the longest time, the US only had three colleges.

[E3] Are colleges finally becoming concerned with tuition rates?

[E4] I hereby resolve to try using 13 of these 18 obsolete words that deserve a comeback.

[E5] Vocabulary Builder is a pretty awesome feature on the Kindle. it takes words that users look up and gives you flash cards to see if you know them.

[E6] There are more to the “young people living with their parents” stories and statistics than we think.


[A1] Sprawling metropolii like Dallas and Atlanta are less segregated than traditional cities like Boston and New York.

[A2] North Dakota has been one of the economic bright spots of the country. If visits are any indication, Obama isn’t very interested, as he has yet to visit the state.

[A3] One of the limitations of federalism is that wind does not recognize state borders.

[A4] Connecticut needs a shotgun marriage to Rhode Island.

[A5] Map: The many, many rivers of the United States.

[A6] Judicial elections are a crock. Even some elected judges say so.


[W1] My own morbid curiosity keeps me interested in China’s ghost cities. So cool, so depressing. Anyway, here’s the story of a German-flavored one. And Italian.

[W2] The UK and Ireland are having serious problems with the sale of illicit tobacco, complete with fears of trade funding terrorism.

[W3] The chimp mascot of a Russian casino has alcohol and nicotine problems. Fortunately, he’s going to get help.

[W4] Nearly a quarter of Germans men think that zero is the perfect number of children. Jon Last argues that government day care isn’t the solution.

[W5] According to the Financial Times, Germany’s obsession with exports is causing it problems.

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Linky Friday #39( 30 )


[Di1] The Washington Post has a fascinating (though not incontrovertible) map on the most and least tolerant countries.

[Di2] Relatedly, sprawling metropolii like Dallas and Atlanta are less segregated than traditional cities like Boston and New York.

[Di3] Canada is seeking a different grade of immigrant.


[A1] Tim Harford writes about the minimum wage issue in the UK.

[A2] According to Reihan Salam, he lesson of Tony Abbott’s ascent in Australia is that the future of conservatism may have little to do with small government and more to do with social and family issues.

[A3] Canada is attaching new fees to venues that attract foreign talent, which it turns out is not good for smaller clubs.


[D1] A couple in Illinois who had been married for 71 years die a couple hours apart. In California, it’s eighty-three years and three days apart.

[D2] Officials are on the search for The Huntress. Not the comic book version, but the Mexican Bus Avenger.


[P1] Some people think that the 2014 elections, by virtue of the group next up for Senatorial votes as well as gerrymandered House districts, will benefit Republicans and put to rest talk about how the party needs to change. Not so fast, says National Memo. The Republicans are in trouble, and everyone knows it.

[P2] One thing the Ohio Republican Party can’t really afford is implosion, not that Ohio Republicans care.

[P3] In the interest of false equivalence, I should point out that the emerging Democratic coalition is built on the collapse of the traditional family.


[T1] Vikram Bath predicted that contrary to reports, Apple would not be releasing a cheaper model. I give him at least partial credit.

[T2] Yahoo’s new logo has been received with a thud. I don’t hate it, and may chalk up my preference for the old logo to status quo bias, but I think this intern’s logo is even better.

BloggingSpace[T3] WhereBloggersBlog is an oddly neat Tumblr site to spend a few minutes. I’d submit this, but I don’t think they would accept Trumanverse locations.


[En1] Relevant to me and few of y’all: Dr Seuss is coming to ebooks!

[En2] Do you want to know who the 24 worst-dressed members of GI Joe and Cobra are? io9 is on it. The 80’s were embarrassing in so many ways.


[W1] Elizabeth Stoker has a great piece on why framing issues as “women’s issues” is harmful for the issues in question. For and against, the issues can get bogged down in “women are crazy” narratives.

[W2] I actually have a fair amount of sympathy for women who have psychosomatic pregnancy symptoms, but I really hope that this isn’t a thing. It’s far less forgivable.


[S1] Apparently, terrorists want to work for the CIA. Okay, “terrorist” is hyperbolic if not offensive. But still, interesting and unsurprising at the same time.

[S2] Meanwhile, Seattle is showing some extraordinary growth.

[S3] Nevada doesn’t want our nuclear waste. Mississippi might! Problem solved? Maybe, but I am broadly more favor of the geology of Nevada over Mississippi.

[S4] California has a bit of a problem (though some would argue that it’s not a problem) in that it is losing internal migrants to other states like Texas. Fortunately for California, there is New York. Meanwhile, states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona are getting some of their millionaires.

[S5] Joel Kotkin and Mark Schill look at regional growth rates in the US.

[S6] James Fallows has a great series on Sioux Falls, a boomtown not like the other boomtowns of Dakota.


[H1] The evidence is admittedly flimsy, but the cause of smoking-cessation weight gain may not be due to calorie consumption, but rather stomach bacteria.

[H2] JayMan points out everything we pretend to don’t know about exercise, weight, and health.

[H3] The Japanese Prime Minister wants more medical innovations. The nation’s medical establishment is unconvinced.

[H4] Avik Roy is compiling a map, comparing pre-PPACA (individual market) and post-PPACA (exchanges) costs on comparable plans. State by state.


[Ed1] School choice: An unlovely threat to white progressive credibility.

[Ed2] The Secretary of Education lent some support to an important idea: start school later in the day.


[V1] If you have five minutes or so to spare, this is a fascinating video of a (digitally produced) girl aging into a woman aging into an old woman. Really, really cool.

Danielle from Anthony Cerniello on Vimeo.

