Archive for the ‘matt yglesias’ tag
A surprisingly reasonable argument that summer vacations away from school aren’t just bad for education in general, but a strong driver of educational inequality. Matt Yglesias:
“While all students lose some ground in mathematics over the summer,” RAND concluded, “low-income students lose more ground in reading while their higher-income peers may even gain.” Most distressingly, the impact is cumulative. Poor kids tend to start school behind their middle-class peers, and then they fall further behind each and every summer, giving teachers and principals essentially no chance of closing the gap during the school year.
It’s wonky and probably — to most — pretty boring, but I think Nate Silver makes a good point:
The question, of course, is why there isn’t a millionaires tax bracket now … or even a multi-millionaires tax bracket. I haven’t run the numbers, but I’m guessing that if you established a new tax bracket at, say, 40.5 percent, that started at incomes of $1,000,000 or more, this would bring in as much revenue to the government as restoring the $250K tax bracket (which is really $360K now given indexing to inflation) to 39.6 percent, as it was under Clinton.
A large group of people were given a “human values” test which seeks to measure fifty six different values (loyalty, ambition, social order, etc.) Then, the subjects were asked to rate a variety of sausages. People who scored high on “social authority” - they believed it was important to support people in power - tended to label the “vegetarian” sausage as inferior, even when the vegetarian sausage was actually from a cow. Likewise, people who scored low on “social power values” tended to score the vegan sausage much higher than the beef sausage, even when they were actually eating meat. Instead of judging the food product on its merits, they ended up preferring the product that more closely conformed to their value system. The scientists also conducted a similar experiment with Pepsi. Sure enough, people who fit the Pepsi demographic - they think having an “exciting life” is very important - always preferred Pepsi, even when they were actually drinking a generic cola.
(via Matt Yglesias)
An under-understood truth:
Paul Krugman was observing that even though the political coverage is the part of the media that people like to talk about, it’s actually fairly marginal to the business. The New York Times is known for its hard news coverage, but he observes that from a business perspective it’s primarily a fashion and food publication that runs a small political news operation on the side. One issue of T Magazine, he says, pays for an entire NYT European bureau.
This month, the libertarian Cato Unbound is discussing copyright. The first two (of four — the others haven’t been posted) essays are rather interesting reading. Rasmus Fliecher kicked off with a rather bleak vision of the future:
The real dispute, once again, is not between proponents and opponents of copyright as a whole. It is between believers and non-believers. Believers in copyright keep dreaming about building a digital simulation of a 20th-century copyright economy, based on scarcity and with distinct limits between broadcasting and unit sales. I don’t believe such a stabilization will ever occur, but I fear that this vision of copyright utopia is triggering an escalation of technology regulations running out of control and ruining civil liberties. Accepting a laissez-faire attitude regarding software development and communication infrastructure can prevent such an escalation.
More optimistically, Timothy Lee offers a (radical-sounding) new paradigm:
The starkness with which the copyright debate is often framed reflects a misunderstanding of the function copyright served in the 20th century. Copyright is commonly conceived as a system of restrictions on the copying of creative works. But until recently, it would have been more accurate to describe copyright as governing the commercial exploitation of creative works. From this perspective, the inevitable legalization of non-commercial file sharing looks less like a radical departure from copyright’s past, and more like an incremental adjustment to technological change. It will require the rejection of some misguided policy developments of the last decade, to be sure, but in a sense it will simply restore the common-sense principles of 20th-century copyright law.
(via Matt Yglesias)
Michelle Goldberg offers what could be a very useful explanation for those wondering why so many vocal Clinton supporter’s still refuse to accept the nomination of Senator Obama:
Hillary Clinton has lost the nomination, but some of her most ardent female backers seem unwilling to accept it. A strange narrative has developed, abetted by Clinton and some of the mainstream feminist organizations. In it, the will of the voters was thwarted by chauvinistic party leaders in concert with a servile media, and Obama’s victory represents a repeat of George W. Bush’s in 2000. It’s a story in which Obama becomes every arrogant young man who has ever edged out a more deserving middle-aged woman, and Clinton, hanging on until the bitter end, is not a spoiler but a feminist martyr.
