An article from Fox Business – so take it for what it’s worth – talks about how the Obama Administration wants to help people consolidate their accounts. In theory, it sounds really neat. Instant verification of who you are! No more remembering 100,000 passwords. Of course, nothing that easy comes without costs and risks. It’s supposed to be entirely voluntary, which is supposed to alleviate concerns. But there is a question of how voluntary it becomes when vendors stop accepting anything else. It’s not enough for it to be voluntary. We have to be guaranteed the ability to use other options. The article focuses on costs, which is really a secondary concern if it would make the economy more efficient on the whole (and I think it would).

Does Dr. Laura really respond to common blog entries?

Earlier this month, the government announced (preliminarily) that much of the acceleration problems with Toyota were caused by driver error. But by god, Toyota must have messed up somewhere and our government will turn every stone until they can find some way to justify bringing them before congress earlier this year. So maybe the steering rods.

Joel Kotkin takes up his familiar banner that the notion that everyone is moving back to the city is a myth. One of the problems I keep running into when discussing these issues is that urbanists simply don’t understand that the suburbs genuinely have something to offer even if it’s something the urbanists themselves don’t want. This isn’t their fault. The suburbanists, for the most part, don’t really care about the discussion. They just want to make sure the roads keep getting built.

If possible, Megan McArdle would use science to make her daughters shorter.

DC Comics is kind of cursed with instantly recognizable characters with backstories that are either dull or make it difficult to tell compelling stories. So you end up with Hawkman’s history becoming so convoluted that the character becomes sporadically unseable, an icon in Aquaman who can’t even carry his own series, and yet another reinvention of Wonder Woman. I collected Wonder Woman for a little while many years ago. It was John Byrne’s stint in the series when Diana herself was not actually in the series. On the other hand, the Graphic Audio was a surprisingly good story despite Diana being front-and-center.

The statistics presented in articles like this are pretty damning. They are certainly more convincing (or at least less unconvincing) than they were years ago. At the same time, I look around me and we live in a country of such immense wealth in terms of things. How can so many people be so poorly off in a country where so many people have so much? Misallocation of resources? Debt (and lack of saving), more like. One of the distorting effects of debt is that it becomes impossible to know what we do and do not have.

A look at The Beauty Bias and what can be done about it.

A look at Facebook and anonymity.

How to improve murder investigations.


Category: Newsroom

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13 Responses to Linkluster XXII

  1. PeterW says:

    The beauty bias has bothered me for some time, though I’d call it attractiveness bias to make it more sex-neutral. In an age when we’re congratulating ourselves over advances towards erasing differences in outcome by race and sex, folks still openly celebrate and discriminate by something far more Darwinian and fundamental.

    But something this ingrained is something very difficult to tackle head-on – certainly much more difficult than the article, which just advocates a few more laws, makes it seem. While previous [group]-rights movements were essentially coalitional battles between Tribe A and their backers and Tribe B and their backers, attractiveness bias is universal and countering it requires near-equal mental effort across all parties.

    And it bothers me that the “beauty bias” is being framed in the same “Who? Whom?” way, with battle lines being drawn and victim groups delineated. Most notably the victim groups are being drawn in such a way that reinforces the prejudices of the left (which is both more willing to challenge the status quo and more comfortable with these kind of tribal battles). Notably, the discussion is framed almost exclusively in terms of female beauty, symbolized by the high-heeled shoe on the cover. It has been noted elsewhere that feminism is in one sense a movement of ambitious women against beautiful ones, and focusing on female beauty inequalities conveniently fits into this narrative. Indeed, asserting that women are subject to greater beauty discrimination is a good argument for transfers not just to unattractive women but to all women, and the article lays the groundwork by noting (correctly) that attractive women face discrimination as well.

    But this analysis almost entirely ignores discrimination against unattractive males, which admittedly is harder to quantify but is just as widespread. (Height discrimination among men has been well-documented and should definitely be included in this conversation, but charisma is of course much more difficult to quantify.) But of course if the conversation is framed as “one more argument to bolster our preexisting argument that certain groups deserve goodies,” a more complete view of beauty bias is superfluous.

    One final point: I’ve noted before that social conservatism is really a form of progressive taxation on social status. Strong social norms tend to bind the strong as well as the weak, however imperfectly. Weak social norms empower the high status to act however they like with fewer consequences, while the low status are more free to be trampled on. (Confucianism does something similar – unlike Western norms, it openly acknowledges the existence of social hierarchy, but then imposes obligations on social superiors towards their immediate inferiors, thus coupling high status with a sort of noblesse oblige.) So there’s more ways to solve the beauty bias problem than more redistribution, which is the only solution the article comprehends. And I would argue that loosening of traditional social mores has contributed to an increase in this Darwinian competition on attractiveness.
    (http://cephalicfurrow.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/pick-your-inequality/)

  2. Peter says:

    It’s clear from those economics statistics that the rich are getting richer. It’s a lot less clear, however, that the middle class is on the decline.

  3. Barry says:

    To this day, I can’t for the life of me figure out the dividing line between liking DC and Marvel comics for me – DC is far and away my favorite, and when listing my favorite superheroes, the first Marvel character would come in around maybe #6 (Reed Richards).

    One of my best friends is a huge Spidey fan, and we have endless debates on Supes vs. Spidey. I say there’s no contest, he says the same from his POV.