[V2] On a more humorous note, this video is Not Safe For Work:

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Linky Friday #35( 66 )


[H1] Enterprising folks are working on replacing the FEMA trailers with nicer amenities. I am all about cheap housing, so I wonder about the non-FEMA applications.

[H2] Step one, get people to move into cities. Step two, turn out the lights?


[M1] A stripper’s guide to North Dakota. In some ways, the perspective sounds positively Republican.

[M2] According to the WSJ ($), young rebels become entrepreneurs.

[M3] Dave Schuler, and Howard Dean, are skeptical of claims of easy cost savings. Without an overhaul, anyway.


[Ed1] Data systems may be able to predict who will drop out of the school… by looking at them in the first grade.

[Ed2] Private education in Britain is becoming more egalitarian.

Entertainment & Technology:

[ET1] It’s been discussed recently at Not a Potted Plant, but here’s a rundown of why ebooks are so expensive. I would argue that while ebooks may cost as much as regular published books, I am less sure that they have to. That they are working towards a particular price point does not actually mean that the price point is unavoidable. (I’d also add it’s funny to hear about how production and distribution costs aren’t actually all that much, after hearing for years and years about how the rising cost of paper was responsible for the rise in prices of comic books.)

[ET2] Copyright protections may be killing art. Honestly, I doubt this is a case where correlation equals causation. But the ostensible reason we have copyright law does not appear to be panning out.

[ET3] How BitTorrent downloads so fast. It’s truly amazing how much faster BT is at downloading free software than are dedicated servers.


[L1] Walter Hickey thinks pie charts are useless. I was prepared to disagree because there are narrow circumstances in which a pie chart is better than the alternatives, but he addresses that. He spends a lot of time pointing out to examples where pie charts are particularly opaque to make his case.

[L2] Those unimaginative, killjoy left-brainers are arguing that there’s no such thing as left-brainers (and right-brainers).

[L3] It will be a sad day when redheads are no more, if this comes to fruition.

[L4] I might be more comfortable with premarital cohabitation if we could more easily nail down what level of commitment it implies. But we haven’t.


[En1] Oil, oil everywhere, but not a drop of water to drink. Also, a look at the US groundwater supply, in map form.

[En2] This seems so intuitively incorrect: iPhones use more energy than some refrigerators. If true, another indication that if global warming is as real and as bad as they say, we’re doomed.

[En3] BusinessWeek has a piece on the dire state of nuclear power in this country. Which some will celebrate, because even though global warming threatens imminent ecological catastrophe, we can’t have nuclear power because something bad might happen. Which isn’t to say, of course, that bad things don’t happen. Albeit not on the apocalyptic scale.

[En4] But if the economics can’t support nuclear, the economics can’t support it. There’s always coal. According to the EIA, by 2040 nuclear will only be supplying 7% of our energy. Renewables? 15%! Yay.


[A1] Connecticut should have a strong economy. Why doesn’t it?

[A2] In Green Bank, West Virginia, you can’t use wireless signals. Which is a draw for some.

[A3] The sad story of the fall of Tommy Morrison, who died last week.


[RG1] From Greginak: I thought this! was interesting. I relates back to the discussions of inequality and my suggestion our rates of ineq. relate to the rules being written to favor the rich and the increasing dominance of the financial sector in our economy. Anyway its an interesting link. I would think lots conservatives and some libertarians would dislike it as much as many liberals although the solutions would differ.

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Linky Friday #38( 70 )



[S1] We’re apparently making monkeys dumber.

[S2] Our kidney shortage hits the unemployed hardest.


[W1] I am quite pleased to see my friend Abel participating in the petition by LDS authors to get a uncancel a book by a gay author on account to his acknowledging his partner.

[W2] Eleven words that can’t (easily) be translated into English. Cool.

[W3] The emotional toll of recording your own audiobook.


[P1] Karl Rove points out that the Republicans have ideas for health care, too. You know when would have been a good time to talk about these things and perhaps negotiate these things? When we were having a national debate on health care.

[P2] Andrew Gelmen explains how and why the Democratic Party because the party of Very Serious People.


[E1] Dear Dylan was brilliant. So brilliant that NBC ought to make a sitcom out of it. Their answer to The Big Bang Theory, if you like.

[E2] A Reality Bites TV show? Well, I hated the movie, but it could be fun. I also hate how it’s considered the quintessential General X film. I hope it’s not true because we come out of it looking awful. But… could be fun.

[E3] Charlie Jane Anders asks why Warner Bros can’t incorporate Arrow into their plans for the Justice League. I was skeptical of the idea at first, but I can’t why really come up with a good reason not to do it. The more tying-together the better, probably, unless it sidetracks stories. Which it wouldn’t here, I don’t think.

[E4] It used to be that place-kickers in football were short guys with foreign names usually of poor-ish countries (Latin America, Eastern Europe). That’s changed.


[C1] A new kind of nuclear reactor could lower electricity costs by 40%.

[C2] Amir Efrati updates us on self-driving cars. Google is designing one. On Twitter they’re talking about Google and Apple buying Tesla. They could probably get Mitsubishi for a song right now. They could have gotten Saturn really, really cheap.

[C3] Adweek writes on a Samsung video with terrible, terrible acting. One of the actors responds with why the acting is so, so terrible.

[C4] David Wilezol argues that you can get a good job without college. He is technically right, of course, but that still doesn’t make it a good bet in the current economic environment if you’re the type of person capable of doing the sorts of jobs listed.


[B1] Will fracking undermine Scottish independence?

[B2] The Conservative Party of the UK is going to bat for working mothers.

