CRF Blog

How Denver is tackling the student debt problem

by Bill Hayes

As part of his series titled “Where America Works,” Fareed Zakaria reports on How Denver is tackling the student debt problem.

Wikipedia: where truth dies online

by Bill Hayes

In Wikipedia: where truth dies online for Spiked, Nigel Scott takes aim at Wikipedia.

Wikipedia may be the ultimate devolved business model. Its content is generated by unpaid and largely uncontrolled volunteers. Its management structure is almost non-existent. Editors earn ‘brownie points’ by obsessively editing as many different pages as possible, preferably in subjects that they know nothing about. Specialist knowledge is frowned upon and discouraged. Those with the best understanding of Wikipedia’s procedures join together to bully and sideline newcomers.

To the casual reader, much of Wikipedia appears adequate, but be warned, nothing can be trusted. If your life depends on it, go elsewhere. Search engines have given us the power to instantly uncover source material that used to take weeks of library research to find – if it was available at all. Sources can be biased, but at least with other sources you know who has written what you are reading. With Wikipedia, you do not. Everyone has an agenda, but with Wikipedia you never know who is setting it. [more]

Global Opposition to U.S. Surveillance and Drones, but Limited Harm to America’s Image

by Bill Hayes

In a new survey based on a number of opinion polls, the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project reports that the world opposes U.S. surveillance and drones, but limited harm has been done to America’s image.

Revelations about the scope of American electronic surveillance efforts have generated headlines around the world over the past year. And a new Pew Research Center survey finds widespread global opposition to U.S. eavesdropping and a decline in the view that the U.S. respects the personal freedoms of its people. But in most countries there is little evidence this opposition has severely harmed America’s overall image. [more]

Pew Opp Drones

Carrying On

by Bill Hayes

In Carrying On for the New York Times Book Review, Miranda Seymour reviews The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War by Lara Feigel.

In September 1939, a hastily prepared Britain declared war on Germany. A year later, after an air attack on Berlin, Hitler carried out his threat of revenge against “the capital of the British Empire.” The blitz, which would continue until May 1941, had begun.

It seems particularly appropriate, in a lovingly researched book that focuses on the experiences of five writers living in London during those suspenseful months, that one of the first urban casualties of the onslaught was a literary one. On Sept. 9, 1940, Virginia Woolf’s London apartment was hit by an unexploded bomb. A week later, the bomb went off, blowing up the entire house and destroying the celebrated Hogarth Press. Woolf’s suicide followed six months later. [more]

‘Chinatown’ in real life

by Bill Hayes

In  ‘Chinatown’ in real life for the Los Angeles Times, Gary Polakovic looks at the state of California water 40 years after the classic movie Chinatown.

[S]cientists know that California and the Southwest have experienced mega-droughts, lasting for decades. Today, no one has a plan should such droughts recur. And yet recur they almost certainly will. UCLA researchers found that such “perfect droughts” coincide with periods of warming temperatures. And the climate models and data point to one consistent conclusion: The Southwest will be much warmer and drier in the near future. State officials expect the Sierra snowpack to diminish by 25% in 35 years.

Unless we stop playing make-believe, the words of the fictional L.A. politician in the opening scene of “Chinatown” will prove prescient: “We live next door to the ocean, but we also live on the edge of a desert. Los Angeles is a desert community; beneath this building, beneath every street there’s a desert, and without water, the dust will rise up and cover us as if this place never existed.” [more]

Technology Quarterly

by David De La Torre

The Economist’s Technology Quarterly features the following articles:

Rahm Emanuel’s War on Drugs

by Bill Hayes

In Rahm Emanuel’s War on Drugs, Bloomberg Businessweek reports on lawsuits by states and cities against the makers of addictive painkillers.

