December 1, 2012

The ACLU and the introduction of sex as a civil right

Filed under: Books, Law, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:33

For Reason, Debbie Nathan reviews a new book by Leigh Ann Wheeler:

When it comes to Americans’ understanding of sexual privacy and public sexual expression, most of us are effectively members of the American Civil Liberties Union. This is so even for people who carry no card, pay no dues, and — if such a thing were possible — have never even heard of the organization.

That’s the takeaway from How Sex Became a Civil Liberty, Leigh Ann Wheeler’s dense but fascinating account of the ACLU’s wildly successful efforts, since its founding almost 100 years ago, to bring sex under the purview of the Bill of Rights. Wheeler, a Binghamton University historian, could have stuck with a wonky narrative about a long march of law and jurisprudence. Instead, she’s taken what she calls an “empathic” approach. She has combed vast archives, including personal correspondence of the ACLU’s founders and decades of files from the national office and local affiliates.

From these papers she has assembled a story about men and women working through their own sexual passions and contradictions as they shaped a legal and political practice for the entire country. She reveals how activists pushed, slouched, and pushed some more to arm their fellow citizens with sexual rights, even as those rights provoked further conflicts, including among ACLUers themselves.

It’s time for the annual NFL Hall of Fame “screw Cris Carter” pantomime

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:38

Cris Carter may not be everyone’s favourite former NFL wide receiver, but he had what any rational person would have to call a “Hall of Fame-quality” career. But for reasons best known to the HoF voters, he’s still not been inducted. This year’s 25 semi-final nominee list has been published and his name appears on it … as it has for each year since he retired. And the smart money is betting that once again he’ll be omitted from the list of finalists. At the Daily Norseman, Christopher Gates has more:

Obviously, the most prominent name on this list … again … is former Vikings’ wide receiver Cris Carter. We’ve been over Carter’s stats in this space ad nauseum, but it bears repeating again. Even though he retired from the game after the 2002 NFL season, he still sits fourth in the history of the National Football League in receptions (1,101), eighth in receiving yards (13,899), and fourth in receiving touchdowns (130), as well as eighth in total touchdowns (131).

The $100 that the Vikings spent on a waiver claim for him after he was released by the Philadelphia Eagles still represents the most well-spent $100 in the history of the franchise. Carter should go into the Hall of Fame this year. Of course, he should have gone into the Hall in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, too. But he didn’t. Why? Who the heck knows … nobody has been able to give me a compelling reason thus far. I don’t expect to hear one this time around, either.

The problem with flood insurance

Filed under: Britain, Economics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:57

Talking about a very topical issue in Britain, Tim Harford explains why flood insurance is so expensive for some areas:

I’m not sure this is really an insurance problem.

How could it not be an insurance problem?

It seems to me that there are three kinds of hard-to-insure risks. First, there are unimaginable events, “unknown unknowns”, if you like. Yet floods are all too easy to imagine. Then there are risks that are subject to what economists call adverse selection. To take an extreme example, imagine a town ruled by some all-powerful Mob. Nobody in this town is ever robbed without warning. The Mob will be sure to let you know what’s coming to you and why they think you deserve it.

[. . .]

But that doesn’t sound like a good description of flood risk.

Quite so. Now the third kind of hard-to-insure risk is stuff that’s expensive and happens quite often. I’m trying to buy a house, I’m nearly 40 and so I’m trying to buy insurance for my family in case I die or become too ill to work. This is perfectly possible: it’s just expensive, because it’s not unusual for middle-aged men to get seriously ill. This sounds like a much better description of allegedly uninsurable homes: if there is a one in five chance of a flood, and a flood is going to cost £50,000, don’t expect to pay less than £10,000 a year for flood insurance.

But that’s unaffordable for a lot of people.

Yes, but unaffordability is not uninsurability. It’s insurable but expensive.

Tyler Cowen and Andrew Coyne on The Great Stagnation

Filed under: Books, Economics, Media, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:35

Tyler Cowen discusses his book The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick and Will (Eventually) Feel Better. Andrew Coyne (National Post) presents a rebuttal and the pair discuss Cowen’s thesis focusing on issues of productivity, innovation and government policy (moderated by Wendy Dobson).

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