[B3] Britain’s health care system sometimes seems to be more popular abroad than it is at home.


[A1] The most expensive real estate in New York? Rikers Island.

[A2] We’re #1! We’re #1! At porn website hosting, anyway.

[A3] The waiting list of Louisiana’s online voucher program continues to grow.

[A4] From Vikram Bath: “A Montana judge has come under fire after handing down a 30-day sentence to a former high school teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old student and for making statements in court that the victim was ‘older than her chronological age‘ and ‘as much in control of the situation” as her teacher’.”

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Linky Friday #37( 25 )


[E1] Not so long ago, “competency-based degrees” were considered the provice of degree mills. These days, public universities are giving it a try. Recommended!


[M1] Almost three in five doctors would not recommend the profession to young people.

[M2] The correlation between sleep deprivation and weight gain is of interest to me. Could it be because sleep deprivation makes us hungry for fat?


[T1] Flying conditions were recently used as an examplar for increasing inequality and the uhmm… crunch of the middle class. Here in the US, though, our airline seats are actually pretty average in size.

[T2] Here’s how UK’s Ryanair is saving money. During the last conversation on the subject, I was actually thinking about #6.

[T3] We flew on US discount airliner Frontier Airlines and actually thought quite a bit of it. They offer a nice balance of free-discount and amenities for those who want to pay a little extra.


[B1] Did our obsession with stock prices kill the recovery?

[B2] If you rent textbooks from Amazon, don’t take them across state lines.

[B3] Nissan is dusting off the Datsun brand to sell cheap cars in developing countries.

[B4] Peter Capelli argues that employers are not helping themselves by discriminating against the unemployed. Recommended!


[G1] From Murali: I understand if this happens in third world hell holes, but in America? Jacob Levy from BHL quotes the gist of it

[G2] From Murali: Massimo Renzo provides, I think, the most powerful argument against anarchy, but that’s just because I said it here first.

[G3] The “real” history of Area 51.

[G4] Ladar Levison, seller of encrypted email, ceased his business operations rather than comply with the government’s surveillance plans. The government was allegedly not pleased. Recommended!

[G5] A government in Louisiana is arguing that they should not be held responsible for a guard sleeping with a fourteen year old inmate because she consented.


[L1] Sonny Bunch writes about cell phone and theater etiquette.

[L2] Some uncomfortable truths about men, women, and dating. Women dig jerks, men only refrain from being useless because we want to have sex, and more.

[L3] Technology is at war with itself on the subject of digital security. Same with analog, apparently.

[L4] Evidently, the notion that clowns are scary has long roots in history. Recommended!

[L5] Intelligent people display less racist attitudes, but oppose remediating policies.


[W1] A Russian man altered the terms of his credit card contract and sued the bank. A judge ruled in his favor. Recommended!

[W2] The adventures of a bartender… in Antarctica.

[W3] I don’t see why these Belgian houses are supposed to be ugly.

[W4] As you all know, I am a sucker for photos of the Dakota oil boom. Also, an article on the Canadian oil boom. Not the one in Alberta, the oil boom in Newfoundland.

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Linky Friday #36( 188 )


[R1] Recent research suggests that housing vouchers do not disperse crime, as previously thought. One thing I find interesting is that the article mentions that these vouchers are putting a lot of recipients in the suburbs. This piece is in Atlantic Cities, which loves to gloat about increasing poverty in the suburbs. If they think really hard about it, they might see a connection here and consider the implications of it.

[R2] The next step up from microapartments: skinny-homes!

[R3] More attention to regional visas! The only solution for Detroit that I can think of.

[R4] Is Sioux Falls the next boom town? I was looking at it last year and it has a surprising amount going for it. It needs people, and lots of people from elsewhere are looking for work…

[R5] The gender imbalance in China may be distorting real estate prices.


[H1] Buzzfeed’s piece on eight foods allowed in America but banned elsewhere – with the very, very clear implication that whenever we disagree with enlightened countries we are wrong – got attention and praise from people I know that I felt really should have known better. Here is a takedown.

[H2] As America gets fatter, disapproval of fatness is not abating. Maybe we need to also turn our hadred to mice and marmosets. According to David Sirota, we should certainly start hating on men. (Seriously? Instead of being more compassionate towards women?)

[H3] Stem cells may render root canals moot because it could generate teeth that replace themselves. I have no clue if the science will pan out on this, but if I were an investor, I’d be looking at dental medicine. I think there is enormous potential for growth there.


[S1] Slate exposes eight science myths. We’ve been learning the hard way that ideas about the lifespan of certain insects has been misrepresented.

[S2] Presenting, the lock-picking cockatoo!

Energy & Environment:

[EE1] People are worried about the environmental impact of oil pipelines. Maybe we should be more worried about the environmental impact of oil trains.

[EE2] Why is Obama suddenly trying to argue about the jobs the XL pipeline won’t add? Maybe because of the water contamination a federal study says fracking chemicals aren’t causing. Or maybe he’s worried about the Saudis.

[EE3] I still remained baffled by this notion that global warming is going to cause untold disasters, but we should be very cautious about nuclear because… there might be an accident? Germany is making the shift away from nuclear… right back to coal. Is this progress?

[EE4] Most people (including myself) see gasoline prices rising. Karl Smith explains how they could fall. He also explains our influence on global prices and the state of Peak Oil.


[L1] Geek stereotypes may be keeping women out of computer science. This is less flattering to women than geeks, in my opinion. Whatever, though, as long as they don’t force anybody to take down their Star Trek posters.

