Dynamist Blog


When I set out to write a piece about retail lighting trends, public policy was the furthest thing from my mind. But once I started talking to lighting designers, regulation reared its ugly little head and the result is my latest D Magazine column.



I'll be on vacation until July 2 and, barring national emergencies, do not expect to be blogging. If you subscribe to Reason, be on the lookout for my Buffy article in the August/September issue, which should be arriving shortly.


Newsweek is reporting that Al Qaeda may be planning an attack in Texas, possibly against oil infrastructure, sometime around the Fourth of July. (Via D Magazine's Front Burner.)


My friend and computer consultant Jeff Wolfe (he installed SpamAssassin for me), writes, "Spike from Buffy isn't the only Spike that Shelton Jackson Lee has to worry about. I have a few more on my weblog." Check it out.


Jonah is right that gays have (essentially) won. But you still won't see an ad like this one, for Travelocity UK, on American TV. (Via D Magazine's Front Burner blog.)

On Jonah's point, my comments here apply. They're especially relevant to the Southern Baptists' new initiative to be nicer to gays--by trying to convert them to both fundamentalist Christianity and heterosexuality. Hard as it may be to believe, that initiative represents a (very small) move toward greater acceptance of gays.


"Gosh-darnit, if the Chicago Tribune can pick the best 50 magazines, why can't I pick the top Weblogs?" writes Mark Glaser of Online Journalism Review. He not only lists his own favorites but enlists top bloggers to rank the 10 blogs they think are most influential.


All Buffy jokes aside, the Spike suit illustrates the problem with frivolous litigation. As trial lawyers defending the current system never fail to point out, plaintiffs don't necessarily win silly or publicity-seeking lawsuits. But even unsuccessful or abortive suits exact costs from defendants and the court system. Those costs include not only the time and money spent directly on the litigation itself but all the ways the litigation screws up the defendant's life or business. For Viacom, that's $17 million and counting.

Aside: I don't even want to think of how much productivity the Microsoft antitrust case drained from the U.S. economy. Forget Microsoft itself. Consider what the distraction cost Sun--which favored the litigation to the point of obsession.


spikefront_sm.jpgSpike Lee's lawsuit to monopolize his first name continues. The NYT reports:

Viacom yesterday lost its latest legal appeal to carry out its plans to rename its TNN cable network Spike TV. The filmmaker Spike Lee...won an injunction against the name change last week, arguing that Spike TV was an infringement on his name and reputation because viewers would associate the channel with him. The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court yesterday rejected a motion by Viacom to lift the injunction....

Executives at MTV Networks, the Viacom division that oversees TNN, expressed outrage at the court's decision yesterday, saying that the ruling had already cost the company more than $17 million in wasted promotion and advertising fees. If the channel can never use the name Spike TV, they said, it will cost more than $47 million.


Jeff Taylor, whom readers know as the writer of Reason Express and a contributor to Hit and Run, is a stay-at-home dad and keen observer of suburban life. On the continuing issue of whether Starbucks is a kid-free zone, he writes:

Time and place. Depending, either kid crawling or grim caffeine warriors. Quick and dirty guide: does the cold-case stock the Horizon flavored milk boxes, Chocolate, Vanilla, and the rare Strawberry? If so, then SOME time during the day features the brat pack attack. (These are know as "cow milks" to my 2-year-old, who will helpfully point out every "caw-pee place" you encounter, which can be quite a few.)

The wonder of Starbucks is that it can be so many things to so many people. Early AM, all tool-belts and Nextel, later blending into the gray and white-collars who have to hit the office by 9ish to check email. Later still students and cops. Banter between the skate punks and the young patrol officers is always good for a listen. Does it happen anywhere else? Mid-morning is prime toddler time, that's grocery-getting time. The older siblings are at school and a quick energy boost is in order to avoid the dreaded CHECKOUT MELTDOWN. Lunch is again the adult swim. But by soon after 2 the parade of tween and above girls looking for their various mocha fixes begins.

Correct for location--office buildings or strip center--and I'd bet the pattern is universal.


Kuro5shin reviews The Future and Its Enemies, along with Naomi Klein's No Logo. There are some odd moments in the review, notably the equation of specialization with "a strange kind of Factory Man life-long commitment to a single task." Learning to do some things well, rather than trying to do everything from raising food to making semiconductors, hardly means doing only one thing. And it definitely doesn't imply boredom. It's far more interesting to do the things you enjoy and are good at than to try to do everything. I'd much rather be a writer than a subsistence farmer, thank you very much.

But that comment is not nearly as strange as the commenter who thinks I don't believe in externalities or bounded rationality, when I not only believe in both but devote an entire chapter of the book to the limits of human knowledge (hence, btw, the value of specialization). I even quote Mr. Bounded Rationality himself, Herbert Simon, though on a different subject. I think what he actually means is that I don't believe Joseph Stiglitz should run the everyone's life.

The review makes the correct point that my book mostly discusses the United States--which is why I never even sold British Commonwealth rights. That, too, is something I chalk up to bounded rationality. Rather than spend a couple of decades learning about the rest of the world--or, worse, doing what a lot of writers do and pretending to know things I don't--I stuck to what I knew. But, no, I don't think French technocracy is a particularly attractive model, though the French can have it if they're willing to pay the price in lost liberty, prosperity, and, ultimately, power.

Thanks to Julian Sanchez on Hit and Run for the heads-up.

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