MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/wp-login.phphttps%3A/motherjones.com/files/images/Adnkronos%20International http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en The Polar Vortex Is Coming Back Next Week http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/mid-july-looking-more-mid-september <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><head><script type="text/javascript" src="http://assets.motherjones.com/embeds/mjcd_pixel.js"></script></head><body><div> <p><em>This <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/07/10/polar_vortex_weather_mid_july_will_be_as_cool_as_mid_september_in_east_and.html" target="_blank">story</a> originally appeared in </em><a href="http://www.slate.com" target="_blank">Slate</a> <em>and is republished here <em>as part of the <a href="http://climatedesk.org/" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> collaboration</em></em>.</p> <p>Remember the polar vortex? Weather so cold that <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/01/07/people_are_burning_themselves_throwing_boiling_water_into_the_air_in_cold.html">boiling water froze in midair</a>?</p> </div> <div> <p>Well buckle up, America. We're getting another dose of polar air next week, and just in time for what is normally the hottest week of the year.</p> </div> <div> <p>While next week's mid-summer cold snap won't send you rushing for the nearest space heater, its origins are similar to the cold snaps that defined the brutal winter just past.</p> </div> <div> <p>The same basic large-scale weather pattern has been settled in over North America for months now, and it even has a name: <a href="http://www.weatherwest.com/archives/tag/ridiculously-resilient-ridge" target="_blank">the ridiculously resilient ridge</a>. Coupled with the occasional cut-off low pressure center dawdling over the Great Lakes region (next week's will camp out over Quebec), it's been a recipe for extreme warmth on the West Coast and colder than average weather out East. On the west side of the Rockies, tropical Pacific air gets funneled northward from around Hawaii toward Alaska while California dries out and roasts; on the other side, cold air from the Yukon cascades southward toward the Midwest and East Coast.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/PV1a.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Winter 2013-14: The result of multiple polar vortexes </strong>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</div> </div> </div> <div> <p>But before I go any further: North America's polar vortex-filled winter was almost certainly overhyped. I'll probably get loads of hate mail from fellow meteorologists for even invoking it here&mdash;and in a strict sense, they're right. The polar vortex <a href="http://ametsoc.org/amsnews/2014polarvortex.html" target="_blank">isn't a new phenomenon</a>, nor was it behind every cold snap of the past six months. According to NOAA, while last winter was <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/2014/2" target="_blank">below average</a> (by one degree Fahrenheit), winters are warming for <a href="http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/images/us/2014/feb/trend-avgt.png" target="_blank">virtually every corner</a> of the continental United States (save one corner of southwest Louisiana).</p> </div> <div> <p>This winter was an aberration, not the rule&mdash;a dip in the long-term trend of global warming. Further proof: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2014/5" target="_blank">the first five months of 2014</a> were collectively the fifth&nbsp;warmest such period globally since records began. This winter was a temporary cold blip in a small corner of the Earth. We just happen to live there.</p> </div> <div> <p>As for the polar vortex itself, its resonance within the American zeitgeist is proof that sometimes it helps us cope to have something special to blame for all the crazy weather (even if it&rsquo;s not always totally scientifically correct in popular usage). That's OK. For the science purists, there's a <a href="http://www.wunderground.com/news/polar-vortex-plunge-science-behind-arctic-cold-outbreaks-20140106" target="_blank">great explainer of the phenomenon</a> by Weather Underground's Jon Erdman and perhaps an even better one (<a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/02/19/nasa_offers_mind_bending_visualization_of_the_january_polar_vortex.html">with stunning visuals</a>) by NASA's Eric Fetzer. As crazy as it sounds, <a href="http://qz.com/163636/how-global-warming-can-make-cold-snaps-even-worse/" target="_blank">there's even a line of scientific evidence</a> that connects an increasing frequency of extreme weather events (like the cold snaps of earlier this year) to abnormal shifts in the jet stream caused by melting Arctic sea ice and global warming. It's a <a href="http://e360.yale.edu/feature/is_weird_winter_weather_related_to_climate_change/2742/" target="_blank">hot topic of debate</a> right now among climate scientists.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/PV1b.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The forecast for mid-July: look familiar? </strong>NOAA Climate Prediction Center</div> </div> <div> <p>As for next week's weather, polar air will again be spilling southward from the Arctic Ocean. That'll be good enough to convert what's typically Chicago's hottest week of the year to an unseasonably pleasant early Autumn-style respite that will have folks begging for more. Chicago's forecast high of 72 degrees Fahrenheit next Wednesday is historically much more likely to happen on September 16th than July 16th.