Monday Tab Clearing

Interesting stories I'm not going to write about at length.

  • Cory Doctorow, “They brick you because they can.” tl;dr: Big companies are taking away things customers already paid for because of regulatory capture.
  • Kevin Drum, “Cell phones really don’t seem to be causing an epidemic of teen depression,” and David Wallace-Wells, NYT, “Are Smartphones Driving Our Teens to Depression?” tl;dr: The panic seems to be a function of new data collection techniques rather than a change in reality.
  • Matt Simon, Wired, “Don’t Believe the Biggest Myth About Heat Pumps.” tl;dr: They are more efficient than gas furnaces, even in very cold weather.
  • Bill Sher, Washington Monthly, “Another Biden Accomplishment: 200 Judges and Counting.” tl;dr: He has quietly reversed much of Trump’s gains in judicial appointments, replacing a handful of older Republican judges with Democrats and scores of old Democrats with young ones.
  • WaPo, “Kittens or puppies? Animals left at shelter turned out to be foxes — again.” tl;dr: A surprising number of people take baby wild animals to shelters, thinking they’re rescuing them, when in reality their mothers are just out to find food for them.
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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    My understanding on the heat pump thing is that the newer heat pumps perform well in cold weather but they are substantially more expensive than traditional ones. We have an older heat pump and when it drops below freezing it goes into emergency mode which is just backup heating coils, and you would be better off just burning the money.

  2. Scott says:

    @MarkedMan: We had to replace our heat pump (in San Antonio) a couple of years back. The payback between a SEER 15 and a SEER 16 was over 10 years. It made no sense to expend the extra money for the more efficient unit except for the non monetary value of doing something for the environment.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I had never heard the word “brick” used in that context tho I have long been aware of the creeping enshittification of corporate governance.

    @MarkedMan: We have an older heat pump and when it drops below freezing it goes into emergency mode

    Don’t worry, global warming will take care of that problem.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: @Scott: Because my house is large, two stories (plus a finished basement), and has had an addition put on, we have three HVAC units. The main floor and basement is an American Standard AC with a separate propane furnace. The top floor has a Lennox heat pump with a SEER “up to 16.50.” And the addition is an American Standard heat pump with a 14 SEER. All of which were installed before we moved in in 2019.

  5. Kathy says:


    I first came across it in the mid-late 2010s, when often an OS upgrade would turn one’s tablet or phone into a brick. It happened to my Nexus 7 tablet.

    It’s less of an issue in PCs, at lest those running Windows, because there’s still some backwards compatibility. And Microsoft lately tells you not to upgrade to the latest OS, because your machine won’t support it.

    Aside from that, there’s the loss of upgrades and security updates once an OS is no longer supported. But then the PC OS cycle takes over a decade, not one year.

  6. Jay L Gischer says:

    I had a heat pump when I lived in VA. That was a long time ago. When it got really cold (admittedly rare), it did not get the house warm, only to about 50 degrees. Maybe current ones are better? Because otherwise, they are ideal – one unit for both heating and cooling.

  7. JKB says:

    Of course, heat pumps are more efficient than gas furnaces. The question is whether they are cheaper to run comparing electricity prices to gas prices. And whether the costs merge in cold weather when heat pump efficiency declines due to the need to defrost the outdoor coils, which means, most often running the electric heat coils to avoid blowing cold air into the living space.

    As electric prices go up due to increased demand from EV charging, AI systems, etc, then the savings of a heat pump over natural gas will decline.

    Heat pumps do lose efficiency below 40F due to the need to defrost, especially in high humidity areas. Oddly, their efficiency increases a low winter temperatures or after snowfall due to the lower humidity.

    Older heat pumps in the US did poorly below 40 due to design, mostly drive by the big HVAC companies not wanting to cut into their furnace sales. Import heat pumps didn’t have these limitations and like when Japanese car makers forced Detroit to start building better cars, so have Carrier, etc. But these days, the most efficient heat pumps are more electronic control than the sealed refrigeration system so it is often better to buy from Bosch known for their electronic rather than a company run by HVAC engineers. See how Kodak’s film division killed the company by thwarting them going into digital photography.

  8. Andy says:

    Our house was built in the 1990’s with natural gas for heat and hot water. We replaced the HVAC system a couple years ago. We briefly looked at heat pumps just to see what it would entail, but the conversion costs were astronomical. Instead, we sprung to get an above-code gas furnace that’s 98 percent efficient, a huge upgrade from the original 80 percent efficient unit.

    When our water heater needs replacing, we will look at a heat pump unit and run the numbers, but there will be conversion costs there, too, albeit much less than for a furnace. Fortunately, we have already spent the non-trivial sum on upgrading our electrical panel from 100 to 200amp, or it wouldn’t be possible. So it will probably be worth it long-term since we already have rooftop solar.

  9. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: It makes sense that there is a lifecycle for PCs and even tablets. They connect to the internet, need regular security fixes to prevent them from being overtaken with viruses, and security fixes are expensive to develop.

    It makes less sense with things like tvs, thermostats, printers, etc.

    But even where it does make sense — things that have to connect to the internet— we have an expectation that the service will continue for some time after we have bought the device.

    And the example that prompted Cory Doctorow’s post — Spotify’s Car Thing — was a product launched two years ago, where the company decided “fuck it, we’re just going to stop supporting it” and have a six month wind down period. They were selling it a few months ago (discounted).

    In a just world, customers should be getting a refund for their hardware purchase. If we didn’t have a government bending over backwards to not regulate corporations, we might be living a little closer to that just world.

  10. Kathy says:


    The thing with PCs, is you can still use one even if it won’t run all software, and even if it has no further security support. So long as the machine works physically, it works. So far, neither the manufacturer nor MS can render one inoperable remotely. And if you don’t connect it to the internet, it’s as safe as anything.

    I do find the subscription model for hardware and some other things troublesome. And the lack of repair options is ridiculous. Discontinuing and rendering useless something already paid for, that’s theft.

    Now, tablets, not to mention cell phones, can become completely useless a few years after you buy them. This si regardless of whether they get updates or not. Mine kept working fine past a few OS versions it couldn’t get, but kept growing slower, until opening an app took minutes.

    That’s one reason I’ve never bought a second tablet to replace it.

  11. Ken_L says:

    I learned to my annoyance a couple of months ago that my two perfectly good cell phones will no longer be able to make calls or send text messages after September. While they connect to the 4G network – it’s right there in the specs! I can see it on the screen! – they use the 3G network for calls and texts. Sly devils! And the telcos are turning off the 3G network in September.

    The most infuriating aspect is the condescendingly incredulous response from tech nerds to complaints: “You’re still using a phone that’s more than five years old???

  12. James Joyner says:

    @Ken_L: That’s a shame but I guess there’s only so long they can maintain support for an obsolete standard. 4G has been around since 2009 and 5G since 2019. Most US carriers ceased support for it in 2022.


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