Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 10th, 2014

“The Libertarian Fantasy”

leave a comment »

Paul Krugman once more points out some fundamental flaws in the libertarian position (that the free market can solve all problems):

n the latest Times Magazine, Robert Draper profiled youngish libertarians — roughly speaking, people who combine free-market economics with permissive social views — and asked whether we might be heading for a “libertarian moment.” Well, probably not. Polling suggests that young Americans tend, if anything, to be more supportive of the case for a bigger government than their elders. But I’d like to ask a different question: Is libertarian economics at all realistic?

The answer is no. And the reason can be summed up in one word: phosphorus.

As you’ve probably heard, the City of Toledo recently warned its residents not to drink the water. Why? Contamination from toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie, largely caused by the runoff of phosphorus from farms.

When I read about that, it rang a bell. Last week many Republican heavy hitters spoke at a conference sponsored by the blog Red State — and I remembered an antigovernment rant a few years back from Erick Erickson, the blog’s founder. Mr. Erickson suggested that oppressive government regulation had reached the point where citizens might want to “march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp.” And the source of his rage? A ban on phosphates in dishwasher detergent. After all, why would government officials want to do such a thing?

An aside: The states bordering Lake Erie banned or sharply limited phosphates in detergent long ago, temporarily bringing the lake back from the brink. But farming has so far evaded effective controls, so the lake is dying again, and it will take more government intervention to save it.

The point is that before you rage against unwarranted government interference in your life, you might want to ask why the government is interfering. Often — not always, of course, but far more often than the free-market faithful would have you believe — there is, in fact, a good reason for the government to get involved. Pollution controls are the simplest example, but not unique.

Smart libertarians have always realized that there are problems free markets alone can’t solve — but their alternatives to government tend to be implausible. For example, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2014 at 7:22 pm

Fascinating documentary of a life in progress

with 2 comments

Really quite good: Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2014 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Music, Video

Very interesting look at Miami: Real estate as a deposit in a bank

leave a comment »

And as to the question whether it’s a bubble: obviously Miami is going to be mostly underwater in around 80-100 years, depending on how fast Greenland goes and what the Antarctic does, so yes, it is a bubble from any reasonable long-term view. That market is going to plunge at some point. I believe the investment strategy is known as the “bigger sucker” play. There are always tears at the end.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2014 at 11:57 am

If it looks like stalking and people do it anyway, it’s stalking.

with 2 comments

And apparently stalkers are a big demographic, so worth providing with products.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2014 at 11:45 am

Posted in Technology

Asking teachers to fix poverty and family breakdowns

leave a comment »

The US seems obsessed with placing total responsibility for educational outcomes on teachers, generally ignoring what happens outside the classroom and in particular the problems that come from living in poverty and/or in a family that has broken down to the point it cannot provide emotional and psychological support. Matthew Di Carlo at the Albert Shanker Institute notes:

Roughly 60 percent of achievement outcomes is explained by student and family background characteristics (most are unobserved, but likely pertain to income/poverty). Observable and unobservable schooling factors explain roughly 20 percent, most of this (10-15 percent) being teacher effects. The rest of the variation (about 20 percent) is unexplained (error). In other words, though precise estimates vary, the preponderance of evidence shows that achievement differences between students are overwhelmingly attributable to factors outside of schools and classrooms (see Hanushek et al. 1998; Rockoff 2003; Goldhaber et al. 1999; Rowan et al. 2002; Nye et al. 2004).

Now, to be clear: this does not mean that teachers aren’t really important, nor that increasing teacher quality can only generate tiny improvements. The holder of the title of Most Influential Schooling Factor, even in the big causal picture, exerts substantial influence. More practically, school-related factors are the only ones that education policy can directly address.

Juana Summers has a very interesting article at NPR on a longitudinal study that follows children from a young age into early adulthood in order to discover the key factors that result in good outcomes:

Education is historically considered to be the thing that levels the playing field, capable of lifting up the less advantaged and improving their chances for success.

“Play by the rules, work hard, apply yourself and do well in school, and that will open doors for you,” is how Karl Alexander, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist, puts it.

But a study published in June suggests that the things that really make the difference — between prison and college, success and failure, sometimes even life and death — are money and family.