(via Matt Yglesias)
Two recent mentions of the psychological trick caught my eye. First: in his review of Nudge, John Cassidy — while pointing out that Senator Obama’s policies share logic with those of the book — offer this interesting test:
If you think you are too smart for this description to apply to you, try this simple mental exercise. Take the last three digits of your cell phone number, obtaining a number between zero and 999, and add two hundred to it. Write down the resulting figure and put the letters AD after it. Now, consider this question: When did Attila the Hun invade Europe?
Unless you are an expert on the Dark Ages, or your brain is unusually wired, the chances are that your answer will be pretty close to the date you write down. Say the last three digits of your cell number are 787 and the number you write down is 987 AD. Then, most likely, 900 AD will sound like a reasonable answer to you, and so will 1050 AD, but [440, the correct answer] will sound wrong. That was certainly how it worked when I tried the exercise.
Also, Matt Yglesias suspects a local developer is employing the technique to show why he should move.
Combining the theme of the last two posts: a lot of pundits are saying it’s a good idea to invade Burma to provide humanitarian relief. (If you don’t believe me, sample the sources cited in this UN Dispatch post.) I think Mr. Yglesias offers an interesting explanation of the trend:
The thing you have to understand about the surge of pundits wanting to invade Burma is that it’s the very absurdity of the idea that makes it such an appealing op-ed thesis. It’s self-righteousness without responsibility. Advocate an invasion of a country you don’t know anything about and have it happen and, well, all kinds of things might go awry in a way that’s embarasing. But since everyone knows there’s not going to be an invasion of Burma, you can say there ought to be one and then make up a nice story about how well it hypothetically went. You can even show your thoughtful seriousness about matters of war and peace by chalking up the tragic failure to invade as yet another disastrous consequence of the war in Iraq.
Matt Yglesias has compiled a chart showing that population density — on a country-wide basis — is not a strong determinant of how frequently people drive. It is worth noting, as he does, that this probably doesn’t reflect practical density.
A surprisingly apt follow-on to the last post… In a discussion of his new book, Fareed Zakaria makes an interesting point:
We have done a great job of scaring the hell out of people, telling them that they are living in frightening times. You know the list: terrorism, rogue states, Iran, North Korea, a revanchist Russian, an expansionist China. Throw into this mix suspicions of Indian outsourcing and Mexican immigration and it seems as if the world is ganging up on the United States. In fact, the data overwhelmingly shows that we’re living in more peaceful times than at any point since the early 1950s, and perhaps in several centuries. (Harvard’s Steven Pinker says, “the most peaceful times in the species’ existence.”) Wars, civil wars, deaths are all down, down, down over the last twenty years. And economic growth is up across the globe.
(via Matt Yglesias)
EDIT (5/05/2008): Mr. Zakaria also got the cover of this weeks Newsweek. Had I seen it a few hours earlier, this story would be the title link.
This made me laugh for at least 45 seconds.
(via Matt Yglesias)
In the category of “Things that make you go ‘Whoa!’” is the top chart attached to this study by the Pew Research Center. The text analysis (emphasis mine):
Americans feel stuck in their tracks. A majority of survey respondents say that in the past five years, they either haven’t moved forward in life (25%) or have fallen backwards (31%). This is the most downbeat short-term assessment of personal progress in nearly half a century of polling by the Pew Research Center and the Gallup organization.
(via Matt Yglesias, who make this important point: “the betters still outnumber the worses”)
Speaking of America’s military… (I’m also getting tired of that opening, but I like the idea of having segues.) Matthew Yglesias has posted an interesting graph of the number of American troops in Iraq from invasion to date. It’s interesting to see, though I have to agree with the commenters that it would be nice if the y-axis had started at 0 and not 100,000.