Bad teeth

by John Quiggin on October 17, 2007

One of the striking features of US economic data is that, at least on its face, it shows that most measures of median income (wage rates, household incomes and so on) haven’t changed much in recent decades. Here’s a fairly typical example, reporting that American men in their 30s have, on average, lower wages than their fathers did at the same age. Median household income did a bit better in the decades after 1970, because of greater labour force participation by women, but hasn’t shown any any clear increase since about 2000. Average household size may have decreased a little bit, but the effect is not large. In summary, the general evidence is that the average (median) American depending on labour income hasn’t seen a significant improvement in real income for a long time.

That doesn’t seem to square with casual observation suggesting that consumption of most things by most people has gone up. Of course, savings have declined, but that can scarcely be the whole story. An obvious implication of declining incomes is that, if consumption of some things has gone up, consumption of others must have gone down. This is all the more so, given that there are new items of consumption (computers, for example) that didn’t even exist a few decades go, leaving less for expenditure on goods and services that were available then.

So, I’m always on the lookout for examples suggesting that consumption of some category of good or service has declined in real, quality adjusted terms.

Here’s one example I’ve found. According to the NYT, Americans have worse teeth now than a decade ago.

[click to continue…]

Blogging scholarships and Googlebait

by Henry on October 17, 2007

Tom Chatfield at _Prospect_ (UK) catches “something interesting”:http://blog.prospectblogs.com/2007/10/17/the-blogging-scholarship-enigma/ for those, like me, who have gotten emails asking us to promote a $10,000 scholarship for blogging undergraduates.

a shortlist of web-savvy American students have spent the last few months competing for a $10,000 blogging scholarship to help with tuition fees—just one part of a scheme conceived by the American philanthropist Daniel Kovach, whose Daniel Kovach Scholarship Foundation also offers cash awards to female and minority students, web designers, political bloggers and majors in library and information sciences. … But is it also too good to be true? A cynic might suggest that the advertising revenue Kovach stands to gain from entrants directing everyone they know towards him quite possibly outweighs the money he is giving away. … The clincher, though, is an April article buried within CNN’s online Business 2.0 Magazine, which features Kovach as an example of the latest trend in internet revenue-gain: vacuuming up google links for ad revenue. This explains the bizarrely inclusive nature of his site’s listings: having discovered that people regularly search for scholarships for “twins,” “tall people,” and “left-handed people,” he added a section about each. “There are hardly any real scholarships,” Kovach explained, “but we’ll give the searcher any information they want.”

Perhaps this isn’t the complete explanation – $10,000 is a lot of money to spend on a $120,000 a year business. But it may make sense as a canny bit of social engineering – if lots of bloggers write posts linking to Kovachs’ site with the word ‘scholarship’ in them, Google will presumably pay attention, driving the site up the search engine rankings on the cheap, substantially increasing revenue streams.

Islamophobofascist Awareness Week

by Henry on October 17, 2007

Scott, over at IHE, alerts us to the “Islamophobofascist menace”:http://insidehighered.com/views/2007/10/17/mclemee

Not all Islamophobes are fanatics. Most, on the contrary, are decent people who just want to live in peace. Islamophobia forms only part of their identity. They grew up fearing Islam, and they still worry about it from time to time, especially during holidays and on certain anniversaries; but many would confess to doubt about just how Islamophobic they feel deep down inside. They may find themselves wondering, for example, if the Koran is really that much more bloodthirsty than the Jewish scriptures (Joshua 6 is plenty murderous) or the Christian (Matthew 10:34 is not exactly comforting).

Unfortunately a handful of troublemakers thrive among them, parasitically. They spew out hatred through Web sites. They seek to silence their critics, and to recruit impressionable young people. Perhaps it is unfair to confuse matters through calling the moderates and the militants by the same name. It would be more fitting to say that the latter are really Islamophobofascists.

Some might find the expression offensive. That is too bad. If we don’t resist Islamophobofascism now, its intolerance can only spread.

This is tongue in cheek, obviously, but his deadly serious description of them as “sleeper cells of malice and stupidity” is spot on.

This is Cricket

by Harry on October 17, 2007

From the improbable Kansas Cricket Association, here is a remarkable 4 minute explanation of the British Empire’s world’s greatest sport. (My Contemporary Moral Issues students might want to note that there will not be a question about this video on the midterm).