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Vouchers

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.24.17

I consider it a win that vouchers are showing demonstrably worse outcomes. This is something that my smarty math-ed friend says all the time:

When people try to improve education, sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail. The successes usually register as modest improvements, while the failures generally have no effect at all. It's rare to see efforts to improve test scores having the opposite result. Martin West, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, calls the negative effects in Louisiana "as large as any I've seen in the literature" -- not just compared with other voucher studies, but in the history of American education research.

 

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Friday WTFuckery

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.24.17

Would you guys enjoy a weekly potluck round-up where you all bring whatever enraged you in the past week and dump it in a single, contained thread? For me, it's the immigration harassment campaign - just the fact that there's massive energy and time being spent to terrify people who don't have the protection of the law, (or those that do! but who are not white) - makes my blood boil.

But there's lots of other options to choose from!


 

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Guest Post: On Bullshit

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.23.17

Salty Hamhocks writes: Higher education steps up. More context here.

Heebie's take
: It looks like a great course.

I remember in graduate school, there was an undergrad course offered with the name along the lines of "Science vs. Pseudoscience". Mostly I remember the flyers, which were fantastic. There was a bulleted list of questions like:
- Why can you take a course in rocks, but not crystals?
- Why do we study quarks, but not ghosts?
- Why do we study vibrations, but not ESP?

It almost seemed talmudic.


 

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It really gets to me sometimes.

Posted by Tia
on 02.22.17

Over at the other place, a friend mentioned a contest the Post used to run: ruin a great line by adding to it. There was an entry that had become a stock phrase in her house: "The horror. The horror. It really gets to me sometimes." Of course her commenters were excited about this contest. So far my best contribution has been: "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. All considered the times were pretty average." Also great, not by me: "Shane, come back! You forgot your phone!" I thought you all would enjoy this game. You are herewith encouraged to play.


 

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Nnnngggh

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.22.17

Two very good reads on 4chan, Milo, and this general shithead male youth internet force of destruction.

1. 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump

2. On the Milo Bus With the Lost Boys of America's New Right

I'm having trouble not boiling over with rage, today, and can't seem to stay detached enough to have interesting conversations. Why can't these shithead kids just start smoking a lot of pot and stay off the internet.


 

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Guest Post: Political Messaging

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.22.17

Nick S. writes: I've read any number of articles talking about what was wrong with the Democratic campaign in 2016, and what they they need to fix in the future. I am skeptical about the genre; I feel like it makes it easy for people to fall into "the pundits fallacy" -- assuming that whatever the writer personally wants politically will be popular with the voters. But, recently, I had a small epiphany reading one such article.

People appreciate when politicians tell them that the issues that concern them personally are symptoms of larger issues which are eroding the social fabric of the nation.

People want to have their sense of reality affirmed. And it's always good to hear, "it's a common problem", "don't worry, that happens to lots of people" or (less sarcastically) "You're not alone".

Perhaps that idea was ovious to everybody, but I haven't seen it phrased in precisely that way before, and I think that explains a lot of Trump's appeal and also part of the difference between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns -- when people say that Clinton failed to put forward a positive vision I suspect that actually means that she didn't identify issues as national crises whereas Sanders, in calling for a political revolution, was happy to identify a state of crisis.

If I'm correct, I have two questions. First, what are the issues on the left which lend themselves to that sort of framework? Setting aside, for the moment, the idea of political revolution I feel like that was a part of the Democratic messaging on health care ("many people can't afford to pay for necessary health care and it is an national crisis") and implicit in the discussion of climate change. I think "We are the 99%" aimed in that direction but didn't quite hit the mark, in part because it wasn't obvious exactly what concerns that slogan was validating. I would say that "Black Lives Matter" does a good job of activating that trigger, but I know it doesn't work for everybody (and, in saying that, I wonder if my idea has analytical value, or if I'm now falling into the pundits fallacy).

My second question is. to what extent is that idea a pessimistic one? I think it is and should be a powerful political message to identify real problem as stains on the national character. But it also seems like a recipe for political demagoguery and of marrying petty grievances with apocalyptic rhetoric. I'm not excited to hear the Left version of "American Carnage." But, perhaps I'm overreacting to the last campaign. It had been the conventional wisdom that candidates needed to convey optimism. But, other than 2008, that has not been my feeling about American politics lately.

Two other random political notes. I was surprised to see Brad DeLong write the sentence, "The centrist neoliberal project--use market means to achieve both social democratic ends and the rapid expansion of wealth--has crashed and burned." I'm more surprised to see him endorse that definition of neoliberalism than I am by the judgement of failure, but that felt like a milestone.

Secondly, John Holbo's latest post about Haidt is quite good and less digressive than the previous one.

Heebie's take: I went searching for a very specific post, from my first few months blogging here, and couldn't find it. (I did find posts where I wished LB a happy 37th birthday, and I re-watched the always-spectacular Fagette video, and discovered that I used to do a Create-a-Post series, where I'd give you guys two topics, and then post on whichever one got more votes. No memory of doing this whatsoever.)

