Linky Friday #3

Items now have letters affixed to them for easy referencing in the comment section. I’m also citing the site of the article to help people avoid blowing one of a limited number of payviews for an article they are only marginally interested in.

(A) The subject of gun control and the gun culture has come up with regard to the Jevon Belcher shooting. It’s no surprise to me that athletes are more likely to own guns, but I am pretty surprised that three out of four do. I have to say that I find it particularly troubling to link events like this to gun control. The arguments for Loughner/Aurora-type shootings are smaller. Murder-suicides can occur with private possession of any gun at any time. [USA Today]

(B) Apparently, we’re about to release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes in Key West. [Blaze]

(C) Joel Kotkin looks at migration patterns within the US. As someone that wants our talent to be spread out, I consider it a positive of course that the lower-cost red states are gaining. I consider it win-win, as they’re easing population pressure in the more expensive blue states while helping the economies of the red states advance. [Yahoo]

(D) Independents display less motivated reasoning than partisans. In other words, less inclined to interpret evidence on the basis of predisposition. Of course, ultimately, everybody is subject to predisposition. Nobody who has been listening to my views on the subject should be surprised by this possibility. Of course, Half Sigma too. [Cultural Cognition]

(E) I’m too cheap to buy it, but for those interested a paper tries to make the case that the Community Reinvestment Act did indeed lead to risky lending [NBER].

(F) Jay Rockefeller is in trouble in West Virginia. So are the Democrats. The GOP tried to run on coal in Montana, but it didn’t work. But coal is not to Montana what it is to West Virginia. [TNR]

(G) Ninjas, apparently, are heading for extinction. Pirates are struggling, too. [VOA]

(H) It probably speaks to my geekery that I find articles about the inner workings of Amazon to be quite interesting. [IBT]

(I) Islands for sale! Islands for sale! [Yahoo]

(J) A look at the mobile war for the living room. [Business Insider]

(K) Prostitutes are more likely to have sex with a police officer than to be arrested by one. [Floating Path]

(L) Wired has a great article on medieval farm shapes and modern transportation networks. Or: Why Americans think that roads should come to them rather than settle where roads go to. [Wired]

(M) It is so weird to me that Android is winning the consumer market(share) and iPhone is winning the corporate. That’s completely backwards, and absolutely a failure on the part of Android handset makers. [GiGaOM]

(N) In football, spread offenses typically stink at defense. Opinions differ as to why. [USA Today]

(O) Americans, from a Russian perspective [NYT].

(P) Above Singapore, will there be a green mega-city rising? A part of me is always skeptical of this sort of central planning, but I am always interesting in seeing and learning from the results. And I prefer them to be happening in some other country. [Guardian]

(Q) Even if the FCC thinks the in-flight ban of electronics is dumb. I’m increasingly concerned that the airlines themselves will be a roadblock as they make money selling you satellite TV that keep you entertained for take-off and landing. [CNN]

(R) In the relative peace-time drawdown, the army is looking to cut loose people that are obese or overweight. Here is why that might be a bad idea. [WaPo] [Starting Strength]

(S) Is 200,000 miles the new normal for cars? My second-to-last car went 200k. My last car may well make it there. As someone who believes in driving cars into the ground whenever possible, I think this is fantastic. [Allstate Blog]

(T) Fortune has a glowing article on Subaru. I hadn’t realize that the shift towards being more affordable was recent. I am grateful, as it’s one of the primary reasons I own a Subaru. [Fortune]

(U) In New Zealand, they’re teaching dogs to drive cars. [Daily Mail]

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. Re: I

    Does this mean the standard response to libertarians should shift from “Move to Somalia” to “Go buy an island”? I wonder what market forces in the world of pithy comebacks has to say…

    • I so want to buy an island and live there. Not sure if that is my libertarian leanings, or my fear of zombies (but I repeat myself).

      Will, I really like these link-aggregation posts. Lots of interesting reading here.

