Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Those cheating Hoyas

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Methinks somebody’s been up to some shenanigans over at Wikepedia. Notice anything wrong about the third paragraph in their entry on Georgetown University?

Georgetown University is a private, Jesuit university located in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Bishop John Carroll founded the school in 1789, though its roots extend back to 1634.[6] While the school struggled financially in its early years, Georgetown expanded into a branched university after the U.S. Civil War under the leadership of university president Patrick Francis Healy. Georgetown is both the oldest Roman Catholic and oldest Jesuit university in the United States. Its religious heritage is defining for Georgetown’s identity, but has at times been controversial.

Georgetown’s three urban campuses feature traditional collegiate architecture and layout, but prize their green spaces and environmental commitment. The main campus is known for Healy Hall, designated a National Historic Landmark. Academically, Georgetown is divided into four undergraduate schools and four graduate schools, with nationally recognized programs and faculty in international relations, law, medicine, and business.

The student body is noted for its plagiarism and political activism, as well as its sizable international contingent.[7] Campus groups include the nation’s oldest student dramatic society and the largest student corporation, The Corp. Georgetown’s most notable alumni, such as former U.S. President Bill Clinton, served in various levels of government in the United States and abroad. The Georgetown athletics teams are nicknamed “the Hoyas,” made famous by their men’s basketball team, which leads the Big East Conference with seven tournament championships.

Update: Wikipedia, for what it’s worth, has changed “plagiarism” to “pluralism”. Sabotage or an innocent typo? Hard to say.

Written by Jasper

December 2, 2007 at 12:56 am

Examining the exurbs

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Matt Yglesias gets into a discussion on the geographical composition of the foreclosure crisis in his analysis of the situation with Blue Dog Democrats, and their alleged caving in to financial interests intent on sticking it to beleagured mortgage payers:

My look at the data thus far has been very cursory, but my preliminary conclusion would be that the hardest-hit areas are the high-growth fringes of vibrant metro areas. In Virginia, for example, Arlington County right next door to DC has a higher foreclosure rate than South Dakota. It’s lower, however, than the rate in Fairfax County — the further-out part of suburban Virginia. Fairfax’s foreclosure rate, in turn, is lower than the rates in Loudon County and Prince William County — the dread exurbs. The ring of counties around those two counties — rural areas — see the rate dropping again.

One of the thread commenters mentions his skepticism that higher gas prices are adding much fuel to the fire for hard-pressed exurban home owners, opining that such people stand to “save” a couple of hundred thousand bucks by choosing to live far out from the city center (a “savings” that, according to his logic, apparently far outweighs the recent spike in gasoline prices).

I’m not so sure about this line of reasoning. It seems to me plenty of folks in exurban  areas really are facing major financial stresses these days, and higher prices at the gas station don’t help matters. In the first place, is the whole concept of buying in the exurbs really a question of “saving” $200k? That makes it sound like the average exurbanite has the option of buying a $500k house close to the city but instead opts to “save” a couple of a hundred thousand by tolerating a sixty mile commute.

I think the reality is that, in most exurbs, many of the people who have settled there have done so because that’s all they can afford. This is in contrast to city centers and close-in suburbs, which are often populated either by wealthier folks or people, who, for whatever reason, (too poor, or else young urban hipsters who haven’t started families yet) have no burning need (or ability) to be homeowners. In other words, exurbs are peopled by folks who very often are strapped for cash. Just the kind of people who got into an exotic mortgage a couple of years ago — and bought at the height of the market. There’s a heavy preponderance of residents with children, as well, and kids, as we all know, aren’t exactly cheap.

Anyway, it doesn’t surprise me that foreclosures are higher in the exurbs than either in more central location or in truly rural areas. The exurbs are where the American dream — in all its glorious excess — thrives in good times, and crashes and burns when the time comes to pay the piper.

Written by Jasper

November 8, 2007 at 11:08 pm

Our long national nightmare is finally over

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Thank God. What a serious buzz killer this has been.

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September 17, 2007 at 8:36 pm

When I die…

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…I really really really hope the Good Lord allows me to come back as Tom Brady.