State and local officials have asked the Food and Drug Administration to stop opioid makers from marketing the drugs for long-term pain management, but the FDA hasn’t acted and neither have the drugs’ manufacturers. So local governments are taking pharmaceutical companies to court. Civil lawsuits filed in the past month by Chicago and California’s Santa Clara and Orange counties accuse Purdue and four other drugmakers of soft-pedaling the risks of the medications. Both suits seek to force “defendants to cease their unlawful promotion of opioids and to correct their misrepresentations” as well as pay unspecified damages. [more]

Jon Meacham on Polarization in Politics

by Bill Hayes

Sitting in for Charlie Rose, Jon Meacham interviews David Brooks of the New York Times and presidential historian Michael Beschloss on polarization in politics.

Here Be Monsters

by Bill Hayes

In Here Be Monsters for the New York Review of Books, Marina Warner reviews two books on Medieval maps: Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps by Chet Van Duzer and Sea Monsters: A Voyage Around the World’s Most Beguiling Map by Joseph Nigg.

Much of the lore surrounding sea monsters exhibits the same wonderful mix of fantasy and observation, in which one can catch glimpses of whales and their valuable products, the vast lacy architectures of coral reefs, marine ecosystems, and pearl fishers’ experiences, all mixed up with sheer fancy. Several of the maps explored in these vivid studies by Chet Van Duzer and Joseph Nigg illustrate, for example, the unfortunate sailors who camp on a colossal fish they mistake for an island: they’ve made a landfall on its back and built a fire to cook themselves a meal, but when the beast feels the heat of the flames, it rouses itself and dives, taking the heedless picnickers to their death in the deeps.

This cautionary tale was so popular that the island-monster was given its own name: aspidoceleon, after its resemblance to a shield turtle, and the scene is widely illustrated and told — in the Romance of Alexander, the tale of Sindbad, and in the legend of Saint Brendan, in which the medieval monk glosses it as a warning that too much pleasure-loving idling and dalliance in this world will take you down to hell …. Like other monster stories the aspidoceleon envisions a horrible — comically horrible — possibility, and issues a warning; but above all , it belongs to the literature of astonishment — mirabilia

, in Latin, or ’ajaib, as in the Arabian Nights, and its tellers aim to astonish and delight.

The status of monsters is never stable: Are they fact or are they fiction? It is a question that early modern mapmakers do not answer. [more]

Does the Academy Matter?

by Bill Hayes

In Does the Academy Matter? for Foreign Policy magazine, a panel of experts discusses foreign policy and higher education. The panelists included: J. Peter Scoblic, James Goldgeier, Bruce Jentleson, Stephen Walt, Ian Johnstone, Robert Gallucci, Cecilia Rouse, Peter Cowhey, James Levinsohn, James Reardon-anderson, and J. Dana Stuster.

WALT: I want to be a little bit more critical of the public policy schools for a second, because this conversation has tended to valorize them and criticize the disciplines. Let me make two complaints about the public policy schools or international affairs schools.

One is, I think, many of our schools use an obsolete model. The standard model of a public policy school will teach people some microeconomics, teach them some statistics, teach them something we call policy analysis, maybe give them a little bit of leadership, and then they can dabble in a bunch of other areas. This is a model that’s been around for 30, 35 years.

It shortchanges history. We don’t generally teach history in public policy schools. We should. It shortchanges law. Nobody gets out of a public policy school understanding very much about law, either international or domestic.

I think you could — and particularly in the international affairs area — actually do a sort of root-and-branch rethinking of the public policy, international affairs curriculum that would put much more emphasis on history, much more emphasis on regional expertise, much more emphasis on law, and you would end up getting people who weren’t the perfect OMB budget analyst but might be actually a much more effective policy analyst.

Problem No. 2 is public policy schools have one danger that disciplinary departments don’t have, and that’s the danger of co-optation. The great virtue of academic institutions is that they are independent. They can be creative, original, dissident voices.