      RE: D, that one actually touches on something I was discussing recently elsewhere with Chris (System 1 reasoning vs. System 2 reasoning). Not sure if he comes around here, but if he does, would be interested to hear his thoughts on that one.

      • Also semi-sort of RE: D; I thought this study was old news (I seem to recall arguments about Haidt’s work in these here pages), so not sure if I am misunderstanding the item and it really is reporting some new finding.

      • I’ve officially moved “zombies” from my list of irrational fears to my list of very rational fears. There is nothing irrational about fearing those fuckers.

      • Will, I really like these link-aggregation posts. Lots of interesting reading here.

        Glad to hear it. I’ve been really pleased with the response to these. I wish I’d started them sooner.

    • Heh.

      And when they inevitably say, “Oh, but I cannot afford an island,” you give a knowing smile and walk away.

    • I think that most of the islands for sale are under some nation’s jurisdiction. I used to read a lot about unique real estate opportunities (someone converts a 747 into a house, a nuclear bunker in Iowa, etc) and the islands I saw were typically subject to some government (“Must have Honduran citizenship or residency eligibility” and such).

  2. Re: G. A friend just showed me a graph yesterday of pirate attacks by year and region. The number of attacks is very high still. While E. Africa has diminished, attacks have risen in the South China Sea again. Not an endangered species yet! If I can, I’ll send you a copy of the graph.

    • Ahhh, rats. The funny thing is that I found the pirate article specifically looking for a good pirate story and to comment “I guess we now know who won the ultimate Ninjas vs. Pirates debate”… only to find an article talking about the diminishment of piracy. Damaging my planned thesis.

      • It’s a weird coincidence that your post showed up exactly the same day as my friend showed me that graph.

  3. The GOP tried to run on coal in Montana,

    At least now they’re entering the 19th century.

  4. M – Makes perfect sense to me given that the previous market leader was RIM. RIM led because of security and manageability.
    Android is too open for the tastes of any IT department. iOS at least has the virtue of being mostly locked down and therefore easier to manage a fleet of deployed devices.

    • Ha. Those IT security folk have no idea how hard people are at work breaking the locks. And it’s Apple’s own fault; they offered no support for sound/video developers on iOS; to offer aps that function across the range from laptop/desktop to ipad to phone, you’ve got unlock and reverse engineer.

      We shall see it that let the genie out of the bottle.

    • It’s not like Android can’t be secured. It can: Android’s security options are more complete than iOS in pretty much every way, from file system encryption to transmission to inter-application communications, especially as Android has entered the 4.x era. The NSA has released a secure version of Android, SE Android.

      iOS provides no protected/privileged execution model at all, there’s no reason for some fathead in Corporate IT to say it’s any better than Android. It’s substantially worse. iOS has huge problems with application updates: third party solutions to this problem have arisen but iOS has not exactly taken the lead here, what with its walled garden approach to everything. iOS apps are constantly trying to peek at each others’ file systems. MSFT has gobbled up Skype and substantially weakened its security: it’s clear Skype is now peeking at /etc/passwd, as serious a breach of security as can be imagined.

      The problem isn’t locking stuff down. It’s keeping users from doing dumb things with the data. The worst offender here is email and nothing but policy can make a difference here. While corporations continue to stick with the MSFT Exchange paradigm, this will continue to be a problem.

      Most corporate IT types couldn’t find their asses in the dark with both hands, a map and a flashlight. Sorry, it’s true. They do whatever stupid things they’re told by management.

      • I should have been more clear – iOS seems more locked down because of the walled garden image – so it’s an easy sell to the folks primarily concerned with looking like they’re worried about security and that’s why it seems obvious to me that it’s in the lead.

        A secondary consideration would be that a lot of the upper management types are more likely to own iPhones or iPads than the general population and certainly apply pressure to their IT departments to support them. I know it seems our entire C-suite has iPhones and iPads and expects to be able to use them for work.

