by Freddie deBoer

Apps

For awhile now, I’ve been arguing against the notion of a STEM shortage, the idea that our labor problems stem in part from a failure to produce enough graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields to meet demand. This idea is, well, just wrong, plainly wrong. I aggregated a lot of the data here, and here’s a great piece from The Atlantic by Michael Teitelbaum making the case. I have been committed to debunking this idea for two major reasons. First, because facts matter, and one of the most dangerous things to us as a society are those ideas that sound good from a narrative point of view but lack factual backing. The idea of the STEM shortage plays into a bunch of our petty prejudices, most powerfully our idea of the future. But the data simply doesn’t back up that notion.

The second reason is because the notion of a STEM shortage plays into a misguided and destructive vision of our economy– a moralizing notion of our labor market where your outcomes are all a matter of choices that you have made. This is the chumps narrative, where people who have suffered in our labor market have done so because they have pursued foolish, “impractical” careers or education. Virginia Postrel has written cogently about this phenomenon in the past, pointing out, among other things, that it isn’t the case that people with supposedly impractical majors systematically underperform the average, and also that they are such a small slice of the labor force that they can’t possibly account for our problems. I’ve pointed out many times before that going to law school went overnight from being the mercenary path for those bent on riches to a pie-in-the-sky, impractical move for dreamers, as soon as the law job market collapsed. The narrative changes to preserve the idea that individuals are responsible for their own joblessness, and in so doing keeps us from pondering systemic change.

Look at the app economy, which was meant to be the hot new ticket into the land of abundance. (See this 2012 piece from The Atlantic for an indicative example of app economy woowoo.) What could better play into our notions of how to get ahead in America in this new age than the app economy? It’s dynamic! It’s innovative! It’s disruptive! Gone are the days of putting on a suit to go work in some stodgy firm. These days, it’s all about being your own boss, building an app with some buddies in your dorm room, and reaping the whirlwind. It’s a Tom Friedman wet dream, an Aspen Ideas Festival panel sprung to life, the validation of every buzzwordy Wired article and Business Insider post you’ve ever read.

Whoops!

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The Cost Of Raising A Kid

Aug 21 2014 @ 1:38pm
by Dish Staff

It’s absurdly expensive:

It costs approximately $249,930 on average for a two-parent, middle-income family to raise an American child from birth until age 18, according to a Department of Agriculture report released on Monday. The data were adjusted for inflation for 2013, and they ultimately show that child-rearing prices have skyrocketed more than many people imagined over the course of the last half-century. The report considers the costs of housing and utilities, food, transportation, clothing and diapers, healthcare expenses, childcare and education, as well as “miscellaneous costs” such as entertainment and personal care products. As Think Progress notes, the report conspicuously fails to include birth-related costs or the costs of lost time, earnings and opportunity that many people give up (overtly or not) by deciding to have kids. Additionally, the report fails to consider the cost of college, which costs parents approximately $30,000 to $40,000 per year.

Josh Zumbrun throws some cold water:

[A] closer look at the methodology casts some of the numbers in a new light.

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Too Much Gun For A Small Town

Aug 21 2014 @ 1:21pm
by Dish Staff

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

Amanda Taub spells out why militarized small-town police are especially dangerous:

When the ACLU asked officials in the town of Farmington, Missouri (less than a 90 minute drive from Ferguson) to provide a copy of training materials for its Special Response Team, which is roughly like a SWAT team, the town sent only a copy of a single article. The article warned that “preparations for attacks on American schools that will bring rivers of blood and staggering body counts are well underway in Islamic training camps,” and went on to say that “because of our laws we can’t depend on the military to help us … By law, you the police officer are our Delta Force.”

In contrast, SWAT programs in larger cities tend to train extensively, and constantly. The Los Angeles police department’s SWAT teams go through months of intensive training before being brought on, and once there spend at least fifty percent of their on-duty time training, former LAPD Deputy Police Chief Stephen Downing told me. It is effectively impossible, Downing suggested, for small police departments to appropriately train their officers in the use of SWAT-style equipment, because they simply do not have sufficient resources or personnel. Small departments simply do not have the resources to support that type of program, but they do have the guns and trucks and armor, which they use.

Taub also runs down some of the military equipment the Ferguson cops are using:

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by Dish Staff

In the wake of James Foley’s murder, Fred Kaplan urges Obama to start building a regional coalition to defeat ISIS:

If the jihadists of ISIS are as dangerous as Obama says they are (and the evidence suggests they are), then it’s time to plow through diplomatic niceties and pursue the common interests of nations with which we otherwise might not get along. Yes, it’s politically awkward, to say the least, for Obama to make common cause, even on this one issue, with Assad (a monster whom he once said “must go”) and the mullahs of Tehran (most of whom regard America as the “great Satan”). But in World War II, Roosevelt and Churchill joined with Stalin to defeat Hitler—and, if they hadn’t, Hitler would have won.

