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Saturday, April 30, 2005
A Short History of the Chinese Restaurant - From stir-fried buffalo to Matzoh Foo Young. Two Slate articles in onde day... This one is a fascinating review of a historical exhibit. I read it while eating a bizarre cross between chop suey and a Moroccan tagine.

Sanding Down Sander - The debunker of affirmative action gets debunked This piece by Slate author Emily Bazelon neatly summarizes the first round of statistical analysis of UCLA law professor Richard Sander's indictment of affirmative action in law schools. I wish that law reviews had peer review -- but since most law students and professors find it hard to get out of the mindset of trying to win their case, this appeal to neutrality and rigor in scholarship will doubtless go unheeded.

Friday, April 29, 2005
No Right to Live Near Schools, Or Even in a City -- This would make a great Supreme Court case, since it poses the question of whether legislative intent or the utlimate effect of a law is more important. That is, if the government limits the rights of ex-criminals in order to preserve public safety, is this ex post facto punishment for those conviceted before such limits were passed? In the past, the Supremes have said "no" -- but that case was decided on the basis of civil mental commitment, not the rights of those without mental illnesses. I suspect that we'll soon see many more cities banning ex-criminals of all sorts from residing in their boundaries, using "can't live within a mile of..." limits on housing.

Children Allegedly Make Sex Tape -- Should we arrest kids who tape themselves having sex for making child pornography? How can a kid who's too young to consent to sex be said to have consented to starring in a porno (even if they did film it themself)? This reminds me of when two 15-year-olds have sex -- and are then arrested for statutory rape of each other.

Monday, April 25, 2005
Donna Anthony had spent seven years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murdering her two children... -- This is a fantastic article on probability and a reminder that ignorance of math costs lives. If you don't think it matters whether you can compute probabilities, then you shouldn't be serving on juries. This is a superb blog post which I ought to distribute to my students. It also highlights the dangers of national DNA databases, since (like giving everyone a lie detector test) they produce many more false matches than correct ones.

Exploding toads baffle experts. Huh huh huh That rules, Beavis. Yeah, heh heh heh. Splat!

Friday, April 22, 2005
SouthernAngel's Ode to Bacon Grease -- I'm almost persuaded, but then again I have a fondness for pork fat.

Juicy Studio: Readability Test -- This is an interesting tool to compare the readability of different websites. Here are the scores for this blog as of now: Average words per Sentence 13.14 Percentage of word with three or more syllables 13.61% Average Syllables per Word 1.53 Gunning Fog Index 10.70 Flesch Reading Ease 63.65 Flesch-Kincaid Grade 7.65 Acccording to the Fog Index, this site falls somwehere between Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal in readability. According to the Flesch-Kincaid Grade, someone who's in 7th grade ought to be able to read the site.

Thursday, April 21, 2005
The Agonist has a thoughtful editorial on Ecuador's recent troubles. While I'm an economic neoliberal, I do recognize that its prescriptions need to be accompanied by supporting changes in political institutions in order to check corruption and ensure equal standing before the law. I think there is a pernicious tendency among many elites to think of democracy as "majority rule." However, democracy is a political system that involves institutions of governance, not merely elections. What is needed are elections, effective checks on executive power, a free press, political freedom, genuine party competition, and consistent enforcement of the law. Without these mundane details of democracy, it becomes some sort of magical abstract concept that says that anything goes if approved in a plebiscite. Singe agenda-setting and information provision are the keys to political power, strictly reactive referenda and retention elections are not democratic. Democracy means that ordinary people can organize and act to see their proposals debated, and not merely react to whatever questions the executive sees fit to address.

Monday, April 18, 2005
Study Finds Racism in New Orleans' Bars -- It never occurred to me that bars might make a habit of charging African-Americans more for drinks. Then again, I didn't grow up in the South.

Thursday, April 07, 2005
Patent Case Turns Sticky for Smucker -- Yes, they actually showed up in court to argue for expanding their patent to cover most "crustless" PB&J sandwiches. Of course, IP law long ago ceased to be reasonable or defensible. In a country where downloading MP3s can get you hard time in federal prison, we shouldn't be surprised at cases like this.

Obese Shoppers Treated More Rudely, Study Shows -- I'm always interested in the economic discrimination that occurs in day-to-day interactions. I suspect that discriminattion extends beyond the usual categories of race, gender, and national origin to weight, height, and other superficial aspects of personal appearance. Studies like this make me wonder if obesity alters, say, the average sentence handed down for a particular crime. It wouldn't surprise me if overweight women got stiffer sentences than waifs for the same behavior.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Kurd leader named Iraq president -- At moments like this, I allow myself to believe that Iraq won't collapse into civil war as soon as US troops pull out. Then again, I wonder if the Barzani/KDP faction is happy that a PUK leader was named President. The two Kurdish factions fought each other in the 1990s, and that sort of intra-communal fight could easily flare up again.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Speaking of bittersweets, I noticed an archive of the site is online. Check it out for a piece of net culture from the late 90s. Bring a supply of Prozac.

PostSecret -- This is an odd, sad, semi-voyeuristic site that reminds me of the old bittersweets.org site. Have a gander if you're feeling perky; it'll bring you back down to Earth.

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