        • As you say, it’s all about Appearances. There’s a little outfit in Eau Claire which specialises to updating corporate iOS apps. If the C-suite gave a damn about anything but appearances, they’d be horrified to realise just how fundamentally insecure their data is on iOS.

          Apple also has a bad habit of playing Kill the Messenger. As a security-oriented developer, I see no good reason to develop for iOS at all.

        • The security aspect may be a part of it, but I think another part of it had to do with timing. The iPhone came first, and came right about the time IT departments stopped buying employee phones and instead subsidized them. But despite that, I think there was a real opportunity here that Android handset makers missed.

      • Most corporate IT types couldn’t find their asses in the dark with both hands, a map and a flashlight. Sorry, it’s true. They do whatever stupid things they’re told by management.

        I feel I must stick up somewhat for my erstwhile colleagues here, since you have named my field. While I work with some people whose intellect and ability I’d put up against Blaise’s (or Mike’s, or Patrick’s, or any of the really really bright techie ppl we have around here), as you say, they are often constrained by what management knows/understands/wants.

        Much like civilian control of the military, this is probably on balance a good thing.

        But also like that situation, sometimes IT’s hands are tied when it comes to implementing optimal solutions, because, well, “dey da boss”.

        • Any company that thinks contractors need to be blindfolded (or anesthetized) to visit their workplace needs a serious reality check.
          (no, this isn’t the military. yes, who I’m talking about is relatively obvious).

        • When will the IT types start sticking up for themselves? I guess the thing which annoys me about this — okay, one step back, here. I’m in an outfit where there’s one contractor IT guy who really doesn’t know much of anything, no Unix, no mainframe chops, I have to teach him how to gen a dev box. Nice guy, a personal friend, three autistic children. But he’s being asked to do dumb things all the time.

          By “corporate IT types” I don’t mean the low-level guys like A who have to do dumb things. I mean the guys who tell him to do dumb things.

          • We’re caught between the Scylla of what the security guys want (nobody to ever log on, ever) and the Charybdis of what the users want (root, 4 character passwords).

          • Jaybird, I fight the security battle first, before I do anything else. I start with the data. I work back and hammer out roles and responsibilities. I always use OS level authentication so I never store passwords and I make the security jamokes responsible for that stuff.

            Start with the security guys and the DBAs and the box admins, build a preliminary scaffold and hold their feet in the fire until you’ve got buy-in. Only then do you turn it over to developers. I am absolutely dependent on people like you. The IT model has been screwed since the advent of Windows: it never used to be a problem. The people who end up getting hammered are the IT guys, because nobody trusts them and nobody empowers them. The security guys live in fear of the implications and consequences of Windows’ horrid model. And it’s all so unnecessary: if the maniacs in the C-suite had any idea of how bad things were in the server rooms, they’d scream like little girls. But they go on perpetuating these nightmares. And now it’s Teh Cloud. Hoo boy! There’s a great idea for yez…..

            Again, my apologies for the “corporate IT types”. It’s the “corporate” types who give me fits. The ground-level folks, as you say, are caught between Scylla and Charybdis.

  5. On S and T:

    My son, a budding mechanic (and trained machinist) just finished rebuilding his 1990 VW golf, and his it legally on the road. He replaced the engine with a Jetta engine three years ago. Now, he’s rebuilt the body, and many of the systems surrounding the engine; is working on rebuilding a transmission to replace the one that will eventually fail. Car has more then 300,000 miles on it now. It helps that one of his closest friends owns a junk yard that specializes in VW/BMW relics, and that German Auto Parts actually sources real German auto parts on-line.

    Subaru — I really like Subarus, I’ve owned one, would like to replace my Jetta with one. The all-wheel drive awesomeness is awesome indeed in the Maine winters and summers on back mountain roads. I covet a two-door Imprezza (no turbo) hatchback, a year or two old, with a spare set of wheels so that I can have summer tires and winter tires.

