“links” Category

HostGator (Sponsor)

My thanks to HostGator for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed.

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Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

July 22nd, 2013

Government: Only President Has Ability to Decide Whether Americans Should be Assassinated

The government is arguing in court that only the executive branch is capable of deciding whether American citizens pose enough of a threat that they should be assassinated:

Mr. Hauck acknowledged that Americans targeted overseas do have rights, but he said they could not be enforced in court either before or after the Americans were killed. Judges, he suggested, have neither the expertise nor the tools necessary to assess the danger posed by terrorists, the feasibility of capturing them or when and how they should be killed.

“Courts don’t have the apparatus to analyze” such issues, so they must be left to the executive branch, with oversight by Congress, Mr. Hauck said. But he argued, as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has in the past, that there are multiple “checks” inside the executive branch to make sure such killings are legally justified.

Just to make what the government claims a little more clear: the government is arguing that the executive branch should have the legal power to decide wholly on its own which American citizens need killed.

What rights do we have when they “[cannot] be enforced in court either before or after” the president kills one of us, and if the president has the power to decide who should be killed?

July 22nd, 2013

Digg Reader (Sponsor)

My thanks to Digg for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed. This should be especially applicable to everyone, so go give it a look!

Digg (yes, that Digg) has released a new RSS Reader for the web, iPhone, and iPad (Android coming soon). The design is sleek and clean, and the apps are speedy and efficient.

Whether you’re a hardcore RSS junky or simply want all your favorite online reading in one place, Digg Reader is for you. It’s free and available today!

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

July 13th, 2013

In Apple case, ‘The line between the legal and the illegal seems so thin’

Antitrust scholar Randal Picker:

There’s a simple story about publishers wanting to change prices and failing until the white knight appears in the form of Steve Jobs. But there’s a flip side to that. Apple would say: “we didn’t do anything here that we didn’t have an independent interest in doing, independent of whatever happened in e-book prices.

July 11th, 2013

Innovation Policy

Reihan Salam links to a post by Ross Eisenbrey which argues that government, not business or markets, is primarily responsible for innovation we’ve seen in technology:

Mazzucato suggests that, given the extent to which tech companies like Apple and Intel owe their great good fortune to the federal government’s investment in R&D, they should share more of their profits with the taxpayers. Instead, of course, Apple has been offshoring profits to avoid taxation and most of the tech industry is contributing to the efforts of the U.S Chamber of Commerce and the rest of the organized business lobby to cut corporate taxes and shrink the government. As Mazzucato makes clear, cutting taxes and the government is no recipe for an innovative, competitive future—just the opposite. 

Mazzucato points out that many of the iPhone’s core technologies, such as solid state storage, capacitive sensors and GPS, all have their roots in government-sponsored labs. She presumes, then, that government is therefore largely responsible for the innovation itself, and so (1) we should continue supporting government-funded research projects, and (2) those companies that benefit from taxpayer “risk-taking” should “share” more of their profits with the government.

But as Salam points out, companies have no moral obligation to do so. The government funded much of that research for its own purposes. Salam writes:

The U.S. government devised the technologies Mazzucato identifies for its own, usually defense-oriented reasons. Mazzucato implicitly suggests that in a counterfactual universe in which the Cold War had never taken place, and in which defense expenditures hadn’t diverted spending from other domains or forced higher tax levels, etc., innovations in information technology would not have taken place either. The decades that preceded the Cold War, during which there was considerable private sector innovation in early information technologies, suggests that this is not the case, but of course we can’t really say.

What’s worse, though, is that requiring some formative compensation for that research would undermine the very innovation that Eisenbrey and Mazzucato claim that the government was actually responsible for. Salam again:

As Amar Bhidé often notes, an Englishman pioneered the World Wide Web under the auspices of the government-financed CERN laboratory in Switzerland, yet the U.S. has been the main source of consumer internet innovation. U.S. internet firms do not, however, pay the Swiss and other European governments a formal innovation bounty. Part of the reason is that everyone profits from the free flow of knowledge, which is why excessive patents are such an economic scourge.

