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Liberal arts and civil society

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James Bennet on his departure from the NYT

Bennet's piece is long, but a mostly worthwhile read: It doesn't exactly cover him in glory, which may or may not have been intentional, but that is probably good nonetheless. He clearly made a bunch of mistakes during the aftermath of the Cotton op-ed affair, mostly of the kind that I would characterize as "cowardice", but honestly the gold medal on that front goes to none other than AG Sulzberger, who could have and should have told the entire newsroom staff to choose between being journalists at the New York Times or activists on the sidewalk working the find-a-new-job beat. One thing that jumped out at me that seems minor but really clearly illustrates a blind spot in approaching the journalistic enterprise with good faith is his reference to "a certain Murdoch-owned cable-news network". Instead of conjuring the image of a shadowy media empire, led by a deeply

House Prices, NIMBYism, and Income Inequality

The difficulty of building new housing, once really a problem only in high-demand urban areas, has now spread even to many low-density areas. NIMBYism, as represented by overly-restrictive zoning laws, combined with a mismatch between demand for housing and the supply of house builders, has created a situation in which housing prices have doubled over only three years in many areas that I would describe as in the middle of fucking nowhere. Constrained markets in necessities is the one area where people who decry income inequality have a legitimate point obviously supported by facts on the ground. We are now in a situation in which those on the right side of the fat part of the income spectrum are in a position to set prices for the entire market. That is: tech workers and those making similar incomes are putting a floor on house prices because there isn't enough housing to go around, so they bid up prices for what is available. While in theory the solution to high prices is high pr


"Sequel." A word almost synonymous with "apprehension". In the case of beloved movies, a sequel is often highly-anticipated but also feared because the history of sequels is so mixed. Let's look at a few case studies. The Godfather (1972) → The Godfather Part II (1974) This is the most basic kind of good sequel: another great story, filmed solidly, to follow up a great original. It's actually a bookend to the original, with the scenes divided between Vito Corleone's back story and those chronicling Michael's downfall, but it qualifies as a sequel in the most basic sense that it continues the story begun in the original film. While the first movie satisfyingly ended with Michael symbolically becoming his father despite his protestations to Kate in the first act, from the perspective of the combined saga (let's just do the right thing at the beginning and pretend Part III had never been made) it merely foreshadows his irreversible destruction of

Routing layer security on the public internet is hopeless

I have mostly come to the conclusion that trying to secure the routing layer of the internet is hopeless. Protocols like DNSSEC impose pretty significant costs on service providers and clients/recursive resolvers, and at the same time don't provide any substantive security guarantees that I'd be willing to rely on. I still want end-to-end security—confidentiality and integrity, in particular—of the data stream, something provided by TLS and support systems around TLS (e.g., certificate transparency). DNSSEC doesn't even try to give me the one thing I'd really like out of the routing layer, which is privacy: it provides a base level of integrity...and that's it. "Securing" BGP in a similar way would be worth even less, because routing decisions at that level can't even really be checked by clients as they don't have the context to understand why paths are configured with particular costs, nor do they know where state-level actor

The dark ages are over

The 50-year historical blip in which a tiny percentage of artists were able to get rich off of prerecorded music is blessedly over. With the plummeting cost of recording and mastering songs has come a great democratization in music creation, in which anyone, not just those backed by labels, can create great music. Back in the day, the labels were the investors: recording good music was expensive and difficult, and getting it promoted required paying off the gatekeepers of terrestrial radio, and so labels ponied up the startup capital and therefore got the lion's share of the profits. Today, the startup capital required is several orders of magnitude lower, and the promotion channels are infinite and free or nearly free to access. Yes, it's much less likely for an artist to get filthy stinking rich off recorded music today, but you know what? I'm okay with that. We have an embarrassment of riches in terms of great new music today, being created by tons of people who are

I hate when a good comment gets buried

I hate when I post a good comment to reddit and it gets buried because either no one noticed it or it was a tangent to the OP. Here's one such case: One of the consequences of MMT is that the national debt is meaningless: it's an accounting fiction. One of the interesting properties of fiat (government-issued paper) currency is that the government must run a net deficit or there can be no money in circulation: if government doesn't spend the money first (i.e., before collecting taxes), how can there be any in circulation for private payments or tax payments? Note that MMT isn't prescriptive, just descriptive. It's critical for people to understand how our monetary system actually works in order for sane policy to be created. Of course what I said above isn't true on a gold standard, for instance; but we aren't on a gold standard, so unless we go