    But. Other son’s Imprezza Sport rocker panel rot has taken the car off the road. Subaru does not have a good after-market supply chain. Younger son will fabricate new rocker panels out of sheet metal; it’s impossible to find unrusted/rotted or new pieces for sale. And this is a very sad thing, because this car, a 1999 — is a sweet thing; too young for such an early death at only 189,000 miles.

  6. Re C — The “take that, you blue states” tone seems inappropriate. Only four of the top ten cities were in states that voted for Romney, and those are all in Texas. And are the bluest parts of Texas, for that matter. Following down some of the related links, it seems to me that the likely story is that when people who vote Democratic in LA or NYC (two of the cities that have lost the most people over the last ten years) move to Dallas or Austin or Houston or San Antoni0, they still vote Democratic. An acquaintance in Georgia recently complained to me that when a company relocates from New York to Atlanta, the company owner may vote Republican, but the 500 employees vote for Democrats, and that growth is turning the state blue.

    In addition, six of the cities in the top ten have, or at least have the potential for, serious water issues in coming years (Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Denver, and Riverside). My friends in Austin tell me that “Stage 1 water emergency” is the new normal; I know that Austin and the water users farther down the Colorado River (the Texas river by that name, not the real Colorado River) are in a major pissing contest. Periodically, power plants in the Dallas area are threatened with having to reduce their summer output due to a lack of cooling water. And Riverside gets much of its water from the Colorado River (the real one this time); the lower Colorado River Basin water is rather grossly oversubscribed, and is going to be a headache in the future. Colorado has passed a law that requires developers to identify where the water that major developments will require will come from before construction can start — and at least one big development has been halted because they can’t do so.

    • To be fair, Kotkin himself is actually a Democrat – just one who has more Republican views on land management. (By way of example of his partisanship, when talking about Texas and Houston he loads up Democrat Houston Mayor Bill White with praise while referring to Perry as a neoconfederate dunce.)

      You’re right about settlement patterns changing the dynamics of the politics being moved to… but only to an extent. I would expect conservatives in California to be more willing to move to Houston than liberals in California.

      But it’s all part of a cycle. Red state populations grow, but sometimes at the cost of making the state purple. Sort of like how conservatives have more kids, but they are more likely to defect to liberalism than kids in liberal families are to defect to conservatism. The long term electoral consequences depending on yield rates (among many other things, of course).

  7. E: It seems incredible to me that anyone could believe CRA didn’t promote risky lending. Not that it can remotely be blamed by itself for the mortgage crisis, but those who would absolve it of any blame seem to be focusing so much on the good they want from the program (and it did do some good, of course) that they can’t bring themselves to admit its less desirable effects.

    T: Subarus. My Subaru was the last car I bought new (probably the last I ever will buy new), and it’s been a great machine. There’s an awful lot to like about their cars, as well as how they run their business. They’re a nice case study supporting the adage that good companies don’t draw unions.

    • re: the CRA, as i remember, didn’t say banks had to give out risky loans. They just had to apply the same standards to all neighborhood. They couldn’t deny loans just based on the area. That didn’t mean they had to lend to somebody without money, just that red lining was out. NINJA loads were the bailiwick of non-bank/non-FDIC mortgage companies.

      • The CRA said, basically, if we find you being unfair to some neighborhoods, we’re going to make things difficult for you. It was rather vague. What the researchers did in the study was investigate banks that were under CRA examination and compare them to banks that were not under CRA examination from the same areas and they determined that the former were making riskier loans than the latter. Like James, intuitively I have difficulty believing that this was not the case insofar as if the government is looking to make sure that you’re giving out specific loans, you have extra motivation to give them out and are likely to be less particular.

