ISA HOPKINS

Raconteur. Adventurer. Kimchi Enthusiast.

Bits & Pieces

Another great post over at Rortybomb, about the fundamental anti-consumer problems with overdraft charges.

This story is full of ???????????????????????????????????? insights that seem glaringly obvious, Custom but, given the last sixty years of policy, apparently aren’t.  Studies show that a long commute is the factor most deleterious to happiness, but people persistently underestimate the effect of a lengthy drive to and from work on their state of mind (similarly, people have a tendency to overestimate the impact of a big house on their happiness).  

Lastly, this story is fascinating in what it speaks to in terms of gender politics… even if it is not, of course, unproblematic.  The author’s contention that having cheap jerseys a vagina shouldn’t be a safety concern reminds Seattle Seahawks Jerseys me of a classic Wanda Sykes bit (hey, if comedy didn’t have the potential to speak to serious social issues, I wouldn’t be doing it… maybe).  If you Roundup? do one thing today, click on that link and watch the clip, because wholesale nfl jerseys it is Things a perfect little piece of stand-up genius.

The Science of Things

Miller-McCune offers a clear-headed analysis of scientific achievement in America through the lens of labor.  Being that my day job is in employment law, I’m always game for some labor analytics, and they make a compelling case that the real issue facing America is not a shortage of scientists, but rather systemic, structural problems that lead to underemployment of highly qualified scientists.

Their criticism is aimed squarely at higher education, and the complaints against the system are hardly unique to the sciences: the humanities, the social sciences, and even professional post-graduate arenas like law have all been accused recently of churning out more graduates than their fields can support.  It’s one thing to have too many people with liberal arts degrees coming out of college, but toss wholesale jerseys an additional five to seven years of highly specialized training into the mix and it suddenly becomes much more difficult to convince people that what they’ve devoted a decade of their lives to studying is, practically speaking, worthless.

Why does it 安心して使えるでしょう。 persist?  Because it works for the universities.  In graduate programs, they get cheap labor, which is especially relevant in the grant-revenue-generating sciences.  In professional fields like law, the incentives are even more distorted: while someone earning a PhD in physics might be severely underpaid for her labor over those years, someone earning a law degree is going into considerable debt for the privilege of attaching themselves to the name of that school, and if there aren’t available jobs at the end of it then that person is out more than $100k — $100k which went right into the university coffers.  Graduate and professional programs are, in Sale short, a great deal for schools, but too often they fail to deliver on what they promise their students.  There simply isn’t enough demand for professors or lawyers to offer full employment cheap MLB jerseys to all graduates (medicine seems to be a notable exception, at least for now).

A couple months ago Frontline did an excellent program about for-profit colleges, which offers a story about similar incentives, although at a different level.  Advocates for these schools claim they are performing a valuable service: Roundup? they are Without educating a segment of the population that would otherwise be unable to attend college.  Critics, however, point out that all too often, these programs leave their students mired in debt and without the great job that seemed promised.

For-profit colleges, graduate programs, and law schools are all operating on different segments of the population, but their effect is underlined by the same belief: that education is an unmitigated good, and that greater education can only have one possible outcome cheap jerseys — greater employment prospects.  Given the ever-shrinking opportunities within the academy for people with terminal degrees (the University of California system, Un for example, is not even hiring replacement faculty for some professors who are retiring, due to budget cuts), as well as contractions within the private sector, perhaps it’s time to re-examine both of those assumptions.  While learning might be an unmitigated good, it is naive to assume that the system of formal education exists purely for the benefit of the student.  Similarly, degree attainment may not be the same ticket to immediate, secure employment that it once was.  Opportunities in higher education are more accessible now than they have ever been previously in history — doors are open not just to the elite, but to the masses, and what this says about our society is undeniably a Very Good Thing, at least if one believes in the idea of a meritocracy.  However, that doesn’t necessarily imply that all who qualify would be best suited by pursuing those Female opportunities, at least until there is some real structural reform.

Roundup? Ready!

Both of these were headlines today:

U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Ban On GM Alfalfa [ScienceInsider]

High Court Leaves Ban On Planting Of GE Alfalfa In Place [Civil Eats]

There was much confusion in my Google Reader, but perhaps more so amongst the media coverage, with each side in a major legal battle over genetically modified crops claiming victory.  As so often happens, the excellent online magazine Grist gives us the real story.  The key paragraph is about two-thirds of the way through the article:

“More importantly, the Supreme Court has also now ruled for the very first time that “environmental harm” includes economic effects such as reduced agricultural yield or loss of market due to genetic contamination, as well as the concept of what biologists refer to as “gene flow” (in practice, the idea that genetically engineered material may get into conventional plants through cross-pollination). The Supreme Court now accepts that this phenomenon in and of itself is harmful and illegal under current environment protections.”

I’ve had countless debates about genetically modified crops with my brother, who, being a scientist, is unabashedly pro-technology, in this instance as in most others.  While many members of the food and environmental movements are reflexively anti-GM, to my mind, the real issue is economic, and more than that, it is very real.  Unlike earlier generations of genetically engineered crops, which were typically developed at land-grant institutions and went unpatented, corporate development of GMOs has led to dozens of patented seeds, turning the issue into one of property.  Monsanto has successfully sued numerous farmers who’ve made no error beyond neighboring a farm that plants patented Monsanto seed: because of a natural process called genetic drift, in which seeds are borne by the wind beyond the property line of the farmer who paid for the right to plant those extra-special Monsanto crops, patented, genetically modified crops have grown on farms that never paid for or procured the right to Monsanto’s intellectual property. 

In most instances, it is impossible to acquire another’s intellectual property so accidentally, and so we call it piracy and theft and punish such acts.  Although genetic drift is undeniably different from, say, Napster, small farmers that have found themselves pitted against the resources of a massive multinational corporation have fared poorly; such farmers often lack the deep pockets necessary for a protracted legal battle, and there is little precedent upon which to build a case (for a poignant description of one farmer’s failed fight against Monsanto, check out the excellent “Food, Inc.”).  However, now that the Supreme Court has recognized that genetic drift causes harm to farmers, activists have finally been handed a strategy to fight the most immediate deleterious effects of genetically modified crops.  No wonder they are celebrating, no matter how much of the media is reporting a win for Monsanto.

In unrelated news: this story is worth a read, disheartening though it may be.  I also encountered today for the first time a publication called n+1, which had some truly fascinating macroeconomic analysis about the impact of the financial crisis upon the distribution of labor and capital in contemporary America.  Although the terms of the analysis are Marxist, its bias is not (given that half of my family tree is composed of exiles from a Communist state, I find it necessary to offer that caveat).  Definitely worth a look-see.

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