The net against ISIS should be widened further. A good model here is the 1990–91 Gulf War, in which Presidents George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker assembled a vast coalition to push Saddam Hussein’s army out of Kuwait. Nearly every Arab country in the region—Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, even Syria—sent whole armored divisions or air wings. Many of them didn’t do much in the war, but the important point was that they were there. Their presence demonstrated that this wasn’t a war of Western imperialists against Muslim Iraq; it was a multinational war against aggression.

Jacob Siegel expects the US intervention in Iraq to escalate, but points out that merely holding the recent gains against ISIS will require a sustained involvement anyway:

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Living In Fear Of The Police

Aug 21 2014 @ 12:39pm
by Dish Staff

Lanre Akinsiku shares what it’s like:

To be black and interact with the police is a scary thing. The fear doesn’t have to come from any kind of historical antagonism, which, trust me, would be enough; it can also come from many data points of personal experience, collected over time. Almost all black men have these close-call-style stories, and we collect and mostly keep them to ourselves until one of us is killed. You know how the stories go: I was pulled over one day and the cop drew his gun as he approached my window; I was stopped on the street, handcuffed and made to sit on the sidewalk because the cop said I looked like a suspect; I had four squad cars pull up on me for jaywalking. We trade them like currency. And it almost goes without saying that these stops are de facto violent, because even when the officer doesn’t physically harm you, you can feel that you’ve been robbed of something. The thing to remember is that each of these experiences compounds the last, like interest, so that at a certain point just seeing a police officer becomes nauseating. That feeling is fear.

Relatedly, Coates recalls, “A few weeks ago I received an anxious text from my wife informing me that a group of young men were fighting outside of our apartment building”:

My wife wanted to know what she should do. She was not worried about her own safety—boys like this are primarily a threat to each other. What my wife wanted was someone who could save them young men from themselves, some power which would disperse the boys in a fashion that would not escalate things, some power. No such power exists. I told my wife to stay inside and do nothing. I did not tell her to call the police. If you have watched the events of this past week, you may have some idea why.

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by Freddie deBoer

I’ve developed something of a reputation as a socially liberal critic of today’s social liberalism. I got an email from a Dish reader who asked me to flesh out where I’m coming from.

I guess what it all comes down to, for me, is that social liberalism was once an alternative that enabled people to pursue whatever types of consensual personal behavior they wanted, and thus was a movement that increased individual freedom and happiness. It was the antidote to Jerry Fallwell telling you that you were going to hell, to Nancy Reagan saying “just say no,” to your conservative parents telling you not to be gay, to Pat Robertson saying don’t have sex, to Tipper Gore telling you that you couldn’t listen to the music you like, to don’t have sex, don’t do drugs, don’t wear those clothes, don’t walk that way, don’t have fun, don’t be yourself. So of course that movement won. It was a positive, joyful, human, freeing alternative to an exhausted, ugly, narrow vision of how human beings should behave.

It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing. I now mostly associate that public face with danger, with an endless list of things that you can’t do or say or think, and with the constant threat of being called an existentially bad person if you say the wrong thing, or if someone decides to misrepresent what you said as saying the wrong thing. There are so many ways to step on a landmine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks. The hundreds of young people I teach, tutor, and engage with in my academic and professional lives teach me about the way these movements are perceived. I have strict rules about how I engage with students in class, and I never intentionally bring my own beliefs into my pedagogy, but I also don’t steer students away from political issues if they turn the conversation that way. I cannot tell you how common it is for me to talk to 19, 20, 21 year old students, who seem like good people, who discuss liberal and left-wing beliefs as positive ideas, but who shrink from identifying with liberalism and feminism instinctively. Privately, I lament that fact, but it doesn’t surprise me. Of course much of these feelings stem from conservative misrepresentations and slanders of what social liberalism is and means. But it also comes from the perception that, in the online forums where so much political discussion happens these days, the slightest misstep will result in character assassination and vicious condemnation.

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To Russia Without Love

Aug 21 2014 @ 11:41am
by Dish Staff

russia_favorability_rating_2014.0

Max Fisher highlights a Pew study (pdf) released last month that documents attitudes toward Russia in countries around the world. As you can see from the map, the erstwhile superpower is not very well liked at the moment:

Russia is most unpopular in Poland, which, as a long-suffering Soviet puppet state, is exceptionally alarmed about Russia’s recent invasion of Crimea and its sponsorship of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. In Poland, only 12 percent say they have a favorable view of Russia, with 81 percent holding an unfavorable view. The rates are not much higher in the rest of Europe, which is part of why European leaders are becoming much more willing to impose tough sanctions on Russia, even at some cost to European economies.

But Russia is also deeply unpopular in the Middle East.