The reason is that doing so would reduce that free flow of information, and therefore the actual work it takes to create a useful product and bring it to market. Eisenbrey conveniently skips over the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s where technology companies invested huge sums of capital and work into developing these base technologies into something useful for consumers, and into something consumers would buy. There’s an implied derision at that effort as something other than innovation, but it absolutely is, and it’s what actually makes those technologies useful for people. Without those companies continuing to iterate on solid state storage, and without other companies creating salable products that utilize it, solid state storage never would have been anything more than a curiosity in a lab. Similarly, without Intel developing the microprocessor, and without Apple, Microsoft and the PC makers creating PCs for those microprocessors that appealed to consumers, they never would have developed like they have, either. And as a result, those technologies never would have evolved enough to create a handheld, touchscreen phone that’s always connected to the web. It would have been impossible.

Note, however, that story doesn’t minimize the role of government-funded research. Rather, it shows that it plays a role in innovation, but it is not the entire story by any stretch. And it shows, too, why the free flow of ideas and technology is so important. Without it, there can be very little actual innovation, because “innovation” inherently means seeing a connection between disparate ideas and technologies, how they can fulfill a need for people, and putting them together such that it creates something that didn’t really exist before. Innovation may be greater than the sum of its parts, but it is nonetheless the summation of many different things that already exist. Placing formal restrictions on those ideas, such as overbearing patents or, in this case, requirements to pay back more to the government which claims responsibility for them and state direction of innovation, impedes that flow of ideas and innovation as a result.

This is why simplistic stories about where new ideas and products come from, and simplistic moral stories about who deserves what for those ideas and products, can be so damaging—they elide much more complicated systems.

July 11th, 2013

Backblaze (Sponsor)

My thanks to Backblaze for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed.

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Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

July 8th, 2013

A Guide to Barbecuing for the Fourth

Over at the Basil blog, I wrote an overview of making great barbecue for the Fourth of July.

There’s not much better than good barbecue, it’s a lot of fun to do, and it’s really not very hard, either. If you want to give barbecue a try, I think this is a great place to start.

This weekend is going to be a bit of a cooking fest for me. For the Fourth of July itself, my girlfriend and I are going to be making grilled steak banh mi, with a creamy avocado and salsa verde sauce, cilantro and home-made pickled daikon and carrots. And on Saturday, my Dad and I are going to smoke a pork shoulder (my first time trying pork shoulder, so it should be fun).

I love cooking. It’s incredibly satisfying to make a good meal for family and friends yourself, and it’s so much fun learning new dishes and experimenting with them. If cooking isn’t quite your thing, give it a try sometime. You might like doing it, and it’s a terrific way to spend time with your significant other, family and friends. The time spent together with people while cooking in the kitchen or backyard is almost always special.

Happy Fourth of July to you all!

July 1st, 2013

“Germans Loved Obama. Now We Don’t Trust Him.”

Malte Spitz, member of the German Green Party’s executive committee:

Although we would like to believe in the Mr. Obama we once knew, the trust and credibility he enjoyed in Germany have been undermined. The challenge we face is to once again find shared values, so that trust between our countries is restored.

Perhaps instead of including a quote from James Madison in his speech, arguing that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare,” Mr. Obama should have been reminded of the quote from another founding father, Benjamin Franklin, when he said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

July 1st, 2013

The Criminal N.S.A.

Jennifer Stisa Granick and Christopher Jon Sprigman argue the NSA’s spying is illegal:

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia, have called the surveillance legal. So have liberal-leaning commentators like Hendrik Hertzberg and David Ignatius.

This view is wrong — and not only, or even mainly, because of the privacy issues raised by the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics. The two programs violate both the letter and the spirit of federal law. No statute explicitly authorizes mass surveillance. Through a series of legal contortions, the Obama administration has argued that Congress, since 9/11, intended to implicitly authorize mass surveillance. But this strategy mostly consists of wordplay, fear-mongering and a highly selective reading of the law. Americans deserve better from the White House — and from President Obama, who has seemingly forgotten the constitutional law he once taught.

July 1st, 2013

Carbon Isn’t Just the West’s Problem

Reihan Salam points out something that’s obvious but is rarely mentioned in the little discussion we have about global warming—the hardest challenge is in the developing world:

Canada has 35 million people. Africa has just over 1 billion. But rather remarkably, Canada consumes about as much energy as all of Africa, according to Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of Power Hungry, a provocative look at the global energy industry. As African economies grow, however, it is a safe bet that African energy consumption will grow with it, just as energy consumption has increased in China and India and around the world as hundreds of millions have escaped poverty. And that is the key challenge facing those who hope to do something about carbon emissions, including President Obama.

