ShoehouseFor cleaner fuel burning, European utility companies are turning to wood. What could go wrong?

Matt Yglesias lauds changes in Houston’s bus transit system.

Two Rotterdam School of Management professors argue that gender quotas in management drive away both women and men.

America’s true silent majority: German-Americans. I’ve got some German on my mother’s side.

Janet Halley looks at sex, gender, race, and Title IX enforcement of rape charges on campus. Whitefaces maybe should be changed, though.

Here are some awards for the weirdest high school mascot names in Texas. In a world of Tigers and Wildcats, I consider these to be a relief and wish there were more of them.

Noah Berlatsky argues that the elongated copyright terms restrict scholarship. As the creators’ families and DC fought over the rights to Superman, it was just amazing to me that someone can still own the rights to Action Comics #1.

Between thesmug superiority of the left and the know-nothingism of the right, Roberta X seems to have gone apolitical.

Marryin’ cousins make for more babies.

McMansions are back.

Ryan Cooper believes self-respecting atheists should ditch New Atheists.

Category: Newsroom

With Senator Ted Cruz being the first officially announced presidential candidate, some attention has been drawn to the fact that he was born in Canada. Sayeth The Donald:

“Well he’s got, you know, a hurdle that nobody else seems to have at this moment,” said Trump. “It’s a hurdle and somebody could certainly look at it very seriously. He was born in Canada … if you know … and when we all studied our history lessons … you’re supposed to be born in this country, so I just don’t know how the courts would rule on it. But it’s an additional hurdle that he has that no one else seems to have.”

Two former top Justice Department lawyers say there is “no question” Cruz is eligible for the presidency.

“Despite the happenstance of a birth across the border, there is no question that Senator Cruz has been a citizen from birth and is thus a ‘natural born citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution,” write Neal Katyal and Paul Clement in an article published March 11 in the Harvard Law Review. “There are plenty of serious issues to debate in the upcoming presidential election cycle. The less time spent dealing with specious objections to candidate eligibility, the better.”

tedcruzThis previously came up with regard to John McCain, who was also born abroad. Congress even went to the trouble of passing a resolution on the matter. Almost nobody believes that you actually have to have been born in the US in order to be a US citizen as long as citizenship was conferred to you at birth. There is no doubt that this was the case with McCain, and nobody has contested that this is the case with Ted Cruz (even Trump himself is soft-pedaling it).

But what about Barack Obama? Well, Obama was born in Hawaii so it’s a non-issue. But weren’t Republicans making a big deal out of him being born in Kenya, and that disqualifying him from the presidency? How can these same people give Cruz the benefit of the doubt? Aren’t they being partisanracist?

The case with Obama is actually a bit more complicated, and it is actually possible to believe that a Kenyan-born Obama would not be eligible while a Canadian-born Cruz would be. Note: For the rest of this post I am going to pretend that Obama was born in Kenya. He wasn’t, but I don’t want to have to say that four times a paragraph.

Before that whole thing erupted, I had thought that citizenship was automatically conferred to Obama because of his mother. It turns out that having an American-born mother does not automatically confer citizenship. It didn’t when Obama was born, and even though there is more latitude today, it still doesn’t. It has to do with expatratism. If an American citizen with a daughter moves to Russia and mothers a daughter, she will be an American citizen. Her child, however, may not be (at birth). This is presumably to prevent generations of American citizens from being born abroad, which could cause some administrative headaches. So, when it comes to mothers, there is a modest residency requirement. The mother must have lived in the United States for five years, two of which after she turns 14. So a woman who only lived in the US briefly when she was a child would not be eligible, just as the daughter of the expatriate mentioned above would not be.

This comes into play for the 44th president because prior to 1986, the requirements were more stringent:

For birth between December 24, 1952 and November 13, 1986, a period of ten years, five after the age of fourteen, is required for physical presence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child.

Barack Obama’s mother was not old enough to meet these these requirements. She was just shy of turning 19. A mildly funny thing is that the only reason Obama wouldn’t be a citizen would be the fact that his parents married. The law was then, and is now, friendlier to the illegitimate children of American mothers (but not fathers*) born abroad than the legitimate ones. There the residency requirement is presently just one year. I haven’t found what it was before 1986, but I believe that the requirements were lighter then than for the children of married mothers, and Barack Obama’s birthday was so close to the line that it almost certainly would have conferred citizenship.

