Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The effects of immigration on fruit and vegetable costs?

I am not an economist and so lack the chops to sort out the battle of stats in this blog post. If someone who reads this is more competent to do so, I'd appreciate it. Vilsack's numbers on what cracking down on illegal immigration would do to fruits and vegetables seem high to me intuitively, but then Martin's seem quite low.

Also, an average consumer unit spends only $7 on fruits and vegetables a week? That seems quite low. Do I really wolf down salad like I am actually a rabbit?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weird Frank Rich Column on Fox

This Frank Rich column is bizarre, particularly the part about Walid bin Talal. If I'm understanding this correctly, Fox is criticizing a guy who owns a significant share of their parent company. Does not this show a healthy separation between the editorial and business sides of their company? Should not liberal journalists be celebrating Fox's guts for taking an editorial stance that could hurt their bottom line? Especially Rich himself, since he spends most of the rest of this column suggesting that the Koch brothers (and by association, the rest of the right) are evil folks who naturally value profits over principle at all costs? I know, I've said on here that I don't actually agree with the Fox editorial line on the mosque. But this particular criticism of them just seems too weird not to notice.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ron Paul on the Mosque

I am not really Ron Paul's biggest fan, most especially on race issues, but kudos is due to him for getting things basically right here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In partial defense of emerging adulthood

The New York Times has a long piece up about the phenomenon of "emerging adulthood," or the idea that twenty-somethings are taking longer to pass traditional milestones of adulthood than have previous generations. Apparently it may be good that we are taking more time to make these choices, as perhaps that will help us make better ones. But some conservatives and libertarians are skeptical. Some not particularly coherent thoughts:

1. I've gone through emerging adulthood myself. I worked at a research assistantship for a brief period after college while trying to figure out if I wanted to go to law school or possibly some other type of graduate program. While spending the school years in Atlanta, I worked both summers up here in D.C. When I had to give the Virginia Bar an address list for the seven years prior to my application for admission, I had 17 different addresses on the list. So yeah, I moved around as or more often than the typical person portrayed in the Times article.

I'd also have a fairly long list of different jobs. If you look only at full-time employment, I had the social science research gig before going to law school, and two different jobs since. But if you look at summer internships and part-time jobs while in school and the like, the number would be much higher than that. Easily over seven. Keep in mind that I'm still only 28, and that there is a non-zero chance I may have yet other employment before hitting 30.

All of this has had some consequences for personal life. I did not marry the guy whom I started dating while I was working at the social science research firm, at least in part because of the long physical separation between us while I was in law school. I'm marrying a wonderful guy whom I met later, when I was more settled. There's part of me that's reluctant to have children in the really near future because of all of the bouncing around that I've done. I want at least another year or so of being able to say, "Oh, so that's what adult life feels like," of feeling settled, before bringing another human being into the picture. I sometimes feel that this is weird and wrong and crazy, but there it is. At the same time, I had lots of fun in law school and in the libertarian fellowship program I did after graduating, and on balance I am glad that I live in the dynamic world that I do.

2. There are good and bad approaches to emerging adulthood, and the fact that there are bad ways of approaching it shouldn't mean that the concept in and of itself is bad. There are low-skilled workers and hipster barista types who bounce around a lot, yes. But so do aspiring legal academic, who moves from a court of appeals clerkship to SCOTUS clerkship to VAP to tenure-track jobs. (Whew, that's four right there!) And there are people who bounce around among various tech startups and then make gobs of money eventually doing things I don't understand. Etc. There's bouncing that's likely to lead to bigger and better things and bouncing that's not so much. There's exploring in a purposeful, focused way and drifting around aimlessly. The differences get lost in articles like this one.

3. I suspect Maslow was roughly right at least descriptively in sketching out his hierarchy of needs.C.f. also the economist's commonplace that people tend to demand more leisure relative to other things as their incomes rise. Perhaps it is possible to tell people that they ought to behave under affluent conditions the same way they do under conditions of scarcity. But I suspect that such norms are unlikely to work well, and that fact goes to the desirability of enforcing the norm in the first place.