[L2] Will Wilkinson, inspired by Tim Lee, ponders how the right and left look at labor compensation.

[L3] From the NYT, the costs and benefits of flexible labor markets.


[E1] One of the more interesting things going on with the movie-making industry is the increasing Chinese influence. Maybe.

[E2] The Hollywood formula, in a nutshell.

[E3] The Superhero vs Inflation.


[F1] We talk a lot of the American-Mexican border, but the American-Canadian border is seriously weird. Wired has photos of the world’s scariest border fences.

[F2] When you think about it, from a plot perspective, World War II is pretty implausible. I definitely would have written the villain differently.

[F3] The Wyoming Senate race has gotten a lot of attention due to Liz Cheney’s decision to enter it. Perhaps more interesting is the ex Neo-Nazi mercenary.

[F4] Cops with cameras: Good for civilians, good for cops. It’d be good if they had cameras, since we can be arrested for using them.

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Linky Friday #34( 51 )



[C1] Over at Hit Coffee, my coblogger Sheila Tone wrote about the warning signs everybody missed in the tragic James DiMaggio case.

[C2] The audacity of banks surprises even me sometimes. Nobody should reasonably be able to expect what they’re expecting after having closed on the wrong home and wrongly sold off someone’s assets.

[C3] A cop in Alabama was fired for speaking out against quotas. The whistleblower in the Zimmerman-Trayvon case who was fired for disclosing the existence of potentially exculpatory evidence is suing the State’s Attorney office.

[C4] International opposition to the death penalty is making it difficult for us to kill people.

[C5] The plan of shooting owls to save owls makes sense, after a fashion.


[H1] The question continues of whether health insurance premiums will go up or down under PPACA.

[H2] An athlete at the University of New Hampshire gave up his college career to donate bone marrow. Don’t worry, he wasn’t paid.

[H3] A really weird story in Ohio where the Attorney General crack down on prescription… coffee mugs?

[H4] Critics of the pharmaceutical industry like to point out all that they spend on marketing rather than R&D. But what if the marketing improves the drugs’ effectiveness?


[P1] The nefariousness of Big Commerce. It makes some good points, but also some contentions that can more easily be explained by something else.

[P2] io9 has a followup on the groundbreaking paper about the weirdness of western culture previously discussed here, and how it is distorting social sciences.

[P3] Eve Tushnet takes a hard look at shame. Shaming has its place, but Tushnet is right that people are often indifferent to the circumstances that affect its effectiveness, instead looking solely at the distastefulness of the activity they would like to shame.

[P4] I found Venkat’s ideas on conspicuous production to be quite thought-provoking.

Art & Entertainment:

[E1] Something that kinda makes you feel old: The entire history of the Marvel Universe occurred after 9/11.

[E2] It’s commonly believed that Superman was inspired by Gladiator, a novel by Philip Wylie about a superpowered guy trying to make his way in the world (no costume and tights, though). Will Murray explains.

[E3] The innovation of professional sports: Dodger Stadium is using foam to keep beer cold and the San Francisco 49ers have an app so you know where the short concession lines are.

[E4] SNL is finally coming to NBC on SLC! It was kind of weird when it was running on The CW. The CW still runs Hannibal, though, in that particular market.

[E5] Cool concept photos of cloud cities.


[T1] An unexpected upside to the patent wars: Smartphones made in the USA.

[T2] To get people to move off of Windows XP, Munich, Germany is giving people Linux.

[T3] Apparently, password complexity rules. (symbol, number, cap requirement) are not just annoying, but also ineffective when compared to simple length requirements.


[A1] Some matchmakers argue that uptown divorcees are a bit too picky.

[A2] Despite what we may have been lead to believe, the GOP position on abortion is not particularly out of touch with the populace at large. Of course, it would help the Republicans if they could talk about this issue in ways that don’t actively alienate voters.

[A3] Tyler Cowen looks at Oregon’s “equity plan” for funding college education.

[A4] From Murali: President Truman was one of the biggest and most murderous war criminals in all of history.

[A5] Scientists are working at breaking the speed of light.

[A6] The legal profession is taking a closer look at bar exam failure rates.

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Linky Friday #33( 39 )

Dennis FarinaHealth:

[H1] As Canada has figured out, if you don’t pay people for sperm, you don’t get enough sperm. Fortunately, the Canadians can just leach off America.

[H2] Relatedly, he’s another interesting article on Marginal Revolution about egg donation and the price-fixing thereof.

[H3] Vaccinate.

[H4] Aeon magazine looks at the science of sleep, and technological efforts to negate the need for as much of it.


[P1] Makes sense: Heroes and psychopaths have similar personalities. You know who knows this? Supervillains. They say it like all the time. Superheroes, on the other hand, tell them they’re wrong. Supervillains 1, Superheroes 0.

[P2] Maybe all of our fixation on the early years of life is misplaced.

[P3] Jessica Lahey points out how we’re shafting boys in school and offers some supported ideas on what we can do about it.

[P4] Miles Klee explains how you’re ruining the things you love. Actually, it’s more about how off-putting the wrong fans of something can be.

[P5] Repairing bad memories.


[Sh1] From Tod Kelly, posters you should keep out of your apartment or house.

[Sh2] From Aaron David, the original Mid-Century Modern.

[Sh3] Buildings made of ships.


[Sc1] From Michael Cain: What do you do when immense computational power is cheap enough? DNA sequencing of samples taken from bug-splattered windshields to measure relative abundance of different species of insects.

[Sc2] In the minds and hearts of rats, and probably humans, empathy and disgust go to war with one another.

