Observed on 18th Street, Adams-Morgan, D.C.:


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The Best Strategy to Achieve D.C. Statehood EVAH!

This week, the Senate held hearings about a bill to grant those of us who live in the District of Columbia the right to cast a meaningful vote in Congress (among other things). As you might imagine, when I saw Republican Senator Tom Coburn’s testimony yesterday, in which he described the bill as a waste of time since it wasn’t going anywhere, I thought “Well, if the Republican reaction to the ACA (Obamacare) is guide, we get to do this about forty more times.”

But I digress. This proposed political strategy cracks me up to no end:

New Columbia is a stupid name because NC is North Carolina. Call [it] Columbia (CL) and be done with it.

Now, if Democrats want to just troll Republicans, they should propose to call the state Reagan and dare then to vote against statehood.


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Links 9/19/14

Links for you. Science:

The Mathematics of Ebola Trigger Stark Warnings: Act Now or Regret It
Painkillers may decrease susceptibility to recurring urinary infections
Ivory Tower Phony? Sex, Lies and Fraud Alleged in W. Va. University Case
Watching the Birth of a New Breed: the Werewolf Cat
Fact or Fiction?: The Ebola Virus Will Go Airborne


Reboot or Die Trying
This Is What an Abortion Looks Like
You Want the Palin Brawl? Here it is.
Richard Dawkins: The Wrongering
Why Tipping Should Be Outlawed
The Real Reason You Don’t Care About The Apple Watch: Why is the Apple Watch a bit, well, boring? Because the next set of problems Apple has to solve is so much less fun than the last. (I would also argue the ‘marginal rate technological return’ continues to decrease with devices)
How ‘Consensual’ Sex Got A Freshman Kicked Out Of College And Started A Huge Debate
Anti-litter campaign in Times Square in 1955
The Superintendent Factor
School quality is the issue, says Catania. But his platform may not improve it. (it’s also worth noting Catania has really changed his views in the document)
The Poverty of Culture
The Forsaken: A Rising Number of Homeless Gay Teens Are Being Cast Out by Religious Families (“But the number-one hurdle to LGBT equality is religious­based bigotry. The face of the gay-rights movement shouldn’t be what I call ’40-year-old well-moisturized couples.’ The face of the gay-rights movement should be a 15-year-old kid that’s been thrown out of his house and taught that he’s a sinner.”)
Here’s Some Stupid For Lunch

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Antibiotic Resistance Lands on the Political Agenda

Yesterday, the Obama Administration announced a bunch of executive actions it will be taking to combat antibiotic resistance, in conjunction with the release of the PCAST Report on Combating Antibiotic Resistance. One interesting thing is an emphasis on surveillance, including genomics.

Hopefully, these initiatives won’t be swallowed up by ISIL, BENGHAZI!!, or other bullshit (after the carnage of war, the second worst thing is that it distracts us from all the stuff we need to do). The last time we had any traction on this issue (the Kennedy-Frist hearings), a semen-stained blue dress was discovered, and all of the momentum collapsed–yes, it has been that long.

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The Problem With ‘Optics': It’s a Bad Business Model

No, I’m not referring to physics, but the political reporter obsession with ‘optics’ (boldface mine):

The president hadn’t necessarily said anything inaccurate or made controversial claims. Critics just didn’t like the way he said what he said. It didn’t look or sound quite right.

On Meet The Press, Obama conceded he had made a specific error when he played golf after making a public statement about the brutal beheading of American journalist James Foley. “I should’ve anticipated the optics,” he said. “Part of this job is also the theater of it.” And he’s right, optics do matter for a commander-in-chief, especially in his role as communicator. But optics and stagecraft aren’t the only thing. And Beltway pundits proved themselves to be poor judges of optics when a Republican last occupied the Oval Office.

Please recall that the press loved President George Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” optics in 2003, which foolishly implied the United States had won the war in Iraq. (NBC’s Brian Williams: “He looked terrific and full of energy in a flight suit.”) And don’t forget Bush’s “bring them on” taunt when he was asked about escalating attacks on American troops inside Iraq. (More than 4,000 Americans subsequently died in fighting there.)

A common complaint about the Beltway press is that journalists obsess over process at the expense of substance. (i.e. Who’s up, who’s down?) Sadly, we’ve now eroded to the point where process journalism has been eclipsed by an even more meaningless pursuit: “optics.”

Another description for the current press malady is theater criticism. Theater criticism means you don’t offer solutions; you don’t offer insights or analysis. Theater criticism means you simply detail everything the pitch-poor actor does wrong in terms of word choice, inflection and public emotion. (Or golfing.) Analysis is different. It’s more difficult, more rigorous, and it’s much needed.

Instead we got the tan suit meltdown.

BEIGEGHAZI! BEIGEGHAZI! BEIGEGHAZI! (Brief digression: how long was Obama supposed to wait before he could play golf again? Is this like keeping kosher, where you’re supposed to wait three hours before having meat after milk or vice versa? If he had gone to the White Hourse gym, would that have been ok? So stupid.)