4. Yes, government subsidies for emerging adulthood type programs are silly and shouldn't exist. That I think this should not surprise anyone who reads this regularly.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


1)Checklist for determining if your husband/boyfriend/whatever is gay. The "late night use of computers" is by far my favorite, although in fairness, I guess everyone I have ever dated was not secretive/in fact completely open about spending way too much time on the Internet late at night. Sharing e-mail and web histories is also particularly nutty. First, there's the sheer volume; second, the stuff that is not particularly good but still slightly embarrassing ("Why are you lurking so often looking at dresses you can't afford?"). Third, for attorneys, there are all manner of privilege/confidentiality issues.

2)Matt Yglesias has another one of welcome to Jesus moments re: occupational licensing.

A Poem Written By a Bear

At least one reader of my blog claims that if he were in a character in the His Dark Materials trilogy, he would totally have a bear daemon. This poem is for him. (via)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On lust

Because I am too tired to have much of actual substance to say: this dress is utterly gorgeous, fits me perfectly in a suitably vanity-flattering size, and yet is scandalously expensive. Growl.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cordoba House Contretemps

"Furthermore, since Islam has 1.2 billion adherents and is not going away, it is important to set reasonable guidelines that promote harmony with Western society—such as, it’s okay to build a mosque in the Financial District, and it’s not okay to blow up buildings in the Financial District. "

-- From an excellent essay by my friend Josh Barro at National Review Online. My other favorite sentence is, "Newt Gingrich doesn’t want mosques in Lower Manhattan until churches are allowed in Mecca—making the bizarre case that our level of religious liberty is fine so long as it is no worse than in Saudi Arabia."

I have only one criticism: that Josh glosses over the possibility that, while the mosque's leaders are not themselves Islamists, they are nonetheless too soft on Islamism. Perhaps so, though those facts certainly don't cut in favor of governmental interference with the Cordoba House project. And although they do weigh more strongly in favor of private moral suasion not to put the mosque there, I still think that the point that the mosque wouldn't be that close to Groud Zero anyway may outweigh those considerations.

Also, a question about a paragraph from Ross Douthat's latest column on the subject:

The same was true in religion. The steady pressure to conform to American norms, exerted through fair means and foul, eventually persuaded the Mormons to abandon polygamy, smoothing their assimilation into the American mainstream. Nativist concerns about Catholicism’s illiberal tendencies inspired American Catholics to prod their church toward a recognition of the virtues of democracy, making it possible for generations of immigrants to feel unambiguously Catholic and American.

Is this right, historically? My American history training was limited to a high school AP course and a single course on the history of American foreign policy in college (I basically took as little non-European history as I could while still completing my major.) But my faulty memory tells me that the pressure applied to Mormons and Catholics was nastier than that. Take, for example, Blaine Amendments, state constitutional amendments that recently often have the unintended consequence of styming conservative and moderate politicians' efforts to create school voucher programs. Isn't Douthat seeing Group 2 through rather rose-colored glasses? If he is, doesn't that mean we owe them less deference now?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Marriage and Complexity

So I haven't read Vaughn Walker's opinion in the Prop 8 case because, well, travel and day job and impending nuptials and so forth. And there's part of me that doesn't want to have read it so that I can continue ducking questions about my opinion of it with, "Well, I haven't read it yet, and I don't like to venture opinions about judicial decisions without having the read whole thing."

But just one brief note on the policy arguments for and against gay marriage: I am puzzled by this Ross Douthat blog post, in which he cites an Eve Tushnet column on the "thickness" and complexity of the marriage ideal. I actually think that they are mostly right re: thickness and complexity, except that usually, thickness and complexity are conservative arguments against governmental authority over a particular sphere of life. Figuring out, say, the extent of the national demand for steel is also complex, and benevolent central planners tend to screw things like this up, which is why conservatives are generally against nationalizing the steel industry. So by the force of Douthat and Tushnet's logic, the state should get out of the business of recognizing marriage altogether. Yet neither of them get there. Why? Is there something that I am missing? And if the first-best alternative is getting the state out of recognizing marriage altogether, then why is the second best alternative having the state promote a more limited conception of marriage? Shouldn't the second best alternative be letting the state promote open up marriage to gay people?

There is part of me that feels more competent to be the kind of philosopher queen who could manage steel production for an entire nation than a philosopher queen who could design an ideal of marriage for an entire society. I can barely handle giving my best friends competent advice on how to build good lives. Really, I wish I were the kind of friend who could. And if I can't tell my friends how to create good marriages and families, how can I help out millions of people whom I've never met, many of whom are much less like me than my relatively culturally homogenous set of personal friends. How are Douthat and Tushnet so much more confident that they've figured out what seems so hard for me?

