Ding Dong, Manila is Dead!

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HLS finally responded to user frustration — they have a new server for their blogs, and they traded Dave Winer’s product for WordPress. This may tempt me to return here.

O’Connor Speaketh

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Let’s hope for the sake of the proles that her voice rings louder than Cassandra’s. Here’s an excerpt from Nina Tottenberg’s coverage of O’Connor’s speech:

I, said O’Connor, am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning. Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and former communist countries where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O’Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.

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Diamonds Are Not a Girl’s Best Friend

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Pre-May 1995 Recentering SAT question:

PETA:Meat as Echan:_____.

(a) Anchovies
(b) Urban planning
(c) Privacy
(d) Diamonds

Correct Answer: See below.

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I am appalled that the recent diamond campaigns are working, at least from anecdotal evidence from my limited social circle. One of my close friends is championing with her “AA forum” (her former banking training mates) the concept of “frost(ing) oneself.” A phrase from a fictional diamond ad campaign in a what I thought was a forgettable romantic comedy (Finch made me watch it). The Friday email chatter is about purchasing a right hand ring (and to my incredulous ears, they’re serious). God, you’ve got to hand it to De Beers. First, they invent the diamond engagement ring in the 1950s. And now, that people are marrying later, they’re trying to convince women that empowerment means dropping $10K or so to show that they don’t need a man to buy them a ring.

I can’t believe of all people, I’m promoting ethical consumerism. People, read about the diamond trade, and do something, anything, better with that money instead. And, though, I have serious contentions with Pete Singer’s form of utilitarianism (particularly the use of his work to defend infanticide of the disabled), add him to your reading list.

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Coastal Cities as Luxury Goods

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From time to time, I lament how San Francisco has become this boring playground for the rich. Some of my friends like to debate me on this (their attitude: How can more rich people be bad?). This Times Magazine profile of a Edward Glaeser sums up why I am upset at times by the upward income homogeneity around me:

Boston, San Francisco and Manhattan are obviously becoming rarefied destinations, mostly for America’s elites (Glaeser calls the cities “luxury goods”), with housing floating beyond the reach of the young and the middle class. These cities’ economies are in the process of becoming boutique*, too, accommodating only the most skilled and privileged. Their desire to limit construction and grow not in buildings and population but in prices has, in effect, begun to shape their destiny. “A healthy city is one that has a healthy mix of demographic groups,” Glaeser says. “Shutting out your 25-to-40 year-olds? That feels like a bad strategy for urban innovation.”

One of Glaeser’s theses is that housing is expensive in these cities because of the excessive constraints of zoning which limit new building, to create a sort of “zoning tax.” In pointing out that SF, Boston, and NYC are all liberal places, he is investigating the idea that liberals may be the most effective NIMBYs (hence, they too are responsible for driving up housing prices):

Still another thought: that homeowners, utilizing skills learned during the civil rights movement and political protests of the 1960′s and 1970′s, became much more adept at organizing against developers. (There appears to be a reasonable correlation between liberal enclaves, zoning regulations and high housing prices.) In any event, Glaeser says, he doesn’t know the answer yet, and it may take years to find out.

*Good evidence of SF’s increasingly “boutique” economy is the profileration of wine bars. They’ve become the new Thai restaurant. The one that most caught my eye, in its celebration of wine, is one with the audacity to be named SNOB.

Name that Book

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My morning NPR listening called my attention the the Diagram Prize for Oddest (book) Title of the year. I think that I actually want to pick up a copy of this year’s winner, People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How they attach themselves to unsuspecting bystanders and what to do about it. Other nominees include Nesssus Short and Ethereal Power Tools and Rhino Horn Stockpile Management: Minimum Standards and Best Practices from East and Southern Africa. The voters must be equus-inclined, as winners from prior years are The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories and Bombproof Your Horse.

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