Links: How to put more money in people’s pockets, on reading, beauty in books, and more!

* Reforming Land Use Regulations. This is one way to put more money in your pocket.

* “Evidence increases for reading on paper instead of screens.” This is not the final word, but it may sway those of you who are debating whether you should ban screens from class, or whether you should hold class in person or online.

* Can small-scale nuclear fusion reactors work?

* Megan McArdle on the absurdities of “affirmative consent.”

* “Survey: Americans have more confidence in Amazon than government or press.” Observation: delivering packages and web services is difficult but also conceptually simpler than epistemology, and arguably the press is delivering epistemology, even though no one says as much. As for government, expectations seem unreasonably high, but, also, we need to work much harder at figuring out why infrastructure is so damn expensive. If most cities could reliably build subways at Nordic costs we’d all love “the government,” or at least local government.

* Re: the above, see also Tyler Cowen’s Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero.

* How ‘safety first’ ethos is destabilizing US society.

* O Oberlin, My Oberlin. On the recent scandal. See also Big Business and that article about trust in Amazon from a few links above.

* The population bust.

* “The battle cry of the politically homeless: Anyone moderate with a brain and anything to lose has largely gone silent.”

* “Are Health Administrators To Blame?“, for either high health care costs or high education costs? Doesn’t look like it, though that’s a popular narrative, for obvious reasons. And there are lots of unsourced, attractive-looking graphs on the Internet that blame administrators.

* “In praise of pretty books.” Agreed, and the Thor Power Tools decision is why we have so few pretty books today. As I understand the situation, prior to Thor, publishers could print up a bunch of books and take some kind of depreciation deduction as they sat around in warehouses. Now, publishers apparently can’t do that, so publishers are strongly incented to sell everything they can in a given year. Consequently, cheap books become more attractive.

* Is line editing a lost art? No.

Links: English in Europe, social media in America, the nature of language, and more!

* “America’s social-media addiction is getting worse.” No word on America’s novel-reading addiction.

* Relatedly, “The Last Great American Novelist: Toni Morrison and the fate of fiction in an age of distraction.”

* “Death of the Neighborhood Bar.” See also me on The Great Good Place — Roy Oldenburg. Most regulators don’t seem to think about social connection and fabric, or the connection of both to licensure.

* “Don’t Believe a Word by David Shariatmadari review – the truth about language.” Annoyingly, this one won’t be published in the U.S. until January. Pre-ordered.

* “Copenhagen has taken bicycle commuting to a whole new level.” I’m jealous of their clean air and pleasant streets.

* The Suicides in South Korea, and the Suicide of South Korea.

* “Do You Want My Garbage?” “There is a fine line between respecting others’ right to their bad taste, and opting to participate in it.”

* “The Real Problem At Yale Is Not Free Speech.” Lots of things I suspect are incorrect in this one, but the takeaway may be that Yale seems like an unpleasant place to be. So why not go somewhere else, somewhere that is not consumed with bizarre status rituals? Unless you’re on scholarship, in which case it’s likely worth putting up with.

* “As Student Debt Rises, Teens Are Rethinking the College Experience.” Lots of anecdote, little data.

* Big Money Starts to Dump Stocks That Pose Climate Risks.

* Amazon and publishing. None of the other players did anything about this and none of them have the technical teams, experience, or culture to match Amazon. This is another example of software eating the world.

* Was email a mistake? On synchronous vs asynchronous communication and many other topics. I may put this one in my email signature.

* The Power of a Community College.

* “Why solar and wind aren’t enough.” The only plausible energy source compatible with global climate change is nuclear.

* “Parlez-Vous Anglais? Yes, of Course. Europeans speaking perfect English sounds like good news for native speakers, but it may also be a threat.” Good news, says I. And if we can’t compete with their English BA courses, we deserve to lose.

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.

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