All of this means that if Obama had been born in Kenya, he could make the case that he is a citizen by virtue of the fact that his parents weren’t legally married (on the basis that his father was already married in Kenya). Can you imagine a debate wherein Democrats are arguing “Obama is a bastard!” and Republicans are saying “No, he isn’t!” Kind of amusing.

BarackObamaMost likely, though, it wouldn’t have come to that. Even if they could have proven that he was born in Kenya, there would be a pretty strong case that Obama had nonetheless been granted citizenship at birth whether he should have been or not. Further, revoking it on the basis of a law that no longer exists would create a whole list of issues and concerns. I could be underestimating the inflexibility of the bureaucracy, but I just can’t imagine that happening. I also believe that the consensus of any court is that if he was recorded a citizen at birth, he should be considered natural born.

I could be wrong about that. But that is as it should be, in my view. Throughout the debate I was never given much reason to believe that Obama was ever born anywhere but in Hawaii and that Republicans were making a fool of themselves by suggesting otherwise. The funny thing is, though, that if I reach into my imagination and concoct a scenario in which his mother committed fraud so that he could have American citizenship… I would be rooting for Obama to get away with it. If I were writing a story that involved a presidential candidate with this backstory, he would without a doubt be the protagonist. It’s the same sort of feeling I had about the theory that Palin’s youngest child was actually her grandchild. Almost certainly false, but if it was true it would have increased my respect for her and I would want her to succeed in the fraud.

* – Fathers have the same 5/2 requirement instead of the 1/0 requirement that mothers do. The father also has to be able to establish the blood relationship and the ability and willingness to financially support the child. Some of this goes back to concerns of GI’s in Asia and bringing kids home with them, or Asians coming to the US and saying “My father was a GI!” This explains some, but not all, of the asymmetry.

Category: Elsewhere

BrutalismJames thinks I need therapy, on account of my affection for Brutalist architecture.

Which got me thinking… why do I like it? It’s not like I am particularly an architectural critic. I’m not even sure it falls under the category of “Having an opinion to have an opinion,” which I sometimes do.

My first thought was comic books, which explains my aesthetic tastes in some things (like solid colors over patterns). That would explain my appreciation of gothic architecture, for example. But if brutalist architecture is common in comic books the same way that gothic architecture often is, I can’t think of any examples.

But I like it for its simplicity, raw utilitarianism. Yet I don’t have the same fondness for the glass boxes that take up skylines (I don’t dislike them, either, but it’s not the same). But my instinct is along the lines of “I like it because that’s how government buildings are supposed to look.” Why do I think that?

I think it’s because of my dad.

My father worked at a sprawling government installation that more or less defines the area of the suburbs where I was raised. I will call it Livingston AFB. And he actually worked on the base, as opposed to across the street where my brother does. Which meant that when I went to see him at work, I would go onto the base with all of its buildings that were… brutalist. Or something indistinguishable to it, to my eye.

brutalism2And of course my father was awesome, the government agency he worked for was awesome, and all that jazz. Better yet, it was in the pre-9/11 days when you had a degree of free access to it (I think the sticker on our cars were required), and driving around it was interesting with all of the planes and other aircraft they had on display. And, of course, it was the very symbol of the federal government where I grew up.

So other designs that are so-called “nice looking” and a hoity-toity “non-depressing” and “sort of looks oppressive” carry no truck with me.

And of course, once you like something and dislike something, you come up with more reason to like or dislike it. Which is probably where my “honesty in architecture” comes from. And my vague belief that government facilities shouldn’t look nice. They should be there, and tolerable. Like the government! Or something.

Category: Downtown

brushingwrongEd Riley, younger brother of freshly minted Nebraska football coach, argues that football’s benefits outweigh the risk, for young people.

Wendy Kaminar tried to have a discussion at Smith about freedom of speech. It ended up largely redacted in the transcript.

Michael Brendan Dougherty argues that Uncle Sam is a horrible nutritionist.

Jennifer Deal explains that rest is important for work.

