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Stress & Anxiety

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.19.18

I have a tangential question to the issue in a recent thread of whether we're poorer than we were fifty years ago, in absolute terms. Is it actually true that we're more anxious and stressed out than we used to be? Not even whether that's measurable, but do we think that's actually a grounded statement? It gets tossed around a whole lot. Some of the supporting evidence seems to be that anxiety gets diagnosed a lot more than it used to be, but that's hard for me to interpret. There's also data and stats about how we have fewer close friends and we're all a bunch of lonely sad sacks, but again, I'm not sure. (I saw a tweet recently that was:
BABY BOOMER: Millenials are disconnected and always on their phones!
ME: [Looks up from texting my mom to tell her that I love her] )

Or maybe the argument goes that stress and anxiety are modern day reactions to hardship, and in other times people reacted by becoming some other expression altogether?

And what's the reference point?


 

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Guest Post: Reading Group - The Big Sort

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.18.18

Bumped! Here's a sign-up sheet for the book. Mossy said he'd send in a summary of chapters 1-3 on Wednesday 6/6.

Introduction
Part I
1. THE AGE OF POLITICAL SEGREGATION
2. THE POLITICS OF MIGRATION
3. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE TRIBE
Part II
4. CULTURE SHIFT
5. THE BEGINNING OF DIVISION
6. THE ECONOMICS OF THE BIG SORT
Part III
7. RELIGION
8. ADVERTISING
9. LIFESTYLE
Part IV
10. CHOOSING A SIDE
11. THE BIG SORT CAMPAIGN
12. TO MARRY YOUR ENEMIES

Mossichar writes: It's short, low-density, and sheds light on a lot of things we talk about anyway, but hopefully in a more structured way. NYT review; and a contrary view, which makes good points, but I think is less thorough a refutation than it thinks.

Heebie's take: I'm game to organize, and I'd probably read along since it's the beginning of summer* and I'm feeling like I've got some breathing room.

First thought: Are we sure we're going to respect this book? RIchard Florida is a collaborator. OTOH, ripping something to shreds is awfully fun, and book that has both good and bad makes for good conversation.

Second thought: Mossy's second link questions whether or not there even has been a geographical reassortment, which is interesting but I didn't make it very far through that one.

Third thought:

Other studies have shown that when relatively like-minded people are grouped together, they don't settle around the average point of view of the individuals in the group but rather become more extreme in the direction toward which they're already inclined. This gives clustering a powerful self-reinforcing quality, and helps explain how American counties have hardened into such immovable political clumps. "It doesn't seem to matter if you're a frat boy, a French high school student, a petty criminal or a federal appeals court judge," Bishop writes. "Mixed company moderates; like-minded company polarizes. Heterogeneous communities restrain group excesses; homogeneous communities march toward the extremes."

It seems so obvious when it's laid out like that, but I'd never thought about it so clearly.

*I almost said "summer's eve". Nope, not that.


 

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Friday WTFuckery

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.18.18

For the record, I've come to loathe the phrase "Friday WTFuckery" and wish I had something better to call these. It's just the "fuckery" part that I think is dumb and too snorty-professor of me.

Anyway: my vote goes to separating immigrant children from their parents in military detention facilities. How fucking terrifying and traumatizing for these poor children, and how sickening for their poor parents.


 

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Adding Value

Posted by Ogged
on 05.17.18

This is one my favorite things recently.


 

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Guest Post - Housing

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.16.18

Lurid Keyaki writes: Especially interesting passage in the middle -- but there's a lot of Houston-specific content to discuss:

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, banks were left with millions of foreclosed homes. In 2012, large investors, including private equity giant Blackstone Group, which now manages $450 billion in assets, began investing in the purchase of such homes, helping kick off the nascent industry.
And in 2013, Blackstone designed a bond backed by single-family home rent. Companies then started to bundle rental homes based on risk, as done with mortgages before the 2008 financial crisis, and sell the securities on Wall Street as a way to borrow money, fueling the purchase of even more homes. Credit ratings agency Morningstar says 13 single-family rental companies have now issued $24.5 billion in such securities.
Between 2005 and 2015, the number of U.S. single-family rental homes ballooned by 7 million, or more than two-thirds, from 10.5 million to 17.5 million.
Institutional investors own a tiny portion of that total -- fewer than 300,000, or 2 percent of the market. But executives see the vast volume as targets for future expansion.
Meanwhile, university researchers say the rent-backed loans are already exhibiting characteristics of mortgage-backed securities, which contributed to the 2008 financial crisis: Companies are taking out multiple loans on the same property. They're trading risky properties as well as more secure ones. They've persuaded the federal government to guarantee some of the loans. And they've transferred the risk of default to taxpayers, stockholders and investors.
Multiple companies have securitized Houston houses, including a few that have since flooded.

