These ideas are great, but, like the Million Dollar Homepage, each one can probably only be done once…
The polarisation of American politics is a common subject of discussion. A recent Economist article suggests that “Americans are increasingly choosing to live among like-minded neighbours. This makes the culture war more bitter and politics harder.”
Where you live is partly determined by where you can afford to live, of course. But the “Big Sort” does not seem to be driven by economic factors. Income is a poor predictor of party preference in America; cultural factors matter more. For Americans who move to a new city, the choice is often not between a posh neighbourhood and a run-down one, but between several different neighbourhoods that are economically similar but culturally distinct.
For example, someone who works in Washington, DC, but wants to live in a suburb can commute either from Maryland or northern Virginia. Both states have equally leafy streets and good schools. But Virginia has plenty of conservative neighbourhoods with megachurches and Bushites you’ve heard of living on your block. In the posh suburbs of Maryland, by contrast, Republicans are as rare as unkempt lawns and yard signs proclaim that war is not the answer but Barack Obama might be.
Because Americans are so mobile, even a mild preference for living with like-minded neighbours leads over time to severe segregation. An accountant in Texas, for example, can live anywhere she wants, so the liberal ones move to the funky bits of Austin while the more conservative ones prefer the exurbs of Dallas. Conservative Californians can find refuge in Orange County or the Central Valley.
Over time, this means Americans are ever less exposed to contrary views. In a book called “Hearing the Other Side”, Diana Mutz of the University of Pennsylvania crunched survey data from 12 countries and found that Americans were the least likely of all to talk about politics with those who disagreed with them.
For those of us who do web-based development, Firebug must be the single most useful tool invented in a long time. I’ve used it for ages but I keep discovering new stuff it can do.
If by any chance you haven’t discovered it yet, go and get it now – it’s free. Any time spent learning your way around it is definitely going to be worthwhile. For some more advanced examples, you can watch Joe Hewitt’s talk, given last year at Yahoo.
Ian Walker quotes this delightful snippet from the Metro:
Lords: Give green light to Segways
Scooters known as Segways should be allowed on the roads, peers said yesterday. The electric two-wheelers got the backing after peers tried them out…. Segways are used by police and the public in parts of Europe along with the US. There have been concerns here about safety. But [Liberal Democrat] Lord Redesdale said: ‘I drove one straight at Earl Atlee and failed to do him any damage at all.’
© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser