Links: Saving Barnes & Noble, the financial structure of higher ed, the need for excellence, and more!

* “Comcast households watched 6 hours/25 minutes a day of traditional TV, up 6% from the same time period a year before.” The culture you find on this blog, is not mainstream culture.

* To End Student Debt, Tie Tuition to Post-Graduation Salaries?

* Why 16?, on the history age of consent laws—a topic rarely discussed. See also the end of this post, about the racial and gender disparities from such laws:

As Judith Levine notes in Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex: “One striking pair of contradictory trends: as we raise the age of consent for sex, we lower the age at which a wrongdoing child may be tried and sentenced as an adult criminal. Both, needless to say, are ‘in the best interests’ of the child and society.” We want teenagers to be adults when they commit crimes and “children” when they have sex, which tells you more about our culture than about teenagers.

* Perhaps congruent with the link above, “Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Excellence: A former dean of the Yale Law School sounds a warning.”

* Samuel Pepys’s diary.

* Insured price $2,758, cash price $521. We ought to do something about this?

* How to fix the baby bust.

* The hypersane are among us? I’m still not sure we have a great definition of “hypersanity.”

* Universal Basic Income (UBI) plans don’t work mathematically, as presently advocated by politicians. I’m open to UBI arguments, but I’d like to see us first improve real spending power through comprehensive land use reform. Housing is the most expensive part of most people’s budget and we’re not doing anything like what we can and should be doing in this domain, which makes me think we’re not remotely serious about improving real spending power, let alone getting to UBI.

* “ What If We Haven’t Met Aliens Yet Because They’ve Messed Up Their Planets Too?” Could climate destruction explain the Fermi Paradox?

* How Tyler Cowen chooses fiction. Plus, Tyler on Peter Thiel as intellectual. On Twitter, there was a thread about why many people in academia (and I’m not talking about the humanities exclusively) seem to have disproportionate antipathy to tech people. The author’s thesis was that many tech people have greater, or at least growing, real-world and intellectual influence than academics—something that might not have been true 20 years ago. I’m not endorsing this thesis, but it’s not a ridiculous one, either.

* “China and the Difficulties of Dissent.” Don’t be dissuaded by the title.

* “‘The Big Error Was That She Was Caught’: The Untold Story Behind the Mysterious Disappearance of Fan Bingbing, the World’s Biggest Movie Star.” Implementing a “brain drain” (and talent drain) policy on China, via encouraging Chinese emigration to the United States, is an important argument almost no one is making, or thinking about. This is a trade war we might actually win.

* Open source textbooks are changing higher ed. What took so long?

* “Academia: An Outsider’s Perspective.” Unflattering, but possibly accurate.

* “The Return of Doomsday: The New Nuclear Arms Race—and How Washington and Moscow Can Stop It.” See also my post, “Trump fears and the nuclear apocalypse.”

* “The Nihilist in Chief.” I’m not fond of this topic but this one is good.

* Can Britain’s No. 1 Bookseller Save Barnes & Noble?

Links: The end of beef, the science of progress, the need to walk, the nature of language, and more!

* “We Need a New Science of Progress.” Best piece in this batch.

* “What is Amazon?” This is congruent with the link above.

* “Lessons from the East Asian Economic Miracle.” This is congruent with both links above.

* “‘It’s a superpower’: how walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier.” Despite this, for some reason we’ve designed our cities around cars.

* “Stupid, Self-Defeating U.S. Immigration Policy Hands Canada an Opening in Tech.” Obvious to the attentive.

* “Dipsea: the Audio App That’s Transforming Erotica.” This may be a bogus trend story, but it is an interesting one.

* “‘Panic Attack’ review: a wake-up call the woke won’t read.” Surprising venue for this one.

* Why We Call Things ‘Porn’.

* “Gin, Sex, Malaria, and the Hunt for Academic Prestige.” On Margaret Mead’s many adventures. The degree to which her reputation zooms up and down probably says bad things on the net about anthropology as a discipline; I ordered the book.