</p> </div> <div> <p>Cooler than normal weather is expected across much of the eastern two-thirds of the country as well, with mild temperatures from Boston to New York City to Washington, though not nearly as dramatic as in the Midwest. All in all, you really can&rsquo;t ask for much better weather than what's on offer next week.</p> </div> <div> <p>Though at some point, enough is enough. A <a href="http://ready.arl.noaa.gov/HYSPLIT_traj.php" target="_blank">reverse trajectory model</a> shows the air supplying next week&rsquo;s mid-summer Chicago cold snap is currently (as of Thursday) sitting over Canada's far North. Let's hope the atmosphere gets all this out of its system before December. But for now? Long live the polar vortex.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/PV1c.jpg"><div class="caption">NOAA Air Resources Laboratory HYSPLIT model</div> </div> </div> </div></body></html> Environment Climate Desk Top Stories Fri, 11 Jul 2014 20:19:39 +0000 Eric Holthaus 255986 at http://www.motherjones.com Don't Call Them "Climate Deniers." Call them "Climate Optimists." http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/climate-optimists-not-climate-deniers-heartland-institute-conference <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/07/heartland_institute_climate_change_conference_optimism_is_the_new_denial.single.html" target="_blank">story</a> originally appeared in </em><a href="http://slate.com" target="_blank">Slate</a> <em>and is republished here as part of the <a href="http://climatedesk.org" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> collaboration.</em></p> <p>Las Vegas is parched. A 14-year drought has left Lake Mead, the local water source, dangerously low. It has dropped 100 feet in the past decade. If it drops 12 more feet, <a href="http://www.popsci.com/article/science/last-straw-how-fortunes-las-vegas-will-rise-or-fall-lake-mead" target="blank">federal water rationing rules will kick in</a>. Some climate scientists predict that will happen in the next year. And most believe the situation will only worsen over time.</p> <p>The view from inside Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, however, is considerably rosier. That's where scientists, activists, and bloggers have assembled this week for the Heartland Institute's <a href="http://climateconference.heartland.org/" target="blank">9th International Conference on Climate Change</a>, which I've been following via live stream. It's the world's largest gathering of "climate skeptics"&mdash;people who believe, for one reason or another, that the climate change crisis is overblown.</p> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://assets.motherjones.com/embeds/mjcd_pixel.js"></script><p>It's tempting to find irony in the spectacle of hundreds of climate change deniers staging their convention amid a drought of historic proportions. But, as the conference organizers are quick to tell you, they aren't actually climate change deniers. The majority of this year's speakers readily acknowledge that the climate is changing. Some&shy; will even concede that human emissions are playing a role. They just think the solutions are likely to be far worse than the problem.</p> <p>"I don't think anybody in this room denies climate change," the Heartland Institute's James M. Taylor said in his opening remarks Monday. "We recognize it, but we're looking more at the causes, and more importantly, the consequences." Those consequences, Taylor and his colleagues are convinced, are unlikely to be catastrophic&mdash;and they might even turn out to be beneficial.</p> <p>Don't call them climate deniers. Call them climate optimists.</p> <p>They aren't an entirely new phenomenon. Fossil-fuel advocates have been touting the advantages of climate change since at least 1992, when the Western Fuels Association put out a pro&shy;&ndash;global warming video called "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep5ptrPN6ns" target="blank">The Greening of Planet Earth</a>." (It was a big hit with key figures in the George W. Bush administration.) Naomi Oreskes, co-author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1608193942/?tag=slatmaga-20" target="blank"><em>Merchants of Doubt</em></a>, traces this line of thinking even further back, to a 1983 report in which physicist Bill Nierenberg argued that humans would have no trouble adapting to a warmer world.</p> <p>As global warming became more politically polarized, however, coal lobbyists and their shills largely discarded the "global warming is good" approach in favor of questioning the science behind climate change models. &nbsp;These days the liberal stereotype of the climate change denier sounds more like James Inhofe, the Republican senator from Oklahoma who dismisses "<a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/01/06/3125531/inhofe-winter-climate-change/" target="blank">the global warming thing</a>" as "<a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1936488493/?tag=slatmaga-20" target="blank">the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people</a>." (He still appears to believe that.)</p> <p>There are still a good number of Inhofe types at the Heartland Institute's conferences. But the pendulum of conservative sentiment may be swinging away from such conspiracy theories. Over the past few years, a concerted campaign by climate scientists and environmentalists, backed by mountains of evidence, has largely succeeded in <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/04/30/epa_chief_slams_climate_deniers_for_their_anti_science_shenanigans/" target="blank">branding climate change denial as "anti-science"</a> and pushing it to the margins of public discourse. Leading news outlets <a href="http://io9.com/bbc-institutes-changes-to-prevent-false-balance-in-sc-1600207025" target="blank">no longer feel compelled to "balance" every climate change story</a> with quotes from cranks who don't believe in it. Last month, the president of the United States mocked climate deniers as a "radical fringe" that might as well believe <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2014/06/14/obama_mocks_climate_change_deniers_at_uc_irvine.html" target="blank">the moon is "made of cheese."