      • greg, but if almost nobody in that neighborhood can qualify under the standards of a non-risky loan, then a bank wouldn’t normally give loans to that area. So they could truly not be red-lining the area, but it would still look like it and have the same effect. And the feds made it clear that effect/outcome was what they were looking at, and how banks would be judged. They only way to provide loans to folks in those neighborhoods was to lower standards. Lots of folks thought that was good, partly because those people deserve to own their own home just as much as anyone else, and partly because they thought the standards were artificially high, set that high just for discriminatory purposes (which is a silly idea, since it assumes that greedy lenders were actually forgoing money-making opportunities). I agree that poorer folks have just as much inherent right to home ownership as someone like me, but it turned out that the standards weren’t artificially high.

        Of course middle-class folks took advantage of the new standards, too (and lenders were happy to let them, since as long as home prices kept booming it was a pretty sure moneymaker), and bought homes more expensive than they should have. And as these things naturally go, the media’s big focus was not on how awful it was that poor minority families were losing their homes, but about all of those poor middle and upper middle class white families that had to downsize.

        Sorry, got up on my soapbox a bit there. The media and the middle class folks who bought 3,000 square foot homes using ARMs really tick me off. (For the record, my wife and I bought our first home with an ARM; it was only 900 square feet, though.)

        • And the feds made it clear that effect/outcome was what they were looking at, and how banks would be judged. They only way to provide loans to folks in those neighborhoods was to lower standards.

          I’ll search for the data if you want, but I don’t think this is true. My familiarity comes with reading about WellsFargo, one of the earlier banks so charged. They were redlining predominately black neighborhoods, even though there were applicants within those neighborhoods who clearly met the loan criteria.

          My take is that there is causal relationship here; a demand for more mortgages to build CDS on led to a lowering of standards across the board, and the CRA focused a light on what had been underserved communities.

          • zic,

            We’re talking about two different things. I’m not saying redlining didn’t occur. I’m saying the message that was sent to banks was that they had to go beyond simply not redlining and change their standards. An example is found in this report from the Boston Fed:

            Overt discrimination in mortgage lending is rarely seen today…Unintentional discrimination may be observed when a lender’s underwriting
            policies contain arbitrary or outdated criteria that effectively
            disqualify many urban or lower–income minority applicants.


            Institutions that sell loans to the secondary market should be
            fully aware of the efforts of FannieMae and FreddieMac to modify their
            to address the needs of borrowers who are lower–income, live in urban areas, or do not have extensive credit histories (emphasis mine).

            There was in fact a concerted effort to create alternative standards by which poorer applicants–a category which unfortunately overlaps disproportionately with minorities–could become eligible when they didn’t meet normal eligibility standards. Those normal standards were not created for the purpose of discriminating but for the purpose of ensuring that lenders were making safe loans. Changing the standards meant making riskier loans.

          • Your link doesn’t work.

            The outdated underwriting policies so politely referred to were the policies of redlining; again, this was settled in courts, and those policies were outdated because they were refusing to lend to qualified borrowers in those neighborhoods.

            At the same time, Freddie Mac and Fannie May were also vehicles for FHA loans to low income buyers.

            this is what gets me here, Hanley: but if almost nobody in that neighborhood can qualify under the standards of a non-risky loan,.

            Because there are, in fact, many folk within ‘poor inner-city’ (or black) neighborhoods that qualify. The assumption you’re making doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    • Of course it had an impact. Another thing that had an impact was members of congress pushing regulators to go soft on audits of banks/fannie mae/freddy mac that were buying those loans.

      Really? Yall didn’t think there was a problem when ZERO PERCENT DOWN loans were being so heavily advertised?

  8. From the linked article in K: “Where pimps are active, prostitutes appear to do better, with pimps both providing protection and paying efficiency wages.” I don’t understand this. “Efficiency wages” sounds like the pimp pays the prostitute less than (s)he would charge working solo — which makes sense, the market price is the market price, but the pimp takes a rake. Or does a pimp pay a bonus for a fast turnaround?

    • If the pimp can afford a bonus for the fast turnaround, the prostitute could do a fast turnaround and keep the rake for herself.