[Sc3] has a list of seven coastal cities at great risk due to global warming.

[Sc4] Darwin and aliens.


[C1] Torie Bosch says that you should elope. There was a time in my life where I was much more sympathetic to the viewpoint of “small wedding, save for downpayment on the house.” Much to my surprise, though, I have actually come around to the idea of big weddings, to whatever extent they can be afforded.

[C1] How to have a conversation like a gentleman.

[C2] Distracted walking injures more people than distracted driving.

[C3] Did you enjoy the play? Well, it may be the product of child actor abduction. Well, if you were attending a play in olden times, anyway. Seriously, interesting article.

[C4] Marijuana shops can be their own worst enemy, perception-wise.


[B1] Will Linux be a solution for small businesses that reject Windows 8? I’m skeptical, but am starting to compile lists of what exactly is preventing me from making the transition. The lists aren’t as long as they used to be. Meanwhile, Microsoft wants control of your preboot.

[B2] The Reagan tax cuts may be responsible for as little as 30% of the increase in income inequality. Dave Schuler has some thoughts.

[B3] Before we left Estacado, we had to get Clancy’s Camry fixed. She went to the dealership and they quoted $4,000. I called them back and they almost immediately started talking $1,100 (so angry were we, we went somewhere else – and paid less than $800). So the fact that women are overcharged doesn’t surprise me. It’s interesting how it can be mitigated, though.

[B4] Though not the enemy that some have feared, Obama has not entirely been a friend to the oil and gas industries, so it’s a bit ironic how much heavy lifting oil and gas are doing for him, economically.

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Open-Sourcing Linky Friday(Comments Off)

So here’s the deal: I have one Linky Friday post ready and I need two. So you are invited to provide the second!

1) Send an email to my gmail account (trumwill at). Include the link and between one and three sentences of commentary. If you have more than that to say on the article, put it in a comment.

2) Since it may not be appearing until next week, I would not recommend an article that is particularly time-sensitive (say, commentary on the Zimmerman verdict may well be stale.)

3) You will be identified as the submitter unless you ask not to be identified. I will not take credit for your work.

4) If I get enough of them to be posted this Friday, it will go up this Friday. Otherwise, I’ll ask for more and it will go up next Friday.

5) The average Linky Friday has between 20-30 links. That’s what I’ll be aiming for. Submit as many as you wish.

6) When it goes up, the open source Linky Friday will be identified as such in the title.

7) I am moving across the country and will not be in a great position to acknowledge your submission right away.

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I’m Just a Black Man Trapped in This White World…( 57 )

To paraphrase fellow blogger Mike Dwyer, it seems kind of odd to write an introduction since I’ve been familiar with this blog and the bloggers for about as long as the League has existed.  For those of you who are wondering, my name is Dennis Sanders and I’m joining this motley crew of bloggers called the League.  Thanks to Tod Kelly and Erik Kain for inviting me to be a part of this grand experiment in vigorous dialogue.

There are a lot of ways to describe me, none of which should work together.  I’m a native of Flint, Michigan the son of two retired General Motors autoworkers.  (Flint was placed in the national spotlight through Michael Moore’s movie Roger and Me.  People have asked me if things are really as bad as the movie suggests.  My response these days is that it’s much worse.)  I’m an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and I work part-time as an Associate Pastor at a church in Minneapolis, where I now live with my partner. I also work as a communications specialist for the regional office of another mainline Protestant denomination.

I’m openly gay and happily married to my partner Daniel.  I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome a few years back, which I guess explains some of my quirks.

As for politics, I grew up in a house of diehard liberal Democrats, but I somehow ended up on the center-right.  For better or worse (and these days it seems like the worse), I’m a Republican these days.

The things that I will probably be writing about include issues like religion and same-sex marriage.  I’m also going to write on something that has been my passion for well over a decade: how to make the center-right more inclusive and modern; to express how the conservative project can answer the questions of 21st century America and not the late 20th century.  Being African American and Puerto Rican, I am especially interested in how conservatives can craft a coherent message to minorities in America.

Now that I have thoroughly blown your mind, (a black, gay Republican?  That’s impossible!) I will return you to your normally scheduled life.


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On Ross Douthat, “Glass Jaw” Analogies, and Always Trying to Find a New Angle( 46 )

Ross Douthat seeks to diagnose what’s ailing the left and more specifically, the President. Naturally, it’s “liberalism’s glass jaw,”

“There is no world in which all of these hopes could have been perfectly realized. But the ways in which they’ve been disappointed have delivered some hard lessons. It isn’t just that Obama failed to live up to the (frankly impossible) standard set by his 2008 campaign and the media adoration that accompanied it. It’s that the nature of his failures speak to the limits of the liberal project, and the tensions and contradictions within the liberal coalition.

Again, every administration has its share of disappointments, and every ideology has to make concessions to political reality. But what we don’t see in this campaign cycle is much soul-searching from Democrats about the ways in which their agenda hasn’t worked out as planned.

Instead, in a country facing a continued unemployment crisis and a looming deficit crunch, liberals have rallied behind a White House whose only real jobs program is “stay the course” and whose plan to deal with long-term deficits relies on the woefully insufficient promise to tax the 1 percent. When Obama insiders wax optimistic about what a second term might bring, they mostly talk about pursuing legislation on climate change and immigration yet again, without explaining why things will turn out differently this time around.”

What makes Douthat’s chiding so unbearable isn’t that it’s untrue: it’s that it completely misses the point. (more…)

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I’m Guest Blogging at The Atlantic( 13 )

I’m guest-blogging for Megan McArdle at The Atlantic for the next two weeks.