* “Spare Me the Purity Racket.” Can I get an “Amen?” “The politics of purism makes people stupid. And nasty.” This is one of the problems in some university precincts, too.

* On Norman Rush. Mating is that good.

* Awkward Cause: A Calgary man tries to live an extremely low-carbon lifestyle.

* The beginning of the end for the beef industry?

* “The SLS rocket may have curbed development of on-orbit refueling for a decade.” This is damned depressing if it’s true.

Links: The mistakes of relying on cars, a man with a big library, publishers and literature, and more!

* Was the automotive era a terrible mistake? Yes it was.

* “Satellite Images Show Vast Swaths of the Arctic On Fire.” What could go wrong?

* “Farewell Richard Macksey, legendary polymath and ‘the jewel in the Hopkins crown’ (1931-2019).” 70,000 books! Check out those pics!

* “Why the ‘Weird Internet’ of the GeoCities Era Had to Die.” Did it have to, though? Or did we all choose new and easier spaces, myself included?

* Did publisher consolidation change literature? The original title of this piece is bad, so don’t rely on it.

* Robert Caro’s Working. Good book, good article—it highlights his anti-theoretical, anti-generalizing nature, which I’d not thought explicitly about.

* College might have gotten easier: time spent studying is down but GPAs are up. The article touches research areas that have been out there for years.

* “‘Unsex Me Here’ and Other Bad Ideas. We have nothing to lose except our long-ago lost sense of proportion.

* “The Robot Apocalypse Has Been Postponed.” Its absence may also explain some of our current economic, social, and political malaise. Hear also the first episode of The Portal, Eric Weinstein’s podcast; Peter Thiel is the first guest and has much to say about economics, malaise, and, surprisingly, violence.

* “The Hollywood Three Tries to Save Western Civilization.” Lots of political commentary congruent with what you read here, in Jonathan Haidt, and so on. You don’t persuade people by yelling at them or conveying that you’re more morally pure than they are.

* “Sleeping Through the Alarm: With virtually no democratic oversight and over 6,500 missiles in the United States alone, the use of nuclear weapons is almost inevitable. So why is it so hard to think about nuclear war?”

* “Please Touch Me: Has intimacy gone so far out of style that it’s poised for a comeback?” It’s like no one asks about the costs of social shifts happening among small sectors of the intelligentsia.

* “‘The Era of People Like You Is Over’: How Turkey Purged Its Intellectuals.” Short on Turkey.

* “The Charney Report: 40 years ago, scientists accurately predicted climate change.” And our response has been anemic ever since. By the way, “In the US, wells being drilled ever deeper as groundwater vanishes.” I wonder why groundwater is vanishing? Also, “Alaskan glaciers melting 100 times faster than previously thought.”

* New books about walking, one of them on 36 writers and walking. I already favor walking, so this is not for me.

* “Helen Gurley Brown Only Wants to Help“—from 1970. Has a lot changed, or not so much?

* ITER, the World’s Largest Nuclear Fusion Experiment, Clears Milestone. For background, see “Star in a Bottle” from 2014.

* “Immigration Officials Snatch 9-Year-Old U.S. Citizen Heading To School, Hold Her For 2 Days.” Things are great in this domain, right?

Links: The power of the angry, DuckDuckGo and privacy, the erosion of freedom, and more!

* “What Conservatives Get Wrong about the Campus Wars.” “Teapot tempests” would be better than “wars,” but this is congruent with “Ninety-five percent of people are fine—but it’s that last five percent.” Something about the nature of the Internet has enabled and empowered a smallish number of crazy people, sometimes for good reasons (startups) and sometimes for not-good ones.

* “DuckDuckGo, a Feisty Google Adversary, Tests How Much People Care About Privacy.” The answer is, “Not very much.” Switching search engines to DDG is one of the simplest, lowest-cost things a given person can do to improve their online privacy and basically no one does it. What should we infer from that?

* “ICE Is Dangerously Inaccurate: Even American citizens are not immune from immigration raids.”