      From the bits and pieces I’ve read, it seems like prostitutes do better as self-employers. But that’s all been about women who consciously chose the profession–healthy, non-drug addicted, reasonably intelligent women who did have other options. Still puzzled by the wages bit, but I can see for the prostitutes who are in the weakest position how a pimp might provide protection, since they’re probably the most likely to get preyed upon by unscrupulous johns. (Which is not to imply that pimps are necessarily scrupulous.)

    • In economics, the term “efficiency wage” generally means wages higher than those that would be determined by supply and demand alone. Classically, a manager has some mechanism that makes his/her workers more efficient, allowing them to earn a higher wage at the expense of unemployment among workers not under that particular manager. From a friend in law enforcement many years ago, one of the things pimps do is suppress free-lancers so traffic is routed to those in the stable.

      • I get it now! The pimp monopolizes supply by controlling all the prostitutes in his territory; the johns pay more, but the monopoly denies them the ability to seek out competition — so it’s pay the pimp’s rate or do without.

        Assuming he can raise rates enough and keep his turf unpoached, the pimp can pay the prostitutes more than they would have made on their own, even after taking his rake.

        Now, if the article had said “monopoly wages,” I’d have understood that immediately.

        • The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

          Come for the Politics; stay for the Pimponomics.

        • I hadn’t thought about prostitution in terms of cartel economics before, but it makes a lot of sense.

          • So people who don’t disapprove of prostitution because of sexual morality can disapprove of it as rent-seeking.

          • I don’t think it’s the prostitution itself you’d be disapproving of then, but the lack of an ideal prostitution market. Something tells me those are very different things.

        • I have no real idea how the sex trade works these days, but I would assume that there are things a pimp can do besides chasing off the free-lancers. Arranging discount rates on room by the hour? Buying off hotel security? Single point of contact for bartenders at seedy bars when someone is looking for a girl? Stuff that makes it safer, cleaner, or more convenient should drive more business to the pimp’s stable at the expense of the free-lancers.

  9. Regarding S, my 94 Dakota is about to hit 220,000, and I would keep going with it, but the cost of repairs is starting to exceed it total value. With proper maintenance, the mechanics’s of any modern car should go 200k. Its the electronics that go, and due the variations in model years, locations (California smog law, etc.), and other factors such as only being made for 10 years after that part is no longer used at the factory, keeping the engine management system working is the hard part. Basically, the simpler the car the longer it will last.
    And about Amazon, I recommend reading John McPhee’s piece “Out in the Sort” in the collection Uncommon Carriers. But then, I can recommend a McPhee piece to anyone, about anything.

    • the cost of repairs is starting to exceed it total value

      That’s the wrong question, I think. The better question is whether the cost of repairs (including inconvenience of breakdowns) is greater or lesser than the cost of buying another car.

      • The car’s value is the cost of buying another (similar) car.

        • Yeah but replacement cars are often dissimilar. Newer and such.

        • Mike, Agreed, and maybe that’s what Aaron meant. In my experience most people think their car’s value is what they can sell it for, so I jumped to the assumption Aaron meant that. Perhaps I was wrong.

          Apropos, I’ve heard Click and Clack argue that it’s nearly always more financially sensible to buy a used car. That’s been my experience. The amount of money I’ve put into repairing used cars and keeping them running has been much less than the monthly payments on a new car (which, by the time it’s paid off is a used car). Of course I don’t really care about how my car looks or whether I’m impressing someone, so I’m not willing to pay for that, as many folks are.

          • I like to think that even if I won the lottery, I would still purchase used cars only. The idea of driving a brand-new car over the carlot property line and IMMEDIATELY taking a several-thousand-dollar hit in value would still just stick in my craw too much, I hope.

          • the adage about alwaysbuying used or it beingabetter deal isn’t as true a it used to be. I never thought I would by new but with used car prices going up and dealer incentives and the ability to more easily exclude features I don’t want and having the money to buy it outirght an increased premium we’re placing on reliability, it was easily the most economical option.

            Some of this (safetypremium, having the money) is not universal, but other saspects are.

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