    I just think the DC characters were more optimistic than their Marvel counterparts – Marvel comics seemed so gritty, dirty, depressing at times. DC was bright, full of good characters and not as much angst-ridden-ness…

  4. trumwill says:

    PeterW,

    You make some fantastic points. No discussion of this is included without male height being considered. Unlike most standards of beauty, height is absolutely immutable and while tall women face some disadvantages (see McArdle link above) it’s nothing compared to short men. I also believe that weight is more intractable than do most of the commenters here, but even I don’t believe it is entirely so.

    They do propose something beyond wealth distribution, which is another thing that kind of stuck out at me. They oppose employment-at-will to prevent ugly people from being fired. That kind of misses the point. Most of this discrimination is going to occur when it comes to hiring and advancement. Scotching EAW does nothing to address that. That solution is kind of shoe-horned in there.

  5. trumwill says:

    Peter,

    I think that the case is made for the decline of the middle class when it comes to the paycheck-to-paycheck statistics, lack of savings, and debt numbers. That all suggests that the current affluence I am commenting on is little more than a mirage. At the same time, I hear statistics about how such-and-such is the first generation not to be better off than their parents… but by what standard? I am not as well off as my parents, to be sure, but I’m in my thirties and they’re in their sixties. I am sure as heck a lot better off than they were when they were my age and was even prior to marrying a doctor. Our cars are better, our houses are bigger, and don’t get me started on electronics. Housing costs a heck of a lot more than it used to, but the increase in size has to be taken into account. At the same time, it does seem clear that our aggregate influence makes its way down the economic chain selectively.

  6. trumwill says:

    Barry,

    I think the main difference is that Marvel has characters and DC has icons. Marvel fandom views DC as having boring characters and don’t care about the iconicism. DC fandom views Marvel characters as being less larger-than-life. Or at least I do. I frequently run into cases where I don’t actually like a particular character all that much (Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman) but believe they have an invaluable presence in the scheme of things.

    I’m mostly a Batman guy, but even there I often follow and care about Batman’s putative teammates more than Batman himself. The Huntress, Tim Drake, Dick Grayson, Azrael. Because they’re less iconic, you can do more with them. But they don’t work nearly as well outside the framework of Batman at the helm, even if Batman himself is kind of obnoxious at times and too iconic to do too much with without posing a risk to the iconic stature.

  7. Nanani says:

    Beauty-bias? The huge flaw in any sort of group-politics type of correction for this ought to be glaring: Beauty changes dramatically with age.
    Race, sex, ethnicity, don’t change much if at all, and height is pretty well fixed after puberty.

    Any person attractive today is going to be ugly at some point in the future. Conversely, somebody ugly today (awkard late bloomers perhaps) might become more attractive later. This is obviously a topic well covered on this blog, of course 🙂

  8. rob says:

    Unlike most standards of beauty, height is absolutely immutable…

    This is the webz, so one must pick nits. There’s surgery to make people taller. It’s insanely brutal. IIRC, they put 2 rods through arm and legs bones, break the bones between the two rods, and hold them apart. To heal, the bones have to get longer. Not sure how long it takes or how much taller one can get. Like I said, very nitpicking.

    In some ways, the fact that what makes dudes ugly are less amenable to correction is freeing. A ugly woman can always try harder, and will probably put a fair bit of effort into it. An ugly man is much more likely to make the best of what he has.

    The beauty bias people ignore bias against ugly dudes because they want to be free to continue discriminating against them. At least in this study, women discriminated against ugly dudes more harshly than men did against ugly women. http://www.physorg.com/news116169372.html

  9. Abel says:

    Earlier this month, the government announced (preliminarily) that much of the acceleration problems with Toyota were caused by driver error. But by god, Toyota must have messed up somewhere and our government will turn every stone until they can find some way to justify bringing them before congress earlier this year. So maybe the steering rods.

    Since the government owns two of Toyota’s competitors, they have all the reason in the world to make Toyota look bad.

  10. Brandon Berg says:

    The statistics presented in articles like this are pretty damning.

    Not one of those statistics supports the assertion that the middle class is disappearing. All they demonstrate is that we’re in a recession and that a housing bubble just broke. All of the statistics are either single data points or very short-term trends, and therefore do not demonstrate any sort of long-term trend.

    My favorite one: “More than 40% of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying” (italics mine). Often. Can’t argue with hard facts like that.

    Also, check out the chart on the first page of the slideshow. Oh. Whoops. Average stock holdings of the middle quintile have increased tenfold since 1962. What the hell? They think that because they draw a little red box around one number we won’t look at the rest?

  11. trumwill says:

    If the recession proves to be temporary, so will the picture being painted. I think I am pretty skeptical that this is just a blip. Things were good-but-iffy before… and those were the good times? I find the notion pretty distressing. I do hope that three years from now I am back to saying “Quit yer whinin'” the same way I was three years ago.

    I don’t know. I’m really torn. On the one hand, I see everybody having such awesome things… but a lot of it seems to be coming directly at the expense of savings and on the tab of credit. We’re maintaining middle class lifestyles without the foundation to keep in tenable. Things can easily get worse before they get better.

  12. Maria says:

    The middle class could be easily saved by mentioning a word that begins with “i”, but which is not allowed to be posted here.

    Just sayin’.

  13. Maria says:

    “Beauty Bias”? Huh. When I was 25 I was considered quite “it” by a lot of folks but it never got me anything except being hit on regularly by ugly old men I was not attracted to.

    Social connections and networks are what really count. As a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, I learned that VERY early.

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