June 13, 2004
Well, it's about time for me to wave goodbye before my coach turns back into a pumpkin, but before I do that, a quick plug for my (group) blog, Points of Information. Featuring a blend of political commentary and general discussion almost, but not entirely unlike Crescat Sententia (although with notably fewer references to Kazakhstan!), PoI is — in my utterly biased opinion — a worthy read.
With a federal election recently called in Canada (the campaign's 36 days long, and it's half over, with surprising results), PoI's been quasi-devoted to election blogging. How could you not love an election featuring a "flower power" ad [QuickTime, 2.2 MB] for a former socialist party leader, an astonishingly catchy music video [QuickTime] for a separatist party, and a Batman-style flash video for the Conservatives?
Congratulations to Will and all the newly-graduated Chicago crew!
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A few weeks ago Will and I engaged in an e-mail exchange about taxi medallions. Will is against them, at least if they restrict the total number of cabs available. I tend to bemoan medallions in practice, but I don't condemn them out of hand, as I think that there can be some value to restricting the number of cabs. (I don't mean to suggest that Will condemned medallions "out of hand", either -- as always, his opposition was considered.) By doing so, a medallion has value to the owner. (In that elusive environment, a perfectly competitive market in long-run equilibrium, every firm earns zero economic profits; as a result, every firm is completely indifferent about remaining in business or exiting the industry.) Why does it matter that the medallions be valuable? Because taxis are (and should be, I think) subject to all sorts of regulations -- regulations that are hard to enforce. Compliance with these regulations can be enhanced if the taxi companies can meaningfully be punished for violating them, and revoking a valuable medallion is one way, perhaps not the only or the best way, of providing such a punishment. (I don't recall precisely how the exchange with Will ended, though I think he suggested some alternative methods of providing the requisite threat, ways that do not rely upon an artificial scarcity of taxis.)
Anyway, the threat to revoke a valuable license is frequently used in vice regulation, most obviously with respect to alcohol control. There's a current case in point, which is noteworthy in that it connects three vices: New York state is threatening the revocation of alcohol and gambling (lottery sales) licenses as a way of enforcing the state's smoking ban. And if they were to make this threat to strip clubs, we could even tie in another vice, almost the entire vice bestiary. These are moments that warm the hearts of vice policy researchers...
...though perhaps no one else. Many thanks to the folks at Crescat for letting me populate their pixels this past week. Please stop by at Vice Squad for the occasional visit. Things will be lonelier and less bloggy in Chicago with Will off to DC and then New Haven (did you take a cab?), but the virtues of the virtual community (the virtues of the virtual vice community?) can help to soothe that pain. Happy trails, Crescateers. I remain in awe of what you have been able to accomplish, both in the blogosphere and beyond.
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I sometimes wonder if Americans have too much time on their hands. Finally, I have some proof:
Mashantucket, Connecticut-AP -- A Vermont man has upped the ante in the record books.
Larry Olmsted spent three days at a casino poker table in Foxwoods in Connecticut to capture the 72-hour record. It needs to be certified by Guinness to become official.
He started with a-hundred dollars in poker chips and worked it up to nearly a-thousand. He gave most of it away in tips to casino staff. He says at one point he was too tired to read the numbers on the cards, but he managed to play on. Olmsted says he was in it for the glory.
Olmsted was allowed 15-minute breaks every eight hours, which he used to change clothes and brush his teeth.
Four months ago, Olmsted set an obscure world record for traveling the farthest distance to play golf. He played a round in Australia, then flew nearly 75-hundred miles to play a round in California.
So let me get this straight: This guy sets a silly and pointless "world record," then sits around for four months concocting his next silly and pointless record?
Shouldn't this guy be using his time to do, oh I don't know, anything else?
I'm not asking him to fly missions over Iraq or sponsor a child in another country or anything (although the latter would only be 29 cents a day). Even writing a list of 1,000 ways to bounce a basketball would be more productive than setting these "records."
* * *
Thanks again to Will and the gang for having me, and congratulations again on your respective graduations.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go call Guiness about my "Most Crescat guest-posts by a guy with a question mark in his blog's title" record...
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I've already recounted my Chicago experience in words, but sometimes numbers can tell a more interesting-- or at least different-- story. Here are a few:
Number of academic courses I have taken at the University of Chicago: 44
Number of instructors I have had for them: 45
Number of them who had tenure: 21
Number of them who were women: 6
Number of them who were not white: 3
Number of them who were neither white nor hispanic: 0
Number of them who were grad students: 5
Number of them who were bloggers: 4
Number who have read this blog (so far as I know): 9
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This is rapidly becoming no longer my bailiwick, but is there a Gawker for Chicago? This graduation weekend somebody was in town with the limo/suburban combo that usually marks a secret service detail.
Rumor in the commencement line had it as Mr. Clinton, but other rumors put him in D.C. that day. Does anybody know what V.I.P. was hanging around Chicago this weekend or why?
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I notice only now that Matthew Yglesias has launched a bit of a defense of Andrew Jackson.
But he begins his defense with this concession: "Admittedly, the 'trail of tears' was a bad thing, but . . . "
There really isn't an acceptable way to finish that sentence in Jackson's case. It might be that there are moral imperatives or deeds so good that they outweight the evils of an anti-Indian genocide conducted in open defiance of the system of law on which the country was founded, but Jackson's dubious good deeds don't even come close to cutting it.
Stop the Jackson apologies and change the 20 dollar bill.
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One of the more joyous things I ever experienced at Chicago was hearing Christian Kammerer sing the "Prion song"-- a song composed by him discussing all of the nasty diseases you can get from prions. If this doesn't sound appealling . . . there's something about the University of Chicago you fail to get. In any case, the song is at long, long, last online, so now you too can feel the joy.
Via Susan Ferrari at Gnostical Turpitude.
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