Strong opinions, weakly held

Links for August 2

  • Former Reagan OMB director David Stockman explains the destructive incoherence of Republican budget policy. There are many things I disagree with Republicans on as a matter of principle, but their budget policy ignores their own ostensible principles. That’s a bigger problem. Barry Ritholtz has the Cliffs Notes.
  • William Saletan runs down the embarrassing opposition to the “Ground Zero mosque.” Funny that the complaints are being made by groups and people that claim to stand for things like Constitutional rights and anti-discrimination.
  • Slavoj Zizek argues that the good feelings induced by charity sap the desire to achieve more meaningful solutions to problems. The way this lecture is presented is amazing.
  • Scott Rosenberg talks about the death of eyeball tracking as a way of selling ads.
  • Girl Developer takes on the Your Code Sucks mentality. I’m still going with what I said some months ago on Twitter, “Hell is other people’s code.” Hell is also my code if it’s not fresh on my mind.
  • NPR is streaming the full contents of Arcade Fire’s new album, The Suburbs.
  • Edward Niedermeyer from The Truth About Cars wrote an op-ed in the New York Times panning the Chevrolet Volt.
  • FlightCaster makes the economics argument that the way we purchase tickets is what’s ruining air travel. People only care about price and scheduled time of departure when buying tickets, so that’s what airlines work on. Things like customer service, comfort, and actual time of departure are sacrificed.
  • Tom Chatfield explains how people build relationships through online gaming.
  • Farhad Manjoo takes on WikiLeaks.
  • The ACLU has an important paper on national security policy, Establishing a New Normal. By adopting and even expanding some of the powers of the security state that started in the Bush administration, the Obama administration is establishing those practices for the future. The Republicans claimed those powers and now the Democrats are laundering them.
  • Federal judge Richard Posner explains why the big Washington Post piece on national security, Top Secret America, is a failure. His complaint is that it lacks analytical rigor.
  • Damien Katz talks about the lessons he learned in getting CouchDB to version 1.0.
  • If you, like many bloggers, never go outside, you are probably vitamin D deficient.
  • Alex Payne on choosing technology with scaling in mind.


  1. Re entry: Slavoj Zizek argues that the good feelings induced by charity sap the desire to achieve more meaningful solutions to problems. The way this lecture is presented is amazing.

    I agree the presentation is terrific, now my question is what in hell is the guy saying?

    It would have been nice if he had made a coherent summation, I think (but I certainly am not sure) he was saying you gotta do things differently, not just try to repair the damage occasioned by your way of doing things.


  2. My impression is that, in economic terms, he’s saying that charitable behavior (buying “responsible” products or donating to charity) is a substitute for advocating for systemic change. In other words, if you’re aware that people in Africa have no shoes, for most people buying Tom’s Shoes soothes their conscience just as much as advocating for policies that would end the need for people to buy Tom’s Shoes in the first place.

  3. I think that can be summed up…”Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for life.”

    We far too often give out fish instead of doing the hard work to implement a more permanent solution.

  4. Re: relationship building in online games

    My wife and I met two of our now best friends (another couple) in World of Warcraft. We now regularily meet with them online (in game usually), audio (and sometimes video) chat over Skype about our day, what’s going on with friends and family, etc. We’ve met them several times in person too.

    The way I explain it to people who are not familiar with this experience is that it’s like your parents getting together to play Bridge with the neighbors across the street. We’re just getting together to play a different game and the other people we’re playing with happen to be 2500 miles away.

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