Category Archives: Social Commentary

No Political Bias Here

Lois Lerner called conservatives “a**holes” and “crazy” in one of the emails we’ve been able to find.

[Update a couple minutes later]

[Update a while later]

This provides useful context for her earlier email describing the Tea Party organizations as “dangerous.” A lot of people are asking, appropriately, if this is what’s in the emails that have been uncovered, just how bad are the “lost” ones?

Torchy

Lileks, back from his Aegean trip, has started a new B&W series.

Also, summer camp reminiscences. Which makes me happy that the place I went to is still around. I still remember the swimming test. I had just had lessons at the high school, and passed everything to be allowed the run of the lake. One part was treading water for some duration (ten minutes, maybe). Another was diving down deep (maybe fifteen feet) to bring up a handful of muck. Probably with bloodsuckers in it.

Robert Redford And Cate Blanchett

Do you really want to make a movie in which you unwittingly depict people who are fools?

…let me put my own cards on the table: I voted for Bush in 2004. If I were a character in Mapes’s book, this would mean you should ignore me, because she repeatedly disqualifies statements that hurt her case by pointing out that the person speaking is a Republican or a Bush supporter. However, I should note that I also supported Al Gore in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008, and I do not view either liberals or conservatives as presumptive liars.

Nor do I view Mapes as a presumptive liar. That would require implausible levels of evil and stupidity: evil, because she’d be trying to alter an election result with a massive lie; stupid, because the odds of getting away with such a scheme are vanishingly small. We’re talking a supervillain-who-leaves-hero-in-a-remote-quarry-to-be-devoured-by-carnivorous-GMO-squirrels level of evil and stupid. Too evil and stupid to get as far as Mapes did in the cutthroat world of television production.

I do think she made a very bad mistake, which could have been averted had she been more skeptical about the documents she received from Bill Burkett, a disgruntled National Guard retiree who reportedly had it in for Bush. I think that she has become unable to recognize that mistake, for the same reasons that we all cling to our own self-serving narratives rather than admit that we have screwed up. After reading through all the contemporary reports, the report from CBS’s independent panel and Mapes’s book, I think Mapes fell prey to the journalist’s two worst enemies: confirmation bias and motivated cognition.

There is no way to make this flick without it being either truthful (in which case they won’t want to do it) or embarrassing:

Well, some of them (unlike you, apparently) were smart enough to call the fax number on the memo, and determine that it came from a Kinko’s in Texas. And though there was in fact analysis of what the documents actually said, which also helped torpedo them, it was in fact enough, Mary. It’s hard (perhaps impossible) to prove that a document is authentic, but it only takes one solid strike against its validity to show it to be inauthentic. And the fact that you still don’t understand that, or understand basic logic at all, is why you are now out of a job, and should never have had that job to begin with.

Ah, the best and the brightest.

The Latest Take-Down Of Piketty

It’s long, and too much there to pick out a quote, but worth the read.

As I’ve noted before, Marxism is not a discipline, or even an ideology, really. It’s an attitude founded in envy and a grasping for power. Simply put, if you believe your judgment of someone else’s need to be superior to their own, and are willing to enforce it at the point of a gun, you are a Marxist. And that attitude describes a large majority of Democrats, and far too many Republicans.

Speed Limits

A great piece on the general irrationality about them, and the history. I find most interesting (and new) the point that the main benefit of posting a speed limit was not to slow the fastest down, but to speed the slowest up. More people need to understand that it is not absolute speed that is dangerous, but relative speed. When I was young, in Michigan, before Nixon’s double-nickle stupidity, the freeway signs had both a maximum and a minimum: 70/45. That was back in the days when older cars weren’t as safe or reliable at higher speeds. Today, I’d make it more like 80/60.

I’m also glad that they (as I always do) pointed out what a problem a lack of lane discipline is. If they’d give tickets for hogging the left lane, instead of speeding, traffic would flow both more smoothly and more safely.

Math

Why Americans suck at it:

American institutions charged with training teachers in new approaches to math have proved largely unable to do it. At most education schools, the professors with the research budgets and deanships have little interest in the science of teaching. Indeed, when Lampert attended Harvard’s Graduate School of Education in the 1970s, she could find only one listing in the entire course catalog that used the word “teaching” in its title. (Today only 19 out of 231 courses include it.) Methods courses, meanwhile, are usually taught by the lowest ranks of professors — chronically underpaid, overworked and, ultimately, ineffective.

Without the right training, most teachers do not understand math well enough to teach it the way Lampert does. “Remember,” Lampert says, “American teachers are only a subset of Americans.” As graduates of American schools, they are no more likely to display numeracy than the rest of us. “I’m just not a math person,” Lampert says her education students would say with an apologetic shrug.