</a></p> <p>The backlash to the anti-science movement has left Republican leaders unsure of their ground. As Jonathan Chait pointed out in <em>New York </em>magazine, their default response to climate change questions has become, "<a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/05/why-republicans-always-say-im-not-a-scientist.html" target="blank">I'm not a scientist</a>."</p> <p>It's a clever stalling tactic, allowing the speaker to convey respect for science without accepting the scientific consensus. But it's also a cop-out, and it seems unlikely either to appease the right-wing base or to persuade <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/167972/steady-blame-humans-global-warming.aspx" target="blank">the majority of Americans who have no trouble believing that the climate is changing</a> despite not being scientists themselves. At last count, 57 percent told Gallup they believe human activities are to blame for rising global temperatures. That's up from a low of 50 percent in 2010. &nbsp;</p> <p>Eventually, then, top Republicans are going to need a stronger answer. And they might find it in the pro-science, anti-alarmist rhetoric exemplified by the climate optimists. Those include Richard Lindzen, the ex-MIT meteorology professor who spoke at the institute's 2009 conference and is now a fellow at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/science/earth/clouds-effect-on-climate-change-is-last-bastion-for-dissenters.html" target="blank">a 2012 <em>New York Times</em> profile</a>, Lindzen affirmed that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and called those who dispute the point "nutty." But he predicts that negative feedback loops in the atmosphere will counteract its warming effects. The climate, he insists, is less sensitive to human emissions than environmentalists fear.</p> <p>Fellow climate scientists have found serious flaws in his work. Yet it retains currency at events such as the Heartland conference, where skeptics' findings tend not to be subjected to much skepticism themselves. (While several of the speakers are in fact scientists, few are climate scientists, and their diverse academic backgrounds make it difficult for them to engage directly with one another's research methods.)</p> <p>And the idea that the Earth's climate is too powerful a system for us puny humans to upset holds a certain folksy&mdash;not to mention religious&mdash;appeal. Still, the Heartland crowd is careful to frame its arguments in terms of science and skepticism rather than dogma.</p> <p>The climate-optimist cause has been aided immeasurably by a recent slowdown in the rise of the Earth's average surface temperatures. There are <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21598610-slowdown-rising-temperatures-over-past-15-years-goes-being" target="blank">several potential explanations for the apparent "pause,"</a> and most climate scientists anticipate that it will be short-lived. But it has been a godsend for those looking for holes in the prevailing models of catastrophic future warming.</p> <p>"Skeptics believe what they see," said Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast. "They look at the data and see no warming for 17 years, no increase in storms, no increase in the rate of sea-level rise, no new extinctions attributable to climate change&mdash;in short, no climate crisis."</p> <p>Meanwhile, the optimists point out, more carbon in the atmosphere means greater plant productivity and new opportunities for agriculture. In fact, Heartland communications director Jim Lakely told me in a phone interview, "The net benefits of warming are going to far outweigh any negative effects." Indeed, the institute recently published <a href="http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2014/03/25/benefits-global-warming-greatly-exceed-costs-new-study-says" target="blank">a study arguing just that</a>.</p> <p>The climate-optimist credo aligns neatly with public-opinion polls that show most Americans believe climate change is real and humans are causing it&mdash;they just <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/04/22/earth_day_pew_research_poll_shows_how_little_americans_care_about_the_planet.html" target="blank">don't view it as a top priority</a> compared with more tangible problems like health care costs. You can imagine how eager they are to be reassured that their complacency won't be punished.</p> <p>Again, not everyone at the Heartland conference is a climate optimist. Many are still focused on disputing the basic link between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures. As I watched the conference, it became clear that some have little trouble flipping between the two viewpoints. "This is what they always do," Oreskes told me in an email. "As the debate shifts, they shift."</p> <p>That makes it easy for liberals to dismiss self-professed climate skeptics as industry shills in scientists' clothing, especially since many of them, like the Cato Institute's Patrick Michaels, do in fact <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2010/08/16/113717/oil-fueled-pat-michaels/" target="blank">receive funding from the fossil-fuel industry</a>. For their part, the Heartland academics tend to view most mainstream climate scientists as conflicted by their reliance on government grants.