Heebie's take: It makes me irate, to be honest.

But flood plain experts, local officials and real estate agents warn that the practice of buying flooded houses has consequences:
It prevents or delays government agencies from buying out homeowners whose houses have repeatedly flooded. Harris County said it has already lost to private parties 88 Harvey-flooded houses it wanted to buy.
It puts renters in harm's way, since Texas law doesn't require landlords to tell tenants their homes have flooded or sit in a flood plain.
Since flood insurance is available at deep discounts through the federal government, investors are often insuring their properties on the back of the American taxpayer.

Investor firms are really the one of the most distilled expressions of capitalism in their lamprey-esque sucking, and I'm reminded yet again of Kotsko's Run It Like a Business.


 

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Guest Post - Russia Stuff

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.15.18

Mossy Char writes: Atlantic piece on Putin:

"Given what everyone on the inside has told me," he says, hacking the U.S. political system "was a very emotional, tactical decision. People were very upset about the Panama Papers."
[...]
Afterward, many people who interacted with Putin noticed how deeply Qaddafi's death troubled him. He is said to have watched the video of the killing over and over.
[...]
"Putin had always been an antagonist, and aggressive. But he went on offense after the Maidan. The gloves were off, in a way. To Putin, Ukraine was such a part of Russia that he took it as an assault on him."
[...]
in Russia "the most active voters"--the people who buy in most fully to what Putin's selling--"are the pensioners."
[...]
Motherland Calls statue. "It's a monument to a great victory!" his friend, another angry young man in track pants, screamed. "It was built on bones! My grandfather fought for Stalingrad!" (His grandfather, he later admitted to me, had been born in Georgia in 1941.)
[...]
The current presidential administration, meanwhile, is uninterested in punishing Russia. And the various investigations into Russian election meddling, along with the press's attention to them, are mostly focused on what happened in 2016, rather than on what Russia will inevitably do in the 2018 and 2020 elections if it is not penalized and credibly warned off future intervention. American counterintelligence forces sit idle, waiting for a directive to do battle with the Russians that insiders suspect will never come.
[...]
So what is Putin to do? Will he hand off his throne to a successor? There are ever fewer candidates. His circle of advisers has shrunk; now it's made up mostly of old men who, like him, came from Leningrad or served in the KGB. In recent years, he has replaced regional governors with young loyalists and even former bodyguards--most of whom have no significant governing experience but owe everything to him. More and more, he appears to be a man without an exit strategy.
And a related podcast.

Heebie's take: Why would Putin want an exit strategy? Isn't he living his best life?


 

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Kid Anxiety

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.14.18

1. This was our first season of coach-pitch baseball, as opposed to t-ball. One thing I'm struck by is: boy is the spotlight focused on one player at a time. You are in the hotseat in a way that you aren't in, say, soccer or basketball or even an individual sport like tennis. (Maybe bowling is more comparable, nerves-wise?) After starting the season well, Pokey struck out for about a month straight, and was totally up in his head and overthinking everything. He finally hit the ball in the very last game.

2. Today is the first day of Hawaii's first time doing standardized testing, which is the STAAR test. (Texas is one of 8 states that have not adopted Common Core because guns and daddy issues.) Holy fucking shit do the schools amp up the anxiety around this test. Aside from generally over-hyping it for the past two months, on Friday, all the 3rd graders were supposed to dress in camo, and they had a bootcamp day of preparing to go into battle, including a school-wide parade where the 3rd graders do a 20 minute I-don't-know-but-I've-been-told lockstep call-and-response thing all over the school, and all the other classrooms come out and cheer for them. It's super bonkers.

Friends all over the state are posting on FB how their elementary school age kids had stomachaches and were terrified of today. Yesterday, our friend's 10 year old kept nagging them to leave our house and go home because she was worried she wouldn't be in bed by 8:30, like they'd agreed. THEY AGREED, MOM.

(Hawaii was not particularly stressed out, but she did mention it a few times.)

Also! I was told that for middle school, to pass the 7th grade math test, you must get 15 questions out of 100 correct. In other words, they need hard questions so that they can prove that we have high standards, and then they just lower the passing rate below sheer guessing. (I assume it's multiple choice but I don't actually know.) Apparently the passing rate was about 50% this year. This was all filtered through a 7th grader, so really, who knows.


 

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