30 minutes ago
Comments, observations and thoughts from two left coast bloggers on applied statistics, higher education and epidemiology. Joseph is a new assistant professor. Mark is a marketing statistician and former math teacher.
Let's focus on the first sentence. This is a completely conventional assertion and it's entirely valid if you make certain standard (and always implicit) assumptions about what it means to benefit from a transaction. Unfortunately, the reasoning does not stand well when wee start tweaking that assumption.
When the benefits of trade are broadly spread then everyone benefits. But capturing all of the benefits and then using that political power to seize additional benefits is a great way to get very powerful but it runs the risk of undermining the political calculation. After all, if trade is the way that the "rich get richer" and the "poor get even less" then it starts to look like a very bad deal.
75 years of progress
While pulling together some material for a MOOC thread, I came across these two passages that illustrated how old much of today's cutting edge educational thinking really is.
First from a 1938 book on education*:
" Experts in given fields broadcast lessons for pupils within the many schoolrooms of the public school system, asking questions, suggesting readings, making assignments, and conducting test. This mechanize is education and leaves the local teacher only the tasks of preparing for the broadcast and keeping order in the classroom."And this recent entry from Thomas Friedman.
For relatively little money, the U.S. could rent space in an Egyptian village, install two dozen computers and high-speed satellite Internet access, hire a local teacher as a facilitator, and invite in any Egyptian who wanted to take online courses with the best professors in the world, subtitled in Arabic.I know I've made this point before, but there are a lot of relevant precedents to the MOOCs, and we would have a more productive discussion (and be better protected against false starts and hucksters) if people like Friedman would take some time to study up on the history of the subject before writing their next column.
* If you have any interest in the MOOC debate, you really ought to read this Wikipedia article on Distance Learning.
The deeply flawed premise through which elites have long operated is that trade is a net plus for everyone as long as the winners compensate the losers. But in the real world, the winners both fail to do so and use their winnings to buy tax and deregulatory policies that further screw the losers.
Next Stop, Bethlehem?
By David Sarno
The Polar Express is the tale of a boy's dreamlike train ride to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus. Like all stories worth knowing, it's rich enough in image and feeling to accommodate many interpretations. Chris Van Allsburg, the author of the book, calls his story a celebration of childhood wonder and imagination. William Broyles Jr., one of the screenwriters of this year's film version, calls it a kind of Odyssey in which a hero undertakes a mythic, perilous journey of self-discovery. And Paul Lauer, who is a key player in the film's marketing apparatus, sees The Polar Express as a parable for the importance of faith in Jesus Christ.
Lauer's firm, Motive Entertainment, is best known for coordinating the faith-based marketing of The Passion of the Christ. Motive helped spread early word of mouth about the filmby holding screenings for church groups and talking the movie up to religious leaders. When The Passion took in a stunning $370 million at the box office, making it the highest-grossing R-rated film in history, Lauer and his cohorts got a lot of the credit. Earlier this year, Motive was hired by Warner Bros. to promote The Polar Express to Christians. But wait, is The Polar Express an evangelical film?
You'd certainly think so, considering the expansive campaign of preview screenings, radio promotion, DVDs, and online resources that Lauer unfurled in the Christian media this fall. This Polar Express downloads page includes endorsements from pastors and links to church and parenting resources hosted by the Christian media outlet HomeWord. There are suggestions for faith-building activities and a family Bible-study guide that notes, for example, the Boy's Christ-like struggle to get the Girl a train ticket. "The Boy risked it all to recover the ticket," the guide observes. "Jesus gave His all to save us from the penalty of our sins."
HomeWord Radio, which claims to reach more than a million Christian parents daily, broadcast three shows promoting the film. At one point, the show's host wondered excitedly if the movie "might turn out to be one of the more effective witnessing tools in modern times." Motive also produced a promotional package that was syndicated to over 100 radio stations in which Christian recording artists like Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Avalon talked about the movie as they exited preview screenings.
Some audience members—and a few Christian film critics—would argue that Santa Claus isn't necessarily a stand-in for Jesus Christ. Last month, Lauer told the Mobile Register that he sees The Polar Express as a parable, "not a movie about belief in God." But when Lauer speaks to a Christian audience, he tells a different story. Lauer told HomeWord Radio that when he asked Robert Zemeckis about all the biblical parallels he was seeing in the film, the director "winked and said, 'Nothing in a movie this big ends up in the script by accident.' " (Zemeckis was traveling and wasn't available for comment.)
A Texas Republican announced over the weekend that he plans to resign his post as a member of the Electoral College rather than cast a ballot for US President-elect Donald Trump, a man he deems "not biblically qualified for office."
Citing his Christian religion and his understanding of representative democracy, Art Sisneros wrote in a blog post that he could neither vote for Mr. Trump nor break his promise to do so by voting for anyone else. Texas does not require its 38 electors to vote in accordance with the state's presidential election results, but Mr. Sisneros says he made a pledge to the Texas GOP that his vote next month in Austin would follow the will of the general public.
"The reality is Trump will be our President, no matter what my decision is," Sisneros wrote. "Since I can’t in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and yet have sinfully made a pledge that I would, the best option I see at this time is to resign my position as an Elector."
LA suffers from the too-dense-but-not-quite-dense-enough problem (overall it's a very dense city, but with a kind of uniform density that is a bit difficult from a transportation perspective).I have generally hold that density is a pure good for transit, but it seems obvious that "destinations" would make things work a lot better than thousands of point to point connections. The former (New York density) seems to make transit look super efficient. But if you are relatively dense everywhere, that almost makes a cab/uber style of transit look efficient.
An anonymous elector told Politico that the House election that would result from a Trump Electoral College defeat “would immediately blow up into a political firestorm in the U.S." and be a positive step toward galvanizing the public’s support for ditching the college. Another, former Democratic National Committee Vice Chairwoman Polly Baca, said she’d prefer that the Electoral College return to the model outlined by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers and become an independent body informed but not governed by actual vote tallies.I am especially surprised by the second suggestion here: just how does this help the problem? You still have a potential difference between the popular vote and the electoral college. But now the college can go completely rogue and decide the election. How do we know that this version of the college, with what sound like unbound electors, will improve transparency. The problem that people seem to worry about is the discordance between the electoral college and the popular vote -- how does this help?