Linky Friday #28

World Economy:

[WE1] In investigating why America can’t be Sweden, Thomas Edsall lays down the case that in globalism, we’re sacrificing our poor for our wealthy and the wealthy and poor abroad, and that may just be how it has to be. RECOMMENDED!

[WE2] If 33% of STEM grads having to get a career outside of STEM is supposed to be an indication that there’s something wrong with STEM degrees, what do we make of it when half of college grads are working jobs that don’t need a degree?

grapesofwrath[WE3] Michael Petrilli looks at poverty and parenting.

[WE4] Europe’s youth unemployment numbers are scary.

[WE5] Australia is experiencing growing work-hour inequality.

American Society:

[AS1] The NYT has an article on real life examples of The Breakup. It is, of course, gratifying to have my biases against premarital cohabitation confirmed, albeit my anecdote in this case.

[AS2] Megan McArdle has a good piece on the continued effects of racism and modern segregation. It touches on the fact that, while we cannot pretend that colorblindness exists now, it needs to be the ultimate goal. Maybe science will produce a fix. RECOMMENDED!

[AS3] Inside Higher Ed has an piece looking at Asian-American support and opposition to affirmative action. They’re really the demographic to watch, as many of the strongest voices I’ve heard on both sides of the debate come from Asian-Americans.

[AS4] I don’t usually make a point of linking to Zero Tolerance Follies because they all tend to run together, but complaining that a deaf boy’s name sign looks too much like a gun is a new one.

[AS5] Ben Bernanke has some interesting thoughts on meritocracy.

[AS6] When considering policy for the safety of children, we can be quite selective in what we will consider.


[S1] If we ever want to get to Mars, we have to figure out a way to fix the radiation problem.

[S2] Prairie voles in love…. thanks to a love drug. It’s fascinating to think about.

[S3] It turns out, partisan blinders fall away when there are rewards on the line. RECOMMENDED!


[H1] Sometimes, science conflicts with the message that scientists want to send. In this case, obesity. (To be fair, he was rebuked.)

[H2] Starbucks is going smoke-free, within 25 feet of their locations. Their prerogative, of course. But e-cigarettes? Really? [ed note: Brandon made a good point about this: Adding this probably does make enforcement easier. Grumblegrumble.]

[H3] PPACA comes with a slush fund.

[H4] A doctor in South Portland, Maine, has gone all-market with his services. With posted prices and everything.


[T1] Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical (Ubuntu Linux) has closed Bug #1, Microsoft’s dominant marketshare of the OS market. Not that Microsoft lost its market position, but Shuttleworth says it no longer matters.

[T2] How noise-cancelling signals could lead to a faster and more reliable Internet.

[T3] How the government and its good intentions screwed up spectrum-assignment, one of the factors leading to our mobile phone industry being in the shape it’s in. RECOMMENDED!


[A1] I suppose it’s supposed to be telling that the government has a lot of different definitions of rural. But seriously? It’s all pretty relative and different definitions are appropriate, even if maybe we do have more than we need.

[A2] Given our lack of significant life insurance on Clancy and what a jam I would be in if something happened to her, I’ve put some thought into what happens if something happens to her. One of the possibilities is Midland, Texas, which isn’t pretty, but it’s productive.

[A3] Mysteriously, Detroit’s delapidated old train station got five new windows.

[A4] The fascinating dispatches of a CIA whisteblower’s experiences in prison. RECOMMENDED!

[A5] Gray wolves may be getting off the endangered species list.

[A6] Microapartments!

[A7] One of the SEAL unit that killed bin Laden has come out as transgendered.


[W1] Captain T&T, the superhero of Trinidad and Tobago.

[W2] Russia is joining the ranks of countries with smoking bans.

[W3] Who in Brazil thought that a Happy Prostitute ad campaign was a good idea?

[W4] Bilingualism in Canada is declining.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. [W4] If you read comments on any article or column discussing bilingualism, you might come to think that no one in Canada can speak English.

    • Heh. Try speaking French French in Québec. They’ll look at you as if you were a Martian.

      • I used to live in a house with three french roommates. One was Franco-Ontarian, one was from Montreal and one was from northern rural Quebec. The one from rural Quebec did his best to hide his accent to sound like he was from Montreal but he sometimes failed. And the three of them barely sounded like they spoke the same language (which they all noted with amusement).

        And, of course, if I tried to speak French, that was a fourth (and far worse) accent thrown into the mix.

        • Also, my French teacher in Grades 7 & 8 was from the Congo. Dear lord that was a tough accent to get around when you’re used to people from the Outaouais region in Canada.

          • When encountering a Francophone, say a Haitian, I start out in vanilla Paris French, which pretty much any French speaker will know — but won’t always speak. Soon enough though, especially if they’re African, I revert into patois demotic African French.

            Curiously, older Cajuns find my simplified African French much more to their liking. I just have to tune it up to an American accent, especially the American r. I’m convinced French is the best of all possible second languages: like English, it can be spoken badly and nobody much seems to care.

            The Africans I’ve known who’ve spent time in France will affect an American accent and pretend not to speak French well. If you’re black and speak English, you’re accepted. If you’re black and speak French, different story.

  2. AS2,

    Conceding that I haven’t yet read the piece, most leaders in the field of diversity/equity/multiculturalism/whatever-you-want-to-call it no longer acknowledge colorblindedness as the ideal. Rather, they advocate color consciousness. To be colorblind is to deny a key aspect of an individual’s identity. Analogize it to gender (which is an apt if imperfect analogy): imagine if a woman came to me asking where the lady’s room was and I told her, “Oh, I don’t see gender; you can use the urinal in the men’s room.”

    The reality remains is that people of different races experience the world differently (and people within different races have differences themselves, for a host of other reasons). To pretend these differences don’t exist is to deny reality.

    Now, if the article posits that we can one day reach a place where people of different races do not experience world differently as a function of their race… then, sure, colorblindedness would be the ideal. But I don’t even know if that is possible, given the research I’ve seen on biological/evolutionary tendencies to respond differently to people who appear “other”. Though maybe that is what the second sciencey link addresses.

    Maybe I should just read the articles before pontificating… but then I wouldn’t be me!

    • Having read the piece now, I’m not seeing it so much as acknowledging colorblindness as where we need to go. Can you explain how you pulled that out of it?

      • I wasn’t very clear. The “color-blind” was my takeaway, not what McArdle was saying.

        I will write more later. I have a baby in my lap who is not interested in me getting any typing done.

        • Got it. I look forward to your response. But take care of Daddy Duty.

      • Separate bathrooms? Indeed.

        The broader point is that we should treat people as individuals, aware of how their indivdiual experiences are impacted and informed by race, gender, etc.

        So it’s not, “Treat all black people this way,” and “Treat all women that way.” It’s more, “I might need to respond differently to this black person than that white person.”

        The example I use comes from my students a while back. While watching a group climb on the net climber, I referred to how they looked like a bunch of little monkeys. I then said this individually to a black child… and immediately realized that this was inappropriate, because of the history of that term vis a vis African-Americans. Now, the child in question may not have had any personal experience with such a term and may not have felt bothered by it, and certainly no malice was meant, and ideally I could call all the kids monkeys or elephants or hippos without fear of offense. But, that isn’t the reality. I can call a white child a monkey in a way I can’t and shouldn’t call a black child. Now, I ultimately just scrubbed that word from my vocabulary to avoid offense and/or a sense of differential treatment… what if a black child felt slighted that her climbing skills were never identified for their similarities to primates?

        But, yea, we can’t just treat people like they don’t have race or gender or whathaveyou.

  3. half of college grads are working jobs that don’t need a degree

    Didn’t we used to have a term called “overqualified”? Was that just a nice way to say “age discrimination”?

  4. A7: just in the nittiest of nitpicks, Kristen Beck was part of the same unit, but had retired from the Navy some months prior to the Abbotobad operation, and was never part of any of the planning or execution of that particular operation. Your summary makes it seem like Beck was still part of the unit.

    a4: “The leak came during a period in which Kiriakou was transitioning his CIA experience into consulting and media opportunities,”

    One man’s whistleblower is another man’s profiteer that fished up.

    • Oh, that’s too bad. I was hoping that the team that took out Obama was a group of folks that would make you roll your eyes if they showed up in a movie. “We’ve got some rabbis, a couple of differently-abled people, a pre-operative transexual, and a, pardon me? No, I don’t know who James Watt is, I’m sorry.”

  5. [S1] is easy.

    We’re trying to capture an asteroid, right? Get a bigger one.

    Don’t haul radiation shielding into orbit. Use Newton and tiny engines and time to shove a kilometer ball of rock into a Lagrange point. Dig in, hollow it out, fill it full of supplies, set it spinning, and send it on a long orbit between Earth and Mars.

    Send people up to rock when it’s near earth, and down from rock when it’s near Mars. Radiation? Well, if you have 100 meters of rock between you and it, I think you’re okay.

    • Look, it’s radiation. A long-duration space flight must insulate itself as does the Earth itself: with a magnetic field. James Clark Maxwell rides to the rescue again.

      • 30 feet of solid rock does the job nicely. Seriously, it’s all you need. Nobody really discusses it because, well, weight is sort of a massive limiting factor (ha! Massive. I pun) on launches, but I’m aware of at least one workable proposal for such a thing, complete with the necessary math.

        You could get away with just 30 feet of rock facing the sun and a few feet everywhere else, but if you’re not in a hurry it doesn’t take much more effort to go big.

        Get something with a radius of about 500 feet. Leaving a 100 feet — so an effective radius of 400 feet. That’s a LOT of space. Slap a few engines on the back, hollow out a few thousand cubic feet. Slap anything radiation proof on the outside. Load it up with more supplies each time it hits earth orbit.

        The folks on the mars trip have a 9 to 12 months trip anyways, hollowing out more space on the trip gives them something to do.

        Beats trying to build and power some exotic shield system. Sure, creating a super-powerful magnetic field is cheaper if you’re building a spaceship by launching all the bits from earth. But why bother? You can get a rock close enough to work on for a low capital investment and a few years of waiting.

        • Maybe instead of expensively hauling rock up from Earth it could be harvested more cheaply by robots from asteroids or the moon?

          • Um, yeah. That’s why I started off with “We’re trying to capture an asteroid right now. Get a bigger one”.

            Which is, no doubt, on some NASA proposal if the tiny asteroid capture works out.

    • This (asteroid ships) was a plot point in the Mary Doria Russell novel The Sparrow; pretty good book. I liked the sequel Children of Godeven better.

  6. WE1: It should not surprise anyone that I reject the notion that the United States needs to have a sub-standard welfare state for the sake of the global economy. The military quote in the article was telling. There is a huge middle-ground between shrinking our military to the size of Finland’s and the current military-industrial complex that makes us the world policemen. We don’t need to constantly be developing new weapons systems and perhaps other countries need to step up in their own defense a bit more.

    WE2: Some quibbles here as well. How much of this is by choice and not seems to be really unexplored? Someone who wants to be an artist (musician, actor, painter, director, writer, etc) might choose a job that gives them time and saves brain power over one that requires a college degree. If you want to be an actor, you need time to go on auditions and most of those are during the day. Hence becoming a bartender or food server is perfectly logical because those tend to be night jobs. Or if you want to be a writer, you might choose a relatively brainless job so you can save mental energy for your novel. I can tell you as someone with an MFA (directing) and JD that it is very hard to do both at the same time. Being a lawyer can be mentally draining and so is rehearsal. Plus they both take a lot of time.

    Also it is very hard to determine what needs a degree and what does not. Are all sales jobs equal for example? Does work in a fancy department store require an undergrad degree? How about selling medical equipment to hospitals? residential real estate? etc. I have a friend with an MFA in writing and a bunch of her income is from freelance writing projects. Was her MFA necessary or not to get these jobs?

    That being said, I think this is a problem and many employers do use a university degree as a short-cut in resume culling. Being a paralegal used to be a vocational training program. Now many law firms seem to use young college grads who want to try out the legal market for a year or two before going to law school. I’ve spoken to law firms and they say the young college kids do better than the old grads of vocational programs. But this kind of cascading underemployment creates real problems for everyone and even probably puts college grads into two castes. Those that get jobs that require a 4-year degree and are onwards and upwards to an upper-middle class life and those that do not.

    I have a set of friends in an interesting situation. Both have advanced degrees. One has two advanced degrees. One works as a part-time university librarian, freelance writer, and starting a business. The other is in social work but also picks up catering gigs on the weekends for extra cash. They have a condo but have a roommate to help with the expenses/mortgage. By upbringing, education, cultural likes, and partially by job they are part of the upper-middle professional class in many ways. However the roommate issue and multiple jobs is more of a working class thing. So I find this rather topsy-turvy.

    Another thing I’ve noticed about Uber and Lyft is that a lot of the drivers seem very hipster especially for Lyft. Whereas the drivers for more traditional cab and limo companies tend to be immigrants or older dudes. People think they are being innovators by using uber and lyft over those square cab companies but there also seems to be a bit of segregation even if it is unconscious. Basically giving business to people who are more like you.

  7. Kazzy, replying down here.

    We’ve discussed this before, though I think I had to leave that conversation early. We’re of a similar mind insofar as here and now is concerned. We cannot, in the current environment, simply assert colorblindness. Because it’s not there. And even if it is there for us, it’s not there for society as a whole. We have to be conscientious of that.

    However, I think the ultimate goal ought to be, if not colorblindness, then the diminished importance of race. To the point that it’s more observational, like eye color, hair color, or nose shape. Not that these things don’t matter, but they’re not generally used to categorize people.

    I have no idea how to get there and I don’t think it would be right to “fake it till we make it” because that would place an unfair burden on those paying a racial price. I think the focus on ethnic diversity should not be an endgame, though at the moment it’s all we have. I’m hoping this will solve itself at some point in the future. With science! Or increased interracial reproduction. I don’t expect to have it in our lifetime.

    As for what this has to do with the McArdle piece, I think McArdle outlines the legacy of racism and self-segregation that I simply don’t see how we’re going to close these gaps so long as we do self-identify and self-segregate in the manner that we do. The preferences for self-segregation need only be very mild to have very, very strong ripple effects.

    • I agree with much, if not all, of that. I just might be less optimistic to if and when we’ll get there.

      Self-segregation is really tricky; it is one of the things that seems more necessary and desirable (at least to marginalized groups) the more divergence there is between the races. Which creates a really bad feedback loop. If living next to a black dude felt the same as living next to a blue-eyed dude and thus the desire to live next to like-people was largely negated, that would be *fantastic*.

  8. WE1- Interesting but a poor argument. It posits that a good social safety net gets in the way of innovation, which they don’t actually prove. One way to foster innovation is to pour money into basic research, which we have done well at, although we are weakening. But how does quintupling the NIH/ NSF budgets require a lesser social safety net. Money for science is relatively cheap compared to most things. So that is one area where we can lead in innovation which doesn’t need more poor or a lesser SW state. We could have had the LHC here in the US, but we didn’t really want to spend the money.

    Other than the ability to reap mega-giant rewards i’m not seeing a reason why we NEED greater wealth disparity or how it helps innovation. Yeah i understand why giant rewards are good, but the point is that who really says ” well i could only make 200 million dollars if i do X so it isn’t really worth it, i’ll just live in my parents basement.” Nobody. One thing about people driven to create and innovate is they are driven to do that. They want to build or invent or create or even write or play music. Driven people do what they do because they are driven. Nothing about having uni HC or any other SW thingee stops people from being driven or prevents them from making 100 gobs of money. It may make it harder to make 101 gobs of money, but how big of an issue is that.

    • Interesting but a poor argument. It posits that a good social safety net gets in the way of innovation…

      Anecdotally, I’ve known several people with good ideas and the drive to start a business who didn’t do it, all for the same reason: the way the US finances health care. The details varied, but it came down to the fact that they didn’t feel like they could afford to both start the business and afford private insurance. In the cases I remember clearly, there was a spouse or child(ren) with some sort of pre-existing condition that was going to make individual insurance either quite expensive or impossible to get. Insurance companies are peculiar — a few years ago when my daughter started shopping for insurance, she found that one kidney stone episode at age 17 made her uninsurable except for the state’s high-risk pool.

      Anyway, as I’ve been known to say, it appears that the US has put itself in the position of having to import young smart single healthy talent to start companies for us. The instances I mentioned above were what convinced me that single-payer, or regulation of the insurance business so that it’s functionally equivalent to single-payer (eg, the Swiss model), is the way for a country that thinks entrepreneurship ought to go.

      • I don’t have any problem whatsoever with the USA importing smart young talent to become entrepreneurs. I rather like that, to be honest. As long as the USA remains a principal place someone with big dreams can go to make them happen, the longer the nation will remain prosperous. Whether our changing health care system enhances that through greater safety for risktakers or diminishes it through increased taxes has yet to play out but my belief is the effect will be small. Even if the pessimistic result occurs it seems likely we’ll still have lower taxes than other destination countries, and a significant enough economy, that things will not change dramatically.

        • I don’t have any particular problem with importing smart young single talent [1]. I object to public policy that says we’ll do that rather than take advantage of existing smart middle-aged married-with-children talent.

          [1] I do have energy-related concerns about open-ended population growth in the US. I’ll be watching Southern California with great interest over the next few years now that they’ve decided to retire the San Onefre reactors.

  9. WE1- As another point of view, I’d recommend Paul Krugman’s ediotrial about Sympathy for the Luddites, where he points some much needed wholes in the arguments that productivity increasing technology is always an unalloyed good.

  10. WE2-I’d place the blame on over half the non-STEM major being employed in careers that do not require a college degree on a combination of corporate and government policy. Most of the blame goes to the private sector for requiring specialist degrees that aren’t strictly necessary when liberal arts degrees were good enough in the past. I’d also argue that they are requiring a college degree when one isn’t necessary either. Mainly because they can. Governments are at fault for holding to really stupid and proven wrong austerity policies. The fact that over one third of STEM majors are employed in non-STEM fields is evidence of this because it shows that the STEM isn’t rosy either.

  11. A decline from 17.7% to 17.5% in English-French bilingualism doesn’t seem large enough to be of any importance

    Bilingualism has risen in Quebec, which is a good sign. I’m not surprised it’s low in the West – it’s hard to be bilingual when there’s nobody to speak French to. It also makes sense that immigration would decrease English-French bilingualism and the number of students learning French in schools – at school (at least in BC) you’re only required to have a second language – it doesn’t have to be French. So if you come to Canada with Chinese as a first language and English as a second, you don’t need to learn French. And immigration’s been quite high over the last couple decades.

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