Silenced George

Observed at the corner of 15th and U Streets, Northwest D.C.:

Silent george

Posted in DC | 1 Comment

People Have to Like This Crap: The Working Class Vote Edition

Admittedly, Democratic politicians and political operatives almost uniformly fell out of the stupid tree and banged their heads on every damn branch on the way down, but one might think that even for these hapless fools enlightened naked self-interest would kick in at some point (boldface mine):

Mike Podhorzer crunched the numbers and found there’s one factor that, with eerie consistency, explains the way elections have swung for the past decade. Podhorzer, the political director of the AFL-CIO, is one of the top electoral strategists on the left. The crucial factor, he found, is Democrats’ vote share among voters making less than $50,000.

Republicans consistently win voters making $50,000 or more, approximately the U.S. median income. The margin doesn’t vary too much: In 2012, Mitt Romney got 53 percent of this group’s vote; in 2010, Republican House candidates got 55 percent. And Democrats consistently win voters making less than the median—but the margin varies widely. In fact, whether Democrats win these voters by a 10-point or a 20-point margin tells you who won every national election for the past decade….

“It doesn’t often get reported, but the key indicator that has been decisive for the last several elections is how people making below the median income vote,” Podhorzer said this week. Black or white, Asian or Hispanic, male or female, young or old, it’s that simple. To reach these voters, Podhorzer believes, candidates need to focus on the economic issues of the working class. “Economic populism decides who wins elections in America,” he said.

Have Democrats reached these voters? What the hell do you think happened? Of course not:

…I asked Pew to crunch the numbers for me. The result: 51 percent of voters making less than $50,000 plan to vote for Democrats, while 40 percent plan to vote Republican. (The rest are undecided, and the GOP wins the more-than-$50,000 vote 49-44.) That’s exactly the same 11-point margin that has meant Democratic doom in every election since 2004.

Yes, the Republicans have redefined the meaning of obstructionism. But the Democrats never had a plan, until very recently to point that out. There was no long game to force them to vote against popular bills over and over–and then hammer them on it. It’s not Green Lanternism to lay the cultural and intellectual groundwork for the case that the Republicans are in the damn way on everything. And now, the crazy party could take over. Awesome.

Posted in Democrats, Fucking Morons | Leave a comment

Links 7/29/14

Links for you. Science:

Why I like Frequentism
23andMe Tries to Woo the FDA: The DNA testing firm hopes a more coöperative approach with regulators will get its business back on track
Salmonella’s Favorite Food Could Be Its Achilles’ Heel
Why Has This Really Common Virus Only Just Been Discovered?
Mike Adams Elevates his Ugly Anti-GMO Campaign

Other:

The Limits of “Unlimited” (excellent)
Why George Takei loves America, even after he was held in a US internment camp
Meet Jess Spear, the Socialist Climate Scientist Running for the State House: She wants to put solar panels on roadways, end ‘corporate welfare’ and start talking about rent control.
‘Gas the Jews!’: European anti-Semitism during the Gaza crisis
What ‘No New Federal Spending’ Really Means: It’s time for the government to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to children.
Deep in the Tell-Tale Heart of the Texas GOP (yep, they’re bonkers)
A New Breed Of Conservatives Who Aren’t Anti-Gay
What I Saw on Rikers Island
7 Most Truthy NYT Columnists (the Krugman one made me laugh)
Coder livetweets sexist remarks allegedly made by IBM executives

Posted in Lotsa Links | 7 Comments

A Failure of Governance

While conservatives love to go on and on when government fails at governance, as we continue to deregulate and outsource, corporate governance–the ability of corporations to govern–by default, will become more important (boldface mine):

But a far bigger nuisance is dealing with major corporations that appear to decided that one of their major revenue sources should be a level of institutional stupidity that maintains a steady amount of revenue simply because no ordinary person can navigate what appears to be an intentional level of incompetence. To be specific what I’m talking about: a level of bureaucratic inefficiency combined with incompetent customer service that forces people to pay for services they didn’t purchase because the cost of paying ends up being a smaller hassle than navigating the Kafkaesque labyrinth of the company’s phone tree. This line item on the corporate P&L I call the ‘Delta of Derp’. And here’s an example today from one of my favorite companies: Verizon.

Today one of our employees on the business side of TPM got a bill from Verizon for $3,019.95. Now, TPM’s phone bill is bigger than your home phone bill because we two offices and about two dozen employees. But it’s not three thousand dollars a month. But there’s a bigger problem. We’re not a Verizon customer.

