Tuesday, 29 June 2004

Trade imbalances

Pieter of Peaktalk notes an interesting immigration pattern. One suspects, however, that he underestimates the number of reliable NDP voters among my northward-bound ex-countrymen. Of course, the substantive effects of the migration are the same either way.

Jackpots no more

From Scipio comes this word:

In court on Friday, Judge Pickard announced that he was going to effectively bar asbestos and silica products liability cases in Jefferson and Claiborne Counties, because about half of every jury pool consists of named plaintiffs in asbestos and silica cases. Accordingly, the defendants would not be able to ever get a fair trial in those two counties.

I don’t know what’s more disturbing: that half the people of two counties are named plaintiffs in liability cases, or that it took half the people of two counties being named plaintiffs in liability cases to get any meaningful tort reform in this state.

Interesting statistics: in 2000 Jefferson County had 9,740 people, 86.7% of whom were black (the highest proportion of any Mississippi county), while Claiborne County’s population was 11,831, 84.4% of whom were black (2nd). Mississippi as a whole had 2.844 million people in 82 counties, 36.6% of whom were black; the median county propulation was 22,374, and the median percentage black in a county was 37.5% (μ=39.6%, σ=20.2).


Brian J. Noggle explains the physics behind getting “free” stuff (well, it’s not free—usually, someone else paid for it and got screwed over) from vending machines, an art mastered by many a college student over the years.

My advice: although “tipping” the vending machine may not vend free product (as the labels say), it usually manages to dislodge any loosely-hanging items that failed to vend properly. Just don’t do it when anyone else is around.

Bullies in the blogosphere

Laura of Apartment 11D is understandably quite annoyed at the public response that at least one (presumably prominent, although I haven’t seen the post in question) blogger gave to her survey.

I generally agree that, ethically, a good blogger will provide readers with an opportunity to have opposing views heard, at least in the form of trackbacks. It is disappointing that many “big boys” of the Blogosphere like Glenn Reynolds, Josh Marshall, the Volokh Conspiracy, and Andrew Sullivan don’t use “real” Trackbacks—Volokh relies on Technorati, which isn’t a proper pingback/trackback service, while Reynolds, Marshall, and Sullivan don’t even go that far; Sullivan accepts “reader mail,” but much of it is buried and all is stripped of any way to tell how authoritative the response is.

Laura cites Usenet as a more “democratic” medium; it is, in the sense that it does facilitate conversation more readily, but there are significant drawbacks to it—most notably, no inherent ability to enforce strong identities of participants in the discussion, which leads to the sort of trollish behavior that one finds at the comment sections of some prominent weblogs (or inmate-run asylums like Slashdot and K5), not to mention issues of spam, off-topic discussion, gratuitous vulgarity, and other vices large and small. The “decline of Usenet,” mind you, has been a staple of Internet discussion since at least 1992, when I was first exposed to it, so it has proven to be more resiliant than one might have thought.

Keg registration law in Missouri

In an attempt to curb underage drinking, Missouri has passed a new law which goes into effect Thursday, requiring beer kegs to be registered to their buyers.

The law requires retailers to attach a tag that will allow the keg to be traced back to the buyer. The store must keep records for three months with the buyer's name, address and birth date.

The idea is that if someone bought a keg and supplied it to teenagers, and the party was broken up, law enforcement could identify who provided the alcohol and pursue charges.

They'll take my beer when they pry it from my cold dead hands!

Indecision 2004: Canuck style

The election came and went, and, while the Liberals did beat the Conservatives in the realm of seat counts, neither side (apparently, pending recounts) won enough to form even a coalition government with a natural partner (a Liberal–Bloc Quebecois coalition would work in terms of seat count, but not in terms of ideology). Collin May suspects the real winner in all this is Alberta premier Ralph Klein, while Albertan Colby Cosh does his postmortem duties. In any event, virtually nobody expects this parliament to last very long.