</p> <p>In fact, it's not unreasonable to see the climate fight as part of a much broader ideological war in American society, says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. The debate over causes is often a proxy for a debate over solutions, which are likely to require global cooperation and government intervention in people's lives. Leiserowitz's research shows that climate deniers tend to be committed to values like individualism and small government while those most concerned about climate change are more likely to hold egalitarian and community-oriented political views.</p> <p>That doesn't mean, of course, that the evidence on both sides is equal. There's a reason the climate deniers are losing the scientific debate, and it isn't because academia is better funded than the energy industry. All of which helps to explain how climate optimism might be a more appealing approach these days than climate denial. Models of how climate change will impact society and the economy are subject to far more uncertainty than the science that links greenhouse gas emissions to the 20<sup>th</sup>-century warming trend. The costs of mitigating those emissions are more readily grasped: higher energy bills, government spending on alternative energy projects, lost jobs at coal plants. &nbsp;</p> <p>There are, however, a few pitfalls for conservatives who would embrace climate optimism as an alternative to climate change denial. Touting the recent slowdown in global average surface temperatures, for example, implies that such temperatures do in fact tell us a lot about the health of the climate. That will become an awkward stance in a hurry if the temperatures soon resume their climb.</p> <p>More broadly, shifting the climate change debate from causes to outcomes will put the "skeptics" in the Panglossian position of continually downplaying the costs of extreme weather events&mdash;like, say, the Las Vegas drought&mdash;even as their constituents are suffering from them. In the Heartland conference's opening keynote speech, meteorologist Joe Bastardi scoffed at the devastating wildfires that have swept across the Southwest far earlier than usual this season. "We had the wildfires in San Diego, right?" he said in a derisive tone. "I think it destroyed 80 houses, 90 houses. They had a wildfire back in October 2007 that took out <em>1,500 </em>houses&hellip;When people tell me things are worse now, I say, 'You can't be looking at what has happened before.'"</p> <p>It's one thing to tell people global warming isn't the source of their misery. It's a lot harder to look them in the eye and tell them their problems aren't that bad&mdash;especially if you're relying on them to vote you into public office.</p></body></html> Environment Climate Change Climate Desk The Right Fri, 11 Jul 2014 19:43:05 +0000 Will Oremus 255971 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 11 July 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/friday-cat-blogging-11-july-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>For a variety of reasons, fresh catblogging just didn't happen this week. So I'm going to do what everyone else does when they fail to meet an editorial deadline: run some old stuff and pretend it's an extra-special feature. So here you are: rarely seen archival footage from January 14, 2007, Domino's first day at home after we picked her up from the shelter. As you can see, she immediately made her way to a book about a magical cat who refrains from eating its shipmate. This was a good influence, I think.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_domino_2014_07_11.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 68px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 11 Jul 2014 18:53:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 255976 at http://www.motherjones.com This Is How HBO Makes the World of "Game Of Thrones" So Spectacularly Real http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/how-hbo-makes-world-game-thrones-so-spectacularly-real <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Season four of "Game of Thrones" is up for <a href="http://www.emmys.com/sites/default/files/Downloads/66th-nominations-list-v2.pdf" target="_blank">19 awards</a> at the 66th Emmys, including Outstanding Special and Visual Effects. This <a href="http://vimeo.com/100095868" target="_blank">recently released video</a> shows how HBO's visual effects wizards&mdash;led by VE Supervisors Joe Bauer and Joern Grosshans&mdash;make George R.R. Martin's books not only come alive but truly jump out of the screen.</p> <p><a href="http://vimeo.com/100095868" target="_blank">Watch</a>:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//player.vimeo.com/video/100095868" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="630"><br></iframe></p></body></html> Mixed Media Film and TV Fri, 11 Jul 2014 16:42:11 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 255951 at http://www.motherjones.com A Progress Report on "Reform Conservatism" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/progress-report-reform-conservatism <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Does the new generation of "reform conservatives" represent real change for the Republican Party? In policy terms, not really. They've offered up a few variations on popular conservative themes (reducing taxes via child tax credits instead of cuts in top marginal rates, for example), but for the most part they've just nibbled around the edges. David Frum, however, <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/07/dont-knock-the-reform-conservatives/374247/" target="_blank">says this is still a good start:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What matters most about the reformers is not the things they say but the things they don&rsquo;t. They don&rsquo;t abuse the long-term unemployed. They don&rsquo;t advocate tighter monetary policy in the midst of the worst slump since the 1930s. They don&rsquo;t urge an immigration policy intended to drive wages even lower than they have already tumbled.</p> <p>They don&rsquo;t pooh-pooh the risks of a government default on its obligations, as many conservatives did when radicals in the GOP forced debt-ceiling confrontations in 2011 and 2013. They don&rsquo;t blame budget deficits for the slow recovery from the crisis of 2009. They don&rsquo;t shrug off the economic and social troubles of 80 percent of the American nation.</p> </blockquote> <p>Fair enough. At the same time, there have always been successful conservatives who were tonally distinct from the tea party. Paul Ryan is the best-known example. He's mild-mannered and speaks in the language of an accountant. He always seems reasonable and willing to engage. He doesn't participate in tea party histrionics. In short, he doesn't say any of the things Frum mentions above.</p> <p>And yet, Ryan remains a tea party darling, and for good reason: his budget is a radically right-wing enterprise. Perhaps the most genuinely radical, genuinely right-wing enterprise in all of Washington.</p> <p>So the question for the reform conservatives is: What's next? Are they trying to build credibility with conservatives so they can later nudge them in a new direction? Or are they mostly just trying to put a friendly veneer on an essentially tea partyish agenda? We don't know yet, because so far they haven't been willing to take many risks. And with good reason. As a friend emailed just a few minutes ago, "The reformers are one bad suggestion away from being fully Frumanized out of the party."</p> <p>I wish the reformers luck. And I don't really blame them for their timidity so far. Still, it's far too early to tell how serious they are. We'll just have to wait and see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum The Right Fri, 11 Jul 2014 16:40:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 255966 at http://www.motherjones.com Lebron James Is Going Back to Cleveland http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/lebron-james-going-back-cleveland <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.si.com/nba/2014/07/11/lebron-james-cleveland-cavaliers" target="_blank">Boom. </a></p></body></html> Mixed Media Sports Fri, 11 Jul 2014 16:39:17 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 255961 at http://www.motherjones.com Does Financial Literacy Matter? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/does-financial-literacy-matter <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>We recently received the grim news that American schoolkids are behind their international peers when it comes to financial literacy. We can add this to the pile of grim news about American schoolkids being behind their international peers in math, science, reading, and every other subject imaginable.</p> <p>Is this actually true? Well, it depends on which tests you rely on and which countries you compare to. And when you disaggregate by income and race you often end up with different results. Still, it's a good horror story, and one <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_financial_literacy.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">we can't seem to get enough of. The financial literacy debacle fits right in.</p> <p>But forget for a moment whether American high school students really suck at financial literacy. The <em>Economist</em> raises an entirely different question: <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/07/financial-literacy?fsrc=rss" target="_blank">does it even matter?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Perhaps most important, courses in personal finance do not appear to have an impact on adult behaviour. As Buttonwood has pointed out, the knowledge that students acquire in school when they are in their teens does not necessary translate into action when they have to deal with mortgages and credit-card payments later in life. One study, for example, found that financial education has no impact on household saving behaviour. As a paper by Lewis Mandell and Linda Schmid Klein suggests, the long-term effectiveness of high-school classes in financial literacy is highly doubtful. It may simply be the case that the gap in time is too wide between when individuals acquire their financial knowledge, as high-school students, and when they're in a position to apply what they have learned.</p> </blockquote> <p>Now, I've long had my doubts whether <em>any</em> of the actual knowledge I learned in high school matters. Habits matter. Basic skills matter. The ability to figure out how to figure out stuff matters. Learning to sit still and concentrate for half an hour at a time matters. But trigonometry? <em>Catcher in the Rye</em>? The history of the Gilded Age? That's not so clear. Maybe financial literacy falls into the same category.</p> <p>Alternatively, it may be that education has little impact on our behavior in general. We all know that the way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more, and yet that knowledge does us little good. Most of us overeat anyway. Likewise, even if we know that interest charges on credit card debt can eat us alive, we might just go ahead and buy that snazzy new big-screen TV anyway.</p> <p>Who knows? Maybe education outside of (a) basic skills and (b) highly specific skills used in our professions really doesn't matter much. If that turned out to be true, I can't say it would surprise me an awful lot. Being a Renaissance Man may be overrated.