What I don’t understand is how editors think people want to read this crap. As a NY Times subscriber, there are articles I never even bother to read based either on the byline (did Adam Nagourney ever write a worthwhile story?) or the lede. Admittedly, they already have my money from the dead tree version*, but in the online-paywall world, I can’t imagine who would pay for this crap more than once. It’s pointless writing, especially if you’re trying to glean useful information, such as how you might vote.

There are lots of ways newspaper and television executives have mismanaged their companies in the ground, but this ‘optics’ crap is just one more way they’re doing so.

*I mostly get the dead tree version because I like to read it at lunch if I’m not eating with anyone (or read the magazine outside on the weekend).

Posted in Fucking Morons, News Media | 5 Comments

Links 9/18/14

Links for you. Science:

Superbugs meet their match in rapid genome sequencing
A Brief Overview of Classes of Antibiotics
Thought of the Day on how the Public Views Scientists (must-read; excellent)
Scientists “cut corners”, eh, NPR? (You know who has agency? Agencies.)
Solid Employment Rates for Science Ph.D.s (data here; doesn’t mention anything about job stability, etc. however)


History rolled in on a yellow school bus. And when rocks and jeers greeted some of the children, Boston’s image was scarred forever. It wasn’t the whole story of day one of school desegregation, 40 years ago, or fair to the many not motivated by race. But it was real and terrifying and indelible. (excellent. Read this. Now)
Meet the Muslims who sacrificed themselves to save Jews and fight Nazis in World War II
Why Anacostia Residents Are Calling 311 Over This Art Installation
Metro seeks $250 million loan to ease cash crunch in its capital program (maybe if those charged with oversight of the DC Metro actually used it…)
Il Manifesto
Reimagining Union Station
Whoever Saves a Life: In a war with many villains, these are the good guys. Seven days inside the life-and-death world of Syria’s first responders — the last hope for civilians caught in the chaos.
Maybe Obama Can Change the Way We Think About War
The Human Body, According to Venture Capitalists
Trading Parking Lots for Affordable Housing: ‘9 x 18’ Plan Ties Development Rules to Public Benefits
Should Oil Barons Like David Koch Be Funding Our Museums?
Home Free?
The New Donut
Manassas town hall meeting addresses Route 28 congestion (105 minutes to go 15 miles; the suburban model is slowly failing…)
The High Cost of No Excuses
Why Cruz Got Himself Booed

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I Would Hate School Today

The more I read about what the wave of standardized testing is doing to education, the more I would hate being a student today. Here’s what Ohio teacher and 25 year teaching veteran Dawn Neely-Randall has to say (boldface mine):

Last school year, one of my fifth-grade below-level readers was working hard and making great gains. However, during the big Ohio Achievement Assessment in reading at the end of April, when she had already put in about an hour and a half of testing with an hour to go, the stress became too much and she had a total meltdown. As much as I had already reminded her “this is just one test on one day in your life” and “just do your best,” this student was smart enough to know that this “one test” would determine the class she would get into in middle school and I knew she was worried about being pulled out of class for remediation (again).

This child sobbed because she cared so much and watching her suffer became a defining moment for me. It became blatantly obvious how one high-stakes standardized test had just negated the year’s worth of reading confidence and motivation she had worked so hard to attain. I can no longer be a teacher who tries to build these 10-year-olds up on one hand, but then throws them to the testing wolves with the other.

My student had trusted me and jumped through hoops for me all year long, but then in her greatest moment of testing distress, all I could do was hand her some tissues.

A lot of people in our Buckeye state (and country) are making nutty decisions that aren’t at all good for children; ones I feel sure teachers could prove are harmful in a court of law (don’t even get me started with the testing that’s going on in kindergarten classes with 5-year-olds).

In Ohio, third-graders are required to take a two-and-a-half hour exam, the outcome of which determines whether they’ll be held back a grade–not a comprehensive evaluation made by educators familiar with the child, but a single test that no education professional has seen until it’s administered. For eight and nine year olds. But, of course, it’s all about the kids:

If so many of our schools are seen as “failing,” yet so many of our students are using a test company’s test prep materials ($$$) which are being reported to the state via the test company’s computerized program ($$$) and then taking the test company’s multitude of standardized tests ($$$), which are then assessed by the test company’s evaluators ($$$), and then remediation is done with students using, again, the test company’s intervention materials ($$$); and are then taking the same test company’s own graduation test ($$$) that the test company has prepared the K-12 materials for in the first place……. then, just exactly who, or what, is really failing that child? But have no fear, dropouts can later take a GED ($$$) administered by the same testing company.

Good question. It’s one thing to use tests to get a handle on how schools are doing, but, with this regime, some students will ‘fail’ simply because they had a bad day, they were nervous, and so on. Those ‘failures’ can affect the rest of their educational careers. At eight and nine years of age.

This is madness, and years from now, after we have screwed up a bunch of people, it will be too late even if we have the brains to recognize the failure of ‘reform’.

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