URLs du Jour


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  • At NR, Kevin D. Williamson has thoughts on Our Robot Overlords..

    Waiting on a taxi at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, I ran into a robot cop.

    Perhaps you’ve seen these latest innovations in law enforcement. The NYPD robot looks like the offspring of a union between R2-D2 and one of those covered trash cans you see in national parks, and it makes an incessant and annoying whirring sound that has nothing to do with the operation of the machine — it is a generated sound effect that some consultant, no doubt highly paid, believed to be high-tech sounding. The robot does a few things: It gets in your way, it provides as prop for tourists to take pictures with, and it contributes to the panopticon of surveillance that now encompasses our public spaces, taking audio and video.

    It is marginally less useful than the average American “public servant,” which is a kind of remarkable negative achievement.

    Marvelous essay,

  • An article in the latest print Reason has made it out into public consumption, worth a read if you're interested in K-12 education, or you (like me) just like to see where your state ranks compared to others. But beware, say the authors, Stan Liebowitz & Matthew L. Kelly, because Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong.

    You probably think you know which states have the best and worst education systems in the country. If you regularly dip into rankings such as those published by U.S. News and World Report, you likely believe schools in the Northeast and Upper Midwest are thriving while schools in the Deep South lag. It's an understandable conclusion to draw from those ubiquitous "Best Schools!" lists. It's also wrong.

    The general consensus on education, retold every few news cycles, is that fiscally conservative states are populated by cheapskates. In those necks of the woods, people are too ignorant to vote in favor of helping their illiterate and innumerate children. Intelligent people understand that high taxes and generous pensions for public school teachers are the recipe for an efficient and smoothly functioning education system. If skinflint voters would just lighten up, the story goes, they too could become erudite and sophisticated.

    Click through for the authors' criticism of traditional rankings, and why they prefer their own.

    Spoiler: New Hampshire does pretty well in traditional rankings. For example, number 2 behind Massachusetts at US News. At Reason, the news is … not so rosy.

  • George F. Will's weekend column is absolutely merciless, in that Willsian way: American capitalism descends into a racket.

    The descent of American capitalism into a racket is being greased by professed capitalists in government, in collaboration with professed capitalists in what is called, with decreasing accuracy, the private sector. This is occurring under the auspices of Republicans, and while many Democrats are arguing, with some accuracy but more incoherence, this: The government has become a servant of grasping private interests — and should be much bigger and more interventionist.

    Protectionism — laws and administrative rulings by which government determines the prices and quantities of imported goods and services — is government regulation. So, it is probable that the current administration, which lists deregulation as among its glistening achievements, is producing a substantial net increase in economic regulation.

    Read the whole thing for some depressing/enraging news about the Dixon Ticonderoga pencil company, which I always considered to be the unnamed hero of the classic I, Pencil story. Now…

  • We get the Google LFOD news alert from some mighty unusual places. For example, a plug for our tourism in the Irish Times: A perfect piece of Americana in New Hampshire. The first thing the author notes?

    It’s where they Live Free or Die. In fact, it’s the only US state that doesn’t require adults to wear seat belts.

    That's right, me bonny lass.