Saturday, May 11, 2002

HOW DID THE "Toledo Blade" get its name, asks Professor Volokh? From the horse's mouth:
Where did The Blade get its name? Toledo, Ohio has a sister city in Toledo, Spain. So it made sense that the newspaper be named after a well-known product of that city - the steel-bladed sword. Also, at the time the newspaper was founded, the Ohio-Michigan War was being waged for control of Lucas County, Ohio. It was believed that The Blade would "always leap from its scabbard whenever the rights of individuals, or the community, shall be infringed'.
I guess that made sense in 1835.

I don't have an answer for the Sacramento Bee. The Fresno/Modesto/Sacramento Bees are all descendants of "The Daily Bee," a gold-rush era paper founded in 1857, but there were older papers with that name on the East Coast. The web site doesn't explain the name, but they do let you know where you can rent their trucks.
ANDREW SULLIVAN complains about bias in the New York Times:
By the way, a reader sends in the following tally from the Times in the last month: use of "far-left" - 16 times; "far right" - 38 times; use of "left-wing" - 26; "right-wing" - 63.
There's certainly bias in the Times; I'm far from pleased with their Middle East coverage. But these word-counting games don't prove it. First, in the last month, LePen, who qualifies as far-right in any metric, has made a lot of news, while no one on the left has come even close to being as newsworthy. The Times surely isn't obligated to cover a left-winger as loony as LePen in the name of balance. Second, for better or worse, there are a lot of names for the left, especially when talking about French politicians: "Communist," "Socialist," "Trotskyite," etc.

Now, when those "far-right" appellations are applied to a Pim Fortuyn, Mark Steyn's satire is more appropriate.

Friday, May 10, 2002

KIBO riffs on the famous Ralph Nader shopping cart conspiracy:
Fun fact: A major chain of toy stores -- the kind with a random Cyrillic
letter in their name -- knew from long experience that more than half of
their sales happen in November and December, when parents go absolutely
bugnuts buying toys for kids because Santa isn't reliable any more.
So, because many of these Christmas shoppers had to buy lots of toys,
the company switched to shopping carts that were x% larger, and they
wound up increasing their business by x% because most parents apparently
just keep shopping until the cart is full. So, if you're an only child
and you did not get exactly one shopping cart worth of presents from
each of your parents, either your parents are Communists or you were bad.

I forget where I read that. I think it was in some book I bought by
clicking the "Add To Cart" button at because I couldn't
leave the Web site until I had filled up the imaginary cart.
DAVID PACHECO answers Frequently Evaded Questions. He perhaps has single-handedly saved the human species with the one, true answer to the previously-thought unanswerable question:
Q. Does my butt look fat in these jeans?

A. Sorry honey, I can't understand the question: my sudden, unbridled
lust at the sight of your gorgeous body has rendered me incapable of
rational thought.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

SHORT SHAMEFUL CONFESSION: We're told that Americans don't know their history:
Only 39 percent of the nation's 12th graders could correctly write a short essay, for example, adequately explaining two advantages the South had over the better-armed North during the Civil War.
Um. I can't explain a single advantage the South had over the better-armed North during the Civil War. I can make some guesses from inference (for example, I'm aware of draft riots in New York, which leads me to guess that the South had less trouble recruiting infantry to its cause; strategically, the South was fighting a defensive war, which has its advantages; the pre-Grant Northern military leadership I vaguely recall being incompetent; I vaguely recall that the South had better ties with the British because of cotton?; and then there's always the brutal Alabama winter). I can rule out some possibilities: the North had superior industrialization, a huge population advantage, and was able to blockade the South with a vastly superior Navy. But I couldn't tell you for sure that I have the answer they're looking for. Am I in the bottom 61% because of some gap in what I thought was a pretty decent high-school education in history (we read Hofstadter, for crying out loud), or is this a bogus essay question?

UPDATE: I guess I'm more right than I realized. On the other hand, here's how another teacher handles the lesson, so I guess we should be happy with the 39%.

Monday, May 06, 2002

At dinner with Eugene and a bevy of law clerks, the question came up what the socially optimal tax on gasoline would be. There's the pollution value, of course; I would include the wealth transfer to Islamofascists as a negative externality, given their tendency to use the money to support terrorism and otherwise make trouble, requiring additional outlays in military spending. (September 11 alone has cost us billions.)

Others suggest boycotting the gas stations that disproportionately use Saudi oil, but that doesn't do the trick: even if I could find a gas station that only uses oil from Russia and the North Sea, the Saudis benefit from the marginal increase in the oil price and just sell their crude to Europe. (One reason I drive an electric car.)

I see environmentalists adding the health effects of auto accidents into the mix, but, with the possible exception of some pedestrian casualties, that's already internalized through the costs of insurance and the fact that drivers bear the brunt of those accidents.

My guess is $3 to $5/gallon (or an equivalent amount levied on oil imports). In terms of policy, the government could levy this tax, and make it revenue-neutral, which would have the additional beneficial effect of reducing taxes on income. But I have nothing to back up that raw number. Anyone have credible data? (It's a great McKinsey interview question!)
ALSO via Volokh: an intelligence test (I also scored 10/11) and an amusing (for policy wonks) party game.
SPEAKING OF REASON, I'm amused to learn, via Volokh, that Joe the Canadian of Molson fame has relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. Similarly, Instapundit reports that the average Swede is worse off than the average Mississippi resident or average African-American. The third way leads straight down.
OLIVER WILLIS wants to start a blog-zine. I thought that's what Reason was for.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

ANOTHER VICTIM OF the Foreign Service Exam.
MY BROTHER SOL took Friday off of work to see the Spider-Man movie.
"Nu, how was it?"

"It was the greatest movie in the history of human creation. Did 'Citizen Kane' have web-slinging? F&@!( that $#!&."

"Hey: don't go hating on 'Citizen Kane.'"
So, I went with him to see a late showing. And, indeed, it was pretty darn good, faithful to the Lee/Ditko 60s work, a love story to rival the best of Bogart, some nice callbacks to earlier Sam Raimi works through Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless cameos, and I learned some new movie physics. (If someone is falling from a 100-foot height, they will sustain no physical injury so long as their fall is stopped suddenly 95 feet along the way.) The real problem is that my legal training got in the way of the plot.
Me: "Wait a second. How can there be an overnight takeover by tender offer of Oscorp by its main rival without the CEO knowing when it's publicly traded (as demonstrated by the two references to its stock price)? Whatever happened to the Williams Act? Not to mention the implausibility of a Hart-Scott-Rodino filing being accepted by the Department of Justice without a second request!"

Entire audience: "Ssshhhh!!"
Perhaps the alternate Marvel universe had some reform courtesy of Dr. Banner:
Hulk hate burdensome regulatory filing requirements! Hulk smash puny bureaucrats!