Worth noting:

Erik gave Tony Comstock a guest spot last year, and shortly thereafter James Fallows asked him to to guest-blog.

Then Erik gave me a regular front page spot, and now Megan’s asked me to stand in her stead.



Thanks Erik, fellow gents and league for giving me a place to work it out.

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A New Politics Blog( 19 )

So I’m expanding the American Times Empire. My blog at Forbes has gradually morphed into a tech blog. I write about all sorts of tech stuff there now – from social media to video games to the politics of SOPA and, of course, my craft beer reviews. But politics, in the “Mitt Romney is secretly the anti-Christ” variety, are out.

I really enjoy writing about technology, actually. Discussions of Nintendo, sexism in video games, and anything to do with Apple, are really contentious – perhaps even more contentious that writing about Ron Paul. But I am still a politics blogger and need a space for that sort of thing as well.

The League is moving along splendidly. My writing here, however, tends to be of the political philosophy variety or musings on fantasy literature. I want to keep it that way. This space, as far as I am concerned, is for the discussion of ideas much more than the discussion of events or individuals. I don’t want to cover the election from this perch, for instance. This is where I write about the way that craft breweries might embody how liberal politics can move beyond organized labor – not where I write about how Gingrich is a cheating, lying, duplicitous son-of-a-bitch.

Furthermore, I need a home-page that’s all mine. My new American Times blog is just that. I may be Supreme Dictator here, but I tend to enjoy seeing what everyone else comes up with. I mean, The Ten Commandments of Tod and the Batman medical report and all the other amazing stuff around here is just brilliant and wonderful and I don’t want to crowd up the front page (and I would, trust me, I write a ton) with my snarky potshots at Rick Santorum.

Oh, and I’m placing ads on my own blog, something I don’t do here, because now I’m a freelance writer with no other source of income and any little bit helps. So the new blog is my personal home page and my personal space for lots of politics writing. Forbes is where I write about tech, movies, etc. And the League, so flush with other awesome writers and commenters, is where I’ll keep writing about fantasy books and political philosophy and my own political evolution. I’m working on finding an actual publication for my political writing, but until then this is where you’ll find me. I’ll stay busy.

In any case, please pay me a visit over at the other, other blog. I think you’ll find the comment system very familiar and accessible there (it’s kind of like a sub-blog really.) Updates will show up in the side-bar here much as they do for the stuff I write at Forbes.


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Portrait of the blogger as a young man( 32 )

So I am now officially unemployed.

Well, I am officially blogging full time actually – so not quite unemployed so much as not traditionally employed. I am a contributor at Forbes so that makes me basically a contractor. I left my job of the past few years today and will focus entirely on my writing going forward. Oh, and on grad school probably unless I manage to land an actual salaried position with health benefits at some savvy publication.

Anyways, hopefully this means I’ll have more time to spend around here, though I will be spending a great deal of time writing at my other blog as well since it is now my primary source of income.

Wish me luck. And stop by occasionally at Forbes and comment won’t you?

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The League, Here and There and Back Again( 36 )

I know Mark is working on a history of the League, and Patrick and Tod and others have been doing various posts about where readers and commenters and writers and so forth all hail from and top posts and other grand delvings into the site’s whirligigs. I thought I’d say a few words.

Once upon a time I had no idea how to blog. And it really is something that takes practice. It’s not like writing an essay at school or a short story or a poem, though I do think that blogging can make you a stronger writer in all these other forms. I dabbled at tech blogging, went through a brief obsession-with-Israel phase, and then eventually struck out to blog about religion and politics from an independent’s perspective. This was only a couple years ago, but I was such a political novice it sort of galls me to even think about it. Fortunately, I’m also a quick learner. (Unfortunately I have a terrible memory.)

Anyways I stumbled on Culture 11 in fairly short order and soon picked up on the blogs of Daniel Larison, Freddie deBoer, John Schwenkler and from there to Mark’s blog and Scott Payne’s blog and soon found myself engaging these various bloggers whom I so admired in various little bloggy debates. One thing led to another, and I think it was Scott who proposed a group blog and Mark and I quickly jumped on the idea, netting Freddie and a couple other bloggers for the launch and spending days sending back and forth emails trying to settle on a name for the site.

It turned out that the launch of the blog coincided pretty perfectly with the unfortunate shuttering of Culture 11 – though this was probably good for us as I’m pretty sure we grabbed up at least a handful of their readers. Freddie had name recognition at that point also, which drew the eyeballs of some more trafficked bloggers our way.


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Commenter Tribunals( 21 )

I think the League’s reader community is pretty great, but it’s basically impossible for a bunch of amateur bloggers to mediate comment threads full-time. One possible solution would be to borrow the idea of player tribunals from the gaming industry and empower certain commenters to render judgment on controversial or offensive-sounding comments. I can think of more than a few problems with this idea, but the tribunal structure Riot Games has adopted is pretty interesting, and it’s a shame that the quality of a commenting community tends to be inversely correlated with a blog’s popularity.

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Will blog for food( 9 )

Jonathan Strong has an interesting piece on the sometimes-fuzzy line between blogging and paid political advocacy. I think there’s quite a difference between getting paid by an ideological organization to blog (this is hardly any different than being a writer at an ideologically slanted magazine or newspaper) and getting paid directly by political candidates or taking money from an organization to blog independently without disclosing that fact. For instance:

Besides campaigns, industry groups and other political groups oftentimes pay bloggers for their insights.

