Links, 1/25/10

I’ll have something of substance to say soon. Promise. In the meantime, here are some things worth reading:

  • Megan McArdle, “Why I Still Think Health Care Won’t Pass” – a nice comment about how some parts that poll well can not necessarily be shaped into a whole that polls well.
  • Garry Kasparov, “The Chess Master and the Computer” (h/t aldaily) – from the article: Like so much else in our technology-rich and innovation-poor modern world, chess computing has fallen prey to incrementalism and the demands of the market. Brute-force programs play the best chess, so why bother with anything else? Why waste time and money experimenting with new and innovative ideas when we already know what works? Such thinking should horrify anyone worthy of the name of scientist, but it seems, tragically, to be the norm. Our best minds have gone into financial engineering instead of real engineering, with catastrophic results for both sectors.
  • Gene Weingarten, “On the jury, Gene Weingarten didn’t believe the police’s eyes” (h/t aldaily, Josh) – from the article: As a juror, I was skeptical. As a citizen, I was angry. For one thing, I was mad about the whole case — the bewildering amount of police time and taxpayer money spent on prosecuting one guy for selling $10 worth of narcotics. But as a juror, I felt it was not my business to object to that. I would have been willing to convict a defendant despite those misgivings. The police testimony was another matter. As witnesses, the officers had been supremely self-assured, even cocky; clearly, they’d been through this hundreds of times. As they passed the jury before and after testimony, they greeted us winningly. One of them winked at us, almost imperceptibly. Their testimony was clear, concise, professional and, in my view, dishonest. I believe they feel themselves to be warriors fighting the good fight against bad people who have the system stacked in their favor. I believe they knew they had the right guy and were willing to cheat a little to assure a conviction. I believe they had the right guy, too. But the willingness to cheat, I think, is a poisonous corruption of a system designed to protect the innocent at the risk of occasionally letting the guilty walk free. It’s a good system, fundamental to freedom. I think a police officer willing to cheat is more dangerous than a two-bit drug peddler.
  • “In Drug War, Tribe Feels Invaded By Both Sides” (nytimes, h/t Josh) – from the article: The once-placid reservation feels like a “militarized zone,” said Ned Norris Jr., the tribal chairman, who also says the tribe must cooperate to stem the cartels. “Drug smuggling is a problem we didn’t create, but now we’re having to deal with the consequences.” Many residents say they live in fear of the smugglers and hordes of migrants who lurk around their homes, and also of being subjected to a humiliating search by federal agents. The elderly avoid the desert, even in the daytime, because they might stumble upon a cache of marijuana or drug “mules” hiding in desert washes until dark. “We can’t even go out to collect wood for the stove,” said Verna Miguel, 63, who was traumatized three years ago when a group of migrants forced her to stop on a road, beat her and stole her vehicle. “We’ve always picked saguaro fruits and cholla buds,” Ms. Miguel said, using such desert products for consumption and rituals. “But now we don’t dare do that.”


  1. I really like this quote – “I think a police officer willing to cheat is more dangerous than a two-bit drug peddler.” – It makes you think about that trial and how, in reality, both sides were guilty of something inexcusable. And the fact that the actions of only one of the sides are actually on trial gives reinforcement to the inexcusable actions of the other side. -Mark

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