If memory serves, the post went: People prefer Republicans because Republicans make them feel like: "All those other people caused your problems, and you're not responsible for their problems," whereas Democrats make people feel like: "You need to solve other people's problems, and you helped cause them, and you also caused your own problems." Note: That's not what each party is actually saying, but that's the taste that gets left in people's mouths.

The point of dredging up the original post would have been to provide evidence that this has been a problem since the Bush years.

So, to take on Nick's question - how do you tap "you are not alone" on the left? I don't know! We are all alone. We the country have already run off the cliff and are still jogging in mid-air, but have yet to look down. Parts of the coyote have looked down and parts are unwilling to. In 2008, I would have taken this metaphor a lot further.


 

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Affirmative Action for Republicans

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.21.17

Is this legal?

Iowa State Senator Mark Chelgren (Republican, of course) has introduced a bill requiring "partisan balance" among the faculty of public universities. In what may be the worst state bill (not specifically aimed at women) thus far this year, the bill would require faculty to state their party affiliation before being hired.

The idea is that the political party affiliations must be within 10% of each other. It certainly would tank the quality of your universities very, very quick!


 

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Guest Post - Medical Reporting

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.21.17

J, Robot writes: This is a good representation of why health news is so frustrating to read: a kernel of useful information, packaged with moralism, served with absolutist language, and lacking necessary caveats. As of this morning, the comment section is excellent:

Heebie's take: This quote makes Dr. Weinstein sound like a jerk:

Dr. Weinstein has a prescription: "What we need to do is to stop medicalizing symptoms," he said. Pills are not going to make people better and as for other treatments, he said, "yoga and tai chi, all those things are wonderful, but why not just go back to your normal activities?"
"I know your back hurts, but go run, be active, instead of taking a pill."

 

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Guest Post - A review of the media

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.20.17

Mooseking writes: Exciting Day! Trump Pence [theoretically] sent out a request to their fans to complete a survey.

It's as manipulative as you'd expect. For example:
23. Do you agree with the President's decision to break with tradition by giving lesser known reporters and bloggers the chance to ask the White House Press Secretary questions?

Isn't that nice of him, catapulting lesser known reporters into the spotlight? It probably has nothing to do with the questions those reporters are going to ask...

Anyway, thought you might enjoy taking a stab at it.

Heebie's take: Moosie sent this over Friday but I fumbled it, like I do. But value added: Donald Trump is upset that Democrats are taking his biased survey on media bias. So if you were on the fence, maybe this will tip you.


 

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In which Heebie speculates on reasons to hate your job.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.20.17

There are lots of reasons to hate your job. Let us enumerate the ways. First, you may hate your boss, or your coworkers, or be working too many hours, paid too little, given an unreasonable schedule, the commute is too long, etc. (Abusive or exploitative situations are a different category, where personal reflection is not exactly the answer.)

Barring those, it seems to me that the content of one's job maybe falls into a few categories. I'm picturing each of these as an axis, and each person has a set point on the axis, and you want your job to be close-ish to your set point. They are:

1. How physically tired does it make you? If the manual labor is too much, then that is not good. Both things like picking tobacco, but also nurses who are on their feet all day. If the physical labor is too little, that's also not good, but probably easier to fix.

2. How bored are you? oh god, do I even need to elaborate?

3. How much inertia do you have? If it's not making you tired and it's not making you bored, does it make it hard to close your Facebook page and actually work? This is how I feel about research. I think it's interesting and I enjoy it when I'm doing it, but goddamn is it hard to stop commenting on Unfogged and focus. Passion is one way that people overcome inertia, but I don't seem to have any of that. For me, friendly deadlines - this class starts at 11:30, so you'll want to be prepared - work great as a bit of drive. Inertia has big emotional consequences - you feel super totally awful in a situation where you've got too much inertia. (A little bit of inertia is a healthy thing - let's not be ambitious hamsters on the wheel forever and always. We'd never have any interesting comment threads that way. Like I said, it's a set point on an axis.)


Money and fulfillment and passion are reasons to like your job, which great. Good for you. I'm enumerating reasons to hate your job.


 

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Climate Show

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.20.17

My Facebook feed is full of friends across the US, enjoying the unseasonably warm February. Truth be told, these photos make my stomach knot up a bit, in that early-part-of-a-horror-movie plot device way. "America! Don't go into the haunted house! Its climate is changing!" as America gallantly bounds up and opens the door for the pretty young virgin. Gosh they're enjoying themselves.


 

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NYT vomit

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.19.17

There's a lot of dumb shit out there, but dumb shit cloaked as liberal hand-wringing is particularly galling:

Liberals may feel energized by a surge in political activism, and a unified stance against a president they see as irresponsible and even dangerous. But that momentum is provoking an equal and opposite reaction on the right. In recent interviews, conservative voters said they felt assaulted by what they said was a kind of moral Bolshevism -- the belief that the liberal vision for the country was the only right one. Disagreeing meant being publicly shamed.
Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood may seem to liberals to be about policy and persuasion. But moderate conservatives say they are having the opposite effect, chipping away at their middle ground and pushing them closer to Mr. Trump.

FUCK YOU, NYT. Go gag yourself.

I get that "protests are counterproductive!" is a genre, but "protests are hurting the lukewarm Trump supporter fee-fees" makes me want to punch the author.


 

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