Dan Riehl, who writes the Riehl World View blog, is one of Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele’s most vocal defenders in the conservative blogosphere. When The Daily Caller reported the RNC spent $1,946 at a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex acts, Riehl blasted the piece as a “pathetically weak story tailored to play to the Left and create problems for the GOP.”

“Riehl World View” readers might be interested to know that Riehl is not simply a blogger, but also a paid consultant to the RNC. In an interview, Riehl said he was paid an amount in the “hundreds of dollars” for writing a strategy document on how the RNC could better reach out to bloggers. Riehl said his motivation for defending Steele was to aid the Republican Party, and that he didn’t disclose his consulting work because, “I didn’t see it as having anything to do with my views.”

“I never made enough money to be bought,” he said.

Other bloggers openly lament how few campaign dollars are flowing their way. Conservative blogger Robert Stacy McCain complains that politicians aren’t purchasing more advertising on blogs. “Advertising buys good will,” he says.

If it appears that conservative bloggers are more likely to take campaign money than their liberal counterparts, there may be a reason. According to Dan Riehl, conservatives can’t rely on the infrastructure of foundations and think tanks that supports so many liberal bloggers.

Riehl has made it a goal to mobilize conservative benefactors and organizers to establish a funding infrastructure mimicking what the liberal “netroots” created during the Bush years. “They did it the smart way,” Riehl says.

While blogging is not at all the same thing as reporting, and readers of blogs expect opinions and partisanship rather than balance, there are lines bloggers shouldn’t cross and certainly full disclosure of any paid support from a candidate seems like an ethical first step. Paid advocacy for specific causes or politicians is simply not the same ball game as working for an ideological publication. If you write for a tech magazine you’re obviously going to write about technology, but if you’re paid by Nokia to write favorable reviews about their products then you enter much murkier waters and owe it to your readers to disclose that information – which, as it happens, basically discredits those reviews.

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In the lake of the woods( 10 )

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a lovely post about isolation that’s well worth your while. You should read it. For some reason the title and the sort of haunting imagery called to mind Tim O’Brien’s novel, In the Lake of the Woods. That’s quite a book. Stirs together how we think about truth and memory; how we weave illusion into our past in order to shape our present. But I digress.

The best responses I’ve offered, the ones that leave me tingling for years, can not be done by googling around and then taking a couple of hours to pop off. They’re done over months, and sometimes, years of reading and talking with people, and then retreating into the wilderness and confronting the horror of solitude and loneliness. […]

My work space is deep in the woods and wrapped in a kind of silence that a city kid, like me, has simply never beheld. There is no phone, no cell coverage, and no internet. A few days ago a storm swept through, bringing with it a bout of terrific thunder. It cracked through everything–air, trees, bone. I was so scared to be alone out there–no people, just me, the thunder, animals and rain. But after ten minutes or so, I gathered myself up and took my pad out to the covered porch, and just listened. I was still scared, but it was so very beautiful.

And this:

During my early years of blogging, I thought that the back and forth was actually sharpening my own logic and thinking. And maybe it is. But, at my core, I am selfish and each day less interested in polite, high-minded debate. Perhaps I will feel different when I return. But out here in the great green, I’m not convinced that any of it matters.

Sometimes the endless back and forth can truly hone our thinking. Sometimes I think it’s a little poisonous. Sometimes I think we can get trapped in ideas that we don’t really believe, or in beliefs that are more like chains than truths. There’s a lot of pressure to conform or to be contrarian or to focus on one thing that can make you stand out in the crowd. Expectations abound. We begin writing what we think the readers want to hear without even realizing it. At times I just write because I need to write, or because I need to get something posted (anything!), or because this is what I want to do and if I do it often enough and well enough I’ll get traffic, recognition. All that jazz.

Sometimes I find myself writing things I realize I don’t even believe anymore, out of habit, perhaps, or reflexively. Or I run with an argument too long and find myself floundering, the waves already up to my chin, unaware I’d gone off the beach in the first place. Sometimes I think all this argument shrouds our thoughts, makes us less vigilant about the ideas we’re trafficking. When I should be deep in the woods of my thought I’m instead hammering out a retort. I’m lighting brushfires.


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The limits of doing this for free( 11 )

Will Wilkinson links to this post by Ezra Klein, who makes a very good point:

Fairly few political commentators know enough to decide which research papers are methodologically convincing and which aren’t. So we often end up touting the papers that sound right, and the papers that sound right are, unsurprisingly, the ones that accord most closely with our view of the world. So Alesina’s paper gets a lot of conservative pickup, but if it had found the opposite, it would’ve been ignored by conservatives, or maybe torn apart by experts sympathetic to the conservative approach to austerity, even as liberals championed its findings.

Wilkinson adds:

This is one of the reasons I tend not to blog as much I’d like about a lot of debates in economic policy. I just don’t know who to trust, and I don’t trust myself enough to not just tout work that confirms my biases. This is also why I tend to worry a lot about methodology in my policy papers. How much can we trust happiness surveys? How exactly is inequality measured? How exactly is inflation measured? Does standard practice bias standard measurements in a particular direction? Of course, the motive to dig deeper is often suspicion of research you feel can’t really be right. But this is, I believe, an honorable motive, as long as one digs honestly. Indeed, I’m pretty sure motivated cognition, when constrained by sound epistemic norms, is one of the mainsprings of intellectual progress.

I couldn’t agree more.

I’d like to add, also, that this becomes even more difficult when you aren’t doing this for a living. When you have to fit blogging in as a hobby while working at a regular job to make ends meet, even having the time to read enough policy or economic blogs (let alone papers) is pretty difficult.