The developed world may be able to wrestle its carbon output within reasonable bounds (although that will come with great sacrifice, too), but doing so in the developing world will be a herculean task. But what’s worse, is it seems hardly moral to force people in the developing world, who are just now on the precipice of enjoying a greater standard of living, to do without the benefits that fossil fuels bring to their lives. The developed world has burned its way to prosperity, to the point where it can decide to control its carbon output, but much of the developing world hasn’t. How is it that the wealthy West can ask people who never enjoyed the same privileges to give up their right to them?

Global warming is often portrayed as a problem that can be solved with relatively pain-free solutions—increase gas-mileage requirements for car-makers, use public funding to accelerate development of renewable and “clean” energy technologies—but that conveniently ignores the scale of the problem, and the moral difficulties of doing so.

July 1st, 2013

A Denser San Francisco

Reihan Salam:

This past weekend, a friend mentioned that if San Francisco had the population density of Manhattan, it would have a population of 3.3 million, far more than its actual population of 825,000. And I calculated that if San Francisco had the population density of the five boroughs of New York city, including relatively low-density outer boroughs like Staten Island and Queens, it would have a population of 1.2 million. Despite San Francisco’s reputation as a hotbed of progressivism, the city is in many respects very “conservative,” which is to say resistant to change.

July 1st, 2013

Tax Policy and Inequality

Tax policy doesn’t explain most of the rise in income inequality since 1979:

So, would we have avoided the increase in inequality over the period in question? Not even remotely. The 1979 scenario lines shows inequality rising a bit more slowly than what actually happened, but the underlying pattern is the same.

“Roughly 30 percent of the rise in post-tax, post-transfer inequality between 1979 and 2007 can be attributed to changes in the redistributive nature of tax and budget policy,” Fieldhouse concludes. “It is still the case, however, that shifts in the market distribution of income are the primary factors driving the rise in inequality.”

That, combined with rising inequality throughout the developed world over the period, suggests that it is mostly a result of larger, global trends.

June 26th, 2013

“Federalism marries liberty in the DOMA decision”

Randy Barnett explains Justice Kennedy’s DOMA decision:

Because the logic of Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the majority in Windsor is novel, it is likely to confuse observers as it seems to have confused the dissenters.  So in this post, I want to lay bare this logic, by explaining how it resembles, but also differs from, the federalism argument we made in our “Federalism Scholars” amicus brief (cited by the Court at page 23).

(Isn’t the Internet incredible? We get to read explanations of Supreme Court decisions from people whose work is cited by the court. The future is awesome.)

I haven’t had a chance to read the decision yet, but I’m looking forward to it after Barnett’s piece. Here’s a link to Kennedy’s decision.

June 26th, 2013

“When Congress Abdicates”

Ross Douthat on the Supreme Court’s V.R.A ruling:

Yet that seems to be precisely what the Roberts Court did today. The decision’s argument for amending the V.R.A. is perfectly lucid, but it’s just that: An argument for updating a successful law to reflect contemporary realities, which under our system is supposed to be the role of the legislature rather than the courts.

June 26th, 2013

Tokens for Mac—A Must-Have Tool for Developers (Sponsor)

I’ve been really excited for this sponsor because Tokens is an app I use all the time. If you have applications in the iOS or Mac App Stores, you need Tokens. It’s indispensable. Tokens makes taking care of promo codes—which is a total pain in the ass—easy. This one’s a no-brainer. Go get it.

Tokens Image

Tokens is a Mac app for managing App Store promo codes.

Tokens gets promo codes from iTunes Connect, creates shareable URLs for each code and notifies you once they’re redeemed.

The first step to getting your app noticed is inviting bloggers to try it. Promo codes let you give away free copies of your app, but unfortunately they’re laborious to create, awkward to redeem and impossible to track.

With Tokens you create a code with one click and bloggers can redeem it just as easily. By naming the token you can tell who has tried your app and follow up with them. You can also reuse any unredeemed codes before they expire.

Tokens is available now at usetokens.com/syndicate. TightWind readers get a special 20% discount until July using this link.

Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

June 24th, 2013