Stag, Party of One

Observed on Logan Circle, D.C.:


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Firing Faculty and Lack of Agency

Recently, an Iowa legislator proposed a ‘Hunger Games’ scenario for faculty retention:

A bill circulating in the Iowa State Senate offers a novel (and cutthroat) way to hold professors accountable: putting their fates into students’ hands, Survivor-style. Every year the professor most disliked by students would be voted off the campus.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Mark Chelgren, a Republican, would require the state’s public universities to rate professors’ performance based solely on students’ evaluations of their teaching effectiveness. Professors whose evaluation scores didn’t reach a minimum threshold would be automatically fired by the university.

Then comes the competition. The names of the five professors with the lowest ratings above the minimum threshold would be published online. Students would then vote on those professors’ future employment — and the professor with the fewest votes would be fired, regardless of tenure status or contract terms.

This is the justification (boldface mine):

There are definitely some professors who feel that way but not the majority, in my opinion. I’m hoping this wakes some of those professors up and says, Listen, we have a situation in this country where we are having these young adults leave college with massive debt. I want to make sure the education they are receiving matches the amount of debt they have or the amount of money they’ve spent. I think this is one of the first steps to make sure that happens.

I would humbly suggest to the Honorable Representative that he might, as a legislator in the Great State of Iowa, might be able to do something about that crushing student debt. Like provide more funding to his state’s universities so the students pay less.

Agency, how does it work?

Posted in Education, Funding | 1 Comment

Links 4/24/15

Links for you. Science:

Whole Genome Sequencing for National Surveillance of Shiga Toxin Producing Escherichia coli O157.
Archaeologists Take Wrong Turn, Find World’s Oldest Stone Tools
NIH Funds Nine Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostics Projects
Lyme Disease Is Wracking New England. Why Isn’t More Being Done?
Measles Outbreak Linked To Disneyland Is Officially Over


A real problem with the ACA
She drives us crazy: Amnesia, déjà-vu, fatigue and other symptoms of Hillary-related madness
Is Support for Income Redistribution Really Falling?
Are we kidding ourselves on competition?
Secrets of the Scientologists: Why People Do Horrible Things for Belief
Raising the median wage: Policies that target the middle class
‘Help! Fire!’ Talking parrots cause house fire confusion
80 percent of police force resigns after Missouri town elects first African-American mayor
Gone Girl: An Interview With An American In ISIS
Ruth Marcus, Budget Deficits, and the Meaning of “Whopping”
The submerged state: Welfare for the well off
Privatized busing comes to San Francisco
Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State
The New Segregation
Education, Testing Time, Amy Goodman, ……opining on why honest reporting and education matter.
Recent poll shows more people support sentencing Tsarnaev to LWOP than death in the Boston area
Just This Once

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Observed at the corner of 12th Place and W Street, U Street Corridor, D.C.:


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How Does One Even Make an URL Like This?

I receive emails with journal tables of contents, including Emerging Infectious Disease. Here’s the url of an article provided in the article:

It resolves to this:

Not clear to me why the first version is needed, or how it’s generated.

Posted in Computers, Internet, Publishing | 5 Comments

Yes, the Congressional Retirement Plan™ Is the Real Source of Corruption

Six years ago, I wrote a post that was spread hither and yon because it apparently described the real source of political corruption–giving lawmakers cushy jobs after they leave office:

If their reluctance to support a public option were based solely on the electoral calculus of campaign donations versus popular support–that is, votes–the votes win hands down. Any Democratic senator in a swing state who needs independent and Republican votes can’t afford to piss off the ~50% of Republicans and ~70% of independents who support a public option. To the extent that an Evan Bayh is supported by independents and Republicans, does he really think that these crossover voters are the ones who oppose a public option? (Actually, Bayh just might think so, since he’s dumber than a fucking sack of hammers). So, if this is simple electoral politics, the obvious move is to screw your donors (of course, we are talking about ‘new Democrats’ who are the most inept politicians in recorded history, so who knows?).