Right, we use a different company entirely.

“Hi, we’re from the government phone company and we’re here to help.” Unlike elected officials, these bastards can’t get voted out.

Posted in Conservatives, Bidness | 1 Comment

Yes, Curriculum and Pedagogy Matter (Maybe)

This week’s NY Times Magazine has an article “Why Do Americans Stink at Math” that breathlessly focuses on the need for changing how we teach math and what math we teach–that is, pedagogy and curriculum. While the article, perhaps so it could be published at the NYT, repeats some Things We All Know and Yet Are Untrue™ (e.g., Shanghai’s PISA test scores are overinflated, while the U.S. scores should be higher as they overweight poor students), it does remind people that there’s more to education that just busting teachers unions.

There are glowing descriptions of a Japanese educator who is trying to improve the U.S. mathematics curriculum–it sounds like a good system (and is somewhat similar to the way I was taught math in grade school). I’m inclined to agree with the article: after all, I have argued many, many, many times that what you teach (curriculum) and how you teach (pedagogy) matter. It’s also important that we train teachers in how to use these methods–just dropping off some books and materials won’t cut it (though that would be a good start…). This, of course, costs money. And I agree wholeheartedly that “We will have to come to see math not as a list of rules to be memorized but as a way of looking at the world that really makes sense.”

But happy stories aren’t necessarily good policy.

One problem I have with the article–again, an article I want to agree with–is the counterfactual of Massachusetts. Keep in mind that the mathematics described in the article is largely grade school and junior high school math, so even if one is inclined to take the PISA data at face value, the TIMMS data (which test fourth and eighth graders) are far more relevant. In those data, Massachusetts does as well as Japan. As far as I’m aware, Massachusetts teaches math using the same god-awful methods everyone else in the U.S. does, so it’s not clear that pedagogy matters so much. It might have much to do with Massachusetts being one of the best places to be a child in the U.S.

The article also doesn’t present any data that the methods, when used in the U.S., increase math proficiency. Seems kinda important.

This is what happens when reporters parachute in to a very complex area and then fixate on a storyline. Though if it leads to some improvements in teaching, that’s probably a good thing.

Related note on how not to commit journalism: A lot of people have fixated on this part of the story:

One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W’s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it.

Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why. The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “¼,” larger than the “3” in “⅓,” led them astray.

First of all, that was three decades ago–many grade school parents hadn’t been born yet or were infants. It says absolutely nothing about how kids would handle this question today. But it’s SHOCKING!!! This is pretty shitty journalism (more like fear-mongering). Second, there are no comparative data. Were people in other countries just as stupid in the early 1980s? Dunno. Third, speaking of which, thirds are weird. While that’s not an excuse, I’ll speculate that people would have done better with halves, fourths, or fifths. Thirds are weird, and people just don’t use them that often.

Posted in Education | 3 Comments

Links 7/28/14

Links for you. Science:

Why NGOs can’t be trusted on GMOs
Why Seven Hours of Sleep Might Be Better Than Eight
Scientific Misbehavior in Economics: Unacceptable research practice linked to perceived pressure to publish.
How a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe on Earth

Other:

Charter Conversations (excellent)
After 10 years at work, teachers in some states make less than $40,000
We are Israeli reservists. We refuse to serve.
D.C. Region: Number One In Late Mail Delivery
The Undying Filibuster Myth
Halbig said it was applying the law as written. Don’t believe it.
S.C. tax rule creates a way to profit by funding private school scholarships
Hall of Mirrors: Wikileaks volunteer helped build Tor, was funded by the Pentagon
The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist
Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
Civil Conversations Are Honest Conversations
Deficit scolds are the most crazed ideologues in America: Ron Fournier’s economics are garbage. But that won’t stop him and his ilk from banging the deficit drum.
Conservatives Find Typo in Obamacare, Try to Kill People With It
The Siege of Detroit: A War of Black Urban Removal

Posted in Lotsa Links | 3 Comments

We Are a Nation of Stupids

By way of Kevin Drum, we come across a Gallup poll with the following results:

blog_gallup__governed_better

Look at the third and fifth statement. They are the exact opposite of each other, yet 63 percent favor the third and 56 percent favor the fifth.

How is this possible?

This explains a lot, I think.

Posted in Fucking Morons, Polling | 4 Comments