People look at me sideways when I mention Kansas and Utah as places with tech job opportunities, but there’s a there there, and as Silicon Valley becomes more crowded, I expect it to become more popular among mid-level employees with families. (Also: Austin!)

Decoding superior online dating profiles.

Francis Wilkinson blames illegal immigration on baby boomers.

Fender benders are almost a thing of the past.

David Sims ponders a Legend of Zelda TV series. I remember how all of my friends thought the 80’s series was really good. I’m glad that I have been vindicated by thinking it was pretty bad. Not sure that they could make a series that I am particularly interested in, though.

At Cancer Research UK, Nikki Smith takes the media to task for its misleading reportage on ecigarettes, and Prof Lynn T Kozlowski tells parents whether they should worry about their vaping teenagers.

The Atlantic reports on the logistics of the Antarctic winter, where you don’t bother to fly because temperature is below that at which fuel freezes.

Category: Newsroom

Category: Church


Our house has a deck on the “first floor” which is not actually the ground floor (except on the back of the house, where there are no doors). The ground floor is the basement. When it’s been snowing, you go out either through the basement or the garage to avoid snow on the steps. We’ve had to hash out the actual terminology we use for the floors. (“Upstairs”, “Main floor”, and “Basement” or “Downstairs” for the ground floor) to avoid the confusion of “Downstairs” and “First floor”).

All of this is to say that most of the time when there is snow involved, the door we exit through has a deck over it.

The deck does a so-so job of blocking rain. We’re talking about getting something to make it water-free. But it does the job, as far as I’m concerned, for when I want to go out and vape.

Except, ironically, after it snows and the weather warms up. That’s when the accumulated ice on the deck is melting, creating a raining effect. So it’s “raining” under the deck and nowhere else, which is kind of a funny feeling.

Category: Home


Eye-tracking technology can help detect concussions in football and maybe Alzheimer’s.

Nathan Washburn looks at the decline of the rural hospital and what can be done about it.

In order to avert global warming, some experts argue we need to ramp up nuclear power in a big way.

The police want Waze to remove its cop-spotting feature. With Nokia Here now available, that’s one of only a couple reasons I use Waze at all these days.

An effort to give Vermont a Latin motto has run into some resistance because immigration… or something.

I’d kind of expect Salon to hedge a bit on the vaccination issue. Instead, they giggle at an efforts to troll Amazon reviews of an anti-vax book.

If you can name one of your state’s senators, you’re a step ahead of most millenials.

Over a decade ago, John Judis co-wrote a book about the Emerging Democratic Majority, but now he says it was illusory and is talking of the Emerging Republican Advantage. {More}

The Incidental Economists want everybody to get their vaccines, but Aaron Carroll wants us to stop asking politicians gotcha questions about vaccines, and Bill Gardner wants us to stop hating on the parents.

The oil boom in North Dakota brought with it quite a bit of diversity.

Yay Brutalism!

Details have been leaked about a new Chinese air craft carrier, but Ryan Faith says they raise more questions than they answer.

That the dude claims to have had sex with a dolphin is creepy. That it allegedly lasted a year? Not mitigating.

College students are drinking less than they used to! They’re also hanging out and going out less, too.

High-tech firms are having difficulty filling well-paying sales positions, and are having to reconsider how they advertise these jobs as well as the pay structure.

Category: Newsroom

Philip Bump and the Washington Post have some egg on their face after doing a “statistical analysis” that demonstrated what the electoral map would look like with 100% turnout. What they got were two maps:

On left, note south and northeast. On right, note everywhere.

On left, note south and northeast. On right, note everywhere.

Which was, evidently, not enough to raise enough alarm bells to reconsider the project (instead they just note the flaw and move on). Vox immediately pounced:

But here’s the gigantic problem: state-specific exit poll numbers were only available for 18 states in 2012. There’s also a national exit poll that offers composite results for the whole country. So for the 32 states without individual exit poll results, the Post used those national exit poll numbers to make projections.

The problem with that is that looking at how women voted nationally isn’t a good way to project how women in conservative Kentucky will vote. Similarly, how white people voted nationally doesn’t tell you all that much about white voters in liberal Vermont, as Josh Barro argued on Twitter.