Alexander is one of the authors of “The Long Shadow,” which explored this scenario: Take two kids of the same age who grew up in the same city — maybe even the same neighborhood. What factors will make the difference for each?

To find the answer, the Hopkins researchers undertook a massive study. They followed nearly 800 kids in Baltimore — from first grade until their late-20s.

They found that a child’s fate is in many ways fixed at birth — determined by family strength and the parents’ financial status.

The kids who got a better start — because their parents were married and working — ended up better off. Most of the poor kids from single-parent families stayed poor.

Just 33 children — out of nearly 800 — moved from the low-income to high-income bracket. And a similarly small number born into low-income families had college degrees by the time they turned 28.

We traveled to Baltimore to spend time with two of the people whom Alexander and the team tracked for nearly three decades. Here are their stories: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2014 at 9:54 am

An interesting look at Pyongyang

leave a comment »

Via Verge, which provides the context for the video:

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2014 at 9:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Cash, Weapons and Surveillance: the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack

leave a comment »

One reason there’s so much outrage over the slaughter of civilians and children in Gaza is that those slaughters—and sometimes quite deliberate killings (e.g., the four boys playing on the beach, the 13-year-old girl shot down by an Israeli soldier as she walked away)—are in effect funded and supported by the US, we find ourselves complicit in a terrible operation, on the side of a government illegally seizing territory in the West Bank and consigning Gazans to an open-air prison. Glenn Greenwald comments on US complicity:

The U.S. government has long lavished overwhelming aid on Israel, providing cash, weapons and surveillance technology that play a crucial role in Israel’s attacks on its neighbors. But top secret documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shed substantial new light on how the U.S. and its partners directly enable Israel’s military assaults – such as the one on Gaza.

Over the last decade, the NSA has significantly increased the surveillance assistance it provides to its Israeli counterpart, the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU; also known as Unit 8200), including data used to monitor and target Palestinians. In many cases, the NSA and ISNU work cooperatively with the British and Canadian spy agencies, the GCHQ and CSEC.

The relationship has, on at least one occasion, entailed the covert payment of a large amount of cash to Israeli operatives. Beyond their own surveillance programs, the American and British surveillance agencies rely on U.S.-supported Arab regimes, including the Jordanian monarchy and even the Palestinian Authority Security Forces, to provide vital spying services regarding Palestinian targets.

The new documents underscore the indispensable, direct involvement of the U.S. government and its key allies in Israeli aggression against its neighbors. That covert support is squarely at odds with the posture of helpless detachment typically adopted by Obama officials and their supporters.

President Obama, in his press conference on Friday, said ”it is heartbreaking to see what’s happening there,” referring to the weeks of civilian deaths in Gaza – “as if he’s just a bystander, watching it all unfold,” observed Brooklyn College Professor Corey Robin. Robin added: ”Obama talks about Gaza as if it were a natural disaster, an uncontrollable biological event.”

Each time Israel attacks Gaza and massacres its trapped civilian population – at the end of 2008, in the fall of 2012, and now again this past month – the same process repeats itself in both U.S. media and government circles: the U.S. government feeds Israel the weapons it uses and steadfastly defends its aggression both publicly and at the U.N.; the U.S. Congress unanimously enacts one resolution after the next to support and enable Israel; and then American media figures pretend that the Israeli attack has nothing to do with their country, that it’s just some sort of unfortunately intractable, distant conflict between two equally intransigent foreign parties in response to which all decent Americans helplessly throw up their hands as though they bear no responsibility.

“The United States has been trying to broker peace in the Middle East for the past 20 years,” wrote the liberal commentator Kevin Drum in Mother Jones, last Tuesday. The following day, CNN reported that the Obama administration ”agreed to Israel’s request to resupply it with several types of ammunition … Among the items being bought are 120mm mortar rounds and 40mm ammunition for grenade launchers.”

The new Snowden documents illustrate a crucial fact: Israeli aggression would be impossible without the constant, lavish support and protection of the U.S. government, which is anything but a neutral, peace-brokering party in these attacks. And the relationship between the NSA and its partners on the one hand, and the Israeli spying agency on the other, is at the center of that enabling. . .

Continue reading.

The US is definitely complicit in what is happening and is fueling the war.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2014 at 9:25 am

Posted in Daily life

%d bloggers like this: