Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Freakonomics

Encyclopedia Contraria

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New York Magazine has the decade’s encyclopedia of counterintuitive thought. Just one example:

Delaware is one of the country’s biggest problems.
2002, Magazine.
Delaware is a vast, corrupt, corporate scam of a state, and they are ripping us all off.
JONATHAN CHAIT, “ROGUE STATE: THE CASE AGAINST DELAWARE,” THE NEW REPUBLIC, AUGUST 19–26.

Preach it, Brother Chait.

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January 1, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Wednesday Night Links

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* The strategic genius in charge of the economy had an adjustable rate mortgage? No wonder everything collapsed.

* Also on Bernanke watch: Matt Yglesias on class biases in major media.

Bernanke takes office in February of 2006 holding what’s probably the second most-important job in the United States and the most important job for determining overall macroeconomic conditions. He follows basically conventional thinking and doesn’t make any unusual errors. Unfortunately, conventional thinking and normal errors lead into a major financial panic and the worst recession in 70 years. Then during the desperate fall of 2008 Bernanke takes decisive action and helps put a floor on the collapse. By spring 2009 it’s clear that this will be the worst recession since the end of the Great Depression rather than, as some had feared, the second-coming of the Depression. At this point he basically unfurls a “Mission Accomplished” banner, says ten percent unemployment is okay by him, and if congress wants to do anything fiscally it should look at cutting Social Security benefits.

That’s not nothing. That’s not the worst record of any 21st Century public official (I dunno…Robert Mugabe?) or even of any major 21st Century central banker (Jean-Claude Trichet) or any Bush administration appointee (Don Rumsfeld) or anything. But it’s really not all that great. And it demonstrates a very specific class skew—extraordinary intervention into the market place just long enough to fix the situation from the point of view of asset-owners while leaving wage-earners holding the bag. But the owners and managers and editors of Time Magazine and the companies that advertise in it probably don’t care so much about that.

* Superfreakonomics and the “All Else Equal” fallacy.

* An energy policy both ExxonMobil and MoveOn can love: cap and dividend. Via Ezra Klein.

* Alien “water world” found.

* Star Wars Kid was in the 2000s too? It’s been a loooooong ten years.

* Looking for Life in the Multiverse.

* Apparently it’s a New Jersey thing, as I did an impromptu dorm floor census (of both sexes), and everyone from Jersey wiped standing up. More important toilet science findings at MetaFilter.

* Life as a registered sex offender. He had sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend when he was 17.

* Alice, Wonderland, and 19th-century mathematics.

* And Alex sends in a late entry for worst magazine cover of the year: “Will Global Warming Stave Off the Impending Ice Age?”

A Few More

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A few more.

* #Nabokovfail.

* Scenes from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

* Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels and meet energy needs, the International Energy Agency warned today.

* A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is the patient, according to a study that examined the role gender played in so-called “partner abandonment.”

* Picasso and his love of Japanese erotic prints.

* Always start your viral marketing campaign after your show is already doomed.

* The New Yorker takes down Superfreakonomics. I like this coda from Crooked Timber a lot:

Kolbert’s closing words are, however, a little unfair.

To be skeptical of climate models and credulous about things like carbon-eating trees and cloudmaking machinery and hoses that shoot sulfur into the sky is to replace a faith in science with a belief in science fiction. This is the turn that “SuperFreakonomics” takes, even as its authors repeatedly extoll their hard-headedness. All of which goes to show that, while some forms of horseshit are no longer a problem, others will always be with us.

Not unfair to Levitt and Dubner, mind you, but to science fiction. After all, two science fiction authors, Frederick Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, had their number down way back in 1953 with The Space Merchants (Pohl, amazingly, is still active and alive).

The Conservationists were fair game, those wild eyed zealots who pretended modern civilization was in some way “plundering” our planet. Preposterous stuff. Science is always a step ahead of the failure of natural resources. After all, when real meat got scarce, we had soyaburgers ready. When oil ran low, technology developed the pedicab.

The Space Merchants is truly great, incidentally. Read it if you haven’t.

* Twenty years after the Berlin Wall. The “click to fade” images are stunning.

‘Why Everything in Superfreakonomics About Global Warming Is Wrong’

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Written by gerrycanavan

October 18, 2009 at 2:56 am

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Saturday

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Saturday!

* John Lanchester: More general conditions involving gender abnormality affect one in three thousand people – which, globally, is two million people. There are more human beings who are in some degree intersex than there are Botswanans. (via Vu)

* I have no idea what to think or say about Marge Simpson’s Playboy spread.

* Regender.com swaps gendered language on websites. Here’s my site regendered.

* And, in non-gender news, the Freakonomics folks are facing tons of criticism in the blogosphere over their new book, including Krugman, Brad DeLong, and a four-part series at Climate Progress. The authors have posted a response at the Freakonomics blog, but as Matt Yglesias and their own commenters note, it’s fairly limp. I liked the first book, but it looks like I’ll skip this one.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 17, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Thursday Night Links

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Thursday night links!

* I saw Zombieland tonight and was impressed with how well America kept its Big Cameo secret. (I won’t spoil things either.) The movie itself is pretty fun, if less funny than it thinks and a little cartoonish at times. I find in general that I prefer my zombie movies to be psychologically realistic and thematically bleak, with roughly two-thirds of the film devoted to the building of systematic fortifications and the last third devoted to the spectacular destruction of said fortifications.