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by Dish Staff

Michael Bond criticizes American crowd-control techniques:

One of the most worrying aspects of this drama is what it reveals about US crowd-control methods. In Europe, many police forces have started to accept that the traditional model of public-order policing, which treats all crowds as potentially dangerous, often makes things worse. This model dates back to the French Revolution, which seeded the idea that crowds turn people into primitive, dysfunctional automata, and that the only way to deal with protestors is to attack, disperse or “kettle” them – a draconian form of containment.

Such tactics are slowly being abandoned in Europe because social psychologists have demonstrated time and again that they can have a dramatic and often catastrophic effect on how people in crowds behave. They have found that the way a protest is marshalled has a greater influence on whether it ends peacefully or violently than the actions of any hooligan minority within the crowd. This puts the police in a powerful position, even before they take aim with rubber bullets or tear gas.

He argues that Europe has this figured out. Matt Steinglass finds that Europe is transfixed by the events in Ferguson. One reason why:

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by Freddie deBoer

Activists Hold Palestinian Solidarity March And Rally

I want to put my discussion of Israel to bed for the week, as some emailers are complaining that I’m “fixated” on the issue. I’m writing about Israel and Palestine a lot in part because I’m getting the most emails on that question.

Many people who have written wonder, with various degrees of indignation, why I don’t perform the typical preemptive apologetics that so often come with criticism of Israel. Why don’t I take time to balance my complaints about Israel by mentioning all the bad things about Hamas? Where are my explicit denunciations of anti-Semitism? Why don’t I come out and say whether Israel should be wiped off the map? I don’t do these things for two reasons. One, because I think it’s in the best interest of everyone– including those committed to the defense of Israel’s government and policies– to return normalcy to this debate. On what other issue am I expected to explicitly disclaim attitudes that I don’t believe and haven’t mentioned? No, it’s true: I’m not anti-Semitic, I don’t think Jews secretly run the world, I don’t believe in Islamic governance either, and I don’t want Israel “wiped from the map.” But when did I suggest such a thing? Acting as if this issue has to be treated with kid gloves in a way that is wholly unique in American politics does no favors to either side of this debate. I have been counseled many times in my life to avoid this specific issue because of the potential professional consequences. I appreciate that people are talking out of a desire to help, and situations like that of Steven Salaita and Norman Finkelstein demonstrate the sense in this advice. But to not engage out of fear of the consequences exacerbates the problem, and incidentally plays into the hands of anti-Semitic tropes. My country spends billions of dollars and an enormous amount of diplomatic capital on Israel, that makes Israel my business, so let’s hash it out. We are adults. We are capable of arguing as adults. So let’s just argue the way we usually do.

I also don’t seek balance because I don’t pretend that there is equality of blame in this issue. Many smart, decent people I know treat this issue with a “plague on both houses” attitude, talking about a “cycle of violence,” or “ancient grudges.” They speak as though this issue is so polarized and so complex that we can’t make meaningful judgments. I find that, frankly, bullshit. I’m not usually a big fan of Max Fisher’s work, but he had this perfectly right: the occupation is wrong, it is the problem, and Israel is to blame. Israel has been illegally and immorally occupying the Palestinian territories for almost 50 years. And Israel has the ability to end it. The Israeli government could unilaterally withdraw from the territories and leave the Palestinians to build their own state, or they could fully incorporate Palestinians into a new unified Israeli-Palestinian state that recognized total and complete political and social equality between all people. If you find those ideas radical, consider that they are merely what basic liberal democracy requires. I am completely agnostic on the notion of one state or two, but I know that what our most basic political ideals require is a world where we have achieved perfect political equality between Arabs and Jews. Israel is capable of creating such a world. Palestinians are not.

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Foley’s British Executioner, Ctd

Aug 21 2014 @ 10:17am
by Dish Staff

The ISIS jihadist who beheaded American journalist James Foley in a video released by the group on Tuesday has been identified:

As an international manhunt got under way on Wednesday, the English-speaking militant was identified to the Guardian by one of his former hostages as the ringleader of three British jihadists thought to be the main guards of foreign nationals in Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamic State (Isis) rebels. The militant who appeared on the Foley video, who called himself John and is believed to be from London, was said to be the main rebel negotiator during talks earlier this year to release 11 Islamic State hostages – who were eventually handed to Turkish officials after ransom demands were met.

The FBI, MI5 and Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command were all on Wednesday night racing to identify the militant who fronted the propaganda video that showed the brutal murder of Foley, the journalist who had been missing in Syria since 2012. Sources in Syria recognised the man as a point-man for hostage negotiations in Raqqa, where he is said to have held discussions with several families of jailed foreign nationals over the internet.

Josh Rogin and Eli Lake link Foley’s abduction and murder to a ring of foreign-born jihadists suspected in the kidnapping of other journalists in Syria. Several members of that ring were arrested and charged with false imprisonment shortly before Foley was kidnapped in November 2012:

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