That’s why the Post’s map based on racial projections comes up with the odd result of the South going Democratic and much of New England going Republican — because they had no individual exit poll data for those states. Instead, they assumed that white voters in each of them, under full turnout, would vote like white voters did nationally (59 percent for Mitt Romney).

States polled in gold.

States polled shown in gold. Black for the states originally eliminated, gray for states eliminated some time later.

This relates to something I criticized at the time, which was a virtual blackout in red state polling. At the time I wrote the piece, they were going to include 31 states, and almost all of the states they were excluding were red ones. And there was no justification for the skew (not urban/rural, not “competitive senate races” not homogenous/diverse… nothing). I guess at some point they made the decision to reduce the number of states, eliminating states like Vermont and perhaps adding a little more method to the madness (though still not a methodology that can be pinned down).

Even if they got rid of the skew (which they didn’t quite), valuable information was lost. Given the strain that news organizations are under, it’s perhaps not reasonable to expect them to stand out voting booths in Rhode Island or South Dakota, but it would be really nice if someone one. These elections only happen once every four years. And the Washington Post would save itself some embarassment.

The Washington Post did go back and look at the data from 2004, though, from back in the halcyon days when all states were counted. The results were actually a bit unexpected, as (to whatever extent the data reveals anything) Bush might have done better in 2004 than he did, potentially flipping Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Only a bit unexpected, though, as Bush underperformed in the electoral college (which was closer than the national popular vote). It should also be added that the 2004 vote count is less useful than today, due to various demographic changes. Which is why having the 2012 data would be nice.

Category: Newsroom

Would you like to see the ABC fall promo reel from 1982? Here you go:

Remember how big of a deal it used to be when the networks would announce their new shows?

Here’s 1967:

Here is Fox’s from 1987, notable because it was the first season Fox tried to compete with the big three. Notable series introduced include 21 Jump Street and Married With Children:

Category: Theater

[Co-published at the Bawdy House]

President Obama has suggested that mandatory voting could offset the influence of big money in campaigns. There’s much that is incoherent in this idea.

First, Democrats are doing as well as Republicans in bringing in big money, but their own electoral failure demonstrates big money itself does turn elections.

Second, the non-voters are generally the least engaged,* who presumably are the most likely to be easily swayed by the advertising of big money, or else might vote essentially randomly.

Third, mandatory voting is illiberal. Forced political participation is another form of social control, rather than a form of liberty. Thorouean types are forbidden. The quiet person who harms no one, pays her taxes without complaint, volunteers in the community, but prefers to not vote is made into a criminal.

Fourth, I object to the instinct to motivate people through punitive action. If as a public policy we want people to vote, then let’s look for positive ways to do so. Traditionally this is done via the parties. Voter mobilization is, in fact, one of the primary purposes of parties, and perhaps the primary purpose.

Fifth, Obama is suggesting that these people should vote for their own good. Mandating that people act in their own interest is perverse, and in my view an improper task for government.

Sixth, it’s not at all certain that big money actually deters turnout, rather than stimulating it.

Overall, it appears to me that the President is concerned about Democratic voter turnout specifically, under the guise of being concerned about overall electoral turnout. He specifically mentioned low turnout among young, lower income, immigrant and minority groups, and criticized efforts to deter their turnout. While it’s fair to argue that efforts to deter turnout are a legitimate public policy problem, the fact remains that Obama is particularly focused on low turnout among populations that he expects to be more supportive of his party, so his solution is not to strengthen his own party’s GOTV efforts, or to find ways to effectively combat voter suppression efforts, but to mandate voting by his party’s likely supporters. Even if successful, though, the lack of close races suggests mandatory voting would have little effect on outcomes.

Under the guise of public policy, this appears to be a means of using law to rig the vote in the Democrats’ favor, no less than voter ID laws are (unsuccessful, I think) efforts to rig the vote in Republicans’ favor, and again under the guise of public policy.

Politicians will normally obscure self-interest behind appealing public interest slogans. They do so because it works, which means appeals like my post here to ignore the slogans will only be effective at the margins.

*Not solely. I have not voted when I have disliked the options, and I have had a political scientist far more reputable than me assert he gives money rather than voting because it gives his effort more influence.

Category: Statehouse


Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.

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