So, Mad Biologist, how is this about money? It’s simple: it’s about life after politics. One of the dirty secrets about many, if not most, congressmen and senators is that they like Washington, D.C., rhetoric notwithstanding. They want to stay in town after they leave (or lose) office. Once you’ve tasted the Capital of the Free World, do you really want to go back to Pierre, South Dakota? (Tom Daschle comes to mind…). It’s funny how many politicians, having made a career out of bashing War-Shing-Tun, don’t…seem…to…ever…leave.

I can’t blame them: I moved to Boston, and would be very happy to stay here. Places do grow on you. The problem comes, for politicians, when they have to find a job. For an ex-politician, there aren’t that many ‘straight paths’ to getting your next job: lobbyist and corporate board member are the easiest and the most lucrative.

But if you get a reputation as someone who opposes large business interests, what chance do you have of getting either of these types of jobs? Sometimes, the quid pro quo is very crude and direct (e.g., Billy Tauzin), but the Village’s political culture makes it clear what is acceptable. One should not be ‘populist’, or, heaven forbid, liberal.

I’m still surprised by the reaction. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the D.C. area, but I thought people knew this (apparently not). Now there’s some science to substantiate this (boldface mine):

But as a political scientist, I know that real-life corruption is much more commonplace — and frankly more boring. Usually it’s just a job offer….

According to Abramoff’s playbook on how to gain influence in Washington, you could “own” a congressional office as soon as you said to a top staffer, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider working for us.”

Those magic words win access and information more readily than campaign donations. With a job offer on the table, the official or staff member is all but working for the lobbying firm, on the taxpayers’ dime.

This isn’t just hypothetical. Political scientist Adolfo Santos has found that public officials who have plans to become lobbyists act differently while in office from their colleagues who don’t. Interestingly, they are more successful at passing the bills they introduce than officials who don’t go on to be lobbyists. Does this behavior reflect their desire to please their potential future employer or something else? We can’t tell. What we do know is that public officials who are no longer thinking about reelection are freed from the sanctioning power of constituents.

We should have a ten-year lobbying ban combined with a larger pension: better that we the people buy them off than corporate lobbyists.

Posted in Bidness | 1 Comment

Links 4/23/15

Links for you. Science:

NIH Director Defends Decision To Add More Employee Parking
The New York Times Misplaces FDA Blame In Latest Dietary Supplement Spiking Episode
Overuse of antibiotics for the common cold – attitudes and behaviors among doctors in rural areas of Shandong Province, China.
Has the first person to achieve immortality already been born?
Volcanic versus Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide: An Addendum


Centuries of Italian History Are Unearthed in Quest to Fix Toilet
Don’t make bicyclists more visible. Make drivers stop hitting them. Mandatory helmet laws and glow-in-the-dark spray paint just show who really owns the roads. (I’m a pedestrian, but cyclists make the road safer for me)
Union Station in Washington Has a Grand Development Plan
An Architecture Firm Dreamed Up a Response to DC’s Security Barriers
A Good Professor Is an Exhausted Professor: A North Carolina education bill would be a disaster for research and pedagogy
To end the anguish, drop the death penalty
The Perfect Terrible Aaron Hernandez Hot Take Has Arrived
Identity Markers Do Not Make You Left Wing
The Myth of Police Reform: The real problem is the belief that all our social problems can be solved with force.
Tennessee House Votes to Make Bible Official
Michigan high school students toured Florida colleges, ended up as targets of racism
Why Didn’t I Get Rich
There’s no such crime as ‘driving while white’
Many Volleyball Players Are Furious About Changes To The Courts On the Mall (it’s a little thing, but this is one more reason why having real senators and congressmen who could lean on the Park Service matters)
Legislators think they can fight the IOC and keep control of billboards along area highways
An Imperial Officer From Star Wars Faces the Press (what’s awesome is how in-the-tank he sounds, kinda like many ‘national security’ reporters)
Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’

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