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6 April 2010


Matins: There's money in them thar drugs: economist Jeffrey Miron calculates the likely tax revenues that would be collectable if cocaine and marijuana were legalized. (NPR; via The Morning News)

In a podcast a while back, Harvard's Jeffrey Miron told us that his estimates for what California would bring in from taxing marijuana are much smaller than some of the numbers that are floating around out there (including a $1.4 billion estimate from state officials).

Since that interview, Miron has come out with a paper estimating, among other things, potential tax revenues from cocaine and marijuana.

At the end of the NPR page, there's a link to the drug policy of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation.

Lauds: Nige discovers the Southgate station of the Piccadilly Line, one of several designed by Charles Holden. (Nigeness)

The Holden stations are small masterpieces, ingeniously and elegantly designed for their purpose, using simple shapes and plain surfaces and integrating every element of the design - lighting, seating, tiling, even litterbins - into one harmonious, enjoyable whole. They are modernism at its least forbidding and most friendly. Southgate is almost playful - especially when lit up at night, as in the picture, with its art deco patterns and strange topknot like a Tesla coil - but it is also a wonderfully clever construction, with the whole roof supported, umbrella-like, from a single central column. Happily, almost nothing of its original charm has been lost over the years, and it was sensitively restored a couple of years ago.

Prime: Felix Salmon suggests tolling the Cross Bronx Expressway.

This is the kind of problem where a congestion charge is a blindingly obvious solution. Put a small toll on the Expressway, and more cars could travel on it, and they would travel faster. The trick is to keep the toll just high enough that those short entry and exit ramps don't clog up; indeed, putting the toll simply on a few strategically-chosen entry ramps might suffice. You don't need to toll every car on the road, you just need to hit the bottlenecks. (Research into cordon pricing, as seen in cities like London, shows that congestion is reduced significantly even when the cordon is porous: you don't need to charge every single entry point into the city in order to have a significant positive effect.)

When Mike Bloomberg was trying to introduce a congestion charge in Manhattan, he got a huge amount of pushback from elected officials in the Bronx. It wasn't particularly rational pushback: Bronx drivers would likely have benefitted from less through traffic from points north, while barely paying the toll themselves, since they rarely drive into downtown Manhattan.

Tierce: Tyler Cowen likes his iPad, but "most of all it feels too valuable to take very far from the house."

Most of all, think of it as a substitute for your TV.

It has the all-important quality of allowing you to bend your head and body as you wish (more or less), as you use it.  By bringing it closer or further, you control the "real size" of the iPad, so don't fixate on whether it appears "too big" or "too small."

The pages turn faster than those of Kindle.  The other functions are also extremely quick and the battery feels eternal.

Sext: They say that youth is wasted on the young, and the contributors to The Bygone Bureau show exactly how and in what ways this is true. Tim Lehman, for example, was sufficiently hooked by Magic: The Gathering to dream of winning a tournament.

I cruised through the early rounds, dispatching a kid half my age who barely understood the mechanics of the game in the process. My friends long-since knocked out of competition, I found myself in the semi-finals, one match away from being invited to Orlando to play against the best under-sixteens in the world. My opponent kicked my ass — his Chimeric Idol was unstoppable, and even my Wrath of God was useless. But I didn’t mind too much. I left with eight free booster packs and enough success to rub in my friends’ faces.

The next year I played a domain joke deck at the Virginia State Championships. When the seven-year-old I had beaten in the junior tournament tore me limb-from-limb in an early round — he was now eight and more clear on the rules — I dropped out, sold my cards to a vendor there in the Holiday Inn ballroom that hosted the tournament, and used a pay phone to call my dad for a ride home. I couldn’t drive yet, but I had already outgrown my desire to play on the Pro Tour.

Nones: Jeffrey Gettleman writes about the collapse of sovereignty in post-Cold War Africa. (Foreign Policy; via RealClearWorld)

These men are living relics of a past that has been essentially obliterated. Put the well-educated Garang and the old Mugabe in a room with today's visionless rebel leaders, and they would have just about nothing in common. What changed in one generation was in part the world itself. The Cold War's end bred state collapse and chaos. Where meddling great powers once found dominoes that needed to be kept from falling, they suddenly saw no national interest at all. (The exceptions, of course, were natural resources, which could be bought just as easily -- and often at a nice discount -- from various armed groups.) Suddenly, all you needed to be powerful was a gun, and as it turned out, there were plenty to go around. AK-47s and cheap ammunition bled out of the collapsed Eastern Bloc and into the farthest corners of Africa. It was the perfect opportunity for the charismatic and morally challenged.

In Congo, there have been dozens of such men since 1996, when rebels rose up against the leopard skin-capped dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, probably the most corrupt man in the history of this most corrupt continent. After Mobutu's state collapsed, no one really rebuilt it. In the anarchy that flourished, rebel leaders carved out fiefdoms ludicrously rich in gold, diamonds, copper, tin, and other minerals. Among them were Laurent Nkunda, Bosco Ntaganda, Thomas Lubanga, a toxic hodgepodge of Mai Mai commanders, Rwandan genocidaires, and the madman leaders of a flamboyantly cruel group called the Rastas.

Vespers: Translator Marian Schwartz notes that contemporary readers are more accepting of "foreignness." (Globe; via 3 Quarks Daily)

Constance Garnett, whom I will defend to the end of my days, is now criticized for not being faithful to Tolstoy’s text, for setting his books in what feels like an English garden, but in my view it cannot be bad when a translation gives people access to works that they would never otherwise have read. As I was saying, though, our taste for foreignness has increased. A simple example: 50 years ago, names of Chinese characters were translated — “Peach Blossom’’ and the like — whereas now the preference is for the transliterated Chinese names. There is an ongoing debate among translators about “foreignizing’’ and “domestication,’’ but wherever a translator’s choice falls, today it will probably be closer to foreignizing than it would have been 50 years ago.

Compline: Thomas Byrne Edsall writes about the growing "Obama Coalition," in The Atlantic.

These general findings suggest the possibility that the political strength of voters whose convictions are perhaps best described as Social Democratic in the European sense is reaching a significant level in the United States. With effective organization and mobilization, such voters are positioned to set the agenda in the Democratic Party in the near future.

At the same time, the share of the electorate made up of the demographic group most strongly committed to a political agenda relatively favorable to the material interests of the “haves” is declining. The U.S. Census predicts that by 2050, non-Hispanic whites will no longer be in the majority. Teixeira, in a report for the liberal Center for American Progress, predicts that by 2016 “it is likely that the United States will no longer be a majority white Christian nation.

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