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Education Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:56:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 255956 at http://www.motherjones.com Prior Experience Doesn't Matter (Much) http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/prior-experience-doesnt-matter-much <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Tyler Cowen points to yet another story today about how HR departments are using big data to hire and manage employees, and it's fairly interesting throughout. However, my appreciation for the power of this approach was certainly enhanced <a href="http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/e3561cd0-dd11-11e3-8546-00144feabdc0.html#axzz373wnekp7" target="_blank">when I read the following:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For Xerox this means putting prospective candidates for the company&rsquo;s 55,000 call-centre positions through a screening test that covers a wide range of questions....The results are surprising. Some are quirky: employees who are members of one or two social networks were found to stay in their job for longer than those who belonged to four or more social networks (Xerox recruitment drives at gaming conventions were subsequently cancelled). Some findings, however, were much more fundamental: <strong>prior work experience in a similar role was not found to be a predictor of success.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This was something I always scratched my head about back when I was a hiring manager. Obviously you want someone with work experience that's related to the job you're trying to fill, but an awful lot of my fellow managers seemed pretty obsessed with finding candidates with almost identical experience. I understood the attraction of hiring someone who seemed like they could be slotted in immediately and hit the ground running, but it still seemed misplaced. Which would you rather hire? Someone fairly good with exactly the right experience, or someone really good who might take a month or two to learn some new things? I'd choose the latter in a heartbeat.</p> <p>On the other hand, I suppose valuing experience highly might be a good idea if you really had no faith in your ability to distinguish good from really good. And the truth is that most of us probably don't. So maybe finding perfect fits makes more sense than I gave it credit for. After all, back in the Middle Ages we didn't have access to Xerox's whiz-bang big data.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tech Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:53:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 255946 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 11, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/were-still-war-photo-day-july-11-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>A group of US Marines, the Silver Eagles, say goodbye and prepare to deploy to the Western Pacific. <span class="meta-field photo-desc " id="yui_3_16_0_rc_1_1_1405087576232_1379">(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Sarah Cherry.)</span></em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:10:54 +0000 255941 at http://www.motherjones.com Was Iraq's Top Terrorist Radicalized at a US-Run Prison? http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/was-camp-bucca-pressure-cooker-extremism <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In early July, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the jihadist terror group now known as the Islamic State&mdash;formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/iraq-isis-militants-syria-explainer" target="_blank">ISIS</a>&mdash;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/islamic-state-leader-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-appears-in-public-according-to-video/2014/07/05/73563772-0461-11e4-b8ff-89afd3fad6bd_story.html" target="_blank">preached on high in Mosul</a> and declared himself the "Caliph Ibrahim" of a new fundamentalist Sunni <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/12/world/middleeast/the-iraq-isis-conflict-in-maps-photos-and-video.html" target="_blank">state</a> stretching from western and northern Iraq to northern Syria. This announcement came after months of fighting over territory and skirmishes with Iraqi forces, as ISIS invaded and captured dozens of Iraqi cities including <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/06/11/islamists-militants-attack-and-capture-tikrit-birthplace-of-saddam-hussein_n_5484373.html" target="_blank">Tikrit</a>, Saddam Hussein's hometown.</p> <p>In short order, Baghdadi has become Iraq's most prominent extremist leader. But for much of his adult life, Baghdadi did not have a reputations as a fiery, jihadist trailblazer. <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10948846/How-a-talented-footballer-became-worlds-most-wanted-man-Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi.html" target="_blank">According to the <em>Telegraph</em></a>, members of his local mosque in Tobchi (a neighborhood in Baghdad) who knew him from around 1989 until 2004 (when he was between the ages of 18 and 33) considered Baghdadi a quiet, studious fellow and a talented soccer player. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Baghdadi was earning a degree in Islamic studies in Baghdad.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/07/was-camp-bucca-pressure-cooker-extremism"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Iraq Military Top Stories Fri, 11 Jul 2014 10:00:10 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 255901 at http://www.motherjones.com