* This is a great blog and Imma let you finish, but MetaFilter has the best Balloon Boy thread of all time. Don’t miss what could be the exciting start of Phase 2: “You guys said we did it for the show.”

* Why Your Idea to Save Journalism Won’t Work.

* Nice to see Mad Men getting some press in the Atlantic, but couldn’t they have found someone who actually gets the show?

Mad Men’s most egregious stumble—though seemingly a small one—involves Betty Draper’s college career, and it is generally emblematic of this extraordinarily accomplished show’s greatest weaknesses, and specifically emblematic of its confused approach to this poorly defined character. Betty, the show establishes, was in a sorority. So far, okay. Pretty, with a little-girl voice and a childlike, almost lobotomized affect; humorless; bland but at times creepily calculating (as when she seeks solace by manipulating her vulnerable friend into an affair); obsessed with appearances and therefore lacking in inner resources; a consistently cold and frequently vindictive mother; a daddy’s girl—Betty is written, and clumsily performed by model-turned-actress January Jones, as a clichéd shallow sorority sister. (Just as Don’s self-invented identity is Gatsby-like, so Betty, his wife, is a jejune ornament like Daisy, though without the voice full of money.) But she’s also a character deeply wronged by her serial-philanderer husband, and she’s hazily presented as a stultified victim of soulless postwar suburban ennui (now there’s a cliché). So, perhaps to bestow gravitas on her, or at least some upper-classiness, the show establishes that she went to Bryn Mawr. But of course Bryn Mawr has never had sororities. By far the brainiest of the Seven Sisters—cussed, straight-backed, high-minded, and feminist (its students, so the wags said, preferred the Ph.D. to the Mrs.)—Bryn Mawr was probably the least likely college that Betty Draper, given to such non-U genteelisms as “passed away,” would have attended. So much for satiric exactitude.

As I complained in the MeFi thread, Betty’s problem isn’t that she’s bland, humorless, or stupid but that she hates her life.

* Chicago and the Great Flood of 1992.

* How the Freaknomics authors blew a chapter on climate change in the book’s new sequel, Superfreakonomics.

* “The original Gauntlet was released with no ending. The hundred or so levels were randomised and looped for as long as play lasted. Atari saw Gauntlet as a process, a game that was played for its own sake and not to reach completion. The adventurers continue forever until their life drains out, their quest ultimately hopeless.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 16, 2009 at 3:32 am

Links

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You know what these are. They’re links.

* Pirates: the key to understanding the world.

* Inside Joss Whedon’s next project. No, not Dollhouse: Dr. Horrible Singalong Blog, a Web musical starring Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, and Nathan Fillion.

* We’ve reached the end of the remake express: they’re remaking Highlander. Not only are there no more ideas in Hollywood, there aren’t even any more movies to be remade.

* Film School Rejects has the Top Ten Indiana Jones moments. This is actually a pretty terrible list, as the Grail challenges from Last Crusade are foolishly clumped together—”The penitent man shall kneel before God” and “You have chosen… wisely” both easily make the cut—as is one of the best lines from the whole series, “We named the dog ‘Indiana,'” which along with four horses in the desert for two decades served as the capstone for the trilogy. But you know a list like this doesn’t know what it’s talking about when it excludes the single best shot of either Lucas’s or Spielberg’s career:

Via Cyn-C.

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May 21, 2008 at 4:33 pm

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Alan Weisman, author of the key apocalyptic text of the moment, The World Without Us, was on The Daily Show last night. Here’s the video:

Ron Riggle’s Operation Fluffy Bunny report was also pretty excellent.

Meanwhile, just about all of The Colbert Report was mandatory viewing last night as well: here’s Stephen on the Freakonomics terrorism kerfluffle, skepticism, and (maybe my favorite news story of the year) corporate edits of Wikipedia.

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August 22, 2007 at 5:59 pm

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Steven “Freakonomics” Levitt has a nice follow-up post in response to the kneejerk paroxysm of baseless fear generated in response to his original terrorism post, which I linked to yesterday. In it he reiterates the same reasonable and essential point, which will surely again be ignored by the mob:

A lot of the angry responses make me wonder what everyday Americans think terrorists do all day. My guess is that they brainstorm ideas for terrorist plots. And you have to believe that terrorists are total idiots if it never occurred to them after the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings that maybe a sniper plot wasn’t a bad idea. The point is this: there is a virtually infinite array of incredibly simple strategies available to terrorists. The fact that it has been six years since the last major terrorist attack in the United States suggests either that the terrorists are incompetent, or that perhaps their goal isn’t really to generate terror.

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August 9, 2007 at 8:44 pm

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Steven D. Levitt of the Freakonomics book and blog asks the question that dare not speak its name: If al Qaeda really wants to destroy our way of life, why don’t they launch a series of small, simultaneous, coordinated sniper attacks on public spaces all across the country? That this has never happened—even after the D.C. sniper showed everyone how easy and incredibly damaging such attacks would be—would seem to say a lot about al Qaeda’s actual operational capacity and/or goals. Via MetaFilter.

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August 8, 2007 at 8:38 pm

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