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September 3, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Survival of the fattest

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“British School Kids Shun Healthy Foods” thunders this AP headline picked up by The NY Times:

Please sir, we don’t want any more! Naked Chef Jamie Oliver’s push for healthier foods to replace greasy french fries, chicken nuggets and turkey twizzlers on British school menus is in a twist. Apparently, the students aren’t anxious to try it. The celebrity chef has led a nationwide campaign to improve the quality of food served in schools, demanding more money for meals and a ban on junk food. His TV series ”Jamie’s School Dinners” exposed how cafeteria menus relied on prepared foods like chicken nuggets or the turkey twizzler — a corkscrew of mainly reconstituted turkey scraps and preservatives. Such meals, usually served with piles of fatty french fries, could cost as little as 66 cents. Spurred to action, the government set up the School Food Trust in 2005 to help schools improve the quality of their food. Sample menus for the new program included vegetarian quiche, lentil burgers and mushroom tagliatelle. But more than 424,000 students opted out of their school meal plans in the first two years of the program, according to government figures obtained by the opposition Liberal Democrats and released Monday.

You mean to tell me that a government’s efforts to get a group of people to eat healthily is being trumped by homo sapien’s five million year evolutionary history — you know, the one that favored the survival of those who love to eat fatty, carb-laden, calorie-rich foods to better ward off the next episode of famine?

I’m shocked, I tell you, simply shocked!

Written by Jasper

September 3, 2007 at 3:19 pm

The ever littler big three

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Matt Zeitlin goes on a rant about the awfulness of Detroit’s products:

American cars, for the most part, are an inferior product.  They also have the potential to destroy the world.  At the low end, their Japanese (and ever Korean) competitors are cheaper, better designed, more fuel efficient and have better technology.  While the Ford Focus is one of the better low end American efforts, it is only popular overseas and is still beaten out by a comparable Civic at home.  Comparable Ford and Chevy’s to Corey Spaley’s favorite, the Honda Accord simply can’t compete with it’s higher gas mileage and superior design.  When American companies try to make more expensive, performence cars — like the Mustang GT, they are inefficient, overpowered brutes.  The GT has a lame 65 hp/liter, which pales in comparison to similarly powered Japanese cars, which manage to get around 100 hp/liter (Subaru WRX STI and Mitsu Evo).  Though the GT has an aluminum engine block, American companies have been late to using anything besides heavy cast iron in engine blocks.  Not to mention the poor gas mileage, 15/23 highway city.

Okay, Zeitlin, I’ll see your rant and raise you one: nobody ’round these parts under the age of 50 seems to even consider buying American (save in the USV category). I actually kinda like the new high end caddies, but not much else.

I’ve long been of the opinion that plain old marketing and branding bears a lot of the blame for Detroit’s decline. Look at one pretty successful Japanese automaker, Honda. They’ve got, like, four or five principal models that account for the bulk of their sales. Compare that to General Motors, which has, like, 30 or 40 to choose from. I mean, hello!?! Can you say “dillution of brand”? Has it really occurred to nobody in Detroit that a strategy that made sense in 1957 doesn’t work anymore? They’ve literally had decades to study their own decline and formulate strategies to reverse it. If I were dictator of GM I’d rename the company “Chevrolet”, I’d get rid of most of their divisions, and I’d cull the models down to a number comparable to what Toyota or Honda have to offer.

Modern, busy consumers simply can’t wrap their very harried brains around the dozens of possible models that GM can sell them. Thing is, it’s a total waste anyway, because anybody with an IQ over 70 can plainly see that the “Pontiac” and “Buick” and “Chevrolet” (or Pymouth, Dodge and Chrysler, etc) versions are pretty much the same product. Their lack of respect for the intelligence of the car buying public is simply astonishing. If ever there existed a firm that deserved to go out of business (and doesn’t deserve a dime of public money should the need arise) it’s General Motors, closely followed by Ford and Chrysler.

Written by Jasper

August 28, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Michael Vick’s biggest fan

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The following thought occurred to me this morning: don’t you think David Stern is probably elated about the Michael Vick scandal? It’s definitely long past time for the once (but no longer) effective NBA impresario to lose his job, but the amount of media energy focused on his league’s travails is looking mighty skimpy at present.

Written by Jasper

August 28, 2007 at 8:21 am

Posted in Culture, Media, Sports