Consequently, the most powerful influence on teachers is the one most beyond our control. The sociologist Dan Lortie calls the phenomenon the apprenticeship of observation. Teachers learn to teach primarily by recalling their memories of having been taught, an average of 13,000 hours of instruction over a typical childhood. The apprenticeship of observation exacerbates what the education scholar Suzanne Wilson calls education reform’s double bind. The very people who embody the problem — teachers — are also the ones charged with solving it.

…Left to their own devices, teachers are once again trying to incorporate new ideas into old scripts, often botching them in the process. One especially nonsensical result stems from the Common Core’s suggestion that students not just find answers but also “illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models.” The idea of utilizing arrays of dots makes sense in the hands of a skilled teacher, who can use them to help a student understand how multiplication actually works. For example, a teacher trying to explain multiplication might ask a student to first draw three rows of dots with two dots in each row and then imagine what the picture would look like with three or four or five dots in each row. Guiding the student through the exercise, the teacher could help her see that each march up the times table (3×2, 3×3, 3×4) just means adding another dot per row. But if a teacher doesn’t use the dots to illustrate bigger ideas, they become just another meaningless exercise. Instead of memorizing familiar steps, students now practice even stranger rituals, like drawing dots only to count them or breaking simple addition problems into complicated forms (62+26, for example, must become 60+2+20+6) without understanding why. This can make for even poorer math students. “In the hands of unprepared teachers,” Lampert says, “alternative algorithms are worse than just teaching them standard algorithms.”

No wonder parents and some mathematicians denigrate the reforms as “fuzzy math.” In the warped way untrained teachers interpret them, they are fuzzy.

It’s a long, but interesting, and depressing article.

I should note that I was one of the kids who suffered from the “New Math” in the sixties, but I had a great algebra teacher in junior high (I forget her name, but she was a black woman), and good ones in high school as well. We actually learned calculus and analytic geometry from Mr. Troyer.

[Update a while later]

The more I think about this, the more furious I get that we have these worthless schools of “education” that don’t even teach teachers to teach.

You People Are Far Too Cynical

C’mon, folks! Didn’t you hear Michelle tell you that Barack was going to make you shed your cynicism?!! DIDN’T YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT SHE MEANT??11!!!

It was purely a coinkidinky that all of the people with whom Lois Lerner was communicating about those teabaggers at the time also had their hard drives fail. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU CONSPIRACY THEORISTS?!!11!Eleventy!!1

The Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Some reflections from Bill Whittle.

[Monday-morning update]

It’s long past time to rethink NASA:

Unrealistically, the NRC committee recommends a 5 percent annual increase in NASA’s budget to carry out its recommendations, which are to spend billions for many decades with the eventual result of putting a few civil servants on Mars. My assessment, as a space enthusiast and a taxpayer? As Senator William Proxmire once famously quipped, on the topic of funding for space colonies: “I say not a penny for this nutty fantasy.” I don’t know what the future of human spaceflight is, but I do know that the NRC’s recommendations are not it.

Read the whole thing. It was written by someone who knows what he’s talking about, one of the great minds of our age.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Some of the comments over there are amusing, albeit predictable.

[Update a few minutes later]

Should we go back to the moon? I participate in a debate on the topic, over at US News. I have to say that Etzioni’s remarks are certainly ignorant. And you’ll be shocked to discover that Bob Zubrin wants to go to Mars.

[Update mid morning]

I have a roundup of my and others’ apollo anniversary pieces over at Ricochet. Plus, hey moon! We’re coming back soon.

[Late-afternoon update]

I’m tied with Peter over there for thumbs up, if you want to go vote. Also, Bob is getting lots of negative ratings, but nothing like Etzioni.

[Bumped]

[Late evening update]

I assume that, thanks to my readers, I’m Number One!

The Next Generation Of Republicans

Are they already here?

What’s behind all these surprising numbers? I can’t say, but it’s hard not to notice that a decline in destructive behavior associated with peer pressure has happened at the same moment that the US became a fully wired nation.

Now that broadband access is nearly universal — 78% of homes, and that’s not counting all the schools and library and Wi-Fi hotspot connections available to most kids with minimal effort — restless youth don’t have to go along with whatever the local knuckleheads are up to.

They can find their community of likeminded souls online, and an unintended consequence of their tinkering with YouTube videos or playing “Call of Duty” with a buddy in Mexico City, they’re staying in. As a frustrated barman in England, where pubs have been closing in huge numbers, put it to The Economist, “Kids these days just want to live in their f- – – ing own little worlds in their bedrooms watching Netflix and becoming obese.” That sounds right, but at least no one ever got pregnant from eating Cheetos.

How are young people turning out politically? They’re liberal Democrats . . . who sometimes sound an awful lot like conservative Republicans.

I don’t really care whether or not they’re Republicans, as long as they’re vehemently not Democrats.

[Update a while later]

This seems related, somehow: How the Left got boring.

[Late-morning update]

Sorry, first link was broken. Should be fixed now.