Also, re: the first sentence of the second paragraph cited in Tushnet -- "So if humans were perfectly able to control their reproduction, could pick when they had kids and with whom, and men and women are interchangeable both socially and biologically, then you don’t have marriage" -- humans already have significant control over their reproduction given widespread oral contraceptives. We can't completely pick when we have kids and with whom, but developments in reproductive technology are getting us closer to that every day. The third part of her test isn't true -- men and women aren't biologically interchangeable -- but we're getting more and more socially interchangeable. So by her own logic, isn't the marriage ideal destined to evolve into something else? Again, is there something that I am missing?

Archerism and Rangers

I'm back in the U.S. of A. And, thank heaven, the footnotes on the longer version of are mostly non-hideous. So I figure I can come back here for a bit...

So, uh, link that's relevant to my long absence: I fear I am a total Ranger. I've never actually played D&D because I am a bad nerd like that, but my friends who have once said that I seem like the type of person who would enjoy playing Rangers.

It's possible that Archerist and Ranger are two different labels for the same phenomenon. Although as I said in the original post, Archerist families sometimes feel especially close to each other precisely because we know we hold minority values and the world beyond our hearth doesn't understand us very well. N.b. that Archers and Rangers are part of the same character class in D&D, which makes the metaphor kind of nice.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I do, however, hate forced socializing.

I am on occasion an office feeder myself (via). Usually for the sorts of non-nefarious reasons that the Jezebel post describes. Maybe this is a real social phenomenon elsewhere, n=1, etc., but I've also never encountered the sort of co-worker who vigorously pushes sweets on me or anyone else. In most offices where I've worked, would-be feeders typically send out mass e-mails to the effect of "Peach cake in the kitchen" and let others take or leave as they choose. (And yes, mostly, people take.)

Also, I'm hard pressed to think of a time when offering a non-body-image-related reason to decline -- such as "Thank you, that looks lovely, but I'm just not hungry right now" or "That looks delightful, but I ate just a little while ago"-- has not been sufficient. I do find it in better taste to avoid mentioning one's diet or weight issues, as all too often, this sort of thing comes off as sanctimonious. It's also difficult for the feeder to back off gracefully, as assenting can signal "Yes, I do think you are actually fat, never mind," which is not really so gracious, either.

Relevant Seinfeld video below also, because nobody's brought it up so far...

Formulating views on travel, cont.

Perhaps I would appreciate travel more if it weren't for the revolutions in mass communication and globalization.

First, take shopping while abroad. I've had some good experiences, such as with Petit Bateau T-shirts in France, which mercifully run large enough that I was able to fit into a little girl's size at least back in 2002. Yet much of the time, it's been disappointing. I blame globalization in part; a lot of interesting foreign stores have opened branches in the U.S. (I note that the PB site says it has branches in NY and Boston, and another is coming soon to Beverly Hills.) Second, it's increasingly easy to find interesting and unusual things to wear on the Internet. Like every other twenty-eight-year-old lawyer in the country, I get e-mails from Gilt advertising designer clothes at sharply discounted prices every day at noon; there's Etsy for unusual crafty items, both clothing and non-clothing-related; etc. The incentives to leave home get smaller and smaller.

Second, there's eating abroad. Argentinian meat -- what this country is best known for, culinarily -- is good. Yet it's the composed butters that are most amazingly and surprisingly delightful. Everywhere I go, there's butter for bread with something interesting mixed in it -- sundried tomatoes! tarragon! chives! -- etc. Contrast this with the United States, where olive oil (sometimes seasoned, but often not) seems the condiment of choice in trendy restaurants. Going condiment-less altogether also seems increasingly popular, which I find to be a travesty.

Yet again, though, it seems it's increasingly easy to get delicious and varied ethnic foods at home. It's true, I'm a bit unfairly lucky because I live in a part of the country that has an unusually rich array of ethnic dining options. And of course, this is a good development. But it is one that makes travel inherently less interesting.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


1)n=1, but changing surname upon marriage. Mostly because my real last name is significantly, significantly uglier than Archer, and Pnin's has the virtue of being much easier to spell and pronounce. I might feel differently if I were a journalist or otherwise relied heavily on self-promotion for my livelihood. But as things stand, I don't.

2)Cool idea, although I agree that th lack of liberal works is problematic. I'm the wrong person to try to help them with this. But I'd welcome suggestions from someone who is.