Davino Watson is a U.S. citizen who was 23 years old when ICE held him for more than three years. A New Yorker, he was eventually dropped off in Alabama with no explanation and no money. After he was released, Mr. Watson filed a complaint and a court awarded him compensation in 2016. The next year, an appeals court decided the statute of limitations for that complaint had expired while he was still in ICE custody.

Then there was Peter Sean Brown, who was born in Philadelphia and lived in the Florida Keys. ICE faxed a request to Florida authorities to hold him. He was in jail for weeks. Guadalupe Plascencia, a naturalized citizen, won a $55,000 settlement after ICE wrongfully detained her. Ada Morales and Sergio Carrillo earned their citizenship decades before they were detained. The list goes on.

I would say this is unbelievable, but who we decide to vote for is unbelievable; the consequences are ones we’re living with now.

* “China’s rising tech scene threatens U.S. brain drain as sea turtles return home.” Almost no one is talking about this aspect of immigration policy and the cultural climate, but we should.

* “Harvard Study: ‘Gender Wage Gap’ Explained Entirely by Work Choices of Men and Women.” Not the last word on this issue, certainly, but also not something that’s likely to be popular in certain circles.

* “The High Price of Multitasking.” Obvious yet still underrated.

* Our present age of amnesia. Or is this just a “kids these days” argument?

* “Border officers are arrested 5 times more often than other US law enforcement.” As stated on Twitter: “The border is a place where sadistic people can join the security forces in order to abuse people in a legal gray zone. This needs to stop.”

* The Financial Calamity That Is the Teaching Profession. This is also a story about the way zoning has raised the cost of living for just about everyone.

* Neal Stephenson converses with Tyler Cowen.

* Oregon vowed not to become California — and passed sweeping housing crisis legislation.

* Josh Harris, the author of a wildly popular manifesto on abstinence before marriage, is separating from his wife. Sure, this is a kind of basic (and low) blow about hypocrisy, but it’s also the kind of “how did that thing turn out?” journalism that we could use more of.

* “Returning Due Process to Campus.” It’s interesting that the abandonment of long-understood legal principles has had just the outcomes that those principles are supposed to prevent.

Links: The fear, the basic house, the hard-but-popular college course, and more!

* Iran to begin enriching Uranium again. Some of you may recall my 2016 post, “Trump fears and the nuclear apocalypse,” which is relevant here.

* “Want a basic house? Prepare for a bidding war.” Businesses have begun noticing that, if individuals can reap supernormal returns by artificially restricting the supply of housing via zoning, then businesses can do the same by buying the same asset, then renting it, and waiting for increasing demand to raise its underlying value. As we all know, however, Oregon is doing something concrete about this dynamic by reforming zoning.

* Why can’t NYC control its construction costs? It also can’t do even very simple things like through-running commuter rail, which Paris started doing in the ’80s and London in the ’90s.

* “A Remarkably Hard College Course Proves Remarkably Popular.”

* “The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity: Support for Trump comes at a high cost for Christian witness.” This is something I’ve wondered about: few of us are fully internally consistent and all of us can be hypocrites at time, but the scale and apparentness of this one strikes me as odd, even by the standards of someone who’s read The Elephant in the Brain.

* “Progressive Boomers Are Making It Impossible For Cities To Fix The Housing Crisis: Residents of wealthy neighborhoods are taking extreme measures to block much-needed housing and transportation projects.” Not far from what you’ve been reading here for years, but the news is getting out there.

* “Rep. Justin Amash quits the Republic party for principled reasons.” See also the link about evangelical Christian support for Trump.

* “The Gangs of Kalorama,” on the private school and college madness. A piece that reinforces Bryan Caplan’s book The Cast Against Education.

* “US FBI, ICE using state driver’s license photos for facial-recognition searches.” Privacy? Anyone? Privacy? Anyone who is worried about Google or Facebook ought to be 10x as worried about this.

* “Live carbon neutral with Wren: Offset your carbon footprint through a monthly subscription.”

* “Americans Shocked to Find Their Rights Literally Vanish at U.S. Airports.” Yet for some reason we keep vanishing for this, too.