Public policy schools, because they like to live pretty close to power and live pretty close to the policy world, are in more danger of being co-opted. If you’re an academic who is thinking you would like to work for the next administration, you may pull a lot of punches in that next article. You think you’d like to write something critical of Hillary Clinton, but you know what — she might be the next president, and there goes your appointment as assistant secretary for whatever. And because we like being close to power, because we’d like our students to be able to get jobs, public policy schools have, I think, a much greater danger of being essentially co-opted by the world that, at least part of the time, we ought to be criticizing.

One final point about this. We never have a conversation in graduate school about the ethics of the business — the question that Bob raised at the very beginning. What is our ethical responsibility to the society at large that supports us and subsidizes us in all sorts of ways? What’s our responsibility as scholars to be giving back, to be making some kind of positive contribution? [more]

Who Is the Greatest Fictional Character of All Time?

by Bill Hayes

The Atlantic’s Big Question asks various experts (and commenters) to weigh in on one question. A recent question was: Who Is the Greatest Fictional Character of All Time?

Tobias Wolff, author, Old School

Simone Weil said that the mark of a great writer is the ability to make a good person interesting. Tolstoy accomplishes just that in the figure of Pierre Bezukhov, in War and Peace. Even as he evokes our pity, and sometimes our laughter, he compels our respect, and finally our love, and he is never, ever dull. [more]

Surge of Central American Children Roils U.S. Immigration Debate

by Bill Hayes

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has released a new report, Surge of Central American Children Roils U.S. Immigration Debate, on public opinion surrounding the border crisis.

As the president and Congress struggle over how to deal with the influx of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America across the U.S.-Mexican border, a new survey finds that the public favors a shift in U.S. policy to expedite the legal processing of the children.US border influx response

President Obama gets very low ratings for his handling of the issue. [more]

Pew Surge


The World Until Yesterday

by Bill Hayes

For the New Statesman, John Gray reviews The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond.

” ‘Modern’ conditions have prevailed, even just locally, for a tiny fraction of human history,” writes Jared Diamond. “All human societies have been traditional for far longer than any society has been modern.” Diamond begins his inquiry with the wise observation that no society is fully modern. “Billions of people around the world today still live in traditional ways,” he writes, and traditional ways of life persist within the most modern societies. In the Montana valley where Diamond and his family spend their summer holidays, he tells us, “Many disputes are still resolved by informal social mechanisms rather than by going to court.”

Many Europeans who grew up in the 1950s had childhoods not unlike those Diamond has studied in traditional New Guinea villages: “Everyone knew what everyone else was doing and expressed their opinions about it, people married spouses born only a mile or two distant, people spent their entire lives in or near the village except for young men away during the world war years and disputes within the village had to be settled in a way that restored relationships or made them tolerable, because you were going to be living near that person for the rest of your life.” When a society becomes modern, older ways of living don’t altogether vanish. “The world of yesterday wasn’t erased and replaced by a new world of today: much of yesterday is still with us.” [more]

‘Ask the Art Professor’ Article Archive

by Bill Hayes

Clara Lieu is a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. She has been writing her “Ask the Art Professor” advice column for a year, and now has posted a “Ask the Art Professor” Article Archive.

What Stockholm can teach L.A. when it comes to reducing traffic fatalities

by Bill Hayes

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Nicole Gelinas looks at What Stockholm can teach L.A. when it comes to reducing traffic fatalities.

Over the last 15 years, Stockholm has cut pedestrian deaths by 31% and overall traffic deaths by 45%. Last year, the Swedish city suffered only six traffic deaths, or about 1 per 150,000 residents. New York had nearly five times that rate, and Los Angeles County, with somewhere around 600 traffic fatalities a year, had roughly nine times the death rate of Stockholm.

Sweden’s “Vision Zero” philosophy holds that human error shouldn’t be fatal. When a child runs after a bouncing ball and a speeding car strikes and kills him, for example, that death shouldn’t be accepted simply as an unavoidable tragedy. Rather, it should be studied to see how it might have been averted with better road design or behavioral reinforcement or both. [more]