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On Blogging( 41 )

Reading both Andrew’s comments on the Atlantic’s site re-design and Ta-Nehisi Coates, I am reminded again of the importance of creating something personal with new media, that blogging is not journalism exactly, and that bloggers themselves are more rightly the “brand” in question than the publications they write for (though, in all honesty, there is and should be a mix – Coates and the Atlantic are in some sense a dual-brand, neither one the same without the other.  Same goes for all the Atlantic bloggers.)  As Andrew notes,

[A] blog is inherently a live process and conversation and anyone who actually understands blogging’s intimate relationship to its readership – and the critical importance of conversation to the endeavor – would never have dreamed of turning it into a series of headlines. That’s what worries me deeply. Not the inevitable transitional glitches but the philosophy behind it.

I think this cuts to the heart of the matter, and cuts directly to why so many people – myself included – really dislike the re-design at the Atlantic.  It’s not the aesthetic that I find so bothersome – and indeed, I don’t notice much of a change at all at Andrew’s digs – but the transformation of the other blogs into essentially archives, subsumed into the larger “channels” and thus stripped, to some degree, of their personalities.  Since the draw of these ‘voices’ has always been one of the Atlantic online’s strongest features, I find this disappointing to say the least – but like Andrew notes, it is the philosophy behind it that is most troubling.  This passage from Coates is worth reading also:

For my part, you have to understand that, to a large extent, whatever beautiful things have happened here, over the past two years, were, essentially, a fortunate mistake. What you’ve gotten is me hopping online and rather carelessly deciding to be myself, to talk to you, as much as possible, in the same way I talk to the people I know. And then basically curating the comments, banning people, deleting, and coaxing until there was a comments section that I, personally, loved reading.

It wasn’t market-tested. When I first got here, we didn’t even really have a web editor, and none of us expected this to grow into what became. We didn’t discuss whether it would be a good idea to have a post about Barry Sanders, next to a post about the Real Housewives of Atlanta, next to a series about the Civil War. We didn’t discuss commenting policy. We just kinda liked each other (me and my editors here) and decided to try something.

In short, none of this was intentional. It was all intuitive. And it’s fucked up, but it’s only as I’m writing this that I’m actually getting that that really is the point, and a big part of the draw. I kind of knew that, but it’s only in the absence of a coherent thing that I’m really seeing that.

This unintentional process is important.  There is something spontaneous and personal about blogging that is a serious if intangible change from traditional journalism. It is also, I think, the most important thing about a successful blogger – this ability for readers to connect and empathize with them. Similarly the community created around a blogger or a project is vitally important.  Jaybird has likened our own humble digs to a bar where we can all sit around and talk politics and culture and whatever over beers.  I have adopted this analogy in how I think about The League.  Indeed, I have come to think of The League as more than just a site, more than just a cadre of writers, but as a community unto itself, with all our commenters as part of the larger project.  The place would not be the same without the many commenters who liven up the threads – from Jaybird to Bob Cheeks to Michael Drew to North to greginak and so on and so forth – the list is too long to name you all. 

One of my great struggles writing elsewhere has been the lack of this relationship.  (New technical limitations have limited my own ability to respond to comments here in a timely fashion, but I do read each and every one.)  Indeed, though I am paid to write at True/Slant, I find myself devoting more time and energy to my writing here – and not just because it is a project that I helped start and continue to help shape, but because of this ongoing conversation we have gotten ourselves into – I can only frequent so many bars, I suppose, and this is my bar of choice.  (I know there is some crossover between commenters here and at True/Slant, but to be honest the comment system there is somewhat inhospitable.  And I dislike, perhaps, being just one of several hundred writers, whereas here I feel like I am part of a team, or at least a band of misfits…)  There is something organic about it that I enjoy.  I can anticipate who will be sitting where and drinking what, and who will storm out angry and who will chuckle at the antics and so forth.   And part of this is the site design, how we have worked to make the comments an integral part of this site, how we have kept the site fairly clean and ad-free, and so forth.  Perhaps it is also human nature to seek out communities (and bars) which we feel comfortable in. 

However, one of our original intentions with this site was to create a place where sustained, internal dialogue between writers, commenters, and guest-writers could be nurtured and grow into something rather unlike anything else on the interwebs.  I think, to some degree, in our push to increase traffic, to link to (and be linked by in return) Really Important Bloggers, we have let that part of our mission fall to the wayside.  I know others here have expressed a similar sense that this is the case.  Whether this has been an inevitable side-effect to creating a successful site, or to simply running out of things to talk to each other about is hard to say.  For my own part, I know that I focused a great deal on increasing traffic, on making the site as good as possible – and I admit to feeling a bit of a rush when I’d pick up a link from the Dish or get a good response from Larison or other bloggers who I had read and admired.

Either way, I wonder how the readers and commenters feel about this (not that the two groups, I hope, are mutually exclusive).  After just over a year, it’s incredible to see how far this blog has come.  We have gained and lost bloggers.  We are still (I hope, and believe) producing good, interesting, and relatively unique content.  We are still ad-free and entirely self-funded or funded by the generosity of the best damn commenters on the internet.  But have we lost some of that original vision?  Some of that original intent?  I would be interested to hear from both writers here and commenters on how, if at all, we could right the ship, reorient to bring back some of the conversational aspects of the original mission.  Make the site even better and more lasting.  We ditched the “series” function, but perhaps went too far in ditching the concept of series altogether.

In other words, this is a space to talk about blogging, this blog in particular, how it is doing things right and how it is doing things wrong, and so forth.  Thanks.

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