* “Americans Shouldn’t Have to Drive, but the Law Insists on It: The automobile took over because the legal system helped squeeze out the alternatives.” The number of people who die by the car is shocking, yet no one seems to give a damn.

* “Breaching a ‘carbon threshold’ could lead to mass extinction.” Perhaps we ought to not do that?

* The slow death of Hollywood. Did you know that “[Netflix] now routinely ends shows after their second season, even when they’re still popular?” Me neither. Or how much Hollywood has consolidated since the ’90s? I’m still annoyed, by the way, that The Larry Sanders Show isn’t available on Blu-ray, and the DVD version doesn’t look good.

Links: Death by vehicle, when it’s desirable to quit, Judith Krantz, and more!

* “It’s OK to quit your Ph.D.” Notice the publication, too.

* Why some climate scientists are saying no to flying.

* “How Chipmaker AMD Gave China the ‘Keys to the Kingdom:’ The company revived its fortunes through the deal, and sparked a national-security battle.” And for an amount of money that is, relative to the size of the companies and economies involved, quite small.

* Why US cities aren’t using more electric buses. We ought to.

* The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet?

* “Judith Krantz, Whose Tales of Sex and Shopping Sold Millions, Dies at 91.” An amusing obituary throughout. Is it possible that some popular novelists are willing to go places self-consciously “literary” novelists are not?

* Why aren’t cities running lots of electric buses yet? Considering their advantages in terms of noise and point pollution, these relatively minor challenges ought to be overcome.

* Why the soft machine (cargo bikes) will come to dominate urban transit. One can hope.

* “California and Texas have different visions for America’s future.” There are also some curious facts underneath the political rhetoric produced in each state.

* “The blunder that could cost the U.S. the new space race:” excluding scientists and engineers based on place of birth. The 20th Century was the American Century for many reasons, one underrated one being that Europe and Asia spent much of the century murdering or exporting their best people, to the U.S.’s benefit. It seems that no politicians and few voters know or remember this fact.

* Why Are U.S. Drivers Killing So Many Pedestrians? “If anything else—a disease, terrorists, gun-wielding crazies—killed as many Americans as cars do, we’d regard it as a national emergency.”

Links: The accidental criminals, the criminalizing of basic commerce, the American shoe, electric flight, and more!

* “How to Become a Federal Criminal.” It’s incredibly easy to do and you and I have likely done it.

* “Inside’s Vicious Battle With the Feds.” The lack of interest in this country in many forms of freedom is notable, and this article could be related to the one immediately above.

* “Democracy Is Not Coming to China Anytime Soon.” We’ll see what China’s first major recession in decades brings, though.

* The End of the Age of Paternity Secrets.

* “Why The American Shoe Disappeared And Why It’s So Hard To Bring It Back.”

* Why the age of electric flight is finally upon us.

* “I’m a Journalist but I Didn’t Fully Realize the Terrible Power of U.S. Border Officials Until They Violated My Rights and Privacy.” And somewhat bizarrely, we keep voting for this?

* In 2000, Paul Krugman pointed out that rent control is bad. It’s still bad today; if you want to subsidize housing, the optimal way to do it is to build a whole lot of it, then give vouchers to the people who you want to subsidize. Local voters don’t like either: owners of existing housing want to limit the supply of it, and they don’t want to pay taxes to provide vouchers. Rent control is popular because it can be an immediate benefit to some existing renters, but the costs are enormous and bourn by the future. Mortgaging the future is a popular Baby Boomer pasttime, but it’d be nice to stop doing that.

* “Two-thirds of American employees regret their college degrees?” And: “About 75% of humanities majors said they regretted their college education?”

* “The Wild Ride at Babe.Net.” A lot could be said here about truth and reality that is not said; I am not going to say it either, for fear of the usual backlash.

* “The Boomers Ruined Everything.” Much better than the title implies and deals with the zoning problems that are immiserating millions.

* Peter Watts video on SF, climate, and other things. Also, Climeworks has started paid CO2 removal.

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