3)Not that this happens often, but I agree with Ann Althouse. Fwiw, my score was close to Dr. Helen's, but I'm not sure that this means anything, as I'm unable to self-assess accurately on most of the questions. Like, I have no idea if my chin is too big or too small or the right size or not. I think I knew when I was fifteen, but then high school and algebra homework started happening, and I forgot.

4)Mitch Daniels doesn't like atheists. Too bad; I kind of liked him based on his reading habits.

Things that People In My Social Circle Like That I Do Not Understand -- Hobbies and Interests Sections on Resumes

This should be an "enough said," but maybe it isn't. So here goes nothing, the Case Against Hobbies Sections:

1. They force me to scale back on stuff that is potentially job-related. Yes, I know, it's true that probably nobody is that excited, years after the fact, that I was an intern for three months in Dartmouth College's Office of Public Relations. Or that I taught a creative writing class to a group of inner city kids back in 2001. But who knows, maybe somebody will see some obvious connection between these activities and the relevant position that I don't. Immediately after college, I had a lawyer tell me that she thought that being an admissions office tour guide was a leading indicator of what would make for a great large law firm paralegal. Strange things happen.

2. They reward annoying SWPL-ness at the expense of substance. I have always sensed that none of my hobbies and interests, such as they are, are quite "right" for the genre. I am supposed to like extreme sports or something that show that I am adventurous. Except that I am actually terribly clumsy and will find ways to injure myself previously unimaginable by more normally coordinated people. Also, apparently liking travel would be good, except that I would have trouble honestly claiming such as a hobby or interest, despite the fact that I am working on it.

An honest answer -- "Reading, reading, and reading some more" -- would probably not be good. Sometimes, talking about reading scares people into thinking that I am pretentious. Other times, it draws questions like "What kind of books do you like to read?", to which it is probably not helpful to respond, "Well, I'm willing to try any that have words and pages." (True, I suppose this is not a problem for people who actually have well focused tastes in books. But I don't, so it doesn't in my case.) In any case, the real problem is that "Reading" does not seem to be a particularly good marker of SWPLness, and so is not interesting to the kind of person whom I am supposed to impress.

One might say that the kind of employer who cares over-much about this sort of thing would be a poor fit for someone like me anyway. This is true, but I tend to think that the world would be a better place if SWPL class markers were less important, rather than more. Reducing their importance in the hiring process would be a nice first step.

Monday, August 2, 2010


I´m in Argentina from now through August 10; Pnin is lecturing at a university here, whereas I am wandering around aimlessly like a tourist. If all goes well, my dislike of travel may even lessen.

What Argentina has going for it:

1. Cheapness! Thanks to the currency crisis a few years back, Buenos Aires is a veritable cheapster´s paradise. It´s possible to get a delicious steak dinner for the equvialent of about U.S. $12. Empanadas are delicious and can be had easily for less than a dollar. The zoo charges $2 for admission (contrast the San Diego Zoo, to which I paid something like $35 to walk around, just because I could not let myself be deprived of the opportunity to view cute koalas.)

2. Seasons that flip with the Northern Hemisphere. I am not a warm weather girl, and it is a delight to abandon the boiling D.C. heat for cool fifty degree ish weather. I take joy in walking around in my North Face fleece and corduroys.

3. Big dogs! They are the best, as everyone who knows me in real life knows. Because they are simply the best animals for purposes of cuddling. And they´re delightfully abundant in Buenos Aires, I suspect even more so than in big American cities like D.C. or NY. I´ve already met two adorable golden retrievers, Mateo and Dante. Their owners were both lawyers, oddly enough. I sometimes worry that I became surrounded by some kind of magnetic field upon graduation that repels all non lawyer human beings, but irrestibly lures my own kind into my lair.

For the case against Buenos Aires:

1. Argentine Spanish. My Spanish isn´t bad, but is a freak hybrid of college literature seminar castellano and the Mexican colloquialisms which I learned in high school because the textbook market evolved to accommodate the needs of Californians. Argentines have their own unique twist on the language. I can make myself understood in my own freak hybrid fashion, but I´m much harder pressed to understand Argentines attempting to speak casually.

2. Spanish alphabet keyboards. Enough said.

3. Bad economic policy that leads to poverty, and thus the decline of beautiful Beaux Arts architecture.